Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

245

250

255

260

He died, when last from pilgrimage I came,
With other gossips, from Jerusalem ;
And now lies buried underneath a rood,
Fair to be seen, and rear'd of honest wood.
A tomb indeed, with fewer sculptures graced,
Than that Mausolus' pious widow placed,
Or where inshrined the great Darius lay;
But cost on graves

merely thrown away.
The pit fill'd up, with turf we cover'd o'er ;
So, bless the good man's soul, I say no more.

Now for my fifth loved lord, the last and best
(Kind Heaven afford him everlasting rest);
Full hearty was his love, and I can shew
The token on my ribs in black and blue;
Yet, with a knack, my heart he could have won,
While yet the smart was shooting in the bone.
How quaint an appetite in women reigns !
Free gifts we scorn, and love what costs us pains :
Let men avoid us, and on them we leap;
A glutted market makes provision cheap.

In pure good-will I took this jovial spark,
Of Oxford he, a most egregious clerk.
He boarded with a widow in the town,
A trusty gossip, one dame Alison.
Full well the secrets of my soul she knew,
Better than e'er our parish-priest could do.
To her I told whatever could befal ;
Had but my husband piss'd against a wall.
Or done a thing that might have cost his life,
She--and my niece—and once more worthy wife,
Had known it all. What most he could conceal,
To these I made no scruple to reveal.
Oft has he blush'd from ear to ear for shame,
That e'er he told a secret to his dame.

It so befel, in holy time of Lent,
That oft a-day I to this gossip went:
(My husband, thank my stars, was out of town :)
From house to house we rambled up and down,
This clerk, myself, and my good neighbour, Also,
To see, be seen, to tell and gather tales,
Visits to every church we daily paid,
And march'd in every holy masquerade ;

265

270

275

280

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,
I follow'd always my own inclination.

But to my tale: A month scarce pass'd away,
With dance and song we kept the nuptial day. 330
All I possess'd I gave to his command,
My goods and chattels, money, house, and land:
But oft repented, and repent it still ;
He proved a rebel to my sovereign will:
Nay once, by Heaven ! he struck me on the face ; 335
Hear but the fact, and judge yourself the case.

Stubborn as any lioness was I;
And knew full well to raise my voice on high ;
As true a rambler as I was before,
And would be so, in spite of all he swore.

340
He against this right sagely would advise,
And old examples set before my eyes ;
Tell how the Roman matrons led their life,
Of Gracchus' mother and Duilius' wife;
And chose the sermon, as beseem'd his wit,

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.

360

Love seldom haunts the breast where learning lies,
And Venus sets ere Mercury can rise.

370
Those play the scholars who can't play the men,
And use that weapon which they have, their pen;
When old, and past the relish of delight,
Then down they sit, and in their dotage write,
That not one woman keeps her marriage-vow.

375 (This by the way, but to my purpose now.)

It chanced my husband, on a winter's night,
Read in this book, aloud, with strange delight,
How the first female (as the Scriptures show)
Brought her own spouse and all his race to woe. 380
How Samson fell; and he whom Dejanire
Wrapp'd in th’ envenom'd shirt, and set on fire.
How cursed Eryphile her lord betray'd,
And the dire ambush Clytæmnestra laid.
But what most pleased him was the Cretan dame, 385
And husband-bull-oh, monstrous ! fie, for shame!

He had by heart the whole detail of woe
Xantippe made her good man undergo;
How oft she scolded in a day, he knew,
How many piss-pots on the sage she threw;

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,
A fatal tree was growing in his land,
On which three wives successively had twined

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,

425
I condescended to be pleased at last.
Soon as said, “My mistress and my wife,
Do what you list, the term of all your life,”
I took to heart the merits of the cause,
And stood content to rule by wholesome laws; 430
Received the reins of absolute command,
With all the government of house and land,
And empire o'er his tongue, and o’er his hand.
As for the volume that reviled the dames,
'Twas torn to fragments, and condemn’d to flames. 435

Now Heaven on all my husbands gone bestow
Pleasures above, for tortures felt below:
That rest they wish'd for, grant them in the grave,
And bless those souls my conduct help'd to save!

« ZurückWeiter »