Poet John Dryden

English poet (B:1631-08-09 - D:1700-05-12)

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Theodore And Honoria. From Boccace

Of all the cities in Romanian lands,
The chief and most renowned Ravenna stands;
Adorned in ancient times with arms and arts,
And rich inhabitants with generous hearts.
But Theodore the brave, above the rest,
With gifts of fortune and of nature blessed,
The foremost place for wealth and honour held,
And all in feats of chivalry excelled.

This noble youth to madness loved a dame
Of high degree, Honoria was her name;
Fair as the fairest, but of haughty mind,
And fiercer than became so soft a kind;
Proud of her birth (for equal she had none),
The rest she scorned, but hated him alone;
His gifts, his constant courtship, nothing gained;
For she, the more he loved, the more disdained,
He lived with all the pomp he could devise,
At tilts and turnaments obtained the prize,
But found no favour in his lady's eyes:
Relentless as a rock, the lofty maid
Turned all to poison that he did or said:
Nor prayers nor tears nor offered vows could move;
The work went backward; and the more he strove
To advance his suit, the farther from her love.

Wearied at length, and wanting remedy,
He doubted oft, and oft resolved to die.
But pride stood ready to prevent the blow,
For who would die to gratify a foe?
His generous mind disdained so mean a fate;
That passed, his next endeavour was to hate.
But vainer that relief than all the rest;
The less he hoped, with more desire possessed;
Love stood the siege, and would not yield his breast.

Change was the next, but change deceived his care;
He sought a fairer, but found none so fair.
He would have worn her out by slow degrees,
As men by fasting starve the untamed disease;
But present love required a present ease.
Looking, he feeds alone his famished eyes,
Feeds lingering death, but, looking not, he dies.
Yet still he chose the longest way to fate,
Wasting at once his life and his estate.

His friends beheld, and pitied him in vain.
For what advice can ease a lover's pain?
Absence, the best expedient they could find,
Might svae the fortune, if not cure the mind:
This means they long proposed, but little gained,
Yet after much pursuit at length obtained.

Hard you may think it was to give consent,
But struggling with his own desires he went;
With large expense, and with a pompous train,
Provided as to visit Fraunce or Spain,
Or for some distant voyage o'er the main.
But Love had clipped his wings, and cut him short,
Confined within the purlieus of his court.
Three miles he went, nor farther could retreat;
His travels ended at his country seat:
To Chassi's pleasing plains he took his way,
There pitched his tents, and there resolved to stay.

The spring was in the prime, the neighbouring grove
Supplied with birds, the choristers of love;
Music unbought, that ministered delight
To morning walks, and lulled his cares by night:
There he discharged his friends, but not the expense
Of frequent treats and proud magnificence.
He lived as kings retire, though more at large
From public business, yet with equal charge;
With house and heart still open to receive;
As well content as love would give him leave:
He would have lived more free; but many a guest,
Who could forsake the friend, pursued the feast.

It happed one morning, as his fancy led,
Before his usual hour he left his bed,
To walk within a lonely lawn, that stood
On every side surrounded by the wood:
Alone he walked, to please his pensive mind,
And sought the deepest solitude to find;
'Twas in a grove of spreading pines he strayed;
The winds within the quivering branches played,
And dancing trees a mournful music made;
The place it self was suiting to his care,
Uncouth and savage as the cruel fair.
He wandered on, unknowing where he went,
Lost in the wood, and all on love intent:
The day already half his race had run,
And summoned him to due repast at noon,
But Love could feel no hunger but his own.

While listening to the murmuring leaves he stood,
More than a mile immersed within the wood,
At once the wind was laid; the whispering sound
Was dumb; a rising earthquake rocked the ground;
With deeper brown the grove was overspread,
A sudden horror seized his giddy head,
And his ears tinkled, and his colour fled.
Nature was in alarm; some danger nigh
Seemed threatened, though unseen to mortal eye.
Unused to fear, he summoned all his soul,
And stood collected in him self -- and whole;
Not long: for soon a whirlwind rose around,
And from afar he heard a screaming sound,
As of a dame distressed, who cried for aid,
And filled with loud laments the secret shade.

A thicket close beside the grove there stood,
With breers and brambles choked, and dwarfish wood;
From thence the noise, which now approaching near
With more distinguished notes invades his ear;
He raised his head, and saw a beauteous maid
With hair dishevelled issuing through the shade;
Stripped of her clothes, and e'en those parts revealed
Which modest nature keeps from sight concealed.
Her face, her hands, her naked limbs were torn,
With passing through the brakes and prickly thorn;
Two mastiffs gaunt and grim her flight pursued,
And oft their fastened fangs in blood imbrued:
Oft they came up, and pinched her tender side,
'Mercy, O mercy, Heaven,' she ran, and cried:
When Heaven was named, they loosed their hold again.
Then sprung she forth, they followed her amain.

Not far behind, a knight of swarthy face
High on a coal-black steed pursued the chace;
With flashing flames his ardent eyes were filled,
And in his hands a naked sword he held:
He cheered the dogs to follow her who fled,
And vowed revenge on her devoted head.

As Theodore was born of noble kind,
The brutal action roused his manly mind:
Moved with unworthy usage of the maid,
He, though unarmed, resolved to give her aid.
A saplin pine he wrenched from out the ground,
The readiest weapon that his fury found.
Thus, furnished for offence, he crossed the way
Betwixt the graceless villain and his prey.

The knight came thundering on, but, from afar,
Thus in imperious tone forbad the war:
'Cease, Theodore, to proffer vain relief,
'Nor stop the vengeance of so just a grief;
'But give me leave to seize my destined prey,
'And let eternal justice take the way:
'I but revenge my fate, disdained, betrayed,
'And suffering death for this ungrateful maid.'

He said, at once dismounting from the steed;
For now the hell-hounds with superior speed
Had reached the dame, and, fastening on her side,
The ground with issuing streams of purple dyed.
Stood Theodore surprised in deadly fright,
With chattering teeth, and bristling hair upright;
Yet armed with inborn worth, -- 'Whate'er,' said he,
'Thou art, who knowst me better than I thee;
'Or prove thy rightful cause, or be defied.'
The spectre fiercely staring, thus replied:

'Know, Theodore, thy ancestry I claim,
'And Guido Cavalcanti was my name.
'One common sire our fathers did beget,
'My name and story some remember yet;
'Thee, then a boy, within my arms I laid,
'When for my sins I loved this haughty maid;
'Not less adored in life, nor served by me,
'Than proud Honoria now is loved by thee.
'What did I not her stubborn heart to gain?
'But all my vows were answered with disdain:
'She scorned my sorrows, and despised my pain.
'Long time I dragged my days in fruitless care;
'Then loathing life, and plunged in deep despair,
'To finish my unhappy life I fell
'On this sharp sword, and now am damned in hell.

'Short was her joy; for soon the insulting maid
'By Heaven's decree in the cold grave was laid;
'And as in unrepenting sin she died,
'Doomed to the same bad place, is punished for her pride:
'Because she deemed I well deserved to die,
'And made a merit of her cruelty.
'There, then, we met; both tried, and both were cast,
'And this irrevocable sentence passed,
'That she, whom I so long pursued in vain,
'Should suffer from my hands a lingering pain:
'R



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