Constantia: or, The Man of Law's Tale, Modernized from Chaucer - Part 18

Rodolphus to the Saxon chief allied,
Whose strength of limb with mightiest giants vied,
Of feature crude, and insolent of soul,
Whose heart nor knew, or mercy, or control —
He saw; and though to deeds of discord bred,
He saw, and on the lovely vision fed:
Swift through his veins the sulphurous poison run,
But women seem'd all obvious to be won.
Malicious fervour prompts him to enjoy;
Dire is the love that's eager to destroy!
Vows, prayers, and oaths, and menaces he tried,
And prized alike the prostitute, and bride.
But when repuls'd with merited disdain,
He found all threats, as all intreaties vain,
The flame that gloomy in his bosom burn'd,
To deadly hate by swift transition turn'd;
And nightly, in his dark designing soul,
Dire future scenes and schemes infernal roll.

Mean-time, the sons of hostile Scotia arm,
And fame through Albion gives the loud alarm.
Young A LLA at the warlike call arose,
And speeds with answering boldness to oppose;
While Offa, with glad heart, and honours due,
To welcome his approaching sovereign flew.

And now Rodolphus, of whose baleful breast
The fiends and every fury stood possest,
On ills of cruellest conception bent,
To perpetrate his deadly purpose meant.

All wrapt in clouds, from Heaven's nocturnal steep
Mid darkness hung, and weigh'd the world to sleep;
When Offa's consort, and the Roman Maid,
By unsuspecting innocence betray'd,
Divinely pious, and divinely fair,
Tired with long vigil and the nightly prayer,
Together lock'd in calm oblivion lay;
Not both to rise and greet returning day.
Rodolphus, unperceived, invades the room,
His bosom darker than the midnight gloom:
Dire o'er the gentle pair the felon stands,
A ponyard thirsting in his impious hands.
As should some cottager, with hourly care,
Two lambs, his sole delight and substance, rear,
With fondness at his rural table fed,
Beneath his eye, and in his bosom bred;
Till fierce for blood, and watchful to devour,
Some prowling wolf perceives the absent hour,
His nightly tread through some sly postern bends,
And the meek pair with savage fury rends —
So sweet, so innocent, the Fair Ones lay;
So stern, the human savage views his prey!
His steel swift plunged through Hermigilda's breast,
From the pure form, dismiss'd the purer guest;
Without one sigh her gentle soul expires,
And waked in bliss, the wondrous change admires,
Beyond beyond what utterance e'er can name,
Or vision of ecstatic fancy frame.
Not so, bright Maid! thy harder fate intends;
A simple death was only meant for friends:
For thee, he hoards the fund of future ill,
And spares with tenfold cruelty to kill.
Close by C ONSTANTIA , lovely sleeping maid,
His reeking steel the murderous ruffian laid:
Revolved within his breast new mischiefs brew,
And smiling horridly the fiend withdrew.
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