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Not Berenice's locks first rose so bright,
This the beau monde shall from the Mall survey,
THE MERCHANTS TALE.
THERE liv'd in Lombardy, as authors write, In days of old, a wise and worthy Knight; Of gentle manners, as of gen'rous race, Blest with much sense, more riches, and some grace; Yet, led astray by Venus' soft delights,
5 He scarce could rule some idle appetites : For long ago, let priests say what they cou'd, Weak sinful laymen were but flesh and blood.
But in due time, when sixty years were o'er, He vow'd to lead this vicious life no more : 10 Whether pure holiness inspir'd his mind, Or dotage turn'd his brain, hard to find; But his high courage prick'd him forth to wed, And try the pleasures of a lawful bed. This was his nightly dream, his daily care, 15 And to the heav'nly pow'rs his constant pray'r, Once, ere he dy'd, to taste the blissful life Of a kind husband and a loving wife.
These thoughts he fortify'd with reasons still, (For none want reasons to confirm their will.) 20 Grave authors say, and witty poets sing, That honest wedlock is a glorious thing : But depth of judgment inost in him appears, Who wisely weds in his maturer years. Then let him chuse a damsel young and fair, 25 To bless his age, and bring a worthy heir ; To sooth his cares, and, free from noise and strife, Conduct him gently to the verge of life. Let sinful bachelors their woes deplore, Full well they merit all they feel, and more: 30 Unaw'd hy precepts, human or divine, Like birds and beasts, promiscuously they join; Nor know to make the present blessing last, To hope the future, or esteem the past : But vainly boast the joys they never try'd, 35 And find divulg'd the secrets they would hide. The marry'd man may bear his yoke with ease, Secure at once himself and heav'n to please; And pass his inoffensive hours away, In bliss all night, and innocence all day: 40 Tho' fortune change, his constant spouse remains, Augments his joys, or mitigates his pains.
But what so pure which envious tongues will spare? Some wicked wits have libell'd all the fair.
With matchless impudence they style a wife
55 Abundantly supplies us all our life : This blessing lasts (if those who try say true) As long as heart can wish....and longer too.
Our grandsire Adam, ere of Eve possest, Alone, and ev’n in paradise unblest,
60 With mournful looks the blissful scenes survey'd, And wander'd in the solitary shade. The Maker saw, took pity, and bestow'd Woman, the last, and best reserv'd of God. A wife! ah gentle deities! can he
65 That has a wife e'er feel adversity ? Would men but follow what the sex advise, All things would prosper, all the world grow wise. 'Twas by Rebecca's aid that Jacob won His father's blessing from an elder son:
Abusive Nabal ow'd his forfeit life
75 Was sheath'd, and Israel liv'd to bless the Lord.
These weighty motives January the sage Maturely ponder'd in his riper age; And, charm'd with virtuous joys, and sober life, Would try that Christian comfort, call'd a Wife. 80 His friends were summon'd on a point so nice To pass their judgment, and to give advice; But fix'd before, and well resolv'd was he, (As men that ask advice are wont to be.)
My friends, he cry'd, (and cast a mournful look Around the room, and sigh'd before he spoke ;) 86 Beneath the weight of threescore years I bend, And, worn with cares, am hastning to my end: How I have liv'd, alas! you know too well, In worldly follies which I blush to tell;
90 But gracious heav'n has op'd my eyes at last, With due regret I view my vices past, And as the precept of the church decrees, Will take a wife, and live in holy ease: But since by counsel all things should be done, 95 And many heads are wiser still than one;