Constantia: or, The Man of Law's Tale, Modernized from Chaucer - Part 20

Detesting flattery, yet fond of fame,
Thro' deadly fields he sought a deathless name;
Still foremost there, he sprung with youthful heat,
And War, not Love, gave A LLA'S breast to beat;
Each foe he conquer'd, and each friend retain'd,
And scepter'd in his subjects bosoms reign'd.

And now arrived — severe in solemn state,
Whence no appeal, the grand tribunal sate.
Great A LLA , throned conspicuous to the view,
Attention, love, and centering reverence drew.
In form, the deadly process strait began;
Wide thro' the croud, a doubtful murmur ran;
Rodolphus chief the Friendless Prisoner charged,
Enforced the pain, and on the guilt enlarged.

The Fair Unknown to her defence they cite;
Guarded she comes, as pure, as angels bright;
As tho' delight and grief at once combined,
And fled to her, displeased with all mankind;
Or as delight would grief, in grief, excell,
Or grief could find delight with her to dwell,
Pensive she moves, majestically flow,
And with a pomp of beauty decks her woe:
All murmurs, silenced by her presence, cease,
And from her eye the yielding croud gives place;
Even A LLA'S looks his softening soul confest,
And all resentment died within his breast.
But ah! while shame with injured honour vies,
While yet her tongue its faultering task denies,
More than all phrase, or studied quaint address,
Her down-cast eyes and speaking looks express.
At length pathetic, with a starting tear,
She thus to bow'd attention charm'd the ear.

" Where may the wretched for protection bend?
" Or when, ah when, shall my misfortunes end?
" Sure, persecution in the grave will cease;
" And death bestow, what life denies me, peace.
" Driven from before the face of humankind,
" Earth, air, and sea, with cruel man combined;
" Each hour, each element, prepared a foe,
" And nature seem'd exhausted in my woe.
" At length, with every grace and virtue crown'd,
" One friend, one pitying faithful friend I found;
" With her, retired, to pass my days I chose,
" And here presumed to taste a late repose:
" But peace to me, alike all climes refuse,
" And mischief to the farthest pole pursues;
" 'Tis even a crime to be C ONSTANTIA'S friend,
" Nor less than death to those who would defend.
" Ah Hermigilda! could my forfeit life,
" To the fond husband give the faithful wife;
" From death recall thy chastely featured charms,
" And yield thee to the generous Offa's arms;
" Ah! gladly would I then resign my breath,
" If life so dear could be revived by death.
" But thus to die with foul suspicion stain'd,
" For murder, murder of my friend arraign'd! —
" Alas! unikill'd in every cruel art,
" Had I the power to hurt, I want the heart:
" No creature e'er C ONSTANTIA'S malice felt;
" Ev'n suffering foes have taught my heart to melt,
" My heart, for birds, for insects oft distrest;
" And Pity is its known, its only guest.
" O Youth! thy happy people's boasted theme,
" O A LLA ! sacred to the breath of fame,
" To whom subjected realms their rights submit,
" Who throned in judgment like an Angel sit;
" Still more extensive be thy guardian care,
" And let the Innocent, the Stranger share! "
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