King Oberon, and the Pygmies tall and stout,
Did go to war; the cause was just no doubt,
For Pygmy king, out of his kingdom brought
His people, and another kingdom sought.
Like Goths and Vandals, they did range about 5
With force, to find another kingdom out.
At last into the Fairy land they went,
For to that fertile place their hearts were bent.
“This is the place,” said they, “where pleasures flow,
And where delight, like flow’rs on banks, doth grow.. 10
Here let us pitch, and try if fortune will
Join with our courage, all our foes to kill.”
Then on they went, and plundered everywhere;
The Fairies all ran crying in great fear,
And fire on all their beacons placèd high, 15
Which warning is to give, when danger’s nigh.
Whereat King Ob’ron a great war prepared,
Which made his queen and all his court afeared;
His council grave and wise he straight did call,
Which came with formal busy faces all, 20
Where everyone did speak their mind full free,
Disputing much; at last all did agree:
“In war,” said they, “’tis better that we die,
Than to be slaves unto our enemy.”
Then said the King, “an Army we must raise, 25
In which I’ll die,” said he, “or win the bays.”
Straight officers of all degrees were made,
To lead and rule, encourage and persuade,
And thus they mustered all their army stout
To meet their en’my, and to beat them out. 30
Well armed they were, and put in good array,
Which made them fight with courage all that day.
Their trumpets were made of small silver wire,
Calling the horse to charge, or to retire.
These horses for war were grasshoppers large, 35
On which they rode and bravely did discharge.
Their saddles were of a velvet peach skin;
Their bridles were small strings which spiders spin;
Besides, their stirrups, which their feet in stayed,
Of a green rush, round like a ring, were made. 40
Of small cockle-shells their targets were made,
And for their long swords a rosemary blade.
Their flags, colored flowers glorious to see,
Give several sweet smells when flying they be.
And how they were armed, it well did appear: 45
In a bean’s hull, just like a cuirassier.
Their guns were pipes of glass, slender and small;
Their bullets were round seeds to shoot withall.
Their drums of filbert skins were very strong,
And wheaten straws, for sticks to beat thereon. 50
Their van, their rear, their left wing, and their right,
Were placèd so, as they saw good to fight.
Their colors flying, and their drums when beat,
Their trumpets sounding, none sought a retreat.
The forms and files the Pygmies placed themselves 55
Were like in figure unto mussel shells,
To pierce through en’mies, and give way to friends,
The midst being broad, and sharp at the two ends.
But Fairies like a half moon fought, that so
When both ends meet, they might encircle th’foe, 60
Where in the midst King Oberon rode full brave,
For he the honor of this day shall have.
Thus this warrior in armor bright and strong,
As foremost man, his soldiers led along.
Then spake he to them in a temper meek: 65
“These enemies,” said he, “our ruin seek.
Go on all you brave born, and valiant bred,
And fight your enemies till they be dead!
Let not your foes with scorn upbraid your flight,
But let them see you can with courage fight, 70
And teach them what their folly rash hath brought
Upon themselves, when they this kingdom sought.
But O, vain princes, that for glory seek,
Which will not let poor subjects in peace keep.
Foolish ambition sets the world on fire, 75
Which ruins all to compass its desire.
I only fight to keep what is my own,
And not to rob another kingly throne.
But if this quarrel can’t decided be,
I hand to hand will fight my enemy.” 80
With that he sent a herald stout and bold,
Which to King Pygmy he this message told,
Which was, King Ob’ron him a challenge sent,
To save their men, and much blood to prevent,
That they two might a duel fight alone, 85
And let both armies all the while look on.
Then laughed King Pygmy, “What’s your king,” said he,
“That in a duel hopes to conquer me?
I came not here a single strength to try,
A kingdom for to win, or else to die. 90
I prouder am, my subjects’ strength to show,
Where by direction they my skill may know.
Herald, go back, and tell your king from me
He’ll know my strength when pris’ner he shall be.”
Then spake he to his men in voice full high: 95
“Here’s none,” said he, “I hope this day will fly.
You know, my soldiers, we came here to fight
Not from ambition, or through envy’s spite,
But we by famine, with a meager face,
Were sent about to seek a fertile place. 100
Then here’s a land which needs not be manured,
And we are people not to work inured,
For we by nature no great pains can take,
Nor by our sweat a livelihood out make.
For who would live in pain, or grief, or care, 105
And always of their goods would stand in fear?
Who lives in trouble is not very wise,
Since in the grave there do no troubles rise.
Then let us fight e’en for sweet pleasure’s sake,
Or let us die, that we no care may take.” 110
Thus did the kings their soldiers’ courage raise,
And in orations did their valor praise.
Then did they both in order, rank, and file
Prepare themselves each other for to spoil.
Their horses stout, whereon they rode i’th’field, 115
Would die under their burthen, but not yield.
In caprioles those grasshoppers did move,
By which their riders’ skill they soon would prove.
Some think for war it is an air unfit,
Whose motion swift lets not the rider fight 120
Or take his turns, and vantages to have,
Unless by leaping high himself can save.
But they do err, for in some case ’tis good,
Though not in all, if truly understood.
What’s in the world that’s to all use employed, 125
But at some times and seasons is denied?
Fire and water, which are the life of all,
Can only serve in their due time and call.
So some may say this air of horsemanship
Is good, hills of dead men to overleap. 130
For if that they go low upon the ground,
Where dead men, horse, and arms are strewèd round,
Or else in heaps they lie, like to a wall,
The horse will stumble with the man, and fall.
Thus horses of manège, taught in measure, 135
Many do think are only fit for pleasure
And not for war, where no use for them is,
As though their rules did make them go amiss.
But they’re mistaken, for like men they’re taught,
For to obey their rider as they ought: 140
To stop, to go, to leap, to run, and yet
Obey the heel, the hand, the wand, the bit.
Beside, they’re taught their passions to abate,
Not to be resty with fear, anger, hate,
And by applause, great courage they have got, 145
That they dare go upon a cannon shot.
Not that they senseless into dangers run,
For horses cowardly danger do shun,
And are so full of fears as they will shake,
And will not go, which proves their hearts do quake. 150
Besides, all airs in war are very fit,
As curvets, demi-voltes, and pirouette,
And going back, and forward, turning round,
Sideways, both high and low upon the ground.
Sometimes in a large circle compass take, 155
And then with art, a lesser circle make.
But horses that unlearned are in this way,
May march straight forth, or in one place may stay.
So men, when they do fight, having no skill,
May venture life, but few may chance to kill. 160
For ’tis not blows and thrusts which do the feat,
Or going forward, or by a retreat;
Man must the center be, his sword the line,
His feet his compass, with his strength to join.
These are the arts for horse, and men of war, 165
Unless with stratagems they think to scare,
Which shows more wit than courage in the field;
So ’tis to run away, or else to yield.
But here the bodies of each army’s knit
So close, as skin unto the flesh doth sit. 170
No stratagems were used to have men slain,
But they did fight upon an open plain.
For those that use slight stratagems in wars
No fighters are, but cruel murderers.
Nor is it bravely done, as some think ’tis, 175
For every petty thief has skill in this.
Nay, thieves more courage in their actions show,
Who if their plots do fail must die, they know.
Warriors’ designs found out, they do not care,
Because no hanging for that act they fear. 180
They’ll say ’tis different, thus foes to use,
For thieves by their deceit their friends abuse.
But ’tis not so, for cozenage is the thief,
And of that order generals are the chief.
Fighting’s the soldier’s trade, not to entrap, 185
Nor, like the fox, with craft the prey t’entrap,
But kill or pursue with swords in their hands,
Without any fraud or treacherous bands.
Just so fought these brave valiant cavaliers,
As it by their unhappy end appears, 190
For they did join, and fierce together fight,
Which was to all a lamentable sight.
Some lay upon the ground, without a head,
Others did gasping lie, but not quite dead.
Their groans were heard, and cries of several notes; 195
Some ruttling lay, with thick blood in their throats.
Here a headpiece lay, there a corslet thrown,
Bodies so mangled that none could be known.
Rivers of blood like to a full high tide,
Or like a sea where shipwrecked bodies died. 200
And their laborious breaths such mists did raise
It made a cloud, which darkened the sun’s rays.
With several noises that rebounded far,
Armies of echoes were heard in the air.
Here bodies hid with smoke, smothered, lay dead, 205
While formless sounds were in the air outspread.
Thus were they earnest and active in their fight,
As if to kill or die were a delight.
Here beasts and men both in their blood lay mashed,
As if a French cook had them minced and hashed, 210
Or did their blood unto a jelly boil
That he might make a bouillon of the spoil,
For Nature’s table several dishes brings,
By her directions in transforming things.
At last the Pygmies found themselves quite spent, 215
And of their war begun now to repent,
Which made their king, though little, yet at length
To call to Oberon king to try his strength:
“Let’s here,” said he, “our skill and fortunes try,
To conquer one, or both in graves to lie.” 220
“Content,” said Oberon king. “Though most unjust
You have yourself into my kingdom thrust,
Yet will I not refuse this offer bold,
And if I live, this day will sacred hold.”
Then like two lions fallen out for prey, 225
Encountered they, not yielding any way.
Their bright sharp swords with motion quick did fly,
Like subtle lightning in each other’s eye.
King Pygmy, he was strong, two handfuls tall,
But Oberon king was low, and very small. 230
Yet was he dextrous in his skillful art,
And by that means struck Pygmy near the heart,
Whose blood ran warm and trickling down his side,
That where he stood, the grass was purple dyed.
Then leaning on his sword, as out of breath, 235
Said he to Ob’ron, “I have got my death.”
Grew faint, then sinking on the ground did lie,
Finding his soul would from his body fly,
Saying, “King Ob’ron, pray do mercy show,
And let my army freely from you go. 240
And those that here lie slain, pray let them have
Just rites in burial, and their bones i’th’grave,
That their free souls in quiet peace may sleep,
And for this act the gods your fame will keep.
I care nor grieve not for my own sad fall, 245
But for my subjects that are ruined all.”
And in a deep-fetched sigh, and hollow groan,
His soul went forth unto a place unknown.
When that his soldiers heard their king was dead,
Their hearts did fail, yet none of them there fled, 250
But to him ran, like shuttles in a loom,
And with their bodies did his corpse entomb.
For through their loyal breast they dug their grave,
Because their king a monument should have.
So all did die; no story yet hath shown 255
That ever any Pygmies more were known.
Then did their wives with sighs lament their falls,
And with their tears did strew their funerals;
Those tears did mix with blood upon the ground,
Where rubies since hath in the Earth been found. 260
Their bodies moist to vapor rarified,
And now in clouds do near the sun reside.
When they their grief unto remembrance call,
Those sullen clouds in show’ring tears do fall.
Their sighs are winds, that do blow here and there, 265
And all their bodies transmigrated are.
Unhappy battle! to destroy a race
That on the earth deserved the chiefest place,
For they were valiant, and did love their king,
Without dispute obeyed in everything. 270
Nature did pity much their fortune sad;
They by her favor a remembrance had,
For she their bones did turn to marble white,
Of which are statues carved for man’s delight,
And in some places are as gods adored, 275
Where superstition idols doth afford.
But Oberon king there built a temple high,
In which he Fortune’s name did magnify.