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But all at once his grief and rage appeard,
And floods of tears ran trickling down his beard.
O Sigismonda,—he began to say :
Thrice he began, and thrice was forced to stay,
Till words with often trying found their way :-
I thought, O Sigismonda, (but how blind
Are parents' eyes, their children's faults to find !)
Thy virtue, birth, and breeding, were above
A mean desire, and vulgar sense of love;
Nor less than sight and hearing could convince
So fond a father, and so just a prince,
Of such an unforeseen and unbelieved offence.
Then what indignant sorrow must I have,
To see thee lie subjected to my slave !
A man so smelling of the people's lee,
The court received him first for charity ;
And since with no degree of honour graced,
But only suffer’d, where he first was placed.
A grovelling insect still ; and so design'd
By nature's hand, nor born of noble kind:
A thing, by neither man nor woman prized,
And scarcely known enough to be despised.
To what has heaven reserved my age ? Ah! why
Should man, when nature calls, not chuse to die,
Rather than stretch the span of life, to find
Such ills as fate has wisely cast behind,
For those to feel, whom fond desire to live
Makes covetous of more than life can give !
Each has his share of good ; and when 'tis gone,
The guest, though hungry, cannot rise too soon.
But I, expecting more, in my own wrong
Protracting life, have lived a day too long.
If yesterday could be recall'd again,
Even now would I conclude my happy reign;
But 'tis too late, my glorlous race is run,
And a dark cloud o’ertakes my setting sun.
Had'st thou not loved, or, loving, saved the shame,
If not the sin, by some illustrious name,
This little comfort had relieved my mind,
?Twas frailty, not unusual to thy kind :
But thy low fall beneath thy royal blood,
Shews downward appetite to mix with mud.
Thus not the least excuse is left for thee,
Nor the least refuge for unhappy me.
For him I have resolved; whom by surprise
I took, and scarce can tell it, in disguise ;
For such was his attire, as, with intent
Of nature, suited to his mean descent:
The harder question yet remains behind,
What pains a parent and a prince can find
To punish an offence of this degenerate kind.
As I have loved, and yet I love thee more Than ever father loved a child before, So that indulgence draws me to forgive : Nature, that gave thee life, would have thee live. But, as a public parent of the state, My justice, and thy crime, requires thy fate. Fain would I choose a middle course to steer: Nature's too kind, and justice too severe : Speak for us both, and to the balance bring On either side the father and the king. Heaven knows, my heart is bent to favour thee; Make it butscanty weight, and leavethe rest to me.
Here stopping with a sigh, he pour'd a flood Of tears, to make his last expression good. She, who had heard him speak, nor saw alone The secret conduct of her love was known, But he was taken who her soul possessid, Felt all the pangs of sorrow in her breast : And little wanted but a woman's heart, With cries and tears, had testified her smart; But inborn worth, that fortune can controul, New-strung, and stiffer bent her softer soul;
The heroine assumed the woman's place,
Confirm'd her mind, and fortified her face:
Why should she beg, or what could she pretend,
When her stern father had condemn'd her friend!
Her life she might have had ; but her despair
Of saving his, had put it past her care:
Resolved on fate, she would not lose her breath,
But, rather than not die, solicit death.
Fixed on this thought, she, not as women use,
Her fault by common frailty would excuse ;
But boldly justified her innocence,
And while the fact was own'd, denied the offence;
Then with dry eyes, and with an open look,
She met his glance mid-way, and thus undaunted
Tancred, I neither am disposed to make
Request for life, nor offer'd life to take;
Much less deny the deed; but least of all
Beneath pretended justice weakly fall.
My words to sacred truth shall be confined,
My deeds shall shew the greatness of my mind.
That I have loved, I own; that still I love,
I I call to witness all the powers above:
Yet more I own; to Guiscard's love I give
The small remaining time I have to live;
And if beyond this life desire can be,
Not fate itself shall set my passion free.
This first avow'd ; nor folly wrapp'd my mind,
Nor the frail texture of the female kind
Betray'd my virtue; for too well I knew
What honour was, and honour had his due:
Before the holy priest my vows were tied,
So came I not a strumpet but a bride.
This for my fame, and for the public voice ;
Yet more, his merits justified my choice :
Which had they not, the first election thine,
That bond dissolved, the next is freely mine:
Or grant I errd, (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
will; And from the past experience of thy fires, Canst tell with what a tide our strong desires 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.