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ON THE COUNTESS OF ABINGDON.
THE COCK AND THE FOX: No single virtue we could most commend,
OR, THE TALE OF THE NUN'S PRIEST. Whether the wife, the mother, or the friend; THERE liv'd, as authors tell, in days of yore, For she was all, in that supreme degree,
A widow, somewhat old, and very poor: That as no one prevailed, so all was she.
Deep in her cell her cottage lonely stood, The several parts lay hidden in the piece; Well thatch'd and under covert of a wood. The occasion but exerted that, or this.
This dowager, on whom my tale I found, A wife as tender, and as true withal,
| Since last sbe laid her husband in the ground, As the first woman was before her fall :
A simple sober life in patience led, Made for the man, of whom she was a part; 1. And had but just enough to buy ber bread: Made to attract his eyes, and keep his heart. But huswifing the little Heaven had lent, A second Eve, but by no crime accursed; She duly paid a groat for quarter rent; As beauteous, not as brittle, as the first.
And pinch'd her belly, with her daughters two, Had she been first, still Paradise had been, To bring the year about with much ado.
And death had found no entrance by her sin. The cattle in her homestead were three sows, . So she not only had preserved from ill
An ewe call’d Mallie, and three brinded cows. Her sex and ours, but lived their pattern still. Her parlor-window stuck with herbs around,
Love and obedience to her lord she bore ; Of savory smell; and rushes strew'd the ground. She much obeyed him, but she loved him more: A maple dresser in her hall she had, Not awed to duty by superior sway,
On which full many a slender meal she made; But taught by his indulgence to obey.
For no delicious morsel pass'd her throat; Thus we love God, as author of our good. According to her cloth she cut her coat:
No poignant sauce she knew, nor costly treat, Yet unemployed no minute slipped away; Her hunger gave a relish to her meat: Moments were precious in so short a stay. A sparing diet did her health aesure; The haste of Heaven to have her was so great, Or, sick, a pepper posset was her cure. That some were single acts, though each com Before the day was done, her work she sped, plete;
And never went by candle-light to bed : But every act stood ready to repeat.
With exercise she sweat ill-humors out, Her fellow-saints with busy care will look Her dancing was not hinder'd by the gout. For her blest name in fate's eternal book; | Her poverty was glad; her heart content; And, pleased to be outdone, with joy will see Nor knew she what the spleen or vapors meant. Numberless virtues, endless charity:
Of wine she never tasted through the year, But more will wonder at so short an age,
But white and black was all her homely cheer: To find a blank beyond the thirtieth page: Brown bread, and milk (but first she skimmid And with a pious fear begin to doubt
But her ambition never reach'd to roast.
For crowing loud, the noble Chanticleer: She vanished, we can scarcely say she died: So hight ber cock, whose singing did surpass For but a now did heaven and earth divide : The merry notes of organs at the mass. She passed serenely with a single breath; More certain was the crowing of the cock This moment perfect health, the next was death: / To number hours, than is an abbey-clock; One sigh did her eternal bliss assure ;
And sooner than the mativ-bell was rung, So little penance needs, when souls are almost pure He clapp'd his wings upon his roost and sung: As gentle dreams our waking thoughts pursue; For when degrees fifteen ascended right, Or, one dream passed, we slide into a new; By sure instinct he knew 'twas one at night, So close they follow, such wild order keep, High was his comb, and coral red withal, We think ourselves awake, and are asleep: In dents embattled like a castle wall; So softly death succeeded life in her:
His bill was raven-black, and shone like jet; She did but dream of heaven, and she was there. | Blue were his legs, and orient were his feet:
No pains she sufferred, nor expired with noise; / White were his nails, like silver to behold, Her soul was whispered out with God's still voice; | His body glittering like the burnish'd gold. As an old friend is beckoned to a feast,
This gentle cock, for solace of his life, And treated like a long-familiar guest.
Six misses had, beside his lawful wife; He took her as he found, but found her so, Scandal, that spares no king, though ne'er so good, As one in hourly readiness to go:
Says they were all of his own flesh and blood, E'en on that day, in all her trim prepared ; His sisters both by sire and mother's side; As early notice she from heaven had heard, And sure their likeness show'd them near allied. And some descending courier from above
But make the worst, the monarch did no more Had given her timely warning to remove; Than all the Ptolemys had done before: Or counselled her to dress the nuptial room, When incest is for interest of a nation, For on that night the bridegroom was to come. 'Tis made no sin by boly dispensation. He kept his hour, and found her where she lay | Some lines have been maintain'd by this alone, Clothed all in white, the livery of the day. i Which by their common ugliness are known.
But passing this, as from our tale apart,
How dar’st thou tell thy dame thou art affear'd? Dame Partlet was the sovereign of his heart : Hast thou no manly heart, and hast a beard ? Ardent in love, outrageous in his play,
"If aught from fearful dreams may be divin'd He feather'd her a hundred times a day:
They signify a cock of dunghill kind. And she, that was not only passing fair,
Tall dreams, as in old Galen I have read, But was withal discreet, and debonnaire,
Are from repletion and complexion bred; Resolv'd the passive doctrine to fulfil,
From rising fumes of indigested food, Though loth; and let him work his wicked will: And noxious humors that infect the blood · At board and bed was affable and kind,
And sure, my lord, if I can read aright, According as their marriage vow did bind,
These foolish fancies you have had to-night
Are certain symptoms (in the canting style)
This yellow gall, that in your stomach floats,
Engenders all these visionary thoughts By this her husband's heart she did obtain ; When choler overflows, then dreams are bred What cannot beauty, jcin'd with virtue, gain! Of flames, and all the family of red; She was his only joy, and he her pride,
Red dragons, and red beasts, in sleep we view, She, when he walk'd, went pecking by his side ; For humors are distinguish'd by their hue. If, spurning up the ground, he sprung a corn, From hence we dream of wars and warlike things The tribute in his bill to her was borne.
And wasps and hornets with their double wings. But, Oh! what joy it was to hear him sing
Choler adust congeals our blood with fear, In summer, when the day began to spring,
Then black bulls toss us, and black devils tear. Stretching his neck, and warbling in his throat, In sanguine airy dreams aloft we bound, " Solus cum sola," then was all his note.
With rheums oppress'd we sink, in rivers drown'd. For in the days of yore, the birds of parts
“More I could say, but thus conclude my theme Were bred to speak, and sing, and learn the liberal The dominating humor makes the dream. arts.
Cato was in his time accounted wise,
Take my advice, and when we fly to ground.
And purge the peccant humors that abound. Dame Partlet, ever nearest to his side.
I should be loth to lay you on a bier; lleard all his piteous moan, and how he cried And though there lives no 'pothecary near, For help from gods and men: and sore aghast I dare for once prescribe for your disease, She peck'd and pull’d, and waken'd him at last. And save long bills, and a damn'd doctor's fees. • Dear heart," said she, " for love of Heaven, declare “ Two sovereign herbs, which I by practice Your pain, and make me partner of your care I
know, You groan, sir, ever since the morning-lighi. And both at hand (for in our yard they grow ;) As something had disturb'd your noble spright." On peril of my soul shall rid you wholly
* And, madam, well I might,” said Chanticleer, Of yellow choler, and of melancholy: "Never was shrovetide cock in such a fear; You must both purge and vomit; but obey, Ev'n still I run all over in a sweat,
And for the love of Heaven make no delay, My princely senses not recover'd yet.
Since hot and dry in your complexion join, For such a dream I had of dire portent,
Beware the Sun when in a vernal sign; That much I fear my body will be shent:
For when he mounts exalted in the Ram, It bodes I shall have wars and woful strife,
If then he finds your body in a flame, Or in a lothesome dungeon end my life.
Replete with choler, I dare lay a groat, know, dame, I dreamt within my troubled breast, A tertian ague is at least your lot. That in our yard I saw a murderous beast, Perhaps a fever (which the gods forefend) That on my body would have made arrest. May bring your youth to some untimely end : With waking eyes I ne'er beheld his fel w; And therefore, sir, as you desire to live, His color was betwixt a red and yellow :
A day or two before your laxative, Tipp'd was his tail, and both his pricking ears Take just three worms, nor under nor above, Were black, and much unlike his other hairs : Because the gods unequal numbers love. The rest, in shape a beagle's whelp throughout, These digestives prepare you for your purge ; With broader forehead, and a sharper snout: Of fumetery, centaury, and spurge, Deep in his front were sunk bis glowing eyes, And of ground-ivy add a leaf or two, That yet methinks I see him with surprise.
All which within our yard or garden grow Reach out your hand, I drop with clammy sweat, Eat these, and be, my lord, of better cheer; And lay it to my heart, and feel it beat.”
Your father's son was never born to fear." "Now fy for shame," quoth she," by Heaven above, “Madam," quoth he, “gramercy for your caru Thou hast for ever lost thy lady's love;
But Cato, whom you quoted, you may spare : No woman can endure a recreant knight,
'Tis true, a wise and worthy man he seems, He must be bold by day, and free by night : And (as you say) gave no belief to dreams Our sex desires a husband or a friend,
But other men of more authority, Who can our honor and his own defend;
And, by th' immortal powers, as wise as he, Wise, hardy, secret, liberal of his purse :
Maintain, with sounder sense, that dreams forebode A fool is nauseous, but a coward worse :
For Homer plainly says they come from God. No bragging coscomb, yet no baffled knight, Nor Cato said it: but some modern fool How dar'st thou talk of love, and dar'st not fight? Impos’d in Cato's name on boys at school.
“ Believe me, madam morning dreams foreshow Ye magistrates, who sacred laws dispense, Th'event of things, and Suture weal or woe : On you I call, to punish this offence.' Some truths are not by reason to be tried,
“The word thus given, within a little space, But we have sure experience for our guide.
The mob came roaring out, and throng'd the place An ancient author, equal with the best,
All in a trice they cast the cart to ground, Relates this tale of dreams among the rest.
And in the dung the murder'd body found; “ Two friends or brothers, with devout intent, Though breathless, warm, and reeking from ha On some far pilgrimage together went.
wound. It happen'd so, that, when the Sun was down, Good Heaven, whose darling attribute we find They just arriv'd by twilight at a town:
Is boundless grace, and mercy to mankind, That day had been the baiting of a bull,
Abhors the cruel; and the deeds of night "Twas at a feast, and every inn sɔ full,
By wondrous ways reveals in open light : That no void room in chamber, or on ground Murder may pass unpunish'd for a time, And but one sorry bed, was to be found:
But tardy Justice will o'ertake the crime. And that so little it would hold but one,
And oft a speedier pain the guilty feels : Though till this hour they never lay alone.
The hue and cry of Heaven pursues him at the heels “So were they forc'd to part; one stay'd behind, Fresh from the fact, as in the present case, His fellow sought what lodging he could find : The criminals are seiz'd upon the place : At last he found a stall where oxen stood,
Carter and host confronted face to face. And that he rather chose than lie abroad.
Stift in denial, as the law appoints, "Twas in a farther yard without a door;
On engines they distend their tortur'd joints : But, for his ease, well litter'd was the floor.
So was confession forc'd, th' offence was known, “His fellow, who the narrow bed had kept, And public justice on th' offenders done. Was weary, and without a rocker slept :
“Here may you see that visions are to dread; Supine he snor'd; but in the dead of night,
And in the page that follows this, I read He dreamt his friend appear'd before his sight, Of two young merchants, whom the hope of gain Who, with a ghastly look and doleful cry,
Induc'd in partnership to cross the main. Said, “Help me, brother, or this night I die : Waiting till willing winds their sails supplied, Arise, and help, before all help be vain,
Within a trading town they long abide, Or in an ox's stall I shall be slain.'
Full fairly situate on a haven's side ; “ Rous'd from his rest, he waken'd in a start, One evening it befell, that looking out, Shivering with horror, and with aching heart. The wind they long had wish'd was come about: At length to cure himself by reason tries;
Well pleas'd they went to rest; and if the gale "Tis but a dream, and what are dreams but lies? Till morn continued, both resolv'd to sail. So thinking, chang'd his side, and clos'd his eyes. But as together in a bed they lay, His dream returns; his friend appears again: The younger had a dream at break of day. · The murderers come, now help, or I am slain :' A man he thought stood frowning at his side, 'Twas but a vision still, and visions are but vain. Who warn'd him for his safety to provide, He dreamt the third: but now his friend appear'd, Nor put to sea, but safe on shore abid . Pale, naked, pierc'd with wounds, with blood be-'I come, thy genius, to command thy stay; smear'd:
Trust not the winds, for fatal is the day, Thrice warn'd, “Awake,' said he ; . relief is late, And Death unhop'd attends the watery way.' The deed is done ; but thou revenge my fate : ' “ The vision said : and vanish'd from his sight : Tardy of aid, unseal thy heavy eyes,
The dreamer waken'd in a mortal fright: Awake, and with the dawning day arise :
Then pull'd his drowsy neighbor, and declar'd Take to the western gate thy ready way,
What in his slumber he had seen and heard. For by that passage they my corpse convey :
His friend smil'd scornful, and with proud contempt My corpse is in a tumbril laid, among
Rejects as idle what his fellow dreamt. The filth and ordure, and inclos'd with dung: • Stay, who will stay: for me no fears restrain, That cart arrest, and raise a common cry ;
Who follow Mercury the god of gain; For sacred hunger of my gold, I die :'
Let each man do as to his fancy seems, Then show'd his grisly wound; and last he drew I wait not, I, till you have better dreams. A piteous sigh, and took a long adieu.
Dreams are but interludes which Fancy makes " The frighted friend arose by break of day, When monarch Reason sleeps, this mimic wake And found the stall where late his fellow lay. Compounds a medley of disjointed things, Then of his impious host inquiring more,
A mob of cobblers, and a court of kings :
Muttering, he went,' said he, · by morning light, Both are the reasonable soul run mad :
That neither were, nor are, nor e'er can be.
Sometimes forgotten things long cast behind And oft to share the spoils with robbers join'd. Rush forward in the brain, and come to mind. • His dream confirm'd his thought : with troubled The nurse's legends are for truths receiv'd,
And the man dreams but what the boy believ'd Straight to the western gate his way he took ; Sometimes we but rehearse a former play, There, as his dream foretold, a cart he found, The night restores our actions done by day That carried compost forth to dung the ground. As hounds in sleep will open for their prey. This when the pilgrim saw, he stretch'd his throat, In short, the farce of dreams is of a piece, And cried out murder with a yelling note.
Chimeras all; and more absurd, or less : My murder'd fellow in this cart lies dead,
You, who believe in tales, abide alone; Vengeance and justice on the villain's head. | Whate'er I get this voyage is my own.'
Thus while he spoke, he heard the shouting crew While thou art constant ) thy own true knight, That call'd aboard, and took his last adieu. While thou art mine, and I am thy delight, The vessel went before a merry gale,
All sorrows at thy presence take their flight. And for quick passage put on every sail :
For true it is, as in principio, But when least fear'd, and ev'n in open day, Mulier est hominis confusio. The mischief overtook her in the way:
Madam, the meaning of this Latin is, Whether she sprung a leak, I cannot find,
That woman is to man his sovereign bliss. Or whether she was overset with wind,
For when by night I feel your tender side,
Though for the narrow perch I cannot ride,
That all my boding cares are cast behind;
* By this example you are taught again, He said, and downward flew from off the beann. That dreams and visions are not always vain : For daylight now began apace to spring, But if, dear Partlet, you are still in doubt,
The thrush to whistle, and the lark to sing. Another tale shall make the former out.
Then crowing clapp'd his wings, th' appointed call "Kenelm the son of Kenulph, Mercia's king, To chuck his wives together in the hall. Whose holy life the legends loudly sing,
By this the widow had unbarr'd the door, Wam'd in a dream, his murder did foretell
And Chanticleer went strutting out before, From point to point as after it befell;
With royal courage, and with heart so light, All circumstances to his nurse he told
As show'd he scorn'd the visions of the night. (À wonder from a child of seven years old :) Now roaming in the yard he spurn'd the ground, The dream with horror heard, the good old wife Anc gave to Partlet the first grain he found. From treason counsel'd him to guard his life; Then often feather'd her with wanton play, But close to keep the secret in his mind,
And trod her twenty times ere prime of day: For a boy's vision small belief would find.
And took by turns and gave so much delight, The pious child, by promise bound, obey'd,
Her sisters pin'd with envy at the sight. Nor was the fatal murder long delay'd :
He chuck'd again, when other corns he found, By Quenda slain, he fell before his time,
And scarcely deign'd to set a foot to ground; Made a young martyr by his sister's crime.
But swagger'd like a lord about his hall, T'he tale is told by venerable Bede,
And his seven wives came running at his call Which at your better leisure you may read.
"Twas now the month in which the world began " Macrobius too relates the vision sent
|(If March beheld the first created man :) To the great Scipio, with the fam'd event:
And since the vernal equinox, the Sun, Objections makes, but after makes replies,
In Aries, twelve degrees, or more, had run; And adds, that dreams are often prophecies. When casting up his eyes against the light, *Of Daniel you may read in holy writ,
Both month, and day, and hour, he measur’d right, Who, when the king his vision did forget,
And told more truly than th’ Ephemeris : Could word for word the wondrous dream repeal. For Art may err, but Nature cannot miss. Not less of patriarch Joseph understand,
Thus numbering times and seasons in his breast, Who by a dream enslav'd th' Egyptian land, His second crowing the third hour confess'd. The years of plenty and of dearth foretold, Then turning, said to Partlet,“ See, my dear, When, for their bread, their liberty they sold. How lavish Nature has adorn'd the year; Nor must th' exalted butler be forgot,
How the pale primrose and blue violet spring, Xor he whose dream presag'd his hanging lot. And birds essay their throats, disus'd to sing :
* And did not Cresus the same death foresee, All these are ours; and I with pleasure see Rais'd in his vision on a lofty tree ?
Man strutting on two legs, and aping me: The wife of Hector, in his utmost pride,
An unfledg'd creature, of a lumpish frame,
Our dames sit scouring o'er a kitchen fire,
* Much more I know, which I forbear to speak, Than, since I was an egg, I ever found."
The time shall come when Chanticleer shall wish Let this suffice, that plainly I foresee
His words unsaid, and hate his boasted bliss : My dream was bad, and bodes adversity :
The crested bird shall by experience know,
Jove made not him his masterpiece below;
And Heaven will have him taste his other tun. They not correct, but poison all the blood,
Ye wise, draw near, and hearken to my tale, And ne'er did any but the doctors good :
Which proves that oft the proud by flattery fall: Their tribe, trade, trinkets, I defy them all,
The legend is as true, I undertake, With every work of 'pothecary's hall.
As Tristran is, and Launcelot of the lake :
Which all our ladies in such reverence hold,
A fox, full-fraught with seeming sanctity,
That fear'd an oath, but, like the Devil, would lio So may my soul have bliss, as, when I spy
Who look'd like Lent, and had the holy leer, The scarlet red about thy partridge eye,
| And durst not sin before he said his prayer;
This pious cheat, that never suck'd the blood, For women, with a mischief to their kind,
Where at heart's ease he lived ; and might havi And in his high imagination cast,
been By stratagem to gratify his taste.
As free from sorrow as he was from sin.
Silence in times of suffering is the best,
'Tis dangerous to disturb an hornet's nest. Then skulk'd till afternoon, and watch'd his time, In other authors you may find enough, (As murderers use) to perpetrate his crime.
But all they say of dames is idle stuff. O hypocrite, ingenious to destroy,
Legends of lying wits together bound, O traitor, worse than Sinon was to Troy!
The Wife of Bath would throw them to the ground O vile subverter of the Gallic reign,
These are the words of Chanticleer, not mine, More false than Gano was to Charlemain!
I honor dames, and think their ser divine. O Chanticleer, in an unhappy hour
Now to continue what my tale begun; Didst thou forsake the safety of thy bower: Lay madam Partlet basking in the Sun, Better for thee thou hadst believ'd thy dream, Breast-high in sand: her sisters, in a row, And not that day descended from the beam! Enjoy'd the beams above, the warmth below. But here the doctors eagerly dispute :
The cock, that of his flesh was ever free,
Sung merrier than the mermaid in the sea :
Among the coleworts, on a butterfly,
I need not swear he had no list to crow: For what he first foresaw, he must ordain,
But cried, “ Cock, cock!" and gave a sudden start Or its eternal prescience may be vain :
As sore dismay'd and frighted at his heart; As bad for us as prescience had not been,
For birds and beasts, inform'd by Nature, know For first, or last, he's author of the sin.
Kinds opposite to theirs, and fly their foe.
Yet shunn'd him as a sailor shuns the rocks.
But the false loon, who could not work his will To punish man, who sins because he must ? By open force, employ'd his flattering skill; Or how can he reward a virtuous deed,
“I hope, my lord," said he, ") not offend; Which is not done by us; but first decreed? Are you afraid of me, that am your friend? I cannot bolt this matter to the bran,
I were a beast indeed to do you wrong, As Bradwardin and holy Austin can;
I, who have lov'd and honor'd you so long :
Stay, gentle sir, nor take a false alarm,
To learn the secrets of your soft recess
Far be from Reynard so profane a thought, Another sort there is conditional.
But by the sweetness of your voice was brought: The first so binds the will, that things foreknown For, as I bid my beads, by chance I heard By spontaneity, not choice, are done.
The song as of an angel in the yard; Thus galley-slaves tug willing at their oar,
A song that would have charm'd th' infemal gode Content to work, in prospect of the shore ;
And banish'd horror from the dark abodes; But would not work at all, if not constrain'd before. Had Orpheus sung it in the nether sphere, That other does not liberty constrain,
So much the hymn had pleasd the tyrant's ear, But man may either act, or may refrain.
The wife had been detain'd, to keep the husband Heaven made us agents free to good or ill.
there. And forc'd it not, though he foresaw the will.
“My lord, your sire familiarly I knew, Freedom was first bestow'd on human race, A peer deserving such a son as you : And prescience only held the second place
He, with your lady-mother (whom Heaven resi) If he could make such agents wholly free, Has often grac'd my house, and been my guest I not dispute, the point's too high for me; (sound, To view his living features, does me good; For Heaven's unfathom'd power what man can For I am your poor neighbor in the wood; Or put to his Omnipotence a bound?
And in my cottage should be proud to see He made us to his image, all agree ;
The worthy heir of my friend's family. That image is the soul, and that must be,
“But since I speak of singing, let me say. Or not the Maker's image, or be free.
As with an upright heart I safely may, But whether it were better man had been
That, save yourself, there breathes not on the By nature bound to good, not free to sin,
ground I waive, for fear of splitting on a rock.
One like your father for a silver sound. The tale I tell is only of a cock,
So sweetly would he wake the winter-day, Who had not run the hazard of his life,
That matrons to the church mistook their way, Had he believ'd his dream, and not his wife And thought they heard the merry organ play