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Meantime the vigorous dancers beat the ground, who studies now but discontented May? And songs were sung, and flowing bowls went On her soft couch uneasily she lay; round;
The lumpish husband snored away the night, With odorous spices they perfumed the place, Till coughs awaked him near the morning light. And mirth and pleasure shone in every face. What then he did, I'll not presume to tell, Damian alone of all the menial train,
Nor if she thought herself in heaven or hell; Sad in the midst of triumphs, sigh'd for pain; Honest and dull in nuptial bed they lay, Damian alone, the knight's obsequious 'squire, Till the bell tollid, and all arose to pray. Consumed at heart, and fed a secret fire.
| Were it by forcefal destiny decreed, His lovely mistress all his soul possess'd;
Or did from chance, or nature's power proceed; He look’d, he languish'd, and could take no rest : Or that some star, with aspect kind to love, His task perform'd, he sadly went his way, Shed its selectest influence from above; Fell on his bed, and loathed the light of day. Whatever was the cause, the tender dame There let him lie, till his relenting dame
Felt the first motions of an infant flame; Weep in her turn, and waste in equal flame. Received the impressions of the love-sick'squire, The wearied sun, as learned poets write,
And wasted in the soft infectious fire. Forsook the horizon, and roll'd down the light; | Ye fair, draw near, let May's example move While glittering stars his absent beams supply, Your gentle minds to pity those who love! And night's dark mantle overspread the sky.. Had some fierce tyrant, in her stead been found, Then rose the guests: and, as the time required, The poor adorer sure had hang'd or drown'd: Each paid his thanks, and decently retired. But she, your sex's mirror, free from pride, The foe once gone, our knight prepared to un- Was much too meek to prove a homicide. dress,
But to my tale: Some sages have defined, So keen he was, and eager to possess :
Pleasure the sovereign bliss of human-kind: But first thought fit the assistance to receive, Our knight (who studied much, we may suppose,) Which grave physicians scruple not to give: Derived his high philosophy from those ! Satyrion near, with hot eringos stood,
For, like a prince, he bore the vast expense Cantharides, to fire the lazy blood,
Of lavish pomp, and proud magnificence: Whose use old bards describe in luscious rhymes, His house was stately, his retinue gay; And critics learn'd explain to modern times. '. Large was his train, and gorgeous his array. By this the sheets were spread, the bride undress’d, His spacious garden, made to yield to none, The room was sprinkled, and the bed was bless'd. Was compass'd round with walls of solid stone; What next ensued beseems not me to say ;
Priapus could not half describe the grace 'Tis sung, he labour'd till the dawning day, ' |(Though god of gardens) of this charming place; Then briskly sprung from bed, with heart so light, A place to tire the rambling wits of France As all were nothing he had done by night; In long descriptions, and exceed romance ; And sipp'd his cordial as he sat upright.
Enough to shame the gentlest bard that sings He kiss'd his balmy spouse with wanton play, Of painted meadows, and of purling springs. And feebly sung a lusty roundelay:
Full in the centre of the flowery ground, Then on the couch his weary limbs he cast :: A crystal fountain spread its streams around For every labour mụst have rest at last.
The fruitful banks with verdant laurels crown'd; But anxious cares the pensive 'squire oppress'd,
About this spring (if ancient fame say true) Sleep fled his eyes, and peace forsook his breast : The dapper elves their moon-light sports pursue; The raging flames that in his bosom dwell,
Their pigmy king, and little fairy queen, He wanted art to hide, and means to tell;
In circling dances gambol'd on the green, Yet hoping time the occasion might betray, ... While tuneful sprites a merry concert made, Composed a sonnet to the lovely May; :
And airy music warbled through the shade. Which, writ and folded with the nicest art, . 1. Hither the noble knight would oft repair He wrapp'd in silk, and laid upon his heart. . (His-scene of pleasure, and peculiar care.)
When now the fourth revolving day was run,.. For this he held it dear, and always bore ('Twas June, and Cancer had received the sun,) The silver key that lock'd the garden door. Forth from her chamber came the beauteous bride; To this sweet place, in summer's sultry heat, The good old knight moved slowly by her side. He used from noise and business to retreat ; High mass was sung; they feasted in the hall; And here in dalliance spend the live-long day The servants round stood ready at their cal. Solus cum sola, with his sprightly May: .. The 'squire alone was absent from the board, For whate'er work was undischarged a-bed, And much his sickness grieved his worthy lord, The duteous knight in this fair garden sped. Who pray'd his spouse, attended with her train, But ah! what mortal lives, of bliss secure ? To visit Damian, and divert his pain.
How short a space our worldly jovs endure ! The obliging dames obey'd with one consent: O Fortune, fair, like all thy treacherous kind, They left the hall, and to his lodging went. But faithless still, and wavering as the wind! The female tribe surround him as he lay,
O painted monster, form'd mankind to cheat And close beside him sate the gentle May:
With pleasing poison, and with soft deceit!
Amidst his ease, his solace, and delight,
| And calls on death, the wretch's last relief.
The rage of jealousy then seized his mind, Old as I am, and now deprived of sight,
As, first, the love of Christ himself you gain ; '
My whole estate shall gratify your love :
Displays his light, by Heaven, it shall be done.
Ah! gentle knight, what could thy eyes avail, Have comfort, spouse, nor think thy lord unkind;
And join'd to them my own unequal age, Argus himself, so cautious and so wise,
From thy dear side I have no power to part, Was over-watch'd, for all his hundred eyes : Such secret transports warm my melting heart. So many an honest husband may, 'tis known, For who, that once possess'd those heavenly charms, Who, wisely, never thinks the case his own. Could live one moment absent from thy arms ?' The dame at last, by diligence and care,
He ceas'd, and May with modest grace replied, Procured the key her knight was wont to bear: . |(Weak was her voice, as while she 'spoke she cried.) She took the wards in wax before the fire,
• Heaven knows,' with that a tender sigh she drew,
Well sung sweet Ovid, in the days of yore, To you in holy church I gave my hand,
Yet, after this, if you distrust my care,
But now no longer from our tale to stray: ', | Or die the death I dread no less than hell,
Sew'd in a sack, and plung'd into a well,
'Awake, my love, disclose thy radiant'eyes : I loath a whore, and startle at the name. Arise, my wife, my beauteous lady, rise!
But jealous men on their own crimes reflect,
| The only strain a wife must hope to hear.'
| And singled out a pear-tree planted nigh : This heard, to Damian straight a sign she made, l'Twas charged with fruit that made a goodly show, To haste before; the gentle 'squire obey'd': And hung with dangling pears was every bough. Secret and undescried, he took his way,
Thither the obsequious 'squire address'd his pace, And ambush'd close behind an arbour lay.' And, climbing, in the summit took his place; It was not long ere January came,
The knight and lady walk'd beneath in view, And hand in hand with him his lovely dame; Where let us leave them, and our tale pursue.' Blind as he was, not doubting all was sure, '' 'Twas now the season when the glorious sun He turn'd the key, and made the gate secure. . His heavenly progress through the Twins had run;
"Here let us walk,' be said, “observed by none, And Jove, exalted, his mild influence yields, Conscious of pleasures to the world unknown: To glad the glebe, and paint the flowery fields. So may my soul bave joy, as thou, my wife, Clear was the day, and Phæbus, rising bright, Art far the dearest solace of my life;
Had streak’d the azure firmament with light: And rather would I choose, by Heaven above, He pierced the glittering clouds with golden streams, To die this instant, than to lose thy love... And warm'd the womb of earth with genial beams. Reflect what truth was in my passion shown,
It so befell, in that fair morning-tide,
The fairies sported on the garden-side,
uhts and te
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, is 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.'
It must be done-I am a king,' said he,
And so has mine,' 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: w 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, . 1 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, gull’d 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.' Call’d women fools, and knew full many' a one; . With that, his back against the trunk he bent, The wiser wits of later times declare,
She seized a twig, and up the tree she went.. How constant, chaste, and virtuous, women are : Now prove your patience, gentle ladies all! Witness the martyrs, who resign'd their breath, Nor let on me your heavy anger fall : Serene in torments, unconcern'd in death,
'Tis truth I tell, though not in phrase refined ; And witness next what Roman authors telli
Though blunt my tale, yet honest is my mind. How Arria, Portia, and Lucretia fell.
What feats the lady in the tree might do, • But, since the sacred leaves to all are free, I pass, as gambols never known to you ; And men interpret texts, why should not we? But sure it was a merrier fit, she swore, . . By this no more was meant, than to have shown,' Than in her life she ever felt before.. That sovereign goodness dwells in him alone | In that nice moment, lo! the wondering knight Who only is, and is but only One.
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;
FROM CHAUCER. '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 1 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, "Guard me, good angels! cried the gentle May, No pious Christian ought to marry twice. "Pray Heaven, this magic work the proper way! But let them read, and solve me, if they can, Alas, my love! 'tis certain, could you see,
The words address'd to the Samaritan: You ne'er had used these killing words to me: Five times in lawful wedlock she was join'd; . So help me, Fates, as 'tis no perfect sight,
And sure the certain stint was ne'er defined. But some faint glimmering of a doubtful'light.' 'Increase and multiply,' was Heaven's command;
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.
Madam, 'tis pass'd, and my short anger o'er; Declared 'twas better far to wed than burn.
I grant them that, and what it means you know.
No precept for virginity he found:
Ah, my loved lord ! 'twas much unkind,' she cried, Take which we like, the counsel, or our will."
Pure let them be, and free from taint of vice; Thus when from sleep we first our eyes display, i 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. Die | 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, Iet 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.