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Their adverse breasts with tusks oblique they wound,
With grunts and groans the forest rings around:
So fought the knights, and fighting must abide,
all Fate an umpire sends their difference to decide.
The power that ministers to God's decrees,
And executes on Earth what Heaven foresees,
Call'd Providence, or Chance, or Fatal Sway, [way.
Comes with resistless force, and finds or makes her
Nor kings, nor nations, nor united power,
One moment can retard th' appointed hour.
And some one day, some wondrous chance appears,
Which happen'd not in centuries of years:
For sure, whate'er we mortals hate, or love,
Or hope, or fear, depends on powers above;
They move our appetites to good or ill,
And by foresight necessitate the will.
In Theseus this appears; whose youthful joy
Was beasts of chase in forests to destroy.
This gentle knight, inspir'd by jolly May,
Forsook his easy couch at early day,
And to the wood and wilds pursued his way.
Beside him rode Hippolita the queen,
And Emily attir'd in lively green,
With horns, and hounds, and all the tuneful cry,
To hunt a royal hart within the covert nigh:
And as he follow'd Mars before, so now
He serves the goddess of the silver bow.
The way that Theseus took was to the wood
Where the two knights in cruel battle stood:
The lawn on which they fought, th' appointed place
In which th' uncoupled hounds began the chase.
Thither forth-right he rode to rouse the prey,
That, shaded by the fern, in harbor lay;
And, thence dislodg'd, was wont to leave the wood,
For open fields, and cross the crystal flood.
Approach'd, and looking underneath the Sun,
He saw proud Arcite, and fierce Palamon,
In mortal battle doubling blow on blow,
Like lightning flam'd their falchions to and fro,
And shot a dreadful gleam: so strong they strook,
There seem'd less force requir'd to fell an oak:
He gaz'd with wonder on their equal might,
Look'd eager on, but knew not either knight:
Resolv'd to learn, he spurr'd his fiery steed
With goring rowels to provoke his speed.
The minute ended that began the race,
So soon he was betwixt them on the place;
And with his sword unsheath'd, on pain of life
Commands both combatants to cease their strife:
Then with imperious tone pursues his threat:
What are you? why in arms together met?
How dares your pride presume against my laws,
As in a listed field to fight your cause?
Unask'd the royal grant; no marshal by,
As knightly rites require; nor judge to try?"
Then Palamon, with scarce recover'd breath,
Thus hasty spoke: "We both deserve the death,
And both would die; for look the world around,
A pair so wretched is not to be found:
Our life's a load; encumber'd with the charge,
We long to set th' imprison'd soul at large.
Now, as thou art a sovereign judge, decree
The rightful doom of death to him and me,
Let neither find thy grace, for grace is cruelty.
Me first, O kill me first; and cure my woe;
Then sheathe the sword of Justice on my foe:
Or kill him first; for when his name is heard,
He foremost will receive his due reward.
Arcite of Thebes is he; thy mortal foe:
On whom thy grace did liberty bestow;
But first contracted, that if ever found
By day or night upon th' Athenian ground,
His head should pay the forfeit; see return'd
The perjur'd knight, his oath and honor scorn'd.
For this is he, who, with a borrow'd name
And proffer'd service, to thy palace came,
Now call'd Philostratus: retain'd by thee,
A traitor trusted, and in high degree,
Aspiring to the bed of beauteous Emily.
My part remains; from Thebes my birth I own,
And call myself th' unhappy Palamon.
Think me not like that man; since no disgrace
Can force me to renounce the honor of my race.
Know me for what I am: I broke my chain,
Nor promis'd I thy prisoner to remain:
The love of liberty with life is given,
And life itself th' inferior gift of Heaven.
Thus without crime I fled; but farther know,
I with this Arcite am thy mortal foe:
Then give me death, since I thy life pursue;
For safeguard of thyself, death is my due.
More wouldst thou know? I love bright Emily,
And for her sake and in her sight will die:
But kill my rival too; for he no less
Deserves; and I thy righteous doom will bless,
Assur'd that what I lose, he never shall possess."
To this replied the stern Athenian prince,
And sourly smil'd: "In owning your offence,
You judge yourself; and I but keep record
In place of law, while you pronounce the word.
Take your desert, the death you have decreed;
I seal your doom, and ratify the deed:
By Mars, the patron of my arms, you die."
He said; dumb Sorrow seiz'd the standers-by.
The queen above the rest, by nature good,
(The pattern form'd of perfect womanhood)
For tender pity wept: when she began,
Through the bright quire th' infectious virtue ran
All dropt their tears, ev'n the contended maid,
And thus among themselves they softly said:
"What eyes can suffer this unworthy sight!
Two youths of royal blood, renown'd in fight,
The mastership of Heaven in face and mind,
And lovers, far beyond their faithless kind:
See their wide streaming wounds; they neither came
For pride of empire, nor desire of fame;
Kings for kingdoms, madmen for applause;
But love for love alone; that crowns the lover's
This thought, which ever bribes the beauteous kind,
Such pity wrought in every lady's mind,
They left their steeds, and prostrate on the place,
From the fierce king implor'd th' offenders grace.
He paus'd awhile, stood silent in his mood (For yet his rage was boiling in his blood); But soon his tender mind th' impression felt, (As softest metals are not slow to melt, And pity soonest runs in softest minds): Then reasons with himself; and first he finds His passion cast a mist before his sense, And either made, or magnified th' offence. "Offence! of what? to whom? who judg'd the cause?
The prisoner freed himself by Nature's laws:
Born free, he sought his right: the man he freed
Was perjur'd, but his love excus'd the deed."
Thus pondering, he look'd under with his eyes,
And saw the women's tears, and heard their cries.
Which mov'd compassion more; he shook his head,
And, softly sighing, to himself he said;
Curse on th' unpardoning prince, whom tears And grace his arms so far in equal fight, can draw
To no remorse; who rules by lions' law;
And deaf to prayers, by no submission bow'd,
Rends all alike; the penitent, and proud."
At this, with look serene, he rais'd his head;
Reason resum'd her place, and Passion fled :
Then thus aloud he spoke: "The power of Love,
In Earth, and seas, and air, and Heaven above,
Rules, unresisted, with an awful nod;
By daily miracles declar'd a god :
He blinds the wise, gives eye-sight to the blind;
And moulds and stamps anew the lover's mind.
Behold that Arcite, and this Palamon,
Freed from my fetters, and in safety gone,
What hinder'd either in their native soil
At ease to reap the harvest of their toil;
But Love, their lord, did otherwise ordain,
And brought them in their own despite again,
To suffer death deserv'd; for well they know,
"Tis in my power, and I their deadly foe;
The proverb holds, that to be wise and love,
Is hardly granted to the gods above.
See how the madmen bleed; behold the gains
With which their master, Love, rewards their pains;
For seven long years, on duty every day,
Lo their obedience, and their monarch's pay:
Yet, as in duty bound, they serve him on;
And, ask the fools, they think it wisely done;
Nor ease, nor wealth, nor life itself regard,
For 'tis their maxim, love is love's reward.
This is not all; the fair for whom they strove
Nor knew before, nor could suspect their love,
Nor thought, when she beheld the fight from far,
Her beauty was th' occasion of the war.
But sure a general doom on man is past,
And all are fools and lovers, first or last:
This both by others and myself I know,
For I have serv'd their sovereign long ago;
Oft have been caught within the winding train
Of female snares, and felt the lover's pain, [strain.
And learn'd how far the god can human hearts con-
To this remembrance, and the prayers of those
Who for th' offending warriors interpose,
I give their forfeit lives; on this accord,
To do me homage as their sovereign lord;
And as my vassals, to their utmost might,
Assist my person, and assert my right."
This freely sworn, the knights their grace obtain'd.
Then thus the king his secret thoughts explain'd:
"If wealth, or honor, or a royal race,
Or each, or all, may win a lady's grace,
Then either of you knights may well deserve
A princess born; and such is she you serve;
For Emily is sister to the crown,
And but too well to both her beauty known:
But should you combat till you both were dead,
Two lovers cannot share a single bed:
As therefore both are equal in degree,
The lot of both be left to Destiny.
Now hear th' award, and happy may it prove
To her, and him who best deserves her love!
Depart from hence in peace, and free as air,
Search the wide world, and where you please repair;
But on the day when this returning Sun
To the same point through every sign has run,
Then each of you his hundred knights shall bring,
In royal lists, to fight before the king;
And then the knight, whom Fate or happy Chance
Shall with his friends to victory advance,
From out the bars to force his opposite,
Or kill, or make him recreant on the plain,
The prize of valor and of love shall gain;
The vanquish'd party shall their claim release,
And the long jars conclude in lasting peace.
The charge be mine t'adorn the chosen ground,
The theatre of war, for champions so renown'd;
And take the patron's place of either knight,
With eyes impartial to behold the fight;
And Heaven of me so judge, as I shall judge aright.
If both are satisfied with this accord,
Swear by the laws of knighthood on my sword."
Who now but Palamon exults with joy?
And ravish'd Arcite seems to touch the sky:
The whole assembled troop was pleas'd as well,
Extol th' award, and on their knees they fell
To bless the gracious king. The knights, with leave
Departing from the place, his last commands receive;
On Emily with equal ardor look,
And from her eyes their inspiration took :
From thence to Thebes' old walls pursue their way,
Each to provide his champions for the day.
It might be deem'd, on our historian's part,
Or too much negligence or want of art,
If he forgot the vast magnificence
Of royal Theseus, and his large expense.
He first inclos'd for lists a level ground,
The whole circumference a mile around;
The form was circular; and all without
A trench was sunk, to moat the place about.
Within, an amphitheatre appear'd,
Rais'd in degrees, to sixty paces rear'd;
That when a man was plac'd in one degree,
Height was allow'd for him above to see.
Eastward was built a gate of marble white;
The like adorn'd the western opposite.
A nobler object than this fabric was,
Rome never saw: nor of so vast a space :
For, rich with spoils of many a conquer'd land,
All arts and artists Theseus could command:
Who sold for hire, or wrought for better fame,
The master-painters, and the carvers, came.
So rose within the compass of the year
An age's work, a glorious theatre.
Then o'er its eastern gate was rais'd, above,
A temple, sacred to the queen of love;
An altar stood below; on either hand
A priest with roses crown'd, who held a myrtle wand.
The dome of Mars was on the gate oppos'd,
And on the north a turret was inclos'd
Within the wall, of alabaster white,
And crimson coral, for the queen of night,
Who takes in sylvan sports her chaste delight.
Within these oratories might you see
Rich carvings, portraitures, and imagery:
Where every figure to the life express'd
The godhead's power to whom it was address'd.
In Venus' temple on the sides were seen
The broken slumbers of enamour'd men,
Prayers, that even spoke, and pity seem'd to call,
And issuing sighs, that smok'd along the wall,
Complaints, and hot desires, the lover's Hell,
And scalding tears, that wore a channel where they
And all around were nuptial bonds, the ties
Of love's assurance, and a train of lies;
That, made in lust, conclude in perjuries.
Beauty, and Youth, and Wealth, and Luxury,
And sprightly Hope, and short-enduring Joy;
And sorceries to raise th' infernal powers,
And sigils, fram'd in planetary hours:
Expense, and Afterthought, and idle Care,
And Doubts of motley hue, and dark Despair;
Suspicions, and fantastical Surmise,
And Jealousy suffus'd, with jaundice in her eyes,
Discoloring all she view'd, in tawny dress'd,
Down-look'd, and with a cuckoo on her fist.
Oppos'd to her, on t' other side advance
The costly feast, the carol, and the dance,
Minstrels, and music, poetry, and play,
And balls by nights, and tournaments by day.
All these were painted on the wall, and more:
With acts and monuments of times before:
And others added by prophetic doom,
And lovers yet unborn, and loves to come:
For there th' Idalian mount, and Citheron,
The court of Venus was in colors drawn:
Before the palace-gate, in careless dress,
And loose array, sat portress Idleness:
There, by the fount, Narcissus pin'd alone:
There Samson was; with wiser Solomon,
And all the mighty names by love undone.
Medea's charms were there, Circean feasts,
With bowls that turn'd enamour'd youth to beasts.
Here might be seen, that beauty, wealth, and wit,
And prowess, to the power of love submit:
The spreading snare for all mankind is laid;
And lovers all betray, and are betray'd.
The goddess' self some noble hand had wrought;
Smiling she seem'd, and full of pleasing thought:
From ocean as she first began to rise,
And smooth'd the ruffled seas and clear'd the skies,
She trod the brine, all bare below the breast,
And the green waves but ill conceal'd the rest;
A lute she held; and on her head was seen
A wreath of roses red, and myrtles green;
Her turtles fann'd the buxom air above;
And, by his mother, stood an infant Love,
With wings unfledg'd; his eyes were banded
His hands a bow, his back a quiver bore,
Thence issued such a blast, and hollow roar,
As threaten'd from the hinge to heave the door;
In through that door, a northern light there shone ;
"Twas all it had, for windows there were none;
The gate was adamant, eternal frame!
Which, hew'd by Mars himself, from Indian quarries
The labor of a god; and all along
Tough iron plates were clench'd to make it strong.
A tun about was every pillar there;
A polish'd mirror shone not half so clear.
There saw I how the secret felon wrought,
And Treason laboring in the traitor's thought:
And midwife Time the ripen'd plot to murder
There the red Anger dar'd the pallid Fear;
Next stood Hypocrisy, with holy leer,
Soft smiling, and demurely looking down,
But hid the dagger underneath the gown:
Th' assassinating wife, the household fiend,
And, far the blackest there, the traitor-friend.
On t' other side there stood Destruction bare,
Unpunish'd Rapine, and a waste of war.
Contest, with sharpen'd knives, in cloisters drawn,
And all with blood bespread the holy lawn.
Loud menaces were heard, and foul Disgrace,
And bawling Infamy, in language base :
Till sense was lost in sound, and Silence fled the
The slayer of himself yet saw I there,
The gore congeal'd was clotted in his hair:
With eyes half clos'd, and gaping mouth, he lay,
And grim, as when he breath'd his sudden soul
In midst of all the dome, Misfortune sate,
And gloomy Discontent, and fell Debate,
And Madness laughing in his ireful mood;
And arm'd Complaint on Theft; and cries of Blood.
There was the murder'd corpse, in covert laid,
And violent Death in thousand shapes display'd;
The city to the soldiers' rage resign'd;
Successless wars, and Poverty behind;
Ships burnt in fight, or forc'd on rocky shores,
Supplied with arrows bright and keen, a deadly store. And the rash hunter strangled by the boars :
But in the dome of mighty Mars the red
With different figures all the sides were spread;
This temple, less in form, with equal grace,
Was imitative of the first in Thrace:
For that cold region was the lov'd abode
And sovereign mansion of the warrior god.
The landscape was a forest wide and bare,
Where neither beast, nor human kind repair;
The fowl, that scent afar, the borders fly,
And shun the bitter blast, and wheel about the sky.
A cake of scurf lies baking on the ground,
And prickly stubs, instead of trees, are found;
Or woods with knots and knares deform'd and old;
Headless the most, and hideous to behold:
A rattling tempest through the branches went,
That stripp'd them bare, and one sole way they bent.
Heaven froze above, severe, the clouds congeal,
And through the crystal vault appear'd the standing
Such was the face without; a mountain stood
Threatening from high, and overlook'd the wood:
Beneath the lowering brow, and on a bent,
The temple stood of Mars armipotent:
The frame of burnis','d steel, that cast a glare
From far, and seem'd to thaw the freezing air.
A straight long entry to the temple led,
Blind with high walls, and Horror over-head:
The new-born babe by nurses overlaid;
And the cook caught within the raging fire he made.
All ills of Mars's nature, flame and steel;
The gasping charioteer, beneath the wheel
Of his own car; the ruin'd house, that falls
And intercepts her lord betwixt the walls:
The whole division, that to Mars pertains,
All trades of death, that deal in steel for gains,
Were there: the butcher, armorer, and smith,
Who forges sharpen'a falchions, or the scythe.
The scarlet Conquest on a tower was plac'd,
With shouts, and soldiers' acclamations grac'd :
A pointed sword hung threatening o'er his head,
Sustain'd but by a slender twine of thread.
There saw I Mars's ides, the Capitol,
The seer in vain foretelling Caesar's fall;
The last triumvirs, and the wars they move,
And Antony, who lost the world for love.
These, and a thousand more, the fane adorn;
Their fates were painted, ere the men were born,
All copied from the Heavens, and ruling force
Of the red star, in his revolving course.
The form of Mars high on a chariot stood,
All sheath'd in arms, and gruffly look'd the god :
Two geomantic figures were display'd
Above his head, a warrior and a maid;
One when direct, and one when retrograde.
Tir'd with deformities of death, I haste To the third temple of Diana chaste.
A sylvan scene with various greens was drawn, Shades on the sides, and on the midst a lawn: The silver Cynthia, with her nymphs around,
There breathes not scarce a man on British ground
(An isle for love and arms of old renown'd)
But would have sold his life to purchase fame,
To Palamon or Arcite sent his name:
And had the land selected of the best,
Pursued the flying deer, the woods with horns re- Half had come hence, and let the world provide the
Calisto there stood manifest of shame,
And, turn'd a bear, the northern star became :
Her son was next, and, by peculiar grace,
In the cold circle held the second place:
The stag Acteon in the stream had spied
The naked huntress, and, for seeing, died:
His hounds, unknowing of his change, pursue
The chase, and their mistaken master slew.
Peneian Daphne too was there to see,
Apollo's love before, and now his tree:
Th' adjoining fane th' assembled Greeks express'd,
And hunting of the Caledonian beast.
Oenides' valor, and his envied prize;
The fatal power of Atalanta's eyes;
Diana's vengeance on the victor shown,
The murderess mother, and consuming son;
- The Volscian queen extended on the plain;
The treason punish'd, and the traitor slain.
The rest were various huntings, well design'd,
And savage beasts destroy'd, of every kind.
The graceful goddess was array'd in green;
About her feet were little beagles seen,
That watch'd with upward eyes the motions of their
Her legs were buskin'd, and the left before;
In act to shoot, a silver bow she bore,
And at her back a painted quiver wore.
She trod a wexing moon, that soon would wane,
And drinking borrow'd light, be fill'd again;
With downcast eyes, as seeming to survey
The dark dominions, her alternate sway.
Before her stood a woman in her throes,
And call'd Lucina's aid, her burden to disclose.
All these the painter drew with such command,
That Nature snatch'd the pencil from his hand,
Asham'd and angry that his art could feign
And mend the tortures of a mother's pain.
Theseus beheld the fanes of every god,
And thought his mighty cost was well bestow'd.
So princes now their poets should regard;
But few can write, and fewer can reward.
The theatre thus rais'd, the lists inclos'd,
And all with vast magnificence dispos'd,
We leave the monarch pleas'd, and haste to bring
The knights to combat; and their arms to sing.
THE day approach'd when Fortune should decide
Th' important enterprise, and give the bride;
For now, the rivals round the world had sought,
And each his rival, well appointed, brought.
The nations, far and near, contend in choice,
And send the flower of war by public voice;
That after, or before, were never known
Such chiefs, as each an army seem'd alone:
Beside the champions, all of high degree,
Who knighthood lov'd, and deeds of chivalry,
Throng'd to the lists, and envied to behold
The names of others, not their own, enroll'd.
Nor seems it strange; for every noble knight
Who loves the fair, and is endu'd with might,
In such a quarrel would be proud to fight.
A hundred knights with Palamon there came,
Approv'd in fight, and men of mighty name;
Their arms were several, as their nations were,
But furnish'd all alike with sword and spear.
Some wore coat armor, imitating scale;
And next their skins were stubborn shirts of mail.
Some wore a breast-plate and a light juppon,
Their horses cloth'd with rich caparison:
Some for defence would leathern bucklers use,
Of folded hides; and others shields of pruce.
One hung a pole-ax at his saddle-bow,
And one a heavy mace to shun the foe.
One for his legs and knees provided well,
With jambeaux arm'd, and double plates of steel.
This on his helmet wore a lady's glove,
And that a sleeve embroider'd by his love.
With Palamon, above the rest in place,
Lycurgus came, the surly king of Thrace;
Black was his beard, and manly was his face;
The balls of his broad eyes roll'd in his head,
And glar'd betwixt a yellow and a red:
He look'd a lion with a gloomy stare,
And o'er his eyebrows hung his matted hair:
Big-bon'd, and large of limbs, with sinews strong,
Broad-shoulder'd, and his arms were round and long.
Four milk-white bulls (the, Thracian use of old)
Were yok'd to draw his car of burnish'd gold.
Upright he stood, and bore aloft his shield,
Conspicuous from afar, and overlook'd the field.
His surcoat was a bear-skin on his back;
His hair hung long behind, and glossy raven black.
His ample forehead bore a coronet,
With sparkling diamonds and with rubies set:
Ten brace, and more, of greyhounds, snowy fair,
And tall as stags, ran loose, and cours'd around his
A match for pards in flight, in grappling for the bear: With golden muzzles all their mouths were bound, And collars of the same their necks surround. Thus through the fields Lycurgus took his way: His hundred knights attend in pomp and proud
To match this monarch, with strong Arcite came Emetrius, king of Inde, a mighty name,
On a bay courser, goodly to behold,
The trappings of his horse adorn'd with barbarous
Not Mars bestrode a steed with greater grace;
His surcoat o'er his arms was cloth of Thrace,
Adorn'd with pearls, all orient, round, and great;
His saddle was of gold, with emeralds set.
His shoulders large, a mantle did attire,
With rubies thick, and sparkling as the fire:
His amber-color'd locks in ringlets run,
With graceful negligence, and shone against the Sun.
His nose was aquiline, his eyes were blue,
Ruddy his lips, and fresh and fair his hue:
Some sprinkled freckles on his face were seen,
Whose dusk set off the whiteness of the skin:
His awful presence did the crowd surprise,
Nor durst the rash spectator meet his eyes,
Eyes that confess'd him born for kingly sway,
So fierce, they flash'd intolerable day.
His age in Nature's youthful prime appear'd,
And just began to bloom his yellow beard.
Whene'er he spoke, his voice was heard around,
Loud as a trumpet, with a silver sound:
A laurel wreath'd his temples, fresh and green;
And myrtle sprigs, the marks of love, were mix'd
Upon his fist he bore, for his delight,
An eagle well reclaim'd, and lily white,
His hundred knights attend him to the war,
All arm'd for battle; save their heads were bare.
Words and devices blaz'd on every shield,
And pleasing was the terror of the field.
For kings, and dukes, and barons you might see,
Like sparkling stars, though different in degree,
All for th' increase of arms, and love of chivalry.
Before the king tame leopards led the way,
And troops of lions innocently play.
So Bacchus through the conquer'd Indies rode,
And beasts in gambols frisk'd before the honest god.
In this array the war of either side
Through Athens pass'd with military pride.
At prime, they enter'd on the Sunday morn;
Rich tapestry spread the streets, and flowers the
The town was all a jubilee of feasts;
So Theseus will'd, in honor of his guests;
Himself with open arms the king embrac'd,
Then all the rest in their degrees were grac'd.
No harbinger was needful for a night,
For every house was proud to lodge a knight.
I pass the royal treat, nor must relate
The gifts bestow'd, nor how the champions sate;
Who first, or last, or how the knights address'd
Their vows, or who was fairest at the feast;
Alas! I have not words to tell my grief;
To vent my sorrow, would be some relief;
Light sufferings give us leisure to complain;
We groan, but cannot speak, in greater pain.
O goddess, tell thyself what I would say,
Thou know'st it, and I feel too much to pray.
So grant my suit, as I enforce my might,
In love to be thy champion, and thy knight;
A servant to thy sex, a slave to thee,
A foe profest to barren chastity.
Nor ask I fame nor honor of the field,
Nor choose I more to vanquish than to yield:
In my divine Emilia make me blest,
Let Fate, or partial Chance, dispose the rest;
Find thou the manner, and the means prepare;
Possession, more than conquest, is my care.
Mars is the warrior's god; in him it lies,
On whom he favors to confer the prize;
With smiling aspect you serenely move
In your fifth orb, and rule the realm of love.
The Fates but only spin the coarser clue,
The finest of the wool is left for you.
Spare me but one small portion of the twine,
And let the sisters cut below your line:
The rest among the rubbish may they sweep,
Or add it to the yarn of some old miser's heap.
But, if you this ambitious prayer deny,
(A wish, I grant, beyond mortality)
Then let me sink beneath proud Arcite's arms,
And, I once dead, let him possess her charms."
Thus ended he; then, with observance due,
The sacred incense on her altar threw:
The curling smoke mounts heavy from the fires;
At length it catches flame, and in a blaze expires;
At once the gracious goddess gave the sign,
Whose voice, whose graceful dance, did most sur- Her statue shook, and trembled all the shrine:
Soft amorous sighs, and silent love of eyes.
The rivals call my Muse another way,
To sing their vigils for th' ensuing day.
"Twas ebbing darkness, past the noon of night,
And Phospher, on the confines of the light,
Promis'd the Sun, ere day began to spring;
The tuneful lark already stretch'd her wing, [sing:
And, flickering on her nest, made short essays to
When wakeful Palamon, preventing day,
Took, to the royal lists, his early way,
To Venus at her fane, in her own house, to pray.
There, falling on his knees before her shrine,
He thus implor'd with prayers her power divine.
"Creator Venus, genial power of love,
The bliss of men below, and gods above!
Beneath the sliding Sun thou runn'st thy race,
Dost fairest shine, and best become thy place.
For thee the winds their eastern blasts forbear,
Thy month reveals the spring, and opens all the year.
Thee, Goddess, thee the storms of winter fly,
Earth smiles with flowers renewing, laughs the sky,
And birds to lays of love their tuneful notes apply.
For thee the lion lothes the taste of blood,
And roaring hunts his female through the wood:
For thee the bulls rebellow through the groves,
And tempt the stream, and snuff their absent loves.
'Tis thine, whate'er is pleasant, good, or fair:
All nature is thy province, life thy care;
Thou mad'st the world, and dost the world repair.
Thou gladder of the mount of Cytheron,
Increase of Jove, companion of the Sun;
If c'er Adonis touch'd thy tender heart,
Have pity, goddess, for thou know'st the smart.
Pleas'd Palamon the tardy omen took:
For, since the flames pursu'd the trailing smoke,
He knew his boon was granted; but the day
To distance driven, and joy adjourn'd with long
Now Morn with rosy light had streak'd the sky,
Up rose the Sun, and up rose Emily;
Address'd her early steps to Cynthia's fane,
In state attended by her maiden train,
Who bore the vests that holy rites require,
Incense, and odorous gums, and cover'd fire.
The plenteous horns with pleasant mead they crown,
Nor wanted aught besides in honor of the Moon.
Now while the temple smok'd with hallow'd steam,
They wash the virgin in a living stream:
The secret ceremonies I conceal,
Uncouth, perhaps unlawful, to reveal:
But such they were as pagan use requir'd,
Perform'd by women when the men retir'd,
Whose eyes profane their chaste mysterious rites
Might turn to scandal, or obscene delights.
Well-meaners think no harm; but for the rest,
Things sacred they pervert, and silence is the best.
Her shining hair, uncomb'd, was loosely spread,
A crown of mastless oak adorn'd her head:
When to the shrine approach'd, the spotless maid
Had kindling fires on either altar laid,
(The rites were such as were observ'd of old,
By Statius in his Theban story told,)
Then kneeling with her hands across her breast,
Thus lowly she preferr'd her chaste request.
"O goddess, haunter of the woodland green,
To whom both Heaven and Earth and seas are seen;
Queen of the nether skies, where half the year