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This gentle cock, for solace of his life, Six misses had, beside his lawful wife; Scandal, that spares no king, though ne'er so good, Says, they were all of his own flesh and blood; His sisters, both by sire and mother's side, And sure their likeness shewed them near allied. But make the worst, the monarch did no more, Than all the Ptolemys had done before ; When incest is for interest of a nation, 'Tis made no sin by holy dispensation. Some lines have been maintained by this alone, Which by their common ugliness are known.
But passing this as from our tale apart, Dame Partlet * was the sovereign of his heart; Ardent in love, outrageous in his play, He feathered her a hundred times a day; And she, that was not only passing fair, But was withal discreet, and debonair, Resolved the passive doctrine to fulfil, Though loth, and let him work his wicked will: At board and bed was affable and kind, According as their marriage-vow did bind, And as the church's precept had enjoined. Even since she was a se'nnight old, they say, Was chaste and humble to her dying day, Nor chick nor hen was known to disobey.
By this her husband's heart she did obtain; What cannot beauty, joined with virtue, gain! She was his only joy, and he her pride, She, when he walked, went pecking by his side;
* Partlet, or Perthelot, as the proper name of a hen, is a word of difficult and dubious etymology. Ruddiman, in his Glossary to Douglas's Virgil, gives several derivations; the most plausible is that which brings it from Partlet, an old word signifying a woman's ruff,
If, spurning up the ground, he sprung a corn,
And, madam, well I might, said Chanticleer, Never was shrovetide-cock in such a fear. Even still I run all over in a sweat, My princely senses not recovered yet. For such a dream I had of dire portent, That much I fear my body will be shent: It bodes I shall have wars and woeful strife, Or in a loathsome dungeon end my life. Know, dame, I dreamt within my troubled breast, That in our yard I saw a murderous beast, That on my body would have made arrest. With waking eyes I ne'er beheld his fellow; His colour was betwixt a red and yellow : Tipped was his tail, and both his pricking ears, With black, and much unlike his other hairs;
e thou a beardned,
The rest, in shape a beagle's whelp throughout
If aught from fearful dreams may be divined,
Choler adust congeals our blood with fear, Then black bulls toss us, and black devils tear. In sanguine airy dreams aloft we bound; With rheums oppressed, we sink in rivers drowned.
More I could say, but thus conclude my theme, The dominating humour makes the dream. Cato was in his time accounted wise, And he condemns them all for empty lies. + Take my advice, and when we fly to ground, With laxatives preserve your body sound, And purge the peccant humours that abound. I should be loth to lay you on a bier; And though there lives no 'pothecary near, I dare for once prescribe for your disease, And save long bills, and a damned doctor's fees. .
Two sovereign herbs, which I by practice know, And both at hand, (for in our yard they grow,) , On peril of my soul shall rid you wholly Of yellow choler, and of melancholy: You must both purge and vomit; but obey, And for the love of heaven make no delay. Since hot and dry in your complexion join, Beware the sun when in a vernal sign; For when he mounts exalted in the Ram, If then he finds your body in a flame, Replete with choler, I dare lay a groat, . A tertian ague is at least your lot. Perhaps a fever (which the Gods forefend) May bring your youth to some untimely end; And therefore, sir, as you desire to live, A day or two before your laxative,
† Among the distiches ascribed to Cato, we do in fact find one to that purpose :
Somnia ne cures ---Lib. ii. distich 32.
Take just three worms, nor under nor above,
Madam, quoth he, gramercy for your care,
Two friends or brothers, with devout intent,
+ Cicero, who tells both the following stories in his treatise De Divinatione, lib. i. cap. 27. Chaucer has reversed their order, and added many picturesque circumstances.