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Palamon and Arcite by John Dryden

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To edit an English classic for study in secondary schools is difficult.
The lack of anything like uniformity in the type of examination required
by the colleges and universities complicates treatment. Not only do two
distinct institutions differ in the scope and character of their
questions, but the same university varies its demands from year to year.
The only safe course to pursue is, therefore, a generally comprehensive
one. But here, again, we are hampered by limited space, and are forced
to content ourselves with a bare outline, which the individual
instructor can fill in as much or as little as he pleases.

The ignorance of most of our classical students in regard to the history
of English literature is appalling; and yet it is impossible properly to
study a given work of a given author without some knowledge of the
background against which that particular writer stands. I have,
therefore, sketched the politics, society, and literature of the age in
which Dryden lived, and during which he gave to the world his _Palamon
and Arcite_. In the critical comments of the introduction I have
contented myself with little more than hints. That particular line of
study, whether it concerns the poet's style, his verse forms, or the
possession of the divine instinct itself, can be much more
satisfactorily developed by the instructor, as the student's knowledge
of the poem grows.

It is certainly a subject for congratulation that so many youth will be
introduced, through the medium of Dryden's crisp and vigorous verse, to
one of the tales of Chaucer. May it now, as in his own century,
accomplish the poet's desire, and awaken in them appreciative admiration
for the old bard, the best story-teller in the English language.

G. E. E. CLINTON, CONN., July 26, 1897.



The fifty years of Dryden's literary production just fill the last half
of the seventeenth century. It was a period bristling with violent
political and religious prejudices, provocative of strife that amounted
to revolution. Its social life ran the gamut from the severity of the
Commonwealth Puritan to the unbridled debauchery of the Restoration
Courtier. In literature it experienced a remarkable transformation in
poetry, and developed modern prose, watched the production of the
greatest English epics, smarted under the lash of the greatest English
satires, blushed at the brilliant wit of unspeakable comedies, and
applauded the beginnings of English criticism.

When the period began, England was a Commonwealth. Charles I., by
obstinate insistence upon absolutism, by fickleness and faithlessness,
had increased and strengthened his enemies. Parliament had seized the
reins of government in 1642, had completely established its authority at
Naseby in 1645, and had beheaded the king in front of his own palace in
1649. The army had accomplished these results, and the army proposed to
enjoy the reward. Cromwell, the idolized commander of the Ironsides, was
placed at the head of the new-formed state with the title of Lord
Protector; and for five years he ruled England, as she had been ruled by
no sovereign since Elizabeth. He suppressed Parliamentary dissensions
and royalist uprisings, humbled the Dutch, took vengeance on the
Spaniard, and made England indisputably mistress of the ocean. He was
succeeded, at his death in 1658, by his son Richard; but the father's
strong instinct for government had not been inherited by the son. The
nation, homesick for monarchy, was tiring of dissension and bickering,
and by the Restoration of 1660 the son of Charles I became Charles II of

Scarcely had the demonstrations of joy at the Restoration subsided when
London was visited by the devouring plague of 1665. All who could fled
from the stricken city where thousands died in a day. In 1666 came the
great fire which swept from the Tower to the Temple; but, while it
destroyed a vast deal of property, it prevented by its violent
purification a recurrence of the plague, and made possible the
rebuilding of the city with great sanitary and architectural

Charles possessed some of the virtues of the Stuarts and most of their
faults. His arbitrary irresponsibility shook the confidence of the
nation in his sincerity. Two parties, the Whigs and the Tories, came
into being, and party spirit and party strife ran high. The question at
issue was chiefly one of religion. The rank and file of Protestant
England was determined against the revival of Romanism, which a
continuation of the Stuart line seemed to threaten. Charles was a
Protestant only from expediency, and on his deathbed accepted the Roman
Catholic faith; his brother James, Duke of York, the heir apparent, was
a professed Romanist.

Such an outlook incited the Whigs, under the leadership of Shaftesbury,
to support the claims of Charles' eldest illegitimate son, the Duke of
Monmouth, who, on the death of his father in 1685, landed in England;
but the promised uprising was scarcely more than a rabble of peasantry,
and was easily suppressed. Then came the vengeance of James, as foolish
as it was tyrannical. Judge Jeffries and his bloody assizes sent scores
of Protestants to the block or to the gallows, till England would endure
no more. William, Prince of Orange, who had married Mary, the eldest
daughter of James, was invited to accept the English crown. He landed at
Torbay, was joined by Churchill, the commander of the king's forces,
and, on the precipitate flight of James, mounted the throne of England.
This event stands in history as the Protestant Revolution of 1688.

During William's reign, which terminated in 1702, Stuart uprisings were
successfully suppressed, English liberties were guaranteed by the famous
Bill of Rights, Protestant succession was assured, and liberal
toleration was extended to the various dissenting sects.

Society had passed through quite as great variations as had politics
during this half-century. The roistering Cavalier of the first Charles,
with his flowing locks and plumed hat, with his maypoles and morrice
dances, with his stage plays and bear-baitings, with his carousals and
gallantries, had given way to the Puritan Roundhead. It was a serious,
sober-minded England in which the youth Dryden found himself. If the
Puritan differed from the Cavalier in political principles, they were
even more diametrically opposed in mode of life. An Act of Parliament
closed the theaters in 1642. Amusements of all kinds were frowned upon
as frivolous, and many were suppressed by law. The old English feasts at
Michaelmas, Christmas, Twelfth Night, and Candlemas were regarded as
relics of popery and were condemned. The Puritan took his religion
seriously, so seriously that it overpowered him. The energy and fervor
of his religious life were illustrated in the work performed by
Cromwell's chaplain, John Howe, on any one of the countless fast days.
"He began with his flock at nine in the morning, prayed during a quarter
of an hour for blessing upon the day's work, then read and explained a
chapter for three-quarters of an hour, then prayed for an hour, preached
for an hour, and prayed again for a half an hour, then retired for a
quarter of an hour's refreshment--the people singing all the while--
returned to his pulpit, prayed for another hour, preached for another
hour, and finished at four P.M."

At the Restoration the pendulum swung back again. From the strained
morality of the Puritans there was a sudden leap to the most extravagant
license and the grossest immorality, with the king and the court in the
van. The theaters were thrown wide open, women for the first time went
upon the stage, and they acted in plays whose moral tone is so low that
they cannot now be presented on the stage or read in the drawing-room.
Of course they voiced the social conditions of the time. Marriage ties
were lightly regarded; no gallant but boasted his amours. Revelry ran
riot; drunkenness became a habit and gambling a craze. The court
scintillated with brilliant wits, conscienceless libertines, and
scoffing atheists. It was an age of debauchery and disbelief.

The splendor of this life sometimes dazzles, the lack of conveniences
appalls. The post left London once a week. A journey to the country must
be made in your own lumbering carriage, or on the snail-slow stagecoach
over miserable roads, beset with highwaymen. The narrow, ill-lighted
streets, even of London, could not be traversed safely at night; and
ladies, borne to routs and levees in their sedan chairs, were lighted by
link-boys, and were carried by stalwart, broad-shouldered bearers who
could wield well the staves in a street fight. Such were the conditions
of life and society which Dryden found in the last fifty years of the
seventeenth century.

Strong as were the contrasts in politics and manners during Dryden's
lifetime, they were paralleled by contrasts in literature no less
marked. Dryden was born in 1631; he died in 1700. In the year of his
birth died John Donne, the father of the Metaphysical bards, or
Marinists; in the year of his death was born James Thomson, who was to
give the first real start to the Romantic movement; while between these
two dates lies the period devoted to the development of French
Classicism in English literature.

At Dryden's birth Ben Jonson was the only one of the great Elizabethan
dramatists still living, and of the lesser stars in the same galaxy,
Chapman, Massinger, Ford, Webster, and Heywood all died during his
boyhood and youth, while Shirley, the last of his line, lingered till
1667. Of the older writers in prose, Selden alone remained; but as
Dryden grew to manhood, he had at hand, fresh from the printers, the
whole wealth of Commonwealth prose, still somewhat clumsy with Latinism
or tainted with Euphuism, but working steadily toward that simple
strength and graceful fluency with which he was himself to mark the
beginning of modern English prose.

Clarendon, with his magnificently involved style, began his famous
_History of the Great Rebellion_ in 1641. Ten years later Hobbes
published the _Leviathan_, a sketch of an ideal commonwealth. Baxter,
with his _Saints' Everlasting Rest_ sent a book of religious consolation
into every household. In 1642 Dr. Thomas Browne, with the simplicity of
a child and a quaintness that fascinates, published his _Religio
Medici_; and in 1653 dear old simple-hearted Isaak Walton told us in his
_Compleat Angler_ how to catch, dress, and cook fish. Thomas Fuller,
born a score or more of years before Dryden, in the same town,
Aldwinkle, published in 1642 his _Holy and Profane State_, a collection
of brief and brisk character sketches, which come nearer modern prose
than anything of that time; while for inspired thought and purity of
diction the _Holy Living_, 1650, and the _Holy Dying_, 1651, of Jeremy
Taylor, a gifted young divine, rank preeminent in the prose of the

But without question the ablest prose of the period came from the pen of
Cromwell's Latin Secretary of State, John Milton. Milton stands in his
own time a peculiarly isolated figure. We never in thought associate him
with his contemporaries. Dryden had become the leading literary figure
in London before Milton wrote his great epic; yet, were it not for
definite chronology, we should scarcely realize that they worked in the
same century. While, therefore, no sketch of seventeenth-century
literature can exclude Milton, he must be taken by himself, without
relation to the development, forms, and spirit of his age, and must be
regarded, rather, as a late-born Elizabethan.

When Dryden was born, Milton at twenty-three was just completing his
seven years at Cambridge, and as the younger poet grew through boyhood,
the elder was enriching English verse with his _Juvenilia_. Then came
the twenty years of strife. As Secretary of the Commonwealth, he threw
himself into controversial prose. His _Iconoclast_, the _Divorce_
pamphlets, the _Smectymnuus_ tracts, and the _Areopagitica_ date from
this period. A strong partisan of the Commonwealth, he was in emphatic
disfavor at the Restoration. Blind and in hiding, deserted by one-time
friends, out of sympathy with his age, he fulfilled the promise of his
youth: he turned again to poetry; and in _Paradise Lost_, _Paradise
Regained_, and _Samson Agonistes_ he has left us "something so written
that the world shall not willingly let it die."

I have said that Milton's poetry differed distinctly from the poetry of
his age. The verse that Dryden was reading as a schoolboy was quite
other than _L'Allegro_ and _Lycidas_. In the closing years of the
preceding century, John Donne had traveled in Italy. There the poet
Marino was developing fantastic eccentricities in verse. Donne under
similar influences adopted similar methods.

To seize upon the quaintest possible thought and then to express it in
as quaint a manner as possible became the chief aim of English poets
during the first three-quarters of the seventeenth century. Donne had
encountered trouble in obtaining his wife from her father. Finding one
morning a flea that had feasted during the night on his wife and
himself, he was overcome by its poetic possibilities, and wrote:

"This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed and temple is;
Tho' parents frown, and you, we're met
And cloister'd in these living walls of jet."

To strain after conceits, to strive for quaintness of thought and
expression, was the striking characteristic of all the poets of the
generation, to whom Dr. Johnson gave the title Metaphysical, and who are
now known as the Marinists. There were Quarles, with his Dutch
_Emblems_; Vaughan, Sandys, Crashaw, and pure-souled George Herbert,
with his _Temple_. There were Carew, with the _Rapture_; Wither and his
"Shall I wasting in despair"; the two dashing Cavaliers Suckling and
Lovelace, the latter the only man who ever received an M.A. for his
personal beauty. There was Herrick, the dispossessed Devonshire rector,
with _Hesperides_ and _Noble Numbers_, freer than were the others from
the beauty-marring conceits of the time. There, too, were to be found
the gallant love-maker Waller, Cowley, the queen's secretary during her
exile, and Marvell, Milton's assistant Secretary of State. But these
three men were to pledge allegiance to a new sovereignty in English

In the civil strife, Waller had at first sided with Parliament, had
later engaged in a plot against it, and after a year's imprisonment was
exiled to France. At this time the Academy, organized to introduce form
and method in the French language and literature, held full sway.
Malherbe was inculcating its principles, Corneille and Moliere were
practicing its tenets in their plays, and Boileau was following its
rules in his satires, when Waller and his associates came in contact
with this influence. The tendency was distinctly toward formality and
conventionality. Surfeited with the eccentricities and far-fetched
conceits of the Marinists, the exiled Englishmen welcomed the change;
they espoused the French principles; and when at the Restoration they
returned to England with their king, whose taste had been trained in the
same school, they began at once to formalize and conventionalize English
poetry. The writers of the past, even the greatest writers of the past,
were regarded as men of genius, but without art; and English poetry was
thenceforth, in Dryden's own words, to start with Waller.

Under the newly adopted canons of French taste, narrative and didactic
verse, or satire, took first place. Blank verse was tabooed as too
prose-like; so, too, were the enjambed rhymes. A succession of rhymed
pentameter couplets, with the sense complete in each couplet, was set
forth as the proper vehicle for poetry; and this unenjambed distich
fettered English verse for three-quarters of a century. In the drama the
characters must be noble, the language dignified; the metrical form must
be the rhymed couplet, and the unities of time, place, and action must
be observed.

Such, in brief, were the principles of French Classicism as applied to
English poetry, principles of which Dryden was the first great exponent,
and which Pope in the next generation carried to absolute perfection.
Waller, Marvell, and Cowley all tried their pens in the new method,
Cowley with least success; and they were the poets in vogue when Dryden
himself first attracted attention. Denham quite caught the favor of the
critics with his mild conventionalities; the Earl of Roscommon delighted
them with his rhymed _Essay on Translated Verse_; the brilliant court
wits, Rochester, Dorset, and Sedley, who were writing for pleasure and
not for publication, still clung to the frivolous lyric; but the most-
read and worst-treated poet of the Restoration was Butler. He published
his _Hudibras_, a sharp satire on the extreme Puritans, in 1663. Every
one read the book, laughed uproariously, and left the author to starve
in a garret. Of Dryden's contemporaries in prose, there were Sir William
Temple, later the patron of Swift, John Locke who contributed to
philosophy his _Essay Concerning the Human Understanding_, the two
diarists Evelyn and Pepys, and the critics Rymer and Langbaine; there
was Isaac Newton, who expounded in his _Principia_, 1687, the laws of
gravitation; and there was the preaching tinker, who, confined in
Bedford jail, gave to the world in 1678 one of its greatest allegories,
_Pilgrim's Progress_.

Dryden was nearly thirty before the production of the drama was resumed
in England. Parliament had closed the theaters in 1642, and that was an
extinguisher of dramatic genius. Davenant had vainly tried to elude the
law, and finally succeeded in evading it by setting his _Siege of
Rhodes_ to music, and producing the first English opera. At the
Restoration, when the theaters were reopened, the dramas then produced
reflected most vividly the looseness and immorality of the times. Their
worst feature was that "they possessed not wit enough to keep the mass
of moral putrefaction sweet."

Davenant was prolific, Crowne wallowed in tragedy, Tate remodeled
Shakspere; so did Shadwell, who was later to measure swords with Dryden,
and receive for his rashness an unmerciful castigation. But by all odds
the strongest name in tragedy was Thomas Otway, who smacks of true
Elizabethan genius in the _Orphan_ and _Venice Preserved_. In comedy we
receive the brilliant work of Etheridge, the vigor of Wycherley, and, as
the century drew near its close, the dashing wit of Congreve, Vanbrugh,
and Farquhar. This burst of brilliancy, in which the Restoration drama
closes, was the prelude to the Augustan Age of Queen Anne and the first
Georges, the period wherein flourished that group of self-satisfied,
exceptionally clever, ultra-classical wits who added a peculiar zest and
charm to our literature. As Dryden grew to old age, these younger men
were already beginning to make themselves heard, though none had done
great work. In poetry there were Prior, Gay, and Pope, while in prose we
find names that stand high in the roll of fame,--the story-teller Defoe,
the bitter Swift, the rollicking Dick Steele, and delightful Addison.

This is the background in politics, society, and letters on which the
life of Dryden was laid during the last half of the seventeenth century.
There were conditions in his environment which materially modified his
life and affected his literary form, and without a knowledge of these
conditions no study of the man or his works can be effective or
satisfactory. Dryden was preeminently a man of his times.

* * * * *


John Dryden was born at the vicarage of Aldwinkle, All Saints, in
Northamptonshire, August 9, 1631. His father, Erasmus Dryden, was the
third son of Sir Erasmus Dryden of Cannons Ashby. The estate descended
to Dryden's uncle, John, and is still in the family. His mother was Mary
Pickering. Both the Drydens and Pickerings were Puritans, and were
ranged on the side of Parliament in its struggle with Charles I. As a
boy Dryden received his elementary education at Tichmarsh, and went
thence to Westminster School, where he studied under the famous Dr.
Busby. Here he first appeared in print with an elegiac poem on the death
of a schoolfellow, Lord Hastings. It possesses the peculiarities of the
extreme Marinists. The boy had died from smallpox, and Dryden writes:

"Each little pimple had a tear in it To wail the fault its rising did

He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, May 18, 1650, took his B.A. in
1654, and then, though he received no fellowship, lingered at the
university for three years. Tradition tells us that he had no fondness
for his Alma Mater, and certainly his verse contains compliments only
for Oxford.

His father had died in 1654 and had bequeathed him a small estate. When,
in 1657, he finally left the university, he attached himself to his
uncle, Sir Gilbert Pickering, a general of the Commonwealth. In 1658 he
wrote _Heroic Stanzas on Cromwell's Death;_ but shortly thereafter he
went to London, threw himself into the life of literary Bohemia, and at
the Restoration, in 1660, wrote his _Astroea Redux_, as enthusiastically
as the veriest royalist of them all. This sudden transformation of the
eulogist of Cromwell to the panegyrist of Charles won for Dryden in some
quarters the name of a political turncoat; but such criticism was
unjust. He was by birth and early training a Puritan; add to this a
poet's admiration for a truly great character, and the lines on Cromwell
are explained; but during his London life he rubbed elbows with the
world, early prejudices vanished, his true nature asserted itself, and
it was John Dryden himself, not merely the son of his father, who
celebrated Charles' return.

On December 1, 1663, he married Lady Elizabeth Howard, eldest daughter
of the Earl of Berkshire, and the sister of a literary intimate.
Tradition has pronounced the marriage an unhappy one, but facts do not
bear out tradition. He nowhere referred other than affectionately to his
wife, and always displayed a father's warm affection for his sons, John,
Charles, and Erasmus. Lady Elizabeth outlived her husband and eventually
died insane.

During the great plague in London, 1665, Dryden fled with his wife to
Charleton. He lived there for two years, and during that time wrote
three productions that illustrate the three departments of literature to
which he devoted himself: _Annus Mirabilis_, a narrative and descriptive
poem on the fire of 1666 and the sea fight with the Dutch, the _Essay on
Dramatic Poesy_, his first attempt at literary criticism in prose, and
the _Maiden Queen_, a drama. In _Annus Mirabilis_ we find the best work
yet done by him. Marinist quaintness still clings here and there, and he
has temporarily deserted the classical distich for a quatrain stanza;
but here, for the first time, we taste the Dryden of the _Satires_ and
the _Fables_. His _Essay on Dramatic Poesy_ started modern prose.
Hitherto English prose had suffered from long sentences, from involved
sentences, and from clumsy Latinisms or too bald vernacular. Dryden
happily united simplicity with grace, and gave us plain, straightforward
sentences, musically arranged in well-ordered periods. This was the
vehicle in which he introduced literary criticism, and he continued it
in prefaces to most of his plays and subsequent poems.

At this same time he not only discussed the drama, but indulged in its
production; and for a score of years from the early sixties he devoted
himself almost exclusively to the stage. It was the most popular and the
most profitable mode of expression. He began with a comedy, the _Wild
Gallant_, in 1662. It was a poor play and was incontinently condemned.
He then developed a curious series of plays, of which the _Indian
Emperor_, the _Conquest of Grenada_, and _Aurengzebe_ are examples. He
professedly followed French methods, observed the unities, and used the
rhymed couplet. But they were not French; they were a nondescript
incubation by Dryden himself, and were called heroic dramas. They were
ridiculed in the Duke of Buckingham's farce, the _Rehearsal_; but their
popularity was scarcely impaired.

In 1678 Dryden showed a return to common sense and to blank verse in
_All for Love_, and, though it necessarily suffers from its comparison
with the original, Shakspere's _Antony and Cleopatra_, it nevertheless
possesses enough dramatic power to make it his best play. He had
preceded this by rewriting Milton's _Paradise Lost_ as an opera, in the
_State of Innocence_, and he followed it in 1681 with perhaps his best
comedy, the _Spanish Friar_.

Dryden was now far the most prominent man of letters in London. In 1670
he had been appointed Poet Laureate and Historiographer Royal with a
salary of two hundred pounds and a butt of sack. His connection with the
stage had been a decided financial success, and he was in receipt of an
income of about seven hundred pounds, which at modern values would
approximate $15,000. His house on Gerard Street, Soho, backed upon
Leicester's gardens. There he spent his days in writing, but the evening
found him at Will's Coffee House. In this famous resort of the wits and
writers of the day the literary dictator of his generation held his
court. Seated in his particular armchair, on the balcony in summer, by
the fire in winter, he discoursed on topics current in the literary
world, pronounced his verdict of praise or condemnation, and woe to the
unfortunate upon whom the latter fell. A week before Christmas, in 1679,
as Dryden was walking home from an evening of this sort, he was waylaid
by masked ruffians in Rose Alley and was beaten to unconsciousness. The
attack was supposed to have been incited by Rochester, who smarted under
an anonymous satire mistakenly attributed to Dryden.

Though wrongly accused of this particular satire, it was not long before
he did turn his attention to that department of verse. It was the time
of the restless dissent of the Whigs from the succession of James; and
in 1681 Dryden launched _Absalom and Achitophel_, one of the most
brilliant satires in our language, against Shaftesbury and his
adherents, who were inciting Monmouth to revolt. He found an admirable
parallel in Absalom's revolt from his father David, and he sustained the
comparison. The Scriptural names concealed living characters, and
Shaftesbury masked as Achitophel, the evil counsellor, and Buckingham as
Zimri. Feeling ran high. Shaftesbury was arrested and tried, but was
acquitted, and his friends struck off a medal in commemoration. In 1682,
therefore, came Dryden's second satire, the _Medal_. These two political
satires called forth in the fevered state of the times a host of
replies, two of the most scurrilous from the pens of Shadwell and
Settle. Of these two poor Whigs the first was drawn and quartered in
_MacFlecnoe_, while the two were yoked for castigation in Part II. of
_Absalom and Achitophel_, which appeared in 1682. Dryden possessed
preeminently the faculty for satire. He did not devote himself
exclusively to an abstract treatment, nor, like Pope, to bitter
personalities; he blends and combines the two methods most effectively.
Every one of his brisk, nervous couplets carries a sting; every distich
is a sound box on the ear.

We reach now a most interesting period in Dryden's career and one that
has provoked much controversy. In 1681 he published a long argument in
verse, entitled _Religio Laici_ (the Religion of a Layman), in which he
states his religious faith and his adherence to the Church of England.
When King James came to the throne in 1685 he made an immediate attempt
to establish the Roman Catholic faith; and now Dryden, too, turned
Romanist, and in 1687 supported his new faith in the long poetical
allegory, the _Hind and the Panther_. Of course his enemies cried
turncoat; and it certainly looked like it. Dryden was well into manhood
before the religious instinct stirred in him, and then, once waking, he
naturally walked in the beaten track. But these instincts, though roused
late, possessed the poet's impetuosity; and it was merely a natural
intensifying of the same impulse that had brought him into the Church of
England, which carried him to a more pronounced religious manifestation,
and landed him in the Church of Rome. His sincerity is certainly backed
by his acts, for when James had fled, and the staunch Protestants
William and Mary held the throne, he absolutely refused to recant, and
sacrificed his positions and emoluments. He was stripped of his royal
offices and pensions, and, bitter humiliation, the laurel, torn from his
brow, was placed on the head of that scorned jangler in verse, Shadwell.

Deprived now of royal patronage and pensions, Dryden turned again to the
stage, his old-time purse-filler; and he produced two of his best plays,
_Don Sebastian_ and _Amphitryon_. The rest of his life, however, was to
be spent, not with the drama, but in translation and paraphrase. Since
1684 he had several times published _Miscellanies_, collections of verse
in which had appeared fragments of translations. With that indefatigable
energy which characterized him, he now devoted himself to sustained
effort. In 1693 he published a translation of _Juvenal_, and in the same
year began his translation of _Virgil_, which was published in 1697. The
work was sold by subscription, and the poet was fairly well paid.
Dryden's translations are by no means exact; but he caught the spirit of
his poet, and carried something of it into his own effective verse.

Dryden was not great in original work, but he was particularly happy in
adaptation; and so it happened that his best play, _All for Love_, was
modeled on Shakspere's _Antony and Cleopatra_, and his best poem,
_Palamon and Arcite_, was a paraphrase of the _Knight's Tale_ of
Chaucer. Contrary to the general taste of his age, he had long felt and
often expressed great admiration for the fourteenth-century poet. His
work on Ovid had first turned his thought to Chaucer, he tells us, and
by association he linked with him Boccaccio. As his life drew near its
close he turned to those famous old story-tellers, and in the _Fables_
gave us paraphrases in verse of eight of their most delightful tales,
with translations from Homer and Ovid, a verse letter to his kinsman
John Driden, his second _St. Cedlia's Ode_, entitled _Alexander's
Feast_, and an _Epitaph_.

The _Fables_ were published in 1700. They were his last work. Friends of
the poet, and they were legion, busied themselves at the beginning of
that year in the arrangement of an elaborate benefit performance for him
at the Duke's Theater; but Dryden did not live to enjoy the compliment.
He suffered severely from gout; a lack of proper treatment induced
mortification, which spread rapidly, and in the early morning of the
first of May, 1700, he died.

He had been the literary figurehead of his generation, and the elaborate
pomp of his funeral attested his great popularity. His body lay in state
for several days and then with a great procession was borne, on the 13th
of May, to the Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey. The last years of his
life had been spent in fond study of the work of Chaucer, and so it
happened that just three hundred years after the death of elder bard
Dryden was laid to rest by the side of his great master.


The _Fables_, in which this poem appears, were published in 1700. The
word fable as here used by Dryden holds its original meaning of story or
tale. Besides the _Palamon and Arcite_, he paraphrased from Chaucer the
_Cock and the Fox_, the _Flower and the Leaf_, the _Wife of Bath's
Tale_, the _Character of the Good Parson_. From Boccaccio he gave us
_Sigismonda and Guiscardo, Theodore and Honoria_, and _Cymon and
Iphigenia_, while he completed the volume with the first book of the
_Iliad_, certain of Ovid's _Metamorphoses_, the _Epistle to John Driden,
Alexander's Feast_, and an _Epitaph_. The _Fables_ were dedicated to the
Duke of Ormond, whose father and grandfather Dryden had previously
honored in a prose epistle, full of the rather excessive compliment then
in vogue. _Palamon and Arcite_ is itself preceded by a dedication in
verse to the Duchess of Ormond. In the graceful flattery of this
inscription Dryden excelled himself, and he was easily grand master of
the art in that age of superlative gallantry. The Duke acknowledged the
compliment by a gift of five hundred pounds. The preface to the volume
is one of Dryden's best efforts in prose. It is mainly concerned with
critical comment on Chaucer and Boccaccio; and, though it lacks the
accuracy of modern scholarship, it is full of a keen appreciation of his
great forerunners.

The work of Dryden in _Palamon and Arcite_ may seem to us superfluous,
for a well-educated man in the nineteenth century is familiar with his
Chaucer in the original; but in the sixteenth century our early poets
were regarded as little better than barbarians, and their language was
quite unintelligible. It was, therefore, a distinct addition to the
literature of his age when he rescued from oblivion the _Knight's Tale_,
the first of the _Canterbury Tales_, and gave it to his world as
_Palamon and Arcite_.

Here, as in his translations, Dryden catches the spirit of his original
and follows it; but he does not track slavishly in its footprints. In
this particular poem he follows his leader more closely than in some of
his other paraphrases, and the three books in which he divides his
_Palamon and Arcite_ scarcely exceed in length the original _Knight's
Tale_. The tendency toward diffuse expansion, an excess of diluting
epithets, which became a feature of eighteenth-century poetry, Dryden
has sensibly shunned, and has stuck close to the brisk narrative and
pithy descriptions of Chaucer. If the subject in hand be concrete
description, as in the Temple of Mars, Dryden is at his best, and
surpasses his original; but if the abstract enters, as in the
portraiture on the walls, he expands, and when he expands he weakens. To

"The smiler with the knif under the cloke"

has lost force when Dryden stretches it into five verses:

"Next stood Hypocrisy, with holy leer; Soft smiling, and demurely
looking down, But hid the dagger underneath the gown: The assassinating
wife, the household fiend, And far the blackest there, the traitor-

The anachronisms in the poem are Chaucer's. When he put this story of
Greek love and jealousy and strife into the mouth of his Knight, he was
living in the golden age of chivalry; and he simply transferred its
setting to this chivalrous story of ancient Greece. The arms, the lists,
the combat, the whole environment are those of the England of Edward
III, not the Athens of Theseus. Dryden has left this unchanged,
realizing the charm of its mediaeval simplicity. As Dryden gives it to
us the poem is an example of narrative verse, brisk in its movement,
dramatic in its action, and interspersed with descriptive passages that
stimulate the imagination and satisfy the sense.

Coming as it did in the last years of his life, the poem found him with
his vocabulary fully developed and his versification perfected; and
these are points eminently essential in narrative verse. When Dryden
began his literary career, he had but just left the university, and his
speech smacked somewhat of the pedantry of the classical scholar of the
times. Then came the Restoration with its worship of French phrase and
its liberal importation. His easy-going life as a Bohemian in the early
sixties strengthened his vernacular, and his association with the wits
at Will's Coffee House developed his literary English. A happy blending
of all these elements, governed by his strong common sense, gave him at
maturity a vocabulary not only of great scope, but of tremendous energy
and vitality.

At the time of the production of _Palamon and Arcite_ Dryden had, by
long practice, become an absolute master of the verse he used. As we
have seen, his early work was impregnated with the peculiarities of the
Marinists; and even after the ascendency of French taste at the
Restoration he still dallied with the stanza, and was not free from
conceits. But his work in the heroic drama and in satire had determined
his verse form and developed his ability in its use. In this poem, as in
the bulk of his work, he employs the unenjambed pentameter distich; that
is, a couplet with five accented syllables in each verse and with the
sense terminating with the couplet. Dryden's mastery of this couplet was
marvelous. He did not attain to the perfect polish of Pope a score of
years later, but he possessed more vitality; and to this strength must
be added a fluent grace and a ready sequence which increased the beauty
of the measure and gave to it a nervous energy of movement. The great
danger that attends the use of the distich is monotony; but Dryden
avoided this. By a constant variation of cadence, he threw the natural
pause now near the start, now near the close, and now in the midst of
his verse, and in this way developed a rhythm that never wearies the ear
with monotonous recurrence. He employed for this same purpose the
hemistich or half-verse, the triplet or three consecutive verses with
the same rhyme, and the Alexandrine with its six accents and its
consequent well-rounded fullness.

So much for _Palamon and Arcite_. First put into English by the best
story-teller in our literature, it was retold at the close of the
seventeenth century by the greatest poet of his generation, one of whose
chief claims to greatness lies in his marvelous ability for adaptation
and paraphrase.

* * * * *


It remains to indicate briefly Dryden's position in English literature.
To the critics of his own time he was without question the greatest man
of letters in his generation, and so he undeniably was after the death
of Milton. We are not ready to say with Dr. Johnson that "he found
English of brick and left it of marble," for there was much marble
before Dryden was dreamed of, and his own work is not entirely devoid of
brick; but that Dryden rendered to English services of inestimable value
is not to be questioned. For forty years the great aim of his life was,
as he tells us himself, to improve the English language and English
poetry, and by constant and tireless effort in a mass of production of
antipodal types he accomplished his object. He enriched and extended our
vocabulary, he modulated our meters, he developed new forms, and he
purified and invigorated style.

There are a few poets in our literature who are better than Dryden;
there are a great many who are worse; but there has been none who worked
more constantly and more conscientiously for its improvement. Mr.
Saintsbury has admirably summarized the situation: "He is not our
greatest poet; far from it. But there is one point in which the
superlative may safely be applied to him. Considering what he started
with, what he accomplished, and what advantages he left to his
successors, he must be pronounced, without exception, the greatest
craftsman in English Letters."


HISTORY: Green, _History of the English People_, vols. iii, iv;
Knight, _Popular History of England_, vols. iii, iv, v; Gardiner,
_The First Two Stuarts, and the Puritan Revolution_; Hale, _Fall
of the Stuarts, and Western Europe_; Green, _Short History of
the English People_; Ransome, _A Short History of England_;
Montgomery, _English History_.

BIOGRAPHY: Lives of Dryden in the editions of his Works by Scott,
Malone, Christie; Johnson, _Dryden (Lives of the Poets)_;
Saintsbury, _Dryden (English Men of Letters)_.

CRITICISM: Mitchell, _English Lands, Letters, and Kings
(Elizabeth to Anne)_; Gosse, _From Shakespeare to Pope_;
Lowell, _Dryden (Among my Books)_; Garnett, _The Age of Dryden_;
Masson, _Dryden and the Literature of the Restoration
(Three Devils)_; Hamilton, _The Poets Laureate of England_;
Hazlitt, _On Dryden and Pope_.

ROMANCE: Scott, _Woodstock, Peveril of the Peak_; Defoe,
_The Plague in London_.

MYTHOLOGY: Bulfinch, _Age of Fable_; Gayley, Classic Myths
in English Literature_; Smith, _Classical Dictionary_.


Dryden's Life. History. English Literature.
1631, Born Aug. 9th. 1631, Herbert, Temple.

1632, Milton, L'Allegro
and II Penseroso.

1633. Birth of Prince James.
1633, Massinger, New Way
to Pay Old Debts.
Ford, Broken Heart.
Prynne, Histrio-mastix

1634. First Ship-money Writ.
1634, Fletcher, Purple Island.
Cowley, Poetical Blossoms.
Milton, Comus.

1635. Second Ship-money Writ.
1635, Quarles, Emblems.

1636, Sandys,
Paraphrase of the

1637, Riot in Edinburgh.
1637, Milton, Lycidas.

1638, Scottish National Covenant.
Judgment against John Hampden.

1639. First Bishops' War.

1640. Short Parliament.
1640, Suckling,
Ballad of a Wedding.
Second Bishops' War.
Carew, Poems.
Long Parliament assembled.

1641. Execution of Strafford.

1641, Milton,
Smectymnuus Tracts,
Reforms. Debate
Clarendon begins History of
on Grand Remonstrance.
Civil War.

1642. Committee of Public Safety.
1642, Fuller, Holy
and Profane State.
Battle of Edgehill.
Theaters closed. Browne,
Religio Medici.

1643. Westminster Assembly. Solemn
1643, Denham,
Cooper's Hill.
League and Covenant taken
by House.

1644. Scotch Army crosses Tweed.
1644, Milton,
Doctrine and
Royalist defeat
at Marston of Divorce,
Areopagitica, On
Moor. Education.

1645. Laud beheaded. 1645, Waller,
Poems, lst edition.
Royalists crushed
at Naseby.
1646, Charles surrendered
to Scots.
1646, Crashaw,
Steps to the
Temple. Browne,
Vulgar Errors.

1647, Charles surrendered
by Scots. Army in
possession of London.
Charles' flight from
Hampton Court.
1647, Cowley, The

1648, Second Civil War.
Pride's Purge.
1648, Herrick,
Noble Numbers.

1649, Poem on Death of Lord Hastings.
1649, Charles beheaded.
Cromwell subdues Ireland.
1649, Lovelace,
Lucasta. Gauden,
Eikon Basilike.

1650, Entered Trinity, Cambridge.
1650, Battle of Dunbar.
1650, Baxter,
Saints' Everlasting
Rest. Taylor, Holy

1651, Cromwell wins at
1651, Davenant,
Gondibert. Taylor,
Holy Dying.
Hobbes, Leviathan.

1652, Punished for disobedience, Cambridge.

1653, Cromwell dissolves
Long Parliament.
Barebones Parliament.
Made Lord Protector by
Little Parliament.
1653, Walton,
Compleat Angler,

1654, Father died. Received B.A. from Cambridge.
1654, First Protectorate
Parliament, Dutch routed
on the sea.

1655. Yreaty with France.
Jamaica seized from Spain.
1656. Second Protectorate
1656, Cowley,
Works, lst edition.
Davenant, Siege of

1657. Left Cambridge. Attached to Sir Gilbert Pickering.

1658. Heroic Stanzas on Cromwell's Death.
1658, Dunkirk seized from
Spain. Cromwell dies. His
son Richard succeeds.

1659, Richard Cromwell resigns.
Long Parliament restored.
Military government.

1660, Astraea Redux.
1660, Long Parliament again
Declaration of Breda.
Convention Parliament.
Restoration Charles II.
1660, Milton,
Ready and Easy Way
to Establish a
Free Commonwealth.
Pepys, Diary begun.

1661, Panegyric on Coronation.
1661, Meeting of Cavalier
Parliament. Corporation Act.

1662, Poem to Lord Clarendon.
1662, Act of Uniformity.
Dissenting ministers expelled.
Royal Society founded. King
declares for Toleration. Dunkirk
sold to France.
1662, Fuller,
Worthies of

1663, Married Lady Elizabeth Howard. Poem to Dr. Charleton. Wild Gallant.
1663, Butler,

1664. Reference in Pepys to 'Dryden, the poet.'
1664, Repeal of Triennial Act.
Conventicle Act.
1664, Etheridge, Comical Revenge. Evelyn, Sylva.

1665, Poem to the Duchess of York. Indian Emperor.
Poem to Lady Castlemaine.
Left London for Charleton.
1665, First Dutch War of
Restoration. Great Plague.
Five-Mile Act.
1665, Dorset,
Song at Sea.

1666, Essay on Dramatic Poesy. Son Charles born.
1666, Great Fire.

1667, Annus Mirabilis. Maiden Queen. Sir Martin Marall. Tempest.
1667, Dutch blockade Thames.
Peace of Breda. Clarendon's Fall.
1667, Milton,
Paradise Lost.

1668, Mock Astrologer. Son John born.
1668, Etheridge,
She Would if She
Could. Sedley, A
Mulberry Garden.

1669. Tyrannic Love. Son Erasmus born.
1669, Pepys, Diary
closes. Shadwell,
The Royal Shepherdess.
Penn, No Cross, no

1670, Conquest of Granada. Appointed Poet Laureate and
Historiographer Royal.
Mother died.
1670, Treaty of Dover.
1670, Shadwell,
Sullen Lovers.

1671, Buckingham, Rehearsal. Milton, Paradise Regained. Samson Agonistes.

1672. Marriage a la Mode.
1672, Second Dutch War
of Restoration. Declaration
of Indulgence.

1673. Assignation, Amboyna.
1673, Test Act. Shaftesbury dismissed.
1673, Settle, Empress of Morocco.

1674, A State of Innocence.
1675. Aurengzebe.
1678, All for Love, Limberham.
1679. OEdipus. Additional Pension
of One Hundred
Pounds. Troilus and
Cressida. Cudgeled in
Rose Alley.
1680. Ovid's Heroides.
1681, Spanish Friar. Absalom
and Achitophel, Part I.
1682. The Medal, MacFlecnoe,
Absalom and Achitophel,
Part II. Religio
1683. Collector of Customs at the
Port of London.
1684. Miscellanies, vol. i. Translates
Maimbourg's History
of League.
1685. Miscellanies, vol. ii. Albion
and Albanius.
Threnodia Augustalis.
1686. Ode on Memory of Mrs.
1687. Hind and the Panther.
St. Cecilia Ode.

1674, Peace with the Dutch.
1675, Non-resistance Bill rejected.
1677, Marriage of William and Mary.
1678, Peace of Nymwegen.
Popish plot.
1679, Habeas Corpus Act. Dissolution
Cavalier Parliament.
First Short Parliament.
1680, Second Short Parliament.
1681, Third Short Parliament.
Tory Reaction.
1682, Flight of Shaftesbury.
1683, London City forfeits Charter.
Rye House Plot.
Russell and Sydney executed.
1685, Death of Charles II. Accession
of James II.
Prorogation of Parliament.
Meeting of Parliament.
Battle of Edgemore.
Bloody Assizes.
1686, Judges allowed King's Dispensing
1687, First Declaration of Indulgence.

English Literature.

1675, Mulgrave, Essay on Satire.
1676, Etheridge, The Man of Mode.
1677, Crowne, Destruction of Jerusalem.
Behn, The Rover.
Wycherley, Plain Dealer.
1678, Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress.
Rymer, Tragedies of the Last Age.
1679, Oldham, Satires upon the Jesuits.
1680, Otway, The Orphan.
1681, Marvell, Poems.
Roscommon, Essay on Translated
1682, Otway, Venice Preserved.
1687, Newton, Principia.
Prior and Montague, Country
Mouse and City Mouse.

1688, Britannia Rediviva.
1688, Second Declaration of Indulgence. Bishops sent to Tower.
Birth of Prince of Wales. William and Mary invited to take English Throne.
William lands at Torbay. James flees.

1689, Lost his offices and pensions.
1689, William and Mary crowned. Toleration Act. Bill of Rights.
Grand Alliance. Jacobite Rebellion.
1689, Locke, Letters on Toleration, Treatise on Government.

1690, Don Sebastian. Amphitryon.
1690, Battle of the Boyne.
1690, Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

1691, King Arthur
1691, Treaty of Limerick.
1691, Langbane, Account of English Dramatic Poets. Rochester, Poems.

1692, Eleonora, Cleomines.
1692, Massacre of Glencoe. Churchill deprived of office.
1692, Dennis, The Impartial Critick.

1693, Miscellanies, vol. iii. Perseus and Juvenal.
1693, Beginning of National Debt.
1693, Congreve, Old Bachelor.

1694, Miscellanies, vol. iv.
1694, Bank of England established. Death of Queen Mary.
1694, Southern, The Fatal Marriage. Addison, Account of Greatest
English Poets. Congreve, Double Dealer.

1695, Poems to Kneller and Congreve. Fresnoy's Art of Painting.
1695, Censorship of Press removed.
1695, Congreve, Love for Love. Blackmore, Prince Arthur.

1696, Life of Lucian.
1696, Trials for Treason Act.
1696, Southern, Oroonoko.

1697, Virgil, Alexander's Feast composed.
1697, Peace of Ryswick.
1697, Congreve, Mourning Bride. Vanbrugh, The Relapse.

1698, Partition Treaties.
1698, Swift begins Battle of Books. Farquhar, Love and a Bottle.
Vanbrugh, Provoked Wife. Collier, Short View of the Immorality
and Profaneness of the English Stage.

1700, Fables. Died May 1st.
1700, Severe Acts against Roman Catholics.
1700, Congreve, Way of the World. Prior, Carmen Seculare.



The bard who first adorned our native tongue
Tuned to his British lyre this ancient song;
Which Homer might without a blush reherse,
And leaves a doubtful palm in Virgil's verse:
He matched their beauties, where they most excel;
Of love sung better, and of-arms as well.

Vouchsafe, illustrious Ormond, to behold
What power the charms of beauty had of old;
Nor wonder if such deeds of arms were done,
Inspired by two fair eyes that sparkled like your own.

If Chaucer by the best idea wrought,
And poets can divine each other's thought,
The fairest nymph before his eyes he set;
And then the fairest was Plantagenet,
Who three contending princes made her prize,
And ruled the rival nations with her eyes;
Who left immortal trophies of her fame,
And to the noblest order gave the name.

Like her, of equal kindred to the throne,
You keep her conquests, and extend your own:

As when the stars, in their etherial race,
At length have rolled around the liquid space,
At certain periods they resume their place,
From the same point of heaven their course advance,
And move in measures of their former dance;
Thus, after length of ages, she returns,
Restored in you, and the same place adorns:
Or you perform her office in the sphere,
Born of her blood, and make a new Platonic year.

O true Plantagenet, O race divine,
(For beauty still is fatal to the line,)
Had Chaucer lived that angel-face to view,
Sure he had drawn his Emily from you;
Or had you lived to judge the doubtful right,
Your noble Palamon had been the knight;
And conquering Theseus from his side had sent
Your generous lord, to guide the Theban government.

Time shall accomplish that; and I shall see
A Palamon in him, in you an Emily.

Already have the Fates your path prepared,
And sure presage your future sway declared:
When westward, like the sun, you took your way,
And from benighted Britain bore the day,
Blue Triton gave the signal from the shore,
The ready Nereids heard, and swam before
To smooth the seas; a soft Etesian gale
But just inspired, and gently swelled the sail;
Portunus took his turn, whose ample hand
Heaved up the lightened keel, and sunk the sand,
And steered the sacred vessel safe to land.
The land, if not restrained, had met your way,
Projected out a neck, and jutted to the sea.
Hibernia, prostrate at your feet, adored
In you the pledge of her expected lord,

Due to her isle; a venerable name;
His father and his grandsire known to fame;
Awed by that house, accustomed to command,
The sturdy kerns in due subjection stand,
Nor bear the reins in any foreign hand.

At your approach, they crowded to the port;
And scarcely landed, you create a court:
As Ormond's harbinger, to you they run,
For Venus is the promise of the Sun.

The waste of civil wars, their towns destroyed,
Pales unhonoured, Ceres unemployed,
Were all forgot; and one triumphant day
Wiped all the tears of three campaigns away.
Blood, rapines, massacres, were cheaply bought,
So mighty recompense your beauty brought.
As when the dove returning bore the mark
Of earth restored to the long-labouring ark,
The relics of mankind, secure of rest,
Oped every window to receive the guest,
And the fair bearer of the message blessed:
So, when you came, with loud repeated cries,
The nation took an omen from your eyes,
And God advanced his rainbow in the skies,
To sign inviolable peace restored;
The saints with solemn shouts proclaimed the new accord.

When at your second coming you appear,
(For I foretell that millenary year)
The sharpened share shall vex the soil no more,
But earth unbidden shall produce her store;
The land shall laugh, the circling ocean smile,
And Heaven's indulgence bless the holy isle.

Heaven from all ages has reserved for you
That happy clime, which venom never knew;
Or if it had been there, your eyes alone
Have power to chase all poison, but their own.

Now in this interval, which Fate has cast
Betwixt your future glories and your past,
This pause of power, 'tis Ireland's hour to mourn;
While England celebrates your safe return,
By which you seem the seasons to command,
And bring our summers back to their forsaken land.

The vanquished isle our leisure must attend,
Till the fair blessing we vouchsafe to send;
Nor can we spare you long, though often we may lend.
The dove was twice employed abroad, before
The world was dried, and she returned no more.

Nor dare we trust so soft a messenger,
New from her sickness, to that northern air;
Rest here awhile your lustre to restore,
That they may see you, as you shone before;
For yet, the eclipse not wholly past, you wade
Through some remains and dimness of a shade.

A subject in his prince may claim a right,
Nor suffer him with strength impaired to fight;
Till force returns, his ardour we restrain,
And curb his warlike wish to cross the main.

Now past the danger, let the learned begin
The inquiry, where disease could enter in;
How those malignant atoms forced their way,
What in the faultless frame they found to make their prey,
Where every element was weighed so well,
That Heaven alone, who mixed the mass, could tell
Which of the four ingredients could rebel;
And where, imprisoned in so sweet a cage,
A soul might well be pleased to pass an age.

And yet the fine materials made it weak;
Porcelain by being pure is apt to break.
Even to your breast the sickness durst aspire,
And forced from that fair temple to retire,
Profanely set the holy place on fire.
In vain your lord, like young Vespasian, mourned,
When the fierce flames the sanctuary burned;
And I prepared to pay in verses rude
A most detested act of gratitude:
Even this had been your Elegy, which now
Is offered for your health, the table of my vow.

Your angel sure our Morley's mind inspired,
To find the remedy your ill required;
As once the Macedon, by Jove's decree,
Was taught to dream an herb for Ptolemy:
Or Heaven, which had such over-cost bestowed
As scarce it could afford to flesh and blood,
So liked the frame, he would not work anew,
To save the charges of another you;
Or by his middle science did he steer,
And saw some great contingent good appear,
Well worth a miracle to keep you here,
And for that end preserved the precious mould,
Which all the future Ormonds was to hold;
And meditated, in his better mind,
An heir from you who may redeem the failing kind.

Blessed be the power which has at once restored
The hopes of lost succession to your lord;
Joy to the first and last of each degree,
Virtue to courts, and, what I longed to see,
To you the Graces, and the Muse to me.

O daughter of the Rose, whose cheeks unite
The differing titles of the Red and White;
Who heaven's alternate beauty well display,
The blush of morning and the milky way;
Whose face is Paradise, but fenced from sin;
For God in either eye has placed a cherubin.

All is your lord's alone; even absent, he
Employs the care of chaste Penelope.
For him you waste in tears your widowed hours,
For him your curious needle paints the flowers;
Such works of old imperial dames were taught,
Such for Ascanius fair Elisa wrought.
The soft recesses of your hours improve
The three fair pledges of your happy love:
All other parts of pious duty done,
You owe your Ormond nothing but a son,
To fill in future times his father's place,
And wear the garter of his mother's race.




In days of old there lived, of mighty fame,
A valiant Prince, and Theseus was his name;
A chief, who more in feats of arms excelled,
The rising nor the setting sun beheld.
Of Athens he was lord; much land he won,
And added foreign countries to his crown.
In Scythia with the warrior Queen he strove,
Whom first by force he conquered, then by love;
He brought in triumph back the beauteous dame,
With whom her sister, fair Emilia, came.
With honour to his home let Theseus ride,
With Love to friend, and Fortune for his guide,
And his victorious army at his side.
I pass their warlike pomp, their proud array,
Their shouts, their songs, their welcome on the way;
But, were it not too long, I would recite
The feats of Amazons, the fatal fight
Betwixt the hardy Queen and hero Knight;
The town besieged, and how much blood it cost
The female army, and the Athenian host;
The spousals of Hippolyta the Queen;
What tilts and turneys at the feast were seen;
The storm at their return, the ladies' fear:
But these and other things I must forbear.

The field is spacious I design to sow
With oxen far unfit to draw the plough:
The remnant of my tale is of a length
To tire your patience, and to waste my strength;
And trivial accidents shall be forborn,
That others may have time to take their turn,
As was at first enjoined us by mine host,
That he, whose tale is best and pleases most,
Should win his supper at our common cost.
And therefore where I left, I will pursue
This ancient story, whether false or true,
In hope it may be mended with a new.
The Prince I mentioned, full of high renown,
In this array drew near the Athenian town;
When, in his pomp and utmost of his pride
Marching, he chanced to cast his eye aside,
And saw a quire of mourning dames, who lay
By two and two across the common way:
At his approach they raised a rueful cry,
And beat their breasts, and held their hands on high,
Creeping and crying, till they seized at last
His courser's bridle and his feet embraced.
"Tell me," said Theseus, "what and whence you are,
"And why this funeral pageant you prepare?
Is this the welcome of my worthy deeds,
To meet my triumph in ill-omened weeds?
Or envy you my praise, and would destroy
With grief my pleasures, and pollute my joy?
Or are you injured, and demand relief?
Name your request, and I will ease your grief."
The most in years of all the mourning train
Began; but swounded first away for pain;
Then scarce recovered spoke: "Nor envy we
"Thy great renown, nor grudge thy victory;
'Tis thine, O King, the afflicted to redress,
And fame has filled the world with thy success:
We wretched women sue for that alone,
Which of thy goodness is refused to none;
Let fall some drops of pity on our grief,
If what we beg be just, and we deserve relief;
For none of us, who now thy grace implore,
But held the rank of sovereign queen before;
Till, thanks to giddy Chance, which never bears
That mortal bliss should last for length of years,
She cast us headlong from our high estate,
And here in hope of thy return we wait,
And long have waited in the temple nigh,
Built to the gracious goddess Clemency.
But reverence thou the power whose name it bears,
Relieve the oppressed, and wipe the widows' tears.
I, wretched I, have other fortune seen,
The wife of Capaneus, and once a Queen;
At Thebes he fell; cursed be the fatal day!
And all the rest thou seest in this array
To make their moan their lords in battle lost,
Before that town besieged by our confederate host.
But Creon, old and impious, who commands
The Theban city, and usurps the lands,
Denies the rites of funeral fires to those
Whose breathless bodies yet he calls his foes.
Unburned, unburied, on a heap they lie;
Such is their fate, and such his tyranny;
No friend has leave to bear away the dead,
But with their lifeless limbs his hounds are fed."
At this she shrieked aloud; the mournful train
Echoed her grief, and grovelling on the plain,
With groans, and hands upheld, to move his mind,
Besought his pity to their helpless kind.

The Prince was touched, his tears began to flow,
And, as his tender heart would break in two,
He sighed; and could not but their fate deplore,
So wretched now, so fortunate before.
Then lightly from his lofty steed he flew,
And raising one by one the suppliant crew,
To comfort each, full solemnly he swore,
That by the faith which knights to knighthood bore,
And whate'er else to chivalry belongs,
He would not cease, till he revenged their wrongs;
That Greece should see performed what he declared,
And cruel Creon find his just reward.
He said no more, but shunning all delay
Rode on, nor entered Athens on his way;
But left his sister and his queen behind,
And waved his royal banner in the wind,
Where in an argent field the God of War
Was drawn triumphant on his iron car.
Red was his sword, and shield, and whole attire,
And all the godhead seemed to glow with fire;
Even the ground glittered where the standard flew,
And the green grass was dyed to sanguine hue.
High on his pointed lance his pennon bore
His Cretan fight, the conquered Minotaur:
The soldiers shout around with generous rage,
And in that victory their own presage.
He praised their ardour, inly pleased to see
His host, the flower of Grecian chivalry.
All day he marched, and all the ensuing night,
And saw the city with returning light.
The process of the war I need not tell,
How Theseus conquered, and how Creon fell;
Or after, how by storm the walls were won,
Or how the victor sacked and burned the town;
How to the ladies he restored again
The bodies of their lords in battle slain;
And with what ancient rites they were interred;
All these to fitter time shall be deferred:
I spare the widows' tears, their woful cries,
And howling at their husbands' obsequies;
How Theseus at these funerals did assist,
And with what gifts the mourning dames dismissed.

Thus when the victor chief had Creon slain,
And conquered Thebes, he pitched upon the plain
His mighty camp, and when the day returned,
The country wasted and the hamlets burned,
And left the pillagers, to rapine bred,
Without control to strip and spoil the dead.

There, in a heap of slain, among the rest
Two youthful knights they found beneath a load oppressed
Of slaughtered foes, whom first to death they sent,
The trophies of their strength, a bloody monument.
Both fair, and both of royal blood they seemed,
Whom kinsmen to the crown the heralds deemed;
That day in equal arms they fought for fame;
Their swords, their shields, their surcoats were the same:
Close by each other laid they pressed the ground,
Their manly bosoms pierced with many a grisly wound;
Nor well alive nor wholly dead they were,
But some faint signs of feeble life appear;
The wandering breath was on the wing to part,
Weak was the pulse, and hardly heaved the heart.
These two were sisters' sons; and Arcite one,
Much famed in fields, with valiant Palamon.
From these their costly arms the spoilers rent,
And softly both conveyed to Theseus' tent:
Whom, known of Creon's line and cured with care,
He to his city sent as prisoners of the war;
Hopeless of ransom, and condemned to lie
In durance, doomed a lingering death to die.

This done, he marched away with warlike sound,
And to his Athens turned with laurels crowned,
Where happy long he lived, much loved, and more renowned.
But in a tower, and never to be loosed,
The woful captive kinsmen are enclosed.

Thus year by year they pass, and day by day,
Till once ('twas on the morn of cheerful May)
The young Emilia, fairer to be seen
Than the fair lily on the flowery green,
More fresh than May herself in blossoms new,
(For with the rosy colour strove her hue,)
Waked, as her custom was, before the day,
To do the observance due to sprightly May;
For sprightly May commands our youth to keep
The vigils of her night, and breaks their sluggard sleep;
Each gentle breast with kindly warmth she moves;
Inspires new flames, revives extinguished loves.
In this remembrance Emily ere day
Arose, and dressed herself in rich array;
Fresh as the month, and as the morning fair,
Adown her shoulders fell her length of hair:
A ribband did the braided tresses bind,
The rest was loose, and wantoned in the wind:
Aurora had but newly chased the night,
And purpled o'er the sky with blushing light,
When to the garden-walk she took her way,
To sport and trip along in cool of day,
And offer maiden vows in honour of the May. 190

At every turn she made a little stand,
And thrust among the thorns her lily hand
To draw the rose; and every rose she drew,
She shook the stalk, and brushed away the dew;

Then party-coloured flowers of white and red
She wove, to make a garland for her head:
This done, she sung and carolled out so clear,
That men and angels might rejoice to hear;
Even wondering Philomel forgot to sing,
And learned from her to welcome in the spring.
The tower, of which before was mention made,
Within whose keep the captive knights were laid,
Built of a large extent, and strong withal,
Was one partition of the palace wall;
The garden was enclosed within the square,
Where young Emilia took the morning air.

It happened Palamon, the prisoner knight,
Restless for woe, arose before the light,
And with his jailor's leave desired to breathe
An air more wholesome than the damps beneath.
This granted, to the tower he took his way,
Cheered with the promise of a glorious day;
Then cast a languishing regard around,
And saw with hateful eyes the temples crowned
With golden spires, and all the hostile ground.
He sighed, and turned his eyes, because he knew
'Twas but a larger jail he had in view;
Then looked below, and from the castle's height
Beheld a nearer and more pleasing sight;
The garden, which before he had not seen,
In spring's new livery clad of white and green,
Fresh flowers in wide parterres, and shady walks between.
This viewed, but not enjoyed, with arms across
He stood, reflecting on his country's loss;
Himself an object of the public scorn,
And often wished he never had been born.
At last (for so his destiny required),
With walking giddy, and with thinking tired,

He through a little window cast his sight,
Though thick of bars, that gave a scanty light;
But even that glimmering served him to descry
The inevitable charms of Emily.

Scarce had he seen, but, seized with sudden smart,
Stung to the quick, he felt it at his heart;
Struck blind with overpowering light he stood,
Then started back amazed, and cried aloud.

Young Arcite heard; and up he ran with haste,
To help his friend, and in his arms embraced;
And asked him why he looked so deadly wan,
And whence, and how, his change of cheer began?
Or who had done the offence? "But if," said he,
"Your grief alone is hard captivity,
For love of Heaven with patience undergo
A cureless ill, since Fate will have it so:
So stood our horoscope in chains to lie,
And Saturn in the dungeon of the sky,
Or other baleful aspect, ruled our birth,
When all the friendly stars were under earth;
Whate'er betides, by Destiny 'tis done;
And better bear like men than vainly seek to shun."
Nor of my bonds," said Palamon again,
Nor of unhappy planets I complain;
But when my mortal anguish caused my cry,
The moment I was hurt through either eye;
Pierced with a random shaft, I faint away,
And perish with insensible decay:
A glance of some new goddess gave the wound,
Whom, like Actaeon, unaware I found.
Look how she walks along yon shady space;
Not Juno moves with more majestic grace,
And all the Cyprian queen is in her face.
If thou art Venus (for thy charms confess
That face was formed in heaven), nor art thou less,
Disguised in habit, undisguised in shape,
O help us captives from our chains to scape!
But if our doom be past in bonds to lie
For life, and in a loathsome dungeon die,
Then be thy wrath appeased with our disgrace,
And show compassion to the Theban race,
Oppressed by tyrant power!"--While yet he spoke,
Arcite on Emily had fixed his look;
The fatal dart a ready passage found
And deep within his heart infixed the wound:
So that if Palamon were wounded sore,
Arcite was hurt as much as he or more:
Then from his inmost soul he sighed, and said,
"The beauty I behold has struck me dead:
Unknowingly she strikes, and kills by chance;
Poison is in her eyes, and death in every glance.
Oh, I must ask; nor ask alone, but move
Her mind to mercy, or must die for love."

Thus Arcite: and thus Palamon replies
(Eager his tone, and ardent were his eyes,)
"Speakest thou in earnest, or in jesting vein?"
"Jesting," said Arcite, "suits but ill with pain."
"It suits far worse," (said Palamon again,
And bent his brows,) "with men who honour weigh,
Their faith to break, their friendship to betray;
But worst with thee, of noble lineage born,
My kinsman, and in arms my brother sworn.
Have we not plighted each our holy oath,
That one should be the common good of both;
One soul should both inspire, and neither prove
His fellow's hindrance in pursuit of love?
To this before the Gods we gave our hands,
And nothing but our death can break the bands.

This binds thee, then, to farther my design,
As I am bound by vow to farther thine:
Nor canst, nor darest thou, traitor, on the plain
Appeach my honour, or thy own maintain,
Since thou art of my council, and the friend
Whose faith I trust, and on whose care depend.
And wouldst thou court my lady's love, which I
Much rather than release, would choose to die?
But thou, false Arcite, never shalt obtain,
Thy bad pretence; I told thee first my pain:
For first my love began ere thine was born;
Thou as my council, and my brother sworn,
Art bound to assist my eldership of right,
Or justly to be deemed a perjured knight."

Thus Palamon: but Arcite with disdain
In haughty language thus replied again:
"Forsworn thyself: the traitor's odious name
I first return, and then disprove thy claim.
If love be passion, and that passion nurst
With strong desires, I loved the lady first.
Canst thou pretend desire, whom zeal inflamed
To worship, and a power celestial named?
Thine was devotion to the blest above,
I saw the woman, and desired her love;
First owned my passion, and to thee commend
The important secret, as my chosen friend.
Suppose (which yet I grant not) thy desire
A moment elder than my rival fire;
Can chance of seeing first thy title prove?
And knowst thou not, no law is made for love?
Law is to things which to free choice relate;
Love is not in our choice, but in our fate;
Laws are not positive; love's power we see
Is Nature's sanction, and her first decree,
Each day we break the bond of human laws
For love, and vindicate the common cause.
Laws for defence of civil rights are placed,
Love throws the fences down, and makes a general waste.
Maids, widows, wives without distinction fall;
The sweeping deluge, love, comes on and covers all.
If then the laws of friendship I transgress,
I keep the greater, while I break the less;
And both are mad alike, since neither can possess.
Both hopeless to be ransomed, never more
To see the sun, but as he passes o'er.
Like Asop's hounds contending for the bone,
Each pleaded right, and would be lord alone;
The fruitless fight continued all the day,
A cur came by and snatched the prize away.
As courtiers therefore justle for a grant,
And when they break their friendship, plead their want,
So thou, if Fortune will thy suit advance,
Love on, nor envy me my equal chance:
For I must love, and am resolved to try
My fate, or failing in the adventure die."

Great was their strife, which hourly was renewed,
Till each with mortal hate his rival viewed:
Now friends no more, nor walking hand in hand;
But when they met they made a surly stand,
And glared like Angry lions as they passed,
And wished that every look might be their last.

It chanced at length, Pirithous came to attend
This worthy Theseus, his familiar friend:
Their love in early infancy began,
And rose as childhood ripened into man,
Companions of the war; and loved so well,
That when one died, as ancient stories tell,
His fellow to redeem him went to hell.

But to pursue my tale: to welcome home
His warlike brother is Pirithous come:
Arcite of Thebes was known in arms long since,
And honoured by this young Thessalian prince.
Theseus, to gratify his friend and guest,
Who made our Arcite's freedom his request,
Restored to liberty the captive knight,
But on these hard conditions I recite:
That if hereafter Arcite should be found
Within the compass of Athenian ground,
By day or night, or on whate'er pretence,
His head should pay the forfeit of the offence.
To this Pirithous for his friend agreed,
And on his promise was the prisoner freed.

Unpleased and pensive hence he takes his way,
At his own peril; for his life must pay.
Who now but Arcite mourns his bitter fate,
Finds his dear purchase, and repents too late?
"What have I gained," he said, "in prison pent,
If I but change my bonds for banishment?
And banished from her sight, I suffer more
In freedom than I felt in bonds before;
Forced from her presence and condemned to live,
Unwelcome freedom and unthanked reprieve:
Heaven is not but where Emily abides,
And where she's absent, all is hell besides.
Next to my day of birth, was that accurst
Which bound my friendship to Pirithous first:
Had I not known that prince, I still had been
In bondage and had still Emilia seen:
For though I never can her grace deserve,
'Tis recompense enough to see and serve.
O Palamon, my kinsman and my friend,
How much more happy fates thy love attend I

Thine is the adventure, thine the victory,
Well has thy fortune turned the dice for thee:
Thou on that angel's face mayest feed thy eyes,
In prison, no; but blissful paradise!
Thou daily seest that sun of beauty shine,
And lovest 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 complain?
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, he 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 livest at large, thou drawest thy native air,
Pleased with thy freedom, proud of my despair:
Thou mayest, 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
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 must, and guiltless oft, endure;
Or does your justice, power, or prescience 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 Mars and Venus in a quartil, move
My pangs of jealousy for Arcite's love,"

Let Palamon oppressed in bondage mourn,
While to his exited 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 uncontrolled,
Beholds whate'er he would but what he would behold.
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 eyeballs in their hollow sockets sink,
Bereft of sleep; he loathes 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;
In solitary groves he makes his moan,
Walks early out, and ever is alone;
Nor, mixed in mirth, in youthful pleasure 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 swound,
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 had endured a year and more,
Now wholly changed from what he was before,
It happened once, that, slumbering as he lay,
He dreamt (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.
A sudden thought then starting in his mind,
"Since I in Arcite cannot Arcite find,
The world may search in vain with all their eyes,
But never penetrate through this disguise.
Thanks to the change which grief and sickness give,
In low estate I may securely live,
And see, unknown, my mistress day by day."
He said, and clothed himself in coarse array,
A labouring hind in show; then forth he went,
And to the Athenian towers his journey bent:
One squire attended in the same disguise,
Made conscious of his master's enterprise.
Arrived at Athens, soon he came to court,
Unknown, unquestioned in that thick resort:
Proffering for hire his service at the gate,
To drudge, draw water, and to run or wait.

So fair befel him, that for little gain
He served at first Emilia's chamberlain;
And, watchful all advantages to spy,
Was still at hand, and in his master's eye;
And as his bones were big, and sinews strong,
Refused no toil that could to slaves belong;
But from deep wells with engines water drew,
And used his noble hands the wood to hew.
He passed a year at least attending thus
On Emily, and called Philostratus.
But never was there man of his degree
So much esteemed, so well beloved as he.
So gentle of condition was he known,
That through the court his courtesy was blown:
All think him worthy of a greater place,
And recommend him to the royal grace;
That exercised within a higher sphere,
His virtues more conspicuous might appear.
Thus by the general voice was Arcite praised,
And by great Theseus to high favour raised;
Among his menial servants first enrolled,
And largely entertained with sums of gold:
Besides what secretly from Thebes was sent,

Of his own income and his annual rent.
This well employed, he purchased friends and fame,
But cautiously concealed 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 Arcite lives in bliss, the story turns
Where hopeless Palamon in prison mourns.
For six long years immured, the captive knight
Had dragged his chains, and scarcely seen the light:
Lost liberty and love at once he bore;
His prison pained 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 mixed, with added store
Of opium; to his keeper this he brought,
Who swallowed unaware the sleepy draught,
And snored secure till morn, his senses bound
In slumber, and in long oblivion drowned.
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 lengthened strides he took his way,
(For far he could not fly, and feared 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 dreamt 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 laughed to see the joyous sight;
He with his tepid rays the rose renews,
And licks the dropping leaves, and dries 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 seemed, and prancing o'er the plains,
Turned only to the grove his horse's reins,
The grove I named before, and, lighting there,
A woodbind garland sought to crown his hair;
Then turned his face against the rising day,
And raised his voice to welcome in the May:
"For thee, sweet month, the groves green liveries wear,
If not the first, the fairest of the year:
For thee the Graces lead the dancing hours,

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