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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
 
Fables Ancient and Modern
The Flower and the Leaf; or, The Lady in the Arbour
 
A VISION.

NOW 1 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 Show’rs        5
To glad the Ground, and paint the Fields with Flow’rs:
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 cloath the Year;
Till gentle Heat, and soft repeated Rains        10
Make the green Blood to dance within their Veins:
Then, at their Call, embolden’d out they come,
And swell the Gems, and burst the narrow Room;
Broader and broader yet, their Blooms display,
Salute the welcome Sun, and entertain the Day.        15
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,        20
And sought in Sleep to pass the Night away,
I turned my weary Side, but still in vain,
Tho’ 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;        25
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 dry’d away the balmy Dew:
Sea’s wou’d be Pools without the brushing Air,        30
To curl the Waves; and sure some little Care
Shou’d weary Nature so, to make her want repair.
  When Chaunticleer the second Watch had sung,
Scorning the Scorner Sleep from Bed I sprung.
And dressing, by the Moon, in loose Array        35
Pass’d out in open Air, preventing Day,
And sought a goodly Grove, as Fancy led my way.
Strait as a Line in beauteous Order stood
Of Oaks unshorn a venerable Wood;
Fresh was the Grass beneath, and ev’ry Tree,        40
At distance planted in a due degree,
Their branching Arms in Air with equal space
Stretch’d to their Neighbours with a long Embrace:
And the new Leaves on ev’ry Bough were seen,
Some ruddy-colour’d, some of lighter green.        45
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 Musick, and a charming Sight.
On Philomel I fix’d my whole Desire;        50
And list’n’d for the Queen of all the Quire;
Fain would I hear her heav’nly 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;        55
In narrow Mazes oft it seemed to meet,
And look’d as lightly press’d 2 by Fairy Feet.
Wandring I walk’d alone, for still methought
To some strange End so strange a Path was wrought:
At last it led me where an Arbour stood,        60
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 arround me, new to the transporting Sight.        65
’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 cou’d pass
Betwixt the nice Partitions of the Grass;
The well-united Sods so closely lay;        70
And all arround the Shades defended it from Day.
For Sycamours with Eglantine were spread,
A Hedge about the Sides, a Covering over Head.
And so the fragrant Brier was wove between,
The Sycamour and Flow’rs were mix’d with Green,        75
That Nature seem’d to vary the Delight;
And satisfy’d at once the Smell and Sight.
The Master Work-man of the Bow’r was known
Through Fairy-Lands, and built for Oberon;
Who twining Leaves with such Proportion drew,        80
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 Parlour made,
A soft Recess, and a cool Summer Shade;        85
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 borderd with a Field; and some was plain        90
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:        95
And the fresh Eglantine exhal’d a Breath;
Whose Odours were of Pow’r to raise from Death.
Nor sullen Discontent nor anxious Care,
Ev’n tho’ brought thither, could inhabit there:
But thence they fled as from their mortal Foe;        100
For this sweet Place cou’d 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 ev’ry Bough:        105
A Goldfinch there I saw with gawdy Pride
Of painted Plumes, that hopp’d from side to side,
Still pecking as she pass’d; and still she drew
The Sweets from ev’ry Flower, and suck’d the Dew:
Suffic’d at length, she warbled in her Throat,        110
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 try’d,
When she I sought, the Nightingale reply’d:        115
So Sweet, so shrill, so variously she sung,
That the grove eccho’d, and the Valleys rung:
And I so ravish’d with her heav’nly Note
I stood intranc’d, and had no room for Thought,
But all o’er-pow’r’d 3 with Extasy of Bliss,        120
Was in a pleasing Dream of Paradice;
At length I wak’d; and looking round the Bow’r
Search’d every Tree, and pry’d on ev’ry Flow’r,
If anywhere by chance I might espy
The rural Poet of the Melody:        125
For still methought she sung not far away;
At last I found her on a Lawrel Spray,
Close by my Side she sate, and fair in Sight,
Full in a Line, against her opposite;
Where stood with Eglantine the Lawrel twin’d:        130
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.        135
Only methought the time too swiftly pass’d,
And ev’ry 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,        140
The sweet Possession of the Fairy Place;
Single, and conscious to my Self alone
Of Pleasures to th’ excluded World unknown.
Pleasures which nowhere else, were to be found,
And all Elysium in a spot of Ground.        145
  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 Musick, on th’ enchanted Ground:
An Host of Saints it seem’d, so full the Quire;        150
As if the Bless’d above did all conspire,
To join their Voices, and neglect the Lyre.
At length there issu’d from the Grove behind
A fair Assembly of the Female Kind:
A Train less fair, as ancient Fathers tell,        155
Seduc’d the Sons of Heaven to rebel.
I pass their Forms, 4 and ev’ry charming Grace,
Less than an Angel would their Worth debase:
But their Attire like Liveries of a kind, 5
All rich and rare is fresh within my Mind.        160
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        165
With Rubies edg’d, and Saphires, swept the Plain:
High on their Heads, with Jewels richly set
Each Lady wore a radiant Coronet.
Beneath the Circles, al the Quire was grac’d
With Chaplets green on their fair Foreheads plac’d,        170
Of Lawrel 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        175
A Lady of a more majestique Mien;
By Stature, and by Beauty mark’d their Sovereign Queen.
  She in the midst began with sober Grace;
Her Servants Eyes were fix’d upon her Face,
And as she mov’d or turn’d, her Motions view’d,        180
Her Measures kept, and Step by Step pursu’d.
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.        185
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 Scepter of Command;)
Admir’d, ador’d by all the circling Crowd,        190
For wheresoe’er she turn’d her Face, they bow’d:
And as she danc’d, a Roundelay she sung,
In honour of the Lawrel, ever young:
She rais’d her Voice on high, and sung so clear,
The Fawns came scudding from the Groves to hear:        195
And all the bending Forest lent an Ear.
At ev’ry Close she made, th’ attending Throng
Reply’d, and bore the Burden of the Song:
So just, so small, yet in so sweet a Note,
It seem’d the Musick melted in the Throat.        200
  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,        205
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 suddain Symphony of War;        210
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,        215
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 Flow’rs, and intercept the Sky.        220
So fierce they drove, their Coursers were so fleet,
That the Turf trembled underneath their Feet.
  To tell their costly Furniture were long,
The Summers Day wou’d end before the Song:
To purchase but the Tenth of all their Store        225
Would make the mighty Persian Monarch poor.
Yet what I can, I will; before the rest
The Trumpets issu’d in white Mantles dress’d:
A numerous Troop, 6 and all their Heads around
With Chaplets green of Cerrial-Oak were crown’d,        230
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.        235
The chief about their Necks the Scutcheons wore,
With Orient Pearls and Jewels pouder’d o’er:
Broad were their Collars too, and ev’ry one
Was set about with many a costly Stone.
Next these of Kings at Arms a goodly Train,        240
In proud Array came prancing o’er the Plain:
Their Cloaks were Cloth of Silver mix’d with Gold,
And Garlands green arround their Temples roll’d:
Rich Crowns were on their royal Scutcheons plac’d,
With Saphires, Diamonds, and with Rubies grac’d:        245
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 Pursevants came next, in number more:        250
And like the Heralds each his Scutcheon bore:
Clad in white Velvet all their Troop they led,
With each an Oaken 7 Chaplet on his Head.
  Nine royal Knights in equal Rank succeed,
Each Warrior mounted on a fiery Steed:        255
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 glitt’ring Shade.
The Trappings of their Steeds were of the same;        260
The golden Fringe ev’n set the Ground on flame,
And drew a precious Trail: A Crown divine
Of Lawrel did about their Temples twine.
  Three Henchmen were for ev’ry Knight assign’d,
All in rich Livery clad, and of a kind:        265
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 wou’d not pay the Price.
The second bore the Buckler of his Knight,        270
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        275
An Host so great as cover’d all the Field:
And all their Foreheads, like the Knights before,
With Lawrels ever green were shaded o’er,
Or Oak, or other Leaves of lasting kind,
Tenacious of the Stem and firm against the Wind.        280
Some in their Hands, besides the Lance and Shield,
The Boughs of Woodbind or of Hauthorn held,
Or Branches for their mistique Emblems took,
Of Palm, of Lawrel, or of Cerrial Oak.
  Thus marching to the Trumpets lofty Sound,        285
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,        290
And Steed to Steed oppos’d, the Justs began.
They 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.        295
Some broke their Spears, some tumbled Horse and Man,
And round the Fields the lighten’d Coursers 8 ran.
An Hour and more like Tides, in equal sway 9
They rush’d, and won by turns, and lost the Day:
At length the Nine (who still together held)        300
Their fainting Foes to shameful Flight 10 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,        305
And two by two proceeded o’er the Plain:
Till to the fair Assembly they advanc’d,
Who near the secret Arbour sung and danc’d.
  The Ladies left their Measures at the Sight,
To meet the Chiefs returning from the Fight,        310
And each with open Arms embrac’d her chosen Knight.
Amid the Plain a spreading Lawrel stood,
The Grace and Ornament of all the Wood:
That pleasing Shade they sought, a soft Retreat
From suddain April Show’rs, a Shelter from the Heat.        315
Her leavy 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        320
Might hear the ratling Hail, and wintry War;
From Heav’ns Inclemency here found retreat,
Enjoy’d the cool, and shun’d the scorching Heat:
A hundred Knights might there at Ease abide;
And ev’ry Knight a Lady by his side:        325
The Trunk it self such Odours did bequeath
That a Moluccan Breeze to these was common Breath.
The Lords, and Ladies here approaching, paid
Their Homage, with a low Obeisance made:
And seem’d to venerate the sacred Shade.        330
These Rites perform’d, their Pleasures they pursue,
With Songs of Love, and mix with Measures 11 new;
Around the holy Tree their Dance they frame,
And ev’ry Champion leads his chosen Dame.
  I cast my Sight upon the farther Field,        335
And a fresh Object of Delight beheld:
For from the Region of the West I heard
New Musick 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.        340
  The Ladies dress’d in rich Symarrs were seen
Of Florence Satten, flower’d with White and Green,
And for a Shade betwixt the bloomy Gridelin.
The Borders of their Petticoats below
Were guarded thick with Rubies on a-row;        345
And ev’ry Damsel wore upon her Head
Of Flow’rs a Garland blended White and Red.
Attir’d in Mantles all the Knights were seen
That gratify’d the View with chearful Green:
Their Chaplets of their Ladies Colours were        350
Compos’d of White and Red, to shade their shining Hair.
Before the merry Troop the Minstrels play’d,
All in their Master’s Liveries were array’d,
And clad in Green, and on their Temples wore
The Chaplets White and Red their Ladies bore.        355
Their Instruments were various in their kind,
Some for the Bow, and some for breathing Wind:
The Sawtry, Pipe, and Hautbois noisy band,
And the soft Lute trembling beneath the touching Hand.
A Tuft of Dasies on a flow’ry Lay 12        360
They saw, and thitherward they bent their way:
To this both Knights and Dames their Homage made,
And due Obeisance to the Daisy paid.
And then the Band of Flutes began to play,
To which a Lady sung a Virelay;        365
And still at ev’ry close she wou’d repeat
The Burden of the Song, The Daisy is so sweet.
The Daisy is so sweet when she begun,
The Troop of Knights and Dames continu’d on.
The Concert and the Voice so charm’d my Ear,        370
And sooth’d my Soul, that it was Heav’n to hear.
  But soon their Pleasure pass’d: At Noon of Day
The Sun with sultry Beams began to play:
Not Syrius shoots a fiercer Flame from high,
When with his pois’nous Breath he blasts the Sky:        375
Then droop’d the fading Flow’rs (their Beauty fled)
And clos’d their sickly Eyes, and hung the Head;
And, rivell’d up with Heat, lay dying in their Bed.
The Ladies gasp’d, and scarcely could respire;
The Breath they drew, no longer Air, but Fire;        380
The fainty Knights were scorch’d; and knew not where
To run for Shelter, for no Shade was near.
And after this the gath’ring Clouds amain
Pour’d down a Storm of rattling Hail and Rain;
And lightning flashed betwixt: The Field, and Flow’rs,        385
Burnt up before, were bury’d in the Show’rs.
The Ladies, and the Knights no Shelter nigh,
Bare to the Weather, and the wintry Sky,
Were dropping wet, disconsolate, and wan,
And through their thin Array receiv’d the Rain.        390
  While those in White, protected by the Tree,
Saw pass the vain Assault, and stood from Danger free.
But as Compassion mov’d their gentle Minds,
When ceas’d the Storm, and silent were the Winds,
Displeas’d at what, not suff’ring they had seen,        395
They went to chear the Faction of the Green.
The Queen in white Array before her Band,
Saluting, took her Rival by the Hand;
So did the Knights and Dames, with courtly grace
And with Behaviour sweet their Foes embrace.        400
Then thus the Queen with Lawrel on her Brow:
Fair Sister, I have suffer’d in your Woe:
Nor shall be wanting ought within my Pow’r
For your Relief in my refreshing Bow’r.
That other answer’d with a lowly Look,        405
And soon the gracious Invitation took
For ill at ease both she and all her Train
The scorching Sun had born, and beating Rain.
Like Courtesy was us’d by all in White,
Each Dame a Dame receiv’d, and ev’ry Knight a Knight.        410
The Lawrel-Champions with their Swords invade
The neighb’ring Forests where the Justs were made,
And Serewood from the rotten Hedges took,
And Seeds of Latent-Fire from Flints provoke:
A chearful Blaze arose, and by the Fire        415
They warm’d their frozen Feet, and dry’d their wet Attire.
Refresh’d with Heat the Ladies sought around
For virtuous Herbs which gathered from the ground
They squeez’d the Juice; and cooling Ointment made,
Which on their Sun-burnt Cheeks, and their chapt Skins they laid:        420
Then sought green Salads, which they bad ’em eat,
A Soveraign Remedy for inward Heat.
  The Lady of the Leaf ordain’d a Feast,
And made the Lady of the Flow’r her Guest:
When lo, a Bow’r ascended on the Plain,        425
With suddain Seats adorn’d, and large for either Train.
This Bow’r was near my pleasant Arbour plac’d,
That I could hear and see whatever pass’d
The Ladies sat, with each a Knight between,
Distinguish’d by their Colours White and Green;        430
The vanquish’d Party with the Victors join’d,
Nor wanted sweet Discourse, the Banquet of the Mind.
Mean time the Minstrels play’d on either side
Vain of their Art, and for the Mast’ry vy’d
The sweet Contention lasted for an Hour,        435
And reach’d my secret Arbour from the Bow’r.
  The Sun was set; and Vesper to supply
His absent Beams, had lighted up the Sky;
When Philomel, officious all the Day
To sing the Service of th’ ensuing May,        440
Fled from her Lawrel Shade, and wing’d her Flight
Directly to the Queen array’d in White:
And hopping sate familiar on her Hand,
A new Musitian, and increas’d the Band.
  The Goldfinch, who to shun the scalding Heat,        445
Had chang’d the Medlar for a safer Seat,
And hid in Bushes scap’d the bitter Show’r,
Now perch’d upon the Lady of the Flow’r;
And either Songster holding out their Throats,
And folding up their Wings renew’d their Notes:        450
As if all Day, preluding to the Fight,
They only had rehears’d, to sing by Night.
The Banquet ended, and the Battle done,
They danc’d by Star-light and the friendly Moon:
And when they were to part, the Laureat Queen        455
Supply’d with Steeds the Lady of the Green,
Her, and her Train conducting on the way
The Moon to follow, and avoid the Day.
  This when I saw, inquisitive to know
The secret Moral of the Mystique Show,        460
I started from my Shade, in hopes to find
Some Nymph to satisfy my longing Mind:
And as my fair Adventure fell, I found
A Lady all in White, with Lawrel crown’d,
Who clos’d the Rear and softly pac’d along,        465
Repeating to her self the former Song.
With due respect my Body I inclin’d,
As to some Being of Superiour Kind,
And made my Court, according to the Day,
Wishing her Queen and Her a happy May.        470
Great Thanks my Daughter, with a gracious Bow
She said; and I who much desir’d to know
Of whence she was, yet fearful how to break
My Mind, adventur’d humbly thus to speak
Madam, Might I presume and not offend,        475
So may the Stars and shining Moon attend
Your Nightly Sports, as you vouchsafe to tell,
What Nymphs they were who mortal Forms excel,
And what the Knights who fought in listed Fields so well.
  To this the Dame reply’d: Fair daughter know,        480
That what you saw, was all a Fairy Show:
And all those airy Shapes you now behold
Were humane Bodies once, and cloath’d with earthly Mold.
Our Souls, not yet prepar’d for upper Light,
Till Doomsday wander in the Shades of Night;        485
This only Holiday of all the Year,
We priviledg’d in Sun-shine may appear:
With Songs and Dance we celebrate the Day,
And with due Honours usher in the May.
At other Times we reign by Night alone,        490
And posting through the Skies pursue the Moon:
But when the Morn arises, none are found;
For cruel Demogorgon walks the round,
And if he finds a Fairy lag in Light,
He drives the Wretch before; and lashes into Night.        495
  All Courteous are by Kind; and ever proud
With friendly Offices to help the Good.
In every Land we have a larger Space
Than what is known to you of mortal Race;
Where we with Green adorn our Fairy Bow’rs,        500
And even this Grove unseen before, is ours.
Know farther; Ev’ry Lady cloath’d in White,
And crown’d with Oak and Lawrel ev’ry Knight,
Are Servants to the Leaf, by Liveries known
Of Innocence; and I myself am one.        505
Saw you not Her so graceful to behold,
In white Attire, and crown’d with Radiant Gold?
The Soveraign Lady of our Land is She,
Diana call’d, the Queen of Chastity:
And, for the spotless Name of Maid she bears,        510
That Agnus castus in her Hand appears;
And all her Train with leavy Chaplets crown’d
Were for unblam’d Virginity renown’d
But those the chief and highest in Command
Who bear those holy Branches in their Hand:        515
The Knights adorned with Lawrel-Crowns, are they,
Whom Death nor Danger ever cou’d dismay,
Victorious Names, who made the World obey:
Who while they liv’d, in Deeds of Arms excell’d
And after Death for Deities were held.        520
But those who wear the Woodbine on their Brow
Were Knights of Love, who never broke their Vow:
Firm to their plighted Faith, and ever free
From Fears and fickle Chance, and Jealousy.
The Lords and Ladies, who the Woodbine bear,        525
As true as Tristram and Isotta were.
But what are those said I, th’ unconquered Nine,
Who crown’d with Lawrel-Wreaths, in golden Armour shine?
And who the Knights in Green, and what the Train
Of Ladies dress’d with Daisies on the Plain?        530
Why both the Bands in Worship disagree,
And some adore the Flow’r, and some the Tree?
  Just is your Suit, fair daughter, said the Dame,
Those lawrell’d Chiefs were Men of mighty Fame;
Nine Worthies were they call’d of diff’rent Rites,        535
Three Jews, three Pagans, and three Christian Knights.
These, as you see, ride foremost in the Field,
As they the foremost Rank of Honour held,
And all in Deeds of Chivalry excell’d.
Their Temples wreath’d with Leafs, that still renew;        540
For deathless Lawrel is the Victor’s due.
Who bear the Bows were Knights in Arthur’s Reign,
Twelve they, and twelve the Peers of Charlemain:
For Bows the Strength of brawny Arms imply
Emblems of Valour, and of Victory.        545
Behold an Order yet of newer Date
Doubling their Number, equal in their State;
Our England’s Ornament, the Crown’s Defence,
In Battle brave, Protectors of their Prince
Unchang’d by Fortune, to their Soveraign true,        550
For which their manly Legs are bound with Blue.
These, of the Garter call’d, of Faith unstain’d,
In fighting Fields the Lawrel have obtain’d,
And well repaid those Honours which they gain’d.
The Lawrel-Wreaths were first by Cæsar worn,        555
And still they Cæsar’s Successors adorn:
One Leaf of this is Immortality,
And more of Worth, than all the World can buy.
  One Doubt remains, said I, the Dames in Green,
What were their Qualities, and who their Queen?        560
Flora commands, said she, those Nymphs and Knights,
Who liv’d in slothful Ease, and loose Delights:
Who never Acts of Honour durst pursue,
The Men inglorious Knights, the Ladies all untrue:
Who nurs’d in Idleness, and train’d in Courts,        565
Pass’d all their precious Hours in Plays, and Sports,
Till Death behind came stalking on, unseen,
And wither’d (like the Storm) the freshness of their Green.
These, and their Mates, enjoy the 13 present Hour,
And therefore pay their Homage to the Flow’r.        570
But Knights in Knightly Deeds should persevere,
And still continue what at first they were;
Continue, and proceed in Honour’s fair Career.
No room for Cowardise, or dull Delay;
From Good to Better they should urge their way.        575
For this with golden Spurs the Chiefs are grac’d,
With pointed Rowels arm’d to mend their haste;
For this with lasting Leaves their Brows are bound,
For Lawrel is the Sign of Labour crown’d;
Which bears the bitter Blast, nor shaken falls to Ground:        580
From Winter-Winds it suffers no decay,
For ever fresh and fair, and ev’ry Month is May.
Ev’n when the vital Sap retreats below,
Ev’n when the hoary Head is hid in Snow;
The Life is in the Leaf, and still between        585
The Fits of falling Snows, 14 appears the streaky Green.
Not so the Flow’r which lasts for little space,
A short-liv’d Good, and an uncertain Grace;
This way and that the feeble Stem is driv’n,
Weak to sustain the Storms, and Injuries of Heav’n.        590
Prop’d by the Spring, it lifts aloft the Head,
But of a sickly Beauty, soon to shed;
In Summer living, and in Winter dead.
For Things of tender Kind for Pleasure made
Shoot up with swift Increase, and suddain are decay’d.        595
  With humble Words, the wisest I could frame,
And profer’d Service I repaid the Dame:
That of her Grace she gave her Maid to know
The secret meaning of this moral Show.
And she to prove what Profit I had made        600
Of mystique Truth, in Fables first convey’d,
Demanded, till the next returning May,
Whether the Leaf or Flow’r I would obey?
I chose the Leaf; she smil’d with sober Chear,
And wish’d me fair Adventure for the Year,        605
And gave me Charms and Sigils, for defence
Against ill Tongues that scandal Innocence:
But I, said she, my Fellows must pursue,
Already past the Plain, and out of view.
  We parted thus; I homeward sped my way,        610
Bewilder’d in the Wood till Dawn of Day:
And met the merry Crew who danc’d about the May.
Then late refresh’d with Sleep I rose to write
The visionary Vigils of the Night.
Blush, as thou may’st, my little Book for Shame,        615
Nor hope with homely Verse to purchase Fame;
For such thy Maker chose; and so design’d
Thy simple Style to suit thy lowly Kind.
 
Note 1. Text from the first and only contemporary edition, 1700, except or variants noted. [back]
Note 2. look’d as lightly press’d] look’d, as lightly press’d, 1700. [back]
Note 3. o’er-pow’r’d] o’er-pou’r’d 1700. Probably a misprint. [back]
Note 4. Forms] Christie wrongly gives form. [back]
Note 5. kind,] Christie omitted the comma, but no doubt of a kind means ‘of one kind’, i.e. uniform. [back]
Note 6. Troop] Christie wrongly gives group. [back]
Note 7. Oaken] Christie wrongly gives open. [back]
Note 8. Coursers] Courses 1700. A misprint. [back]
Note 9. Tides, in equal sway] Christie gives tides in equal sway. [back]
Note 10. Flight] Fight 1700. A misprint. [back]
Note 11. Measures] Derrick wrongly gives pleasures. [back]
Note 12. Lay] This is the Northamptonshire spelling, wrongly taken by Dr. Saintsbury for a misprint and given by him and Christie as lea. [back]
Note 13. the] Christie and others give their. [back]
Note 14. Snows] Warton and Christie wrongly give snow. [back]
 
 
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