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On thy own day to fall by foe oppress'd,
The wight of all the world who served thee best?
Who, true to love, was all for recreation,
And minded not the work of propagation.
Gaufride', who couldst so well in rhyme complain
The death of Richard, with an arrow slain,
Why had not I thy muse, or thou my heart,
To sing this heavy dirge with equal art!
That I like thee of Friday might complain;
For on that day was Coeur de Lion slain.
Not louder cries when Ilium was in flames, Were sent to heaven by woful Trojan dames, When Pyrrhus toss'd on high his burnish'd blade, And offer'd Priam to his father's shade,
Than for the cock the widow'd poultry made.
Fair Partlet first, when he was borne from sight,
With sovereign shrieks bewail'd her captive knight,
Far louder than the Carthaginian wife,
When Asdrubal, her husband, lost his life;
When she beheld the smouldering flames ascend,
And all the Punic glories at an end:
Willing into the fires she plunged her head,
With greater ease than others seek their bed.
Not more aghast the matrons of renown,
When tyrant Nero burn'd the' imperial town,
Shriek'd for the downfall in a doleful cry,
For which their guiltless lords were doom'd to die.
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,
5 Or Geoffrey de Vinsauf, a Norman historian.
And cross his back, as in triumphant scorn,
The hope and pillar of the house was borne.
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 fear'd a persecution might betide,
Full twenty miles 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 the 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 seem'd to sink beneath, and heaven above
With might and main they chased the murderous
With brazen trumpets, and inflated box,
To kindle Mars with military sounds;
Nor wanted horns to' inspire sagacious hounds.
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:
'Yours 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 mungril curs, and cease their cry;
See, fools, the shelter of the wood is nigh,
And Chanticleer in your despite shall die :
He shall be pluck'd, and eaten to the bone.'
"'Tis well advised; in faith, it shall be done!'
Thus Reynard said: but as the word he spoke,
The prisoner with a spring from prison broke:
Then stretch'd his feather'd fans with all his might,
And to the neighbouring maple wing'd his flight.
Whom when the traitor safe on tree beheld,
He cursed the gods, with shame and sorrow fill'd;
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, To bear you from your palace yard by might, And put your noble person in a fright: This, since you take it ill, I must repent;
Though heaven can witness, with no bad intent,
I practised it, to make taste
With double pleasure, first prepared by fear.
So loyal subjects often seize their prince,
Forced (for his good) to seeming violence,
Yet mean his sacred person not the least offence.
Descend; so help me Jove! as you shall find
That Reynard comes of no dissembling kind.'
Nay,' quoth the cock, but I beshrew us both,
If I believe a saint upon his oath:
An honest man may take a knave's advice,
But idiots only may be cozen'd twice.
Once warn'd is well bewared: not flattering lies
Shall soothe me more to sing with winking eyes
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 truce with treason should be mix'd, 'Tis my concern to have the tree betwixt.'
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 join'd;
So take the corn, and leave the chaff behind.
Of all the cities in Romanian lands,
The chief and most renown'd Ravenna stands ;
Adorn'd in ancient times with arms and arts,
And rich inhabitants, with generous hearts.
But Theodore the brave, above the rest
With gifts of fortune and of nature bless'd,
The foremost place for wealth and honour held,
And all in feats of chivalry excell'd.
This noble youth to madness loved a dame
Of high degree, Honoria was her name:
Fair as the fairest, but of haughty mind,
And fiercer than became so soft a kind;
Proud of her birth, (for equal she had none)
The rest she scorn'd; but hated him alone.
His gifts, his constant courtship, nothing gain'd;
For she, the more he loved, the more disdain'd:
He lived with all the pomp he could devise,
At tilts and tournaments obtain'd the prize,
But found no favour in his lady's eyes:
Relentless as a rock, the lofty maid
Turn'd all to poison that he did or said:
Nor prayers, nor tears, nor offer'd vows could move;
The work went backward; and the more he strove
To' advance his suit, the further from her love.
Wearied at length, and wanting remedy,
He doubted oft, and oft resolved to die.
But pride stood ready to prevent the blow;
For who would die to gratify a foe?