Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

Your ancestors proceed from race divine :
From Brennus and Belinus is your line;
Who gave to sovereign Rome such loud alarms,
That even the priests

were not excused from arms.
Besides, a famous monk of modern times *
Has left of cocks recorded in his rhymes,
That of a parish priest the son and heir,
(When sons of priests were from the proverb clear,)
Affronted once a cock of noble kind,
And either lamed his legs, or struck him blind ;
For which the clerk his father was disgraced,
And in his benefice another placed.
Now sing, my lord, if not for love of me,
Yet for the sake of sweet Saint Charity ;
Make hills and dales, and earth and heaven, rejoice,
And emulate your father's angel-voice.

The cock was pleased to hear him speak so fair,
And proud beside, as solar people are ;
Nor could the treason from the truth descry,
So was he ravish'd with this flattery:
So much the more, as from a little elf,
He had a high opinion of himself;
Though sickly, slender, and not large of limb,
Concluding all the world was made for him.

Ye princes, raised by poets to the gods,
And Alexander'd up in lying odes,
Believe not every flattering knave's report,
There's many a Reynard lurking in the court;

* Nigellus Wireker, who, in Richard the First's reign, composed a Book, called “ Burnellus, seu speculum Stultorum.” The story alluded to, is of a cock, who, having been lamed by a priest's son, called Gundulfus, in revenge omitted to crow upon a morning, when his enemy had directed that he should be called

very early, in order to go to a distant church, where he was to take orders. By this stratagem, Gundulfus overslept himself, and was disappointed of his ordination.

And he shall be received with more regard,
And listen'd to, than modest truth is heard.

This Chanticleer, of whom the story sings, Stood high upon his toes, and clapp'd his wings; Then stretch'd his neck, and wink'd with both his

eyes,
Ambitious, as he sought the Olympic prize.
But while he pain’d himself to raise his note,
False Reynard rush'd, and caught him by the throat.
Then on his back he laid the precious load,
And sought his wonted shelter of the wood;
Swiftly he made his way, the mischief done,
Of all unheeded, and pursued by none.

Alas! what stay is there in human state,
Or who can shun inevitable fate?
The doom was written, the decree was past,
Ere the foundations of the world were cast !
In Aries though the Sun exalted stood,
His patron-planet, to procure his good;
Yet Saturn was his mortal foe, and he,
In Libra raised, opposed the same degree :
The rays both good and bad, of equal power,
Each thwarting other, made a mingled hour.

On Friday-morn he dreamt this direful dream,
Cross to the worthy native,* in his scheme.
Ah blissful Venus ? goddess of delight !
How couldst thou suffer thy devoted knight,
On thy own day, to fall by foe oppress'd,
The wight of all the world who served thee best?
Who, true to love, was all for recreation,
And minded not the work of propagation ?
Ganfride, who couldst so well in rhyme complain
The death of Richard with an arrow slain,

*

Native, in astrology, is the person whose scheme of nativity is calculated.

Why had not I thy musė, or thou my heart, To sing this heavy dirge with equal art! That s like thee on Friday might complain ; · For on that day was Cour de Lion slain.

Not louder cries, when Ilium was in flames, Were sent to heaven by woful Trojan dames, When Pyrrhus toss'd on high his burnish'd blade, And offer'd Priam to his father's shade, Than for the cock the widow'd poultry made. Fair Partlet first, when he was borne from sight, With sovereign shrieks bewail'd her captive knight; Far louder than the Carthaginian wife, When Asdrubal her husband lost his life, When she beheld the smould'ring flames ascend, And all the Punic glories at an end : Willing into the fires she plunged her head, With greater ease than others seek their bed. Not more aghast the matrons of renown, When tyrant Nero burn’d the imperial town, Shriek'd for the downfal in a doleful cry, For which their guiltless lords were doom'd to die.

Now to my story I return again : The trembling widow, and her daughters twain, This woful cackling cry with horror heard, Of those distracted damsels in the yard ; And starting up, beheld the heavy sight, How Reynard to the forest took his flight, And cross his back, as in triumphant scorn, The hope and pillar of the house was borne.

* Ganfride, or Geoffrey de Vinsauf, a Norman historian, and parcel poet, bewailed the death of Richard in plaintive hexameters, in which he particularly exclaims against Friday, the day on which that hero was shot by Bertram de Gurdun :

Oh Veneris lacrymosa dies, O sydus amarum,
Illa dies tua nox fuit, et Venus illa venenum, &c.

The fox! the wicked fox! was all the

cry; Out from his house ran every neighbour nigh: The vicar first, and after him the crew, With forks and staves the felon to pursue. Ran Coll our dog, and Talbot with the band, And Malkin, with her distaff in her hand : Ran cow and calf, and family of hogs, In panic horror of pursuing dogs ; With many a deadly grunt, and doleful squeak, Poor swine, as if their pretty hearts would break. The shouts of men, the women in dismay, With shrieks augment the terror of the day. The ducks, that heard the proclamation cried, And fear'd a persecution might betide, Full twenty mile from town their voyage take, Obscure in rushes of the liquid lake. The geese fly o'er the barn; the bees, in arms, Drive headlong from their waxen cells in swarms. Jack Straw at London-stone, with all his rout, Struck not the city with so loud a shout; Not when with English hate they did pursue A Frenchman, or an unbelieving Jew ;* Not when the welkin rung with one and all, And echoes bounded back from Fox's hall Earth seem'd to sink beneath, and heaven above

above to fall. With might and main they chaced the murd’rous fox, With brazen trumpets, and inflated box, To kindle Mars with military sounds, Nor wanted horns to inspire sagacious hounds.

[ocr errors]

*

Dryden has given Jack Straw the national antipathies of the mob in his own time. Chaucer says more correctly, their rage was directed against the Flemings. In the next two lines, Dryden again alludes to the riots of his own time, whose gathering cry used to be “ one and all."

But see how fortune can confound the wise, And when they least expect it, turn the dice. The captive-cock, who scarce could draw his breath, And lay within the very jaws of death; Yet in this agony his fancy wrought, And fear supplied him with this happy thought : Your's is the prize, victorious prince, said he, The vicar my defeat, and all the village see.* Enjoy your friendly fortune while you may, And bid the churls that envy you the prey Call back their mongrel curs, and cease their cry: See, fools, the shelter of the wood is nigh, And Chanticleer in your despite shall die ; He shall be pluck'd and eaten to the bone.

'Tis well advised, in faith it shall be done ; This Reynard said : but as the word he spoke, The prisoner with a spring from prison broke ; Then stretch'd his feather'd fans with all his might, And to the neighbouring maple wing'd his flight.

Whom, when the traitor safe on tree beheld, He cursed the gods, with shame and sorrow filld : Shame for his folly ; sorrow out of time, For plotting an unprofitable crime: Yet, mastering both, the artificer of lies Renews the assault, and his last battery tries.

Though I, said he, did ne'er in thought offend, How justly may my lord suspect his friend ? The appearance is against me, I confess, Who seemingly have put you in distress. You, if your goodness does not plead my cause, May think I broke all hospitable laws,

* This excellent parody upon Virgil is introduced by Dryden, and marks his late labours :

Vicisti ! et victum tendere palmas
Ausonii videre.com

« EdellinenJatka »