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The flour consum'd, the best that now I can,
My fourth dear spouse was not exceeding true s
kind As stung his heart, and made his marrow fry 235 With burning rage, and frantic jealousy. His soul, I hope, enjoys eternal glory, For here on earth I was his purgatory. Oft when his shoe. the most severely wrung, He put on careless airs, and sat and sung. 240 How sore I galld him, only Heav'n could know, And he that felt, and I that caus'd the woe. He dy'd when fast from pilgrimage I came, With other gossips, from Jerusalem ; And now lies bury'd underneath a rood, 245 Fair to be seen, and rear'd of honest wood : A comb, indeed, with fewer sculptures grac'd Than that Mausolus' pious widow plac'd, Or where enshrin'd the great Darius lay ; But cost on graves is merely thrown away. 250 The pit fill'd up, with turf we cover'd o'er ; So bless the good man's soul! I say no more.
Now for my fifth lov'd lord, the last and best ; (Kind Heav'n afford him everlasting rest!) Full hearty was his love, and I can shew 255 The tokens on my ribs, in black and blue;
Yet with a knack my heart he could have won,
261 A glutted market makes provision cheap.
In pure good-will I took this jovial spark, Of Oxford he, a most egregious clerk. He boarded with a widow of the town, 265 A trusty gossip, one Dame Allison ; Full well the secrets of my soul she knew, Better than e'er our parish priest could do. To her I told whatever could befal : Had but my husband piss'd against a wall; 270 Or done a thing that might have cost his life, She and my niece--and one more worthy wife, Had known it all : what most he would conceal To these I made no scruple to reveal. Oft bas he blush'd from ear to ear for shame, 275 That e'er he told a secret to his dame.
It so befel, in holy time of Lent, That oft a-day I to this gossip went : (My husband, thank my stars, was out of town) From house to house we rambled up and down, This clerk, myself, and my good neighbor Alse, To see, be seen, to tell, and gather tales. Visits to ev'ry church we daily paid, And march'd in ev'ry holy masquerade ; The stations duly, and the vigils kept,
285 Not much we fasted, but scarce ever slept.
At sermons, too, I shone in scarlet gay ;
'Twas when fresh May her early blossoms yields,
300 And durst be sworn he had bewitch'd me to him; If e'er I slept, I dream'd of him alone; And dreams foretel, 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 lie and twenty more.
Thus day by day, and month by month we past ; I 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. Before my face my handkerchief I spread, 311 To hide the flood of tears I did not shed. The good man's coffin to the church was borne ; Around the neighbors, and my clerk too, mourn :
But as he march'd, good Gods ! he show'd a pair
But to my tale. A month scarce pass'd away,
Stubborn as any lioness was I,
And close the sermon as beseem'd his wit, 345
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)
355 A certain treatise oft at ev'ning read, Where divers authors (whom the devil confound For all their lies) were in one volume bound: Valerius whole, and of St. Jerome part ; Crysippus, and Tertullian, Ovid's Art, 360 Solomon's Proverbs, Eloisa's Loves, And many more than sure the Church approves. * More legions 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 peni