Percy's Reliques - The Patient Countess.

The Patient Countess.

            The subject of this tale is taken from the entertaining Colloquy of Erasmus, intitled, Uxor Мεμφιγαμος[Greek:Memphigamos], sive Conjugium: which has been agreeably modernized by the late Mr. Spence, in his little miscellaneous publication, intitled, "Moralities, &c. by Sir Harry Beaumont," 1753, 8vo. p. 42.

            The following stanzas are extracted from an ancient poem intitled Albion's England, written by W. Warner, a celebrated poet in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, though his name and works are now equally forgotten. The reader will find some account of him in book v. song. 24.

            The following stanzas are printed from the author's improved edition of his work, printed in 1602, 4to.; the third impression of which appeared so early as 1592, in black-letter, 4to. The edition in 1602 is in thirteen Books; and so it is reprinted in 1612, 4to.; yet in 1606 was published "A Continuance of Albion's England, by the first author, W. W. Lond. 4to.:" this contains Books xiv. xv. xvi. In Ames's Typography is preserved the memory of another publication of this writer's, intitled, Warner's Poetry, printed in 1580, 12mo. and reprinted in 1602. There is also extant, under the name of Warner, "Syrinx, or seven fold Hist. pleasant, and profitable, comical, and tragical," 4to.

            It is proper to premise that the following lines were not written by the author in stanzas, but in long Alexandrines of fourteen syllables: which the narrowness of our page made it here necessary to subdivide.

IMPATIENCE chaungeth smoke to flame,
But jelousie is hell;
Some wives by patience have reduc'd
Ill husbands to live well:
As did the ladie of an earle,
Of whom I now shall tell.

An earle there was had wedded, lov'd;
Was lov'd, and lived long
Full true to his fayre countesse; yet
At last he did her wrong.

Once hunted he untill the chace,
Long fasting, and the heat
Did house him in a peakish graunge
Within a forest great.

Where knowne and welcom'd (as the place
And persons might afforde)
Browne bread, whig, bacon, curds and milke
Were set him on the borde.

A cushion made of lists, a stoole
Half backed with a hoope
Were brought him, and he sitteth down
Besides a sorry coupe.

The poore old couple wisht their bread
Were wheat, their whig were perry,
Their bacon beefe, their milke and curds
Were creame, to make him merry.

Mean while (in russet neatly clad,
With linen white as swanne,
Herselfe more white, save rosie where
The ruddy colour ranne:

Whome naked nature, not the aydes
Of arte made to excell)
The good man's daughter sturres to see
That all were feat and well;
The earle did marke her, and admire
Such beautie there to dwell.

Yet fals he to their homely fare,
And held him at a feast:
But as his hunger slaked, so
An amorous heat increast.

When this repast was past, and thanks,
And welcome too; he sayd
Unto his host and hostesse, in
The hearing of the mayd:

"Ye know," quoth he, that I am lord
Of this, and many townes;
I also know that you be poore,
And I can spare you pownes.

"Soe will I, so yee will consent,
That yonder lasse and I
May bargaine for her love; at least,
Doe give me leave to trye.
Who needs to know it? nay who dares
Into my doings pry?"

First they mislike, yet at the length
For lucre were misled;
And then the gamesome earle did wowe
The damsell for his bed.

He took her in his armes, as yet
So coyish to be kist,
As mayds that know themselves belov'd,
And yieldingly resist.

In few, his offers were so large
She lastly did consent;
With whom he lodged all that night,
And early home he went.

He tooke occasion oftentimes
In such a sort to hunt.
Whom when his lady often mist,
Contrary to his wont.

And lastly was informed of
His amorous haunt elsewhere
It greev'd her not a little, though
She seem'd it well to beare.

And thus she reasons with herselfe,
"Some fault perhaps in me;
Somewhat is done, that soe he doth:
Alas? what may it be?

"How may I winne him to myself?
He is a man, and men
Have imperfections; it behoves
Me pardon nature then.

"To checke him were to make him checke,[ 1]
Although hee now were chaste:
A man controuled of his wife,
To her makes lesser haste.

"If duty then, or daliance may
Prevayle to alter him;
I will be dutifull, and make
My selfe for daliance trim."

So was she, and so lovingly
Did entertaine her lord,
As fairer, or more faultles none
Could be for bed or bord.

Yet still he loves his leiman, and
Did still pursue that game,
Suspecting nothing less, than that
His lady knew the same
Wherefore to make him know she knew,
She this devise did frame:

When long she had been wrong'd, and sought
The foresayd meanes in vaine,
She rideth to the simple graunge
But with a slender traine.

She lighteth, entreth, greets them well
And then did looke about her:
The guiltie houshold knowing her,
Did wish themselves without her;
Yet, for she looked merily,
The lesse they did misdoubt her.

When she had seen the beauteous wench
(Then blushing fairnes fairer)
Such beauty made the countesse hold
Them both excus'd the rather.

Who would not bite at such a bait?
Thought she: and who (though loth)
So poore a wench, but gold might tempt?
Sweet errors lead them both.

Scarse one in twenty that had bragg'd
Of proffer'd gold denied,
Or of such yeelding beautie baulkt,
But, tenne to one, had lied.

Thus thought she: and she thus declares
Her cause of coming thether
"My lord, oft hunting in these partes,
Through travel, night or wether,

"Hath often lodged in your house;
I thanke you for the same;
For why? it doth him jolly ease
To lie so neare his game.

"But, for you have no furniture
Beseeming such a guest,
I bring his owne, and come myselfe
To see his lodging drest."

With that two sumpters were discharg'd,
In which were hangings brave,
Silke coverings, curtens, carpets, plate,
And al such turn should have.

When all was handsomly dispos'd,
She prayer them to have care
That nothing hap in their default,
That might his health impair:

"And, Damsell," quoth shee, "for it seemes
This houshold is but three,
And for thy parents age, that this
Shall chiefely rest on thee;

"Do me that good, else would to God
He hither come no more."
So tooke she horse, and ere she went
Bestowed gould good store.

Full little thought the countie that
His countesse had done so;
Who now return'd from far affaires
Did to his sweet-heart go.

No sooner sat he foote within
The late deformed cote,
But that the formall change of things
His wondring eies did note.

But when he knew those goods to be
His proper goods; though late,
Scarce taking leave, he home returnes
The matter to debate.

The countesse was a-bed, and he
With her his lodging tooke;
"Sir, welcome home" (quoth shee); "this night
For you I did not looke."

Then did he question her of such
His stuffe bestowed soe.
"Forsooth," quoth she, "because I did
Your love and lodging knowe:

"Your love to be a proper wench,
Your lodging nothing lesse;
I held it for your health, the house
More decently to dresse.

"Well wot I, notwithstanding her,
Your lordship loveth me;
And greater hope to hold you such
By quiet, then brawles, you see.

"Then for my duty, your delight,
And to retaine your favour,
All done I did, and patiently
Expect your wonted 'haviour."

Her patience, witte and answer wrought
His gentle teares to fall:
When (kissing her a score of times)
"Amend, sweet wife, I shall:"
He said, and did it; so each wife
Her husband may recall.

NOTES

1. To check is a term in falconry, applied when a hawk stops and turns away from his proper pursuit: To check also signifies to reprove or chide. It is in this verse used in both senses.

 

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