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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
 
Fables Ancient and Modern
Sigismonda and Guiscardo
 
From Boccace

WHILE 1 Norman Tancred in Salerno reign’d,
The Title of a Gracious Prince he gain’d;
Till turn’d a Tyrant in his latter Days,
He lost the Lustre of his former Praise,
And from the bright Meridian where he stood        5
Descending, dipp’d his Hands in Lovers Blood.
  This Prince, of Fortunes Favour long possess’d,
Yet was with one fair Daughter only bless’d;
And bless’d he might have been with her alone:
But oh! how much more happy, had he none!        10
She was his Care, his Hope, and his Delight,
Most in his Thought, and ever in his Sight:
Next, nay beyond his Life, he held her dear;
She liv’d by him, and now he liv’d in her.
For this, when ripe for Marriage, he delay’d        15
Her Nuptial Bands, and kept her long a Maid,
As envying any else should share a Part
Of what was his, and claiming all her Heart.
At length, as Publick Decency requir’d,
And all his Vassals eagerly desir’d,        20
With Mind averse, he rather underwent
His Peoples Will than gave his own Consent
So was she torn, as from a Lover’s Side,
And made almost in his despite a Bride.
  Short were her Marriage-Joys; for in the Prime        25
Of Youth, her Lord expir’d before his time;
And to her Father’s Court in little space
Restor’d anew, she held a higher Place;
More lov’d, and more exalted into Grace.
This Princess fresh and young, and fair, and wise,        30
The worshipp’d Idol of her Father’s Eyes,
Did all her Sex in ev’ry Grace exceed,
And had more Wit beside than Women need.
  Youth, Health, and Ease, and most an amorous Mind,
To second Nuptials had her Thoughts inclin’d;        35
And former Joys had left a secret Sting behind.
But, prodigal in ev’ry other Grant,
Her Sire left unsupply’d her only Want;
And she, betwixt her Modesty and Pride,
Her Wishes, which she could not help, would hide.        40
  Resolv’d at last to lose no longer Time,
And yet to please her self without a Crime,
She cast her Eyes around the Court, to find
A worthy Subject suiting to her Mind,
To him in holy Nuptials to be ty’d,        45
A seeming Widow, and a secret Bride.
Among the Train of Courtiers, one she found
With all the Gifts of bounteous Nature crown’d,
Of gentle Blood; but one whose niggard Fate
Had set him far below her high Estate;        50
Guiscard his Name was call’d, of blooming Age,
Now Squire to Tancred, and before his Page;
To him, the Choice of all the shining Crowd,
Her Heart the noble Sigismonda vow’d.
  Yet hitherto she kept her Love conceal’d,        55
And with close Glances ev’ry Day beheld
The graceful Youth; and ev’ry Day increas’d
The raging Fire that burn’d within her Breast;
Some secret Charm did all his Acts attend,
And what his Fortune wanted, hers could mend;        60
Till, as the Fire will force its outward way,
Or, in the Prison pent, consume the Prey;
So long her earnest Eyes on his were set,
At length their twisted Rays together met;
And he, surpriz’d with humble Joy, survey’d        65
One sweet Regard, shot by the Royal Maid:
Not well assur’d, while doubtful Hopes he nurs’d,
A second Glance came gliding like the first;
And he, who saw the Sharpness of the Dart,
Without Defence receiv’d it in his Heart.        70
In Publick though their Passion wanted Speech,
Yet mutual Looks interpreted for each:
Time, Ways, and Means of Meeting were deny’d,
But all those Wants ingenious Love supply’d.
Th’ inventive God, who never fails his Part,        75
Inspires the Wit, when once he warms the Heart.
  When Guiscard next was in the Circle seen,
Where Sigismonda held the Place of Queen,
A hollow Cane within her Hand she brought,
But in the Concave had enclos’d a Note;        80
With this she seem’d to play, and, as in sport,
Toss’d to her Love, in presence of the Court;
Take it, she said; and when your Needs require,
This little Brand will serve to light your Fire.
He took it with a Bow, and soon divin’d        85
The seeming Toy was not for nought design’d:
But when retir’d, so long with curious Eyes
He view’d the Present, that he found the Prize.
Much was in little writ; and all convey’d
With cautious Care, for fear to be betray’d        90
By some false Confident or Fav’rite Maid.
The Time, the Place, the Manner how to meet,
Were all in punctual Order plainly writ:
But since a Trust must be, she thought it best
To put it out of Laymens Pow’r at least,        95
And for their solemn Vows prepar’d a Priest.
  Guiscard (her secret purpose understood)
With Joy prepar’d to meet the coming Good;
Nor Pains nor Danger was resolv’d to spare,
But use the Means appointed by the Fair.        100
  Near the proud Palace of Salerno stood
A Mount of rough Ascent, and thick with Wood;
Through this a Cave was dug with vast Expence,
The Work it seem’d of some suspicious Prince,
Who, when abusing Pow’r with lawless Might,        105
From Publick Justice would secure his Flight.
The Passage made by many a winding Way,
Reach’d ev’n the Room in which the Tyrant lay.
Fit for his purpose, on a lower Floor
He lodg’d, whose Issue was an Iron Door,        110
From whence, by Stairs descending to the Ground,
In the blind Grot a safe Retreat he found.
Its Outlet ended in a Brake o’ergrown
With Brambles, choak’d by Time, and now unknown.
A Rift there was, which from the Mountains Height        115
Convey’d a glimm’ring and malignant Light,
A Breathing-place to draw the Damps away,
A Twilight of an intercepted Day.
The Tyrants Den, whose Use, though lost to Fame,
Was now th’ Apartment of the Royal Dame;        120
The Cavern, only to her Father known,
By him was to his Darling-Daughter shown.
  Neglected long she let the Secret rest,
Till Love recall’d it to her lab’ring Breast,
And hinted as the Way by Heav’n design’d        125
The Teacher, by the Means he taught, to blind.
What will not Women do, when Need inspires
Their Wit, or Love their Inclination fires!
Though Jealousie of State th’ Invention found,
Yet Love refin’d upon the former Ground.        130
That Way, the tyrant had reserv’d, to fly
Pursuing Hate, now serv’d to bring two Lovers nigh.
  The Dame, who long in vain had kept the Key,
Bold by Desire, explor’d the secret Way;
Now try’d the Stairs, and wading through the Night,        135
Search’d all the deep Recess, and issu’d into Light.
All this her Letter had so well explain’d,
Th’ instructed Youth might compass what remain’d;
The Cavern-mouth alone was hard to find,
Because the Path disus’d, was out of mind:        140
But in what Quarter of the Cops it lay,
His Eye by certain Level could survey:
Yet (for the Wood perplex’d with Thorns he knew)
A Frock of Leather o’er his Limbs he drew;
And thus provided, search’d the Brake around,        145
Till the choak’d Entry of the Cave he found.
  Thus, all prepar’d, the promis’d Hour arrived,
So long expected, and so well contriv’d:
With Love to Friend, th’ impatient Lover went,
Fenc’d from the Thorns, and trod the deep Descent.        150
The conscious Priest, who was suborn’d before,
Stood ready posted at the Postern-door;
The Maids in distant Rooms were sent to rest,
And nothing wanted but th’ invited Guest.
He came, and, knocking thrice, without delay,        155
The longing Lady heard, and turn’d the Key;
At once invaded him with all her Charms,
And the first Step he made, was in her Arms:
The Leathern Out-side, boistrous as it was,
Gave way, and bent beneath her strict Embrace:        160
On either Side the Kisses flew so thick,
That neither he nor she had Breath to speak.
The holy Man amaz’d at what he saw,
Made haste to sanctifie the Bliss by Law;
And mutter’d fast the Matrimony o’re,        165
For fear committed Sin should get before.
His Work perform’d, he left the Pair alone,
Because he knew he could not go too soon;
His Presence odious, when his Task was done.
What Thoughts he had beseems not me to say,        170
Though some surmise he went to fast and pray,
And needed both, to drive the tempting Thoughts away.
  The Foe once gone, they took their full Delight;
’Twas restless Rage, and Tempest all the night:
For greedy Love each Moment would employ,        175
And grudg’d the shortest Pauses of their Joy.
  Thus were their Loves auspiciously begun,
And thus with secret Care were carried on,
The Stealth it self did Appetite restore,
And look’d so like a Sin, it pleas’d the more.        180
  The Cave was now become a common Way,
The Wicket, often open’d, knew the Key:
Love rioted secure, and long enjoy’d,
Was ever eager, and was never cloy’d.
  But as Extremes are short, of Ill and Good,        185
And Tides at highest Mark regorge the Flood;
So Fate, that could no more improve their Joy,
Took a malicious Pleasure to destroy.
  Tancred, who fondly lov’d, and whose Delight
Was plac’d in his fair Daughters daily Sight        190
Of Custom, when his State-Affairs were done,
Would pass his pleasing Hours with her alone:
And, as a Father’s Privilege allow’d,
Without Attendance of th’ officious Crowd.
  It happen’d once, that when in Heat of Day        195
He try’d to sleep, as was his usual Way,
The balmy Slumber fled his wakeful Eyes,
And forc’d him, in his own despite, to rise:
Of Sleep forsaken, to relieve his Care,
He sought the Conversation of the Fair;        200
But with her Train of Damsels she was gone,
In shady Walks the scorching Heat to shun:
He would not violate that sweet Recess,
And found besides a welcome Heaviness
That seiz’d his Eyes; and Slumber, which forgot        205
When called before to come, now came unsought.
From Light retir’d, behind his Daughters Bed,
He for approaching Sleep compos’d his Head;
A Chair was ready, for that Use design’d,
So quilted that he lay at ease reclin’d;        210
The Curtains closely drawn, the Light to skreen,
As if he had contriv’d to lie unseen:
Thus cover’d with an artificial Night,
Sleep did his Office soon, and seal’d his Sight.
  With Heav’n averse, in this ill-omen’d Hour        215
Was Guiscard summon’d to the secret Bow’r,
And the fair Nymph, with Expectation fir’d,
From her attending Damsels was retir’d:
For, true to Love, she measur’d Time so right
As not to miss one Moment of Delight.        220
The Garden, seated on the level Floor,
She left behind, and locking ev’ry Door,
Thought all secure; but little did she know,
Blind to her Fate, she had inclos’d her Foe.
Attending Guiscard in his Leathern Frock        225
Stood ready, with his thrice-repeated Knock:
Thrice with a doleful Sound the jarring Grate
Rung deaf, and hollow, and presag’d their Fate.
The Door unlock’d, to known Delight they haste,
And panting in each other’s Arms, embrac’d,        230
Rush to the conscious Bed, a mutual Freight,
And heedless press it with their wonted Weight.
  The sudden Bound awak’d the sleeping Sire,
And shew’d a Sight no Parent can desire:
His opening Eyes at once with odious View        235
The Love discover’d, and the Lover knew:
He would have cry’d; but hoping that he dreamt,
Amazement ty’d his Tongue, and stopp’d th’ Attempt.
Th’ ensuing Moment all the Truth declar’d,
But now he stood collected, and prepar’d;        240
For Malice and Revenge had put him on his Guard.
  So, like a Lion that unheeded lay,
Dissembling Sleep, and watchful to betray,
With inward Rage he meditates his Prey.
The thoughtless Pair, indulging their Desires,        245
Alternate kindl’d and then quench’d their Fires;
Nor thinking in the Shades of Death they play’d,
Full of themselves, themselves alone survey’d,
And, too secure, were by themselves betray’d.
Long time dissolv’d in Pleasure thus they lay,        250
Till Nature could no more suffice their Play:
Then rose the Youth, and through the Cave again
Return’d; the Princess mingl’d with her Train.
  Resolv’d his unripe Vengeance to defer,
The Royal Spy, when now the Coast was clear,        255
Sought not the Garden, but retir’d unseen,
To brood in secret on his gather’d Spleen,
And methodize Revenge: To Death he griev’d;
And, but he saw the Crime, had scarce believ’d.
Th’ Appointment for th’ ensuing Night he heard;        260
And therefore in the Cavern had prepar’d
Two brawny Yeomen of his trusty Guard.
  Scarce had unwary Guiscard set his Foot
Within the farmost Entrance of the Grot,
When these in secret Ambush ready lay,        265
And rushing on the sudden, seiz’d the Prey:
Encumber’d with his Frock, without defence,
An easie Prize, they led the Pris’ner thence,
And, as commanded, brought before the Prince
The gloomy Sire, too sensible of Wrong        270
To vent his Rage in Words, restrain’d his Tongue;
And only said, Thus Servants are preferr’d
And trusted, thus their Sov’reigns they reward.
Had I not seen, had not these Eyes receiv’d
Too clear a Proof, I could not have believ’d.        275
  He paus’d, and choak’d the rest. The Youth, who saw
His forfeit Life abandon’d to the Law,
The Judge th’ Accuser, and th’ Offence to him,
Who had both Pow’r and Will t’ avenge the Crime;
No vain Defence prepar’d, but thus reply’d,        280
The Faults of Love by Love are justify’d;
With unresisted Might the Monarch reigns,
He levels Mountains, and he raises Plains,
And, not regarding Diff’rence of Degree,
Abas’d your Daughter, and exalted me.        285
  This bold Return with seeming Patience heard,
The Pris’ner was remitted to the Guard.
The sullen Tyrant slept not all the Night,
But lonely walking by a winking Light,
Sobb’d, wept, and groan’d, and beat his wither’d Breast,        290
But would not violate his Daughters Rest;
Who long expecting lay, for Bliss prepar’d,
Listning for Noise, and griev’d that none she heard;
Oft rose, and oft in vain employ’d the Key,
And oft accus’d her Lover of Delay,        295
And pass’d the tedious Hours in anxious Thoughts away.
  The Morrow came; and at his usual Hour
Old Tancred visited his Daughters Bow’r;
Her Cheek (for such his Custom was) he kiss’d,
Then blessed her kneeling, and her Maids dismiss’d.        300
The Royal Dignity thus far maintain’d,
Now left in private, he no longer feign’d;
But all at once his Grief and Rage appear’d,
And Floods of Tears ran trickling down his Beard.
  O Sigismonda, he began to say;        305
Thrice he began, and thrice was forc’d to stay,
Till Words with often trying found their Way;
I thought, O Sigismonda, (But how blind
Are Parents Eyes their Childrens Faults to find!)
Thy Vertue, Birth, and Breeding were above        310
A mean Desire, and vulgar sense of Love:
Nor less than Sight and Hearing could convince
So fond a Father, and so just, a Prince,
Of such an unforeseen, and unbeliev’d Offence.
Then what indignant Sorrow must I have,        315
To see thee lie subjected to my Slave!
A Man so smelling of the Peoples Lee,
The Court receiv’d him first for Charity;
And since with no Degree of Honour grac’d,
But only suffer’d where he first was plac’d:        320
A grov’ling Insect still; and so design’d
By Natures Hand, nor born of Noble Kind:
A Thing by neither Man nor Woman priz’d,
And scarcely known enough to be despis’d:
To what has Heav’n reserv’d my Age? Ah! why        325
Should Man, when Nature calls, not chuse to die,
Rather than stretch the Span of Life, to find
Such Ills as Fate has wisely cast behind,
For those to feel, whom fond Desire to live
Makes covetous of more than Life can give!        330
Each has his Share of Good; and when ’tis gone,
The Guest, though hungry, cannot rise too soon.
But I, expecting more, in my own wrong
Protracting Life, have liv’d a Day too long.
If Yesterday cou’d be recall’d again,        335
Ev’n now would I conclude my happy Reign:
But ’tis too late, my glorious Race is run,
And a dark Cloud o’ertakes my setting Sun.
Hadst thou not lov’d, or loving sav’d the Shame,
If not the Sin, by some Illustrious Name,        340
This little Comfort had reliev’d my Mind,
’Twas Frailty, not unusual to thy Kind:
But thy low Fall beneath thy Royal Blood
Shews downward Appetite to mix with Mud:
Thus not the least Excuse is left for thee,        345
Nor the least Refuge for unhappy me.
  For him I have resolv’d: whom by Surprize
I took, and scarce can call it, in Disguise;
For such was his Attire, as, with Intent
Of Nature, suited to his mean Descent:        350
The harder Question yet remains behind,
What Pains a Parent and a Prince can find
To punish an Offence of this degenerate Kind.
  As I have lov’d, and yet I love thee more
Than ever Father lov’d a Child before;        355
So, that Indulgence draws me to forgive:
Nature, that gave thee Life, would have thee live,
But, as a Publick Parent of the State,
My Justice, and thy Crime, requires thy Fate.
Fain would I chuse a middle Course to steer;        360
Nature’s too kind, and Justice too severe:
Speak for us both, and to the Balance bring
On either side, the Father, and the King.
Heav’n knows, my Heart is bent to favour thee;
Make it but scanty weight, and leave the rest to me.        365
  Here stopping with a Sigh, he pour’d a Flood
Of Tears, to make his last Expression good.
  She who had heard him speak, nor saw alone
The secret Conduct of her Love was known,
But he was taken who her Soul possess’d,        370
Felt all the Pangs of Sorrow in her Breast:
And little wanted, but a Womans Heart
With Cries, and Tears had testifi’d her Smart:
But in-born Worth; that Fortune can controul,
New strung, and stiffer bent her softer Soul;        375
The Heroine assum’d the Womans Place,
Confirmed her Mind, and fortifi’d her Face:
Why should she beg, or what cou’d she pretend,
When her stern Father had condemned her Friend!
Her Life she might have had; but her Despair        380
Of saving, his, had put it past her Care:
Resolv’d on Fate, she would not lose her Breath,
But rather than not die, sollicit Death.
Fix’d on this Thought, she, not as Women use,
Her Fault by common Frailty would excuse;        385
But boldly justifi’d her Innocence,
And while the Fact was own’d, deny’d th’ Offence:
Then with dry Eyes, and with an open Look,
She met his Glance mid-way, and thus undaunted spoke.
  Tancred, I neither am dispos’d to make        390
Request for Life, nor offer’d Life to take;
Much less deny the Deed; but least of all
Beneath pretended Justice weakly fall.
My Words to sacred Truth shall be confin’d,
My Deeds shall shew the Greatness of my Mind.        395
That I have lov’d, I own; that still I love,
I call to Witness all the Pow’rs above:
Yet more I own; To Guiscard’s Love I give
The small remaining Time I have to live;
And if beyond this Life Desire can be,        400
Not Fate it self shall set my Passion free.
  This first avow’d; nor Folly warp’d my Mind,
Nor the frail Texture of the Female Kind
Betray’d my Vertue: For too well I knew
What Honour was, and Honour had his due:        405
Before the Holy Priest my Vows were ty’d,
So came I not a Strumpet, but a Bride;
This for my Fame, and for the Publick Voice:
Yet more, his Merits justify’d my Choice;
Which had they not, the first Election thine,        410
That Bond dissolv’d, the next is freely mine:
Or grant I err’d, (which yet I must deny,)
Had Parents Pow’r ev’n second Vows to tie,
Thy little Care to mend my Widow’d Nights
Has forc’d me to recourse of Marriage-Rites,        415
To fill an empty Side, and follow known Delights.
What have I done in this, deserving Blame?
State-Laws may alter: Nature’s are the same
Those are usurp’d on helpless Woman-kind,
Made without our Consent, and wanting Pow’r to bind.        420
  Thou, Tancred, better should’st have understood,
That, as thy Father gave thee Flesh and Blood,
So gav’st thou me: Not from the Quarry hew’d,
But of a softer Mould, with Sense endu’d;
Ev’n softer than thy own, of suppler Kind,        425
More exquisite of Taste, and more than man refin’d.
Nor need’st thou by thy Daughter to be told,
Though now thy spritely Blood with Age be cold,
Thou hast been young; and canst remember still,
That when thou hadst the Pow’r, thou hadst the Will;        430
And from the past Experience of thy Fires,
Canst tell with what a Tide our strong Desires
Come rushing on in Youth, and what their Rage requires.
  And grant thy Youth was exercis’d in Arms,
When Love no Leisure found for softer Charms,        435
My tender Age in Luxury was train’d,
With idle Ease and Pageants entertain’d;
My Hours my own, my Pleasures unrestrain’d.
So bred, no wonder if I took the Bent
That seem’d ev’n warranted by thy Consent;        440
For, when the Father is too fondly kind,
Such Seed he sows, such Harvest shall he find.
Blame then thy self, as Reason’s Law requires,
(Since Nature gave, and thou foment st my Fires;)
If still those Appetites continue strong,        445
Thou mayest consider I am yet but young
Consider too, that having been a Wife,
I must have tasted of a better Life,
And am not to be blam’d, if I renew,
By lawful Means, the Joys which then I knew.        450
Where was the Crime, if Pleasure I procur’d,
Young, and a Woman, and to Bliss inur’d?
That was my Case, and this is my Defence;
I pleas’d my self, I shunned Incontinence,
And, urg’d by strong Desires, indulg’d my Sense.        455
  Left to my self, I must avow, I strove
From publick Shame to screen my secret Love,
And, well acquainted with thy Native Pride,
Endeavour’d, what I could not help, to hide,
For which a Womans Wit an easie Way supply’d.        460
How this, so well contriv’d, so closely laid,
Was known to thee, or by what Chance betray’d,
Is not my Care: To please thy Pride alone
I could have wish’d it had been still unknown.
  Nor took I Guiscard by blind Fancy led,        465
Or hasty Choice, as many Women wed;
But with delib’rate Care, and ripen’d Thought,
At Leisure first design’d, before I wrought:
On him I rested after long Debate,
And not without consid’ring, fix’d my Fate:        470
His Flame was equal, though by mine inspir’d:
(For so the Diff’rence of our Birth requir’d:)
Had he been born like me, like me his Love
Had first begun, what mine was forc’d to move:
But thus beginning, thus we persevere;        475
Our Passions yet continue what they were,
Nor length of Trial makes our Joys the less sincere.
  At this my Choice, though not by thine allow’d,
(Thy Judgment herding with the common Crowd)
Thou tak’st unjust Offence; and, led by them,        480
Dost less the Merit than the Man esteem.
Too sharply, Tancred, by thy Pride betray’d,
Hast thou against the Laws of Kind inveigh’d;
For all th’ Offence is in Opinion plac’d,
Which deems high Birth by lowly Choice debas’d.        485
This Thought alone with Fury fires thy Breast,
(For Holy Marriage justifies the rest)
That I have sunk the Glories of the State,
And mix’d my Blood with a Plebeian Mate:
In which I wonder thou shouldst oversee        490
Superiour Causes, or impute to me
The Fault of Fortune, or the Fates Decree.
Or call it Heav’ns Imperial Pow’r alone,
Which moves on Springs of Justice, though unknown;
Yet this we see, though order’d for the best,        495
The Bad exalted, and the Good oppress’d;
Permitted Laurels grace the Lawless Brow,
Th’ Unworthy rais’d, the Worthy cast below.
  But leaving that: Search we the secret Springs,
And backward trace the Principles of Things;        500
There shall we find, that when the World began,
One common Mass compos’d the Mould of Man;
One Paste of Flesh on all Degrees bestow’d,
And kneaded up alike with moistning Blood.
The same Almighty Pow’r inspir’d the Frame        505
With kindl’d Life, and form’d the Souls the same:
The Faculties of Intellect, and Will,
Dispens’d with equal Hand, dispos’d with equal Skill,
Like Liberty indulg’d with Choice of Good or Ill.
Thus born alike, from Vertue first began        510
The Diff’rence that distinguish’d Man from Man:
He claim’d no Title from Descent of Blood,
But that which made him Noble, made him Good:
Warm’d with more Particles of Heav’nly Flame,
He wing’d his upward Flight, and soar’d to Fame;        515
The rest remain’d below, a Tribe without a Name.
  This Law, though Custom now diverts the Course,
As Natures Institute, is yet in Force;
Uncancell’d, tho disus’d: And he, whose Mind
Is Vertuous, is alone of Noble Kind;        520
Though poor in Fortune, of Celestial Race;
And he commits the Crime, who calls him Base.
  Now lay the Line; and measure all thy Court,
By inward Vertue, not external Port,
And find whom justly to prefer above        525
The Man on whom my Judgment plac’d my Love:
So shalt thou see his Parts, and Person shine,
And thus compar’d, the rest a base degen’rate Line.
Nor took I, when I first survey’d thy Court,
His Valour or his Vertues on Report;        530
But trusted what I ought to trust alone,
Relying on thy Eyes, and not my own;
Thy Praise (and Thine was then the Publick Voice)
First recommended Guiscard to my Choice:
Directed thus by thee, I look’d, and found        535
A Man, I thought, deserving to be crowned!
First by my Father pointed to my Sight,
Nor less conspicuous by his Native Light:
His Mind, his Meen, the Features of his Face,
Excelling all the rest of Humane Race:        540
These were thy Thoughts, and thou could’st judge aright,
Till Int’rest made a Jaundice in thy Sight.
  Or shou’d I grant thou didst not rightly see;
Then thou wert first deceiv’d, and I deceiv’d by thee.
But if thou shalt alledge, through Pride of Mind,        545
Thy Blood with one of base Condition join’d,
’Tis false; for ’tis not Baseness to be Poor;
His Poverty augments thy Crime the more;
Upbraids thy Justice with the scant Regard
Of Worth: Whom Princes praise, they shou’d reward.        550
Are these the Kings entrusted by the Crowd
With Wealth, to be dispens’d for Common Good?
The People sweat not for their King’s Delight,
T’ enrich a Pimp, or raise a Parasite;
Theirs is the Toil; and he who well has serv’d        555
His Country, has his Countrys Wealth deserv’d.
  Ev’n mighty Monarchs oft are meanly born,
And Kings by Birth to lowest Rank return;
All subject to the Pow’r of giddy Chance,
For Fortune can depress, or can advance:        560
But true Nobility is of the Mind,
Not giv’n by Chance, and not to Chance resign’d.
  For the remaining Doubt of thy Decree,
What to resolve, and how dispose of me,
Be warn’d to cast that useless Care aside,        565
My self alone will for my self provide.
If in thy doting, and decrepit Age,
Thy Soul, a Stranger in thy Youth to Rage,
Begins in cruel Deeds to take Delight,
Gorge with my Blood thy barb’rous Appetite;        570
For I so little am dispos’d to pray
For Life, I would not cast a Wish away.
Such as it is, th’ Offence is all my own;
And what to Guiscard is already done,
Or to be done, is doom’d by thy Decree,        575
That, if not executed first by thee,
Shall on my Person be perform’d by me.
  Away, with Women weep, and leave me here,
Fix’d, like a Man to die, without a Tear; 2
Or save, or slay us both this present Hour,        580
’Tis all that Fate has left within thy Pow’r.
  She said: Nor did her Father fail to find,
In all she spoke, the Greatness of her Mind;
Yet thought she was not obstinate to die,
Nor deem’d the Death she promis’d was so nigh:        585
Secure in this Belief, he left the Dame,
Resolv’d to spare her Life, and save her Shame;
But that detested Object to remove,
To wreak his Vengeance, and to cure her Love.
  Intent on this, a secret Order sign’d        590
The Death of Guiscard to his Guards enjoin’d:
Strangling was chosen, and the Night the Time;
A mute Revenge, and blind as was the Crime:
His faithful Heart, a bloody Sacrifice,
Torn from his Breast, to glut the Tyrant’s Eyes,        595
Clos’d the severe Command: For, (Slaves to pay)
What Kings decree the Soldier must obey:
Wag’d against Foes, and, when the Wars are o’er,
Fit only to maintain Despotick Pow’r:
Dang’rous to Freedom, and desir’d alone        600
By Kings, who seek an Arbitrary Throne.
Such were these Guards; as ready to have slain
The Prince himself, allur’d with greater gain:
So was the Charge perform’d with better Will,
By Men inur’d to Blood, and exercis’d in Ill.        605
  Now, though the sullen Sire had eas’d his Mind,
The Pomp of his Revenge was yet behind,
A Pomp prepar’d to grace the Present he design’d.
A Goblet rich with Gems, and rough with Gold,
Of Depth, and Breadth, the precious Pledge to hold,        610
With cruel Care he chose: The hollow Part
Inclos’d, the lid conceal’d the Lover’s Heart:
Then of his trusted Mischiefs one he sent,
And bad him with these Words the Gift present:
Thy Father sends thee this, to cheer thy Breast,        615
And glad thy Sight with what thou lov’st the best,
As thou hast pleas’d his Eyes, and joy’d his Mind,
With what he lov’d the most of Humane Kind.
  E’er this the Royal Dame, who well had weigh’d
The Consequence of what her Sire had said,        620
Fix’d on her Fate, against th’ expected Hour,
Procur’d the Means to have it in her Pow’r:
For this she had distill’d, with early Care,
The Juice of Simples, friendly to Despair,
A Magazine of Death; and thus prepar’d,        625
Secure to die, the fatal Message heard:
Then smil’d severe; nor with a troubl’d Look,
Or trembling hand, the Fun’ral Present took;
Ev’n kept her Count’nance, when the Lid remov’d
Disclos’d the Heart, unfortunately lov’d:        630
She needed not be told within whose Breast
It lodg’d; the Message had explain’d the rest.
Or not amaz’d, or hiding her Surprize,
She sternly on the Bearer fix’d her Eyes;
Then thus; Tell Tancred, on his Daughters part,        635
The Gold, though precious, equals not the Heart:
But he did well to give his best; and I,
Who wish’d a worthier Urn, forgive his Poverty.
  At this she curb’d a Groan, that else had come,
And pausing, view’d the Present in the Tomb:        640
Then to the Heart ador’d devoutly glew’d
Her Lips, and raising it, her Speech renew’d:
Ev’n from my Day of Birth, to this, the Bound
Of my unhappy Being, I have found
My Father s Care and Tenderness express’d:        645
But this last Act of Love excels the rest:
For this so dear a Present, bear him back
The best Return that I can live to make.
  The Messenger dispatch’d, again she view’d
The lov’d Remains, and sighing, thus pursu’d:        650
Source of my Life, and Lord of my Desires,
In whom I liv’d, with whom my Soul expires;
Poor Heart, no more the Spring of Vital Heat,
Curs’d be the Hands that tore thee from thy Seat!
The Course is finish’d, which thy Fates decreed,        655
And thou, from thy Corporeal Prison freed:
Soon hast thou reach’d the Goal with mended Pace,
A World of Woes dispatch’d in little space:
Forc’d by thy Worth, thy Foe in Death become
Thy Friend, has lodg’d thee in a costly Tomb;        660
There yet remain’d thy Fun’ral Exequies,
The weeping Tribute of thy Windows Eyes;
And those, indulgent Heav’n has found the way
That I, before my Death, have leave to pay
My Father ev’n in Cruelty is kind,        665
Or Heaven has turn’d the Malice of his Mind
To better Uses than his Hate design’d;
And made th’ Insult, which in his Gift appears,
The Means to mourn thee with my pious Tears;
Which I will pay thee down, before I go,        670
And save my self the Pains to weep below,
If Souls can weep; though once I meant to meet
My Fate with Face unmov’d, and Eyes unwet,
Yet since I have thee here in narrow Room,
My Tears shall set thee first afloat within thy Tomb:        675
Then (as I know thy Spirit hovers nigh)
Under thy friendly Conduct will I fly
To Regions unexplor’d, secure to share
Thy State; nor Hell shall Punishment appear;
And Heav’n is double Heav’n, if thou art there.        680
  She said: Her brim-full Eyes, that ready stood,
And only wanted Will to weep a Flood,
Releas’d their watry Store, and pour’d amain,
Like Clouds low hung, a sober Show’r of Rain;
Mute solemn Sorrow, free from Female Noise,        685
Such as the Majesty of Grief destroys:
For, bending o’er the Cup, the Tears she shed
Seem’d by the Posture to discharge her Head,
O’er-fill’d before; and oft (her Mouth apply’d
To the cold Heart) she kiss’d at once, and cry’d.        690
Her Maids, who stood amaz’d, nor knew the Cause
Of her Complaining, nor whose Heart it was;
Yet all due Measures of her Mourning kept,
Did Office at the Dirge, and by Infection wept;
And oft enquir’d th’ Occasion of her Grief,        695
(Unanswer’d but by Sighs) and offer’d vain Relief.
At length, her Stock of Tears already shed,
She wip’d her Eyes, she rais’d her drooping Head,
And thus pursu’d: O ever faithful Heart,
I have perform’d the Ceremonial Part,        700
The Decencies of Grief; It rests behind,
That, as our Bodies were, our Souls be join’d:
To thy whate’er abode, my Shade convey,
And as an elder Ghost, direct the way.
She said; and bad the Vial to be brought,        705
Where she before had brew’d the deadly Draught:
First pouring out the med’ cinable Bane,
The Heart, her Tears had rins’d, she bath’d again;
Then down her Throat the Death securely throws,
And quaffs a long Oblivion of her Woes.        710
  This done, she mounts the Genial Bed, and there,
(Her Body first compos’d with honest Care,)
Attends the welcom Rest; Her Hands yet hold
Close to her Heart, the Monumental Gold;
Nor farther Word she spoke, but clos’d her Sight,        715
And quiet, sought the Covert of the Night.
  The Damsels, who the while in Silence mourn’d,
Not knowing, nor suspecting Death suborn’d,
Yet, as their Duty was, to Tancred sent,
Who, conscious of th’ Occasion, fear’d th’ Event.        720
Alarm’d, and with presaging Heart he came
And drew the Curtains, and expos’d the Dame
To loathsom Light; then with a late Relief
Made vain Efforts to mitigate her Grief.
She, what she could, excluding Day, her Eyes        725
Kept firmly seal’d, and sternly thus replies:
  Tancred, restrain thy Tears unsought by me,
And Sorrow, unavailing now to thee:
Did ever Man before afflict his Mind,
To see th’ Effect of what himself design’d?        730
Yet, if thou hast remaining in thy Heart
Some Sense of Love, some unextinguish’d Part
Of former Kindness, largely once profess’d,
Let me by that adjure thy harden’d Breast,
Not to deny thy Daughters last Request:        735
The secret Love which I so long enjoy’d,
And still conceal’d, to gratifie thy Pride,
Thou hast disjoin’d; but, with my dying Breath,
Seek not, I beg thee, to disjoin our Death:
Where-e’er his Corps by thy Command is laid,        740
Thither let mine in publick be convey’d;
Expos’d in open View, and Side by Side,
Acknowleg’d as a Bridegroom and a Bride.
  The Prince’s Anguish hinder’d his Reply:
And she, who felt her Fate approaching nigh,        745
Seiz’d the cold Heart, and heaving to her Breast,
Here, precious Pledge, she said, securely rest.
These Accents were her last; the creeping Death
Benum’d her Senses first, then stopp’d her Breath.
  Thus she for Disobedience justly dy’d;        750
The Sire was justly punish’d for his Pride;
The Youth, least guilty, suffer’d for th’ Offence
Of Duty violated to his Prince;
Who late repenting of his cruel Deed,
One common Sepulcher for both decreed;        755
Intomb’d the wretched Pair in Royal State,
And on their Monument inscrib’d their Fate.
 
Note 1. Text from the original and only contemporary edition, 1700. [back]
Note 2. Fix’d, like a Man to die, without a Tear;] Christie wrongly gives Fixed like a man, to die without a tear;. [back]
 
 
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