« PreviousContinue »
And he, to raise his voice with artful care,
(What will not beaux attempt to please the fair?)
On tiptoe stood to sing with greater strength,
And stretch'd his comely neck at all the length:
And while he strain'd his voice to pierce the skies,
As saints in raptures use, would shut his eyes,
That the sound striving through the narrow throat,
His winking might avail to mend the note.
By this, in song, he never had his peer,
From sweet Cecilia down to Chanticleer;
Not Maro's Muse, who sung the mighty man,
Nor Pindar's heavenly lyre, nor Horace when a swan.
Your ancestors proceed from race divine:
From Brennus and Belinus is your line;
Who gave to sovereign Rome such loud alarms,
That ev'n the priests were not excus'd from arms.
Besides, a famous monk of modern times
Who, true to love, was all for recreation,
And minded not the work of propagation.
Gaufride, who couldst so well in rhyme complain
The death of Richard with an arrow slain,
Why had not I thy Muse, or thou my heart,
To sing this heavy dirge with equal art!
That I like thee on Friday might complain;
For on that day was Cœur de Lion slain.
Not louder cries, when Ilium was in flames,
Were sent to Heaven by woful Trojan dames,
When Pyrrhus toss'd on high his burnish'd blade,
And offer'd Priam to his father's shade,
Than for the cock the widow'd poultry made.
Fair Partlet first, when he was borne from sight,
With sovereign shrieks bewail'd her captive knight:
Far louder than the Carthaginian wife,
When Asdrubal, her husband, lost his life,
Has left of cocks recorded in his rhymes,
That of a parish-priest the son and heir,
When she beheld the smouldering flames ascend
And all the Punic glories at an end:
(When sons of priests were from the proverb clear,) Willing into the fires she plung'd her head,
Affronted once a cock of noble kind,
And either lam'd his legs, or struck him blind;
For which the clerk his father was disgrac'd,
And in his benefice another plac'd.
With greater ease than others seek their bed;
Not more aghast the matrons of renown,
When tyrant Nero burn'd th' imperial town,
Shriek'd for the downfall in a doleful cry,
For which their guiltless lords were doom'd to die.
Now to my story I return again:
Now sing, my lord, if not for love of me,
Yet for the sake of sweet saint Charity;
Make hills and dales, and Earth and Heaven rejoice, The trembling widow, and her daughters twain,
And emulate your father's angel voice."
This woful cackling cry with horror heard,
The cock was pleas'd to hear him speak so fair, Of those distracted damsels in the yard;
And proud beside, as solar people are ;
Nor could the treason from the truth descry,
So was he ravish'd with this flattery:
So much the more, as, from a little elf,
He had a high opinion of himself;
Though sickly, slender, and not large of limb,
Concluding all the world was made for him.
Ye princes, rais'd by poets to the gods,
And Alexander'd up in lying odes,
Believe not every flattering knave's report,
There's many a Reynard lurking in the court;
And he shall be receiv'd with more regard
And listen'd to, than modest Truth is heard.
This Chanticleer, of whom the story sings,
Stood high upon his toes, and clapp'd his wings;
Then stretch'd his neck, and wink'd with both his
Ambitious, as he sought th' Olympic prize.
But, while he pain'd himself to raise his note,
False Reynard rush'd, and caught him by the throat.
Then on his back he laid the precious load,
And sought his wonted shelter of the wood;
Swiftly he made his way, the mischief done,
Of all unheeded, and pursu'd by none.
Alas, what stay is there in human state,
Or who can shun inevitable fate?
The doom was written, the decree was past,
Ere the foundations of the world were cast!
In Aries though the Sun exalted stood,
His patron-planet to procure his good;
Yet Saturn was his mortal foe, and he,
In Libra rais'd, oppos'd the same degree:
The rays both good and bad, of equal power,
Each thwarting other made a mingled hour.
On Friday morn he dreamt this direful dream,
Cross to the worthy native, in his scheme!
Ah, blissful Venus, goddess of delight,
How couldst thou suffer thy devoted knight,
On thy own day, to fall by foe oppress'd,
The wight of all the world who serv'd thee best?
And, starting up, beheld the heavy sight,
How Reynard to the forest took his flight,
And cross his back, as in triumphant scorn,
The hope and pillar of the house was borne.
"The fox, the wicked fox!" was all the cry:
Out from his house ran every neighbor nigh;
The vicar first, and after him the crew
With forks and staves, the felon to pursue.
Ran Coll our dog, and Talbot with the band;
And Malkin, with her distaff in her hand;
Ran cow and calf, and family of hogs,
In panic horror of parsuing dogs;
With many a deadly grunt and doleful squeak.
Poor swine, as if their pretty hearts would break.
The shouts of men, the women in dismay,
With shrieks augment the terror of the day;
The ducks, that heard the proclamation cried,
And fear'd a persecution might betide,
Full twenty miles from town their voyage take,
Obscure in rushes of the liquid lake.
The geese fly o'er the barn; the bees in arms
Drive headlong from their waxen cells in swarms.
Jack Straw at London-stone, with all his rout,
Struck not the city with so loud a shout;
Not when with English hate they did pursue
A Frenchman, or an unbelieving Jew;
Not when the welkin rung with one and all;
And echoes bounded back from Fox's hall;
Earth seem'd to sink beneath, and Heaven above to
With might and main they chas'd the murderous fox,
With brazen trumpets and inflated box,
To kindle Mars with military sounds,
Nor wanted horns t' inspire sagacious hounds.
But see, how Fortune can confound the wise,
And, when they least expect it, turn the dice.
The captive cock, who scarce could draw his breath
And lay within the very jaws of Death;
Yet in this agony his fancy wrought,
And Fear supplied him with this happy thought.
"Your's is the prize, victorious prince," said he,
"The vicar my defeat, and all the village see.
Enjoy your friendly fortune while you may,
And bid the churls that envy you the prey
Call back their mongrel curs, and cease their cry.
See, fools, the shelter of the wood is nigh,
And Chanticleer in your despite shall die,
He shall be pluck'd and eaten to the bone."
"Tis well advis'd, in faith it shall be done;"
This Reynard said: but, as the word he spoke,
The prisoner with a spring from prison broke :
Then stretch'd his feather'd fans with all his might,
And to the neighboring maple wing'd his flight;
Whom when the traitor safe on tree beheld,
When first the tender blades of grass appear,
And buds, that yet the blast of Eurus fear,
Stand at the door of life, and doubt to clothe the year ·
Till gentle heat, and soft repeated rains,
He curs'd the gods, with shame and sorrow fill'd;
Shame for his folly, sorrow out of time,
For plotting an unprofitable crime;
Yet, mastering both, th' artificer of lies
Make the green blood to dance within their veins.
Then, at their call embolden'd, out they come,
And swell the germs, and burst the narrow room;
'did ne'er in thought of Broader and broader yet, their blooms display,
Salute the welcome Sun, and entertain the day.
Then from their breathing souls the sweets repair,
To scent the skies, and purge th' unwholesome air:
Joy spreads the heart, and, with a general song,
Spring issues out, and leads the jolly months along.
Renews th' assault, and his last battery tries.
Though I," said he,
How justly may my lord suspect his friend!
Th' appearance is against me, I confess,
Who seemingly have put you in distress:
You, if your goodness does not plead my cause,
May think I broke all hospitable laws,
To bear you from your palace-yard by might,
And put your noble person in a fright:
This, since you take it ill, I must repent,
Though, Heaven can witness, with no bad intent:
I practis'd it, to make you taste your cheer
With double pleasure, first prepar'd by fear.
So loyal subjects often seize their prince,
Forc'd (for his good) to seeming violence,
Yet mean his sacred person not the least offence.
Descend; so help me Jove as you shall find
That Reynard comes of no dissembling kind."
In that sweet season, as in bed I lay,
And sought in sleep to pass the night away,
I turn'd my wearied side, but still in vain,
Though full of youthful health, and void of pain
Cares I had none, to keep me from my rest,
For Love had never enter'd in my breast;
I wanted nothing Fortune could supply,
Nor did she slumber till that hour deny.
I wonder'd then, but after found it true,
Much joy had dried away the balmy dew:
Seas would be pools, without the brushing air,
To curl the waves: and sure some little care
Should weary Nature so, to make her want repair.
Nay," quoth the cock; "but I beshrew us both,
If I believe a saint upon his oath :
An honest man may take a knave's advice,
But idiots only may be cozen'd twice:
When Chanticleer the second watch had sung,
Scorning the scorner Sleep, from bed I sprung;
And, dressing by the Moon, in loose array,
Pass'd out in open air, preventing day,
And sought a goodly grove, as fancy led my way.
Straight as a line in beauteous order stood
Of oaks unshorn a venerable wood;
Once warn'd is well bewar'd; not flattering lies
Shall soothe me more to sing with winking eyes
And open mouth, for fear of catching flies.
Who blindfold walks upon a river's brim,
When he should see, has he deserv'd to swim?"
Better, sir cock, let all contention cease,
"Come down," said Reynard, "let us treat
Fresh was the grass beneath, and every tree
At distance planted in a due degree,
A peace, with all my soul," said Chanticleer;
"But, with your favor, I will treat it here:
And, lest the truce with treason should be mixt,
"Tis my concern to have the tree betwixt."
of Their branching arms in air with equal space
Stretch'd to their neighbors with a long embrace,
And the new leaves on every bough were seen,
Some ruddy color'd, some of lighter green.
The painted birds, companions of the Spring,
Hopping from spray to spray, were heard to sing.
Both eyes and ears receiv'd a like delight,
Enchanting music, and a charming sight.
On Philomel I fix'd my whole desire;
And listen'd for the queen of all the quire;
Fain would I hear her heavenly voice to sing;
And wanted yet an omen to the spring.
Attending long in vain, I took the way,
Which through a path but scarcely printed lay;
In narrow mazes oft it seem'd to meet,
And look'd as lightly press'd by fairy feet.
Wandering I walk'd alone, for still methought
To some strange end so strange a path was wrought:
At last it led me where an arbor stood,
THE FLOWER AND THE LEAF:
OR, THE LADY IN THE ARBOR.
Now, turning from the wintry signs, the Sun
His course exalted through the Ram had run,
And, whirling up the skies, his chariot drove
Through Taurus and the lightsome realms of Love;
Where Venus from her orb descends in showers,
To glad the ground, and paint the fields with
In this plain fable you th' effect may see
Of negligence, and fond credulity:
And learn beside of flatterers to beware,
Then most pernicious when they speak too fair.
The cock and fox, the fool and knave imply;
The truth is moral, though the tale a lie.
Who spoke in parables, I dare not say;
But sure he knew it was a pleasing way,
Sound sense, by plain example, to convey;
And in a heathen author we may find,
That pleasure with instruction should be join'd;
So take the corn, and leave the chaff behind.
The sacred receptacle of the wood :
This place unmark'd, though oft I walk'd the green,
In all my progress I had never seen:
And, seiz'd at once with wonder and delight,
Gaz'd all around me, new to the transporting sight.
"Twas bench'd with turf, and goodly to be seen,
The thick young grass arose in fresher green:
The mound was newly made, no sight could pass
Betwixt the nice partitions of the grass;
The well-united sods so closely lay;
And all around the shades defended it from day:
For sycamores with eglantine were spread,
A hedge about the sides, a covering over-head.
And so the fragrant brier was wove between,
The sycamore and flowers were mix'd with green,
That Nature seem'd to vary the delight;
And satisfied at once the smell and sight.
The master-workman of the bower was known
Through fairy lands, and built for Oberon ;
Who twining leaves with such proportion drew,
They rose by measure, and by rule they grew;
No mortal tongue can half the beauty tell :
For none but hands divine could work so well.
Both roof and sides were like a parlor made,
A soft recess, and a cool summer shade;
The hedge was set so thick, no foreign eye
The persons plac'd within it could espy:
But all that pass'd without with ease was seen,
As if nor fence nor tree was plac'd between.
"Twas border'd with a field; and some was plain
With grass, and some was sow'd with rising grain.
That (now the dew with spangles deck'd the ground)
A sweeter spot of earth was never found.
I look'd and look'd, and still with new delight;
Such joy my soul, such pleasures fill'd my sight:
And the fresh eglantine exhal'd a breath,
Whose odors were of power to raise from death.
Nor sullen discontent, nor anxious care,
Ev'n though brought thither, could inhabit there:
But thence they fled as from their mortal foe;
For this sweet place could only pleasure know.
Thus as I mus'd, I cast aside my eye,
And saw a medlar-tree was planted nigh.
The spreading branches made a goodly show,
And full of opening blooms was every bough:
A goldfinch there I saw with gaudy pride
Of painted plumes, that hopp'd from side to side,
Still pecking as she pass'd; and still she drew
The sweets from every flower, and suck'd the dew:
Suffic'd at length, she warbled in her throat,
And tun'd her voice to many a merry note,
But indistinct, and neither sweet nor clear,
Yet such as sooth'd my soul and pleas'd my ear.
Her short performance was no sooner tried,
When she I sought, the nightingale replied:
So sweet, so shrill, so variously she sung,
That the grove echo'd, and the valleys rung:
And I so ravish'd with her heavenly note,
I stood entranc'd, and had no room for thought,
But, all o'erpower'd with ecstacy of bliss,
Was in a pleasing dream of Paradise:
At length I wak'd, and looking round the bower,
Search'd every tree, and pry'd on every flower,
If anywhere by chance I might espy,
The rural poet of the melody;
For still methought she sung not far away:
At last I found her on a laurel spray.
Close by my side she sat, and fair in sight,
Full in a line against her opposite;
Where stood with eglantine the laurel twin'd ;
And both their native sweets were well conjoin'd.
On the green bank I sat, and listen'd long
(Sitting was more convenient for the song :)
Till round my arbor a new ring they made,
And footed it about the secret shade.
O'erjoy'd to see the jolly troop so near,
But somewhat aw'd, I shook with holy fear;"
Yet not so much, but that I noted well
Who did the most in song or dance excel.
Not long I had observ'd, when from afar I heard a sudden symphony of war; The neighing coursers, and the soldiers' cry, And sounding trumps that seem'd to tear the sky: I saw soon after this, behind the grove From whence the ladies did in order move, Come issuing out in arms a warrior train, That like a deluge pour'd upon the plain: On barbed steeds they rode in proud array, Thick as the college of the bees in May, When swarming o'er the dusky fields they fly, New to the flowers, and intercept the sky. So fierce they drove, their coursers were so fleet, That the turf trembled underneath their feet.
To tell their costly furniture were long, The summer's day would end before the song: To purchase but the tenth of all their store, Would make the mighty Persian monarch poor. Yet what I can, I will; before the rest The trumpets issued, in white mantles dress'd, A numerous troop, and all their heads around With chaplets green of cerrial-oak were crown'd; And at each trumpet was a banner bound, Which, waving in the wind, display'd at large Their master's coat of arms, and knightly charge. Broad were the banners, and of snowy hue, A purer web the silk-worm never drew. The chief about their necks the scutcheons wore, With orient pearls and jewels powder'd o'er: Broad were their collars too, and every one Was set about with many a costly stone. Next these of kings-at-arms a goodly train In proud array came prancing o'er the plain: Their cloaks were cloth of silver mix'd with gold, And garlands green around their temples roll'd; Rich crowns were on their royal scutcheons plac'd, With sapphires, diamonds, and with rubies grac'd: And as the trumpets their appearance made, So these in habits were alike array'd; But with a pace more sober, and more slow; And twenty, rank in rank, they rode a row. The pursuivants came next, in number more; And like the heralds each his scutcheon bore: Clad in white velvet all their troop they led, With each an oaken chaplet on his head.
Nine royal knights in equal rank succeed, Each warrior mounted on a fiery steed: In golden armor glorious to behold; The rivets of their arms were nail'd with gold. Their surcoats of white ermine fur were made, With cloth of gold between, that cast a glittering shade;
The trappings of their steeds were of the same;
The golden fringe ev'n set the ground on flame,
And drew a precious trail: a crown divine
Of laurel did about their temples twine.
Three henchmen were for every knight assign'd,
All in rich livery clad, and of a kind :
White velvet, but unshorn, for cloaks they wore,
And each within his hand a truncheon bore:
The foremost held a helm of rare device;
A prince's ransom would not pay the price.
The second bore the buckler of his knight,
The third of cornel-wood a spear upright,
Headed with piercing steel, and polish'd bright.
The ladies dress'd in rich cymar were seen
Of Florence satin, flower'd with white and green,
And for a shade betwixt the bloomy gridelin.
The borders of their petticoats below
Were guarded thick with rubies on a row;
And every damsel wore upon her head
Of flowers a garland blended white and red.
Attir'd in mantles all the knights were seen,
That gratified the view with cheerful green:
Their chaplets of their ladies' colors were, [hair:
Compos'd of white and red, to shade their shining
Before the merry troop the minstrels play'd;
All in their masters' liveries were array'd,
And clad in green, and on their temples wore
The chaplets white and red their ladies bore.
Their instruments were various in their kind,
Some for the bow, and some for breathing wind:
The sawtry, pipe, and hautboy's noisy band, [hand.
And the soft lute trembling beneath the touching
A tuft of daisies on a flowery lay
They saw, and thitherward they bent their way;
To this both knights and dames their homage made,
And due obeisance to the daisy paid.
And then the band of flutes began to play,
To which a lady sung a virelay:
And still at every close she would repeat
The burthen of the song, The daisy is so sweet."
"The daisy is so sweet," when she begun,
The troop of knights and dames continued on.
The concert and the voice so charm'd my ear,
And sooth'd my soul, that it was Heaven to hear.
But soon their pleasure pass'd: at noon of day,
The Sun with sultry beams began to play:
Not Sirius shoots a fiercer flame from high,
When with his poisonous breath he blasts the sky:
Then droop'd the fading flowers (their beauty fled)
And clos'd their sickly eyes, and hung the head;
And, rivel'd up with heat, lay dying in their bed.
The ladies gasp'd, and scarcely could respire:
The breath they drew, no longer air, but fire;
The fainty knights were scorch'd; and knew not And folding up their wings, renew'd their notes:
To run for shelter, for no shade was near;
And after this the gathering clouds amain
Pour'd down a storm of rattling hail and rain :
And lightning flash'd betwixt: the field, and flowers,
Burnt up before, were buried in the showers.
The ladies and the knights, no shelter nigh,
Bare to the weather, and the wintry sky,
Were dropping wet, disconsolate, and wan,
And through their thin array receiv'd the rain;
While those in white, protected by the tree, [free.
Saw pass in vain th' assault, and stood from danger
But as compassion mov'd their gentle minds,
When ceas'd the storm, and silent were the winds,
Displeas'd at what, not suffering, they had seen,
They went to cheer the faction of the green:
The queen in white array, before her band,
Saluting, took her rival by the hand:
So did the knights and dames, with courtly grace,
And with behavior sweet, their foes embrace:
Then thus the queen with laurel on her brow,
"Fair sister, I have suffer'd in your woe;
Nor shall be wanting aught within my power
For your relief in my refreshing bower."
That other answer'd with a lowly look,
And soon the gracious invitation took :
For ill at ease both she and all her train
The scorching Sun had borne, and beating rain.
Like courtesy was us'd by all in white, [knight.
Each dame a dame receiv'd, and every knight a
The laurel champions with their swords invade
The neighboring forests, where the jousts were made,
And serewood from the rotten hedges took,
And seeds of latent fire from flints provoke:
A cheerful blaze arose, and by the fire [attire.
They warm'd their frozen feet, and dried their wet
Refresh'd with heat, the ladies sought around
For virtuous herbs, which gather'd from the ground
They squeez'd the juice, and cooling ointment made,
Which on their sun-burnt cheeks and their chapt skins
Then sought green salads, which they bade them eat,
A sovereign remedy for inward heat.
The lady of the leaf ordain'd a feast,
And made the lady of the flower her guest:
When lo, a bower ascended on the plain,
With sudden seats ordain'd, and large for either train.
This bower was near my pleasant arbor plac'd,
That I could hear and see whatever pass'd:
The ladies sat with each a knight between,
Distinguish'd by their colors, white and green;
The vanquish'd party with the victors join'd,
Nor wanted sweet discourse, the banquet of the mind.
Meantime the minstrels play'd on either side,
Vain of their art, and for the mastery vied:
The sweet contention lasted for an hour,
And reach'd my secret arbor from the bower
The Sun was set; and Vesper, to supply
His absent beams, had lighted up the sky:
When Philomel, officious all the day
To sing the service of th' ensuing May,
Fled from her laurel shade, and wing'd her flight
Directly to the queen array'd in white;
And, hopping, sat familiar on her hand,
A new musician, and increas'd the band.
The goldfinch, who, to shun the scalding heat,
Had chang'd the medlar for a safer seat,
And, hid in bushes, 'scap'd the bitter shower,
Now perch'd upon the lady of the flower;
And either songster holding out their throats,
As if all day, preluding to the fight,
They only had rehears'd, to sing by night:
The banquet ended, and the battle done,
They danc'd by star-light and the friendly Moon :
And when they were to part, the laureate queen
Supplied with steeds the lady of the green,
Her and her train conducting on the way,
The Moon to follow, and avoid the day.
This when I saw, inquisitive to know
The secret moral of the mystic show,
I started from my shade, in hopes to find
Some nymph to satisfy my longing mind:
And, as my fair adventure fell, I found
A lady all in white, with laurel crown'd,
Who clos'd the rear, and softly pac'd along,
Repeating to herself the former song.
With due respect my body I inclin'd,
As to some being of superior kind,
And made my court according to the day,
Wishing her queen and her a happy May.
Great thanks, my daughter," with a gracious bow
She said; and I, who much desir'd to know
Of whence she was, yet fearful how to break
My mind, adventur'd humbly thus to speak:
Madam, might I presume and not offend,
So may the stars and shining Moon attend
Your nightly sports, as you vouchsafe to tell
What nymphs they were who mortal forms excel,
And what the knights who fought in listed fields so