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First Line: As on a time my warlike sister strayd
Last Line: The dreadfull torments she must undergo!

Ricciardetto relates the Story to Ruggiero, who had sav'd
him from being burnt. from the 25th Book of Ariosto.

As on a time my warlike Sister strayd
Pensive, along a neighb'ring forest's shade,
A Band of Saracens the wand'rer found,
And on her unarm'd head descends the wound.
To stanch the gushing blood the Surgeon's care
Clip short the tresses of her mantling hair.
Soon as the wound was heal'd; the Martial Maid
Her tender limbs in shining Mail array'd;
Then forth she rode, to brave the bold in fight,
And seek Adventures fair like hardy knight.
Sunk with labour of the sultry day
As by a fountain's side she takes her way,
The Shade's sweet cool, the stream, that murm'ring flows,
Invite her drooping soul to sweet repose;
No more the helmet's weight fatigues her head,
And in kind sleep she prints the grassy bed.
It chanc'd, a Princess of the blood of Spain,
Diana-like, with all her hunting train,
Pass'd near the slumb'ring Maid, in quest of Game,
(Fiordispina was her Royal Name).
When she the sleeping Bradamante spyd
With the broad sword depending at her side,
Her Limbs in steel encas'd; Her cheated Sight
Believ'd her, (what she wish'd) a youthfull knight.
O'er her fair face her eyes with pleasure rove,
Till in her breast she feels the dart of Love.
Rise, rise (she calls) the chase forbids delay.
(Yet if all Spys were gone, she fain would stay)
But she no more the Horn's shrill voice obey'd,
Intent on other Game, far off they strayd;
The distant Hunters crys were spent in air,
Close was the twilight wood, no witness near.
Soft Speeches, tender Actions spoke her flame,
And Looks that hinted what she fear'd to name
Her burning sighs, her eyes that glow'd with fire
Own'd how her heart consum'd with strong desire;
Now she look'd pale, then blushes warm'd her look,
And bold with Love a hasty kiss she took.
My Sister well devin'd the thing she meant.
But how shall Woman Woman's wish content?
Then thus she reason'd. 'Tis a gen'rous part
To show her the mistake to cure her heart
Tis better far be found a courteous Maid,
Than thought a coward Man, of Love afraid;
And well she might that wise conclusion draw.
For he's a coward, a meer man of Straw
Who, nigh his Lady ripe with nect'rous juice,
Insipid sits, forgetfull of her use;
And like the Cuckow, niggard of the Spring,
Talks his dull lesson o'er with dangling wing.
In courteous guise she strait the Fair addrest,
And to restrain her flame, her sex confest.
That, like Hippolita she fame acquir'd,
Or by Camilla's brave example fir'd,
By war she glory sought in foreign lands,
And pois'd the Shield and spear in infant hands;
Arzilla gave her Birth whose Towers command
The winding Seas that wash the Afric sand.
But nought avails this tale. Th' enamour'd Dame
Still in her bosom feels the former flame,
To deep Love's arrow pierc'd; my Sister's face
Lost not by this confession one sweet grace,
But still her Air and Mien new charms reveal.
No sudden cure the Wounds of Love can heal.
When she beheld her in that manly vest,
Imagination told her all the rest;
But when she thought her Woman, Sighs ensu'd,
Groans swell'd her breast, and tears her cheek bedew'd.
What harden'd heart could hear her thus complain
Whose pity had not wish'd to share her pain?
Was ever grief like mine! O wretched Maid!
All other Love can be with Love repay'd,
Whether a licenc'd, or a guilty flame,
All gain their ends with honour or with shame,
They know to crop the rose from off the Thorn;
Without reward my Torment must be born.
If at my happy State, O Love, you pin'd,
And to my heart some desp'rate ill design'd,
Whence is thy cruelty so furious grown.
To give me pangs to wretched Nymphs unknown?
It never among Man or Beast was found
That female e'er for female felt the Wound
Woman was never fair in Woman's Eyes
Ewes seek not Ewes, and Does sleek Does despise.
Am I alone, in earth, in Sea, or Air,
Destin'd the Wretch these burning pains to bear?
Or dost thou this unhappy flame foment,
To show thy Tyranny in full extent?
The wife of Ninus gain'd her impious Aim
Who with her son indulg'd th' incestuous flame
Myrrha her father's Love by stealth enjoy'd,
The Cretan Dame a dewlapt Bull employ'd;
They by disguises could their wish obtain.
My Love is Madness, for my Love is vain.
In a carv'd Cow Pasiphae hid her shame,
Others try'd diff'rent Arts, their end the same.
Though Skillfull Daedalus should hither fly
Not all his Power could this strong knot untye
By the more potent hand of nature wrought
And against Nature, human force is nought.
Thus wails the beauteous Dame, and in despair
Her bosom beats, and rends her flowing hair,
To see her grief, my Sister shares her pain
And trys to cool her rage, but trys invain
No tender speech her ardent heart relieves
The more she sooths, the more the Princess grieves.
Now glow'd the western sky with streaks of fire,
And falling Dews persuade them to retire.
Come then, Fair Maid, (she crys) not far away
My castle stands; there ease the Toils of Day.
Onward they past, 'till to those Gates they came
Where you preserv'd me from th' expecting flame.
They Enter, She to all presents her Guest,
And all with kind salute the Fair carest.
In female robes she strait her shape array'd
Lest other hearts might be, like hers, betray'd;
For since her Mien no real Joys could grant,
Who would chuse Scandal, and the Pleasure want?
And if a Man's disguise had rais'd the flame,
Perhaps her native dress might quench the same!
As Partner of her Bed, her Guest she chose,
But longing sighs, and Plaints deny'd repose
If a short slumber chance to close her Eyes,
Fancy awake her utmost wish supplys
She then experienc'd joys neer tryd before
And Bradamante seem'd a Man all oer.
Thus as in broken rest the sickman turns,
When on his tongue the droughty feaver burns
Imagination cools his thirsty dreams
With rills, brooks, rivers, and abundant Streams.
She wak'd, and soft her hand she gently laid,
But found it all a dream. Unhappy Maid!
How fervent were her prayers that tedious night
How did she call the Gods to do her right!
By Tokens palpable, O grant my Prayer
Into the better Sex convert the Fair.
Then soft she stretch'd her curious hand again
But found alas that all her Prayers were vain.
Thus past the Night, 'till Phoebus waken'd Day,
And rais'd his silver head above the Sea,
They rose. Who now her mighty griefs shall tell,
When the Fair Maid prepar'd to bid farewell?
Her ready Groom a prancing Gennet brought,
With Gold the furniture & trappings wrought,
A Garment which with richest art she wove,
All these she gave, as witness of her Love.
The Courteous Dame conducts her on the way,
Adieu, she cryd; yet prest her still to stay;
They part. Awhile she pensive stands & mourns
Then to her Palace wishfully returns.
My Sister Valleys, Hills & forests crost
Retiring Mountains in the clouds were lost
Thus her swift Palfrey, fleet as rapid wind
Reach'd Montalbano e'er the day declin'd.
What gladness in our mother's bosom sprung!
What shouts of joy through all the Castle rung!
Long in her absence we her Death deplor'd,
A Daughter, Sister, is to Life restor'd!
Her Helm unlac'd, we wonder to behold
Her shorten'd hair, which whilom round was roll'd
In ribband braided; some with curious eyes
Survey her robe enriched with foreign Dyes.
We learn with pleasure her adventures rare,
The desp'rate wound that caus'd her loss of Hair,
And how beside the murm'ring fountain laid,
Her martial Dress deceived the Royal Maid
How mid the secret wood they stray'd alone
And how the Princess made her passion known,
How when the Partner of her Bed she griev'd,
Tis pity such warm Love should be deceiv'd!
In Saragossa I the Dame had seen
And then her beauteous Eyes, her face, her mien,
With Joy with pleasure fill'd my captive mind,
But all Desire was not to sight confin'd,
He who his Love can without hopes foment
May with a dream or shadow be content

So strong her image in the tale was found
It reach'd my heart, & touch'd my former wound
With hopes at first Love fed the kindling fire,
And now again Hope waken'd with desire.
Desire now taught me to supply my want
To gain all I could ask & she could grant
How can Success on open minds attend?
'Tis well dissembling fraud that gains its end.
So like my Sister were my face, my make
The most discerning Eye might well mistake,
Why should th' enamour'd Dame more knowing prove?
O favour the disguise, kind God of Love!

Shall I or shall I not attempt her charms?
Fortune assists the Bold in Love & arms,
I ask'd no counsell, for I sought no aid
But the strong dictates of my soul obey'd.
Sudden in Bradamante's armour drest
Her well-known robe, her shining helme & crest,
Her steed I mounted, prick'd it oer the Lawn
Nor waited 'till the rosy morning's dawn.
Along the darksome night Love leads the way,
When Beauty calls a moment is delay.
Impatient to her Palace Gate I came
Eer in the Deep the Sun had quench'd his flame,
How did each servant fly the news to bear!
Who with it first shall greet the Royal fair?
Who tells it first a due reward shall gain,
And grace & favour in her sight obtain.
They saw the self-same Steed the day before
They knew the Garment, & the Helme I wore
Like you deceiv'd, each hasty Servant spys
In my smooth feature Bradamante's eyes.
Fiordispina wing'd with pleasure came
Her sparkling Eye confest her inward flame.
In ev'ry action was her soul exprest:
How did she greet me! how my hand she prest
Then round my neck her eager arms she flings,
With sweet embrace, and to my Lips she clings.
Then, then Love's arrow took the surest aim,
Through ev'ry vein shot quick the tingling flame.
Now hand in hand she to my chamber leads,
Nor calls the Duty of officious maids,
Pleas'd with the Labour, she forgets her pride,
Disarms my Legs, & lays my helme aside.
From her own ward-robe a rich Gown was brought,
With all the cost of proud embroid'ry wrought,
With this she gave my Shape a female Air
And in a golden wreath confind my Hair.
My Eyes I turn'd with coy & modest Art
And ev'ry gesture play'd a woman's part;
My Voice (which had perhaps the fraud reveal'd)
Was in affected shriller tone conceal'd.
And now into the publick Hall we came
Where many a knight, & many a courteous Dame
Paid us all honours due to royal State,
The due Civilitys return'd; we sate.
The frequent glance of gallant knights I caught,
Whose Eye lascivious spoke their wanton thought
On me, alas! your glance is idly thrown
All is not, as ye wist, beneath the Gown.
The Night was far advanc'd; they clear'd the Board,
Which all the Daintys of the Season stor'd.
How joy'd I when the ready Dame propos'd,
What I with fear & trembling had disclos'd!
Come let's retire, with tender voice, she said
Once more repose the Partner of my Bed.
Her Ladys, Maids, & Pages now were gone
And I with all my wishes left alone,
Undrest, in bed; The Taper's blaz'd like day;
Wert thou prepar'd? why then this cold delay?
But lest Surprise (to find the Signs of Man)
With shrieks might wake the house, I thus began.
Wonder not, Princess at this sudden view,
That I who lately bid a long Adieu,
So soon return. Had I the Power, the Art
To cure the love-sick feaver of thy heart
I ne'er had left these hospitable Towers
But to thy Joys devoted all my hours,
But when I found my presence give you pain,
I parted, ne'er to see these Walls again.
But chance or thought misled me as I past
Amidst a wood whose paths thick shrubs oercast,
A female scream from out the Thicket came.
With hasty stride I sprung to save the Dame.
Lo on a Bank a furious Fawn I spyd
Below clear waters form'd a spatious tide.
The Savage Fisherman a Naiad took
Who with smart anguish flounder'd on his hook
Near to the shore he drew the dying prize
And view'd the dainty feast with greedy eyes.
Thither I sped, & aim'd a fatal wound,
The Brutal Monster fell & bit the ground.
Freed from the snare, the Nymph with sudden glide
In the mid Lake arose, and thus she cry'd.
O valiant knight, this Deed shall be repay'd
Invain thou hast not lent the wretched aid.
Know then, the Nymph of all this Lake I reign,
Ask all thy wishes and thy will obtain.
Oer ev'ry Element my Power extends
And wond'ring Nature on my Nod attends,
With freedom make demand, I grant the Boon
From the pale Sky I'll draw the list'ning Moon
Fire freezes at my charms, the Sun I stay,
Air hardens, and the reeling Earth gives way.
I ask not mighty Nations to command,
Nor to grasp treasure in a Miser-hand,
I ask nor Strength, nor virtue, nor Renown,
From ev'ry war to bear the laurell Crown.
All obstacle, sayd I, Fair Nymph, remove
And teach me gratitude to her I Love;
I dare no farther my Desires explain
O may not now thy Skill, thy Power be vain;
I ask no more. The Nymph no answer gave,
But sudden dips beneath the crystal Wave
Then spirting oer my face th' enchanted stream
I found myself quite chang'd (as in a dream)
I see, I feel, invain my sex explore,
Signs gave me proof I Woman was no more.
And could I not even now the Truth produce,
I grant Suspicion might my words accuse.
As in the weaker Sex I felt the flame,
My duteous Zeal unchang'd, still burns the same.
This instant then my ready power employ
Give the sweet signal I obey with joy.
Then oer my side her glowing hand she threw
And fully was convinc'd that all was true.
As one whose heart is check'd by strong despair
Of eer possessing what his soul holds dear
The more he sigh'd, and groan'd & wept, & pin'd,
If he by chance his utmost wishes find
Still more he grieves, he cannot Time regain;
For all his former life was spent invain.
Thus lay the Dame confus'd in deep suspense
Though often try'd, yet scarce believ'd her sense
And though her touch & sight the truth explore,
Dreams had deceiv'd her touch & sight before.
But still the Dame sincerer proof requir'd,
That all was real which her Soul desir'd.
If these be dreams, O God of Sleep, she crys,
From the dear vision may I never rise.
The Lady not too nice, her passion strong,
I know, like her; you think the story long.
Nor Drum nor Trumpet did the prelude play
To the warm onset of our am'rous fray,
But murm'ring kisses, like the billing Dove,
Mark'd ev'ry action in this field of Love.
If sighs and plaints last night her bed possest
'Twas now all joyous talk & pleasing jest;
Close as Acanthus leaves wreath'd Columns bind,
So arms with Arms & Legs with Legs entwin'd.
So secret were our joys, Moons roll'd away
And lost in pleasure ev'ry night we lay
At length our close intrigue was learnt by Fame
It spread, & to her royal Father came.
You whose strong Prowess made the croud retire,
And sav'd me from the rage of piles of fire,
Well know the rest. But let me never know
The dreadfull Torments she must undergo!

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