I shall tell of a peasant who looked
Through his door and spied this:
He saw another man on his bed,
Doing his pleasure with his wife.
"Alas," he said, "what have I seen!"
His wife then replied to him,
"What have you seen, good sir, my love?"
"Another man, so it seemed to me,
Was on my bed and held you in his embrace."
Then said the wife, enraged,
"Indeed," she said, "there is no doubt at all
That this is your old foolishness;
You wish to hold a lie for the truth."
"I see," he said, "and thus I must indeed believe it."
"You are crazy," she said, "if you believe
Whatever you see is true."
She takes him by the hand and leads him with her
To a barrel filled with water;
She makes him look into the barrel.
Then she begins to ask him
What he sees in there, and he says to her
That he sees his own reflection.
"And yet," she says, "you are not
In that barrel with all your clothes on,
As it seems to you that you see there.
You should not have faith
In what you see, for appearances often lie."
Said the peasant, "I repent!
Everyone would do better to believe and to know
That what his wife says is truer
Than what is seen by his poor eyes,
Which so often deceive him by appearances."
By this example we learn
That intellect and trickery are worth much more
And help many people more
Than their goods or their heritage.
From Larry D. Benson and Theodore M. Andersson, The Literary Context of Chaucer's Fabliaux. Indianapolis and New York, 1971. Pp. 257-61.
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Last modified: July 5, 2006
Texts on this page prepared and maintained by L. D. Benson (firstname.lastname@example.org)