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Öld as he was, and void of eye-sight too,
What could, alas! a helpless husband do?
And must I languish then, she said, and die,
Yet view the lovely fruit before my eye?
At least, kind Sir, for charity's sweet sake,
Vouchsafe the trunk between your arms to take;
Then from your back I might ascend the tree;
Do you but stoop, and leave the rest to me.
With all my soul, he thus reply'd again,
I'd spend my dearest blood to ease thy pain.
With that, his back against the trunk he bent,
She seiz❜d a twig, and up the tree she went.
Now prove your patience, gentle ladies all !
Nor let on me your heavy anger fall:
'Tis truth I tell, tho' not in phrase refin'd;
my tale, yet honest is my mind.
What feats the lady in the tree might do,
I pass, as gambols never known to you;
But sure it was a merrier fit, she swore,
Than in her life she ever felt before.
In that nice moment, lo! the wond'ring knight
Look'd out, and stood restor❜d to sudden sight.
Straight on the tree his eager eyes he bent,
As one whose thoughts were on his spouse intent;
But when he saw his bosom-wife so dress'd,
His rage was such as cannot be express'd:
Not frantic mothers when their infants die,
With louder clamours rend the vaulted sky:
He cry'd, he roar'd, he storm'd, he tore his hair;
Death! hell! and furies! what dost thou do there?
What ails my lord? the trembling dame reply'd;
I thought your patience had been better try'd;
Is this your love, ungrateful and unkind,
This my reward for having cur'd the blind?
Why was I taught to make my husband see,
By struggling with a man upon a tree?
Did I for this the pow'r of magic prove?
Unhappy wife, whose crime was too much love!
If this be struggling, by this holy light, 765
'Tis struggling with a vengeance (quoth the knight);
So heav'n preserve the sight it has restor❜d,
As with these eyes I plainly saw thee whor'd;
Whor'd by my slave-perfidious wretch! may hell
As surely seize thee, as I saw too well.
Guard me, good angels! cry'd the gentle May, Pray heav'n, this magic work the proper way! Alas, my love! 'tis certain, could you see, You ne'er had us'd those killing words to me: So help me, fates, as 'tis no perfect sight, But some faint glimm'ring of a doubtful light. What I have said (quoth he) I must maintain, For by th' immortal pow'rs it seem'd too plain—
By all those pow'rs, some frenzy seiz'd your mind, (Reply'd the dame) are these the thanks I find? Wretch that I am, that e'er I was so kind!
She said; a rising sigh express'd her woe,
The ready tears apace began to flow,
And as they fell she wip'd from either eye
The drops (for women, when they list, can cry).
The knight was touch'd; and in his looks appear'd
Signs of remorse, while thus his spouse he chear'd:
Madam, 'tis past, and my short anger o'er!
Come down, and vex your tender heart no more;
Excuse me, dear, if aught amiss was said,
For, on my soul, amends shall soon be made:
Let my repentance your forgiveness draw,
By heav'n, I swore but what I thought I saw.
Ah, my lov'd lord! 'twas much unkind (she cry'd)
On bare suspicion thus to treat your bride.
But till your sight's establish'd, for a while,
Imperfect objects may your sense beguile.
Thus when from sleep we first our eyes display,
The balls are wounded with the piercing ray,
And dusky vapours rise, and intercept the day: 800
So just recov'ring from the shades of night,
Your swimming eyes are drunk with sudden light, Strange phantoms dance around, and skim before your sight.
Then, Sir, be cautious, nor too rashly deem,
Heav'n knows how seldom things are what they seem! Consult your reason, and you soon shall find 'Twas you were jealous, not your wife unkind:
Jove ne'er spoke oracle more true than this,
None judge so wrong as those who think amiss.
With that she leap'd into her lord's embrace 810
With well-dissembled virtue in her face.
He hugg'd her close, and kiss'd her o'er and o'er,
Disturb'd with doubts and jealousies no more :
Both, pleas'd and bless'd, renew'd their mutual vows,
A fruitful wife and a believing spouse.
Thus ends our tale, whose moral next to make,
Let all wise husbands hence example take;
And pray, to crown the pleasures of their lives,
To be so well deluded by their wives.