Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. II. Love
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume II. Love.  1904.
 
VIII. Wedded Love
The Eggs and the Horses
Anonymous
 
A Matrimonial Epic

    JOHN DOBBINS was so captivated
By Mary Trueman’s fortune, face, and cap,
(With near two thousand pounds the hook was baited,)
  That in he popped to matrimony’s trap.
 
One small ingredient towards happiness,        5
It seems, ne’er occupied a single thought;
    For his accomplished bride
    Appearing well supplied
With the three charms of riches, beauty, dress,
    He did not, as he ought,        10
    Think of aught else; so no inquiry made he
      As to the temper of the lady.
 
And here was certainly a great omission;
None should accept of Hymen’s gentle fetter,
    “For worse or better,”        15
Whatever be their prospect or condition,
Without acquaintance with each other’s nature;
    For many a mild and quiet creature
        Of charming disposition,
Alas! by thoughtless marriage has destroyed it.        20
So take advice; let girls dress e’er so tastily,
  Don’t enter into wedlock hastily
      Unless you can’t avoid it.
 
  Week followed week, and, it must be confest,
  The bridegroom and the bride had both been blest;        25
  Month after month had languidly transpired,
        Both parties became tired:
        Year after year dragged on;
        Their happiness was gone.
 
  Ah! foolish pair!        30
  “Bear and forbear”
  Should be the rule for married folks to take.
  But blind mankind (poor discontented elves!)
  Too often make
  The misery of themselves.        35
 
  At length the husband said, “This will not do!
  Mary, I never will be ruled by you;
        So, wife, d’ ye see?
  To live together as we can’t agree.
        Suppose we part!”        40
      With woman’s pride,
      Mary replied,
        “With all my heart!”
 
John Dobbins then to Mary’s father goes,
And gives the list of his imagined woes.        45
 
“Dear son-in-law!” the father said, “I see
All is quite true that you ’ve been telling me;
Yet there in marriage is such strange fatality,
    That when as much of life
    You shall have seen        50
    As it has been
My lot to see, I think you ’ll own your wife
As good or better than the generality.
 
“An interest in your case I really take,
And therefore gladly this agreement make:        55
An hundred eggs within this basket lie,
With which your luck, to-morrow, you shall try;
Also my five best horses, with my cart;
And from the farm at dawn you shall depart.
    All round the country go,        60
    And be particular, I beg;
  Where husbands rule, a horse bestow,
  But where the wives an egg.
And if the horses go before the eggs,
I ’ll ease you of your wife,—I will,—I’ fegs!”        65
 
  Away the married man departed,
      Brisk and light-hearted:
      Not doubting that, of course,
The first five houses each would take a horse.
      At the first house he knocked,        70
      He felt a little shocked,
  To hear a female voice, with angry roar,
      Scream out,—“Hullo!
      Who ’s there below?
Why, husband, are you deaf? go to the door,        75
      See who it is, I beg.”
          Our poor friend John
          Trudged quickly on,
  But first laid at the door an egg.
 
      I will not all this journey through        80
      The discontented traveller pursue;
          Suffice it here to say
That when his first day’s task was nearly done,
He ’d seen an hundred husbands, minus one,
And eggs just ninety-nine had given away.        85
“Ha! there ’s a house where he I seek must dwell,”
At length cried John; “I ’ll go and ring the bell.”
 
    The servant came,—John asked him, “Pray,
    Friend, is your master in the way?”
      “No,” said the man, with smiling phiz,        90
    “My master is not, but my mistress is;
    Walk in that parlor, sir, my lady ’s in it:
    Master will be himself there—in a minute.”
The lady said her husband then was dressing,
And, if his business was not very pressing,        95
She would prefer that he should wait until
    His toilet was completed;
    Adding, “Pray, sir, be seated.”
          “Madam, I will,”
Said John, with great politeness; “but I own        100
          That you alone
    Can tell me all I wish to know;
          Will you do so?
      Pardon my rudeness,
      And just have the goodness        105
    (A wager to decide) to tell me—do—
  Who governs in this house,—your spouse or you?”
 
      “Sir,” said the lady, with a doubting nod,
        “Your question is very odd;
      But as I think none ought to be        110
      Ashamed to do their duty (do you see?)
      On that account I scruple not to say
      It always is my pleasure to obey.
    But here ’s my husband (always sad without me);
    Take not my word, but ask him, if you doubt me.”        115
 
“Sir,” said the husband, “’t is most true;
        I promise you,
A more obedient, kind, and gentle woman
    Does not exist.”
    “Give us your fist,”        120
Said John, “and, as the case is something more than common,
    Allow me to present you with a beast
    Worth fifty guineas at the very least.
 
“There ’s Smiler, sir, a beauty, you must own,
    There ’s Prince, that handsome black,        125
Ball the gray mare, and Saladin the roan,
        Besides old Dunn;
        Come, sir, choose one;
        But take advice from me,
        Let Prince be he;        130
    Why, sir, you ’ll look the hero on his back.”
 
I ’ll take the black, and thank you too.”
  “Nay, husband, that will never do;
  You know, you ’ve often heard me say
  How much I long to have a gray;        135
  And this one will exactly do for me.”
        “No, no,” said he;
    “Friend, take the four others back,
    And only leave the black.”
“Nay, husband, I declare        140
I must have the gray mare;”
    Adding (with gentle force),
“The gray mare is, I ’m sure, the better horse.”
 
“Well, if it must be so,—good sir,
  The gray mare we prefer;        145
So we accept your gift.” John made a leg:
“Allow me to present you with an egg;
  ’T is my last egg remaining,
  The cause of my regaining,
I trust, the fond affection of my wife,        150
Whom I will love the better all my life.
“Home to content has her kind father brought me;
I thank him for the lesson he has taught me.”
 
 
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