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THE WIFE OF BATH.
FROM CHAUCER *.
* I have a curious book, entitled, A Commentary upon the Two Tales of our ancient, renowned, and ever-living Poet,
Sir JEFFREY CHAUCER, Knight;
who, for his rich fancy, pregnant invention, and prefent compo. fure, deferved the countenance of a Prince, and of his laureat honours:
THE MILLER'S TALE;
THE WIFE OF BATH.
Printed by William Godbid, and to be fold by Peter Dring at the Sun, in the Poultry, near the Rofe tavern. 1665.
The Author in the Dedication figns himself R. B.; and in the advertisement fays,
"This comment was an affay whereto the author was importuned by perfons of quality, to compleat with brief, pithy, and proper illufirations, fuitable to the subject !"
It appears from it, that the character of Chaucer was not well understood by the age in which this book was written; as it appears the Comment was undertaken to point out the humourous and truly comic talent of our ancient bard, which was not at the time appreciated. A short specimen will fuffice:
In all these trials I have borne a part,
I was myself the fcourge that caus'd the smart ;
"Of five hufbands fcolynge am I
"The thought is taken: all flesh is mortal; but of all flesh she "would have none more mortal than her husband's. She would ever “ have her aged husband's look like Death's head; meantime her
fage admonitions are never wanting to bid him remember his end. "Life is a trouble, but of all others she is most troubled with his "life. Thus dictates the of her husband's pilgrimage; which by "how much the fhorter, it is for her all the better," &c.
However trifling fuch things may appear, I mention them, to fhew the light in which Chaucer's character was held at the time; and I fhall add a few words from the Appendix, to fhew the Author's good fenfe.
“Appendix to Comments.
"After fuch time as the AUTOR, upon the instancy of sundry "perfons of quality, had finished his Comments upon these Two "TALES, the perufal of them begot that influence over the
clear and weighty judgements of the ftricteft and rigidest Cen"fors; as their high approvement of them induced their impor“tunity to the AUTHOR to go on with the reft, as he had fuc"cefsfully done with these two firft: ingeniously protesting,
that they had not read any subject difcourfing by way of IL“LUSTRATION, and running DESCANT, on fuch light, but “HARMLESS fancies, more handsomely couched, or modeftly "fhadowed. All which, though urgently preffed, could make no “impreffion on the AUTHOR, for his definite answer was this "That his age, without any other appellant, might render his apo“logy; and privilege him from COMMENTING ON CONCEPTIONS, "being never fo pregnant, being interveined with levity; faying,
"Of fuch light toys hee'd ta'n a long adieu."
Whence fome infer, whose conscience is too nice,
But let them read, and folve me, if they can,
There's danger in affembling fire and tow;
"Encrease and multiply," was Heav'n's command, And that's a text I clearly understand.
This too, "Let men their fires and mothers leave,
Paul, knowing one could never ferve our turn,
Take which we like, the counfel, or our will.
Heav'n calls us diff'rent ways, on these bestows
Full many a Saint, fince first the world began,
For me, I'll keep the poft affign'd by heav'n,
For fo faid Paul, and Paul's a found divine.
The three were old, but rich and fond befide,
And toil'd most piteously to please their bride:
If I but smil❜d, a fudden youth they found, And a new palfy feiz'd them when I frown'd.
Ye fov'reign wives! give ear, and understand,
Hark, old Sir Paul! ('twas thus I us'd to fay)
Why to her house doft thou so oft repair?
If poor (you fay) fhe drains her husband's purse;
Vapours and pride by turns poffefs her brain,