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For though I never can her grace deserve,
'Tis recompence enough to see and serve.
O Palamon, my kinsman and my friend,
How much more happy fates thy love attend!
Thine is the adventure; thine the victory;
Well has thy fortune turned the dice for thee:
Thou on that angel's face may'st feed thine eyes,
In prison, no; but blissful paradise !
Thou daily seest that sun of beauty shine,
And lov'st at least in love's extremest line.
I mourn in absence, love's eternal night;
And who can tell but since thou hast her sight,
And art a comely, young, and valiant knight,
Fortune (a various power) may cease to frown,
And, by some ways unknown, thy wishes crown?
But I, the most forlorn of human kind,
Nor help can hope, nor remedy can find;
But doomed to drag my loathsome life in care,
For my reward, must end it in despair.
Fire, water, air, and earth, and force of fates,
That governs all, and heaven that all creates,
Nor art, nor nature's hand can ease my grief;
Nothing but death, the wretch's last relief:
Then farewell youth, and all the joys that dwell
With youth and life, and life itself, farewell !
But why, alas! do mortal men in vain
Of fortune, fate, or Providence, coinplain?
God gives us what he knows our wants require,
And better things than those which we desire:
Some pray for riches; riches they obtain;
But, watched by robbers, for their wealth are slain :
Some pray from prison to be freed; and come,
When guilty of their vows, to fall at home;
Murdered by those they trusted with their life,
A favoured servant, or a bosom wife.
Such dear-bought blessings happen every day,
Because we know not for what things to pray.
Like drunken sots about the streets we roam;
Well knows the sot he has a certain home,
Yet knows not how to find the uncertain place,
And blunders on, and staggers every pace.
Thus all seek happiness; but few can find,
For far the greater part of men are blind.
This is my case, who thought our utmost good
Was in one word of freedom understood :
The fatal blessing came; from prison free,
I starve abroad, and lose the sight of Emily-
Thus Arcite; but if Arcite thus deplore
His sufferings, Palamon yet suffers more.
For when he knew his rival freed and gone,
He swells with wrath, he makes outrageous moan,
He frets, be fumes, he stares, he stamps the ground;
The hollow tower with clamours rings around:
With briny tears he bathed his fettered feet,
And dropped all o'er with agony of sweat.
Alas! he cried, I, wretch! in prison pine,
Too happy rival, while the fruit is thine:
Thou liv'st at large, thou draw'st thy native air,
Pleased with thy freedom, proud of my despair:
Thou may’st, since thou hast youth and courage
joined, A sweet behaviour and a solid mind, Assemble ours, and all the Theban race, To vindicate on Athens thy disgrace; And after, by some treaty made, possess Fair Emily, the pledge of lasting peace. So thine shall be the beauteous prize, while I i Must languish in despair, in prison die. Thus all the advantage of the strife is thine, Thy portion double joys, and double sorrows mine.
The rage of jealousy then fired his soul, And his face kindled like a burning coal: Now cold despair, succeeding in her stead, To livid paleness turns the glowing red.
His blood, scarce liquid, creeps within his veins,
Like water which the freezing wind constrains.
Then thus he said:- Eternal deities,
Who rule the world with absolute decrees,
And write whatever time shall bring to pass,
With pens of adamant, on plates of brass;
What, is the race of human kind your care
Beyond what all his fellow-creatures are?
He with the rest is liable to pain,
And like the sheep, his brother-beast, is slain.
Cold, hunger, prisons, ills without a cure,
All these he niust, and, guiltless, oft endure;
Or does your justice, power, or presence fail,
When the good suffer, and the bad prevail?
What worse to wretched virtue could befal,
If fate or giddy fortune governed all :
Nay, worse than other beasts is our estate;
Them, to pursue their pleasures, you create;
We, bound by harder laws, must curb our will,
And your commands, not our desires, fulfil :
Then when the creature is unjustly slain,
Yet, after death at least, he feels no pain;
But man, in life surcharged with woe before,
Not freed when dead, is doomed to suffer more.
A serpent shoots his sting at unaware;
An ambushed thief forelays a traveller;
The man lies murdered, while the thief and snake,
One gains the thickets, and one thrids the brake.
This let divines decide; but well I know,
Just, or unjust, I have my share of woe :
Through Saturn seated in a luckless place,
And Juno's wrath, that persecutes my race;
Or Wars and Venus, in a quartil, move
My pangs of jealousy for Arcite's love.-
Let Palamon oppressed in bondage mourn,
While to his exiled rival we return.
By this, the sun, declining from his height,
The day had shortened to prolong the night:
The lengthened night gave length of misery,
Both to the captive lover and the free.
For Palamon in endless prison mourns,
And Arcite forfeits life if he returns.
The banished never hopes his love to see,
Nor hopes the captive lord his liberty:
'Tis hard to say who suffers greater pains;
One sees his love, but cannot break his chains;
One free, and all his motions uncontrouled,
Beholds whate'er he would, but what he would be-
Judge as you please, for I will haste to tell
What fortune to the banished knight befel.
When Arcite was to Thebes returned again,
The loss of her he loved renewed his pain;
What could be worse, than never more to see
His life, his soul, his charming Emily?
He raved with all the madness of despair,
He roared, he beat his breast, he tore his hair.
Dry sorrow in his stupid eyes appears,
For, wanting nourishment, he wanted tears:
His eye-balls in their hollow sockets sink,
Bereft of sleep; he loaths his meat and drink.
He withers at his heart, and looks as wan
As the pale spectre of a murdered man:
That pale turns yellow, and his face receives
The faded hue of sapless boxen leaves :
* This play of words, which is truly Ovidian, does not occur in Chaucer, nor is it in conformity with our author's general ideas of translating him. (See Introduction to the “ Fables.") The Old Bard says simply:
The other where him list may ride and go,
But see his lady shall he never mo.
In solitary groves he makes his moan,
Walks early out, and ever is alone:
Nor, mixed in inirth, in youthful pleasures shares,
· But sighs when songs and instruments he hears.
His spirits are so low, his voice is drowned;
He hears as from afar, or in a swoon,
Like the deaf murmurs of a distant sound:
Uncombed his locks, and squalid his attire,
Unlike the trim of love and gay desire;
But full of museful mopings, which presage
The loss of reason, and conclude in rage.
This when he bad endured a year and more,
Now wholly changed from what he was before, .
It happened once, that, slumbering as he lay, .
He dreamed, (his dream began at break of day,)
That Hermes o’er his head in air appeared,
And with soft words his drooping spirits cheered:
His hat, adorned with wings, disclosed the God,
And in his hand he bore the sleep-compelling rod;
Such as he seemed, when, at his sire's command,
On Argus' head he laid the snaky wand.
Arise, he said, to conquering Athens go,
There fate appoints an end of all thy woe.--*
The fright awakened Arcite with a start,
Against his bosom bounced his heaving heart;
But soon he said, with scarce-recovered breath,
And thither will I go, to meet my death,
Sure to be slain; but death is my desire,
Since in Emilia's sight I shall expire.
By chance he spied a mirror while he spoke,
And gazing there beheld his altered look; :
Wondering, he saw his features and his hue
So much were changed, that scarce himself he knew,