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THE WIFE OF BATH,

Her Prologue.
FROM .CHAUCER.

TVEHOLD 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 tell you true. In all these trials I have borne a part, I was myself the scourge that caus'd the smart; For, since fifteen, in trinmph have I led Five captive husbands from the church to bed.

Christ saw a wedding ouce, 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.

* Increase and multiply,' was Heaven's command
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 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, T
Shall die, and leave his woful wife behind, r
1*11 take the next good Christian I can find. J
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 tike, 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;

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, 1 can't deny;

But, by your leaves, divines, so am not [.
Full many a saint, since first the world began,

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.
P'or 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;
Tor so said Paul, and Paul's a sound divine.

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 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 eves,
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 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 everj 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 bom, 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 grey, but, soon or late.
She fmds some honest gander for her mate.

* Horses (thou say'st) and asses men may try,
And ring suspected vessels ere they bny:
But wives, a random choice, untried 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 I

If by strange chance, a modest blush be rais'd.

Be sure ray fiue 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 maid;

And endless treats, and endless visits paid,

To a long train of kindred, friends, allies.

Al i this thou say'st, and all ihou say'st are lies.

'On Jenkin too you cast a squinting eye; What! can your 'prentice raise your jealousy? Fresh are his rnddy 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, yon'd say,' Go where you will.
Dear,spouse, 1 credit not the tales they tell:
Take all the freedoms of a married life;
I know thee for a virtnous, faithful wife.'
'Lord! when you have enough, what need you
care

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 round 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 them, 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 doors;

And swore the rambles that I took by night,

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 cried:

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 make 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 aud meek 1

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