Percy's Reliques - Guy and Amarant.

Guy and Amarant.

            The Editor found this Poem in his ancient folio manuscript among the old ballads; he was desirous, therefore, that it should still accompany them; and as it is not altogether devoid of merit, its insertion here will be pardoned.

            Although this piece seems not imperfect, there is reason to believe that it is only a part of a much larger poem, which contained the whole history of Sir Guy; for, upon comparing it with the common story book, 12mo. we find the latter to be nothing more than this poem reduced to prose: which is only effected by now and then altering the rhyme, and throwing out some few of the poetical ornaments. The disguise is so slight that it is an easy matter to pick complete stanzas in any page of that book.

            The author of this poem has shown some invention. Though he took the subject from the old romance quoted before, he has adorned it afresh, and made the story entirely his own.

GUY journeyes towards that sanctifyed ground,
Whereas the Jewes fayre citye sometime stood,
Wherin our Saviours sacred head was crownd,
And where for sinfull man he shed his blood:
To see the sepulcher was his intent,
The tombe that Joseph unto Jesus lent.

With tedious miles he tyred his wearye feet,
And passed desart places full of danger,
At last with a most woefull wight[ 1] did meet,
A man that unto sorrow was noe stranger:
For he had fifteen sonnes, made captives all
To slavish bondage, in extremest thrall.

A gyant called Amarant detaind them,
Whom no man durst encounter for his strength:
Who in a castle, which he held, had chaind them:
Guy questions, where, and understands at length
The place not farr.--"Lend me thy sword, quoth hee,
Ile lend my manhood all thy sonnes to free."

With that he goes, and lays upon the dore,
Like one that sayes, I must, and will come in:
The gyant never was soe rowz'd before,
For noe such knocking at his gate had bin:
Soe takes his keyes, and clubb, and cometh out
Staring with ireful countenance about.

"Sirra," quoth hee, "what busines hast thou heere?
Art come to feast the crowes about my walls?
Didst never hear, noe ransome can him cleere,
That in the compasse of my furye falls?
For making me to take a porters paines,
With this same clubb I will dash out thy braines."

"Gyant," quoth Guy, "y'are quarrelsome I see,
Choller and you seem very neere of kin:
Most dangerous at the clubb belike you bee;
I have bin better armd, though nowe goe thin;
But shew thy utmost hate, enlarge thy spight,
Keene is my weapone, and shall doe me right."

Soe draws his sword, salutes him with the same
About the head, the shoulders, and the side:
While his erected clubb doth death proclaime,
Standinge with huge Colossus' spacious stride,
Putting such vigour to his knotty beame,
That like a furnace he did smoke extreame.

But on the ground he spent his strokes in vain;
For Guy was nimble to avoyde them still,
And ever ere he heav'd his clubb againe,
Did brush his plated coat against his will
Att such advantage Guy wold never fayle,
To bang him soundlye in his coate of mayle.

Att last through thirst the gyant feeble grewe,
And sayd to Guy, "As thou'rt of humane race,
Shew itt in this, give natures wants their dewe,
Let me but goe, and drinke in yonder place:
Thou canst not yeeld to me a smaller thing,
Than to graunt life, thats given by the spring."

"I graunt thee leave," quoth Guye, "goe drink thy last,
Go pledge the dragon, and the salvage bore:[ 2]
Succeed the tragedyes that they have past,
But never thinke to taste cold water more:
Drinke deep to Death, and unto him carouse;
Bid him receive thee in his earthen house."

So to the spring he goes, and slakes his thirst;
Takeing the water in, extremely like
Some wracked shipp that on a rocke is burst,
Whose forced hulke against the stones does stryke;
Scooping it in soe fast with both his hands,
That Guy admiring to behold it stands.

"Come on," quoth Guy, "let us to worke againe,
Thou stayest about thy liquor overlong;
The fish, which in the river doe remaine,
Will want thereby; thy drinking doth them wrong:
But I will see their satisfaction made;
With gyants blood they must, and shall be payd."

"Villaine," quoth Amarant, "Ile crush thee streight;
Thy life shall pay thy daring toungs offence:
This clubb, which is about some hundred weight,
Is deathes commission to dispatch thee hence:
Dresse thee for ravens dyett I must needes,
And breake thy bones as they were made of reedes."

Incensed much by these bold pagan bostes,
Which worthye Guy cold ill endure to heare,
He hewes upon those bigg supporting postes,
Which like two pillars did his body beare:
Amarant for those wounds in choller growes
And desperately att Guy his clubb he throwes:

Which did directly on his body light,
Soe violent, and weighty there-withall,
That downe to ground on sudden came the knight;
And, ere he cold recover from the fall,
The gyant gott his clubbe againe in fist,
And aimd a stroke that wonderfullye mist.

"Traytor!" quoth Guy, "thy falshood Ile repay,
This coward act to intercept my bloode."
Sayes Amarant, "Ile murther any way,
With enemyes all vantages are good:
O cold I poyson in thy nostrills blowe,
Be sure of it I wold dispatch thee soe."

"Its well," said Guy, "thy honest thoughts appeare,
Within that beastlye bulke where devills dwell;
Which are thy tenants while thou livest heare,
But will be landlords when thou comest in hell:
Vile miscreant! prepare thee for their den,
Inhumane monster, hatefull unto men.

"But breathe thyselfe a time, while I goe drinke,
For flameing Phoebus with his fyerye eye
Torments me soe with burning heat, I thinke
My thirst wold serve to drinke an ocean drye
Forbear a litle, as I delt with thee."
Quoth Amarant, "Thou hast noe foole of mee.

"Noe, sillye wretch, my father taught more witt,
How I shold use such enemyes as thou;
By all my gods I doe rejoice at itt,
To understand that thirst constraines thee now;
For all the treasure that the world containes,
One drop of water shall not coole thy vaines.

"Releeve my foe! why, 'twere a madmans part:
Refresh an adversarye to my wrong!
If thou imagine this, a child thou art:
Noe, fellow! I have known the world too long
To be soe simple: now I know thy want,
A minutes space of breathing Ile not grant."

And with these words heaving aloft his clubb
Into the ayre, he swings the same about:
Then shakes his lockes, and doth his temples rubb,
And, like the Cyclops, in his pride doth strout:
"Sirra," says hee, "I have you at a lift,
Now you are come unto your latest shift.

"Perish for ever; with this stroke I send thee
A medicine, that will doe thy thirst much good;
Take noe more care for drinke before I end thee,
And then wee'll have carouses of thy blood:
Here's at thee with a butcher's downright blow,
To please my furye with thine overthrow."

"Infernall, false, obdurate feend," said Guy,
"That seemst a lumpe of crueltye from hell;
Ungratefull monster, since thou dost deny
The thing to mee wherin I used thee well:
With more revenge, than ere my sword did make,
On thy accursed head revenge Ile take.

"Thy gyants longitude shall shorter shrinke,
Except thy sun-scorcht skin be weapon proof:
Farewell my thirst; I doe disdaine to drinke;
Streames keepe your waters to your owne behoof;
Or let wild beasts be welcome thereunto;
With those pearle drops I will not have to do.

"Here, tyrant! take a taste of my good-will,
For thus I doe begin my bloodye bout:
You cannot chuse but like the greeting ill;
It is not that same clubb will beare you out;
And take this payment on thy shaggye crowne
A blowe that brought him with a vengeance downe."

Then Guy sett foot upon the monsters brest,
And from his shoulders did his head divide;
Which with a yawninge mouth did gape, unblest;
Noe dragons jawes were ever seen soe wide
To open and to shut, till life was spent.
Then Guye tooke keyes, and to the castle went:

Where manye woefull captives he did find,
Which had been tyred with extremityes;
Whom he in friendly manner did unbind,
And reasoned with them of their miseryes:
Eche told a tale with teares, and sighes, and cryes,
All weeping to him with complaining eyes.

There tender ladyes in darke dungeons lay,
That were surprised in the desart wood,
And had noe other dyett everye day,
But flesh of humane creatures for their food:
Some with their lovers bodyes had beene fed,
And in their wombes their husbands buryed.

Now he bethinkes him of his being there,
To enlarge the wronged brethren from their woes:
And, as he searcheth, doth great clamours heare,
By which sad sound's direction on he goes,
Until he findes a darksome obscure gate,
Armed strongly ouer all with iron plate.

That he unlockes, and enters, where appeares
The strangest objects that he ever saw;
Men that with famishment of many yeares,
Were like deathes picture, which the painters draw;
Divers of them were hanged by eche thombe;
Others head-downward; by the middle, some.

With diligence he takes them from the walle,
With lybertye their thraldome to acquaint:
Then the perplexed knight their father calls,
And sayes, "Receive thy sonnes though poore and faint:
I promisd you their lives, accept of that;
But did not warrant you they shold be fat.

"The castle I doe give thee, heere's the keyes,
Where tyranye for many yeeres did dwell:
Procure the gentle tender ladyes ease,
For pityes sake, use wronged women well:
Men easilye revenge the wrongs men do;
But poore weake women have not strength thereto."

The good old man, even overjoyed with this,
Fell on the ground, and wold have kist Guys feete:
"Father," quoth he, "refraine soe base a kiss,
For age to honor youth I hold unmeete:
Ambitious pryde hath hurt mee all it can,
I goe to mortifie a sinfull man."

*** The foregoing poem on Guy and Amarant has been discovered to be a fragment of "The famous historie of Guy earle of Warwick; by Samuel Rowlands, London, printed by J. Bell, 1649," 4to, in xii cantos, beginning thus:

"When dreadful Mars in armour every day."

            Whether the edition in 1649 was the first, is not known; but the author, Sam. Rowlands, was one of the minor poets who lived in the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and James I. and perhaps later. His other poems are chiefly of the religious kind, which makes it probable that the history of Guy was one of his earliest performances. There are extant of his:  (1.) "The betraying of Christ, Judas in dispaire, the seven words of our Saviour on the crosse, with other poems on the passion, &c., 1598," 4to. [Ames Typ. p. 428.]  (2.) "A Theatre of delightful Recreation. Lond. printed for A. Johnson, 1605," 4to. [Penes editor.] This is a book of poems on subjects chiefly taken from the Old Testament.  (3.) "Memory of Christ's miracles, in verse, Lond. 1618," 4to.  (4.) "Heaven's glory, earth's vanity, and hell's horror. Lond. 1638," 8vo. [These two in Bod. Cat.)

]

            In the present edition the foregoing poem has been much improved from the printed copy.

NOTES

1. Erle Jonas, mentioned in the foregoing ballad.

2. Which Guy had slain before.

 

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