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If I am old and ugly, well for you,
No lewd adulterer will
love pursue ;
Nor jealousy, the bane of married life,
Shall haunt you for a wither'd homely wife ;
For age and ugliness, as all agree,
Are the best guards of female chastity.
Yet since I see your mind is worldly bent,
I'll do my best to further your content;
And therefore of two gifts in my dispose,
Think ere you speak,- I grant you leave to choose:
Would you I should be still deform'd and old,
Nauseous to touch, and loathsome to behold;
On this condition, to remain for life
A careful, tender, and obedient wife,
In all I can contribute to your ease,
And not in deed, or word, or thought displease?
Or would you rather have me young and fair,
And take the chance that happens to your share ?
Temptations are in beauty, and in youth,
And how can you depend upon my truth?
Now weigh the danger with the doubtful bliss,
And thank yourself, if aught should fall amiss.
Sore sigh’d the knight, who this long sermon
heard; At length considering all, his heart he cheerd, And thus replied :-My lady and my wife, To your wise conduct I resign my life: Choose you for me, for well you understand The future good and ill, on either hand : But if an humble husband may request, Provide and order all things for the best; Your's be the care to profit and to please, And let your subject-servant take his ease.Then thus in peace, quoth she, concludes the
strife, Since I am turn’d the husband, you the wife :
The matrimonial victory is mine,
Which, having fairly gain'd, I will resign;
Forgive, if I have said or done amiss,
And seal the bargain with a friendly kiss.
I promised you but one content to share,
But now I will become both good and fair.
No nuptial quarrel shall disturb your ease ;
The business of my life shall be to please :
And for my beauty, that, as time shall try;
But draw the curtain first, and cast your eye.-
He look'd, and saw a creature heavenly fair,
In bloom of youth, and of a charming air.
With joy he turn'd, and seized her ivory arm;
And, like Pygmalion, found the statue warm.
Small arguments there needed to prevail,
A storm of kisses pour'd as thick as hail.
Thus long in mutual bliss they lay embraced,
And their first love continued to the last;
One sunshine was their life, no cloud between,
Nor ever was a kinder couple seen.
And so may all our lives like their's be led ;
Heaven send the maids young husbands fresh in
May widows wed as often as they can,
And ever for the better change their man.
And some devouring plague pursue their lives,
Who will not well be govern’d by their wives !
This beautiful copy of a beautiful original makes us regret, that Dryden had not translated the whole Introduction to the
Canterbury Tales,” in which the pilgrims are so admirably described. Something might have been lost for want of the ancient Gothic lore, which the writers of our poet's period did not think proper to study ; but when Dryden's learning failed, his native stores of fancy and numbers would have helped him through the task.
“ The Character of the Good Priest” may be considered as an amende honorable to the reverend order whóm Dryden bad often satirised, and he himself seems to wish it to be viewed in that light. See Preface, p. 225. With a freedom which he has frequently employed elsewhere, Dryden has added the last forty lines, in which, availing himself of the Revolution, which in Chaucer's time placed Henry IV. on the throne, he represents the political principles of his priest as the same with those of the non-juring clergy of his own day. Indeed, the whole piece is greatly enlarged upon Chaucer's sketch.
A PARISH priest was of the pilgrim train ;
An awful, reverend, and religious man.
His eyes diffused a venerable grace,
And charity itself was in his face.
Rich was his soul, though his attire was poor,
(As God had clothed his own ambassador ;)
For such on earth his bless'd Redeemer bore.
Of sixty years he seem'd, and well might last
To sixty more, but that he lived too fast;
Refined himself to soul, to curb the sense,
And made almost a sin of abstinence.
Yet had his aspect nothing of severe,
But such a face as promised him sincere,
Nothing reserved or sullen was to see,
But sweet regards, and pleasing sanctity ;
Mild was his accent, and his action free.
With eloquence innate his tongue was arm’d,
Though harsh the precept, yet the preacher charm’d.
For, letting down the golden chain from high,
He drew his audience upward to the sky;
And oft, with holy hymns, he charm’d their ears,
(A music more melodious than the spheres,)
For David left him, when he went to rest,
His lyre; and after him he sung the best.
He bore his great commission in his look,
But sweetly temper'd awe, and soften'd all he spoke.
He preach'd the joys of heaven, and pains of hell,
And warn'd the sinner with becoming zeal ;
But on eternal mercy loved to dwell.
He taught the gospel rather than the law,
And forced himself to drive, but loved to draw.
For fear but freezes minds; but love, like heat,
Exhales the soul sublime, to seek her native seat.
To threats the stubborn sinner oft is hard,
Wrapp'd in his crimes, against the storm prepared;
But when the milder beams of mercy play,
He melts, and throws his cumbrous cloak away.
Lightnings and thunder, (heaven's artillery,)
As harbingers before the Almighty fly:
Those but proclaim his style, and disappear ;
The stiller sound succeeds, and God is there.
The tithes, his parish freely paid, he took, But never sued, or cursed with bell and book ; With patience bearing wrong, but offering none, Since every man is free to lose his own. The country churls, according to their kind, (Who grudge their dues, and love to be behind,) The less he sought his offerings, pinch'd the more, And praised a priest contented to be poor.
Yet of his little he had some to spare, To feed the famish'd, and to clothe the bare ; For mortified he was to that degree, A poorer than himself he would not see. True priests, he said, and preachers of the word, Were only stewards of their sovereign Lord;