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THERE liv'd in Lombardy, as Authors write,
In days of old, a wife and worthy Knight;
Of gentle manners, as of gen'rous race,
Bleft with much fenfe, more riches, and fome grace;
Yet, led aftray by Venus' foft delights,
He fcarce could rule fome idle appetites:
For long ago, let Priefts fay what they cou'd,
Weak finful laymen were but flesh and blood.
But in due time, when fixty years were o'er,
He vow'd to lead this vitious life no more;
Whether pure holiness infpir'd his mind,
Or dotage turn'd his brain, is hard to find;
But his high courage prick'd him forth to wed,
And try the pleafures of a lawful bed.
This was his nightly dream, his daily care,
And to the heav'nly pow'rs his conftant pray'r,
Once ere he dy'd, to tafle the blissful life
Of a kind husband and a loving wife.
These thoughts he fortify'd with reasons ftill,
(For none want reasons to confirm their will.)
Grave authors fay, and witty poets fing,
That honeft wedlock is a glorious thing:
JANUARY AND MAY. This Translation was done at fixteen. or feventeen years of Age.
But depth of judgment moft in him appears,
Who wifely weds in his maturer years.
Then let him chufe a damfel young and fair,
To blefs his age, and bring a worthy heir;
To footh his cares, and free from noife and ftrife,
Conduct him gently to the verge of life.
Let finful batchelors their woes deplore,
Full well they merit all they feel, and more:
Unaw'd by precepts human or divine,
Like birds and beafts promifcuously they join:
Nor know to make the present blessing last,
To hope the future, or efteem the paft:
But vainly boaft the joys they never try'd,
And find divulg'd the fecrets they would hide.
The marry'd man may bear his yoke with ease,
Secure at once himself and heav'n to please ;
And pass his inoffenfive hours away,
In blifs all night, and innocence all day:
Tho' fortune change, his conftant spouse remains,
Augments his joys, or mitigates his pains.
But what fo pure, which envious tongues will spare?
Some wicked wits have libell'd all the fair.
With matchlefs impudence they style a wife
The dear-bought curfe, and lawful plague of life;
A bofom-ferpent, a domestic evil,
A night-invafion, and a mid-day devil.
Let not the wife these sland rous words regard,
But curfe the bones of ev'ry lying bard.
All other goods by fortune's hand are giv'n,
A wife is the peculiar gift of heav'n.
Vain fortune's favours, never at a ftay,
Like empty fhadows, pafs, and glide away;
One folid comfort, our eternal wife,
Abundantly fupplies us all our life:
This blefling lafts (if those who try fay true)
As long as heart can wish - and longer too.
Our grandfire Adam, ere of Eve poffeft,
Alone, and ev'n in Paradise unbless'd,
With mournful looks the blifsful fcenes furvey'd,
And wander'd in the folitary shade :
The Maker faw, took pity, and bestow'd
Woman, the last, the best referv'd of God.
A Wife! ah gentle deities, can he
That has a wife, e'er feel adverfity?
Would men but follow what the fex advise,
All things would profper, all the world grow wife.
'Twas by Rebecca's aid that Jacob won
His father's bleffing from an elder fon :
Abufive Nabal ow'd his forfeit life
To the wife conduct of a prudent wife :
Heroic Judith, as old Hebrews show,
Preferv'd the Jews, and flew th' Affyrian foe:
At Hefter's fuit, the perfecuting fword
Was fheath'd, and Ifrael liv'd to bless the Lord.
These weighty motives, January the fage
Maturely ponder'd in his riper age;
And charm'd with virtuous joys, and fober life,
Would try that Chriftian comfort, call'd a wife.
His friends were fummon'd on a point fo nice,
To pass their judgment and to give advice;
But fix'd before, and well refolv'd was he;
(As men that afk advice are wont to be.)
My friends, he cry'd (and cast a mournful look 85
Around the room, and figh'd before he spoke :)
Beneath the weight of threefcore years I bend,
And worn with cares, am haft'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 laft,
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 fince by counfel all things fhould be done,
And many heads are wiser still than one;
Chufe you for me, who beft shall be content:
When my defire's approv'd by your confent.
One caution yet is needful to be told,
To guide your choice; this wife must not be old: 100
There goes a faying, and 'twas shrewdly said,
Old fish at table, but young flesh in bed.
My foul abhors the tastelefs, dry embrace :
Of a stale virgin with a winter face:
In that cold feafon Love but treats his guest
With bean-ftraw, and tough forage at the beft..
No crafty widows fhall approach my bed;
Those are too wife for batchelors to wed;
As fubtle clerks by many schools are made,
Twice-marry'd dames are mistresses o' th' trade: 110.
But young and tender virgins, rul'd with ease,
We form like wax, and mold them as we please.
Conceive me, Sirs, nor take my sense amifs
'Tis what concerns my foul's eternal blifs
Since if I found no pleasure in my spouse,
As flesh is frail, and who (God help me) knows?
Then should I live in leud adultery,
And fink downright to Satan when I die.
O were I curs'd with an unfruitful bed,
The righteous end were loft, for which I wed;
To raise up feed to blefs the pow'rs above,
And not for pleasure only, or for love.
Think not I dot; 'tis time to take a wife,
When vig'rous blood forbids a chafter life ::
Those that are bleft with ftore of grace divine, May live like faints, by heav'n's confent, and mine. And fince I fpeak of wedlock, let me say, (As, thank my stars, in modeft truth I may) don, My limbs are active, ftill I'm found at heart, And a new vigour springs in ev'ry part.
Think not my virtue loft, tho' time has shed
These rev'rend honours on my hoary head;
Thus trees are crown'd with bloffoms white as fnow,
The vital fap then rifing from below:
Old as I am, my lufty limbs appear
Like winter greens, that flourish all the year.
Now, Sirs, you know to what I ftand inclin'd,
Let ev'ry friend with freedom speak his mind.
He faid; the reft in diff'rent parts divide;
The knotty point was urg'd on either fide :
Marriage, the theme on which they all declaim'd,
Some prais'd with wit, and fome with reafon blam'd.
Till, what with proofs, objections, and replies,
Each wond'rous pofitive, and wond'rous wife,
There fell between his brothers a debate,
Placebo this was call'd, and Juftin that.
First to the Knight Placebo thus begun
(Mild were his looks, and pleafing was his tone)
Such prudence, Sir, in all your words appears,
As plainly proves, experience dwells with years! 150
Yet you purfue Sage Solomon's advice,
To work by counsel when affairs are nice :
But, with the Wife Man's leave, I must protest,
So may my foul arrive at ease and reft
As ftill I hold your old advice the best,
Sir, I have liv'd a Courtier all my days,'
And study ́d men, their manners, and their ways;
And have obferv'd this useful maxim still,
To let my betters always have their will.