Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

The dances ended, all the fairy train
For pinks and daisies search'd the flow'ry plain;
While on a bank reclin'd of rising green,

625 Thus, with a frown, the King bespoke his Queen.

"Tis too apparent, argue what you can, The treachery you women use to man: A thousand authors have this truth made out, And sad experience leaves no room for doubt. 630

Heav’n rest thy spirit, noble Solomon, A wiser monarch never saw the sun: All wealth, all honours, the supreme degree Of earthly bliss, was well bestow'd on thee! For sagely hast thou said, Of all mankind, 635 One only just, and righteous, hope to find: But shouldst thou search the spacious world around, Yet one good woman is not to be found. Thus

says the King, who knew your wickedness; The son of Sirach testifies no less.

640 O may some wildfire on your bodies fall, Or some devouring plague consume you all; As well you view the lecher in the tree, And well this honourable Knight you see: But since he's blind and old (a helpless case) 645 His Squire shall cuckold him before your face.

Now by my own dread majesty I swear, And by this awful sceptre which I bear,

No impious wretch shall 'scape unpunish'd long,
That in my presence offers such a wrong. 650
I will this instant undeceive the Knight,
And, in the very act, restore his sight :
And set the strumpet here in open view,
A warning to these ladies, and to you,
And all the faithless sex, forever to be true. 655

And will you so, reply'd the Qucen, indeed?
Now by my mother's soul, it is decreed,
She shall not want an answer at her need.
For her, and for her daughters, I'll engage,
And all the sex in each succeeding age;

660
Art shall be theirs to varnish an offence,
And fortify their crimes with confidence.
Nay, were they taken in a strict embrace,
Seen with both eyes, and pinioned to the place;
All they shall need is to protest and swear,

665 Breathe a soft sigh, and drop a tender tear; Till their wise husbands, gulld by arts like these, Grow gentle, tractable, and tame as geese.

What though this slaud'rous Jew, this Solomon, Call’d women fools, and knew full many a one; 670 The wiser wits of later times declare How constant, chaste, and virtuous, women are : Witness the martyrs, who resign’d their breath, Serene in torments, unconcern'd in death;

And witness next what Roman authors tell, 675 How Arria, Porcia, and Lucretia fell.

But since the sacred leaves to all are free, And men interpret texts, why should not we? By this no more was meant, than to have shown, That sov'reign goodness dwells in Him alone, 680 Who only Is, and is but only One. But grant the worst; shall women then be weigh'd By ev'ry word that Solomon hath said? What though this king (as ancient story boasts) Built a fair temple to the Lord of Hosts; 685 He ceas'd at last his Maker to adore, And did as much for idol gods, or more. Beware what lavish praises you confer On a rank lecher and idolater; Whose reigu indulgent God, says holy writ, 690 Did but for David's righteous sake permit; David, the monarch after heav'n's own mind, Who lov'd our sex, and honour'd all our kind.

Well, I'm a woman, and as such must speak; Silence would swell me, and my heart would break. Know then, I scorn your dull authorities, 696 Your idle wits, and all their learned lies. By heav'n, those authors are our sex's foes, Whom, in our right, I must and will oppose.

Nay, (quoth the King) dear Madam, be not wroth ; I yield it up; but since I gave my oath, 701

That this much-injur'd Knight again should see,
It must be done....I am a King, said he,
And one whose faith has ever sacred been....

And so has mine (she said).... I am a Queen: 705
Her answer she shall have, I undertake;
And thus an end to all dispute I make.
Try when you list; and you shall find, my lord,
It is not in our sex to break our word.

We leave them here in this heroic strain, 710 And to the Knight our story turns again; Who in the garden, with his lovely May, Sung merrier than the cuckoo or the jay : This was his song; “Oḥ kind and constant be, “ Constant and kind I'll ever prove to thee."

715 Thus singing as he went, at last he drew, By easy steps, to where the pear-tree grew : The longing dame look'd up, and spy'd her love Full fairly perch'd among the boughs above. 719 She stopp'd, and sighing; Oh good gods! she cry'd, What pangs, what sudden shoots distend my side; O for that tempting fruit, so fresh, so green; Help, for the love of heav'n's immortal Queen; Help, dearest lord, and save at once the life Of thy poor infant, and thy longing wife! 725

Sore sigh'd the Knight to hear his lady's cry, But could not climb, and had no servant nigh:

Old as he was, and void of eye-sight too,
What could, alas ! a helpless husband do?
And must I languish then, she said, and die, 730
Yet view the lovely fruit before my eye?
At least, kind Sir, for Charity's sweet sake,
Vouchsafe the trunk between your arms to take ;
Then from

your back I might ascend the tree : Do you but stoop, and leave the rest to me. 735

With all my soul, he thus reply'd again! I'd spend my dearest blood to ease thy pain. With that his back against the trunk he bent! She seiz'd a twig, and up the tree she went.

Now prove your patience, gentle ladies all! 740 Nor let on me your heavy anger fall : 'Tis truth I tell, tho' not in phrase refin'd; Tho' blunt my tale, yet honest is my mind. What feats the lady in the tree might do, I pass, as gambols never known to you; 1745 But sure it was a merrier fit, she swore, Than in her life she ever felt before.

In that nice moment, lo! the wond'ring Knight Look'd out, and stood restor'd to sudden sight. Straight on the tree his eager eyes he bent, 750 As one whose thoughts were on his spouse intent; But when he saw his bosomi wife so dress'd, His rage was such as canuot be express'd:

« ПредишнаНапред »