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If by strange chance, a modest blush be rais'd,
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 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 his ruddy cheeks, his forehead fair,
And like the burnish'd gold his curling hair.
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 not thy worldly goods and treasure mine?
Sir, I'm no fool; nor shall you, by St. John,
Have goods and body to yourself alone.
One you shall quit, in spite of both your eyes---
I heed not, I, the bolts, and locks, and spies.
If you had wit, you'd say, ' Go where you will,
Dear spouse, I 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, what need you
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 her tail, and wanton in the sun;
She licks her fair round face, and frisks abroad,
To show her fur, and to be catterwaw'd.'
Lo thus, my friends, I-wrought to my desires These three right ancient venerable sires.
I told them, thus you say, and thus you do,
And told them false, but Jenkin swore 'twas true.
I, 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,
When their weak legs scarce dragg'd them out of doors;
And swore the rambles that I took by night,
Were all to spy what damsels they bedight.
That colour brought me many hours of mirth;
For all this wit is given us from our birth.
Heaven gave to women the peculiar grace,
To spin, to weep, and cully human race.
By this nice conduct, and this prudent course,
By murmuring, wheedling, stratagem, and force,
I still prevail'd, and would be in the right,
Or curtain-lectures made a restless night.
If once my husband's arm was o'er my side,
What! so familiar with your spouse? I cried:
I levied first a tax upon his need:
Then let him-'twas a nicety indeed!
Let all mankind this certain maxim hold,
Marry who will, our sex is to be sold.
With empty hands no tassels you can lure,
But fulsome love for gain we can endure;
For gold we love the impotent and old,
And heave, and pant, and kiss, and cling, for gold.
Yet with embraces, curses oft I mix'd,
Then kiss'd again, and chid, and rail'd betwixt.
Well, I may make my will in peace, and die,
For not one word in 'man's arrears am I.
To drop a dear dispute I was unable,
Ev'n though the pope himself had sat at table.
But when my point was gain'd, then thus I spoke :
'Billy, my dear, how sheepishly you look?
Approach, my spouse, and let me kiss thy cheek;
Thou shouldst be always thus, resign'd and meek?
Of Job's great patience since so oft you preach, Well should you practise, who so well can teach. 'Tis difficult to do, I must allow,
But I, my dearest, will instruct you how.
Great is the blessing of a prudent wife,
Who puts a period to domestic strife.
One of us two must rule, and one obey;
And since in man right reason bears the sway,
Let that frail thing, weak woman, have her way.
The wives of all my family have rul'd
Their tender husbands, and their passions cool'd.
Fie, 'tis unmanly thus to sigh and groan;
What! would you have me to yourself alone?
Why take me, love! take all and every part!
Here's your revenge! you love it at your heart.
Would I vouchsafe to sell what nature gave,
You little think what custom I could have.
But see! I'm all your own--nay hold--for shame;
What means my dear--indeed--you are to blame."^
Thus with my first three lords I past my life;
A very woman, and a very wife.
What sums from these old spouses I could raise,
Procur'd young husbands in my riper days.
Though past my bloom, nor yet decay'd was. I,
Wanton and wild, and chatter'd like a pie.
In country dances still I bore the bell,
And sung as sweet as evening Philomel.
To clear my quailpipe, and refresh my soul,
Full oft I drain'd the spicy nut-brown bowl;
Rich luscious wines, that youthful blood improve,
And warm the swelling veins to feats of love:
For 'tis as sure, as cold engenders hail,
A liquorish mouth must have a lecherous tail:
Wine lets no lover unrewarded go,
As all true gamesters by experience know.
But oh, good gods! whene'er a thought I cast On all the joys of youth and beauty past To find in pleasures I have had my part, Still warms me to the bottom of my heart.
This wicked world was once my dear delight;
Now, all my conquests, all my charms, good night!
The flour consum'd, the best that now I can,
Is e'en to make my market of the bran,
My fourth dear spouse was not exceeding true;
He kept, 'twas thought, a private miss or two;
But all that score I paid---as how? you'll say,
Not with my body in a filthy way:
But I so dress'd, and danc'd, and drank, and din'd,
And view'd a friend with eyes so very kind,
As stung his heart, and made his marrow fry
With burning rage, and frantic jealousy.
His soul, I hope, enjoys eternal glory,
For here on Earth I was his purgatory..
Oft, when his shoe the most severely wrung,
He put on careless airs, and sat and sung.
How sore I gall'd him, only Heaven could know,
And he that felt, and I that caus'd the woe.
He dy'd, when last from pilgrimage I came,
With other gossips, from Jerusalem;
And now lies buried underneath a rood,
Fair to be seen, and rear'd of honest wood:
A tomb indeed, with fewer sculptures grac'd
Than that Mausolus' pious widow plac'd,
Or where inshrin'd the great Darius lay;
But cost on graves is merely thrown away.
The pit fill'd up, with turf we cover'd o'er;
So bless the good man's soul, I say no more.
Now for my fifth lov'd lord, the last and best;
(Kind Heaven afford him everlasting rest!)
Full hearty was his love, and I can shew
The tokens on my ribs in black and blue;
Yet, with a knack, my heart he could have won,
While yet the smart was shooting in the bone.
How quaint an appetite in women reigns!
Free gifts we scorn, and love what costs us pains:
Let men avoid us, and on them we leap;
A glutted market makes provision cheap.
In pure good-will I took this jovial spark,
Of Oxford he, a most egregious clerk,
He boarded with a widow in the town,
A trusty gossip, one dame Alison.
Full well the secrets of my soul she knew,
Better than e'er our parish priest could do.
To her I told whatever could befall:
Had but my husband piss'd against a wall,
Or done a thing that might have cost his life,
She--and my niece---and one more worthy wife,
Had known it all: what most he would conceal;
To these I made no scruple to reveal.
Oft has he blush'd from ear to ear for shame,
That e'er he told a secret to his dame.
It so befel, 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 moths ne'er spoil'd 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 engag'd 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.
I vow'd I scarce could sleep since first I knew him, And durst be sworn he had bewitch'd me to him; If e'er I slept, I dream'd of him alone,
And dreams foretel, as learned men have shown.
All this I said; but dreams, sirs, I had none: