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Their pleasures, hours, and actions, all their own,
And, uncontroul'd, to give account to none.
Some wish a husband-fool; but such are curst,
For fools perverse of husbands are the worst.
All women would be counted chaste and wise,
Nor should our spouses see but with our eyes ;
For fools will prate; and though they want the wit
To find close faults, yet open bolts will hit;
Though better for their ease to hold their tongue,
For womankind was never in the wrong.
So noise ensues, and quarrels last for life;
The wife abhors the fool, the fool the wife.
And some men say, that great delight have we
To be for truth extolld, and secrecy ;
And constant in one purpose still to dwell,
And not our husbands' counsel to reveal.
But that's a fable ; for our sex is frail,
Inventing rather than not tell a tale.
Like leaky sieves no secrets we can hold;
Witness the famous tale that Ovid told.*

Midas the king, as in his book appears,
By Phoebus was endow'd with ass's ears,
Which under his long locks he well conceald,
(As monarchs' vices must not be reveald,)
For fear the people have them in the wind,
Who, long ago, were neither dumb nor blind ;
Nor apt to think from heaven their title springs,
Since Jove and Mars left off begetting kings.
This Midas knew; and durst communicate
To none but to his wife his ears of state ;
One must be trusted, and he thought her fit,
As passing prudent, and a parlous wit.

* Ovid, indeed, tells the story in the Metamor. lib. xi. But how will the fair reader excuse Chaucer for converting the talkative male domestic of Midas into that king's wife ?

To this sagacious confessor he went,
And told her what a gift the gods had sent;
But told it under matrimonial seal,
With strict injunction never to reveal.
The secret heard, she plighted him her troth,
(And sacred sure is every woman's oath,)
The royal malady should rest unknown,
Both for her husband's honour and her own:
But ne'ertheless she pined with discontent,
The counsel rumbled till it found a vent.
The thing she knew she was obliged to hide ;
By interest and by oath the wife was tied,
But, if she told it not, the woman died.
Loth to betray a husband and a prince,
But she must burst or blab, and no pretence
Of honour tied her tongue from self-defence.
A marshy ground commodiously was near,
Thither she ran, and held her breath for fear,
Lest if a word she spoke of any thing,
That word might be the secret of the king.
Thus full of counsel to the fen she went,
Griped all the way, and longing for a vent;
Arrived, by pure necessity compellid,
On her majestic marrow-bones she kneelid.
Then to the water's brink she laid her head,
And as a bittour bumps* within a reed,
To thee alone, O lake! she said, I tell,
(And, as thy queen, command thee to conceal :)
Beneath his locks, the king my husband wears
A goodly royal pair of ass's ears :
Now I have eased my bosom of the pain,
Till the next longing fit return again.-

* The sound which the bittern produces by suction among

the roots of water plants, is provincially called bumping.

Thus through a woman was the secret known; Tell us, and, in effect, you tell the town. But to my tale: The knight, with heavy cheer, Wandering in vain, had now consumed the year; One day was only left to solve the doubt, Yet knew no more than when he first set out. But home he must; and, as the award had been, Yield up his body captive to the queen. In this despairing state he happ'd to ride, As fortune led him, by a forest side; Lonely the vale, and full of horror stood, Brown with the shade of a religious wood; When full before him, at the noon of night, (The moon was up, and shot a gleamy light,) He saw a quire of ladies in a round, That featly footing seem'd to skim the ground. Thus dancing hand in hand, so light they were, He knew not where they trod, on earth or air. At speed he drove, and came a sudden guest; In hope, where many women were, at least Some one, by chance, might answer his request. But faster than his horse the ladies flew, And in a trice were vanish'd out of view.

One only hag remaind; but fouler far Than grandame apes in Indian forests are ; Against a wither'd oak she lean’d her weight, Propp'd on her trusty staff, not half upright, And dropp'd an awkward court'sy to the knight. Then said, What makes you, sir, so late abroad Without a guide, and this no beaten road ? Or want you aught that here you hope to find, Or travel for some trouble in your mind ? The last I guess ; and if I read aright, Those of our sex are bound to serve a knight. Perhaps good counsel may your grief assuage, Then tell your pain, for wisdom is in age.


To this the knight: Good mother, would you know The secret cause and spring of all my woe? My life must with to-morrow's light expire, Unless I tell what women most desire. Now could you help me at this hard essay, Or for your inborn goodness, or for pay, Yours is my life, redeem'd by your advice, Ask what you please, and I will pay the price : The proudest kerchief of the court shall rest Well satisfied of what they love the best.Plight me thy faith, quoth she, that what I ask, Thy danger over, and perform'd the task, That shalt thou give for hire of thy demand, (Here take thy oath, and seal it on my hand,) I warrant thee, on peril of my life, Thy words shall please both widow,maid, and wife.

More words there needed not to move the knight, To take her offer, and his truth to plight. With that she spread her mantle on the ground, And, first inquiring whither he was bound, Bade him not fear, though long and rough the way, At court he should arrive ere break of day: His horse should find the way without a guide, She said : with fury they began to ride, He on the midst, the beldam at his side. The horse, what devil drove I cannot tell, But only this, they sped their journey well ; And all the way the crone inform'd the knight, How he should answer the demand aright.

To court they came; the news was quickly spread Of his returning to redeem his head. The female senate was assembled soon, With all the mob of women in the town : The queen sat lord chief-justice of the hall, And bade the crier cite the criminal. The knight appear'd, and silence they proclaim : Then first the culprit answer'd to his name ;

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And, after forms of law, was last required
To name the thing that women most desired.-

The offender, taught his lesson by the way,
And by his counsel order'd what to say,
Thus bold began :-My lady liege, said he,
What all your sex desire is—SOVEREIGNTY.
The wife affects her husband to command ;
All must be hers, both money, house, and land :
The maids are mistresses even in their name,
And of their servants full dominion claim.
This, at the peril of my head, I say,
A blunt plain truth, the sex aspires to sway,
You to rule all, while we, like slaves, obey -

There was not one, or widow, maid, or wife, But said the knight had well deserved his life, Even fair Geneura, with a blush, confessid, The man had found what women love the best.

Up starts the beldam, who was there unseen, And, reverence made, accosted thus the queen :My liege, said she, before the court arise, May I, poor wretch, find favour in your eyes, To grant my just request : 'twas I who taught The knight this answer, and inspired his thought. None but a woman could a man direct To tell us women what we most affect. But first I swore him on his knightly troth, (And here demand performance of his oath,) To grant the boon that next I should desire; He gave his faith, and I expect my hire. My promise is fulfillid : I saved his life, And claim his debt, to take me for his wife.

The knight was ask'd, nor could his oath deny, But hoped they would not force him to comply. The women, who would rather wrest the laws, Than let a sister-plaintiff lose the cause, (As judges on the bench more gracious are, And more attent to brothers of the bar,)

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