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Or grant I err'd, (which yet I must deny)
Had parents power even second vows to tie,
Thy little care to mend my widow'd nights,
Has forced me to recourse of marriage-rites,
To fill an empty side, and follow known delights.
What have I done in this deserving blame?
State-laws may alter; nature's are the same;
Those are usurp'd on helpless woman-kind,
Made without our consent, and wanting power to
Thou, Tancred, better shouldst have understood,
That, as thy father gave thee flesh and blood,
So gavest thou me: not from the quarry hew'd,
But of a softer mould, with sense endued;
Even softer than thy own, of suppler kind,
More exquisite of taste, and more than man refined.
Nor need'st thou by thy daughter to be told,
Though now thy spritely blood with age be cold,
Thou hast been young; and canst remember still,
That when thou hadst the power, thou hadst the
And from the past experience of thy fires, Canst tell with what a tide our strong desires 7 Come rushing on in youth, and what their rage requires.
And grant thy youth was exercised in arms, When love no leisure found for softer charms, My tender age in luxury was train'd, With idle ease and pageants entertain❜d; My hours my own, my pleasures unrestrain'd. So bred, no wonder if I took the bent That seem'd even warranted by thy consent; For when the father is too fondly kind, Such seed he sows, such harvest shall he find, Blame then thyself, as reason's law requires, (Since nature gave, and thou foment'st, my fires
If still those appetites continue strong,
Thou may'st consider I am yet but young.
Consider too, that, having been a wife,
I must have tasted of a better life ;
And am not to be blamed, if I renew,
By lawful means, the joys which then I knew.
Where was the crime, if pleasure I procured;
Young, and a woman, and to bliss inured?
That was my case, and this is my defence:-
I pleased myself, I shunn'd incontinence,
And, urged by strong desires, indulged my sense.
Left to myself, I must avow, I strove
From public shame to screen my secret love,
And, well acquainted with thy native pride,
Endeavour'd what I could not help, to hide;
For which a woman's wit an easy way supplied.
How this, so well contrived, so closely laid,
Was known to thee, or by what chance betray'd,
Is not my care: to please thy pride alone,
I could have wish'd it had been still unknown.
Nor took I Guiscard by blind fancy led,
Or hasty choice, as many women wed;
But with deliberate care, and ripen'd thought,
At leisure first design'd, before I wrought.
On him I rested, after long debate,
And, not without considering, fix'd my fate.
His flame was equal, though by mine inspired;
(For so the difference of our birth required :)
Had he been born like me, like me his love
Had first begun, what mine was forced to move:
But thus beginning, thus we persevere;
Our passions yet continue what they were,
Nor length of trial makes our joys the less sincere.
At this my choice, though not by thine allow'd, (Thy judgment herding with the common crowd,) Thou takest unjust offence; and, led by them, Dost less the merit than the man esteem.
Too sharply, Tancred, by thy pride betray'd,
Hast thou against the laws of kind inveigh'd ;
For all the offence is in opinion placed,
Which deems high birth by lowly choice debased.
This thought alone with fury fires thy breast,
(For holy marriage justifies the rest,)
That I have sunk the glories of the state,
And mix'd my blood with a plebeian mate:
In which I wonder thou should'st oversee
Superior causes, or impute to me
The fault of fortune, or the Fates' decree.
Or call it heaven's imperial power alone,
Which moves on springs of justice though unknown;
Yet this we see, though order'd for the best,
The bad exalted and the good oppress'd;
Permitted laurels grace the lawless brow;
The unworthy raised, the worthy cast below.
But leaving that; search we the secret springs,
And backward trace the principles of things;
There shall we find, that, when the world began,
One common mass composed the mould of man;
One paste of flesh on all degrees bestow'd,
And kneaded up alike with moistening blood.
The same Almighty Power inspired the frame
With kindled life, and form'd the souls the same:
The faculties of intellect and will
Dispensed with equal hand, disposed with equal skill,
Like liberty indulged, with choice of good or ill. Thus born alike, from virtue first began
The difference that distinguish'd man from man : He claim'd no title from descent of blood,
But that which made him noble made him good. Warm'd with more particles of heavenly flame, He wing'd his upward flight, and soar'd to fame; The rest remain'd below, a tribe without a name.
This law, though custom now diverts the course, As nature's institute, is yet in force;
Uncancell'd, though disused: and he, whose mind
Is virtuous, is alone of noble kind;
Though poor in fortune, of celestial race;
And he commits the crime, who calls him base.
Now lay the line, and measure all thy court
By inward virtue, not external port,
And find whom justly to prefer above
The man on whom my judgment placed my love;
So shalt thou see his parts and person shine,
And, thus compared, the rest a base degenerate line.
Nor took I, when I first survey'd thy court,
His valour or his virtues on report;
But trusted what I ought to trust alone,
Relying on thy eyes, and not my own;
Thy praise (and thine was then the public voice)
First recommended Guiscard to my choice:
Directed thus by thee, I look'd, and found
A man I thought deserving to be crown'd;
First by my father pointed to my sight,
Nor less conspicuous by his native light;
His mind, his mien, the features of his face,
Excelling all the rest of human race:
These were thy thoughts, and thou could'st judge aright,
Till interest made a jaundice in thy sight.
O should I grant thou didst not rightly see,
Then thou wert first deceived, and I deceived by thee,
But if thou shalt allege, through pride of mind,
Thy blood with one of base condition join'd,
'Tis false; for 'tis not baseness to be poor:
His poverty augments thy crime the more;
Upbraids thy justice with the scant regard
Of worth; whom princes praise, they should reward,
Are these the kings entrusted by the crowd
With wealth, to be dispensed for common good?
The people sweat not for their king's delight,
To enrich a pimp, or raise a parasite;
Theirs is the toil; and he, who well has served
His country, has his country's wealth deserved.
Even mighty monarchs oft are meanly born,
And kings by birth to lowest ranks return;
All subject to the power of giddy chance,
For fortune can depress or can advance:
But true nobility is of the mind,
Not given by chance, and not to chance resign'd.
For the remaining doubt of thy decree,
What to resolve, and how dispose of me;
Be warn'd to cast that useless care aside,
Myself alone will for myself provide.
If in thy doating and decrepit age,
Thy soul, a stranger in thy youth to rage,
Begins in cruel deeds to take delight,
Gorge with my blood thy barbarous appetite;
For I so little am disposed to pray
For life, I would not cast a wish away.
Such as it is, the offence is all my own;
And what to Guiscard is already done,
Or to be done is doom'd by thy decree,
That, if not executed first by thee,
Shall on my person be perform'd by me.
Away! with women weep, and leave me here,
Fix'd like a man to die without a tear;
Or save or slay us both this present hour,
'Tis all thy fate has left within thy power.
She said; nor did her father fail to find, In all she spoke, the greatness of her mind; Yet thought she was not obstinate to die, Nor deem'd the death she promised was so nigh. Secure in this belief, he left the dame,
Resolved to spare her life, and save her shame ; But that detested object to remove,
To wreck his vengeance, and to cure her love.