Page images
PDF
EPUB

And as he follow'd Mars before, so now
He serves the goddess of the silver bow.
The
way

that Theseus took was to the wood
Where the two knights in cruel battle stood :
The lawn on which they fought, th' appointed place
In which th' uncoupled hounds began the chace.
Thither forth-right he rode to rouse the prey,
That shaded by the fern in harbour lay;
And, thence dislodg’d, was wont to leave the wood,
For open fields, and cross the crystal flood.
Approach’d, and looking underneath the sun,
He saw proud Arcite, and fierce Palamon,
In mortal battle doubling blow on blow,
Like lightning flam’d their faulchions to and fro,
And shot a dreadful gleam ; so strong they strook,
There seem'd less force requir’d to fell an oak :
He gaz'd with wonder on their equal might,
Look'd eager on, but knew not either knight :
Resolv'd to learn, he spurr'd his fiery steed
With goring rowels to provoke his speed.
The minute ended that began the race,
So foon he was betwixt them on the place ;
And with his fword unsheath’d, on pain of life
Commands both combatants to cease their strife :
Then with imperious tone pursues his threat;
What are you? why in arms together met ?
How dares your pride presume against my laws,
As in a lifted field to fight your cause ?
Unalk’d the royal grant; no marshal by,
As knightly rites require ; nor judge to try?

Then

}

Then Palamon, with scarce recover'd breath,
Thus hasty spoke : We both deserve the death,
And both would die ; for look the world around,
A pair so wretched is not to be found,
Our life's a load ; encumber'd with the charge,
We long to set th' imprison'd soul at large.
Now as thou art a sovereign judge, decree
The rightful doom of death to him and me,
Let neither find thy grace ; for grace is cruelty.
Me first, o kill me first ; and cure my woe;
Then sheath the sword of justice on my foe :
Or kill him first; for when his name is heard,
He foremost will receive his due reward.
Arcite of Thebes is he; thy mortal foe:
On whom thy grace did liberty bestow;
But first contracted, that if ever found
By day or night upon th’ Athenian ground,
His head should pay the forfeit; see return'd
The perjur'd knight, his oath and honour scorn'd.
For this is he, who, with a borrow'd name
And proffer'd service, to thy palace came,
Now callid Philostratus : retain'd by thee,
A traitor trusted, and in high degree,
Aspiring to the bed of beauteous Emily.
My part remains ; from Thebes

my
And call myself th’unhappy Palamon.
Think me not like that man ; since no disgrace
Can force me to renounce the honour of my race.
Know me for what I am : I broke my chain,
Nor promis’d I thy prisoner to remain :

The

birth I own,

G 3

}

The love of liberty with life is given,
And life itself th’inferior gift of Heaven.
Thus without crime I Aled; but farther know,
I with this Arcite am thy mortal foe :
Then give me death, since I thy life pursue ;
For safeguard of thyself, death is my due.
More wouldst thou know? I love bright Emily,
.And for her fake and in her sight will die :
But kill my rival too; for he no less
Deferves ; and I thy righteous doom will bless,
Assur’d that what I lose, he never fhall possess.
To this reply'd the stern Athenian prince,
And fourly fmild, In owning your offence,
You judge yourself; and I but keep record
In place of law, while you pronounce the word.
Take your desert, the death you have decreed;
I seal your doom, and ratify the deed :
By Mars, the patron of my arms, you die.
He said ; dumb forrow seiz'd the standers-by.
The
queen

above the rest, by nature good,
(The pattern form’d of perfect womanhood)
For tender pity wept: when the began,
Through the bright quire th' infectious virtue ran.
All dropt their tears, ev’n the contended maid :
And thus among themselves they softly said:
What eyes can suffer this unworthy fight!
Two youths of royal blood, renown'd in fight,
The master ship of heaven in face and mind,
And lovers, far beyond their faithless kind :

[ocr errors]

(For yet

See their wide streaming wounds ; they neither came
For pride of empire, nor desire of fame :
Kings fight for kingdoms, madmen for applause :
But love for love alone; that crowns the lover's cause.
This thought, which ever bribes the beauteous kind,
Such pity wrought in every lady's mind,
They left their steeds, and proftrate on the place,
From the fierce king, implor'd th' offenders grace.
He paus'd a while, stood silent in his mood

his rage was boiling in his blood);
But soon his tender mind th’ impression felt,
(As foftest metals are not flow to melt
And pity soonest runs in softest minds):
Then reasons with himself; and firit he finds
His passion cast a mist before his sense,
And either made, or magnify'd th' offence.
Offence! of what ? to whom ? who judg’d the caufe ?
The prisoner freed himself by nature's laws :
Born free, he fought his right : the man he freed
Was perjur’d, but his love excus’d the deed :
Thus pondering, he look'd under with his eyes,
And saw the women's tears, and heard their cries;
Which mov'd compassion more, he shook his head,
And softly fighing to himself he said :
Curse on th' unpardoning prince, whom tears

draw
To no reinorse; who rules by lions law;
And deaf to prayers, by no submission bow'd,
Rends all alike ; the penitent, and proud :

can

of love,

At this, with look serene, he rais'd his head;
Reason resum'd her place, and passion fled :
Then thus aloud he spoke : The power
In earth, and seas, and air, and heaven above,
Rules, unresisted, with an awful nod;
By daily miracles declar'd a God :
He blinds the wise, gives eye-fight to the blind;
And moulds and stamps anew the lover's mind.
Behold that Arcite, and this Palamon,
Freed from my fetters, and in safety gone,
What hinder'd either in their native soil
At ease to reap the harvest of their toil ;
But Love, their lord, did otherwise ordain,
And brought them in their own despite again,
To suffer death deserv'd; for well they know,
'Tis in my power, and I their deadly foe;
The proverb holds, that to be wise and love,
Is hardly granted to the Gods above.
See how the madinen bleed : behold the gains
With which their master, Love, rewards their pains ;
For seven long years, on duty every day,
Lo their obedience, and their monarch's

pay :
Yet, as in duty bound, they serve him on ;
And, ask the fools, they think it wisely done;
Nor ease, nor wealth, nor life itself regard,
For 'tis their maxim, Love is love's reward.
This is not all; the fair for whom they strove
Nor knew before, nor could suspect their love,
Nor thought, when she beheld the fight from far,
Her beauty was th' occasion of the war.

But

« PreviousContinue »