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Intent on this, a secret order sign'd
The death of Guiscard to his guards enjoin'd;
Strangling was chosen, and the night the time;
A mute revenge, and blind as was the crime.
His faithful heart, a bloody sacrifice,
Torn from his breast, to glut the tyrant's eyes,
Closed the severe command; for (slaves to pay)
What kings decree, the soldier must obey:
Waged against foes; and when the wars are o'er,
Fit only to maintain despotic power;
Dangerous to freedom, and desired alone
By kings, who seek an arbitrary throne.*
Such were these guards; as ready to have slain
The prince himself, allured with greater gain :
So was the charge perform'd with better will,
By men inured to blood, and exercised in ill.
Now, though the sullen sire had eased his mind,
The pomp of his revenge was yet behind,
A pomp prepared to grace the present he design'd.
A goblet rich with gems, and rough with gold,
Of depth and breadth the precious pledge to hold,
With cruel care he chose; the hollow part
Inclosed, the lid conceal'd the lover's heart.
Then of his trusted mischiefs one he sent,
And bade him, with these words, the gift present:-
"Thy father sends thee this to cheer thy breast,
"And glad thy sight with what thou lov'st the best;
"As thou hast pleased his eyes, and joy'd his mind,
"With what he loved the most of human kind."-
Ere this, the royal dame, who well had weigh'd
The consequence of what her sire had said,
Fix'd on her fate, against the expected hour,
Procured the means to have it in her power:
The dispute between William and his Parliament about his favourite Dutch guards, was obviously in Dryden's recollection.
For this, she had distill'd, with early care,
The juice of simples, friendly to despair,
A magazine of death; and thus prepared,
Secure to die, the fatal message heard:
Then smiled severe; nor with a troubled look,
Or trembling hand, the funeral present took;
Even kept her countenance, when the lid, removed,
Disclosed the heart, unfortunately loved.
She needed not be told, within whose breast
It lodged; the message had explain'd the rest.
Or not amazed, or hiding her surprise,
She sternly on the bearer fix'd her eyes;
Then thus:-Tell Tancred, on his daughter's part,
The gold, though precious, equals not the heart:
But he did well to give his best; and I,
Who wish'd a worthier urn, forgive his poverty.-
At this she curb'd a groan, that else had come,
And, pausing, view'd the present in the tomb;
Then to the heart, adored devoutly, glued
Her lips, and, raising it, her speech renew'd:-
Even from my day of birth to this, the bound
Of my unhappy being, I have found
My father's care and tenderness express'd;
But this last act of love excels the rest :
For this so dear a present, bear him back
The best return that I can live to make.-
The messenger despatch'd, again she view'd
The loved remains, and, sighing, thus pursued:-
Source of my life, and lord of my desires,
In whom I lived, with whom my soul expires!
Poor heart! no more the spring of vital heat;
Cursed be the hands that tore thee from thy seat
The course is finish'd which thy fates decreed,
And thou from thy corporeal prison freed:
Soon hast thou reach'd the goal with mended pace:
A world of woes despatch'd in little
Forced by thy worth, thy foe, in death become
Thy friend, has lodged thee in a costly tomb.
There yet remain'd thy funeral exequies,
The weeping tribute of thy widow's eyes;
And those indulgent heaven has found the way,
That I, before my death, have leave to pay.
My father even in cruelty is kind,
Or heaven has turn'd the malice of his mind
To better uses than his hate design'd;
And made the insult, which in his gift appears,
The means to mourn thee with my pious tears;
Which I will pay thee down before I go,
And save myself the pains to weep below,
If souls can weep. Though once I meant to meet
My fate with face unmov'd, and eyes unwet,
Yet, since I have thee here in narrow room,
My tears shall set thee first afloat within thy tomb.
Then (as I know thy spirit hovers nigh)
Under thy friendly conduct will I fly
To regions unexplored, secure to share
Thy state; nor hell shall punishment appear;
And heaven is double heaven, if thou art there.
She said: Her brimful eyes, that ready stood,
And only wanted will to weep a flood,
Released their watery store, and pour'd amain,
Like clouds low-hung, a sober shower of rain;
Mute solemn sorrow, free from female noise,
Such as the majesty of grief destroys;
For, bending o'er the cup, the tears she shed,
Seem'd by the posture to discharge her head,
O'er-fill'd before; and (oft her mouth applied
To the cold heart) she kiss'd at once, and cried.
Her maids, who stood amazed, nor knew the cause
Of her complaining, nor whose heart it was,
Yet all due measures of her mourning kept,
Did office at the dirge, and by infection wept,
And oft inquired the occasion of her grief,
(Unanswer'd but by sighs) and offer'd vain relief.
At length, her stock of tears already shed,
She wiped her eyes, she raised her drooping head,
And thus pursued:-O ever faithful heart,
I have perform'd the ceremonial part,
The decencies of grief; it rests behind,
That, as our bodies were, our souls be join'd;
To thy whate'er abode my shade convey,
And, as an elder ghost, direct the way!-
She said; and bade the vial to be brought,
Where she before had brew'd the deadly draught;
First pouring out the med'cinable bane,
The heart, her tears had rinsed, she bathed again;
Then down her throat the death securely throws,
And quaffs a long oblivion of her woes.
This done, she mounts the genial bed, and there (Her body first composed with honest care) Attends the welcome rest; her hands yet hold, Close to her heart, the monumental gold; Nor farther word she spoke, but closed her sight, And quiet sought the covert of the night.
The damsels, who the while in silence mourn'd, Not knowing, nor suspecting death suborn'd, Yet, as their duty was, to Tancred sent, Who, conscious of the occasion, fear'd the event. Alarm'd, and with presaging heart, he came, And drew the curtains, and exposed the dame To loathsome light; then, with a late relief, Made vain efforts to mitigate her grief. She, what she could, excluding day, her eyes Kept firmly seal'd, and sternly thus replies:Tancred, restrain thy tears, unsought by me, And sorrow unavailing now to thee: Did ever man before afflict his mind, To see the effect of what himself design'd?
Yet, if thou hast remaining in thy heart
Some sense of love, some unextinguish'd part
Of former kindness, largely once profess'd,
Let me by that adjure thy harden'd breast,
Not to deny thy daughter's last request.
The secret love which I so long enjoy'd,
And still conceal'd, to gratify thy pride,
Thou hast disjoin'd; but, with my dying breath,
Seek not, I beg thee, to disjoin our death:
Where'er his corpse by thy command is laid,
Thither let mine in public be convey'd ;
Exposed in open view, and side by side,
Acknowledged as a bridegroom and a bride.-
The prince's anguish hinder'd his reply;
And she, who felt her fate approaching nigh,
Seized the cold heart, and heaving to her breast,-.
Here, precious pledge, she said, securely rest.—
These accents were her last; the creeping death
Benumb'd her senses first, then stopp'd her breath.
Thus she for disobedience justly died;
The sire was justly punish'd for his pride;
The youth, least guilty, suffer'd for the offence,
Of duty violated to his prince;
Who, late repenting of his cruel deed,
One common sepulchre for both decreed;
Entomb'd the wretched pair in royal state,
And on their monument inscribed their fate.