Percy's Reliques - The Spanish Virgin, or Effects of Jealousy.

The Spanish Virgin, or Effects of Jealousy.

            The subject of this ballad is taken from a folio collection of tragical stories, intitled, "The Theatre of God's Judgments, by Dr. Beard and Dr. Taylor," 1642, pt. ii. p. 89.-- The text is given (with corrections) from two copies; one of them in black-letter in the Pepys Collection. In this every stanza is accompanied with the following distich by way of burden:

Oh jealousie! thou art nurst in hell;

Depart from hence, and therein dwell.

ALL tender hearts, that ake to hear
Of those that suffer wrong;
All you that never shed a tear,
Give heed unto my song.

Fair Isabella's tragedy
My tale doth far exceed:
Alas, that so much cruelty
In female hearts should breed!

In Spain a lady liv'd of late,
Who was of high degree;
Whose wayward temper did create
Much woe and misery.

Strange jealousies so fill'd her head
With many a vain surmize,
She thought her lord had wrong'd her bed,
And did her love despise.

A gentlewoman passing fair
Did on this lady wait;
With bravest dames she might compare;
Her beauty was compleat.

Her lady cast a jealous eye
Upon this gentle maid,
And tax her with disloyaltye,
And did her oft upbraid.

In silence still this maiden meek
Her bitter taunts would bear,
While oft adown her lovely cheek
Would steal the falling tear.

In vain in humble sort she strove
Her fury to disarm;
As well the meekness of the dove
The bloody hawke might charm.

Her lord, of humour light and gay,
And innocent the while,
As oft as she came in his way,
Would on the damsell smile.

And oft before his lady's face,
As thinking her her friend,
He would the maiden's modest grace
And comeliness commend.

All which incens'd his lady so,
She burnt with wrath extreame;
At length the fire that long did glow,
Burst forth into a flame.

For on a day it so befell,
When he was gone from home,
The lady all with rage did swell,
And to the damsell come.

And charging her with great offence,
And many a grievous fault,
She bade her servants drag her thence,
Into a dismal vault,

That lay beneath the common-shore,--
A dungeon dark and deep,
Where they were wont, in days of yore,
Offenders great to keep.

There never light of chearful day
Dispers'd the hideous gloom;
But dank and noisome vapours play
Around the wretched room.

And adders, snakes, and toads therein,
As afterwards was known,
Long in this loathsome vault had bin,
And were to monsters grown.

Into this foul and fearful place,
The fair one innocent
Was cast, before her lady's face;
Her malice to content.

This maid no sooner enter'd is,
But strait, alas! she hears
The toads to croak, and snakes to hiss:
Then grievously she fears.

Soon from their holes the vipers creep,
And fiercely her assail;
Which makes the damsel sorely weep,
And her sad fate bewail.

With her fair hands she strives in vain
Her body to defend:
With shrieks and cries she doth complain,
But all is to no end.

A servant listning near the door,
Struck with her doleful noise,
Strait ran his lady to implore;
But she'll not hear his voice.

With bleeding heart he goes agen
To mark the maiden's groans;
And plainly hears within the den,
How she herself bemoans.

Again he to his lady hies
With all the haste he may;
She into furious passion flies,
And orders him away.

Still back again does he return
To hear her tender cries;
The virgin now had ceas'd to mourn,
Which fill'd him with surprize.

In grief, and horror, and affright,
He listens at the walls;
But finding all was silent quite,
He to his lady calls.

"Too sure, O lady," now quoth he,
"Your cruelty hath sped;
Make hast, for shame, and come and see;
I fear the virgin's dead."

She starts to hear her sudden fate,
And does with torches run;
But all her haste was now too late,
For death his worst had done.

The door being open'd, strait they found
The virgin stretch'd along;
Two dreadful snakes had wrapt her round,
Which her to death had stung.

One round her legs, her thighs, her waist,
Had twin'd his fatal wreath;
The other close her neck embrac'd,
And stopt her gentle breath.

The snakes, being from her body thrust,
Their bellies were so filled,
That with excess of blood they burst,
Thus with their prey were kill'd.

The wicked lady, at this sight,
With horror straight ran mad;
So raving dy'd, as was most right,
'Cause she no pity had.

Let me advise you, ladies all,
Of jealousy beware:
It causeth many a one to fall,
And is the devil's snare.

***

 

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