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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 deplored,
From a foul prison to free air restored.
Ought he to thank his kinsman or his wife,
Could tears recal 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 the 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 the assent
Of my free people in full parliament.
Long love to her has borne the faithful knight,
And well deserved, 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 the 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 your's; nor can she find
A throne so soft as in a woman's mind.
He said : she blush'd; and, as o'erawed 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.
Smiled Venus, to behold her own true knight
Obtain the conquest, though he lost the fight;
And bless'd, with nuptial bliss, the sweet labori-
ous night. Eros and Anteros, on either side, One fired the bridegroom, and one warm’d the bride; And long-attending Hymen, from above, Showerd on the bed the whole Idalian grove. . All of a tenor was their after-life, No day discolour'd with domestic strife; No jealousy, but mutual truth believed, Secure repose, and kindness undeceived. . 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 accurate Tyrwhitt detected the original of this fable in the translation of “ Æsop,” made by Marie of France into NormanFrench for the amusement of the court of England, by which that language was used down to the reign of Edward. But the hand of genius gilds what it touches ; and the naked Apologue, which may be found in Tyrwhitt's “ Preliminary Discourse," was amplified by Chaucer into a poem, which, in grave, ironical narrative, liveliness of illustration, and happiness of humorous description, yields to none that ever was written, Dryden, whom “ The Hind and Panther" had familiarized with this species of composition, has executed a version at once literal and spirited, which seldom omits what is valuable in his original, and often adds those sparks which genius strikes out, when in collision with the work of a kindred spirit.
TALE OF THE NUN'S PRIEST.
THERE lived, as authors tell, in days of
A widow, somewhat old, and very poor ;
Deep in a cell her cottage lonely stood,
Well thatch'd and under covert of a wood.
This dowager, on whom my tale I found,
Since last she laid her husband in the ground,
A simple sober life in patience led,
And had but just enough to buy her bread;
But housewifing the little heaven had lent,
She duly paid a groat for quarter rent;
And pinchd her belly, with her daughters two,
To bring the year about with much ado.
The cattle in her homestead were three sows, An ewe called Mally, and three brinded cows. Her parlour-window stuck with herbs around, Of savoury smell, and rushes strew'd the ground. A maple dresser in her hall she had, On which full many a slender meal she made :
For no delicious morsel pass'd her throat;
According to her cloth she cut her coat.
No poignant sauce she knew, no costly treat,
Her hunger gave a relish to her meat.
A sparing diet did her health assure;
Or sick, a pepper posset was her cure.
Before the day was done, her work she sped,
And never went by candle-light to bed.
With exercise she sweat ill humours out;
Her dancing was not hinder'd by the gout.
Her poverty was glad, her heart content,
Nor knew she what the spleen or vapours meant.
Of wine she never tasted through the year,
But white and black was all her homely cheer ;
Brown bread and milk, (but first she skimm’d her
And rashers of singed bacon on the coals;
On holidays an egg, or two at most ;
But her ambition never reach'd to roast.
A yard she had, with pales enclosed about,
Some high, some low, and a dry ditch without.
Within this homestead lived, without a peer,
For crowing loud, the noble Chanticleer;
So hight her cock, whose singing did surpass
The merry notes of organs at the mass.
More certain was the crowing of the cock
To number hours, than is an abbey-clock;
And sooner than the matin-bell was rung,
He clapp'd his wings upon his roost, and sung:
For when degrees fifteen ascended right,
By sure instinct he knew 'twas one at night.
High was his comb, and coral-red withal,
In dents embattled like a castle wall;
His bill was raven-black, and shone like jet ;
Blue were his legs, and orient were his feet;
White were his nails, like silver to behold,
His body glittering like the burnish'd gold.