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Which virtue, sunk to poverty, would meet'
From giddy passion and low-minded pride:
Almost on nature's common bounty fed;
Like the gay birds that sung them to repose,
Content, and careless of to-morrow's fare.
Her form was fresher than the morning rose,
When the dew wets its leaves; unstain'd and pure,
As is the lily, or the mountain snow.
The modest virtues mingled in her eyes,
Still on the ground dejected, darting all
Their humid beams into the blooming flow'rs:
Or, when the mournful tale her mother told,
Of what her faithless fortune promis'd once,
Thrill'd in her thought, they, like the dewy star
Of ev’ning, shone in tears. A native grace
Sat fair proportion'd on her polish'd limbs,
Veil'd in a simple robe, their best attire,
pomp of dress : for loveliness
Needs not the foreign aid of ornament;
But is, when unadorn'd, adorn'd the most.
Thoughtless of beauty, she was beauty's self,
Recluse amid the close-embowering woods.
As in the hollow breast of Appenine,
Beneath the shelter of encircling hills,
A myrtle rises, far from human eye,
And breathes its balmy fragrance o'er the wild:
So flourish'd, blooming, and unseen by all,
The sweet Lavinia ; till, at length compellid
By strong necessity's supreme command,
With smiling patience in her looks, she went
To glean Palemon's fields. The pride of swains
Palemon was; the gen'rous and the rich;
Who led the rural life in all its joy
And elegance, such as Arcadian song
Transmits from ancient uncorrupted times,
When tyrant custom had not shackled man,
But free to follow nature was the mode.
He, then, his fancy with autumnal scenes
Amusing, chanc'd beside his reaper-train
To walk, when poor Lavinia drew his eye,
Unconscious of her pow'r, and turning quick
With unaffected blushes from his gaze:
He saw her charming ; but he saw not half
The charms her downcast modesty conceald.
That very moment love and chaste desire
Sprung in his bosom, to himself unknown;
For still the world prevail'd, and its dread laugh,
(Which scarce the firm philosopher can scorn,)
Should his heart own a gleaner in the field ;
And thus in secret to his soul he sigh’d.
* What pity! that so delicate a form,
By beauty kindled; where enliv'ning sense,
And more than common goodness, seem to dwell;
Should be devoted to the rude embrace
Of some indecent clown! She looks, methink),
Of old Acasto's line; and to my mind
Recalls that patron of my happy life,
From whom my lib'ral fortune took its rise;
Now to the dust gone down : his houses, lands,
And once fair-spreading family dissolvd.
'Tis said, that, in some lone obscure retreat,
Urgʻd by remembrance sad, and decent pride,
Far from those scenes which knew their better days,
His aged widow and his daughter live;
Whom yet my fruitless search could never find.
Romantic wish! would this the daughter were!”
When, strict inquiring, from herself he found She was the same, the daughter of his friend, Of bountiful Acasto; who can speak The mingled passions that surpris'd his heart, And, through his nerves, in shiv'ring transport ran? Then blaz'd his smother'd flame, avow'd and bold;
And, as he view'd her, ardent, o'er and o'er,
Love, gratitude, and pity wept at once.
Confus'd and frighten'd at his sudden tears,
Her rising beauties flush'd a higher bloom;
And thus Palemon, passionate and just,
Pour'd out the pious rapture of his soul.
“ And art thou, then, Acasto's dear remains ?
She, whom my restless gratitude has sought
So long in vain? Oh, yes! the very same;
The soften'd image of my noble friend :
Alive, his ev'ry feature, ev'ry look,
More elegantly touch'd. Sweeter than spring!
Thou sole surviving blossom from the root
That nourish'd up my fortune ! say, ah! where,
In what sequester'd desert hast thou drawn,
The kindest aspect of delighted heav'n?
Into such beauty spread, and blown so fair,
Though poverty's cold wind, and crushing rain,
Beat keen and heavy on thy tender years.
Oh ! let me, now, into a richer soil
Transplant thee safe, where vernal suns and show'rs
Diffuse their warmest, largest influence ;
And, of my garden, be the pride and joy!
Il it befits thee-oh! it ill befits
Acasto's daughter; his, whose open stores,
Though vast, were little to his ampler heart,
The father of a country ; thus to pick
The very refuse of those harvest fields,
Which from his bounteous friendship I enjoy.
Then, throw that shameful pittance from thy hand,
But ill applied to such a rugged task:
The fields, the master, all, my fair, are thine;
If, to the various blessings which thy house
Has on me lavish'd, thou wilt add that bliss,
That dearest bliss, the power of blessing thee!"
Here ceas'd the youth : yet, still, his speaking eye
Express’d the sacred triumph of his soul :
With conscious virtue, gratitude, and love,
Above the vulgar joy divinely rais’d.
Nor waited he reply. Won by the charm
Of goodness irresistible, and all
In sweet disorder lost, she blush'd consent.
The news immediate to her mother brought,
While, pierc'd with anxious thought, she pin'd away
The lonely moments for Lavinia's fate.
Amaz'd, and scarce believing what she heard,
Joy seiz'd her wither'd veins, and one bright gleam
Of setting life shone on her evening hours ;
Not less enraptur'd than the happy pair,
Who flourish'd long in tender bliss, and rear'd
A num'rous offspring, lovely like themselves,
And good, the grace of all the country round.
Most potent, grave, and reverend Signiors,
My very noble, and approv'd good masters,
That I have ta’en away this old man's daughter,
It is most true; true, I have married her:
head and front of my offending,
Hath this extent; no more. Rude am I in my speech,
And little bless'd with the set phrase of peace;
For since these arms of mine had seven years' pith,
Till now, some nine moons wasted, they have used
Their dearest action in the tented field;
And little of this great world can I speak,
More than pertains to feats, and broils, and battles ;
And therefore little shall I grace my cause
In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,
I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver,
my whole course of love; what drugs, what charms, What conjuration, and what mighty magic
(For such proceedings I am charg'd withal) I won his daughter with.
Her father lov'd me; oft invited me; Still question'd me the story of my life, From year to year;
the battles, sieges, fortunes, That I have pass'd. I rar it through, e'en from my boyish days, To the very moment that he bade me tell it: Wherein I spoke of most disastrous chances, Of moving accidents by flood and field; Of hair-breadth 'scapes i' th' imminent deadly breach; Of being taken by the insolent foe, And sold to slavery; of my redemption thence, And with it all my travels history: Wherein of antres vast, and deserts wild, Rough quarries, rocks, and hills whose heads touch heaven, It was my bent to speak. All these to hear Would Desdemona seriously incline; But still the house affairs would draw her thence, Which ever as she could with haste despatch, She'd come again, and with a greedy ear Devour up my discourse: which I observing, Took once a pliant hour, and found good means, To draw from her a prayer of earnest heart, That I would all my pilgrimage dilate, Whereof by parcels she had something heard, But not distinctively. I did consent; And often did beguile her of her tears, When I did speak of some distressful stroke That my youth suffer'd. My story being done, She gave me for my pains a world of sighs ; She swore in faith, 'twas strange, 'twas passing strange, 'Twas pitiful, 'twas wondrous pitifulShe wish'd she had not heard it yet she wish'd That heav'n had made her such a man; she thank'd me, And bade me, if I had a friend that lov'd her,