Henry And Emma. A Poem. - Poem by Matthew Prior
Upon the Model of The Nut-Brown Maid. To Cloe.
Thou, to whose eyes I bend, at whose command
(Though low my voice, though artless be my hand.
I take the sprightly reed, and sing and play,
Careless of what the censuring world may say;
Bright Cloe! object of my constant vow,
Wilt thou a while unbend thy serious brow?
Wilt thou with pleasure hear thy lover's strains,
And with one heavenly smile o'erpay his pains?
No longer shall the Nut-brown Maid be old,
Though since her youth three hundred years have roll'd:
At thy desire she shall again be raised,
And her reviving charms in lasting verse be praised.
No longer man of woman shall complain,
That he may love and not be loved again;
That we in vain the fickle sex pursue,
Who change the constant lover for the new.
Whatever has been writ, whatever said
Henceforth shall in my verse refuted stand,
Be said to winds, or writ upon the sand:
And while my notes to future times proclaim
Unconquer'd love and ever-during flame,
O, fairest of the sex, be thou my muse;
Deign on my work thy influence to diffuse:
Let me partake the blessings I rehearse,
And grant me love, the just reward of verse.
As beauty's potent queen with every grace
That once was Emma's has adorn'd thy face,
And as her son has to my bosom dealt
That constant flame which faithful Henry felt,
O let the story with thy life agree,
Let men once more the bright example see;
What Emma was to him be thou to me:
Nor send me by thy frown from her I love,
Distant and sad, a banish'd man to rove:
But, oh! with pity long entreated crown
My pains and hopes: and when thou say'st that one
Of all mankind thou lovest, oh! think on me alone.
Where beauteous Isis and her husband Thame
With mingled waves for ever flow the same,
In times of yore an ancient baron lived,
Great gifts bestowed, and great respect received.
When dreadful Edward, with successful care
Led his free Britons to the Gallic war,
This Lord had headed his appointed bands,
In firm allegiance to his king's commands,
And (all due honours faithfully discharged)
Had brought back his paternal coat, enlarged
With a new mark, the witness of his toil,
And no inglorious part of foreign spoil.
From the loud camp retired and noisy court,
In honourable days and rural sport
The remnant of his days he safely past,
Nor found they lagg'd too slow nor flew too fast;
He made his wish with his estate comply,
Joyful to live, yet not afraid to die.
One child he had, a daughter, chaste and fair,
His age's comfort, and his fortune's heir:
They call'd her Emma, for the beauteous dame
Who gave the virgin birth had borne the name;
The name th' indulgent father doubly loved,
For in the child the mother's charms improved:
Yet as when little, round his knees she play'd,
He call'd her oft in sport his Nut-brown Maid:
The friends and tenants took the fondling word,
(As still they please who imitate their lord)
Usage confirm'd what fancy had begun;
The mutual terms around the lands were known,
And Emma and the Nut-brown Maid were one.
As with her stature still her charms increased,
Through all the isle her beauty was confess'd.
Oh! what perfections must that virgin share,
Who fairest is esteem'd where all are fair?
From distant shires repair the noble youth,
And find report for once had lessen'd truth.
By wonder first, and then by passion moved,
They came, they saw, they marvell'd, and they loved.
By public praises and by secret sighs,
Each own'd the general power of Emma's eyes.
In tilts and tournaments the valiant strove
By glorious deeds to purchase Emma's love.
In gentle verse the witty told their flame,
And graced their choicest songs with Emma's name.
In vain they combated, in vain they writ,
Useless their strength, and impotent their wit:
Great Venus only must direct the dart,
Which else will never reach the fair one's heart,
Spite of th' attempt of force and soft effects of art:
Great Venus must prefer the happy one;
In Henry's cause her favour must be shown,
And Emma, of mankind, must love but him alone.
While these in public to the castle came
And by their grandeur justified their flame,
More secret ways the careful Henry takes;
His squires, his arms, and equipage forsakes.
In borrow'd name and false attire array'd,
Oft he finds means to see the beauteous maid.
When Emma hunts, in huntsman's habit dress'd,
Henry on foot pursues the bounding beast;
In his right hand his beachen pole he bears,
And grateful at his side his horn he wears.
Still to the glade where she has bent her way
With knowing skill he drives the future prey;
Bids her decline the hill and shun the brake,
And shows the path her steed may safest take;
Directs her spear to fix the glorious wound,
Pleased in his toil, to have her triumphs crown'd,
And blows her praises in no common sound.
A falconer Henry is when Emma hawks,
With her of tarsels and of lures he talks.
Upon his wrist the towering merlin stands,
Practised to rise and stoop at her commands:
And when superior now the bird has flown,
And headlong brought the tumbling quarry down,
With humble reverence he accosts the fair,
And with the honour'd feather decks her hair.
Yet still as from the sportive field she goes,
His downcast eye reveals his inward woes;
And by his look and sorrow is express'd,
A nobler game pursued than bird or beast
A shepherd now along the plain he roves,
And with his jolly pipe delights the groves.
The neighbouring swains around the stranger throng,
Or to admire or emulate his song;
While with soft sorrow he renews his lays,
Nor heedful of their envy nor their praise:
But soon as Emma's eyes adorn the plain,
His notes he raises to a nobler strain.
With dutiful respect and studious fear,
Lest any careless sound offend her ear.
A frantic gypsy now the house he haunts,
And in wild phrases speaks dissembled wants.
With the fond maids in psalmistry he deals:
They tell the secret first which he reveals:
Says who shall wed, and who shall be beguiled;
What groom shall get, and squire maintain, the child;
But when Bright Emma would her fortune know,
A softer look unbends his opening brow:
With trembling awe he gazes on her eye,
And in soft accents forms the kind reply.
That she shall prove as fortunate fair,
And Hymen's choicest gifts are all reserved for her.
Now oft had Henry changed his sly disguise,
Unmark'd by all but beauteous Emma's eyes;
Oft had found means alone to see the dame,
And at her feet to breathe his amorous flame;
And oft the pangs of absence to remove
By letters, soft interpreters of love.
Till time and industry (the mighty wo
That bring our wishes nearer to our view)
Made him perceive that the inclining fair
Received his vows with no reluctant ear;
That Venus had confirm'd her equal reign,
And dealt to Emma's heart a share of Henry's pain.
While Cupid smiled, by kind occasion bless'd,
And with the secret kept the love increased,
The amorous youth frequents the silent groves,
And much he meditates, for much he loves.
He loves, 'tis true, and is beloved again;
Great are his joys, but will they long remain?
Emma with smiles receives his present flame,
But, smiling, will she ever be the same?
Beautiful looks are ruled by fickle minds,
And summer seas are turn'd by sudden winds:
Another love may gain her easy youth;
Time changes thought, and flattery conquers truth.
O impotent estate of human life!
Where hope and fear maintain eternal strife;
Where fleeting joy does lasting doubt inspire,
And most we question what we most desire.
Amongst thy various gifts, great heaven, bestow
Our cup of life unmix'd; forbear to throw
Bitter ingredients in, nor pall the draught
With nauseous grief; for our ill-judging thought
Hardly enjoys the pleasurable taste,
Or deems it not sincere, or fears it cannot last.
With wishes raised, with jealousies oppress'd,
(Alternate tyrants of the human breast)
By one great trial he resolves to prove
The faith of woman and the force of love:
If scanning Emma's virtues, he may find
That beauteous frame enclose a steady mind,
He'll fix his hope of future joy secure,
And live a slave to Hymen's happy power;
But if the fair one, as he fears, is frail,
If poised aright in reason's equal scale,
Light fly her merits, and her faults prevail.
His mind he vows to free from amorous care,
The latent mischief from his heart to tear,
Resume his azure arms, and shine again in war.
South of the castle, in a verdant glade,
A spreading beech extends her friendly shade;
Here oft the nymph his breathing vows had heard:
Here oft her silence had her heart declared.
An active spring awaked her infant buds,
And genial life inform'd the verdant woods,
Henry in knots involving Emma's name,
Had half express'd and half conceal'd his flame
Upon this tree; and as the tender mark
Grew with the year, and, widen'd with the bark,
Venus had heard the virgin's soft address,
That, as the wound, the passion might increase.
As potent Nature shed her kindly showers,
And deck'd the various mead with opening flowers,
Upon this tree the nymph's obliging care
Had left a frequent wreath for Henry's hair,
Which as with gay delight the lover found,
Pleased with his conquest, with her present crown'd,
Glorious through all the plains he oft had gone,
And to each swain the mystic honour shown,
The gift still praised, the giver still unknown.
His secret note the troubled Henry writes;
To the known tree the lovely maid invites:
Imperfect words and dubious terms express
That unforeseen mischance disturb'd his peace
That he must something to her ear commend,
On which her conduct and his life depend.
Soon as the fair one had the note received,
The remnant of the day alone she grieved;
For different this from every former note
Which Venus dictated and Henry wrote;
Which told her all his future hopes were laid
On the dear bosom of his Nut-brown Maid;
Which always bless'd her eyes and own'd her power,
And bid her oft adieu, yet added more.
Now night advanced: the house in sleep were laid,
The nurse experienced, and the prying maid;
And, last, that sprite which does incessant haunt
The lover's steps, the ancient maiden aunt,
To her dear Henry Emma wings her way,
With quicken'd pace repairing forced delay:
For love fantastic power that is afraid
To stir abroad till watchfulness be laid,
Undaunted then o'er cliffs and valleys strays,
And leads his votaries safe through pathless ways.
Not Argus with his hundred eyes shall find
Where Cupid goes, though he poor guide is blind.
The maiden first arriving, sent her eye
To ask if yet its chief delight were nigh:
With fear and with desire, with joy and pain
She sees, and runs to meet him on the plain;
But, oh! his steps proclaim no lover's haste;
On the low ground his fix'd regards are cast;
His artful bosom heaves dissembled sighs,
And tears suborn'd fall copious from his eyes.
With ease, alas! we credit what we love;
His painted grief does real sorrow move
In the afflicted fair: adown her cheek
Trickling the genuine tears their current break!
Attentive stood the mountain nymph; the man
Broke silence first; the tale alternate ran.
Sincere, O tell me, hast thou felt a pain,
Emma, beyond what woman knows to feign?
Has thy uncertain bosom ever strove
With the first tumults of a real love?
Hast thou now dreaded and now bless'd his sway,
By turns averse and joyful to obey,
Thy virgin softness hast thou e'er bewail'd,
As reason yielded and as love prevail'd?
And wept the potent god's resistless dart,
His killing pleasure, his ecstatic smart,
And heavenly poison thrilling through thy heart?
If so, with pity view my wretched state,
At least deplore, and then forget my fate:
To some more happy knight reserve thy charms,
By Fortune favour'd and successful arms;
And only as the sun's revolving ray
Brings back each year this melancholy day,
Permit one sigh, and set apart one tear
To an abandon'd exile's endless care,
For me, alas! outcast of human race,
Love's anger only waits and dire disgrace;
For, lo! these hands in murder are imbrued,
These trembling feet by Justice are pursued;
Fate calls aloud and hastens my away;
A shameful death attends my longer stay;
And I this night must fly from thee and love,
Condemn'd in lonely woods a banish'd man to rove.
What is our bliss that changeth with the moon,
And day of life that darkens ere 'tis noon?
What is true passion, if unbless'd it dies?
And where is Emma's joy if Henry flies?
If love, alas! be pain, the pain I bear
No thought can figure, and no tongue declare.
Ne'er faithful woman felt, nor false one feign'd,
The flames which long have in my bosom reign'd:
The god of love himself inhabits there,
With all his rage, and dread, and grief, and care,
His complement of stores and total war.
O! cease then coldly to suspect my love,
And let my deed, at least my faith, approve.
Alas! no youth shall my endearments share,
Nor day nor night shall interrupt my care;
No future story shall with truth upbraid
The cold indifference of the Nut-brown Maid;
Nor to hard banishment shall Henry run
While careless Emma sleeps on beds of down.
View me resolved where'er thou lead'st to go,
Friend to thy pain, and partner of thy wo;
For I attest fair Venus and her son,
That I of all mankind will love but thee alone.
Let prudence yet obstruct thy venturous way,
And take good heed what men will think and say;
That beauteous Emma vagrant courses took,
Her father's house and civil life forsook;
That full of youthful blood, and fond of man,
She to the woodland with an exile ran.
Reflect, that lessen'd fame is ne'er regain'd,
And virgin-honour once, is always stain'd:
Timely advised, the coming evil shun;
Better not do the deed than weep it done:
No penance can absolve our guilty fame,
Nor tears, that wash out sin, can wash out shame:
Then fly the sad effects of desperate love,
And leave a banish'd man through lonely woods to rove.
Let Emma's hapless case be falsely told
By the rash young or the ill-natured old;
Let every tongue its various censures choose,
Absolve with coldness, or with spite accuse;
Fair Truth at last her radiant beams will raise,
And Malice vanquish'd heightens Virtue's praise.
Let then thy favour but indulge my flight,
O! let my presence make thy travels light,
And potent Venus shall exalt my name
Above the rumours of censorious Fame;
Nor from that busy demon's restless power
Will ever Emma other grace implore,
Than that this truth should to the world be known,
That I of all mankind have loved but thee alone.
But canst thou wield the sword and bend the bow?
With active force repel the sturdy foe?
When the loud tumult speaks the battle nigh,
And winged deaths in whistling arrows fly,
Wilt thou, though wounded, yet undaunted stay,
Perform thy part, and share the dangerous day?
Then, as thy strength decays, thy heart will fail,
Thy limbs all trembling, and thy cheeks all pale;
With fruitless sorrow thou, inglorious Maid,
Wilt weep thy safety by thy love betray'd;
Then to thy friend, by foes o'ercharged, deny
Thy little useless aid, and coward fly;
Then wilt thou curse the chance that made thee love
A banish'd man, condemn'd in lonely woods to rove.
With fatal certainty Thalestris knew
To send the arrow from the twanging yew
And, great in arms, and foremost in the war,
Bonduca brandish'd high the British spear.
Could thirst of vengeance and desire of fame
Excite the female breast with martial flame?
And shall not Love's diviner power inspire
More hardy virtue and more generous fire?
Near thee, mistrust not, constant I'll abide,
And fall or vanquish, fighting by thy side.
Though my inferior strength may not allow
That I should bear or draw the warrior bow,
With ready hand I will the shaft supply,
And joy to see thy victor arrows fly.
Touch'd in the battle by the hostile reed,
Shouldst thou, (but Heaven avert it!) shouldst thou blend,
To stop the wounds my finest lawn I'd tear,
Wash them with tears, and wipe them with my hair;
Blest when my dangers and my toils have shown,
That I, of all mankind, could love but thee alone.
But canst thou, tender Maid, canst thou sustain
Afflictive want, or hunger's pressing pain?
Those limbs, in lawn and softest silk array'd,
From sunbeams guarded, and of winds afraid,
Can they bear angry Jove? can they resist
The parching Dogstar and the bleak North-east?
When, chill'd by adverse snows and beating rain,
We tread with weary steps the longsome plain;
When with hard toil we seek our evening food,
Berries and acorns, from the neighbouring wood,
And find among the cliffs no other house
But the thin covert of some gather'd boughs,
Wilt thou not then reluctant send thine eye
Around the dreary waste, and weeping try,
(Though then, alas! that trial be too late)
To find thy father's hospitable gate,
And seats where Ease and Plenty brooding sate?
Those seats whence, long excluded, thou must mourn;
That gate for ever barr'd to thy return;
And hate baish'd man, condemn'd in woods to rove?
Thy rise of fortune did I only wed,
From its decline determined to recede;
Did I but purpose to embark with thee
On the smooth surface of a summer's sea,
While gentle zephyrs play in prosperous gales,
And Fortune's favour rills the swelling sails.
But would forsake the ship and make the shore,
When the winds whistle and the tempests roar?
No, Henry, no: one sacred oath has tied
Our loves; one destiny our life shall guide
Nor wild nor deep our common way divide.
When from the cave thou risest with the day
To beat the woods and rouse the bounding prey,
The cave with moss and branches I'll adorn,
And cheerful sit to wait my lord's return.
And when thou frequent bring'st the smitten deer,
(For seldom, archers say, thy arrows err)
I'll fetch quick fuel from the neighbouring wood,
And strike the sparkling flint, and dress the food:
With humble duty and officious haste
I'll cull the furthest mead for thy repast:
The choicest herbs I to thy board will bring,
And draw thy water from the freshest spring
And when, at night, with weary toil opprest,
Soft slumbers thou enjoy'st and wholesome rest,
Watchful I'll guard thee, and with midnight prayer
Weary the gods to keep thee in their care;
And joyous ask at morn's returning ray
If thou hast health, and I may bless the day.
My thoughts shall fix, my latest wish depend
On thee, guide, guardian, kinsman, father, friend
By all these sacred names be Henry known
To Emma's heart; and, grateful, let him own
That she, of all mankind, could love but him alone.
Vainly thou tell'st me what the woman's care
Shall in the wilderness of the wood prepare;
Thou, ere thou goest, unhappiest of thy kind,
Must leave the habit of the sex behind.
No longer shall thy comely tresses break
In flowing ringlets on thy snowy neck,
Or sit behind thy head, an ample round,
In graceful braids, with various ribbands bound;
No longer shall the bodice, aptly laced
From thy full bosom to thy slender waist,
That air and harmony of shape exprest,
Fine by degrees, and beautifully less;
Nor shall thy lower garments artful plait,
From thy fair side dependent to thy feet,
Arm their chaste beauties with a modest pride,
And double every charm they seek to hide.
Th' ambrosial plenty of thy shining hair
Cropt off and lost, scarce lower than thy ear
Shall stand uncouth; a horseman's coast shall hide
Thy taper shape and comeliness of side;
The short trunk-hose shall show thy foot and knee
Licentious, and to common eyesight free;
And with a bolder stride and looser air,
Mingled with men, a man thou must appear.
Nor solitude, nor gentle peace of mind,
Mistaken Maid, shalt thou in forests find:
'Tis long since Cynthia and her train were there,
Or guardian gods made innocence their care:
Vagrants and outlaws shall offend thy view,
For such must be my friends; a hideous crew,
By adverse fortune mix'd in social ill,
Train'd to assault, and disciplined to kill;
Their common loves a lewd abandon'd pack,
The beadle's lash still flagrant on their back;
By sloth corrupted, by disorder fed,
Made bold by want, and prostitute for bread:
With such must Emma hunt the tedious day,
Assist their violence an divide their prey;
With such she must return at setting light,
Though not partaker, witness of their night.
Thy ear, inured to charitable sounds
And pitying love, must feel the hateful wounds
Of jest obscene and vulgar ribaldry,
The ill-bred question and the lewd reply;
Brought by long habitude from bad to worse,
Must hear the frequent oath, the direful curse,
That latest weapon of the wretches' war,
And blasphemy, sad comrade of despair.
Now, Emma, now the last reflection make,
What thou wouldst follow, what thou must forsake:
By out ill-omen'd stars and adverse heaven
No middle object to thy choice is given;
Or yield thy virtue to attain thy love,
Or leave a banish'd man, condemn'd in woods to rove.
O grief of heart! that our unhappy fates
Force thee to suffer what thy honour hates;
Mix thee amongst the bad, or make thee run
Too near the path which Virtue bids thee shun.
Yet with her Henry still let Emma go;
With him abhor the vice, but share the wo:
And sure my little heart can never err
Amidst the worse if Henry still be there.
Our outward act is prompted from within,
And from the sinner's mind proceeds the sin:
By her own choice free Virtue is approved,
Nor by the force of outward objects moved.
Who has essay'd no danger gains no praise,
In a small isle, amidst the widest seas,
Triumphant Constancy has fix'd her seat;
In vain the Syrens sing, the tempests beat:
Their flattery she rejects, nor fears their threat.
For thee alone these little charms I drest,
Condemn'd them or absolved them by thy test:
In comely figure ranged my jewels shone,
Or negligently placed for thee alone:
For thee again they shall be laid aside;
The woman, Henry, shall put off her pride
I'll mingle with the people's wretched lee:
O line extreme of human infamy!
Wanting the scissors, with these hands I'll tear
(If that obstructs my flight) this load of hair:
Black soot or yellow walnut shall disgrace
This little red and white of Emma's face:
These nails with scratches shall deform my breast,
Lest by my look or colour be exprest
The mark of ought high-born, or ever better drest.
Yet in this commerce, under this disguise,
Let me be grateful still to Henry's eyes;
Lost to the world, let me to him be known;
My fate I can absolve if he shall own
That, leaving all mankind, I love but him alone.
O wildest thought of an abandon'd mind:
Name, habit, parents, woman, left behind,
Even honour dubious, thou preferr'st to go
Wild to the woods with me. Said Emma so?
Or did I dream what Emma never said:
O guilty error! and O wretched Maid!
Whose roving fancy would resolve the same
With him who next should tempt her easy fame,
And blow with empty words the susceptible flame.
Now why should doubtful terms thy mind perplex?
Confess thy frailty and avow the sex:
No longer loose desire for constant love
Mistake, but say, 'tis man with whom thou long'st to rove.
Are there not poisons, racks, and flames, and swords,
That Emma thus must die by Henry's words;
Yet what could swords or poison, racks, or flame,
But mangle and disjoint this brittle frame!
More fatal Henry's words, they murder Emma's fame.
And fall these sayings from that gentle tongue,
Where civil speech and soft persuasion hung?
Whose artful sweetness and harmonious strain,
Courting my grace, yet courting it in vain,
Call sighs, and tears, and wishes, to its aid,
And, whilst it Henry's glowing flame convey'd,
Still blamed the coldness of the Nut-brown Maid?
Let envious Jealousy and canker'd Spite
Produce my actions to severest light,
And tax my open day or secret might.
Did e'er my tongue speak my unguarded heart
The least inclined to play the wanton's part?
Did e'er my eye one inward thought reveal,
Which angels might not hear and virgins tell!
And hast thou, Henry, in my conduct known
One fault but that which I must ever own
That I, of all mankind, have loved but thee alone?
Vainly thou talk'st of loving me alone?
Each man is man, and all of our sex is one;
False are our words, and fickle is our mind;
Nor in Love's ritual can we ever find
Vows made to last, or promises to blind.
By Nature prompted, and for empire made,
Alike by strength or cunning we invade:
When arm'd with rage we march against the foe,
We lift the battle-axe, and draw the bow;
When fired with passion we attack the fair,
Delusive sighs and brittle vows we bear;
Our falsehood and out arms have equal use,
As they our conquest or delight produce.
The foolish heart thou gavest again receive,
The only boon departing Love can give.
To be less wretched be no longer true:
What strives to fly thee why shouldst thou pursue?
Forget the present flame, indulge a new:
Single the loveliest of the amorous youth:
Ask for his vow, but hope not for his truth,
The next man (and the next thou shalt believe)
Will pawn his gods intending to deceive;
Will kneel, implore, persist, o'ercome, and leave.
Hence let thy Cupid aim his arrows right:
Be wise and false, shun trouble, seek delight;
Change thou the first, nor wait thy lover's flight.
Why shouldst thou weep? let Nature judge our case;
I saw thee young and fair; I another saw
Fairer and younger: yielding to the law
Of our all-ruling mother, I pursued
More youth, more beauty. Blest vicissitude!
My active heart still keeps its pristine flame,
The object alter'd, the desire the same.
This younger, fairer, pleads her rightful charms,
With present power compels me to her arms;
And much I fear from my subjected mind,
(If beauty's force to constant love can bind)
That years may roll ere in her turn the maid
Shall weep the fury of my love decay'd,
And weeping follow me, as thou dost now,
With idle clamours of a broken vow.
Nor can the wildness of thy wishes err,
So wide to hope that thou may'st live with her!
Love, well thou know'st, no partnership allows;
Cupid averse, rejects divided vows:
Then from thy foolish heart, vain maid, remove
A useless sorrow and an ill-starr'd love,
And leave me, with the fair, at large in woods to rove.
Are we in life through one great error led?
Is each man perjured, and each nymph betray'd?
Of the superior sex art thou the worst?
Am I of mine the most completely cursed?
Yet let me go with thee, and going prove,
From what I will endure, how much I love.
This potent beauty, this triumphant fair,
This unhappy object of our different care,
Her let me follow; her let me attend,
A servant: (she may scorn the name of friend)
What she demands incessant I'll prepare;
I'll weave her garlands, and I'll plait her hair;
My busy diligence shall deck her board,
(For there at least I may approach my lord)
And when her Henry's softer hours advice
His servant's absence, with dejected eyes
Far I'll recede, and sighs forbid to rise.
Yet, when increasing grief brings slow disease
And ebbing life, on terms severe as these,
Will have its little lamp no longer fed;
When Henry's mistress shows him Emma dead
Rescue my poor remains from vile neglect:
With virgin honours let my hearse be deck'd
And decent emblem; and, at least, persuade
This happy nymph that Emma may be laid
Where thou, dear author of my death, where she
With frequent eye my sepulchre may see.
The nymph, amidst her joys, may haply breathe
One pious sigh, reflecting on my death,
And the sad fate which she may one day prove,
Who hopes from Henry's vows eternal love.
And thou forsworn, thou cruel, as thou art,
If Emma's image ever touch'd thy heart,
Thou sure must give one thought, and drop one tear
To her whom love abandon'd to despair;
To her who dying on the wounded stone,
Bid it in lasting characters be known,
That of mankind she loved but thee alone.
Hear, solemn Jove, and, conscious Venus, hear;
And thou, bright maid, believe me whilst I swear;
No time, no charge, no future flame, shall move
The well placed basis of my lasting love.
O powerful Virtue! O victorious fair!
At least excuse a trial too severe;
Receive the triumph, and forget the war.
No banish'd man, condemn'd in woods to rove,
Entreats thy pardon, and implores thy love:
No perjured knight desires to quit thy arms,
Fairest collection of thy sex's charms,
Crown of my love, and honour of my youth;
Henry, thy Henry, with eternal truth,
As thou may'st wish, shall all his life employ,
And found his glory in his Emma's joy.
In me behold the potent Edgar's heir,
Illustrious earl: him terrible in war,
Let Loyre confess, for she has felt his sword,
And trembling fled before the British lord.
Him great in peace and wealth fair Deva knows,
For she amidst his spacious meadows flows,
Inclines her urn upon his fatten'd lands,
And sees his numerous herds imprint her sands.
And thou, my fair, my dove, shalt raise thy thought
To greatness next to empire; shalt be brought
With solemn pomp to my paternal seat,
Where peace and plenty on thy word shall wait:
Music and song shall wake the marriage day,
And while the priests accuse the bride's delay,
Myrtles and roses shall obstruct her way.
Friendship shall still thy evening feasts adorn,
And blooming Peace shall ever bless thy morn,
Succeeding years their happy race shall run,
And Age unheeded by delight come on,
While yet superior love shall mock his power;
And when old Time shall turn the fated hour,
Which only can our well-tied knot unfold,
What rests of both one sepulchre shall hold.
Hence, then, for ever, from my Emma's breast
(That heaven of softness and that seat of rest)
Ye doubts and tears, and all that know to move
Tormenting grief, and all that trouble love;
Scatter'd by winds recede, and wild in forests rove.
O day, the fairest sure that ever rose!
Period and end of anxious Emma's woes!
Sire of her joy, and source of her delight,
O! wing'd with pleasure take thy happy flight,
And give each future morn a tincture of thy white.
Yet tell thy votary, potent queen of love,
Henry, my Henry, will he never rove?
Will he be ever kind, and just, and good?
And is there yet no mistress in the wood?
None, none there is: the thought was rash and vain,
A false idea, and a fancied pain,
Doubt shall for ever quit my strengthen'd heart,
And anxious Jealousy's corroding smart;
Nor other inmate shall inhabit there,
But soft Belief, young Joy, and pleasing Care.
Hence let the tides of Plenty ebb and flow,
And Fortune's various gale unheeded blow.
If at my feet the suppliant goddess stands,
And sheds her treasure with unwearied hands,
Her present favour cautious I'll embrace,
And not unthankful use the proffer'd grace;
If she reclaims the temporary boon,
And tries her pinions, fluttering to be gone,
Secure of mind I'll obviate her intent,
And unconcern'd return the goods she lent,
Nor happiness can I, not misery, feel,
From any turn of her fantastic wheel:
Friendship's great laws and love's superior powers,
Must mark the colour of my future hours.
From the events which thy commands create
I must my blessings or my sorrows date,
And Henry's will must dictate Emma's fate.
Yet, while with close delight and inward pride
(Which from the world my careful soul shall hide)
I see thee, lord and end of my desire,
Exalted high as virtue can require,
With power invested, and with pleasure cheer'd,
Sought by the good, by the oppressor fear'd,
Loaded and bless'd with all the affluent store
Which human vows at smoking shrines implore.
Grateful and humble grant me to employ
My life subservient only to thy joy,
And at my death to bless thy kindness, shown
To her who, of mankind, could love but thee alone.
While thus the constant pair alternate said,
Joyful above them and around them play'd
Angels and sportive loves, a numerous crowd:
Smiling they clapp'd their wings, and low they bow'd:
They tumbled all their little quivers o'er,
To choose propitious shafts a precious store,
That when their god should take his future darts,
To strike, (however rarely) constant hearts,
His happy skill might proper arms employ,
All tipt with pleasure, and all wing'd with joy;
And those, they vow'd, whose lives should imitate
These lovers' constancy, should share their fate.
The queen of beauty stopp'd her bridled doves,
Approved the little labour of the loves:
Was proud and pleased the mutual vow to hear,
And to the triumph call'd the god of war:
Soon as she calls, the god is always near.
Now Mars, she said, let Fame exalt her voice,
Nor let thy conquests only be her choice,
But when she sings, great Edward from the field
Return'd, the hostile spear and captive shield
In Concord's temple hung, and Gallia taught to yield.
And when, as prudent Saturn shall complete
The years design'd to perfect Britain's state,
The swift-wing'd power shall take her trump again,
To sing her favourite Anna's wondrous reign,
To recollect unwearied Malbro's toils,
Old Rufus' Hall unequal to his spoils,
The British soldier from his high command
Glorious, and Gaul thrice vanquish'd by his hand.
Let her at least perform what I desire,
With second breath the vocal brass inspire,
And tell the nations in no vulgar strain,
What wars I manage, and what wreaths I gain,
And when thy tumults and thy fights are past,
And when thy laurels at my feet are cast;
Faithful may'st thou, like British Henry prove,
And Emma-like let me return thy love.
Renown'd for truth let all thy sons appear,
And constant beauty shall reward their care.
Mars smiled, and bow'd: the Cyprian deity
Turn'd to the glorious ruler of the sky;
And thou, she smiling said, great god of days
And verse, behold my deed and sing my praise;
As on the British earth, my favourite isle,
Thy gentle rays and kindest influence smile,
Through all her laughing fields and verdant groves
Proclaim with joy these memorable loves:
From every annual course let one great day
To celebrate sports and floral play
Be set aside; and in the softest lays
Of thy poetic sons, be solemn praise
And everlasting marks of honour paid
To the true lover and the Nut-brown Maid.
Comments about Henry And Emma. A Poem. by Matthew Prior
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