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What ails my lord? the trembling dame reply'd; I thought your patience had been better try'd: Is this your love, ungrateful and unkind, 760 This my reward for having cur'd the blind? Why was I taught to make my husband see, By struggling with a man upon a tree? Did I for this the pow'r of magic prove? Unhappy wife! whose crime was too much love!
If this be struggling, by this holy light, 766 'Tis struggling with a vengeance (quoth the Knight;) So heav'n preserve the sight it has restor'd, As with these eyes I plainly saw thee whor'd; Whor'd by my slave....perfidious wretch! may hell As surely seize thee, as I saw too well.
771 Guard me, good angels! cry'd the gentle May; Pray heav'n this magic work the proper way! Alas, my love! 'tis certain, could you see, You ne'er had used these killing words to me: 1775 So help me, Fates! as 'tis no perfect sight, But some faint glimm'ring of a doubtful light.
What I have said (quoth he) I must maintain, For by th' immortal Pow'rs, it seem'd too plain....
By all those Pow'rs, some frenzy seiz'd your mind, (Reply'd the dame:) are these the thanks I find ! Wretch that I am, that e'er I was so kind! She said, a rising sigh express'd her woe; The ready tears apace began to flow,
And as they fell, she wip'd from either eye 785 The drops ; (for women, when they list, can cry.)
The Knight was touch'd; and in his looks appear'd Signs of remorse, while thus his spouse he cheer'd: Madam, 'tis past, and my short anger o'er! Come down, and vex your tender heart no more: 790 Excuse me, dear, if aught amiss was said, For, on my soul, amends shall soon be made: Let my repentance your forgiveness draw; By heav'n, I swore but what I thought I saw.
Ah, my lov'd lord! 'twas much unkind (she cry'd) On bare suspicion thus to treat your bride. 796 But till your sight's establish’d, for a while, Imperfect objects may your sense beguile. Thus, when from sleep we first our eyes display, The balls are wounded with the piercing ray, 800 And dusky vapours rise, and intercept the day: So just recov'ring from the shades of night, Your swimming eyes are drunk with sudden light, Strange phantoms dance around, and skim before
your sight. Then, Sir, be cautious, nor too rashly deem;
805 Heav'n knows how seldom things are what they seem! Consult your reason, and you soon shall find 'Twas you were jealous, not your wife unkind: Jove ne'er spoke oracle more true than this; None judge so wrong as they who think amiss. 810 With that she leap'd into her lord's embrace, With well-dissembled virtue in her face. He hugg'd her close, and kiss'd her o’er and o'er, Disturb'd with doubts and jealousies no more: Both, pleas'd and bless'd, renew'd their mutual vows, A fruitful wife, and a believing spouse.
816 Thus ends our tale, whose moral next to make, Let all wise husbands hence example take; And pray, to crown the pleasure of their lives, To be so well deluded by their wives.
THE WIFE OF BATH.
BEHOLD the woes of matrimonial life,
Christ saw a wedding once, the Scripture says, And saw but one, 'tis thought, in all his days; 10 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.
“ Increase and multiply" was heav'n's command, And that's a text I clearly understand. This too, “Let men their sires and mothers leave, ** And to their dearer wives for ever cleave." 20
More wives than one by Solomon were try'd,
Paul, knowing one could never serve our turn,
30 I grant them 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. 35
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 slight spots am not so nice. Heav'n calls us diff'rent ways; on these bestows 10 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. 45
Full many a saint, since first the world began, Liv'd an upspotted maid, in spite of man: