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Before the merry troop the minstrels play'd;
All in their master's 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 t':eir kind,
Some for the how, and some for breathing wind :
The fawtry, pipe, and hautboy's noisy band,
And the soft lute trembling beneath the touching hand.
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 Autes began to play,
To which a lady sung a virelay :
And still at every close she would repeat
The burden of the song, " The daisy is fo sweet."
The daily 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 fickly eyes, and hung the head ;
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 where
To run for shelter, for no Made 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 wintery sky,
Were dropping wet, disconfolate, and wan,
And through their thin array receiv'd the rain ;
While those in white protected by the tree
Saw pass in vain th'affault, and stood from danger free.
But as compassion mov'd their gentle minds,
When ceas'd the storm, and silent were the winds,
Difpleas'd at what, not suffering, they had seen,
They went to cheer the faction of the green :
in white array, before her band,
Saluting, took her rival by the hand;
So did the knights and dames, with courtly grace,
And with behaviour sweet their foes embrace,
Then thus the queen with laurel on her brow,
Fair filter, I have suffer'd in your woe ;
Nor shall be wanting anght within my power
For your relief in my refreshing bower.
That other answer'd with a lowly look,
And foon the gracious invitation took :
For ill at case both she and all her train
The scerching fun had borne, and beating rain.
Like courtesy was us'd by all in white,
"Each dame a dame receiv’d, and every kinght a knight.
The laurel champions with their swords invade
The neighbouring forests, where the justs were made,
And serewood from the rotten hedges took,
And seeds of latent fire from Aints provoke :
A chearful blaze arose, and by the fire
They warm’d their frozen feet, and dry'd their wet
Refresh'd with heat, the ladies sought around
For virtuous herbs, which gather'd from the ground
They fqueez’d the juice, and cooling ointinent made,
Which on their sun-burnt cheeks and their chapt skins
they laid : Then fought 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 arbour plac'd, That I could hear and see whatever pass’d : The ladies sat with each a knight between, Distinguish'd by their colours, white and green; The vanquish'd party with the victors join'd, Nor wanted sweet discourse, the banquet of the mind. Mean time the minstrels play'd on either side, Vain their art, and for the mastery vy'd : The sweet contention lasted for an hour, And reach'd my secret arbour from the bower.
The sun was fet; and Vesper, to supply His absent beams, had lighted up the sky :
When Philomel officious all the day
To fing the service of th' ensuing May,
Fled from her laurel Made, and wing’d her flight
Directly to the queen array'd in white :
And hopping fat familiar on her hand,
A new musician, and increas'd the band.
The goldfinch, who, to ihun 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,
And folding up their wings, renew'd their notes :
As if all day, preluding to the fight,
They only had rehears’d, to fing by night :
The banquet ended, and the battle done,
They danc'd by ftar-light and the friendly moon :
And when they were to part, the laureat queen
Supply'd 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 frade, in hopes to find
Some nymph to satisfy my longing mind:
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 fome being of fupcrior kind,
And made my court according to the day,
Withing her queen and her a happy Mav.
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, aclventur'd humbly thus to speak :
Madam, might I presume and not offend,
the stars and shining moon attend
Your nightly sports, as you vouchsafe to tell
What nymphs they were who mortal forms cxcel,
And what the knights who fought in listed fields lo
well. To this the dame reply'd : Fair daughter, know, , That what you saw was all a fairy flow : And all those airy shapes you now behold, Were human bodies once, and cloth’d with earthly mold, Our souls, not yet prepar’d for upper light, Till doomsday wander in the shades of night; This only holiday of all the year, We privileg'd in sunshine may appear : With songs and dance we celebrate the day, And with due honours usher in the May. At other times we reign by night alone, And posting through the skies pursue the moon : But when the morn arises, none are found ; For cruel Demogorgon walks the round, And if he finds a fairy lag in light, He drives the wreich before, and lashes into night.
All courteous are by kind; and cver proud With friendly offices to help the good.