Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE JOYS OF MARRIAGE, by CHARLES COTTON



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THE JOYS OF MARRIAGE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: How uneasy is his life
Last Line: Who is marri'd to a wife.
Subject(s): Cynicism; Marriage; Weddings; Husbands; Wives


How uneasy is his life
Who is troubled with a Wife!
Be she ne'er so fair or comely,
Be she ne'er so foul or homely,
Be she ne'er so young and toward,
Be she ne'er so old and froward,
Be she kind with arms enfolding,
Be she cross and always scolding,
Be she blithe, or melancholy,
Have she wit or have she folly,
Be she wary, be she squand'ring,
Be she staid, or be she wand'ring,
Be she constant, be she fickle,
Be she fire, or be she ickle,
Be she pious or ungodly,
Be she chaste or what sounds oddly:
Lastly, be she good or evil,
Be she Saint, or be she Devil:
Yet uneasy is his life
Who is marri'd to a Wife.

If fair she's subject to temptation,
If foul her self's solicitation,
If young and sweet she is too tender,
If old and cross no man can mend her,
If too too kind she's over clinging,
If a true scold she's ever ringing,
If blithe find fiddles, or y' undo her,
If sad then call a casuist to her,
If a Wit she'll still be jeering,
If a fool she's ever fleering,
If too wary then she'll shrew thee,
If too lavish she'll undo thee.
If staid she'll mope a year together,
If gadding then to London with her,
If true she'll think you don't deserve her,
If false a thousand will not serve her,
If lustful send her to a Spittle,
If cold she is for one too little,
If she be of th' Reformation,
Thy house will be a Convocation,
If a libertine then watch it,
At the window thou may'st catch it,
If chaste her pride will still importune,
If a whore thou know'st thy fortune:
So uneasy is his life
Who is marri'd to a Wife.

These are all extremes I know,
But all Womankind is so,
And the golden mean to none
Of that cloven race is known;
Or to one if known it be,
Yet that one 's unknown to me.
Some Ulyssean traveller
May perhaps have gone so far,
As t' have found (in spite of Nature)
Such an admirable creature.
If a voyager there be
Has made that discovery,
He the fam'd Odcombian gravels,
And may rest to write his travels.

But alas! there's no such woman;
The calamity is common,
The first rib did bring in ruin,
And the rest have since been doing,
Some by one way, some another,
Woman still is mischief's mother,
And yet cannot Man forbear,
Though it cost him ne'er so dear.

Yet with me 'tis out of season
To complain thus without reason,
Since the best and sweetest Fair
Is allotted to my share;
But alas! I love her so
That my love creates my woe;
For if she be out of humour,
Straight displeas'd I do presume her,
And would give the world to know
What it is offends her so:
Or if she be discontented,
Lord, how am I then tormented!
And am ready to persuade her
That I have unhappy made her:
But if sick I then am dying,
Meat and med'cine both defying:
So uneasy is his life
Who is marri'd to a Wife.

What are then the Marriage Joys
That make such a mighty noise?
All 's enclos'd in one short sentence,
Little pleasure, great repentance;
Yet it is so sweet a pleasure,
To repent we scarce have leisure,
Till the pleasure wholly fails,
Save sometimes by intervals:
But those intervals again,
Are so full of deadly pain,
That the pleasure we have got
Is in conscience too dear bought.

Pox on 't, would Womankind be free,
What needed this Solemnity,
This foolish way of coup'ling so,
That all the World (forsooth) must know?
And yet the naked truth to say,
They are so perfect grown that way,
That if 't only be for pleasure
You would marry, take good leisure,
Since none can ever want supplies
For natural necessities;
Without exposing of his life
To the great trouble of a Wife.

Why then all the great pains taking?
Why the sighing? why the waking?
Why the riding? why the running?
Why the artifice and cunning?
Why the whining? why the crying?
Why pretending to be dying?
Why all this clutter to get Wives,
To make us weary of our lives?

If fruition we profess
To be the only happiness,
How much happier then is he,
Who with the industrious bee,
Preys upon the several sweets
Of the various flow'rs he meets,
Than he who with less delight
Dulls on one his appetite?

Oh, 'tis pleasant to be free!
The sweetest Miss is Liberty;
And though who with one sweet is bless'd
May reap the sweets of all the rest
In her alone, who fair and true,
As Love is all for which we sue,
Whose several graces may supply
The place of full variety,
And whose true kindness or address
Sums up the All of happiness;

Yet 'tis better live alone,
Free to all than ti'd to one,
Since uneasy is his life
Who is marri'd to a Wife.




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