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All luckless wits their enemies profest,
And all successful, jealous friends at best.
Nor Fame I slight, nor for her favours call;
She comes unlook'd-for, if she comes at all.
But if the purchase costs so dear a price
As soothing folly, or exalting vice :
Oh! if the muse must flatter lawless sway,
And follow still where fortune leads the way;
Or if no basis bear my rising name,
But the fall’n ruins of another's fame;
Then, teach me, Heaven! to scorn the guilty bays,
Drive from my breast that wretched lust of praise ;
Unblemish'd let me live, or die unknown;
Oh, grant an honest fame, or grant me none!
THERE liv’d in Lombardy, as author's write,
In days of old, a wise and worthy knight; Of gentle manness, as of generous race, Blest with much sense, more riches, and some grace; Yet, led astray, by Venus' soft delights, He scarce could rule some idle appetites: For long ago, let priests say what they could, Weak sinful laymen were but flesh and blood.
But in due time, when sixty years were o'er, He vow'd to lead this vicious life no more: Whether pure holiness inspir'd his mind, Or dotage turn'd his brain, is hard to find; But his high courage prick'd him forth to wed, And try the pleasures of a lawful bed. This was his nightly dream, his daily care, And to the heavenly powers his constant prayer, Once ere he died, to taste the blissful life Of a kind husband and a loving wife.
These thoughts he fortify'd with reasons still, (For none want reasons to confirm their will). Grave authors say, and witty poets sing, That honest wedlock is a glorious thing : But depth of judgement most in him appears, Who wisely weds in his maturer years. Then let him choose a damsel young and fair, To bless his age, and bring a worthy heir ; To sooth his cares, and, free from noise and strife, Conduct him gently to the verge of life.
Let sinful bachelors their woes deplore,
Full well they merit all they feel, and more:
Unaw'd by precepts human or divine,
Like birds and beasts promiscuously they join:
Nor know to make the present blessing last,
To hope the future, or esteem the past:
But vainly boast the joys they never try'd,
And find divulg'd the secrets they would hide.
The marry'd man may bear his yoke with ease,
Secure at once himself and Heaven to please;
And pass his inoffensive hours away,
In bliss all night, and innocence day:
Though fortune change, his constant spouse remains,
Augments his joys, or mitigates his pains.
But what so pure which envious tongués will
Some wicked wits have libell'd all the fair.
With matchless impudence they style a wife
The dear-bought curse, and lawful plague of life;
A bosom-serpent, a domestic evil,
A night invasion, and a mid-day devil.
Let not the wise these slanderous words regard,
But curse the bones of every living bard.
All other goods by fortune's hand are given,
A wife is the peculiar gift of Heaven.
Vain fortune's favours, never at a stay,
Like empty shadows, pass, and glide away;
Ove solid comfort, our eternal wife,
Abundantly supplies us all our life:
This blessing lasts (if those who try say true)
As long as heart can wish--and longer too.
Our grandsire Adam, ere of Eve possess'd,
Alone, and ev'n in Paradise upbless'd,
With mournful looks the blissful scenes survey'd,
And wander'd in the solitary shade:
The Maker saw, took pity, and bestow'd
Woman, the last, the best reserv'd of God.
A wife ! ah, gentle deities, can he
That has a wife, e'er feel adversity?
Would men but follow what the sex advise,
All things would prosper, all the world grow wise,
'Twas by Rebecca's aid that Jacob won
His father's blessing from av elder son:
Abusive Nabal ow'd his forfeit life
To the wise conduct of a prudent wife:
Heroic Judith, as old Hebrews show,
Preserv'd the Jews, and slew th’ Assyrian foe :
At Hester's suit, the persecuting sword
Was sheath'd, and Israel liv'd to bless the Lord.
These weighty motives, January the sage
Maturely ponderd in his riper age;
And, charm'd with virtuous joys and sober life,
Would try that Christian comfort, call'd a wife.
His friends were summon'd on a point so nice,
To pass their judgement, and to give advice;
But fix'd before, and well resolv'd was he;
(As men that ask advice are wont to be).
• My friends,' he cried (and cast a mournful look
Around the room, and sigh'd before he spoke),
• Bepeath the weight of threescore years I bend,
And worn with cares, and hastening to my end;
How I have liv'd, alas ! you know too well,
In worldly follies, which I blush to tell;
But gracious Heaven has ope'd my eyes at last,
With due regret I view my vices past,
And, as the precept of the church decrees,
Will take a wife, and live in holy ease.
But, since by counsel all things should be done,
And many heads are wiser still than one;
Choose you for me, who best shall be content
When my desire's approv'd by your consent.
One caution yet is needful to be told, To guide your choice; this wife must not be old: There goes a saying, and 'twas shrewdly said, Old fish at table, but young flesh in bed. My soul abhors the tasteless, dry embrace Of a stale virgin with a winter face: In that cold season love but treats his guest With bean-straw, and tough forage at the best.
No crafty widows shall approach my bed;
Those are too wise for bachelors to wed ;
As subtle clerks by many schools are made,
Twice-marry'd dames are mistresses o' the trade:
But young and tender virgins, rul'd with ease,
We form like wax, and mould them as we please.
Conceive me, sirs, nor take my sense amiss i
'Tis what concerns my soul's eternal bliss :
Since if I found no pleasure in my spouse,
As flesh is frail, and who (God help me) knows ?
Then should I live in lewd adultery,
And sink downright to Satan when I die.
Or were I curs'd with an unfruitful bed,
The righteous end were lost for which I wed;
To raise up seed to bless the powers above,
And not for pleasure only, or for love.
Think not I doat; 'tis time to take a wife,
When vigorous blood forbids a chaster life:
Those that are blest with store of grace divine,
May live like saints, by Heaven's consent and mine.
• And since I speak of wedlock, let me say (As, thank my stars, in modest truth I may), My limbs are active, still I'm sound at heart, And a new vigour springs in every part. Think not my virtue lost, though time has shed These reverend honours on my hoary head; Thus trees are crown'd with blossoms white as snow, The vital sap then rising from below: Old as I am, my lusty limbs appear Like winter greens, that flourish all the year. Now, sirs, you know to what i stand inclin'd, Let every
friend with freedom speak his mind.' He said ; the rest in different parts divide; The knotty point was urg'd on either side: Marriage, the theme on which they all declaim'd, Some prais'd with wit, and some with reason blam'd; Till what with proofs, objections, and replies, Each wondrous positive, and wondrous wise, There fell between his brothers a debate, Placebo this was call'd, and Justin that.