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THERE liv'd in Lombardy, as authors write,
In days of old, a wise and worthy knight;
Of gentle manners, as of generous race,

Blest with much sense, more riches, and some grace:

Yet, led astray by Venus' soft delights,

He scarce could rule some idle appetites:
For long ago, let priests say what they could,
Weak sinful laymen were but flesh and blood.

But in due time, when sixty years were o'er,
He vow'd to lead this vicious life no more;
Whether pure holiness inspir'd his mind,
Or dotage turn'd his brain, is hard to find;
But his high courage prick'd him forth to wed,
And try the pleasures of a lawful bed.
This was his nightly dream, his daily care,
And to the heavenly powers his constant prayer,
Once, ere he died, to taste the blissful life
Of a kind husband and a loving wife.

These thoughts he fortified with reasons still (For none want reasons to confirm their will.) Grave authors say, and witty poets sing, That honest wedlock is a glorious thing:

1 The Marchantes Tale.

But depth of judgment most in him appears
Who wisely weds in his maturer years.

Then let him choose a damsel young and fair,
To bless his age, and bring a worthy heir;

To soothe his cares, and free from noise and strife,
Conduct him gently to the verge of life.
Let sinful bachelors their woes deplore,

Full well they merit all they feel, and more:
Unaw'd by precepts, human or divine,
Like birds and beasts, promiscuously they join;
Nor know to make the present blessing last,
To hope the future, or esteem the past:
But vainly boast the joys they never tried,
And find divulg❜d the secrets they would hide.
The married man may bear his yoke with ease.
Secure at once himself and Heaven to please;
And pass his inoffensive hours away,

In bliss all night, and innocence all day :
Though fortune change, his constant spouse
remains,

Augments his joys, or mitigates his pains.

But what so pure which envious tongues will spare?

Some wicked wits have libell'd all the fair.

With matchless impudence they style a wife
The dear-bought curse, and lawful plague of life;
A bosom serpent, a domestic evil,

A night invasion, and a midday devil.

Let not the wise these slanderous words regard, But curse the bones of every lying bard.

All other goods by fortune's hand are given,
A wife is the peculiar gift of heaven.
Vain fortune's favours, never at a stay,
Like empty shadows, pass, and glide away;
One solid comfort, our eternal wife,
Abundantly supplies us all our life:
This blessing lasts (if those who try say true)
As long as heart can wish-and longer too.
Our grandsire Adam, ere of Eve possest,
Alone, and e’en in Paradise unblest,
With mournful looks the blissful scenes survey'd,
And wander'd in the solitary shade.
The Maker saw, took pity, and bestow'd
Woman, the last, the best reserv'd of God.
A wife! ah gentle deities! can he
That has a wife e'er feel adversity?

Would men but follow what the sex advise,
All things would prosper, all the world grow wise.
'Twas by Rebecca's aid that Jacob won
His father's blessing from an elder son :
Abusive Nabal ow'd his forfeit life

To the wise conduct of a prudent wife :
Heroic Judith, as old Hebrews show,
Preserv'd the Jews, and slew th' Assyrian foe:
At Hester's suit the persecuting sword
Was sheath'd, and Israel liv'd to bless the Lord.
These weighty motives January the sage
Maturely ponder'd in his riper age;

And charm'd with virtuous joys, and sober life,

Would try that christian comfort, call'd a wife.

His friends were summon'd on a point so nice To pass their judgment, and to give advice; But fix'd before, and well resolv'd was he

(As men that ask advice are wont to be).

66

My friends," he cried (and cast a mournful
look

Around the room, and sigh'd before he spoke),
"Beneath the weight of threescore years I bend,
And, worn with cares, am hastening to my end;
How I have liv'd, alas! you know too well,
In worldly follies which I blush to tell;
But gracious heaven has op'd my eyes at last,
With due regret I view my vices past,
And, as the precept of the church decrees,
Will take a wife, and live in holy ease:
But since by counsel all things should be done,
And many heads are wiser still than one;
Choose you for me, who best shall be content
When my desire's approv'd by your consent.
"One caution yet is needful to be told
To guide your choice; this wife must not be
old:

There goes a saying, and 'twas shrewdly said,
Old fish at table, but young flesh in bed.
My soul abhors the tasteless dry embrace
Of a stale virgin with a winter face:
In that cold season love but treats his guest
With beanstraw, and tough forage at the best.
No crafty widows shall approach my bed;
Those are too wise for bachelors to wed.

As subtle clerks by many schools are made,
Twice married dames are mistresses o' th' trade:
But young and tender virgins, rul'd with ease,
We form like wax, and mould them as we please.
"Conceive me, sirs, nor take my sense amiss;
'Tis what concerns my soul's eternal bliss ;
Since if I found no pleasure in my spouse,
As flesh is frail, and who (God help me) knows?
Then should I live in lewd adultery,

And sink downright to Satan when I die:
Or were I curs'd with an unfruitful bed,
The righteous end were lost for which I wed;
To raise up seed to bless the powers above,
And not for pleasure only, or for love.
Think not I dote; 'tis time to take a wife,
When vigorous blood forbids a chaster life :
Those that are blest with store of grace divine,
May live like saints by heaven's consent and mine.
"And since I speak of wedlock, let me say,
(As, thank my stars, in modest truth I may)
My limbs are active, still I'm sound at heart,
And a new vigour springs in every part.
Think not my virtue lost, though time has shed
These reverend honours on my hoary head:
Thus trees are crown'd with blossoms white as snow,
The vital sap then rising from below.

Old as I am, my lusty limbs appear

Like winter greens, that flourish all the year. Now, sirs, you know to what I stand inclin'd, Let every friend with freedom speak his mind."

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