Constantia: or, The Man of Law's Tale, Modernized from Chaucer - Part 24

Fix'd in his seat, each waits the dread career,
And in each rest firm sits the ponderous spear;
Each conscious steed impatient beats the ground;
Eager and wan was every face around.
The signal given, they vanish from the goals;
Earth backward spurn'd from either courser rolls;
Space gathers quick beneath their nimble feet,
And horse to horse, tremendous shock! they meet.
Not yet blind wrath, or head-long valour ruled;
More forceful was their force, by judgment cool'd:
The deadly aim each hostile eye selects,
Each eye too marks where either arm directs;
With art they ward, and with dread action wield,
Point with the lance, and parry with the shield.
Full at the bosom of his active foe,
Rodolphus levell'd the resistless blow;
But from his oblique buckler glanced the spear,
Which else, nor targe, nor mortal arm could bear.
Not so his lance the Sable Champion sped,
Feign'd at the breast, then brandish'd at the head;
Thro' his foe's shield the verging weapon prest,
And razed the plume that wanton'd on his crest.
Together, with impetuous onset push'd,
Thus horse to horse, and man to man, they rush'd;
Then backward, driven by mutual shock, they bound:
Beneath the conflict shakes the suffering ground.

So wing'd, in war, or darkness, on the deep,
Two ships adverse the mediate ocean sweep:
With horrid brunt joins each encountering prow;
Loud roars the rifled surge, and foams below;
Sails, shrowds, and masts, all shiver in the toil,
And backward to their sterns the foundering keels recoil.

But each well skill'd in every warlike meed,
New to the charge revives his sinking steed;
Swift from his side his steely terror drew,
And on his foe with answering fury flew.
The sway long time intemperate valour bore,
While artless rage unlearn'd the warrior's lore:
On their hack'd arms the restless peal descends,
Targe, plate, and mail, and riven corselet, rends;
Struck from their helms, the steely sparks aspire,
And from their swords forth streams the mingling fire.

As in the glow of some Vulcanian shed,
Two brawny smiths heave high the ponderous fled,
Full front to front, a grizzly pair, they stand;
Between their arms extends the fiery brand;
Huge strokes from the tormented anvil bound;
Thick flames the air, and groans the labouring ground —

So toil'd these heroes with commutual rage,
And such reciprocated combat wage.
Around them, trembling Expectation waits;
With speechless horror every bosom beats;
For either seem'd resistless in the fight,
But each too seem'd to match resistless might.
Surprized at length the wary warriors own
A rival to their arms till then unknown;
With mutual wile defensive now they fought,
And mutual wounds a mutual caution taught:
All dint of force, and stratagem, they try,
Reach with their arms, and measure with their eye;
They feint, they ward, strike out, and now evade,
Foin with the point, and parry with the blade;
Probe each defect, some purposed limb expose,
Now grappling seize, and with dread union close;
Their waists with unenamour'd grasp they wind;
Their arms, like cramps, and forceful engines, bind;
Each strives to lift the other from his seat,
Heaved thick, and short, their labouring bosoms beat;
Struggling they gripe, they pull, they bend, they strain,
But firm and still unsway'd their seats retain;
Till loosed as by consent again they turn,
And with reviving force and fury burn.
Thus future ages had this fight beheld,
Where both all might excelling, none excell'd,
Had not Rodolphus with impassion'd pride,
High heaved a blow that should at once decide,
His utmost powers collected in the stroke —
Like thunder o'er the yielding foe he broke:
The foe elusive of the dire intent,
His force in air the embarrass'd Pagan spent,
And by his bulk of cumberous poise o'ersway'd,
Full on his helm received the adverse blade:
Prone fell the Giant o'er a length of ground;
With ceaseless shouts the echoing heavens resound.
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