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Title: Palamon and Arcite

Author: John Dryden

Editor: George E. Eliot

Release Date: February, 2005 [EBook #7490]
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Edited With Introduction And Notes
By George E. Eliot, A.M.
English Master In The Morgan School


Henry A. Beers

Professor Of English Literature In Yale University
Who First Aroused My Interest In Dryden
And Directed My Study Of His Works
This Volume Is Respectfully Inscribed















To edit an English classic for study in secondary schools is difficult. The lack of anything like uniformity in the type of examination required by the colleges and universities complicates treatment. Not only do two distinct institutions differ in the scope and character of their questions, but the same university varies its demands from year to year. The only safe course to pursue is, therefore, a generally comprehensive one. But here, again, we are hampered by limited space, and are forced to content ourselves with a bare outline, which the individual instructor can fill in as much or as little as he pleases.

The ignorance of most of our classical students in regard to the history of English literature is appalling; and yet it is impossible properly to study a given work of a given author without some knowledge of the background against which that particular writer stands. I have, therefore, sketched the politics, society, and literature of the age in which Dryden lived, and during which he gave to the world his Palamon and Arcite. In the critical comments of the introduction I have contented myself with little more than hints. That particular line of study, whether it concerns the poet's style, his verse forms, or the possession of the divine instinct itself, can be much more satisfactorily developed by the instructor, as the student's knowledge of the poem grows.

It is certainly a subject for congratulation that so many youth will be introduced, through the medium of Dryden's crisp and vigorous verse, to one of the tales of Chaucer. May it now, as in his own century, accomplish the poet's desire, and awaken in them appreciative admiration for the old bard, the best story-teller in the English language.

G. E. E. CLINTON, CONN., July 26, 1897.



The fifty years of Dryden's literary production just fill the last half of the seventeenth century. It was a period bristling with violent political and religious prejudices, provocative of strife that amounted to revolution. Its social life ran the gamut from the severity of the Commonwealth Puritan to the unbridled debauchery of the Restoration Courtier. In literature it experienced a remarkable transformation in poetry, and developed modern prose, watched the production of the greatest English epics, smarted under the lash of the greatest English satires, blushed at the brilliant wit of unspeakable comedies, and applauded the beginnings of English criticism.

When the period began, England was a Commonwealth. Charles I., by obstinate insistence upon absolutism, by fickleness and faithlessness, had increased and strengthened his enemies. Parliament had seized the reins of government in 1642, had completely established its authority at Naseby in 1645, and had beheaded the king in front of his own palace in 1649. The army had accomplished these results, and the army proposed to enjoy the reward. Cromwell, the idolized commander of the Ironsides, was placed at the head of the new-formed state with the title of Lord Protector; and for five years he ruled England, as she had been ruled by no sovereign since Elizabeth. He suppressed Parliamentary dissensions and royalist uprisings, humbled the Dutch, took vengeance on the Spaniard, and made England indisputably mistress of the ocean. He was succeeded, at his death in 1658, by his son Richard; but the father's strong instinct for government had not been inherited by the son. The nation, homesick for monarchy, was tiring of dissension and bickering, and by the Restoration of 1660 the son of Charles I became Charles II of England.

Scarcely had the demonstrations of joy at the Restoration subsided when London was visited by the devouring plague of 1665. All who could fled from the stricken city where thousands died in a day. In 1666 came the great fire which swept from the Tower to the Temple; but, while it destroyed a vast deal of property, it prevented by its violent purification a recurrence of the plague, and made possible the rebuilding of the city with great sanitary and architectural improvements.

Charles possessed some of the virtues of the Stuarts and most of their faults. His arbitrary irresponsibility shook the confidence of the nation in his sincerity. Two parties, the Whigs and the Tories, came into being, and party spirit and party strife ran high. The question at issue was chiefly one of religion. The rank and file of Protestant England was determined against the revival of Romanism, which a continuation of the Stuart line seemed to threaten. Charles was a Protestant only from expediency, and on his deathbed accepted the Roman Catholic faith; his brother James, Duke of York, the heir apparent, was a professed Romanist.

Such an outlook incited the Whigs, under the leadership of Shaftesbury, to support the claims of Charles' eldest illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth, who, on the death of his father in 1685, landed in England; but the promised uprising was scarcely more than a rabble of peasantry, and was easily suppressed. Then came the vengeance of James, as foolish as it was tyrannical. Judge Jeffries and his bloody assizes sent scores of Protestants to the block or to the gallows, till England would endure no more. William, Prince of Orange, who had married Mary, the eldest daughter of James, was invited to accept the English crown. He landed at Torbay, was joined by Churchill, the commander of the king's forces, and, on the precipitate flight of James, mounted the throne of England. This event stands in history as the Protestant Revolution of 1688.

During William's reign, which terminated in 1702, Stuart uprisings were successfully suppressed, English liberties were guaranteed by the famous Bill of Rights, Protestant succession was assured, and liberal toleration was extended to the various dissenting sects.

Society had passed through quite as great variations as had politics during this half-century. The roistering Cavalier of the first Charles, with his flowing locks and plumed hat, with his maypoles and morrice dances, with his stage plays and bear-baitings, with his carousals and gallantries, had given way to the Puritan Roundhead. It was a serious, sober-minded England in which the youth Dryden found himself. If the Puritan differed from the Cavalier in political principles, they were even more diametrically opposed in mode of life. An Act of Parliament closed the theaters in 1642. Amusements of all kinds were frowned upon as frivolous, and many were suppressed by law. The old English feasts at Michaelmas, Christmas, Twelfth Night, and Candlemas were regarded as relics of popery and were condemned. The Puritan took his religion seriously, so seriously that it overpowered him. The energy and fervor of his religious life were illustrated in the work performed by Cromwell's chaplain, John Howe, on any one of the countless fast days. "He began with his flock at nine in the morning, prayed during a quarter of an hour for blessing upon the day's work, then read and explained a chapter for three-quarters of an hour, then prayed for an hour, preached for an hour, and prayed again for a half an hour, then retired for a quarter of an hour's refreshment—the people singing all the while—returned to his pulpit, prayed for another hour, preached for another hour, and finished at four P.M."

At the Restoration the pendulum swung back again. From the strained morality of the Puritans there was a sudden leap to the most extravagant license and the grossest immorality, with the king and the court in the van. The theaters were thrown wide open, women for the first time went upon the stage, and they acted in plays whose moral tone is so low that they cannot now be presented on the stage or read in the drawing-room. Of course they voiced the social conditions of the time. Marriage ties were lightly regarded; no gallant but boasted his amours. Revelry ran riot; drunkenness became a habit and gambling a craze. The court scintillated with brilliant wits, conscienceless libertines, and scoffing atheists. It was an age of debauchery and disbelief.

The splendor of this life sometimes dazzles, the lack of conveniences appalls. The post left London once a week. A journey to the country must be made in your own lumbering carriage, or on the snail-slow stagecoach over miserable roads, beset with highwaymen. The narrow, ill-lighted streets, even of London, could not be traversed safely at night; and ladies, borne to routs and levees in their sedan chairs, were lighted by link-boys, and were carried by stalwart, broad-shouldered bearers who could wield well the staves in a street fight. Such were the conditions of life and society which Dryden found in the last fifty years of the seventeenth century.

Strong as were the contrasts in politics and manners during Dryden's lifetime, they were paralleled by contrasts in literature no less marked. Dryden was born in 1631; he died in 1700. In the year of his birth died John Donne, the father of the Metaphysical bards, or Marinists; in the year of his death was born James Thomson, who was to give the first real start to the Romantic movement; while between these two dates lies the period devoted to the development of French Classicism in English literature.

At Dryden's birth Ben Jonson was the only one of the great Elizabethan dramatists still living, and of the lesser stars in the same galaxy, Chapman, Massinger, Ford, Webster, and Heywood all died during his boyhood and youth, while Shirley, the last of his line, lingered till 1667. Of the older writers in prose, Selden alone remained; but as Dryden grew to manhood, he had at hand, fresh from the printers, the whole wealth of Commonwealth prose, still somewhat clumsy with Latinism or tainted with Euphuism, but working steadily toward that simple strength and graceful fluency with which he was himself to mark the beginning of modern English prose.

Clarendon, with his magnificently involved style, began his famous History of the Great Rebellion in 1641. Ten years later Hobbes published the Leviathan, a sketch of an ideal commonwealth. Baxter, with his Saints' Everlasting Rest sent a book of religious consolation into every household. In 1642 Dr. Thomas Browne, with the simplicity of a child and a quaintness that fascinates, published his Religio Medici; and in 1653 dear old simple-hearted Isaak Walton told us in his Compleat Angler how to catch, dress, and cook fish. Thomas Fuller, born a score or more of years before Dryden, in the same town, Aldwinkle, published in 1642 his Holy and Profane State, a collection of brief and brisk character sketches, which come nearer modern prose than anything of that time; while for inspired thought and purity of diction the Holy Living, 1650, and the Holy Dying, 1651, of Jeremy Taylor, a gifted young divine, rank preŽminent in the prose of the Commonwealth.

But without question the ablest prose of the period came from the pen of Cromwell's Latin Secretary of State, John Milton. Milton stands in his own time a peculiarly isolated figure. We never in thought associate him with his contemporaries. Dryden had become the leading literary figure in London before Milton wrote his great epic; yet, were it not for definite chronology, we should scarcely realize that they worked in the same century. While, therefore, no sketch of seventeenth-century literature can exclude Milton, he must be taken by himself, without relation to the development, forms, and spirit of his age, and must be regarded, rather, as a late-born Elizabethan.

When Dryden was born, Milton at twenty-three was just completing his seven years at Cambridge, and as the younger poet grew through boyhood, the elder was enriching English verse with his Juvenilia. Then came the twenty years of strife. As Secretary of the Commonwealth, he threw himself into controversial prose. His Iconoclast, the Divorce pamphlets, the Smectymnuus tracts, and the Areopagitica date from this period. A strong partisan of the Commonwealth, he was in emphatic disfavor at the Restoration. Blind and in hiding, deserted by one-time friends, out of sympathy with his age, he fulfilled the promise of his youth: he turned again to poetry; and in Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes he has left us "something so written that the world shall not willingly let it die."

I have said that Milton's poetry differed distinctly from the poetry of his age. The verse that Dryden was reading as a schoolboy was quite other than L'Allegro and Lycidas. In the closing years of the preceding century, John Donne had traveled in Italy. There the poet Marino was developing fantastic eccentricities in verse. Donne under similar influences adopted similar methods.

To seize upon the quaintest possible thought and then to express it in as quaint a manner as possible became the chief aim of English poets during the first three-quarters of the seventeenth century. Donne had encountered trouble in obtaining his wife from her father. Finding one morning a flea that had feasted during the night on his wife and himself, he was overcome by its poetic possibilities, and wrote:

  "This flea is you and I, and this
  Our marriage bed and temple is;
  Tho' parents frown, and you, we're met
  And cloister'd in these living walls of jet."

To strain after conceits, to strive for quaintness of thought and expression, was the striking characteristic of all the poets of the generation, to whom Dr. Johnson gave the title Metaphysical, and who are now known as the Marinists. There were Quarles, with his Dutch Emblems; Vaughan, Sandys, Crashaw, and pure-souled George Herbert, with his Temple. There were Carew, with the Rapture; Wither and his "Shall I wasting in despair"; the two dashing Cavaliers Suckling and Lovelace, the latter the only man who ever received an M.A. for his personal beauty. There was Herrick, the dispossessed Devonshire rector, with Hesperides and Noble Numbers, freer than were the others from the beauty-marring conceits of the time. There, too, were to be found the gallant love-maker Waller, Cowley, the queen's secretary during her exile, and Marvell, Milton's assistant Secretary of State. But these three men were to pledge allegiance to a new sovereignty in English verse.

In the civil strife, Waller had at first sided with Parliament, had later engaged in a plot against it, and after a year's imprisonment was exiled to France. At this time the Academy, organized to introduce form and method in the French language and literature, held full sway. Malherbe was inculcating its principles, Corneille and MoliŤre were practicing its tenets in their plays, and Boileau was following its rules in his satires, when Waller and his associates came in contact with this influence. The tendency was distinctly toward formality and conventionality. Surfeited with the eccentricities and far-fetched conceits of the Marinists, the exiled Englishmen welcomed the change; they espoused the French principles; and when at the Restoration they returned to England with their king, whose taste had been trained in the same school, they began at once to formalize and conventionalize English poetry. The writers of the past, even the greatest writers of the past, were regarded as men of genius, but without art; and English poetry was thenceforth, in Dryden's own words, to start with Waller.

Under the newly adopted canons of French taste, narrative and didactic verse, or satire, took first place. Blank verse was tabooed as too prose-like; so, too, were the enjambed rhymes. A succession of rhymed pentameter couplets, with the sense complete in each couplet, was set forth as the proper vehicle for poetry; and this unenjambed distich fettered English verse for three-quarters of a century. In the drama the characters must be noble, the language dignified; the metrical form must be the rhymed couplet, and the unities of time, place, and action must be observed.

Such, in brief, were the principles of French Classicism as applied to English poetry, principles of which Dryden was the first great exponent, and which Pope in the next generation carried to absolute perfection. Waller, Marvell, and Cowley all tried their pens in the new method, Cowley with least success; and they were the poets in vogue when Dryden himself first attracted attention. Denham quite caught the favor of the critics with his mild conventionalities; the Earl of Roscommon delighted them with his rhymed Essay on Translated Verse; the brilliant court wits, Rochester, Dorset, and Sedley, who were writing for pleasure and not for publication, still clung to the frivolous lyric; but the most-read and worst-treated poet of the Restoration was Butler. He published his Hudibras, a sharp satire on the extreme Puritans, in 1663. Every one read the book, laughed uproariously, and left the author to starve in a garret. Of Dryden's contemporaries in prose, there were Sir William Temple, later the patron of Swift, John Locke who contributed to philosophy his Essay Concerning the Human Understanding, the two diarists Evelyn and Pepys, and the critics Rymer and Langbaine; there was Isaac Newton, who expounded in his Principia, 1687, the laws of gravitation; and there was the preaching tinker, who, confined in Bedford jail, gave to the world in 1678 one of its greatest allegories, Pilgrim's Progress.

Dryden was nearly thirty before the production of the drama was resumed in England. Parliament had closed the theaters in 1642, and that was an extinguisher of dramatic genius. Davenant had vainly tried to elude the law, and finally succeeded in evading it by setting his Siege of Rhodes to music, and producing the first English opera. At the Restoration, when the theaters were reopened, the dramas then produced reflected most vividly the looseness and immorality of the times. Their worst feature was that "they possessed not wit enough to keep the mass of moral putrefaction sweet."

Davenant was prolific, Crowne wallowed in tragedy, Tate remodeled Shakspere; so did Shadwell, who was later to measure swords with Dryden, and receive for his rashness an unmerciful castigation. But by all odds the strongest name in tragedy was Thomas Otway, who smacks of true Elizabethan genius in the Orphan and Venice Preserved. In comedy we receive the brilliant work of Etheridge, the vigor of Wycherley, and, as the century drew near its close, the dashing wit of Congreve, Vanbrugh, and Farquhar. This burst of brilliancy, in which the Restoration drama closes, was the prelude to the Augustan Age of Queen Anne and the first Georges, the period wherein flourished that group of self-satisfied, exceptionally clever, ultra-classical wits who added a peculiar zest and charm to our literature. As Dryden grew to old age, these younger men were already beginning to make themselves heard, though none had done great work. In poetry there were Prior, Gay, and Pope, while in prose we find names that stand high in the roll of fame,—the story-teller Defoe, the bitter Swift, the rollicking Dick Steele, and delightful Addison.

This is the background in politics, society, and letters on which the life of Dryden was laid during the last half of the seventeenth century. There were conditions in his environment which materially modified his life and affected his literary form, and without a knowledge of these conditions no study of the man or his works can be effective or satisfactory. Dryden was preŽminently a man of his times.


John Dryden was born at the vicarage of Aldwinkle, All Saints, in Northamptonshire, August 9, 1631. His father, Erasmus Dryden, was the third son of Sir Erasmus Dryden of Cannons Ashby. The estate descended to Dryden's uncle, John, and is still in the family. His mother was Mary Pickering. Both the Drydens and Pickerings were Puritans, and were ranged on the side of Parliament in its struggle with Charles I. As a boy Dryden received his elementary education at Tichmarsh, and went thence to Westminster School, where he studied under the famous Dr. Busby. Here he first appeared in print with an elegiac poem on the death of a schoolfellow, Lord Hastings. It possesses the peculiarities of the extreme Marinists. The boy had died from smallpox, and Dryden writes:

"Each little pimple had a tear in it To wail the fault its rising did commit."

He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, May 18, 1650, took his B.A. in 1654, and then, though he received no fellowship, lingered at the university for three years. Tradition tells us that he had no fondness for his Alma Mater, and certainly his verse contains compliments only for Oxford.

His father had died in 1654 and had bequeathed him a small estate. When, in 1657, he finally left the university, he attached himself to his uncle, Sir Gilbert Pickering, a general of the Commonwealth. In 1658 he wrote Heroic Stanzas on Cromwell's Death; but shortly thereafter he went to London, threw himself into the life of literary Bohemia, and at the Restoration, in 1660, wrote his Astroea Redux, as enthusiastically as the veriest royalist of them all. This sudden transformation of the eulogist of Cromwell to the panegyrist of Charles won for Dryden in some quarters the name of a political turncoat; but such criticism was unjust. He was by birth and early training a Puritan; add to this a poet's admiration for a truly great character, and the lines on Cromwell are explained; but during his London life he rubbed elbows with the world, early prejudices vanished, his true nature asserted itself, and it was John Dryden himself, not merely the son of his father, who celebrated Charles' return.

On December 1, 1663, he married Lady Elizabeth Howard, eldest daughter of the Earl of Berkshire, and the sister of a literary intimate. Tradition has pronounced the marriage an unhappy one, but facts do not bear out tradition. He nowhere referred other than affectionately to his wife, and always displayed a father's warm affection for his sons, John, Charles, and Erasmus. Lady Elizabeth outlived her husband and eventually died insane.

During the great plague in London, 1665, Dryden fled with his wife to Charleton. He lived there for two years, and during that time wrote three productions that illustrate the three departments of literature to which he devoted himself: Annus Mirabilis, a narrative and descriptive poem on the fire of 1666 and the sea fight with the Dutch, the Essay on Dramatic Poesy, his first attempt at literary criticism in prose, and the Maiden Queen, a drama. In Annus Mirabilis we find the best work yet done by him. Marinist quaintness still clings here and there, and he has temporarily deserted the classical distich for a quatrain stanza; but here, for the first time, we taste the Dryden of the Satires and the Fables. His Essay on Dramatic Poesy started modern prose. Hitherto English prose had suffered from long sentences, from involved sentences, and from clumsy Latinisms or too bald vernacular. Dryden happily united simplicity with grace, and gave us plain, straightforward sentences, musically arranged in well-ordered periods. This was the vehicle in which he introduced literary criticism, and he continued it in prefaces to most of his plays and subsequent poems.

At this same time he not only discussed the drama, but indulged in its production; and for a score of years from the early sixties he devoted himself almost exclusively to the stage. It was the most popular and the most profitable mode of expression. He began with a comedy, the Wild Gallant, in 1662. It was a poor play and was incontinently condemned. He then developed a curious series of plays, of which the Indian Emperor, the Conquest of Grenada, and Aurengzebe are examples. He professedly followed French methods, observed the unities, and used the rhymed couplet. But they were not French; they were a nondescript incubation by Dryden himself, and were called heroic dramas. They were ridiculed in the Duke of Buckingham's farce, the Rehearsal; but their popularity was scarcely impaired.

In 1678 Dryden showed a return to common sense and to blank verse in All for Love, and, though it necessarily suffers from its comparison with the original, Shakspere's Antony and Cleopatra, it nevertheless possesses enough dramatic power to make it his best play. He had preceded this by rewriting Milton's Paradise Lost as an opera, in the State of Innocence, and he followed it in 1681 with perhaps his best comedy, the Spanish Friar.

Dryden was now far the most prominent man of letters in London. In 1670 he had been appointed Poet Laureate and Historiographer Royal with a salary of two hundred pounds and a butt of sack. His connection with the stage had been a decided financial success, and he was in receipt of an income of about seven hundred pounds, which at modern values would approximate $15,000. His house on Gerard Street, Soho, backed upon Leicester's gardens. There he spent his days in writing, but the evening found him at Will's Coffee House. In this famous resort of the wits and writers of the day the literary dictator of his generation held his court. Seated in his particular armchair, on the balcony in summer, by the fire in winter, he discoursed on topics current in the literary world, pronounced his verdict of praise or condemnation, and woe to the unfortunate upon whom the latter fell. A week before Christmas, in 1679, as Dryden was walking home from an evening of this sort, he was waylaid by masked ruffians in Rose Alley and was beaten to unconsciousness. The attack was supposed to have been incited by Rochester, who smarted under an anonymous satire mistakenly attributed to Dryden.

Though wrongly accused of this particular satire, it was not long before he did turn his attention to that department of verse. It was the time of the restless dissent of the Whigs from the succession of James; and in 1681 Dryden launched Absalom and Achitophel, one of the most brilliant satires in our language, against Shaftesbury and his adherents, who were inciting Monmouth to revolt. He found an admirable parallel in Absalom's revolt from his father David, and he sustained the comparison. The Scriptural names concealed living characters, and Shaftesbury masked as Achitophel, the evil counsellor, and Buckingham as Zimri. Feeling ran high. Shaftesbury was arrested and tried, but was acquitted, and his friends struck off a medal in commemoration. In 1682, therefore, came Dryden's second satire, the Medal. These two political satires called forth in the fevered state of the times a host of replies, two of the most scurrilous from the pens of Shadwell and Settle. Of these two poor Whigs the first was drawn and quartered in MacFlecnoe, while the two were yoked for castigation in Part II. of Absalom and Achitophel, which appeared in 1682. Dryden possessed preŽminently the faculty for satire. He did not devote himself exclusively to an abstract treatment, nor, like Pope, to bitter personalities; he blends and combines the two methods most effectively. Every one of his brisk, nervous couplets carries a sting; every distich is a sound box on the ear.

We reach now a most interesting period in Dryden's career and one that has provoked much controversy. In 1681 he published a long argument in verse, entitled Religio Laici (the Religion of a Layman), in which he states his religious faith and his adherence to the Church of England. When King James came to the throne in 1685 he made an immediate attempt to establish the Roman Catholic faith; and now Dryden, too, turned Romanist, and in 1687 supported his new faith in the long poetical allegory, the Hind and the Panther. Of course his enemies cried turncoat; and it certainly looked like it. Dryden was well into manhood before the religious instinct stirred in him, and then, once waking, he naturally walked in the beaten track. But these instincts, though roused late, possessed the poet's impetuosity; and it was merely a natural intensifying of the same impulse that had brought him into the Church of England, which carried him to a more pronounced religious manifestation, and landed him in the Church of Rome. His sincerity is certainly backed by his acts, for when James had fled, and the staunch Protestants William and Mary held the throne, he absolutely refused to recant, and sacrificed his positions and emoluments. He was stripped of his royal offices and pensions, and, bitter humiliation, the laurel, torn from his brow, was placed on the head of that scorned jangler in verse, Shadwell.

Deprived now of royal patronage and pensions, Dryden turned again to the stage, his old-time purse-filler; and he produced two of his best plays, Don Sebastian and Amphitryon. The rest of his life, however, was to be spent, not with the drama, but in translation and paraphrase. Since 1684 he had several times published Miscellanies, collections of verse in which had appeared fragments of translations. With that indefatigable energy which characterized him, he now devoted himself to sustained effort. In 1693 he published a translation of Juvenal, and in the same year began his translation of Virgil, which was published in 1697. The work was sold by subscription, and the poet was fairly well paid. Dryden's translations are by no means exact; but he caught the spirit of his poet, and carried something of it into his own effective verse.

Dryden was not great in original work, but he was particularly happy in adaptation; and so it happened that his best play, All for Love, was modeled on Shakspere's Antony and Cleopatra, and his best poem, Palamon and Arcite, was a paraphrase of the Knight's Tale of Chaucer. Contrary to the general taste of his age, he had long felt and often expressed great admiration for the fourteenth-century poet. His work on Ovid had first turned his thought to Chaucer, he tells us, and by association he linked with him Boccaccio. As his life drew near its close he turned to those famous old story-tellers, and in the Fables gave us paraphrases in verse of eight of their most delightful tales, with translations from Homer and Ovid, a verse letter to his kinsman John Driden, his second St. Cedlia's Ode, entitled Alexander's Feast, and an Epitaph.

The Fables were published in 1700. They were his last work. Friends of the poet, and they were legion, busied themselves at the beginning of that year in the arrangement of an elaborate benefit performance for him at the Duke's Theater; but Dryden did not live to enjoy the compliment. He suffered severely from gout; a lack of proper treatment induced mortification, which spread rapidly, and in the early morning of the first of May, 1700, he died.

He had been the literary figurehead of his generation, and the elaborate pomp of his funeral attested his great popularity. His body lay in state for several days and then with a great procession was borne, on the 13th of May, to the Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey. The last years of his life had been spent in fond study of the work of Chaucer, and so it happened that just three hundred years after the death of elder bard Dryden was laid to rest by the side of his great master.


The Fables, in which this poem appears, were published in 1700. The word fable as here used by Dryden holds its original meaning of story or tale. Besides the Palamon and Arcite, he paraphrased from Chaucer the Cock and the Fox, the Flower and the Leaf, the Wife of Bath's Tale, the Character of the Good Parson. From Boccaccio he gave us Sigismonda and Guiscardo, Theodore and Honoria, and Cymon and Iphigenia, while he completed the volume with the first book of the Iliad, certain of Ovid's Metamorphoses, the Epistle to John Driden, Alexander's Feast, and an Epitaph. The Fables were dedicated to the Duke of Ormond, whose father and grandfather Dryden had previously honored in a prose epistle, full of the rather excessive compliment then in vogue. Palamon and Arcite is itself preceded by a dedication in verse to the Duchess of Ormond. In the graceful flattery of this inscription Dryden excelled himself, and he was easily grand master of the art in that age of superlative gallantry. The Duke acknowledged the compliment by a gift of five hundred pounds. The preface to the volume is one of Dryden's best efforts in prose. It is mainly concerned with critical comment on Chaucer and Boccaccio; and, though it lacks the accuracy of modern scholarship, it is full of a keen appreciation of his great forerunners.

The work of Dryden in Palamon and Arcite may seem to us superfluous, for a well-educated man in the nineteenth century is familiar with his Chaucer in the original; but in the sixteenth century our early poets were regarded as little better than barbarians, and their language was quite unintelligible. It was, therefore, a distinct addition to the literature of his age when he rescued from oblivion the Knight's Tale, the first of the Canterbury Tales, and gave it to his world as Palamon and Arcite.

Here, as in his translations, Dryden catches the spirit of his original and follows it; but he does not track slavishly in its footprints. In this particular poem he follows his leader more closely than in some of his other paraphrases, and the three books in which he divides his Palamon and Arcite scarcely exceed in length the original Knight's Tale. The tendency toward diffuse expansion, an excess of diluting epithets, which became a feature of eighteenth-century poetry, Dryden has sensibly shunned, and has stuck close to the brisk narrative and pithy descriptions of Chaucer. If the subject in hand be concrete description, as in the Temple of Mars, Dryden is at his best, and surpasses his original; but if the abstract enters, as in the portraiture on the walls, he expands, and when he expands he weakens. To illustrate:

   "The smiler with the knif under the cloke"

has lost force when Dryden stretches it into five verses:

   "Next stood Hypocrisy, with holy leer;
   Soft smiling, and demurely looking down,
   But hid the dagger underneath the gown:
   The assassinating wife, the household fiend,
   And far the blackest there, the traitor-friend."

The anachronisms in the poem are Chaucer's. When he put this story of Greek love and jealousy and strife into the mouth of his Knight, he was living in the golden age of chivalry; and he simply transferred its setting to this chivalrous story of ancient Greece. The arms, the lists, the combat, the whole environment are those of the England of Edward III, not the Athens of Theseus. Dryden has left this unchanged, realizing the charm of its mediaeval simplicity. As Dryden gives it to us the poem is an example of narrative verse, brisk in its movement, dramatic in its action, and interspersed with descriptive passages that stimulate the imagination and satisfy the sense.

Coming as it did in the last years of his life, the poem found him with his vocabulary fully developed and his versification perfected; and these are points eminently essential in narrative verse. When Dryden began his literary career, he had but just left the university, and his speech smacked somewhat of the pedantry of the classical scholar of the times. Then came the Restoration with its worship of French phrase and its liberal importation. His easy-going life as a Bohemian in the early sixties strengthened his vernacular, and his association with the wits at Will's Coffee House developed his literary English. A happy blending of all these elements, governed by his strong common sense, gave him at maturity a vocabulary not only of great scope, but of tremendous energy and vitality.

At the time of the production of Palamon and Arcite Dryden had, by long practice, become an absolute master of the verse he used. As we have seen, his early work was impregnated with the peculiarities of the Marinists; and even after the ascendency of French taste at the Restoration he still dallied with the stanza, and was not free from conceits. But his work in the heroic drama and in satire had determined his verse form and developed his ability in its use. In this poem, as in the bulk of his work, he employs the unenjambed pentameter distich; that is, a couplet with five accented syllables in each verse and with the sense terminating with the couplet. Dryden's mastery of this couplet was marvelous. He did not attain to the perfect polish of Pope a score of years later, but he possessed more vitality; and to this strength must be added a fluent grace and a ready sequence which increased the beauty of the measure and gave to it a nervous energy of movement. The great danger that attends the use of the distich is monotony; but Dryden avoided this. By a constant variation of cadence, he threw the natural pause now near the start, now near the close, and now in the midst of his verse, and in this way developed a rhythm that never wearies the ear with monotonous recurrence. He employed for this same purpose the hemistich or half-verse, the triplet or three consecutive verses with the same rhyme, and the Alexandrine with its six accents and its consequent well-rounded fullness.

So much for Palamon and Arcite. First put into English by the best story-teller in our literature, it was retold at the close of the seventeenth century by the greatest poet of his generation, one of whose chief claims to greatness lies in his marvelous ability for adaptation and paraphrase.


It remains to indicate briefly Dryden's position in English literature. To the critics of his own time he was without question the greatest man of letters in his generation, and so he undeniably was after the death of Milton. We are not ready to say with Dr. Johnson that "he found English of brick and left it of marble," for there was much marble before Dryden was dreamed of, and his own work is not entirely devoid of brick; but that Dryden rendered to English services of inestimable value is not to be questioned. For forty years the great aim of his life was, as he tells us himself, to improve the English language and English poetry, and by constant and tireless effort in a mass of production of antipodal types he accomplished his object. He enriched and extended our vocabulary, he modulated our meters, he developed new forms, and he purified and invigorated style.

There are a few poets in our literature who are better than Dryden; there are a great many who are worse; but there has been none who worked more constantly and more conscientiously for its improvement. Mr. Saintsbury has admirably summarized the situation: "He is not our greatest poet; far from it. But there is one point in which the superlative may safely be applied to him. Considering what he started with, what he accomplished, and what advantages he left to his successors, he must be pronounced, without exception, the greatest craftsman in English Letters."


HISTORY: Green, History of the English People, vols. iii, iv; Knight, Popular History of England, vols. iii, iv, v; Gardiner, The First Two Stuarts, and the Puritan Revolution; Hale, Fall of the Stuarts, and Western Europe; Green, Short History of the English People; Ransome, A Short History of England; Montgomery, English History.

BIOGRAPHY: Lives of Dryden in the editions of his Works by Scott, Malone, Christie; Johnson, Dryden (Lives of the Poets); Saintsbury, Dryden (English Men of Letters).

CRITICISM: Mitchell, English Lands, Letters, and Kings (Elizabeth to Anne); Gosse, From Shakespeare to Pope; Lowell, Dryden (Among my Books); Garnett, The Age of Dryden; Masson, Dryden and the Literature of the Restoration (Three Devils); Hamilton, The Poets Laureate of England; Hazlitt, On Dryden and Pope.

ROMANCE: Scott, Woodstock, Peveril of the Peak; Defoe, The Plague in London.

MYTHOLOGY: Bulfinch, Age of Fable; Gayley, Classic Myths in English Literature; Smith, Classical Dictionary.


  Dryden's Life.         History.           English Literature.
 1631, Born Aug. 9th.                          1631, Herbert, Temple.

                                               1632, Milton, L'Allegro
                                                    and II Penseroso.

                            1633. Birth of Prince James.
                                               1633, Massinger, New Way
                                                     to Pay Old Debts.
                                                   Ford, Broken Heart.
                                                 Prynne, Histrio-mastix

                            1634. First Ship-money Writ.
                            1634, Fletcher, Purple Island.
                                          Cowley, Poetical Blossoms.
                                                     Milton, Comus.

                            1635. Second Ship-money Writ.
                            1635, Quarles, Emblems.

                                               1636, Sandys,
                                                 Paraphrase of the

                            1637, Riot in Edinburgh.
                                                 1637, Milton, Lycidas.

                            1638, Scottish National Covenant.
                                  Judgment against John Hampden.

                            1639. First Bishops' War.

                            1640. Short Parliament.
                                                   1640, Suckling,
                                                   Ballad of a Wedding.
                                  Second Bishops' War.
                                                    Carew, Poems.
                                  Long Parliament assembled.

                            1641. Execution of Strafford.

                                                   1641, Milton,
                                                    Smectymnuus Tracts,
                                  Reforms. Debate
                              Clarendon begins History of
                                  on Grand Remonstrance.
                               Civil War.

                            1642. Committee of Public Safety.
                                                  1642, Fuller, Holy
                                                   and Profane State.
                                  Battle of Edgehill.
                                  Theaters closed.        Browne,
                                                    Religio Medici.
                            1643. Westminster Assembly. Solemn
                                                    1643, Denham,
                                                    Cooper's Hill.
                                  League and Covenant taken
                                  by House.

                            1644. Scotch Army crosses Tweed.
                                                    1644, Milton,
                                                     Doctrine and
                                  Royalist defeat
                                   at Marston         of Divorce,
                                                      Areopagitica, On
                                   Moor.              Education.

                            1645. Laud beheaded.     1645, Waller,
                                                    Poems, lst edition.
                                  Royalists crushed
                                    at Naseby.
                            1646, Charles surrendered
                                        to Scots.
                                                     1646, Crashaw,
                                                     Steps to the
                                                     Temple. Browne,
                                                     Vulgar Errors.

                             1647, Charles surrendered
                             by Scots. Army in
                             possession of London.
                             Charles' flight from
                             Hampton Court.
                                                    1647, Cowley, The

                             1648, Second Civil War.
                              Pride's Purge.
                                                    1648, Herrick,
                                                     Noble Numbers.

   1649, Poem on Death of Lord Hastings.
                             1649, Charles beheaded.
                             Cromwell subdues Ireland.
                                                    1649, Lovelace,
                                                    Lucasta. Gauden,
                                                    Eikon Basilike.

   1650, Entered Trinity, Cambridge.
                           1650, Battle of Dunbar.
                                                    1650, Baxter,
                                                    Saints' Everlasting
                                                    Rest. Taylor, Holy

                          1651, Cromwell wins at
                                                    1651, Davenant,
                                                    Gondibert. Taylor,
                                                    Holy Dying.
                                                    Hobbes, Leviathan.

   1652, Punished for disobedience, Cambridge.

                           1653, Cromwell dissolves
                            Long Parliament.
                           Barebones Parliament.
                           Made Lord Protector by
                            Little Parliament.
                                                    1653, Walton,
                                                    Compleat Angler,

   1654, Father died. Received B.A. from Cambridge.
                           1654, First Protectorate
                           Parliament, Dutch routed
                               on the sea.

                           1655. Yreaty with France.
                           Jamaica seized from Spain.
                           1656. Second Protectorate
                                                    1656, Cowley,
                                                   Works, lst edition.
                                                    Davenant, Siege of

   1657. Left Cambridge. Attached to Sir Gilbert Pickering.

   1658. Heroic Stanzas on Cromwell's Death.
                            1658, Dunkirk seized from
                            Spain. Cromwell dies. His
                             son Richard succeeds.

                            1659, Richard Cromwell resigns.
                             Long Parliament restored.
                             Military government.

   1660, Astraea Redux.
                            1660, Long Parliament again
                             Declaration of Breda.
                             Convention Parliament.
                             Restoration Charles II.
                                                      1660, Milton,
                                                     Ready and Easy Way
                                                     to Establish a
                                                     Free Commonwealth.
                                                    Pepys, Diary begun.

                            1661, Panegyric on Coronation.
                             1661, Meeting of Cavalier
                           Parliament. Corporation Act.

   1662, Poem to Lord Clarendon.
                            1662, Act of Uniformity.
                            Dissenting ministers expelled.
                            Royal Society founded. King
                            declares for Toleration. Dunkirk
                            sold to France.
                                                       1662, Fuller,
                                                     Worthies of

   1663, Married Lady Elizabeth Howard. Poem to Dr. Charleton. Wild Gallant.
                                                     1663, Butler,

   1664. Reference in Pepys to 'Dryden, the poet.'
                            1664, Repeal of Triennial Act.
                               Conventicle Act.
   1664, Etheridge, Comical Revenge. Evelyn, Sylva.

   1665, Poem to the Duchess of York. Indian Emperor.
   Poem to Lady Castlemaine.
   Left London for Charleton.
                              1665, First Dutch War of
                              Restoration. Great Plague.
                              Five-Mile Act.
                                                       1665, Dorset,
                                                       Song at Sea.

   1666, Essay on Dramatic Poesy. Son Charles born.
                              1666, Great Fire.

   1667, Annus Mirabilis. Maiden Queen. Sir Martin Marall. Tempest.
                                 1667, Dutch blockade Thames.
                                 Peace of Breda. Clarendon's Fall.
                                                        1667, Milton,
                                                        Paradise Lost.

   1668, Mock Astrologer. Son John born.
                                                        1668, Etheridge,
                                                        She Would if She
                                                        Could. Sedley, A
                                                        Mulberry Garden.

   1669. Tyrannic Love. Son Erasmus born.
                                                        1669, Pepys, Diary
                                                         closes. Shadwell,
                                                    The Royal Shepherdess.
                                                        Penn, No Cross, no

   1670, Conquest of Granada. Appointed Poet Laureate and
   Historiographer Royal.
   Mother died.
                                1670, Treaty of Dover.
                                                      1670, Shadwell,
                                                        Sullen Lovers.

   1671, Buckingham, Rehearsal. Milton, Paradise Regained. Samson Agonistes.

   1672. Marriage ŗ la Mode.
                              1672, Second Dutch War
                                 of Restoration. Declaration
                                of Indulgence.

   1673. Assignation, Amboyna.
                             1673, Test Act. Shaftesbury dismissed.
   1673, Settle, Empress of Morocco.

   1674, A State of Innocence.
   1675. Aurengzebe.
   1678, All for Love, Limberham.
   1679. OEdipus. Additional Pension
                of One Hundred
                Pounds. Troilus and
                Cressida. Cudgeled in
                Rose Alley.
   1680. Ovid's Heroides.
   1681, Spanish Friar. Absalom
                  and Achitophel, Part I.
   1682. The Medal, MacFlecnoe,
                Absalom and Achitophel,
                Part II. Religio
   1683. Collector of Customs at the
                 Port of London.
   1684. Miscellanies, vol. i. Translates
                 Maimbourg's History
                 of League.
   1685. Miscellanies, vol. ii. Albion
                 and Albanius.
            Threnodia Augustalis.
   1686. Ode on Memory of Mrs.
   1687. Hind and the Panther.
            St. Cecilia Ode.
   1674, Peace with the Dutch.
   1675, Non-resistance Bill rejected.
   1677, Marriage of William and Mary.
   1678, Peace of Nymwegen.
            Popish plot.
   1679, Habeas Corpus Act. Dissolution
                Cavalier Parliament.
            First Short Parliament.
   1680, Second Short Parliament.
   1681, Third Short Parliament.
            Tory Reaction.
   1682, Flight of Shaftesbury.
   1683, London City forfeits Charter.
            Rye House Plot.
            Russell and Sydney executed.
   1685, Death of Charles II. Accession
                of James II.
            Prorogation of Parliament.
            Meeting of Parliament.
            Battle of Edgemore.
            Bloody Assizes.
   1686, Judges allowed King's Dispensing
   1687, First Declaration of Indulgence.

   English Literature.

   1675, Mulgrave, Essay on Satire.
   1676, Etheridge, The Man of Mode.
   1677, Crowne, Destruction of Jerusalem.
            Behn, The Rover.
            Wycherley, Plain Dealer.
   1678, Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress.
            Rymer, Tragedies of the Last Age.
   1679, Oldham, Satires upon the Jesuits.
   1680, Otway, The Orphan.
   1681, Marvell, Poems.
            Roscommon, Essay on Translated
   1682, Otway, Venice Preserved.
   1687, Newton, Principia.
            Prior and Montague, Country
                 Mouse and City Mouse.

   1688, Britannia Rediviva.
   1688, Second Declaration of Indulgence. Bishops sent to Tower.
   Birth of Prince of Wales. William and Mary invited to take English Throne.
   William lands at Torbay. James flees.

   1689, Lost his offices and pensions.
   1689, William and Mary crowned. Toleration Act. Bill of Rights.
   Grand Alliance. Jacobite Rebellion.
   1689, Locke, Letters on Toleration, Treatise on Government.

   1690, Don Sebastian. Amphitryon.
   1690, Battle of the Boyne.
   1690, Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

   1691, King Arthur
   1691, Treaty of Limerick.
   1691, Langbane, Account of English Dramatic Poets. Rochester, Poems.

   1692, Eleonora, Cleomines.
   1692, Massacre of Glencoe. Churchill deprived of office.
   1692, Dennis, The Impartial Critick.

   1693, Miscellanies, vol. iii. Perseus and Juvenal.
   1693, Beginning of National Debt.
   1693, Congreve, Old Bachelor.

   1694, Miscellanies, vol. iv.
   1694, Bank of England established. Death of Queen Mary.
   1694, Southern, The Fatal Marriage. Addison, Account of Greatest
   English Poets. Congreve, Double Dealer.

   1695, Poems to Kneller and Congreve.  Fresnoy's Art of Painting.
   1695, Censorship of Press removed.
   1695, Congreve, Love for Love. Blackmore, Prince Arthur.

   1696, Life of Lucian.
   1696, Trials for Treason Act.
   1696, Southern, Oroonoko.

   1697, Virgil, Alexander's Feast composed.
   1697, Peace of Ryswick.
   1697, Congreve, Mourning Bride. Vanbrugh, The Relapse.

   1698, Partition Treaties.
   1698, Swift begins Battle of Books. Farquhar, Love and a Bottle.
   Vanbrugh, Provoked Wife. Collier, Short View of the Immorality
   and Profaneness of the English Stage.

   1700, Fables. Died May 1st.
   1700, Severe Acts against Roman Catholics.
   1700, Congreve, Way of the World. Prior, Carmen Seculare.




  The bard who first adorned our native tongue
  Tuned to his British lyre this ancient song;
  Which Homer might without a blush reherse,
  And leaves a doubtful palm in Virgil's verse:
  He matched their beauties, where they most excel;
  Of love sung better, and of-arms as well.

  Vouchsafe, illustrious Ormond, to behold
  What power the charms of beauty had of old;
  Nor wonder if such deeds of arms were done,
  Inspired by two fair eyes that sparkled like your own.

  If Chaucer by the best idea wrought,
  And poets can divine each other's thought,
  The fairest nymph before his eyes he set;
  And then the fairest was Plantagenet,
  Who three contending princes made her prize,
  And ruled the rival nations with her eyes;
  Who left immortal trophies of her fame,
  And to the noblest order gave the name.

  Like her, of equal kindred to the throne,
  You keep her conquests, and extend your own:

  As when the stars, in their etherial race,
  At length have rolled around the liquid space,
  At certain periods they resume their place,
  From the same point of heaven their course advance,
  And move in measures of their former dance;
  Thus, after length of ages, she returns,
  Restored in you, and the same place adorns:
  Or you perform her office in the sphere,
  Born of her blood, and make a new Platonic year.

  O true Plantagenet, O race divine,
  (For beauty still is fatal to the line,)
  Had Chaucer lived that angel-face to view,
  Sure he had drawn his Emily from you;
  Or had you lived to judge the doubtful right,
  Your noble Palamon had been the knight;
  And conquering Theseus from his side had sent
  Your generous lord, to guide the Theban government.

  Time shall accomplish that; and I shall see
  A Palamon in him, in you an Emily.

  Already have the Fates your path prepared,
  And sure presage your future sway declared:
  When westward, like the sun, you took your way,
  And from benighted Britain bore the day,
  Blue Triton gave the signal from the shore,
  The ready Nereids heard, and swam before
  To smooth the seas; a soft Etesian gale
  But just inspired, and gently swelled the sail;
  Portunus took his turn, whose ample hand
  Heaved up the lightened keel, and sunk the sand,
  And steered the sacred vessel safe to land.
  The land, if not restrained, had met your way,
  Projected out a neck, and jutted to the sea.
  Hibernia, prostrate at your feet, adored
  In you the pledge of her expected lord,

  Due to her isle; a venerable name;
  His father and his grandsire known to fame;
  Awed by that house, accustomed to command,
  The sturdy kerns in due subjection stand,
  Nor bear the reins in any foreign hand.

  At your approach, they crowded to the port;
  And scarcely landed, you create a court:
  As Ormond's harbinger, to you they run,
  For Venus is the promise of the Sun.

  The waste of civil wars, their towns destroyed,
  Pales unhonoured, Ceres unemployed,
  Were all forgot; and one triumphant day
  Wiped all the tears of three campaigns away.
  Blood, rapines, massacres, were cheaply bought,
  So mighty recompense your beauty brought.
  As when the dove returning bore the mark
  Of earth restored to the long-labouring ark,
  The relics of mankind, secure of rest,
  Oped every window to receive the guest,
  And the fair bearer of the message blessed:
  So, when you came, with loud repeated cries,
  The nation took an omen from your eyes,
  And God advanced his rainbow in the skies,
  To sign inviolable peace restored;
  The saints with solemn shouts proclaimed the new accord.

  When at your second coming you appear,
  (For I foretell that millenary year)
  The sharpened share shall vex the soil no more,
  But earth unbidden shall produce her store;
  The land shall laugh, the circling ocean smile,
  And Heaven's indulgence bless the holy isle.

  Heaven from all ages has reserved for you
  That happy clime, which venom never knew;
  Or if it had been there, your eyes alone
  Have power to chase all poison, but their own.

  Now in this interval, which Fate has cast
  Betwixt your future glories and your past,
  This pause of power, 'tis Ireland's hour to mourn;
  While England celebrates your safe return,
  By which you seem the seasons to command,
  And bring our summers back to their forsaken land.

  The vanquished isle our leisure must attend,
  Till the fair blessing we vouchsafe to send;
  Nor can we spare you long, though often we may lend.
  The dove was twice employed abroad, before
  The world was dried, and she returned no more.

  Nor dare we trust so soft a messenger,
  New from her sickness, to that northern air;
  Rest here awhile your lustre to restore,
  That they may see you, as you shone before;
  For yet, the eclipse not wholly past, you wade
  Through some remains and dimness of a shade.

  A subject in his prince may claim a right,
  Nor suffer him with strength impaired to fight;
  Till force returns, his ardour we restrain,
  And curb his warlike wish to cross the main.

  Now past the danger, let the learned begin
  The inquiry, where disease could enter in;
  How those malignant atoms forced their way,
  What in the faultless frame they found to make their prey,
  Where every element was weighed so well,
  That Heaven alone, who mixed the mass, could tell
  Which of the four ingredients could rebel;
  And where, imprisoned in so sweet a cage,
  A soul might well be pleased to pass an age.

  And yet the fine materials made it weak;
  Porcelain by being pure is apt to break.
  Even to your breast the sickness durst aspire,
  And forced from that fair temple to retire,
  Profanely set the holy place on fire.
  In vain your lord, like young Vespasian, mourned,
  When the fierce flames the sanctuary burned;
  And I prepared to pay in verses rude
  A most detested act of gratitude:
  Even this had been your Elegy, which now
  Is offered for your health, the table of my vow.

  Your angel sure our Morley's mind inspired,
  To find the remedy your ill required;
  As once the Macedon, by Jove's decree,
  Was taught to dream an herb for Ptolemy:
  Or Heaven, which had such over-cost bestowed
  As scarce it could afford to flesh and blood,
  So liked the frame, he would not work anew,
  To save the charges of another you;
  Or by his middle science did he steer,
  And saw some great contingent good appear,
  Well worth a miracle to keep you here,
  And for that end preserved the precious mould,
  Which all the future Ormonds was to hold;
  And meditated, in his better mind,
  An heir from you who may redeem the failing kind.

  Blessed be the power which has at once restored
  The hopes of lost succession to your lord;
  Joy to the first and last of each degree,
  Virtue to courts, and, what I longed to see,
  To you the Graces, and the Muse to me.

  O daughter of the Rose, whose cheeks unite
  The differing titles of the Red and White;
  Who heaven's alternate beauty well display,
  The blush of morning and the milky way;
  Whose face is Paradise, but fenced from sin;
  For God in either eye has placed a cherubin.

  All is your lord's alone; even absent, he
  Employs the care of chaste Penelope.
  For him you waste in tears your widowed hours,
  For him your curious needle paints the flowers;
  Such works of old imperial dames were taught,
  Such for Ascanius fair Elisa wrought.
  The soft recesses of your hours improve
  The three fair pledges of your happy love:
  All other parts of pious duty done,
  You owe your Ormond nothing but a son,
  To fill in future times his father's place,
  And wear the garter of his mother's race.





  In days of old there lived, of mighty fame,
  A valiant Prince, and Theseus was his name;
  A chief, who more in feats of arms excelled,
  The rising nor the setting sun beheld.
  Of Athens he was lord; much land he won,
  And added foreign countries to his crown.
  In Scythia with the warrior Queen he strove,
  Whom first by force he conquered, then by love;
  He brought in triumph back the beauteous dame,
  With whom her sister, fair Emilia, came.
  With honour to his home let Theseus ride,
  With Love to friend, and Fortune for his guide,
  And his victorious army at his side.
  I pass their warlike pomp, their proud array,
  Their shouts, their songs, their welcome on the way;
  But, were it not too long, I would recite
  The feats of Amazons, the fatal fight
  Betwixt the hardy Queen and hero Knight;
  The town besieged, and how much blood it cost
  The female army, and the Athenian host;
  The spousals of Hippolyta the Queen;
  What tilts and turneys at the feast were seen;
  The storm at their return, the ladies' fear:
  But these and other things I must forbear.

  The field is spacious I design to sow
  With oxen far unfit to draw the plough:
  The remnant of my tale is of a length
  To tire your patience, and to waste my strength;
  And trivial accidents shall be forborn,
  That others may have time to take their turn,
  As was at first enjoined us by mine host,
  That he, whose tale is best and pleases most,
  Should win his supper at our common cost.
  And therefore where I left, I will pursue
  This ancient story, whether false or true,
  In hope it may be mended with a new.
  The Prince I mentioned, full of high renown,
  In this array drew near the Athenian town;
  When, in his pomp and utmost of his pride
  Marching, he chanced to cast his eye aside,
  And saw a quire of mourning dames, who lay
  By two and two across the common way:
  At his approach they raised a rueful cry,
  And beat their breasts, and held their hands on high,
  Creeping and crying, till they seized at last
  His courser's bridle and his feet embraced.
  "Tell me," said Theseus, "what and whence you are,
  "And why this funeral pageant you prepare?
  Is this the welcome of my worthy deeds,
  To meet my triumph in ill-omened weeds?
  Or envy you my praise, and would destroy
  With grief my pleasures, and pollute my joy?
  Or are you injured, and demand relief?
  Name your request, and I will ease your grief."
  The most in years of all the mourning train
  Began; but swounded first away for pain;
  Then scarce recovered spoke: "Nor envy we
  "Thy great renown, nor grudge thy victory;
  'Tis thine, O King, the afflicted to redress,
  And fame has filled the world with thy success:
  We wretched women sue for that alone,
  Which of thy goodness is refused to none;
  Let fall some drops of pity on our grief,
  If what we beg be just, and we deserve relief;
  For none of us, who now thy grace implore,
  But held the rank of sovereign queen before;
  Till, thanks to giddy Chance, which never bears
  That mortal bliss should last for length of years,
  She cast us headlong from our high estate,
  And here in hope of thy return we wait,
  And long have waited in the temple nigh,
  Built to the gracious goddess Clemency.
  But reverence thou the power whose name it bears,
  Relieve the oppressed, and wipe the widows' tears.
  I, wretched I, have other fortune seen,
  The wife of Capaneus, and once a Queen;
  At Thebes he fell; cursed be the fatal day!
  And all the rest thou seest in this array
  To make their moan their lords in battle lost,
  Before that town besieged by our confederate host.
  But Creon, old and impious, who commands
  The Theban city, and usurps the lands,
  Denies the rites of funeral fires to those
  Whose breathless bodies yet he calls his foes.
  Unburned, unburied, on a heap they lie;
  Such is their fate, and such his tyranny;
  No friend has leave to bear away the dead,
  But with their lifeless limbs his hounds are fed."
  At this she shrieked aloud; the mournful train
  Echoed her grief, and grovelling on the plain,
  With groans, and hands upheld, to move his mind,
  Besought his pity to their helpless kind.

  The Prince was touched, his tears began to flow,
  And, as his tender heart would break in two,
  He sighed; and could not but their fate deplore,
  So wretched now, so fortunate before.
  Then lightly from his lofty steed he flew,
  And raising one by one the suppliant crew,
  To comfort each, full solemnly he swore,
  That by the faith which knights to knighthood bore,
  And whate'er else to chivalry belongs,
  He would not cease, till he revenged their wrongs;
  That Greece should see performed what he declared,
  And cruel Creon find his just reward.
  He said no more, but shunning all delay
  Rode on, nor entered Athens on his way;
  But left his sister and his queen behind,
  And waved his royal banner in the wind,
  Where in an argent field the God of War
  Was drawn triumphant on his iron car.
  Red was his sword, and shield, and whole attire,
  And all the godhead seemed to glow with fire;
  Even the ground glittered where the standard flew,
  And the green grass was dyed to sanguine hue.
  High on his pointed lance his pennon bore
  His Cretan fight, the conquered Minotaur:
  The soldiers shout around with generous rage,
  And in that victory their own presage.
  He praised their ardour, inly pleased to see
  His host, the flower of Grecian chivalry.
  All day he marched, and all the ensuing night,
  And saw the city with returning light.
  The process of the war I need not tell,
  How Theseus conquered, and how Creon fell;
  Or after, how by storm the walls were won,
  Or how the victor sacked and burned the town;
  How to the ladies he restored again
  The bodies of their lords in battle slain;
  And with what ancient rites they were interred;
  All these to fitter time shall be deferred:
  I spare the widows' tears, their woful cries,
  And howling at their husbands' obsequies;
  How Theseus at these funerals did assist,
  And with what gifts the mourning dames dismissed.

  Thus when the victor chief had Creon slain,
  And conquered Thebes, he pitched upon the plain
  His mighty camp, and when the day returned,
  The country wasted and the hamlets burned,
  And left the pillagers, to rapine bred,
  Without control to strip and spoil the dead.

  There, in a heap of slain, among the rest
  Two youthful knights they found beneath a load oppressed
  Of slaughtered foes, whom first to death they sent,
  The trophies of their strength, a bloody monument.
  Both fair, and both of royal blood they seemed,
  Whom kinsmen to the crown the heralds deemed;
  That day in equal arms they fought for fame;
  Their swords, their shields, their surcoats were the same:
  Close by each other laid they pressed the ground,
  Their manly bosoms pierced with many a grisly wound;
  Nor well alive nor wholly dead they were,
  But some faint signs of feeble life appear;
  The wandering breath was on the wing to part,
  Weak was the pulse, and hardly heaved the heart.
  These two were sisters' sons; and Arcite one,
  Much famed in fields, with valiant Palamon.
  From these their costly arms the spoilers rent,
  And softly both conveyed to Theseus' tent:
  Whom, known of Creon's line and cured with care,
  He to his city sent as prisoners of the war;
  Hopeless of ransom, and condemned to lie
  In durance, doomed a lingering death to die.

  This done, he marched away with warlike sound,
  And to his Athens turned with laurels crowned,
  Where happy long he lived, much loved, and more renowned.
  But in a tower, and never to be loosed,
  The woful captive kinsmen are enclosed.

  Thus year by year they pass, and day by day,
  Till once ('twas on the morn of cheerful May)
  The young Emilia, fairer to be seen
  Than the fair lily on the flowery green,
  More fresh than May herself in blossoms new,
  (For with the rosy colour strove her hue,)
  Waked, as her custom was, before the day,
  To do the observance due to sprightly May;
  For sprightly May commands our youth to keep
  The vigils of her night, and breaks their sluggard sleep;
  Each gentle breast with kindly warmth she moves;
  Inspires new flames, revives extinguished loves.
  In this remembrance Emily ere day
  Arose, and dressed herself in rich array;
  Fresh as the month, and as the morning fair,
  Adown her shoulders fell her length of hair:
  A ribband did the braided tresses bind,
  The rest was loose, and wantoned in the wind:
  Aurora had but newly chased the night,
  And purpled o'er the sky with blushing light,
  When to the garden-walk she took her way,
  To sport and trip along in cool of day,
  And offer maiden vows in honour of the May. 190

  At every turn she made a little stand,
  And thrust among the thorns her lily hand
  To draw the rose; and every rose she drew,
  She shook the stalk, and brushed away the dew;

  Then party-coloured flowers of white and red
  She wove, to make a garland for her head:
  This done, she sung and carolled out so clear,
  That men and angels might rejoice to hear;
  Even wondering Philomel forgot to sing,
  And learned from her to welcome in the spring.
  The tower, of which before was mention made,
  Within whose keep the captive knights were laid,
  Built of a large extent, and strong withal,
  Was one partition of the palace wall;
  The garden was enclosed within the square,
  Where young Emilia took the morning air.

  It happened Palamon, the prisoner knight,
  Restless for woe, arose before the light,
  And with his jailor's leave desired to breathe
  An air more wholesome than the damps beneath.
  This granted, to the tower he took his way,
  Cheered with the promise of a glorious day;
  Then cast a languishing regard around,
  And saw with hateful eyes the temples crowned
  With golden spires, and all the hostile ground.
  He sighed, and turned his eyes, because he knew
  'Twas but a larger jail he had in view;
  Then looked below, and from the castle's height
  Beheld a nearer and more pleasing sight;
  The garden, which before he had not seen,
  In spring's new livery clad of white and green,
  Fresh flowers in wide parterres, and shady walks between.
  This viewed, but not enjoyed, with arms across
  He stood, reflecting on his country's loss;
  Himself an object of the public scorn,
  And often wished he never had been born.
  At last (for so his destiny required),
  With walking giddy, and with thinking tired,

  He through a little window cast his sight,
  Though thick of bars, that gave a scanty light;
  But even that glimmering served him to descry
  The inevitable charms of Emily.

  Scarce had he seen, but, seized with sudden smart,
  Stung to the quick, he felt it at his heart;
  Struck blind with overpowering light he stood,
  Then started back amazed, and cried aloud.

  Young Arcite heard; and up he ran with haste,
  To help his friend, and in his arms embraced;
  And asked him why he looked so deadly wan,
  And whence, and how, his change of cheer began?
  Or who had done the offence? "But if," said he,
  "Your grief alone is hard captivity,
  For love of Heaven with patience undergo
  A cureless ill, since Fate will have it so:
  So stood our horoscope in chains to lie,
  And Saturn in the dungeon of the sky,
  Or other baleful aspect, ruled our birth,
  When all the friendly stars were under earth;
  Whate'er betides, by Destiny 'tis done;
  And better bear like men than vainly seek to shun."
  Nor of my bonds," said Palamon again,
  Nor of unhappy planets I complain;
  But when my mortal anguish caused my cry,
  The moment I was hurt through either eye;
  Pierced with a random shaft, I faint away,
  And perish with insensible decay:
  A glance of some new goddess gave the wound,
  Whom, like Actaeon, unaware I found.
  Look how she walks along yon shady space;
  Not Juno moves with more majestic grace,
  And all the Cyprian queen is in her face.
  If thou art Venus (for thy charms confess
  That face was formed in heaven), nor art thou less,
  Disguised in habit, undisguised in shape,
  O help us captives from our chains to scape!
  But if our doom be past in bonds to lie
  For life, and in a loathsome dungeon die,
  Then be thy wrath appeased with our disgrace,
  And show compassion to the Theban race,
  Oppressed by tyrant power!"—While yet he spoke,
  Arcite on Emily had fixed his look;
  The fatal dart a ready passage found
  And deep within his heart infixed the wound:
  So that if Palamon were wounded sore,
  Arcite was hurt as much as he or more:
  Then from his inmost soul he sighed, and said,
  "The beauty I behold has struck me dead:
  Unknowingly she strikes, and kills by chance;
  Poison is in her eyes, and death in every glance.
  Oh, I must ask; nor ask alone, but move
  Her mind to mercy, or must die for love."

  Thus Arcite: and thus Palamon replies
  (Eager his tone, and ardent were his eyes,)
  "Speakest thou in earnest, or in jesting vein?"
  "Jesting," said Arcite, "suits but ill with pain."
  "It suits far worse," (said Palamon again,
  And bent his brows,) "with men who honour weigh,
  Their faith to break, their friendship to betray;
  But worst with thee, of noble lineage born,
  My kinsman, and in arms my brother sworn.
  Have we not plighted each our holy oath,
  That one should be the common good of both;
  One soul should both inspire, and neither prove
  His fellow's hindrance in pursuit of love?
  To this before the Gods we gave our hands,
  And nothing but our death can break the bands.

  This binds thee, then, to farther my design,
  As I am bound by vow to farther thine:
  Nor canst, nor darest thou, traitor, on the plain
  Appeach my honour, or thy own maintain,
  Since thou art of my council, and the friend
  Whose faith I trust, and on whose care depend.
  And wouldst thou court my lady's love, which I
  Much rather than release, would choose to die?
  But thou, false Arcite, never shalt obtain,
  Thy bad pretence; I told thee first my pain:
  For first my love began ere thine was born;
  Thou as my council, and my brother sworn,
  Art bound to assist my eldership of right,
  Or justly to be deemed a perjured knight."

  Thus Palamon: but Arcite with disdain
  In haughty language thus replied again:
  "Forsworn thyself: the traitor's odious name
  I first return, and then disprove thy claim.
  If love be passion, and that passion nurst
  With strong desires, I loved the lady first.
  Canst thou pretend desire, whom zeal inflamed
  To worship, and a power celestial named?
  Thine was devotion to the blest above,
  I saw the woman, and desired her love;
  First owned my passion, and to thee commend
  The important secret, as my chosen friend.
  Suppose (which yet I grant not) thy desire
  A moment elder than my rival fire;
  Can chance of seeing first thy title prove?
  And knowst thou not, no law is made for love?
  Law is to things which to free choice relate;
  Love is not in our choice, but in our fate;
  Laws are not positive; love's power we see
  Is Nature's sanction, and her first decree,
  Each day we break the bond of human laws
  For love, and vindicate the common cause.
  Laws for defence of civil rights are placed,
  Love throws the fences down, and makes a general waste.
  Maids, widows, wives without distinction fall;
  The sweeping deluge, love, comes on and covers all.
  If then the laws of friendship I transgress,
  I keep the greater, while I break the less;
  And both are mad alike, since neither can possess.
  Both hopeless to be ransomed, never more
  To see the sun, but as he passes o'er.
  Like ∆sop's hounds contending for the bone,
  Each pleaded right, and would be lord alone;
  The fruitless fight continued all the day,
  A cur came by and snatched the prize away.
  As courtiers therefore justle for a grant,
  And when they break their friendship, plead their want,
  So thou, if Fortune will thy suit advance,
  Love on, nor envy me my equal chance:
  For I must love, and am resolved to try
  My fate, or failing in the adventure die."

  Great was their strife, which hourly was renewed,
  Till each with mortal hate his rival viewed:
  Now friends no more, nor walking hand in hand;
  But when they met they made a surly stand,
  And glared like Angry lions as they passed,
  And wished that every look might be their last.

  It chanced at length, Pirithous came to attend
  This worthy Theseus, his familiar friend:
  Their love in early infancy began,
  And rose as childhood ripened into man,
  Companions of the war; and loved so well,
  That when one died, as ancient stories tell,
  His fellow to redeem him went to hell.

  But to pursue my tale: to welcome home
  His warlike brother is Pirithous come:
  Arcite of Thebes was known in arms long since,
  And honoured by this young Thessalian prince.
  Theseus, to gratify his friend and guest,
  Who made our Arcite's freedom his request,
  Restored to liberty the captive knight,
  But on these hard conditions I recite:
  That if hereafter Arcite should be found
  Within the compass of Athenian ground,
  By day or night, or on whate'er pretence,
  His head should pay the forfeit of the offence.
  To this Pirithous for his friend agreed,
  And on his promise was the prisoner freed.

  Unpleased and pensive hence he takes his way,
  At his own peril; for his life must pay.
  Who now but Arcite mourns his bitter fate,
  Finds his dear purchase, and repents too late?
  "What have I gained," he said, "in prison pent,
  If I but change my bonds for banishment?
  And banished from her sight, I suffer more
  In freedom than I felt in bonds before;
  Forced from her presence and condemned to live,
  Unwelcome freedom and unthanked reprieve:
  Heaven is not but where Emily abides,
  And where she's absent, all is hell besides.
  Next to my day of birth, was that accurst
  Which bound my friendship to Pirithous first:
  Had I not known that prince, I still had been
  In bondage and had still Emilia seen:
  For though I never can her grace deserve,
  'Tis recompense enough to see and serve.
  O Palamon, my kinsman and my friend,
  How much more happy fates thy love attend I

  Thine is the adventure, thine the victory,
  Well has thy fortune turned the dice for thee:
  Thou on that angel's face mayest feed thy eyes,
  In prison, no; but blissful paradise!
  Thou daily seest that sun of beauty shine,
  And lovest at least in love's extremest line.
  I mourn in absence, love's eternal night;
  And who can tell but since thou hast her sight,
  And art a comely, young, and valiant knight,
  Fortune (a various power) may cease to frown,
  And by some ways unknown thy wishes crown?
  But I, the most forlorn of human kind,
  Nor help can hope nor remedy can find;
  But doomed to drag my loathsome life in care,
  For my reward, must end it in despair.
  Fire, water, air, and earth, and force of fates
  That governs all, and Heaven that all creates,
  Nor art, nor Nature's hand can ease my grief;
  Nothing but death, the wretch's last relief:
  Then farewell youth, and all the joys that dwell
  With youth and life, and life itself, farewell!
  But why, alas! do mortal men in vain
  Of Fortune, Fate, or Providence complain?
  God gives us what he knows our wants require,
  And better things than those which we desire:
  Some pray for riches; riches they obtain;
  But, watched by robbers, for their wealth are slain;
  Some pray from prison to be freed; and come,
  When guilty of their vows, to fall at home;
  Murdered by those they trusted with their life,
  A favoured servant or a bosom wife.
  Such dear-bought blessings happen every day,
  Because we know not for what things to pray.
  Like drunken sots about the streets we roam:

  "Well knows the sot he has a certain home,
  Yet knows not how to find the uncertain place,
  And blunders on and staggers every pace.
  Thus all seek happiness; but few can find,
  For far the greater part of men are blind.
  This is my case, who thought our utmost good
  Was in one word of freedom understood:
  The fatal blessing came: from prison free,
  I starve abroad, and lose the sight of Emily."

  Thus Arcite: but if Arcite thus deplore
  His sufferings, Palamon yet suffers more.
  For when he knew his rival freed and gone,
  He swells with wrath; he makes outrageous moan;
  He frets, he fumes, he stares, he stamps the ground;
  The hollow tower with clamours rings around:
  With briny tears he bathed his fettered feet,
  And dropped all o'er with agony of sweat.
  "Alas!" he cried, "I, wretch, in prison pine,
  Too happy rival, while the fruit is thine:
  Thou livest at large, thou drawest thy native air,
  Pleased with thy freedom, proud of my despair:
  Thou mayest, since thou hast youth and courage joined,
  A sweet behaviour and a solid mind,
  Assemble ours, and all the Theban race,
  To vindicate on Athens thy disgrace;
  And after (by some treaty made) possess
  Fair Emily, the pledge of lasting peace.
  So thine shall be the beauteous prize, while I
  Must languish in despair, in prison die.
  Thus all the advantage of the strife is thine,
  Thy portion double joys, and double sorrows mine."

  The rage of jealousy then fired his soul,
  And his face kindled like a burning coal
  Now cold despair, succeeding in her stead,
  To livid paleness turns the glowing red.
  His blood, scarce liquid, creeps within his veins,
  Like water which the freezing wind constrains.
  Then thus he said: "Eternal Deities,
  "Who rule the world with absolute decrees,
  And write whatever time shall bring to pass
  With pens of adamant on plates of brass;
  What is the race of human kind your care
  Beyond what all his fellow-creatures are?
  He with the rest is liable to pain,
  And like the sheep, his brother-beast, is slain.
  Cold, hunger, prisons, ills without a cure,
  All these he must, and guiltless oft, endure;
  Or does your justice, power, or prescience fail,
  When the good suffer and the bad prevail?
  What worse to wretched virtue could befal,
  If Fate or giddy Fortune governed all?
  Nay, worse than other beasts is our estate:
  Them, to pursue their pleasures, you create;
  We, bound by harder laws, must curb our will,
  And your commands, not our desires, fulfil:
  Then, when the creature is unjustly slain,
  Yet, after death at least, he feels no pain;
  But man in life surcharged with woe before,
  Not freed when dead, is doomed to suffer more.
  A serpent shoots his sting at unaware;
  An ambushed thief forelays a traveller;
  The man lies murdered, while the thief and snake,
  One gains the thickets, and one thrids the brake.
  This let divines decide; but well I know,
  Just or unjust, I have my share of woe,
  Through Saturn seated in a luckless place,
  And Juno's wrath that persecutes my race;
  Or Mars and Venus in a quartil, move
  My pangs of jealousy for Arcite's love."

  Let Palamon oppressed in bondage mourn,
  While to his exited rival we return.
  By this the sun, declining from his height,
  The day had shortened to prolong the night:
  The lengthened night gave length of misery,
  Both to the captive lover and the free:
  For Palamon in endless prison mourns,
  And Arcite forfeits life if he returns;
  The banished never hopes his love to see,
  Nor hopes the captive lord his liberty.
  'Tis hard to say who suffers greater pains;
  One sees his love, but cannot break his chains;
  One free, and all his motions uncontrolled,
  Beholds whate'er he would but what he would behold.
  Judge as you please, for I will haste to tell
  What fortune to the banished knight befel.
  When Arcite was to Thebes returned again,
  The loss of her he loved renewed his pain;
  What could be worse than never more to see
  His life, his soul, his charming Emily?
  He raved with all the madness of despair,
  He roared, he beat his breast, he tore his hair.
  Dry sorrow in his stupid eyes appears,
  For wanting nourishment, he wanted tears;
  His eyeballs in their hollow sockets sink,
  Bereft of sleep; he loathes his meat and drink;
  He withers at his heart, and looks as wan
  As the pale spectre of a murdered man:
  That pale turns yellow, and his face receives
  The faded hue of sapless boxen leaves;
  In solitary groves he makes his moan,
  Walks early out, and ever is alone;
  Nor, mixed in mirth, in youthful pleasure shares,
  But sighs when songs and instruments he hears.

  His spirits are so low, his voice is drowned,
  He hears as from afar, or in a swound,
  Like the deaf murmurs of a distant sound:
  Uncombed his locks, and squalid his attire,
  Unlike the trim of love and gay desire;
  But full of museful mopings, which presage
  The loss of reason and conclude in rage.

  This when he had endured a year and more,
  Now wholly changed from what he was before,
  It happened once, that, slumbering as he lay,
  He dreamt (his dream began at break of day)
  That Hermes o'er his head in air appeared,
  And with soft words his drooping spirits cheered;
  His hat adorned with wings disclosed the god,
  And in his hand he bore the sleep-compelling rod;
  Such as he seemed, when, at his sire's command,
  On Argus' head he laid the snaky wand.
  "Arise," he said, "to conquering Athens go;
  There Fate appoints an end of all thy woe."
  The fright awakened Arcite with a start,
  Against his bosom bounced his heaving heart;
  But soon he said, with scarce recovered breath,
  "And thither will I go to meet my death,
  Sure to be slain; but death is my desire,
  Since in Emilia's sight I shall expire."
  By chance he spied a mirror while he spoke,
  And gazing there beheld his altered look;
  Wondering, he saw his features and his hue
  So much were changed, that scarce himself he knew.
  A sudden thought then starting in his mind,
  "Since I in Arcite cannot Arcite find,
  The world may search in vain with all their eyes,
  But never penetrate through this disguise.
  Thanks to the change which grief and sickness give,
  In low estate I may securely live,
  And see, unknown, my mistress day by day."
  He said, and clothed himself in coarse array,
  A labouring hind in show; then forth he went,
  And to the Athenian towers his journey bent:
  One squire attended in the same disguise,
  Made conscious of his master's enterprise.
  Arrived at Athens, soon he came to court,
  Unknown, unquestioned in that thick resort:
  Proffering for hire his service at the gate,
  To drudge, draw water, and to run or wait.

  So fair befel him, that for little gain
  He served at first Emilia's chamberlain;
  And, watchful all advantages to spy,
  Was still at hand, and in his master's eye;
  And as his bones were big, and sinews strong,
  Refused no toil that could to slaves belong;
  But from deep wells with engines water drew,
  And used his noble hands the wood to hew.
  He passed a year at least attending thus
  On Emily, and called Philostratus.
  But never was there man of his degree
  So much esteemed, so well beloved as he.
  So gentle of condition was he known,
  That through the court his courtesy was blown:
  All think him worthy of a greater place,
  And recommend him to the royal grace;
  That exercised within a higher sphere,
  His virtues more conspicuous might appear.
  Thus by the general voice was Arcite praised,
  And by great Theseus to high favour raised;
  Among his menial servants first enrolled,
  And largely entertained with sums of gold:
  Besides what secretly from Thebes was sent,

  Of his own income and his annual rent.
  This well employed, he purchased friends and fame,
  But cautiously concealed from whence it came.
  Thus for three years he lived with large increase
  In arms of honour, and esteem in peace;
  To Theseus' person he was ever near,
  And Theseus for his virtues held him dear.


  While Arcite lives in bliss, the story turns
  Where hopeless Palamon in prison mourns.
  For six long years immured, the captive knight
  Had dragged his chains, and scarcely seen the light:
  Lost liberty and love at once he bore;
  His prison pained him much, his passion more:
  Nor dares he hope his fetters to remove,
  Nor ever wishes to be free from love.
  But when the sixth revolving year was run,
  And May within the Twins received the sun,
  Were it by Chance, or forceful Destiny,
  Which forms in causes first whate'er shall be,
  Assisted by a friend one moonless night,
  This Palamon from prison took his flight:
  A pleasant beverage he prepared before
  Of wine and honey mixed, with added store
  Of opium; to his keeper this he brought,
  Who swallowed unaware the sleepy draught,
  And snored secure till morn, his senses bound
  In slumber, and in long oblivion drowned.
  Short was the night, and careful Palamon
  Sought the next covert ere the rising sun.
  A thick-spread forest near the city lay,
  To this with lengthened strides he took his way,
  (For far he could not fly, and feared the day.)

  Safe from pursuit, he meant to shun the light,
  Till the brown shadows of the friendly night
  To Thebes might favour his intended flight.
  When to his country come, his next design
  Was all the Theban race in arms to join,
  And war on Theseus, till he lost his life,
  Or won the beauteous Emily to wife.
  Thus while his thoughts the lingering day beguile,
  To gentle Arcite let us turn our style;
  Who little dreamt how nigh he was to care,
  Till treacherous fortune caught him in the snare.
  The morning-lark, the messenger of day,
  Saluted in her song the morning gray;
  And soon the sun arose with beams so bright,
  That all the horizon laughed to see the joyous sight;
  He with his tepid rays the rose renews,
  And licks the dropping leaves, and dries the dews;
  When Arcite left his bed, resolved to pay
  Observance to the month of merry May,
  Forth on his fiery steed betimes he rode,
  That scarcely prints the turf on which he trod:
  At ease he seemed, and prancing o'er the plains,
  Turned only to the grove his horse's reins,
  The grove I named before, and, lighting there,
  A woodbind garland sought to crown his hair;
  Then turned his face against the rising day,
  And raised his voice to welcome in the May:
  "For thee, sweet month, the groves green liveries wear,
  If not the first, the fairest of the year:
  For thee the Graces lead the dancing hours,
  And Nature's ready pencil paints the flowers:
  When thy short reign is past, the feverish sun
  The sultry tropic fears, and moves more slowly on.
  So may thy tender blossoms fear no blight,
  Nor goats with venomed teeth thy tendrils bite,
  As thou shalt guide my wandering feet to find
  The fragrant greens I seek, my brows to bind."
  His vows addressed, within the grove he strayed,
  Till Fate or Fortune near the place conveyed
  His steps where secret Palamon was laid.
  Full little thought of him the gentle knight,
  Who flying death had there concealed his flight,
  In brakes and brambles hid, and shunning mortal sight;
  And less he knew him for his hated foe,
  But feared him as a man he did not know.
  But as it has been said of ancient years,
  That fields are full of eyes and woods have ears,
  For this the wise are ever on their guard,
  For unforeseen, they say, is unprepared.
  Uncautious Arcite thought himself alone,
  And less than all suspected Palamon,
  Who, listening, heard him, while he searched the grove,
  And loudly sung his roundelay of love:
  But on the sudden stopped, and silent stood,
  (As lovers often muse, and change their mood;)
  Now high as heaven, and then as low as hell,
  Now up, now down, as buckets in a well:
  For Venus, like her day, will change her cheer,
  And seldom shall we see a Friday clear.
  Thus Arcite, having sung, with altered hue
  Sunk on the ground, and from his bosom drew
  A desperate sigh, accusing Heaven and Fate,
  And angry Juno's unrelenting hate:
  "Cursed be the day when first I did appear;
  Let it be blotted from the calendar,
  Lest it pollute the month, and poison all the year.
  Still will the jealous Queen pursue our race?
  Cadmus is dead, the Theban city was:
  Yet ceases not her hate; for all who come
  From Cadmus are involved in Cadmus' doom.
  I suffer for my blood: unjust decree,
  That punishes another's crime on me.
  In mean estate I serve my mortal foe,
  The man who caused my country's overthrow.
  This is not all; for Juno, to my shame,
  Has forced me to forsake my former name;
  Arcite I was, Philostratus I am.
  That side of heaven is all my enemy:
  Mars ruined Thebes; his mother ruined me.
  Of all the royal race remains but one
  Besides myself, the unhappy Palamon,
  Whom Theseus holds in bonds and will not free;
  Without a crime, except his kin to me.
  Yet these and all the rest I could endure;
  But love's a malady without a cure:
  Fierce Love has pierced me with his fiery dart,
  He fires within, and hisses at my heart.
  Your eyes, fair Emily, my fate pursue;
  I suffer for the rest, I die for you.
  Of such a goddess no time leaves record,
  Who burned the temple where she was adored:
  And let it burn, I never will complain,
  Pleased with my sufferings, if you knew my pain."
  At this a sickly qualm his heart assailed,
  His ears ring inward, and his senses failed.
  No word missed Palamon of all he spoke;
  But soon to deadly pale he changed his look:
  He trembled every limb, and felt a smart,
  As if cold steel had glided through his heart;
  Nor longer stayed, but starting from his place,
  Discovered stood, and showed his hostile face:
  "False traitor, Arcite, traitor to thy blood,
  Bound by thy sacred oath to seek my good,
  Now art thou found forsworn for Emily,
  And darest attempt her love, for whom I die.
  So hast thou cheated Theseus with a wile,
  Against thy vow, returning to beguile
  Under a borrowed name: as false to me,
  So false thou art to him who set thee free.
  But rest assured, that either thou shalt die,
  Or else renounce thy claim in Emily;
  For, though unarmed I am, and freed by chance,
  Am here without my sword or pointed lance,
  Hope not, base man, unquestioned hence to go,
  For I am Palamon, thy mortal foe."
  Arcite, who heard his tale and knew the man,
  His sword unsheathed, and fiercely thus began:
  "Now, by the gods who govern heaven above,
  Wert thou not weak with hunger, mad with love,
  That word had been thy last; or in this grove
  This hand should force thee to renounce thy love;
  The surety which I gave thee I defy:
  Fool, not to know that love endures no tie,
  And Jove but laughs at lovers' perjury.
  Know, I will serve the fair in thy despite:
  But since thou art my kinsman and a knight,
  Here, have my faith, to-morrow in this grove
  Our arms shall plead the titles of our love:
  And Heaven so help my right, as I alone
  Will come, and keep the cause and quarrel both unknown,
  With arms of proof both for myself and thee;
  Choose thou the best, and leave the worst to me.
  And, that at better ease thou mayest abide,
  Bedding and clothes I will this night provide,
  And needful sustenance, that thou mayest be
  A conquest better won, and worthy me."

  His promise Palamon accepts; but prayed,
  To keep it better than the first he made.
  Thus fair they parted till the morrow's dawn;
  For each had laid his plighted faith to pawn;
  Oh Love! thou sternly dost thy power maintain,
  And wilt not bear a rival in thy reign!
  Tyrants and thou all fellowship disdain.
  This was in Arcite proved and Palamon:
  Both in despair, yet each would love alone.
  Arcite returned, and, as in honour tied,
  His foe with bedding and with food supplied;
  Then, ere the day, two suits of armour sought,
  Which borne before him on his steed he brought:
  Both were of shining steel, and wrought so pure
  As might the strokes of two such arms endure.
  Now, at the time, and in the appointed place,
  The challenger and challenged, face to face,
  Approach; each other from afar they knew,
  And from afar their hatred changed their hue.
  So stands the Thracian herdsman with his spear,
  Full in the gap, and hopes the hunted bear,
  And hears him rustling in the wood, and sees
  His course at distance by the bending trees:
  And thinks, Here comes my mortal enemy,
  And either he must fall in fight, or I:
  This while he thinks, he lifts aloft his dart;
  A generous chillness seizes every part,
  The veins pour back the blood, and fortify the heart.

  Thus pale they meet; their eyes with fury burn;
  None greets, for none the greeting will return;
  But in dumb surliness each armed with care
  His foe professed, as brother of the war;
  Then both, no moment lost, at once advance
  Against each other, armed with sword and lance:
  They lash, they foin, they pass, they strive to bore
  Their corslets, and the thinnest parts explore.
  Thus two long hours in equal arms they stood,
  And wounded wound, till both are bathed in blood
  And not a foot of ground had either got,
  As if the world depended on the spot.
  Fell Arcite like an angry tiger fared,
  And like a lion Palamon appeared:
  Or, as two boars whom love to battle draws,
  With rising bristles and with frothy jaws,
  Their adverse breasts with tusks oblique they wound
  With grunts and groans the forest rings around.
  So fought the knights, and fighting must abide,
  Till Fate an umpire sends their difference to decide.
  The power that ministers to God's decrees,
  And executes on earth what Heaven foresees,
  Called Providence, or Chance, or Fatal sway,
  Comes with resistless force, and finds or makes her way.
  Nor kings, nor nations, nor united power
  One moment can retard the appointed hour,
  And some one day, some wondrous chance appears,
  Which happened not in centuries of years:
  For sure, whate'er we mortals hate or love
  Or hope or fear depends on powers above:
  They move our appetites to good or ill,
  And by foresight necessitate the will.
  In Theseus this appears, whose youthful joy
  Was beasts of chase in forests to destroy;
  This gentle knight, inspired by jolly May,
  Forsook his easy couch at early day,
  And to the wood and wilds pursued his way.
  Beside him rode Hippolita the queen,
  And Emily attired in lively green,
  With horns and hounds and all the tuneful cry,
  To hunt a royal hart within the covert nigh:
  And, as he followed Mars before, so now
  He serves the goddess of the silver bow.
  The way that Theseus took was to the wood,
  Where the two knights in cruel battle stood:
  The laund on which they fought, the appointed place
  In which the uncoupled hounds began the chase.
  Thither forth-right he rode to rouse the prey,
  That shaded by the fern in harbour lay;
  And thence dislodged, was wont to leave the wood
  For open fields, and cross the crystal flood.
  Approached, and looking underneath the sun,
  He saw proud Arcite and fierce Palamon,
  In mortal battle doubling blow on blow;
  Like lightning flamed their fauchions to and fro,
  And shot a dreadful gleam; so strong they strook,
  There seemed less force required to fell an oak.
  He gazed with wonder on their equal might,
  Looked eager on, but knew not either knight.
  Resolved to learn, he spurred his fiery steed
  With goring rowels to provoke his speed.
  The minute ended that began the race,
  So soon he was betwixt them on the place;
  And with his sword unsheathed, on pain of life
  Commands both combatants to cease their strife;
  Then with imperious tone pursues his threat:
  "What are you? why in arms together met?
  How dares your pride presume against my laws,
  As in a listed field to fight your cause,
  Unasked the royal grant; no marshal by,
  As knightly rites require, nor judge to try?"
  Then Palamon, with scarce recovered breath,
  Thus hasty spoke: "We both deserve the death,
  And both would die; for look the world around,
  And pity soonest runs in gentle minds;
  Then reasons with himself; and first he finds
  His passion cast a mist before his sense,
  And either made or magnified the offence.
  Offence? Of what? To whom? Who judged the cause?
  The prisoner freed himself by Nature's laws;
  Born free, he sought his right; the man he freed
  Was perjured, but his love excused the deed:
  Thus pondering, he looked under with his eyes,
  And saw the women's tears, and heard their cries,
  Which moved compassion more; he shook his head,
  And softly sighing to himself he said:

  Curse on the unpardoning prince, whom tears can draw
  "To no remorse, who rules by lion's law;
  And deaf to prayers, by no submission bowed,
  Rends all alike, the penitent and proud!"
  At this with look serene he raised his head;
  Reason resumed her place, and passion fled:
  Then thus aloud he spoke:—" The power of Love,
  "In earth, and seas, and air, and heaven above,
  Rules, unresisted, with an awful nod,
  By daily miracles declared a god;
  He blinds the wise, gives eye-sight to the blind;
  And moulds and stamps anew the lover's mind.
  Behold that Arcite, and this Palamon,
  Freed from my fetters, and in safety gone,
  What hindered either in their native soil
  At ease to reap the harvest of their toil?
  But Love, their lord, did otherwise ordain,
  And brought them, in their own despite again,
  To suffer death deserved; for well they know
  'Tis in my power, and I their deadly foe.
  The proverb holds, that to be wise and love,
  Is hardly granted to the gods above.
  See how the madmen bleed! behold the gains
  With which their master, Love, rewards their pains!
  For seven long years, on duty every day,
  Lo! their obedience, and their monarch's pay!
  Yet, as in duty bound, they serve him on;
  And ask the fools, they think it wisely done;
  Nor ease nor wealth nor life it self regard,
  For 'tis their maxim, love is love's reward.
  This is not all; the fair, for whom they strove,
  Nor knew before, nor could suspect their love,
  Nor thought, when she beheld the fight from far,
  Her beauty was the occasion of the war.
  But sure a general doom on man is past,
  And all are fools and lovers, first or last:
  This both by others and my self I know,
  For I have served their sovereign long ago;
  Oft have been caught within the winding train
  Of female snares, and felt the lover's pain,
  And learned how far the god can human hearts constrain.
  To this remembrance, and the prayers of those
  Who for the offending warriors interpose,
  I give their forfeit lives, on this accord,
  To do me homage as their sovereign lord;
  And as my vassals, to their utmost might,
  Assist my person and assert my right."
  This freely sworn, the knights their grace obtained;
  Then thus the King his secret thought explained:
  "If wealth or honour or a royal race,
  Or each or all, may win a lady's grace,
  Then either of you knights may well deserve
  A princess born; and such is she you serve:
  For Emily is sister to the crown,
  And but too well to both her beauty known:
  But should you combat till you both were dead,
  Two lovers cannot share a single bed
  As, therefore, both are equal in degree,
  The lot of both be left to destiny.
  Now hear the award, and happy may it prove
  To her, and him who best deserves her love.
  Depart from hence in peace, and free as air,
  Search the wide world, and where you please repair;
  But on the day when this returning sun
  To the same point through every sign has run,
  Then each of you his hundred knights shall bring
  In royal lists, to fight before the king;
  And then the knight, whom Fate or happy Chance
  Shall with his friends to victory advance,
  And grace his arms so far in equal fight,
  From out the bars to force his opposite,
  Or kill, or make him recreant on the plain,
  The prize of valour and of love shall gain;
  The vanquished party shall their claim release,
  And the long jars conclude in lasting peace.
  The charge be mine to adorn the chosen ground,
  The theatre of war, for champions so renowned;
  And take the patron's place of either knight,
  With eyes impartial to behold the fight;
  And Heaven of me so judge as I shall judge aright.
  If both are satisfied with this accord,
  Swear by the laws of knighthood on my sword."

  Who now but Palamon exults with joy?
  And ravished Arcite seems to touch the sky.
  The whole assembled troop was pleased as well,
  Extolled the award, and on their knees they fell
  To bless the gracious King. The knights, with leave
  Departing from the place, his last commands receive;
  On Emily with equal ardour look,
  And from her eyes their inspiration took:
  From thence to Thebes' old walls pursue their way,
  Each to provide his champions for the day.

  It might be deemed, on our historian's part,
  Or too much negligence or want of art,
  If he forgot the vast magnificence
  Of royal Theseus, and his large expense.
  He first enclosed for lists a level ground,
  The whole circumference a mile around;
  The form was circular; and all without
  A trench was sunk, to moat the place about.
  Within, an amphitheatre appeared,
  Raised in degrees, to sixty paces reared:
  That when a man was placed in one degree,
  Height was allowed for him above to see.

  Eastward was built a gate of marble white;
  The like adorned the western opposite.
  A nobler object than this fabric was
  Rome never saw, nor of so vast a space:
  For, rich with spoils of many a conquered land,
  All arts and artists Theseus could command,
  Who sold for hire, or wrought for better fame;
  The master-painters and the carvers came.
  So rose within the compass of the year
  An age's work, a glorious theatre.
  Then o'er its eastern gate was raised above
  A temple, sacred to the Queen of Love;
  An altar stood below; on either hand
  A priest with roses crowned, who held a myrtle wand.

  The dome of Mars was on the gate opposed,
  And on the north a turret was enclosed
  Within the wall of alabaster white
  And crimson coral, for the Queen of Night,
  Who takes in sylvan sports her chaste delight.

  Within those oratories might you see
  Rich carvings, portraitures, and imagery;
  Where every figure to the life expressed
  The godhead's power to whom it was addressed.
  In Venus' temple on the sides were seen
  The broken slumbers of enamoured men;
  Prayers that even spoke, and pity seemed to call,
  And issuing sighs that smoked along the wall;
  Complaints and hot desires, the lover's hell,
  And scalding tears that wore a channel where they fell;
  And all around were nuptial bonds, the ties
  Of love's assurance, and a train of lies,
  That, made in lust, conclude in perjuries;
  Beauty, and Youth, and Wealth, and Luxury,
  And sprightly Hope and short-enduring Joy,
  And Sorceries, to raise the infernal powers,
  And Sigils framed in planetary hours;
  Expense, and After-thought, and idle Care,
  And Doubts of motley hue, and dark Despair;
  Suspicions and fantastical Surmise,
  And Jealousy suffused, with jaundice in her eyes,
  Discolouring all she viewed, in tawny dressed,
  Down-looked, and with a cuckow on her fist.
  Opposed to her, on the other side advance
  The costly feast, the carol, and the dance,
  Minstrels and music, poetry and play,
  And balls by night, and turnaments by day.
  All these were painted on the wall, and more;
  With acts and monuments of times before;
  And others added by prophetic doom,
  And lovers yet unborn, and loves to come:
  For there the Idalian mount, and Citheron,
  The court of Venus, was in colours drawn;
  Before the palace gate, in careless dress
  And loose array, sat portress Idleness;
  There by the fount Narcissus pined alone;
  There Samson was; with wiser Solomon,
  And all the mighty names by love undone.
  Medea's charms were there; Circean feasts,
  With bowls that turned enamoured youths to beasts.
  Here might be seen, that beauty, wealth, and wit,
  And prowess to the power of love submit;
  The spreading snare for all mankind is laid,
  And lovers all betray, and are betrayed.
  The Goddess' self some noble hand had wrought;
  Smiling she seemed, and full of pleasing thought;
  From ocean as she first began to rise,
  And smoothed the ruffled seas, and cleared the skies,
  She trod the brine, all bare below the breast,
  And the green waves but ill-concealed the rest:
  A lute she held; and on her head was seen
  A wreath of roses red and myrtles green;
  Her turtles fanned the buxom air above;
  And by his mother stood an infant Love,
  With wings unfledged; his eyes were banded o'er,
  His hands a bow, his back, a quiver bore,
  Supplied with arrows bright and keen, a deadly store.

  But in the dome of mighty Mars the red
  With different figures all the sides were spread;
  This temple, less in form, with equal grace,
  Was imitative of the first in Thrace;
  For that cold region was the loved abode
  And sovereign mansion of the warrior god.
  The landscape was a forest wide and bare,
  Where neither beast nor human kind repair,
  The fowl that scent afar the borders fly,
  And shun the bitter blast, and wheel about the sky.
  A cake of scurf lies baking on the ground,
  And prickly stubs, instead of trees, are found;
  Or woods with knots and knares deformed and old,
  Headless the most, and hideous to behold;
  A rattling tempest through the branches went,
  That stripped them bare, and one sole way they bent.
  Heaven froze above severe, the clouds congeal,
  And through the crystal vault appeared the standing hail.
  Such was the face without: a mountain stood
  Threatening from high, and overlooked the wood:
  Beneath the lowering brow, and on a bent,
  The temple stood of Mars armipotent;
  The frame of burnished steel, that cast a glare
  From far, and seemed to thaw the freezing air.
  A straight long entry to the temple led,
  Blind with high walls, and horror over head;
  Thence issued such a blast, and hollow roar,
  As threatened from the hinge to heave the door;
  In through that door a northern light there shone;
  'Twas all it had, for windows there were none.
  The gate was adamant; eternal frame,
  Which, hewed by Mars himself, from Indian quarries came,
  The labour of a God; and all along
  Tough iron plates were clenched to make it strong.
  A tun about was every pillar there;
  A polished mirror shone not half so clear.
  There saw I how the secret felon wrought,
  And treason labouring in the traitor's thought,
  And midwife Time the ripened plot to murder brought.
  There the red Anger dared the pallid Fear;
  Next stood Hypocrisy, with holy leer,
  Soft, smiling, and demurely looking down,
  But hid the dagger underneath the gown;
  The assassinating wife, the household fiend;
  And far the blackest there, the traitor-friend.
  On the other side there stood Destruction bare,
  Unpunished Rapine, and a waste of war;
  Contest with sharpened knives in cloisters drawn,
  And all with blood bespread the holy lawn.
  Loud menaces were heard, and foul disgrace,
  And bawling infamy, in language base;
  Till sense was lost in sound, and silence fled the place.
  The slayer of himself yet saw I there,
  The gore congealed was clotted in his hair;
  With eyes half closed and gaping mouth he lay,
  And grim as when he breathed his sullen soul away.
  In midst of all the dome, Misfortune sate,
  And gloomy Discontent, and fell Debate,
  And Madness laughing in his ireful mood;
  And armed Complaint on theft; and cries of blood.
  There was the murdered corps, in covert laid,
  And violent death in thousand shapes displayed:
  The city to the soldier's rage resigned;
  Successless wars, and poverty behind:
  Ships burnt in fight, or forced on rocky shores,
  And the rash hunter strangled by the boars:
  The new-born babe by nurses overlaid;
  And the cook caught within the raging fire he made.
  All ills of Mars' his nature, flame and steel;
  The gasping charioteer beneath the wheel
  Of his own car; the ruined house that falls
  And intercepts her lord betwixt the walls:
  The whole division that to Mars pertains,
  All trades of death that deal in steel for gains
  Were there: the butcher, armourer, and smith,
  Who forges sharpened fauchions, or the scythe.
  The scarlet conquest on a tower was placed,
  With shouts and soldiers' acclamations graced:
  A pointed sword hung threatening o'er his head,
  Sustained but by a slender twine of thread.
  There saw I Mars his ides, the Capitol,
  The seer in vain foretelling Caesar's fall;
  The last Triumvirs, and the wars they move,
  And Antony, who lost the world for love.
  These, and a thousand more, the fane adorn;
  Their fates were painted ere the men were born,
  All copied from the heavens, and ruling force
  Of the red star, in his revolving course.
  The form of Mars high on a chariot stood,
  All sheathed in arms, and gruffly looked the god;
  Two geomantic figures were displayed
  Above his head, a warrior and a maid,
  One when direct, and one when retrograde.

  Tired with deformities of death, I haste
  To the third temple of Diana chaste.
  A sylvan scene with various greens was drawn,
  Shades on the sides, and on the midst a lawn;
  The silver Cynthia, with her nymphs around,
  Pursued the flying deer, the woods with horns resound:
  Calisto there stood manifest of shame,
  And, turned a bear, the northern star became:
  Her son was next, and, by peculiar grace,
  In the cold circle held the second place;
  The stag Actson in the stream had spied
  The naked huntress, and for seeing died;
  His hounds, unknowing of his change, pursue
  The chase, and their mistaken master slew.
  Peneian Daphne too, was there to see,
  Apollo's love before, and now his tree.
  The adjoining fane the assembled Greeks expressed,
  And hunting of the Calydonian beast.
  OEnides' valour, and his envied prize;
  The fatal power of Atalanta's eyes;
  Diana's vengeance on the victor shown,
  The murderess mother, and consuming son;
  The Volscian queen extended on the plain,
  The treason punished, and the traitor slain.
  The rest were various huntings, well designed,
  And savage beasts destroyed, of every kind.
  The graceful goddess was arrayed in green;
  About her feet were little beagles seen,
  That watched with upward eyes the motions of their Queen.
  Her legs were buskined, and the left before,
  In act to shoot; a silver bow she bore,
  And at her back a painted quiver wore.
  She trod a wexing moon, that soon would wane,
  And, drinking borrowed light, be filled again;
  With downcast eyes, as seeming to survey
  The dark dominions, her alternate sway.
  Before her stood a woman in her throes,
  And called Lucina's aid, her burden to disclose.
  All these the painter drew with such command,
  That Nature snatched the pencil from his hand,
  Ashamed and angry that his art could feign,
  And mend the tortures of a mother's pain.
  Theseus beheld the fanes of every god,
  And thought his mighty cost was well bestowed.
  So princes now their poets should regard;
  But few can write, and fewer can reward.

  The theatre thus raised, the lists enclosed,
  And all with vast magnificence disposed,
  We leave the monarch pleased, and haste to bring
  The knights to combat, and their arms to sing.


  The day approached when Fortune should decide
  The important enterprise, and give the bride;
  For now the rivals round the world had sought,
  And each his number, well appointed, brought.
  The nations far and near contend in choice,
  And send the flower of war by public voice;
  That after or before were never known
  Such chiefs, as each an army seemed alone:
  Beside the champions, all of high degree,
  Who knighthood loved, and deeds of chivalry,
  Thronged to the lists, and envied to behold
  The names of others, not their own, enrolled.
  Nor seems it strange; for every noble knight
  Who loves the fair, and is endued with might,
  In such a quarrel would be proud to fight.
  There breathes not scarce a man on British ground
  (An isle for love and arms of old renowned)
  But would have sold his life to purchase fame,
  To Palamon or Arcite sent his name;
  And had the land selected of the best,
  Half had come hence, and let the world provide the rest.
  A hundred knights with Palamon there came,
  Approved in fight, and men of mighty name;
  Their arms were several, as their nations were,
  But furnished all alike with sword and spear.

  Some wore coat armour, imitating scale,
  And next their skins were stubborn shirts of mail;
  Some wore a breastplate and a light juppon,
  Their horses clothed with rich caparison;
  Some for defence would leathern bucklers use
  Of folded hides, and others shields of Pruce.
  One hung a pole-axe at his saddle-bow,
  And one a heavy mace to stun the foe;
  One for his legs and knees provided well,
  With jambeux armed, and double plates of steel;
  This on his helmet wore a lady's glove,
  And that a sleeve embroidered by his love.

  With Palamon above the rest in place,
  Lycurgus came, the surly king of Thrace;
  Black was his beard, and manly was his face
  The balls of his broad eyes rolled in his head,
  And glared betwixt a yellow and a red;
  He looked a lion with a gloomy stare,
  And o'er his eyebrows hung his matted hair;
  Big-boned and large of limbs, with sinews strong,
  Broad-shouldered, and his arms were round and long.
  Four milk-white bulls (the Thracian use of old)
  Were yoked to draw his car of burnished gold.
  Upright he stood, and bore aloft his shield,
  Conspicuous from afar, and overlooked the field.
  His surcoat was a bear-skin on his back;
  His hair hung long behind, and glossy raven-black.
  His ample forehead bore a coronet,
  With sparkling diamonds and with rubies set.
  Ten brace, and more, of greyhounds, snowy fair,
  And tall as stags, ran loose, and coursed around his chair,
  A match for pards in flight, in grappling for the bear;
  With golden muzzles all their mouths were bound,
  And collars of the same their necks surround.

  Thus through the fields Lycurgus took his way;
  His hundred knights attend in pomp and proud array.

  To match this monarch, with strong Arcite came
  Emetrius, king of Inde, a mighty name,
  On a bay courser, goodly to behold,
  The trappings of his horse embossed with barbarous gold.
  Not Mars bestrode a steed with greater grace;
  His surcoat o'er his arms was cloth of Thrace,
  Adorned with pearls, all orient, round, and great;
  His saddle was of gold, with emeralds set;
  His shoulders large a mantle did attire,
  With rubies thick, and sparkling as the fire;
  His amber-coloured locks in ringlets run,
  With graceful negligence, and shone against the sun.
  His nose was aquiline, his eyes were blue,
  Ruddy his lips, and fresh and fair his hue;
  Some sprinkled freckles on his face were seen,
  Whose dusk set off the whiteness of the skin.
  His awful presence did the crowd surprise,
  Nor durst the rash spectator meet his eyes;
  Eyes that confessed him born for kingly sway,
  So fierce, they flashed intolerable day.
  His age in nature's youthful prime appeared,
  And just began to bloom his yellow beard.
  Whene'er he spoke, his voice was heard around,
  Loud as a trumpet, with a silver sound;
  A laurel wreathed his temples, fresh, and green,
  And myrtle sprigs, the marks of love, were mixed between.
  Upon his fist he bore, for his delight,
  An eagle well reclaimed, and lily white.

  His hundred knights attend him to the war,
  All armed for battle; save their heads were bare.
  Words and devices blazed on every shield,
  And pleasing was the terror of the field.
  For kings, and dukes, and barons you might see,
  Like sparkling stars, though different in degree,
  All for the increase of arms, and love of chivalry.
  Before the king tame leopards led the way,
  And troops of lions innocently play.
  So Bacchus through the conquered Indies rode,
  And beasts in gambols frisked before their honest god.

  In this array the war of either side
  Through Athens passed with military pride.
  At prime, they entered on the Sunday morn;
  Rich tapestry spread the streets, and flowers the posts adorn.
  The town was all a jubilee of feasts;
  So Theseus willed in honour of his guests;
  Himself with open arms the kings embraced,
  Then all the rest in their degrees were graced.
  No harbinger was needful for the night,
  For every house was proud to lodge a knight.

  I pass the royal treat, nor must relate
  The gifts bestowed, nor how the champions sate;
  Who first, who last, or how the knights addressed
  Their vows, or who was fairest at the feast;
  Whose voice, whose graceful dance did most surprise,
  Soft amorous sighs, and silent love of eyes.
  The rivals call my Muse another way,
  To sing their vigils for the ensuing day.
  'Twas ebbing darkness, past the noon of night:
  And Phosphor, on the confines of the light,
  Promised the sun; ere day began to spring,
  The tuneful lark already stretched her wing,
  And flickering on her nest, made short essays to sing.

  When wakeful Palamon, preventing day,
  Took to the royal lists his early way,
  To Venus at her fane, in her own house, to pray.
  There, falling on his knees before her shrine,
  He thus implored with prayers her power divine:
  "Creator Venus, genial power of love,
  The bliss of men below, and gods above!
  Beneath the sliding sun thou runst thy race,
  Dost fairest shine, and best become thy place.
  For thee the winds their eastern blasts forbear,
  Thy month reveals the spring, and opens all the year.
  Thee, Goddess, thee the storms of winter fly;
  Earth smiles with flowers renewing, laughs the sky,
  And birds to lays of love their tuneful notes apply.
  For thee the lion loathes the taste of blood,
  And roaring hunts his female through the wood;
  For thee the bulls rebellow through the groves,
  And tempt the stream, and snuff their absent loves.
  'Tis thine, whate'er is pleasant, good, or fair;
  All nature is thy province, life thy care;
  Thou madest the world, and dost the world repair.
  Thou gladder of the mount of Cytheron,
  Increase of Jove, companion of the Sun,
  If e'er Adonis touched thy tender heart,
  Have pity, Goddess, for thou knowest the smart!
  Alas! I have not words to tell my grief;
  To vent my sorrow would be some relief;
  Light sufferings give us leisure to complain;
  We groan, but cannot speak, in greater pain.
  O Goddess, tell thyself what I would say!
  Thou knowest it, and I feel too much to pray.
  So grant my suit, as I enforce my might,
  In love to be thy champion and thy knight,
  A servant to thy sex, a slave to thee,
  A foe professed to barren chastity:
  Nor ask I fame or honour of the field,
  Nor choose I more to vanquish than to yield:
  In my divine Emilia make me blest,
  Let Fate or partial Chance dispose the rest:
  Find thou the manner, and the means prepare;
  Possession, more than conquest, is my care.
  Mars is the warrior's god; in him it lies
  On whom he favours to confer the prize;
  With smiling aspect you serenely move
  In your fifth orb, and rule the realm of love.
  The Fates but only spin the coarser clue,
  The finest of the wool is left for you:
  Spare me but one small portion of the twine,
  And let the Sisters cut below your line:
  The rest among the rubbish may they sweep,
  Or add it to the yarn of some old miser's heap.
  But if you this ambitious prayer deny,
  (A wish, I grant; beyond mortality,)
  Then let me sink beneath proud Arcite's arms,
  And, I once dead, let him possess her charms."

  Thus ended he; then, with observance due,
  The sacred incense on her altar threw:
  The curling smoke mounts heavy from the fires;
  At length it catches flame, and in a blaze expires;
  At once the gracious Goddess gave the sign,
  Her statue shook, and trembled all the shrine:
  Pleased Palamon the tardy omen took;
  For since the flames pursued the trailing smoke,
  He knew his boon was granted, but the day
  To distance driven, and joy adjourned with long delay.

  Now morn with rosy light had streaked the sky,
  Up rose the sun, and up rose Emily;
  Addressed her early steps to Cynthia's fane,
  In state attended by her maiden train,
  Who bore the vests that holy rites require,
  Incense, and odorous gums, and covered fire.
  The plenteous horns with pleasant mead they crown
  Nor wanted aught besides in honour of the Moon.
  Now, while the temple smoked with hallowed steam,
  They wash the virgin in a living stream;
  The secret ceremonies I conceal,
  Uncouth, perhaps unlawful to reveal:
  But such they were as pagan use required,
  Performed by women when the men retired,
  Whose eyes profane their chaste mysterious rites
  Might turn to scandal or obscene delights.
  Well-meaners think no harm; but for the rest,
  Things sacred they pervert, and silence is the best.
  Her shining hair, uncombed, was loosely spread,
  A crown of mastless oak adorned her head:
  When to the shrine approached, the spotless maid
  Had kindling fires on either altar laid;
  (The rites were such as were observed of old,
  By Statius in his Theban story told.)
  Then kneeling with her hands across her breast,
  Thus lowly she preferred her chaste request.

  "O Goddess, haunter of the woodland green,
  To whom both heaven and earth and seas are seen;
  Queen of the nether skies, where half the year
  Thy silver beams descend, and light the gloomy sphere;
  Goddess of maids, and conscious of our hearts,
  So keep me from the vengeance of thy darts,
  (Which Niobe's devoted issue felt,
  When hissing through the skies the feathered deaths
  were dealt,)

  "As I desire to live a virgin life,
  Nor know the name of mother or of wife.
  Thy votress from my tender years I am,
  And love, like thee, the woods and sylvan game.
  Like death, thou knowest, I loathe the nuptial state,
  And man, the tyrant of our sex, I hate,
  A lowly servant, but a lofty mate;
  Where love is duty on the female side,
  On theirs mere sensual gust, and sought with surly pride.
  Now by thy triple shape, as thou art seen
  In heaven, earth, hell, and everywhere a queen,
  Grant this my first desire; let discord cease,
  And make betwixt the rivals lasting peace:
  Quench their hot fire, or far from me remove
  The flame, and turn it on some other love;
  Or if my frowning stars have so decreed,
  That one must be rejected, one succeed,
  Make him my lord, within whose faithful breast
  Is fixed my image, and who loves me best.
  But oh! even that avert! I choose it not,
  But take it as the least unhappy lot.
  A maid I am, and of thy virgin train;
  Oh, let me still that spotless name retain!
  Frequent the forests, thy chaste will obey,
  And only make the beasts of chase my prey!"

  The flames ascend on either altar clear,
  While thus the blameless maid addressed her prayer.
  When lo! the burning fire that shone so bright
  Flew off, all sudden, with extinguished light,
  And left one altar dark, a little space,
  Which turned self-kindled, and renewed the blaze;
  That other victor-flame a moment stood,
  Then fell, and lifeless, left the extinguished wood;
  For ever lost, the irrevocable light
  Forsook the blackening coals, and sunk to night:
  At either end it whistled as it flew,
  And as the brands were green, so dropped the dew,
  Infected as it fell with sweat of sanguine hue.

  The maid from that ill omen turned her eyes,
  And with loud shrieks and clamours rent the skies;
  Nor knew what signified the boding sign,
  But found the powers displeased, and feared the wrath divine.

  Then shook the sacred shrine, and sudden light
  Sprung through the vaulted roof, and made the temple bright.
  The Power, behold! the Power in glory shone,
  By her bent bow and her keen arrows known;
  The rest, a huntress issuing from the wood,
  Reclining on her cornel spear she stood.
  Then gracious thus began: "Dismiss thy fear,
  And Heaven's unchanged decrees attentive hear:
  More powerful gods have torn thee from my side,
  Unwilling to resign, and doomed a bride;
  The two contending knights are weighed above;
  One Mars protects, and one the Queen of Love:
  But which the man is in the Thunderer's breast;
  This he pronounced, 'Tis he who loves thee best.'
  The fire that, once extinct, revived again
  Foreshows the love allotted to remain.
  Farewell!" she said, and vanished from the place;
  The sheaf of arrows shook, and rattled in the case.
  Aghast at this, the royal virgin stood,
  Disclaimed, and now no more a sister of the wood:
  But to the parting Goddess thus she prayed:
  "Propitious still, be present to my aid,
  Nor quite abandon your once favoured maid."
  Then sighing she returned; but smiled betwixt,
  With hopes, and fears, and joys with sorrows mixt.

  The next returning planetary hour
  of Mars, who shared the heptarchy of power,
  His steps bold Arcite to the temple bent,
  To adorn with pagan rites the power armipotent:
  Then prostrate, low before his altar lay,
  And raised his manly voice, and thus began, to pray:
  "Strong God of Arms, whose iron sceptre sways
  The freezing North, and Hyperborean seas,
  And Scythian colds, and Thracia's wintry coast,
  Where stand thy steeds, and thou art honoured most:
  There most, but everywhere thy power is known,
  The fortune of the fight is all thy own:
  Terror is thine, and wild amazement, flung
  From out thy chariot, withers even the strong;
  And disarray and shameful rout ensue,
  And force is added to the fainting crew.
  Acknowledged as thou art, accept my prayer!
  If aught I have achieved deserve thy care,
  If to my utmost power with sword and shield
  I dared the death, unknowing how to yield,
  And falling in my rank, still kept the field;
  Then let my arms prevail, by thee sustained,
  That Emily by conquest may be gained.
  Have pity on my pains; nor those unknown
  To Mars, which, when a lover, were his own.
  Venus, the public care of all above,
  Thy stubborn heart has softened into love:
  Now, by her blandishments and powerful charms,
  When yielded she lay curling in thy arms,
  Even by thy shame, if shame it may be called,
  When Vulcan had thee in his net enthralled;
  O envied ignominy, sweet disgrace,
  When every god that saw thee wished thy place!
  By those dear pleasures, aid my arms in fight,
  And make me conquer in my patron's right:
  For I am young, a novice in the trade,
  The fool of love, unpractised to persuade,
  And want the soothing arts that catch the fair,
  But, caught my self, lie struggling in the snare;
  And she I love or laughs at all my pain
  Or knows her worth too well, and pays me with disdain.
  For sure I am, unless I win in arms,
  To stand excluded from Emilia's charms:
  Nor can my strength avail, unless by thee
  Endued with force I gain the victory;
  Then for the fire which warmed thy generous heart,
  Pity thy subject's pains and equal smart.
  So be the morrow's sweat and labour mine,
  The palm and honour of the conquest thine:
  Then shall the war, and stern debate, and strife
  Immortal be the business of my life;
  And in thy fane, the dusty spoils among,
  High on the burnished roof, my banner shall be hung,
  Ranked with my champion's bucklers; and below,
  With arms reversed, the achievements of my foe;
  And while these limbs the vital spirit feeds,
  While day to night and night to day succeeds,
  Thy smoking altar shall be fat with food
  Of incense and the grateful steam of blood;
  Burnt-offerings morn and evening shall be thine,
  And fires eternal in thy temple shine.
  The bush of yellow beard, this length of hair,
  Which from my birth inviolate I bear,
  Guiltless of steel, and from the razor free,
  Shall fall a plenteous crop, reserved for thee.
  So may my arms with victory be blest,
  I ask no more; let Fate dispose the rest."

  The champion ceased; there followed in the close
  A hollow groan; a murmuring wind arose;
  The rings of iron, that on the doors were hung,
  Sent out a jarring sound, and harshly rung:
  The bolted gates blew open at the blast,
  The storm rushed in, and Arcite stood aghast:
  The flames were blown aside, yet shone they bright,
  Fanned by the wind, and gave a ruffled light.
  Then from the ground a scent began to rise,
  Sweet smelling as accepted sacrifice:
  This omen pleased, and as the flames aspire,
  With odorous incense Arcite heaps the fire:
  Nor wanted hymns to Mars or heathen charms:
  At length the nodding statue clashed his arms,
  And with a sullen sound and feeble cry,
  Half sunk and half pronounced the word of Victory.
  For this, with soul devout, he thanked the God,
  And, of success secure, returned to his abode.

  These vows, thus granted, raised a strife above
  Betwixt the God of War and Queen of Love.
  She, granting first, had right of time to plead;
  But he had granted too, nor would recede.
  Jove was for Venus, but he feared his wife,
  And seemed unwilling to decide the strife:
  Till Saturn from his leaden throne arose,
  And found a way the difference to compose:
  Though sparing of his grace, to mischief bent,
  He seldom does a good with good intent.
  Wayward, but wise; by long experience taught,
  To please both parties, for ill ends, he sought:
  For this advantage age from youth has won,
  As not to be outridden, though outrun.
  By fortune he was now to Venus trined,
  And with stern Mars in Capricorn was joined:
  Of him disposing in his own abode,
  He soothed the Goddess, while he gulled the God:
  "Cease, daughter, to complain, and stint the strife;
  Thy Palamon shall have his promised wife:
  And Mars, the lord of conquest, in the fight
  With palm and laurel shall adorn his knight.
  Wide is my course, nor turn I to my place,
  Till length of time, and move with tardy pace.
  Man feels me when I press the etherial plains;
  My hand is heavy, and the wound remains.
  Mine is the shipwreck in a watery sign;
  And in an earthy the dark dungeon mine.
  Cold shivering agues, melancholy care,
  And bitter blasting winds, and poisoned air,
  Are mine, and wilful death, resulting from despair.
  The throttling quinsey 'tis my star appoints,
  And rheumatisms I send to rack the joints:
  When churls rebel against their native prince,
  I arm their hands, and furnish the pretence;
  And housing in the lion's hateful sign,
  Bought senates and deserting troops are mine.
  Mine is the privy poisoning; I command
  Unkindly seasons and ungrateful land.
  By me kings' palaces are pushed to ground,
  And miners crushed beneath their mines are found.
  'Twas I slew Samson, when the pillared hall
  Fell down, and crushed the many with the fall.
  My looking is the sire of pestilence,
  That sweeps at once the people and the prince.
  Now weep no more, but trust thy grandsire's art,
  Mars shall be pleased, and thou perform thy part.
  'Tis ill, though different your complexions are,
  The family of Heaven for men should war."
  The expedient pleased, where neither lost his right;
  Mars had the day, and Venus had the night.
  The management they left to Chronos' care.
  Now turn we to the effect, and sing the war.

  In Athens all was pleasure, mirth, and play,
  All proper to the spring and sprightly May:
  Which every soul inspired with such delight,
  'Twas justing all the day, and love at night.
  Heaven smiled, and gladded was the heart of man;
  And Venus had the world as when it first began.
  At length in sleep their bodies they compose,
  And dreamt the future fight, and early rose.

  Now scarce the dawning day began to spring,
  As at a signal given, the streets with clamours ring:
  At once the crowd arose; confused and high,
  Even from the heaven was heard a shouting cry,
  For Mars was early up, and roused the sky.
  The gods came downward to behold the wars,
  Sharpening their sights, and leaning from their stars.
  The neighing of the generous horse was heard,
  For battle by the busy groom prepared:
  Rustling of harness, rattling of the shield,
  Clattering of armour, furbished for the field.
    Crowds to the castle mounted up the street;
  Battering the pavement with their coursers' feet:
  The greedy sight might there devour the gold
  Of glittering arms, too dazzling to behold:
  And polished steel that cast the view aside,
  And crested morions, with their plumy pride.
  Knights, with a long retinue of their squires,
  In gaudy liveries march, and quaint attires.
  One laced the helm, another held the lance;
  A third the shining buckler did advance.
  The courser pawed the ground with restless feet,
  And snorting foamed, and champed the golden bit.
  The smiths and armourers on palfreys ride,
  Files in their hands, and hammers at their side,
  And nails for loosened spears and thongs for shields provide.
  The yeomen guard the streets in seemly bands;
  And clowns come crowding on, with cudgels in their hands.

  The trumpets, next the gate, in order placed,
  Attend the sign to sound the martial blast:
  The palace yard is filled with floating tides,
  And the last comers bear the former to the sides.
  The throng is in the midst; the common crew
  Shut out, the hall admits the better few.
  In knots they stand, or in a rank they walk,
  Serious in aspect, earnest in their talk;
  Factious, and favouring this or t'other side,
  As their strong fancies and weak reason guide;
  Their wagers back their wishes; numbers hold
  With the fair freckled king, and beard of gold:
  So vigorous are his eyes, such rays they cast,
  So prominent his eagle's beak is placed.
  But most their looks on the black monarch bend;
  His rising muscles and his brawn commend;
  His double-biting axe, and beamy spear,
  Each asking a gigantic force to rear.
  All spoke as partial favour moved the mind;
  And, safe themselves, at others' cost divined.

  Waked by the cries, the Athenian chief arose,
  The knightly forms of combat to dispose;
  And passing through the obsequious guards, he sate
  Conspicuous on a throne, sublime in state;
  There, for the two contending knights he sent;
  Armed cap-a-pie, with reverence low they bent;
  He smiled on both, and with superior look
  Alike their offered adoration took.
  The people press on every side to see
  Their awful Prince, and hear his high decree.
  Then signing to their heralds with his hand,
  They gave his orders from their lofty stand.
  Silence is thrice enjoined; then thus aloud
  The king-at-arms bespeaks the knights and listening crowd:
  "Our sovereign lord has pondered in his mind
  The means to spare the blood of gentle kind;
  And of his grace and inborn clemency
  He modifies his first severe decree,
  The keener edge of battle to rebate,
  The troops for honour fighting, not for hate.
  He wills, not death should terminate their strife,
  And wounds, if wounds ensue, be short of life;
  But issues, ere the fight, his dread command,
  That slings afar, and poniards hand to hand,
  Be banished from the field; that none shall dare
  With shortened sword to stab in closer war;
  But in fair combat fight with manly strength,
  Nor push with biting point, but strike at length.
  The turney is allowed but one career
  Of the tough ash, with the sharp-grinded spear;
  But knights unhorsed may rise from off the plain,
  And fight on foot their honour to regain;
  Nor, if at mischief taken, on the ground
  Be slain, but prisoners to the pillar bound,
  At either barrier placed; nor, captives made,
  Be freed, or armed anew the fight invade:
  The chief of either side, bereft of life,
  Or yielded to his foe, concludes the strife.
  Thus dooms the lord: now valiant knights and young,
  Fight each his fill, with swords and maces long."

  The herald ends: the vaulted firmament
  With loud acclaims and vast applause is rent:
  Heaven guard a Prince so gracious and so good,
  So just, and yet so provident of blood!
  This was the general cry. The trumpets sound,
  And warlike symphony is heard around.
  The marching troops through Athens take their way,
  The great Earl-marshal orders their array.
  The fair from high the passing pomp behold;
  A rain of flowers is from the window rolled.
  The casements are with golden tissue spread,
  And horses' hoofs, for earth, on silken tapestry tread.
  The King goes midmost, and the rivals ride
  In equal rank, and close his either side.
  Next after these there rode the royal wife,
  With Emily, the cause and the reward of strife.
  The following cavalcade, by three and three,
  Proceed by titles marshalled in degree.
  Thus through the southern gate they take their way,
  And at the list arrived ere prime of day.
  There, parting from the King, the chiefs divide,
  And wheeling east and west, before their many ride.
  The Athenian monarch mounts his throne on high,
  And after him the Queen and Emily:
  Next these, the kindred of the crown are graced
  With nearer seats, and lords by ladies placed.
  Scarce were they seated, when with clamours loud
  In rushed at once a rude promiscuous crowd,
  The guards, and then each other overbare,
  And in a moment throng the spacious theatre.
  Now changed the jarring noise to whispers low,
  As winds forsaking seas more softly blow,
  When at the western gate, on which the car
  Is placed aloft that bears the God of War,
  Proud Arcite entering armed before his train
  Stops at the barrier, and divides the plain.
  Red was his banner, and displayed abroad
  The bloody colours of his patron god.

  At that self moment enters Palamon
  The gate of Venus, and the rising Sun;
  Waved by the wanton winds, his banner flies,
  All maiden white, and shares the people's eyes.
  From east to west, look all the world around,
  Two troops so matched were never to be found;
  Such bodies built for strength, of equal age,
  In stature sized; so proud an equipage:
  The nicest eye could no distinction make,
  Where lay the advantage, or what side to take.

  Thus ranged, the herald for the last proclaims
  A silence, while they answered to their names:
  For so the king decreed, to shun with care
  The fraud of musters false, the common bane of war.
  The tale was just, and then the gates were closed;
  And chief to chief, and troop to troop opposed.
  The heralds last retired, and loudly cried,
  "The fortune of the field be fairly tried!"

  At this the challenger, with fierce defy,
  His trumpet sounds; the challenged makes reply:
  With clangour rings the field, resounds the vaulted sky.
  Their vizors closed, their lances in the rest,
  Or at the helmet pointed or the crest,
  They vanish from the barrier, speed the race,
  And spurring see decrease the middle space.
  A cloud of smoke envelopes either host,
  And all at once the combatants are lost:
  Darkling they join adverse, and shock unseen,
  Coursers with coursers justling, men with men:
  As labouring in eclipse, a while they stay,
  Till the next blast of wind restores the day.
  They look anew: the beauteous form of fight
  Is changed, and war appears a grisly sight.
  Two troops in fair array one moment showed,
  The next, a field with fallen bodies strowed:
  Not half the number in their seats are found;
  But men and steeds lie grovelling on the ground.
  The points of spears are stuck within the shield,
  The steeds without their riders scour the field.
  The knights unhorsed, on foot renew the fight;
  The glittering fauchions cast a gleaming light;
  Hauberks and helms are hewed with many a wound,
  Out spins the streaming blood, and dyes the ground.
  The mighty maces with such haste descend,
  They break the bones, and make the solid armour bend.
  This thrusts amid the throng with furious force;
  Down goes, at once, the horseman and the horse:
  That courser stumbles on the fallen steed,
  And, floundering, throws the rider o'er his head.
  One rolls along, a football to his foes;
  One with a broken truncheon deals his blows.
  This halting, this disabled with his wound,
  In triumph led, is to the pillar bound,
  Where by the king's award he must abide:
  There goes a captive led on t'other side.
  By fits they cease, and leaning on the lance,
  Take breath a while, and to new fight advance.

  Full oft the rivals met, and neither spared
  His utmost force, and each forgot to ward:
  The head of this was to the saddle bent,
  The other backward to the crupper sent:
  Both were by turns unhorsed; the jealous blows
  Fall thick and heavy, when on foot they close.
  So deep their fauchions bite, that every stroke
  Pierced to the quick; and equal wounds they gave and took.
  Borne far asunder by the tides of men,
  Like adamant and steel they met agen.

  So when a tiger sucks the bullock's blood,
  A famished lion issuing from the wood
  Roars lordly fierce, and challenges the food.
  Each claims possession, neither will obey,
  But both their paws are fastened on the prey;
  They bite, they tear; and while in vain they strive,
  The swains come armed between, and both to distance drive.
  At length, as Fate foredoomed, and all things tend
  By course of time to their appointed end;
  So when the sun to west was far declined,
  And both afresh in mortal battle joined,
  The strong Emetrius came in Arcite's aid,
  And Palamon with odds was overlaid:
  For, turning short, he struck with all his might
  Full on the helmet of the unwary knight.
  Deep was the wound; he staggered with the blow,
  And turned him to his unexpected foe;
  Whom with such force he struck, he felled him down,
  And cleft the circle of his golden crown.
  But Arcite's men, who now prevailed in fight,
  Twice ten at once surround the single knight:
  O'erpowered at length, they force him to the ground,
  Unyielded as he was, and to the pillar bound;
  And king Lycurgus, while he fought in vain
  His friend to free, was tumbled on the plain.

  Who now laments but Palamon, compelled
  No more to try the fortune of the field,
  And, worse than death, to view with hateful eyes
  His rival's conquest, and renounce the prize!

  The royal judge on his tribunal placed,
  Who had beheld the fight from first to last,
  Bade cease the war; pronouncing from on high,
  Arcite of Thebes had won the beauteous Emily.
  The sound of trumpets to the voice replied,
  And round the royal lists the heralds cried,
  "Arcite of Thebes has won the beauteous bride!"

  The people rend the skies with vast applause;
  All own the chief, when Fortune owns the cause.
  Arcite is owned even by the gods above,
  And conquering Mars insults the Queen of Love.
  So laughed he when the rightful Titan failed,
  And Jove's usurping arms in heaven prevailed.
  Laughed all the powers who favour tyranny,
  And all the standing army of the sky.
  But Venus with dejected eyes appears.
  And weeping on the lists distilled her tears;
  Her will refused, which grieves a woman most,
  And, in her champion foiled, the cause of Love is lost.
  Till Saturn said:—"Fair daughter, now be still,
  "The blustering fool has satisfied his will;
  His boon is given; his knight has gained the day,
  But lost the prize; the arrears are yet to pay.
  Thy hour is come, and mine the care shall be
  To please thy knight, and set thy promise free."

  Now while the heralds run the lists around,
  And Arcite! Arcite! heaven and earth resound,
  A miracle (nor less it could be called)
  Their joy with unexpected sorrow palled.
  The victor knight had laid his helm aside,
  Part for his ease, the greater part for pride:
  Bareheaded, popularly low he bowed,
  And paid the salutations of the crowd;
  Then spurring, at full speed, ran headlong on
  Where Theseus sat on his imperial throne;
  Furious he drove, and upward cast his eye,
  Where, next the Queen, was placed his Emily;
  Then passing, to the saddle-bow he bent;
  A sweet regard the gracious virgin lent;
  (For women, to the brave an easy prey,
  Still follow Fortune, where she leads the way:)
  Just then from earth sprung out a flashing fire,
  By Pluto sent, at Saturn's bad desire:
  The startling steed was seized with sudden fright,
  And, bounding, o'er the pummel cast the knight;
  Forward he flew, and pitching on his head,
  He quivered with his feet, and lay for dead.

  Black was his countenance in a little space,
  For all the blood was gathered in his face.
  Help was at hand: they reared him from the ground,
  And from his cumbrous arms his limbs unbound;
  Then lanced a vein, and watched returning breath;
  It came, but clogged with symptoms of his death.
  The saddle-bow the noble parts had prest,
  All bruised and mortified his manly breast.
  Him still entranced, and in a litter laid,
  They bore from field, and to his bed conveyed.
  At length he waked; and, with a feeble cry,
  The word he first pronounced was Emily.

  Mean time the King, though inwardly he mourned,
  In pomp triumphant to the town returned,
  Attended by the chiefs who fought the field,
  (Now friendly mixed, and in one troop compelled;)
  Composed his looks to counterfeited cheer,
  And bade them not for Arcite's life to fear.
  But that which gladded all the warrior train,
  Though most were sorely wounded, none were slain.
  The surgeons soon despoiled them of their arms,
  And some with salves they cure, and some with charms;
  Foment the bruises, and the pains assuage,
  And heal their inward hurts with sovereign draughts of sage.
  The King in person visits all around,
  Comforts the sick, congratulates the sound;
  Honours the princely chiefs, rewards the rest,
  And holds for thrice three days a royal feast.
  None was disgraced; for falling is no shame,
  And cowardice alone is loss of fame.
  The venturous knight is from the saddle thrown,
  But 'tis the fault of fortune, not his own;
  If crowds and palms the conquering side adorn,
  The victor under better stars was born:

  The brave man seeks not popular applause,
  Nor, overpowered with arms, deserts his canse;
  Unshamed, though foiled, he does the best he can:
  Force is of brutes, but honour is of man.

  Thus Theseus smiled on all with equal grace,
  And each was set according to his place;
  With ease were reconciled the differing parts,
  For envy never dwells in noble hearts.
  At length they took their leave, the time expired,
  Well pleased, and to their several homes retired.

  Mean while, the health of Arcite still impairs;
  From bad proceeds to worse, and mocks the leech's cares;
  Swoln is his breast; his inward pains increase;
  All means are used, and all without success.
  The clottered blood lies heavy on his heart,
  Corrupts, and there remains in spite of art;
  Nor breathing veins nor cupping will prevail;
  All outward remedies and inward fail.
  The mould of nature's fabric is destroyed,
  Her vessels discomposed, her virtue void:
  The bellows of his lungs begins to swell;
  All out of frame is every secret cell,
  Nor can the good receive, nor bad expel.
  Those breathing organs, thus within opprest,
  With venom soon distend the sinews of his breast.
  Nought profits him to save abandoned life,
  Nor vomit's upward aid, nor downward laxative.
  The midmost region battered and destroyed,
  When nature cannot work, the effect of art is void:
  For physic can but mend our crazy state,
  Patch an old building, not a new create.
  Arcite is doomed to die in all his pride,
  Must leave his youth, and yield his beauteous bride,
  Gained hardly against right, and unenjoyed.

  When 'twas declared all hope of life was past,
  Conscience, that of all physic works the last,
  Caused him to send for Emily in haste.
  With her, at his desire, came Palamon;
  Then, on his pillow raised, he thus begun:
  "No language can express the smallest part
  Of what I feel, and suffer in my heart,
  For you, whom best I love and value most;
  But to your service I bequeath my ghost;
  Which, from this mortal body when untied,
  Unseen, unheard, shall hover at your side;
  Nor fright you waking, nor your sleep offend,
  But wait officious, and your steps attend.
  How I have loved, excuse my faltering tongue,
  My spirit's feeble, and my pains are strong:
  This I may say, I only grieve to die,
  Because I lose my charming Emily.
  To die, when Heaven had put you in my power!
  Fate could not choose a more malicious hour.
  What greater curse could envious Fortune give,
  Than just to die when I began to live!
  Vain men! how vanishing a bliss we crave;
  Now warm in love, now withering in the grave!
  Never, O never more to see the sun!
  Still dark, in a damp vault, and still alone!
  This fate is common; but I lose my breath
  Near bliss, and yet not blessed before my death.
  Farewell! but take me dying in your arms;
  'Tis all I can enjoy of all your charms:
  This hand I cannot but in death resign;
  Ah, could I live! but while I live 'tis mine.
  I feel my end approach, and thus embraced
  Am pleased to die; but hear me speak my last:
  Ah, my sweet foe! for you, and you alone,
  I broke my faith with injured Palamon.
  But love the sense of right and wrong confounds;
  Strong love and proud ambition have no bounds.
  And much I doubt, should Heaven my life prolong,
  I should return to justify my wrong;
  For while my former flames remain within,
  Repentance is but want of power to sin.
  With mortal hatred I pursued his life,
  Nor he nor you were guilty of the strife;
  Nor I, but as I loved; yet all combined,
  Your beauty and my impotence of mind,
  And his concurrent flame that blew my fire,
  For still our kindred souls had one desire.
  He had a moment's right in point of time;
  Had I seen first, then his had been the crime.
  Fate made it mine, and justified his right;
  Nor holds this earth a more deserving knight
  For virtue, valour, and for noble blood,
  Truth, honour, all that is comprised in good;
  So help me Heaven, in all the world is none
  So worthy to be loved as Palamon.
  He loves you too, with such a holy fire,
  As will not, cannot, but with life expire:
  Our vowed affections both have often tried,
  Nor any love but yours could ours divide.
  Then, by my love's inviolable band,
  By my long suffering and my short command,
  If e'er you plight your vows when I am gone,
  Have pity on the faithful Palamon."
  This was his last; for Death came on amain,
  And exercised below his iron reign;
  Then upward to the seat of life he goes;
  Sense fled before him, what he touched he froze:
  Yet could he not his closing eyes withdraw,
  Though less and less of Emily he saw;
  So, speechless, for a little space he lay;
  Then grasped the hand he held, and sighed his soul away.

  But whither went his soul? let such relate
  Who search the secrets of the future state:
  Divines can say but what themselves believe;
  Strong proofs they have, but not demonstrative;
  For, were all plain, then all sides must agree,
  And faith itself be lost in certainty.
  To live uprightly then is sure the best;
  To save ourselves, and not to damn the rest.
  The soul of Arcite went where heathens go,
  Who better live than we, though less they know.

  In Palamon a manly grief appears;
  Silent he wept, ashamed to show his tears.
  Emilia shrieked but once; and then, opprest
  With sorrow, sunk upon her lover's breast:
  Till Theseus in his arms conveyed with care
  Far from so sad a sight the swooning fair.
  'Twere loss of time her sorrow to relate;
  Ill bears the sex a youthful lover's fate,
  When just approaching to the nuptial state:
  But, like a low-hung cloud, it rains so fast,
  That all at once it falls, and cannot last.
  The face of things is changed, and Athens now
  That laughed so late, becomes the scene of woe.
  Matrons and maids, both sexes, every state,
  With tears lament the knight's untimely fate.
  Not greater grief in falling Troy was seen
  For Hector's death; but Hector was not then.
  Old men with dust deformed their hoary hair;
  The women beat their breasts, their cheeks they tear.
  "Why wouldst thou go," with one consent they cry,
  When thou hadst gold enough, and Emily?"
  Theseus himself, who should have cheered the grief
  Of others, wanted now the same relief:
  Old ∆geus only could revive his son,
  Who various changes of the world had known,
  And strange vicissitudes of human fate,
  Still altering, never in a steady state:
  Good after ill and after pain delight,
  Alternate, like the scenes of day and night.
  Since every man who lives is born to die,
  And none can boast sincere felicity,
  With equal mind, what happens, let us bear,
  Nor joy, nor grieve too much for things beyond our care.
  Like pilgrims to the appointed place we tend;
  The world's an inn, and death the journey's end.
  Even kings but play, and when their part is done,
  Some other, worse or better, mount the throne.
  With words like these the crowd was satisfied;
  And so they would have been, had Theseus died.
  But he, their King, was labouring in his mind
  A fitting place for funeral pomps to find,
  Which were in honour of the dead designed.
  And, after long debate, at last he found
  (As Love itself had marked the spot of ground,)
  That grove for ever green, that conscious laund,
  Where he with Palamon fought hand to hand;
  That, where he fed his amorous desires
  With soft complaints, and felt his hottest fires,
  There other flames might waste his earthly part,
  And burn his limbs, where love had burned his heart.

  This once resolved, the peasants were enjoined
  Sere-wood, and firs, and doddered oaks to find.
  With sounding axes to the grove they go,
  Fell, split, and lay the fuel in a row;
  Vulcanian food: a bier is next prepared,
  On which the lifeless body should be reared,
  Covered with cloth of gold; on which was laid
  The corps of Arcite, in like robes arrayed.
  White gloves were on his hands, and on his head
  A wreath of laurel, mixed with myrtle, spread.
  A sword keen-edged within his right he held,
  The warlike emblem of the conquered field:
  Bare was his manly visage on the bier;
  Menaced his countenance, even in death severe.
  Then to the palace-hall they bore the knight,
  To lie in solemn state, a public sight:
  Groans, cries, and bowlings fill the crowded place,
  And unaffected sorrow sat on every face.
  Sad Palamon above the rest appears,
  In sable garments, dewed with gushing tears;
  His auburn locks on either shoulder flowed,
  Which to the funeral of his friend he vowed;
  But Emily, as chief, was next his side,
  A virgin-widow and a mourning bride.
  And, that the princely obsequies might be
  Performed according to his high degree,
  The steed, that bore him living to the fight,
  Was trapped with polished steel, all shining bright,
  And covered with the atchievements of the knight.
  The riders rode abreast; and one his shield,
  His lance of cornel-wood another held;
  The third his bow, and, glorious to behold,
  The costly quiver, all of burnished gold.
  The noblest of the Grecians next appear,
  And weeping on their shoulders bore the bier;
  With sober pace they marched, and often stayed,
  And through the master-street the corps conveyed.
  The houses to their tops with black were spread,
  And even the pavements were with mourning hid.
  The right side of the pall old ∆geus kept,
  And on the left the royal Theseus wept;
  Each bore a golden bowl of work divine,
  With honey filled, and milk, and mixed with ruddy wine.
  Then Palamon, the kinsman of the slain,
  And after him appeared the illustrious train.
  To grace the pomp came Emily the bright,
  With covered fire, the funeral pile to light.
  With high devotion was the service made,
  And all the rites of pagan honour paid:
  So lofty was the pile, a Parthian bow,
  With vigour drawn, must send the shaft below.
  The bottom was full twenty fathom broad,
  With crackling straw, beneath in due proportion strowed.
  The fabric seemed a wood of rising green,
  With sulphur and bitumen cast between
  To feed the flames: the trees were unctuous fir,
  And mountain-ash, the mother of the spear;
  The mourner-yew and builder-oak were there,
  The beech, the swimming alder, and the plane,
  Hard box, and linden of a softer grain,
  And laurels, which the gods for conquering chiefs ordain.
  How they were ranked shall rest untold by me,
  With nameless Nymphs that lived in every tree;
  Nor how the Dryads and the woodland train,
  Disherited, ran howling o'er the plain:
  Nor how the birds to foreign seats repaired,
  Or beasts that bolted out and saw the forests bared:
  Nor how the ground now cleared with ghastly fright
  Beheld the sudden sun, a stranger to the light.

  The straw, as first I said, was laid below:
  Of chips and sere-wood was the second row;
  The third of greens, and timber newly felled;
  The fourth high stage the fragrant odours held,
  And pearls, and precious stones, and rich array;
  In midst of which, embalmed, the body lay.
  The service sung, the maid with mourning eyes
  The stubble fired; the smouldering flames arise:
  This office done, she sunk upon the ground;
  But what she spoke, recovered from her swound,
  I want the wit in moving words to dress;
  But by themselves the tender sex may guess.
  While the devouring fire was burning fast,
  Rich jewels in the flame the wealthy cast;
  And some their shields, and some their lances threw,
  And gave the warrior's ghost a warrior's due.
  Full bowls of wine, of honey, milk and blood
  Were poured upon the pile of burning wood,
  And hissing flames receive, and hungry lick the food.
  Then thrice the mounted squadrons ride around
  The fire, and Arcite's name they thrice resound:
  "Hail and farewell!" they shouted thrice amain,
  Thrice facing to the left, and thrice they turned again:
  Still, as they turned, they beat their clattering shields;
  The women mix their cries, and clamour fills the fields.
  The warlike wakes continued all the night,
  And funeral games were played at new returning light:
  Who naked wrestled best, besmeared with oil,
  Or who with gauntlets gave or took the foil,
  I will not tell you, nor would you attend;
  But briefly haste to my long story's end.

  I pass the rest; the year was fully mourned,
  And Palamon long since to Thebes returned:
  When, by the Grecians' general consent,
  At Athens Theseus held his parliament;
  Among the laws that passed, it was decreed,
  That conquered Thebes from bondage should be freed;
  Reserving homage to the Athenian throne,
  To which the sovereign summoned Palamon.
  Unknowing of the cause, he took his way,
  Mournful in mind, and still in black array.

  The monarch mounts the throne, and, placed on high,
  Commands into the court the beauteous Emily.
  So called, she came; the senate rose, and paid
  Becoming reverence to the royal maid.
  And first, soft whispers through the assembly went;
  With silent wonder then they watched the event;
  All hushed, the King arose with awful grace;
  Deep thought was in his breast, and counsel in his face:
  At length he sighed, and having first prepared
  The attentive audience, thus his will declared:

  "The Cause and Spring of motion from above
  Hung down on earth the golden chain of Love;
  Great was the effect, and high was his intent,
  When peace among the jarring seeds he sent;
  Fire, flood, and earth and air by this were bound,
  And Love, the common link, the new creation crowned.
  The chain still holds; for though the forms decay,
  Eternal matter never wears away:
  The same first mover certain bounds has placed,
  How long those perishable forms shall last;
  Nor can they last beyond the time assigned
  By that all-seeing and all-making Mind:
  Shorten their hours they may, for will is free,
  But never pass the appointed destiny.
  So men oppressed, when weary of their breath,
  Throw off the burden, and suborn their death.
  Then, since those forms begin, and have their end,
  On some unaltered cause they sure depend:
  Parts of the whole are we, but God the whole,
  Who gives us life, and animating soul.
  For Nature cannot from a part derive
  "That being which the whole can only give:
  He perfect, stable; but imperfect we,
  Subject to change, and different in degree;
  Plants, beasts, and man; and, as our organs are,
  We more or less of his perfection share.
  But, by a long descent, the etherial fire
  Corrupts; and forms, the mortal part, expire.
  As he withdraws his virtue, so they pass,
  And the same matter makes another mass:
  This law the omniscient Power was pleased to give,
  That every kind should by succession live;
  That individuals die, his will ordains;
  The propagated species still remains.
  The monarch oak, the patriarch of the trees,
  Shoots rising up, and spreads by slow degrees;
  Three centuries he grows, and three he stays,
  Supreme in state, and in three more decays:
  So wears the paving pebble in the street,
  And towns and towers their fatal periods meet:
  So rivers, rapid once, now naked lie,
  Forsaken of their springs, and leave their channels dry.
  So man, at first a drop, dilates with heat,
  Then, formed, the little heart begins to beat;
  Secret he feeds, unknowing, in the cell;
  At length, for hatching ripe, he breaks the shell,
  And struggles into breath, and cries for aid;
  Then helpless in his mother's lap is laid.
  He creeps, he walks, and, issuing into man,
  Grudges their life from whence his own began;
  Reckless of laws, affects to rule alone,
  Anxious to reign, and restless on the throne;
  First vegetive, then feels, and reasons last;
  Rich of three souls, and lives all three to waste.
  Some thus; but thousands more in flower of age,
  For few arrive to run the latter stage.
  Sunk in the first, in battle some are slain,
  And others whelmed beneath the stormy main.
  What makes all this, but Jupiter the king,
  At whose command we perish, and we spring?
  Then 'tis our best, since thus ordained to die,
  To make a virtue of necessity;
  Take what he gives, since to rebel is vain;
  The bad grows better, which we well sustain;
  And could we choose the time, and choose aright,
  'Tis best to die, our honour at the height.
  When we have done our ancestors no shame,
  But served our friends, and well secured our fame;
  Then should we wish our happy life to close,
  And leave no more for fortune to dispose;
  So should we make our death a glad relief
  From future shame, from sickness, and from grief;
  Enjoying while we live the present hour,
  And dying in our excellence and flower.
  Then round our death-bed every friend should run,
  And joy us of our conquest early won;
  While the malicious world, with envious tears,
  Should grudge our happy end, and wish it theirs.
  Since then our Arcite is with honour dead,
  Why should we mourn, that he so soon is freed,
  Or call untimely what the gods decreed?
  With grief as just a friend may be deplored,
  From a foul prison to free air restored.
  Ought he to thank his kinsman or his wife,
  Could tears recall him into wretched life?
  Their sorrow hurts themselves; on him is lost,
  And worse than both, offends his happy ghost.
  What then remains, but after past annoy
  To take the good vicissitude of joy;
  To thank the gracious gods for what they give,
  Possess our souls, and, while we live, to live?
  Ordain we then two sorrows to combine,
  And in one point the extremes of grief to join;
  That thence resulting joy may be renewed,
  As jarring notes in harmony conclude.
  Then I propose that Palamon shall be
  In marriage joined with beauteous Emily;
  For which already I have gained the assent
  Of my free people in full parliament.
  Long love to her has borne the faithful knight,
  And well deserved, had Fortune done him right:
  'Tis time to mend her fault, since Emily
  By Arcite's death from former vows is free;
  If you, fair sister, ratify the accord,
  And take him for your husband and your lord,
  'Tis no dishonour to confer your grace
  On one descended from a royal race;
  And were he less, yet years of service past
  From grateful souls exact reward at last.
  Pity is Heaven's and yours; nor can she find
  A throne so soft as in a woman's mind."

  He said; she blushed; and as o'erawed by might,
  Seemed to give Theseus what she gave the knight.
  Then, turning to the Theban, thus he said:

  "Small arguments are needful to persuade
  Your temper to comply with my command:"

  And speaking thus, he gave Emilia's hand.
  Smiled Venus, to behold her own true knight.
  Obtain the conquest, though he lost the fight;
  And blessed with nuptial bliss the sweet laborious night.
  Eros and Anteros on either side,
  One fired the bridegroom, and one warmed the bride;
  And long-attending Hymen from above

  Showered on the bed the whole Idalian grove.
  All of a tenor was their after-life,
  No day discoloured with domestic strife;
  No jealousy, but mutual truth believed,
  Secure repose, and kindness undeceived.
  Thus Heaven, beyond the compass of his thought,
  Sent him the blessing he so dearly bought.

  So may the Queen of Love long duty bless,
  And all true lovers find the same success.



Her Grace the Duchess of Ormond was by birth Lady Margaret Somerset. Her husband, to whom Dryden dedicated the volume of the Fables, was one of King William's supporters. He had been with him at the Battle of the Boyne, in the war on the Continent, had received marked evidences of his favor, and stood by his bedside at his death.

1 1. The bard. Chaucer, whose Knight's Tale, paraphrased as Palamon and Arcite, Dryden dedicated in these verses.

1 10. An Alexandrine, i.e., a verse of six accented syllables instead of five.

1 14. Plantagenet. The surname of the royal family of England from Henry II. to Richard III.

1 18. noblest order. The Order of the Garter, which is the highest order of knighthood in Great Britain, was founded by Edward III. about 1348.

2 21, 22, 23. A triplet, i.e., three successive verses with the same rhyme; one device of Dryden's to avoid monotony.

2 29. Platonic year. A great cycle of years, at the end of which it was supposed that the celestial bodies will occupy the same positions as at the creation.

2 42. westward. The Duchess' visit to Ireland.

2 43. benighted Britain. Deprived of the light of her Grace's presence.

2 44. Triton. A son of Neptune, generally represented with the body of a man and the tail of a fish. His duty was to calm the sea by a blast on his conch-shell horn.

2 45. Nereids. Nymphs of the sea as distinguished from the Naiads, nymphs of streams and lakes.

2 46. Etesian gale. The Etesian winds were any steady periodical winds.

2 48. Portunus. A lesser sea-god, more particularly the harbor-god.

2 51, 52. In these verses Dryden shows us that he had not shaken off entirely the conceits of his early verse.

2 53. Hibernia. Ireland.

2 56. His father and his grandsire. Ormond's father was the gallant Earl of Ossory, and his grandsire, the first Duke of Ormond, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the famous supporter of the Stuart cause.

3 58. Kerns. The Irish peasantry.

3 63. Venus is the promise of the sun. Venus, as morning star, is visible in the east just before sunrise.

3 65. Pales. A Roman divinity of flocks and shepherds. Ceres. The goddess of agriculture.

3 67. three campaigns. The Jacobites had found sympathy in Ireland and made a stand there. Vigorous efforts were made by William to dislodge them and subjugate the island; but years passed before civil strife was ended and peace restored.

3 72. relics of mankind. The human beings preserved in the ark, all that was left of mankind after the flood.

3 82, 83. Dryden copies Virgil's golden age,Eclogue IV., 39, 40.

3 87. venom never known. This refers to the absence of reptiles in Ireland.

4 102. New from her sickness. Recently recovered from a serious illness.

4 117. four ingredients. Earth, air, fire, water, then supposed to be the elements of all created substances.

5 125. young Vespasian. Titus Vespasianus, the conqueror of Jerusalem, was so impressed by the beauty of the Temple that he wept as it was destroyed.

5 128. A most detested act of gratitude. The elegy which the danger of her death rendered imminent. Detested because the occasion for the act would fill him with grief.

5 131. Morley. A celebrated physician of the seventeenth century.

S 133. Macedon. Thessalus, the son of Hippocrates, a famous physician of antiquity, who resided at the Macedonian court.

5 134. Ptolemy. One of Alexander the Great's generals, who became, after the great conqueror's death, the ruler of Egypt.

5 138. you. Used here as a noun.

5 151. daughter of the rose. The Duchess of Ormond was a descendant of Somerset, who plucked the red rose in the Temple garden when Plantagenet plucked the white,—an incident which badged the houses of York and Lancaster during the War of the Roses.

5 158. Penelope. The wife of Ulysses, during the long years of her lord's absence, steadfastly withstood the persuasions of suitors, and remained true to her husband.

6 162. Ascanius. The son of Aeneas. Elissa. Another name for Dido. It is Andromache, not Dido, who in Virgil's narrative presents Ascanius with the elaborately embroidered mantle. Aeneid, Bk. III., 483, etc.

6 168. wear the garter. Become a Knight of the Garter.


7 2. Theseus. A legendary hero of Greece, son of Aegeus. He freed Athens from human tribute to the Cretan Minotaur, with the assistance of Ariadne, whom he deserted. Succeeded Aegeus as king of Athens. Expedition against the Amazons resulted in a victory for him, and he married their queen, Antiope, not Hippolyta, as in Chaucer, Shakspere, and Dryden. He joined in Caledonian hunt, fought the Centaurs, attempted to carry off Proserpina for Pirithous. On his return found his kingdom usurped, and, retiring to Scyros, was treacherously killed by Lycomedes.

7 7. warrior queen. Hippolyta, daughter of Mars, queen of the Amazons, here confused with her sister Antiope, whom legend makes the bride of Theseus.

7 21. spousals. Espousal, marriage.

7 22. tilts and turneys. Notice the anachronism of the transfer of the mediaeval sport to legendary Greece. Dryden follows Chaucer's general method, though here the elder poet makes no such statement.

8 29. accidents. Happenings, literal derivation from accidere, to happen.

8 31. enjoined us by mine host. The host of the Tabard, whence Chaucer led his Canterbury pilgrims, had proposed that each member of the company tell two stories on the way to Canterbury, and two on the return, and that the best narrator should receive a supper at the expense of the others. The plan was not fulfilled, but such stories as were told form Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

8 50. weeds. Garments, not restricted to mourning garments.

9 76. Capaneus. One of the seven heroes who marched from Argos (not Athens) against Thebes. He defied Jupiter and was struck by lightning as he was scaling the walls. His wife, Evadne, leaped into the flames ahd perished. In presenting her here, Dryden followed Chaucer.

9 81. Creon. King of Thebes, surrendered the city to Aedipus, who had freed it from the sphinx, resumed rule after death of Aedipus' sons, killed by his son Haeemon for cruelty to Antigone, daughter of Aedipus.

10 116. Minotaur. A monster lurking in the labyrinth of Crete, which devoured the tribute of seven youths and seven maidens sent by Athens every ninth year. It was slain by Theseus.

11 150. An Alexandrine verse.

11 160. An Alexandrine verse.

12 165. An Alexandrine verse.

12 169. morn of cheerful May. The conventional month for love in the old poets. Dryden followed Chaucer.

12 186. Aurora. Goddess of the morning-red. Each morning she rose from the couch of Tithonus, and drove swiftly from Oceanus to Olympus to announce to gods and mortals the coming of day.

13 199. Philomel. Nightingale. Philomela, dishonored by her brother-in-law, was changed to a nightingale.

13 214. hateful eyes. Eyes full of hate.

14 245. horoscope. A diagram of the heavens by which astrologers calculated nativities. Dryden resembled Chaucer in his belief in astrology.

14 246. Saturn in the dungeon of the sky. Arcite declares that the horoscope of their birth predicted chains, for it showed the planet Saturn, an evil star at best, in the dungeon of the sky.

14 252. Unhappy planets. Planets that were thought to cause unhappiness.

14 258. Actaeon. He unintentionally came upon Diana and her nymphs while they were bathing in the stream, was transformed into a stag by the goddess, and was coursed to death by his own hounds.

14 261. Cyprian Queen. Venus; Cyprus was a chief seat of her worship.

15 264. habit. Dress. We retain the word with same meaning in riding-habit.

16 300. Appeach. To impeach. Old form.

17 334, 335, 336, 339. Alexandrines, possibly used by Dryden in such close succession to show Arcite's violent emotions.

17 342 Aesop's hounds. The hounds of the fable by Aesop. Their story is told in succeeding verses.

17 346, 347. These verses indicate a condition with which both Chaucer and Dryden were very familiar.

17 358. Pirithous. A legendary hero, between Theseus and whom existed strong friendship. A Centaur's discourtesy to the bride at the wedding of Pirithous was avenged by Theseus in the battle with the Centaurs.

17 364. His fellow to redeem him went to hell. Chaucer and Dryden have here confused the story of Theseus and Pirithous with account of Castor and Pollux. Theseus did not go to the lower world to rescue Pirithous; but went with him to abduct Proserpina, and they were both seized and held by Pluto, till Hercules rescued Theseus.

18 382. Finds his dear purchase. Finds his purchase to be dear, i.e., expensive.

19 414. Fire, water, air, and earth. These were regarded by the ancients as the primary elements of created matter.

20 433. a certain home. The house is a definite existence.

20 434. uncertain place. It is uncertain in the sense that the drunkard has difficulty in finding it.

21 493. forelays. Awaits before, a survival of an old English compound.

21 495. thrids. Threads, as in the phrase, "threads the mazes of the dance."

21 498. Saturn, seated in a luckless place. A second reference to the planet of his nativity and its unlucky position in heaven at the hour of his birth.

21 500. Mars and Venus in a quartil move. Mars and Venus are here the planets. When their longitudes differ by 90į they move in a quartile. It was regarded in astrology as an omen of ill.

23 545. slumbering as he lay. As he lay slumbering. A favorite inversion with Chaucer.

23 547. Hermes. Lat. Mercury, son of Jupiter. One of his chief duties, to act as a messenger of Jupiter to carry sleep and dreams to mortals.

23 550. sleep-compelling rod. Hermes carried a staff, the caduceus, given him by Apollo, about which two serpents were twined. Its touch induced sleep.

23 552. Argus. He had a hundred eyes and was sent by Juno to guard the cow into which lo had been transformed. He was killed by Mercury at the command of Jupiter, and Juno transferred his eyes to the tail of her peacock.

24 573. A labouring hind in show. In appearance a laboring peasant.

24 590. Philostratus. In Chaucer written Philostrate, and so in Shakspere's Midsummer Night's Dream, the characters of which plainly followed Chaucer.


26 10. And May within the Twins received the sun. In May the sun is in the sign of the zodiac known as Gemini, or the Twins. Dryden here copies a favorite phrasing of Chaucer, though not used by him in this particular instance.

26 16. Notice the enjambment, i.e., the overflow of this verse into the next. It very rarely occurs in Dryden's later poems.

27 34. Style. Pen, from stylus.

27 55. Graces. Three sisters, Aglaia (the brilliant), Euphrosyne (cheerfulness), and Thalia (bloom of life). They were the daughters of Jupiter and Aurora.

27 58. The sultry tropic fears. At the end of May the sun, approaching the summer solstice, gives the longest days; hence its slowness.

28 78. roundelay. It is technically a lyric in which a phrase or idea is continually repeated.

28 84. Friday. Named from Frigga, a Teutonic goddess, identified with Venus. This day of the week among the Latin races is still named from Venus. Italian, Venerdž; French,Vendredi.

28 93. Cadmus. He was the son of Agenor, king of Phoenicia. His sister Europa had been carried off by Jupiter and he suffered from the consequent jealousy of Juno. While searching for his sister he founded Thebes, with the aid of Minerva, and was its first king. The legend of Cadmus indicates the introduction of written language from the East, the Theban city was. Compare "Ilium fuit" of Virgil, Aeneid, Bk. II., 325.

30 153. Our arms shall plead the titles of our love. We will make good our right to love by strife in arms.

31 165. pawn. Pledge,i.e., each has pledged his faith.

31 182. hopes. Hopes for, syncope.

32 196. foin. To thrust with a weapon, a term used in fencing. 32 228. lively. Bright, like the living green of vegetation.

32 329. the tuneful cry. Compare Midsummer Night's Dream, Act IV., Sc. I.

33 232. goddess of the silver bow. Diana, goddess of the chase,—her symbol, the crescent moon; hence the silver bow.

33 237. forth-right. Straight forward; an archaism.

33 245. strook. Archaic for struck.

33 258. listed field. A field properly arranged for a tournament.

35 313. quire. Group. This is the proper spelling, not choir; see Bk. I., v. 41.

35 314. contended maid. The maid contended for.

36 344, 347. In these verses Dryden follows Chaucer, but states the thought more forcibly. He was undoubtedly glad of the chance to slap the powers that were.

38 400. share a single bed. Two lovers cannot marry the same woman.

38 414. From out the bars. Beyond the barriers,i.e., out of the lists.

38 415. recreant. Acknowledging defeat.

39 445. degrees. With the seats raised in tiers.

39 461. myrtle wand. The myrtle was sacred to Venus.

39 465. Queen of Wight. Diana, because she was goddess of the moon.

39 467. oratories. Places for prayer.

40483. Sigils. Literally, a seal or sign; here an occult sign or mark in astrology, another evidence of Dryden's leaning toward that so-called science, for Chaucer makes no such statement here.

40 498. Idalian mount. Idalium, a town in Cyprus sacred to Venus; here, as often, confused with Mount Ida.

40 498. Citheron. Cythera, not Citheron, is the island near which Venus rose from the sea, and a famous seat of her worship. Cithaeron is a mountain in Boeotia sacred to Zeus.

41 505. Medea's charms. Medea, daughter of Aetes, king of Colchis, was a famous sorceress of antiquity. She aided Jason to get the golden fleece, and fled with him. Deserted by him, she subsequently became involved with Theseus and Hercules, eventually going to Asia. From her sprung the Medes.

41 505. Circean feasts. A mythical sorceress, who feasted mariners landed on her shores, and by charmed drinks changed them to swine. Ulysses spent a year with her, and frustrated her arts.

41 515. bare below the breast. Bare from the shoulders to a point below the breasts.

41534. scurf. Scaly matter on the surface,—scum.

42 536. knares. Knots on, a tree; an archaism.

42 544. bent. A declivity or slope.

42 558. tun. A huge cask for holding wine, ale, etc.

43 590. overlaid. Lain upon by the nurse to smother it.

44 604. Mars his ides. The Ides of March, the date of Caesar's assassination. The month was named from the god.

44 607. Antony, Infatuated with Cleopatra, he lost his empire. Dryden had previously told the story in his best play,All for Love.

44 614. geomantic. Pertaining to geomancy, the art of divining future events by means of signs connected with the earth. The figure here represents two constellations, Rubeus, which signifies Mars direct, Puella, Mars retrograde.

44 616. direct... retrograde. The motion of a planet is direct when it seems to move from west to east in the zodiac, and retrograde when its apparent motion is reversed.

44 623. Calisto. Properly Callisto, one of Diana's nymphs. Jupiter loved her and changed her to a bear to escape the notice of Juno; but the latter discovered the ruse, and caused Diana to kill the bear. Thereupon Jupiter transferred her to heaven as the constellation of Arctos, in which is the pole-star.

44 631. Peneian Daphne. Daughter of the river-god Peneus. Loved by Apollo and pursued by him, she prayed for assistance, and was changed into a laurel tree. Thenceforth the laurel became Apollo's favorite tree.

44 634. Calydonian beast. A huge boar sent by Diana to devastate the territory of Aeneus, king of Calydon in Atolia, because he had not paid her due honor. Theseus, Jason, Peleus, Telamon, Nestor, all the famous heroes gathered to destroy the beast, and with them the swift-footed maiden Atalanta. Her arrow gave the first wound. The story is exquisitely told by Swinburne in Atalanta in Calydon.

44 635. Aenides. Meleager, son of Aeneus, who actually killed the boar. He loved Atalanta and gave to her the head and hide of the animal as a trophy. Jealously attacked by his uncles, he slew them. At his birth, the fates had prophesied his death when a certain brand upon the hearth should have burned. Thereupon his mother plucked it from the fire, quenched it, and put it away. Angered by the death of her brothers, she throws this brand upon the fire. It is consumed, and Meleager dies.

45 639. The Volscian queen. Camilla, an Amazon, allied with Turnus in his strife with Aeneas in Italy. She was treacherously killed by Aruns, while pursuing a fleeing enemy. As Aruns was stealthily withdrawing, he was slain by an arrow, fired by one of Diana's nymphs.

45 654. Lucina. The name given to Diana as one of the goddesses who presides at childbirth.

45 661, 662. Inserted by Dryden, a satirical reference to the wretched Whig poets then in favor, and to his own removal from royal patronage.


47 28. juppon. A light coat worn over armor, reaching to mid-thigh and finished in points at the bottom.

47 31. Pruce. Prussia.

47 35. jambeux. Armor for the legs, from the French jambť, leg.

47 39. Lycurgus. King of Thrace; he persecuted Bacchus, and was made mad by that god. In his madness he slew his son under the impression that he was cutting down vines. The country now produced no fruit, and the inhabitants carried the impious king to Mount Pangaeus, where he was torn to pieces by horses.

48 63. Emetrius. A creation of Chaucer's whom Dryden follows. Notice the poet's unusual representation of an Indian prince with fair complexion and yellow hair.

48 88. Upon his fist he bore. It was customary in the time of Chaucer to hunt with tame falcons, which were carried perched upon the wrist when not after quarry.

49 99. So Bacchus through the conquered Indies rode. Bacchus, a son of Jupiter, was the god of wine. His birth and up-bringing were attended with dangers bred by the jealousy of Juno. When full grown, Juno drove him mad, and in this state he journeyed over the earth. He spent several years in India, introducing the vine and elements of civilization. It was on his return that he was expelled from Thrace by Lycurgus.

49 103. prime. Early morning, the first hour after sunrise.

49 109. harbinger. One who provides or secures lodgings for another, from the Old French herbegtsr, whence harbor.

49 120. Phosphor. Light bringer, from phos and phero.

49 124. preventing. With the literal significance of the word, coming before, i.e., he rose before day.

50 134. Thy month. May referred to as the month of Venus, since it is, in the poets, particularly a season for love-making.

50 145. gladder. Thou who makest glad.

50 146. Increase. Offspring of Jove.

50 147. Adonis. A beautiful youth, loved by Venus, with whom he spent eight months of the year. When he was killed by a boar, so great was the sorrow of the goddess, that the deities of the nether world allowed her to possess him for half of each year.

51 164. Notice the force of Palamon's request. He cares not so much for glory of conquest as for the delights of possession. His prayer is answered, for, though conquered, he eventually weds Emilia.

51 168. your fifth orb. The heavens werel supposed to consist of concentric hollow spheres called orbs, and the sun, moon, stars, and planets moved in their respective orbs, the planet Venus in the fifth.

51 169. clue. Thread.

51 172. And let the Sisters cut below your line. The sisters are the three Fates. Clotho spun the thread of life, Lachesis held it, and Atropos cut it. Palamon is willing that the Fates end his life, if they will first allow him to enjoy love.

51 191. Cynthia. Another name for Diana, from Mount Cynthus, her birthplace.

51 193. Vests. Vestments, robes.

52 200. Uncouth. Literally, unknown, hence strange.

52 205. Well-meaners think no harm. Compare the famous epigram adopted by the Order of the Garter: "honi soit qui mal y pense" (shamed be he who thinks evil of it). This order was founded during Chaucer's life, and this sentiment may have been in his mind.

52 208. mastless oak. Oak leaves without acorns, i.e., without the fruit, hence an appropriate garland for a maid.

52 212. Statius. A Latin author who died 96 A.D. Among his works was an heroic poem in twelve books, embodying the legends touching the expedition of the Seven against Thebes.

52 231. Niobe. She was the mother of seven sons and seven daughters, and so thought herself superior to Latona, who had given birth to only two, Apollo and Diana. To avenge their mother, they slew all of Niobe's children with their darts. Hence the "devoted" children, i.e., devoted to death.

53 231. gust. The sense or pleasure of tasting, hence relish; more common form, gusto.

53 232. thy triple shape. Diana is often confused with Hecate, a most mysterious divinity. Hecate is represented with three heads and three bodies, and possessed the attributes of Luna in heaven, of Diana on earth, and of Proserpina in the lower world.

53 238. frowning stars. If the stars at her birth were such and so placed that they boded ill, they might be said to frown.

53 250-260. The omen foretells the event. One altar seems extinguished and then relights when the other goes out entirely. So Palamon seems to fail, but eventually wins Emilia after the death of Arcite.

54 290. planetary hour. This was the fourth hour of the day.

54 291. heptarchy. A rule by seven. It refers here to the seven great gods, Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto, Mars, Vulcan, Apollo, Mercury.

55 297. Hyperborean. Beyond the North. Applied originally to a blessed people who dwelt beyond the north wind.

55 320. Vulcan had thee in his net enthralled. Vulcan, the husband of Venus, once discovered improper relations between her and Mars, and he entrapped the guilty pair in the meshes of an invisible net and exposed them to the laughter of the gods. This passage would appeal to the taste of Dryden's Restoration readers, and is developed with a light grace, characteristic of the period.

55 325-332. In these verses the poet brings out the character of Arcite, a more mannish man than Palamon.

56 355, 356. Arcite prays for victory; nothing else will satisfy. He obtains his prayer, but loses Emily.

57 389. trined. An astrological term, meaning that the planets Saturn and Venus were distant from each other 120į, or one-third of the zodiac, a benign aspect.

57 390. with stern Mars in Capricorn was joined. Both Mars and Saturn were in the sign of the zodiac, Capricorn.

58 401. watery sign. The so-called watery signs of the zodiac were Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces. When Saturn is in one of these signs, look out for shipwreck.

58 402. earthy. The so-called earthy signs were Taurus, Virgo, and Capricornus. When Saturn is in one of these signs, look out for the dungeon.

58 408, 409. Though these verses are taken from Chaucer, they fitted Dryden's times and sentiment; for he had seen his own king, James II., ousted from his throne and supplanted by William and Mary. He was not in sympathy with the Revolution.

58 410. housing in the lion's hateful sign. Saturn in the sign Leo was regarded as baleful.

58 411. This verse is Dryden's own, and contains satirical reference to Whig disloyalty at the time of the Revolution of '88.

58 418. pestilence. Both Chaucer and Dryden had experienced great plagues in London, the Black Death in the fourteenth century and the Great Plague of 1665.

58 432. gladded. Made glad.

59 452. morions with their plumy pride. A helmet with a crest of feathers.

59 453. retinue. Here accented on the penult.

59 459. palfrey. A small horse in contrast with the mighty war horse.

59 463. clowns. The peasants, the common people.

60 480. double-biting axe. Two-edged battle-ax.

60 489. Armed cap-a-pe. From head to foot. From the old French, de cap a pie.

60 497. king-at-arms. The chief of the heralds, an important office in the Middle Ages.

61 512. The turney is allowed but one career. The two bands of knights shall rush together on horseback but once.

61 516. at mischief taken. Caught at a disadvantage.

63 569. equipage. So well equipped.

63 590. justling. An archaism for jostling.

64 603. Hauberks. A part of mail armor, originally intended to protect neck and shoulders; later it reached to the knees.

65 669. the rightful Titan failed. The Titans were the six sons and six daughters of Ccelus and Terra. One of them, Saturn, indignant at the tyranny of his father, dethroned him with the others' aid. The Titans then ruled in heaven with Saturn at their head. A prophecy to the effect that one of his children would dethrone him caused him to swallow each one as it was born; but Jupiter was concealed at his birth and grew to manhood. He compelled Saturn to disgorge his brothers and sisters, and in company with them waged a ten years' war against the Titans. They were overcome and hurled to the depths below Tartarus, while Jupiter usurped the throne of heaven.

66 697, 698. A touch of light satire in Chaucer which Dryden repeats with gusto, for it tallied well with the sentiments of his day.

67 709. lanced a vein. The sovereign remedy in the olden time was blood-letting.

67 726. charms. They played an important part in medical practice, not only in Chaucer's time, but later even than Dryden.

68 750. leech's cares. Leech was a common name for doctor.

68 755. breathing veins nor cupping. Two different methods of bleeding. To breathe a vein was to open the vein directly. To cup was to apply the cupping glass, which, being a partial vacuum, caused the flesh to puff up in it, and then the lancet was used.

68 772. against right. Arcite is said to have gained Emily against right, because Palamon, having seen and loved her first, had priority of claim.

72 877 Aegeus. According to the generally accepted legend, Aegeus, Theseus' father, had died when Theseus returned from Crete, years before.

72 889, 890. These verses are an insertion by Dryden, and are another reference to the change of dynasty at the Revolution of 1688, when James II. was dethroned, and William, Prince of Orange, succeeded him.

72 898. conscious laund. Knowing lawn or glade, i.e., the spot that had been familiar with their first encounter. Laund is, of course, an archaism.

72 905. Sere-wood. Modern form, searwood, wood dry enough to burn well.

72 905. doddered oaks. Oaks covered with dodder, that is, with parasitic plants, and therefore dead or dying.

72 908. Vulcanian food. Food for fire, Vulcan being the god of fire.

73 940. master-street. Main street of the town.

74 953. Parthian bow. The Parthians were famous bowmen.

74 955. fathom. A fathom is a measure of six feet.

74 956. strowed. Archaism for strewn.

75 998. wakes. A wake is, literally, an all-night watch by the body of the dead, sometimes attended by unseemly revelry. Here it refers to the celebration of funeral rites for Arcite.

75 1007. Theseus held his parliament. Theseus is reputed to have introduced constitutional government in Attica.

76 1031. The principle of the indestructibility of matter, a result of scientific investigation, which in Dryden's time was attracting much attention.

76 1039. suborn. To procure by indirect means.

77 1076. vegetive. Growing, having the power of growth.

78 nil. annoy. Annoyance.

79 1114. while we live, to live. To live happily while life lasts.

79 1144. Eros and Anteros. Both different names for the god of love, Eros signifying direct, sensual love, and Anteros, return love.

79 1146. long-attending Hymen. Hymen, the god of marriage, had waited long to consummate this match.

80 1154, 1155. This couplet is original with Dryden, and forms a

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