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A Challenge at Tilt,
AT A MARRIAGE.
A CHALLENGE AT TILT.] The title is from the first folio. The date of the mar riage is not given, nor are the names of those in honour of whom the challenge took place. That they were of high distinction is certain, from the splendour of the Court on the occasion, and the presence of the Royal Family. Many defiances of this kind are noticed in the life of Prince Henry, who was much attached to these manly exercises, in which he was well skilled. Instead of contrasting the chariness of Milton on these occasions with the exuberance of Jonson, Warton might with far more justice have complained of the retentiveness of the latter. But he probably knew no more of him than he had picked up in casual reading; and, at any rate, he was sure to be on the popular side in condemning him.
[Gifford quotes Warton at second hand (ante, p. 70 b). His words, taken with the context, are by no means unfair to Jonson. Speaking of Milton's Arcades, he says'Unquestionably this Masque was a much longer performance. Milton seems only to have written the poetical part, consisting of these three Songs, and the Recitative Soliloquy of the Genius. The rest was probably prose and machinery. In many of Jonson's Masques the poet but rarely appears, amidst a cumbersome exhibition of heathen gods and mythology."-T. Warton's Milton, 8vo, 1785, p. 97.-F. C.]
2 Cup. But I the woman, and the purer; and therefore the worthier. Because you are a handful above me, do you think to get a foot afore me, sir? No; I appeal to you, ladies.
1 Cup. You are too rude, boy, in this presence.
2 Cup. That cannot put modesty in me to make me come behind you though; I will stand for mine inches with you as peremptory as an ambassador. Ladies, your sovereignties are concerned in me; I am the wife's page.
1 Cup. And I the husband's. 2 Cup. How
1 Cup. Ha!
2 Cup. One of us must break the wonder; and therefore I that have best demand of thee by what magic thou cause to be assured of mine own truth, wear'st my ensigns? or hast put on my person?
I Cup. Beware, young ladies, of this impostor; and, mothers, look to your daughters and nieces; a false Cupid is abroad: it is I that am the true, who to do these glad solemnities their proper rites have been contented not to put off, but to conceal my deity, and in this habit of a servant do attend him who was yesterday the happy Bridegroom, in the complement of his nuptials, to make all his endeavours and actions more gracious and lovely.
2 Cup. He tells my tale, he tells my tale; and pretends to my act. It was I that did this for the Bride. I am the true Love, and both this figure and those arms are usurped by most unlawful power: can you not perceive it? Do not I look liker a Cupid than he? am I not more a child? Ladies, have none of you a picture of me in your bosom? is the resemblance of
Love banished your breasts? Sure they are these garments that estrange me to you! if I were naked you would know me better; no relic of love left in an old bosom here! what should I do?
I Cup. My little shadow is turned furious.
2 Cup. What can I turn other than a Fury itself to see thy impudence? If I be a shadow, what is substance? Was it not I that yesternight waited on the bride into the nuptial chamber, and against the bridegroom came made her the throne of love? Had I not lighted my torches in her eyes, planted my mother's roses in her cheeks; were not her eyebrows bent to the fashion of my bow, and her looks ready to be loosed thence, like my shafts? Had I not ripened kisses on her lips fit for a Mercury to gather, and made her language sweeter than his upon her tongue? was not the girdle about her he was to untie my mother's, wherein all the joys and delights of love were woven?
I Cup. And did I not bring on the blushing bridegroom to taste those joys? and made him think all stay a torment? did I not shoot myself into him like a flame, and made his desires and his graces equal? were not his looks of power to have kept the night alive in contention with day, and made the morning never wished for? Was there a curl in his hair that I did not sport in, or a ring of it crisped, that might not have become Juno's fingers? his very undressing, was it not Love's arming? did not all his kisses charge? and every touch attempt? but his words, were they not feathered from my wings, and flew in singing at her ears, like arrows tipt with gold?
2 Cup. Hers, hers did so into his : and all his virtue was borrowed from my powers in her, as thy form is from me. But that this royal and honoured assembly be no longer troubled with our contention, behold, I challenge thee of falshood, and will bring upon the first day of the new year into the lists before this palace ten knights armed, who shall undertake against
1 Was not the girdle about her my mother's, &c.] That girdle had scarcely more charms in it than the poet's language in these sprightly and gallant little pieces; but the allusion of Cupid is to this beautiful passage:
Η, και απο στήθεσφιν ελυσατο κεστον ἱμαντα,
all assertion that I am a child of Mars and Venus: and in the honour of that lady (whom it is my ambition to serve) that that love is the most true and perfect that still waiteth on the woman, and is the servant of that sex.
I Cup. But what gage gives my confident counterfeit of this?
2 Cup. My bow and quiver, or what else I can make.
I Cup. I take only them and in exchange give mine, to answer and punish this thy rashness, at thy time assigned, by a just number of knights, who by their virtue shall maintain me to be the right Cupid; and true issue of valour and beauty; and that no love can come near either truth or perfection but what is manly and derives his proper dignity from thence.
On New-Year's-day, he that before is numbered the SECOND CUPID came now the first, with his ten Knights attired in the Bride's colours, and lighting from his chariot, spake:
1 Cup. Now, ladies, to glad your aspects once again with the sight of Love, and make a spring smile in your faces, which must have looked like winter without me; behold me, not like a servant now, but a champion, and in my true figure, as I used to reign and revel in your fancies, tickling your soft ears with my feathers, and laying little straws about your hearts, to kindle
Παρφασις, ή τ' έκλεψε νοον πυκα περ φρονεοντων. Il. xiv. v. 214.
[Which has been so exquisitely rendered by Cowper:
"It was an ambush of sweet snares, replete With love, desire, soft intercourse of hearts, And music of resistless whispered sounds That from the wisest win their best resolves." F. C.]
bonfires shall flame out at your eyes; playing in your bloods like fishes in a stream, or diving like the boys in the bath, and then rising on end like a monarch, and treading humour like water, bending those stiff pickardils of yours under this yoke my bow; or if they would not bend, whipping your rebellious vardingales with my bow-string, and made them run up into your waists (they have lain so flat) for fear of my indignation. What! is Cupid of no name with you? have I lost all reputation, or what is less, opinion, by once putting off my deity? Because I was a page at this solemnity, and would modestly serve one for the honour of you all, am I therefore dishonoured by all? and lost in my value so that every juggler that can purchase him a pair of wings and a quiver, is committed with me in balance, and contends with me for sovereignty? Well, I will chastise you, ladies; believe it, you shall feel my displeasure for this; and I will be mighty in it. Think not to have those accesses to me you were wont; you shall wait four of those galleries off, and six chambers for me; ten doors locked between you and me hereafter, and I will allow none of you a key: when I come abroad, you shall petition me, and I will not hear you; kneel, I will not regard you; I will pass by like a man of business, and not see you, and I will have no Master of Requests for you. There shall not the greatest pretender to a state-face living put on a more supercilious look than I will do upon you. Trust me-ha! what's
Enter 2 CUPID, with his company of
2 Cup. O, are you here, sir! you have got the start of me now by being challenger, and so the precedency, you think.. I see you are resolved to try your title by arms then; you will stand to be the right Cupid still? how now! what ails you that you answer not? are you turned a statue upon my appearance? or did you hope I would not appear, and that hope has deceived you?
1 Cup. Art shou still so impudent to belie my figure? that in what shape soever I present myself thou wilt seem to be the same; not so much as my chariot but resembled by thee? and both the doves and swans I have borrowed of my mother to draw it? the very number of my
champions emulated, and almost their habits! what insolence is this?
2 Cup. Good little one, quarrel not, you have now put yourself upon others' valour, not your own, and you must know you can bring no person hither to strengthen your side, but we can produce an equal. Be it Persuasion you have got there, the peculiar enchantress of your sex; behold we have Mercury here to charm against her, who gives all lovers their true and masculine eloquence; or are they the Graces you presume on, your known clients, Spring, Beauty, and Cheerfulness? here are Youth, Audacity, and Favour to encounter them, three more manly perfections, and much more powerful in working for Love : child, you are all the ways of winning too weak, there is no thinking, either with your honour or discretion kept safe, to continue on a strife wherein you are already vanquished; yield, be penitent early, and confess it.
I Cup. I will break my bow and quiver into dust first (restore me mine own arms) or be torn in pieces with Harpies, marry one of the Furies, turn into Chaos again, and dissolve the harmony of nature.
2 Cup. O, most stiffly spoken, and fit for the sex you stand for! Well, give the sign then: let the trumpets sound, and upon the valour and fortune of your champions put the right of your cause. I Cup. 'Tis done.
Here the TILTING took place.
2 Cup. Now, sir, you have got mightily by this contention, and advanced your cause to a most high degree of estimation with these spectators! have you not?
1 Cup. Way, what have you done, or won?
called out to this trial, that I have not 2 Cup. It is enough for me who was lost, or that my side is not vanquished.
Hy. Come, you must yield both; this is neither contention for you, nor time fit to contend: there is another kind of tilting would become Love better than this; to meet lips for lances, and crack kisses instead of staves: which there is no beauty here, I presume, so young but can fancy, nor so tender but would venture.
Here is the palm for which you must strive: which of you wins this bough is the right and best Cupid; and whilst you are striving, let Hymen, the president of these solemnities, tell you something of your own story, and what yet you know not of yourselves. You are both true Cupids, and both the sons of Venus by Mars, but this the first born, and was called Eros; who upon his birth proved a child of excellent beauty, and right worthy his mother; but after, his growth not answering his form, not only Venus, but the Graces who nursed him, became extremely solicitous for him; and were impelled out of their grief and care to consult the oracle about him. Themis (for Apollo was not yet of years) gave answer, there wanted nothing to his perfection, but that they had not enough considered or looked into the nature of the infant, which indeed was desirous of a companion only; for though Love, and the true, might be born of Venus single and alone, yet he could not thrive and increase alone. Therefore if she affected his growth, Venus must bring forth a brother to him, and name him Anteros; that with reciprocal affection might pay the exchange of Love.
This made that thou wert born her second birth. Since when your natures are, that either of you looking upon other thrive, and by your mutual respects and interchange of ardour flourish and prosper; whereas if the one be deficient or wanting to the other, it fares worse with both. This is the Love that Hymen requires, without which no marriage is happy : when the contention is not who is the true Love, but being both true, who loves most; cleaving the bough between you, and dividing the palm. This is a strife wherein you both win, and begets a concord worthy all married minds' emulation, when the lover transforms himself into the person of his beloved, as you two do now; by whose example let your knights (all honourable friends and servants of Love) affect the like peace, and depart the lists equal in their friendships for ever, as to-day they have been in their fortunes. And may this royal court never know more difference in humours; these well-graced nuptials more discord in affections than what they presently feel, and may ever avoid!
1, 2 Cup. To this Love says Amen.