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Oft has he blush'd from ear to ear for shame
That e'er he told a secret to his dame.
It so befell, in holy time of Lent,
That oft a-day I to this gossip went;
(My husband, thank my stars, was out of town)
From house to house we rambled up and down,
This clerk, myself, and my good neighbour Alse,
To see, be seen, to tell, and gather tales.
Visits to every church we daily paid,
And march'd in every holy masquerade;
The stations duly and the vigils kept,
Not much we fasted, but scarce ever slept.
At sermons, too, I shone in scarlet gay:
The wasting moth ne'er spoild my best array ;
The cause was this, I wore it every day.
'Twas when fresh May her early blossoms yields, This clerk and I were walking in the fields. We grew so intimate, I can't tell how, I pawn'd my honour, and engaged my vow, If e'er I laid my husband in his urn, That he, and only he, should serve my turn. We straight struck hands, the bargain was agreed; I still have shifts against a time of need. The mouse that always trusts to one poor hole Can never be a mouse of any soul. [him,
Ivow'd I scarce could sleep since first I knew And durst be sworn he had bewitch'd me to him; If e'er I slept, I dream’d of him alone, And dreams foretell, as learned men have shown: All this I said; but dreams, sirs, I had none: I follow'd but my crafty crony's lore, Who bid me tell this lie—and twenty more.
Thus day by day, and month by month we pass'd; It pleased the Lord to take my spouse at last,
I tore my gown, I soil'd my looks with dust,
And beat my breasts, as wretched widows--must.
Before my face my handkerchief I spread,
To hide the floods of tears I did not shed.
The good man's coffin to the church was borne;
Around the neighbours, and my clerk too, mourn :
But as he march’d, good gods! he show'd a pair
Of legs and feet so clean, so strong, so fair!
Of twenty winters' age he seem'd to be;
I (to say truth) was twenty more than he ;
But vigorous still, a lively buxom dame,
And had a wondrous gift to quench a flame.
A conjurer once, that deeply could divine,
Assured me Mars in Taurus was my sign.
As the stars order’d, such my life has been:
Alas, alas ! that ever love was sin !
Fair Venus gave me fire and sprightly grace,
And Mars assurance and a dauntless face.
By virtue of this powerful constellation,
I follow'd always my own inclination.
But to my tale:-A month scarce pass’d away,
With dance and song we kept the nuptial day.
All I possess'd I gave to his command,
My goods and chattels, money, house, and land;
But oft repented, and repent it still;
He proved a rebel to my sovereign will;
Nay once, by Heaven! he struck me on the face.
Hear but the fact, and judge yourselves the case.
Stubborn as any lioness was I, And knew full well to raise my voice on high; As true a rambler as I was before, And would be so in spite of all he swore. He against this right sagely would advise, And old examples set before my eyes;
Tell how the Roman matrons led their life,
Of Gracchus' mother, and Duillius' wife;
And close the sermon, as beseem'd his wit,
With some grave sentence out of Holy Writ.
Oft would he say, Who builds his house on sands,
Pricks his blind horse across the fallow lands,
Or lets his wife abroad with pilgrims roam,
Deserves a fool's cap and long ears at home.'
All this avail'd not, for whoe'er he be
That tells my faults, I hate bim mortally;
And so do numbers more, I'll boldly say,
Men, women, clergy, regular, and lay.
My spouse (who was, you know, to learning
A certain treatise oft at evening read, [bred)
Where divers authors (whom the devil confound
For all their lies) were in one volume bound:
Valerius whole, and of St. Jerome part;
Chrysippus and Tertullian, Ovid's Art,
Solomon's Proverbs, Eloïsa's Loves,
And many more than sure the church approves.
More legends were there here of wicked wives
Than good in all the Bible and Saints' Lives.
Who drew the lion vanquish'd ? 'Twas a man:
But could we women write as scholars can,
Men should stand mark'd with far more wickedness
Than all the sons of Adam could redress.
Love seldom haunts the breast where learning lies,
And Venus sets ere Mercury can rise.
Those play the scholars who can't play the men,
And use that weapon which they have, their pen:
When old, and past the relish of delight,
Then down they sit, and in their dotage write,
That not one woman keeps her marriage vow.
(This by the way, but to my purpose now :)
It chanced my husband, on a winter's night,
Read in this book aloud with strange delight,
How the first female (as the Scriptures show)
Brought her own spouse and all his race to woe;
How Samson fell; and he whom Dejanire
Wrapp'd in the envenom'd shirt, and set on fire;
How cursed Eriphyle her lord betray'd,
And the dire ambush Clytemnestra laid;
But what most pleased him was the Cretan dame
And husband-bull-Oh, monstrous! fie, for shame!
He had by heart the whole detail of woe
Xantippe made her good man undergo;
How oft she scolded in a day he knew,
How many piss-pots on the sage she threw,
Who took it patiently, and wiped his head;
* Rain follows thunder,' that was all he said.
He read how Arius to his friend complain'd,
A fatal tree was growing iq his land,
On which three wives successively had twined
A sliding moose, and waver'd in the wind.
• Where grows this plant, (peplied the friend) oh!
For better fruit did never orchard bear: [where?
Give me some slip of this most blissful tree,
And in my garden planted it shall be. [prove,
Then how two wives their lords' destruction Through hatred one, and one through too much love; That for her husband mix'd a poisonous draught, And this for lust an amorous philtre bought: The nimble juice soon seized his giddy head, Frantic at night, and in the morning dead. (slain,
How some with swords their sleeping lords have And some have hammer'd nails into their brain, And some have drench'd them with a deadly potion: All this he read, and read with great devotion.
Long time I heard, and swell’d, and blush’d, and
frown'd; But when no end of these vile tales I found, When still he read, and laugh’d, and read again, And half the night was thus consumed in vain, Provoked to vengeance, three large leaves I tore, And with one buffet felld him on the floor. With that my husband in a fury rose, And down he settled me with hearty blows. I groan'd, and lay extended on my side;
Oh! thou hast slain me for my wealth, (I cried) Yet I forgive thee-take my last embrace-' He wept, kind soul! and stoop'd to kiss my face: I took him such a box as turned him blue, Then sigh'd and cried, “Adieu, my dear, adieu !
But after many a hearty struggle pass’d, . I condescended to be pleased at last: Soon as he said “My mistress and my wife! Do what you list the term of all your life;' I took to heart the merits of the cause, And stood content to rule by wholesome laws; Received the reins of absolute command, With all the government of house and land, And empire o'er his tongue and o'er his hand, As for the volume that reviled the dames, 'Twas torn to fragments, and condemn’d to flames.
Now Heaven on all my husbands gone bestow Pleasures above, for tortures felt below: That rest they wish'd for grant them in the grave, And bless those souls my conduct help'd to save!