The Patient Countess. - extracted from Albion's England
Impatience chaungeth smoke to flame, but jealousie 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 halfe 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,
Herlselfe more white, save rosie where the ruddy colour ranne:
Whom 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,
'Yee 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 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 behooves me pardon nature then.
'To checke him were to make him checke, 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 self 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 device did frame:
When long she had been wrong'd, and sought the forsayd meanes in vaine,
She rideth to the simple graunge with bud a slender traine.
She lighteth, entreth, greets them well, and then did looke about her;
The guiltie household 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 led them both.
Scarce 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 not 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 prayes them to have care
That nothing hap in their default, that might his health impair.
'And, damsell,' quoth shee, 'for it seemes this household is but three,
And for thy parents age, that this small chiefely rest on thee;
'Do me that good, else would to God he hither comes 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), he said, and did it: 'so each wife her husband may' recall.
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Comments about this poem (The Patient Countess. - extracted from Albion's England by William Warner )
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
William Butler Yeats
(13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939)
(15 April 1958)
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