Constantia: or, The Man of Law's Tale, Modernized from Chaucer - Part 19

Thick darkness yet withstood approaching day,
And camp'd upon the western summits lay;
And scarce the straggling rays of orient light,
Excursive, pierced the paler realms of night;
Their passage through C ONSTANTIA 's casement won,
And viewed the brightest form beneath the sun —
When the first glories of her opening eyes
With prompt, with early elevation rise,
Its wing tow'rds Heaven her waking soul extends,
And in a rhapsody of praise ascends.
But ah, not long those lively transports burn!
Confused, alarm'd, her thoughts to earth return:
All chill, and in the vital current drown'd,
Pale at her side, her lovely friend she found;
A cloud of horror quick involved the Fair,
And uttering shrieks exprest the loud despair.
Waked to her griefs, the scared domestics rose:
In rush'd the train, shrill echoing to her woes;
O'er the pale dame a mourning torrent shed,
And with repeated cries invoke the dead.
Rodolphus too, with well-dissembled fears,
And face of busy feign'd concern, appears:
From Heaven's high wrath, with swift perdition sped,
He calls down vengeance on the guilty head;
Apparent zeal his earnest visage fires,
And loud the murderer for himself enquires.

With bloody marks of dire conjecture stain'd,
C ONSTANTIA , hapless virgin, stands arraign'd:
The Fair with fears her guiltless cause essays;
But ah! each specious circumstance betrays:
Rude cords around her polish'd arms they strain;
Strong pleads the Innocent, but pleads in vain.
Far were thy friends, C ONSTANTIA , lovely maid!
Far distant all, that had the power to aid;
From guilt, from death, from infamy to save,
Or shed a tear upon a stranger's grave.

And now the tale, with deadly tidings fraught,
To Offa's ear a speedy courier brought.
Heart pierc'd with anguish stood the mourning chief;
No plaints express'd the inutterable grief;
No sighs exhale, no streaming sorrows flow,
Fix'd and immoveable in speechless woe.
Compassion touch'd the generous A LLA'S breast,
For his brave subject, for his friend distrest;
Each circumstance the Royal Youth enquires,
And the dire act his just resentment fires.
By specious proofs of false suggestion led,
He vows full vengeance on C ONSTANTIA'S head,
To doom the luckless Innocent he speeds,
And in his wrath the previous victim bleeds.

Fame flies before with voluntary wing;
A thousand distant shouts proclaim their King!
Pour'd from all parts, the populace unite,
And on his form insatiate feed their sight;
For A LLA , bright in each perfection, shone,
That graced the cottage, or enrich'd the throne:
The nerve Herculean braced his youthful arm,
His cheek imbibed the virgin's softest charm:
Mild was his soul, all spotless as his form;
His virtues not severe, but chaste and warm;
His manners sweet and sprightly, yet sincere;
His judgment calm and deep, yet quick and clear;
Graceful his speech, above the flowers of art;
Open his hand, more bounteous yet his heart;
As Mercy soft, kind, social, and humane,
Vice felt alone, that A LLA held the rein:
To all the pride of courts, and pomp of show,
The brightest ornament, yet greatest foe!

Within, without, thus rich in every grace,
And all the Angel in his soul and face,
Not form'd to feel Love's passion, but impart,
No charms were yet found equal to his heart:
For him each virgin sighed, but sighed in vain,
By him unpitied, since unknown the pain.
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