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"What could thus high thy rash ambition raise? Art thou, fond youth, a candidate for praise?" 500
"'Tis true, (said I), not void of hopes I came,
For who so fond as youthful bards of fame?
But few, alas! the casual blessing boast,
So hard to gain, so easy to be lost.
How vain that second life in others' breath, . 505
Th' estate which wits inherit after death!
Ease, health, and life, for this they must resign,
(Unsure the tenure, but how vast the fine!)
The great man's curse, without the gains, endure,
Be envy'd, wretched, and be flatter'd, poor; 510
All luckless wits their enemies profest,
And all successful, jealous friends at best.
Nor Fame I slight, nor for her favours call;
She comes unlook'd for, if she comes at all.
But if the purchase costs so dear a price, 515
As soothing folly, or exalting vice;
Oh! if the Muse must flatter lawless sway,
And follow still where Fortune leads the way;
Or if no basis bear my rising name,
But the fall'n ruins of another's fame; 520
Then teach me, Heav'n ! to scorn the guilty bays,
Drive from my breast that wretched lust of praise;
Unblemish'd let me live, or die unknown:
Oh l grant an honest Fame, or grant me none l
THE MERCHANT'S TALE.
These liv'd in Lombardy, as authors write,
In days of old, a wise and worthy knight,
Of gentle manners, as of gen'rous race,
tflest with much sense, more riches, and some grace;
Yet, led astray by Venus' soft delights, 5
He scarce could rule some idle appetites:
For long ago, let priests say what they cou'd,
Weak sinful laymen were but flesh and blood.
But in due time, when sixty years were o'er,
He vow'd to lead this vicious life no more; 10
Whether pure holiness inspir'd his mind,
Or dotage turn'd his brain, is hard to find;
Hut his high courage prick'd him forth to wed,
And try the pleasures of a lawful bed.
This was his nightly dream, his daily care, IS
And to the heav'nly pow'rs his constant pray'r,
Once, ere he dy'd, to taste the blissful life
Of a kind husband and a loving wife.
The e thoughts he fortify'd with reasons still,
-(For none want reasons to confirm their will.) ta
Crave authors say, and witty poets sing,
That honest wedlock is a glorious thing;
Rut depth of judgment most in him appears,
Who wisely weds in his maturer years.
Then let him chuse a damsel young and fair, 25
To bless his age, and bring a worthy heir;
To sooth his cares, and, free from noise and strife,
Conduct him gently to the verge of life.
Let sinful bachelors their woes deplore,
Full well they merit all they feel, and more: 30
Unaw'd by precepts, human or divine,
Like birds and beasts, promiscuously they join l
Nor know to make the present blessing last,
To hope the future, or esteem the past;
But vainly boast the joys they never try'd, 35
And find divulg'd the'secrets they would bide.
The marry'd man may bear his yoke with ease,
Secure at once himself and Heav'n to please;
And pass his inoffensive hours away,
In bliss all night, and innocence all day: 4c
Tho' fortune change, his constant spouse remains,
Augments his joys, or mitigates his pains.
But what so pure which envious tongues will spare?
Some wicked wits have libell'd all the fair.
With matchless impudence they style a wife 45
The dear-bought curse, and lawful plague of life;
A bosom serpent, a domestic evil,
A night-invasion, and a mid-day devil.
Let not the wise these sland'rous words regard,
But curse the bones of ev'ry lying bard. 50
All other goods by Fortune's hand aregiv'n,
A wife is the peculiar gift of Heav'n.
Vain Fortune's favours, never at a stay,
Like empty shadows, pass and glide away;
One solid comfort, our eternal wife,
Abundantly supplies us all our life:
This blessing lasts (if those who try say true)
As long as heart can wish—and longer too.
Our grandsire Adam, ere of Eve possest,
Alone, and ev'n in paradise unblest, <»
With mournful looks the blissful scenes survey'd.
And wander'd in the solitary shade.
The Maker saw, took pity, and bestow'd
Woman, the last, and best reserv'd of God.
A wife! ah gentle deities! can he 65
That has a wife, e'er fee! adversity?
Would men but follow what the sex advise,
All things would prosper, all the world grow wise.
'Twas by Rebecca's aid that Jacob won
His father's blessing from an elder son; "fl
Abusive Nabal ow'd his forfeit life
To the wise conduct of a prudent wife;
Heroic Judith, as old Hebrews show,
Preserv'd the Jews, and slew th' Assyrian foe;
At Hester's suit the persecuting sword 75
Was sheath'd, and Is-ael liv'd to bless the Lord.
These weighty motives January the sage Maturely ponder'd in his riper age; And charm'd with virtuous joys, and sober life, Would try that Christian comfort, call'd a wife, to His friends were summon'd on a point so nice To pass their judgment, and to give advice; But fix'd before, and well resolv'd was he (As men that ask advice are wont to be.)
"My fiends, (he cry'd) and cast a mournful look
Around the room, and sigii'd before he spoke i) 86
Beneath the weigh: of three-core years I bend,
And, worn with cares, am hast'ning to my end;
How I have liv'd, alas! you know too well,
In worldly follies which I blush to tell; 5o
But gracious Heav'n 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 ease.
But since by counsel all things should be done, $5
And many heads are wiser still than one,
Chuse you for me, who best shall be content,
When my desire's approv'd by your consent."
"One caution yet is needfulsto be told
To guide your choice; this wife must not be old:
There goes a saying, and 'twas shrewdly said, 101
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 105
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 marry'd dames are mistresses o' th' trade;
But young and tender virgins, rul'd with ease, m
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;