Слике страница
PDF
ePub

He pass'd a year at least attending thus
On Emily, and call'd Philostratus.
But never was there man of his degree
So much esteem'd, so well belov'd as he.
So gentle of condition was he known,
That through the court his courtesy was blown:
All think him worthy of a greater place,
And recommend him to the royal grace,
That, exercis'd within a higher sphere,
His virtues more conspicuous might appear.
Thus by the general voice was Arcite prais'd,
And by great Theseus to high favour rais'd:
Among his menial servants first enroll'd,
And largely entertain'd with sums of gold:
Besides what secretly from Thebes was sent,
Of his own income, and his annual rent:
This well employ'd, he purchas'd friends and
fame,

But cautiously conceal'd from whence it came.
Thus for three years he liv'd with large increase,
In arms of honour, and esteem in peace;
To Theseus' person he was ever near;
And Theseus for his virtues held him dear.

BOOK II.

WHILE Arcite lives in bliss, the story turns
Where hopeless Palamon in prison mourns.
For six long years immur'd, the captiv'd knight
Had dragg'd his chains, and scarcely seen the light:
Lost liberty, and love, at once he bore :

His prison pain'd him much, his passion more:

Nor dares he hope his fetters to remove,
Nor ever wishes to be free from love.

But when the sixth revolving year was run, And May within the Twins receiv'd the Sun, Were it by Chance, or forceful Destiny, Which forms in causes first whate'er shall be, Assisted by a friend, one moonless night, This Palamon from prison took his flight: A pleasant beverage he prepar'd before Of wine and honey, mix'd with added store Of opium; to his keeper this he brought, Who swallow'd unaware the sleepy draught, And snor'd secure till morn, his senses bound In slumber, and in long oblivion drown'd. Short was the night, and careful Palamon Sought the next covert ere the rising Sun. A thick spread forest near the city lay, To this with lengthen'd strides he took his way (For far he could not fly, and fear'd the day). Safe from pursuit, he meant to shun the light, Till the brown shadows of the friendly night To Thebes might favour his intended flight. When to his country come, his next design Was all the Theban race in arms to join, And war on Theseus, till he lost his life Or won the beauteous Emily to wife. Thus while his thoughts the lingering day beguile, To gentle Arcite let us turn our style;

Who little dreamt how nigh he was to care,

Till treacherous Fortune caught him in the snare.

The morning-lark, the messenger of Day,
Saluted in her song the morning gray;

And soon the Sun arose with beams so bright,
That all th' horizon laugh'd to see the joyous sight;
He with his tepid rays the rose renews,

And licks the drooping leaves, and dries the dews;
When Arcite left his bed, resolv'd to pay
Observance to the month of merry May:
Forth on his fiery steed betimes he rode,

That scarcely prints the turf on which he trod :
At case he seem'd, and, prancing o'er the plains,
Turn'd only to the grove his horse's reins,
The grove I nam'd before; and, lighted there,
A woodbine garland sought to crown his hair;
Then turn'd his face against the rising day,
And rais'd his voice to welcome in the May. [wear,
For thee, sweet month, the groves green liveries
If not the first, the fairest of the year:

For thee the Graces lead the dancing Hours,
And Nature's ready pencil paints the flowers:
When thy short reign is past, the feverish Sun
The sultry tropic fears, and moves more slowly on.
So may thy tender blossoms fear no blight,
Nor goats with venom'd teeth thy tendrils bite,
As thou shalt guide my wandering feet to find
The fragrant greens I seek, my brows to bind. "

His vows address'd, within the grove he stray'd,
Till Fate, or Fortune, near the place convey'd
His steps where secret Palamon was laid.
Full little thought of him the gentle knight,
Who, flying death, had there conceal'd his flight,
In brakes and brambles hid, and shunning mortal

sight:

And less he knew him for his hated foe,
But fear'd him as a man he did not know.
But as it has been said of ancient years,
That fields are full of eyes, and woods have ears;
For this the wise are ever on their guard,
For, unforeseen, they say, is unprepar'd.
Uncautious Arcite thought himself alone,
And less than all suspected Palamon,
Who, listening, heard him, while he search'd the

grove,

And loudly sung his roundelay of love:

But on the sudden stopp'd, and silent stood,
As lovers often muse, and change their mood;
Now high as Heaven, and then as low as Hell;
Now up, now down, as buckets in a well :
For Venus, like her day, will change her cheer,
And seldom shall we see a Friday clear.
Thus Arcite, having sung, with alter'd hue
Sunk on the ground, and from his bosom drew
A desperate sigh, accusing Heaven and Fate,
And angry Juno's unrelenting hate.
"Curs'd be the day when first I did appear;
Let it be blotted from the calendar,

Lest it pollute the month, and poison all the year.
Still will the jealous queen pursue our race?
Cadmus is dead, the Theban city was:
Yet ceases not her hate: for all who come
From Cadmus are involv'd in Cadmus' doom.
I suffer for my blood: unjust decree !
That punishes another's crime on me.
In mean estate I serve my mortal foe,
The man who caus'd my country's overthrow.

This is not all; for Juno, to my shame,
Has forc'd me to forsake my former name;
Arcite I was, Philostratus I am.
That side of Heaven is all my enemy:
Mars ruin'd Thebes: his mother ruin'd me.
Of all the royal race remains but one
Besides myself, the unhappy Palamon,
Whom Theseus holds in bonds, and will not free;
Without a crime, except his kin to me.

Yet these, and all the rest, I could endure;
But love's a malady without a cure ;
Fierce Love has pierc'd me with his fiery dart,
He fires within, and hisses at my heart.
Your eyes, fair Emily, my fate pursue;
I suffer for the rest, I die for you.

Of such a goddess no time leaves record,
Who burn'd the temple where she was ador'd:
And let it burn, I never will complain,
Pleas'd with my sufferings, if you knew my pain.
At this a sickly qualm his heart assail'd,
His ears ring inward, and his senses fail'd.
No word miss'd Palamon of all he spoke,
But soon to deadly pale he chang'd his look:
He trembled every limb, and felt a smart,
As if cold steel had glided through his heart :
No longer staid, but starting from his place,
Discover'd stood, and show'd his hostile face:
"False traitor Arcite, traitor to thy blood,
Bound by thy sacred oath to seek my good,
Now art thou found foresworn, for Emily;
And dar'st attempt her love, for whom I die.
So hast thou cheated Theseus with a wile,
Against thy vow, returning to beguile

[ocr errors]
« ПретходнаНастави »