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