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So queenly Argenis shall show again,
Like the day-orb, a disc without a stain.
Among Andrugio's followers was one,
Who for adventures o'er the deep had gone;
And with the lust of power recross'd the waves,
For he had ruled a tribe of Lybian slaves.
Although for place and pay he bent the knee,
Less than the first he much disdain'd to be.
Much he loved power, but loved distinction more,
A speech-maker and perfumed troubadour ;
A courtly coxcomb in the noon of life,
Who turn'd to good account his buxom wife,
And had her near the royal person placed,
That by her means he might himself be graced.
Oft by her aid, 'tis said, he hover'd near
The Queen's retirement, her sweet words to hear,
To throw himself into the royal way,
By accident, on some convenient day.
Beware, Andrugio! lest by cunning spell
His lady get thy place for Sidrophell.
The third of this ill council was a man,
Who, like a high-fed colt, life's courses ran.
The foremost still to raise the hue and cry
Against the fall'n, and from their side to fly.
The party next in power to him was best,
And with them, for their time, he took his rest.
His interest was the horizon of his view,
To keep in place the only aim he knew.
He viewed himself, with measureless content,
The slave of each succeeding government.
Ten times the helmsman of the state was changed,
But from his post Antonio never ranged.
Bold to the weak, and cringing to the strong,
He would, to serve his turn, abet the wrong.
He cared not for his country or her fame;
His policy bequeath'd her lasting shame.
In wordy protocols what state-craft lies!
By them he managed courts and colonies;
But managed so, that the victorious isle
Should be insulted, hated, scorn'd the while.
One was a gamester, spendthrift, debauchee,
From honour and religious scruple free.
Another, by a nephew's happy claim,
Partook the honour of a famous name-
A gross dull man that meant no harm in truth,
But little fit to be near virgin youth.
There was another differing from both,
Religious, moral, but a very sloth;
That one day waking, rubb'd his solemn brow,
And found himself in place, he knew not how ;
Then smiling placidly, return'd to sleep
In company he never thought to keep;
With slumberous dulness nodded night and day,
And slept e'en while they took his place away.
A sly Calabrian, who could well advance
His party's merit, managed the finance ;
Though given to wine-bibbing, he not the less,
When drunk, his windy nothings could express,
Speak against time, and, innocent of sense,
Indulge in all the freaks of eloquence;
And, with an equal happiness, dilate
On money matters, and affairs of state.
Howe'er he did mismanage and abuse
His office and the public revenues,
He was with so much worldly wisdom blest
As to take care to feather his own nest;
And for his younglings, with paternal pride
As natural, he did no less provide.
In his own praise he spouted much and long,
Neither his taxes nor his costs were wrong;
And turning e'en defeat into a boast,
He praised his colleagues, praised himself the most ;
And to the last, with place and pay content,
He never knew what public virtue meant,
Till, when he was worn out, but still elate,
A title crown'd his service in debate.
Then came Macario, bless'd with arts that win
Titles and pelf, of Gallic origin ;
His sire had traded where the Niger flows,
And with his years his heap of treasure rose;
Wealth he amass'd with all a miser's love,
Yet his affections set on things above;
At once hugg'd earth and heavenward turn'd his eye,
And died in odour sweet of sanctity.
His son Macario to state-craft was bred,
And was a time-server in heart and head;
His party loved, for his especial gain,
Too wise to work for nothing and complain :
So he took care to be beforehand paid,
And like his father drove a thriving trade;
Ready of speech and pen he work'd his way
From life's inglorious gloom to the upper day,
Became a counsellor and man of note,
And from the palace his despatches wrote.
The next was he that had the most to do,
And did with honesty his course pursue,
Industrious, early at his post and late,
A hack in office and the slave of state.
He had no sort of misgiving or fear,
But play'd historian, playwright, pamphleteer;
He mended laws political, and broke
The laws of grammar when he wrote, or spoke.
He was self-confident to that degree,
Nothing beyond his powers he thought could be.
He would have led an army to the field,
And as a warrior had been last to yield;
E'en against Tully would have tried to speak,
Or write a better Iliad than the Greek.
The winds, like Æolus, he'd disenchain,
As though with power to shut them up again;
But ah! no like success his efforts crown'd,
The storm-promoter was no storm-king found.
His heart was honest, but his mind perverse,
And what he tried to mend he made much worse;
To quench a spark he fann'd it into fire,
Gave the steed rein that did the curb require;
Did greatest evil with the best intent,
And all his zeal for right in error spent.
In private life he was an upright man,
The best and trustiest of the Queen's divan;
He 'mid the rest e'en like a virtue shone,
And still was call'd straight-forward Rousillon.
Others there were that seem'd preferr'd, because They scorn'd religion's, or their country's laws. Some had deserved to lose their knightly spurs, And some were heathen image-worshippers, Whose priests from their success began to try For restoration of their tyranny.
There was an orator of giant force,
That like a meteor ran a zig-zag course;
A mind to fathom Nature's secrets deep,
That could the flaming bounds of space o'erleap;
A voice that now fell soft as dropping snow,
And now was as a sting or sudden blow;
The poet's fancy, the logician's skill,
Persuasion, passion, irony at will,
Were his but he to vanity was thrall,
And wanting moral power, he wanted all.
He was as variable as the weather,
True to no party for two weeks together.
Like a mad bull at this or that he strook,
And damaged any cause he undertook.
Although he for himself could only feel,
His theme was evermore the commonweal.
As on his word no party could rely,
He was a mischievous neutrality,
And to cajole or rail was left at large,
A patriot rampant at the public charge.
There was a demagogue, of vulgar race,
Who sway'd a great part of the populace.
Coarse, clever, vigorous, licentious, vain-
The Athenian Cleon lived in him again.
He wore a black cap, and a mantle green,
And was a rebel-loyal to the Queen.
He made his bears at will look pleased or grim,
And ruled the council-through their fear of him.
His accents in the senate fiercely rung,
And at his betters boldly wagg'd his tongue.
He could work wonders like his priestly crew,
Unlike in this-his miracles were true;
For he obtain'd the spoils of war in peace,
And from his mob he shore a golden fleece.
He served and ruled the placemen of the court,
Who were content to be his mock and sport.
Degenerate Sicily! where was thy shame,
To let thy Queen be only Queen in name?
To let thine ancient laws be trampled down,
And miscreants spoil thine altar and the crown?
Was there no valour, virtue, in the land,
To save the nation from a clown's command ?
Valour there was, and virtue; for a time
Both were disarmed by the force of crime-
Disarm'd, not subdued ;-at any cost
Determined to retrieve the field they lost.
Good order's champions, far and near renown'd,
Ne'er lost their faith, but hope in patience found.
The mitred bishop, and the statesman sage,
The young patrician in his pupillage,
The chief, at once the nation's sword and helm,
The banded nobles of the fruitful realm—
All that were justly pious, truly brave,
Stood fast, their country from its mob to save.
The land of Sicily was full of wealth,
And every breeze was redolent of health ;
And hope is rash, and modesty is rare,
And royal Argenis was young and fair;
And eagles gather where their booty lies,
And the sweet honey draws a crowd of flies;
No wonder, then, a troop of princes came,
And felt for Argenis, or feign'd a flame.
A Sicel cousin, generous and brave,
Woo'd her as a frank lover, not a slave,
But would not wear her Council's golden chains,
And so was sent to travel for his pains.
Two gallant princes, each in hope to please
The princess, from Batavia cross'd the seas;
They, like their fathers, pious were and just,
Each worthy of a loyal people's trust.
Their very nobleness, and e'en their name,
Was found a hindrance to their gentle aim;
For the bad Council fear'd the loss of power,
Should such a consort share the royal bower.
The youthful scions of the Bourbon stem
Attempted, too, the Sicel diadem;
The heir of Scythia came to be denied,
And was dismiss'd with his barbaric pride.
A swarm of wooers travell'd to and fro,
Of noble lineage some, and some of low.
She look'd upon them carelessly: Love's dart
Had miss'd as yet to touch her royal heart.
But there was one Andrugio much approved,
And she by his persuasion thought she loved.
Son of a line unheard of until late,
Royal by courtesy, of low estate,—
A house of vaulting hopes and high desires,
Whose means exceeded not a Sicel squire's;
This count without a county came to woo,
And seem'd a thriving courtship to pursue ;
For he had with the Premier made a league,
And thought to win her through a court intrigue.
While the Queen's favourite, and wooer tall,
Jested together and kept festival;
While the bold prince indulged his love's young dream,
Glad to be party to the statesman's scheme,
Which promised him a bright imperial bride,
On terms well understood and ratified;
While joy was in the palace, earth and sky
Untoward signs gave out portentously:-
Strange voices startled both the hamlet lone,
And city large with busy life o'ergrown ;
The days were fill'd with terror, and the-nights
With prodigies, dread sounds and awful sights.
Portending judgments which the conscience fear'd,
As red as blood the sun and moon appear'd;
Wild vengeful eyes peep'd from the clouds on high,
And frightful meteors danced athwart the sky.
Armies with banners were beheld in air,
And fiery cars and shapes with horrent hair;
A snow-white steed came swiftly on their trackBut who the fearful rider on his back?
While these dread signs from man to man were told, Which made the impious tremble, awed the bold; Death from his quiver 'gainst the faithful hearts,
Of those were godly shot his fatal darts;
And so made way for wolves, when he removed
The trusty shepherds whom the people loved.
To fearful head the worst offences grew,
Such as the oldest memory never knew.
Unnatural murders, poisonings were rife,
And every where a recklessness of life;
Sins in high places one should blush to name,
Foulest uncleanness without any shame;
Oppression eating through the poor man's bones,
That to the people gave not bread, but stones,
That tore asunder nature's holiest ties,
And bruised the quivering heart in law's disguise;
Scorn of the gospel, pride that did defy
The simple truth with gross idolatry;
Vice mocking at the wisdom of the wise,
And rioting in Gentile sorceries ;-
It needed not a prophet's power to know,
What harvest from these baneful seeds should grow.
Upon the branded forehead of the times,
Gloom gather'd of unutterable crimes,
While public criminals, a licensed band,
Scatter'd rebellion through the fruitful land.
All was not lost, while faithful some remain'd
With love of country in their souls engrain'd.
But tears for public guilt and public woes
Must dim the lustre of the Sicel Rose,
And grief disturb the lilies of the breast,
Which from misplaced trust must lose its rest.
Oh, royal lady! brief thy vernal smile,
White innocence betray'd by hoary guile!
Then weep the wrong done to thy youthful years,
And let thy people see thy honest tears;
So shall their love, as from a natural urn,
E'en as it was at first, to thee return.
Then shall the good triumphant win for thee
The worthy homage of the truly free;
Then shall no sudden fear thy slumber move,
No birds of evil omen scare the dove,
Now flutter'd from the lilies where they grow,
Amid thy bosom's pure unsunned snow;
Then shall thy heart its confidence maintain,
And the Sicilian Rose bloom out again.