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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,' replied 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 the 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 tame 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 shewn, 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 lecher 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 wroth : I yield it up : but since I gave my oath, 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 mine,' she said, I am a queen; Her answer she shall have, I undertake; And thus an end of all dispute I make. Try when yon 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 'spied her love
Full fairly perch'd among the boughs above.
She stopp'd, and sighing: “Oh, good gods!" she
cried, • 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 save 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 replied again :
• I'd spend my dearest blood to ease thy pain.'
With that, his back against the trunk he bent,
She seiz'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 refined;
Though blunt my tale, yet honest is
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 restored 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 cried, 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 replied ; 'I thought your patience had been better tried : Is this your love, ungrateful and unkind, This my reward for having cured 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 muc !!
• If this be struggling, by this holy light, 'Tis struggling with a vengeance,' quoth the knight :
• So Heaven preserve the sight it has restored,
As with these eyes I plainly saw thee whored ;
Whored by my slave-perfidious wretch! may hell
As surely seize thee, as I saw too well !
• Guard me, good angels! cried the gentle May, • Pray Heaven, this magic work the proper way! Alas, my love! 'tis certain, could you see, You ne'er had used 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 frenzy seiz'd your
Replied 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 wiped 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 pass'd, 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 cried,
• On bare suspicion thus to treat your bride.
But, till your sight 's establish'd for awhile,
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 your
Then, sir, be cautious, nor too rashly deem. [sight :
Heaven knows how seldom things are what they seem!
Consult your reason, and you soon shall find
'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.
Thus ends our tale; whose moral next to make,
Let all wise husbands hence example take;
pray, to crown the pleasure of their lives, To be so well deluded by their wives.
THE WIFE OF BATH.
BEHOLD the woes of matrimonial life,
And hear with reverence an experienced wife!
To dear-bought wisdom give the credit due,
And think for once a woman tells you true.
In all these trials I have borne a part,
I was myself the scourge that caus’d the smart;
Por, 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 defined.
* Increase and multiply,' was Heaven's command,
And that 's a text I 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 tried,
Or else the wisest of mankind 's belied.
I've had myself full many a merry fit,
And trust in heaven, I may have many yet;