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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 th' 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' etherial 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 th' Omniscient Power was pleas'd to give,
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 honour at the height.
When we have done our ancestors no shame,
But serv'd our friends, and well secur'd 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 honour 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:
'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 dishonour 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."
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 tenour was their after-life,
No day discolour'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.
THE WIFE OF BATH,
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 led 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.
Abc ve 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 geer,
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,