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So featly tripp'd the light-foot ladies round, He ceased at last his Maker to adore,
On a rank lecher and idolater;
Whose reign, indulgent God, says holy writ, For pinks and daisies search'd the flowery plain; Did but for David's righteous sake permit; While, on a bank reclined of rising green,
David, the monarch after Heaven's own mind, Thus, with a frown, the king bespoke his queen: Who loved our sex, and honour'd all our kind. * *Tis too apparent, argue what you can,
*Well, I'm a woman, and as such must speak; The treachery you women use to man:
Silence would swell me, and my heart would break. A thousand authors have this truth made out, Know then, I scorn your dull authorities, And sad experience leaves no room for doubt. Your idle wits, and all their learned lies. * Heaven rest thy spirit, noble Solomon,
By Heaven, those authors are our sex's fues, A wiser monarch never saw the sun;
Whom, in our right, I must and will oppose.' Al wealth, all honours, the supreme degree
Nay,' quoth the king,' dear madam, be not wroth;
It must be done-I am a king,' said he,
* And so has moine,' said she,-'I am a queen ;
And thus an end of all dispute I make. The son of Sirach testifies no less.
Try when you list; and you shall find, my lord, So may some wildfire on your bodies fall, It is not in our sex to break our word.' Or some devouring plague consume you all ;
We leave them here in this heroic strain, As well you view the lecher in the tree,
And to the knight our story turns again ; And well this honourable knight you see: Who in the garden, with his lovely May, But since he's blind and old (a helpless case,) Sung merrier than the cuckow or the jay: His squire shall cuckold him before your face. This was his song ; 'Oh, kind and constant be,
Now, by my own dread majesty I swear, Constant and kind I'll ever prove to thee.' And by this awful sceptre which I bear,
Thus singing as he went, at last he drew No impious wretch shall 'scape unpunish'd long, By easy steps, to where the pear-tree grew : That in my presence offers such a wrong.
The longing dame look'd up, and spied her love I will this instant undeceive the knight,
Full fairly perch'd among the boughs above. And in the very act restore his sight;
She stopp'd and sighing : 'Oh, good gods !' she cried, And set the strumpet here in open view,
What pangs, what sudden shoots, distend my side! A warning to these ladies, and to you,
O for that tempting fruit, so fresh, so green: And all the faithless sex, for ever to be true.' Help, for the love of heaven's immortal queen!
* And will you so,' replied the queen, indeed? Help, dearest lord, and save at once the life Now, by mother's soul, it is decreed,
Of thy poor infant, and thy longing wife!' She shall not want an answer at her need.
Sore sigh'd the knight to hear his lady's cry, For her, and for her daughters, I'll engage, But could not climb, and had no servant nigh · And all the sex in each succeeding age!
Old as he was, and void of eye-sight too, Art shall be theirs, to varnish an offence,
What could, alas! a helpless husband do? And fortify their crime with confidence.
* And must I languish then,' she said, “and die, Nay, were they taken in a strict embrace,
Yet view the lovely fruit before my eye? Seen with both eyes, and pinion'd on the place; At least, kind sir, for charity's sweet sake, All they shall need is to protest and swear, Vouchsafe the trunk between your arms to take, Breathe a soft sigh, and drop a tender tear; Then from your back I might ascend the tree; Till their wise husbands, gulla by arts like these, Do you but stoop, and leave the rest to me.' Grow gentle, tractable, and tame as geese.
“With all my soul,' he thus replied again : "What though this slanderous Jew, this Solomon, •I'd spend my dearest blood to ease thy pain.' Caji'd women fools, and knew full many a one; With that, his back against the trunk be bent, The wiser wits of later times declare,
She seized a twig, and up the tree she went.
What feats the lady in the tree might do,
Look'd out, and stood restored to sudden sight. But grant the worst ; shall women then be weigh'd Straight on the tree his eager eyes he bent, By every word that Solomon has said ?
As one whose thoughts were on his spouse intent; What though this king (as ancient story boasts) But when he saw his bosom-wife so dress'd, Built a fair temple to the Lord of Hosts ;
His rage was such as cannot be express'd
Not frantic mothers, when their infants die,
THE WIFE OF BATH. He cried, he roar'd, he storm'd, he tore his hair : 'Death! hell! and furies ! what dost thou do there?'
HER PROLOGUE. •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? Behold the woes of matrimonial life, Why was I taught to make my husband see, And hear with reverence an experienced wife. By struggling with a man upon a tree?
To dear-bought wisdom give the credit due,
And think for once a woman tells you true.
I was myself the scourge that caused the smart; 'Tis struggling with a vengeance,' quoth the knight; For, since fifteen, in triumph have I led “So Heaven preserve the sight it has restored, Five captive husbands from the church to bed. As with these eyes I plainly saw thee whored; Christ saw a wedding once, the Scripture says, Whored by my slave-perfidious wretch! may hell And saw but one, 'tis thought, in all his days : As surely seize thee, as I saw too well!
Whence some infer, whose conscience is too nice,
The words address'd to the Samaritan :
And sure the certain stint was ne'er defined.
•What I have said,' quoth he, 'I must maintain, And that's a text I clearly understand. For by the immortal powers it seem'd too plain.'- This too, 'Let men their sires and mothers leave,
*By all those powers, some frenzy seized your mind,' | And to their dearer wives for ever cleave.' Replied the dame: 'are these the thanks I find ? More wives than one by Solomon were tried, Wretch that I am, that e'er I was so kind,'
Or else the wisest of mankind's belied. She said : a rising sigh express'd her woe,
I've had myself full many a merry fit, The ready tears apace began to flow,
And trust in heaven, I may have many yet; And, as they fell, she wiped from either eye, For when my transitory spouse, unkind, The drops ; (for women, when they list, can cry.) Shall die, and leave his woful wife behind,
The knight was touch'd, and in his looks appear'd I'll take the next good Christian I can find. Signs of remorse, while thus his spouse he cheer'd: Paul, knowing one could never serve our turn, Madam, 'tis pass'd, and my short anger o'er; Declared 'twas better far to wed than burn. Come down, and vex your tender heart no more : There's danger in assembling fire and tow; Excuse me, dear, if aught amiss was said,
I grant them that, and what it means you know. For, on my soul, amends shall soon be made : The same apostle too has elsewhere own'd, Let my repentance your forgiveness draw. No precept for virginity he found: By Heaven, I swore but what I thought I saw.' 'Tis but a counsel-and we women still
"Ah, my loved lord ! 'twas much unkind,' she cried, Take which we like, the counsel, or our will. On bare suspicion thus to treat your bride.
I envy not their bliss, if he or she But, till your sight 's establish’d, for a while, Think fit to live in perfect chastity. Imperfect objects may your sense beguile.
Pure let them be, and free from taint of vice; Thus when from sleep we first our eyes display, I, for a few slight spots, am not so nice. The balls are wounded with the piercing ray, Heaven calls us different ways, on these bestows And dusky vapours rise, and intercept the day. One proper gift, another grants to those : So, just recovering from the shades of night, Not every man's obliged to sell his store, Your swimming eyes are drunk with sudden light, And give up all his substance to the poor; Strange phantoms dance around, and skim before Such as are perfect may, I can't deny; your sight:
But, by your leaves, divines, so am not I. Then, sir, be cautious, nor too rashly deem.
Full many a saint, since first the world began, Heaven knows how seldom things are what they seem! Lived an unspotted maid, in spite of man : Consult your reason, and you soon shall find Let such (a God's name) with fine wheat be fed, "Twas you were jealous, not your wife unkind: And let us honest wives eat barley bread. Jove ne'er spoke oracle more true than this, For me, I'll keep the post assign’d by Heaven, None judge so wrong as those who think amiss.' And use the copious talent it has given:
With that she leap'd into her lord's embrace, Let my good spouse pay tribute, do me right, With well-dissembled virtue in her face.
And keep an equal reckoning every night. He hugg'd her close, and kiss'd her o'er and o'er, His proper body is not his, but mine ; Disturb'd with doubts and jealousies no more : For so said Paul, and Paul's a sound divine. Both, pleased and bless'd, renew'd their mutual vows, Know then, of those five husbands I have had, A fruitful wife, and a believing spouse.
Three were just tolerable, two were bad: Thus ends our tale; whose moral next to make, The three were old, but rich and fond beside, Let all wise husbands hence example take : And toil'd most piteously to please their bride: And pray, to crown the pleasure of their lives, But since their wealth (the best they had) was mine, To be so well deluded by their wives.
The rest, without much loss, I could resign.
Sure to be loved, I took no pains to please, If you had wit, you'd say, 'Go where you will,
Presents flow'd in apace: with showers of gold, Take all the freedoms of a married life ;
'Lord ! when you have enough, what need you care And a new palsy seized them when I frown'd. How merrily soever others fare?
Ye sovereign wives! give ear and understand, Though all the day I give and take delight, Thus shall ye speak, and exercise command. Doubt not, sufficient will be left at night. For never was it given to mortal man,
'Tis but a just and rational desire, To lie so boldly as we women can;
To light a taper at a neighbour's fire. Forswear the fact, though seen with both his eyes, “There's danger too, you think, in rich array, And call your maids to witness how he lies. And none can long be modest that are gay.
'Hark, old sir Paul!' 'twas thus I used to say, The cat, if you but singe her tabby skin, Whence is our neighbour's wife so rich and gay? The chimney keeps, and sits content within; Treated, caress'd where'er she's pleased to roam But once grown sleek, will from her corner run, I sit in tatters, and immured at home.
Sport with her tail, and wanton in the sun; Why to her house dost thou so oft repair ?
She licks her fair round face, and frisks abroad, Art thou so amorous ? and is she so fair ?
To show her fur, and to be catterwaw'd.' If I but see a cousin or a friend,
Lo thus, my friends, I wrought to my desires Lord! how you swell, and rage like any fiend! These three right ancient venerable sires. But you reel home, a drunken beastly bear, I told them, thus you say, and thus you do, Then preach till midnight in your easy chair ; And told them false, but Jenkin swore 'twas true. Cry, wives are false, and every woman evil, 1, like a dog, could bite as well as whine, And give up all that's female to the devil.
And first complain’d, whene'er the guilt was mine. 'If poor (you say) she drains her husband's purse; I tax'd them oft with wenching and amours, If rich, she keeps her priest, or something worse; When their weak legs scarce dragg‘d them out of If highly born, intolerably vain,
doors; Vapours and pride by turns possess her brain, And swore the rambles that I took by night, Now gaily mad, now sourly splenetic;
Were all to spy what damsels they bedight. Freakish when well, and fretful when she's sick. That colour brought me many hours of mirth; If fair, then chaste she cannot long abide,
For all this wit is given us from our birth.
To spin, to weep, and cully human race.
By murmuring, wheedling, stratagem, and force, Or shape excuses the defects of face.
I still prevail'd, and would be in the right,
Horses (thou say'st) and asses men may try, What! so familiar with your spouse?' I cried :
I levied first a tax upon his need;
With empty hands no tassels you can lure,
| Billy, my dear, how sheepishly you look! All this thou say’st, and all thou say'st are lies. Approach, my spouse, and let me kiss thy cheek,
On Jenkin too you cast a squinting eye; Thou shouldst be always thus, resign'd and meek!
'Why are thy chests all lock'd ? on what design? Who puts a period to domestic strife.
Let that frail thing, weak woman, have her
way One you shall quit, in spite of both your eyes The wives of all my family have ruled I heed not, I, the bolts, the locks, the spies. | Their tender husbands, and their passions cool'd,
Fie, 'tis unmanly thus to sigh and groan :
He boarded with a widow in the town, What! would you have me to yourself alone ? A trusty gossip, one dame Alison. Why take me, love! take all and every part ! Full well the secrets of my soul she knew, Here's your revenge! you love it at your heart. Better than e'er our parish priest could do. Would I vouchsafe to sell what nature gave, To her I told whatever could befall: You little think what custom I could have. Had but my husband piss'd against the wall, But see! I'm all your own-nay hold—for shame Or done a thing that might have cost his life, What means my dear-indeed—you are to blame. She-and my niece-and one more worthy wife,
Thus with my first three lords I passed my life, Had known it all : what most he would conceal, A very woman and a very wife.
To these I made no scruple to reveal.
(My husband, thank my stars, was out of town ;) And sung as sweet as evening Philomel.
From house to house we rambled up and down,
The stations duly and the vigils kept;
At sermons too I shone in scarlet gay;
This clerk and I were walking in the fields,
We grew so intimate, I can't tell how,
We straight struck hands, the bargain was agreed;
I vow'd I scarce could sleep since first I knew him, But I so dress’d, and danced, and drank, and dined, And durst be sworn he had bewitch'd me to him; And view'd a friend with eyes so very kind,
If e'er I slept, I dream'd of him alone, As stung his heart, and made his marrow fry And dreams foretell, as learned men have shown; With burning rage, and frantic jealousy.
All this I said ; but dreams, sirs, I had none: His soul, I hope, enjoys eternal glory,
I follow'd but my crafty crony's lore, For here on earth I was his purgatory.
Who bid me tell this lie-and twenty more. Oft, when his shoe the most severely wrung, Thus day by day, and month by month we pass'd, He put on careless airs, and sate and sung. It pleased the Lord to take my spouse at last. How sore I gali'd him, only Heaven could know, I tore my gown, I soil'd my locks with dust, And he that felt, and I that caused the woe.
And beat my breast as wretched widows-must. He died, when last from pilgrimage I came,
Before my face my handkerchief I spread, With other gossips, from Jerusalem;
To hide the flood of tears I did not shed. And now lies buried underneath a rood,
The good man's coffin to the church was borne :. Fair to be seen, and rear'd of honest wood: Around, the neighbours, and my clerk too, moum. A tomb indeed, with fewer sculptures graced But as he march'd, good gods! he show'd a pair Than that Mausolus' pious widow placed,
Of legs and feet, so clean, so strong, so fair!
Of twenty winters' age he seem'd to be,
Now for my fifth loved lord, the last and best, A conjuror once, that deeply could divine, (Kind Heaven afford him everlasting rest!) Assured me, Mars in Taurus was my sign. Full hearty was his love, and I can show
As the stars order'd, such my life has been:
Alas, alas, that ever love was sin!
By virtue of this powerful constellation,
But to my tale: A month scarce pass'd away, A glutted market makes provision cheap.
With dance and song we kept the nuptial day;
My goods and chattels, money, house, and land:
But oft repented, and repent it still :
Then how two wives their lords' destruction prove, He proved a rebel to my sovereign will:
'Through hatred one, and one through too much love; Nay once, by Heaven, he struck me on the face ; That for her husband mix'd a poisonous draught, Hear but the fact, and judge yourselves the case. And this for lust an amorous philtre bought: Stubborn as any lioness was I,
The nimble juice soon seized his giddy head,
How some with swords their sleeping lords have slain, And would be so, in spite of all he swore.
And some have hammer'd nails into their brain, He against this night sagely would advise,
And some have drench'd them with a deadly pution; And oid examples set before my eyes ;
All this he read, and read with great devotion. Tell how the Roman matrons led their life,
Long time I heard, and swell d, and blush'd, and Of Gracchus' mother, and Duilius' wife;
And with one butlet fell'd him on the floor.
And down he settled me with hearty blows.
I groan'd, and lay extended on my side; And so do numbers more, I boldly say,
"Oh! thou hast slain me for my wealth,' I cried. Hen, women, clergy, regular and lay.
" Yet I forgive thee--take my last embrace-' My spouse (who was, you know, to learning bred) He wept, kind soul! and stoop'd to kiss my face: A certain treatise oft at evening read,
I took him such a box as turn'd him blue, Where divers authors (whom the devil confound Then sigh'd, and cried, ' Adeu, my dear, adieu! For all their lies!) were in one volume bound. But after many a hearty struggle pass'd, Valerias, whole; and of St. Jerome, part;
I condescended to be pleased at last. Chrysippus and Tertullian, Ovid's Art,
Soon as he said, ' My mistress and my wife, Solomon's Proverbs, Eloïsa's loves;
Do what you list, the term of all your life; And many more than sure the church approves. I took to heart the merits of the cause, More legions were there here of wicked wives, And stood content to rule by wholesome laws; Than good in all the Bible and saints' lives. Received the reins of absolute command, Who drew the lion vanquish'd ? 'twas a man. With all the government of house and land, But could we women write as scholars can, And empire o'er his tongue, and o'er his hand. blen should stand marked with far more wickedness As for the volume that reviled the dames, Tlan all the sons of Adam could redress.
"Twas torn to fragments, and condemn'd to flames. Lure seldom haunts the breast where learning lies, Now, Heaven, on all my husbands gone, bestow aid Venus sets ere Mercury can rise.
Pleasures above for tortures felt below. atcse play the scholars, who can't play the men, That rest they wish'd for, grant them in the grave, iad use that weapon which they have, their pen; And bless those souls my conduct help'd to save! When old, and past the relish of delight, Then down they sit, and in their dotage write, That not one woman keeps her marriage vow.
THE FIRST BOOK OF (This by the way; but to my purpose now.)
It chanced my husband on a winter's night, STATIUS HIS THEBAIS.
Translated in the Year 1703.
Edipus, king of Thebes, having by mistake slain bis How cursed Eriphyle her lord betray'd,
father Laius, and married his mother Jocasta, put out And the dire ambush Clytemnestra laid.
his own eyes, and resigned the realm to his sons, EteoBut what most pleased him was the Cretan Dame, cles and Polynices. Being neglected by them, he makes And Husband bull-oh monstrous ! fie, for shame! his prayer to the fury Tisiphone, to sow debate beHe had by heart the whole detail of woe
twixt the brothers. They agree at last to reign singly, Xantippe made her good man undergo;
each a year by turns, and the first lot is obtained by How oft she scolded in a day he knew,
Eteocles. Jupiter, in a council of the gods, declares
his resolution of punishing the Thebans, and Argives How roany piss-pots on the sage she threw,
also, by means of a marriage between Polynices and Who took it patiently and wiped his head;
one of the daughters of Adrast'is, king of Argos. Rain follows thunder,'-that was all he said.
Juno opposes, but to no effect; and Mercury is sent on He read, how Arius to his friend complain'd, a message to the Shades, to the ghost of Lains, who A fatal tree was growing in his land,
is to appear to Eteocles, and provoke him to break the On which three wives successively had twined
agreement. Polynices in the mean time departs from A sliding noose, and waver'd in the wind.
Thebes by night, is overtaken by a storm, and arrives Where grows this plant,' replied the friend, 'oh where?
at Argos; where he meets with Tydens, who had fled
from Calydon, having killed his brother Adrustus For better fruit did never orchard bear:
entertains them, having received an oracle from Apollo, Give me some slip of this most blissful tree,
that his daughter should be married to a boar and a And in my garden planted shall it be.'
lion, which he understands to be meant of these м