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Brought by long habitude from bad to worse, 463
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 our ill-omened stars, and adverse Heaven,
No middle object to thy choice is given. 470
Or yield thy virtue to attain thy love;
Or leave a banished man, condemned 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 paths which virtue bids thee shun.
Yet with her Henry still let Emma go;
With him abhor the vice, but share the woe;
And sure my little heart can never err
Amidst the worst, if Henry still be there. 480
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 assayed no danger, gains no praise.
In a small isle, amidst the widest seas,
Triumphant Constancy has fixed 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 dressed: 490
Condemned 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 495
For thee: my clothes, my sex, exchanged for thee,
I'll mingle with the people's wretched lee;
O fine extreme of human infamy!
Wanting the scissars, with these hands I’ll tear
(If that obstructs my flight) this load of hair. 500
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 expressed
The mark of aught high-born, or ever better dressed.
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. 510
O wildest thoughts of an abandoned mind! Name, habit, parents, woman, left behind, Even honour dubious, thou prefer'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 shall tempt her easy fame; And blow with empty words the susceptible flame. Now why should doubtful terms thy mind perplex, 520 Confess thy frailty, and avow the sex: No longer loose desire for constant love Mistake; but say, 'tis man with whom thou longst torove.
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, 526
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,
Called sighs, and tears, and wishes, to its aid;
And, whilst it Henry's glowing flame conveyed,
Still blame 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 night.
Did e'er my tongue speak my unguarded heart
The least inclined to play the wanton's part? 540
Did eler 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 never own,
That I, of all mankind, have loved but thee alone?
Wainly thou talk'st of loving me alone:
Each man is man; and all 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 bind. 550
By nature prompted, and for empire made,
Alike by strength or cunning we invade;
When armed 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 our arms have equal use;
As they our conquest or delight produce. 558
The foolish heart thou gav'st, 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; 570
Change thou the first, nor wait thy lover's flight.
Why shouldst thou weep? let nature judge our
I saw thee young and fair; pursued the chase
Of youth and beauty: 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 altered, the desire the same.
This younger, fairer, pleads her rightful charms; 5so
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 decayed;
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 mayst live with her.
Love, well thou know'st, no partnership allows: 590
Cupid averse rejects divided vows:
Then from thy foolish heart, vain maid, remove 592
An useless sorrow, and an ill-starred 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 betrayed? 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. 600
This potent beauty, this triumphant fair, This happy 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 advise His servant's absence, with dejected eyes 610 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 decked, And decent emblem; and at least persuade This happy nymph, that Emma may be laid Where thou, dear author of my death, where she, 620 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,