The Miller and his Wife

The MILLER and his WIFE
A FABLE

He who, with certainty would find
The depth and scope of woman’s mind,
Must judge not by external shew,
From what they say or what they do;
But he who’d construe all their airs,
Must do’t as witches say their prayers.

A Miller, one an honest man,
(That’s honest as a Miller can)
Had a smart wife of goodly parts,
In homely necessary arts;
Could wash and scour, and brew and bake,
Pies, puddings, tarts, and custards make;
Would smile and curtsey to her neighbours,
And speak so sweetly, “speed your labours”,
While every gossip in the vale,
Admired her cleanly fardingale;
The village, all alike, consented
To think the Miller lived contented;
But did he so? have patience friend,
And form your judgement by the end.

The morning rose serene and clear,
She hasted to the river near,
To bleach and whiten some new linnen,
Reported of her own hand spinning:
Somehow or other in she fell,
The truth no man alive can tell;
For want of aid departed life,
So honest Joseph lost his wife.

What could he do in such a state,
But calmly own the will of fate?
For we are taught, and should believe,
’Tis insignificant to grieve,
And once resigned, once lost our breath,
Nothing can ope the jaws of death;
With good, or ill, we must dispense —
’Tis all the will of Providence.
Now mark — to find the body drowned,
The Miller cast his eyes around;
And what, no doubt, most strange may seem,
Direct contrary to the stream;
Of all he met enquiry made,
When thus a clown his progress staid:
“Zure the man’s mad, or else a fool,
To find her goes against the rule;
The way the current flows go seek,
She’ll scarcely float this way to week.”

The Miller cried, “thou simple oaf,
Give o’er thy sneering, cease to scoff;
Thou wert ne’er married in thy life —
The coarse I seek was once my wife;
And, surely, with all deference due,
I knew her better far than you.
From the first hour she was my bride,
She went against both wind and tide;
Noisy, untoward, sulky, sly,
Pleasant when anyone was by,
By which she gained the name of civil,
But I alone, I found her devil.
Conceited, discontented, vain,
Her only pleasure others pain,
She’s prove, disprove, swore wrong was right,
What now was black, anon was white,
Yes, as it pleased her inclination,
To foment broils and breed vexation,
To tell her dogged humours clear,
Would take me up at least a year.
Then think not I am mad, or dream,
To seek her now against the stream;
I know it from her ways in life,
This is the way to find my wife.”

— The astonished clown at length confest,
That way to find her was the best;
But cry’d, if all be true you’ve said,
I’d seek her not, alive or dead.
++++++++J. OAKMAN