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ERE long they come, where that same wicked wight
His dwelling has, low in a hollow cave,
Far underneath a craggy cliff ypight,
Dark, doleful, dreary, like a greedy grave,
That still for carrion carcases doth craye :
On top whereof ay dwelt the ghastly owl,
Shrieking his baleful note, which ever drave
Far from that haunt all other cheerful fowl;
And all about it wandering ghosts did wail and howl.
And all about old stocks and stubs of trees,
Whereon nor fruit nor leaf was ever seen,
Did hang upon the ragged rocky knees ;
On which had many wretches hanged been,
Whose carcases were scattered on the green,
And thrown about the cliffs. Arrived there,
That bare-head Knight, for dread and doleful teene,
Would fain have fled, ne durst approachen near
But the other forced him stay, and comforted in fear.
That darksome cave they enter, where they find
That cursed man, low sitting on the ground,
Musing full sadly in his sullen mind;
His grisly locks, long growen and unbound,
Disordered hung about his shoulders round,
And hid his face; through which his hollow eyne
Looked deadly dull, and stared as astound;
His raw-bone cheeks, through penury and pine,
Were shrunk into his jaws, as he did never dine :
His garment, nought but many ragged clouts,
With thorns together pinned and patched was,
The which his naked sides he wrapped abouts :
And him beside there lay upon the
grass A dreary corse,
All wallowed in his own yet lukewarm blood,
That from his wound yet welled fresh, alas !
In which a rusty knife fast fixed stood,
And made an open passage for the gushing flood.
Which piteous spectacle approving true
The wofull tale that Trevisan had told,
When as the gentle red-cross knight did view,
With fiery zeal he burnt in courage bold,
Him to avenge before his blood was cold ;
And to the villain said, “Thou damned wight,
The author of this fact we here behold,
What justice can but judge against thee right,
With thine own blood to price his blood, here shed in
“ What frantic fit," quoth he, “hath thus distraught
Thee, foolish man, so rash a doom to give ?
What justice ever other judgment taught,
But he should die who merits not to live ?
None else to death this man despairing drove,
But his own guilty mind deserving death.
Is't then unjust to each his due to give ?
Or let him die that loatheth living breath ?
Or let him die at ease, that liveth here uneath ?
“ Who travels by the weary wandering way,
To come unto his wished home in haste,
And meets a flood, that doth his passage stay,
Is't not great grace to help him over past,
Or free his feet, that in the mire stick fast ?
Most envious man, that grieves at neighbours' good,
And fond, that joyest in the woe thou hast;
Why wilt not let him pass, that long hath stood
Upon the bank, yet wilt thyself not pass the flood ?
“He there does now enjoy eternal rest
And happy ease, which thou doest want and crave,
And further from it daily wanderest;
What if some little pain the passage have,
That make frail flesh to fear the bitter wave ?
Is not short pain well borne, that brings long ease,
And lays the soul to sleep in quiet grave ?
Sleep after toil, port after stormy seas,
Ease after war, death after life, doth greatly please.”
The knight much wondered at his sudden wit,
And said, “ The term of life is limited,
Nor may a man prolong nor shorten it:
The soldier may not move from watchful sted,
Nor leave his stand, until bis captain bid.”
“ Who life did limit by almighty doom,"
Quoth he,“ knows best the term established;
And he, that points the sentinel his room,
Doth license him depart at sound of morning drum.
“ Is not his deed, whatever thing is done
In heaven and earth ? did not he all create
To die again ? all ends that are begun :
Their times in his eternal book of fate
Are written sure, and have their certain date.
Who then can strive with strong necessity,
That holds the world in his still changing state ?
Or shun the death ordained by destiny ?
When hour of death is come, let none ask whence nor why.
“ The longer life, I wot the greater sin ;
The greater sin, the greater punishment:
All those great battles which thou boasts to win,
Through strife, and blood-shed, and avengement,
Now praised, hereafter dear thou shalt repent:
For life must life, and blood must blood repay.
Is not enough thy evil life forespent ?
For he, that once hath missed the right way,
The further he doth go, the further he doth stray.