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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,
Iy days of old, there liv'd, of mighty fame, And here in hope of thy return we wait:
A valiant prince, and Theseus was his name : And long have waited in the temple nigh,
A chief, who more in feats of arms excell'd, Built to the gracious goddess Clemency.
The rising nor the setting Sun beheld.
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 tears. And added foreign countries to his crown.
I, wretched I, have other fortunes seen,
In Scythia with the warrior queen he strove, The wife of Capaneus, and once a queen:
Whom first by force he conquered, then by love; At Thebes he fell, curst be the fatal day!
He brought in triumph back the beauteous dame, And all the rest thou seest in this array
With whom her sister, fair Emilia, came.
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 his 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, Wbat 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.
To tire your patience, and to waste my strength ; Then lightly from his lofty steed he flew,
And trivial accidents shall be forborne,
And raising, one by one, the suppliant crew,
That others may have time to take their turn; To comfort each, full solemnly be swore,
As was at first enjoin'd us by mine host,
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 flew Creeping and crying, till they seiz'd at last And the green grass was dyed 10 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 : you 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 fell:
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 succoss : All these to fitter times shall be deferr'd: 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,
And with what gifts the mourning dames dismiss'd.
Thus when the victor chief had Creon.slain,
And conquer'd Thebes, he pitch'd upon the plain
His mighty camp, and, when the day return'd,
The country wasted, and the hamlets burn'd,
And left the pillagers, to rapine bred,
Without control to strip and spoil the dead.
There, in a heap of slain, among the rest
Two youthful knights they found beneath a load
Of slaughter'd foes, whom first to death they sent,
The trophies of their strength, a bloody monument.
Both fair, and both of royal blood they seem'd,
Whom kinsmen to the crown the heralds deem'd;
That day in equal arms they fought for fame;
Their swords, their shields, their surcoats, were the
Close by each other laid, they press'd the ground,
Their manly bosoms pierc'd with many a grisly
Nor well alive, nor wholly dead, they were,
But some faint signs of feeble life appear:
The wandering breath was on the wing to part,
Weak was the pulse, and hardly heav'd the heart.
These two were sisters' sons; and Arcite one,
Much fam'd in fields, with valiant Palamon.
From these their costly arms the spoilers rent,
And softly both convey'd to Theseus' tent:
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,
Hopeless of ransom, and condemn'd to lie
In durance, doom'd a lingering death to die.
This done, he march'd away with warlike sound,
And to his Athens turn'd with laurels crown'd,
Where happy long he liv'd, much lov'd, and more
But in a tower, and never to be loos'd,
The woful captive kinsmen are inclos'd.
Thus year by year they pass, and day by day,
Till once, 'twas on the morn of cheerful May,
The young Emilia, fairer to be seen
Than the fair lily on the flowery green,
More fresh than May herself in blossoms new,
For with the rosy color strove her hue,
Wak'd, as her custom was, before the day,
To do th' observance due to sprightly May:
For sprightly May commands our youth to keep
The vigils of hernight, and breaks their sluggard sleep;
Each gentle breath with kindly warmth she moves;
Inspires new flames, revives extinguish'd loves.
In this remembrance Emily, ere day,
Arose, and dress'd herself in rich array;
Fresh as the month, and as the morning fair;
Adown her shoulders fell her length of hair:"
A ribband did the braided tresses bind,
The rest was loose, and wanton'd in the wind.
Aurora had but newly chas'd the night,
And purpled o'er the sky with blushing light,
When to the garden walk she took her way,
To sport and trip along in cool of day,
And offer maiden vows in honor of the May.
At every turn, she made a little stand,
And thrust among the thorns her lily hand
To draw the rose; and every rose she drew,
She shook the stalk, and brush'd away the dew:
Then party-color'd flowers of white and red
She wove, to make a garland for her head:
This done, she sung and caroll'd out so clear,
That men and angels might rejoice to hear:
Ev'n wondering Philomel forgot to sing,
And learn'd from her to welcome in the Spring.
The tower, of which before was mention made,
Within whose keep the captive knights were laid,
Built of a large extent, and strong withal,
Was one partition of the palace wall:
The garden was inclos'd within the square,
Where young Emilia took the morning air.
It happen'd Palamon, the prisoner knight,
Restless for woe, arose before the light,
And with his gaoler's leave desir'd to breathe
An air more wholesome than the damps beneath :
This granted, to the tower he took his way,
Cheer'd with the promise of a glorious day:
Then cast a languishing regard around,
And saw with hateful eyes the temples crown'd
With golden spires, and all the hostile ground.
He sigh'd, and turn'd his eyes, because he knew
"Twas but a larger gaol he had in view:
Then look'd below, and, from the castle's height
Beheld a nearer and more pleasing sight,
The garden, which before he had not seen,
In Spring's new livery clad of white and green,
Fresh flowers in wide parterres, and shady walks
This view'd, but not enjoy'd, with arms across
He stood, reflecting on his country's loss;
Himself an object of the public scorn,
And often wish'd he never had been born.
With walking giddy, and with thinking tir'd,
He through a little window cast his sight,
Though thick of bars, that gave a scanty light:
But ev'n that glimmering serv'd him to descry
Th' inevitable charms of Emily.
Scarce had he seen, but, seiz'd with sudden smart,
Stung to the quick, he felt it at his heart;
Struck blind with overpowering light, he stood,
Then started back amaz'd, and cried aloud.
Young Arcite heard; and up he ran with haste,
To help his friend, and in his arms embrac'd;
And ask'd him why he look'd so deadly wan,
And whence and how his change of cheer began,
Or who had done th' offence? "But if," said he,
Your grief alone is hard captivity,
For love of Heaven, with patience undergo
A cureless ill, since Fate will have it so:
So stood our horoscope in chains to lie,
And Saturn in the dungeon of the sky,
Or other baleful aspect, rul'd our birth,
When all the friendly stars were under Earth:
Whate'er betides, by Destiny 'tis done;
And better bear like men, than vainly seek to shun."
Nor of my bonds," said Palamon again,
Nor of unhappy planets I complain;
But when my mortal anguish caus'd me cry,
That moment I was hurt through either eye;
Piere'd with a random shaft, I faint away,
And perish with insensible decay:
A glance of some new goddess gave the wound,
Whom, like Acteon, unaware I found.
Look how she walks along yon shady space,
Not Juno moves with more majestic grace;
And all the Cyprian queen is in her face.
If thou art Venus (for thy charms confess
That face was form'd in Heaven, nor art thou less;
Disguis'd in habit, undisguis'd in shape)
O help us captives from our chains t'escape;
But if our doom be past, in bonds to lie
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,
And show compassion to the Theban race, 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, O, 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 view'd.
" 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 pass'd,
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 l'attend
Have we not plighted each our holy oath, This worthy Theseus, his familiar friend;
That one should be the common good of both; Their love in early infancy began,
One soul should both inspire, and neither prove And rose as childhood ripen'd into man:
His fellow's hindrance in pursuit of love? Companions of the war, and lov'd so well,
To this before the Gods we gave our hands, 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 sates 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 !
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,
And art a comely, young, and valiant knight,
Fortune (a various power) may cease to frown,
And by some ways unknown thy wishes crown?
But I, the most forlorn of human-kind,
Nor help can hope, nor remedy can find;
But, doom'd to drag my lothesome life in care,
For my reward, must end it in despair.
Fire, water, air, and earth, and force of fates
That governs all, and Heaven that all creates,
Nor art, nor Nature's hand can ease my grief;
Nothing but death, the wretch's last relief:
Then farewell youth, and all the joys that dwell,
With youth and life, and life itself farewell.
But why, alas! do mortal men in vain
Of Fortune, Fate, or Providence complain?
God gives us what he knows our wants require,
And better things than those which we desire:
Some pray for riches; riches they obtain;
But, watch'd by robbers, for their wealth are slain;
Some pray from prison to be freed; and come,
When guilty of their vows, to fall at home;
Murder'd by those they trusted with their life,
A favor'd servant, or a bosom wife.
Such dear-bought blessings happen every day,
Because we know not for what things to pray.
Like drunken sots about the street we roam:
Well knows the sot he has a certain home;
Yet knows not how to find th' uncertain place,
And blunders on, and staggers every pace.
Thus all seek happiness; but few can find,
For far the greater part of men are blind.
This is my case, who thought our utmost good
Was in one word of freedom understood:
The fatal blessing came: from prison free,
I starve abroad, and lose the sight of Emily."
Thus Arcite: but if Arcite thus deplore
His sufferings, Palamon yet suffers more.
For when he knew his rival freed and gone,
He swells with wrath; he makes outrageous moan:
He frets, he fumes, he stares, he stamps the ground;
The hollow tower with clamors rings around:
With briny tears he bath'd his fetter'd feet,
And dropt all o'er with agony of sweat.
Alas!" he cried, "I wretch in prison pine, Too happy rival, while the fruit is thine: Thou liv'st at large, thou draw'st thy native air, Pleas'd with thy freedom, proud of my despair: Thou mayst, since thou hast youth and courage join'd, A sweet behavior, and a solid mind, Assemble ours, and all the Theban race, To vindicate on Athens thy disgrace; And after, by some treaty made, possess Fair Emily, the pledge of lasting peace. So thine shall be the beauteous prize, while I Must languish in despair, in prison die. Thus all th' advantage of the strife is thine, Thy portion double joys, and double sorrows mine." The rage of jealousy then fir'd his soul, And his face kindled like a burning coal: Now cold Despair, succeeding in her stead, To livid paleness turns the glowing red. His blood, scarce liquid, creeps within his veins, Like water which the freezing wind constrains. Then thus he said: "Eternal deities, Who rule the world with absolute decrees, And write whatever time shall bring to pass, With pens of adamant, on plates of brass; What, is the race of human-kind your care, Beyond what all his fellow-creatures are?
It happen'd once, that, slumbering as he lay,
He dream'd (his dream began at break of day)
That Hermes o'er his head in air appear'd,
And with soft words his drooping spirits cheer'd:
His hat, adorn'd with wings, disclos'd the god,
And in his hand he bore the sleep-compelling rod
Such as he seem'd, when, at his sire's command,
On Argus' head he laid the snaky wand.
A sudden thought then starting in his mind,
Since I in Arcite cannot Arcite find,
Arise," he said, "to conquering Athens go,
There Fate appoints an end to all thy woe."
The fright awaken'd Arcite with a start,
Against his bosom bounc'd his heaving heart;
But soon he said, with scarce recover'd breath,
"And thither will I go, to meet my death,
Sure to be slain, but death is my desire,
Since in Emilia's sight I shall expire."
By chance he spied a mirror while he spoke,
And gazing there beheld his alter'd look;
Wondering, he saw his features and his hue
So much were chang'd, that scarce himself he Who swallow'd unaware the sleepy draught,
But when the sixth revolving year was run,
And May within the Twins receiv'd the Sun,
Were it by Chance, or forceful Destiny,
Which forms in causes first whate'er shall be,
Assisted by a friend, one moonless night,
This Palamon from prison took his flight:
A pleasant beverage he prepar'd before
Of wine and honey, mix'd with added store
Of opium; to his keeper this he brought,
And snor'd secure till morn, his senses bound
In slumber, and in long oblivion drown'd.
Short was the night, and careful Palamon
WHILE Arcite lives in bliss, the story turns
Where hopeless Palamon in prison mourns.
For six long years immur'd, the captiv'd knight
Had dragg'd his chains, and scarcely seen the light:
Lost liberty, and love, at once he bore:
His prison pain'd him much, his passion more:
Nor dares he hope his fetters to remove,
Nor ever wishes to be free from love.