Page images

Our hero was riding by briskly, when she called to him by name, and said, u Florent, you are riding to your death, but I can save you by my counsel." He turned at once, and begged her to advise him what he should do. Said she, " What wilt thou give me, if I will i>oint out a course by means of which you shall escape death?" "Any thing you may ask," said he. "I want nothing more than this promise," said she, " therefore give me your pledge

That you will be my housebnnde."

"Nay," said Florent—" that may not be."

"Ride menne" forth thy way," quod she.

Florent was now in great perplexity: he rode to and fro, and knew not what to do. He promised lands, parks, houses, but all to no purpose, the housebande was the only thing that would do. He came, however, to the conclusion that it was

Better to take her to liis wife,
Or elles for to lose his life.

He also calculated with some skill the doctrine of chances, and came to the conclusion that she would probably not live very long; and Uiat while she did live he would put her

Where that no man her should^ know
Till she with death were overthrow.

He therefore agreed, most reluctantly, to the terms proposed. She then tells him that when he reaches the castle, and they demand of him his answer to the question proposed, he shall reply

That alle women lievest would
Be sovereign of mannes love;

for what woman, says she, is so favored as to have all her will: and if she bo not " sovereign of mtmncs love," she cannot have what she "lievest have," that is what she may most desire. With this answer, she says he shall save himself; and then she bids him to return to this same place, where he shall find her waiting for him. Florent rode sadly on, and came to the castle. A large number of the inmates is summoned to hear his answer. He named several things of his own excogitations, but all would not do. Finally, he gives the answer the old woman directed: it is declared to be the true one, and ho rides forth from the castle.

Here began poor Florent's deepest sorrow, for he must return according to his oath. He rides back, and finds the old woman sitting in the same place,

The loathliest wight
That ever man cast on his eye,
Her nose' bas,1 her browns high,
Her eyen small, and depe-set,
Her chekes ben with teres wet,
And rivclin2 as an empty skin,
Hangcnde3 down unto her chin,
Her lippes shrunken ben for age;
There was no grace in her visage.

She insists, however, that he shall comply with die terms of agreement, and therefore, sick at heart, and almost preferring death,

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

In ragges as she was to-tore
He set her on his horse to-ibre,

and riding throi gh all the lanes and by-ways, that no one might see him, he arrives, by design, at the castle by night He then calls one or two of his trusty friends, and tells them that he was obliged

This beste wedde to his wife,
For elles he had lost his life.

The maids of honor were then 6ent in;

Her ragges they anon off draw,
And, as it was that time law,
She hadde bath, she hadde rest,
And was arrayed to the best,

all except her matted and unsightly hair, which she would not allow them to touch.

But when she was fully array'd
And her attire was all assay'd,
Then was she fouler unto see.

But poor Florent must take her for better for worse, though the worse seemed then rather to predominate. The company are all assembled, and the bride and bridegroom stand up to be united in the holy bonds of matrimony. The ceremony being over, the ill-fated knight covered up his head in grief

His body mights well be there;
But as of thought and of mctmire
His hearte was in Purgatoire.

She endeavored to ingratiate herself in his affections, and approached and took him softly by the hand. He turned suddenly, and saw one of the most beautiful beings that ever his eyes beheld. He was about to draw her unto himself—when she stopped him,

And sayth, that for to win or lose
He mote one of two thinges choose,
W'her1 he will have her such o' night
Or elles upon daye's light;
For he shall not have bothe two.

Here Florent was utterly at a loss what to say. At last he exclaims,

I n'ot what answer I shall give,
But ever, while that I may live,
I will thut ye be my mistress,
For I can naught myselve guess
Which is the best unto my choice.
Tims grant I you mine whole voice.
Choose for us bothen, I you pray,
And, what as ever that ye say,
Right as ye wille, so will I.

This is the point—he yields up his will entirely to hers. This is what "all6

1 Whether.

women most desire," to be sovereign of man's love:—in short—to have their own way. The bride then thus answers the happy groom:

"My lord," she saide, "grand-mcrci1
For of this word that ye now sayn
That ye have made me sovereign,
My destiny is overpassed;
That ne'er hereafter shall be lass'd*
My beauty, which that I now have,
Till I betake unto my grave.
Both night and day, as I am now,
I shall alway be such to you.
Thus, I am yours for evermo."

JAMES I. OF SCOTLAND. 1305—1437.

To an incident which happened in the reign of Henry IV. of England, we are indebted for tho most elegant poem that was produced during the early part of the fifteenth century—"The King's Quair,"3 by James L of Scotland.

This prince was the second son of Robert III., and was born in 1395. His elder brother died, and the king determined to send his surviving son, James, to be educated at the court of his ally, Charles VI., of France; and he embarked for that country widi a numerous train of attendants in 1405. But the ship was stopped by an English squadron, and the passengers were, by order of Henry IV., sent to London. It was, of course, an outrageous violation <vf all right, for Henry to make James a prisoner; but die accident that placed him in his power was ultimately advantageous to the prince as well as to the nation he was born to govern. He was at that time only ten years of age, but Henry, though he kept him closely confined, took great pains to have him educated in the most thorough manner, and so rapid was the progress that he made in his studies that he soon became a prodigy of erudition, and excelled in every branch of polite accomplishments.

During fifteen years of his captivity, he seemed forgotten or at least neglected by his subjects. The admiration of strangers and the consciousness of his own talents only rendered his sihiation more irksome, and he had begun to abandon himself to despair, when he was fortunately consoled for his seclusion at Windsor Castle by a passion of which sovereigns in quiet possession of a throne have seldom the good fortune to lecl the influence. The object of his admiration was the lady Jane Beaufort, (daughter of John Beaufort, dulce of Somerset,) whom he afterwards married, and in whose commendation he composed his principal poetical work, « The King's Quair." In 1423 he was released, and, taking possession of the throne of his ancestors, he did very much to improve the civilization of his country, by repressing many disorders, and enacting many salutary laws. But his stringent measures

[ocr errors]

of reform were very offensive to a lawless nobility; a conspiracy was formed against him, and he was murdered at Perth, in 1437.

The chief poem of James L, as mentioned above, consists of one hundred and ninety-seven stanzas. It contains various particulars of his own life; is full of simplicity and feeling, and, as has been correctly said, is superior to any poetry besides that of Chaucer produced in England before the reign of Elizabeth,—as will be testified by the following stanzas.


The longe dayes and the nightis eke

I would bewail my fortune in this wise;

For which again' distress comfort to seek,
My custom was on mornis for to rise
Early as day: O happy exercise!

By thee come I to joy out of torment;—

But now to purpose of my first intent.

Bewailing in my chamber thus alone,
Despaired of all joy and remedy,

For-ured of my thought, and woe-begone,
And to the window gan I walk in hye,2
To see the world and folk that went forby;

As, for the time, (though I of mirthis food

Might have no more,) to look it did me good.

Now was there made, fast by the Touris wall,
A garden fair;3 and in the corners set

An herbcre,4 green; with wandis long and small
Railed about, anil so with treeis set
Was all the place, and hawthorn hedges knet

That life5 was none [a] walking there forby,

That might within scarce any wight espy.

And on the srnalle grene twistis sat
The little swecte nightingale, and sung

So loud and clear the hymnis consecrate
Of lovis use, now soft, now loud among,
That all the gardens and the wallis rung

Right of their song; and on the couple next8

Of their sweet harmony: and lo the text!

"Worshippe ye that lovers bene tins May,
For of your bliss the calends are begun;
And sing with us, 'Away! winter away!

i Against, s Bute.

* Tbe gardens of this period seem to have been very small. In Chaucer's "Troflus and Cresselde" weflndtbe same place indifferently called a garden and a yard; and this, at Windsor, /art by theTourk eaiz, was probably either in the yard or on the terrace.

* Probably an arbour, though tbe word Is also very frequently used for an turbary, or garden of samples. 6 Living person.

* Mr Tyuer Imagines that this relates to the pairing of tbe birds; but toe word emtpU seems hero to be used as a musical term.

Come, summer, come! the sweet seas6n and sun!

Awake, ibr shame! that have your heavens won!1
And amorously lift up your headis all;
Thank Love, that list you to his mercy call!'"

When they this song had sung a littlo throw*
They stent3 awhile, and, therewith unafraid

As I beheld, and cast mine eyen a-lowe,

From bough to bough they hipped4 and they play'd,
And freshly, in their birdis kind, array'd

Their feathers new, and fret5 them in the sun,

And thanked Love that had their makis6 won.
• ••*•••

And therewith cast I down mine eye again,
Whereas I saw, walking under the Tower

Full secretly, new comyn her to pleync,7
The fairest, or the freshest younge flower
That ever I saw, methonght, before that hour;

For which sudden abate anon astert8

The blood of all my body to my heart.

And though I stood abased tlio a lyte,9
No wonder was; for why? my wittis all

Were so o'ercome with plcasance and delight
Only through letting of mine eyen fall,
That suddenly my heart become her thrall

For ever; of free will; for of menace

There was no token in her sweete face.

And in my head I drew right hastily;

And eft-soones I lent it forth again:
And saw her walk that very womanly,

With no wight mo10 but only women twain.

Then gan I study in myself, and sayn,
"Ah sweet, are ye a worldly creature,
Or heavenly tiling in likeness of nature *

"Or are ye god Cupidis own princess,
And comen are to loose mo out of band?

Or are ye very Nature the goddess,

That have depainted with your heavenly hand
This garden full of flouris as they stand?

What shall I tlunk, alas! what reverence

Shall I mcster" [nn] to your excellence?

"Giff,s ye a goddess be, and that ye like

To do me pain, I may it not astert:
GuT ye be worldly wight, that doth me sike,"

1 Mr. Tytlcr explains thlj as follows: "Te that have attained your highest bliss, by winning yonr mates."—Sec the last Mne of the next stanza. 2 A lltUe time. 8 Stopped

4 Hopped. 6 Pecked. 6 Mates,

t This seems to mean ramntoa; but should It not rather be pfaym, to plan or sport t » Started back. « Then a little. 10 More. U Admuistrrl 12 11. U Make me sigh.

« PreviousContinue »