1633
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Wife not made but bespoken: The First Eglogue.

A Wife not made but bespoken.

Robert Aylett


Robert Aylett addresses three comic eclogues to bachelors on the subject of marriage. No copy of the first publication survives, though the eclogues were reprinted along with a fourth in 1653. In the first, Tityrus encourages the timid Dicus to marry. The positive assessment of marriage is something of an innovation, pastoral eclogues generally being products of all-male institutions.

Thomas Park: "This is a poetical pleading for and against marriage, in which the opposite advocates display equal ingenuity. The tract has a dedication in verse by R. A. 'to his honoured good friend Sir Robert Stapleton,' the translator of Juvenal and Musaeus. R. A. is Robert Aylet, LL.D. who wrote several pieces of a graver cast on scriptural subjects, which were collected into a thick octavo volume, of unfrequent occurrence. The present little work exhibits a few lyric stanzas which invite transcription.... Two elegies are added on the deaths of Edmund Alleyn, Esq. of Hatfield in Essex (son and heir to Sir Edward Alleyn, Bart.) and Mary his wife" Censura Literaria 5 (1807) 373-74.

Thomas Corser: "The subject of these Pastoral Eclogues is a poetical strife or dispute concerning the advantages of a married or single life, in which the respective opponents display great ingenuity, but the palm is evidently decided in favour of the former" Collectanea Anglo-Poetica 1 (1860) 101.



DICUS, TITYRUS.

DICUS.
Good Tityrus! what shall I do?
I love, yet am afraid to wooe,
Such freedom is in single life,
I dread the yoaking with a Wife;
For now I revell, sing and play,
Go where I list each Holiday,
Laugh, caroll, pipe: thus blithe and merry,
I to my Lambs sing Hey down derry:
But if I once turn married man,
Then say or do I what I can,
All is too little her to please,
I fain would wive, yet live at ease;
I hear some married men, that say,
That wives will brow-beat all the day,
At night within the curtains preach,
And men must learn what they do teach;
Against this how may I provide?
They best can teach us that have tri'd.

TITYRUS.
If she within the curtains chide,
My head within the sheet I hide,
And either to my prayers fall,
Or on the Musing Sisters call,
To help me sing, or else to weep,
Till in the end I fall asleep:
Then Great Apollo in a Dream,
Forbids me strive against the stream;
By stirring I much dust may raise,
The lowring Mornes prove fairest daies:
Good Hous-wives when their pot boils over,
To cool the Broth take off the cover,
The simple make it seethe up higher,
By laying fuell on the fire.
Thus sweeten I a married life,
And when I wake behold my Wife
As kindely fals within mine Arms,
As if she never meant me harms.

DICUS.
This Counsell only they can follow,
Who are acquainted with Apollo,
But many Husbands finde a shrow,
That never did Apollo know,
Nor ever supped at the Well
By which the Musing Sisters dwell.

TITYRUS.
Why! Dicus they may fail to pray,

DICUS.
That's for the night: But how by day?
Must I demean to stint all strife,
With whom I must spend all my life?

TITYRUS.
Indeed it is the depth of skill,
To leade a Woman by her will:
For sure there is no other way,
But let them have their Doe and Say.
The Art is to encline them so,
They may aright both Say and Doe.
Else do I know no other fence,
But use the Buckler Patience.
A man may offer with the Waster,
But 'tis not good to strike the Master
At School; and it is the Scholars end
To learn no more then how to fend.

DICUS.
If thus it be with marri'd life,
'Tis best to be without a Wife.

TITYRUS.
Thus Husbands say, yet marry seven,
As some by Crosses come to Heaven:
The wrecked Merchant under Lea,
A second venture makes to Sea;
And I have heard some Husbands tell,
That they of Wives do like so well,
Of which they one by one had store,
That they could wish as many more.
What cause hath Dicus then to doubt them?
That sees so few can live without them.

DICUS.
Sure now I think the greatest blame
In men thus women to defame:
Their goodnesse he knows best that tries them,
But to be good no man denies them.
They sure are good by night or day,
At bed or board, at work or play,
To follow, or to go before,
Abroad, or else within the door;
Things are they which men still have need on,
But they are best of all to breed on:
The worst Wives are not so ill wrought,
But they are good, though good for nought:
Men erre when they would have them all
Just like their looks, Angelicall,
(And yet we reade of Angels pride)
She is a ribbe of thine own side:
That which is pure in her, lo she
Derives from Heav'n, the rest from thee.

TITYRUS.
Faith Dicus, now thy Fate I see,
Thou soon a married man wilt be.
This Tale among the Gossips tell,
And they will like thee all so well,
(For to be praised all rejoyce)
That thou of Wives must have thy choice.
But look to 't well, thou art of age,
Prove not like sullen Bird in Cage,
Forbear thy meat, and loathe satiety,
And long again for free variety.
Oh! be not like the Fish that plays
About the Leap, in love with Gays,
But soon as he is in, would fain
Get out but never can again.

DICUS.
If so, I shall not be alone,
To thee I'le never make my mone.

TITYRUS.
Nor t' any else, if thou be wise,
As thou hast got, so keep thy Prise;
Look ere thou leap, complaining after
Will with thy friends breed nought but laughter.
An honest, chearfull, constant life
Will better both thy self and Wife.
But we met here this morning soon,
And now my shadow says 'tis noon;
At Bed nor Board, if thou wilt marry,
Thou must not make thy wife to tarry.

DICUS.
This is the only way to teach,
When men will practise what they preach.
How glad am I of this good hap,
To see thy Precepts in a Map.
What's here in colours, to the life
I'le practise when I have a Wife.
Farewell: I feel my stomack chime,
With Melibe 'tis dinner time.

[(1653) 1-4]