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Sore sigh'd the knight to hear his lady's cry, But could not climb, and had no servant nigh: Old 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 replied again :
Now prove your patience, gentle ladies all!
In that nice moment, lo! the wondering knight Look'd out, and stood restored 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 cried, 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 replied I thought your patience had been better tried. Is this your love, ungrateful and unkind, This my reward for having cured the blind? Why was I taught to make my husband see, By struggling with a man upon a tree?
Did I for this the power of magic prove? Unhappy wife, whose crime was too much love!" 'If this be struggling, by his holy light,
'Tis struggling with a vengeance,' quoth the knight
'Guard me, good angels!' cried the gentle May, 'Pray Heaven, this magic work the proper way! Alas, my love! 'tis certain, could you see, You ne'er had used these killing words to me: So help me, Fates, as 'tis no perfect sight, But some faint glimmering of a doubtful light.'
'What I have said,' quoth he, 'I must maintain, For by the immortal powers it seem'd too plain.''By all those powers, some frenzy seized your mind, Replied 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 wiped from either eye,
The knight was touch'd, and in his looks appear'd
Let my repentance your forgiveness draw.
By Heaven, I swore but what I thought I saw.'
Ah, my loved lord! 'twas much unkind,' she cried
'On bare suspicion thus to treat your bride.
But, till your sight 's establish'd, for a while,
So, just recovering from the shades of night,
Then, sir, be cautious, nor too rashly deem.
Heaven knows how seldom things are what they seem!
He hugg'd her close, and kiss'd her o'er and o'er,
Thus ends our tale; whose moral next to make, Let all wise husbands hence example take:
And pray, to crown the pleasure of their lives,
To be so well deluded by their wives.
THE WIFE OF BATH.
BEHOLD the woes of matrimonial life,
In all these trials I have borne a part,
I was myself the scourge that caused the smart ;
Christ saw a wedding once, the Scripture says,
Whence some infer, whose conscience is too nice, No pious Christian ought to marry twice.
But let them read, and solve me, if they can,
Five times in lawful wedlock she was join'd;
Increase and multiply,' was Heaven's command. And that's a text I clearly understand.
This too, 'Let men their sires and mothers leave,
Paul, knowing one could never serve our turn
"Tis but a counsel-and we women still
Take which we like, the counsel, or our will
I envy not their bliss, if he or she
Think fit to live in perfect chastity.
Pure let them be, and free from taint of vice;
I, for a few slight spots, am not so nice.
Heaven calls us different ways, on these bestows
Full many a saint, since first the world began.
For me, I'll keep the post assign'd by Heaven,
His proper body is not his, but mine;
For so said Paul, and Paul's a sound divine.
Know then, of those five husbands I have had, Three were just tolerable, two were bad: The three were old, but rich and fond beside, And toil'd most piteously to please their bride: But since their wealth (the best they had) was mine, The rest, without much loss, I could resign. Sure to be loved, I took no pains to please, Yet had more pleasure far than they had ease. Presents flow'd in apace: with showers of gold, They made their court, like Jupiter of old. If I but smiled, a sudden youth they found, And a new palsy seized them when I frown'd. Ye sovereign wives! give ear and understand, Thus shall ye speak, and exercise command. For never was it given to mortal man, To lie so boldly as we women can; Forswear the fact, though seen with both his eyes, And call your maids to witness how he lies.
'Hark, old sir Paul!' 'twas thus I used to say, 'Whence is our neighbour's wife so rich and gay? Treated, caress'd where'er she's pleased to roam
I sit in tatters, and immured at home.
Why to her house dost thou so oft repair?
If I but see a cousin or a friend,
Lord! how you swell, and rage like any fiend!
"If poor (you say) she drains her husband's purse If rich, she keeps her priest, or something worse;