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This pious cheat, that never suck'd the blood,
Nor chew'd the flesh of lambs but when he could;
Had pass'd three summers in the neighboring wood:
And musing long whom next to circumvent,
On Chanticleer his wicked fancy bent:
And in his high imagination cast,
By stratagem to gratify his taste.
The plot contriv'd, before the break of day,
Saint Reynard through the hedge had made his way;
The pale was next, but proudly with a bound
He leapt the fence of the forbidden ground:
Yet, fearing to be seen, within a bed
Of coleworts he conceal'd his wily head:
Then skulk'd till afternoon, and watch'd his time,
(As murderers use) to perpetrate his crime.
O hypocrite, ingenious to destroy,
O traitor, worse than Sinon was to Troy!
O vile subverter of the Gallic reign,
More false than Gano was to Charlemain!
O Chanticleer, in an unhappy hour
Didst thou forsake the safety of thy bower:
Better for thee thou hadst believ'd thy dream,
And not that day descended from the beam!
But here the doctors eagerly dispute:
Some hold predestination absolute :
For women, with a mischief to their kind,
Pervert, with bad advice, our better mind.
A woman's counsel brought us first to woe,
And made her man his Paradise forego,
Where at heart's ease he lived; and might have
As free from sorrow as he was from sin.
For what the devil had their sex to do,
That, born to folly, they presum'd to know,
And could not see the serpent in the grass?
But I myself presume, and let it pass.
Silence in times of suffering is the best,
"Tis dangerous to disturb an hornet's nest.
In other authors you may find enough,
But all they say of dames is idle stuff.
Legends of lying wits together bound,
The Wife of Bath would throw them to the ground;
These are the words of Chanticleer, not mine,
I honor dames, and think their sex divine.
Now to continue what my tale begun;
Lay madam Partlet basking in the Sun,
Breast-high in sand: her sisters, in a row,
Enjoy'd the beams above, the warmth below.
The cock, that of his flesh was ever free,
Sung merrier than the mermaid in the sea:
Some clerks maintain, that Heaven at first foresees, And so befell, that as he cast his eye,
And in the virtue of foresight decrees.
If this be so, then prescience binds the will,
And mortals are not free to good or ill:
For what he first foresaw, he must ordain,
Or its eternal prescience may be vain:
As bad for us as prescience had not been,
For first, or last, he's author of the sin.
And who says that, let the blaspheming man
Say worse ev'n of the Devil, if he can.
For how can that eternal Power be just
To punish man, who sins because he must?
Or, how can he reward a virtuous deed,
Which is not done by us; but first decreed?
I cannot bolt this matter to the bran,
As Bradwardin and holy Austin can;
If prescience can determine actions so
That we must do, because he did foreknow,
Or that, foreknowing, yet our choice is free,
Not forc'd to sin by strict necessity;
This strict necessity they simple call,
Another sort there is conditional.
Among the coleworts, on a butterfly,
He saw false Reynard where he lay full low:
I need not swear he had no list to crow:
But cried, "Cock, cock!" and gave a sudden start
As sore dismay'd and frighted at his heart;
For birds and beasts, inform'd by Nature, know
Kinds opposite to theirs, and fly their foe.
So Chanticleer, who never saw a fox,
Yet shunn'd him as a sailor shuns the rocks.
The first so binds the will, that things foreknown
By spontaneity, not choice, are done.
Thus galley-slaves tug willing at their oar,
Content to work, in prospect of the shore;
But would not work at all, if not constrain'd before.
That other does not liberty constrain,
But man may either act, or may refrain.
Heaven made us agents free to good or ill,
And fore'd it not, though he foresaw the will.
Freedom was first bestow'd on human race,
And prescience only held the second place.
If he could make such agents wholly free,
I not dispute, the point's too high for me;
For Heaven's unfathom'd power what man can
Or put to his Omnipotence a bound?
He made us to his image, all agree;
That image is the soul, and that must be,
Or not the Maker's image, or be free.
But whether it were better man had been
By nature bound to good, not free to sin,
I waive, for fear of splitting on a rock.
The tale I tell is only of a cock,
Who had not run the hazard of his life,
Had he believ'd his dream, and not his wife:
But the false loon, who could not work his will
By open force, employ'd his flattering skill;
"I hope, my lord," said he, "I not offend;
Are you afraid of me, that am your friend?
I were a beast indeed to do you wrong,
I, who have lov'd and honor'd you so long:
Stay, gentle sir, nor take a false alarm,
For, on my soul, I never meant you harm.
I come no spy, nor as a traitor press,
To learn the secrets of your soft recess
Far be from Reynard so profane a thought,
But by the sweetness of your voice was brought:
For, as I bid my beads, by chance I heard
The song as of an angel in the yard;
A song that would have charm'd th' infernal gods,
And banish'd horror from the dark abodes;
Had Orpheus sung it in the nether sphere,
So much the hymn had pleas'd the tyrant's ear.
The wife had been detain'd, to keep the husband
My lord, your sire familiarly I knew,
A peer deserving such a son as you:
He, with your lady-mother (whom Heaven rest)
Has often grac'd my house, and been my guest:
To view his living features, does me good;
For I am your poor neighbor in the wood;
And in my cottage should be proud to see
The worthy heir of my friend's family.
"But since I speak of singing, let me say,
As with an upright heart I safely may,
That, save yourself, there breathes not on the
One like your father for a silver sound.
So sweetly would he wake the winter-day,
That matrons to the church mistook their way.
And thought they heard the merry organ play
And he, to raise his voice with artful care,
(What will not beaux attempt to please the fair?)
On tiptoe stood to sing with greater strength,
And stretch'd his comely neck at all the length:
And while he strain'd his voice to pierce the skies,
As saints in raptures use, would shut his eyes,
That the sound striving through the narrow throat,
His winking might avail to mend the note.
By this, in song, he never had his peer,
From sweet Cecilia down to Chanticleer;
Not Maro's Muse, who sung the mighty man,
Nor Pindar's heavenly lyre, nor Horace when a swan.
Your ancestors proceed from race divine:
From Brennus and Belinus is your line;
Who gave to sovereign Rome such loud alarms,
That ev'n the priests were not excus'd from arms.
'Besides, a famous monk of modern times
Has left of cocks recorded in his rhymes,
That of a parish-priest the son and heir,
Who, true to love, was all for recreation,
And minded not the work of propagation.
Gaufride, who couldst so well in rhyme complain
The death of Richard with an arrow slain,
Why had not I thy Muse, or thou my heart,
To sing this heavy dirge with equal art!
That I like thee on Friday might complain;
For on that day was Cœur de Lion slain.
Not louder cries, when Ilium was in flames,
Were sent to Heaven by woful Trojan dames,
When Pyrrhus toss'd on high his burnish'd blade,
And offer'd Priam to his father's shade,
Than for the cock the widow'd poultry made.
Fair Partlet first, when he was borne from sight,
With sovereign shrieks bewail'd her captive knight:
Far louder than the Carthaginian wife,
When Asdrubal, her husband, lost his life,
When she beheld the smouldering flames ascend
And all the Punic glories at an end:
(When sons of priests were from the proverb clear,) Willing into the fires she plung'd her head,
Affronted once a cock of noble kind,
And either lam'd his legs, or struck him blind;
For which the clerk his father was disgrac'd,
With greater ease than others seek their bed;
Not more aghast the matrons of renown,
When tyrant Nero burn'd th' imperial town,
Shriek'd for the downfall in a doleful cry,
For which their guiltless lords were doom'd to die.
Now to my story I return again:
Make hills and dales, and Earth and Heaven rejoice, The trembling widow, and her daughters twain, And emulate your father's angel voice."
This woful cackling cry with horror heard,
The cock was pleas'd to hear him speak so fair, Of those distracted damsels in the yard;
And proud beside, as solar people are ;
Nor could the treason from the truth descry,
So was he ravish'd with this flattery:
So much the more, as, from a little elf,
He had a high opinion of himself;
Though sickly, slender, and not large of limb,
Concluding all the world was made for him.
Ye princes, rais'd by poets to the gods,
And Alexander'd up in lying odes,
Believe not every flattering knave's report,
There's many a Reynard lurking in the court;
And he shall be receiv'd with more regard
And listen'd to, than modest Truth is heard.
This Chanticleer, of whom the story sings,
Stood high upon his toes, and clapp'd his wings;
Then stretch'd his neck, and wink'd with both his
Ambitious, as he sought th' Olympic prize.
But, while he pain'd himself to raise his note,
False Reynard rush'd, and caught him by the throat.
Then on his back he laid the precious load,
And sought his wonted shelter of the wood;
Swiftly he made his way, the mischief done,
Of all unheeded, and pursu'd by none.
Alas, what stay is there in human state,
Or who can shun inevitable fate?
The doom was written, the decree was past,
Ere the foundations of the world were cast!
In Aries though the Sun exalted stood,
His patron-planet to procure his good;
Yet Saturn was his mortal foe, and he,
In Libra rais'd, oppos'd the same degree:
The rays both good and bad, of equal power,
Each thwarting other made a mingled hour.
On Friday morn he dreamt this direful dream,
Cross to the worthy native, in his scheme!
Ah, blissful Venus, goddess of delight,
How couldst thou suffer thy devoted knight,
On thy own day, to fall by foe oppress'd,
The wight of all the world who serv'd thee best?
And, starting up, beheld the heavy sight,
How Reynard to the forest took his flight,
And cross his back, as in triumphant scorn,
The hope and pillar of the house was borne.
"The fox, the wicked fox!" was all the cry:
Out from his house ran every neighbor nigh;
The vicar first, and after him the crew
With forks and staves, the felon to pursue.
Ran Coll our dog, and Talbot with the band;
And Malkin, with her distaff in her hand;
Ran cow and calf, and family of hogs,
In panic horror of pursuing dogs;
With many a deadly grunt and doleful squeak.
Poor swine, as if their pretty hearts would break.
The shouts of men, the women in dismay,
With shrieks augment the terror of the day;
The ducks, that heard the proclamation cried,
And fear'd a persecution might betide,
Full twenty miles from town their voyage take,
Obscure in rushes of the liquid lake.
The geese fly o'er the barn; the bees in arms
Drive headlong from their waxen cells in swarms.
Jack Straw at London-stone, with all his rout,
Struck not the city with so loud a shout;
Not when with English hate they did pursue
A Frenchman, or an unbelieving Jew;
Not when the welkin rung with one and all;
And echoes bounded back from Fox's hall;
Earth seem'd to sink beneath, and Heaven above to
With might and main they chas'd the murderous fox,
With brazen trumpets and inflated box,
To kindle Mars with military sounds,
Nor wanted horns t' inspire sagacious hounds.
But see, how Fortune can confound the wise,
And, when they least expect it, turn the dice.
The captive cock, who scarce could draw his breath
And lay within the very jaws of Death;
Yet in this agony his fancy wrought,
And Fear supplied him with this happy thought.
"Your's is the prize, victorious prince," said he,
"The vicar my defeat, and all the village see.
Enjoy your friendly fortune while you may,
And bid the churls that envy you the prey
Call back their mongrel curs, and cease their cry.
See, fools, the shelter of the wood is nigh,
And Chanticleer in your despite shall die,
He shall be pluck'd and eaten to the bone."
"Tis well advis'd, in faith it shall be done;"
This Reynard said: but, as the word he spoke,
The prisoner with a spring from prison broke :
Then stretch'd his feather'd fans with all his might,
And to the neighboring maple wing'd his flight;
Whom when the traitor safe on tree beheld,
He curs'd the gods, with shame and sorrow fill'd;
Shame for his folly, sorrow out of time,
For plotting an unprofitable crime;
Yet, mastering both, th' artificer of lies
Renews th' assault, and his last battery tries.
THE FLOWER AND THE LEAF:
OR, THE LADY IN THE ARBOR.
Now, turning from the wintry signs, the Sun
His course exalted through the Ram had run,
And, whirling up the skies, his chariot drove
Through Taurus and the lightsome realms of Love;
Where Venus from her orb descends in showers,
To glad the ground, and paint the fields with
When first the tender blades of grass appear,
And buds, that yet the blast of Eurus fear,
Stand at the door of life, and doubt to clothe the year ·
Till gentle heat, and soft repeated rains,
Make the green blood to dance within their veins.
Then, at their call embolden'd, out they come,
And swell the germs, and burst the narrow room;
Though I," said he, "did ne'er in thought of Broader and broader yet, their blooms display,
How justly may my lord suspect his friend!
Th' appearance is against me, I confess,
Who seemingly have put you in distress:
You, if your goodness does not plead my cause,
May think I broke all hospitable laws,
To bear you from your palace-yard by might,
And put your noble person in a fright:
This, since you take it ill, I must repent,
Though, Heaven can witness, with no bad intent:
I practis'd it, to make you taste your cheer
With double pleasure, first prepar'd by fear.
So loyal subjects often seize their prince,
Forc'd (for his good) to seeming violence,
Yet mean his sacred person not the least offence.
Descend; so help me Jove as you shall find
That Reynard comes of no dissembling kind."
Nay," quoth the cock; "but I beshrew us both,
If I believe a saint upon his oath:
An honest man may take a knave's advice,
But idiots only may be cozen'd twice:
Once warn'd is well bewar'd; not flattering lies
Shall soothe me more to sing with winking eyes
And open mouth, for fear of catching flies.
Who blindfold walks upon a river's brim,
When he should see, has he deserv'd to swim?"
Better, sir cock, let all contention cease,
Salute the welcome Sun, and entertain the day.
Then from their breathing souls the sweets repair,
To scent the skies, and purge th' unwholesome air:
Joy spreads the heart, and, with a general song,
Spring issues out, and leads the jolly months along.
In that sweet season, as in bed I lay,
And sought in sleep to pass the night away,
I turn'd my wearied side, but still in vain,
Though full of youthful health, and void of pain
Cares I had none, to keep me from my rest,
For Love had never enter'd in my breast;
I wanted nothing Fortune could supply,
Nor did she slumber till that hour deny.
I wonder'd then, but after found it true,
Much joy had dried away the balmy dew:
Seas would be pools, without the brushing air,
To curl the waves: and sure some little care
Should weary Nature so, to make her want repair.
When Chanticleer the second watch had sung,
Scorning the scorner Sleep, from bed I sprung ;
And, dressing by the Moon, in loose array,
Pass'd out in open air, preventing day,
And sought a goodly grove, as fancy led my way.
Straight as a line in beauteous order stood
Of oaks unshorn a venerable wood;
Fresh was the grass beneath, and every tree
At distance planted in a due degree,
Come down," said Reynard, "let us treat of Their branching arms in air with equal space
"A peace, with all my soul," said Chanticleer;
"But, with your favor, I will treat it here:
And, lest the truce with treason should be mixt,
"Tis my concern to have the tree betwixt."
In this plain fable you th' effect may see
Of negligence, and fond credulity:
And learn beside of flatterers to beware,
Then most pernicious when they speak too fair.
The cock and fox, the fool and knave imply;
The truth is moral, though the tale a lie.
Who spoke in parables, I dare not say;
But sure he knew it was a pleasing way,
Sound sense, by plain example, to convey;
And in a heathen author we may find,
That pleasure with instruction should be join'd ;
So take the corn, and leave the chaff behind.
Stretch'd to their neighbors with a long embrace,
And the new leaves on every bough were seen,
Some ruddy color'd, some of lighter green.
The painted birds, companions of the Spring,
Hopping from spray to spray, were heard to sing.
Both eyes and ears receiv'd a like delight,
Enchanting music, and a charming sight.
On Philomel I fix'd my whole desire;
And listen'd for the queen of all the quire;
Fain would I hear her heavenly voice to sing;
And wanted yet an omen to the spring.
Attending long in vain, I took the way,
Which through a path but scarcely printed lay;
In narrow mazes oft it seem'd to meet,
And look'd as lightly press'd by fairy feet.
Wandering I walk'd alone, for still methought
To some strange end so strange a path was wrought:
At last it led me where an arbor stood,
The sacred receptacle of the wood:
This place unmark'd, though oft I walk'd the green.
In all my progress I had never seen:
And, seiz'd at once with wonder and delight,
Gaz'd all around me, new to the transporting sight.
"Twas bench'd with turf, and goodly to be seen,
The thick young grass arose in fresher green:
The mound was newly made, no sight could pass
Betwixt the nice partitions of the grass;
The well-united sods so closely lay;
And all around the shades defended it from day:
For sycamores with eglantine were spread,
A hedge about the sides, a covering over-head.
And so the fragrant brier was wove between,
The sycamore and flowers were mix'd with green,
That Nature seem'd to vary the delight;
And satisfied at once the smell and sight.
The master-workman of the bower was known
Through fairy lands, and built for Oberon;
Who twining leaves with such proportion drew,
They rose by measure, and by rule they grew;
No mortal tongue can half the beauty tell:
For none but hands divine could work so well.
Both roof and sides were like a parlor made,
A soft recess, and a cool summer shade;
The hedge was set so thick, no foreign eye
The persons plac'd within it could espy:
But all that pass'd without with ease was seen,
As if nor fence nor tree was plac'd between.
"Twas border'd with a field; and some was plain
With grass, and some was sow'd with rising grain.
That (now the dew with spangles deck'd the ground)
A sweeter spot of earth was never found.
I look'd and look'd, and still with new delight;
Such joy my soul, such pleasures fill'd my sight:
And the fresh eglantine exhal'd a breath,
Whose odors were of power to raise from death.
Nor sullen discontent, nor anxious care,
Ev'n though brought thither, could inhabit there:
But thence they fled as from their mortal foe;
For this sweet place could only pleasure know.
Thus as I mus'd, I cast aside my eye,
And saw a medlar-tree was planted nigh.
The spreading branches made a goodly show,
And full of opening blooms was every bough:
A goldfinch there I saw with gaudy pride
Of painted plumes, that hopp'd from side to side,
Still pecking as she pass'd; and still she drew
The sweets from every flower, and suck'd the dew:
Suffic'd at length, she warbled in her throat,
And tun'd her voice to many a merry note,
But indistinct, and neither sweet nor clear,
Yet such as sooth'd my soul and pleas'd my ear.
Her short performance was no sooner tried,
When she I sought, the nightingale replied:
So sweet, so shrill, so variously she sung,
That the grove echo'd, and the valleys rung:
And I so ravish'd with her heavenly note,
I stood entranc'd, and had no room for thought,
But, all o'erpower'd with ecstacy of bliss,
Was in a pleasing dream of Paradise:
At length I wak'd, and looking round the bower,
Search'd every tree, and pry'd on every flower,
If anywhere by chance I might espy,
The rural poet of the melody;
For still methought she sung not far away:
At last I found her on a laurel spray.
Close by my side she sat, and fair in sight,
Full in a line against her opposite;
Where stood with eglantine the laurel twin'd;
And both their native sweets were well conjoin'd.
On the green bank I sat, and listen'd long
(Sitting was more convenient for the song :)
Nor till her lay was ended could I move,
But wish'd to dwell for ever in the grove.
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 nowhere 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.
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 seams with sparkling emeralds set around:
Their hoods and sleeves the same; and purfled o'er
With diamonds, pearls, and all the shining store
Of eastern 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 honor 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 servants' 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 inclos'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 honor 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
Replied, 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 arbor 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 goodly 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 armor glorious to behold;
The rivets of their arms were nail'd with gold.
Their surcoats of white ermine 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 tourney 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 jousts 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.
An hour and more, like tides, in equal sway
They rush'd, and won by turns, and lost the day:
At length the nine (who still together held)
Their fainting foes to shameful flight compell'd,
And with resistless force o'er-ran the field.
Thus, to their fame, when finish'd was the fight,
The victors from their lofty steeds alight:
Like them dismounted all the warlike train,
And two by two proceeded o'er the plain:
Till to the fair assembly they advanc'd,
Who near the secret arbor sung and danc'd.
The ladies left their measures at the sight,
To meet the chiefs returning from the fight,
And each with open arms embrac'd her chosen
Amid the plain a spreading laurel stood,
The grace and ornament of all the wood :
That pleasing shade they sought, a soft retreat
From sudden April showers, a shelter from the heat:
Her leafy arms with such extent were spread,
So near the clouds was her aspiring head,
That hosts of birds, that wing the liquid air,
Perch'd in the boughs, had nightly lodging there;
And flocks of sheep beneath the shade from far
Might hear the rattling hail, and wintry war,
From Heaven's inclemency here found retreat,
Enjoy'd the cool, and shunn'd the scorching heat:
A hundred knights might there at ease abide;
And every knight a lady by his side:
The trunk itself such odors did bequeath,
That a Moluccan breeze to these was common
The lords and ladies here, approaching, paid
Their homage, with a low obeisance made:
And seem'd to venerate the sacred shade.
These rites perform'd, their pleasures they pursue,
With song of love, and mix with pleasures new;
Around the holy tree their dance they frame,
And every champion leads his chosen dame.
I cast my sight upon the farther field,
And a fresh object of delight beheld:
For from the region of the west I heard
New music sound, and a new troop appear'd;
Of knights, and ladies mix'd, a jolly band,
But all on foot they march'd, and hand in hand.