Obrazy na stronie

'Twas when fresh May her early blossoms yields, 290
This Clerk and I were walking in the fields.
We grew so intimate, I can't tell how,
I pawn'd my honour, and engag‘d my vow,
If e'er I laid my husband in his urn,
That he, and only he, should serve my turn.

We straight struck hands, the bargain was agreed ;
I still have shifts against a time of need:
The mouse that always trusts to one poor hole,
Can never be a mouse of


soul. I vow'd, I scarce could sleep since first I knew him, And durst be sworn he had bewitch'd me to him, 301 If e'er I slept, I dream'd of him alone, And dreams foretell, as learned men have shown: All this I said ; but dreams, Sirs, I had none: I follow'd but my crafty Crony's lore,

305 Who bid me tell this lye—and twenty more.

Thus day by day, and month by month we past; It pleas'd the Lord to take my spouse at last. I tore my gown, I soild my locks with dust, And beat my breasts, as wretched widows-must. 310 Before my face my handkerchief I spread, To hide the flood of tears I did not shed. The good man's coffin to the church was borne; Around, the neighbours, and my clerk, to mourn. But as he march'd, good Gods! he show'd a pair 315 Of legs and feet, so clean, so strong, so fair ! Of twenty winters' age he seem'd to be; I (to say truth) was twenty more than he ; But vig’rous still, a lively buxom dame; And had a wond'rous gift to quench a flame.

320 A conj’ror once, that deeply could divine, Assur'd me, Mars in Taurus was my sign. As the stars order'd, such my life has been: Alas, alas, that ever love was sin ! Fair Venus gave me fire, and sprightly grace,

325 And Mars assurance, and a dauntless face.

By virtue of this pow'rful constellation,
I follow'd, always, my own inclination.

But to my tale: A month scarce pass’d away,
With dance and song, we kept the nuptial day. 330
All I possess'd I gave to his command,
My goods and chattels, money, house, and land :
But oft repented, and repent it still;
He prov'd a rebel to my sov’reign will:
Nay, once, by Heav'n! he struck me on the face; 335
Hear but the fact, and judge, yourselves, the case.

Stubborn as any lioness was I,
And knew full well to raise my voice on high ;
As true a rambler as I was before,
And would be so, in spite of all he swore.

He, against this, right sagely would advise,
And old examples set before my eyes ;
Tell, how the Roman matrons led their life,
Of Gracchus' mother, and Duilius' wife;
And close the sermon, as beseem'd his wit,

345 With some grave sentence out of Holy Writ. Oft would he say, who builds his house on sands, Pricks his blind horse across the fallow lands, Or lets his wife abroad with pilgrims roam, Deserves a fool's-cap, and long ears at home. 350 All this avail'd not; for, whoe'er he be That tells my faults, I hate him mortally : And so do numbers more, I'll boldly say, Men, women, clergy, regular, and lay.

My spouse (who was, you know, to learning bred) A certain treatise, oft, at ev'ning, read,

356 Where divers authors (whom the dev'l confound For all their lies) were in one volume bound. Valerius, whole; and of St. Jerome, part; Chrysippus and Tertullian, Ovid's Art,

360 Solomon's Proverbs, Eloïsa's loves, And many more than sure the Church approves.

More legends were there, here, of wicked wives,
Than good, in all the Bible and Saints’-lives.
Who drew the lion vanquish’d? 'Twas a man. 365
But could we women write as scholars can,
Men should stand mark'd with far more wickedness
Than all the sons of Adam could redress.
Love seldom haunts the breast where learning lies,
And Venus sets, ere Mercury can rise.

370 Those play the scholars who can't play the men, And use that weapon which they have, their pen; When old, and past the relish of delight, Then down they sit, and in their dotage write, That not one woman keeps her marriage vow. 375 (This by the way, but to my purpose now.)

It chanc'd my husband, on a winter's night, Read in this book, aloud, with strange delight, How the first female (as the Scriptures show) Brought her own spouse and all his race to woe: 380 How Sampson fell; and he, whom Dejanire Wrapp'd in th’ envenom’d shirt, and set on fire: How curs’d Eryphile her lord betray'd, And the dire ambush Clytemnestra laid : But what most pleas'd him was the Cretan dame, 385 And husband-bull-oh monstrous ! fie for shame!

He had by heart, the whole detail of woe, Xantippe made her good man undergo; How oft she scolded in a day, he knew, How many piss-pots on the sage she threw; 390 Who took it patiently, and wip'd his head ; “ Rain follows thunder :” that was all he said.

He read how Arius to his friend complain'd, A fatal tree was growing in his land, On which three wives successively had twin'd 395 A sliding noose, and waver'd in the wind. Where grows this plant (replied the friend) oh! where? For better fruit did never orchard bear.

Give me some slip of this most blissful tree,
And, in my garden, planted shall it be.

Then, how two wives their lords' destruction prove,
Through hatred one, and one through too much love;
That for her husband mix'd a pois’nous draught,
And this, for lust, an am'rous philtre bought:
The nimble juice soon seiz’d his giddy head, 405
Frantic at night, and in the morning dead.
How some, with swords, their sleeping lords have

slain, And some have hammer'd nails into their brain, And some have drench'd them with a deadly potion; All this he read, and read with great devotion. 410 Long time I heard, and swell’d, and blush’d, and

frown'd; But when no end of these vile tales I found, When still he read, and laugh’d, and read again, And half the night was thus consum'd in vain ; Provok'd to vengeance, three large leaves I tore, 415 And, with one buffet, felld him on the floor. With that, my husband in a fury rose, And down he settled me, with hearty blows. I groan'd, and lay extended on my side; Oh! thou hast slain me for my wealth (I cried) 420 Yet I forgive thee-take my last embraceHe wept, kind soul! and stoop'd to kiss my face; I took him such a box as turn'd him blue, Then sigh’d and cried, Adieu, my dear, adieu ! But, after many a hearty struggle past,

425 I condescended to be pleas'd at last. Soon as he said, My mistress and my wife, Do what you list, the term of all your I took to heart the merits of the cause, And stood content to rule by wholesome laws; 430 Receiv’d the reins of absolute command, With all the government of house and land, And empire o'er his tongue, and o'er his hand.

life :

As for the volume that revil'd the dames,
'Twas torn to fragments, and condemn'd to flames. 435

Now Heav'n, on all my husbands gone, bestow
Pleasures above, for tortures felt below:
That rest they wish'd for, grant them in the grave,
And bless those souls my conduct help'd to save !


The lines of Pope, in the piece before us, are spirited and easy, and have, properly enough, a free colloquial air. One passage I cannot forbear quoting, as it acquaints us with the writers who were popular in the time of Chaucer. The jocose old woman says, that her husband frequently read to her out of a volume that contained :

Valerius, whole ; and of Saint Jerome, part ;
Chrysippus and Tertullian, Ovid's Art,
Solomon's Proverbs, Eloïsa's loves ;

With many more than sure the Church approves.” – Ver. 359. Pope has omitted a stroke of humour ; for, in the original, she naturally mistakes the rank and age of St. Jerome ; the lines must be transcribed :

“ Yclepid Valerie and Theophrast,

At which boke he lough alway full fast ;
And eke there was a clerk sometime in Rome,
A cardinal, that hightin St. Jerome,
That made a boke agenst Jovinian,
In which boke there was eke Tertullian,
Chrysippus, Trotula, and Helowis,
That was an abbess not ferr fro Paris,
And eke the Parables of Solomon,

Ovid'is art, and bokis many a one.” In the library which Charles V. founded in France about the year 1376, among many books of devotion, astrology, chemistry, and romance, there was not one copy of Tully to be found, and no Latin poet but Ovid, Lucan, and Boethius; some French translations of Livy, Valerius Maximus, and St. Austin's City of God. He placed these in one of the towers, called The Tower of the Library. This was the foundation of the present magnificent royal library at Paris.

The tale, to which this is the prologue, has been versified by Dryden. and is supposed to have been of Chaucer's own invention ; as is the exquisite Vision of the Flower and the Leaf, which has received a thousand new graces from the spirited and harmonious Dryden. It is to his Fables, (next to his Music Ode,) written when he was above seventy years old, that Dryden will chiefly owe his immortality ; and among these, particularly to the well.conducted tale of Palamon and Arcite, the pathetic picture of Sigismunda, the wild and terrible graces of Theodore and Honoria, and the sportive pleasantry of Cymon and Iphigenia.

These pieces of Chaucer were not the only ones that were versified by Pope. Mr. Harte assured me, that he was convinced by some circumstances which Fenton, his friend, communicated to him, that Pope wrote the characters that make the introduction to the Canterbury Tales, published under the name of Betterton.-Warton.

« PoprzedniaDalej »