« PreviousContinue »
The loss of thee is what I only fear.
“Consider then, my lady and my wife, The solid comforts of a virtuous life. As first, the love of Christ himself you gain; Next, your own honour undefiled maintain; And lastly, that which sure your mind must move, My whole estate shall gratify your love: Make your own terms, and ere to- morrow's sun Displays his light, by heav'n it shall be done. I seal the contract with a holy kiss, And will perform, by this—my dear, and thisHave comfort, spouse, nor think thy lord unkind; 'Tis love, not jealousy, that fires my mind. For when thy charms my sober thoughts engage, And joined to them my own unequal age, · From thy dear side I have no pow'r to part, Such secret transports warm my melting heart. For who that once possess those heav'nly charms, Could live one moment absent from thy arms?”.
He ceased, and May with modest grace replied; (Weak was her voice, as while she spoke she cried :) “Heaven knows” (with that a tender sigh she drew) “I have a soul to save as well as you; And, what no less you to my charge commend, My dearest honour, will to death defend. To you in holy church I gave my hand, And joined my heart in wedlock's sacred band: Yet after this, if you distrust my care, Then hear, my lord, and witness what I swear:
"First, may the yawning earth her bosom rend And let me hence to hell alive descend: Or die the death I dread no less than hell, Sewed in a sack, and plunged into a well: Ere I my fame by one lewd act disgrace, Or once renounce the honour of my race. For know, Sir Knight, of gentle blood, I came, I loathe a w- and startle at the name. But jealous men on their own crimes reflect, And learn from thence their ladies to suspect: Else why these needless cautions, sir, to me? These doubts and fears of female constancy! This chime still rings in ev'ry lady's ear, The only strain a wife must hope to hear.”
Thus while she spoke a sidelong glance she cast,
Where Damian kneeling, worshipped as she past.
'Twas now the season when the glorious sun
It so befell, in that fair morning-tide,
“'Tis too apparent, argue what you can,
“Heav'n rest thy spirit, noble Solomon,
“Thus says the king who knew your wickedness; The son of Sirach testifies no less. So may some wildfire on your bodies fall, Or some devouring plague consume you all; As well you view the lecher in the tree,
Aid well this honourable knight you see :
“Now by my own dreal majesty I swear,
“And will you so," replied the queen, “indeed ? Now, by my mother's soul it is decreed, She shall not want an answer at her need. For her, and for her daughters, I'll engage, And all the sex in each succeeding age; Art shall be theirs to varnish an offence, And fortify their crimes with confidence. Nay, were they taken in a strict embrace, Seen with both eyes, and pinioned on the place; All they shall need is to protest and swear, Breathe a soft sigh, and drop a tender tear; Till their wise husbands, gulled by arts like ühe'so, Grow gentle, tractable, and tame-as geese.
“What though this sland'rous Jew, this Solopiony, Called women fools, and knew full many a one ; The wiser wits of later times declare, How constant, chaste, and virtuous women are: Witness the martys, who resigned their breath, Serene in torments, unconcerned in death; And witness next what Roman authors tell, Liow Arria,' Portia," and Lucretia : fell.
“ ut since the sacred leaves to all are free, And men interpret texts, why should not we? By this no more was meant, than to have show
hat sov’reign goodness dwells in Him alone Who only Is, and is but only One.
1 Aria, when her husband hesitated to obey the mandate 10 die, plunged the dagger into her own heart, and drawing it lack, said, "My Patus, it is not painful.”
2 Portia, the wife of Brutus, died for love of him, and anxiety on his account.
3 Lucretia, after bidding her husband and father avenge her wrong done by Tarquin, stabboil herself,
But grant the worst ; shall women then be weighed
“Well, I'm a woman, and as such must speak; Silence would swell me, and my heart would break. Know, then, I scorn your dull authorities, Your idle wits, and all their learned lies. By heav'n, those authors are our sex's foes, Whom, in our right, I must and will oppose.” “Nay,” (quoth the king), “ dear madam, be not
“And so has mine” (she said)—I am a queen:
We leave them here in this heroic strain,
Thus singing as he went, at last he drew
“What pangs, what sudden shoots distend my side! O for that tempting fruit, so fresh, so green! Help, for the love of heaven's immortal queen!
Help, dearest lord, and save at once the life
Sore sighed the knight to hear his lady's cry,
“With all my soul,” he thus replied again,
Now prove your patience, gentle ladies all!
In that nice moment, lo! the wond'ring knight
“Wha'c ails my lord ?” the trembling dame replied; “I thought your patience had been better tried: Is this your love, ungrateful and unkind, This my reward for having cured the blind ? Why was I taught to make my husband see, By struggling with a man upon a tree? Did I for this the power of magic prove? Unhappy wife, whose crime was too much love!”
“If this be struggling, by this holy light, 'Tis struggling with a vengeance,” (quoth the knight),