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He died, when last from pilgrimage I came,
merely thrown away.
Now for my fifth loved lord, the last and best
In pure good-will I took this jovial spark,
It so befel, in holy time of Lent,
The stations duly, and the vigils kept;
285 Not much we fasted, but scarce ever slept. At sermons too I shone in scarlet gay; The wasting moth ne'er spoil'd my best array ; The cause was this, I wore it every day.
'Twas when fresh May her early blossom yields, 290 This clerk and I were walking in the fields. We grew so intimate, I can't tell how, I pawn'd my honour, and engaged my vow, If e'er I laid my husband in his urn, That he, and only he, should serve my turn.
295 We straight struck hands, the bargain was agreed ; I still have shifts against a time of need : The mouse that always trusts to one poor hole, Can never be a mouse of any soul.
I vow'd I scarce could sleep since first I knew him, 300 And durst be sworn he had bewitch'd me to him; If e'er I slept, I dream'd of him alone, And dreams foretel, as learned men have shown. All this I said: but dreams, sirs, I had none; I followed but my crafty crony's lore,
305 Who bid me tell this lie—and twenty more.
Thus day by day, and month by month we pass'd ; It pleased the Lord to take my spouse at last. I tore my gown, I soild my locks with dust, And beat my breasts, as wretched widows-must. 310 Before my face my handkerchief I spread, To hide the flood of tears I did not shed. The good man's coffin to the church was borne ; Around, the neighbours, and my clerk too, mourn. But as he march’d, good gods! he show'd a pair 315 Of legs and feet, so clean, so strong, so fair ! Of twenty winters' age he seem'd to be ; I (to say truth) was twenty more than he; But vigorous still, a lively buxom dame; And had a wondrous gift to quench a flame.
320 A conjuror once, that deeply could divine, Assured me, Mars in Taurus was my sign. As the stars order'd, such my life has been : Alas, alas, that ever love was sin! Fair Venus gave me fire and sprightly grace,
325 And Mars assurance, and a dauntless face.
By virtue of this powerful constellation,
But to my tale: A month scarce pass'd away,
Stubborn as any lioness was I;
345 With some grave sentence out of Holy Writ. Oft would he say, “Who builds his house on sands, Pricks his blind horse across the fallow lands; Or lets his wife abroad with pilgrims roam, Deserves a fool's-cap and long ears at home."
350 All this avail'd not: for whoe'er he be That tells my faults, I hate him mortally: And so do numbers more, I'll boldly say, Men, women, clergy, regular, and lay.
My spouse, (who was, you know, to learning bred,) 355 A certain treatise oft at evening read, Where divers authors (whom the devil confound For all their lies) were in one volume bound. Valerius, whole; and of St. Jerome, part; Chrysippus and Tertullian, Ovid's Art, Solomon's Proverbs, Eloïsa's loves; And many more than sure the church approves. More legends were there here, of wicked wives, Than good, in all the Bible and saints' lives. Who drew the lion vanquish'd ? 'Twas à man.
365 But could we women write as scholars can, Men should stand mark'd with far more wickedness, Than all the sons of Adam could redress.
Love seldom haunts the breast where learning lies,
375 (This by the way, but to my purpose now.)
It chanced my husband, on a winter's night,
He had by heart the whole detail of woe
390 Who took it patiently, and wiped his head; “ Rain follows Thunder," that was all he said.
He read, how Arius to his friend complain’d,
395 A sliding noose, and waver'd in the wind. “ Where grows this plant, (replied the friend,) oh where ? For better fruit did never orchard bear. Give me some slip of this most blissful tree, And in my garden planted shall it be !”
400 Then how two wives their lord's destruction prove, Through hatred one, and one through too much love ; That for her husband mix'd a poisonous draught, And this for lust an amorous philtre bought: The nimble juice soon seized his giddy head,
405 Frantic at night, and in the morning dead.
How some with swords their sleeping lords have slain, And some have hammer'd nails into their brain, And some have drench'd them with a deadly potion ; All this he read, and read with great devotion. 410 Long time I heard, and swell’d, and blush'd, and frown'd: But when no end of these vile tales I found; When still he read, and laugh'd, and read again, And half the night was thus consumed in vain ; Provoked to vengeance, three large leaves I tore, 415 And with one buffet feli'd him on the floor. With that my husband in a fury rose, And down he settled me with hearty blows. I groan'd, and lay extended on my side ; “Oh! thou hast slain me for my wealth, (I cried,) 420 Yet I forgive thee—take my last embrace” He wept, kind soul! and stoop'd to kiss my face ; I took him such a box as turn'd him blue, Then sigh'd, and cried, “ Adieu, my dear, adieu ! ” But after many a hearty struggle past,
Now Heaven on all my husbands gone bestow