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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 unbless'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 reservd 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 an 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 ponder'd in his riper age;




“ But take no kepe of al swiche vanitee,
“ Defieth Theophrast, and herkeneth me.

“ A wif is goddes yefte veraily :
“ All other maner yeftes hardely,
“ As londes, rentes, pasture, or commune,
“ Or mebles, all ben yeftes of fortune,
“ That passen as a shadow on the wall ;
“ But drede thou not, if plainly speke I shal,
“ A wif wol last and in thin hous endure,
“ Wel lenger than thee list paraventure.

Mariage is a ful gret sacrament ;
“ He which that hath no wif I hold him shent;

He liveth helples, and all desolat :

(I speke of folk in secular estat)
“ And herkneth why, I say not this for nought,
“ That woman is for mannes helpe ywrought.
“ The highe God, whan he had Adam maked,
“ And saw him al alone belly naked,
“ Gode of his grete goodnesse saide then,
“ Let us now make an helpe unto this man



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 judgment, 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 cry'd (and cast a mournful look 85
Around the room, and sigh'd before he spoke :)
Beneath the weight of threescore years I bend,
And, worn with cares, am hast’ning to my end;
How I have liv’d, alas ! you know too well,
In worldly follies, which I blush to tell;
But gracious Heav'n 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, 95
And many heads are wiser still than one;
Chuse 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: 100



“ Like to himself, and than he made him Eve.
“ Here may ye see, and hereby may ye preve,
“ That a wif is mannes helpe and his comfort,

His paradis terrestre and his disport :-
“ So buxom and so vertuous is she,

They mosten nedes live in unitee :
“ O flesh thy ben, and O flesh, as I gesse,
“ Hath but on herte in wele and in distresse.

A wif? a! Seinte Marie, benedicite,

How might a man have any adversite
“ That hath a wif? Certes I cannot seye.

The blisse the which that is betwix hem teweye

Ther may no tonge tell or herte thinke.
“ If he be poure, she helpeth him to swinke ;
“ She keepeth his good, and wasteth never a del ;

All that her husband doth, hire liketh wel ;
She saith not ones nay, whan he saith ye;
Do this, saith he ; al redy, Sire, saith she.
“ O blissful odre, O wedlock precious,
Thou art so merry, and eke so vertuous,

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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'th' trade:
But young and tender virgins ruld with ease,
We form like wax, and mould them as we please.

Conceive me, Sirs, nor take my sense amiss ;
'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 pow’rs above,
And not for pleasure only, or for love.




" And so commended, and approved eke,
“ That every man that holt him worth a leke,

Upon his bare knees ought all his lif
“ Thanken his God, that him hath sent a wif,
“ Or elles pray to God him for to send
“ A wif, to last unto his lives end.
“ For than his life is set in sikernesse,
“ He may not be deceived, as I gesse,
“ So that he werche after his wives rede ;
“ Than may he boldly beren up his hede,

They ben so trewe, and therewithal so wise.
“ For which, if thou wilt werchen as the wise,
“ Do alway so, as women wol thee rede.
“ Lo how that Jacob, as thise clerkes rede,

By good conseil of his mother Rebekke
“ Bound the kiddes skin about his nekke ;
“ For which his fadres benison he wan.
“ Lo Judith, as the storie eke tell can,

By good conseil she Goddes peple kept,
“ And slow him Holofernes while he slept.

Think not I doat; 'tis time to take a wife,
When vig'rous blood forbids a chaster life:
Those that are blest with store of grace divine, 125
May live like saints, by heav'n'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 ev'ry part.

Think not my virtue lost, tho' time has shed
These rev'rend 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

135 Like winter greens, that flourish all the year. Now, Sirs, you know, to what I stand inclin'd, Let ev'ry friend with freedom speak his mind.

He said ; the rest in diff'rent parts divide; The knotty point was urg’d on either side:

140 Marriage, the theme on which they all declaim’d, Some prais’d with wit, and some with reason blam'd.



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“Lo Abigal, by good conseil how she

Saved hire husband Nabal, whan that he
“ Shuld han be slain. And loke, Hester also
“ By good conseil delivered out of wo

The peple of God, and made him Mardochæ
“ Of Assuere enhaunsed for to be.
“ Ther n'is no thing in gree superlatif

(As saith Senek) above an humble wif.

Suffer thy wives tonge, as Caton bit,
“ She shal command, and thou shalt suffren it,

And yet she wol obey of curtesie
A wiť is keper of thin hosbondrie :
“ Wel may the sike man bewaile and wepe,
“ I warne thee, if wisely thou wilt werche
“ Love wel thy wif, as Christ loveth his Cherche :
“ If thou lovest thyself, love thou thy wif.
“ No man hateth his flesh, but in his lif
“ He fostreth it, and therfore bid I thee
“ Cherish thy wif, or thou shalt never the.
“ Husbond and wif, what so men jasse or play,
“ Of worldly folk holden the siker way ;

They ben so knit, ther may non harm betide,
And namely upon the wives side.”


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Till, what with proofs, objections, and replies,
Each wondrous positive, and wondrous wise,
There fell between his brothers a debate,

145 Placebo this was call'd, and Justin that.

First to the Knight Placebo thus begun, (Mild were his looks, and pleasing was his tone,) Such prudence, Sir, in all your words appears, As plainly proves, experience dwells with years ! 150 Yet you pursue sage Solomon's advice, To work by counsel when affairs are nice: But, with the wise man's leave, I must protest, So may my soul arrive at ease and rest, As still I hold your own advice the best.

| 155 Sir, I have liv'd a Courtier all my days, And study'd men, their manners, and their ways; And have observ'd this useful maxim still, To let my betters always have their will. Nay, if my lord affirm'd that black was white, 160 My word was this, “ Your honour's in the right.” Th' assuming Wit, who deems himself so wise, As his mistaken patron to advise, Let him not dare to vent his dang’rous thought, A noble fool was never in a fault.

165 This, Sir, affects not you, whose ev'ry word Is weigh’d with judgment, and befits a Lord : Your will is mine; and is (I will maintain) Pleasing to God, and should be so to Man; At least your courage all the world must praise, 170 Who dare to wed in your declining days. Indulge the vigour of your mounting blood, And let grey fools be indolently good, Who, past all pleasure, damn the joys of sense, With rev'rend dulness and grave impotence.

175 Justin, who silent sate, and heard the man, Thus, with a philosophic frown, began :

A heathen author, of the first degree, (Who, tho' not Faith, had Sense as well as we,)

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