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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
On Husband and Wife
By Jeremy Taylor (1613–1667)
From Sermon: ‘The Marriage Ring’

MAN and wife are equally concerned to avoid all offenses of each other in the beginning of their conversation,—every little thing that can blast an infant blossom: and the breath of the south can shake the little rings of the vine when first they begin to curl like the locks of a new-weaned boy; but when by age and consolidation they stiffen into the hardness of a stem, and have, by the warm embraces of the sun and the kisses of heaven, brought forth their clusters, they can endure the storms of the north, and the loud noises of a tempest, and yet never be broken: so are the early unions of an unfixed marriage,—watchful and observant, jealous and busy, unquisitive and careful, and apt to take alarm at every unkind word. For infirmities do not manifest themselves in the first scenes, but in the succession of a long society; and it is not chance or weakness when it appears at first, but it is a want of love or prudence, or it will be so expounded; and that which appears ill at first, usually affrights the inexperienced man or woman, who makes unequal conjectures, and fancies mighty sorrows by the proportions of the new and early unkindness….  1
  Let man and wife be careful to stifle little things,—as fast as they spring, they be cut down and trod upon; for if they be suffered to grow by numbers, they make the spirit peevish, and the society troublesome, and the affections loose and easy by an habitual aversion. Some men are more vexed with a fly than with a wound; and when the gnats disturb our sleep, and the reason is disquieted but not perfectly awakened, it is often seen that he is fuller of trouble than if, in the daylight of his reason, he were to contest with a potent enemy. In the frequent little accidents of a family, a man’s reason cannot always be awake; and when his discourses are imperfect, and a trifling trouble makes him yet more restless, he is soon betrayed to the violence of passion. It is certain that the man or woman are in a state of weakness and folly then, when they can be troubled with a trifling accident; and therefore it is not good to tempt their affections, when they are in that state of danger. In this case the caution is to subtract fuel from the sudden flame; for stubble, though it be quickly kindled, yet it is as soon extinguished, if it be not blown by a pertinacious breath or fed with new materials. Add no new provocations to the accident, and do not inflame this, and peace will soon return; and the discontent will pass away soon, as the sparks from the collision of a flint: ever remembering that discontent proceeding from little daily things do breed a secret undiscernible disease, which is more dangerous than a fever proceeding from a discerned notorious surfeit.  2
  Let them be sure to abstain from all those things which by experience and observation they find to be contrary to each other. They that govern elephants never appear before them in white; and the masters of bulls keep from them all garments of blood and scarlet, as knowing that they will be impatient of civil usages and discipline, when their natures are provoked by their proper antipathies. The ancient in their marital hieroglyphics used to depict Mercury standing by Venus, to signify that by fair language and sweet entreaties the minds of each other should be united; and hard by them … they would have all deliciousness of manners, compliance, and mutual observance to abide.  3

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