‘Twas said, by those of old, Beware,
Consider well before you swear.
The Counsel’s good without dispute,
And ev’ry prudent Man will do’t.
But, if you’ve sworn (be added now)
Take heed how you perform your Vow.
How, Sir! a Casuist replies,
(And wildly stares with both his Eyes)
Pray have a care, lest what you say
Takes all the Force of Oaths away.
Mistake me not, good Sir; what I
From that Precaution would imply,
Is this;–an Oath perform’d, may be
Ruin, perhaps, or Injury,
To One, or more:–then I aver,
The Breach of such an Oath is far
Less sinful than it was to swear.
What’s this to me? the Reader cries:
Poor Stuff! Will Poets ne’er be wise!
But scribble, without Wit, dull Rhyme,
Meerly to fool away the Time:
How comes this Dreamer else to fall
On Matters casuistical?
Stay, stay, my angry Friend, forbear,
Nor thus condemn before you hear.
Poets, delighted with the Chimes
Of flowing Verse, and easy Rhimes,
Mistaken, dance enchanted Rounds,
Forsaking Sense for empty Sounds:
This is acknowledg’d, to their Shame,
But are not Readers too to blame?
To blame! for what?–Your self have shown,
By judging ere the Case is known.
The Case! what Case? Pray read the Story.
Where is it? Why it lies before ye.
Just nine Months after Joan and John
From two were conjur’d into One,
Their Friends and Neighbours round about
Are summon’d to the Crying–out.
The Gossips come: and honest Joan
Receives them all with many a Groan.
John taps the Ale, and cuts the Cheese:
Come eat, and drink, whate’er you please;
Kind Neighbours all, I’m glad to see ye,
Here’s the good Woman’s Health unto ye.
Quick moves the Bowl: their Clappers run,
Of what was, and what was not done:
All speak at once: of various Things;
With Mirth and Noise the Chamber rings.
This, tells, what happen’d at her Marriage,
And That, the Cause of her Miscarriage:
One proves the whole mysterious Art
Of managing a Husband’s Heart,
And how a prudent Wife with ease
May make him do–whate’er she please.
Another, plain beyond all doubt,
Why she was ne’er with Child makes out;
And with much Reason does aver,
The Fault could no ways be in Her.
What Matches are in hand they shew,
And whisper round who lies with who.
Some Secret ev’ry one pretends,
To scandalize her absent Friends,
And when she’s out of breath with Railing,
Cries out,–But who’s without a Failing!
Joan lies attentive to their Chat,
Of Cocks and Bulls, and This and That,
In hopes to hear some piece of News
Of Service for her private Use,
In case her John should ever dare
Attempt the Management of Her:
Tho’ his Obedience to her Will
Had been with due Submission still;
‘Tis best, however, to provide
For all may possibly betide.
But now, her Pains with greater Force
Come on: and Joan grows worse and worse.
Her Hands she wrings with piteous Moan,
And sighs, and doubles ev’ry Groan.
The Good–Wives hearing such a clutter
Forsake their Cups, and haste about Her.
All are employ’d:–This sets the Cradle;
That, stirs the Cawdle with a Ladle;
One, airs the Clouts, and makes ’em ready;
Another, waits to take the Baby.
Some, bid her be of hearty Cheer,
For her Delivery is near;
While Others, pity her Condition,
And fain would send for a Physician.
But, notwithstanding all their Care,
Joan screams, and groans, and tears her Hair.
Oh! I can never bear this Pain!
And then she screams, and groans again.
John all this time stood near the Bed,
And like a Poppy hung his Head:
He knew not what to do, or say,
And often wish’d himself away.
Joan sees him:– John! ah John! she cries,
(And thrusts her Fingers in her Eyes)
Indeed, you are a naughty Man
To put your Wife to all this Pain!
But you shall never do’t again!
And then she sigh’d most grievously,
Good by’t’ye, John, for I shall die!
Poor John, a fond good–natur’d Fellow,
At this began to sob and bellow,
Protesting he would give his Life
And all he had to save his Wife.
Joan was, in truth, exceeding ill,
But not without her Cunning still;
This was the Time, she thought, to prove
The measure of her Husband’s Love.
Come hither, John, she weeping cries,
Kiss your poor Wife before she dies!
John kiss’d her:–Now kneel down, and swear,
If Heav’n my Life should chance to spare,
That you will ne’er again require
I should submit to your Desire,
Which I, you know, have always done,
Your Will preferring to my own.
This if I live.–But if I die–
You’ll ne’er get such a Wife as I.
John swore:–And now that Curse on Eve,
Which dooms her Daughters all to grieve,
Forc’d Joan to give so loud a Squeal,
You might have heard it half a Mile.
When streight, the Midwife full of Joy
Produc’d to John a swinging Boy.
He quite transported, kiss’d the Child
To Death almost; Joan wept, and smil’d;
The laughing Gossips round it come,
And Mirth and Pleasure fill the Room.
Now safe, at Ease, and laid in Bed,
Joan ponders all her Neighbours said;
Recovers Strength, is pert and gay:
And eats her Chicken every Day.
The Cares of Life are never done!
John’s now baptizing of his Son:
And struts to Church before the Folk,
As proud as any Turky–cock.
The Table’s plentifully stor’d,
And chearful Healths go round the Board.
The Guests how pleas’d?–I cannot say;
They eat, and drank, and went their way.
A Month is past, that honest Joan
Has been constrain’d to lie alone:
A Month! a tedious time indeed!
(But foolish Custom so decreed.)
Thank Heav’n ’tis past! The Sheets are air’d,
The Pillows laid, the Bed prepar’d:
They sup: — Joan yawns: — The Clock strikes eight
Come, John, I dare not sit up late:
Upon his Breast she drops her Head:
Go, pr’ythee, Susan, warm the Bed.
Joan’s first in Bed: John soon undrest:
A Kiss:–Good–night:–and turns to rest.
Such Usage Joan had not expected,
She was not wont to be neglected:
Whate’er had been his other Cares,
John still had minded her Affairs.
What can this mean? She fears to know:
He ne’er before had serv’d her so.
Restless she tosses, deeply sighs;
The Tears fall trickling from her Eyes:
At length she speaks, My John! my Life!
Why turn’st thou from thy loving Wife?
Come lay thy Head upon this Breast,
And let me lull my Dear to rest.
Ah Joan! says He, your former Pain
Forbids us–to lie close again:
For your dear sake I will refrain.
But let this hard Forbearance prove
The Greatness of your Husband’s Love.
No, John! quoth she, your faithful Joan
In Love shall never be out–done,
But always is prepar’d to shew
How She despises Death for You.
With this she rush’d into his Arms,
And almost smother’d Him with Charms;
Glowing, with wanton Ardour, press’d
Her panting Bosom to his Breast,
My Dear! she cries, do what you will,
My Duty is Obedience still.
John pauses:–what’s the matter now!
I’d do’t, says he, but for my Vow,
Strong beats her Pulse, quick roll her Eyes;
You’d do’t, but for your Vow! she cries:
(Breathless, transported, round his Waste
With both her Arms she locks him fast)
Indeed, my Love! ’tis all a Joke;
Rash Vows are made but to be broke.
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Based on Keywords: healths, grievously, rhimes, ythee, delivery, recovers, acknowledg, meerly, undrest, clouts, precaution