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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]

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King John having for a long time Courted the Fair Matilda, Daughter to the Lord Fitzwater, and she still refusing to listen to his unlawful Love; he banishes her Father and Friends, persecutes her Family, and she flies for Safety to a Nunnery in Essex, at Dunmow; where she takes the Veil: And the King writes to her, and invites her to Court. What Success his Letter met with, may be seen in her Answer.

King John to Matilda.

Start not, my fair, when you my Letters view,
There's nothing in 'em feignd, and nothing new.
What different ways to win thee I have try'd?
How often woo'd, and been as oft deny'd?


To thee as to a Goddess I have pray'd,
And constant Worship at thy Altars paid.
But thou wert deaf, and ne're wouldst Deign to hear
A Monarch's Vows, nor listen to his Pray'r.
My Arts have been in vain, in vain my Sighs,
These cou'd not move thee, nor cou'd those surprize.
Oft have my Eyes confest my Am'rous Pain,
And meeting thine, they ever met Disdain.
Yet, fond of Ruin, still I gaze on thine,
Nor dread the pointed Rays they dart at mine.
We blush'd, and sigh'd, but different Passions prove,
You sigh'd and blush'd for Hate, as I for Love.
When my Tongue fail'd, my Tears their Want supply'd,
And when I cou'd nor weep, nor speak, I Sigh'd.
This, tho' you always shun it, you must see,
And sure wou'd pity any Wretch but Me.
To love condemn'd, to wish and to despair,
'Tis a King's Fate, and well is worth your Care.


A Thousand Beauties, in thy Face I see,
A Thousand Graces, only found in thee.
My Fancy to distinguish 'em perplext,
This minute this prefers, and that the next.
Both in another Excellence I loose,
And where 'tis all Perfection cannot Choose.
Thy Eyes, while I behold their awful Rays,
Command superior to the rest my Praise.
With Force unequal they dispute the Sway,
Whom, as we yield to Tyrants, we obey.
Thy Cheeks to tempt my Wandring Glance expose
The Smiles, the Lily, and the blushing Rose.
Thy Lips, that rising to my Kisses, swell,
Wou'd every Grace, if I might kiss, excell.
My Judgment's by their balmy Sweets betray'd,
And as thy Eyes commanded, they persuade.
Greedy of gazing, I Increase desire,
As often as I look, I fan the raging Fire:


As often as I view thy shining Hair,
The Brown, methinks, is better than the Fair.
So Beautiful, in Thee, the Black appears,
Thy rowling Eyes seem brighter than the Stars.
Nor Snow, nor Ivory, nor Cygnets Down
Can with thy Teeth compare, no Whiteness with thy own.
Where e're on thee our ravish'd Eyes we move,
'Tis Charming all, Astonishment and Love.
In Nature there is nothing can dispence
So many Sweets to Pleasure ev'ry Sense,
On Thee, these Wonders are but ill bestow'd,
Which only humble Us, and make thee Proud.
In vain was Nature at this mighty Cost,
Her Treasure's are on thee, Ungrateful, lost.
Such Beauty was not for a Cell design'd
Nor wer't thou made so fair to be confin'd.
When Old and Ugly, Heav'n your Sex allows
To cover our Contempt with solemn Vows


The Young, the Fair, We better can employ
To bless the World, and give her Masters Joy.
Curst be The Priests, who wou'd our Nymphs immure,
To have 'em to themselves the more secure!
Unhappy Those, who on their Zeal depend;
Devotion's their Pretence, but Lust their End.
Happy the Ages, when the Saints were kind,
And Godly Men, with Godly Women joyn'd.
No Superstition did their Joys molest;
They saw, they lik'd, and, if they cou'd, possest.
'Twas thus they did their sacred Hours improve,
And all their boasted Charity was Love.
The Priests were then contented with their share,
And late pretended to engross the Fair.
Meek then and poor, they to their Faith were just,
None dreaded then their Pow'r, nor fear'd their Lust:
Now, they our Daughters, and our Lands possess,
And, as their Wealth, their Vices too increase.


Where're they aim to conquer, they prevail,
And every sordid Monk has his Serrail.
For this what Monarch wou'd not quit his Crown,
And lay the weighty Load of Empire down,
In Plenty, Luxury, and Ease to live,
And riot on the Alms which Sinners give.
Hence—with these Signs of Royalty and Pow'r,
The Globe, the Scepter shall be mine no more;
Matilda to the Cloyster I'll pursue,
Prevent her Vows, or be a Vot'ry too.
To her I'll still address my earnest Pray'r,
Nor kneel to any other Saint, but her.
Wait on her Mattin and her Evening Song,
The most officious of the pious Throng.
My fervent Zeal may melt her frozen Breast,
And she may loath the King, yet like the Priest.
Your Holy Meaning I perhaps mistake,
To think you leave us, for your Lovers sake,
To know how for to serve you I wou'd go,
Or what my Passion wou'd, to gain you, do.


Yet this I fondly fancy you have done,
And but to try me, wou'd profess a Nun.
That Thou, my Beauteous Sister, may'st confine
Thy Brother to thy self, for ever thine:
That thus, unenvy'd Pleasures we may tast
And thou, by being only mine, be chast:
Such are Lovers, if they constant prove,
And Women never sin, unless they Rove.
The rest is pardon'd, as the Sex is Frail,
Or else Ye Powers! Have mercy on the Vail.
For oft the jolly Monk with Holy Leer,
Disturbs the Virgin, and confounds her Pray'r.
Declares his wish in his Lascivious look
And Ogles more the Sisters than his Book.
If for their Sins they absolution gain,
'Tis on Condition, they shall Sin again.
All creatures were Created with desire,
And but to charm the Fair, we to be great aspire.
Of these, who most to Innocence pretend,
We fear, what e're they promise, most Offend.


Such houses by our Fathers were design'd,
Not for the best, and Fairest of their kind.
But as their Hospitals, at first were made
To nurse the Poor, the Sickly and Decay'd.
So here the Old, the Crooked, and the Lame,
To these shou'd be remov'd, to hide their shame.
If the wise Author of the Realms of light
Had meant to keep his Wonders from our sight.
The golden Sun had ne're adorn'd the Spheres,
Nor Night been Painted with the shineing Stars.
A horrid Darkness, then had been our Doom,
And Man still wander'd in a frightful Gloom.
Feinds are Imprison'd in the burning Deep,
In Holes and Caves, the noxious Vermin creep.
While purest things Illustrious appear
And what's most eminent, is still most fair.
Our Mother earth, a mournful Widow lives
Impatient of her absent Lord, she grieves
And life from the returning Sun receives.


Her bridal Robes, in Triumph then she wears,
Fogets her winter Sighs and fruitless Tears.
With open Arms, the lusty Bridegroom meets
The Woods, the Winds, diffuse their Vernal Sweets.
And Philomel, again her Notes repeats.
The Forrest Oak erects, his lofty Head
The Nymphs, the Shepherds, on the flowry Mead
With Songs and Dances, bless the Genial Bed.
This, cruel Hypocrite! you oft have seen,
And well you know the Mystick sense, and what their Frolicks mean.
Faithful and Chast, you see the cooing Dove,
Bill by her Mate, and Tempt him on to Love.
The Phænix, said by fame to be but one,
May boast her Chastity, because alone.
A different Sex had Nature made 'em Two
You'd hear they Love, as much as others do.
The flames, in which 'tis Fabled, she expires,
Are her vain Wishes, and her hot Desires.


Thus may all suffer, who affect to Hate,
The Joys of loving, and be this their Fate
To covet to possess 'em, when too late.
Was there but one, of all thy Sex so young,
So fair as thou, who cou'd resist so long.
'Twou'd then convince me, I have been to blame,
And Womans Virtue's something more than Name.
The glories of a Court, if thou hadst seen,
What 'tis to be, or to be like a Queen.
What more cou'd charm Thee, than to hear the Great,
Adore thy Beauty and admire thy Wit!
The Pomp, the Splendour of a Princes Train,
All that can please the Youthful and the Vain.
States-men and Heroes, kneeling at thy Shrine,
And thy least Title, then wou'd be divine.
Is not this better than a loathsom Cell,
Than Penance, Vespers, or the Morning Bell?


To this Insensible thou must Confess,
'Tis want of Knowledge, makes thee think it less.
As such who have been coursly Bred, prefer,
To the Court delicates, their homely Fare.
No more, Matilda! by thy Pride abus'd,
Let the King Woo, to be again refus'd.
Pitty thy Self, thy Kindred, and thy Friends,
For all their Happiness, on thine depends.
The Ills, thy Cruelty have caus'd Deplore.
Thy Friends, thy Father to his House Restore,
None can my anger, like thy Pride condemn,
'Twas love to Thee, and not my Hate to them.
On thee with Justice, they'll their Curses shou'r,
Their Honours and their Lives, are in thy Pow'r
For a Court leave the Cloyster and the Grate,
A Prince attends thee, and a better Fate.
At the blest change, thou wilt not long Repine,
For all that I can give Thee, shall be thine.


Matilda to King John.

As Criminals condemn'd, the Warrant dread
Which brings their Fate, so I your Letter read.
Nor askt from whom the hated Message came
But guest the Business, e're I saw your Name.
With Horror, I beheld the guilty Page,
And every Line I read, I blush'd with Rage.
You work your rich Invention to contrive,
New ways, new Plagues, to make me hate to Live?
Absence, the best defence against Desire,
E're this I hop'd wou'd quench your lawless Fire.
For rarely such a Passion, long endures,
Or Vertue daunts it, or Oblivion cures.
But what we covet most, we seldom get.
And what endeavour to avoid, we meet.


Your Paper blotted by your sin appear'd,
Which had I not dispis'd, I shou'd have fear'd.
A just Resentment, urg'd me to proceed,
Nor then resolv'd to Answer what I Read.
Tho' Writing, may your Future hopes prevent,
And Silence be mis-taken for Consent;
Besides, 'tis Natural for this Desease,
If suffer'd or neglected to Encrease.
Our Sex, no Flattery in this shou'd use,
But what is askt with Shame, with Pride refuse.
This to inform you, I attempt to Write,
What Fear, Resentment, and disdain Indite.
By Passion conquer'd, if the Stile is course,
Your Letter merits, cou'd I write it worse.
What shall I say, that may my Wrongs contain,
I can to none, but you and Heav'n, complain?
My Words I find will never reach my Sense,
And my Cause suffer by my weak Defence.
To whom shall I Address for help below,
My Sov'reign is my Judge, my Judge, my Foe.


Ev'n now while pleading at his Bar I stand,
Confusion seizes both my Heart and Hand.
I dread his Smiles, I tremble at his Frown,
And Kind or Cruel, am alike undone.
I Raze, I Write, and fear the dubious Page,
Is fram'd too softly to express my Rage?
I mourn, I rave, and in this changeful State,
Have nothing certain in my Soul, but Hate.
Distracted by my Sorrow, if you find,
A tender Word, 'tis what I ne're design'd.
'Tis the meer weakness of your sick Conceit,
Which makes my little Beauty seem so great?
Things are thus alter'd in a troubled Stream,
If Crooked strait, if strait they Crooked seem;
Thus fancy the dissembled Object showes,
And Judgment is deceiv'd in what it knowes.
As in a Mirrour, if the Glass is true,
Such as your real likeness, such are you;
But if you change your Form, it changes there,
And shewes you as you are, not as you were.


Like you the Shade reflected seems to move,
If frowns or smiles, like you, and such is Love.
What Man's so vain to fancy he may find,
A Body perfect, or a perfect Mind?
Observe the Beauty, nicely or the Saint,
And both will something of Perfection want.
'Tis a known truth, that Beauty like the Will,
In all is various and Imperfect Still.
A little diff'rence will the likeness change,
And make the most familiar Features strange.
Compare two Faces, and you'll find with ease,
In this what pleases, do's in that displease?
What Maid of such disputed Charms wou'd boast
So late Discover'd and so quickly Lost,
Who wou'd be proud of an uncertain Grace,
Which makes one fair, and spoils another Face.
How can this Madness o're your Sex prevail,
To doat on what's as doubtful as tis Frail.
When Glory calls for all your Youthful fire,
To wast it in Fruihon or Desire;


To languish at our Feet, Lament and Sigh,
To Pine, to Sicken, and perhaps to Die.
Those who the Damsells cruelty survive,
To look like Sots, and scarce be said to live?
Was Man created Lord of all for this,
To work, and in our Ruin place his Bliss.
You Tempt, and Truth eternal Falcely swear,
You promise mighty things, but pay in Air.
If with your wicked Will, I cou'd comply
Your Self wou'd soon repent as well as I?
Grown weary by Possession, you'd begin,
To loath my weakness, and abhor the Sin.
Then nor your Riches, nor your Sovereign Pow'r
My Virgin Peace, nor Honour cou'd restore.
By you, my Father and my Friends are sent,
To Prison, and unworthy Panishment.
Whom to my Heart are dearest, you remove,
My Friends, My Father, yet pretend to love.
A Virgin Widow, I by you am made,
A helpless Orphan e're my Father's dead.


Your Lust unbridled has these Ills produc'd,
And now you pitty those you have abus'd.
A Feign'd concern for what is past, you shew
And yet, we all to your injustice owe.
Thus the sly Monsters of the Wood beguile,
Their headless Prey, and while they kill 'em smile.
The Basilisk, with Poyson'd glances kills,
The Crocodile her fraudful Tears distills.
Unwary Passengers, they thus decoy,
And fawn on those, they purpose to destroy?
Thus cover'd with the Rose, the Serpent stings,
And from the Rock, the tempting Mermaid sings.
But by misfortune, and Experience wise,
I know your Cunning, and your Arts despise.
How cou'd Sicilian Tyrants Torture more,
Again to wound me, whom you Rack'd before.
I better cou'd my Fathers Wrongs endure,
And my Friends trouble, were my Peace secure?


If you to Persecute me, wou'd forbear,
Or I had nothing, from your Lust to fear.
If Love's your Passion, your Address is strange,
Love works with Tenderness, and not Revenge.
All mild and gentle, 't has been still describ'd.
Nor shou'd our Sex be threaten'd, but be Brib'd
If Pray'rs, Rewards, and constant Service fail,
Severity and Threats, will ne're prevail?
Oh! With what glory do's that Monarch Reign,
Whose Fame, no Vices, nor Jnjustice stain
How happy are his Subjects in his sway.
With Zeal they love him, and with Pride obey.
Here to be safe, from your Assaults I flew,
But cannot fly, as fast as you persue.
Where shall a Maid, to be secure, Retreat,
Since thus reclus'd, my Danger is as great?
If from you Suit, I must be never free,
The Court and Cloyster, are alike to Me.
Nor Bolts, nor Grates, a Monarch can exclude,
When Tyranny and Lust, enflame his Blood.


Poets with utmost Eloquence have strove,
To hide the Guilt, and shew the charms of Love.
The Lewd, the Wanton, are enroll'd by Fame,
She paints their Beauties, and she hides their Shame.
The Muses sung, the Fountains wept for these,
And Thracian Orphus, drew the dancing Trees.
The finest Colours on their Sins they plac'd,
Which they ne'er nam'd, or if they nam'd 'em Grac'd?
So kind the Muses, to their Sex have been,
That hardly Incest was allow'd a Sin:
The worst were punish'd in their Fables least
They change their Forms, but ever for the best.
Myrrha, tho' teeming with Incestuous love,
To Myrrh is chang'd, and now Perfumes the Grove.
Byblis at once, a Son and Brother bears,
Yet all her Pennance are her Chrystal Tears.
Sylla, who Flies about with painted Wings
For the same Treason in the Forrest sings.


Another and a better Form she wears.
Some now are Goddesses, and some are Stars.
The Vertuous are among the worthless plac'd,
As if 'twere then, a scandal to be Chast.
The Virgin ever was the Poets fool,
An Awkard thing, insensible and dull.
The Lash of Satyr, she has always born,
Or never nam'd, or never, but with Scorn.
The Face which you pretend so much to Praise,
Wou'd more your Pitty, than your wonder raise.
My Beauty little at the best is past,
By Grief 'tis Wrinkled, or by time defac'd.
It suits with the Condition, I have sworn,
And what you valu'd once, you now wou'd scorn.
The World Renounc'd, shall be my care no more,
I loath its Pleasures, and its Pride abhor.
My Vail to all its Splendours, I prefer,
Heav'n is my aim, and all my hopes are there.
If thus, unhappy Rosamund had done,
Kept to her Vow, and liv'd like me a Nun.


With glory she had dy'd, as she had liv'd,
And Age had ended, what Revenge contriv'd.
From Guilt and Fear, she had alike been free,
And loath'd the Sin, as you are loath'd by Me.
Her Fame had been as spotless as her Face,
Her Life in Innocence, her Death in Peace.
To hide the shame is in the Pow'r of Kings,
But who can give us ease, when Conscience Stings?
That Judge severely do's our Faults reprove,
And Witnesses of all to Him above.
If my old Father, bending to the Grave,
By shameful Exile, wou'd my Honour save.
While, and Content, he sees his Towns destroy'd
His Foes possessing what he late enjoy'd?
Shall I despise his Lessons, and disgrace,
His own great Actions, and his noble Race?
Shall the rich Treausure, which so much has cost,
Be so soon Lavish'd, and so lighty lost.


No—His last Words too deep Impression made,
Too much his Tears, too much his Sighs persuade;
Think—And he then Embrac'd me—Think he Cri'd.
For thee, how much I wou'd, and have deny'd.
Never! Oh never with the King Comply,
But rather than forget thy Honour, die.
Yes! Cruel Tyrant, Death is my Defence,
No Pow'r shall force, nor Promise draw me hence
My Friends, my Father to their Rights restore,
'Tis all I ever askt, who ne're will ask thee more.