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WIFE of BATH,

H E R

P R O L O G U E.

FROM,

CHAUCER.

Τ Η Ε

W IFE of BAT H.

FROM

CH A U CE R.

10

BEHOLD 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,

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I was myself the scourge that caus'd the smart;
For, fince fifteen, in triumph have I led
Five captive Husbands from the Church to bed.

Christ saw a wedding once, the Scripture says, And saw but one, 'tis thought, in all his days; Whence some infer, whose conscience is too nice, No pious Christian ought to marry twice.

But let them read, and solve me, if they can, The words address'd to the Samaritan : Five times in lawful wedlock she was join'd; 15 And sure the certain stint was ne'er defin'd.

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

“ 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 wiseft of mankind's bely'd. I've had myself full many a merry fit; And trust in heav'n I may have many yeti

This too,

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For when my transitory spouse, unkind,
Shall die, and leave his woeful wife behind,
I'll take the next good Christian I can find.

Paul, knowing one could never serve our turn,
Declar'd 'twas better far to wed than burn.
There's danger in assembling fire and tow ;
I grant 'em that, and what it means you know.
The same apostle too has elsewhere own'd,
No precept for Virginity he found:
'Tis but a counsel - and we women still
Take which we like, the counsel, 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 sell his store,
And give up all his substance 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, since first the world began;
Liv'd an unspotted Maid, in spite of man:
Let such (a God's name) with fine wheat be fed,
And let us honest wives eat barley bread.
For me, I'll keep the post 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 so said Paul, and Paul's a found divine.

Know then, of those five husbands I have had;
Three were just tolerable, two were bad.
The three were old, but rich and fond beside,
And toil'd molt piteoufly to please their bride:

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