Percy's Reliques - Constant Penelope.

Constant Penelope.

            The ladies are indebted for the following notable documents to the Pepys Collection, where the original is preserved in black-letter, and is intitled, "A Looking-glass for Ladies, or a Mirrour for Married Women. Tune, Queen Dido, or Troy Town."

WHEN Greeks and Trojans fell at strife,
And lords in armour bright were seen;
When many a gallant lost his life
About fair Hellen, beauty's queen;
Ulysses, general so free,
Did leave his dear Penelope.

When she this wofull news did hear,
That he would to the warrs of Troy;
For grief she shed full many a tear,
At parting from her only joy:
Her ladies all about her came,
To comfort up this Grecian dame.

Ulysses, with a heavy heart,
Unto her then did mildly say,
The time is come that we must part;
My honour calls me hence away;
"Yet in my absence, dearest, be
My constant wife, Penelope."

"Let me no longer live", she sayd,
"Than to my lord I true remain;
My honour shall not be betray'd
Until I see my love again;
For I will ever constant prove,
As is the loyal turtle-dove."

Thus did they part with heavy chear,
And to the ships his way he took;
Her tender eyes dropt many a tear;
Still casting many a longing look:
She saw him on the surges glide,
And unto Neptune thus she cry'd:

"Thou god, whose power is in the deep,
And rulest in the ocean main,
My loving lord in safety keep
Till he return to me again;
That I his person may behold,
To me more precious far than gold."

Then straight the ships with nimble sails
Were all convey'd out of her sight:
Her cruel fate she then bewails,
Since she had lost her hearts delight.
"Now shall my practice be," quoth she,
"True vertue and humility.

"My patience I will put in ure,
My charity I will extend;
Since for my woe there is no cure,
The helpless now I will befriend:
The widow and the fatherless
I will relieve, when in distress."

Thus she continued year by year
In doing good to every one;
Her fame was noised every where,
To young and old the same was known,
That she no company would mind,
Who were to vanity inclin'd.

Mean while Ulysses fought for fame,
'Mongst Trojans hazarding his life;
Young gallants, hearing of her name,
Came flocking for to tempt his wife:
For she was lovely, young, and fair,
No lady might with her compare.

With costly gifts and jewels fine,
They did endeavour her to win;
With banquets and the choicest wine,
For to allure her unto sin:
Most persons were of high degree,
Who courted fair Penelope.

With modesty and comely grace
Their wanton suits she did denye:
No tempting charms could e'er deface
Her dearest husband's memorye;
But constant she would still remain,
Hopeing to see him once again.

Her book her dayly comfort was,
And that she often did peruse;
She seldom looked in her glass;
Powder and paint she ne'er would use.
I wish all ladies were as free
From pride, as was Penelope!

She in her needle took delight,
And likewise in her spinning-wheel;
Her maids about her every night
Did use the distaff, and the reel;
The spiders, that on rafters twine,
Scarce spin a thread more soft and fine.

Sometimes she would bewail the loss
And absence of her dearest love;
Sometimes she thought the seas to cross,
Her fortune on the waves to prove.
"I fear my lord is slain," quoth she,
"He stays so from Penelope."

At length the ten years siege of Troy
Did end; in flames and city burn'd;
And to the Grecians was great joy,
To see the towers to ashes turn'd;
Then came Ulysses home to see
His constant, dear, Penelope.

O blame her not if she was glad,
When she her lord again had seen.
"Thrice-welcome home, my dear," she said,
"A long time absent thou hast been:
The wars shall never more deprive
Me of my lord whilst I'm alive."

Fair ladies all, example take;
And hence a worthy lesson learn,
All youthful follies to forsake,
And vice from virtue to discern:
And let all women strive to be
As constant as Penelope.

 

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