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BRADAVANT, deceivel by Pinabello, finds herself in Merlin's cave,
where she meets with Melissa, who shews to her, in vision, all her descendants that were to make a figure in history. In this passage the poet pays a compliment to the most illustrious Italian families. Melissa then instructs Bradamant how to deliver Rogero from the castle in which he was contined by Atlantes, and dis. misses her.
WHAT power will teach me losty words to find
For the great subject that inflames my mind?
What power will lend my venturous muse a wing
In tuneful lays my high conceits to sing?
A vigour mightier far must here be shown
Than e'er my swelling bosom yet has known:
This verse my patron claims, which dares to trace
The fountain whence he draws his glorious race!
Amidst th’ illustrious chiefs by fate design'd With righteous government to bless mankind,
Ver. 1. Ilhat power will teach -] This invocation of Ariosto in apparently translated by Spenser in his lany Queen:
Who now shail give uto me words and sound
Equal unto this nanglity enterprise?
Or who shall loud me wings, with which from ground
Ny lowly verse may lottily arise,
And lift itself unto the highest skies?
O Phæbus! you, whose eye the world surveys,
Ne'er view'd a line like this, whose deathless praise,
In peace and war, shall fill the lips of fame;
Whose blooming honours shall endure the same,
(Or vain the light prophetic in my soul
Whilo Ileaven, unchanging, whirls around the pole.
To blazon all their virtues would require
Not my weak lute, but that immortal lyre,
On which, the giants quell'd, you sung above
The grateful praises of eternal Jove!
O! should you here the wish’d-for aid impart,
And to the subject raise the sculptor's art;
Each noblc image shall my fancy fill,
To challenge all my genius, all my skill;
Then what at first I may but roughly trace,
By slow degrees shall ripen into grace;
Till crown'd by you, I see with joyful eyes
Each labour'd form to full perfection rise.
But let the muse to him the story bend,
Whose breast, nor shield, nor cuirass could defend;
The treacherous Pinabel, who hop'd in vain
With murderous guile the damsel to have slain.
More ample spirit than hitherto was wont
Ilere needs me, while the famous ancestries
Of my most dreaded sovereigo I recount,
By which all earthly priuces she doth far surmount,
Argument worthy of Mæonian quill,
Or rather worthy of great Phæbus rote,
Whereon the ruins of great Ossa hill,
And triumph of Phlegræan Jove he wrote.
The traitor deem'd her in the cavern dead,
And, with a visage pale through guilty dread,
The place, polluted by his crime, forsook,
Then instant speeding back, his courser took :
action might his soul betray,
He with him bears the virgin's steed away.
But leave we him, who while his craft is shown
To seek another's fall, procures his own;
And turn to her, who nearly scap'd the doom,
In one sad hour to find her death and tomb.
Soon as the maid again from earth was rais’d,
With the hard shock and sudden fall amaz’d,
She enter'd boldly through the gate, which gave
An entrance to the second, larger cave.
The building, square within, and spacious made,
A stately temple to the sight display'd.
Magnificent the sumptuous pile appear’d,
On pillars fair of alabaster rear’d.
An altar in the midst; and kindled bright,
A lamp before, cast round a trembling light.
Soon as the damsel view'd, with pious mind,
This sacred place for holy rites design'd,
Devoutly on her knees the earth she press'd,
And to the king of Heaven her prayers address’d.
Meantime a sudden jarring sound was heard,
When from a narrow gate a dame appear’d,
Ver. 39. But leave we him,---] The story of Pinabello is continued, B. xx. ver. 803.
Ver. 58.---a dame appear'd,] Melissa, an enchantress; a character introduced by Ariosto, who, throughout the poem, interests herself in all the concerns of Rogero and Bradamant.
Ungirt, with feet unshod, with hair display'd,
Who, by her name address'd the warrior-maid.
And thus, (generous Bradamant! (she said)
Not without Heaven's appointment hither led,
Merlin foretold, that by a passage new
Thou shouldst, descending here, his relics view;
And hence I stay'd, to set before thy eyes
The glorious fate predestin'd in the skies.
Behold this ancient cave, hy Merlin wrought,
Merlin, in every art of magic taught:
Here with bewitching looks, and wiles prepar'd,
The lady of the lake his heart ensnar’d.
Ver. 67.---hy Merlin wrought,] According to Jeffery of Monmouth, the famous magician Merlin was born at Kaermardin, i. e. Caermarthen, named by Ptolemy, Maridunum. Merlin's mother, who was a niece and daughter of the king of Demetia, (or South Wales) giving an account of her wonderful conception of her son, a philosopher explains it, that it was some demon, or incubus, “ some guileful spright,” partaking partly of the nature of man, partly of angels, and assuming a human shape, which begot Merlin; and this ex. plains what Ariosto says, that Verlin was'the son of a demon.
Di Merlin dico, del demonio siglio.
Drayton, in his Polyolbion, song V. thus sings of Merlin, who was born at Caermarden:
of Merlin and his skill what region doth not hear?
Who of a Briti-lı nymph was gotten, whilst she play'd
With a seducing spirit..........
And sooth men say he was not the son
Of mortal sire, or other living wight,
But wondrously begotten and begun,
By false illusion of a guileful spright
On a fair lady......
Fairy Qucen, B. iji. C.ii.