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THE WIFE OF BATH,
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,
* Increase and multiply,' was Heaven's command
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.
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 [.
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.
Know then, of those five husbands I have had,
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,
'Hark, old sir Paul !' 'twas thus I us'd to say,
'If poor (you say) she drains her husband's purse;
* Horses (thou say'st) and asses men may try,
'You tell me, to preserve your wife's good grace,
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?
How merrily soever others fare?
'There's danger too, you think, in rich array,
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