Page images

The hounds at nearer distance hoarsely bay'd;
The hunter close pursu'd the visionary maid, [aid.
She rent the Heaven with loud laments, imploring
The gallants, to protect the lady's right,
Their faulchions brandish'd at the grisly sprite;
High on his stirrups he provok'd the fight.
Then on the crowd he cast a furious look,

And wither'd all their strength before he spoke :
"Back on your lives; let be," said he, "my prey,
And let my vengeance take the destin'd way:
Vain are your arms, and vainer your defence,
Against th' eternal doom of Providence :

Mine is th' ungrateful maid by Heaven design'd:
Mercy she would not give, nor mercy shall she find."
At this the former tale again he told

With thundering tone, and dreadful to behold:
Sunk were their hearts with horrour of the crime,
Nor needed to be warn'd a second time,

But bore each other back: some knew the face,
And all had heard the much-lamented case

Of him who fell for love, and this the fatal place.
And now th' infernal minister advanc'd,

Seiz'd the due victim, and with fury lanc'd
Her back, and, piercing through her inmost heart,
Drew backward as before th' offending part.
The reeking entrails next he tore away,
And to his meagre mastiffs made a prey.
The pale assistants on each other star'd,
With gaping mouths for issuing words prepar'd;
The still-born sounds upon the palate hung,
And dy'd imperfect on the faultering tongue.
The fright was general; but the female band
(A helpless train) in more confusion stand;

With horrour shuddering, on a heap they run,
Sick at the sight of hateful justice done; [their own.
For conscience rung th' alarm, and made the case
So, spread upon a lake with upward eye,
A plump of fowl behold their foe on high;
They close their trembling troop; and all attend
On whom the sowsing eagle will descend.

But most the proud Honoria fear'd th' event,
And thought to her alone the vision sent.
Her guilt presents to her distracted mind
Heaven's justice, Theodore's revengeful kind,
And the same fate to the same sin assign'd.
Already sees herself the monster's prey,
And feels her heart and entrails torn away.
'Twas a mute scene of sorrow, mix'd with fear;
Still on the table lay th' unfinish'd cheer :
The knight and hungry mastiffs stood around,
The mangled dame lay breathless on the ground;
When on a sudden, re-inspir'd with breath,
Again she rose, again to suffer death;

Nor staid the hell-hounds, nor the hunter staid,
But follow'd, as before, the flying maid:

Th' avenger took from earth th' avenging sword,
And mounting light as air his sable steed he spurr'd:
The clouds dispell'd, the sky resum'd her light,
And Nature stood recover'd of her fright.
But fear, the last of ills, remain'd behind,
And horrour heavy sat on every mind.
Nor Theodore encourag'd more the feast,
But sternly look'd, as hatching in his breast
Some deep designs; which when Honoria view'd,
The fresh impulse her former fright renew'd;

She thought herself the trembling dame who fled, And him the grisly ghost that spurr'd th' infernal


The more dismay'd, for when the guests withdrew,
Their courteous host, saluting all the crew, [adieu;
Regardless pass'd her o'er; nor grac'd with kind
That sting infix'd within her haughty mind
The downfall of her empire she divin'd;
And her proud heart with secret sorrow pin'd.
Home as they went, the sad discourse renew'd
Of the relentless dame to death pursu'd,
And of the sight obscene so lately view'd.
None durst arraign the righteous doom she bore,
Ev'n they who pity'd most, yet blam'd her more:
The parallel they needed not to name,

But in the dead they damn'd the living dame.
At every little noise she look'd behind,
For still the knight was present to her mind:
And anxious oft she started on the way,
And thought the horseman-ghost came thundering
for his prey.

Return'd, she took her bed with little rest,
But in short slumbers dreamt the funeral feast :
Awak'd, she turn'd her side, and slept again;
The same black vapours mounted in her brain,
And the same dreams return'd with double pain.
Now forc'd to wake, because afraid to sleep,
Her blood all fever'd, with a furious leap



from bed, distracted in her mind, And fear'd, at every step, a twitching sprite behind. Darkling and desperate, with a staggering pace, Of death afraid, and conscious of disgrace;

Fear, Pride, Remorse, at once her heart assail'd, Pride put Remorse to flight, but Fear prevail'd. Friday, the fatal day, when next it came, [game, Her soul forethought the fiend would change his And her pursue, or Theodore be slain, [plain.

And two ghosts join their packs to hunt her o'er the This dreadful image so possess'd her mind,

That, desperate any succour else to find,

She ceas'd all farther hope; and now began
To make reflection on th' unhappy man.

Rich, brave, and young, who past expression lov'd,
Proof to disdain, and not to be remov'd:
Of all the men respected and admir'd,
Of all the dames, except herself, desir'd:
Why not of her? preferr'd above the rest

By him with knightly deeds, and open love profess'd?
So had another been, where he his vows address'd.
This quell'd her pride, yet other doubts remain'd,
That, once disdaining, she might be disdain'd.
The fear was just, but greater fear prevail'd,
Fear of her life by hellish hounds assail'd:
He took a lowering leave; but who can tell,
What outward hate might inward love conceal?
Her sex's arts she knew; and why not, then,
Might deep dissembling have a place in men?
Here hope began to dawn; resolv'd to try,
She fix'd on this her utmost remedy:
Death was behind, but hard it was to die.
'Twas time enough at last on Death to call,
The precipice in sight: a shrub was all,

That kindly stood betwixt to break the fatal fall.
One maid she had, belov'd above the rest;
Secure of her, the secret she confess'd;

And now the cheerful light her fears dispell'd,
She with no winding turns the truth conceal'd,
But put the woman off, and stood reveal'd:
With faults confess'd commission'd her to go,
If pity yet had place, and reconcile her foe.
The welcome message made, was soon feceiv'd;
'Twas to be wish'd, and hop'd, but scarce believ'd;
Fate seem'd a fair occasion to present;
He knew the sex, and fear'd she might repent,
Shou'd he delay the moment of consent.
There yet remain'd to gain her friends (a care
The modesty of maidens well might spare);
But she with such a zeal the cause embrac'd,
(As women, where they will, are all in haste)
The father, mother, and the kin beside,
Were overborne by fury of the tide;
With full consent of all she chang'd her state;
Resistless in her love, as in her hate.
By her example warn'd, the rest beware:
More easy, less imperious, were the fair;

And that one hunting, which the Devil design'd
For one fair female, lost him half the kind.



DIM as the borrow'd beams of Moon and stars

To lonely, weary, wandering travellers,
Is reason to the soul and as on high,
Those rolling fires discover but the sky,

[merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »