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More fresh than May herself in blossoms new,
For with the rosy colour strove her hue,
Wak'd, as her custom was, before the day,
To do th’ observance due to sprightly May :
For sprightly May commands our youth to keep
The vigils of her night, and breaks their fluggard sleep;
Each gentle breast with kindly warmth Me inoves ;
Inspires new flames, revives extinguish'd loves.
In this remembrance Emily ere day
Arose, and dress'd herself in rich array;
Fresh as the month, and as the morning fair;
Adown her shoulders fell her length of hair :
A ribband did the braided treffes bind,
The rest was loose, and wanton'd in the wind :
Aurora had but newly chas’d the night,
And purpled o’er the sky with blushing light,
When to the garden walk she took her way,
To sport and trip along in cool of day,
And offer maiden vows in honour of the May.
At every turn, she made a little stand,
among the thorns her lily hand
To draw the rose, and every rose she drew
She shook the stalk, and brush'd away the dew :
Then party-colour'd flowers of white and red
She wove, to make a garland for her head :
This done, the sung and carol'd out so clear,
That men and angels might rejoice to hear :
Ev'n wondering Philomel forgot to fing;
And learn'd' from her to welcome-in the spring.
The tower, of which before was mention made,
Within whose keep the captive knights were laid,
Built of a large extent, and strong withal,
Was one partition of the palace wall :
The garden was inclos'd within the square,
Where young Emilia took the morning-air.
It happen'd Palamon the prisoner knight,
Restless for woe, arose before the light,
And with his jaylor's leave desir'd to breathe
An air more wholesome than the damps beneath.
This granted, to the tower he took his way,
Chear'd with the promise of a glorious day :
Then caft a languishing regard around,
And saw with hateful eyes the temples crown'd
With golden spires, and all the hostile ground.
He sigh'd, and turn d his eyes, because he knew
'Twas but a larger gaol he had in view :
Then look'd below, and from the castle's height
Beheld a nearer and more pleasing sight:
The garden, which before he had not seen,
In spring's new livery clad of white and green,
Fresh flowers in wide parterres, and shady walks be-
This view'd, but rot enjoy’d, with arms across
He stood, reflecting on his country's loss ;
Himself an object of the public scorn,
And often wish'd he never had been born,
At last, for so his deftiny requir'd,
With walking giddy, and with thinking tir'd,
He through a little window cast his fight,
Though thick of bars that gave 'a scanty light:
But ev'n that glimmering serv’d him to descry
Th’inevitable charms of Emily.
Scarce had he seen, but, seiz'd with sudden smart,
Stung to the quick, he felt it at his heart;
Struck blind with over-powering light he stood,
Then started back amaz’d, and cry'd aloud.
Young Arcite heard ; and up he ran with haste,
To help his friend, and in his arms embrac'd ;
And alk'd him why he look'd so deadly wan,
And whence and how his change of cheer began?
Or who had done th’offence ? But if, said he,
Your grief alone is hard captivity ;
For love of heaven, with patience undergo
A cureless ill, since fate will have it fo :
So ftood our horoscope in chains to lie,
And Saturn in the dungeon of the sky,
or other baleful aspect, ruld our birth,
When all the friendly stars were under earth :
Whate’er betides, by destiny 'tis done ;
And better bear like men, than vainly seek to fun,
Nor of my bonds, said Palamon again,
Nor of unhappy planets I complain ;
But when my mortal anguish caus'd my cry,
That moment I was hurt through either eye ;
Pierc'd with a random shaft, I faint away,
And perish with insensible decay :
A glance of some new goddess gave the wound,
Whom, like Acteon, unaware I found,
Look how she walks along yon shady space,
Not Juno moves with more majestic grace;
And all the Cyprian queen is in her face.
If thou art Venus (for thy charms confess
That face was form'd in heaven, nor art thou lefs ;
Disguis'd in habit, undisguis'd in shape)
o help us captives from our chains to 'scape;
But if our doom be past in bonds to lie
For life, and in a loathsome dungeon die,
Then be thy wrath appeas’d with our disgrace,
And shew compassion to the Theban race,
Oppress'd by tyrant power! While yet he spoke,
Arcite on Emily had fix'd his look ;
The fatal dart a ready passage found,
And deep within his heart infix'd the wound:
So that if Palamon were wounded fore,
Arcite was hurt as much as he, or more :
Then from his inmost soul he figh’d, and said,
The beauty I behold has struck me dead :
Unknowingly she strikes; and kills by chance;
Poison is in her eyes, and death in every glance.
O, I'must ask; nor ask alone, but move
Her mind to mercy, or must die for love.
Thus Arcite : and thus Palamón replies,
(Eager his tone, and ardent were his eyes.)
Speak'st thou in earnest, or in jesting vein ?
Jefting, said Arcite, suits but ill with pain.
It suits far worse (said Palamon again,
And bent his brows) with men who honour weigh,
Their faith to break, their friendhip to betray ;
But worst with thee, of noble lineage born,
My kinsman, and in arms iny brother sworn.
Have we not plighted each our holy oath,
That one should be the common good of both ;
One foul should both inspire, and neither prove
His fellow's hindrance in pursuit of love ?
To this before the Gods we gave our hands,
And nothing but our death can break the bands.
This binds thee, then, to further my design :
As I am bound by vow to further thine:
Nor canft, nor dar'st thou, traitor, on the plain
Appeach my honour, or thine own maintain,
Since thou art of my council, and the friend
Whose faith I trust, and on whose care depend :
And would'st thou court my lady's love, which I
Much rather than release would choose to die?
But thou, false Arcite, never salt obtain
Thy bad pretence; I told thee firft my pain :
For first my love began ere thine was born ;
Thou, as my council, and my brother sworn,
Art bound t'asist my eldership of right:
Or justly to be deem'd a perjur'd knight.
Thus Palamon : but Arcite with disdain
In haughty language thus reply'd again;
Forsworn thyself: the traitor's odious name
I first return, and then disprove thy claim.
If love be passion, and that paffion nurst
With strong desires, I lov'd the lady first.
Canst thou pretend desire, whom zeal inflamd
To worship, and a power celestial nain’d ?