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Seventeenth Century

Eighteenth Century



Detail from Giotto's Slaughter of the Innocents


[Falls of Princes, Book I. Fol. 39]

Out of her swoone when she did abbraide,
Knowing no mean but death in her distrèsse,
To her brothèr full piteously she said,
"Cause of my sorrowe, roote of my heavinesse,
That whilom were the sourse of my gladnèsse,
When both our joyes by wille were so disposed,
Under one key our hearts to be enclosed.—

*         *         *         *         *         *         *         

This is mine end, I may it not astarte;
O brother mine, there is no more to saye;
Lowly beseeching with mine wholè heart
For to remember specially, I praye,
If it befall my littel sonne to dye,
That thou mayst after some mynd on us have,
Suffer us both be buried in one grave.
I hold him strictly twene my armès twein,
Thou and Natùre laidè on me this charge;
He, guiltless, mustè with me suffer paine,
And, sìth thou art at freedom and at large,
Let kindnesse ourè love not so discharge,
But have a minde, wherever that thou be,
Once on a day upon my child and me.

On thee and me dependeth the trespàce
Touching our guilt and our great offence,
But, welaway! most àngelik of face
Our childè, young in his pure innocence,
Shall agayn right suffer death's violence,
Tender of limbes, God wote, full guiltëlesse
The goodly faire, that lieth here speechlèss.

A mouth he has, but wordis hath he none;
Cannot complaine alas! for none outràge:
Nor grutcheth not, but lies here all alone
Still as a lambe, most meke of his visàge.
What heart of stèle could do to him damàge,
Or suffer him dye, beholding the manère
And looke benigne of his twein eyen clere.—

*         *         *         *         *         *         *         

Writing her letter, awhapped all in drede,
In her right hand her pen ygan to quake,
And a sharp sword to make her heartè blede,
In her left hand her father hath her take,
And most her sorrowe was for her childes sake,
Upon whose facè in her barme sleepýnge
Full many a tere she wept in complainíng.
After all this so as she stood and quoke,
Her child beholding mid of her peines smart,
Without abode the sharpè sword she tooke,
And rove herselfè even to the hearte;
Her child fell down, which mightè not astert,
Having no help to succour him nor save,
But in her blood theselfe began to bathe.

Ward, Thomas Humphry, ed. The English Poets. Vol I.
New York: The Macmillan Company, 1901. 122-123.

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