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Of Theyre Nature


ABBREVIATIONS: see the Introduction to the Antifeminist Tradition.

1-7 These lines are from Lydgate's The Pain and Sorrow of Evil Marriage (IMEV 919). In this satire warning against marriage, the speaker, about to take a wife, is warned in a vision of three angels about the evil nature of women. This stanza, extant in only one manuscript of the poem (Bodleian Library MS Digby 181), occurs at the end of a long exposé of women's atavistic sensuality and duplicity. See Salisbury, ed., Trials and Joys, and Lydgate, Minor Poems, ed. MacCracken.

4 reliques. A double entendre suggesting either sacred objects (i.e., "seyntes bones") or beloved persons. Fletcher suggests that the term refers to lovers' tokens ("Edition of MS R.3.19," p. 348). The sense of the line seems to be that women visit church more for their lovers (or lovers' tokens) rather than to worship saints' bones. The reading in Digby 181 is a bit different: "In seynuaries ther frendes to visite, / More than for relikkes or any seyntis bones."

14 This popular proverb counseling male vigilance (Whiting B348) is also found in Beware.

20 flessh or fyssh. T: fyssh or flessh. I have followed Stow's change which preserves the rhyme.
Of theyre nature they gretly theym delyte,
Wyth holy face feynyd for the nones,
In sayntwary theyre frendys to vysyte,
More for reliques than for seyntes bones,
Though they be closyd undyr precyous stones;
To gete hem pardon lyke theyr olde usages,
To kys no shrynes but lusty quyk ymages.

Whan maydons ar weddyd and householdys have take,
All theyre humylyté ys exylyd awey,
And the cruell hertes begynneth to awake;
They do all the besy cure that they can or may,
To wex theyr housholdes maisters, the soth forto sey;
Wherfore, ye yong men, I rede yow forthy,
Beware alwey, the blynde eteth many a fly.

Of thys matyer I dar make no lengor relacion,
For in defaute of slepe my spyrytes wexen feynt;
In my study I have had so long an habitacion,
That my body and my gost ar grevously atteynt;
And therfore of thys proces I make no lengor compleynt.
But whether that the blynde ete flessh or fyssh,
I pray God kepe the fly out of my dyssh!

Now I make an ende and ley me downe to rest,
For I know by experience verament,
Yef maydones and wyfes knew and wyst
Who made the mater he shuld be shent;
Wherfore I pray God omnipotent,
Hym save and kepe both nyght and day;
Wretyn in the lusty season of May.
themselves; (see note)
(see note)


advise; therefore
(see note)

absence; grow

spirit; exhausted

(see note)



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