Page images
PDF
EPUB

Our hero was riding by briskly, when she called to him by name, and said, “ 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 point 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 housébande.”
“Nay," said Florent-"that may not be.”

“Ride thenné 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 his 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 that while she did live he would put her

Where that no man her shouldé 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 be not “sovereign of mannes 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 he 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 nosé bas,' her browés high,
Her eyen small, and depe-set,
Her chekes ben with teres wet,
And rivelin2 as an empty skin,
Hangende3 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 the terms of agreement, and cherefore, sick at heart, and almost preferring death,

I Low fat.

9 Shrivelled.

8 Hanging

[blocks in formation]

In ragges as she was to-tore

He set her on his horse to-fore, and riding through 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 sent in;

Her ragges they anon off draw,
And, as it was that timé law,
She haddé 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.

[blocks in formation]

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

then tells answer to

if she be

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 mighté well be there;
But as of thought and of memoire

His hearté was in Purgatoire.
She endeavored to ingratiate herself in bis 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,
Wher he will have her such o' night
Or elles upon daye's light;

For he shall not have bothé two.
Here Florent was utterly at a loss what to say. At last he exclaims,

are, " that save him shall find

A large d several

gives the , and he

ording to ne place,

I not what answer I shall give,
But ever, while that I may live,
I will that ye be my nistress,
For I can naught myselvé guess
Which is the best unto my choice.
Thus grant I you mine wholé voice.
Choose for us bothen, I you pray,
And, what as ever that ye say,

Right as ye willé, so will I.
This is the point-be yields up his will entirely to hers.

74 and

This is what “allé

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-merci'
For of this word that ye now sayn
That ye have made me sovereign,
My destiny is overpass d ;
That ne'er hereafter shall be lass'd 2
My beauty, which that I now have,
Till I betake unto my grave,
Both night and day, as I am now,
I shall alwáy be such to you.
Thus, I am yours for evermo.”

JAMES I. OF SCOTLAND. 1395—1437.

To an incident which happened in the reign of Henry IV. of England, we are indebted for the most elegant poem that was produced during the early part of the fifteenth century—“The King's Quair,'' 3 by James I. 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 em. barked for that country with 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 of all right, for Henry to make James a prisoner; but the 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 neg. lected by his subjects. The admiration of strangers and the consciousness of his own talents only rendered his situation 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 quiei possession of a throne have seldom the good fortune to feel the influence. The object of bis admiration was the lady Jane Beaufort, (daughter of John Beaufort, duke 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

1 Many thanks.

9 Lessened. 8 “Quair," quire, pamphlet, or pook; hence the "King's Quair" means the King's Book. See Ellis's “Specimens," 1. 299, Warton's "History of English Poetry," 11. 437, and Park's edition of Walpole's "Royal and Noble Authors."

ENRY VZ

1422–1461.]

JAMES I. OF SCOTLAND.

39

to have theis

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 I., 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.

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

ressing

Arainst.

Haste. The gardens of this period scem to have been very small. In Chaucer's "Troilus and Cressefde" ve find the same place indifferently called a garden and a yard; and this, at Windsor, fast by the Touris tuh was probably either in the yard or on the terrace.

asures

? Probably an arbour, though the word is also very frequently used for an nerbary, or garden of fin ples.

6 Living person. tr Tytler imagines that this relates to the pairing of the birds; but the word couple seems here to be used as a musical term.

van a

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

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

When they this song had sung a little throw,

They stents 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 fretó 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 pleyne,7

The fairest, or the freshest younge flower

That ever I saw, methought, before that hour;
For which sudden abate anon astert:
The blood of all my body to my heart.

And though I stood abased tho a lyte, 9

No wonder was; for why? my wittis all Were so o'ercome with pleasance and delight

Only through letting of mine eyen fall,

That suddenly my heart become her thral]
For ever; of free will; for of menáce
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 molo but only women twain.

Then gan I study in myself, and sayn, "Ah sweet, are ye a worldly créature, Or heavenly thing in likeness of nature ?

" Or are ye god Cupidis own princess,

And comen are to loose me 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 think, alas! what reverence Shall I mester11 [un] to your excellence ?

« Giff12 ye a goddess be, and that ye like

To do me pain, I may it not astert:
Giff ye be worldly wight, that doth me sike, 13

1 Mr. Tytler explains this as follows: "Ye that have attained your highest bliss, by winning your mates."-See the last line of the next stanza.

2 A little time.

8 Stopped 4 Hopped.

5 Pecked.

6 Mates. * This seems to mean complain; but should it not rather be playen, to play or sporti 8 Started back. Then a little. 10 More 1 1 Administer i 12 If. 18 Make me sigh.

« PreviousContinue »