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THE WIFE OF BATH.
BEHOLD the woes of matrimonial life,
I was myself the scourge that caus'd the smart:
But let them read, and solve me, if they can,
"Increase and multiply," was Heav'n's command,
And that's a text I clearly understand.
This too, "Let men their sires and mothers leave,
More wives than one by Solomon were try'd,
I've had myself full many a merry
And trust in Heav'n I may have many yet.
For when my transitory spouse, unkind,
Shall die, and leave his woful wife behind,
I'll take the next good Christian I can find.
Paul, knowing one could never serve our turn, Declar'd 'twas better far to wed than burn.
There's danger in assembling fire and tow ;
I grant 'em that, and what it means you know.
"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 or vice;
Heav'n calls us diff'rent ways, on these bestows 40
Full many a saint, since first the world began,
For me, I'll keep the post assign'd by Heav'n, 50
Let my good spouse pay tribute, do me right,
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,
To lie so boldly as we women can:
Forswear the fact, tho' seen with both his eyes,
Hark, old Sir Paul! ('twas thus I us'd to say) Whence is our neighbour's wife so rich and gay? 75 Treated, caress'd where'er she's pleas'd to roam— I sit in tatters, and immur'd at home.
Why to her house dost thou so oft repair?
Art thou so am'rous? and is she so fair?
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;
If highly born, intolerably vain,
Vapours and pride by turns possess her brain,
Horses (thou say'st) and asses men may try, 100 And ring suspected vessels ere they buy : But wives, a random choice, untry'd they take, They dream in courtship, but in wedlock wake; Then, nor till then, the veil's remov'd away, And all the woman glares in open day.
You tell me, to preserve your wife's good grace, Your eyes must always languish on my face, Your tongue with constant flatt'ries feed my ear, And tag each sentence with, My life! my dear! If by strange chance a modest blush be rais'd, 110 Be sure my fine complexion must be prais'd. My garments always must be new and gay, And feasts still kept upon my wedding-day. Then must my nurse be pleas'd, and fav'rite maid; And endless treats, and endless visits paid, To a long train of kindred friends, allies; All this thou say'st, and all thou say'st, are lies. On Jenkin too you cast a squinting eye : What! can your 'prentice raise your jealousy?
Fresh are his ruddy cheeks, his forehead fair, 120
I know thee for a virtuous, faithful wife."
Lord! when you have enough, what need you care How merrily soever others fare?
Tho' all the day I give and take delight,
Doubt not, sufficient will be left at night. 'Tis but a just and rational desire,
To light a taper at a neighbour's fire.
There's danger too, you think, in rich array, 140
Lo thus, my friends, I wrought to my desires