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" Sir knight, though I have ask'd thy life, yet | Like leaky sieves no secrets we can hold : still
Witness the famous tale that Ovid told. Thy destiny depends upon my will:
“ Midas the king, as in his book appears, Nor hast thou other surety than the grace
By Phæbus was endow'd with ass's ears, Not due to thee from our offended race.
Which under his long locks he well conceal'd, But as our kind is of a softer mold,
As monarchs vices must not be reveal'd, And cannot blood without a sigh behold,
For fear the people have them in the wind, I grant thee life; reserving still the power Who long ago were neither dumb nur blind: To take the forfeit when I see my hour:
Yor apt to think from Heaven their title springs, Unless thy answer to my next demand
Since Jove and Mars left off begetting kings. Shall set thee free from our avenging hand. This Midas knew: and durst cominunicate The question, whose solution I require,
To none but to his wife his ears of state: Is, What the sex of women most desire?
One must be trusted, and he thought her fit, In this dispute thy judges are at strife;
As passing prudent, and a parlous wit.
To this sagacious confessor he went,
With strict injunction never to reveal.
Both for her husband's honour and her own; And at thy pledge's peril keep thy day.”
But ne'ertheless she pin'd with discontent; Woe was the knight at this severe command; The counsel rumbled till it found a vent. But well he knew 'twas bootless to withstand: The thing she knew she was oblig'd to hide; The terms accepted as the fair ordain,
By interest and by oath the wite was ty'd; He put in bail for his return again,
But if she told it not, the woman dy'd. And promis'd answer at the day assign'd,
Loth to betray a husband and a prince, The best, with Heaven's assistance, he could find. But she must burst, or blab; and no pretence
His leave thus taken, on his way he went Of honour ty'd her tongue from self-defence With heavy heart, and full of discontent,
A marshy ground commodiously was near,
That word might be the secret of the king.
And, as a bittour bumps within a reed,
ceal): The wanton maids were all for sport a-bed. Beneath his locks the king my husband wears Surde said the sex were pleas'd with handsome lies, A goodly royal pair of ass's ears. And some gross flattery lov'd without disguise : Now I have eas'd my bosom of the pain, “ Truth is,” says one," he seldom fails to win Till the next longing fit return again.' Who flatters well; for that's our darling sin; “Thus through a woman was the secret known; But long attendance, and a duteous mind, Tell us, and in effect you tell the town. Will worker'n with the wisest of the kind." But to my tale: The knight with heavy cheer, One thought the sex's prime felicity
Wandering in vain, had now cousum'd the year : Was from the bonds of wedlock to be free: One day was only left to solve the doubt, Their pleasures, hours, and actions, all their own, Yet knew no more than when he first set out. And uncontrol'd to give account to none.
But home he must, and, as th' award had been, Sume wish a husband-fool; but such are curst, Yield up his body captive to the queen. For fools perverse of husbands are the worst: In this despairing state he hapt to ride, All women would be counted chaste and wise, As Fortune led him, by a forest side: Nor should our spouses see, but with our eyes; Lonely the vate, and full of horrour stood, For fools will prate; and though they want the wit Brown with the shade of a religious wood: To find close faults, yet open blots will hit : When full before him at the noon of night, Though better for their ease to hold their tongue, (The Moon was up, and shot a gleamy light) For woman-kind was never in the wrong.
He saw a quire of ladies in a round, S noise ensues, and quarrels last for life; That featly footing seem'd to skim the ground: The wife abhors the fool, the fool the wife.
Thus dancing hand in hand, so light they were, And some men say that great delight have we, He knew not where they trod, on earth or air. To be for truth extoll’d, and secrecy :
At speed he drove, and came a sudden guest, And constant in one purpose still to dwell; In hope where many women were, at least, And not our husbands couusels to reveal.
Some one by chance might answer his request. But that's a fable: for our sex is frail,
But faster than his horse the ladies flew, laveuting rather than not tell a tale.
And in a trice were vanish'd out of view.
“ One only hag remain'd: but fouler far My liege,' said she, 'before the court arise, Than grandame apes in Indian forests are ; May 1, poor wretch, find favour in your eyes, Against a wither'd oak she lean'd her weight, To grant my just request: 'twas I who taught Propp'd on her trusty staff, not half upright, The knight this answer, and inspir'd his thought And dropp'd an aukward court'sy to the knight. None but a woman could a man direct Then said, “What makes you, sir, so late abroad To tell us women, what we most affect. Without a guide, and this no beaten road?
But first I swore him on his knightly troth, Or want you aught that here you hope to find, (And here demand performance of his oath) Or travel for some trouble in your mind?
To grant the boon that next I should desire; The last I guess; and if I read aright,
He gave his faith, and I expect my bire: Those of our sex are bound to serve a knight; My promise is fulfill'd: I sav'd his life, Perhaps good counsel may your grief assuage, And claim his debt, to take me for his wife.' Then tell your pain; for wisdom is in age.' The knight was ask'd, nor could his oath deny, “ To this the knight: ‘Good mother, would But hop'd they would not force him to comply.
The women, who would rather wrest the laws, The secret cause and spring of all my woe? Than let a sister-plaintiff lose the cause, My lite must with to-morrow's light expire, (As judges on the bench more gracious are, Unless I tell what women most desire.
And more attent, to brothers of the bar) Now could you help me at this hard essay, Cry'd one and all, the suppliant should have right, Or for your inborn goodness, or for pay;
And to the grandame hag adjudy'd the knight. Yours is my life, redcem'd by your advice,
In vain he sigh’d, and oft with tears desir'd, Ask what you please, and I will pay the price: Some reasonable suit might be requir'd. The proudest kerchief of the court shall rest But still the crone was constant to her mote: Well satisfy'd of what they love the best.'
The more he spoke, the more she stretch'd ber * Plight me thy faith,' quoth she 'that what I ask, In rain he proffer'd all his goods, to save [throat. Thy danger over, and perform'd thy task,
His body destin'd to that living grave. That thou shalt give for hire of thy demand; The liquorish hag rejects the pelf with scorn; Here take thy oath, and seal it on my hand; And nothing but the man would serve her turn. I warrant thee, on peril of my life, (wife.' Not all the wealth of eastern kings,' said she, Thy words shall please both widow, maid, and * Have power to part my plighted love and me :
i More words there needed not to move the And, old and ugly as I am, and poor, To take her offer, and his truth to plight. [knight, Yet never will I break the faith I swore; With that she spread a mantle on the ground, For mine thou art by promise, during life, And, first inquiring whither he was bound, And I thy loving and obedient wife.' Bade him not fear, though long and rough the way, “ 'My love! nay rather my damnation thou,' At court he should arrive ere break of day; Said he : 'nor am I bound to keep my vow; His horse should find the way without a guide. The fiend thy sire hath sent thee from below, She said : with fury they began to ride,
Else how could'st thou my secret sorrows know? He on the midst, the beldam at his side.
Avant, old witch, for I renounce thy bed : The horse, what devil drove I cannot tell,
The queen may take the forfeit of iny head, But only this, they sped their journey well : Ere any of my race so foul a crone shall wed.' And all the way the crone inform’d the knight, Both heard, the judge pronounc'd against the How he should answer the demand aright.
knight; “ To court they came; the news was quickly So was he marry'd in his own despite: Of his returning to redeem his head. (spread And all day after hid him as an owl, The female senate was assembled soon,
Not able to sustain a sight so foul. With all the mob of women of the town :
Perhaps the rea ler thinks I do him wrong, The queen sate lord chief justice of the ball, To
the marriage feast and nuptial song : And barle the crier cite the criminal.
Mirth there was none, the man was à-la-mort, The knight appeard; and silence they proclaim : | And little courage had to make his court. Then first the culprit answer'd to his name: To bed they went, the bridegroom and the bride : And, after forms of law, was last requir'd
Was never such an ill-paird couple tyd : To name the thing that women most desir'd. Restless he toss'd, and tumbled to and fro,
“ Th' offender, taught his lesson by the way, And rollid and wriggled further off for woe. And by his counsel order'd what to say,
The good old wife lay smiling by his side, Thus bold began: 'My lady liege,' said he, And caught him in her quivering arms, and cry?I, “What all your s. x desire is sovereignty. . When you my ravish'd predecessor saw, The wife afects her husband to command: You were not then become this man of straw; All must be hers, both money, house, and land. Had you been such, you might have 'scap'd the The maids are mistresses ev’n in their nac;
law. And of their servants full dominion claim.
Is this the custom of king Arthur's coart? This, at the peril of my head, I say,
Are all round-table knights of such a sort? A blunt plain truth, the sex aspires to sway, Remember I am she who sav'd your life, You to rule all, while we, like slaves, obey.? Your loving, lawful, and complying wife: There was not one, or widow, majd, or wife, Not thus you swore in your unhappy hour, But said the knight had well deserv'd his life. Nor I for this return employ'd my power. Ev'n fair Geneura, with a blush, confess'd
In time of need, I was your faithful friend; The man had found what women love the best. Nor did I since, nor ever will, offend.
“ Up starts the beldam, who was there unseen: Believe me, my lov'd lord, 'tis much unkind i And, reverence made, accosted thus the queu. What Fury has possess'd your alter'd mind?
Thus on my wedding-night without pretence Its principle is in itself : while ours
What change of age or ugliness can be ? And casts a dusky gleam of Sodom blue.
And the fair mermaid in a fish descends : That never knight was match'd with such dis- The line is gone; no longer duke or earl; grace.
But, by himself degraded, turns a churl. What wonder, madam, if I move my side, Nobility of blood is but renown When, if I turn, I turn to such a bride ? Of thy great fathers by their virtue known, * And is this all that troubles you so sore ?' And a long trail of light, to thee descending * And what the devil could'st thou wish me more ?" down. “Ah, Benedicite,' reply'd the crone :
If in thy smoke it ends, their glories shine ; * Then cause of just complaining have you none. But infamy and villanage are thine. The remedy to this were soon apply'd,
Then what I said before is plainly show'd,
Nor left us by inheritance, but given
Fabricius from their walls repellid the foe, Is but a glittering and fallacious good :
Whose noble hands had exercis'd the plough. The nobleman is he whose noble mind
From hence, my lord and love, I thus conclude, Is filld with inborn worth, unborrow'd from his That though my homely ancestors were rude, kind.
Mean as I am, yet I may have the grace The King of Heaven was in a manger laid ; To make you father of a generous race: And took his earth but from an humble maid ; And noble then am I, when I begin, Then what can birth, or mortal men, bestow? In Virtue cloath'd, to cast the rags of Sin. Since floods no higher than their fountains flow. If poverty be my upbraided crime, We, who for name and empty honour strive, And you believe in Heaven, there was a time Our true nobility from him derive,
When He, the great controller of our fate, Your ancestors, who puff your mind with pride, Deign'd to be man, and liv'd in low estate : And vast estates to mighty titles ty'd,
Which he, who had the world at his dispose, Did not your honour, but their own, advance ; If poverty were vice, would never choose. For virtue comes not by inheritance.
Philosophers have said, and poets sing,
Broods on his gold, and, griping still at more,
Want is a bitter and a hateful good, Cuald never villanize his father's fame :
Because its virtues are not understood : But, as the first, the last of all the line
Yet many things, impossible to thought, Would like the San eren in descending shine; Have been by need to full perfection brought : Take fire, and bear it to the darkest house, The daring of the soul proceeds from thence, Betwixt king Arthur's court and Caucasus ; Sharpness of wit, and active diligence; If you depart, the flame shall still remain, Prudence at once, and fortitude, it gives, And the bright blaze enlighten all the plain : And, if in patience taken, mends our lives; Nor, till the fuel perish, can decay,
For ev'n that indigence, that brings me low,
Want gives to know the flatterer from the friend. Arnd often rises in the third degree;
If I am old and ugly, well for you,
No lewd adulterer will my love pursue ;
For age and ugliness, as all agree,
Think ere you speak, I grant you leave to choose;
Would you I should be still deform'd and old, Refin'd himself to soul, to curb the sense ;
Yet, had his aspect nothing of severe,
But such a face as promis'd him sincere. In all I can, contribute to your ease,
Nothing reserv'd or sullen was to see : And not in deed, or word, or thought, displease? But sweet regards, and pleasing sanctity: Or would you rather have me young and fair, Mild was his accent, and his action free. And take the chance that happens to your share? With cloquence innate his tongue was armid; Temptations are in beauty, and in youth, Though harsh the precept, yet the people charm'd. And how can you depend upou my truth? For, letting down the golden chain from high, Now weigh the danger with the doubtful bliss, He drew his audience upward to the sky: And thank yourself if aught should fall amiss.' And oft with holy hymns he charm'd their ears, “ Sore sigh'd the knight, who this long sermon (A music more melodious than the spheres) heard ;
For David left him, when he went to rest, At length, considering all, his heart he cheard ; His lyre; and after him he sung the best. And thus reply'd : “My lady and my wife, He bore his great commission in his look : To your wise conduct I resign my life :
But sweetly temper'd awe; and soften'd all he Choose you for me, for well you understand
spoke. The future good and ill, on either hand :
He preach'd the joys of Heaven, and pains of But if an humble husband may request,
Hell, Provide, and order all things for the best; And warn’d the sinner with becoming zeal ; Your's be the care to profit, and to please : But on eternal mercy lov'd to dwell. And let your subject servant take his ease.' He taught the gospel rather than the law; ““Then thus in peace,' quoth she, 'concludes And forc'd himself to drive; but lov'd to draw. the strife,
For Fear but freezes minds : but Love, like heat, Since I am turn'd the husband, you the wife : Exhales the soul sublime, to seek her native seat. The matrimonial victory is mine,
To threats the stubborn sinner oft is hard, Which, having fairly gain'd, I will resign ; Wrapp'd in his crimes, against the storm preForgive if I have said or done amiss,
par'd; And seal the bargain with a friend!y kiss : But, when the milder beams of Mercy play, I promis'd you but one content to share,
He melts, and throws his cumbrous cloak away. But now I will become both good and fair,
Lightning and thunder (Heaven's artillery) No nuptial quarrel shall disturb your ease; As harbingers before th' Almighty fly: The business of my life shall be to please : Those but proclaim his style, and disappear; And for my beauty, that, as time shall try; The stiller sound succeeds, and God is there. But draw the curtain first, and cast your eye.' The tithes, his parish freely paid, he took ; He look'd, and saw a creature heavenly fair, But never sued, or curs'd with bell and book. In bloom of youth, and of a charming air. With patience bearing wrong; but offering none : With joy he turn'd, and seiz'd her ivory arm ; Since every man is free to lose his own. And like Pygmalion found the statue warm. The country churls, according to their kind, Small arguments there needed to prevail, . (Who grudge their dues, and love to be behind) A storin of kisses pour'd as thick as hail. The less he sought his offerings, pinch'd the Thus long in mutual bliss they lay embrac'd,
more, And their first love continued to the last : And prais'd a priest contented to be poor. One shunshine was their life, no cloud between;
Yet of his little he had some to spare, Nor ever was a kinder couple seen.
To feed the famish'd, and to clothe the bare : “ And so may all our lives like theirs be led ; For mortisy'd he was to that degree, Heaven send the maids young husbands fresh in A poorer than himself he would not see.
True priests, he said, and preachers of the word, May widows wed as often as they can,
Were only stewards of their sovereign lord; Anderer for the better change their man; Nothing was theirs ; but all the public store: And some devouring plague pursue their lives,
Intrusted riches, to relieve the poor. Who will not well be govern'd by their wives.” Who, should they steal, for want of his relief,
He judg'd himself accomplice with the thief.
Wide was his parish ; not contracted close
To serve the sick ; to succour the distress'd: CHARACTER OF A GOOD PARSON.
Tempting, on foot, alone, without affright,
The dangers of a dark tempestuous night. A Parish priest was of the pilgrim-train; All this, the good old man perform'd alone, An awful, reverend, and religious man.
Nor spar'd his pains; for curate he had none. His eyes difius'd a venerabie grace,
Nor durst he trust another with his care;
Nor rode himself to Paul's, the public fair,
Where bishoprics and sinecures are sold.
The proud he tam'd, the penitent he cheard : He took the time when Richard was depos'd, Nor to rebake the rich offender fear'd.
And high and low with happy Harry clos'd. His preaching much, but more his practice This prince, though great in arms, the priest wrought,
withstood : (A living sermon of the truths he taught) Near though he was, yet not the next of blood. For this by rules severe his life he squard : Had Richard, unconstrain'd, resign'd the throne, That all might see the doctrine which they heard. A king can give no more than is his own : For priests, he said, are patterns for the rest The title stood entail'd, had Richard had a son. (The gold of Heaven, who bear the God im- Conquest, an odious name, was laid aside, press'd):
Where all submitted, none the battle try'd. But when the precious coin is kept unclean, The senseless plea of right by Providence The sovereign's image is no longer seen.
Was, by a flattering priest, invented since ; If they be foul on whom the people trust,
And lasts no longer than the present sway; Well may the baser brass contract a rust. But justifies the next who comes in play. [dare The prelate, for his holy life he priz'd;
The people's right remains; let those who The wordly pomp of prelacy despis'd.
Dispute their power, when they the judges are. His Savicur came not with a gaudy show;
He join'd not in their choice, because he knew Nor was his kingdom of the world below.
Worse might, and often did, from change ensue. Patience in want, and poverty of mind,
Much to himself he thought; but little spoke; These marks of church and churchmen he de- And, undepriv'd, his benefice forsook. sign'd,
Now, through the land, his cure of souls he And living taught, and dying left behind.
stretch'd: The crown he wore was of the pointed thorn : And like a primitive apostle preach'd. la purple he was crucified, not born.
Still chearful ; ever constant to his call; They who contend for place and high degree, By many follow'd; lov'd by most, admir'd by all. Are not his sons, but those of Zebedee.
With what he begg'd, his brethren he reliev'd ; Not but he knew the signs of earthly power And gave the charities himself receiv'd. Might well become Saint Peter's successor ; Gave, while he taught; and edify'd the more, The holy father holds a double reign, [plain. Because he show'd, by proof, 'twas easy to be The prince may keep his pomp, the fisher must be
poor. Such was the saint ; who shone with every He went not with the crowd to see a shrine; grace,
But fed us, by the way, with food divine. Peflecting, Moses like, his Maker's face.
In deference to his virtues, I forbear Gd say his image lively was express'd ;
To show you what the rest in orders were : And his own work, as in creation, bless'd. This brilliant is so spotless, and so bright,
The tempter saw him too with envious eye; He needs no foil, but shines by his own proper And, as on Job, demanded leave to try,
SIGISMONDA AND GUISCARDO.
And bless'd he might have been with her alone :