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THE

WIFE OF BATH.

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From CHAUCER,
EHOLD the woes of matrimonial life,

And hear with rev’rence an experienc'd wife!
To dear-bought wisdom give the credit due,
And think, for once, a woman tells you true.
In all these trials I have borne a part,

5 I was myself the scourge that caus’d the smart ; For, since fifteen, in triumph have I led Five captive husbands from the church to bed.

Christ saw a wedding once, the Scripture says; And faw but one, 'tis thought, in all his days; 10 Whence fome infer, whose conscience is too nice, No pious Christian ought to marry twice.

But let them read, and folve me, if they can, The words address'd to the Samaritan: Five times in lawful wedlock the was join'd; 15 And sure the certain stint was ne'er defin’d.

Increase and multiply, was Heav'n's command, And that's a text I clearly understand.

“ Let men their fires and mothers leave “ And to their dearer wives for ever cleave.” 20 More wives than one by Solomon were try'd, Or else the wiseft of mankind's bely'd. VOL. II. А

I've

This too,

I've had myself full many a merry fit;
And trust in Heav'n I may have many yet.
For when my transitory spouse, unkind, 25
Shall die, and leave his woeful wife behind,
I'll take the next good Chriftian I can find.

Paul, knowing one could never serve our turn,
Declar'd 'twas better far to wed than burn.
There's danger in allembling fire and tow; 30
I grant 'em that, and what it means you know.
The fame apoitle too has elsewhere own’d,
No precept for virginity he found :
'Tis but a counsel and we women still
Take which we like, the counsel, or our will. 35

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; I, for a few flight spots, am not so nice. Heav'n calls us diff'rent ways, on these bestows 40 One proper gift, another grants to those : Not ev'ry man's oblig'd to sell his store, And give up all his substance to the

poor; Sach as are perfect, may, I can't deny ; But, by your leaves, divines, so am not I.

45 Full many a saint, fince first the world began, Liv'd an unfpotted maid, in spite of man: Let such (a God's name) with fine wheat be fed, And let us honest wives eat barley-bread. For me, I'll keep the poit assign’d by Heav'n, 50 And use the copious talent it has giv’n: Let my good spouse pay tribute, do me right, And keep an equal reck’ning ev'ry night: His proper body is not his, but mine; For so said Paul, and Paul's a found divine. 55

Know

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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 toild most piteously to please their bride:
But since their wealth (the belt they had) was mine,
The rest, without much lofs, I could refign. 61
Sure to be lov'd, I took no pains to please,
Yet had more pleasure far than they had ease.

Presents flow'd in a-pace: with ihow'rs of gold
They made their court, like Jupiter of old, 65
If I but smil'd, a sudden youth they found,
And a new palsey seiz'd them when I frown'd.

Ye fov'reign wives! give ear, and understand,
Thus shall ye speak, and exercise command.
For never was it giv'n to mortal man,

70
To lie fo boldly as we women can:
Forswear the fact, though seen with both his eyes,
And call your maids to witness how he lieş.

Hark, old Sir Paul; ('twas thus I us’d to say);
Whence is our neighbour's wife so rich and gay?
Treated, caress’d, where'er she's pleas’d to roam---
I fit 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 coufin or a friend,

80
Lord! how
you swell, and

rage
like
any

fiend! But

you reel home, a drunken beastly bear,
Then preach till midnight in your easy chair;
Cry, wives are false, and ev'ry woman evil,
And give up all that's female to the devil. 85

If poor, (you say,) the drains her husband's purse;
If rich, she keeps her priest, or fomething worse ;
If highly born, intolerably vain,
Vapours and pride by turns poffefs her brain,

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II

Now gaily mad, now fourly splenetic,

90 Freakish when well, and fretful when she's fick: If fair, then chaste the cannot long abide, By pressing youth attack'd on ev'ry side; If foul, her wealth the lufty lover lures, Or else her wit fome fool-gailant procures, 95 Or else the dances with becoming grace, Or shape excuses the defects of face. T.:ere swims no goose so gray, but foon or late She finds some honeit gander for her mate.

Horses (thou say'st) and asses, men may try, And ring suspected vefsels ere they buy: But wives a random choice, untry'd they take, They dream in courtship, but in wedlock wake: Then, not till then, the veil's remov'd away, And all the woman glares in open day. 105

You tell me, to preserve your wife's good grace, Your eyes must always languish on my face, Your tongue with constant tlatt’ries feed my ear, And tag each sentence with, My life! my

dear! If, by itrange chance, a modest blush be rais'd, Be sure my fine complexion must be prais'd. ili 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, 115 To a long train of kindred, friends, allies; All this thou fay'st, and all thou say'st are lies.

On Jenkin too you cast a fquinting eye: What! can your 'prentice raise your jealousy? Fresh are his ruddy cheeks, his forehead fair, 120 And like the burnih'd gold his curling hair. But clear thy wrinkled brow, and quit thy sorrow, I'd fcorn your 'prentice, should you die to-morrow.

Why

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