The Stuffed Owl

On Washing

Against the rigours of a damp cold heaven
To fortify their bodies, some frequent
The gelid cistern; and, where naught forbids,
I praise their dauntless heart….
Let those who from the frozen Arctos reach
Parched Mauritania, or the sultry West,
Or the wide flood that laves rich Indostan,
Plunge thrice a day, and in the tepid wave
Untwist their stubborn pores: that full and free
Th’ evaporation through the softened skin
May bear proportion to the swelling blood.

So may they ’scape the fever’s rapid flames;
So feel untainted the hot breath of hell.
With us, the man of no complaint demands
The warm ablution just enough to keep
The body sacred from indecent soil.
Still to be pure, even did it not conduce
(As much it does) to health, were greatly worth
Your daily pains. ’Tis this adorns the rich;
The want of this is poverty’s worst woe;
With this external virtue age maintains
A decent grace; without it, youth and charms
Are loathsome. This the venal Graces know;
So doubtless do your wives: for married sires,
As well as lovers, still pretend to taste;
Nor is it less (all prudent wives can tell)
To lose a husband’s than a lover’s heart.