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Gain'd hardly, against right, and unenjoy'd.
When 'twas declar'd all hope of life was past,
Conscience (that of all physic works the last)
Caus'd him to send for Emily in haste.
With her, at his desire, came Palamon;
Then on his pillow rais'd, he thus begun.
"No language can express the smallest part
Of what I feel, and suffer in my heart,
For you, whom best I love and value most;
But to your service I bequeath my ghost;
Which, from this mortal body when untied,
Unseen, unheard, shall hover at your side;
Nor fright you waking, nor your sleep offend,
But wait officious, and your steps attend :
How I have lov'd, excuse my faltering tongue,
My spirit's feeble, and my pains are strong:
This I may say, I only grieve to die
Because I lose my charming Emily:
To die, when Heaven had put you in my power,
Fate could not choose a more malicious hour!
What greater curse could envious Fortune give,
Than just to die, when I began to live!
Vain men, how vanishing a bliss we crave,
Now warm in love, now withering in the grave!
Never, O never more to see the Sun!
Still dark, in a damp vault, and still alone!
This fate is common; but I lose my breath
Near bliss, and yet not bless'd before my death.
Farewell; but take me dying in your arms,
"Tis all I can enjoy of all your charms:
This hand I cannot but in death resign;
Ah! could I live! but while I live 'tis mine.
I feel my end approach, and, thus embrac'd,
Am pleas'd to die; but hear me speak my last.
Ah! my sweet foe, for you, and you alone,
I broke my faith with injur'd Palamon.
But Love the sense of right and wrong confounds,
Strong Love and proud Ambition have no bounds.
And much I doubt, should Heaven my life prolong,
I should return to justify my wrong:
For, while my former flames remain within,
Repentance is but want of power to sin.
With mortal hatred I pursu'd his life,
Nor he, nor you, were guilty of the strife:
Nor I, but as I lov'd; yet all combin'd,
Your beauty, and my impotence of mind,
And his concurrent flame, that blew my fire;
For still our kindred souls had one desire.
He had a moment's right in point of time;
Had I seen first, then his had been the crime.
Fate made it mine, and justified his right;
Nor holds this Earth a more deserving knight,
For virtue, valor, and for noble blood,
Truth, honor, all that is compris'd in good;
So help me Heaven, in all the world is none
So worthy to be lov'd as Palamon.
He loves you too, with such an holy fire,
As will not, cannot, but with life expire:
Our vow'd affections both have often tried,
Nor any love but yours could ours divide.
Then, by my love's inviolable band,
By my long suffering, and my short command,
If e'er you plight your vows when I am gone,
Have pity on the faithful Palamon."
So, speechless, for a little space he lay;
Then grasp'd the hand he held, and sigh'd his soul
But whither went his soul, let such relate
Who search the secrets of the future state:
Divines can say but what themselves believe;
Strong proofs they have, but not demonstrative:
For, were all plain, then all sides must agree,
And faith itself be lost in certainty.
To live uprightly then is sure the best,
To save ourselves, and not to damn the rest.
The soul of Arcite went where heathens go,
Who better live than we, though less they know.
In Palamon a manly grief appears;
Silent he wept, asham'd to show his tears:
Emilia shriek'd but once, and then, oppress'd
With sorrow, sunk upon her lover's breast:
Till Theseus in his arms convey'd with care,
Far from so sad a sight, the swooning fair.
"Twere loss of time her sorrow to relate;
Ill bears the sex a youthful lover's fate,
When just approaching to the nuptial state:
But, like a low-hung cloud, it rains so fast,
That all at once it falls, and cannot last.
The face of things is chang'd, and Athens now,
That laugh'd so late, becomes the scene of woe:
Matrons and maids, both sexes, every state,
With tears lament the knight's untimely fate.
Nor greater grief in falling Troy was seen
For Hector's death; but Hector was not then.
Old men with dust deform'd their hoary hair,
The women beat their breasts, their cheeks they tear.
This was his last; for Death came on amain, And exercis'd below his iron reign; Then upward to the seat of life he goes: Sense fled before him, what he touch'd he froze: Yet could he not his closing eyes withdraw, Though less and less of Emily he saw;
Why wouldst thou go," with one consent they cry, "When thou hadst gold enough, and Emily?"
Theseus himself, who should have cheer'd the grief Of others, wanted now the same relief. Old Egeus only could revive his son, Who various changes of the world had known, And strange vicissitudes of human fate, Still altering, never in a steady state; Good after ill, and after pain delight; Alternate like the scenes of day and night: "Since every man who lives is born to die, And none can boast sincere felicity, With equal mind what happens let us bear, [care. Nor joy nor grieve too much for things beyond our Like pilgrims to th' appointed place we tend : The world's an inn, and death the journey's end. Ev'n kings but play; and when their part is done, Some other, worse or better, mount the throne." With words like these the crowd was satisfied, And so they would have been had Theseus died. But he, their king, was laboring in his mind, A fitting place for funeral pomps to find, Which were in honor of the dead design'd: And, after long debate, at last he found (As Love itself had mark'd the spot of ground) That grove for ever green, that conscious land, Where he with Palamon fought hand to hand : That where he fed his amorous desires With soft complaints, and felt his hottest fires, There other flames might waste his earthly part, And burn his limbs, where love had burn'd his heart. This once resolv'd, the peasants were enjoin'd Sere-wood, and firs, and dodder'd oaks to find. With sounding axes to the grove they go, Fell, split, and lay the fuel on a row, Vulcanian food: a bier is next prepar'd, On which the lifeless body should be rear'd, Cover'd with cloth of gold, on which was laid The corpse of Arcite, in like robes array'd.
White gloves were on his hands, and on his head
A wreath of laurel, mix'd with myrtle spread.
A sword keen-edg'd within his right he held,
The warlike emblem of the conquer'd field:
Bare was his manly visage on the bier:
Menac'd his countenance; ev'n in death severe.
Then to the palace-hall they bore the knight,
To lie in solemn state, a public sight.
This office done, she sunk upon the ground;
But what she spoke, recover'd from her swoon,
I want the wit in moving words to dress:
But by themselves the tender sex may guess.
While the devouring fire was burning fast,
Rich jewels in the flame the wealthy cast;
And some their shields, and some their lances threw
And gave their warrior's ghost a warrior's due.
Were pour'd upon the pile of burning wood,
And hissing flames receive, and hungry lick the food
Then thrice the mounted squadrons ride around
The fire, and Arcite's name they thrice resound;
Hail, and farewell, they shouted thrice amain,
Thrice facing to the left, and thrice they turn'd again :
Still as they turn'd, they beat their clattering shields:
The women mix their cries; and Clamor fills the fields.
The warlike wakes continued all the night,
And funeral games were play'd at new returning light.
Who, naked, wrestled best, besmear'd with oil,
Or who with gauntlets gave or took the foil,
I will not tell you, nor would you attend;
But briefly haste to my long story's end.
Groans, cries, and howlings, fill the crowded place, Full bowls of wine, of honey, milk, and blood,
And unaffected sorrow sat on every face.
Sad Palamon above the rest appears,
In sable garments, dew'd with gushing tears:
His auburn locks on either shoulder flow'd,
Which to the funeral of his friend he vow'd:
But Emily, as chief, was next his side,
A virgin-widow, and a mourning bride.
And, that the princely obsequies might be
Perform'd according to his high degree,
The steed, that bore him living to the fight,
Was trapp'd with polish'd steel, all shining bright,
And cover'd with the achievements of the knight.
The riders rode abreast, and one his shield,
His lance of cornel-wood another held;
The third his bow, and, glorious to behold,
The costly quiver, all of burnish'd gold.
The noblest of the Grecians next appear,
And, weeping, on their shoulders bore the bier;
With sober pace they march'd, and often staid,
And through the master-street the corpse convey'd.
The houses to their tops with black were spread,
And ev'n the pavements were with mourning hid.
The right side of the pall old Egeus kept,
And on the left the royal Theseus wept;
Each bore a golden bowl, of work divine, [wine.
With honey fill'd, and milk, and mix'd with ruddy
Then Palamon, the kinsman of the slain,
And after him appear'd the illustrious train.
To grace the pomp, came Emily the bright
With cover'd fire, the funeral pile to light.
With high devotion was the service made,
And all the rites of pagan-honor paid:
So lofty was the pile, a Parthian bow,
With vigor drawn, must send the shaft below.
The bottom was full twenty fathom broad,
With crackling straw beneath in due proportion
I pass the rest; the year was fully mourn'd,
And Palamon long since to Thebes return'd:
When, by the Grecians' general consent,
At Athens Theseus held his parliament:
Among the laws that pass'd, it was decreed,
That conquer'd Thebes from bondage should be freed;
Reserving homage to th' Athenian throne,
To which the sovereign summon'd Palamon.
Unknowing of the cause, he took his way,
Mournful in mind, and still in black array.
The monarch mounts the throne, and, plac'd on
Commands into the court the beauteous Emily:
So call'd, she came; the senate rose, and paid
Becoming reverence to the royal maid.
And first soft whispers through th' assembly went:
With silent wonder then they watch'd th' event:
All hush'd, the king arose with awful grace,
Deep thought was in his breast, and counsel in his
The fabric seem'd a wood of rising green,
With sulphur and bitumen cast between,
To feed the flames: the trees were unctuous fir,
And mountain ash, the mother of the spear;
The mourner yew and builder oak were there :
The beech, the swimming alder, and the plane,
Hard box, and linden of a softer grain, [ordain.
And laurels, which the gods for conquering chiefs
How they were rank'd, shall rest untold by me,
With nameless nymphs that liv'd in every tree;
Nor how the Dryads, or the woodland train,
Disherited, ran howling o'er the plain:
Nor how the birds to foreign seats repair'd,
Or beasts, that bolted out, and saw the forest bar'd:
Nor how the ground, now clear'd, with ghastly fright
Beheld the sudden Sun, a stranger to the light.
The straw, as first I said, was laid below:
Of chips and sere-wood was the second row;
The third of greens, and timber newly fell'd;
The fourth high stage the fragrant odors held,
And pearls, and precious stones, and rich array,
In midst of which, embalm'd, the body lay.
The service sung, the maid with mourning eyes
The stubble fir'd; the smouldering flames arise:
At length he sigh'd: and, having first prepar'd
Th' attentive audience, thus his will declar'd.
The Cause and Spring of Motion, from above,
Hung down on Earth the golden chain of love:
Great was th' effect, and high was his intent,
When peace among the jarring seeds he sent,
Fire, flood, and earth, and air, by this were bound,
And love, the common link, the new creation crown'd
The chain still holds; for, though the forms decay,
Eternal matter never wears away:
The same first Mover certain bounds has plac'd,
How long those perishable forms shall last:
Nor can they last beyond the time assign'd
By that all-seeing and all-making Mind:
Shorten their hours they may; for will is free;
But never pass the appointed destiny.
So men oppress'd, when weary of their breath,
Throw off the burthen, and suborn their death.
Then, since those forms begin, and have their end,
On some unalter'd cause they sure depend:
Parts of the whole are we; but God the whole;
Who gives us life and animating soul:
For Nature cannot from a part derive
That being, which the whole can only give:
He perfect, stable; but imperfect we,
Subject to change, and different in degree;
Plants, beasts, and man; and, as our organs are,
We more or less of his perfection share.
But by a long descent, th' ethereal fire
Corrupts; and forms, the mortal part, expire.
As he withdraws his virtue, so they pass,
And the same matter makes another mass:
This law the Omniscient Power was pleas'd to give, "Tis time to mend her fault; since Emily
By Arcite's death from former vows is free:
If you, fair sister, ratify th' accord,
And take him for your husband and your lord,
"Tis no dishonor to confer your grace
On one descended from a royal race:
And were he less, yet years of service past
From grateful souls exact reward at last :
Pity is Heaven's and yours; nor can she find
A throne so soft as in a woman's mind."
That every kind should by succession live!
That individuals die, his will ordains,
The propagated species still remains.
The monarch oak, the patriarch of the trees,
Shoots rising up, and spreads by slow degrees;
Three centuries he grows, and three he stays,
Supreme in state, and in three more decays;
So wears the paving pebble in the street,
And towns and towers their fatal periods meet:
So rivers, rapid once, now naked lie,
Forsaken of their springs; and leave their channels
So man, at first a drop, dilates with heat,
Then, form'd, the little heart begins to beat;
Secret he feeds, unknowing in the cell;
At length, for hatching ripe, he breaks the shell,
And struggles into breath, and cries for aid;
Then, helpless, in his mother's lap is laid.
He creeps, he walks, and, issuing into man,
Grudges their life, from whence his own began:
Reckless of laws, affects to rule alone,
Anxious to reign, and restless on the throne:
First vegetive, then feels, and reasons last;
Rich of three souls, and lives all three to waste.
Some thus; but thousands more in flower of age:
For few arrive to run the latter stage.
Sunk in the first, in battle some are slain,
And others whelm'd beneath the stormy main.
What makes all this, but Jupiter the king,
At whose command we perish, and we spring?
Then 'tis our best, since thus ordain'd to die,
To make a virtue of necessity.
Take what he gives, since to rebel is vain;
The bad grows better, which we well sustain;
And could we choose the time, and choose aright,
"Tis best to die, our honor at the height.
When we have done our ancestors no shame,
But serv'd our friends, and well secured our fame;
Then should we wish our happy life to close,
And leave no more for Fortune to dispose:
So should we make our death a glad relief
From future shame, from sickness, and from grief:
Enjoying while we live the present hour,
And dying in our excellence and flower,
Then round our death-bed every friend should run,
And joyous of our conquest early won:
While the malicious world with envious tears
Should grudge our happy end, and wish it theirs.
Since then our Arcite is with honor dead,
Why should we mourn, that he so soon is freed,
Or call untimely what the gods decreed?
With grief as just, a friend may be deplor'd,
From a foul prison to free air restor❜d.
Ought he to thank his kinsman or his wife,
Could tears recall him into wretched life?
Their sorrow hurts themselves; on him is lost;
And, worse than both, offends his happy ghost.
What then remains, but, after past annoy,
To take the good vicissitude of joy!
To thank the gracious gods for what they give,
Possess our souls, and, while we live, to live?
Ordain we then two sorrows to combine,
And in one point th' extremes of grief to join;
That thence resulting joy may be renew'd,
As jarring notes in harmony conclude.
Then I propose that Palamon shall be
In marriage join'd with beauteous Emily;
For which already I have gain'd th' assent
Of my free people in full parliament.
Long love to her has borne the faithful knight,
And well deserv'd, had Fortune done him right:
He said; she blush'd; and, as o'eraw'd by might,
Seem'd to give Theseus what she gave the knight.
Then turning to the Theban thus he said;
'Small arguments are needful to persuade
Your temper to comply with my command;
And speaking thus, he gave Emilia's hand.
Smil'd Venus, to behold her own true knight
Obtain the conquest, though he lost the fight;
And bless'd with nuptial bliss the sweet laborious
Eros, and Anteros, on either side,
One fir'd the bridegroom, and one warm'd the bride;
And long-attending Hymen, from above,
Shower'd on the bed the whole Idalian grove.
All of a tenor was their after-life,
No day discolor'd with domestic strife;
No jealousy, but mutual truth believ'd,
Secure repose, and kindness undeceiv'd.
Thus Heaven, beyond the compass of his thought,
Sent him the blessing he so dearly bought.
So may the queen of love long duty bless,
And all true lovers find the same success.
IN days of old, when Arthur fill'd the throne,
Whose acts and fame to foreign lands were blown;
The king of elfs and little fairy queen
Gambol'd on heaths, and danc'd on every green;
And where the jolly troop had left the round,
The grass unbidden rose, and mark'd the ground:
Nor darkling did they glance, the silver light
|Of Phoebe serv'd to guide their steps aright,
And, with their tripping pleas'd, prolong the night.
Her beams they follow'd, where at full she play'd,
Nor longer than she shed her horns they stay'd,
From thence with airy flight to foreign lands convey'd.
Above the rest our Britain held they dear,
More solemnly they kept their sabbaths here, [year
And made more spacious rings, and revel'd half the
I speak of ancient times, for now the swain
Returning late may pass the woods in vain,
And never hope to see the nightly train:
In vain the dairy now with mint is dress'd,
The dairy-maid expects no fairy guest
To skim the bowls, and after pay the feast.
She sighs, and shakes her empty shoes in vain,
No silver penny to reward her pain:
For priests with prayers, and other goodly gear,
Have made the merry goblins disappear:
And where they play'd their merry pranks before,
Have sprinkled holy water on the floor:
And friars that through the wealthy regions run,
Thick as the motes that twinkle in the sun,
Resort to farmers rich, and bless their halls,
And exorcise the beds, and cross the walls:
This makes the fairy quires forsake the place,
When once 'tis hallow'd with the rites of grace:
But in the walks where wicked elves have been,
The learning of the parish now is seen,
The midnight parson posting o'er the green,
With gown tuck'd up, to wakes, for Sunday next;
With humming ale encouraging his text;
Nor wants the holy leer for country girl betwixt.
From fiends and imps he sets the village free,
There haunts not any incubus but he.
The maids and women need no danger fear
To walk by night, and sanctity so near:
For by some haycock, or some shady thorn,
He bids his beads both even song and morn.
It so befell in this king Arthur's reign, A lusty knight was pricking o'er the plain; A bachelor he was, and of the courtly train. It happen'd, as he rode, a damsel gay In russet robes to market took her way: Soon on the girl he cast an amorous eye, So straight she walk'd, and on her pasterns high: If seeing her behind he lik'd her pace, Now turning short, he better likes her face. He lights in haste, and, full of youthful fire, By force accomplish'd his obscene desire : This done, away he rode, not unespied, For swarming at his back the country cried : And once in view they never lost the sight, But seiz'd, and pinion'd, brought to court the knight. Then courts of kings were held in high renown, Ere made the common brothels of the town; There, virgins honorable vows receiv'd, But chaste as maids in monasteries liv'd: The king himself to nuptial ties a slave, No bad example to his poets gave: And they, not bad, but in a vicious age, Had not, to please the prince, debauch'd the stage. Now what should Arthur do? He lov'd the knight,
But sovereign monarchs are the source of right:
Mov'd by the damsel's tears, and common cry,
He doom'd the brutal ravisher to die.
But fair Geneura rose in his defence,
And pray'd so hard for mercy from the prince,
That to his queen the king th' offender gave,
And left it in her power to kill or save:
This gracious act the ladies all approve,
Who thought it much a man should die for love;
And with their mistress join'd in close debate
(Covering their kindness with dissembled hate)
If not to free him, to prolong his fate.
At last agreed they call'd him by consent
Before the queen and female parliament.
And the fair speaker rising from the chair,
Did thus the judgment of the house declare.
"Sir knight, though I have ask'd thy life, yet still
'Thy destiny depends upon my will:
Nor hast thou other surety than the grace
Not due to thee from our offended race.
But as our kind is of a softer mould,
And cannot blood without a sigh behold,
I grant thee life: reserving still the power
To take the forfeit when I see my hour:
Unless thy answer to my next demand
Shall set thee free from our avenging hand.
The question, whose solution I require,
Is, What the sex of women most desire?
In this dispute thy judges are at strife;
Beware; for on thy wit depends thy life.
Yet (lest, surpris'd, unknowing what to say,
Thou damn thyself) we give thee farther day:
is thine to wander at thy will;
And learn from others, if thou want'st the skill.
But, not to hold our proffer turn'd in scorn,
Good sureties will we have for thy return;
That at the time prefix'd thou shalt obey,
And at thy pledge's peril keep thy day."
Woe was the knight at this severe command:
But well he knew 'twas bootless to withstand :
The terms accepted as the fair ordain,
He put in bail for his return again,
And promis'd answer at the day assign'd,
The best, with Heaven's assistance, he could find
His leave thus taken, on his way he went
With heavy heart, and full of discontent,
Misdoubting much, and fearful of th' event.
"Twas hard the truth of such a point to find,
As was not yet agreed among the kind.
Thus on he went; still anxious more and more,
Ask'd all he met, and knock'd at every door;
Inquir'd of men; but made his chief request
To learn from women what they lov'd the best.
They answer'd each according to her mind.
To please herself, not all the female kind.
One was for wealth, another was for place:
Crones, old and ugly, wish'd a better face.
The widow's wish was oftentimes to wed;
The wanton maids were all for sport a-bed.
Some said the sex were pleas'd with handsome lies,
And some gross flattery lov'd without disguise :
"Truth is," says one,
he seldom fails to win
Who flatters well; for that's our darling sin:
But long attendance, and a duteous mind,
Will work ev'n with the wisest of the kind."
One thought the sex's prime felicity
Was from the bonds of wedlock to be free:
Their pleasures, hours, and actions, all their own,
And uncontrol'd to give account to none.
Some wish a husband-fool; but such are curst,
For fools perverse of husbands are the worst:
All women would be counted chaste and wise,
Nor should our spouses see, but with our eyes;
For fools will prate; and though they want the wit
To find close faults, yet open blots will hit :
Though better for their ease to hold their tongue,
For woman-kind was never in the wrong.
So noise ensues, and quarrels last for life;
The wife abhors the fool, the fool the wife.
And some men say that great delight have we,
To be for truth extoll'd, and secrecy :
And constant in one purpose still to dwell;
And not our husbands' counsels to reveal.
But that's a fable: for our sex is frail,
Inventing rather than not tell a tale.
Like leaky sieves no secrets we can hold:
Witness the famous tale that Gvid told.
Midas the king, as in his book appears, By Phoebus was endow'd with ass's ears, Which under his long locks he well conceal'd, As monarchs' vices must not be reveal'd, For fear the people have them in the wind, Who long ago were neither dumb nor blind: Nor apt to think from Heaven their title springs, Since Jove and Mars left off begetting kings. This Midas knew; and durst communicate To none but to his wife his ears of state: One must be trusted, and he thought her fit, As passing prudent, and a parlous wit. To this sagacious confessor he went, And told her what a gift the gods had sent:
But told it under matrimonial seal,
With strict injunction never to reveal.
The secret heard, she plighted him her troth,
(And sacred sure is every woman's oath)
The royal malady should rest unknown,
Both for her husband's honor and her own;
But ne'ertheless she pin'd with discontent;
The counsel rumbled till it found a vent.
The thing she knew she was oblig'd to hide;
By interest and by oath the wife was tied;
But if she told it not, the woman died.
Loth to betray a husband and a prince,
But she must burst, or blab: and no pretence
Of honor tied her tongue from self-defence.
A marshy ground commodiously was near,
Thither she ran, and held her breath for fear,
Lest if a word she spoke of any thing,
That word might be the secret of the king.
Thus full of counsel to the fen she went,
Grip'd all the way, and longing for a vent;
Arriv'd, by pure necessity compell'd,
On her majestic marrow-bones she kneel'd:
Then to the water's brink she laid her head,
And, as a bittour bumps within a reed,
"To thee alone, O Lake," she said, "I tell,
(And, as thy queen, command thee to conceal):
Beneath his locks the king my husband wears
A goodly royal pair of ass's ears.
Now I have eas'd my bosom of the pain,
Till the next longing-fit return again."
One only hag remain'd: but fouler far
Than grandame apes in Indian forests are;
Against a wither'd oak she lean'd her weight,
Propp'd on her trusty staff, not half upright,
And dropp'd an awkward court'sy to the knight.
Then said, "What makes you, sir, so late abroad
Without a guide, and this no beaten road?
Or want you aught that here you hope to find,
Or travel for some trouble in your mind?
The last I guess; and if I read aright,
Those of our sex are bound to serve a knight;
Perhaps good counsel may your grief assuage,
Then tell your pain: for wisdom is in age."
To this the knight: "Good mother, would you know
The secret cause and spring of all my woe?
My life must with to-morrow's light expire,
Unless I tell what women most desire
Now could you help me at this hard essay,
Or for your inborn goodness, or for pay;
Yours is my life, redeem'd by your advice,
Ask what you please, and I will pay the price:
The proudest kerchief of the court shall rest
Well satisfied of what they love the best."
Plight me thy faith," quoth she, that what I ask,
Thy danger over, and perform'd thy task,
That thou shalt give for hire of thy demand;
Here take thy oath, and seal it on my hand;
I warrant thee, on peril of my life,
Thy words shall please both widow, maid, and wife.”
More words there needed not to move the knight,
To take her offer, and his truth to plight.
With that she spread a mantle on the ground,
And, first inquiring whither he was bound,
Bade him not fear, though long and rough the way
At court he should arrive ere break of day;
His horse should find the way without a guide,
She said: with fury they began to ride,
He on the midst, the beldam at his side.
The horse, what devil drove I cannot tell,
But only this, they sped their journey well:
And all the way the crone inform'd the knight,
How he should answer the demand aright.
To court they came: the news was quickly spread
Of his returning to redeem his head.
The female senate was assembled soon,
With all the mob of women of the town:
The queen sate lord chief justice of the hall,
Thus through a woman was the secret known; And bade the crier cite the criminal.
Tell us, and in effect you tell the town.
But to my tale: The knight with heavy cheer,
Wandering in vain, had now consum'd the year:
One day was only left to solve the doubt,
Yet knew no more than when he first set out.
But home he must, and, as th' award had been,
Yield up his body captive to the queen.
In this despairing state he hapt to ride,
As Fortune led him, by a forest side:
Lonely the vale, and full of horror stood,
Brown with the shade of a religious wood;
When full before him at the noon of night,
(The Moon was up, and shot a gleamy light)
He saw a quire of ladies in a round,
That featly footing seem'd to skim the ground:
Thus dancing hand in hand, so light they were,
He knew not where they trod, on earth or air.
At speed he drove, and came a sudden guest,
In hope where many women were, at least,
Some one by chance might answer his request.
But faster than his horse the ladies flew,
And in a trice were vanish'd out of view.
The knight appear'd; and silence they proclaim:
Then first the culprit answer'd to his name:
And, after forms of law, was last requir'd
To name the thing that women most desir'd.
Th' offender, taught his lesson by the way,
And by his counsel order'd what to say,
Thus bold began: "My lady liege," said he,
What all your sex desire is sovereignty.
The wife affects her husband to command:
All must be hers, both money, house, and land.
The maids are mistresses ev'n in their name;
And of their servants full dominion claim.
This, at the peril of my head, I say,
A blunt plain truth, the sex aspires to sway,
You to rule all, while we, like slaves, obey."
There was not one, or widow, maid, or wife,
But said the knight had well deserv'd his life.
Ev'n fair Geneura, with a blush, confess'd
The man had found what women love the best.
Up starts the beldam, who was there unseen:
And, reverence made, accosted thus the queen.
My liege," said she, "before the court arise,
May I, poor wretch, find favor in your eyes,
To grant my just request: 'twas I who taught
The knight this answer, and inspir'd his thought.
None but a woman could a man direct
To tell us women, what we most affect.
But first I swore him on his knightly troth,
(And here demand performance of his oath)
To grant the boon that next I should desire;
He gave his faith, and I expect my hire:
My promise is fulfill'd: I sav'd his life,
And claim his debt, to take me for his wife."
The knight was ask'd, nor could his oath deny,
But hoped they would not force him to comply
The women, who would rather wrest the laws,
Than let a sister-plaintiff lose the cause,
(As judges on the bench more gracious are,
And more attent, to brothers of the bar,)