Page images
PDF
EPUB

FROM

THE CASTLE OF INDOLENCE

O mortal man, who livest here by toil,
Do not complain of this thy hard estate:
That like an emmet thou must ever moil
Is a sad sentence of an ancient date;
And certes there is for it reason great,
For though sometimes it makes thee weep and wail,
And curse thy star, and early drudge and late,

Withouten that would come an heavier bale-
Loose life, unruly passions, and diseases pale.

5

10

In lowly dale, fast by a river's side,
With woody hill o'er hill encompassed round,
A most enchanting wizard did abide,
Than whom a fiend more fell is nowhere found.
It was, I ween, a lovely spot of ground;
And there a season atween June and May,

15 Half prankt with spring, with summer half imbrowned,

A listless climate made, where, sooth to say,
No living wight could work, ne carèd even for play.

20

Was naught around but images of rest:
Sleep-soothing groves, and quiet lawns between;
And flowery beds that slumbrous influence kest,
From poppies breathed; and beds of pleasant green,
Where never yet was creeping creature seen.
Meantime unnumbered glittering streamlets played,
And hurlèd everywhere their waters sheen,

25 That, as they bickered through the sunny glade, Though restless still themselves, a lulling murmur made.

30

Joined to the prattle of the purling rills,
Were heard the lowing herds along the vale,
And flocks loud-bleating from the distant hills,
And vacant shepherds piping in the dale;
And now and then sweet Philomel would wail,
Or stock-doves plain amid the forest deep,
That drowsy rustled to the sighing gale;

And still a coil the grasshopper did keep:
Yet all these sounds, yblent, inclinèd all to sleep.

35

Full in the passage of the vale, above,
A sable, silent, solemn forest stood,
Where naught but shadowy forms was seen to move,
As Idless fancied in her dreaming mood;

40
And up the hills, on either side, a wood
Of blackening pines, ay waving to and fro,
Sent forth a sleepy horror through the blood;

And where this valley winded out, below, The murmuring main was heard, and scarcely heard, to flow.

45 A pleasing land of drowsy-hed it was: Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye; And of gay castles in the clouds that pass, Forever Alushing round a summer sky. There eke the soft delights, that witchingly

50 Instil a wanton sweetness through the breast, And the calm pleasures, always hovered nigh;

But whate'er smacked of noyance or unrest
Was far, far off expelled from this delicious nest.
The landskip such, inspiring perfect ease,

55
Where Indolence (for so the wizard hight)
Close-hid his castle mid embowering trees,
That half shut out the beams of Phæbus bright,
And made a kind of checkered day and night.
Meanw! unceasing at the massy gate,

60 Beneath a spacious palm, the wicked wight

Was placed; and, to his lute, of cruel fate
And labour harsh complained, lamenting man's estate.

Thither continual pilgrims crowded still,
From all the roads of earth that pass there by; 65
For, as they chaunced to breathe on neighbouring hill,
The freshness of this valley smote their eye,
And drew them ever and anon more nigh,
Till clustering round th' enchanter false they hung,
Ymolten with his syren melody,

70 While o'er th' enfeebling lute his hand he flung, And to the trembling chords these tempting verses sung: "Behold, ye pilgrims of this earth, behold! See all but man with unearned pleasure gay!

75

See her bright robes the butterfly unfold,
Broke from her wintry tomb in prime of May.
What youthful bride can equal her array?
Who can with her for easy pleasure vie?
From mead to mead with gentle wing to stray,

From flower to flower on balmy gales to fly,
Is all she has to do beneath the radiant sky.

80

85

“Behold the merry minstrels of the morn,
The swarming songsters of the careless grove,
Ten thousand throats that, from the flowering thorn,
Hymn their good God and carol sweet of love,
Such grateful kindly raptures them emove !
They neither plough nor sow; ne, fit for flail,
E'er to the barn the nodding sheaves they drove;

Yet theirs each harvest dancing in the gale,
Whatever crowns the hill or smiles along the vale.

90

"Outcast of Nature, man! the wretched thrall
Of bitter-dropping sweat, of sweltry pain,
Of cares that eat away thy heart with gall,
And of the vices, an inhuman train,
That all proceed from savage thirst of gain:
For when hard-hearted Interest first began
To poison earth, Astræa left the plain;

Guile, violence, and murder seized on man,
And, for soft milky streams, with blood the rivers ran.

95

100

“O grievous folly! to heap up estate,
Losing the days you see beneath the sun;
When, sudden, comes blind unrelenting Fate,
And gives th' untasted portion you have won,
With ruthless toil and many a wretch undone,
To those who mock you, gone to Pluto's reign,
There with sad ghosts to pine, and shadows dun.

But sure it is of vanities most vain
To toil for what you here, untoiling, may obtain."

105

He ceased. But still their trembling ears retained
The deep vibrations of his witching song,
That, by a kind of magic power, constrained

ΙΙΟ

To enter in, pell-mell, the listening throng:
Heaps poured on heaps, and yet they slipped along
In silent ease; as when beneath the beam
Of summer moons, the distant woods among,

Or by some flood all silvered with the gleam,
The soft-embodied fays through airy portal stream.

115

By the smooth demon so it ordered was,
And here his baneful bounty first began,
Though some there were who would not further pass, 120
And his alluring baits suspected han-
The wise distrust the too fair-spoken man:
Yet through the gate they cast a wishful eye;
Not to move on, perdie, is all they can,
For do their very best they cannot fly,

125 But often each way look and often sorely sigh.

When this the watchful wicked wizard saw,
With sudden spring he leaped upon them strait;
And, soon as touched by his unhallowed paw,
They found themselves within the cursèd gate, 130
Full hard to be repassed, like that of Fate:
Not stronger were of old the giant crew
Who sought to pull high Jove from regal state;

Though feeble wretch he seemed, of sallow hue,
Certes, who bides his grasp will that encounter rue. 135

Waked by the crowd, slow from his bench arose
A comely full-spred porter, swoln with sleep:
His calm, broad, thoughtless aspect breathed repose,
And in sweet torpor he was plunged deep,
Ne could himself from ceaseless yawning keep, 140
While o'er his eyes the drowsy liquor ran,
Through which his half-waked soul would faintly peep;

Then, taking his black staff, he called his man,
And roused himself as much as rouse himself he can.
The lad leaped lightly at his master's call:

145
He was, to weet, a little roguish page,
Save sleep and play who minded naught at all,
Like most the untaught striplings of his age.

150

This boy he kept each band to disengage,
Garters and buckles, task for him unfit,
But ill becoming his grave personage,

And which his portly paunch would not permit;
So this same limber page to all performed it.

Meantime the master-porter wide displayed
Great store of caps, of slippers, and of gowns; 155
Wherewith he those who entered in arrayed,
Loose as the breeze that plays along the downs
And waves the summer woods when evening frowns :
Oh fair undress, best dress! it checks no vein,
But every flowing limb in pleasure drowns,

160 And heightens ease with grace. This done, right fain Sir Porter sat him down, and turned to sleep again.

Thus easy robed, they to the fountain sped
That in the middle of the court up-threw
A stream, high-spouting from its liquid bed,

165
And falling back again in drizzly dew;
There each deep draughts, as deep he thirsted, drew:
It was a fountain of nepenthe rare,
Whence, as Dan Homer sings, huge pleasaunce grew,
And sweet oblivion of vile earthly care,

170 Fair gladsome waking thoughts, and joyous dreams more

fair.

175

This rite performed, all inly pleased and still,
Withouten tromp was proclamation made:
“Ye sons of Indolence, do what you will,
And wander where you list through hall or glade;
Be no man's pleasure for another stayed;
Let each as likes him best his hours employ,
And cursed be he who minds his neighbour's trade!

Here dwells kind Ease and unreproving Joy:
He little merits bliss who others can annoy.”

180

Strait of these endless numbers, swarming round
As thick as idle motes in sunny ray,
Not one eftsoons in view was to be found,
But every man strolled off his own glad way:
Wide o'er this ample court's blank area,

185

« PreviousContinue »