University of Virginia Library

Search this document 
Amores Britannici

Epistles Historical and Gallant, In English Heroic Verse: From several of The Most Illustrious Personages of their Times. In Imitation of the Heroidum Epistolae of Ovid. With Notes explaining the Most Material Passages in every History [by John Oldmixon]

expand sectionI. 
collapse sectionII. 
expand sectionIII. 



King Henry the Second kept Rosamund the Daughter of the Lord Clifford as his Mistriss. His Sons having rebell'd and invaded Normandy, the King was obliged to go against 'em; and fearing the Jealousie of his Queen Elinor might be fatal to the beauteous Rosamund in his absence, he built a Labyrinth for her in Woodstock-Park, where she cou'd be safe, tho' at a little distance from the Palace. His Mistris's Letter and the King's Answer are the Argument of the two following Epistles.

Rosamund to King Henry the Second.

If (Mighty Henry!) Thou canst deign to see
This, the last trouble thou'lt receive from me,
In ev'ry word my Sorrow will appear,
In ev'ry Line my Shame and my Despair.


Yet by my Love, but I the Name shall stain,
By our past Joys, and by my future Pain,
Think, I conjure thee, of my helpless State,
And if for Love you cannot, read for Hate.
Here thou may'st triumph or'e a vanquisht Maid,
And glory in the Ruins thou hast made;
Here feast thy Eyes, and in this hateful Scroul
Behold the sad Resemblance of my Soul.
My Virgin Soul, which er'e 'twas stain'd by thee
Was white, like this, er'e sully'd thus by me.
My Thought, My Wish, of all Offence were clear
And the whole Volume of my Life was fair,
Till thy rude Hands the beauteous Page defil'd,
And left me, like this blotted Paper, soil'd.
What by this Conquest cou'dst thou hope to win?
The Spoil, alas! is yours, and yours the Sin.
Why on my Name this Scandal did'st thou bring?
Why with thy Deeds must my Dishonour ring?
Fame never meddles with the mean and poor,
The more our Greatness is, our Fault's the more.


A Light wou'd little on the Ground appear,
Which mounted in the Air wou'd seem a Star.
Why on my Sexes Weakness did'st thou play,
And make my Honour to thy Lust a Prey?
How dearly have you bought the lawless Bliss?
Your Infamy and Mine are both the Price.
Yet my Soul ne'r consented to this Ill,
Nor was I once transported by my Will;
For tho' by Force my Body has been thine,
Heav'n knows I never would my Heart resign.
Had I an Object worthy of me seen,
My Lover youthful like my Love had been.
True Love is simple like his Mother Truth,
Love only kindly when 'tis Youth with Youth:
Nothing more odious to our blooming Years
Than the white Frost of winter-blasted Hairs.
The Reins of Time no Sov'reign Pow'r can hold,
Swift is his Course, and Monarchs must be Old
Tho' Honour our ambitious Sex may please,
Age ev'n in Honour is a foul Disease.


This Nature deals and Death alike to all,
And Kings and Men are equal in their Fall.
This to the World will aggravate my Shame,
They'll say, she sold her yet untainted Fame;
Gold was the Fuel to her wanton Fire,
What Charm has Age to kindle young Desire?
No; the curst Woman whom thy Presents won
Was the vile Cause that I was thus undone.
The Circe she by whose Enchantment charm'd
A Monster I became, by Guilt transform'd:
A Wretch, the base Betrayer of her Kind,
Plague of my Peace and Poyson of my Mind.
May Want and Sickness be on Earth her Doom,
And Torment endless in the Life to come.
Say, Henry, how can I be dear to thee,
When thou so odious art become to me?
My hapless Name with thine I lately found
Cut deeply in the Glass, a guilty Wound!
Fain from its place I would the Glass remove,
But fear the Air will then betray my Love.


Again I fain wou'd wash it out with Tears,
And still more eminent thy Name appears:
To cover it, in vain, my Hand I laid,
The Diamond witnesses to what it made.
Thus Conscience with repeated Terrors stings;
But Conscience is a Womans Dream to Kings.
Time wears out other Griefs and dries our Tears,
And Shame alone increases with our Years.
Oft for Diversion in our Towr's I ly
To see, in private, such as travel by;
Those spy me thro' the Walls and curse my Sin,
The Walls, methinks, confess the Wretch within:
The Matrons rail at my abandon'd Life,
To wrong the fairest Queen and chastest Wife;
The Maids already wish me in my Tomb,
And scarce have Patience till my Hour is come;
As from Infection they my Dwelling sly,
And think the Fields polluted which are nigh.
Well did you know a Monster I shou'd be,
When first this Labyrinth was built for me;


Whose dark Mæanders, as they various wind,
Are the true Image of my wandring Mind.
The Clew that leads me out, conducts me in,
And in a Circle thus I walk in Sin.
My Woman in your Gallery I met,
Around with Beauties and with Heroes set;
Of the fair Pictures that were hanging by
Lucretia dying seiz'd her wondring Eye.
Ah! who (she curious askt) so Young and Fair
Commits this latest Action of Despair?
A Roman Lady (I reply'd in hast)
Her Name, which scarce I cou'd pronounce, was Chast;
So like her Story and unlike my own,
I blush'd to tell it out, and wish'd it done.
Of my own Weakness, and her Wit afraid,
I soon dismiss'd the too-enquiring Maid.
In this it only differs from Lucrece,
My Wrong's as famous, but my Courage less.


My Vertue forc'd that had been often try'd,
Like her I suffer'd and shou'd thus have dy'd,
By Fear provok'd, or by the Virgins Rage,
The Lily in her Cheeks and Rose engage:
By turns they both the beauteous Field possess,
And now the Red is more, and now 'tis less.
Thus in my Bosom diff'rent Passions move,
Love yields to Guilt, and often Guilt to Love.
Again Remorse usurps her Tyrant-Reign,
And tho I dream of Ease, I wake in Pain.
When the Sun hastning to the Western Main
Lengthens the Shadows and imbrowns the Plain,
Oft by a neighb'ring Rivulet I stand
Which wanders thro' our Meads on Golden Sand:
There in the Crystal Stream I throw my Bait,
The Fish are jealous of the fair Deceit;
At Distance on the proffer'd Feast they look,
Play near the Line, yet still avoid the Hook;
Senseless themselves, by Nature they are taught,
They catch if they but touch, and dye if caught.


By Nature much, by Reason more secur'd,
I soon was tempted, and thy Bait devour'd.
My Name that once was honest to the Ear,
None but the Wicked and Unchast will bear.
The Glories of our House no more will shine,
No more the Ancient Honours of our Line;
Clifford no more a spotless Fame can boast,
In me their Vertue and their Pride are lost:
My Kindred Blood they will disown with Scorn,
And urge I was a spurious Issue born:
Pure from their Spring the purple Current came,
Till I polluted first the generous Stream.
Amid my Garden wrought by artful Hands
Diana naked in a Fountain stands;
The quiver'd Goddess troops of Nymphs surround,
Defend the sight, and guard the hallow'd Ground.
As where Acteon once in Ambush laid,
With impious Eyes survey'd th' Immortal Maid,
For this he dy'd, for this his Hounds pursue
The Hunter, Stag, and him that fed 'em slew.


From my own Thoughts I thus attempt to fly
By them I'm still pursu'd, and of their Wounds shall die.
When in our Lawns the Dew I gently sweep,
The Flow'rs, the tender Herb, I fancy, weep:
Each Sigh of Wind I hear, each Drop I see,
Thus Guilt deceives me, is, I think, for me.
I find no Help, no Hope, where'r I go,
But Scenes of new Despair and constant Woe,
In the fair Cabinet of wondrous Cost
Thy treach'rous Gift e'r I my Honour lost.
Amymone was wrought, a harmless Maid,
By Neptune, an adult'rous God, betray'd,
Who prostrate at his Feet implores in vain,
With lifted Hands, the Tyrant of the Main.
The God was blind, like Henry, to her Tears,
Deaf to her Sighs, and heedless of her Pray'rs:
My Fate in hers was eminently shown,
I see the Meaning now, but am undone.


Here too (alas! too late I see it now)
The Love of Jove chang'd Io to a Cow;
With Argus hundred Eyes the Fair was kept,
Who always wak'd with some, and scarce with others slept:
Thus watch'd by sovereign Juno's high Decree;
And Elinor's as wise, as fierce as she.
In this, my future Ills I might have seen,
And still been guiltless to thy injur'd Queen.
In this thou well hast imitated Jove,
Since to a Beast thou hast transform'd thy Love,
Worse far than any of the forked Kind;
A Monster both in Body and in Mind.
My sickly Tapers give a doubtful Light,
Burn dim in Clouds of Mist, and mock my Sight,
As if my Breath was poys'nous to the Flame,
And Light fled from me as it flies from Shame:
The dreadful Minute then I call to Mind,
When with blue Rays the dying Tapers shin'd,


As at the presence of a rising Ghost,
When the dear Treasure of my Youth I lost.
If thro' the Glass the Stars by chance appear,
I dread their Silver Beams, and shrink with Fear,
Since all this Horror then to thee belongs,
Take, Take my Life, and rid me of my Wrongs:
A Plot contrive that I by Law may bleed,
Lay Treason to my Charge, I'll own the Deed,
My Life's a Blemish to thy Glorious Name,
My Death again will make thee dear to Fame.
In mercy, Henry, hear my latest Pray'r,
View my Distress, and pity my Despair.
This truest Act of Friendship let me prove,
As I've been always faithful in my Love.


King Henry II. to Rosamund.

What Message wou'd most welcome be to thee,
Such was thy Letter, such thy Friend to me.
Such Pleasure, when I heard thy Name, I found,
And eccho'd thro' the Camp the joyful Sound,
How is it with my Rosamund, I cry'd?
Again I askt, the Man again reply'd.
Yet still to ask him I had something new,
Still fond of knowing more, the more I knew.
How fares it with my Mistress, quickly tell,
Say, is she living, is she safe and well?
The Seal, impatient of Delay, I tore,
And read with Tears the doubtful Pages or'e:
Nor cou'd I there thy Meaning oft perceive,
Or, if I ought to joy, or if to grieve.
So much thy Love was mingled with Despair,
It less increas'd my Quiet than my Care.


What Reason has my Rosamund to mourn,
Or what to wish for, but her Lords return?
Tho' neither Me, nor my Return she wants,
Why else this Anger, these unkind Complaints?
Why is my Passion and my Service blam'd,
And why am I with Sighs and Sorrow nam'd?
Is this the Comfort I must hope to find,
Is Love become the Burthen of her Mind?
How can she wrong what all esteem so Fair,
Or what we see so Bright to Blots compare?
Whose Beauties in such full Perfections shine,
The Morn might veil her Orient Face at thin
Enough of other Troubles I have known,
As well to win as to defend the Throne:
Enough been punish'd by domestick Strife;
In Sons rebellious and a jealous Wife:
Ev'n now against their Father they declare,
And urge my People to dishonest War:
While forein Laurels crown my ancient Brows,
They raze my Palaces and waste my House.


Against me Rome seditious Libels spreads,
And thunders Curses on my Subjects Heads.
A Son ingrate revolted from his Sire
Invades the Norman Lands with Sword and Fire.
Expos'd to Dangers thus where-e'r I come,
Attack'd by Foes abroad, betray'd at home,
Old Age and Jealousie, the Vice of Years,
This sinks my Mind, and that my Body wears.
Despairing of Relief in my Distress,
Since those increase it who shou'd make it less;
No Beam of Joy but in my Love I see,
No Pleasure in my mighty Griefs but thee.
In thee I taste the soft Delights of Peace,
And, rack'd with Pain and Sorrow, dream of Ease:
This only Blessing why should they refuse,
Or I the Privilege of Subjects lose?
The meanest Wretch is in his Lass allow'd,
Nor Love forbidden to the servile Crowd.


The Peasant, when his daily Task is done,
Hugs his brown Nymph, and thinks the World his own.
Hard Fate! If Kings Prerogative destroys
Their Right to Love which every Slave enjoys:
Hard, if they must their Peoples Burthens bear,
And not their Portion of their Pleasures share.
Let my Son war, and let the Realms rebel,
Let Rome condemn me to the Depths of Hell;
Let me be curs'd, abandon'd, and exil'd,
By such, as once ador'd me, be revil'd;
Let Elinor rage, yet while my Love is safe,
I'll scorn their Pow'r, and at their Fury laugh.
I fear no Ill while Rosamund is mine,
Nor at the worst of Fortune will repine.
Fortune is hers and on her Eyes she waits,
And what she pleases to decree is Fate's.
Were I grown feeble, were my Wishes cold,
Did my Heart fail me, thou might'st think me Old;


With ease I manage still the prancing Steed,
And the fierce Squadrons to the Combat lead;
By Night I sleep contented on the Ground,
I start at no Fatigue and fear no Wound;
Nor Heats nor Colds my supple Joints can wrong,
And I'm, in all things, but Remembrance, Young.
Yet had my Age confin'd me to my Bed,
Had Care and Sickness sunk my drooping Head,
So pow'rful are thy Charms, so sweet thy Strains,
'Twould fill with active Blood my wither'd Veins:
Nor need'st thou like Medea search the Meads,
The Mountains and the Woods for Magick Weeds:
Her poys'nous Simples mixt with human Gore
And Serpents Seed did Æson's Youth restore:
A Word from thee to animate excels
Her Drugs, her Philters, and Infernal Spells;
A Glance of thine wou'd in an Hour restore
What numerous Winters had destroy'd before.
My pondrous Arms with Pleasure still I bear
And wave the dreadful Sword and massy Spear;


So much thy looks our vital Spirits chear
As the Earth smiles at the returning Year.
When with new force the Sun his Beams displays.
And Nature pregnates with the Genial rays;
On the green Boughs, the Birds their Spousals sing,
And Winter flies before the rising Spring
Again, the Flow'rs the painted Field adorn
The Loves, the Graces, and the Smiles return.
Thus from thy Eyes, new Vigour we receive
Grow, Young and Gay, and other Ages live.
Who thinks of thee, can know no other Care,
No Grief disturb his Breast, if thou art there;
No Toil, no Danger can his Courage daunt,
He flourishes in War and thrives in Want.
No more the Guiltless for the Guilty blame,
Mine was the Sin, and mine must be the Shame.
Yet who so rashly wou'd the Fault reprove,
Who think, 'tis shameful for a King to love?


It's Virgin-Purity thy Soul retains.
It loses nothing, tho thy Lover gains.
We judge his Actions by thy Mans intent.
None can offend without their own Consent.
And when a Prince commands you to comply,
'Tis less a Sin to grant than to deny.
Is my Name odious, I'll my Name forget,
And hate the King, if thou the King dost hate.
Tho Henry once was no ungrateful sound,
Nor did it when 'twas oft repeated, wound.
But since 't has lost its Musick and its Grace,
Let your Pen blot it, and your Fingers rase.
When from thy Tow'rs the Passengers afar
Behold my Mistress shining like a Star.
Why shou'dst thou fancy, they look up in Spite,
Or call that Malice which is their Delight.
They gaze with Rapture and with Wonder see
Another Sun, another Heaven in thee.
The Crystal stream which thro' the Meadow glides
With pleasure finds thee by his Flowry sides;


He swells his little Waves in wanton play,
And fain to view thee in his course wou'd stay.
Fain wou'd he kiss thy lovely Feet and tries,
In vain to touch thee, and departing sighs.
He murmurs at the Channsel which contains
His wandring Current, and in Tears complains.
The Fish by nature of the Bait beware,
Yet leap at thine, and think no danger there.
They see thy Image in the silver Brook,
And dazled with thy Beauty catch the Hook.
As on the Bank thou sitst, the trembling Deer
Dance sportive round thee and forget to fear.
Thee, the bright Nymph by whom the tuneful throng
Shall paint their Goddesses, and grace their Song.
Thee, the kind Theme which future Bards shall choose,
To be at once their Subject and their Muse.
Thy Name shall be the Musick of their Groves,
Their Virgins in thy Name shall tell their Loves.


Thee shall the Chanters of the Forrest sing,
By Eccho taught to welcome in the Spring.
The Infant hanging on his Mothers Breast,
Shall at thy Name be husht and lull'd to rest,
For such as in thy kind excell thy Name,
Shall hence be Glorious, and to wear it fame
Where e're you tread, the springing Flo'wrs appear.
And with their od'rous Breath perfume the Air;
'Tis their own loss, and not your fault they moan
That you no sooner touch 'em, but are gone,
The Weeds most noxious, if they kiss your Feet
Lose their Infection, and from thence are sweet.
Did Jove or Neptune, whom they lov'd deceive,
And whom enjoy'd, to ruin others leave?
Were I O, or Amimone like thee,
Shou'dst thou compare the Perjur'd Gods to me?
Were whom they ruin'd, like my Mistress Fair,
Or like her Lover, were the Gods sincere?


Fear not the Queen. Be in thy Bour secure.
For only Vaughan knows the secret Door.
If Elnors Argus has an hundred Eyes,
Mine has a thousand to defend his Prize.
Had she the Malice of the Wife of Jove
Had she her Pow'r, yet I wou'd save my Love.
Who, in my absence will to hurt thee dare,
Whom the King loves, and who's a Monarchs care.
Why art unwilling that the Stars shou'd shine,
Why hate the brightness, which resembles thine?
Oh when I meditate on past Delights
And the high Raptures of our blissful Nights,
When the whole Beauty I at once Survey'd
And saw the Blushes of the yeilding Maid.
I bless their paler Glories, and can pay,
No future Worship to the Hateful day.
And now the Trumpet sounding from afar,
Proclaims the Signal of approaching War.
The Squadrons shouting thro' the Camp I hear
And Rosamund repeated, Rends the Air.


Amid the hotest of the Fight I feel
Thy Grief more peircing than the pointed Steel.
My care of thee, my other cares destroys
And Vict'ry yeids to more delicious Joyes.
For Conquest is not to my Heart so dear
Nor to my Eyes in all her Pomp so fair.
Woodstock, the Garden of the fruitful West,
Be blest in her, in whom the King is blest.
Nor Roman Villa, nor Companian Field
Cou'd more delight, nor richer Prospects yield.
For thee, I Pardon her ungrateful Race,
The shame of Oxford, and the Realms disgrace.
Poor in their Fortunes, in their Morals loose,
And false and hated, as the scattred Jews.
Had these been tempted, as the Jews were try'd
Their God had been betray'd, and here had dy'd.
Dull, Proud, Deceitful, Ignorant and Base,
A wicked People in a lovely Place.
Oft in her silent unfrequented Groves,
My Rosamund, and I have told our Loves.


Oft on her little Hills have chac'd the Faun.
And walkt in Evening shade the flowry Lawn.
Beneath a spreading Oak we oft wou'd lie,
And see the little River wander by.
Thou my fair Nymph, and I thy amorous Swain,
Thus happy then we liv'd, and thus may live again.
Tho' by hard Fate, my Body still is here,
My Soul with thee, my better part is there.