Verse > Anthologies > T. R. Smith, ed. > Poetica Erotica: A Collection of Rare and Curious Amatory Verse
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T. R. Smith, comp.  Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse.  1921–22.
 
An Epilogue
By John Gay (1685–1732)
 
(From The Wife of Bath, 1713)

THE TOIL of Wedlock five times bravely past,
You’ll say ’twas cruel to be baulk’d at last.
Grown old in Cupid’s camp—long versed in arms,
I from my youth have known the power of charms:
Was I to single combat ever slow?        5
Did I e’er turn my back upon the foe?
Is this the way old service is regarded,
And must the joyless widow be discarded?
Stint me not, Love—but while I yet survive,
Throw in another comfort to the five.        10
Bless me! when I reflect on former days!
Youth can make conquest sev’ral thousand ways;
I danced; I sang; I smiled—I looked demure,
And caught each lover with a diff’rent lure:
In frequent wedlock joined, was woman still,        15
And bowed subservient husbands to my will.
If reason governs man’s superior mind,
A ready cunning prompts the female kind.
Then learn from me—so, Hymen, bless your lives,
Preserve the just prerogative of wives;        20
Know to command each look, each tear, each smile,
With eyes, and face, and tongue, and heart beguile:
Ev’n he that loves in search of game to roam,
By feigned reprisals may be kept at home.
Whenever Heav’n was pleased to take my spouse,        25
I never pined for thought of former vows;
’Tis true, I sighed, I wept, I sobbed at first,
And tore my hair—as decent widows—must;
But soon another husband dried mine eyes:
My life, my dear!—supplied the place of sighs:        30
Amidst continual love I’ve relished life,
A forward maid and a triumphant wife:
Then grant, O Cupid, this my latest prayer,
If no kind husband will relieve my care;
Since inclination yet outlives my face,        35
At least indulge me with a coup de grâce.
 
 
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