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When their weak legs scarce dragged 'em 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. Heav'n gave to woman 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 prevailed, 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 tarsels 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 mixed, Then kissed again, and chid and railed 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, Even though the pope himself had sat at table, But when my point was gained, 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, resigned 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 ruled Their tender husbands, and their passions cooled. Fie, 'tis unmanly thus to sigh and groan;
What! would you have me to yourself alone?
Thus with my first three lords I passed my life;
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 consumed, the best that now I can, Is even 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 dressed, and danced, and drank, and dined; And viewed 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 galled him, only Heaven could know,
And he that felt, and I that caused the woe.
Now for my fifth loved lord, the last and best;
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 Allison: 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 p- d against a wall, Or done a thing that might have cost his life, She-and my nieco—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 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 neighbor Alse, To see, be seen, to tell, and gather tales. Visits to every church, we daily paid,
: 1 Artemisia, Queen of Caria,
And march'd in every holy masquerade,
I vowed I scarce could sleep since first I knew him,
Thus day by day and month by month we pass'd: It pleased the Lord to take my spouse at last. I tore my gown, I soil'd my locks with dust, And beat my breasts, 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 neighbors, and my clerk, to mourn. But as he march’d, good gods! he shew'd a pair Of legs and feet, so clean, so strong, so fair! Of twenty winters' age he seemed to be; I (to say truth) was twenty more than he; But vig’rous 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 ordered, 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 followed always my own inclination.
But to my tale: A month scarce passed away,
Stubborn as any lioness was I;
My spouse (who was, you know, to learning bred) A certain treatise oft at evening read, Where divers authors (whom the devil confound For all their lies!) were in one volume bound. Valerius, whole; and of St. Jerome, part; Chrysippus and Tertullian, Ovid's Art, Solomon's Proverbs, Eloïsa's loves; And many more than sure the Church approves. More legends were there here, of wicked wives, Than good, in all the Bible and saints' lives. Who drew the lion vanquished! 'Twas a man! But could we women write as scholars can, Men should stand mark'd with far more wickedness Than all the sons of Adam could redress. Love seldom haunts the breast where learning lies, And Venus sets ere Murcury can rise. Those play the scholars who can't play the men,