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THE

WIFE of BATH.

FROM

CHAUCER.

B

EHOLD the woes of matrimonial life,
And hear with rev'rence an experienc'd wife!
To dear-bought wisdom give the credit due,
And think, for once, a woman tells you true.
In all these trials I have borne a part,
I was myself the fcourge that caus'd the fmart;
For, fince fifteen, in triumph have I led
Five captive Hufbands from the Church to bed.

Christ faw a wedding once, the Scripture fays,
And faw but one, 'tis thought, in all his days;
Whence fome infer, whofe confcience is too nice,
No pious Chriftian ought to marry twice.

But let them read, and folve me, if they can, The words addrefs'd to the Samaritan :

Five times in lawful wedlock she was join'd; 15 And fure the certain ftint was ne'er defin'd.

10

"Encrease and multiply," was Heav'n's command, And that's a text I clearly understand.

This too, "Let men their fires and mothers leave,
"And to their dearer wives for ever cleave."
More wives than one by Solomon were try'd,
Or else the wifeft of mankind's bely'd.
I've had myself full many a merry fit;
And truft in heav'n I may have many yet.

20

For when my tranfitory spouse, unkind,
Shall die, and leave his woeful wife behind,
I'll take the next good Chriftian I can find.
Paul, knowing one could never ferve our turn,
Declar'd 'twas better far to wed than burn.
There's danger in affembling fire and tow ;
I grant 'em that, and what it means you know.
The fame apostle too has elsewhere own'd,
No precept for Virginity he found:

'Tis but a counfel- and we women still
Take which we like, the counfel, or our will.
I envy not their bliss, if he or she
Think fit to live in perfect chastity;
Pure let them be, and free from taint of vice ;
I, for a few flight spots, am not so nice.
Heav'n calls us diff'rent ways, on these bestows
One proper gift, another grants to those:
Not ev'ry man's oblig'd to fell his store,
And give up all his fubftance to the poor;
Such as are perfect, may, I can't deny ;
But, by your leaves, Divines, so am not I.

Full many a Saint, fince first the world began,
Liv'd an unspotted Maid, in spite of man :
Let fuch (a God's name) with fine wheat be fed,
And let us honest wives eat barley bread.
For me, I'll keep the poft affign'd by heav'n,
And use the copious talent it has giv'n :
Let my good spouse pay tribute, do me right,
And keep an equal reck'ning ev'ry night.
His proper body is not his, but mine;
For fo faid Paul, and Paul's a found divine.
Know then, of thofe five husbands I have had,
Three were just tolerable, two were bad.
The three were old, but rich and fond befide,
And toil'd moft piteously to please their bride:

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