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Thus, by the general voice, was Arcite praised,
And by great Theseus to high favour raised;
Among his menial servants first enroll'd,
And largely entertain'd with sums of gold:
Besides what secretly from Thebes was sent,
Of his own income, and his annual rent;
This well employ'd, he purchased friends and fame,
But cautiously conceal'd from whence it came.
Thus, for three years, he lived with large increase,
In arms, of honour; and esteem, in peace;
To Theseus' person he was ever near,
And Theseus, for his virtues, held him dear.
WHILE Arctie lives in bliss, the story turns
Where hopeless Palamon in prison mourns.
For six long years immured, the captive knight
Had dragg'd his chains, and scarcely seen the light:
Lost liberty and love at once he bore;
His prison pain'd him much, his passion more:
Nor dares he hope his fetters to remove,
Nor ever wishes to be free from love.
But when the sixth revolving year was run,
And May, within the Twins, received the sun;
Were it by chance, or forceful destiny,
Which forms in causes first whate'er shall be,
Assisted by a friend, one moonless night,
This Palamon from prison took his flight:
A pleasant beverage he prepared before,
Of wine and honey mix'd, with added store
Of opium; to his keeper this he brought,
Who swallow'd, unaware, the sleepy draught,
And snored secure till morn; his senses bound
In slumber, and in long oblivion drown'd.
Short was the night, and careful Palamon
Sought the next covert ere the rising sun.
A thick-spread forest near the city lay,
To this, with lengthen'd strides, he took his way,
(For far he could not fly, and fear'd the day.)
Safe from pursuit, he meant to shun the light,
Till the brown shadows of the friendly night
To Thebes might favour his intended flight.
When to his country come, his next design
Was all the Theban race in arms to join,
And war on Theseus, till he lost his life,
Or won the beauteous Emily to wife.
Thus, while his thoughts the lingering day beguile,
To gentle Arcite let us turn our style;
Who little dream'd how nigh he was to care,
Till treacherous fortune caught him in the snare.
The morning lark, the messenger of day,
Saluted in her song the morning gray;
And soon the sun arose, with beams so bright,
That all the' horizon laugh'd to see the joyous sight:
He, with his tepid rays, the rose renews,
And licks the drooping leaves, and drys the dews;
When Arcite left his bed, resolved to pay
Observance to the month of merry May;
Forth on his fiery steed betimes he rode,
That scarcely prints the turf on which he trod :
At ease he seem'd, and prancing o'er the plains,
Turn'd only to the grove his horse's reins,
The grove I named before; and lighted there,
A woodbine-garland sought to crown his hair;
Then turn'd his face against the rising day,
And raised his voice to welcome in the May:-
'Forthee, sweet month, the groves green liveries If not the first, the fairest of the year: [wear: For thee the Graces lead the dancing Hours, And Nature's ready pencil paints the flowers: When thy short reign is pass'd, the feverish sun The sultry tropic fears, and moves more slowly on. So may thy tender blossoms fear no blight, Nor goats, with venom'd teeth, thy tendrils bite, As thou shalt guide my wandering feet to find The fragrant greens I seek, my brows to bind.' His vows address'd, within the grove he stray'd, Till fate, or fortune, near the place convey'd His steps where secret Palamon was laid. Full little thought of him the gentle knight, Who, flying death, had there conceal'd his flight, In brakes and brambles hid, and shunning mortal And less he knew him for his hated foe, [sight; But fear'd him as a man he did not know. But as it has been said of ancient years, That fields are full of eyes, and woods have ears, For this the wise are ever on their guard, For, unforeseen (they say) is unprepared. Uncautious Arcite thought himself alone, And, less than all, suspected Palamon; [grove, Who, listening, heard him, while he search'd the And loudly sung his roundelay of love. But on the sudden stopp'd, and silent stood, (As lovers often muse and change their mood; Now high as heaven, and then as low as hell; Now up, now down, as buckets in a well: For Venus, like her day, will change her cheer, And seldom shall we see a Friday clear.) Thus Arcite having sung, with alter'd hue Sunk on the ground, and from his bosom drew
A desperate sigh, accusing heaven and fate,
And angry Juno's unrelenting hate :-
Cursed be the day when first I did appear;
Let it be blotted from the calendar,
Lest it pollute the month, and poison all the year.
Still will the jealous queen pursue our race?
Cadmus is dead, the Theban city was:
Yet ceases not her hate: for all who come
From Cadmus, are involved in Cadmus' doom.
I suffer for my blood: unjust decree!
That punishes another's crime on me.
In mean estate I serve my mortal foe,
The man who caused my country's overthrow.
This is not all; for Juno, to my shame,
Has forced me to forsake my former name!
Arcite I was, Philostratus I am.
That side of heaven is all my enemy:
Mars ruin'd Thebes: his mother ruin'd me.
Of all the royal race remains but one
Beside myself, the' unhappy Palamon,
Whom Theseus holds in bonds, and will not free;
Without a crime, except his kin to me.
Yet these, and all the rest, I could endure ;
But love's a malady without a cure:
Fierce love has pierced me with his fiery dart,
He fires within, and hisses at my heart.
Your eyes, fair Emily, my fate pursue;
I suffer for the rest, I die for you.
Of such a goddess no time leaves record,
Who burn'd the temple where she was adored:
And let it burn, I never will complain,
Pleased with my sufferings, if you knew my pain.'
At this a sickly qualm his heart assail'd,
His ears ring inward, and his senses fail'd.
No word miss'd Palamon of all he spoke,
But soon to deadly pale he changed his look:
He trembled every limb, and felt a smart,
As if cold steel had glided through his heart;
Nor longer staid, but starting from his place,
Discover'd stood, and show'd his hostile face :
False traitor, Arcite! traitor to thy blood,
Bound by thy sacred oath to seek my good,
Now art thou found forsworn, for Emily;
And darest attempt her love, for whom I die.
So hast thou cheated Theseus with a wile,
Against thy vow, returning to beguile
Under a borrow'd name: as false to me,
So false thou art to him who set thee free:
But rest assured, that either thou shalt die,
Or else renounce thy claim in Emily:
For though unarm'd I am, and (freed by chance)
Am here without my sword, or pointed lance:
Hope not, base man, unquestion'd hence to go,
For I am Palamon, thy mortal foe.'
Arcite, who heard this tale, and knew the man,
His sword unsheath'd, and fiercely thus began:
'Now, by the gods, who govern Heaven above!
Wert thou not weak with hunger, mad with love,
That word had been thy last; or in this grove
This hand should force thee to renounce thy love.
The surety which I gave thee, I defy;
Fool, not to know that love endures no tie;
And Jove but laughs at lovers' perjury.
Know, I will serve the fair in thy despite ;
But since thou art my kinsman, and a knight,
Here, have my faith; to-morrow, in this grove,
Our arms shall plead the titles of our love: