“We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.”
Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
We ate, we drank, we slept, we loved. If you can keep it that simple, thanks be to God.
The quote makes me think of my wonderful wife and our wonderful marriage. Of course, it sums up what we do so well, but it’s also reminiscent of my wife’s own motto for marriage. I also like that the quote includes the word “cheaply”, which is a key part of our marital glue.
My wife’s motto in marriage also puts it neatly. “Sex, eat, sleep.”
When I first got married a pastor who was mentoring me (a Baptist who made the mistake of introducing me to Calvin) gave me his most important piece of advice. “Keep the pantry full. No matter how hard things get, make sure you keep the pantry full.” And there is immense wisdom in this. When Christians run in to trouble in their marriages they often want a hyper-spiritual meta-solution, instead of humbling themselves and taking care of practical things, like eating well, and drinking well, and sleeping well and warm together.
According to John Thrupp in The Anglo-Saxon Home: A History of the Domestic Institutions and Customs of England From the Fifth to the Eleventh Centuries, wives promised to be “bonny and buxom at bed and at board”.
I’m going to talk about how awesome that is for husbands. If you don’t like that you can go read my moralizing for husbands while you suck on a lemon.
The bride’s vow, closely related to today’s traditional vows, is “I take thee John to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer and poorer, in sickness and health, to be bonny and buxom in bed and at board till death do us part, and thereto I plight thee my troth.”
A “troth”, by the way, is pledged loyalty and faithfulness, as in “betrothal”.
The groom’s vow was briefer, less beautiful, and less alliterative. “I take thee Alice to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, at bed and at board, for fairer for fouler, for better or for worse, in sickness or in health, till death us do part.” It’s interesting to note as an aside here that the groom’s vow contains a promise to stay with her even if she gets old and wrinkly and ugly.
Just saying the words of the wife’s vow is a pleasure. They’re so bouncy! Try it, out loud: “Bonny and buxom in bed and at board.” Or maybe “Sassy and sweet in sack and at seat.” Sweet and bouncy…and bouncy goes so well with “buxom.” We all know what we think first when we hear the word “buxom”.
I’ll bet you don’t think “obedient and tractable”. Yep. That’s the first definition at Merriam-Webster, although it’s plainly labeled as obsolete. The word is from Middle English buxsum, from Old English būhsum; akin to Old English būgan to bend, or bow.
1. obsolete a: obedient, tractable b: offering little resistance : flexible <wing silently the buxom air — John Milton>2. archaic: full of gaiety3. vigorously or healthily plump; specifically: full-bosomed
Yes, every man reading this had already thought “full-bosomed”, but that’s the last thing mentioned by dictionary nerds, who are men we should all strive to be more like.
Every young man wants a wife who is flexible.
The oath the bride is giving is one of Christian submission to her husband. The most awesome thing about that is that we’re talking about cheerful obedience. You could even put a hyphen in there and turn that into one word. So we’re talking about cheerful-obedience, a much bally-hooed but seldom seen Christian quality. Buxom meant obedient and flexible, but it must have even then been a word charged with good cheer, since it followed “bonny” so closely, and since it evolved to mean “gaiety” and “bouncing big breasts”.
So Christian wives are called to cheerful obedience in bed and at the table. There are a lot of distractions, and lots of other work, but that’s the core of practical marriage. Thank God for this every day, o you husbands. And pray that you be made worthy.