« PreviousContinue »
For Venus, like her day, will change her cheer,
And seldom shall we see a Friday clear.
Thus Arcite, having sung, with alter'd hue
Sunk on the ground, and from his bosom drew
A desperate figh, accusing heaven and fate,
And angry Juno's unrelenting hate.
Curs'd be the day when first I did appear ;
Let it be blotted from the calendar,
Left it pollute the month, and poison all the year.
Still will the jealous Queen pursue our race ?
Cadmus is dead, the Theban city was :
Yet ceases not her hate : for all who come
From Cadınus are involv'd in Cadmus' doom.
I suffer for my blood: unjust decree !
That punishes another's crime on me.
In mean estate I serve my mortal foe,
The man who caus’d my country's overthrow.
This is not all; for Juno, to my shame,
Has forc'd me to forsake my former name;
Arcite I was, Philostratus I am.
That side of heaven is all my enemy :
Mars ruin'd Thebes : his mother ruin'd me.
Of all the royal race remains but one
Besides myself, th’ unhappy Palamon,
Whom Theseus holds in bonds, and will not free;
Without a crime, except his kin to me.
Yet there, and all the rest, I could endure;
But Love's a malady without a cure ;
Fierce Love has pierc'd me with his fiery dart,,
He fires within, and hisses at my heart,
Your eyes, fair Emily, my fate pursue ;
I suffer for the rest, I die for
Of such a Goddess no time leaves record,
Who burn'd the temple where she was ador'd :
And let it burn, I never will complain,
Pleas'd with my sufferings, if you knew my pain.
At this a sickly qualm his heart assail'd,
His ears ring inward, and his senses fail'd.
No word miss'd Palamon of all he spoke,
But soon to deadly pale he chang'd his look:
He trembled every limb, and felt a smart,
As if cold steel had glided through his heart;
No longer staid, but, starting from his place,
Discover'd stood, and Thew'd his hostile face :
False traitor Arcite, traitor to thy blood,
Bound by thy sacred oath to seek my good,
Now art thou found foresworn, for Emily ;
And dar'st attempt her love, for whom I die.
So haft thou cheated Theseus with a wile,
Against thy vow, returning to beguile
Under a borrow'd name : as false to me,
So false thou art to him who set thee free:
But rest assur'd, that either thou shalt die,
Or else renounce thy claim in Emily:
For, though unarm'd I and (free'd by chance)
Am here without my sword, or pointed launce :
Hope not, base man, unquestion'd hence to go,
For I am Palamon, thy mortal foe.
Arcite, who heard his tale, and knew the man,
His sword unfheath'd, and fiercely thus began :
Now by the Gods who govern heaven above,
Wert thou not weak with hunger, mad with love,
That word had been thy last, or in this grove
This hand should force thee to renounce thy love.
The surety which I gave thee, I defy:
Fool, not to know that love endures no tie,
And Jove but laughs at lovers perjury.
Know I will serve the fair in thy despight;
But since thou art my kinsman, and a knight,
Here, have my faith, to-morrow in this grove
Our arms shall plead the titles of our love:
And Heaven so help my right, as I alone
Will come, and keep the cause and quarrel both,
With arms of proof both for myself and thee;
Chuse thou the best, and leave the worst to me.
And, that a better ease thou may'st abide,
Bedding and cloaths I will this night provide,
And needful sustenance, that thou mayst be
A conquest better won, and worthy me.
His promise Palamon accepts; but pray'd,
To keep it better than the first he made.
Thus fair they parted till the morrow's dawn,
For each had laid his plighted faith to pawn. .
Oh Love! thou sternly dost thy power maintain,
And wilt not bear a rival in thy reign,
Tyrants and thou all fellowship disdain.
This was in Arcite prov'd, and Palamon ;
Both in despair, yet each would love alone.
Arcite return’d, and, as in honour ty’d,
His foe with bedding and with food supply’d;
Then, ere the day, two fuits of armour fought,
Which borne before him on his steed he brought :
Both were of shining steel, and wrought so pure,
As might the strokes of two such arms endure.
Now, at the time, and in th' appointed place,
The challenger and challeng’d, face to face,
Approach; each other from afar they knew,
And from afar their hatred chang’d their hue.
So stands the Thracian herdsman with his spear,
Full in the gap, and hopes the hunted bear,
And hears him rustling in the wood, and fees
His course at distance by the bending trees;
And thinks, here comes my mortal enemy,
And either he must fall in fight, or I:
This while he thinks, he lifts aloft his dart;
A generous chilness seizes every part:
Thus pale they meet; their eyes with fury burn;
None greets ; for none the greeting will return :
But in dumb furliness, each arm’d with care
His foe profest, as brother of the war :
Then both, no moment loft, at once advance
Against each other, arm’d with sword and lance:
They lash, they foin, they pass, they strive to bore
Their corslets, and the thinnest parts explore.
Thus two long hours in equal arms they stood,
And wounded, wound; till both were bath'd in blood;
And not a foot of ground had either got,
As if the world depended on the spot.
Fell Arcite like an angry tiger far’d, And like a lion Palamon appear’d: Or as two boars whom love to battle draws, With rising bristles, and with frothy jaws, Their adverse breasts with tusks oblique they wound; With grunts and groans the forest rings around. So fought the knights, and fighting must abide, Till fate an umpire sends their difference to decide. The power that ministers to God's decrees, And executes on earth what heaven foresees, Callid providence, or chance, or fatal sway, Comes with resistless force, and finds or makes her way. Nor kings, nor nations, nor united power, One moment can retard th' appointed hour. And some one day, some wondrous chance appears, Which happen'd not in centuries of years : For sure, whate'er we mortals hate, or love, Or hope, or fear, depends on powers above ; They move our appetites to good or ill, And by foresight necessitate the will. In Theseus this appears ; whose youthful joy Was beasts of chace in forests to destroy, This gentle knight, inspir’d by jolly May, Forsook his easy couch at early day, And to the wood and wilds pursued his way. Beside him rode Hippolita the queen, And Emily attir'd in lively green, With horns, and hounds, and all the tuneful cry, To hunt a royal hart within the covert nigh: G%