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Though fortune change, his constant spouse remains Augments his joys, or mitigates his pains.
But what so pure, which envious tongues will spare ?
Our grandsire Adam, ere of Eve possess'd,
A wife ! ah gentle deities, can he
These weighty motives, January the sag Maturely ponder'd in his riper age ;
And, charm'd with virtuous joys and sober life,
• My friends,' he cried, (and cast a mournful look Around the room, and sigh'd before he spoke :)
Beneath the weight of threescore years I bend, And worn with cares and hastening to my end; How I have lived, alas ! you know too well, In worldly follies, which I blush to tell; But gracious Heaven has ope'd my eyes at last, With due regret I view my vices past, And, as the precept of the Church decrees, Will take a wife, and live in holy case. But, since by counsel all things should be done, And many heads are wiser still than one; Choose you for me, who best shall be content When my desire 's approved by your consent.
'One caution yet is needful to be told, To guide your choice; this wife must not be old There goes a saying, and 'twas shrewdly said, Old fish at table, but young flesh in bed. My soul abhors the tasteless, dry embrace Of a stale virgin with a winter face : In that cold season Love but treats his guest With bean-straw, and tough forage at the best No crafty widows shall approach my bed ; Those are too wise for bachelors to wed; As subtle clerks, by many schools are made, Twice-married dames are mistresses of the trade, But young and tender virgins, ruled with ease, We form like wax, and mould them as we please.
Conceive me, sirs, nor take my sense amiss; 'Tis what concerns my soul's eternal bliss : Since if I found no pleasure in my spouse, As flash is frail, and who (God help me) knows?
l'hen should I live in lewd adultery,
And since I speak of wedlock, let me say,
that flourish all the year. Now, sirs, you know to what I stand inclined, Let every friend with freedom speak his mind.'
He said; the rest in different parts divide; The knotty point was urged on either side: Marriage, the theme on which they all declaim'd, Some praised with wit, and some with reason blamed Till what with proofs, objections, and replies, Each wondrous positive, and wondrous wise, There fell between his brothers a debate; Placebo this was call’d, and Justin that.
First to the knight Placebo thus begun (Mild were his looks, and pleasing was his tone :) •Such prudence, sir, in all your words appears, As plainly proves, experience dwells with years! Yet you pursue sage Solomon's advice, To work by counsel when affairs are nice : But, with the wise man's I must protest, So may my soul arrive at ease and rest, As still I hold your own advice the best.
“Sir, I have lived a courtier all my days, And studied men, their manners, and their ways And have observed this useful maxim still, To let my betters always have their will. Nay, if my lord affirm that black was white, My word was this : ‘Your honour's in the right. The assuming wit, who deems himself so wise, As his mistaken patron to advise, Let him not dare to vent his dangerous thought: A noble fool was never in a fault. This, sir, affects not you, whose every word Is weigh'd with judgment, and befits a lord: Your will is mine; and is (I will maintain) Pleasing to God, and should be so to man ! At least your courage all the world must praise, Who dare to wed in your declining days. Indulge the vigour of your mounting blood, And let gray folks be indolently good, Who, past all pleasure, damn the joys of sense With reverend dulness, and grave impotence.'
Justin, who silent sat, and heard the man, Thus, with a philosophic frown, began;
• A heathen author of the first degree (Who though not faith, had sense as well as we.) Bids us be certain our concerns to trust To those of generous principles, and just. The venture's greater, I'll presume to say, To give your person, than your goods away: And therefore, sir, as you regard your rest, First learn your lady's qualities at least: Whether she's chaste or rampant, proud or civil, Meek as a saint, or haughty as the devil; Whether an easy, fond familiar fool, Or such a wit as no man e'er can rule. "Tis true, perfection none must hope to find In all this world, much less in womankind; But, if her virtues prove the larger share, Bless the kind Fates, and think your fortune rare
Ah, gentle sir, take warning of a friend,
''Tis well, 'tis wondrous well,' the knight replies,
'I say,' quoth he, ‘by Heaven the man's to blame, Io slander wives, and wedlock's holy name. At this the council rose, without delay ; Each, in his own opinion, went his way; With full consent, that, all disputes appeased, The knight should marry, when and where he pleased
Who now but January exults with joy : The charms of wedlock al, his soul employ. Each nymph by turns his wavering mind possess'd, And reign'd the short-lived tyrant of his breast;