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Only methought the time too swiftly pass'd,
And every note I fear'd would be the last.
My sight, and smell, and hearing were employ'd,
And all three senses in full gust enjoy'd.
And what alone did all the rest surpass,
The sweet possession of the fairy place;
Single, and conscious to myself alone
Of pleasures to th' excluded world unknown:
Pleasures which no where else were to be found,
And all Elysium in a spot of ground.
Thus while I sat intent to see and hear,
And drew perfumes of more than vital air,
All suddenly I heard th' approaching sound
Of vocal music, on th' enchanted ground:
An host of saints it seem'd, so full the quire;
As if the bless'd above did all conspire
To join their voices, and neglect the lyre.
At length there issued from the grove behind
A fair assembly of the female kind :
A train less fair, as ancient fathers tell,
Seduc'd the sons of Heaven to rebel.
I pass their form, and every charming grace,
Less than an angel would their worth debase:
But their attire, like liveries of a kind
All rich and rare, is fresh within my mind.
In velvet white as snow the troop was gown'd,
The scans with sparkling emeralds set around:
Their hoods and sleeves the same; and purfled o'er
With diamonds, pearls, and all the shining store
Of castern pomp: their long descending train,
With rubies edg'd, and sapphires, swept the plain :
High on their heads, with jewels richly set,
Each lady wore a radiant coronet.
Beneath the circles, all the quire was grac'd
With chaplets green, on their fair foreheads plac'd. Of laurel some, of woodbine many more;
And wreaths of agnus-castus others bore:
These last, who with those virgin crowns were dress'd,
Appear'd in higher honour than the rest.
They danc'd around: but in the midst was seen
A lady of a more majestic mien;
By stature and by beauty mark'd their sovereign
She in the midst began with sober grace;
Her servant's eyes were fixed upon her face,
And, as she mov'd or turn'd, her motions view'd,
Her measures kept, and step by step pursued.
Methought she trod the ground with greater grace,
With more of godhead shining in her face;
And as in beauty she surpass'd the quire,
So, nobler than the rest, was her attire.
A crown of ruddy gold enclos'd her brow,
Plain without pomp, and rich without a show:
A branch of agnus-castus in her hand
She bore aloft (her sceptre of command);
Admir'd, ador'd by all the circling crowd,
For wheresoe'er she turn'd her face, they bow'd:
And as she danc'd, a roundelay she sung,
In honour of the laurel, ever young:
She rais'd her voice on high, and sung so clear,
The fawns came scudding from the groves to hear;
And all the bending forest lent an ear.
At every close she made, th' attending throng
Reply'd, and bore the burthen of the song:
So just, so small, yet in so sweet a note,
It seem'd the music melted in the throat.
Thus dancing on, and singing as they danc'd, They to the middle of the mead advanc'd, Till round my arbour a new ring they made, And footed it about the secret shade. O'erjoy'd to see the jolly troop so near, But somewhat aw'd, I shook with holy fear; Yet not so much, but that I noted well Who did the most in song or dance excel.
Not long I had observ'd, when from afar I heard a sudden symphony of war ;
The neighing coursers, and the soldiers' cry,
And sounding trumps that seem'd to tear the sky:
I saw soon after this, behind the grove
From whence the ladies did in order move,
Come issuing out in arms a warrior train,
That like a deluge pour'd upon the plain :
On barbed steeds they rode in proud array,
Thick as the college of the bees in May,
When swarming o'er the dusky fields they fly,
New to the flowers, and intercept the sky.
So fierce they drove, their coursers were so fleet,
That the turf trembled underneath their feet.
To tell their costly furniture were long, The summer's day would end before the song: To purchase but the tenth of all their store, Would make the mighty Persian monarch poor. Yet what I can, I will; before the rest The trumpets issued, in white mantles dress'd: A numerous troop, and all their heads around With chaplets green of cerrial-oak were crown'd; And at each trumpet was a banner bound, Which, waving in the wind, display'd at large Their master's coat of arms, and knightly charge.
Broad were the banners, and of snowy hue,
A purer web the silk-worm never drew.
The chief about their necks the scutcheons wore,
With orient pearls and jewels powder'd o'er :
Broad were their collars too, and every one
Was set about with many a costly stone.
Next these of kings-at-arms a godly train
In proud array came prancing o'er the plain:
Their cloaks were cloth of silver mix'd with gold,
And garlands green around their temples roll'd;
Rich crowns were on their royal scutcheons plac'd,
With sapphires, diamonds, and with rubies grac❜d:
And as the trumpets their appearance made,
So these in habits were alike array'd;
But with a pace more sober, and more slow;
And twenty, rank in rank, they rode a row.
The pursuivants came next, in number more;
And like the heralds each his scutcheon bore:
Clad in white velvet all their troop they led,
With each an oaken chaplet on his head.
Nine royal knights in equal rank succeed, Each warrior mounted on a fiery steed: In golden armour glorious to behold; The rivets of their arms were nail'd with gold. Their surcoats of white ermin fur were made, With cloth of gold between, that cast a glittering
The trappings of their steeds were of the same;
The golden fringe ev'n set the ground on flame,
And drew a precious trail: a crown divine
Of laurel did about their temples twine.
Three henchmen were for every knight assign'd, All in rich livery clad, and of a kind:
White velvet, but unshorn, for cloaks they wore,
And each within his hand a truncheon bore:
The foremost held a helm of rare device;
A prince's ransom would not pay the price.
The second bore the buckler of his knight,
The third of cornel-wood a spear upright,
Headed with piercing steel, and polish'd bright.
Like to their lords their equipage was seen,
And all their foreheads crown'd with garlands green.
And after these came, arm'd with spear and shield,
An host so great, as cover'd all the field,
And all their foreheads, like the knights before,
With laurels ever green were shaded o'er,
Or oak, or other leaves of lasting kind,
Tenacious of the stem, and firm against the wind.
Some in their hands, beside the lance and shield,
The boughs of woodbine or of hawthorn held,
Or branches for their mystic emblems took,
Of palm, of laurel, or of cerrial-oak.
Thus marching to the trumpet's lofty sound,
Drawn in two lines adverse they wheel'd around,
And in the middle meadow took their ground.
Among themselves the turney they divide,
In equal squadrons rang'd on either side.
Then turn'd their horses' heads, and man to man,
And steed to steed oppos'd, the justs began.
Then lightly set their lances in the rest,
And, at the sign, against each other press'd :
They met. I, sitting at my ease, beheld
The mix'd events, and fortunes of the field.
Some broke their spears, some tumbled horse and
And round the field the lighten'd coursers ran.