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Let fall some drops of pity on our grief, PALAMON AND ARCITE: If what we beg be just, and we deserve relief:
For none of us, who now thy grace implore, OR, THE KNIGHTS TALE.
But held the rank of sovereign queen before ;
Till, thanks to giddy Chance, which never bears Воок І
That mortal bliss should last for length of years,
She cast us headlong from our high estate,
But reverence thou the power whose name it bears, Of Athens he was lord ; much land he won, Relieve th' oppress'd, and wipe the widow's tean. And added foreign countries to his crown.
I, wretched I, have other fortunes seen,
To make their moan, their lords in battle lost With honor to his home let Theseus ride,
Before that town, besieg'd by our confederate host: With Love to friend, and Fortune for his guide, But Creon, old and impious, who commands And his victorious army at his side.
The Theban city, and usurps the lands, I pass their warlike pomp, their proud array, Denies the rites of funeral fires to those Their shouts, their songs, their welcome on the way. Whose breathless bodies yet he calls bis foes. But, were it not too long, I would recite
Unburn'd, unburied, on a heap they lie; The feats of Amazons, the fatal fight
Such is their fate, and such his tyranny; Betwixt the hardy queen and hero knight;
No friend has leave to bear away the dead, The town besieg'd, and how much blood it cost But with their lifeless limbs his hounds are fed." The female army and th' Athenian host;
At this she shriek'd aloud; the mournful train The spousals of Hippolita, the queen;
Echo'd her grief, and, grovelling on the plain, What tilts and tourneys at the feast were seen; With groans, and hands upheld, to move his mind, The storm at their return, the ladies' fear:
Besought his pity to their helpless kind! But these, and other things, I must forbear.
The prince was touch'd, his tears began to flow, The field is spacious I design to sow,
And, as his tender heart would break in two, With oxen far unfit to draw the plow :
He sigh'd, and could not but their fate deplore, The remnant of my tale is of a length
So wretched now, so fortunate before.
And raising, one by one, the suppliant crew,
That by the faith which knights to knighthood bore, That he whose tale is best, and pleases most, And whate'er else to chivalry belongs, Should win his supper at our common cost. He would not cease, till he reveng'd their wrongs: And therefore where I left, I will pursue
That Greece should see perform'd what he declar'd; This ancient story, whether false or true,
And cruel Creon find his just reward. In hope it may be mended with a new.
He said no more, but, shunning all delay, The prince I mention'd, full of high renown, Rode on; nor enter'd Athens on his way: In this array drew near th' Athenian town; But left his sister and his queen behind, When, in his pomp and utmost of his pride, And wav'd his royal banner in the wind : Marching, he chanc'd to cast his eye aside, Where in an argent field the god of war And saw a choir of mourning dames, who lay Was drawn triumphant on his iron car; By two and two across the common way: Red was his sword, and shield, and whole attire, At his approach they rais'd a rueful cry,
And all the godhead seem'd to glow with fire ; And beat their breasts, and held their hands on high, Ev'n the ground glitter'd where the standard dew Creeping and crying, till they seiz'd at last And the green grass was dyed to sanguine hue. His courser's bridle, and his feet embrac'd. High on his pointed lance his pennon bore “Tell me," said Theseus, “what and whence His Cretan fight, the conquer'd Minotaur: yon are,
The soldiers shout around with generous rage. And why this funeral pageant you prepare ?
And in that victory their own presage. Is this the welcome of my worthy deeds,
He prais'd their ardor ; inly pleas'd to see To meet my triumph in ill-omen'd weeds? His host the flower of Grecian chivalry. Or envy you my praise, and would destroy
All day he march'd ; and all th' ensuing night; With grief my pleasures, and pollute my joy? And saw the city with returning light. Or are you injur'd, and demand relief?
The process of the war I need not tell, Name your request, and I will ease your grief." How Theseus conquer'd, and how Creon sell:
The most in years of all the mourning train Or after, how by storm the walls were won, Began (but swooned first away for pain);
Or how the victor sack d and burn'd the town: Then scarce recover'd spoke: “Nor envy we How to the ladies he restor'd again Thy great renown, nor grudge thy victory; The bodies of their lords in battle slain : 'Tis thine, O king, th' afflicted to redress,
And with what ancient rites they were interr'd; And Fame has fill'd the world with thy success : All these to fitter times shall be deferrd: We, wretched women, sue for that alone,
I spare the widows' tears, their woful cries, Which of thy goodness is refus'd to none;
And howling at their husbands' obsequies ;
How Theseus at these funerals did assist,
Ev'n wondering Philomel forgot to sing, And with what gifts the mourning dames dismiss'd. And learn'd from her to welcome in the Spring.
Thus when the victor chief had Creon.slain, The tower, of which before was mention made, ! And conquer'd Thebes, he pitch'd upon the plain Within whose keep the captive knights were laid, His mighty camp, and, when the day return'd, Built of a large extent, and strong withal, The country wasted, and the hamlets burn'd, Was one partition of the palace wall : And left the pillagers, to rapine bred, .
The garden was inclos'd within the square, (Vithout control to strip and spoil the dead. Where young Emilia took the morning air. There, in a heap of slain, among the rest
It happen'a Palamon, the prisoner knight, Two youthful knights they found beneath a load Restless for woe, arose before the light, oppress'
And with his gaoler's leave desir'd to breathe Of slaughter'd foes, whom first to death they sent, An air more wholesome than the damps beneath : The trophies of their strength, a blɔody monument. This granted, to the tower he took his way, Both fair, and both of royal blood they seem'd, Cheer'd with the promise of a glorious day : Whom kinsmen to the crown the heralds deem'd; Then cast a languishing regard around, That day in equal arms they fought for fame; And saw with hateful eyes the temples crown'd Their swords, their shields, their surcoats, were the With golden spires, and all the hostile ground. same.
He sigh'd, and turn'd his eyes, because he knew Close by each other laid, they press'd the ground, "Twas but a larger gaol he had in view: Their manly bosoms pierc'd with many a grisly Then look'd below, and, from the castle's height wound;
Beheld a nearer and more pleasing sight, Nor well alive, nor wholly dead, they were, The garden, which before he had not seen, But some faint signs of feeble life appear:
In Spring's new livery clad of white and green, The wandering breath was on the wing to part, Fresh flowers in wide parterres, and shady walks Weak was the pulse, and hardly heav'd the heart.
between. These two were sisters' sons; and Arcite one, | This view'd, but not enjoy'd, with arms across Much fam'd in fields, with valiant Palamon. He stood, reflecting on his country's loss ; From these their costly arms the spoilers rent, Himself an object of the public scorn, And softly both convey'd to Theseus' tent: And often wish'd he never had been born. Whom, known of Creon's line, and cur'd with care, At last, for so his destiny requir'd, He to his city sent as prisoners of the war,
With walking giddy, and with thinking tir'd, Ilopeless of ransom, and condemn'd to lie
He through a little window cast his sight, In durance, doom'd a lingering death to die. Though thick of bars, that gave a scanty light: This done, he march'd away with warlike sound, But ev'n that glimmering serv'd him to descry And to his Athens turn'd with laurels crown'd, Th'inevitable charms of Emily. Where happy long he liv'd, much lov'd, and more Scarce had he seen, but, seiz'd with sudden sma:t, renown'd.
Siung to the quick, he felt it at his heart; But in a tower, and never to be loos'd,
Struck blind with overpowering light, he stood. The woful captive kinsmen are inclos'd.
Then started back amaz'd, and cried aloud. Thus year by year they pass, and day by day, Young Arcite heard ; and up he ran with haste, Till once, 'twas on the morn of cheerful May, To help his friend, and in his arms embrac'd; The young Emilia, fairer to be seen
And ask'd him why he look'd so deadly wan, Than the fair lily on the flowery green,
And whence and how his change of cheer began, More fresh than May herself in blossoms new, Or who had done th' offence? “But if," said he, For with the rosy color strove her hue,
“ Your grief alone is hard captivity, Wak'd, as her custom was, before the day,
For love of Heaven, with patience undergo To do th'observance due to sprightly May: A cureless ill, since Fate will have it so: For sprightly May commands our youth to keep So stood our horoscope in chains to lie, The vigils of hernight, and breaks theirsluggard sleep; And Saturn in the dungeon of the sky, Each gentle breath with kindly warmth she moves; Or other baleful aspect, rul'd our birth, Inspires new flames, revives extinguish'd loves. When all the friendly stars were under Earth : In this rernembrance Emily, ere day,
Whate'er betides, by Destiny 'tis done ; Arose, and dress'd herself in rich array;
And better bear like men, than vainly seek to shun." Fresh as the month, and as the morning fair; “ Nor of my bonds," said Palamon again, Adown her shoulders fell her length of hair : 1 “Nor of unhappy planets I complain; A ribband did the braided tresses bind,
| But when my mortal anguish caus'd me cry, The rest was loose, and wanton'd in the wind. | That moment I was hurt through either eye; Aurora had but newly chas'd the night,
Pierc'd with a random shaft, I faint away,
Whom, like Acteon, unaware I found.
Not Juno moves with more majestic grace ;
And all the Cyprian queen is in her face. To draw the rose ; and every rose she drew, If thou art Venus (for thy charms confess She shook the stalk, and brush'd away the dew : That face was form'd in Heaven, nor art thou less; Then party-color'd flowers of white and red Disguis'd in habit, undisguis'd in shape) She wore, to make a garland for her head: O help us captives from our chains t'escape; This done, she sung and carollid out so clear, | But if our doom be past, in bonds to lie That men and angels might rejoice to bear: For life, and in a lothesome dungeon die,
Then be thy wrath appeas'd with our disgrace, If then the laws of friendship I transgress,
I keep the greater, while I break the less; Oppress'd by tyrant power!" While yet he spoke, And both are mad alike, since neither can possess. Arcite on Emily had fix'd his look ;
Both hopeless to be ransom'd, never more The fatal dart a ready passage found,
To see the Sun, but as he passes o'er." And deep within his heart infix'd the wound: Like Æsop's hounds contending for the bone, So that if Palamon were wounded sore,
Each pleaded right, and would be lord alone : Arcite was hurt as much as he, or more:
The fruitless fight continued all the day: Then from his inmost soul he sigh’d, and said, A cur came by, and snatch'd the prize away. “ The beauty I behold has struck me dead : “ As courtiers therefore justle for a grant, Unknowingly she strikes, and kills by chance; And, when they break their friendship, plead their Poison is in her eyes, and death in every glance.
want, 0, I must ask, nor ask alone, but move
So, thou, if Fortune will thy suit advance, Her mind to mercy, or must die for love."
Love on, nor envy me my equal chance : Thus Arcite: and thus Palamon replies,
For I must love, and am resolv'd to try (Eager his tone, and ardent were his eyes :) My fate, or failing in th' adventure, die.” “Speak'st thou in earnest, or in jesting vein ?" | Great was their strife, which hourly was renew'd, “Jesting," said Arcite, “suits but ill with pain.” Till each with mortal hate his rival viewd. " It suits far worse" (said Palamon again,
Now friends no more, nor walking hand in hand ; And bent his brows) “with men who honor weigh, But when they met, they made a surly stand; Their faith to break, their friendship to betray; And glar'd like angry lions as they passid, But worst with thee, of noble lineage born, And wish'd that every look might be their last. My kinsman, and in arms my brother sworn.
It chanc'd at length, Pirithous came t'attend Have we not plighted each our holy oath,
This worthy Theseus, his familiar friend ;
Companions of the war, and lov'd so well,
That when one died, as ancient stories tell, And nothing but our death can break the bands. His fellow to redeem him went to Hell. This binds thee, then, to further my design;
But to pursue my tale: to welcome home As I am bound by vow to further thine :
His warlike brother is Pirithous come: Nor canst, nor dar'st thou, traitor, on the plain Arcite of Thebes was known in arms long since, Appeach my honor, or thine own maintain, And honor'd by this young Thessalian prince. Since thou art of my council, and the friend Theseus, to gratify his friend and guest, Whose faith I trust, and on whose care depend : Who made our Arcite's freedom his request, And wouldst thou court my lady's love, which I Restor'd to liberty the captive knight, Much rather than release would choose to die? But on these hard conditions I recite: But thou, false Arcite, never shalt obtain
That if hereafter Arcite should be found Thy bad pretence; I told thee first my pain : Within the compass of Athenian ground, For first my love began ere thine was born ; By day or night, or on whate'er pretence, Thou, as my council, and my brother sworn, His head should pay the forfeit of th'offence. Art bound t' assist my eldership of right,
To this Pirithous for his friend agreed. Or justly to be deem'd a perjur'd knight."
And on his promise was the prisoner freed. Thus Palamon: but Arcite, with disdain,
Unpleas'd and pensive hence he takes his way, In haughty language, thus replied again :
At his own peril; for his life must pay. · Forsworn thyself: the traitor's odious name Who now but Arcite mourns his bitter fate, I first return, and then disprove thy claim.
Finds his dear purchase, and repents too late? If love be passion, and that passion nurst
“What have I gain'd," he said, " in prison pent, . With strong desires, I lov'd the lady first.
If I but change my bonds for banishment? Canst thou pretend desire, whom zeal inflam'd And banish'd from her sight, I suffer more To worship, and a power celestial nam'd ?
In freedom, than I felt in bonds before: Thine was devotion to the blest above,
Forc'd from her presence, and condemn'd to live: I saw the woman, and desir'd her love ;
Unwelcome freedom, and unthank'd reprieve: First own'd my passion, and to thee commend Heaven is not, but where Emily abides; Th’important secret, as my chosen friend.
And where she's absent, all is Hell besides. Suppose (which yet I grant not) thy desire Next to my day of birth, was that accurst, A moment elder than my rival fire ;
Which bound my friendship to Pirithous first: Can chance of seeing first thy title prove ?
Had I not known that prince, I still had been And know'st thou not, no law is made for love? In bondage, and had still Emilia seen: Law is to things, which to free choice relate; For, though I never can her grace deserve, Love is not in our choice, but in our fate;
"Tis recompense enough to see and serve. Laws are but positive ; love's power, we see, O Palamon, my kinsman and my friend, Is Nature's sanction, and her first decree.
How much more happy fates thy love attend! Each day we break the bond of human laws Thine is th' adventure ; thine the victory : For love, and vindicate the common cause. Well has thy fortune turn'd the dice for thee: Laws for defence of civil rights are plac'd, Thou on that angel's face may'st feed thine eyes, Love throws the fences down, and makes a general In prison, no; but blissful Paradise ! waste:
Thou daily seest that sun of beauty shine, Maids, widows, wives, without distinction fall; And lov'st at least in love's extremest line. The sweeping deluge, love, comes on, and covers all. I mourn in absence, love's eternal night;
And who can tell but since thou hast her sight, He with the rest is liable to pain,
Or does your justice, power, or prescience fail, Nor help can hope, nor remedy can find ;
When the good suffer, and the bad prevail ? But, doom'd to drag my lothesome life in care, What worse to wretched Virtue could befall, For my reward, must end it in despair.
If Fate or giddy Fortune govern'd all ? Fire, water, air, and earth, and force of fates Nay, worse than other beasts is our estate; That governs all, and Ileaven that all creates, Them, to pursue their pleasures, you create ; Nor art, nor Nature's hand can ease my grief; We, bound by harder laws, must curb our will, Nothing but death, the wretch's last relief: And your commands, not our desires, fulfil ; Then farewell youth, and all the joys that dwell, Then when the creature is unjustly slain, With youth and life, and life itself farewell. Yet after death at least he feels no pain; But why, alas! do mortal men in vain
But man, in life surcharg'd with woe before, Of Fortune, Fate, or Providence complain? Not freed when dead, is doom'd to suffer more. God gives us what he knows our wants require, A serpent shoots his sting at unaware ; And better things than those which we desire : An ambush'd thief forelays a traveller: Some pray for riches; riches they obtain;
The man lies murder'd, while the thief and snake But, watch'd by robbers, for their wealth are slain ; One gains the thickets, and one thrids the brake. Some pray from prison to be freed ; and come, This let divines decide; but well I know, . When guilty of their vows, to fall at home ; Just or unjusi, I have my share of woe, Murder'd by those they trusted with their life, Through Saturn seated in a luckless place, A favor'd servant, or a bosom wife.
And Juno's wrath, that persecutes my race; Such dear-bought blessings happen every day, Or Mars and Venus, in a quartile, move Because we know not for what things to pray. My pangs of jealousy for Arcite's love." Like drunken sots about the street we roam :
Let Palamon, oppress'd in bondage, mourn, Well knows the sot he has a certain home; While to his exil'd rival we return. Yet knows not how to find th' uncertain place, By this, the Sun, declining from his height, And blunders on, and staggers every pace.
The day had shorten'd, to prolong the night: Thus all seek happiness; but few can find, The lengthened night gave length of misery For far the greater part of men are blind.
Both to the captive lover and the free; This is my case, who thought our utmost good For Palamon in endless prison mourns, Was in one word of freedom understood :
And Arcite forfeits life if he returns : The fatal blessing camc: from prison free,
The banish'd never hopes his love to see, I starve abroad, and lose the sight of Emily." Nor hopes the captive lord his liberty :
Thus Arcite : but if Arcite thus deplore 'Tis hard to say who suffers greater pains: His sufferings, Palamon yet suffers more.
One sees his love, but cannot break his chains :
When Arcite was to Thebes return'd again, “ Alas!” he cried, " I wretch in prison pine, The loss of her he lov'd renew'd his pain; Too happy rival, while the fruit is thine :
What could be worse, than never more to see Thou liv’st at large, thou drawist thy native air, 1 His life, his soul, his charming Emily? Pleas'd with thy freedom, proud of my despair: He ray'd with all the madness of despair, Thou mayst, since thou hast youth and courage join'd, He roar'd, he beat his breast, he tore his hair. A sweet behavior, and a solid mind,
Dry sorrow in his stupid eyes appears, Assemble ours, and all the Theban race,
For, wanting nourishment, he wanted tears: To vindicate on Athens thy disgrace;
His eyeballs in their hollow sockets sink : And after, by some treaty made, possess
Berest of sleep, he lothes his meat and drink: Fair Emily, the pledge of lasting peace.
He withers at his heart, and looks as wan So thine shall be the beauteous prize, while I As the pale spectre of a murder'd man: Must languish in despair, in prison die.
That pale turns yellow, and his face receives Thus all th'advantage of the strife is thine, The faded hue of sapless boxen leaves : Thy portion double joys, and double sorrows mine." In solitary groves he makes his moan,
The rage of jealousy then fir'd his soul, Walks early out, and ever is alone : And his face kindled like a burning coal :
Nor, mix'd in mirth, in youthful pleasures shares, Now cold Despair, succeeding in her stead, But sighs when songs and instruments he hears : To livid paleness turns the glowing red
His spirits are so low, his voice is drown'd,
Uncomb'd his locks, and squalid his attire,
It happend once, that, slumbering as he lay,
Воок ІІ. He dream'd (his dream began at break of day) That Hermes o'er his head in air appear'd, While Arcite lives in bliss, the story turns And with soft words his drooping spirits cheerd: Where hopeless Palamon in prison mourns. His hat, adorn'd with wings, disclos'd the god, For six long years immur'd, the captiv'd knight And in his hand he bore the sleep-compelling rod : Had dragg'd his chains, and scarcely seen the light: Such as he seem'd, when, at his sire's command, Lost liberty, and love, at once he bore : On Argus' head he laid the snaky wand.
His prison pain'd him much, his passion more: “ Arise," he said, " to conquering Athens go, Nor dares he hope his fetters to remove, There Fate appoints an end to all thy woe.” Nor ever wishes to be free from love. The fright awaken'd Arcite with a start,
But when the sixth revolving year was run, Against his bosom bounc'd his heaving heart; And May within the Twins receiv'd the Sun, But soon he said, with scarce recover'd breath, Were it by Chance, or forceful Destiny, " And thither will I go, to meet my death,
Which forms in causes first whate'er shall be. Sure to be slain, but death is my desire,
Assisted by a friend, one moonless night, Since in Emilia's sight I shall expire.”
This Palamon from prison took his flight: By chance he spied a mirror while he spoke, A pleasant beverage he prepard before And gazing there beheld his alter'd look;
of wine and honey, mix'd with added store Wondering, he saw his features and his hue Of opium ; to his keeper this he brought, So much were chang'd, that scarce himself he Who swallow'd unaware the sleepy draught, knew.
And snor'd secure till morn, his senses bound A sudden thought then starting in his mind, in slumber, and in long oblivion drowu'd. “Since I in Arcite cannot Arcite find,
Short was the night, and careful Palamon The world may search in vain with all their eyes, Sought the next covert ere the rising Sun. But never penetrate through this disguise.
A thick-spread forest near the city lay, Thanks to the change which grief and sickness To this with lengthen'd strides he took his way, give,
(Foi far he could not fiy, and feard the day). In low estate I may securely live,
Safe from pursuit, he meant to shun the light, And see unknown my mistress day by day." Till the brown shadows of the friendly night He said ; and cloth'd himself in coarse array: To Thebes might favor his intended flight. A laboring hind in show, then forth he went, When to his country come, his next design And to th' Athenian towers his journey bent: Was all the Theban race in arms to join, One squire attended in the same disguise,
And war on Theseus, till he lost his life Made conscious of his master's enterprise.
Or won the beauteous Emily to wife. Arriv'd at Athens, soon he came to court,
Thus while his thoughts the lingering day beguile, Unknown, unquestion'd, in that thick resort: To gentle Arcite let us turn our style; Proffering for hire his service at the gate,
Who little dreamt how nigh he was to care, To drudge, draw water, and to run or wait. Till treacherous Fortune caught him in the snare. So fair berell him, that for little gain
The morning-lark, the messenger of Day, He serv'd at first Emilia's chamberlain :
Saluted in her song the morning grey; And, watchful all advantages to spy,
And soon the Sun arose with beams so bright, Was still at hand, and in his master's eye:
That all th' horizon laugh'd to see the joyous sight; And as his bones were big, and sinews strong, He with his tepid rays the rose renews, Refus'd no toil, that could to slaves belong; And licks the drooping leaves, and dries the dews; But from deep wells with engines water drew, When Arcite left his bed, resolv'd to pay And us'd his noble hands the wood to hew. Observance to the month of merry May: He pass'd a year at least attending thus
Forth on his fiery steed betimes he rode, On Emily, and call'd Philostratus.
|That scarcely prints the turf on which he trod: But never was there man of his degree
At ease he seem'd, and, prancing o'er the plains, So much esteem'd, so well belov'd, as he.
Turn'd only to the grove his horse's reins, So genıle of condition was he known,
The grove I nam'd before ; and, lighted there, That through the court his courtesy was blown: A woodbine garland sought to crown his hair; All think him worthy of a greater place,
Then turn'd his face against the rising day, And recommend him to the royal grace,
And rais'd his voice to welcome in the May. (weat, That, exercis'd within a higher sphere,
“For thee, sweet month, the groves green liveries His virtues more conspicuous might appear. If not the first, the fairest of the year: Thus by the general voice was Arcite prais'd, For thee the Graces lead the dancing Hours, And by great Theseus to high favor rais'd: And Nature's ready pencil paints the flowers : Among his menial servants first enroll’d,
When thy short reign is past, the feverish Sun And largely entertain'd with sums of gold : The sultry tropic fears, and moves more slowly on Besides what secretly from Thebes was sent, So may thy tender blossoms fear no blight, Of his own income, and his annual rent:
Nor goats with venom'd teeth thy tendrils bite, This well employ'd, he purchas'd friends and As thou shalt guide my wandering feet to find fame,
The fragrant greens I seek, my brows to bind." But cautiously conceal'd from whence it came. | His vows address'd, within the grove he stray'd. Thus for three years he liv'd with large increase, TIl Fate, or Fortune, near the place convey'd In arins of honor, and esteem in peace;
His steps where secret Palamon was laid. To Theseus' person he was ever near;
Full little thought of him the gentle knight, And Theseus for his virtues held him dear. Who, flying death, had there conceal'd his fight,