Previous First Next
That this great engine burn to ashes may;
Haply the guard that now doth watch and wake,
Will then lie tumbled sleeping on the lay;"
Thus they conclude, and in their chambers sit,
To wait the time for this adventure fit.
Clorinda there her silver arms off rent,
Her helm, her shield, her hauberk shining bright,
An armor black as jet or coal she hent,
Wherein withouten plume herself she dight;
For thus disguised amid her foes she meant
To pass unseen, by help of friendly night,
To whom her eunuch, old Arsetes, came,
That from her cradle nursed and kept the dame.
This aged sire had followed far and near,
Through lands and seas, the strong and hardy maid,
He saw her leave her arms and wonted gear,
Her danger nigh that sudden change foresaid:
By his white locks from black that changed were
In following her, the woful man her prayed,
By all his service and his taken pain,
To leave that fond attempt, but prayed in vain.
"At last," quoth he, "since hardened to thine ill,
Thy cruel heart is to thy loss prepared,
That my weak age, nor tears that down distil,
Not humble suit, nor plaint, thou list regard;
Attend awhile, strange things unfold I will,
Hear both thy birth and high estate declared;
Follow my counsel, or thy will that done,"
She sat to hear, the eunuch thus begun:
"Senapus ruled, and yet perchance doth reign
In mighty Ethiop, and her deserts waste,
The lore of Christ both he and all his train
Of people black, hath kept and long embraced,
To him a Pagan was I sold for gain,
And with his queen, as her chief eunuch, placed;
Black was this queen as jet, yet on her eyes
Sweet loveliness, in black attired, lies.
"The fire of love and frost of jealousy,
Her husband's troubled soul alike torment,
The tide of fond suspicion flowed high,
The foe to love and plague to sweet First,
He mewed her up from sight of mortal eye,
Nor day he would his beams on her had bent:
She, wise and lowly, by her husband's pleasure,
Her joy, her peace, her will, her wish did measure.
"Her prison was a chamber, painted round
With goodly portraits and with stories old,
As white as snow there stood a virgin bound,
Besides a dragon fierce, a champion bold
The monster did with poignant spear through wound,
The gored beast lay dead upon the mould;
The gentle queen before this image laid.
She plained, she mourned, she wept, she sighed, she prayed:
"At last with child she proved, and forth she brought,
And thou art she, a daughter fair and bright,
In her thy color white new terror wrought,
She wondered on thy face with strange affright,
But yet she purposed in her fearful thought
To hide thee from the king, thy father's sight,
Lest thy bright hue should his suspect approve,
For seld a crow begets a silver dove.
"And to her spouse to show she was disposed
A negro's babe late born, in room of thee,
And for the tower wherein she lay enclosed,
Was with her damsels only wond and me,
To me, on whose true faith she most reposed,
She gave thee, ere thou couldest christened be,
Previous First Next
* * *