Constantia: or, The Man of Law's Tale, Modernized from Chaucer - Part 14

While sudden thus each bloody arm suspends,
And round their Prince the satiate tumult bends;
Regardless of her fate, C ONSTANTIA goes
Thro' pointed javelins, and a host of foes.
Amaze before the daring Virgin yields,
And Innocence from every weapon shields;
Till mourning by the great remains she stood,
And o'er her lover pour'd the copious flood:
" Ah, valiant arm! a waste of worth in vain!
" Ah, Royal Youth, " she cried, " untimely slain!
" O! had I perish'd, e're I reach'd thy shore,
" The surge devour'd, or watery monsters tore;
" To bless the world your worth had yet survived,
" Nor I, too fatally beloved, arrived.
" 'Tis I, who have this dear effusion shed;
" For me, for me, a luckless bride, you bled! "
So saying — furious, the Sultana cries,
" Strike; strike; the source of all our mischief dies! "
" Yes, strike! " the bright, the intrepid Maid replies.
But vainly this consents, or that commands;
Heaven check'd their hearts, and pity bound their hands:
At once a thousand javelins rise in air;
A thousand wishes whisper, — " Ah, forbear! "
Recoiling arms the bloody task refuse,
And beauty with resistless charm subdues.
Alone relentless, the Sultana cries,
" 'Tis well, the death she wish'd, may still suffice:
" Hence with that form, that knows so well to reign;
" Hence with the witch, and plunge her in the main!
" Her passage thence to Rome she may explore,
" And tell her welcome on the Syrian shore.
So saying, quick to a selected band
She gave to execute the dire command;
Reluctant to the charge, they yet obey,
And to the shore the Mourning Fair convey.
Slow as she moved, soft sorrows bathe the ground;
Her guards too melt, and pitying weep around;
Tho' vers'd in blood, detest the stern commands,
And feel their hearts rebellious to their hands.
When now upon the appointed beach they stood,
That look'd with horror o'er the deepening flood,
Each eyed his fellow with relenting look,
And each to each the cruel task forsook;
With distant awe the Heavenly Maid survey,
Nor once her harm in act or thought essay.
The still suspense at length their leader broke,
And bow'd before the Trembling Beauty, spoke:
" O thou, endow'd with more than mortal charms,
" Who every foe of all his force disarms!
" Say, how shall we our power or will employ;
" Where both are weak, to spare thee, or destroy —
" Both impotent alike our power and will,
" The means to save thee, or the thoughts to kill?
" Yet one extreme may cruelly remain,
" To yield thee haply to the pitying main;
" And Heaven, who form'd thee so divinely fair,
" If Heav'n has power, will sure have will to spare. "
He said; the rest assent, and to the bay
With secret step the Virgin-Bride convey.
Convenient here a Roman bark they find;
They hoist the hasty canvas to the wind:
The bark with Roman wealth and plenty stow'd,
Now launching with the Lonely Sailor rode;
The gale from shore with ready rapture blew,
And to her vessel bore the last adieu.

Now, stain'd with blood, the self-convicted night
Fled from the face of all enquiring light;
And morn, unconscious of the murderous scene,
O'er Syria, guilty Syria, rose serene.
The mountains sink before C ONSTANTIA'S eyes;
Wing'd o'er the surge, her bounding galley flies;
From sight of land, and human face conveys,
The skies alone above, and all around the seas.
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