Слике страница

Though fortune change, his constant spouse remains Augments his joys, or mitigates his pains.

But what so pure, which envious tongues will spare { 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 lying 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,
One 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 e'en 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 reserved 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 owed his forfeit life
To the wise conduct of a prudent wife :

Heroic Judith, as old Hebrews show,

Preserved the Jews, and slew the Assyrian foe:
At Esther's suit, the persecuting sword

Was sheathed, and Israel lived to bless the Lord.
These weighty motives, January the sage
Maturely ponder'd 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 judgment, and to give advice;
But fix'd before, and well resolved 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 :)
Beneath the weight of threescore years I bend,
And worn with cares and hastening to my end;
How I have lived, 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 case.
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 approved 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:

[ocr errors]

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-married dames are mistresses of the trade,
But young and tender virgins, ruled 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 cursed with an unfruitful bed,
The righteous end were lost for which
To raise up seed to bless the powers above,
And not for pleasure only, or for love.
Think not I dote; 'tis time to take a wife,

When vigorous blood forbids a chaster life:

Those that are bless'd 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 inclined,
Let every friend with freedom speak his mind.'

He said; the rest in different parts divide;
The knotty point was urged on either side:
Marriage, the theme on which they all declaim'd,
Some praised with wit, and some with reason blamed
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.

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! 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.

'Sir, I have lived a courtier all my days,

And studied men, their manners, and their ways;

And have observed this useful maxim still,
To let my betters always have their will.
Nay, if my lord affirm that black was white,
My word was this: 'Your honour's in the right.
The assuming wit, who deems himself so wise,
As his mistaken patron to advise,

Let him not dare to vent his dangerous thought:
A noble fool was never in a fault.

This, sir, affects not you, whose every 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,
Who dare to wed in your declining days.
Indulge the vigour of your mounting blood,
And let gray folks be indolently good,

Who, past all pleasure, damn the joys of sense
With reverend dulness, and grave impotence.'
Justin, who silent sat, and heard the man,
Thus, with a philosophic frown, began;

A heathen author of the first degree

(Who though not faith, had sense as well as we,)
Bids us be certain our concerns to trust
To those of generous principles, and just.
The venture's greater, I'll presume to say,
To give your person, than your goods away:
And therefore, sir, as you regard your rest,
First learn your lady's qualities at least:
Whether she's chaste or rampant, proud or civil,
Meek as a saint, or haughty as the devil;
Whether an easy, fond familiar fool,

Or such a wit as no man e'er can rule.
'Tis true, perfection none must hope to find
In all this world, much less in womankind;
But, if her virtues prove the larger share,

Bless the kind Fates, and think your fortune rare

Ah, gentle sir, take warning of a friend,

Who knows too well the state you thus commend;
And, spite of all his praises, must declare,

All he can find is bondage, cost, and care.
Heaven knows, I shed full many a private tear,
And sigh in silence, lest the world should hear!
While all my friends applaud my blissful life,
And swear no mortal's happier in a wife;
Demure and chaste as any vestal nun,
The meekest creature that beholds the sun!
But, by the immortal powers, I feel the pain,
And he that smarts has reason to complain.
Do what you list, for me; you must be sage,
And cautious sure; for wisdom is in age;
But at these years, to venture on the fair!
By him who made the ocean, earth, and air,
To please a wife, when her occasions call,
Would busy the most vigorous of us all.
And trust me, sir, the chastest you can choose
Will ask observance, and exact her dues.
If what I speak my noble lord offend,

My tedious sermon here is at an end.'

"Tis well, 'tis wondrous well,' the knight replies, Most worthy kinsman; 'faith you're mighty wise! We, sirs, are fools; and must resign the cause To heathenish authors, proverbs, and old saws.' He spoke with scorn, and turn'd another way :What does my friend, my dear Placebo, say?'

'I say,' quoth he, 'by Heaven the man's to blame, To slander wives, and wedlock's holy name.

At this the council rose, without delay;

Each, in his own opinion, went his way;

With full consent, that, all disputes appeased,

The knight should marry, when and where he pleased
Who now but January exults with joy :

The charms of wedlock al. his soul employ.
Each nymph by turns his wavering mind possess'd,
And reign'd the short-lived tyrant of his breast;

« ПретходнаНастави »