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THE

WIFE OF BATH,

HER PROLOGUE.

FROM CHAUCER.

Behold the woes of matrimonial life,
And hear with reverence 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 :
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 saw but one, 'tis thought, in all his days; Whence some infer, whose conscience is too nice, No pious Christian onght to marry twice.

But let them read, and solve me if they can,
The words address'd to the Samaritan;
Five times in lawful wedlock she was join'd,
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:
This too, 'Let men their sires and mothers leave,
And to their dearer wives for ever cleave.'
More wives than one by Solomon were tried,
Or else the wisest of mankind's belied.

L've had myself full many a merry fit,
And trust in Heav'n I may have many yet;
For when my transitory spouse, unkind,
Sball die and leave his woful wife behind,
T'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,
The same apostle, too, bas elsewhere own'd
No precept for virginity he found :
'Tis bnt a coupsel—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 : Póre let them be, and free from taint of vice; I for a few slight spots am not so nice. Heav'n calls as different ways; on these hestową One proper gift, another grants to those : Not every man's oblig'd to sell his store, And give up all bis substance to the poor: Such as are perfect may, I can't deny; But by your leaves, divines! so am not I.

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

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 :
Sựre to be lov'd, I took no pains to please,
Yet had more pleasure far than they had ease.

Presents flow'd in apace : with show'rs of gold .
They made their court, like Jupiter of old :
If I but smil'd, a sudden youth they found,
And a new palsy seiz'd 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 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 sit in tatters, and immor'd at bome. Why to her house dost thou so oft repair ? Art thou so amorous ? and is she so fair? If I but see a cousin or a friend, 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 every woman evil, And give up all that's female to the devil.

If poor (you say) she drains her husband's purse; If rich, she keeps her priest, or something worse ;

If biglily born, intolerably vain,
Vapours and pride by turns possess her brain; .
Now gaily mad, now sourly splenetic,
Freakish when well, and fretful when she's sick :
If fair, then chaste she cannot long abide,
By pressing youth attack'd on every side;
If foul, her wealth the lusty lover lares,
Or else her wit some fool-gallant procures,
Or else she dances with becoming grace,
Or shape excuses the defects of face.
There swims no goose so gray but soon or late
Sbe tinds some honest gander for her mate,

Horses (thvu say'st) and asses men may try,
And ring suspected vessels ere they bay ;
But wives, a ravdom choice, untried 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 tongne with constant flatteries feed my ear, And tag each sentence with • My life! my dear!' If by strange chance a modest blush be rais'd, Be sure my fine complexion must be prais'd. My garmepts always must be new and gay, And feasts still kept upon my wedding-day. Then must my purse be pleas'd, and favourite 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 bis ruddy cheeks, his forehead fair, And like the burnish'd gold his curling hair.

VOL. III,

But clear thy wrinkled brow, and quit thy sorrow, I'd scorn your 'prentice should you die to-morrow.

Why are thy chests all lock'd? on what design? Are vot thy worldly goods and treasure mine? Sir, I'm no fool; nor shall you, by Saint John, Have goods and body to yourself alone. One you shall quit, in spite of both your eyes I heed not, I, the bolts, the locks, the spies. If you had wit, you'd say, 'Go where you will, Dear spouse! 1 credit not the tales they tell: . Take all the freedoms of a married life; · I know thee for a virtuous faithful wife.'

Lord! when you have enough, whát need you care How merrily soever others fare? Though 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, And none can long be modest that are gay. The cat, if you but singe her tabby skin, The chimney keeps, and sits content within ; But once grown sleek will from her corner run, Sport with ber tạil, and wanton in the sun : She licks her fair round face, and frisks abroad To show her fur, and to be caterwau'd.

Lo thus, my friends, I wrought to my desires, These three right ancient venerable sires. I told 'em, Thus you say and thus you do ; I told 'em false, but Jenkin swore 'twas true. 1, like a dog, could bite as well as whine, And first complain'd whene'er the guilt was mine, I tax'd them oft with wenching and amours, [doors; When their weak legs scarce dragg’d them out of

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