Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
The Wrestling Match
By Thomas Lodge (15581625)
BUT leaving him (Rosader) so desirous of the journey: (turn we) to Torismond the king of France, who, having by force banished Gerismond their lawful king that lived as an outlaw in the Forest of Arden, sought now by all means to keep the French busied with all sports that might breed their content. Amongst the rest he had appointed this solemn tournament, whereunto he in most solemn manner resorted, accompanied with the twelve peers of France, who rather for fear than love graced him with the show of their dutiful favours; to feed their eyes, and to make the beholders pleased with the sight of most rare and glistering objects, he had appointed his own daughter Alinda to be there, and the fair Rosalynde daughter unto Gerismond, with all the beautiful damosels that were famous for their features in all France. Thus in that place did Love and War triumph in a sympathy: for such as were martial, might use their lance to be renowned for the excellence of their chivalry; and such as were amorous, might glut themselves with gazing on the beauties of most heavenly creatures. As every mans eye had his several survey, and fancy was partial in their looks, yet all in general applauded the admirable riches that Nature bestowed on the face of Rosalynde; for upon her cheeks there seemed a battle between the Graces, who should bestow most favours to make her excellent. The blush that gloried Luna when she kissed the shepherd on the hills of Latmos was not tainted with such a pleasant dye, as the vermilion flourished on the silver hue of Rosalyndes countenance; her eyes were like those lamps that make the wealthy covert of the heavens more gorgeous, sparkling favour and disdain; courteous and yet coy, as if in them Venus had placed all her amorets, and Diana all her chastity. The trammels of her hair, folded in a caul of gold, so far surpassed the burnished glister of the metal, as the sun doth the meanest star in brightness: the tresses that fold in the brows of Apollo were not half so rich to the sight; for in her hair it seemed love had laid herself in ambush, to entrap the proudest eye that durst gaze upon their excellence: what should I need to decipher her particular beauties, when by the censure of all she was the paragon of all earthly perfection. This Rosalynde sat, I say, with Alinda as a beholder of these sports, and made the cavaliers crack their lances with more courage: many deeds of knighthood that day were performed, and many prizes were given according to their several deserts: at last when the tournament ceased, the wrestling began; and the Norman presented himself as a challenger against all comers; but he looked like Hercules when he advanced himself against Acheloüs, so that the fury of his countenance amazed all that durst attempt to encounter with him in any deed of activity: till at last a lusty Franklin of the country came with two tall men that were his sons, of good lineaments and comely personage: the eldest of these, doing his obeisance to the king, entered the list and presented himself to the Norman, who straight coapt with him, and as a man that would triumph in the glory of his strength, roused himself with such fury, that not only he gave him the fall, but killed him with the weight of his corpulent personage: which the younger brother seeing, leapt presently into the place, and thirsty after the revenge, assailed the Norman with such valour, that at the first encounter he brought him to his knees; which repulsed so the Norman, that recovering himself, fear of disgrace doubling his strength, he stepped so sternly to the young Franklin, that taking him up in his arms he threw him against the ground so violently, that he broke his neck, and so ended his days with his brother. At this unlooked for massacre, the people murmured, and were all in a deep passion of pity. But the Franklin, father unto these, never changed his countenance; but as a man of a courageous resolution, took up the bodies of his sons without any show of outward discontent. All this while stood Rosader and saw this tragedy; who, noting the undoubted virtue of the Franklins mind, alighted off from his horse, and presently sat down on the grass, and commanded his boy to pull off his boots, making him ready to try the strength of this champion. Being furnished as he would, he clapped the Franklin on the shoulder and said thus: Bold yeoman, whose sons have ended the term of their years with honour, for that I see thou scornest fortune with patience, and twhartest1 the injury of fate with content, in brooking the death of thy sons; stand awhile and either see me make a third in their tragedy, or else revenge their fall with an honourable triumph. The Franklin, seeing so goodly a gentleman to give him such courteous comfort, gave him hearty thanks, with promise to pray for his happy success. With that, Rosader vailed bonnet to the king, and lightly leapt within the lists, where, noting more the company than the combatant, he cast his eye upon the troop of ladies that glistered there like the stars of heaven, but at last Love, willing to make him as amorous as he was valiant, presented him with the sight of Rosalynde, whose admirable beauty so inveigled the eye of Rosader that, forgetting himself, he stood and fed his looks on the favour of Rosalyndes face, which she perceiving, blushed: which was such a doubling of her beauteous excellence, that the bashful red of Aurora at the sight of unacquainted Phaeton was not half so glorious. The Norman, seeing this young gentleman fettered in the looks of the ladies, drave him out of his memento with a shake by the shoulder: Rosader looking back with an angry frown, as if he had been awakened from some pleasant dream, discovered to all, by the fury of his countenance, that he was a man of some high thoughts. But when they all noted his youth, and the sweetness of his visage, with a general applause of favours, they grieved that so goodly a young man should venture in so base an action; but seeing it were to his dishonour to hinder him from his enterprize, they wished him to be graced with the palm of victory. After Rosader was thus called out of his memento by the Norman, he roughly clapt to him with so fierce an encounter, that they both fell to the ground, and with the violence of the fall were forced to breathe; in which space the Norman called to mind by all tokens, that this was he whom Sadadyne had appointed him to kill; which conjecture made him stretch every limb, and try every sinew, that working his death, he might recover the gold which so bountifully was promised him. On the contrary part, Rosader while he breathed was not idle, but still cast his eye upon Rosalynde, who to encourage him with a favour, lent him such an amorous look, as might have made the most coward desperate; which glance of Rosalynde so fired the passionate desires of Rosader, that turning to the Norman he ran upon him and braved him with a strong encounter; the Norman received him as valiantly, that there was a sore combat, hard to judge on whose side fortune would be prodigal. At last Rosader, calling to mind the beauty of his new mistress, the fame of his fathers honours, and the disgrace that should fall to his house by his misfortune, roused himself and threw the Norman against the ground, falling upon his chest with so willing a weight, that the Norman yielded Nature her due, and Rosader the victory. The death of this champion, as it highly contented the Franklin as a man satisfied with revenge, so it drew the king and all the peers into a great admiration, that so young years and so beautiful a personage, should contain such martial excellence: but when they knew him to be the youngest son of Sir John of Bordeaux, the king rose from his seat and embraced him, and the peers entreated him with all favourable courtesy, commending both his valour and his virtues, wishing him to go forward in such haughty deeds, that he might attain to the glory of his fathers honourable fortunes. As the king and lords graced him with embracing, so the ladies favoured him with their looks, especially Rosalynde, whom the beauty and valour of Rosader had already touched; but she accounted love a toy, and fancy a momentary passion, that as it was taken in with a gaze, might be shaken off with a wink; and therefore feared not to dally in the flame, and to make Rosader know she affected him, took from her neck a jewel, and sent it by a page to the young gentleman. The prize that Venus gave to Paris was not half so pleasing to the Trojan, as this gem was to Rosader; for if fortune had sworn to make him sole monarch of the world, he would rather have refused such dignity, than have lost the jewel sent him by Rosalynde.