IN Britain's isle and Arthur's days,
When midnight faeries daunc'd the maze.
Liv'd Edwin of the green;
Edwin, I wis, a gentle youth,
Endow'd with courage, sense, and truth,
Though badly shap'd he been.
His mountain back mote well be said
To measure heighth against his head,
And lift itself above:
Yet spite of all that Nature did To make his uncouth form forbid,
This creature dar'd to love.
He felt the charms of Edith's eyes,
Nor wanted hope to gain the prize,
Could ladies look within;
But one Sir Topaz dress'd with art,
And, if a shape could win a heart,
He had a shape to win.
Edwin, if right I read my song,
With slighted passion pac'd along
All in the moony light:
'Twas near an old enchanted court,
Where sportive faeries made resort
To revel out the night.
His heart was drear, his hope was crossd,
'Twas late, 'twas farr, the path was lost
That reach'd the neighbour-town;
With weary steps he quits the shades,
Resolv'd the darkling dome he treads,
And drops his limbs adown.
But scant he lays him on the floor,
When hollow winds remove the door,
A trembling rocks the ground:
And, well I ween to count aright,
At once an hundred tapers light
On all the walls around.
Now sounding tongues assail his ear,
Now sounding feet approachen near,
And now the sounds encrease;
And from the corner where he lay
He sees a train profusely gay
Come pranckling o'er the place.
But, trust me, gentles, never yet
Was dight a masquing half so neat,
Or half so rich before;
The country lent the sweet perfumes,
The sea the pearl, the sky the plumes,
The town its silken store.
Now whilst he gazed, a gallant drest
In flaunting robes above the rest,
With awfull accent cried:
"What mortal of a wretched mind,
Whose sighs infect the balmy wind,
Has here presumed to hide?"
At this the swain, whose venturous soul
No fears of magic art controul,
Advanc'd in open sight.
"Nor have I cause of dreed," he said,
"Who view, by no presumption led,
Your revels of the night.
"'Twas grief for scorn of faithful love,
Which made ray steps unweeting rove
Amid the nightly dew."
"'Tis well," the gallant cries again,
"We faeries never injure men
Who dare to tell us true.
"Exalt thy love-dejected heart,
Be mine the task, or ere we part,
To make thee grief resign;
Now take the pleasure of thy chaunce;
Whilst I with Mab, my partner, daunce,
Be little Mable thine!"
He spoke, and all a sudden there
Light musick floats in wanton air;
The monarch leads the queen;
The rest their faerie partners found,
And Mable trimly tript the ground
With Edwin of the green.
The dauncing past, the board was laid,
And siker such a feast was made
As heart and lip desire;
Withouten hands the dishes fly,
The glasses with a wish come nigh,
And with a wish retire
But now to please the faery king,
Full every deal they laugh and sing,
And antick feats devise;
Some wind and tumble like an ape,
And other-some transmute their shape
In Edwin's wondering eyes.
Till one at last that Robin hight,
Renown'd for pinching maids by night,
Has hent him up aloof;
And full against the beam he flung,
Where by the back the youth he hung
To sprawl unneath the roof.
From thence, "Reverse my charm," he cries
"And let it fairly now suffice
The gambol has been shown."
But Oberon answers with a smile,
"Content thee, Edwin, for a while,
The vantage is thine own."
Here ended all the phantome play;
They smelt the fresh approach of day,
And heard a cock to crow;
The whirling wind that bore the crowd
Has clapp'd the door, and whistled loud
To warn them all to go.
Then screaming all at once they fly,
And all at once the tapers die;
Poor Edwin falls to floor;
Forlorn his state, and dark the place,
Was never wight in such a case
Through all the land before.
But soon as Dan Apollo rose,
Full jolly creature home he goes,
He feels his back the less;
His honest tongue and steady mind
Han rid him of the lump behind
Which made him want success.
With lusty livelyhed he talks,
He seems adauncing as he walks;
His story soon took wind;
And beauteous Edith sees the youth,
Endow'd with courage, sense, and truth,
Without a bunch behind.
The story told, Sir Topaz mov'd,
The youth of Edith erst approv'd,
To see the revel scene.
At close of eve he leaves his home,
And wends to find the ruin'd dome
All on the gloomy plain.
As there he bides, it so befell,
The wind came rustling down a dell,
A shaking seiz'd the wall:
Up sprang the tapers as before,
The faeries bragly foot the floor,
And musick fills the hall.
But, certes, sorely sunk with woe,
Sir Topaz sees the elfin show,
His spirits in him die:
When Oberon cries, "A man is near
A mortall passion, cleeped fear,
Hangs flagging in the sky."
With that Sir Topaz, hapless youth,
In accents faultering ay for ruth
Intreats them pity graunt;
For als he been a mister wight
Betray'd by wandering in the night
To tread the circled haunt.
"Ah losell vile!" at once they roar,
"And little skill'd of faerie lore,
Thy cause to come we know:
Now has thy kestrell courage fell;
And faeries, since a lie you tell,
Are free to work thee woe."
Then Will, who bears the wispy fire
To trail the swains among the mire,
The caitive upward flung;
There like a tortoise in a shop
He dangled from the chamber-top
Where whilome Edwin hung.
The revel now proceeds apace,
Deffly they frisk it o'er the place,
They sit, they drink, and eat;
The time with frolick mirth beguile,
And poor Sir Topaz hangs the while
Till all the rout retreat.
By this the starrs began to wink,
They shriek, they fly, the tapers sink,
And down ydrops the knight:
For never spell by faerie laid
With strong enchantment bound a glade
Beyond the length of night.
Chill, dark, alone, adreed, he lay,
Till up the welkin rose the day,
Then deem'd the dole was o'er:
But wot ye well his harder lot?
His seely back the bunch has got
Which Edwin lost afore.
This tale a Sybil-nurse ared;
She softly stroked my youngling head,
And when the tale was done,
"Thus some are born, my son," she cried
"With base impediment to rise,
And some are born with none.
"But virtue can itself advance
To what the favourite fools of chance
By fortune seem'd design'd;
Virtue can gain the odds of fate,
And from itself shake off the weight
Upon th' unworthy mind."
1 T. Parnell Poems, Aldine Edition, p, 55.