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Why had not I thy muse, or thou my heart,
Not louder cries, when Ilium was in flames,
Now to my story I return again: The trembling widow, and her daughters twain, This woful cackling cry with horror heard, Of those distracted damsels in the yard; And starting up, beheld the heavy sight, How Reynard to the forest took his flight, And cross his back, as in triumphant scorn, The hope and pillar of the house was borne.
* Ganfride, or Geoffrey de Vinsauf, a Norman historian, and parcel poet, bewailed the death of Richard in plaintive hexameters, in which he particularly exclaims against Friday, the day on which that hero was shot by Bertram de Gurdun:
Oh Veneris lacrymosa dies, O sydus amarum
The fox, the wicked fox, was all the cry; Out from his house ran every neighbour nigh: The vicar first, and after him the crew, With forks and staves the felon to pursue. Ran Coll our dog, and Talbot with the band, And Malkin, with her distaff in her hand: Ran cow and calf, and family of hogs, In panic horror of pursuing dogs; With many a deadly grunt and doleful squeak, Poor swine, as if their pretty hearts would break. The shouts of men, the women in dismay, With shrieks augment the terror of the day. The ducks, that heard the proclamation cried, And feared a persecution might betide, Full twenty mile from town their voyage take, Obscure in rushes of the liquid lake. The geese fly o’er the barn; the bees, in arms, Drive headlong from their waxen cells in swarms. Jack Straw at London-stone, with all his rout, Struck not the city with so loud a shout; Not when with English hate they did pursue A Frenchman, or an unbelieving Jew;* Not when the welkin rung with one and all, And echoes bounded back from Fox's hall; Earth seemed to sink beneath, and heaven above . to fall. With might and main they chaced the murd'rous fox, With brazen trumpets, and inflated box, To kindle Mars with military sounds, Nor wanted horns to inspire sagacious hounds.
* Dryden has given Jack Straw the national antipathies of the mob in his own time. Chaucer says more correctly, their rage was directed against the Flemings. In the next two lines, Dryden again alludes to the riots of his own time, whose gathering cry used to be “ one and all.”
But see how fortune can confound the wise, And when they least expect it, turn the dice. The captive-cock, who scarce could draw his breath, And lay within the very jaws of death; Yet in this agony his fancy wrought, And fear supplied him with this happy thought: Your's is the prize, victorious prince, said he, The vicar my defeat, and all the village see. * Enjoy your friendly fortune while you may, And bid the churls that envy you the prey Call back their mongrel curs, and cease their cry :) See fools, the shelter of the wood is nigh, And Chanticleer in your despite shall die; He shall be plucked and eaten to the bone.
'Tis well advised, in faith it shall be done; This Reynard said : but as the word he spoke, The prisoner with a spring from prison broke; Then stretched his feathered fans with all his might, And to the neighbouring maple winged his flight.
Whoin, when the traitor safe on tree beheld, He cursed the gods, with shame and sorrow filled: Shame for his folly ; sorrow out of time, For plotting an unprofitable crime: Yet, mastering both, the artificer of lies, Renews the assault, and his last battery tries.
Though I, said he, did ne'er in thought offend, How justly may my lord suspect his friend?. The appearance is against me, I confess, Who seemingly have put you in distress. You, if your goodness does not plead my cause, May think I broke all hospitable laws,
* This excellent parody upon Virgil is introduced by Dryden, and marks his late labours :
Vicisti ! et victum tendere palmas
To bear you from your palace-yard by might,
Nay, quoth the cock; but I beshrew us both,
And open mouth, for fear of catching flies. · Who blindfold walks upon a river's brim, When he should see, has he deserved to swim? Better, sir cock, let all contention cease, Come down, said Reynard, let us treat of peace. A peace with all my soul, said Chanticleer; But, with your favour, I will treat it here: And lest the trúce with treason should be mixt, 'Tis my concern to have the tree betwixt.*
* In the original, the tale concludes by a reflection of the Fox, The cock had said,
- he that winketh when he should see
Nay, quoth the Fox, but God give him mischance
In this plain fable you the effect may see Of negligence, and fond credulity : And learn besides of flatterers to beware, Then most pernicious when they speak too fair. The cock and fox, the fool and knave imply; The truth is moral, though the tale a lie. Who spoke in parables, I dare not say; But sure he knew it was a pleasing way, Sound sense, by plain example, to convey. And in a heathen author we may find, That pleasure with instruction should be joined; So take the corn, and leave the chaff behind,