« EelmineJätka »
"Your's is the prize, victorious prince," said he,
"The vicar my defeat, and all the village see.
Enjoy your friendly fortune while you may,
And bid the churls that envy you the prey
Call back their mongrel curs, and cease their cry.
See, fools, the shelter of the wood is nigh,
And Chanticleer in your despite shall die,
He shall be pluck'd and eaten to the bone."
""Tis well advis'd, in faith it shall be done;"
This Reynard said: but, as the word he spoke,
The prisoner with a spring from prison broke:
Then stretch'd his feather'd fans with all his might,
And to the neighboring maple wing'd his flight;
Whom when the traitor safe on tree beheld,
He curs'd the gods, with shame and sorrow fill'd;
Shame for his folly, sorrow out of time,
For plotting an unprofitable crime;
Yet, mastering both, th' artificer of lies
Renews th' assault, and his last battery tries.
THE FLOWER AND THE LEAF:
OR, THE LADY IN THE ARBOR.
Now, turning from the wintry signs, the Sun
His course exalted through the Ram had run,
And, whirling up the skies, his chariot drove
Through Taurus and the lightsome realms of Love;
Where Venus from her orb descends in showers,
To glad the ground, and paint the fields with
When first the tender blades of grass appear,
And buds, that yet the blast of Eurus fear,
Stand at the door of life, and doubt to clothe the year:
Till gentle heat, and soft repeated rains,
Make the green blood to dance within their veins.
Then, at their call embolden'd, out they come,
And swell the germs, and burst the narrow room;
"Though I," said he, "did ne'er in thought of Broader and broader yet, their blooms display,
How justly may my lord suspect his friend!
Th' appearance is against me, I confess,
Who seemingly have put you in distress:
You, if your goodness does not plead my cause,
May think I broke all hospitable laws,
To bear you from your palace-yard by might,
And put your noble person in a fright:
This, since you take it ill, I must repent,
Though, Heaven can witness, with no bad intent:
I practis'd it, to make you taste your cheer
With double pleasure, first prepar'd by fear.
So loyal subjects often seize their prince,
Forc'd (for his good) to seeming violence,
Yet mean his sacred person not the least offence.
Descend; so help me Jove as you shall find
That Reynard comes of no dissembling kind."
"Nay," quoth the cock; " but I beshrew us both,
If I believe a saint upon his oath:
An honest man may take a knave's advice,
But idiots only may be cozen'd twice:
Once warn'd is well bewar'd; not flattering lies
Shall soothe me more to sing with winking eyes
And open mouth, for fear of catching flies.
Who blindfold walks upon a river's brim,
When he should see, has he deserv'd to swim?"
Better, sir cock, let all contention cease,
"Come down," said Reynard, "let us treat
"A peace, with all my soul," said Chanticleer;
"But, with your favor, I will treat it here:
And, lest the truce with treason should be mixt,
"Tis my concern to have the tree betwixt."
In this plain fable you th' effect may see
Of negligence, and fond credulity:
And learn beside of flatterers to beware,
Then most pernicious when they speak too fair.
The cock and fox, the fool and knave imply;
The truth is moral, though the tale a lie.
Who spoke in parables, I dare not say;
But sure he knew it was a pleasing way,
Sound sense, by plain example, to convey;
And in a heathen author we may find,
That pleasure with instruction should be join'd;
So take the corn, and leave the chaff behind.
Salute the welcome Sun, and entertain the day.
Then from their breathing souls the sweets repair,
To scent the skies, and purge th' unwholesome air:
Joy spreads the heart, and, with a general song,
Spring issues out, and leads the jolly months along.
In that sweet season, as in bed I lay,
And sought in sleep to pass the night away,
I turn'd my wearied side, but still in vain,
Though full of youthful health, and void of pain
Cares I had none, to keep me from my rest,
For Love had never enter'd in my breast;
I wanted nothing Fortune could supply,
Nor did she slumber till that hour deny.
I wonder'd then, but after found it true,
Much joy had dried away the balmy dew:
Seas would be pools, without the brushing air,
To curl the waves: and sure some little care
Should weary Nature so, to make her want repair.
When Chanticleer the second watch had sung,
Scorning the scorner Sleep, from bed I sprung;
And, dressing by the Moon, in loose array,
Pass'd out in open air, preventing day,
And sought a goodly grove, as fancy led my way.
Straight as a line in beauteous order stood
Of oaks unshorn a venerable wood;
Fresh was the grass beneath, and every tree
At distance planted in a due degree,
Their branching arms in air with equal space
Stretch'd to their neighbors with a long embrace,
And the new leaves on every bough were seen,
Some ruddy color'd, some of lighter green.
The painted birds, companions of the Spring,
Hopping from spray to spray, were heard to sing.
Both eyes and ears receiv'd a like delight,
Enchanting music, and a charming sight.
On Philomel I fix'd my whole desire;
And listen'd for the queen of all the quire;
Fain would I hear her heavenly voice to sing;
And wanted yet an omen to the spring.
Attending long in vain, I took the way,
Which through a path but scarcely printed lay;
In narrow mazes oft it seem'd to meet,
And look'd as lightly press'd by fairy feet.
Wandering I walk'd alone, for still methought
To some strange end so strange a path was wrought:
At last it led me where an arbor stood,
The sacred receptacle of the wood:
This place unmark'd, though oft I walk'd the green,
In all my progress I had never seen:
And, seiz'd at once with wonder and delight,
Gaz'd all around me, new to the transporting sight.
"Twas bench'd with turf, and goodly to be seen,
The thick young grass arose in fresher green:
The mound was newly made, no sight could pass
Betwixt the nice partitions of the grass;
The well-united sods so closely lay;
And all around the shades defended it from day:
For sycamores with eglantine were spread,
A hedge about the sides, a covering over-head.
And so the fragrant brier was wove between,
The sycamore and flowers were mix'd with green,
That Nature seem'd to vary the delight;
And satisfied at once the smell and sight.
The master-workman of the bower was known
Through fairy lands, and built for Oberon;
Who twining leaves with such proportion drew,
They rose by measure, and by rule they grew;
No mortal tongue can half the beauty tell:
For none but hands divine could work so well.
Both roof and sides were like a parlor made,
A soft recess, and a cool summer shade;
The hedge was set so thick, no foreign eye
The persons plac'd within it could espy:
But all that pass'd without with ease was seen,
As if nor fence nor tree was plac'd between.
"Twas border'd with a field; and some was plain
With grass, and some was sow'd with rising grain.
That (now the dew with spangles deck'd the ground)
A sweeter spot of earth was never found.
I look'd and look'd, and still with new delight;
Such joy my soul, such pleasures fill'd my sight:
And the fresh eglantine exhal'd a breath,
Whose odors were of power to raise from death.
Nor sullen discontent, nor anxious care,
Ev'n though brought thither, could inhabit there:
But thence they fled as from their mortal foe;
For this sweet place could only pleasure know.
Thus as I mus'd, I cast aside my eye,
And saw a medlar-tree was planted nigh.
The spreading branches made a goodly show,
And full of opening blooms was every bough:
A goldfinch there I saw with gaudy pride
Of painted plumes, that hopp'd from side to side,
Still pecking as she pass'd; and still she drew
The sweets from every flower, and suck'd the dew:
Suffic'd at length, she warbled in her throat,
And tun'd her voice to many a merry note,
But indistinct, and neither sweet nor clear,
Yet such as sooth'd my soul and pleas'd my ear.
Her short performance was no sooner tried,
When she I sought, the nightingale replied:
So sweet, so shrill, so variously she sung,
That the grove echo'd, and the valleys rung:
And I so ravish'd with her heavenly note,
I stood entranc'd, and had no room for thought,
But, all o'erpower'd with ecstacy of bliss,
Was in a pleasing dream of Paradise:
At length I wak'd, and looking round the bower,
Search'd every tree, and pry'd on every flower,
If anywhere by chance I might espy,
The rural poet of the melody;
For still methought she sung not far away:
At last I found her on a laurel spray.
Close by my side she sat, and fair in sight,
Full in a line against her opposite;
Where stood with eglantine the laurel twin'd;
And both their native sweets were well conjoin'd.
On the green bank I sat, and listen'd long
Sitting was more convenient for the song :)
Nor till her lay was ended could I move,
But wish'd to dwell for ever in the grove.
Only methought the time too swiftly pass'd,
And every note I fear'd would be the last.
My sight, and smell, and hearing were employ'd,
And all three senses in full gust enjoy'd.
And what alone did all the rest surpass,
The sweet possession of the fairy place;
Single, and conscious to myself alone
Of pleasures to th' excluded world unknown:
Pleasures which nowhere else were to be found,
And all Elysium in a spot of ground.
Thus while I sat intent to see and hear,
And drew perfumes of more than vital air,
All suddenly I heard th' approaching sound
Of vocal music, on th' enchanted ground:
An host of saints it seem'd, so full the quire;
As if the bless'd above did all conspire
To join their voices, and neglect the lyre.
At length there issued from the grove behind
A fair assembly of the female kind :
A train less fair, as ancient fathers tell,
Seduc'd the sons of Heaven to rebel.
I pass their form, and every charming grace,
Less than an angel would their worth debase :
But their attire, like liveries of a kind
All rich and rare, is fresh within my mind.
In velvet white as snow the troop was gown'd,
The seams with sparkling emeralds set around:
Their hoods and sleeves the same; and purfled o'er
With diamonds, pearls, and all the shining store
Of eastern pomp: their long descending train,
With rubies edg'd, and sapphires, swept the plain :
High on their heads, with jewels richly set,
Each lady wore a radiant coronet.
Beneath the circles, all the quire was grac'd
With chaplets green, on their fair foreheads plac'd.
Of laurel some, of woodbine many more;
And wreaths of agnus-castus others bore:
These last, who with those virgin crowns were dress'd,
Appear'd in higher honor than the rest.
They danc'd around: but in the midst was seen
A lady of a more majestic mien;
By stature and by beauty mark'd their sovereign
She in the midst began with sober grace; Her servants' eyes were fixed upon her face, And, as she mov'd or turn'd, her motions view'd, Her measures kept, and step by step pursued. Methought she trod the ground with greater grace, With more of godhead shining in her face; And as in beauty she surpass'd the quire, So, nobler than the rest, was her attire. A crown of ruddy gold inclos'd her brow, Plain without pomp, and rich without a show. A branch of agnus-castus in her hand She bore aloft (her sceptre of command ;) Admir'd, ador'd, by all the circling crowd, For wheresoe'er she turn'd her face, they bow'd: And as she danc'd, a roundelay she sung,
In honor of the laurel, ever young:
She rais'd her voice on high, and sung so clear,
The fawns came scudding from the groves to hear;
And all the bending forest lent an ear.
At every close she made, th' attending throng
Replied, and bore the burthen of the song:
So just, so small, yet in so sweet a note,
It seem'd the music melted in the throat.
Thus dancing on, and singing as they danc'd,
They to the middle of the mead advanc'd,
Till round my arbor a new ring they made,
And footed it about the secret shade.
O'erjoy'd to see the jolly troop so near,
But somewhat aw'd, I shook with holy fear;
Yet not so much, but that I noted well
Who did the most in song or dance excel.
Not long I had observ'd, when from afar I heard a sudden symphony of war; The neighing coursers, and the soldiers' cry, And sounding trumps that seem'd to tear the sky: I saw soon after this, behind the grove From whence the ladies did in order move, Come issuing out in arms a warrior train, That like a deluge pour'd upon the plain : On barbed steeds they rode in proud array, Thick as the college of the bees in May, When swarming o'er the dusky fields they fly, New to the flowers, and intercept the sky. So fierce they drove, their coursers were so fleet, That the turf trembled underneath their feet.
To tell their costly furniture were long,
The summer's day would end before the song:
To purchase but the tenth of all their store,
Would make the mighty Persian monarch poor.
Yet what I can, I will; before the rest
The trumpets issued, in white mantles dress'd,
A numerous troop, and all their heads around
With chaplets green of cerrial-oak were crown'd;
And at each trumpet was a banner bound,
Which, waving in the wind, display'd at large
Their master's coat of arms, and knightly charge.
Broad were the banners, and of snowy hue,
A purer web the silk-worm never drew.
The chief about their necks the scutcheons wore,
With orient pearls and jewels powder'd o'er:
Broad were their collars too, and every one
Was set about with many a costly stone.
Next these of kings-at-arms a goodly train
In proud array came prancing o'er the plain :
Their cloaks were cloth of silver mix'd with gold,
And garlands green around their temples roll'd;
Rich crowns were on their royal scutcheons plac'd,
With sapphires, diamonds, and with rubies grac'd:
And as the trumpets their appearance made,
So these in habits were alike array'd;
But with a pace more sober, and more slow;
And twenty, rank in rank, they rode a row.
The pursuivants came next, in number more;
And like the heralds each his scutcheon bore:
Clad in white velvet all their troop they led.
With each an oaken chaplet on his head.
Nine royal knights in equal rank succeed,
Each warrior mounted on a fiery steed:
In golden armor glorious to behold;
The rivets of their arms were nail'd with gold.
Their surcoats of white ermine fur were made,
With cloth of gold between, that cast a glittering
The trappings of their steeds were of the same;
The golden fringe ev'n set the ground on flame,
And drew a precious trail: a crown divine
Of laurel did about their temples twine.
Like to their lords their equipage was seen,
And all their foreheads crown'd with garlands green
And after these came, arm'd with spear and shield
An host so great, as cover'd all the field,
And all their foreheads, like the knights before,
With laurels ever-green were shaded o'er,
Or oak or other leaves of lasting kind,
Tenacious of the stem, and firm against the wind.
Some in their hands, beside the lance and shield,
The boughs of woodbine or of hawthorn held,
Or branches for their mystic emblems took,
Of palm, of laurel, or of cerrial-oak.
Thus marching to the trumpet's lofty sound,
Drawn in two lines adverse they wheel'd around,
And in the middle meadow took their ground.
Among themselves the tourney they divide,
In equal squadrons rang'd on either side.
Then turn'd their horses' heads, and man to man,
And steed to steed oppos'd, the jousts began.
Then lightly set their lances in the rest,
And, at the sign, against each other press'd:
They met. I, sitting at my ease, beheld
The mix'd events, and fortunes of the field.
Some broke their spears, some tumbled horse and
And round the field the lighten'd coursers ran.
An hour and more, like tides, in equal sway
They rush'd, and won by turns, and lost the day:
At length the nine (who still together held)
Their fainting foes to shameful flight compell'd,
And with resistless force o'er-ran the field.
Thus, to their fame, when finish'd was the fight,
The victors from their lofty steeds alight:
Like them dismounted all the warlike train,
And two by two proceeded o'er the plain :
Till to the fair assembly they advanc'd,
Who near the secret arbor sung and danc'd.
The ladies left their measures at the sight,
To meet the chiefs returning from the fight,
And each with open arms embrac'd her chosen
Amid the plain a spreading laurel stood,
The grace and ornament of all the wood:
That pleasing shade they sought, a soft retreat
From sudden April showers, a shelter from the heat:
Her leafy arms with such extent were spread,
So near the clouds was her aspiring head,
That hosts of birds, that wing the liquid air,
Perch'd in the boughs, had nightly lodging there;
And flocks of sheep beneath the shade from far
Might hear the rattling hail, and wintry war,
From Heaven's inclemency here found retreat,
Enjoy'd the cool, and shunn'd the scorching heat:
A hundred knights might there at ease abide;
And every knight a lady by his side:
The trunk itself such odors did bequeath,
That a Moluccan breeze to these was common
The lords and ladies here, approaching, paid
Their homage, with a low obeisance made:
And seem'd to venerate the sacred shade.
These rites perform'd, their pleasures they pursue,
Three henchmen were for every knight assign'd, With song of love, and mix with pleasures new ; All in rich livery clad, and of a kind :
White velvet, but unshorn, for cloaks they wore,
And each within his hand a truncheon bore:
The foremost held a helm of rare device;
A prince's ransom would not pay the price.
The second bore the buckler of his knight,
The third of cornel-wood a spear upright,
Headed with piercing steel, and polish'd bright.
Around the holy tree their dance they frame,
And every champion leads his chosen dame.
I cast my sight upon the farther field,
And a fresh object of delight beheld:
For from the region of the west I heard
New music sound, and a new troop appear'd;
Of knights, and ladies mix'd, a jolly band,
But all on foot they march'd, and hand in hand.
The ladies dress'd in rich cymar were seen
Of Florence satin, flower'd with white and green,
And for a shade betwixt the bloomy gridelin.
The borders of their petticoats below
Were guarded thick with rubies on a row;
And every damsel wore upon her head
Of flowers a garland blended white and red.
Attir'd in mantles all the knights were seen,
That gratified the view with cheerful green:
Their chaplets of their ladies' colors were, [hair:
Compos'd of white and red, to shade their shining
Before the merry troop the minstrels play'd;
All in their masters' liveries were array'd,
And clad in green, and on their temples wore
The chaplets white and red their ladies bore.
Their instruments were various in their kind,
Some for the bow, and some for breathing wind:
The sawtry, pipe, and hautboy's noisy baud, [hand.
And the soft lute trembling beneath the touching
A tuft of daisies on a flowery lay
The laurel champions with their swords invade
The neighboring forests, where the jousts were made,
And screwood from the rotten hedges took,
And seeds of latent fire from flints provoke:
A cheerful blaze arose, and by the fire
They warm'd their frozen feet, and dried their wet
Refresh'd with heat, the ladies sought around
For virtuous herbs, which gather'd from the ground
They squeez'd the juice, and cooling ointment made,
Which on their sun-burnt cheeks and their chapt skins
Then sought green salads, which they bade them eat,
A sovereign remedy for inward heat.
The lady of the leaf ordain'd a feast,
And made the lady of the flower her guest:
When lo, a bower ascended on the plain,
With sudden seats ordain'd, and large for either train.
This bower was near my pleasant arbor plac'd,
That I could hear and see whatever pass'd:
The ladies sat with each a knight between,
Distinguish'd by their colors, white and green;
The vanquish'd party with the victors join'd,
Nor wanted sweet discourse, the banquet of the mind.
Meantime the minstrels play'd on either side,
Vain of their art, and for the mastery vied:
The sweet contention lasted for an hour,
sweet." | And reach'd my secret arbor from the bower
The Sun was set; and Vesper, to supply
His absent beams, had lighted up the sky:
When Philomel, officious all the day
To sing the service of th' ensuing May,
Fled from her laurel shade, and wing'd her flight
Directly to the queen array'd in white;
And, hopping, sat familiar on her hand,
A new musician, and increas'd the band.
They saw, and thitherward they bent their way;
To this both knights and dames their homage made,
And due obeisance to the daisy paid.
And then the band of flutes began to play,
To which a lady sung a virelay:
And still at every close she would repeat
The burthen of the song, "The daisy is so
The daisy is so sweet," when she begun,
The troop of knights and dames continued on.
The concert and the voice so charm'd my ear,
And sooth'd my soul, that it was Heaven to hear.
But soon their pleasure pass'd: at noon of day,
The Sun with sultry beams began to play:
Not Sirius shoots a fiercer flame from high,
When with his poisonous breath he blasts the sky:
Then droop'd the fading flowers (their beauty fled)
And clos'd their sickly eyes, and hung the head;
And, rivel'd up with heat, lay dying in their bed.
The ladies gasp'd, and scarcely could respire:
The breath they drew, no longer air, but fire;
The goldfinch, who, to shun the scalding heat,
Had chang'd the medlar for a safer seat,
And, hid in bushes, 'scap'd the bitter shower,
Now perch'd upon the lady of the flower;
And either songster holding out their throats,
The fainty knights were scorch'd; and knew not And folding up their wings, renew'd their notes:
To run for shelter, for no shade was near;
And after this the gathering clouds amain
Pour'd down a storm of rattling hail and rain:
And lightning flash'd betwixt: the field, and flowers,
Burnt up before, were buried in the showers.
The ladies and the knights, no shelter nigh,
Bare to the weather, and the wintry sky,
Were dropping wet, disconsolate, and wan,
And through their thin array receiv'd the rain;
While those in white, protected by the tree,
Saw pass in vain th' assault, and stood from danger
But as compassion mov'd their gentle minds,
When ceas'd the storm, and silent were the winds,
Displeas'd at what, not suffering, they had seen,
They went to cheer the faction of the green:
The queen in white array, before her band,
Saluting, took her rival by the hand:
So did the knights and dames, with courtly grace,
And with behavior sweet, their foes embrace:
Then thus the queen with laurel on her brow,
"Fair sister, I have suffer'd in your woe;
Nor shall be wanting aught within my power
For your relief in my refreshing bower."
That other answer'd with a lowly look,
And soon the gracious invitation took :
For ill at ease both she and all her train
The scorching Sun had borne, and beating rain.
Like courtesy was us'd by all in white, [knight.
Each dame a dame receiv'd, and every knight a
As if all day, preluding to the fight,
They only had rehears'd, to sing by night:
The banquet ended, and the battle done,
They danc'd by star-light and the friendly Moon:
And when they were to part, the laureate queen
Supplied with steeds the lady of the green,
Her and her train conducting on the way,
The Moon to follow, and avoid the day.
This when I saw, inquisitive to know
The secret moral of the mystic show,
I started from my shade, in hopes to find
Some nymph to satisfy my longing mind:
And, as my fair adventure fell, I found
A lady all in white, with laurel crown'd,
Who clos'd the rear, and softly pac'd along,
Repeating to herself the former song.
With due respect my body I inclin'd,
As to some being of superior kind,
And made my court according to the day,
Wishing her queen and her a happy May.
To this the dame replied: "Fair daughter, know,
That what you saw was all a fairy show:
And all those airy shapes you now behold, [mould,
Were human bodies once, and cloth'd with earthly
Our souls, not yet prepar'd for upper light,
Till doomsday wander in the shades of night;
This only holiday of all the year,
We privileg'd in sun-shine may appear:
With songs and dance we celebrate the day,
And with due honors usher in the May.
At other times we reign by night alone,
And posting through the skies pursue the Moon:
But when the morn arises, none are found;
For cruel Demogorgon walks the round,
And if he finds a fairy lag in light,
He drives the wretch before, and lashes into night.
"All courteous are by kind; and ever proud
With friendly offices to help the good.
In every land we have a larger space
Than what is known to you of mortal race :
Where we with green adorn our fairy bowers,
And ev'n this grove, unseen before, is ours.
Know farther: every lady cloth'd in white,
And, crown'd with oak and laurel every knight,
Are servants to the Leaf, by liveries known
Of innocence; and I myself am one.
Saw you not her so graceful to behold
In white attire, and crown'd with radiant gold?
The sovereign lady of our land is she,
Diana call'd, the queen of chastity:
And, for the spotless name of maid she bears,
That agnus-castus in her hand appears;
And all her train, with leafy chaplets crown'd,
Were for unblam'd virginity renown'd;
But those the chief and highest in command,
Who bear those holy branches in their hand :
The knights adorn'd with laurel crowns are they,
Whom death nor danger never could dismay,
Victorious names, who made the world obey:
Who, while they liv'd, in deeds of arms excell'd,
And after death for deities were held.
But those, who wear the woodbine on their brow,
Were knights of love, who never broke their vow;
Firm to their plighted faith, and ever free
From fears, and fickle chance, and jealousy.
The lords and ladies, who the woodbine bear,
As true as Tristram and Isotta were."
"But what are those," said I," th' unconquer'd nine, Who crown'd with laurel-wreaths in golden armor shine ?
And who the knights in green, and what the train
Of ladies dress'd with daisies on the plain?
Why both the bands in worship disagree,
And some adorn the flower, and some the tree?"
"Just is your suit, fair daughter," said the dame:
"Those laurel'd chiefs were men of mighty fame;
Nine worthies were they call'd, of different rites,
Three Jews, three Pagans, and three Christian
These, as you see, ride foremost in the field,
As they the foremost rank of honor held,
And all in deeds of chivalry excell'd:
Our England's ornament, the crown's defence,
In battle brave, protectors of their prince:
Unchang'd by fortune, to their sovereign true,
For which their manly legs are bound with blue.
These, of the garter call'd, of faith unstain'd,
In fighting fields the laurel have obtain'd,
And well repaid the honors which they gain'd.
The laurel wreaths were first by Cæsar worn,
And still they Cæsar's successors adorn:
One leaf of this is immortality,
And more of worth than all the world can buy."
"One doubt remains," said I, "the dames in gen
What were their qualities, and who their queen ?"
"Flora commands," said she, "those nymphs and
Who liv'd in slothful ease and loose delights;
Who never acts of honor durst pursue,
The men inglorious knights, the ladies all untrue:
Who, nurs'd in idleness, and train'd in courts,
Pass'd all their precious hours in plays and sports,
Till Death behind came stalking on, unseen,
And wither'd (like the storm) the freshness of their
These, and their mates, enjoy their present hour,
And therefore pay their homage to the Flower.
But knights in knightly deeds should persevere,
And still continue what at first they were;
Continue, and proceed in honor's fair career.
No room for cowardice, or dull delay;
From good to better they should urge their way.
For this with golden spurs the chiefs are grac'd,
With pointed rowels arm'd to mend their haste;
For this with lasting leaves their brows are bound;
For laurel is the sign of labor crown'd, [ground:
Which bears the bitter blast, nor shaken falls to
From winter winds it suffers no decay,
For ever fresh and fair, and every month is May.
Ev'n when the vital sap retreats below,
Ev'n when the hoary head is hid in snow;
The life is in the leaf, and still between
The fits of falling snow appears the streaky green.
Not so the flower, which lasts for little space,
A short-liv'd good, and an uncertain grace;
This way and that the feeble stem is driven,
Weak to sustain the storms and injuries of Heaven.
Propp'd by the spring, it lifts aloft the head,
But of a sickly beauty, soon to shed:
In summer living, and in winter dead.
For things of tender kind, for pleasure made,
Shoot up with swift increase, and sudden are do
With humble words, the wisest I could frame,
And proffer'd service, I repaid the dame;
That, of her grace, she gave her maid to know
The secret meaning of this moral show.
And she, to prove what profit I had made
Of mystic truth, in fables first convey'd,
Demanded, till the next returning May,
Whether the Leaf or Flower I would obey?
I chose the leaf; she smil'd with sober cheer,
And wish'd me fair adventure for the year,
And gave me charms and sigils, for defence
Their temples wreath'd with leaves, that still renew; Against ill tongues that scandal innocence:
For deathless laurel is the victor's due:
Who bear the bows were knights in Arthur's reign,
Twelve they, and twelve the peers of Charlemain
For bows the strength of brawny arms imply,
Emblems of valor and of victory.
Behold an order yet of newer date
Doubling their number, equal in their state;
But I," said she," my fellows must pursue,
Already past the plain, and out of view."
We parted thus; I homeward sped my way, Bewilder'd in the wood till dawn of day:
And met the merry crew who danc'd about the May
Then, late refresh'd with sleep, I rose to write
The visionary vigils of the night: