Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
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Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
 
Horsemanship
By Sir Philip Sidney (1554–1586)
 
From The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, Book II

A FEW days since, he and Dametas had furnished themselves very richly to run at the ring before me. Oh, how mad a sight it was to see Dametas, like rich tissue furred with lambs’-skins! But, oh, how well it did with Dorus—to see with what a grace he presented himself before me on horse-back, making majesty wait upon humbleness; how, at the first, standing still with his eyes bent upon me, as though his motions were chained to my look, he so stayed till I caused Mopsa bid him do something upon his horse, which no sooner said but, with a kind rather of quick gesture than show of violence, you might see him come towards me, beating the ground in so due time as no dancer can observe better measure. If you remember the ship we saw once when the sea went high upon the coast of Argos: so went the beast. But he, as if, centaur-like, he had been one piece with the horse, was no more moved than one with the going of his own legs, and in effect so did he command him as his own limbs; for though he had both spurs and wand, they seemed rather marks of sovereignty than instruments of punishment; his hand and leg, with most pleasing grace, commanding without threatening, and rather remembering than chastising; at least, if sometimes he did, it was so stolen as neither our eyes could discern it nor the horse with any change did complain of it, he ever going so just with the horse, either forthright or turning, that it seemed, as he borrowed the horse’s body, so he lent the horse his mind. In the turning, one might perceive the bridle-hand something gently stir; but, indeed, so gently as it did rather distil virtue than use violence. Himself, which methinks is strange, showing at one instance both steadiness and nimbleness; sometimes making him turn close to the ground, like a cat when scratchingly she wheels about after a mouse, sometimes with a little more rising before; now like a raven, leaping from ridge to ridge, then like one of Dametas’ kids, bound over the hillocks; and all so done as neither the lusty kind showed any roughness, nor the easier any idleness, but still like a well-obeyed master, whose beck is enough for a discipline, ever concluding each thing he did with his face to mewards, as if thence came not only the beginning but ending of his motions. The sport was to see Dametas, how he was tossed from the saddle to the mane of the horse, and thence to the ground, giving his gay apparel almost as foul an outside as it had been an inside. But, as before he had ever said he wanted but horse and apparel to be as brave a courtier as the best, so now, bruised with proof, he proclaimed it a folly for a man of wisdom to put himself under the tuition of a beast; so as Dorus was fain alone to take the ring; wherein truly at least my womanish eyes could not discern but that taking his staff from his thigh, the descending it a little down, the getting of it up into the rest, the letting of the point fall, and taking the ring, was but all one motion; at least, if they were divers motions, they did so stealingly slip one into another as the latter part was ever in hand before the eye could discern the former was ended. Indeed, Dametas found fault that he showed no more strength in shaking of his staff, but to my conceit the fine cleanness of bearing it was exceeding delightful
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  One time he danced the matachin dance 1 in armour—oh, with what a graceful dexterity!—I think to make me see that he had been brought up in such exercises. Another time he persuaded his master, to make my time seem shorter, in manner of a dialogue, to play Priamus, while he played Paris. Think, sweet Philoclea, what a Priamus we had; but truly, my Paris was a Paris, and more than a Paris: who, while in a savage apparel he made love to Œnone, you might well see by his changed countenance and cruel tears that he felt the part he played. Tell me, sweet Philoclea, did you ever see such a shepherd? Tell me, did you ever hear of such a prince? And then tell me if a small or unworthy assault have conquered me.  2
 
Note 1. the matachin dance.  A dance with swords, the Spanish danza de matachenos. [back]
 
 
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