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Chuse you for me, who best shall be content
When my desire's approv'd by your consent.

One caution yet is needful to be told
To guide your choice; this wife must not be old. 100
There goes a saying, and 'twas shrewdly said,
Old fish at table, but young flesh in bed.
My soul abhors the tasteless, dry embrace
Of a stale virgin with a winter face :
In that cold season Love but treats his guest 105
With bean straw, and tough forage at the best.
No crafty widows shall approach my bed;
Those are too wise for batchelors to wed.
As subtle clerks by many schools are made,
Twice marri'd dames are mistresses o'th' trade :
But young and tender virgins, rul'd with ease, 111
We form like wax, and mould them as we please.

Conceive me, Sirs, nor take my sense amiss; 'Tis what concerns my soul's eternal bliss; Since if I found no pleasure in my spouse, 115 As flesh is frail, and who (God help me) knows? Then should I live in lewd adultery, And sink downright to Satan when I die : Or were I curs'd with an unfruitful bed, The righteous end were lost for which I wed; 120 To raise up seed to bless the Pow’rs above, And not for pleasure only, or for love.


Think not I dote : 'tis time to take a wife,
When vig'rous blood forbids a chaster life :
Those that are blest with store of grace divine, 125
May live like saints by heav'n's consent and mine.

And since I speak of wedlock, let me say,
(As thank my stars, in modest truth I may,)
My limbs are active, still I'm sound at heart,
And a new vigour springs in ev'ry part.

130 Think not my virtue lost, though Time has shed These rev'rend honours on my hoary head: These trees are crown'd with blossoms white as snow, The vital sap then rising from below. Old as I am, my lusty limbs appear Like winter greens, that flourish all the year. Now, Sirs, you know to what I stand inclin'd, Let ev'ry friend with freedom speak his mind.

He said ; the rest in diff'rent parts divide; The knotty point was urg'd on either side: 140 Marriage, the theme on which they all declaim'd, Some prais'd with wit, and some with reason blam'd. Till, what with proofs, objections, and replies, Each wondrous positive, and wondrous wise, There fell between his brothers a debate; Placebo this was call’d, and Justin that.

First to the Knight Placebo thus begun, (Mild were his looks, and pleasing was his tone.)



Such prudence, Sir, in all your


appears, As plainly proves experience dwells with years! 150

you pursue sage Solomon's advice,
To work by counsel when affairs are nice:
But, with the Wise Man's leave, I must protest,
So may my soul arrive at ease and rest,
As still I hold my own advice the best.

Sir, I have liv'd a courtier all my days,
And study'd men, their manners, and their ways;
And have observ'd this useful maxim still,
To let my betters always have their will.
Nay, if my lord affirm'd that black was white, 160
My word was this, “ Your honour's in the right.”
Th’ assuming wit, who deems himself so wise,
As his mistaken patron to advise,
Let him not dare to vent his dang’rous thought ;
A noble fool was never in a fault.

166 This, Sir, affects not you, whose ev'ry word Is weigh'd with judgment, and befits a lord: Your will is mine; and is (I will maintain) Pleasing to God, and should be so to man; At least your courage all the world must praise, 170 Who dare to wed in your dclining days. Indulge the vigour of your mounting blood, And let gray fools be indolently good, Who, past all pleasure, damn the joys of sense, With rey'rend dulness and grave impotence.


Justin, who silent sate, and heard the man, Thus, with a philosophic frown, began.

A Heathen author, of the first degree, (Who, though not faith, had sense as well as we,) Bids us be certain our concerns to trust

180 To those of gen'rous principles and just. The venture's greater, I'll presume to say, To give your person, than your goods away: And therefore, Sir, as you regard your rest, First learn your lady's qualities at least : 185 Whether she's chaste or rampant, proud or civil, Meek as a saint, or haughty as the devil; Whether an easy, fond, familiar fool, Or such a wit as no man e'er can rule. 'Tis true, perfection none must hope to find 190 In all this world, much less in womankind; But if her virtues prove the larger share, Bless the kind Fates, and think your fortune rare. Ah, gentle Sir, take warning of a friend, Who knows too well the state you thus commend; And, spite of all his praises, must declare, 196 All he can find is bondage, cost, and care. Heav'n knows I shed full many a private tear, And sigh in silence, lest the world should hear; While all my friends applaud my blissful life, 200 And swear no mortal's happier in a wife;

Demure and chaste as any vestal nun,
The meekest creature that beholds the sun!
But, by th' immortal Pow'rs, I feel the pain,
And he that smarts has reason to complain.

Do what you list for me: you must be sage,
And cautious sure; for wisdom is in age:
But at these years to venture on the fair!
By him who made the ocean, earth, and air,
To please a wife, when her occasions call, 210
Would busy the most vig?rous of us all.
And trust me, Sir, the chastest you could chuse
Will ask observance, and exact her dues.
If what I speak my noble lord offend,
My tedious sermon here is at an end.

216 'Tis well, 'tis wondrous well, the Knight replies; Most worthy kinsman, faith you're mighty wise! We, Sirs, are fools; and must resign the cause To Heath'nish authors, proverbs, and old saws. He spoke with scorn, and turu'd another way: 220 What does my friend, my dear Placebo, say?

I say, quoth he, by heav'n the man's to blame, To slander wives, and wedlock's holy name.

At this the council rose, without delay; Each, in his own opinion, went his way; 225 With full consent, that, all disputes appeas'd, The Knight should marry, when and where he pleas'd.


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