Page images

The face of things is chang'd, and Athens now,
That laugh'd so late, becomes the scene of woe :
Matrons and maids, both sexes, every state,
With tears lament the knight's untimely fate.
Nor greater grief in falling Troy was seen
For Hector's death; but Hector was not then.
Old men with dust deform’d their hoary hair,
The women beat their breasts, their cheeks they tare.
Why would'st thou go, with one consent they cry,
When thou had'st gold enough, and Emily.

Theseus himself, who should have cheer'd the grief
of others, wanted now the same relief.
Old Egeus only could revive his son,
Who various changes of the world had known :
And strange vicissitudes of human fate,
Still altering, never in a steady ftate ;
Good after ill, and after pain delight ;
Alternate like the scenes of day and night:
Since every man who lives is born to die,
And none can boast sincere felicity,
With equal mind what happens let us bear,
Nor joy nor grieve too much for things beyond our care.
Like pilgrims to th' appointed place we tend ;
The world 's an inn, and death the journey's end.
Ev'n kings but play; and when their part is done,
Some other, worse or better, mount the throne.
With words like these the crowd was satisfy'd,
And so they would have been, had Theseus dy'd.




But he, their king, was labouring in his mind,
A fitting place for funeral pomps to find,
Which were in honour of the dead design'd.
And, after long debate, at last he found
(As love itself had mark'd the spot of ground)
That grove for ever green, that conscious land,
Where he with Palamon fought lrand to hand :
That where he fed his amorous desires
With soft complaints, and felt his hottest fires,
There other flames might waste his earthly part,
And burn his limbs, where love had burn'd his heart.

This once resolv'd, the peasants were enjoin'd
Sere-wood, and firs, and dodder'd oaks to find.
With founding axes to the grove they go,
Fell, split, and lay the fuel on a row,
Vulcanian food : a bier is next prepar'd,
On which the lifeless body should be rear'd,
Cover'd with cloth of gold, on which was laid
The corpse of Arcite, in like robes array’d.
White gloves were on his hands, and on his head
A wreath of laurel, mix'd with myrtle spread.
A sword keen-edg’d within his right he held,
The warlike emblem of the conquer'd field :
Bare was his manly visage on the bier :
Menac'd his countenance; ev’n in death severe.
Then to the palace-hall they bore the knight,
To lie in solemn state, a public fight.
Groans, cries, and howlings, fill the crowded placo,
And unaffected sorrow sat on every face.

Sad Palamon above the rest appears,
In sable garments, dew'd with gushing tears :
His auburn locks on either thoulder flow'd,
Which to the funeral of his friend he vow'd:
But Emily, as chief, was next his fide,
A virgin-widow, and a mourning bride.
And, that the princely obsequies might be
Perform'd according to his high degree,
The fteed, that bore him living to the fight,
Was trapp'd with polish'd steel, all shining bright,
And cover'd with th’atchievements of the knight.
The riders rode abreast, and one his shield,
His lance of cornel-wood another held;
The third his bow, and, glorious to behold,
The costly quiver, all of burnish'd gold.
The noblest of the Grecians next appear,
And, weeping, on their shoulders bore the bier ;
With sober pace they march’d, and often Itaid,
And through the master-street the corpse convey'd.
The houses to their tops with black were spread,
And ev'n the pavements were with mourning hid.
The right side of the pall old Egeus kept,
And on the left the royal Theseus wept ;
Each bore a golden bowl of work divine,
With honey fill’d, and milk, and mix'd with ruddy wine.
Then Palamon, the kinsman of the Nain,
And after him appear'd th’illustrious train.
To grace the pomp, came Emily the bright,
With cover'd fire, the funeral pile to light.


K 2

With high devotion was the service made,
And all the sites of pagan-honour paid :
So lofty was the pile, a Parthian bow,
With vigour drawn, must send the fhaft below.
The bottom was full twenty fathom broad,
With crackling straw beneath in due proportion strow'd.
The fabric seem'd a wood of rising green,
With sulphur and bitumen cast between,

To feed the flames : the trees were unctuous fir,
And mountain ash, the mother of the spear;
The mourner-yew and builder oak were there :
The beech, the swimming alder, and the plane,
Hard box, and linden of a softer grain,
And laurels, which the Gods for conquering chiefs

How they were rank’d, shall rest untold by me,
With nameless nymphs that liv'd in every tree ;
Nor how the dryads, or the woodland train,
Disherited, ran howling o'er the plain :
Nor how the birds to foreign seats repair'd,
Or beasts, that bolted out, and saw the forest bard :
Nor how the ground, now clear’d, with ghastly fright
Beheld the sudden sun, a stranger to the light.

The straw, as first I said, was laid below :
Of chips and sere-wood was the second row;
The third of greens, and timber newly felld;
The fourth high stage the fragrant odours held,
And pearls, and precious stones, and rich array ;
In midst of which, embalm'd, the body lay.

The service fung, the maid with mourning eyes The stubble fir’d; the smouldering flames arise : This office done, the sunk upon the ground; But what she spoke, recover'd from her swoon, I want the wit in moving words to dress ; But by themselves the tender sex may guess. While the devouring fire was burning fast, Rich jewels in the flame the wealthy cast; And some their shields, and some their lances threw, And gave their warrior's ghost a warrior's due. Full bowls of wine, of honey, milk, and blood, Were pour'd upon the pile of burning wood,

Then thrice the mounted squadrons ride around
The fire, and Arcite's name they thrice resound;
Hail, and farewel, they shouted thrice amain,
Thrice facing to the left, and thrice they turn'd again :
Still as they turn'd, they beat their clattering fields;
The women mix their cries; and clamour fills the fields.
The warlike wakes continued all the night,
And funeral games were play'd at new returning light ;
Who naked wrestled beit, beimear'd with oil,
Or who with gauntlets gave or took the foil,
I will not tell you, nor would you attend ;
But briefly haste to my long story's end.

I pass the rest; the year was fully mourn'd,
And Palamon long since to Thebes return'd:
When, by the Grecians' general consent,
At Athens Theseus held his parliament :


K 3

« PreviousContinue »