Sixth Satire

In Saturn's reign, at Nature's early birth,
There was that thing call'd chastity on earth;
When in a narrow cave, their common shade,
The sheep, the shepherds, and their gods were laid:
When reeds, and leaves, and hides of beasts were spread
By mountain huswifes for their homely bed,
And mossy pillows rais'd, for the rude husband's head.
Unlike the niceness of our modern dames,
(Affected nymphs with new affected names,)
The Cynthias and the Lesbias of our years,
Who for a sparrow's death dissolve in tears;
Those first unpolish'd matrons, big and bold,
Gave suck to infants of gigantic mold;
Rough as their savage lords who rang'd the wood,
And fat with acorns belch'd their windy food.
For when the world was buxom, fresh, and young,
Her sons were undebauch'd and therefore strong;
And whether born in kindly beds of earth,
Or struggling from the teeming oaks to birth,
Or from what other atoms they begun,
No sires they had, or, if a sire, the sun.
Some thin remains of chastity appear'd,
Ev'n under Jove, but Jove without a beard;
Before the servile Greeks had learnt to swear
By heads of kings; while yet the bounteous year
Her common fruits in open plains expos'd,
Ere thieves were fear'd, or gardens were enclos'd.
At length uneasy Justice upwards flew,
And both the sisters to the stars withdrew;
From that old era whoring did begin,
So venerably ancient is the sin.
Adult'rers next invade the nuptial state,
And marriage beds creak'd with a foreign weight;
All other ills did iron times adorn,
But whores and silver in one age were born.
Yet thou, they say, for marriage dost provide:
Is this an age to buckle with a bride?
They say thy hair the curling art is taught,
The wedding ring perhaps already bought:
A sober man like thee to change his life!
What fury would possess thee with a wife?
Art thou of ev'ry other death bereft,
No knife, no ratsbane, no kind halter left?
(For every noose compar'd to hers is cheap)
Is there no city bridge from whence to leap?
Wouldst thou become her drudge, who dost enjoy
A better sort of bedfellow, thy boy?
He keeps thee not awake with nightly brawls,
Nor with a begg'd reward thy pleasure palls;
Nor with insatiate heavings calls for more,
When all thy spirits were drain'd out before.
But still Ursidius courts the marriage bait,
Longs for a son to settle his estate,
And takes no gifts, tho' ev'ry gaping heir
Would gladly grease the rich old bachelor.
What revolution can appear so strange,
As such a lecher, such a life to change?
A rank, notorious whoremaster, to choose
To thrust his neck into the marriage noose!
He who so often in a dreadful fright
Had in a coffer scap'd the jealous cuckold's sight,
That he, to wedlock dotingly betray'd,
Should hope in this lewd town to find a maid!
The man 's grown mad: to ease his frantic pain,
Run for the surgeon; breathe the middle vein:
But let a heifer with gilt horns be led
To Juno, regent of the marriage bed,
And let him every deity adore,
If his new bride prove not an arrant whore
In head and tail, and every other pore.
On Ceres' feast, restrain'd from their delight,
Few matrons, there, but curse the tedious night;
Few whom their fathers dare salute, such lust
Their kisses have, and come with such a gust.
With ivy now adorn thy doors, and wed;
Such is thy bride, and such thy genial bed.
Think'st thou one man is for one woman meant?
She, sooner, with one eye would be content.
And yet, 't is nois'd, a maid did once appear
In some small village, tho' fame says not where:
'T is possible; but sure no man she found;
'T was desart, all, about her father's ground:
And yet some lustful god might there make bold;
Are Jove and Mars grown impotent and old?
Many a fair nymph has in a cave been spread,
And much good love without a feather bed.
Whither wouldst thou to choose a wife resort,
The Park, the Mall, the Playhouse, or the Court?
Which way soever thy adventures fall,
Secure alike of chastity in all.
One sees a dancing master cap'ring high,
And raves, and pisses, with pure ecstasy;
Another does with all his motions move,
And gapes, and grins, as in the feat of love;
A third is charm'd with the new opera notes,
Admires the song, but on the singer dotes:
The country lady in the box appears,
Softly she warbles over all she hears;
And sucks in passion, both at eyes and ears.
The rest, (when now the long vacation's come,
The noisy hall and theaters grown dumb,)
Their memories to refresh, and cheer their hearts,
In borrow'd breeches act the players' parts.
The poor, that scarce have wherewithal to eat,
Will pinch, to make the singing-boy a treat:
The rich, to buy him, will refuse no price;
And stretch his quail-pipe, till they crack his voice.
Tragedians, acting love, for lust are sought:
(Tho' but the parrots of a poet's thought.)
The pleading lawyer, tho' for counsel us'd,
In chamber practice often is refus'd.
Still thou wilt have a wife, and father heirs;
(The product of concurring theaters.)
Perhaps a fencer did thy brows adorn,
And a young swordman to thy lands is born.
Thus Hippia loath'd her old patrician lord,
And left him for a brother of the sword:
To wond'ring Pharos with her love she fled,
To shew one monster more than Afric bred:
Forgetting house and husband, left behind,
Ev'n children too; she sails before the wind;
False to 'em all, but constant to her kind.
But, stranger yet, and harder to conceive,
She could the playhouse and the players leave.
Born of rich parentage, and nicely bred,
She lodg'd on down, and in a damask bed;
Yet daring now the dangers of the deep,
On a hard mattress is content to sleep.
Ere this, 't is true, she did her fame expose:
But that, great ladies with great ease can lose.
The tender nymph could the rude ocean bear:
So much her lust was stronger than her fear.
But, had some honest cause her passage press'd,
The smallest hardship had disturb'd her breast:
Each inconvenience makes their virtue cold;
But womankind, in ills, is ever bold.
Were she to follow her own lord to sea,
What doubts and scruples would she raise to stay?
Her stomach sick, and her head giddy grows;
The tar and pitch are nauseous to her nose.
But in love's voyage nothing can offend;
Women are never seasick with a friend.
Amidst the crew, she walks upon the board;
She eats, she drinks, she handles every cord;
And if she spews, 't is thinking of her lord.
Now ask, for whom her friends and fame she lost?
What youth, what beauty could th' adult'rer boast?
What was the face, for which she could sustain
To be call'd mistress to so base a man?
The gallant of his days had known the best:
Deep scars were seen indented on his breast;
And all his batter'd limbs requir'd their needful rest.
A promontory wen, with grisly grace,
Stood high, upon the handle of his face:
His blear eyes ran in gutters to his chin;
His beard was stubble, and his cheeks were thin.
But 't was his fencing did her fancy move:
'T is arms and blood and cruelty they love.
But should he quit his trade, and sheathe his sword,
Her lover would begin to be her lord.
This was a private crime; but you shall hear
What fruits the sacred brows of monarchs bear:
The good old sluggard but began to snore,
When from his side up rose th' imperial whore:
She who preferr'd the pleasures of the night
To pomps, that are but impotent delight;
Strode from the palace, with an eager pace,
To cope with a more masculine embrace;
Muffled she march'd, like Juno in a cloud,
Of all her train but one poor wench allow'd;
One whom in secret service she could trust,
The rival and companion of her lust.
To the known brothel-house she takes her way;
And for a nasty room gives double pay;
That room in which the rankest harlot lay.
Prepar'd for fight, expectingly she lies,
With heaving breasts, and with desiring eyes:
Still as one drops, another takes his place,
And baffled still succeeds to like disgrace.
At length, when friendly darkness is expir'd,
And every strumpet from her cell retir'd,
She lags behind, and, ling'ring at the gate,
With a repining sigh submits to fate:
All filth without, and all a fire within,
Tir'd with the toil, unsated with the sin.
Old Caesar's bed the modest matron seeks;
The steam of lamps still hanging on her cheeks
In ropy smut: thus foul, and thus bedight,
She brings him back the product of the night.
Now should I sing what poisons they provide,
With all their trumpery of charms beside,
And all their arts of death, it would be known
Lust is the smallest sin the sex can own;
Caesinia still, they say, is guiltless found
Of every vice, by her own lord renown'd:
And well she may, she brought ten thousand pound.
She brought him wherewithal to be call'd chaste;
His tongue is tied in golden fetters fast:
He sighs, adores, and courts her every hour;
Who would not do as much for such a dower?
She writes love letters to the youth in grace;
Nay, tips the wink before the cuckold's face;
And might do more; her portion makes it good;
Wealth has the privilege of widowhood.
These truths with his example you disprove,
Who with his wife is monstrously in love:
But know him better; for I heard him swear,
'T is not that she 's his wife, but that she 's fair.
Let her but have three wrinkles in her face,
Let her eyes lessen, and her skin unbrace,
Soon you will hear the saucy steward say:
" Pack up with all your trinkets, and away;
You grow offensive both at bed and board:
Your betters must be had to please my lord. "
Meantime she 's absolute upon the throne;
And, knowing time is precious, loses none:
She must have flocks of sheep, with wool more fine
Than silk, and vineyards of the noblest wine;
Whole droves of pages for her train she craves,
And sweeps the prisons for attending slaves.
In short, whatever in her eyes can come,
Or others have abroad, she wants at home.
When winter shuts the seas, and fleecy snows
Make houses white, she to the merchant goes;
Rich crystals of the rock she takes up there,
Huge agate vases, and old China ware:
Then Berenice's ring her finger proves,
More precious made by her incestuous loves,
And infamously dear; a brother's bribe,
Ev'n God's anointed, and of Judah's tribe;
Where barefoot they approach the sacred shrine,
And think it only sin to feed on swine.
But is none worthy to be made a wife
In all this town? Suppose her free from strife,
Rich, fair, and fruitful, of unblemish'd life;
Chaste as the Sabines, whose prevailing charms
Dismiss'd their husbands', and their brothers' arms:
Grant her, besides, of noble blood, that ran
In ancient veins ere heraldry began:
Suppose all these, and take a poet's word,
A black swan is not half so rare a bird.
A wife, so hung with virtues, such a freight,
What mortal shoulders could support the weight!
Some country girl, scarce to a curtsy bred,
Would I much rather than Cornelia wed:
If supercilious, haughty, proud, and vain,
She brought her father's triumphs in her train.
Away with all your Carthaginian state;
Let vanquish'd Hannibal without doors wait,
Too burly and too big to pass my narrow gate.
" O Paean, " cries Amphion, " bend thy bow
Against my wife, and let my children go! "
But sullen Paean shoots at sons and mothers too.
His Niobe and all his boys he lost:
Ev'n her who did her num'rous offspring boast,
As fair and fruitful as the sow that carried
The thirty pigs at one large litter farrow'd.
What beauty or what chastity can bear
So great a price, if, stately and severe
She still insults, and you must still adore?
Grant that the honey 's much, the gall is more.
Unbraided with the virtues she displays,
Sev'n hours in twelve you loathe the wife you praise.
Some faults, tho' small, intolerable grow;
For what so nauseous and affected too,
As those that think they due perfection want,
Who have not learnt to lisp the Grecian cant?
In Greece, their whole accomplishments they seek;
Their fashion, breeding, language, must be Greek:
But, raw in all that does to Rome belong,
They scorn to cultivate their mother tongue.
In Greek they flatter, all their fears they speak,
Tell all their secrets; nay, they scold in Greek:
Ev'n in the feat of love, they use that tongue.
Such affectations may become the young;
But thou, old bag, of threescore years and three,
Is shewing of thy parts in Greek for thee?
╬û¤ë╬À ╬║╬▒╬╣ ¤ê╬¢╬¥╬À! All those tender words
The momentary trembling bliss affords,
The kind soft murmurs of the private sheets,
Are bawdy, while thou speak'st in public streets.
Those words have fingers; and their force is such,
They raise the dead, and mount him with a touch:
But all provocatives from thee are vain;
No blandishment the slacken'd nerve can strain.
If then thy lawful spouse thou canst not love,
What reason should thy mind to marriage move?
Why all the charges of the nuptial feast,
Wine and desserts, and sweetmeats to digest;
Th' indowing gold that buys the dear delight,
Giv'n for thy first and only happy night?
If thou art thus uxoriously inclin'd,
To bear thy bondage with a willing mind,
Prepare thy neck, and put it in the yoke;
But for no mercy from thy woman look.
For tho', perhaps, she loves with equal fires,
To absolute dominion she aspires;
Joys in the spoils, and triumphs o'er thy purse;
The better husband makes the wife the worse.
Nothing is thine to give, or sell, or buy,
All offices of ancient friendship die;
Nor hast thou leave to make a legacy.
By thy imperious wife thou art bereft
A privilege, to pimps and panders left.
Thy testament 's her will; where she prefers
Her ruffians, drudges, and adulterers,
Adopting all thy rivals for thy heirs.
" Go drag that slave to death! " " Your reason, why
Should the poor innocent be doom'd to die?
What proofs? For, when man's life is in debate,
The judge can ne'er too long deliberate. "
" Call'st thou that slave a man? " the wife replies;
" Prov'd, or unprov'd the crime, the villain dies.
I have the sovereign pow'r to save or kill,
And give no other reason but my will. "
Thus the she-tyrant reigns, till, pleas'd with change,
Her wild affections to new empires range:
Another subject-husband she desires;
Divorc'd from him, she to the first retires,
While the last wedding feast is scarcely o'er,
And garlands hang yet green upon the door.
So still the reck'ning rises; and appears,
In total sum, eight husbands in five years.
The title for a tombstone might be fit,
But that it would too commonly be writ.
Her mother living, hope no quiet day;
She sharpens her, instructs her how to flay
Her husband bare, and then divides the prey.
She takes love letters, with a crafty smile,
And in her daughter's answer mends the style.
In vain the husband sets his watchful spies;
She cheats their cunning, or she bribes their eyes.
The doctor 's call'd; the daughter, taught the trick,
Pretends to faint; and in full health is sick.
The panting stallion, at the closet door,
Hears the consult, and wishes it were o'er.
Canst thou, in reason, hope, a bawd so known
Should teach her other manners than her own?
Her int'rest is in all th' advice she gives:
'T is on the daughter's rents the mother lives.
No cause is tried at the litigious bar,
But women plaintiffs or defendants are;
They form the process, all the briefs they write;
The topics furnish, and the pleas indite;
And teach the toothless lawyer how to bite.
They turn viragoes too: the wrastler's toil
They try, and smear their naked limbs with oil:
Against the post their wicker shields they crush,
Flourish the sword, and at the plastron push.
Of every exercise the mannish crew
Fulfils the parts, and oft excels us too;
Prepar'd not only in feign'd fights t' engage,
But rout the gladiators on the stage.
What sense of shame in such a breast can lie,
Inur'd to arms, and her own sex to fly?
Yet to be wholly man she would disclaim;
To quit her tenfold pleasure at the game,
For frothy praises and an empty name.
O what a decent sight 't is to behold
All thy wife's magazine by auction sold!
The belt, the crested plume, the several suits
Of armor, and the Spanish-leather boots!
Yet these are they, that cannot bear the heat
Of figur'd silks, and under sarcenet sweat.
Behold the strutting Amazonian whore:
She stands in guard with her right foot before;
Her coats tuck'd up, and all her motions just;
She stamps, and then cries Hah! at every thrust:
But laugh to see her, tir'd with many a bout,
Call for the pot, and like a man piss out.
The ghosts of ancient Romans, should they rise,
Would grin to see their daughters play a prize.
Besides, what endless brawls by wives are bred!
The curtain lecture makes a mournful bed.
Then, when she has thee sure within the sheets,
Her cry begins, and the whole day repeats.
Conscious of crimes herself, she teases first;
Thy servants are accus'd; thy whore is curst;
She acts the jealous, and at will she cries;
For women's tears are but the sweat of eyes.
Poor cuckold-fool, thou think'st that love sincere,
And suck'st between her lips the falling tear;
But search her cabinet, and thou shalt find
Each tiller there with love epistles lin'd.
Suppose her taken in a close embrace,
This you would think so manifest a case,
No rhetoric could defend, no impudence outface:
And yet even then she cries: " The marriage vow
A mental reservation must allow;
And there 's a silent bargain still implied,
The parties should be pleas'd on either side;
And both may for their private needs provide.
Tho' men yourselves, and women us you call,
Yet homo is a common name for all. "
There 's nothing bolder than a woman caught;
Guilt gives 'em courage to maintain their fault.
You ask from whence proceed these monstrous crimes.
Once poor, and therefore chaste, in former times,
Our matrons were: no luxury found room
In low-roof'd houses, and bare walls of loam;
Their hands with labor harden'd while 't was light,
And frugal sleep supplied the quiet night;
While pinch'd with want, their hunger held 'em straight,
When Hannibal was hov'ring at the gate:
But wanton now, and lolling at our ease,
We suffer all th' invet'rate ills of peace,
And wasteful riot; whose destructive charms
Revenge the vanquish'd world of our victorious arms.
No crime, no lustful postures are unknown;
Since Poverty, our guardian god, is gone:
Pride, laziness, and all luxurious arts,
Pour like a deluge in, from foreign parts;
Since gold obscene and silver found the way,
Strange fashions, with strange bullion, to convey,
And our plain simple manners to betray.
What care our drunken dames to whom they spread?
Wine no distinction makes of tail or head:
Who, lewdly dancing at a midnight ball,
For hot eringoes and fat oysters call;
Full brimmers to their fuddled noses thrust,
Brimmers, the last provocatives of lust;
When vapors to their swimming brains advance,
And double tapers on the tables dance.
Now think what bawdy dialogues they have,
What Tullia talks to her confiding slave,
At Modesty's old statue; when by night
They make a stand, and from their litters light:
The good man early to the levee goes,
And treads the nasty paddle of his spouse.
The secrets of the goddess nam'd the Good,
Are even by boys and barbers understood:
Where the rank matrons, dancing to the pipe,
Gig with their bums, and are for action ripe;
With music rais'd, they spread abroad their hair,
And toss their heads like an enamor'd mare:
Laufella lays her garland by, and proves
The mimic lechery of manly loves.
Rank'd with the lady the cheap sinner lies;
For here not blood, but virtue, gives the prize.
Nothing is feign'd in this venereal strife;
'T is downright lust, and acted to the life.
So full, so fierce, so vigorous, and so strong,
That looking on would make old Nestor young.
Impatient of delay, a general sound,
An universal groan of lust goes round;
For then, and only then, the sex sincere is found.
" Now is the time of action; now begin, "
They cry, " and let the lusty lovers in. "
" The whoresons are asleep. " " Then bring the slaves,
And watermen, a race of strong-back'd knaves. "
I wish, at least, our sacred rites were free
From those pollutions of obscenity:
But 't is well known what singer, how disguis'd,
A lewd audacious action enterpriz'd:
Into the fair, with women mix'd, he went,
Arm'd with a huge two-handed instrument;
A grateful present to those holy choirs,
Where the mouse, guilty of his sex, retires,
And even male pictures modestly are veil'd:
Yet no profaneness on that age prevail'd;
No scoffers at religious rites were found;
Tho' now, at every altar they abound.
I hear your cautious counsel, you would say:
" Keep close your women under lock and key. "
But, who shall keep those keepers? Women, nurs'd
In craft, begin with those, and bribe 'em first.
The sex is turn'd all whore; they love the game:
And mistresses and maids are both the same.
The poor Ogulnia, on the poet's day,
Will borrow clothes, and chair, to see the play:
She, who before had mortgag'd her estate,
And pawn'd the last remaining piece of plate.
Some are reduc'd their utmost shifts to try,
But women have no shame of poverty.
They live beyond their stint; as if their store,
The more exhausted, would increase the more:
Some men, instructed by the lab'ring ant,
Provide against th' extremities of want;
But womankind, that never knows a mean,
Down to the dregs their sinking fortune drain:
Hourly they give, and spend, and waste, and wear,
And think no pleasure can be bought too dear.
There are, who in soft eunuchs place their bliss,
To shun the scrubbing of a bearded kiss,
And scape abortion; but their solid joy
Is when the page, already past a boy,
Is capon'd late, and to the gelder shown,
With his two pounders to perfection grown;
When all the navel-string could give, appears;
All but the beard, and that 's the barber's loss, not theirs.
Seen from afar, and famous for his ware,
He struts into the bath, among the fair:
Th' admiring crew to their devotions fall;
And, kneeling, on their new Priapus call.
Kerv'd for his lady's use, with her he lies;
And let him drudge for her, if thou art wise,
Rather than trust him with thy fav'rite boy;
He proffers death, in proffering to enjoy.
If songs they love, the singer's voice they force
Beyond his compass, till his quail-pipe 's hoarse;
His lute and lyre with their embrace is worn;
With knots they trim it, and with gems adorn:
Run over all the strings, and kiss the ease;
And make love to it in the master's place.
A certain lady once, of high degree,
To Janus vow'd, and Vesta's deity,
That Pollio might, in singing, win the prize;
Pollio the dear, the darling of her eyes:
She pray'd, and brib'd; what could she more have done
For a sick husband, or an only son?
With her face veil'd, and heaving up her hands,
The shameless suppliant at the altar stands;
The forms of prayer she solemnly pursues;
And, pale with fear, the offer'd entrails views.
Answer, ye pow'rs: for, if you heard her vow,
Your godships, sure, had little else to do.
This is not all; for actors they implore:
An impudence unknown to Heav'n before.
Th' Aruspex, tir'd with this religious rout,
Is forc'd to stand so long, he gets the gout.
But suffer not thy wife abroad to roam:
If she love singing, let her sing at home;
Not strut in streets, with Amazonian pace,
For that 's to cuckold thee before thy face.
Their endless itch of news comes next in play;
They vent their own, and hear what others say:
Know what in Thrace, or what in France is done;
Th' intrigues betwixt the stepdam and the son:
Tell who loves who, what favors some partake;
And who is jilted for another's sake:
What pregnant widow in what month was made;
How oft she did, and, doing, what she said.
She, first, beholds the raging comet rise;
Knows whom it threatens, and what lands destroys.
Still for the newest news she lies in wait,
And takes reports just ent'ring at the gate.
Wrecks, floods, and fires, whatever she can meet,
She spreads; and is the Fame of every street.
This is a grievance; but the next is worse,
A very judgment, and her neighbors' curse:
For if their barking dog disturb her ease,
No pray'r can bend her, no excuse appease.
Th' unmanner'd malefactor is arraign'd;
But first the master, who the cur maintain'd,
Must feel the scourge; by night she leaves her bed,
By night her bathing equipage is led,
That marching armies a less noise create;
She moves in tumult, and she sweats in state.
Meanwhile, her guests their appetites must keep;
Some gape for hunger, and some gasp for sleep.
At length she comes, all flush'd; but ere she sup,
Swallows a swingeing preparation cup;
And then, to clear her stomach, spews it up.
The deluge-vomit all the floor o'erflows,
And the sour savor nauseates every nose.
She drinks again; again she spews a lake;
Her wretched husband sees, and dares not speak;
But mutters many a curse against his wife,
And damns himself for choosing such a life.
But of all plagues, the greatest is untold;
The book-learn'd wife, in Greek and Latin bold:
The critic-dame, who at her table sits,
Homer and Virgil quotes, and weighs their wits;
And pities Dido's agonizing fits.
She has so far th' ascendant of the board,
The prating pedant puts not in one word:
The man of law is non-plus'd in his suit;
Nay, every other female tongue is mute.
Hammers and beating anvils, you would swear,
And Vulcan with his whole militia there.
Tabors and trumpets cease; for she alone
Is able to redeem the lab'ring Moon.
Ev'n wit 's a burthen, when it talks too long;
But she, who has no continence of tongue,
Should walk in breeches, and should wear a beard,
And mix among the philosophic herd.
O what a midnight curse has he, whose side
Is pester'd with a mood and figure bride!
Let mine, ye gods, (if such must be my fate,)
No logic learn, nor history translate;
But rather be a quiet, humble fool:
I hate a wife to whom I go to school,
Who climbs the grammar tree, distinctly knows
Where noun, and verb, and participle grows;
Corrects her country neighbor; and, abed,
For breaking Priscian's, breaks her husband's head.
The gaudy gossip, when she 's set agog,
In jewels dress'd, and at each ear a bob,
Goes flaunting out, and, in her trim of pride,
Thinks all she says or does is justified.
When poor, she 's scarce a tolerable evil;
But rich, and fine, a wife 's a very devil.
She duly, once a month, renews her face;
Meantime, it lies in daub, and hid in grease:
Those are the husband's nights; she craves her due,
He takes fat kisses, and is stuck in glue.
But, to the lov'd adult'rer when she steers,
Fresh from the bath, in brightness she appears:
For him the rich Arabia sweats her gum,
And precious oils from distant Indies come,
How haggardly soe'er she looks at home.
Th' eclipse then vanish 's; and all her face
Is open'd, and restor'd to ev'ry grace;
The crust remov'd, her cheeks, as smooth as silk,
Are polish'd with a wash of asses' milk;
And should she to the farthest North be sent,
A train of these attend her banishment.
But, hadst thou seen her plaister'd up before,
'T was so unlike a face, it seem'd a sore.
'T is worth our while to know what all the day
They do, and how they pass their time away;
For, if o'er night the husband has been slack,
Or counterfeited sleep, and turn'd his back,
Next day, be sure, the servants go to wrack.
The chambermaid and dresser are call'd whores,
The page is stripp'd, and beaten out of doors;
The whole house suffers for the master's crime,
And he himself is warn'd to wake another time.
She hires tormentors by the year; she treats
Her visitors, and talks, but still she beats;
Beats while she paints her face, surveys her gown,
Casts up the day's account, and still beats on:
Tir'd out, at length, with an outrageous tone,
She bids 'em in the Devil's name be gone.
Compar'd with such a proud, insulting dame,
Sicilian tyrants may renounce their name.
For, if she hastes abroad to take the air,
Or goes to Isis' church, (the bawdyhouse of pray'r,)
She hurries all her handmaids to the task;
Her head, alone, will twenty dressers ask.
Psecas, the chief, with breast and shoulders bare,
Trembling, considers every sacred hair;
If any straggler from his rank be found,
A pinch must for the mortal sin compound.
Psecas is not in fault; but, in the glass,
The dame 's offended at her own ill face.
That maid is banish'd; and another girl,
More dextrous, manages the comb and curl;
The rest are summon'd on a point so nice;
And first, the grave old woman gives advice.
The next is call'd, and so the turn goes round,
As each for age, or wisdom, is renown'd:
Such counsel, such delib'rate care they take,
As if her life and honor lay at stake:
With curls on curls, they build her head before,
And mount it with a formidable tow'r.
A giantess she seems; but, look behind,
And then she dwindles to the pigmy kind.
Duck-legg'd, short-waisted, such a dwarf she is,
That she must rise on tiptoes for a kiss.
Meanwhile her husband's whole estate is spent;
He may go bare, while she receives his rent.
She minds him not; she lives not as a wife,
But like a bawling neighbor, full of strife:
Near him in this alone, that she extends
Her hate to all his servants and his friends
Bellona's priests, an eunuch at their head,
About the streets a mad procession lead;
The venerable gelding, large and high,
O'erlooks the herd of his inferior fry.
His awkward clergymen about him prance,
And beat the timbrels to their mystic dance;
Guiltless of testicles, they tear their throats,
And squeak, in treble, their unmanly notes.
Meanwhile, his cheeks the miter'd prophet swells,
And dire presages of the year foretells;
Unless with eggs (his priestly hire) they haste
To expiate, and avert th' autumnal blast;
And add beside a murrey-color'd vest,
Which, in their places, may receive the pest;
And, thrown into the flood, their crimes may bear
To purge th' unlucky omens of the year.
Th' astonish'd matrons pay, before the rest;
That sex is still obnoxious to the priest.
Thro' ice they beat, and plunge into the stream,
If so the god has warn'd 'em in a dream.
Weak in their limbs, but in devotion strong,
On their bare hands and feet they crawl along
A whole field's length, the laughter of the throng.
Should Io (Io's priest I mean) command
A pilgrimage to Meroe's burning sand,
Thro' desarts they would seek the secret spring;
And holy water, for lustration, bring.
How can they pay their priests too much respect,
Who trade with heav'n, and earthly gains neglect?
With him, domestic gods discourse by night;
By day, attended by his choir in white,
The baldpate tribe runs madding thro' the street,
And smile to see with how much ease they cheat.
The ghostly sire forgives the wife's delights,
Who sins, thro' frailty, on forbidden nights,
And tempts her husband in the holy time,
When carnal pleasure is a mortal crime.
The sweating image shakes its head, but he
With mumbled prayers atones the deity.
The pious priesthood the fat goose receive,
And they once brib'd, the godhead must forgive.
No sooner these remove, but, full of fear,
A gypsy Jewess whispers in your ear,
And begs an alms; an high priest's daughter she,
Vers'd in their Talmud, and divinity,
And prophesies beneath a shady tree.
Her goods a basket, and old hay her bed,
She strolls, and, telling fortunes, gains her bread:
Farthings, and some small moneys, are her fees;
Yet she interprets all your dreams for these;
Foretells th' estate, when the rich uncle dies,
And sees a sweetheart in the sacrifice.
Such toys a pigeon's entrails can disclose,
Which yet th' Armenian augur far outgoes;
In dogs, a victim more obscene, he rakes,
And murder'd infants for inspection takes:
For gain his impious practice he pursues;
For gain, will his accomplices accuse.
More credit, yet, is to Chaldeans giv'n;
What they foretell, is deem'd the voice of Heav'n.
Their answers, as from Hammon's altar, come;
Since now the Delphian oracles are dumb.
And mankind, ignorant of future fate,
Believes what fond astrologers relate.
Of these the most in vogue is he, who, sent
Beyond seas, is return'd from banishment;
His art who to aspiring Otho sold,
And sure succession to the crown foretold:
For his esteem is in his exile plac'd;
The more believ'd, the more he was disgrac'd.
No astrologic wizard honor gains,
Who has not oft been banish'd, or in chains.
He gets renown, who, to the halter near,
But narrowly escapes, and buys it dear.
From him your wife enquires the planets' will,
When the black jaundice shall her mother kill;
Her sister's and her uncle's end, would know;
But, first, consults his art, when you shall go;
And, what 's the greatest gift that Heav'n can give.
If, after her, th' adulterer shall live.
She neither knows nor cares to know the rest;
If Mars and Saturn shall the world infest;
Or Jove and Venus, with their friendly rays,
Will interpose, and bring us better days.
Beware the woman, too, and shun her sight,
Who in these studies does herself delight;
By whom a greasy almanac is borne,
With often handling, like chaf'd amber, worn:
Not now consulting, but consulted, she
Of the twelve houses, and their lords, is free.
She, if the scheme a fatal journey show,
Stays safe at home, but lets her husband go.
If but a mile she travel out of town,
The planetary hour must first be known,
And lucky moment; if her eye but aches
Or itches, its decumbiture she takes;
No nourishment receives in her disease,
But what the stars and Ptolemy shall please.
The middle sort, who have not much to spare,
To chiromancers' cheaper art repair,
Who clap the pretty palm, to make the lines more fair.
But the rich matron, who has more to give,
Her answers from the Brachman will receive:
Skill'd in the globe and sphere, he gravely stands,
And, with his compass, measures seas and lands.
The poorest of the sex have still an itch
To know their fortunes, equal to the rich.
The dairymaid enquires, if she shall take
The trusty tailor, and the cook forsake.
Yet these, tho' poor, the pain of childbed bear;
And, without nurses, their own infants rear:
You seldom hear of the rich mantle, spread
For the babe, born in the great lady's bed.
Such is the pow'r of herbs; such arts they use
To make them barren, or their fruit to lose.
But thou, whatever slops she will have brought,
Be thankful, and supply the deadly draught;
Help her to make manslaughter; let her bleed,
And never want for savin at her need.
For, if she holds till her nine months be run,
Thou mayst be father to an Ethiop's son;
A boy, who ready gotten to thy hands,
By law is to inherit all thy lands;
One of that hue, that should he cross the way,
His omen would discolor all the day.
I pass the foundling by, a race unknown,
At doors expos'd, whom matrons make their own;
And into noble families advance
A nameless issue, the blind work of chance.
Indulgent Fortune does her care employ,
And, smiling, broods upon the naked boy:
Her garment spreads, and laps him in the fold,
And covers with her wings from nightly cold:
Gives him her blessing; puts him in a way;
Sets up the farce, and laughs at her own play.
Him she promotes; she favors him alone,
And makes provision for him as her own.
The craving wife the force of magic tries,
And philters for th' unable husband buys:
The potion works not on the part design'd;
But turns his brain, and stupefies his mind.
The sotted mooncalf gapes, and, staring on,
Sees his own business by another done:
A long oblivion, a benumbing frost,
Constrains his head; and yesterday is lost:
Some nimbler juice would make him foam and rave,
Like that Caesonia to her Caius gave;
Who, plucking from the forehead of the foal
His mother's love, infus'd it in the bowl:
The boiling blood ran hissing in his veins,
Till the mad vapor mounted to his brains.
The Thund'rer was not half so much on fire,
When Juno's girdle kindled his desire.
What woman will not use the pois'ning trade,
When Caesar's wife the precedent has made?
Let Agrippina's mushroom be forgot,
Giv'n to a slav'ring, old, unuseful sot;
That only clos'd the driveling dotard's eyes,
And sent his godhead downward to the skies:
But this fierce potion calls for fire and sword,
Nor spares the commons, when it strikes the lord;
So many mischiefs were in one combin'd;
So much one single pois'ner cost mankind.
If stepdames seek their sons-in-law to kill,
'T is venial trespass; let them have their will:
But let the child, entrusted to the care
Of his own mother, of her bread beware:
Beware the food she reaches with her hand;
The morsel is intended for thy land.
Thy tutor be thy taster, ere thou eat;
There 's poison in thy drink and in thy meat.
You think this feign'd; the satire in a rage
Struts in the buskins of the tragic stage,
Forgets his bus'ness is to laugh and bite;
And will of deaths and dire revenges write.
Would it were all a fable that you read;
But Drymon's wife pleads guilty to the deed.
" I, " she confesses, " in the fact was caught,
Two sons dispatching at one deadly draught. "
" What two! two sons, thou viper, in one day! "
" Yes, sev'n, " she cries, " if sev'n were in my way. "
Medea's legend is no more a lie;
Our age adds credit to antiquity.
Great ills, we grant, in former times did reign,
And murthers then were done: but not for gain.
Less admiration to great crimes is due,
Which they thro' wrath, or thro' revenge pursue.
For, weak of reason, impotent of will,
The sex is hurried headlong into ill;
And, like a cliff from its foundations torn
By raging earthquakes, into seas is borne.
But those are fiends, who crimes from thought begin;
And, cool in mischief, meditate the sin.
They read th' example of a pious wife,
Redeeming, with her own, her husband's life;
Yet, if the laws did that exchange afford,
Would save their lapdog sooner than their lord.
Where'er you walk, the Belides you meet;
And Clytemnestras grow in every street.
But here's the difference; Agamemnon's wife
Was a gross butcher with a bloody knife;
But murther, now, is to perfection grown,
And subtle poisons are employ'd alone;
Unless some antidote prevents their arts,
And lines with balsam all the noble parts:
In such a case, reserv'd for such a need,
Rather than fail, the dagger does the deed.
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