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The storm at their return, the ladies fear :
But these, and other things, I must forbear.
The field is spacious I design to fow,
With oxen far unfit to draw the plow :
The remnant of my tale is of a length
To tire your patience, and to waste my strength;
And trivial accidents fall be forborn,
That others may have time to take their turn;
As wis at firit enjoin'd us by mine hoft:
That he whole tale is beft, and pleases most,
Should win his fupper at our common coft.
And therefore where I left, I will pursue
This ancient tory, whether false or true,
In hope it may be inended with a new.
The prince I mention'd, full of high renown,
In this array drew near th’Athenian town ;
When in his pomp and utmost of his pride,
Marching he chanc'd to cast his
And saw a choir of mourning dames, who lay
By two and two across the common way:
At his approach they rais’d a rueful cry,
And beat their breasts, and held their hands on hig!,
Creeping and crying, till they feiz'd at last
His courser's bridle, and his feet embrac'd.
Tell me, said Theseus, what and whence you are, And why this funeral pageant you prepare ? Is this the welcome of my worthy deeds, To meet my triumph in ill-omen'd weeds ? Or envy you my praise, and would destroy With grief my pleasures, and pollute my joy?
Or are you injur'd, and demand relief ?
Name your request, and I will ease your grief.
The most in years of all the mourning train
Began (but fwooned first away for pain);
Then scarce recover'd spoke : nor envy we
Thy great renown, nor grudge thy victory;
'Tis thine, O king, th' afflicted to redress,
And fame fras fill’d the world with thy success :
We wretched women sue for that alone,
Which of thy goodness is refus’d toonone;
Let fall fome drops of pity on our grief,
If what we beg be just, and we deserve relief :
For none of us, who now thy grace implore,
But held the rank of sovereign queen before ;
Till, thanks to giddy chance, which never bears,
That mortal bliss should last for length of years,
She cast us headlong from our high estate,
And here in hope of thy return we wait :
And long have waited in the temple nigh,
Built to the gracious gocidess Clemency.
But reverence thou the power whose name it bears,
Relieve th’ oppress’d, and wipe the widow's tears,
I, wretched I, have other fortune feen,
The wife of Capaneus, and once a queen :
At Thebes he fell; curst be the fatal day!
And all the rest thou seest in this array,
To make their moan, their lords in battle loft
Before that town belieg'd by our confederate host :
But Creon, old and impious, who commands
The Theban city, and usurps the lands,
Denies the rites of funeral fires to those Whose breathless bodies yet he calls his foes. Unburn'd, unbury'd, on a heap they lie; Such is their fate, and such his tyranny ; No friend has leave to bear away the dead, But with their lifeless limbs his hounds are fed : 'At this the shriek'd aloud; the mournful train Echo'd her grief, and, groveling an the plain, With groans, and hands upheld, to move his mind, Befought his pity to their helpless kind !
The prince was touch'd, his tears began to flow,
And, as his tender heart would break in two,
He figh'd ; and could not but their fate deplore,
So wretched now, fo fortunate before.
Then lightly from his lofty steed he flew,
And raising one by one the suppliant crew,
To comfort each, full solemnly he fwore,
That by the faith which knights to knighthood bore,
And what e’er else to chivalry belongs,
He would not cease, till he reveng'd their wrongs :
That Greece should fee perform'd what he declar'd;
And cruel Creon find his just reward.
He said no more, but, fhunning all delay,
Rode on ; nor enter'd Athens on his
But left his fifter and his queen behind,
And wav'd his royal banner in the wind :
Where in an argent field the god of war
Was drawn triumphant on his iron car ;
Red was his sword, and field, and whole attire,
And all the godhead feem'd to glow with fire ;
Ev’n the ground glitter'd where the standard flew,
And the green grass was dy'd to fanguine hue.
High on his pointed lance his pennon bore
His Cretan fight, the conquer'd Minotaure :
The soldiers shout around with generous rage,
And in that victory their own presage.
He prais’d their ardour; inly pleas’d to see
His host the flower of Grecian chivalry.
All day he march’d; and all th’ ensuing night;
And saw the city with returning light.
The process of the war I need not tell,
How Theseus conquer’d, and how Creon fell :
Or after, how by storm the walls were won,
Or how the vi&tor fack'd and burn'd the town :
How to the ladies he restor'd again
The bodies of their lords in battle flain :
And with what ancient rites they were interr'dl;
All these to fitter times shall be deferr’d:
I spare the widows tears, their woeful cries,
And howling at their husbands obfequies ;
How Theseus at these funerals did affift,
And with what gifts the mourning dames dismiss'd.
Thus when the victor chief had Creon flain,
And conquer'd Thebes, he pitch'd upon the plain
His mighty camp, and, when the day return'd,
The country wasted, and the hamlets burn’d,
And left the pillagers, to rapine bred,
Without control to strip and spoil the dead.
There, in a heap of Nain, among the rest
Two youthful knights they found beneath a load oppressid
Of slaughter'd foes, whom first to death they sent,
The trophies of their strength, a bloody monument.
Both fair, and both of royal blood they seem'd,
Whom kinsmen to the crown the heralds deemid;
That day įn equal arms they fought for fame ;
Their swords, their fields, their furcoats, were the same.
Clofe by each other laid, they press’d the ground,
Their manly bosoms pierc'd with many a griefly wound;
Nor well alive, nor wholly dead they were,
But some faint signs of feeble life appear :
The wandering breath was on the wing to part,
Weak was the pulse, and hardly heav'd the heart.
These two were fisters' fons; and Arcite one,
Much find in fields, with valiant Palamon..
From these their costly arms the spoilers rent,
And softly both convey'd to Theseus' tent :
Whom known of Creon's line, and curd with care,
He to his city fent as prisoners of the war,
Hopeless of ransom, and condemu'd to lie
In durance, doom'd a lingering death to die.
This done, he march'd away with warlike sound,
And to his Athens turn’d with laurels crown'd,
Where happy long he liv’d, much lov'd, and more
But in a tower, and never to be loos’d,
The woeful captive kinsmen are inclos’d :.
Thus year by year they pass, and day by day,
Till once, 'twas on the morn of chearful May,
The young Emilia, fairer to be seen
Than the fair lily on the flowery green,