Old Fortunatus – Prologues

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The Prologue at Court

Enter TWO OLD MEN.

FIRST OLD MAN
Are you then travelling to the temple of Eliza?

SECOND OLD MAN
Even to her temple are my feeble limbs travelling.  Some call her Pandora, some Glorianna, some Cynthia, some Belphæbe, some Astræ; all by several names to express several loves; yet all these names make but one celestial body, as all those loves meet to create but one soul.

FIRST OLD MAN
I am one of her own country, and we adore her by the name of Eliza.

SECOND OLD MAN
Blessed name!  Happy country!  Your Eliza makes your land Elysium.  But what do you offer?

FIRST OLD MAN
That which all true subjects should.  When I was young, an armed hand.  Now I am crooked, an upright heart.  But what offer you?

SECOND OLD MAN
That which all strangers do; two eyes struck blind with admiration; two lips, proud to sound her glory; two hands held up full of prayers and praises.  What not, that may express love?  What not, that may make her beloved?

FIRST OLD MAN
How long is’t since you last beheld her?

SECOND OLD MAN
A just year, yet that year hath seem’d to me but one day, because her glory hath been my hourly contemplation, and yet that year hath seem’d to me more than twice seven years, because so long I have been absent from her.  Come therefore, good father, let’s go faster, lest we come too late; for see, the tapers of the night are already lighted and stand brightly burning in their starry candlesticks.  See how gloriously the moon shines upon us!

FIRST OLD MAN
Peace, fool; tremble and kneel.  The moon, sayest thou?
Our eyes are dazzled by Eliza’s beams.                                               [Both kneel.
See, if at least thou dare see, where she sits.
This is the great panthæon of our goddess,
And all those faces which thine eyes thought stars
Are nymphs attending on her deity.
Prithee begin, for I want power to speak.

SECOND OLD MAN
No, no, speak thou; I want words to begin.                                              [Weeps.

FIRST OLD MAN
Alack, what shall I do?  Com’st thou with me,
And weepst now thou beholds this majesty?

SECOND OLD MAN
[To the QUEEN.] Great landlady of hearts, pardon me.
[To FIRST OLD MAN.] Blame not mine eyes, good father, in these tears.
My pure love shines as thine doth in thy fears.
[To the QUEEN.] I weep for joy to see so many heads
Of prudent ladies, clothed in the livery
Of silver-haired age, for serving you,
Whilst in your eyes youth’s glory doth renew.
I weep for joy to see the sun look old,
To see the moon mat at her often change,
To see the stars only by night to shine,
Whilst you are still bright, still one, still divine.
I weep for joy to see the world decay,
Yet see Eliza flourishing like May.
O, pardon me, your pilgrim, I have measur’d
Many a mile to find you, and have brought
Old Fortunatus and his family,
With other Cypriots, my poor countrymen,
To pay a whole year’s tribute.  O, vouchsafe,
Dread Queen of Fairies, with your gracious eyes,
T’accept theirs and our humble sacrifice.

FIRST OLD MAN
Now, I’ll beg for thee too, and yet I need not.
Her sacred hand hath evermore been known
As soon held out to strangers as her own.

SECOND OLD MAN
Thou dost encourage me.  I’ll fetch them in.
They have no princely gifts; we are all poor;
Our offerings are true hearts.  Who can wish more?                     [Exeunt.

—–

The Prologue

Of Love’s sweet war, our timorous Muse doth sing,
And to the bosom of each gentle dear,
Offers her artless tunes, born on the wing
Of sacred poesy.  A benumbing fear,
That your nice souls, cloy’d with delicious sounds,
Will loath her lowly notes, make her pull in
Her fainting pinions, and her spirit confounds
Before the weak voice of her song begin.
Yet since within the circle of each eye,
Being like so many suns in his round sphere,
No wrinkle yet is seen, she’ll dare to fly
Borne up with hopes, that as you oft to rear
With your fair hands, those who would else sing down,
So some will deign to smile, where all might frown.
And for this small circumference must stand
For the imagin’d surface of much land
Of many kingdoms, and since many a mile
Should here be measure’d out, our Muse entreats
Your thoughts to help poor art and to allow
That I may serve as Chorus to her scenes.
She begs your pardon, for she’ll send me forth
Not when the laws of poesy do call,
But as the story needs.  Your gracious eye
Gives life to Fortunatus’ history.                                          [Exeunt.

Proceed to the next scene

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