Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

As was very natural, the ancient warriors held their horses in high esteem : they even fancied that this most beautiful of animals entered into their feelings, and partook of their glory or their grief. The rider would

bestride
The noble steed as if he felt himself
In his own proper seat.—Look how he leans
To cherish him ; and how the gallant horse
Curves up his stately neck, and bends his head,
As if again to court that gentle touch,

And answer to the voice that praises him." And afterwards upon the spot where his lord might have been slain or conquered, this faithful animal would sometimes be found,

his silver mane
Sprinkled with blood, which hung on every hair
Aspersed like dew drops - trembling there he stood
From the toil of battle, and at times sent forth
His tremulous voice, far echoing wide and shrill,
A frequent anxious cry, with which he seemed
To call the master whom he loved so well,

And who had thus again forsaken him."
These verses of Mr. Southey's describe Orelio, the war-horse of
Roderick, the last Gothic king of Spain.

Attachment and admiration for the horse appear to be almost universal. The Hebrew poet, whoever he was, that composed the book of Job, has given a sublime description of the warhorse :

“ Hast thou given the horse strength ? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder ? Canst thou make him afraid as a grass. hopper? The glory of his nostrils is terrible. He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength : he goeth on to meet the armed men.

He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword. The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield. He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage : neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet.

He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha, and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting."

EXTRACT FROM PALAMON AND ARC1TE.

"In Athens all was pleasure, mirth and play, All proper to the spring, and sprightly May.

Now scarce the dawning day began to spring,
As at a signal given, the streets with clamors ring
At once the crowd arose ; confused and high
Even from the heaven was heard a shouting cry.
The neighing of the generous horse was heard,
For battle by the busy groom prepared ;
Rustling of harness ; rattling of the shield ;
Clattering of armour, furbished for the field.
Crowds, to the castle, mounted

up

the street,
Battering the pavement with their courser's feet:
The greedy sight might, there, devour the gold
Of glittering arms, too dazzling to behold:
And polished steel that cast the view aside,
And crested morions, with their plumy pride.
Knights, with a long retinue of their squires,
In gaudy liveries march, and quaint attires.

One laced the helm, another held the lance :
A third the shining buckler did advance.
The courser pawed the ground with restless feet
And, snorting foamed, and champed the golden bit.
The smiths and armorers on palfreys ride,
Files in their hands, and hammers at their side,
And nails for loosened spears, and thongs for shields provide.
The yeoman guard the streets in seemly bands ;
And clowns come crowding on with cudgels in their hands.

The trumpets, next the gate, in order, placed,
Attend the sign to sound the martial blast;
The palace-yard is filled with floating tides.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

The throng is in the midst : the common crew
Shut out, the hall admits the better few ;
In knots they stand, or in a rank they walk,
Serious in aspect, earnest in their talk:
Factions, and fav'ring this, or t other side,
As their strong fancy, or weak reason guide :
Their wagers back their wishes ; numbers hold
With the fair-freckled king, and beard of gold :
So vig'rous are his eyes, such rays they cast,
So prominent his eagle's beak is placed.

But most their looks on the black monarch bend,
His rising muscles, and his strength commend :
His double-biting axe and beamy spear,
Each asking a gigantic force to rear.
All spoke as partial favour moved his mind :
And, safe themselves, at others' cost divined.

Waked by the cries, th' Athenian chief arose,
The knightly forms of combat to dispose ;
And passing through the obsequious guards, he sate
Conspicuous on a throne, sublime in state :
There, for the two contending knights he sent :
Armed cap-a-pee, with rev'rence low they bent ;
He smiled on both, and with superior look
Alike their offered adoration took.
The people press on every side, to see
Their awful prince, and hear his high decree.
Then singing to the heralds with his hand,
They gave his orders from their lofty stand.
Silence is thrice enjoined ; then thus, aloud,
The king-at-arms bespeaks the knights, and listening crowd.

Our sovereign lord has pondered in his mind The means to spare the blood of gentle kind ; The keener edge of battle to rebate, The troops for honour fighting, nor for hate. He wills, not death should terminate the strife; And wounds, should wounds ensue, be short of life : But issues, ere the fight, his dread command, That slings afar, and poniards hand to hand, Be banished from the field ; that none shall dare With shortened swords to stab in closer war ; But in fair combat fight with manly strength, Nor push with biting point, but strike at length. The tourney is allowed but one career, Of the tough ash, with the sharp-grinded spear ; But knights unhorsed may rise from off the plain, And fight on foot, their honour to regain ; Nor, if at mischief taken, on the ground Be slain, but pris'ners to the pillar bound, At either barrier place ; nor (captives made) Be freed, or armed anew the fight invade. The chief of either side, bereft of life, Or yielded to his foe, concludes the strife. Thus dooms the lord !—Now valiant knights, and young Fight each his fill, with swords and maces long.'

The herald ends : the vaulted firmament With loud acclaims and vast applause is rent: • Heaven guard a prince so gracious and so good, So just, and yet so provident of blood!' This was the general cry. The trumpets sound; And warlike symphony is heard around. The marching troops through Athens take their way, The great earl-marshal orders their array. The fair, from high, the passing pomp behold; A rain of flow'rs is from the windows rolled. The casements are with golden tissue spread, And horses' hoofs, for earth, on silken tap'stry tread; The king goes midmost, and the rivals ride In equal rank, and close his either side.

Next after these, there rode the royal wife, With Emily, the cause and the reward of strife. The following cavalcade, by three and three, Proceed by titles marshaled in degree. Thus through the southern gate they take their way, · And at the list arrived ere prime of day. There, parting from the king, the chiefs divide, And, wheeling East and West, before their many ride. Ah* Athenian monarch mounts his throne on high, And, after him, the queen, and Emily: Next these, the kindred of the crown are graced With nearer seats, and lords by ladies placed.

Scarce were they seated, when with clamours loud
In rushed at once a rude promiscuous crowd.
Now changed the jarring noise to whispers low,
As winds forsaking seas more softly blow :
When at the western gate, on which the car
Is placed aloft, that bears the God of War,
Proud Arcite entering armed, before his train,
Stops at the barrier, and divides the plain.
Red was his banner, and displayed abroad
The bloody colours of his patron god.*

At the self moment enters Palamon
The gate of Venus and the rising sun ;
Waved by the wanton winds, his banner flies,
All maiden white, and shares the people's eyes.
From East to West, look all the world around,
Two troops so matched were never to be found.

* Mars:

Thus ranged, the herald for the last proclaims
A silence, while they answered to their names :
The tale was just, and then the gates were closed ;
And chief to chief, and troop to troop opposed.
The heralds last retired, and loudly cried.

At this, the challenger, with fierce defy,
His trumpet sounds, the challenged makes reply :
With clangor rings the field, resounds the vaulted sky.
Their visors closed, their lances in the rest,
Or at the helmet pointed, or the crest;
They vanish from the barrier, speed the race,
And, spurring, see decrease the middle space.

Full oft the rivals met ; and neither spared
His utmost force ; and each forgot to ward.
Both were by turns unhorsed; the jealous blows
Fall thick and heavy, when on foot they close.
So deep their faulchions bite, that every stroke
Pierced to the quick ; and equal wounds they gave and took.

So when a tiger sucks the bullock's blood,
The swains come armed between, and both to distance drive.

At length, as fate foredoomed, and all things tend
By course of time to their appointed end;
The strong Emetrius came in Arcite's aid,
And Palamon with odds was overlaid,
Unyielding as he was, and to the pillar bound.

The royal judge, on his tribunal placed,
Who had beheld the fight from first to last,
Bade, ' Cease the war ;' pronouncing, from on high,
• Arcite of Thebes had won the beauteous Emily.'
The sound of trumpets to the voice replied,
And round the royal lists the heralds cried,
· Arcite of Thebes has won the beauteous bride.'

The people rend the skies with vast applause;
All own the chief, when fortune owns the cause.

The preceding verses nearly agree with the description of a tournament, taken from Ivanhoe. Dryden's scene of the tournament is Athens. A few of the expressions used in this description may not be readily understood.

Crested morions, with their plumy pride.—The morion was the cap worn by the Knights, adorned with a plume, and expressing in its appearance something of the dignity of the wearer.

« ElőzőTovább »