Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, PALAMON AND ARCITE, OR THE KNIGHT'S TALE: BOOK 1, by GEOFFREY CHAUCER



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PALAMON AND ARCITE, OR THE KNIGHT'S TALE: BOOK 1, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: In days of old there lived, of mighty fame
Last Line: And theseus for his vertues held him dear.
Subject(s): Chaucer, Geoffrey (1342-1400); Fables; Mythology; Theseus; War; Allegories


IN Days of old, there liv'd, of mighty Fame
A valiant Prince; and Theseus was his Name:
A Chief, who more in Feats of Arms excell'd
The Rising nor the Setting Sun beheld.
Of Athens he was Lord; much Land he won,
And added Foreign Countrys to his Crown.
In Scythia with the Warriour Queen he strove,
Whom first by Force he conquer'd, then by Love;
He brought in Triumph back the beauteous Dame,
With whom her Sister, fair Emilia, came.
With Honour to his Home let Theseus ride,
With Love to Friend, and Fortune for his Guide,
And his victorious Army at his Side.
I pass their warlike Pomp, their proud Array,
Their Shouts, their Songs, their Welcome on the Way:
But, were it not too long, I would recite
The Feats of Amazons, the fatal Fight
Betwixt the hardy Queen and Heroe Knight.
The Town besieg'd, and how much Blood it cost
The Female Army, and th' Athenian Host;
The Spousals of Hippolita the Queen;
What Tilts, and Turneys at the Feast were seen;
The Storm at their Return, the Ladies Fear:
But these and other Things I must forbear.
The Field is spacious I design to sow,
With Oxen far unfit to draw the Plow:
The Remnant of my Tale is of a length
To tire your Patience, and to waste my Strength;
And trivial Accidents shall be forborn,
That others may have time to take their Turn;
As was at first enjoin'd us by mine Host:
That he whose Tale is best, and pleases most,
Should win his Supper at our common Cost.
And therefore where I left, I will pursue
This ancient Story, whether false or true,
In hope it may be mended with a new.
The Prince I mention'd, full of high Renown,
In this Array drew near th' Athenian Town;
When, in his Pomp and utmost of his Pride,
Marching, he chanc'd to cast his Eye aside,
And saw a Quire of mourning Dames, who lay
By Two and Two across the common Way:
At his Approach they rais'd a rueful Cry,
And beat their Breasts, and held their Hands on high,
Creeping and crying, till they seiz'd at last
His Coursers Bridle and his Feet embrac'd.
Tell me, said Theseus, what and whence you are,
And why this Funeral Pageant you prepare?
Is this the Welcome of my worthy Deeds,
To meet my Triumph in Ill-omen'd Weeds?
Or envy you my Praise, and would destroy
With Grief my Pleasures, and pollute my Joy?
Or are you injur'd, and demand Relief?
Name your Request, and I will ease your Grief.
The most in Years of all the Mourning Train
Began; (but sounded first away for Pain)
Then scarce recover'd, spoke: Nor envy we
Thy great Renown, nor grudge thy Victory;
Tis thine, O King, th' Afflicted to redress,
And Fame has fill'd the World with thy Success:
We wretched Women sue for that alone,
Which of thy Goodness is refus'd to none:
Let fall some Drops of Pity on our Grief,
If what we beg be just, and we deserve Relief:
For none of us, who now thy Grace implore,
But held the Rank of Sovereign Queen before;
Till, thanks to giddy Chance, which never bears
That Mortal Bliss should last for length of Years,
She cast us headlong from our high Estate,
And here in hope of thy Return we wait:
And long have waited in the Temple nigh,
Built to the gracious Goddess Clemency.
But rev'rence thou the Pow'r whose Name it bears,
Relieve th' Oppressed, and wipe the Widows Tears.
I, wretched I, have other Fortune seen,
The Wife of Capaneus, and once a Queen:
At Thebes he fell; curs'd be the fatal Day!
And all the rest thou seest in this Array,
To make their Moan their Lords in Battel lost,
Before that Town besieg'd by our Confed'rate Host:
But Creon, old and impious, who commands
The Theban City, and usurps the Lands,
Denies the Rites of Fun'ral Fires to those
Whose breathless Bodies yet he calls his Foes.
Unburn'd, unbury'd, on a Heap they lie;
Such is their Fate, and such his Tyranny;
No Friend has leave to bear away the Dead,
But with their Lifeless Limbs his Hounds are fed.
At this she shriek'd aloud, the mournful Train
Echo'd her Grief, and grov'ling on the Plain,
With Groans, and Hands upheld, to move his Mind,
Besought his Pity to their helpless Kind!
The Prince was touch'd, his Tears began to flow,
And, as his tender Heart would break in two,
He sigh'd; and could not but their Fate deplore,
So wretched now, so fortunate before.
Then lightly from his lofty Steed he flew,
And raising one by one the suppliant Crew,
To comfort each, full solemnly he swore,
That by the Faith which Knights to Knighthood bore,
And what e'er else to Chivalry belongs,
He would not cease, till he reveng'd their Wrongs:
That Greece should see perform'd what he declar'd,
And cruel Creon find his just Reward.
He said no more, but shunning all Delay
Rode on; nor enter'd Athens on his Way;
But left his Sister and his Queen behind,
And wav'd his Royal Banner in the Wind:
Where in an Argent Field the God of War
Was drawn triumphant on his Iron Carr;
Red was his Sword, and Shield, and whole Attire,
And all the Godhead seem'd to glow with Fire;
Ev'n the Ground glitter'd where the Standard flew,
And the green Grass was dy'd to sanguine Hue.
High on his pointed Lance his Pennon bore
His Cretan Fight, the conquer'd Minotaure:
The Soldiers shout around with generous Rage,
And in that Victory, their own presage.
He prais'd their Ardour, inly pleas'd to see
His Host, the Flow'r of Grecian Chivalry.
All Day he march'd; and all th' ensuing Night;
And saw the City with returning Light.
The Process of the War I need not tell,
How Theseus conquer'd, and how Creon fell:
Or after, how by Storm the Walls were won,
Or how the Victor sack'd and burn'd the Town;
How to the Ladies he restor'd again
The Bodies of their Lords in Battel slain;
And with what ancient Rites they were interr'd;
All these to fitter time shall be deferr'd:
I spare the Widows Tears, their woful Cries,
And Howling at their Husbands Obsequies;
How Theseus at these Fun'rals did assist,
And with what Gifts the mourning Dames dismiss'd.
Thus when the Victor Chief had Creon slain,
And conquer'd Thebes, he pitch'd upon the Plain
His mighty Camp, and when the Day return'd,
The Country wasted and the Hamlets burn'd;
And left the Pillagers, to Rapine bred,
Without Controul to strip and spoil the Dead.
There, in a Heap of Slain, among the rest
Two youthful Knights they found beneath a Load oppress'd
Of slaughter'd Foes, whom first to Death they sent,
The Trophies of their Strength, a bloody Monument.
Both fair, and both of Royal Blood they seem'd,
Whom Kinsmen to the Crown the Heralds deem'd;
That Day in equal Arms they fought for Fame;
Their Swords, their Shields, their Surcoats were the same.
Close by each other laid they press'd the Ground,
Their manly Bosoms pierc'd with many a griesly Wound;
Nor well alive nor wholly dead they were,
But some faint Signs of feeble Life appear:
The wandring Breath was on the Wing to part,
Weak was the Pulse, and hardly heav'd the Heart.
These two were Sisters Sons; and Arcite one,
Much fam'd in Fields, with valiant Palamon.
From These their costly Arms the Spoilers rent,
And softly both convey'd to Theseus Tent:
Whom, known of Creon's Line and cur'd with Care,
He to his City sent as Pris'ners of the War,
Hopeless of Ransom, and condemn'd to lie
In Durance, doom'd a lingring Death to die.
This done, he march'd away with warlike Sound,
And to his Athens turn'd with Laurels crown'd,
Where happy long he liv'd, much lov'd, and more renown'd.
But in a Tow'r, and never to be loos'd.
The woful captive Kinsmen are enclos'd.
Thus Year by Year they pass, and Day by Day,
Till once ('twas on the Morn of chearful May)
The young Emilia. fairer to be seen
Than the fair Lilly on the Flow'ry Green,
More fresh than May her self in Blossoms new,
(For with the rosie Colour strove her Hue)
Wak'd, as her Custom was, before the Day,
To do th' Observance due to sprightly May:
For sprightly May commands our Youth to keep
The Vigils of her Night, and breaks their sluggard Sleep:
Each gentle Breast with kindly Warmth she moves;
Inspires new Flames, revives extinguish'd Loves.
In this Remembrance Emily e'er day
Arose, and dress'd her self in rich Array;
Fresh as the Month, and as the Morning fair:
Adown her Shoulders fell her Length of Hair:
A Ribband did the braided Tresses bind,
The rest was loose, and wanton'd in the Wind:
Aurora had but newly chas'd the Night,
And purpl'd o'er the Sky with blushing Light,
When to the Garden-walk she took her way,
To sport and trip along in Cool of Day,
And offer Maiden Vows in Honour of the May.
At ev'ry Turn she made a little Stand,
And thrust among the Thorns her Lilly hand
To draw the Rose; and ev'ry Rose she drew,
She shook the Stalk, and brush'd away the Dew:
Then party-colour'd Flow'rs of white and red
She wove, to make a Garland for her Head:
This done, she sung and caroll'd out so clear,
That Men and Angels might rejoice to hear.
Ev'n wondring Philomel forgot to sing,
And learn'd from Her to Welcome in the Spring.
The Tow'r, of which before was mention made,
Within whose Keep the captive Knights were laid,
Built of a large Extent, and strong withal,
Was one Partition of the Palace Wall:
The Garden was enclos'd within the Square
Where young Emilia took the Morning-Air.
It happen'd Palamon, the Pris'ner Knight,
Restless for Woe, arose before the Light,
And with his Jaylor's leave desir'd to breathe
An Air more wholesom than the Damps beneath.
This granted, to the Tow'r he took his way,
Cheer'd with the Promise of a glorious Day:
Then cast a languishing Regard around,
And saw with hateful Eyes the Temples crown'd
With golden Spires, and all the Hostile Ground.
He sigh'd, and turned his Eyes, because he knew
'Twas but a larger Jayl he had in view:
Then look'd below, and from the Castles height
Beheld a nearer and more pleasing Sight;
The Garden, which before he had not seen,
In Spring's new Livery clad of White and Green,
Fresh Flow'rs in wide Parterres, and shady Walks between.
This view'd, but not enjoy'd, with Arms across
He stood, reflecting on his Country's Loss;
Himself an Object of the Publick Scorn,
And often wish'd he never had been born.
At last (for so his Destiny requir'd)
With walking giddy, and with thinking tir'd,
He thro' a little Window cast his Sight,
Tho' thick of Bars, that gave a scanty Light:
But ev'n that Glimmering serv'd him to descry
Th' inevitable Charms of Emily.
Scarce had he seen, but, seiz'd with sudden Smart,
Stung to the Quick, he felt it at his Heart;
Struck blind with overpowering Light he stood,
Then started back amaz'd, and cry'd aloud.
Young Arcite heard; and up he ran with haste,
To help his Friend, and in his Arms embrac'd;
And ask'd him why he look'd so deadly wan,
And whence, and how, his change of Cheer began?
Or who had done th' offence? But if, said he,
Your Grief alone is hard Captivity;
For Love of Heav'n, with Patience undergo
A cureless Ill, since Fate will have it so:
So stood our Horoscope in Chains to lie,
And Saturn in the Dungeon of the Sky,
Or other baleful Aspect, rul'd our Birth,
When all the friendly Stars were under Earth:
Whate'er betides, by Destiny 'tis done;
And better bear like Men, than vainly seek to shun,
Nor of my bonds, said Palamon again,
Nor of unhappy Planets I complain;
But when my mortal Anguish caus'd my Cry,
The Moment I was hurt thro' either Eye;
Pierc'd with a Random-shaft, I faint away,
And perish with insensible Decay:
A Glance of some new Goddess gave the Wound,
Whom, like Acteon, unaware I found.
Look how she walks along yon shady Space;
Not Juno moves with more Majestick Grace,
And all the Cyprian Queen is in her face.
If thou art Venus, (for thy Charms confess
That Face was form'd in Heaven) nor art thou less;
Disguis'd in Habit, undisguis'd in Shape,
O help us Captives from our Chains to scape;
But if our Doom be past in Bonds to lie
For Life, and in a loathsom Dungeon die;
Then be thy Wrath appeas'd with our Disgrace,
And show Compassion to the Theban Race,
Oppress'd by Tyrant Pow'r! While yet he spoke,
Arcite on Emily had fix'd his Look;
The fatal Dart a ready Passage found,
And deep within his Heart infix'd the Wound:
So that if Palamon were wounded sore,
Arcite was hurt as much as he, or more:
Then from his inmost Soul he sigh'd, and said,
The Beauty I behold has struck me dead:
Unknowingly she strikes, and kills by chance;
Poyson is in her Eyes, and Death in ev'ry Glance.
O, I must ask; nor ask alone, but move
Her Mind to Mercy, or must die for Love.
Thus Arcite: And thus Palamon replies,
(Eager his Tone, and ardent were his Eyes.)
Speak'st thou in earnest, or in jesting Vein?
Jesting, said Arcite, suits but ill with Pain.
It suits far worse, (said Palamon again,
And bent his Brows) with Men who Honour weigh,
Their Faith to break, their friendship to betray;
But worst with Thee, of Noble Lineage born,
My Kinsman, and in Arms my Brother sworn.
Have we not plighted each our holy Oath,
That one shou'd be the Common Good of both?
One Soul shou'd both inspire, and neither prove
His Fellows Hindrance in pursuit of Love?
To this before the Gods we gave our Hands,
And nothing but our Death can break the Bands.
This binds thee, then, to farther my Design,
As I am bound by Vow to farther thine:
Nor canst, nor dar'st thou, Traytor, on the Plain
Appeach my Honour, or thy own maintain,
Since thou art of my Council, and the Friend
Whose Faith I trust, and on whose Care depend:
And would'st thou court my Ladies Love, which I
Much ratherthan release, would chuse to die?
But thou, false Arcile, never shalt obtain,
Thy bad Pretence; I told thee first my Pain:
For first my Love began e'er thine was born;
Thou, as my Council, and my Brother sworn,
Art bound t'assist my Eldership of Right,
Or justly to be deemd a perjur'd Knight.
Thus Palamon: But Arcite with disdain
In haughty Language thus reply'd again:
Forsworn thy self: The Traytor's odious Name
I first return, and then disprove thy Claim.
If Love be Passion, and that Passion nurst
With strong Desires, I lov'd the Lady first.
Canst thou pretend Desire, whom Zeal inflam'd
To worship, and a Pow'r Coelestial nam'd?
Thine was Devotion to the Blest above,
I saw the Woman, and desir'd her Love;
First own'd my Passion, and to thee commend
Th' important Secret, as my chosen Friend.
Suppose (which yet I grant not) thy Desire
A Moment elder than my Rival Fire;
Can Chance of seeing first thy Title prove?
And know'st thou not, no Law is made for Love?
Law is to Things which to free Choice relate;
Love is not in our Choice, but in our Fate:
Laws are but positive: Loves Pow'r we see
Is Natures Sanction, and her first Decree.
Each Day we break the Bond of Humane Laws
For Love, and vindicate the Common Cause.
Laws for Defence of Civil Rights are plac'd,
Love throws the Fences down, and makes a general Waste:
Maids, Widows, Wives, without distinction fall;
The sweeping Deluge, Love, comes on and covers all.
If then the Laws of Friendship I transgress,
I keep the Greater, while I break the Less;
And both are mad alike, since neither can possess.
Both hopeless to be ransom'd, never more
To see the Sun, but as he passes o'er.
Like Esop's Hounds contending for the Bone,
Each pleaded Right, and wou'd be lord alone;
The fruitless Fight continu'd all the Day,
A Cur came by and snatch'd the Prize away.
As Courtiers therefore justle for a Grant,
And when they break their Friendship, plead their Want,
So thou, if Fortune will thy Suit advance,
Love on; nor envy me my equal Chance:
For I must love, and am resolv'd to try
My Fate, or failing in th' Adventure die.
Great was their Strife, which hourly was renew'd,
Till each with mortal Hate his Rival view'd:
Now Friends no more, nor walking Hand in Hand;
But when they met, they made a surly Stand;
And glar'd like angry Lions as they pass'd,
And wish'd that every Look might be their last.
It chanc'd at length, Perithous came t' attend
This worthy Theseus, his familiar Friend:
Their Love in early Infancy began,
And rose as Childhood ripen'd into Man.
Companions of the War; and lov'd so well,
That when one dy'd, as ancient Stories tell,
His Fellow to redeem him went to Hell.
But to pursue my Tale; to welcome home
His Warlike Brother, is Perithous come:
Arcite of Thebes was known in Arms long since,
And honour'd by this young Thessalian Prince.
Theseus, to gratifie his Friend and Guest,
Who made our Arcite's Freedom his Request,
Restor'd to Liberty the Captive Knight,
But on these hard Conditions I recite:
That if hereafter Arcite shou'd be found
Within the Compass of Athenian Ground,
By Day or Night, or on whate'er Pretence,
His Head shou'd pay the Forfeit of th' Offence.
To this Perithous for his Friend agreed,
And on his Promise was the Pris'ner freed.
Unpleas'd and pensive hence he taken his way,
At his own Peril; for his Life must pay.
Who now but Arcite mourns his bitter Fate,
Finds his dear Purchase, and repents too late?
What have I gain'd, he said, in Prison pent,
If I but change my Bonds for Banishment?
And banish'd from her Sight, I suffer more
In Freedom than I felt in Bonds before;
Forc'd from her Presence and condemn'd to live:
Unwelcom Freedom and unthank'd Reprieve:
Heav'n is not but where Emily abides,
And where she's absent, all is Hell besides.
Next to my Day of Birth, was that accurst
Which bound my Friendship to Perithous first:
Had I not known that Prince, I still had been
In Bondage, and had still Emilia seen:
For tho' I never can her Grace deserve,
'Tis Recompense enough to see and serve.
O Palamon, my Kinsman and my Friend,
How much more happy Fates thy Love attend!
Thine is th' Adventure; thine the Victory:
Well has thy Fortune turn'd the Dice for thee:
Thou on that Angels Face maist feed thy Eyes,
In Prison, no; but blissful Paradise!
Thou daily seest that Sun of Beauty shine,
And lov'st at least in Loves extreamest Line.
I mourn in Absence, Loves Eternal Night;
And who can tell but since thou hast her Sight,
And art a comely, young, and valiant Knight,
Fortune (a various Pow'r) may cease to frown,
And by some Ways unknown thy Wishes crown:
But I, the most forlorn of Humane Kind,
Nor Help can hope, nor Remedy can find;
But doom'd to drag my loathsom Life in Care,
For my Reward, must end it in Despair.
Fire, Water, Air, and Earth, and Force of Fates
That governs all, and Heav'n that all creates,
Nor Art, nor Natures Hand can ease my Grief;
Nothing but Death, the Wretches last Relief:
Then farewel Youth, and all the Joys that dwell
With Youth and Life, and Life it self, farewell
But why, alas! do mortal Men in vain
Of Fortune, Fate, or Providence complain?
God gives us what he knows our Wants require,
And better Things than those which we desire:
Some pray for Riches; Riches they obtain;
But watch'd by Robbers, for their Wealth are slain:
Some pray from Prison to be freed; and come
When guilty of their Vows, to fall at home;
Murder'd by those they trusted with their Life,
A favour'd Servant, or a Bosom Wife.
Such dear-bought Blessings happen ev'ry Day,
Because we know not for what Things to pray.
Like drunken Sots about the Streets we roam
Well knows the Sot he has a certain Home;
Yet knows not how to find th' uncertain Place,
And blunders on, and staggers ev'ry Pace.
Thus all seek Happiness; but few can find,
For far the greater Part of Men are blind.
This is my Case, who thought our utmost Good
Was in one Word of Freedom understood:
The fatal Blessing came: From Prison free,
I starve abroad, and lose the Sight of Emily.
Thus Arcite: but if Arcite thus deplore
His Suff' rings, Palamon yet suffers more.
For when he knew his Rival freed and gone,
He swells with Wrath; he makes outrageous Moan:
He frets, he fumes, he stares, he stamps the Ground;
The hollow Tow'r with Clamours rings around:
With briny Tears he bath'd his fetter'd Feet,
And dropp'd all o'er with Agony of Sweat.
Alas! he cry'd, I, Wretch, in Prison pine,
Too happy Rival, while the Fruit is thine:
Thou liv'st at large, thou draw'st thy Native Air,
Pleas'd with thy Freedom, proud of my Despair:
Thou may'st, since thou hast Youth and Courage join'd,
A sweet Behaviour, and a solid Mind,
Assemble ours, and all the Theban Race,
To vindicate on Athens thy Disgrace;
And after (by some Treaty made) possess
Fair Emily, the Pledge of lasting Peace.
So thine shall be the beauteous Prize, while I
Must languish in Despair, in Prison die.
Thus all th'Advantage of the Strife is thine,
Thy portion double Joys, and double Sorrows mine.
The Rage of Jealousie then fir'd his Soul,
And his Face kindl'd like a burning Coal:
Now cold Despair, succeeding in her stead,
To livid Paleness turns the glowing Red.
His Blood scarce Liquid, creeps within his Veins,
Like Water which the freezing Wind constrains.
Then thus he said; Eternal Deities
Who rule the World with absolute Decrees,
And write whatever Time shall bring to pass
With Pens of Adamant on Plates of Brass;
What is the Race of Humane Kind your Care
Beyond what all his Fellow-Creatures are?
He with the rest is liable to Pain,
And like the Sheep, his Brother-Beast, is slain.
Cold, Hunger, Prisons, Ills without a Cure,
All these he must, and guiltless oft, endure:
Or does your Justice, Pow'r, or Prescience fail,
When the Good suffer and the Bad prevail?
What worse to wretched Vertue could befall,
If Fate, or giddy Fortune govern'd all?
Nay, worse than other Beasts is our Estate:
Them, to pursue their Pleasures you create;
We, bound by harder Laws, must curb our Will,
And your Commands, not our Desires fulfil:
Then when the Creature is unjustly slain,
Yet, after Death at least, he feels no Pain;
But Man in Life surcharg'd with Woe before,
Not freed when dead, is doom'd to suffer more.
A Serpent shoots his Sting at unaware;
An ambush'd Thief forelays a Traveller;
The Man lies murder'd, while the Thief and Snake,
One gains the Thickets, and one thrids the Brake.
This let Divines decide; but well I know,
Just, or unjust, I have my Share of Woe:
Through Saturn seated in a luckless Place,
And Juno's Wrath, that persecutes my Race;
Or Mars and Venus in a Quartil, move
My Pangs of Jealousie for Arcite's Love.
Let Palamon oppress'd in Bondage mourn,
While to his exil'd Rival we return.
By this the Sun, declining from his Height,
The Day had shortned to prolong the Night:
The lengthen'd Night gave length of Misery
Both to the Captive Lover, and the Free:
For Palamon in endless Prison mourns,
And Arcite forfeits Life if he returns.
The Banish'd never hopes his Love to see,
Nor hopes the Captive Lord his Liberty:
'Tis hard to say who suffers greater Pains,
One sees his Love, but cannot break his Chains:
One free, and all his Motions uncontroul'd,
Beholds whate'er he wou'd, but what he wou'd behold.
Judge as you please, for I will haste to tell
What Fortune to the banish'd Knight befel.
When Arcite was to Thebes return'd again,
The Loss of her he lov'd renew'd his Pain;
What could be worse than never more to see
His Life, his Soul, his charming Emily?
He rav'd with all the Madness of Despair,
He roar'd, he beat his Breast, he tore his Hair.
Dry Sorrow in his stupid Eyes appears,
For wanting Nourishment, he wanted Tears:
His Eye-balls in their hollow Sockets sink,
Bereft of Sleep; he loaths his Meat and Drink:
He withers at his Heart, and looks as wan
As the pale spectre of a murder'd Man:
That Pale turns Yellow, and his Face receives
The faded Hue of sapless Boxen Leaves;
In solitary Groves he makes his Moan,
Walks early out, and ever is alone.
Nor mix'd in Mirth, in youthful Pleasure shares,
But sighs when Songs and Instruments he hears.
His Spirits are so low, his Voice is drown'd,
He hears as from afar, or in a Swound,
Like the deaf Murmurs of a distant Sound:
Uncomb'd his locks, and squalid his Attire,
Unlike the Trim of Love and gay Desire;
But full of museful Mopings, which presage
The loss of Reason, and conclude in Rage.
This when he had endur'd a Year and more,
Now wholly chang'd from what he was before,
It happen'd once, that, slumbring as he lay,
He dreamt (his Dream began at Break of Day)
That Hermes o'er his Head in Air appear'd,
And with soft Words his drooping Spirits cheer'd:
His Hatadorn'd with Wingsdisclos'd the God,
And in his Hand he bore the Sleep-compelling Rod;
Such as he seem'd, when at his Sire's Command,
On Argus Head he laid the Snaky Wand;
Arise, he said, to conqu'ring Athens go,
There Fate appoints an End of all thy Woe.
The fright awaken'd Arcite with a Start,
Against his Bosom bounc'd his heaving Heart;
But soon he said, with scarce-recover'd Breath,
And thither will I go to meet my Death,
Sure to be slain; but Death is my Desire,
Since in Emilia's Sight I shall expire.
By chance he spy'd a Mirrour while he spoke,
And gazing there beheld his alter'd Look;
Wondring, he saw his Features and his Hue
So much were chang'd, that scarce himself he knew.
A sudden Thought then starting in his Mind,
Since I in Arcite cannot Arcite find,
The World may search in vain with all their Eyes,
But never penetrate through this Disguise.
Thanks to the Change which Grief and Sickness give,
In low Estate I may securely live,
And see unknown my Mistress Day by Day.
He said, and cloth'd himself in course Array;
A lab'ring Hind in shew: Then forth he went,
And to the Athenian Tow'rs his Journey bent:
One Squire attended in the same Disguise,
Made conscious of his Master's Enterprize.
Arriv'd at Athens, soon he came to Court,
Unknown, unquestion'd in that thick Resort;
Proff'ring for Hire his Service at the Gate,
To drudge, draw Water, and to run or wait.
So fair befel him, that for little Gain
He serv'd at first Emilia's Chamberlain;
And, watchful all Advantages to spy,
Was still at Hand, and in his Master's Eye;
And as his Bones were big, and Sinews strong,
Refus'd no Toil that could to Slaves belong;
But from deep Wells with Engines Water drew,
And us'd his Noble Hands the Wood to hew.
He pass'd a Year at least attending thus
On Emily, and call'd Philostratus.
But never was there Man of his Degree
So much esteem'd, so well belov'd as he.
So gentle of Condition was he known,
That through the Court his Courtesie was blown:
All think him worthy of a greater Place,
And recommend him to the Royal Grace;
That exercis'd within a higher Sphere,
His Vertues more conspicuous might appear.
Thus by the general Voice was Arcite prais'd,
And by Great Theseus to high Favour rais'd;
Among his Menial Servants first enroll'd,
And largely entertain'd with Sums of Gold:
Besides what secretly from Thebes was sent,
Of his own Income, and his Annual Rent.
This well employ'd, he purchas'd Friends and Fame,
But cautiously conceal'd from whence it came.
Thus for three Years he liv'd with large Increase,
In Arms of Honour, and Esteem in Peace;
To Theseus Person he was ever near,
And Theseus for his Vertues held him dear.





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