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How sore I gall'd him, only Heaven could know,
Now for my fifth loved lord, the last and best,
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 befall: Had but my husband piss'd against the wall, Or done a thing that might have cost his life, She--and my niece-and one more worthy wife, Had known it all : what most he would 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 befell, in holy time of Lent, That oft a day I to this gossip went.
(My husband, thank my stars, was out of town ;)
see, be seen, to tell and gather tales.
array ; The cause was this, I wore it every day. 'Twas when fresh May her early blossoms yields, 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. 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, And durst be sworn he had bewitch'd me to him ; If e'er I slept, I dream'd of him alone, And dreams foretell, as learned men have shown; All this I said ; but dreams, sirs, I had none: I follow'd but my crafty crony's lore, 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 soil'd my locks with dust, And beat
breast as wretched widows---must. Before
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 Of lege and feet, so clean, so strong, so fair!
Of twenty winters'
age he seem'd to be,
But to my tale: A month scarce pass'd away,
Stubborn as any lioness was I,
• 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.' All this avail'd not; for whoe'er he be That tells my faults, I hate him mortally: And so do numbers more, I boldly say, Men, women, clergy, regular and lay.
My spouse (who was, you know, to learning bred) 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 legions were there here of wicked wives, Than good in all the Bible and saints' lives. Who drew the lion vanquish'd ? 'twas a man. 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, And Venus sets ere Mercury can rise. 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. (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
He read, how Arius to his friend complain'd, A fatal tree was growing in his land, On which three wives successively had twined 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.'
Then how two wives their lords' 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, Frantic at night, and in the morning dead. How some with swords their sleeping lords have
But after many a hearty struggle pass'd,
Soon as he said, “My mistress and my wife, - Do what you list, the term of all your life,