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THE COMICAL HISTORY OF ALPHONSUS, KING OF ARRAGON.
After you have sounded thrice, let Venus be let doivn from the top of the stage, and when she is down, say:
Venus. Poets are scarce, when goddesses themselves
Are forc'd to leave their high and stately seats,
Plac'd on the top of high Olympus' mount,
To seek them out, to pen their champions' praise.
The time hath been when Homer's sugar'd muse
Did make each echo to repeat his verse,
That every coward that durst crack a spear,
And tilt and tournay for his lady's sake,
Was painted out in colours of such price
As might become the proudest potentate.
But now a days so irksome idless' * slights,
And cursed charms have witch'd each student's mind,
That death it is to any of them all,
If that their hands to penning you do call.
O Virgil, Virgil! wert thou now alive,
Whose painful pen in stout Augustus' days,
Did 'dain f to let the base and silly fly t
* idless^ The 4tos. "idels." t 'dain] i. e. disdain.
t fly] The 4to. "flea." The Culex is the poem alluded to.
To 'scape away without thy praise of her,
I do not doubt but long or ere this time,
Alphonsus' fame unto the heavens should climb;
Alphonsus' fame, that man of Jove his seed,
Sprung from the loins of the immortal gods,
Whose sire, although he habit on the earth,
May claim a portion in the fiery pole,
As well as any one whate'er he be.
But setting by Alphonsus' power divine,
What man alive, or now amongst the ghosts,
Could countervail his courage and his strength?
But thou art dead, yea, Virgil, thou art gone,
And all his acts drown'd in oblivion.*
No, Venus, no, though poets prove unkind,
And loth to stand in penning of his deeds,
Yet rather than they shall be clean forgot,
I, which was wont to follow Cupid's games,
Will put in uref Minerva's sacred art;
And this my hand which used for to pen
The praise of love, and Cupid's peerless power,
Will now begin to treat of bloody Mars,
Of doughty deeds and valiant victories.
Enter Melpomene, Clio, Erato, with their sisters, playing all upon sundry instruments, Calliope only excepted, who coming last, hangeth down the head, and plays not of her instrument.
But see whereas the stately Muses come,
Whose harmony doth very far surpass
The heavenly music of Apollo's pipe.
But what means this? Melpomene herself
With all her sisters sound their instruments,
Only excepted fair Calliope,
* And all his acts, &C.J This line is printed twice over in the 4tn.
t ure] i. e. use.
Who coming last and hanging down her head,
Doth plainly show by outward actions
What secret sorrow doth torment her heart.
Mel. Calliope, thou which so oft didst crake*
How that such clients cluster'd to thy court
By thick and threefold, as not any one
Of all thy sisters might compare with thee,
Where be thy scholars now become, I trow?
Where are they vanish'd in such sudden sort,
That while as we do play upon our strings,
You stand still lazing, and have nought to do?
Clio. Melpomene, make you a why of that?
I know full oft you have [in] authors read,
The higher tree, the sooner is his fall,
And they which first do flourish and bear sway,
Upon the sudden vanish clean away.
Cal. Mock on apace; my back is broad enough
To bear your flouts as many as they be.
That year is rare that ne'er feels winter's storms;
That tree is fertile which ne'er wanteth fruit;
And that same Muse hath heaped well in store,
Which never wanteth clients at her door.
But yet, my sisters, when the surgent seas
Have ebb'd their fill, their waves do rise again,
And fill their banks up to the very brims;
And when my pipe hath eas'd herself a while,
Such store of suitors shall my seat frequent,
That you shall see my scholars be not spent.
Erato. Spent, quoth you, sister? then we were to blame,
If we should say your scholars all were spent.
But pray now tell me when your painful pen
Will rest enough?
* crafce] An old form of crack,—i. e. boast. "Children, and fooles vse to crake." G. Harvey's Pierce's Supererogation, 1593, p. 104.
Mel. When husbandmen shear hogs.
Ven. Melpomene, Erato, and the rest,
From thickest shrubs dame Venus did espy
The mortal hatred which you jointly bear
Unto your sister high Calliope.
What, do you think if that the tree do bend,
It follows therefore, that it needs must break?
And since her pipe a little while doth rest,
It never shall be able for to sound?
Yes, Muses, yes, if that she will vouchsafe
To entertain dame Venus in her school,
And further me with her instructions,
She shall have scholars which will 'dain * to be
In any other Muse's company.
Cal. Most sacred Venus, do you doubt of that?
Calliope would think her three times blest,
For to receive a goddess in her school,
Especially so high an one as you,
Which rules the earth, and guides the heavens too.
Ven. Then sound your pipes, and let us bend our Unto the top of high Parnassus' hill, [steps And there together do our best devoir For to describe Alphonsus' warlike fame, And in the manner of a comedy, Set down his noble valour presently.
Cal. As Venus wills, so bids Calliope.
Mel. And as you bid, your sisters do agree.
Enter CARiNus,f the Father, and Alphonsus, his Son.
Cari. My noble son, since first I did recount
The noble acts your predecessors did
In Arragon, against their warlike foes,
I never yet could see thee joy at all,
* 'dain] See note t p. 5.
t Carinus] Here, but only here, the 4to. " Clarinus."
But hanging down thy head as malcontent,
Thy youthful days in mourning have been spent.
Tell me, Alphonsus, what might be the cause,
That makes thee thus to pine away with care?
Hath old Carinus done thee any offence
In reckoning up these stories unto thee?
What, ne'er a word but mum?* Alphonsus, speak,
Unless your father's fatal day you seek.
Alphon. Although, dear father, I have often vow'd
Ne'er to unfold the secrets of my heart
To any man or woman, whosome'er
Dwells underneath the circle of the sky;
Yet do your words so conjure me, dear sire,
That needs I must fulfill that you require.
Then so it is. Amongst the famous tales
Which you rehears'd done by our sires in war,
Whenas you came unto your father's days,
With sobbing notes, with sighs and blubbering tears,
And much ado, at length you thus began;
Next to Alphonsus should my father come
For to possess the diadem by right
Of Arragon, but that the wicked wretch
His younger brother, with aspiring mind,
By secret treason robb'd him of his life,
And me his son, of that which was my due.
These words, my sire, did so torment my mind,
As had I been with Ixion in hell,
The ravening bird could never plague me worse;
For ever since my mind hath troubled been
Which way I might revenge this traitorous fact,
And that recover which is ours by right.
Cari. Ah, my Alphonsus, never think on that!
• What, ne'er a word but mum?} So Peele, in his Old Wives Tale;
"What, not a word, but mum?
Then, Sacrapant, thou art betray'd."
Works, vol. i. p. 245. ed. 1829.