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• 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 be) I must maintain, For by the’ immortal powers it seem'd too plain— By all those powers, some frenzy seized your
mind, (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 wastouch'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 loved lord ! 'twas much unkind (she cried) On bare suspicion thus to treat your bride. 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
your sight. Then, sir, be cautious, nor too rashly deem ; 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 :' Joye 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, pleased and bless’d, renew'd their mutual A fruitful wife, and a believing spouse. (vows :
Thus 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.
THE WIFE OF BATH
FROM CHAUCER. 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:
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; Fives 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; For when my transitory spouse, unkind, Shall die and leave his woful wife behind, I'll take the next good Christian I can find.
Paul, knowing one could never serve our turn, Declared '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 will.
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;
Full many a saint, since first the world began,
Know then, of those five husbands I have had, Three were just tolerable, two were 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 loved, 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 smiled, a sudden youth they found, And a new palsy seized 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 boldy 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 used to say) Whence is our neighbour's wife so rich and gay? Treated, caress’d, where'er she's pleased to roamI sit in tatters, and immured at home. Why to her house dost thou so oft repair ? Art thou so amorous ? 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 purse; If rich, she keeps her priest, or something worse; If highly born, intolerably vain, Vapours and pride by turns possess her brain; Now gaily 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 gray 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, untried they take, They dream in courtship, but in wedlock wake; Then, nor till then, the veil's removed away, And all the woman glares in open day.