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At length he sigh’d, and, having first prepared The attentive audience, thus his will declared :
The Cause and Spring of motion, from above, Hung down on earth, the golden chain of Love; Great was the effect, and high was his intent, When
peace among the jarring seeds he sent : Fire, flood, and earth, and air, by this were bound, And love, the common link, the new creation
crown'd. The chain still holds ; for, though the forms decay, Eternal matter never wears away: The same first Mover certain bounds has placed, How long those perishable forms shall last; Nor can they last beyond the time assign'd By that all-seeing, and all-making Mind : Shorten their hours they may; for will is free ; But never pass the appointed destiny. So men oppress'd, when weary of their breath, Throw off the burden, and suborn their death. Then, since those forms begin, and have their end, On some unalter'd cause they sure depend : Parts of the whole are we; but God the whole; Who gives us life, and animating soul. For nature cannot from a part derive That being, which the whole can only give: He, perfect, stable ; but imperfect we, Subject to change, and different in degree; Plants, beasts, and man; and, as our organs are, We, more or less, of his perfection share. But, by a long descent, the ethereal fire Corrupts; and forms, the mortal part, expire. As he withdraws his virtue, so they pass, And the same matter makes another mass. This law the Omniscient Power was pleased to give, That every kind should by succession live; That individuals die, his will ordains; The propagated species still remains.
The monarch oak, the patriarch of the trees,
Shoots rising up, and spreads by slow degrees;
Three centuries he grows, and three he stays,
Supreme in state, and in three more decays:
So wears the paving pebble in the street,
And towns and towers their fatal periods meet:
So rivers, rapid once, now naked lie,
Forsaken of their springs, and leave their channels
So man, at first a drop, dilates with heat;
Then form’d, the little heart begins to beat;
Secret he feeds, unknowing in the cell ;
At length, for hatching ripe, he breaks the shell,
And struggles into breath, and cries for aid ;
Then, helpless, in his mother's lap is laid.
He creeps, he walks, and, issuing into man,
Grudges their life, from whence his own began;
Retchless of laws, affects to rule alone,
Anxious to reign, and restless on the throne;
First vegetive, then feels, and reasons last;
Rich of three souls, and lives all three to waste.
Some thus, but thousands more in flower of age ;
For few arrive to run the latter stage.
Sunk in the first, in battle some are slain,
And others whelm'd beneath the stormy main.
What makes all this, but Jupiter the king,
At whose command we perish, and we spring ?
Then 'tis our best, since thus ordain'd to die,
To make a virtue of necessity ;
Take what he gives, since to rebel is vain ;
The bad grows better, which we well sustain ;
And could we chuse the time, and chuse aright,
'Tis best to die, our honour at the height.
When we have done our ancestors no shame,
But served our friends, and well secured our famé,
Then should we wish our happy life to close,
And leave no more for fortune to dispose.
So should we make our death a glad relief
From future shame, from sickness, and from grief;
Enjoying, while we live, the present hour,
And dying in our excellence and flower.
Then round our death-bed every friend should run,
And joyous of our conquest early won;
While the malicious world, with envious tears,
Should grudge our happy end, and wish it theirs.
Since then our Arcite is with honour dead,
Why should we mourn, that he' so soon is freed,
Or call untimely, what the gods decreed ?
With grief as just, a friend may be deplored,
From a foul prison to free air restored.
Ought he to thank his kinsman or his wife,
Could tears recal him into wretched life?
Their sorrow hurts themselves ; on him is lost;
And, worse than both, offends his happy ghost.
What then remains, but, after past annoy,
To take the good vicissitude of joy ;
To thank the gracious gods for what they give,
Possess our souls, and while we live, to live?
Ordain we then two sorrows to combine,
And in one point the extremes of grief to join ;
That thence resulting joy may be renew'd,
As jarring notes in harmony conclude.
Then I propose, that Palamon shall be
In 'marriage join'd with beauteous Emily ;
For which already I have gain'd the assent
Of my free people in full parliament.
Long love to her has borne the faithful knight,
And well deserved, had fortune done him right:
"Tis time to mend her fault, since Emily,
By Arcite's death, from former vows is free.-
If you, fair sister, ratify the accord,
And take him for your husband and your lord,
"Tis no dishonour to confer your grace
On one descended from a royal race;
And were he less, yet years of service past,
From grateful souls, exact reward at last.
Pity is heaven's and yours; nor can she find
A throne so soft as in a woman's mind.-
He said : she blush'd; and, as o'erawed by might,
Seem'd to give Theseus what she gave the knight.
Then, turning to the Theban, thus he said :-
Small arguments are needful to persuade
Your temper to comply with my command :
And, speaking thus, he gave Emilia's hand.
Smiled Venus, to behold her own true knight
Obtain the conquest, though he lost the fight;
And bless'd, with nuptial bliss, the sweet labori-
ous night. Eros and Anteros, on either side, One fired the bridegroom, and one warm'd the bride; And long-attending Hymen, from above, Shower'd on the bed the whole Idalian grove. All of a tenor was their after-life, No day discolour'd with domestic strife ; No jealousy, but mutual truth believed, Secure repose, and kindness undeceived. Thus heaven, beyond the compass of his thought, Sent him the blessing he so dearly bought.
So may the Queen of Love long duty bless, And all true lovers find the same success!
The accurate Tyrwhitt detected the original of this fable in the translation of “ Æsop,” made by Marie of France into NormanFrench for the amusement of the court of England, by which that language was used down to the reign of Edward. But the hand of genius gilds what it touches ; and the naked Apologue, which may be found in Tyrwhitt's “ Preliminary Discourse," was amplified by Chaucer into a poem, which, in grave, ironical narrative, liveliness of illustration, and happiness of humorous description, yields to none that ever was written. Dryden, whom “ The Hind and Panther” had familiarized with this species of composition, has executed a version at once literal and spirited, which seldom omits what is valuable in his original, and often adds those sparks which genius strikes out, when in collision with the work of a kindred spirit.