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And bless’d he might have been with her alone:
But oh ! how much more happy had he none !
She was his care, his hope, and his delight,
Most in his thought, and ever in his fight:
Next, nay beyond his life, he held her dear;
She liv'd by him, and now he liv'd in her.
For this, when ripe for marriage, he delay'd
Her nuptial bands, and kept her long a maid,
As envying any else should share a part
Of what was his, and claiming all her heart.
At length, as public decency requir’d,
And all his vassals eagerly desir’d,
With mind averse, he rather underwent
His people's will, than gave his own consent.
So was she torn, as from a lover's side,
And made almost in his despite a bride.
Short were her marriage joys ; for in the prime
Of youth, her lord expir'd before his time;
And to her father's court in little space
Restor’d anew, she held a higher place ;
More lov'd, and more exalted into grace.
This princess fresh and young, and fair and wise,
The worship'd idol of her father's eyes,
Did all her sex in ev'ry grace exceed,
And had more wit beside than women need,
Youth, health, and ease, and most an amorous
mind. To second nuptials had her thoughts inclin'd: And former joys had left a secret sting behind. But, prodigal in ev'ry other grant, Her fire left unsupply'd her only want; And she, betwixt her modesty and pride, , Her wishes, which shecould not help, would hide.
Resolv’d at last to lose no longer time, And yet to please herself without a crime, She cast her eyes around the court, to find A worthy subject suiting to her mind, To him in holy nuptials to be ty’d, A seeming widow, and a secret bride. Among the train of courtiers, one she found With all the gifts of bounteous nature crown'd, Of gentle blood ; but one whose niggard fate Had set him far below her high estate; Guiscard his name was callid, of blooming age, Now squire to Tancred, and before his page : To him, the choice of all the shining crowd, Her heart the noble Sigismonda vow'd.
Yet hitherto she kept her love conceald, And with those graces ev'ry day beheld The graceful youth; and ev'ry day inereas'd The raging fires that burn'd within her breast;
Some secret charm did all her acts attend,
And what his fortune wanted, hers could mend;
Till, as the fire will force its outward way,
Or, in the prison pent, consume the prey ;
So long her earnest eyes on his were set,
At length their twisted rays together met ;
And he, surprised with humble joy, survey'd
One sweet regard, shot by the royal maid :
Not well assur’d, while doubtful hopes he nurs’d,
A second glance came gliding like the first;
And he, who saw the Marpness of the dart,
Without defence receiv'd it in his heart.
In public, tho their passion wanted speech,
Yet mutual looks interpreted for each ;
Time, ways, and means of meeting were deny'd;
But all those wants ingenious love supply'd.
Th’inventive God, who never fails his part,
Inspires the wit, when once he warms the heart,
When Guiscard next was in the circle seen,
Where Sigismonda held the place of queen,
A hollow cane within her hand she brought,
But in the concave had enclos'd a note ;
With this she seem'd to play, and, as in sport,
Toss'd to her love, in presence of the court;
Take it, she faid; and when
needs require, This little brand will serve to light your
He took it with a bow, and soon divin'd
The seeming toy was not for nought design'd:
But when retir’d, so long with curious eyes -
He view'd his present, that he found the
Much was in little writ; and all convey'd
With cautious care, for fear to be betray'd
By some false confident, or fav’rite maid.
The time, the place, the manner how to meet,
Were all in punctual order plainly writ:
But since a trust must be, she thought it best
To put it out of laymen's power at least;
And for their solemn vows prepar'd a priest.
Guiscard (her secret purpose understood) With joy prepar'd to meet the coming good; Nor pains nor danger was resolv'd to spare, But use the means appointed by the fair.
Next the proud palace of Salerno stood A mount of rough ascent, and thick with wood, Through this a cave was dug with vast expence : The work it seem'd of some suspicious prince, Who, when abusing power with lawless might, From public, justice would secure his flight. The passage made by many a winding way, Reach'd ev’n the room in which the tyrant lay.
Fit for his purpose, on a lower floor,
He lodg’d, whose issue was an iron door ;
From whence, by stairs descending to the ground,
In the blind grot a fafe retreat he found.
Its outlet ended in a brake o'ergrown
With brambles, choak'd by time, and now un-
A rift there was, which from the mountain's height
Convey'd a glimm’ring and malignant light,
A breathing-place to draw the damps away,
A twilight of an intercepted day.
The tyrant's den, whose use, tho lost to fame,
Was now th' apartment of the royal dame
The cavern only to her father known,
By him was to his darling daughter shown.
Neglected long she let the secret reft,
Till love recall'd it to her lab’ring breast,
And hinted as the way by heav'n design'd
The teacher, by the means he taught, to blind
What will not women do, when need inspires
Their wit, or love their inclination fires !
Tho jealousy of state the invention found,
Yet love refin'd upon the former ground.
tyrant had reserv'd, to fly Pursuing hate, now feru'd to bring two lovers nigh.