« PreviousContinue »
To this sweet place, in summer's sultry heat, It was not long ere January came,
He turn'd the key, and made the gate secure.
“ Here let us walk," he said, " obscrv'd by none; The duteo's knight in this fair garden sped. Conscious of pleasures to the world unknown:
But, ah! what mortal lives of bliss secure? So may my soul have joy, as thou, my wife,
And sought no treasure but thy heart alone.
Old as I am, and now deprio'd of sight,
The rage of jealousy then seiz'd his mind, Each other loss with patience I can bcar,
“ Consider then, ny lady, and my wife,
My whole estate shall gratify your love: For, oh, 'twas fix'd, she must possess or die ! Make your own terms, and ere to-morrow's Sun Nor less impatience vex'd her amorous squire, Displays his light, by Heaven, it shall be done. Wild with delay, and burning with desire.
I seal the contract with a holy kiss, Watch'd as she was, yet could he not refrain And will perform, by this—my dear, and this By secret writing to disclose bis pain :
Ilave confort, spouse, nor think thy lord unkind; The damne hy signs reveal'd her kind intent, 'Tis love, not jealousy, that fires my mind. Till both were conscious what each other meant. For when thy charms my sober thoughts engage,
Ah, gentle knight, what could thy eyes avail, And join’d to them my own unequal age, Though they could see as far as ships can sail? From thy dear side I have no power to part, "Tis better, sure, when blind, deceiv'd to be, Such secret transports warm my inelting heart. Than be deluded when a man can see!
For wbo, that once possess'd those heavenly charms, Argus himseif, so cautious and so wise,
Could live one moment absent from thy arms ?” Was over-watch'd, for all his hundred eyes :
He ceas'd, and May with modest grace reply'd, So many an honest husband inay, 'tis known, (Weak was her voice, as while she spoke she cry'd) Who, wisely, never thinks the case his own. “Heaven knows" (with thata tender sigh she drew) The dame at last, by diligence and care,
“ I have a soul to save as well as you ; Procur'd the key her knight was wont to bear; And, what no less you to my charge commend, She took the wards in wax before the tire,
My dearest honour, will to death defend. And gave th' impression to the trusty squire. To you in boly church I gave my hand, By means of this, some wonder shall appear, And join'd iny heart in wedlock's sacred band : Which, in due place and season, you may hear. Yet, after this, if you distrust iny care,
Well sung sweet Ovid, in the days of yore, Then hear, my lord, and witness what I swcar. What slight is that, which love will not explore? “ First may the yawning Farth her bosom rend, And Pyrainus and Thisbe plainly sbow
And let me hence to Hell alive descend ; The feats true lovers, when they list, can do: Or die the death I dread no less than llell, Though watch'd and captive, yet in spite of all, Sew'd in a sack, and plung'd into a well; They found the art of kissing through a wall. Ere I iny fame by one lewd act disgrace,
But now no longer froin our tale to stray ; Or once renounce the bonour of my race: It happ'd, that once upon a summer's day, For know, sir Knight, of gentle blood I came; Our reverend knight was urg'd to amurous play: I loath a wl orr, and startle at the nalne. He rais'd his spousé ere matin-bell was rung, But jealous men on their own crimes reflect, And thuy his morning ca ticle he sung.
And learn from hence their ladies to suspect : “ Awake, ny love, disclose thy radiant eyes ; Else why these needless cautions, sir, to me? Arise, my wife, iny beautious lady, rise! These doubts and fears of female constancy! Hear how the doves with pensive notes complain, This chime still rings in every lady's car, And in soft murmurs tell the trees their pain : The only strain a wife must hope to hear." The winter's past ; the clouds and tempests fly ; Thus while she spoke, a sidelong glance she cast, The Sun adorns the fields, and brightens all the sky. Where Damian, kneeling, worship'd as she past. Fair without spot, whose every charming part she saw him watch the motions of her rye, My losom wounds, and captivatis my heart, And singled out a pear-tree planted vigh: Core, and in mutual pleasures let's engage, "Twas charg'd with fruit that ma'e a goodly show, Joy of my life, and comfort of my age.”
And hung with dangling pears was every bough. This heard, to Damjan sraight a sign she made, Thit!er th' obsequious squire address'd his pace, To haste before; the gentle squire obey'd : And, climbing, in the summit took his place ; Secret, and undu'scry'd, he took his way,
The knight and lady walk'd beneath in view, And awbush'd close behind an arbour lay. Where let us leave them, and our tale pursue.
'Twas now the season when the glorious Sun By this no more was meant, than to have shown, His heavenly progress through the twins had run; That sovereign goodness dwells
in him alone And Jore, exalted, his mild influence yields, Who only is, and is but only One. To glad the glebe, and paint the flowery fields. But grant the worst ; shall wornen then be weigh'd Clear was the day, and Phæbus, rising bright, By every word that Solomon has said ? Had streak'd the azure firmament with light; What though this king (as ancient story boaste) He pierc'd the glittering clouds with golden streams, Built a fair temple to the Lord of Hosts ; And warm'd the womb of Earth with genial beams. He ceas'd at last his Maker to adore, It so befel, in that fair morning-tide,
And did as much for idol gods, or more. The fairies sported on the garden-side,
Beware what lavish praises you confer And in the midst their monarch and his bride. On a rank leacher and idulater ; So featly tripp'd the light-foot ladies round, Whose reign, indulgent God, says holy writ, The knights so nimbly o'er the greensword bound, Did but for David's righteous sake permit; That scarce they bent the flowers, or touch'd the | David, the monarch after Heaven's own miad, The dances ended, all the fairy train (ground. Who lov'd our sex, and honour'd all our kind. For pinks and daisies search'd the flowery plain; “ Well, I'm a wonan, and as such must speak; While, on a bank reclind of rising green,
Silence would swell me, and my heart would break. Thus, with a frown, the king bespoke his quccn. Know then, I scorn your dull authorities,
“ 'Tis too apparent, argue what you can, Your idle wits, and all their learned lies. The treachery you women use to man:
By Heaven, those authors are our sex's foes, A thousand authors have this truth made out, Whom, in our right, I must and will oppose. And sad experience leaves no room for doubt.
Nay” (quoth the king)“ dear madam, be not “ Heaven rest thy spirit, noble Solomon, I yield it up; but since I gave my oath, [wroth: A wiser monarch never saw the Sun;
That this inuch-injur'd knight again should see, All wealth, all honours, the suprem• degree It must be done-I am a king,” said he, Of earthly bliss, was well bestow'd on thee! “And one, whose faith has ever sacred been." For sagely hast thou said : Of all mankind, "And so has inine” (she said)—“I am a queen: One only just and righteous hope to find :
Her answer she shall have, I undertake; But shouldst thou search the spacious world around, And thus an end of all dispute I makc. Yet one good woman is not to be found.'
Try when you list; and you shall find, my lord, “Thus says the king, who knew your wickedness: It is not in our sex to break our word.” The son of Sirach testifies no less.
We leave them here in this heroic strain, So may some wildfire on your bodies fall,
And to the knight our story turns again; Or some devouring plague consume you all. Who in the garden, with his lovely May, As well you view the leacher in the tree,
Sung merrier than the cuckow or the jay : And well this honourable knight you see :
This was his song ; “Oh, kind and constant be; But since he's blind and old (a helpless case), “ Constant and kind I'll ever prove to thee." His squire shall cuckold him before your face. Thus singing as he went, at last he drew
“ Nox, by my own dread inajesty I swear, By easy steps, to where the pear-tree grew : And by this awful sceptre which I bear,
The longing dame look'd up, and spy'd her love No impious wretch shall 'scape unpunish'd long, Full fairly perch'd among the boughs above. That in any presence offers such a wrong.
She stopp'd, and sighing : “Oh, good gods!” she I will this instant undeceive the knight,
cry'd, And in the very act restore his signt;
“What pangs, what sudden shoots, distend my sidel And set the strumpet here in open view,
O for that tempting fruit, so fresh, so green ; A warning to these ladies, and to you,
Help, for the love of Heaven's immortal queen And all the faithless sex, for ever to be true.” Help, dearest lord, and we at once the life
“And will you so," reply'd the queen, " indeed? Of thy poor infant, and tuy longing wife !" Now, by my mother's soul it is decreed,
Sore sigh'd the knight to hear his lady's cry, She shall not want an answer at her need.
But could not climb, and had no servant nigh : For her, and for her daughters, I'll engage, Old as be was, and void of eye-sight too, And all the sex in each succeeding age!
What could, alas! a helpless husband do? Art shall be theirs, to varnish an offence,
“ And must I languish then," she said, “and die, And fortify their crime with confidence.
Yet view the lovely fruit before iny eye? Nay, were they taken in a strict embrace,
At least, kind sir, for Charity's sweet sake, Sect with both eyes, and pinion’d on the place; Vouchsafe the trunk between your arms to takes All they shall need is to protest and swear, Then from your back I might ascend the tree; Breathe a soft sigh, and drop a tender tear! Do you but stoop, and leave the rest to me." Till their wise husbands, gull'd by arts like these, With all my soul," he thus reply'd again, Grow gentle, tractable, and taine as geese. “I'd spend my dearest blood to ease thy pain."
“What though this slanderous Jew, this Sulomon, With that, his back against the trunk he bent, Cailld woinen fools, and knew full many a one ; She seiz'd a twig, and ap the tree she went. The wiser wits of later tiines declare,
Now prove your patience, gentle ladies all! How constant, chaste, and «irtuous, women are : Nor let on me your heavy anger fall: Witness the martyrs, who resign'd the r breath, ”Tis truth I tell, though not in phrase refin'd; Seri·ne in torments, unconcern'd in death ; Though blunt my tale, yet honest is my ininde Apil witness next what Roman authors tell, Wbat feats the lady in the trec might do, How Arria, Portia, and Lucretia fdl.
I pass, as gambols never known to you; “ But, since the sacred leaves to all are free, But sure it was a mercier fit, she swore, And men interpret texts, why should not we? Than in her life she ever felt before.
In that nice moment, lo! the wondering knight Thuis ends our tale; whose moral next to make, Look'd out, and stood restor'd to sudden sight. Let all wise husbands hence example take; Straight on the tree his eager eyes he bent, And pray, to crown the pleasure of their lives, As one whose thonghts were on his spouse intent; To be so well deluded by their wives. But when he saw his bosom-wife so dress'd, His rage was such as cannot be expressid: Not frantic mothers when their infants die, With louder clamours rend the vaulted sky:
THE WIFE OF BATH, He cry'd, he roar'd, he storm'd, he tore his hair; “Death! Hell ! and Furies ! what dost thou do there?”
HER PROLOGUE, FROM CHAUCER. “What ails my Lord ?" the trembling dame reply'd; | Berold the woes of matrimonial life, “ I thought your patience had been better tryd : And hear with reverence an experienc'd wife ! Is this your love, ungrateful and unkind,
To dear-bought wisdom give the credit due, This my reward for having cur'd the blind ?
And think, for once, a woman tells you true Why was I taught to make my husband see, In all these trials I have borne a part, By struggling with a man upon a tree?
I was myself the scourge that cans'd the smart; Did I for this the power of magic prove?
For, since fifteen, in triumph have I led Unhappy wife, whose crime was too much love !" Five captive husbands from the church to bed.
“ If this be struggling, by this holy light, Christ saw a wedding once, the Scripture says, Tisstruggling with avengeance” (quoth the knight): | And saw but one, 'tis thought, in all his days; “ So Heaven preserve the sight it has restor'd, Whence some infer, whose conscience is too nice, As with these eyes I plainly saw thee whor'd; No pious Christian ought to marry twice. Whord by my slave-perfidious wretch! may Hell But let them read, and solve me, if they can. As surely seize thee, as I saw too well !”. The words address'd to the Samaritan :
Guard me, good angels !” cry'd the gentle May, five times ini lawful wedlock she was join'd; “Pray Heaven, this magic work the proper way! And sure the certain stint was ne'er defin'd. Alas, my love ! 'tis certain, could you see,
“Encrease and multiply," was Heaven's com You ne'er had us'd these killing words to me:
mand, So help me, Fates, as 'tis no perfect sight, And that's a text I clearly understand. But some faint glimmering of a doubtful light." This too, “Let men their sires and mothers leave,
“What I have said" (quoth he)“ I must maintain, And to their dearer wives for ever cleave." For by th' immortal powers it seem'd too plain" | More wives than one by Solomon were try'd, "By all those powers,some frenzyseiz'd your mind” | Or else the wisest of mankind's bely'd. (Reply'd the dame): “are these the thanks I find ? I've had myself full many a merry fit ; Wretch that I am, that e'er I was so kind !" And trust in Heaven, I may have many yet, She said ; a rising sigh express'd her woe,
For when my transitory spouse, unkind, The ready tears apace began to flow,
Shall die, and leave his woeful wife bebind, And, as they fell, she wip'd from either eye I'll take the next good Christian I can find. The drops (for women when they list, can cry). Paul, knowing one could never serve our turn,
The knight was touch'd, and in his looks appeard Declard 'twas better far to wed than burn. Signs of remorse, while thus his spouse he cheerd: There's danger in assembling fire and tow;
Madam, 'tis past, and my short anger o'er; 1 grant them that, and what it means you know Come down, and vex your tender heart no more : The same apostle too has elsewhere own's, Excuse me, dear, if aught amiss was said, No precept for virginity he found : Por, on my soul, amends shall soon be made: ' is but a counsel and we women still Let my repentance your forgiveness draw,
Take which we like, the counsel, or our will By Heaven, I swore br. what I thought I saw." I enty not their bliss, if he or she
“Ah, my lov'd lord ! 'twas much unkind” (she Think fit to live in perfect chastity; * On bare suspicion thus to treat your bride. [cry'd) | Pure let them be, and free from taint of vice; But, till your sight's establish'd for a while, I, for a few slight spots, am not so nice. Imperfect objects may your sense beguile.
Heaven calls us different ways, on these bestows, Thus when from sleep we first our eyes display, One proper gift, another grants to those : The balls are wounded with the piercing ray, Not every man's oblig'd to sell his store, And dusky vapours rise, and intercept the day. And give up all his substance to the poor ; So, just recovering from the shades of night, Such as are perfect may, I can't deny ; Your swimming eyes are drunk with sudden light, But, by your leaves, divines, so am not I. Strange phantoms dance around, and skim before Full many a saint, since first the world began your sight:
Liv'd an unspotted maid, in spite of man : Then, sir, be cantious, nor too rashly deem : Let such (a-God's naine) with fine wheat be fed, Heaven knows how seldom things are what they | And let us honest wives eat barley bread. Consult your reason, and you soon shall find (seem! For me, I'll keep the post assign'd by Hearen, "Twas you were jealous, not your wife unkind : And use the copious talent it has given : Jove ne'er spoke oracle more true than this, Let my good spouse pay tribute, do me right, done judge so wrong as those who think amniss." And keep an equal reckoning every night.
With that she leap'd into her lord's embrace, His proper body is not his, but mine With well-dissembled virtue in her face.
For so said Paul, and Paul's a sound divine. He hugg'd her close, and kiss'd her o'er and o'er, Know then, of those five husbands I have had, Disturb'd with doubts and jealousies no more : Three were just tolerable, two
ere bad. Both, pleas'd and bless'd, renew'd their mutual vows, The three were old, but rich and fond beside, A fruitful wife, and a believing spouse.
And toil'd most piteously to please their bride :
But since their wealth (the best they had) was minė, , If you had wit, you'd say, 'Go where you will, The rest, without much loss, I could resign. Dear spouse, I credit not the tales they tell : Sure to be lov'd, I took no pains to please,
Take all the freedoms of a married life; Yet had more pleasure far than they had ease. I know thee for a virtuous, faithful wife.'
Presents flow'd in apace: with showers of gold, “Lord! when you have enough, what need you They made their court, like Jupiter of old. How merrily soever others fare?
[care If I but smild, a sudden youth they found, Though all the day I give and take delight, And a new palsy seiz'd then when I frown'd. Doubt not, sufficient will be left at night.
Ye sovereign wives! give eat and understand, "Tis but a just and rational desire, Thus shall ye speak, and exercise command. To light a taper at a neighbour's fire. For never was it given to mortal mar,
“There's danger too, you think, in rich array, To lie so boldly as we women can :
And none can long be modest that are gay. Forswear the fact, though seen with both his eyes, The cat, if you but singe het tabby skin, And call your maids to witness how he lies. The chimney keeps, arid sits content within ;
“ Hark, old sir Paul!" ('twas thus I us'd to say) But once grown sleek, will from her corner run, “Whence is our neighbour's wife so rich and gay? Sport with hef tail, and wanton in the sun; Treated, caress'd, where'er she's pleas'd to roam She licks her fair tound face, and frisks abroad, I sit in tatters, and immur'd at home.
To show her fur, and to be catterwaw'd.” Why to her house dost thou so oft repair?
Lo thus, iný friends, I wrought to my desires Art thou so ámbrous ? and is she so fair?
These three right ancient venerable sires. If I but see a cousin or a friend,
I told ther, thus you say, and thus you do, Lord! how you swell, and rage like any fiend! And told them false, Lut Jenkin swore 'twas true. But you reel home, á drunken beastly bear, I, like a dog, could bite as well as whine, 'Then preach till midnight in your easy chair ; And first complain’d, whene'er the guilt was mine. Cry, wives are false, and every woman evil, I tax'd them oft with wenching and amours, And give up all that's female to the devil.
When their weak legs scarce dragg'd them out of “ If poor (you say) she drains her husband's And swore the tambles that I took by night, [doors; purse ;
Were all to spy what damsels they hedight. If rich, she keeps her priest, or something worse } That colour bronght me many hours of mirth ; If highly born, intolerably vain,
For all this wit is given us from our birth. Vapours and pride by turns possess her brain, Heaven gave to women the peculiar grace, Now gayly mad, now sourly splenetic ;
To spin, to weep, and cully human race. Freakish when well, and fretful when she's sick. By this nice conduct, and this prudent course, If fair, then chaste she cannot long abide,
By murmuring, wheedling, stratagem, and force, By pressing youth attack'd on every side; I still prevail'd, and would be in the right, If foul, her wealth the lusty lover lures,
Or curtain-lectures made a restless night: Or else her wit some fool-gallant procures, If once my husband's arm was o'er my side, Or else she dances with becoining grace,
What! so fainiliar with your spouse? I cry'do Or shape excuses the defects of face.
I levied first a tax upon liis need :
“ Horses (thou say'st) and asses men may try, Marry who will, our sex is to be sold. And ring suspected vessels ere they buy :
With empty hands no tassels you can lure, But wives, a random choice, untry'd they take; But fulsome love for gain we can endure; They dream in courtship, but in wedlock wake : For gold we love the impotent and old, Then, nor till then, the veil's remov'd away, And heave, and pant, and kiss, and cling, for gold. And all the woman glares in open day.
Yet with embraces, curses oft I mix’d, “ You tell me, to preserve your wife's good grace, Then kiss'd again, and chid, and rail'd betwixt. Your eyes must always languish on my face, Well, I may inake my will in peace, and die, Your tongue with constant Hatteries feed my ear, For not one word in man's arrears am I. And tag each sentence with, My life! my dear! To drop a dear dispute I was umable, If by strange chance, a modest blush be rais'd, Ev'n though the pope bimself had sat at table. Be sure my fine complexion must be prais'd. But when my point was gain'd, then thus I spoke: My garments always must be new and gay, “ Billy, my dear, how sheepishly you look! And feasts still kept upon my wedding-day. Approach, my spouse, and let me kiss thy cheek; Then must my nurse be pleas'd, and farourite Thou shouldst be always thus, resign'd and meek! And endless treats, and endless visits paid, (maid; Of Job's great patience since so oft you preach, To a long train of kindred, friends, allies. Well should you practise, who so well can teach. All this thou say'st, and all thou say'st are lies. 'Tis difficult to do, I must allow,
“ On Jenkin too you cast a squinting eye: But I, my dearest, will instruct you how.
“Why are thy chests all lock'd ? on what design? The wives of all my family have ruld
What! would you have me to yourself alone ?
Would I vouchsafe to sell what Nature gave, Or done a thing that might have cost his life, You little think what custom I could have. She and my niece—and one more worthy wife, But see! I'm all your own-nay hold—for shame; Had known it all: what most he would conceal, What means niy dear--indeed—you are to blame.” To these I made no scruple to reveal.
Thus with my first three lords I past my life; Oft has he blush'd from ear to ear for shame, A very woman, and a very wife.
That e'er he told a secret to his dame. What sums from these old spouses I could raise, It so befel, in holy time of Lent, Procur'd young husbands in my riper days. That oft a day I to this gossip went; Though past iny bloom, not yet decay'd was I, (My husband, thank my stars, was out of town) Wanton and wild, and chatter'd like a pie. From house to house we rambled up and down, In country dances still I bore the bell,
This clerk, inyself, and my guod neighbour Alse, And sung as street as evening Philomel.
To see, be seen, to tell, and gather tales.
At sermons too I shone in scarlet gay ;
The cause was this, I wore it every day. As all true gamesters by experience know. 'Twas when fresh May her early blossoms yields,
But oh, good gods ! whene'er a thought I cast This clerk and I were walking in the fields, On all the joys of youth and beauty past,
We grew so intimate, I can't tell how, To find in pleasures I have had my part,
I pawn'd my honour, and engag'd my vow, Still warms me to the bottom of my heart.
If e'er I laid my husband in his urn, This wicked world was once my dear delight ; That he, and only he, should serve my turn. Now, all my conquests, all my charms, good night! We straight struck hands, the bargain was agreed ; The flour consum'd, the best that now I can, I still have shifts against a time of need : Is e'en to make my market of the bran.
The mouse that always trusts to one poor hole, My fourth dear spouse was not exceeding true; Can never be a mouse of any soul. He kept, 'twas thought, a private miss or two; I vow'd I scarce could sleep since first I knewhim, But all that score I paid-as how ? you'll say, And durst be sworn he had bewitch'd me to him; Not with my body in a filthy way:
If e'er I slept, I dreaind of him alone, But I so dress'd, and danc'd, and drank, and din'd, And dreams foretel, as learned men have shown, And view'd a friend with eyes so very kind, All this I said ; but dreams, sirs, I had none : As stung his heart, and made his marrow fry I follow'd but my crafty crony's lore, With burning rage, and frantic jealousy.
Who bid me tell this lie--and twenty more. His soul, I hope, enjoys eternal glory,
Thus day by day, and month by month we past, For here on Earth I was his purgatory.
It pleas'd the Lord to take my spouse at last. Oft, when his shoe the most severely wrung, I tore my gown, I soil'd my locks with dust, He put on careless airs, and sate and sung. And beat my breasts, as wretched widows-must. How sore I galld him, only Heaven could know, Before my face my handkerchief I spread, And he that felt, and I that caus'd the woe. To hide the flood of tears I did not shed. He dy'd, when last from pilgrimage I came, The good man's coffin to the church was borne ; With other gossips, from Jerusalem ;
Around, the neighbours, and my clerk too, mourn. And now lies buried underneath a rood,
But as he march’d, good gods ! he show'd a pair fair to be seen, and rear'd of honest wood : Of legs and feet, so clean, so strong, so fair! A tomb indeed, sith fewer sculptures gracid Of twenty winters age he seeń'd to be ; Than that Mausolus' pious widow placid,
I (to say truth) was twenty more than he; Or where inshrin'd the great Darius lay;
But vigorous still, a lively buxom dame; But cost on graves is merely thrown away.
And had a wonderous gift to quench a flame. The pit fill'd up, with turf we corer'd o'er;
conjuror once, that deeply could divine, So hlest the good man's soul, I say no more. Assurd me, Mars in Taurus was my sign.
Now for my fifth lov'd lord, the last and best ; As the stars order'd, such my life has been : (Kind Heaven afford him everlasting rest!) Alás, alas, that ever love was sin ! Full hearty was his love, and I can shew
Fair Venus gave me fire and sprightly grace, The tokens on my ribs in black and blue;
And Mars assurance and a dauntless face.
But to my tale: A month scarce pass'd away,
All I possess'd I gave to his coinmand, A glutted market makes provision cheap. My goods and chattels, money, house, and land:
In pure good-will I took this jovial spark, But oft repented, and repent it still ; Of Oxford he, a most egregious clerk.
He prov'd a rebel to my sovereign will: He boarded with a widow in the town,
Nay once, by licaven, he struck me on the face; A trusty gossip, one dame Alison.
Hcar but the fact, and judge yourselves the case. full well the secrets of my soul she knew,
Stubborn as any lioness was I;
As true a rambler as I was before,