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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 betwist.
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,
E'en 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 practice, 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 strise.
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 ruled
Their tender husbands, and their passions coold,
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 pass'd my life, A very woman and a very wife. What sums from these old spouses I could raise, Procured young husbands in my riper days. Though past my bloom, not 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 pass'd, 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 consumed, 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 danced, and drank, and dined, 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 sate and sung.
How sore I gall’d him, only Heaven could know
And he that felt, and I that caused the woe.
He died, 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 graced
Than that Mausolus' pious widow placed,
Or where inshrined 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'll say no more.
Now for my fifth loved lord, the last and best,
(Kind Heaven afford him everlasting rest!)
Full hearty was his love, and I can show
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
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 the 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 befell, in holy time of Lent, That oft a day I to this gossip wen ·
(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 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 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.
I vow'd I scarce could sleep since first I knew hina
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 passid, It pleased the Lord to take my spouse at last. I tore my gown, I soil'd my locks with dust, And beat my breast as wretched widows-must Before my face my handkerchief I spread, To hide the flood 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 conjuror 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 sage would advise,
And old examples set before my eyes ;
Tell how the Roman matrons led their life,
Of Gracchus' mother, and Duilius' 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 sando,
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 him mortally:
And so do numbers more, I boldly say,
Men, women, clergy, regular and lay.