Page images
PDF
EPUB

Or were I cursed with an unfruitful bed,
The righteous end were lost, for which I wed;
To raise up seed to bless the power's above,
And not for pleasure only, or for love.
Think not I dote; 'tis time to take a wife,
When vig'rous blood forbids a chaster life:
Those that are blest with store of grace divine,
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 er’ry part.
Think not my virtue lost, though time has shed :
These rev’rend honours on my hoary head;
Thus trees are crowned 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 ev'ry friend with freedom speak his mind.”

He said; the rest in diff'rent parts divide;
The knotty point was urged on either side:
Marriage, the theme on which they all declaimed,
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 called, 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 affirmed that black was white,
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.
This, sir, affects not you, whose ev'ry word
Is weighed 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 : ll the world must praise,
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 reverend dulness and grave impotence.'

Justin, who silent sate, 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 that no man e'er can rule. 'Tis true perfection none must hope to find In all this world, much less in woman-kind; 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. Heav'n 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 th’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 vig'rous 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 heath’nish authors, proverbs, and old saws." He spoke with scorn, and turned 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 all his soul employ:
Each nymph by turns his wav'ring mind possest,
And reigned the short-lived tyrant of his breast;
While fancy pictured every lively part,
And each bright image wandered o'er his heart.
Thus, in some public forum fixed on high,
A mirror shows the figures moving by;
Still one by one, in swift succession, pass
The gliding shadows o'er the polished glass.
This lady's charms the nicest could not blame,
But vile suspicions had aspersed her fame; .
That was with sense, but not with virtue, blest;
And one had grace, that wanted all the rest.
Thus doubting long what nymph he should obey,
He fixed at last upon the youthful May.
Her faults he knew not, love is always blind,
But ev'ry charm revolved within his mind:
Her tender age, her form divinely fair,
Her easy motion, her attractive air,
Her sweet behaviour, her enchanting face,
Her moving softness, and majestic grace.

Much in his prudence did our knight rejoice,

And thought no mortal could dispute his choice;
Once more in haste he summoned ev'ry friend,
And told them all, their pains were at an end.
“Heav'n, that” (said he) “inspired me first to wed,
Provides a consort worthy of my bed:
Let none oppose th' election, since on this
Depends my quiet, and my future bliss.

“A dame there is, the darling of my eyes,
Young, besuteous, artless, innocent, and wise;
Chaste, though not rich ; and though not nobly born,
Of honest. parents, and may serve my turn.
Her will I wed, if gracious heav'n so please ;
To pass my age in sanctity and ease;
And thank the pow'rs, I may possess alone
The lovely prize, and share my bliss with none!
If you, my friends, this virgin can procure,
My joys are full, my happiness is sure.

“One only doubt remains: full oft I've heard,
By casuists grave, and deep divines averred;
That 'tis too much for human race to know
The bliss of heav'n above, and earth below.
Now should the nuptial pleasures prove so great,
To match th blessings of the future state,
Those endles, joys were ill exchanged for these ;
Then clear th: doubt, anc? set my mind at ease.”

This Justin heard, nor could his spl en control,
Touched to the quick, and tickled at the soul.
“Sir Knight,” he cried, “if this be all your dread
Heav'n put it past your doubt, whene'er you wed ;
And to my fervent prayers so far consent,
That ere the rites are o’er, you may repent!
Good heaven, no doubt, the nuptial state approves,
Since it chastises still what best it loves.

« Then be not, sir, abandoned to despair ;
Seek, and perhaps you'll find among the fair,
One, that may do your business to a hair ;
Not ev'n i.. wish, your happiness delay,
But prove the scourge to lash you on your way:
Then to the skies your mounting soul shall go,
Swift as an arrow soaring from the bow!
Provided still, you moderate your joy,
Nor in your pleasures all your might employ ;
Let reason's rule your strong desires abate,
Nor please too lavishly your gentle mate.

Old wives there are, of judgment most acute,
Who solve these questions beyond all dispute ;
Consult with those, and be of better cheer ;
Marry, do penance, and dismiss your fear.”

So said, they rose, nor more the work delayed ;
The match was offered, the proposals made.
The parents, you may think, would soon comply ;
The old have int’rest ever in their eye.
Nor was it hard to move the lady's mind;
When fortune favours, still the fair are kind.

I pass each previous settlement and deed,
Too long for me to write, or you to read ;
Nor will with quaint impertinence display
The pomp, the pageantry, the proud array.
The time approached, to church the parties went,
At once with carnal and devout intent:
Forth came the priest, and bade th' obedient wife
Like Sarah or Rebecca lead her life:
Then prayed the pow’rs the fruitful bed to bless,
And made all sure enough with holiness.

And now the palace gates are opened wide,
The guests appear in trder, side by side,
And placed in state, the bridegroom and the bride.
The breathing flute's soft notes are heard around,
And the shrill trumpets mix their silver sound;
The vaulted roofs with echoing music ring, (string.
These touch the vocal stops, and those the trembling
Not thus Amphion tuned the warbling lyre,
Nor Joab the sounding clarion could inspire,
Nor fierce Theodamas, whose sprightly strain [train.
Could swell the soul to rage, and fire the martial

Bacchus himself, the nuptial feast to grace,
(So poets sing) was present on the place:
And lovely Venus, goddess of delight,
Shook high her flaming torch in open sight:
And danced around, and smiled on ev'ry knight:
Pleased her best servant would his courage try,
No less in wedlock, than in liberty.
Full many an age old Hymen had not spied
So kind a bridegroom, or so bright a bride.
Ye bards! renowned among the tuneful throng
For gentle lays, and joyous nuptial song;
Think not your softest numbers can display
The matchless glories of this blissful day:

« PreviousContinue »