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She would have stopped, nor durst pronounce them plain.
The squire what she concealed would know, as one
That from her breast her secret thoughts could strain,
"Of little faith," quoth he, "why would'st thou hide
Those causes true, from me thy squire and guide?"
With that she fetched a sigh, sad, sore and deep,
And from her lips her words slow trembling came,
"Fruitless," she said, "untimely, hard to keep,
Vain modesty farewell, and farewell shame,
Why hope you restless love to bring on sleep?
Why strive you fires to quench, sweet Cupid's flame?
No, no, such cares, and such respects beseem
Great ladies, wandering maids them naught esteem.
"That night fatal to me and Antioch town,
Then made a prey to her commanding foe,
My loss was greater than was seen or known,
There ended not, but thence began my woe:
Light was the loss of friends, of realm or crown;
But with my state I lost myself also,
Ne'er to be found again, for then I lost
My wit, my sense, my heart, my soul almost.
"Through fire and sword, through blood and death, Vafrine,
Which all my friends did burn, did kill, did chase,
Thou know'st I ran to thy dear lord and mine,
When first he entered had my father's place,
And kneeling with salt ears in my swollen eyne;
`Great prince,' quoth I, `grant mercy, pity, grace,
Save not my kingdom, not my life I said,
But save mine honor, let me die a maid.'
"He lift me by the trembling hand from ground,
Nor stayed he till my humble speech was done;
But said, `A friend and keeper hast thou found,
Fair virgin, nor to me in vain you run:'
A sweetness strange from that sweet voice's sound
Pierced my heart, my breast's weak fortress won,
Which creeping through my bosom soft became
A wound, a sickness, and a quenchless flame.
"He visits me, with speeches kind and grave
He sought to ease my grief, and sorrows' smart.
He said, `I give thee liberty, receive
All that is thine, and at thy will depart:'
Alas, he robbed me when he thought he gave,
Free was Erminia, but captived her heart,
Mine was the body, his the soul and mind,
He gave the cage but kept the bird behind.
"But who can hide desire, or love suppress?
Oft of his worth with thee in talk I strove,
Thou, by my trembling fit that well could'st guess
What fever held me, saidst, `Thou art in love;'
But I denied, for what can maids do less?
And yet my sighs thy sayings true did prove,
Instead of speech, my looks, my tears, mine eyes,
Told in what flame, what fire thy mistress fries.
"Unhappy silence, well I might have told
My woes, and for my harms have sought relief,
Since now my pains and plaints I utter bold,
Where none that hears can help or ease my grief.
From him I parted, and did close upfold
My wounds within my bosom, death was chief
Of all my hopes and helps, till love's sweet flame
Plucked off the bridle of respect and shame,
"And caused me ride to seek my lord and knight,
For he that made me sick could make me sound:
But on an ambush I mischanced to light
Of cruel men, in armour clothed round,
Hardly I scaped their hand by mature flight.
And fled to wilderness and desert ground,
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