Paulo Purganti And His Wife: An Honest, But A Simple Pair

A poem by Matthew Prior

Beyond the fix'd and settl'd Rules
Of Vice and Virtue in the Schools,
Beyond the Letter of the Law,
Which keeps our Men and Maids in Awe,
The better Sort should set before 'em
A Grace, a Manner, a Decorum;
Something, that gives their Acts a Light;
Makes 'em not only just, but bright;
And sets 'em in that open Fame,
Which witty Malice cannot blame.

For 'tis in Life, as 'tis in Painting:
Much may be Right, yet much be Wanting:
From Lines drawn true, our Eye may trace
A Foot, a Knee, a Hand, a Face:
May justly own the Picture wrought
Exact to Rule, exempt from Fault:
Yet if the Colouring be not there,
The Titian Stroke, the Guido Air;
To nicest Judgment show the Piece;
At best 'twill only not displease:
It would not gain on Jersey's Eye:
Bradford would frown, and set it by.
Thus in the Picture of our Mind
The Action may be well design'd;
Guided by Law, and bound by Duty;
Yet want this Je ne sçay quoy of Beauty:
And tho' it's Error may be such,
As Knags and Burgess cannot hit;
It yet may feel the nicer Touch
Of Wicherley's or Congreve's Wit.

What is this Talk? replies a Friend:
And where will this dry Moral end?
The Truth of what You here lay down
By some Example should be shown.
With all my Heart, for once; read on.
An Honest, but a Simple Pair
(And Twenty other I forbear)
May serve to make this Thesis clear.

A Doctor of great Skill and Fame,
Paulo Purganti was his Name,
Had a good, comely, virtuous Wife:
No Woman led a better Life:
She to Intrigues was ev'n hard-hearted:
She chuckl'd when a Bawd was carted:
And thought the Nation ne'er wou'd thrive,
'Till all the bunnys were burnt alive.

On marry'd Men, that dare be bad,
She thought no Mercy should be had;
They should be hang'd, or starv'd, or flead,
Or serv'd like Romish Priests in Swede.
In short, all Lewdness She defy'd:
And stiff was her Parochial Pride.

Yet in an honest Way, the Dame
Was a great Lover of That same;
And could from Scripture take her Cue,
That Husbands should give Wives their Due.

Her Prudence did so justly steer
Between the Gay and the Severe,
That if in some Regards She chose
To curb poor Paulo in too close;
In others She relax'd again,
And govern'd with a looser Rein.

Thus tho' She strictly did confine
The Doctor from Excess of Wine;
With Oysters, Eggs, and Vermicelli
She let Him almost burst his Belly:
Thus drying Coffee was deny'd;
But Chocolate that Loss supply'd:
And for Tobacco (who could bear it?)
Filthy Concomitant of Claret!
(Blest Revolution!) one might see
Eringo Roots, and Bohé Tea.

She often set the Doctor's Band,
And strok'd his Beard, and squeez'd his Hand:
Kindly complain'd, that after Noon
He went to pore on Books too soon:
She held it wholesomer by much,
To rest a little on the Couch:
About his Waste in Bed a-nights
She clung so close for fear of Sprites.

The Doctor understood the Call;
But had not always wherewithal.

The Lion's Skin too short, you know,
(As Plutarch's Morals finely show)
Was lengthen'd by the Fox's Tail:
And Art supplies, where Strength may fail.

Unwilling then in Arms to meet
The Enemy, He could not beat;
He strove to lengthen the Campaign,
And save his Forces by Chicane.
Fabius, the Roman Chief, who thus
By fair Retreat grew Maximus,
Shows us, that all that Warrior can do
With Force inferior, is Cunctando.

One Day then, as the Foe drew near,
With Love, and Joy, and Life, and Dear;
Our Don, who knew this Tittle Tattle
Did, sure as Trumpet, call to Battel;
Thought it extreamly à propos,
To ward against the coming Blow:
To ward: but how? Ay, there's the Question:
Fierce the Assault, unarm'd the Bastion.

The Doctor feign'd a strange Surprise:
He felt her Pulse: he view'd her Eyes:
That beat too fast: These rowl'd too quick:
She was, He said, or would be Sick:
He judg'd it absolutely good,
That She should purge and cleanse her Blood.
Spaw Waters for that end were got:
If they past easily or not,
What matters it? the Lady's Feaver
Continu'd violent as ever.

For a Distemper of this Kind,
(Blackmore and Hans are of my Mind)
If once it youthful Blood infects,
And chiefly of the Female Sex;
Is scarce remov'd by Pill or Potion;
What e'er might be our Doctor's Notion.

One luckless Night then, as in Bed
The Doctor and the Dame were laid;
Again this cruel Feaver came,
High Pulse, short Breath, and Blood in Flame.
What Measures shall poor Paulo keep
With Madam, in this piteous taking?
She, like Macbeth, has murder'd Sleep,
And won't allow Him Rest, tho' waking.
Sad State of Matters! when We dare
Nor ask for Peace, nor offer War:
Nor Livy nor Comines have shown,
What in this Juncture may be done.
Grotius might own, that Paulo's Case is
Harder, than any which He places
Amongst his Belli and his Pacis.

He strove, alas! but strove in vain,
By dint of Logic to maintain,
That all the Sex was born to grieve,
Down to her Ladyship from Eve.
He rang'd his Tropes, and preach'd up Patience;
Back'd his Opinion with Quotations,
Divines and Moralists; and run ye on
Quite thro' from Seneca to Bunyan.
As much in vain He bid Her try
To fold her Arms, to close her Eye;
Telling Her, Rest would do Her Good;
If any thing in Nature cou'd:
So held the Greeks quite down from Galen,
Masters and Princes of the Calling:
So all our Modern Friends maintain
(Tho' no great Greeks) in Warwick-Lane.

Reduce, my Muse, the wand'ring Song:
A Tale should never be too long.

The more He talk'd, the more She burn'd,
And sigh'd, and tost, and groan'd, and turn'd:
At last, I wish, said She, my Dear
(And whisper'd something in his Ear)
You wish! wish on, the Doctor cries:
Lord! when will Womankind be wise?
What, in your Waters? are You mad?
Why Poyson is not half so bad.
I'll do it But I give You Warning:
You'll die before To-morrow Morning.
'Tis kind, my Dear, what You advise;
The Lady with a Sigh replies:
But Life, You know, at best is Pain:
And Death is what We should disdain
So do it therefore, and Adieu:
For I will die for Love of You:
Let wanton Wives by Death be scar'd:
But, to my Comfort, I'm prepar'd.

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