Well and wisely spake the master Of the silver Tuscan talk, Love should laugh at all disaster If with wisdom he would walk. And to you the word is spoken, Ladies, therefore, ponder well; That by every certain token Your true lovers you may tell: Only be ye gentle hearted; Beauty rich and wisdom rare From a gentle spirit parted Earneth hate and causeth care. One there was—no prayers could move her; Listen to the tale they tell; How she scorned a faithful lover, How she came to love him well. Gianetta, Marco's daughter, Lord of many pleasant lands; And she lived by Arno's water, Where the marble city stands. All in Florence she was fairest, Fair and rich exceedingly; Where the dames are of the rarest None so beautiful as she. Courtiers with best beguiling, Praised her black and lustrous eye, Knights for Gianetta's smiling Saddest death would gladdest die. None among them loved her truly; Lightest heart can loudest woo— But to love a lady duly Asketh earnest heart and true; Asketh lover like Frederigo; He alone did love her well, Heir was he of Alberigo, Alberigo of Castel; In the lists with deeds of daring Manfully he did her will; In the hall with gallant bearing Loyally he served her still: Read her eyes and did their meanings Long before her lip had stirred, Treasured all her lightest leanings, Noted every careless word, Till his little wealth was vanished, And his thoughtful cheek was pale; Then at last the fear he banished, And he told his loving tale. Spake she then, "I know you fearless, "And I do believe you true; "But my heart is free and careless, "And indeed I love not you." Sadly then he shook the bridle, Sadly spurred his charger thence;— Oh! they sting from the heart's idol, Words of calm indifference. Half a league from Marco's palace Sadly lived he summers three, Full of love and free of malice, Bearing bitter poverty. Bearing life too sad and sorry, But for one poor falcon's love; Swifter never stooped at quarry, Better never came to glove. Where the swan was up and flying She could fetch him from the sky, When the swan lay torn and dying, Patiently she waited by. So it fell—the lady's brother Sickened even to the death; And she loved him more than other, Loved him better than her breath; Thus she sat where he was lying, Talking gentle woman-talk, Sudden spake he, deeply sighing, "Fetch me Frederigo's hawk; "For her quick and merry playing "Bringeth back the smile to me; "Sister mine, make no delaying— "He would give his blood to thee." Oh! it shamed her to be seeking Help of him in time of need, But the sick boy's eager speaking Won her spirit to the deed. At her lover's door alighted Blushing doubtfully she stands; He, beyond compare delighted, Kneeling kissed his lady's hands: She to find him loving-hearted Wondering exceedingly, Sayeth, "For the days departed, I am come to sup with thee." To the largest room he leadeth, Bringeth of his fruits the best; But alas! his cottage needeth Banquet meet for Lady-guest. Even as he pondered weeping, Weeping bitterly, I wist, From the sky his falcon sweeping, Perched upon his master's wrist. Fair she was, and glossy-feathered, Sleek and fat, with shining crest; On his cheek the big tear gathered With the purpose of his breast. Spake he then: "Beyond denying, "Best of birds that ever flew, "Living serv'dst thou well, and dying "Better service thou shalt do." So for one who loved him never Slew he what had loved him well: Gianetta silent ever Feasted till the sunlight fell; Then in accent faint and broken Told him all her brother's wish— Nothing hath the lover spoken, Only points he to the dish. All at once the silken lashes Droop and quiver on her eyes, All at once her fair cheek flashes, Flashes red with glad surprise. Thrice and once her lips were parted, Thrice and once she strove to speak; Sudden from her seat she started, And she kissed him on the cheek, Kissed him fearlessly, and faltered: "Oh! if thou canst pardon me, "If the old love lives unaltered, "Thus—and thus—I pay it thee."
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