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Received the’ impressions of the love-sick squire, And wasted in the soft infectious fire.
Ye fair, draw near, let May's example move Your gentle minds to pity those who love! Had some fierce tyrant in her stead been found, The poor adorer sure had hang’d, or drown'd; But she, your sex's mirror, free from pride, Was much too meek to prove a homicide.
But to my tale:—Some sages have defined
Pleasure the sovereign bliss of humankind :
Our knight (who studied much, we may suppose)
Derived his high philosophy from those;
For, like a prince, he bore the vast expense
Of lavish pomp, and proud magnificence:
· His house was stately, his retinue gay,
- Large was his train, and gorgeous his array.
His spacious garden, made to yield to none,
Was compass'd round with walls of solid stone;
Priapus could not half describe the grace
(Though god of gardens) of this charming place :
A place to tire the rambling wits of France
In long descriptions, and exceed romance:
Enough to shame the gentlest bard that sings
Of painted meadows, and of purling springs.
Full in the centre of the flowery ground
A crystal fountain spread its arms around,
The fruitful banks with verdant laurels crown'd:
About this spring (if ancient Fame say true)
The dapper elves their moonlight sports pursue:
Their pigmy king, and little fairy queen,
In circling dances gambolld on the green,
While tuneful sprites a merry concert made,
And airy music warbled through the shade.
Hither the noble knight would oft l'epair, His scene of pleasure, and peculiar care ;)
For this he held it dear, and always bore
The silver key that lock'd the garden door.
To this sweet place, in summer's sultry heat,
He used from noise and business to retreat ;
And here in dalliance spend the livelong day,
Solus cum sola with his sprightly May:
For whate’er work was undischarged abed,
The duteous knight in this fair garden sped.
But ah! what mortal lives of bliss secure?
How short a space our worldly joys endure!
O Fortune, fair, like all thy treacherous kind,
But faithless still, and wavering as the wind !
O painted monster, form’d mankind to cheat,
With pleasing poison, and with soft deceit!
This rich, this amorous, venerable knight,
Amidst his ease, his solace, and delight,
Struck blind by thee, resigns his days to grief,
And calls on Death, the wretch's last relief.
The rage of jealousy then seized his mind,
For much he fear'd the faith of womankind.
His wife not suffer'd from his side to stray,
Was captive kept, he watch'd her night and day,
Abridged her pleasures, and confined her sway.
Full oft in tears did hapless May complain,
And sigh'd full oft; but sigh'd and wept in vain:
She look'd on Damian with a lover's eye:
For oh, 'twas fix’d: she must possess or die !
Nor less impatience vex'd her amorous squire,
Wild with delay, and burning with desire.
Watch'd as she was, yet could he not refrain
By secret writing to disclose his pain;
The dame by signs reveald her kind intent,
Till both were conscious what each other meant.
Ah! gentle knight, what would thy eyes avail, Though they could see as far as ships can sail ?.? 'Tis better, sure, when blind, deceived to be, Than be deluded when a man can see!
Argus himself, so cautious and so wise, Was over-watch’d, for all his hundred eyes: . So many an honest husband may, 'tis known, Who, wisely, never thinks the case his own.
The dame at last, by diligence and care, Procured the key her knight was wont to bear; She took the wards in wax before the fire, And gave the’ impression to the trusty squire. By means of this some wonder shall appear, Which, in due place and season, you may hear.
Well sung sweet Ovid, in the days of yore, What flight is that which love will not explore? And Pyramus and Thisbe plainly show The feats true lovers, when they list, can do: . Though watch'd and captive, yet, in spite of all, They found the art of kissing through a wall.
But now no longer from our tale to stray, ... It happ'd that, once upon a summer's day, Our reverend knight was urged to amorous play: He raised his spouse ere matin-bell was rung, And thus his morning canticle he sung:
*Awake, my love, disclose thy radiant eyes; Arise, my wife, my beauteous lady, rise! Hear how the doves with pensive notes complain, And in soft murmurs tell the trees their pain: The winter's pass’d; the clouds and tempests fly; The sun adorns the fields, and brightens all the sky, Fair without spot, whose every charming part My bosom wounds, and captivates my heart;
Come, and in mutual pleasures let's engage,
Joy of my life, and comfort of my age.'
This heard, to Damian straight a sign she made
To haste before; the gentle squire obey'd :
Secret and undescried he took his way,
And ambush'd close behind an arbour lay.
It was not long ere January came,
And hand in hand with him his lovely dame;
Blind as he was, not doubting all was sure,
He turn’d the key, and made the gate secure,
· Here let us walk, (he said) observed by none,
Conscious of pleasures to the world unknown:
So may my soul have joy, as thou my wife
Art far the dearest solace of my life;
And rather would I choose, by Heaven above,
To die this instant, than to lose thy love.
Reflect what truth was in my passion shown,
When, unendow'd, I took thee for my own,
And sought no treasure but thy heart alone.
Old as I am, and now deprived of sight,
Whilst thou art faithful to thy own true knight,
Nor age, nor blindness, rob me of delight.
Each other loss with patience I can bear,
Che loss of thee is what I only fear.
Consider then, my lady and my wife, The solid comforts of a virtuous life. As first, the love of Christ himself you gain; Next, your own honour undefiled maintain; And, lastly, that which sure your mind must move, My whole estate shall gratify your love: Made your own terms, and ere to-morrow's sun Displays his light, by Heaven it shall be done. I seal the contract with a holy kiss, And will perform, by this—my dear, and this—
Have comfort, spouse, nor think thy lord unkind;
'Tis love, not jealousy, that fires my mind :
For when thy charms my sober thoughts engage
And join’d to them my own unequal age,
From thy dear side I have no power to part,
Such secret transports warm my melting heart.
For who that once possess'd those heavenly charms,
Could live one moment absent from thy arms?
He ceased, and May with modest grace replied ;
(Weak was her voice, as while she spoke she cried)
•Heaven knows (with that a tender sigh she drew)
I have a soul to save as well as you;
And, what no less you to my charge commend,
My dearest honour, will to death defend.
To you in holy church I gave my hand,
And join'd my heart in wedlock's sacred band :
Yet after this, if you distrust my care,
Then hear, my lord, and witness what I swear:
• First, may the yawning earth her bosom rend, And let me hence to Hell alive descend; Or die the death I dread no less than Hell, Sew'd in a sack, and plunged into a well, Ere I my fame by one lewd act disgrace, Or once renounce the honour of my race. For know, Sir Knight, of gentle blood I came; I loathe a whore, and startle at the name. But jealous men on their own crimes reflect, And learn from thence their ladies to suspect: Else why these needless cautions, sir, to me? These doubts and fears of female constancy? This chime still rings in every lady's ear, The only strain a wife must hope to hear.'
Thus while she spoke a sidelong glance she cast, Where Damian kneeling worship’d as she pass’d.