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And well this honourable knight you see:
“ Now by my own dread majesty I swear,
“ And will you so,” replied the queen,“ indeed ? Now, by my mother's soul, it is decreed, She shall not want an answer at her need. For her, and for her daughters, I'll engage, And all the sex in each succeeding age; Art shall be theirs to varnish an offence, And fortify their crimes with confidence. Nay, were they taken in a strict embrace, Seen with both eyes, and pinion'd on the place; All they shall need is to protest and swear, Breathe a soft sigh, and drop a tender tear; Till their wise husbands, gulld by arts like these, Grow gentle, tractable, and tame as geese.
“ What tho' this slanderous Jew, this Solomon, Call’d women fools, and knew full many a one; The wiser wits of later times declare How constant, chaste, and virtuous women are : Witness the inartyrs, who resign'd their breath,
Serene in torments, unconcern'd iti death ;
“ But since the sacred leaves to all are free,
Well, I'm a woman, and as such must speak; Silence would swell me, and my heart would break. Know, then, I scorn your dull authorities, Your idle wits, and all their learned lies : By heaven, those authors are our sex's foes, Whom, in our right, I must and will oppose.” “ Nay (quoth the king), dear madam, be not
wroth: I yield it up; but since I gave my oath, That this much injur'd knight again should see;
It must be done—I am a king,” said he, “ And one whose faith has ever sacred been"
“ And so has mine (she said)—I am a queen: Her answer she shall have, I undertake ; And thus an end of all dispute I make. Try when you list; and you shall find, my lord, It is not in our sex to break our word.”
We leave them here in this heroic strain, And to the knight our story turns again ; Who in the garden, with his lovely May, Sung merrier than the cuckoo or the jay: This was his song,
• O kind and constant be, Constant and kind I'll ever prove to thee.”
Thus singing as he went, at last he drew By easy steps to where the pear tree grew : The longing dame look'd up, and spied her love Full fairly perch'd among the boughs above. She stopp'd, and sighing, “ O good gods!" she
cried, “What pangs, what sudden shoots distend my side? O for that tempting fruit, so fresh, so green; Help, for the love of heaven's immortal queen! Help, dearest lord, and save at once the life Of thy poor infant, and thy longing wife !"
Sore sigh'd the knight to hear his lady's cry, But could not climb, and had no servant nigh : Old as he was, and void of eyesight too, What could, alas! a helpless husband do? “And must I languish then (she said), and die, Yet view the lovely fruit before my eye?
At least, kind sir, for charity's sweet sake,
but stoop, and leave the rest to me.” “ With all my soul,” he thus replied again, “ I'd spend my dearest blood to ease thy pain." With that his back against the trunk he bent; She seiz'd a twig, and up the tree she went.
Now prove your patience, gentle ladies all ! Nor let on me your heavy anger fall : 'Tis truth I tell, though not in phrase refin'd; Though blunt my tale, yet honest is my mind. What feats the lady in the tree might do, I pass, as gambols never known to you; But sure it was a merrier fit, she
swore, Than in her life she ever felt before.
In that nice moment, lo! the wondering knight Look'd out, and stood restor'd to sudden sight. Straight on the tree his eager eyes he bent, As one whose thoughts were on his spouse
intent; But when he saw his bosom-wife so dress’d, His rage was such as cannot be express'd. Not frantic mothers when their infants die With louder clamours rend the vaulted sky: He cried, he roar'd, he storm'd, he tore his hair ; " Death! hell! and furies ! what dost thou do
there?” “ What ails my lord ?" the trembling dame
replied, “ I thought your patience had been better tried : husband see,
Is this your love, ungrateful and unkind,
“ If this be struggling, by this holy light, 'Tis struggling with a vengeance (quoth the knight); So heaven preserve the sight it has restor'd, As with these eyes I plainly saw thee whor'd; Whor'd by my slave—perfidious wretch! may hell As surely seize thee, as I saw too well.”
“Guard me, good angels!" cried the gentle May, “ Pray heaven this magic work the proper way! Alas, my love! 'tis certain, could you see, You ne'er had us'd these killing words to me: So help me, fates! as 'tis no perfect sight, But some faint glimmering of a doubtful light.”
“What I have said (quoth he) I must maintain, For by th' immortal powers it seem'd too plain—" " By all those powers, some frenzy seiz'd your
mind (Replied the dame), are these the thanks I find ? Wretch that I am, that e'er I was so kind !" She said ; a rising sigh express'd her woe, The ready tears apace began to flow, And as they fell she wip'd from either eye The drops (for women, when they list, can cry). The knight was touch'd ; and in his looks ap