Gold THE GEOFFREY CHAUCER PAGE


The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale


An Interlinear Translation

 

The Middle English text is from Larry D. Benson., Gen. ed., The Riverside Chaucer,
Houghton Miflin Company; used with permission of the publisher.
(How to use the interlinear translations.)



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wife of Bath's Prologue

 

The Prologe of the Wyves Tale of Bathe

 

1       "Experience, though noon auctoritee
                "Experience, though no written authority
2       Were in this world, is right ynogh for me
                Were in this world, is good enough for me
3       To speke of wo that is in mariage;
                To speak of the woe that is in marriage;
4       For, lordynges, sith I twelve yeer was of age,
                For, gentlemen, since I was twelve years of age,
5       Thonked be God that is eterne on lyve,
                Thanked be God who is eternally alive,
6       Housbondes at chirche dore I have had fyve --
                I have had five husbands at the church door --
7       If I so ofte myghte have ywedded bee --
                If I so often might have been wedded --
8       And alle were worthy men in hir degree.
                And all were worthy men in their way.
9       But me was toold, certeyn, nat longe agoon is,
                But to me it was told, certainly, it is not long ago,
10       That sith that Crist ne wente nevere but onis
                That since Christ went never but once
11       To weddyng, in the Cane of Galilee,
                To a wedding, in the Cana of Galilee,
12       That by the same ensample taughte he me
                That by that same example he taught me
13       That I ne sholde wedded be but ones.
                That I should be wedded but once.
14       Herkne eek, lo, which a sharp word for the nones,
                Listen also, lo, what a sharp word for this purpose,
15       Biside a welle, Jhesus, God and man,
                Beside a well, Jesus, God and man,
16       Spak in repreeve of the Samaritan:
                Spoke in reproof of the Samaritan:
17       `Thou hast yhad fyve housbondes,' quod he,
                `Thou hast had five husbands,' he said,
18       `And that ilke man that now hath thee
                `And that same man that now has thee
19       Is noght thyn housbonde,' thus seyde he certeyn.
                Is not thy husband,' thus he said certainly.
20       What that he mente therby, I kan nat seyn;
                What he meant by this, I can not say;
21       But that I axe, why that the fifthe man
                But I ask, why the fifth man
22       Was noon housbonde to the Samaritan?
                Was no husband to the Samaritan?
23       How manye myghte she have in mariage?
                How many might she have in marriage?
24       Yet herde I nevere tellen in myn age
                I never yet heard tell in my lifetime
25       Upon this nombre diffinicioun.
                A definition of this number.
26       Men may devyne and glosen, up and doun,
                Men may conjecture and interpret in every way,
27       But wel I woot, expres, withoute lye,
                But well I know, expressly, without lie,
28       God bad us for to wexe and multiplye;
                God commanded us to grow fruitful and multiply;
29       That gentil text kan I wel understonde.
                That gentle text I can well understand.
30       Eek wel I woot, he seyde myn housbonde
                Also I know well, he said my husband
31       Sholde lete fader and mooder and take to me.
                Should leave father and mother and take to me.
32       But of no nombre mencion made he,
                But he made no mention of number,
33       Of bigamye, or of octogamye;
                Of marrying two, or of marrying eight;
34       Why sholde men thanne speke of it vileynye?
                Why should men then speak evil of it?

35       Lo, heere the wise kyng, daun Salomon;
                Lo, (consider) here the wise king, dan Salomon;
36       I trowe he hadde wyves mo than oon.
                I believe he had wives more than one.
37       As wolde God it leveful were unto me
                As would God it were lawful unto me
38       To be refresshed half so ofte as he!
                To be refreshed half so often as he!
39       Which yifte of God hadde he for alle his wyvys!
                What a gift of God he had because of all his wives!
40       No man hath swich that in this world alyve is.
                No man that in this world is alive has such (a gift).
41       God woot, this noble kyng, as to my wit,
                God knows, this noble king, according to my judgment,
42       The firste nyght had many a myrie fit
                The first night had many a merry fit
43       With ech of hem, so wel was hym on lyve.
                With each of them, so well things went for him in his lifetime.
44       Yblessed be God that I have wedded fyve!
                Blessed be God that I have wedded five!
44a       [Of whiche I have pyked out the beste,
                [Of which I have picked out the best,
44b       Bothe of here nether purs and of here cheste.
                Both of their lower purse (scrotum) and of their strongbox.
44c       Diverse scoles maken parfyt clerkes,
                Differing schools make perfect clerks,
44d       And diverse practyk in many sondry werkes
                And differing practice in many various works
44e       Maketh the werkman parfyt sekirly;
                Makes the workman truly perfect;
44f       Of fyve husbondes scoleiyng am I.]
                Of five husbands' schooling am I.]
45       Welcome the sixte, whan that evere he shal.
                Welcome the sixth, whenever he shall appear.
46       For sothe, I wol nat kepe me chaast in al.
                For truly, I will not keep myself chaste in everything.
47       Whan myn housbonde is fro the world ygon,
                When my husband is gone from the world,
48       Som Cristen man shal wedde me anon,
                Some Christian man shall wed me straightway,
49       For thanne th' apostle seith that I am free
                For then the apostle says that I am free
50       To wedde, a Goddes half, where it liketh me.
                To wed, by God's side (I swear), wherever it pleases me.
51       He seith that to be wedded is no synne;
                He says that to be wedded is no sin;
52       Bet is to be wedded than to brynne.
                It is better to be wedded than to burn.
53       What rekketh me, thogh folk seye vileynye
                What do I care, though folk speak evil
54       Of shrewed Lameth and his bigamye?
                Of cursed Lamech and his bigamy?
55       I woot wel Abraham was an hooly man,
                I know well Abraham was a holy man,
56       And Jacob eek, as ferforth as I kan;
                And Jacob also, insofar as I know;
57       And ech of hem hadde wyves mo than two,
                And each of them had more than two wives,
58       And many another holy man also.
                And many another holy man also.
59       Wher can ye seye, in any manere age,
                Where can you find, in any historical period,
60       That hye God defended mariage
                That high God forbad marriage
61       By expres word? I pray yow, telleth me.
                By express word? I pray you, tell me.
62       Or where comanded he virginitee?
                Or where commanded he virginity?
63       I woot as wel as ye, it is no drede,
                I know as well as you, it is no doubt,
64       Th' apostel, whan he speketh of maydenhede,
                The apostle, when he speaks of maidenhood,
65       He seyde that precept therof hadde he noon.
                He said that he had no precept concerning it.
66       Men may conseille a womman to been oon,
                Men may advise a woman to be one,
67       But conseillyng is no comandement.
                But advice is no commandment.
68       He putte it in oure owene juggement;
                He left it to our own judgment;
69       For hadde God comanded maydenhede,
                For had God commanded maidenhood,
70       Thanne hadde he dampned weddyng with the dede.
                Then had he damned marriage along with the act (of procreation).
71       And certes, if ther were no seed ysowe,
                And certainly, if there were no seed sown,
72       Virginitee, thanne wherof sholde it growe?
                Then from what should virginity grow?
73       Poul dorste nat comanden, atte leeste,
                In any case, Paul dared not command
74       A thyng of which his maister yaf noon heeste.
                A thing of which his master gave no command.
75       The dart is set up for virginitee;
                The prize is set up for virginity;
76       Cacche whoso may, who renneth best lat see.
                Catch it whoever can, let's see who runs best.

77       But this word is nat taken of every wight,
                But this word does not apply to every person,
78       But ther as God lust gyve it of his myght.
                But where God desires to give it by his power.
79       I woot wel that th' apostel was a mayde;
                I know well that the apostle was a virgin;
80       But nathelees, thogh that he wroot and sayde
                But nonetheless, though he wrote and said
81       He wolde that every wight were swich as he,
                He would that every person were such as he,
82       Al nys but conseil to virginitee.
                All is nothing but advice to (adopt) virginity.
83       And for to been a wyf he yaf me leve
                And he gave me leave to be a wife
84       Of indulgence; so nys it no repreve
                By explicit permission; so it is not blameful
85       To wedde me, if that my make dye,
                To wed me, if my mate should die,
86       Withouten excepcion of bigamye.
                Without objection on the grounds of bigamy.
87       Al were it good no womman for to touche --
                Although it would be good to touch no woman --
88       He mente as in his bed or in his couche,
                He meant in his bed or in his couch,
89       For peril is bothe fyr and tow t' assemble;
                For it is perilous to assemble both fire and flax;
90       Ye knowe what this ensample may resemble.
                You know what this example may apply to.
91       This is al and som: he heeld virginitee
                This is the sum of it: he held virginity
92       Moore parfit than weddyng in freletee.
                More perfect than wedding in weakness.
93       Freletee clepe I, but if that he and she
                Weakness I call it, unless he and she
94       Wolde leden al hir lyf in chastitee.
                Would lead all their life in chastity.

95       I graunte it wel; I have noon envie,
                I grant it well; I have no envy,
96       Thogh maydenhede preferre bigamye.
                Though maidenhood may have precedence over a second marriage.
97       It liketh hem to be clene, body and goost;
                It pleases them to be clean, body and spirit;
98       Of myn estaat I nyl nat make no boost,
                Of my state I will make no boast,
99       For wel ye knowe, a lord in his houshold,
                For well you know, a lord in his household,
100       He nath nat every vessel al of gold;
                He has not every utensil all of gold;
101       Somme been of tree, and doon hir lord servyse.
                Some are of wood, and do their lord service.
102       God clepeth folk to hym in sondry wyse,
                God calls folk to him in various ways,
103       And everich hath of God a propre yifte --
                And each one has of God an individual gift --
104       Som this, som that, as hym liketh shifte.
                Some this, some that, as it pleases Him to provide.

105       Virginitee is greet perfeccion,
                Virginity is great perfection,
106       And continence eek with devocion,
                And continence also with devotion,
107       But Crist, that of perfeccion is welle,
                But Christ, who is the source of perfection,
108       Bad nat every wight he sholde go selle
                Did not command that every one should go sell
109       Al that he hadde, and gyve it to the poore,
                All that he had, and give it to the poor,
110       And in swich wise folwe hym and his foore.
                And in such wise follow him and his footsteps.
111       He spak to hem that wolde lyve parfitly;
                He spoke to those who would live perfectly;
112       And lordynges, by youre leve, that am nat I.
                And gentlemen, by your leave, I am not that.
113       I wol bistowe the flour of al myn age
                I will bestow the flower of all my age
114       In the actes and in fruyt of mariage.
                In the acts and in fruit of marriage.

115       Telle me also, to what conclusion
                Tell me also, to what purpose
116       Were membres maad of generacion,
                Were members of generation made,
117       And of so parfit wys a [wright] ywroght?
                And by so perfectly wise a Workman wrought?
118       Trusteth right wel, they were nat maad for noght.
                Trust right well, they were not made for nothing.
119       Glose whoso wole, and seye bothe up and doun
                Interpret whoever will, and say both up and down
120       That they were maked for purgacioun
                That they were made for purgation
121       Of uryne, and oure bothe thynges smale
                Of urine, and both our small things
122       Were eek to knowe a femele from a male,
                Were also to know a female from a male,
123       And for noon oother cause -- say ye no?
                And for no other cause -- do you say no?
124       The experience woot wel it is noght so.
                The experience knows well it is not so.
125       So that the clerkes be nat with me wrothe,
                Provided that the clerks be not angry with me,
126       I sey this: that they maked ben for bothe;
                I say this: that they are made for both;
127       That is to seye, for office and for ese
                That is to say, for urination and for ease
128       Of engendrure, ther we nat God displese.
                Of procreation, in which we do not displease God.
129       Why sholde men elles in hir bookes sette
                Why else should men set in their books
130       That man shal yelde to his wyf hire dette?
                That man shall pay to his wife her debt?
131       Now wherwith sholde he make his paiement,
                Now with what should he make his payment,
132       If he ne used his sely instrument?
                If he did not use his blessed instrument?
133       Thanne were they maad upon a creature
                Then were they made upon a creature
134       To purge uryne, and eek for engendrure.
                To purge urine, and also for procreation.

135       But I seye noght that every wight is holde,
                But I say not that every person is required,
136       That hath swich harneys as I to yow tolde,
                That has such equipment as I to you told,
137       To goon and usen hem in engendrure.
                To go and use them in procreation.
138       Thanne sholde men take of chastitee no cure.
                Then should men have no regard for chastity.
139       Crist was a mayde and shapen as a man,
                Christ was a virgin and shaped like a man,
140       And many a seint, sith that the world bigan;
                And many a saint, since the world began;
141       Yet lyved they evere in parfit chastitee.
                Yet lived they ever in perfect chastity.
142       I nyl envye no virginitee.
                I will envy no virginity.
143       Lat hem be breed of pured whete-seed,
                Let them be bread of pure wheat-seed,
144       And lat us wyves hoten barly-breed;
                And let us wives be called barley-bread;
145       And yet with barly-breed, Mark telle kan,
                And yet with barley-bread, Mark can tell it,
146       Oure Lord Jhesu refresshed many a man.
                Our Lord Jesus refreshed many a man.
147       In swich estaat as God hath cleped us
                In such estate as God has called us
148       I wol persevere; I nam nat precius.
                I will persevere; I am not fussy.
149       In wyfhod I wol use myn instrument
                In wifehood I will use my instrument
150       As frely as my Makere hath it sent.
                As freely as my Maker has it sent.
151       If I be daungerous, God yeve me sorwe!
                If I be niggardly, God give me sorrow!
152       Myn housbonde shal it have bothe eve and morwe,
                My husband shall have it both evenings and mornings,
153       Whan that hym list come forth and paye his dette.
                When it pleases him to come forth and pay his debt.
154       An housbonde I wol have -- I wol nat lette --
                A husband I will have -- I will not desist --
155       Which shal be bothe my dettour and my thral,
                Who shall be both my debtor and my slave,
156       And have his tribulacion withal
                And have his suffering also
157       Upon his flessh, whil that I am his wyf.
                Upon his flesh, while I am his wife.
158       I have the power durynge al my lyf
                I have the power during all my life
159       Upon his propre body, and noght he.
                Over his own body, and not he.
160       Right thus the Apostel tolde it unto me,
                Right thus the Apostle told it unto me,
161       And bad oure housbondes for to love us weel.
                And commanded our husbands to love us well.
162       Al this sentence me liketh every deel" --
                All this sentence pleases me every bit" --

163       Up stirte the Pardoner, and that anon;
                Up sprang the Pardoner, and that at once;
164       "Now, dame," quod he, "by God and by Seint John!
                "Now, madam," he said, "by God and by Saint John!
165       Ye been a noble prechour in this cas.
                You are a noble preacher in this case.
166       I was aboute to wedde a wyf; allas!
                I was about to wed a wife; alas!
167       What sholde I bye it on my flessh so deere?
                Why should I pay for it so dearly on my flesh?
168       Yet hadde I levere wedde no wyf to-yeere!"
                Yet would I rather wed no wife this year!"

169       "Abyde!" quod she, "my tale is nat bigonne.
                "Wait!" she said, "my tale is not begun.
170       Nay, thou shalt drynken of another tonne,
                Nay, thou shalt drink from another barrel,
171       Er that I go, shal savoure wors than ale.
                Before I go, which shall taste worse than ale.
172       And whan that I have toold thee forth my tale
                And when I have told thee forth my tale
173       Of tribulacion in mariage,
                Of suffering in marriage,
174       Of which I am expert in al myn age --
                Of which I am expert in all my life --
175       This is to seyn, myself have been the whippe --
                This is to say, myself have been the whip --
176       Than maystow chese wheither thou wolt sippe
                Than may thou choose whether thou will sip
177       Of thilke tonne that I shal abroche.
                Of that same barrel that I shall open.
178       Be war of it, er thou to ny approche;
                Beware of it, before thou too near approach;
179       For I shal telle ensamples mo than ten.
                For I shall tell examples more than ten.
180       `Whoso that nyl be war by othere men,
                `Whoever will not be warned by (the examples of) other men,
181       By hym shul othere men corrected be.'
                Shall be an example by which other men shall be corrected.'
182       The same wordes writeth Ptholomee;
                The same words writes Ptholomy;
183       Rede in his Almageste, and take it there."
                Read in his Almagest, and take it there."

184       "Dame, I wolde praye yow, if youre wyl it were,"
                "Madam, I would pray you, if it were your will,"
185       Seyde this Pardoner, "as ye bigan,
                Said this Pardoner, "as you began,
186       Telle forth youre tale, spareth for no man,
                Tell forth your tale, refrain for no man,
187       And teche us yonge men of youre praktike."
                And teach us young men of your practice."

188       "Gladly," quod she, "sith it may yow like;
                "Gladly," she said, "since it may please you;
189       But yet I praye to al this compaignye,
                But yet I pray to all this company,
190       If that I speke after my fantasye,
                If I speak according to my fancy,
191       As taketh not agrief of that I seye,
                Do not be annoyed by what I say,
192       For myn entente nys but for to pleye.
                For my intention is only to amuse.

193       Now, sire, now wol I telle forth my tale.
                Now, sir, now will I tell forth my tale.
194       As evere moote I drynken wyn or ale,
                As ever may I drink wine or ale,
195       I shal seye sooth; tho housbondes that I hadde,
                I shall speak the truth; those husbands that I had,
196       As thre of hem were goode, and two were badde.
                Three of them were good, and two were bad.
197       The thre were goode men, and riche, and olde;
                The three were good men, and rich, and old;
198       Unnethe myghte they the statut holde
                Hardly might they the statute hold (pay the debt)
199       In which that they were bounden unto me.
                In which they were bound unto me.
200       Ye woot wel what I meene of this, pardee!
                You know well what I mean of this, by God!
201       As help me God, I laughe whan I thynke
                So help me God, I laugh when I think
202       How pitously a-nyght I made hem swynke!
                How pitifully at night I made them work!
203       And, by my fey, I tolde of it no stoor.
                And, by my faith, I set no store by it.
204       They had me yeven hir lond and hir tresoor;
                They had given me their land and their treasure;
205       Me neded nat do lenger diligence
                I needed not work hard any longer
206       To wynne hir love, or doon hem reverence.
                To win their love, or do them reverence.
207       They loved me so wel, by God above,
                They loved me so well, by God above,
208       That I ne tolde no deyntee of hir love!
                That I reckoned little of their love!
209       A wys womman wol bisye hire evere in oon
                A wise woman will be constantly busy
210       To gete hire love, ye, ther as she hath noon.
                To get their love, yes, when she has none.
211       But sith I hadde hem hoolly in myn hond,
                But since I had them wholly in my hand,
212       And sith they hadde me yeven al hir lond,
                And since they had me given all their land,
213       What sholde I taken keep hem for to plese,
                Why should I take care to please them,
214       But it were for my profit and myn ese?
                Unless it were for my profit and my pleasure?
215       I sette hem so a-werke, by my fey,
                I set them so to work, by my faith,
216       That many a nyght they songen `Weilawey!'
                That many a night they sang `Woe is me!'
217       The bacon was nat fet for hem, I trowe,
                The bacon was not fetched for them, I believe,
218       That som men han in Essex at Dunmowe.
                That some men have in Essex at Dunmowe.
219       I governed hem so wel, after my lawe,
                I governed them so well, according to my law,
220       That ech of hem ful blisful was and fawe
                That each of them was very blissful and eager
221       To brynge me gaye thynges fro the fayre.
                To bring me gay things from the fair.
222       They were ful glad whan I spak to hem faire,
                They were very glad when I spoke to them pleasantly,
223       For, God it woot, I chidde hem spitously.
                For, God knows it, I cruelly scolded them.

224       Now herkneth hou I baar me proprely,
                Now listen how well I conducted myself,
225       Ye wise wyves, that kan understonde.
                You wise wives, that can understand.
226       Thus shulde ye speke and bere hem wrong on honde,
                Thus should you speak and accuse them wrongfully,
227       For half so boldely kan ther no man
                For half so boldly can there no man
228       Swere and lyen, as a womman kan.
                Swear and lie, as a woman can.
229       I sey nat this by wyves that been wyse,
                I do not say this concerning wives that are wise,
230       But if it be whan they hem mysavyse.
                Unless it be when they are ill advised.
231       A wys wyf, if that she kan hir good,
                A wise wife, if she knows what is good for her,
232       Shal beren hym on honde the cow is wood,
                Shall deceive him by swearing the bird is crazy,
233       And take witnesse of hir owene mayde,
                And prove it by taking witness of her own maid
234       Of hir assent. But herkneth how I sayde:
                Who is in league with her. But listen how I spoke:

235       `Sire olde kaynard, is this thyn array?
                `Sir old doddering fool, is this thy doing?
236       Why is my neighebores wyf so gay?
                Why is my neighbor's wife so gay?
237       She is honoured overal ther she gooth;
                She is honored everywhere she goes;
238       I sitte at hoom; I have no thrifty clooth.
                I sit at home; I have no decent clothing.
239       What dostow at my neighebores hous?
                What dost thou at my neighbor's house?
240       Is she so fair? Artow so amorous?
                Is she so fair? Art thou so amorous?
241       What rowne ye with oure mayde? Benedicite!
                What do you whisper with our maid? Bless me!
242       Sire olde lecchour, lat thy japes be!
                Sir old lecher, let thy tricks be!
243       And if I have a gossib or a freend,
                And if I have a close friend or an acquaintance,
244       Withouten gilt, thou chidest as a feend,
                Innocently, thou scold like a fiend,
245       If that I walke or pleye unto his hous!
                If I walk or go unto his house to amuse myself!
246       Thou comest hoom as dronken as a mous,
                Thou comest home as drunk as a mouse,
247       And prechest on thy bench, with yvel preef!
                And preach on thy bench, bad luck to you!
248       Thou seist to me it is a greet meschief
                Thou sayest to me it is a great misfortune
249       To wedde a povre womman, for costage;
                To wed a poor woman, because of expense;
250       And if that she be riche, of heigh parage,
                And if she be rich, of high birth,
251       Thanne seistow that it is a tormentrie
                Then thou sayest that it is a torment
252       To soffre hire pride and hire malencolie.
                To put up with her pride and her angry moods.
253       And if that she be fair, thou verray knave,
                And if she be fair, thou utter knave,
254       Thou seyst that every holour wol hire have;
                Thou sayest that every lecher wants to have her;
255       She may no while in chastitee abyde,
                She can not remain chaste for any length of time,
256       That is assailled upon ech a syde.
                Who is assailed on every side.

257       Thou seyst som folk desiren us for richesse,
                Thou sayest some folk desire us for riches,
258       Somme for oure shap, and somme for oure fairnesse,
                Some for our shape, and some for our fairness,
259       And som for she kan outher synge or daunce,
                And one because she can either sing or dance,
260       And som for gentillesse and daliaunce;
                And some because of noble descent and flirtatious talk;
261       Som for hir handes and hir armes smale;
                Some because of their hands and their slender arms;
262       Thus goth al to the devel, by thy tale.
                Thus goes all to the devil, according to you.
263       Thou seyst men may nat kepe a castel wal,
                Thou sayest men may not defend a castle wall,
264       It may so longe assailled been overal.
                It may so long be assailed on all sides.

265       And if that she be foul, thou seist that she
                And if she be ugly, thou sayest that she
266       Coveiteth every man that she may se,
                Covets every man that she may see,
267       For as a spanyel she wol on hym lepe,
                For like a spaniel she will on him leap,
268       Til that she fynde som man hire to chepe.
                Until she find some man to buy (take) her.
269       Ne noon so grey goos gooth ther in the lake
                Nor does any goose go there in the lake, no matter how drab,
270       As, seistow, wol been withoute make.
                That, thou sayest, will be without a mate.
271       And seyst it is an hard thyng for to welde
                And thou sayest it is a hard thing to control
272       A thyng that no man wole, his thankes, helde.
                A thing that no man will, willingly, hold.
273       Thus seistow, lorel, whan thow goost to bedde,
                Thus sayest thou, scoundrel, when thou goest to bed,
274       And that no wys man nedeth for to wedde,
                And that no wise man needs to wed,
275       Ne no man that entendeth unto hevene.
                Nor any man that hopes (to go) to heaven.
276       With wilde thonder-dynt and firy levene
                With wild thunder-bolt and fiery lightning
277       Moote thy welked nekke be tobroke!
                May thy wrinkled neck be broken in pieces!

278       Thow seyst that droppyng houses, and eek smoke,
                Thou sayest that leaky houses, and also smoke,
279       And chidyng wyves maken men to flee
                And scolding wives make men to flee
280       Out of hir owene houses; a, benedicitee!
                Out of their own houses; ah, bless me!
281       What eyleth swich an old man for to chide?
                What ails such an old man to chide like that?

282       Thow seyst we wyves wol oure vices hide
                Thou sayest we wives will hide our vices
283       Til we be fast, and thanne we wol hem shewe --
                Until we be securely tied (in marriage), and then we will them show --
284       Wel may that be a proverbe of a shrewe!
                Well may that be a proverb of a scoundrel!

285       Thou seist that oxen, asses, hors, and houndes,
                Thou sayest that oxen, asses, horses, and hounds,
286       They been assayed at diverse stoundes;
                They are tried out a number of times;
287       Bacyns, lavours, er that men hem bye,
                Basins, wash bowls, before men them buy,
288       Spoones and stooles, and al swich housbondrye,
                Spoons and stools, and all such household items,
289       And so been pottes, clothes, and array;
                And so are pots, clothes, and adornments;
290       But folk of wyves maken noon assay,
                But folk of wives make no trial,
291       Til they be wedded -- olde dotard shrewe! --
                Until they are wedded -- old doddering scoundrel! --
292       And thanne, seistow, we wol oure vices shewe.
                And then, sayest thou, we will show our vices.

293       Thou seist also that it displeseth me
                Thou sayest also that it displeases me
294       But if that thou wolt preyse my beautee,
                Unless thou will praise my beauty,
295       And but thou poure alwey upon my face,
                And unless thou peer always upon my face,
296       And clepe me "faire dame" in every place.
                And call me "dear lady" in every place.
297       And but thou make a feeste on thilke day
                And unless thou make a feast on that same day
298       That I was born, and make me fressh and gay;
                That I was born, and make me happy and gay;
299       And but thou do to my norice honour,
                And unless thou do honor to my nurse,
300       And to my chamberere withinne my bour,
                And to my chambermaid within my bedchamber,
301       And to my fadres folk and his allyes --
                And to my father's folk and his allies --
302       Thus seistow, olde barel-ful of lyes!
                Thus sayest thou, old barrelful of lies!

303       And yet of oure apprentice Janekyn,
                And yet of our apprentice Janekin,
304       For his crispe heer, shynynge as gold so fyn,
                Because of his curly hair, shining like gold so fine,
305       And for he squiereth me bothe up and doun,
                And because he familiarly attends me everywhere,
306       Yet hastow caught a fals suspecioun.
                Yet hast thou caught a false suspicion.
307       I wol hym noght, thogh thou were deed tomorwe!
                I do not want him, though thou were dead tomorrow!

308       But tel me this: why hydestow, with sorwe,
                But tell me this: why hidest thou, bad luck to you,
309       The keyes of thy cheste awey fro me?
                The keys of thy strongbox away from me?
310       It is my good as wel as thyn, pardee!
                It is my property as well as thine, by God!
311       What, wenestow make an ydiot of oure dame?
                What, think thou to make a fool of the lady of the house?
312       Now by that lord that called is Seint Jame,
                Now by that lord that is called Saint James,
313       Thou shalt nat bothe, thogh that thou were wood,
                Thou shalt not both, though thou were crazy with anger,
314       Be maister of my body and of my good;
                Be master of my body and of my property;
315       That oon thou shalt forgo, maugree thyne yen.
                One of them thou must give up, despite anything you can do.
316       What helpith it of me to enquere or spyen?
                What helps it to inquire about me or spy?
317       I trowe thou woldest loke me in thy chiste!
                I believe thou would lock me in thy strongbox!
318       Thou sholdest seye, "Wyf, go wher thee liste;
                Thou should say, "Wife, go where you please;
319       Taak youre disport; I wol nat leve no talys.
                Enjoy yourself; I will not believe any gossip.
320       I knowe yow for a trewe wyf, dame Alys."
                I know you for a true wife, dame Alys."
321       We love no man that taketh kep or charge
                We love no man who takes notice or concern about
322       Wher that we goon; we wol ben at oure large.
                Where we go; we will be free (to do as we wish).

323       Of alle men yblessed moot he be,
                Of all men blessed may he be,
324       The wise astrologien, Daun Ptholome,
                The wise astrologer, Dan Ptolemy,
325       That seith this proverbe in his Almageste:
                Who says this proverb in his Almagest:
326       "Of alle men his wysdom is the hyeste
                "Of all men his wisdom is the highest
327       That rekketh nevere who hath the world in honde."
                Who never cares who has the world in his control."
328       By this proverbe thou shalt understonde,
                By this proverb thou shalt understand,
329       Have thou ynogh, what thar thee recche or care
                If thou have enough, why should thou take note or care
330       How myrily that othere folkes fare?
                How merrily other folks fare?
331       For, certeyn, olde dotard, by youre leve,
                For, certainly, old senile fool, by your leave,
332       Ye shul have queynte right ynogh at eve.
                You shall have pudendum right enough at eve.
333       He is to greet a nygard that wolde werne
                He is too great a miser that would refuse
334       A man to lighte a candle at his lanterne;
                A man to light a candle at his lantern;
335       He shal have never the lasse light, pardee.
                He shall have never the less light, by God.
336       Have thou ynogh, thee thar nat pleyne thee.
                If thou have enough, thou need not complain.

337       Thou seyst also, that if we make us gay
                Thou sayest also, that if we make ourselves gay
338       With clothyng, and with precious array,
                With clothing, and with precious adornments,
339       That it is peril of oure chastitee;
                That it is dangerous to our chastity;
340       And yet -- with sorwe! -- thou most enforce thee,
                And yet -- bad luck to thee! -- thou must reinforce thy argument,
341       And seye thise wordes in the Apostles name:
                And say these words in the Apostle's name:
342       "In habit maad with chastitee and shame
                "In clothing made with chastity and shame
343       Ye wommen shul apparaille yow," quod he,
                You women shall apparel yourselves," he said,
344       "And noght in tressed heer and gay perree,
                "And not in carefully arranged hair and gay precious stones,
345       As perles, ne with gold, ne clothes riche."
                Such as pearls, nor with gold, nor rich cloth."
346       After thy text, ne after thy rubriche,
                In accordance with thy text, nor in accord with thy interpretation,
347       I wol nat wirche as muchel as a gnat.
                I will not do as much as a gnat.

348       Thou seydest this, that I was lyk a cat;
                Thou said this, that I was like a cat;
349       For whoso wolde senge a cattes skyn,
                For if anyone would singe a cat's skin,
350       Thanne wolde the cat wel dwellen in his in;
                Then would the cat well stay in his dwelling;
351       And if the cattes skyn be slyk and gay,
                And if the cat's skin be sleek and gay,
352       She wol nat dwelle in house half a day,
                She will not stay in house half a day,
353       But forth she wole, er any day be dawed,
                But forth she will (go), before any day be dawned,
354       To shewe hir skyn and goon a-caterwawed.
                To show her skin and go yowling like a cat in heat.
355       This is to seye, if I be gay, sire shrewe,
                This is to say, if I be well dressed, sir scoundrel,
356       I wol renne out my borel for to shewe.
                I will run out to show my poor clothes.

357       Sire olde fool, what helpeth thee to spyen?
                Sir old fool, what help is it for thee to spy?
358       Thogh thou preye Argus with his hundred yen
                Though thou pray Argus with his hundred eyes
359       To be my warde-cors, as he kan best,
                To be my bodyguard, as he best knows how,
360       In feith, he shal nat kepe me but me lest;
                In faith, he shall not keep me but as I please;
361       Yet koude I make his berd, so moot I thee!
                Yet could I deceive him, as I may prosper!

362       Thou seydest eek that ther been thynges thre,
                Thou said also that there are three things,
363       The whiche thynges troublen al this erthe,
                The which things trouble all this earth,
364       And that no wight may endure the ferthe.
                And that no one can endure the fourth.
365       O leeve sire shrewe, Jhesu shorte thy lyf!
                O dear sir scoundrel, Jesus shorten thy life!
366       Yet prechestow and seyst an hateful wyf
                Yet thou preachest and sayest a hateful wife
367       Yrekened is for oon of thise meschances.
                Is reckoned as one of these misfortunes.
368       Been ther none othere maner resemblances
                Are there no other sorts of comparisons
369       That ye may likne youre parables to,
                That you can use in your sayings,
370       But if a sely wyf be oon of tho?
                Without a poor wife's being one of them?

371       Thou liknest eek wommenes love to helle,
                Thou also compare women's love to hell,
372       To bareyne lond, ther water may nat dwelle.
                To barren land, where water may not remain.
373       Thou liknest it also to wilde fyr;
                Thou compare it also to Greek (inextinguishable) fire;
374       The moore it brenneth, the moore it hath desir
                The more it burns, the more it has desire
375       To consume every thyng that brent wole be.
                To consume every thing that will be burned.
376       Thou seyest, right as wormes shende a tree,
                Thou sayest, just as worms destroy a tree,
377       Right so a wyf destroyeth hire housbonde;
                Right so a wife destroys her husband;
378       This knowe they that been to wyves bonde.'
                This know they who are bound to wives.'

379       Lordynges, right thus, as ye have understonde,
                Gentlemen, right thus, as you have heard,
380       Baar I stifly myne olde housbondes on honde
                I firmly swore to my old husbands
381       That thus they seyden in hir dronkenesse;
                That thus they said in their drunkenness;
382       And al was fals, but that I took witnesse
                And all was false, but I took witness
383       On Janekyn, and on my nece also.
                On Janekin, and on my niece also.
384       O Lord! The peyne I dide hem and the wo,
                O Lord! The pain I did them and the woe,
385       Ful giltelees, by Goddes sweete pyne!
                Entirely guiltless (they were), by God's sweet pain!
386       For as an hors I koude byte and whyne.
                For like a horse I could bite and whinny.
387       I koude pleyne, and yit was in the gilt,
                I could complain, and yet was in the wrong,
388       Or elles often tyme hadde I been spilt.
                Or else many times had I been ruined.
389       Whoso that first to mille comth, first grynt;
                Whoever first comes to the mill, first grinds;
390       I pleyned first, so was oure werre ystynt.
                I complained first, so was our war ended.
391       They were ful glade to excuse hem blyve
                They were very glad to excuse themselves quickly
392       Of thyng of which they nevere agilte hir lyve.
                Of things of which they were never guilty in their lives.
393       Of wenches wolde I beren hem on honde,
                Of wenches would I falsely accuse them,
394       Whan that for syk unnethes myghte they stonde.
                When for sickness they could hardly stand.

395       Yet tikled I his herte, for that he
                Yet I tickled his heart, for he
396       Wende that I hadde of hym so greet chiertee!
                Believed that I had of him so great affection!
397       I swoor that al my walkynge out by nyghte
                I swore that all my walking out by night
398       Was for t' espye wenches that he dighte;
                Was to spy out wenches with whom he had intercourse;
399       Under that colour hadde I many a myrthe.
                Under that pretense I had many a mirth.
400       For al swich wit is yeven us in oure byrthe;
                For all such wit is given us in our birth;
401       Deceite, wepyng, spynnyng God hath yive
                Deceit, weeping, spinning God has given
402       To wommen kyndely, whil that they may lyve.
                To women naturally, while they may live.
403       And thus of o thyng I avaunte me:
                And thus of one thing I boast:
404       Atte ende I hadde the bettre in ech degree,
                At the end I had the better in every way,
405       By sleighte, or force, or by som maner thyng,
                By trickery, or force, or by some such thing,
406       As by continueel murmur or grucchyng.
                As by continual grumbling or grouching.
407       Namely abedde hadden they meschaunce:
                Especially in bed they had misfortune:
408       Ther wolde I chide and do hem no plesaunce;
                There would I scold and do them no pleasure;
409       I wolde no lenger in the bed abyde,
                I would no longer in the bed abide,
410       If that I felte his arm over my syde,
                If I felt his arm over my side,
411       Til he had maad his raunson unto me;
                Until he had paid his penalty to me;
412       Thanne wolde I suffre hym do his nycetee.
                Then would I allow him to do his foolishness.
413       And therfore every man this tale I telle,
                And therefore this tale I tell to every man,
414       Wynne whoso may, for al is for to selle;
                Anyone can profit, for everything is for sale;
415       With empty hand men may none haukes lure.
                One can lure no hawks with an empty hand.
416       For wynnyng wolde I al his lust endure,
                For profit I would endure all his lust,
417       And make me a feyned appetit;
                And make me a feigned appetite;
418       And yet in bacon hadde I nevere delit.
                And yet in bacon (old meat) I never had delight.
419       That made me that evere I wolde hem chide,
                That made me so that I would always scold them,
420       For thogh the pope hadde seten hem biside,
                For though the pope had sat beside them,
421       I wolde nat spare hem at hir owene bord,
                I would not spare them at their own table,
422       For, by my trouthe, I quitte hem word for word.
                For, by my troth, I paid them back word for word.
423       As helpe me verray God omnipotent,
                As help me true God omnipotent,
424       Though I right now sholde make my testament,
                Though I right now should make my will,
425       I ne owe hem nat a word that it nys quit.
                I owe them not one word that has not been avenged.
426       I broghte it so aboute by my wit
                I brought it so about by my wit
427       That they moste yeve it up, as for the beste,
                That they had to give it up, as the best they could do,
428       Or elles hadde we nevere been in reste;
                Or else had we never been at peace;
429       For thogh he looked as a wood leon,
                For though he looked like a furious lion,
430       Yet sholde he faille of his conclusion.
                Yet should he fail to attain his goal.

431       Thanne wolde I seye, `Goode lief, taak keep
                Then I would say, `Sweetheart, see
432       How mekely looketh Wilkyn, oure sheep!
                How meekly looks Willy, our sheep!
433       Com neer, my spouse, lat me ba thy cheke!
                Come near, my spouse, let me kiss thy cheek!
434       Ye sholde been al pacient and meke,
                You should be all patient and meek,
435       And han a sweete spiced conscience,
                And have a sweet tender disposition,
436       Sith ye so preche of Jobes pacience.
                Since you so preach of Job's patience.
437       Suffreth alwey, syn ye so wel kan preche;
                Suffer always, since you so well can preach;
438       And but ye do, certein we shal yow teche
                And unless you do, certainly we shall teach you
439       That it is fair to have a wyf in pees.
                That it is fair to have a wife in peace.
440       Oon of us two moste bowen, doutelees,
                One of us two must bow, doubtless,
441       And sith a man is moore resonable
                And since a man is more reasonable
442       Than womman is, ye moste been suffrable.
                Than a woman is, you must be able to bear suffering.
443       What eyleth yow to grucche thus and grone?
                What ails you to grouch thus and groan?
444       Is it for ye wolde have my queynte allone?
                Is it because you want to have my pudendum all to yourself?
445       Wy, taak it al! Lo, have it every deel!
                Why, take it all! Lo, have it every bit!
446       Peter! I shrewe yow, but ye love it weel;
                By Saint Peter! I would curse you, if you did not love it well;
447       For if I wolde selle my bele chose,
                For if I would sell my `pretty thing,'
448       I koude walke as fressh as is a rose;
                I could walk as fresh (newly clothed) as is a rose;
449       But I wol kepe it for youre owene tooth.
                But I will keep it for your own pleasure.
450       Ye be to blame, by God! I sey yow sooth.'
                You are to blame, by God! I tell you the truth.'

451       Swiche manere wordes hadde we on honde.
                Such sorts of words we had in hand.
452       Now wol I speken of my fourthe housbonde.
                Now will I speak of my fourth husband.

453       My fourthe housbonde was a revelour --
                My fourth husband was a reveller --
454       This is to seyn, he hadde a paramour --
                This is to say, he had a mistress --
455       And I was yong and ful of ragerye,
                And I was young and full of playfulness,
456       Stibourn and strong, and joly as a pye.
                Stubborn and strong, and jolly as a magpie.
457       How koude I daunce to an harpe smale,
                How well I could dance to a small harp,
458       And synge, ywis, as any nyghtyngale,
                And sing, indeed, like any nightingale,
459       Whan I had dronke a draughte of sweete wyn!
                When I had drunk a draft of sweet wine!
460       Metellius, the foule cherl, the swyn,
                Metellius, the foul churl, the swine,
461       That with a staf birafte his wyf hir lyf,
                Who with a staff deprived his wife of her life,
462       For she drank wyn, thogh I hadde been his wyf,
                Because she drank wine, if I had been his wife,
463       He sholde nat han daunted me fro drynke!
                He should not have frightened me away from drink!
464       And after wyn on Venus moste I thynke,
                And after wine on Venus must I think,
465       For al so siker as cold engendreth hayl,
                For as surely as cold engenders hail,
466       A likerous mouth moste han a likerous tayl.
                A gluttonous mouth must have a lecherous tail.
467       In wommen vinolent is no defence --
                In drunken women there is no defense --
468       This knowen lecchours by experience.
                This lechers know by experience.

469       But -- Lord Crist! -- whan that it remembreth me
                But -- Lord Christ! -- when I remember
470       Upon my yowthe, and on my jolitee,
                My youth, and my gaiety,
471       It tikleth me aboute myn herte roote.
                It tickles me to the bottom of my heart.
472       Unto this day it dooth myn herte boote
                Unto this day it does my heart good
473       That I have had my world as in my tyme.
                That I have had my world in my time.
474       But age, allas, that al wole envenyme,
                But age, alas, that all will poison,
475       Hath me biraft my beautee and my pith.
                Has deprived me of my beauty and my vigor.
476       Lat go. Farewel! The devel go therwith!
                Let it go. Farewell! The devil go with it!
477       The flour is goon; ther is namoore to telle;
                The flour is gone; there is no more to tell;
478       The bren, as I best kan, now moste I selle;
                The bran, as I best can, now I must sell;
479       But yet to be right myrie wol I fonde.
                But yet I will try to be right merry.
480       Now wol I tellen of my fourthe housbonde.
                Now will I tell of my fourth husband.

481       I seye, I hadde in herte greet despit
                I say, I had in heart great anger
482       That he of any oother had delit.
                That he had delight in any other.
483       But he was quit, by God and by Seint Joce!
                But he was paid back, by God and by Saint Joce!
484       I made hym of the same wode a croce;
                I made him a cross of the same wood;
485       Nat of my body, in no foul manere,
                Not of my body, in no foul manner,
486       But certeinly, I made folk swich cheere
                But certainly, I treated folk in such a way
487       That in his owene grece I made hym frye
                That I made him fry in his own grease
488       For angre, and for verray jalousye.
                For anger, and for pure jealousy.
489       By God, in erthe I was his purgatorie,
                By God, in earth I was his purgatory,
490       For which I hope his soule be in glorie.
                For which I hope his soul may be in glory.
491       For, God it woot, he sat ful ofte and song,
                For, God knows it, he sat very often and cried out in pain,
492       Whan that his shoo ful bitterly hym wrong.
                When his shoe very bitterly pinched him.
493       Ther was no wight, save God and he, that wiste,
                There was no person who knew it, save God and he,
494       In many wise, how soore I hym twiste.
                In many a way, how painfully I tortured him.
495       He deyde whan I cam fro Jerusalem,
                He died when I came from Jerusalem,
496       And lith ygrave under the roode beem,
                And lies buried under the rood beam,
497       Al is his tombe noght so curyus
                Although his tomb is not so elaborate
498       As was the sepulcre of hym Daryus,
                As was the sepulcher of that Darius,
499       Which that Appelles wroghte subtilly;
                Which Appelles wrought skillfully;
500       It nys but wast to burye hym preciously.
                It is nothing but waste to bury him expensively.
501       Lat hym fare wel; God yeve his soule reste!
                Let him fare well; God give his soul rest!
502       He is now in his grave and in his cheste.
                He is now in his grave and in his casket.

503       Now of my fifthe housbonde wol I telle.
                Now of my fifth husband I will tell.
504       God lete his soule nevere come in helle!
                God let his soul never come in hell!
505       And yet was he to me the mooste shrewe;
                And yet he was to me the greatest scoundrel;
506       That feele I on my ribbes al by rewe,
                That feel I on my ribs one after another,
507       And evere shal unto myn endyng day.
                And ever shall unto my final day.
508       But in oure bed he was so fressh and gay,
                But in our bed he was so lively and gay,
509       And therwithal so wel koude he me glose,
                And moreover he so well could deceive me,
510       Whan that he wolde han my bele chose;
                When he would have my `pretty thing';
511       That thogh he hadde me bete on every bon,
                That though he had beat me on every bone,
512       He koude wynne agayn my love anon.
                He could win back my love straightway.
513       I trowe I loved hym best, for that he
                I believe I loved him best, because he
514       Was of his love daungerous to me.
                Was of his love standoffish to me.
515       We wommen han, if that I shal nat lye,
                We women have, if I shall not lie,
516       In this matere a queynte fantasye:
                In this matter a curious fantasy:
517       Wayte what thyng we may nat lightly have,
                Note that whatever thing we may not easily have,
518       Therafter wol we crie al day and crave.
                We will cry all day and crave for it.
519       Forbede us thyng, and that desiren we;
                Forbid us a thing, and we desire it;
520       Preesse on us faste, and thanne wol we fle.
                Press on us fast, and then will we flee.
521       With daunger oute we al oure chaffare;
                With niggardliness we spread out all our merchandise;
522       Greet prees at market maketh deere ware,
                A great crowd at the market makes wares expensive,
523       And to greet cheep is holde at litel prys:
                And too great a supply makes them of little value:
524       This knoweth every womman that is wys.
                Every woman that is wise knows this.

525       My fifthe housbonde -- God his soule blesse! --
                My fifth husband -- God bless his soul! --
526       Which that I took for love, and no richesse,
                Whom I took for love, and no riches,
527       He som tyme was a clerk of Oxenford,
                He was formerly a clerk of Oxford,
528       And hadde left scole, and wente at hom to bord
                And had left school, and came home to board
529       With my gossib, dwellynge in oure toun;
                With my close friend, dwelling in our town;
530       God have hir soule! Hir name was Alisoun.
                God have her soul! Her name was Alisoun.
531       She knew myn herte, and eek my privetee,
                She knew my heart, and also my secrets,
532       Bet than oure parisshe preest, so moot I thee!
                Better than our parish priest, as I may prosper!
533       To hire biwreyed I my conseil al.
                To her I revealed all my secrets.
534       For hadde myn housbonde pissed on a wal,
                For had my husband pissed on a wall,
535       Or doon a thyng that sholde han cost his lyf,
                Or done a thing that should have cost his life,
536       To hire, and to another worthy wyf,
                To her, and to another worthy wife,
537       And to my nece, which that I loved weel,
                And to my niece, whom I loved well,
538       I wolde han toold his conseil every deel.
                I would have told every one of his secrets.
539       And so I dide ful often, God it woot,
                And so I did very often, God knows it,
540       That made his face often reed and hoot
                That made his face often red and hot
541       For verray shame, and blamed hymself for he
                For true shame, and blamed himself because he
542       Had toold to me so greet a pryvetee.
                Had told to me so great a secret.

543       And so bifel that ones in a Lente --
                And so it happened that once in a Springtime --
544       So often tymes I to my gossyb wente,
                Since frequently I went to visit my close friend,
545       For evere yet I loved to be gay,
                For I always loved to be gay,
546       And for to walke in March, Averill, and May,
                And to walk in March, April, and May,
547       Fro hous to hous, to heere sondry talys --
                From house to house, to hear various bits of gossip --
548       That Jankyn clerk, and my gossyb dame Alys,
                That Jankin the clerk, and my close friend dame Alys,
549       And I myself, into the feeldes wente.
                And I myself, into the fields went.
550       Myn housbonde was at Londoun al that Lente;
                My husband was at London all that Spring;
551       I hadde the bettre leyser for to pleye,
                I had the better opportunity to amuse myself,
552       And for to se, and eek for to be seye
                And to see, and also to be seen
553       Of lusty folk. What wiste I wher my grace
                By amorous folk. What did I know about where my good fortune
554       Was shapen for to be, or in what place?
                Was destined to be, or in what place?
555       Therfore I made my visitaciouns
                Therefore I made my visitations
556       To vigilies and to processiouns,
                To religious feasts and to processions,
557       To prechyng eek, and to thise pilgrimages,
                To preaching also, and to these pilgrimages,
558       To pleyes of myracles, and to mariages,
                To plays about miracles, and to marriages,
559       And wered upon my gaye scarlet gytes.
                And wore my gay scarlet robes.
560       Thise wormes, ne thise motthes, ne thise mytes,
                These worms, nor these moths, nor these mites,
561       Upon my peril, frete hem never a deel;
                Upon my peril (I swear), chewed on them never a bit;
562       And wostow why? For they were used weel.
                And know thou why? Because they were well used.

563       Now wol I tellen forth what happed me.
                Now will I tell forth what happened to me.
564       I seye that in the feeldes walked we,
                I say that in the fields we walked,
565       Til trewely we hadde swich daliance,
                Until truly we had such flirtation,
566       This clerk and I, that of my purveiance
                This clerk and I, that for my provision for the future
567       I spak to hym and seyde hym how that he,
                I spoke to him and said to him how he,
568       If I were wydwe, sholde wedde me.
                If I were a widow, should wed me.
569       For certeinly -- I sey for no bobance --
                For certainly -- I say this for no boast --
570       Yet was I nevere withouten purveiance
                I was never yet without providing beforehand
571       Of mariage, n' of othere thynges eek.
                For marriage, nor for other things also.
572       I holde a mouses herte nat worth a leek
                I hold a mouse's heart not worth a leek
573       That hath but oon hole for to sterte to,
                That has but one hole to flee to,
574       And if that faille, thanne is al ydo.
                If that should fail, then all is lost.

575       I bar hym on honde he hadde enchanted me --
                I falsely swore that he had enchanted me --
576       My dame taughte me that soutiltee --
                My mother taught me that trick --
577       And eek I seyde I mette of hym al nyght,
                And also I said I dreamed of him all night,
578       He wolde han slayn me as I lay upright,
                He would have slain me as I lay on my back,
579       And al my bed was ful of verray blood;
                And all my bed was full of real blood;
580       `But yet I hope that ye shal do me good,
                `But yet I hope that you shall do me good,
581       For blood bitokeneth gold, as me was taught.'
                For blood symbolizes gold, as I was taught.'
582       And al was fals; I dremed of it right naught,
                And all was false; I dreamed of it not at all,
583       But as I folwed ay my dames loore,
                But I followed always my mother's teaching,
584       As wel of this as of othere thynges moore.
                As well in this as in other things more.

585       But now, sire, lat me se what I shal seyn.
                But now, sir, let me see what I shall say.
586       A ha! By God, I have my tale ageyn.
                A ha! By God, I have my tale again.

587       Whan that my fourthe housbonde was on beere,
                When my fourth husband was on the funeral bier,
588       I weep algate, and made sory cheere,
                I wept continuously, and acted sorry,
589       As wyves mooten, for it is usage,
                As wives must do, for it is the custom,
590       And with my coverchief covered my visage,
                And with my kerchief covered my face,
591       But for that I was purveyed of a make,
                But because I was provided with a mate,
592       I wepte but smal, and that I undertake.
                I wept but little, and that I affirm.

593       To chirche was myn housbonde born a-morwe
                To church was my husband carried in the morning
594       With neighebores, that for hym maden sorwe;
                By neighbors, who for him made sorrow;
595       And Jankyn, oure clerk, was oon of tho.
                And Jankin, our clerk, was one of those.
596       As help me God, whan that I saugh hym go
                As help me God, when I saw him go
597       After the beere, me thoughte he hadde a paire
                After the bier, I thought he had a pair
598       Of legges and of feet so clene and faire
                Of legs and of feet so neat and fair
599       That al myn herte I yaf unto his hoold.
                That all my heart I gave unto his keeping.
600       He was, I trowe, twenty wynter oold,
                He was, I believe, twenty years old,
601       And I was fourty, if I shal seye sooth;
                And I was forty, if I shall tell the truth;
602       But yet I hadde alwey a coltes tooth.
                But yet I had always a colt's tooth.
603       Gat-tothed I was, and that bicam me weel;
                With teeth set wide apart I was, and that became me well;
604       I hadde the prente of seinte Venus seel.
                I had the print of Saint Venus's seal.
605       As help me God, I was a lusty oon,
                As help me God, I was a lusty one,
606       And faire, and riche, and yong, and wel bigon,
                And fair, and rich, and young, and well fixed,
607       And trewely, as myne housbondes tolde me,
                And truly, as my husbands told me,
608       I hadde the beste quoniam myghte be.
                I had the best pudendum that might be.
609       For certes, I am al Venerien
                For certainly, I am all influenced by Venus
610       In feelynge, and myn herte is Marcien.
                In feeling, and my heart is influenced by Mars.
611       Venus me yaf my lust, my likerousnesse,
                Venus me gave my lust, my amorousness,
612       And Mars yaf me my sturdy hardynesse;
                And Mars gave me my sturdy boldness;
613       Myn ascendent was Taur, and Mars therinne.
                My ascendant was Taurus, and Mars was therein.
614       Allas, allas! That evere love was synne!
                Alas, alas! That ever love was sin!
615       I folwed ay myn inclinacioun
                I followed always my inclination
616       By vertu of my constellacioun;
                By virtue of the state of the heavens at my birth;
617       That made me I koude noght withdrawe
                That made me that I could not withdraw
618       My chambre of Venus from a good felawe.
                My chamber of Venus from a good fellow.
619       Yet have I Martes mark upon my face,
                Yet have I Mars' mark upon my face,
620       And also in another privee place.
                And also in another private place.
621       For God so wys be my savacioun,
                For as God may be my salvation,
622       I ne loved nevere by no discrecioun,
                I never loved in moderation,
623       But evere folwede myn appetit,
                But always followed my appetite,
624       Al were he short, or long, or blak, or whit;
                Whether he were short, or tall, or black-haired, or blond;
625       I took no kep, so that he liked me,
                I took no notice, provided that he pleased me,
626       How poore he was, ne eek of what degree.
                How poor he was, nor also of what rank.

627       What sholde I seye but, at the monthes ende,
                What should I say but, at the month's end,
628       This joly clerk, Jankyn, that was so hende,
                This jolly clerk, Jankin, that was so courteous,
629       Hath wedded me with greet solempnytee,
                Has wedded me with great solemnity,
630       And to hym yaf I al the lond and fee
                And to him I gave all the land and property
631       That evere was me yeven therbifoore.
                That ever was given to me before then.
632       But afterward repented me ful soore;
                But afterward I repented very bitterly;
633       He nolde suffre nothyng of my list.
                He would not allow me anything of my desires.
634       By God, he smoot me ones on the lyst,
                By God, he hit me once on the ear,
635       For that I rente out of his book a leef,
                Because I tore a leaf out of his book,
636       That of the strook myn ere wax al deef.
                So that of the stroke my ear became all deaf.
637       Stibourn I was as is a leonesse,
                I was as stubborn as is a lioness,
638       And of my tonge a verray jangleresse,
                And of my tongue a true chatterbox,
639       And walke I wolde, as I had doon biforn,
                And I would walk, as I had done before,
640       From hous to hous, although he had it sworn;
                From house to house, although he had sworn the contrary;
641       For which he often tymes wolde preche,
                For which he often times would preach,
642       And me of olde Romayn geestes teche;
                And teach me of old Roman stories;
643       How he Symplicius Gallus lefte his wyf,
                How he, Simplicius Gallus, left his wife,
644       And hire forsook for terme of al his lyf,
                And forsook her for rest of all his life,
645       Noght but for open-heveded he hir say
                Because of nothing but because he saw her bare-headed
646       Lookynge out at his dore upon a day.
                Looking out at his door one day.

647       Another Romayn tolde he me by name,
                Another Roman he told me by name,
648       That, for his wyf was at a someres game
                Who, because his wife was at a midsummer revel
649       Withouten his wityng, he forsook hire eke.
                Without his knowledge, he forsook her also.
650       And thanne wolde he upon his Bible seke
                And then he would seek in his Bible
651       That ilke proverbe of Ecclesiaste
                That same proverb of Ecclesiasticus
652       Where he comandeth and forbedeth faste
                Where he commands and strictly forbids that
653       Man shal nat suffre his wyf go roule aboute.
                Man should suffer his wife go wander about.
654       Thanne wolde he seye right thus, withouten doute:
                Then would he say right thus, without doubt:

655       `Whoso that buyldeth his hous al of salwes,
                `Whoever builds his house all of willow twigs,
656       And priketh his blynde hors over the falwes,
                And spurs his blind horse over the open fields,
657       And suffreth his wyf to go seken halwes,
                And suffers his wife to go on pilgrimages,
658       Is worthy to been hanged on the galwes!'
                Is worthy to be hanged on the gallows!'
659       But al for noght, I sette noght an hawe
                But all for nothing, I gave not a hawthorn berry
660       Of his proverbes n' of his olde sawe,
                For his proverbs nor for his old sayings,
661       Ne I wolde nat of hym corrected be.
                Nor would I be corrected by him.
662       I hate hym that my vices telleth me,
                I hate him who tells me my vices,
663       And so doo mo, God woot, of us than I.
                And so do more of us, God knows, than I.
664       This made hym with me wood al outrely;
                This made him all utterly furious with me;
665       I nolde noght forbere hym in no cas.
                I would not put up with him in any way.

666       Now wol I seye yow sooth, by Seint Thomas,
                Now will I tell you the truth, by Saint Thomas,
667       Why that I rente out of his book a leef,
                Why I tore a leaf out of his book,
668       For which he smoot me so that I was deef.
                For which he hit me so hard that I was deaf.

669       He hadde a book that gladly, nyght and day,
                He had a book that regularly, night and day,
670       For his desport he wolde rede alway;
                For his amusement he would always read;
671       He cleped it Valerie and Theofraste,
                He called it Valerie and Theofrastus,
672       At which book he lough alwey ful faste.
                At which book he always heartily laughed.
673       And eek ther was somtyme a clerk at Rome,
                And also there was once a clerk at Rome,
674       A cardinal, that highte Seint Jerome,
                A cardinal, who is called Saint Jerome,
675       That made a book agayn Jovinian;
                That made a book against Jovinian;
676       In which book eek ther was Tertulan,
                In which book also there was Tertullian,
677       Crisippus, Trotula, and Helowys,
                Crisippus, Trotula, and Heloise,
678       That was abbesse nat fer fro Parys,
                Who was abbess not far from Paris,
679       And eek the Parables of Salomon,
                And also the Parables of Salomon,
680       Ovides Art, and bookes many on,
                Ovid's Art, and many other books,
681       And alle thise were bounden in o volume.
                And all these were bound in one volume.
682       And every nyght and day was his custume,
                And every night and day was his custom,
683       Whan he hadde leyser and vacacioun
                When he had leisure and spare time
684       From oother worldly occupacioun,
                From other worldly occupations,
685       To reden on this book of wikked wyves.
                To read in this book of wicked wives.
686       He knew of hem mo legendes and lyves
                He knew of them more legends and lives
687       Than been of goode wyves in the Bible.
                Than are of good women in the Bible.
688       For trusteth wel, it is an impossible
                For trust well, it is an impossibility
689       That any clerk wol speke good of wyves,
                That any clerk will speak good of women,
690       But if it be of hooly seintes lyves,
                Unless it be of holy saints' lives,
691       Ne of noon oother womman never the mo.
                Nor of any other woman in any way.
692       Who peyntede the leon, tel me who?
                Who painted the lion, tell me who?
693       By God, if wommen hadde writen stories,
                By God, if women had written stories,
694       As clerkes han withinne hire oratories,
                As clerks have within their studies,
695       They wolde han writen of men moore wikkednesse
                They would have written of men more wickedness
696       Than al the mark of Adam may redresse.
                Than all the male sex could set right.
697       The children of Mercurie and of Venus
                The children of Mercury (clerks) and of Venus (lovers)
698       Been in hir wirkyng ful contrarius;
                Are directly contrary in their actions;
699       Mercurie loveth wysdam and science,
                Mercury loves wisdom and knowledge,
700       And Venus loveth ryot and dispence.
                And Venus loves riot and extravagant expenditures.
701       And, for hire diverse disposicioun,
                And, because of their diverse dispositions,
702       Ech falleth in otheres exaltacioun.
                Each falls in the other's most powerful astronomical sign.
703       And thus, God woot, Mercurie is desolat
                And thus, God knows, Mercury is powerless
704       In Pisces, wher Venus is exaltat,
                In Pisces (the Fish), where Venus is exalted,
705       And Venus falleth ther Mercurie is reysed.
                And Venus falls where Mercury is raised.
706       Therfore no womman of no clerk is preysed.
                Therefore no woman is praised by any clerk.
707       The clerk, whan he is oold, and may noght do
                The clerk, when he is old, and can not do
708       Of Venus werkes worth his olde sho,
                Any of Venus's works worth his old shoe,
709       Thanne sit he doun, and writ in his dotage
                Then he sits down, and writes in his dotage
710       That wommen kan nat kepe hir mariage!
                That women can not keep their marriage!

711       But now to purpos, why I tolde thee
                But now to the point, why I told thee
712       That I was beten for a book, pardee!
                That I was beaten for a book, by God!
713       Upon a nyght Jankyn, that was oure sire,
                Upon a night Jankin, that was master of our house,
714       Redde on his book, as he sat by the fire,
                Read on his book, as he sat by the fire,
715       Of Eva first, that for hir wikkednesse
                Of Eve first, how for her wickedness
716       Was al mankynde broght to wrecchednesse,
                All mankind was brought to wretchedness,
717       For which that Jhesu Crist hymself was slayn,
                For which Jesus Christ himself was slain,
718       That boghte us with his herte blood agayn.
                Who bought us back with his heart's blood.
719       Lo, heere expres of womman may ye fynde
                Lo, here clearly of woman you may find
720       That womman was the los of al mankynde.
                That woman was the cause of the loss of all mankind.

721       Tho redde he me how Sampson loste his heres:
                Then he read me how Sampson lost his hair:
722       Slepynge, his lemman kitte it with hir sheres;
                Sleeping, his lover cut it with her shears;
723       Thurgh which treson loste he bothe his yen.
                Through which treason he lost both his eyes.
724       Tho redde he me, if that I shal nat lyen,
                Then he read to me, if I shall not lie,
725       Of Hercules and of his Dianyre,
                Of Hercules and of his Dianyre,
726       That caused hym to sette hymself afyre.
                Who caused him to set himself on fire.

727       No thyng forgat he the care and the wo
                He forgot not a bit of the care and the woe
728       That Socrates hadde with his wyves two,
                That Socrates had with his two wives,
729       How Xantippa caste pisse upon his heed.
                How Xantippa caste piss upon his head.
730       This sely man sat stille as he were deed;
                This poor man sat still as if he were dead;
731       He wiped his heed, namoore dorste he seyn,
                He wiped his head, no more dared he say,
732       But `Er that thonder stynte, comth a reyn!'
                But `Before thunder stops, there comes a rain!'

733       Of Phasipha, that was the queene of Crete,
                Of Phasipha, that was the queen of Crete,
734       For shrewednesse, hym thoughte the tale swete;
                For sheer malignancy, he thought the tale sweet;
735       Fy! Spek namoore -- it is a grisly thyng --
                Fie! Speak no more -- it is a grisly thing --
736       Of hire horrible lust and hir likyng.
                Of her horrible lust and her pleasure.

737       Of Clitermystra, for hire lecherye,
                Of Clitermystra, for her lechery,
738       That falsly made hire housbonde for to dye,
                That falsely made her husband to die,
739       He redde it with ful good devocioun.
                He read it with very good devotion.

740       He tolde me eek for what occasioun
                He told me also for what occasion
741       Amphiorax at Thebes loste his lyf.
                Amphiorax at Thebes lost his life.
742       Myn housbonde hadde a legende of his wyf,
                My husband had a legend of his wife,
743       Eriphilem, that for an ouche of gold
                Eriphilem, that for a brooch of gold
744       Hath prively unto the Grekes told
                Has secretly unto the Greeks told
745       Wher that hir housbonde hidde hym in a place,
                Where her husband hid him in a place,
746       For which he hadde at Thebes sory grace.
                For which he had at Thebes a sad fate.

747       Of Lyvia tolde he me, and of Lucye:
                Of Livia told he me, and of Lucie:
748       They bothe made hir housbondes for to dye,
                They both made their husbands to die,
749       That oon for love, that oother was for hate.
                That one for love, that other was for hate.
750       Lyvia hir housbonde, on an even late,
                Livia her husband, on a late evening,
751       Empoysoned hath, for that she was his fo;
                Has poisoned, because she was his foe;
752       Lucia, likerous, loved hire housbonde so
                Lucia, lecherous, loved her husband so much
753       That, for he sholde alwey upon hire thynke,
                That, so that he should always think upon her,
754       She yaf hym swich a manere love-drynke
                She gave him such a sort of love-drink
755       That he was deed er it were by the morwe;
                That he was dead before it was morning;
756       And thus algates housbondes han sorwe.
                And thus always husbands have sorrow.

757       Thanne tolde he me how oon Latumyus
                Then he told me how one Latumius
758       Compleyned unto his felawe Arrius
                Complained unto his fellow Arrius
759       That in his gardyn growed swich a tree
                That in his garden grew such a tree
760       On which he seyde how that his wyves thre
                On which he said how his three wives
761       Hanged hemself for herte despitus.
                Hanged themselves for the malice of their hearts
762       `O leeve brother,' quod this Arrius,
                `O dear brother,' this Arrius said,
763       `Yif me a plante of thilke blissed tree,
                `Give me a shoot of that same blessed tree,
764       And in my gardyn planted shal it bee.'
                And in my garden shall it be planted.'

765       Of latter date, of wyves hath he red
                Of latter date, of wives has he read
766       That somme han slayn hir housbondes in hir bed,
                That some have slain their husbands in their bed,
767       And lete hir lecchour dighte hire al the nyght,
                And let her lecher copulate with her all the night,
768       Whan that the corps lay in the floor upright.
                When the corpse lay in the floor flat on its back.
769       And somme han dryve nayles in hir brayn,
                And some have driven nails in their brains,
770       Whil that they slepte, and thus they had hem slayn.
                While they slept, and thus they had them slain.
771       Somme han hem yeve poysoun in hire drynke.
                Some have given them poison in their drink.
772       He spak moore harm than herte may bithynke,
                He spoke more harm than heart may imagine,
773       And therwithal he knew of mo proverbes
                And concerning this he knew of more proverbs
774       Than in this world ther growen gras or herbes.
                Than in this world there grow grass or herbs.
775       `Bet is,' quod he, `thyn habitacioun
                `Better is,' he said, `thy habitation
776       Be with a leon or a foul dragoun,
                Be with a lion or a foul dragon,
777       Than with a womman usynge for to chyde.
                Than with a woman accustomed to scold.
778       Bet is,' quod he, `hye in the roof abyde,
                Better is,' he said, `to stay high in the roof,
779       Than with an angry wyf doun in the hous;
                Than with an angry wife down in the house;
780       They been so wikked and contrarious,
                They are so wicked and contrary,
781       They haten that hir housbondes loven ay.'
                They always hate what their husbands love.'
782       He seyde, `A womman cast hir shame away,
                He said, `A woman casts their shame away,
783       Whan she cast of hir smok'; and forthermo,
                When she casts off her undergarment'; and furthermore,
784       `A fair womman, but she be chaast also,
                `A fair woman, unless she is also chaste,
785       Is lyk a gold ryng in a sowes nose.'
                Is like a gold ring in a sow's nose.'
786       Who wolde wene, or who wolde suppose,
                Who would believe, or who would suppose,
787       The wo that in myn herte was, and pyne?
                The woe that in my heart was, and pain?

788       And whan I saugh he wolde nevere fyne
                And when I saw he would never cease
789       To reden on this cursed book al nyght,
                Reading on this cursed book all night,
790       Al sodeynly thre leves have I plyght
                All suddenly have I plucked three leaves
791       Out of his book, right as he radde, and eke
                Out of his book, right as he read, and also
792       I with my fest so took hym on the cheke
                I with my fist so hit him on the cheek
793       That in oure fyr he fil bakward adoun.
                That in our fire he fell down backwards.
794       And he up stirte as dooth a wood leoun,
                And he leaped up as does a furious lion,
795       And with his fest he smoot me on the heed
                And with his fist he hit me on the head
796       That in the floor I lay as I were deed.
                That on the floor I lay as if I were dead.
797       And whan he saugh how stille that I lay,
                And when he saw how still I lay,
798       He was agast and wolde han fled his way,
                He was frightened and would have fled on his way,
799       Til atte laste out of my swogh I breyde.
                Until at the last out of my swoon I awoke.
800       `O! hastow slayn me, false theef?' I seyde,
                `O! hast thou slain me, false thief?' I said,
801       `And for my land thus hastow mordred me?
                `And for my land thus hast thou murdered me?
802       Er I be deed, yet wol I kisse thee.'
                Before I am dead, yet will I kiss thee.'

803       And neer he cam, and kneled faire adoun,
                And near he came, and kneeled gently down,
804       And seyde, `Deere suster Alisoun,
                And said, `Dear sister Alisoun,
805       As help me God, I shal thee nevere smyte!
                So help me God, I shall never (again) smite thee!
806       That I have doon, it is thyself to wyte.
                What I have done, it is thyself to blame (you drove me to it).
807       Foryeve it me, and that I thee biseke!'
                Forgive it me, and that I beseech thee!'
808       And yet eftsoones I hitte hym on the cheke,
                And yet immediately I hit him on the cheek,
809       And seyde, `Theef, thus muchel am I wreke;
                And said, `Thief, thus much am I avenged;
810       Now wol I dye, I may no lenger speke.'
                Now will I die, I may no longer speak.'
811       But atte laste, with muchel care and wo,
                But at the last, with much care and woe,
812       We fille acorded by us selven two.
                We made an agreement between our two selves.
813       He yaf me al the bridel in myn hond,
                He gave me all the control in my hand,
814       To han the governance of hous and lond,
                To have the governance of house and land,
815       And of his tonge, and of his hond also;
                And of his tongue, and of his hand also;
816       And made hym brenne his book anon right tho.
                And made him burn his book immediately right then.
817       And whan that I hadde geten unto me,
                And when I had gotten unto me,
818       By maistrie, al the soveraynetee,
                By mastery, all the sovereignty,
819       And that he seyde, `Myn owene trewe wyf,
                And that he said, `My own true wife,
820       Do as thee lust the terme of al thy lyf;
                Do as you please the rest of all thy life;
821       Keep thyn honour, and keep eek myn estaat' --
                Guard thy honor, and guard also my reputation' --
822       After that day we hadden never debaat.
                After that day we never had an argument.
823       God helpe me so, I was to hym as kynde
                As God may help me, I was to him as kind
824       As any wyf from Denmark unto Ynde,
                As any wife from Denmark unto India,
825       And also trewe, and so was he to me.
                And also true, and so was he to me.
826       I prey to God, that sit in magestee,
                I pray to God, who sits in majesty,
827       So blesse his soule for his mercy deere.
                So bless his soul for his mercy dear.
828       Now wol I seye my tale, if ye wol heere."
                Now will I say my tale, if you will hear."

 

Beholde the wordes bitwene the
Somonour and the Frere

 

829       The Frere lough, whan he hadde herd al this;
                The Friar laughed, when he had heard all this;
830       "Now dame," quod he, "so have I joye or blis,
                "Now dame," he said, "as I may have joy or bliss,
831       This is a long preamble of a tale!"
                This is a long preamble of a tale!"
832       And whan the Somonour herde the Frere gale,
                And when the Summoner heard the Friar cry out,
833       "Lo," quod the Somonour, "Goddes armes two!
                "Lo," said the Summoner, "By God's two arms!
834       A frere wol entremette hym everemo.
                A friar will always intrude himself (in others' affairs).
835       Lo, goode men, a flye and eek a frere
                Lo, good men, a fly and also a friar
836       Wol falle in every dyssh and eek mateere.
                Will fall in every dish and also every discussion.
837       What spekestow of preambulacioun?
                What speakest thou of perambulation?
838       What! amble, or trotte, or pees, or go sit doun!
                  What! amble, or trot, or keep still, or go sit down!
839         Thou lettest oure disport in this manere."
                  Thou spoil our fun in this manner."

840         "Ye, woltow so, sire Somonour?" quod the Frere;
                  "Yes, wilt thou have it thus, sir Summoner?" said the Friar;
841         "Now, by my feith I shal, er that I go,
                  "Now, by my faith I shall, before I go,
842         Telle of a somonour swich a tale or two
                  Tell of a summoner such a tale or two
843         That alle the folk shal laughen in this place."
                  That all the folk shall laugh in this place."

844         "Now elles, Frere, I bishrewe thy face,"
                  "Now otherwise, Friar, I curse thy face,"
845         Quod this Somonour, "and I bishrewe me,
                  Said this Summoner, "and I curse myself,
846         But if I telle tales two or thre
                  Unless I tell tales two or three
847         Of freres er I come to Sidyngborne
                  Of friars before I come to Siitingbourne
848         That I shal make thyn herte for to morne,
                  That I shall make thy heart to mourn,
849         For wel I woot thy pacience is gon."
                  For well I know thy patience is gone."

850         Oure Hooste cride "Pees! And that anon!"
                  Our Host cried "Peace! And that right now!"
851         And seyde, "Lat the womman telle hire tale.
                  And said, "Let the woman tell her tale.
852         Ye fare as folk that dronken ben of ale.
                  You act like folk that are drunk on ale.
853         Do, dame, telle forth youre tale, and that is best."
                  Do, dame, tell forth your tale, and that is best."

854         "Al redy, sire," quod she, "right as yow lest,
                  "All ready, sir," she said, "right as you please,
855         If I have licence of this worthy Frere."
                  If I have permission of this worthy Friar."

856         "Yis, dame," quod he, "tel forth, and I wol heere."
                  "Yes, dame," he said, "tell forth, and I will hear."

 

Heere endeth the Wyf of Bathe hir Prologe

 

If you wish to test your knowledge of the Middle English, click here.

 

Or go to the beginning of this set of texts.


The Wife of Bath's Tale

 

 

Heere bigynneth the Tale of the Wyf of Bathe

 

857         In th' olde dayes of the Kyng Arthour,
                  In the old days of King Arthur,
858         Of which that Britons speken greet honour,
                  Of whom Britons speak great honor,
859         Al was this land fulfild of fayerye.
                  This land was all filled full of supernatural creatures.
860         The elf-queene, with hir joly compaignye,
                  The elf-queen, with her jolly company,
861         Daunced ful ofte in many a grene mede.
                  Danced very often in many a green mead.
862         This was the olde opinion, as I rede;
                  This was the old belief, as I read;
863         I speke of manye hundred yeres ago.
                  I speak of many hundred years ago.
864         But now kan no man se none elves mo,
                  But now no man can see any more elves,
865         For now the grete charitee and prayeres
                  For now the great charity and prayers
866         Of lymytours and othere hooly freres,
                  Of licensed beggars and other holy friars,
867         That serchen every lond and every streem,
                  That overrun every land and every stream,
868         As thikke as motes in the sonne-beem,
                  As thick as specks of dust in the sun-beam,
869         Blessynge halles, chambres, kichenes, boures,
                  Blessing halls, chambers, kitchens, bedrooms,
870         Citees, burghes, castels, hye toures,
                  Cities, towns, castles, high towers,
871         Thropes, bernes, shipnes, dayeryes --
                  Villages, barns, stables, dairies --
872         This maketh that ther ben no fayeryes.
                  This makes it that there are no fairies.
873         For ther as wont to walken was an elf
                  For where an elf was accustomed to walk
874         Ther walketh now the lymytour hymself
                  There walks now the licensed begging friar himself
875         In undermeles and in morwenynges,
                  In late mornings and in early mornings,
876         And seyth his matyns and his hooly thynges
                  And says his morning prayers and his holy things
877         As he gooth in his lymytacioun.
                  As he goes in his assigned district.
878         Wommen may go saufly up and doun.
                  Women may go safely up and down.
879         In every bussh or under every tree
                  In every bush or under every tree
880         Ther is noon oother incubus but he,
                  There is no other evil spirit but he,
881         And he ne wol doon hem but dishonour.
                  And he will not do them any harm except dishonor.

882         And so bifel that this kyng Arthour
                  And so it happened that this king Arthur
883         Hadde in his hous a lusty bacheler,
                  Had in his house a lusty bachelor,
884         That on a day cam ridynge fro ryver,
                  That on one day came riding from hawking,
885         And happed that, allone as he was born,
                  And it happened that, alone as he was born,
886         He saugh a mayde walkynge hym biforn,
                  He saw a maiden walking before him,
887         Of which mayde anon, maugree hir heed,
                  Of which maiden straightway, despite all she could do,
888         By verray force, he rafte hire maydenhed;
                  By utter force, he took away her maidenhead;
889         For which oppressioun was swich clamour
                  For which wrong was such clamor
890         And swich pursute unto the kyng Arthour
                  And such demand for justice unto king Arthur
891         That dampned was this knyght for to be deed,
                  That this knight was condemned to be dead,
892         By cours of lawe, and sholde han lost his heed --
                  By course of law, and should have lost his head --
893         Paraventure swich was the statut tho --
                  Perhaps such was the statute then --
894         But that the queene and other ladyes mo
                  Except that the queen and other ladies as well
895         So longe preyeden the kyng of grace
                  So long prayed the king for grace
896         Til he his lyf hym graunted in the place,
                  Until he granted him his life right there,
897         And yaf hym to the queene, al at hir wille,
                  And gave him to the queen, all at her will,
898         To chese wheither she wolde hym save or spille.
                  To choose whether she would him save or put to death.

899         The queene thanketh the kyng with al hir myght,
                  The queen thanks the king with all her might,
900         And after this thus spak she to the knyght,
                  And after this she spoke thus to the knight,
901         Whan that she saugh hir tyme, upon a day:
                  When she saw her time, upon a day:
902         "Thou standest yet," quod she, "in swich array
                  "Thou standest yet," she said, "in such condition,
903         That of thy lyf yet hastow no suretee.
                  That of thy life yet thou hast no assurance
904         I grante thee lyf, if thou kanst tellen me
                  I grant thee life, if thou canst tell me
905         What thyng is it that wommen moost desiren.
                  What thing it is that women most desire.
906         Be war, and keep thy nekke-boon from iren!
                  Beware, and keep thy neck-bone from iron (axe)!
907         And if thou kanst nat tellen it anon,
                  And if thou canst not tell it right now,
908         Yet wol I yeve thee leve for to gon
                  Yet I will give thee leave to go
909         A twelf-month and a day, to seche and leere
                  A twelvemonth and a day, to seek to learn
910         An answere suffisant in this mateere;
                  A satisfactory answer in this matter;
911         And suretee wol I han, er that thou pace,
                  And I will have, before thou go, a pledge
912         Thy body for to yelden in this place."
                  To surrender thy body in this place."

913         Wo was this knyght, and sorwefully he siketh;
                  Woe was this knight, and sorrowfully he sighs;
914         But what! He may nat do al as hym liketh.
                  But what! He can not do all as he pleases.
915         And at the laste he chees hym for to wende
                  And at the last he chose to leave
916         And come agayn, right at the yeres ende,
                  And come again, exactly at the year's end,
917         With swich answere as God wolde hym purveye;
                  With such answer as God would provide him;
918         And taketh his leve, and wendeth forth his weye.
                  And takes his leave, and goes forth on his way.

919         He seketh every hous and every place
                  He seeks every house and every place
920         Where as he hopeth for to fynde grace
                  Where he hopes to have the luck
921         To lerne what thyng wommen loven moost,
                  To learn what thing women love most,
922         But he ne koude arryven in no coost
                  But he could not arrive in any region
923         Wher as he myghte fynde in this mateere
                  Where he might find in this matter
924         Two creatures accordynge in-feere.
                  Two creatures agreeing together.
925         Somme seyde wommen loven best richesse,
                  Some said women love riches best,
926         Somme seyde honour, somme seyde jolynesse,
                  Some said honor, some said gaiety,
927         Somme riche array, somme seyden lust abedde,
                  Some rich clothing, some said lust in bed,
928         And oftetyme to be wydwe and wedde.
                  And frequently to be widow and wedded.
929         Somme seyde that oure hertes been moost esed
                  Some said that our hearts are most eased
930         Whan that we been yflatered and yplesed.
                  When we are flattered and pleased.
931         He gooth ful ny the sothe, I wol nat lye.
                  He goes very near the truth, I will not lie.
932         A man shal wynne us best with flaterye,
                  A man shall win us best with flattery,
933         And with attendance and with bisynesse
                  And with attentions and with solicitude
934         Been we ylymed, bothe moore and lesse.
                  We are caught, every one of us.

935         And somme seyen that we loven best
                  And some say that we love best
936         For to be free and do right as us lest,
                  To be free and do just as we please,
937         And that no man repreve us of oure vice,
                  And that no man reprove us for our vices,
938         But seye that we be wise and no thyng nyce.
                  But say that we are wise and not at all silly.
939         For trewely ther is noon of us alle,
                  For truly there is not one of us all,
940         If any wight wol clawe us on the galle,
                  If any one will scratch us on the sore spot,
941         That we nel kike, for he seith us sooth.
                  That we will not kick back, because he tells us the truth.
942         Assay, and he shal fynde it that so dooth;
                  Try it, and whoever so does shall find it true;
943         For, be we never so vicious withinne,
                  For, be we never so vicious within,
944         We wol been holden wise and clene of synne.
                  We want to be considered wise and clean of sin.

945         And somme seyn that greet delit han we
                  And some say that we have great delight
946         For to been holden stable, and eek secree,
                  To be considered steadfast, and also (able to keep a) secret,
947         And in o purpos stedefastly to dwelle,
                  And in one purpose steadfastly to remain,
948         And nat biwreye thyng that men us telle.
                  And not reveal things that men tell us.
949         But that tale is nat worth a rake-stele.
                  But that tale is not worth a rake handle.
950         Pardee, we wommen konne no thyng hele;
                  By God, we women can hide nothing;
951         Witnesse on Myda -- wol ye heere the tale?
                  Witness on Midas -- will you hear the tale?

952         Ovyde, amonges othere thynges smale,
                  Ovid, among other small matters,
953         Seyde Myda hadde, under his longe heres,
                  Said Midas had, under his long hair,
954         Growynge upon his heed two asses eres,
                  Two ass's ears, growing upon his head,
955         The whiche vice he hydde as he best myghte
                  The which vice he hid as he best could
956         Ful subtilly from every mannes sighte,
                  Very skillfully from every man's sight,
957         That, save his wyf, ther wiste of it namo.
                  That, except for his wife, there knew of it no others.
958         He loved hire moost, and trusted hire also;
                  He loved her most, and trusted her also;
959         He preyede hire that to no creature
                  He prayed her that to no creature
960         She sholde tellen of his disfigure.
                  She should tell of his disfigurement.

961         She swoor him, "Nay"; for al this world to wynne,
                  She swore him, "Nay"; for all this world to win,
962         She nolde do that vileynye or synne,
                  She would not do that dishonor or sin,
963         To make hir housbonde han so foul a name.
                  To make her husband have so foul a reputation.
964         She nolde nat telle it for hir owene shame.
                  She would not tell it for her own shame.
965         But nathelees, hir thoughte that she dyde
                  But nonetheless, she thought that she would die
966         That she so longe sholde a conseil hyde;
                  If she should hide a secret so long;
967         Hir thoughte it swal so soore aboute hir herte
                  She thought it swelled so sore about her heart
968         That nedely som word hire moste asterte;
                  That necessarily some word must escape her;
969         And sith she dorste telle it to no man,
                  And since she dared tell it to no man,
970         Doun to a mareys faste by she ran --
                  She ran down to a marsh close by --
971         Til she cam there hir herte was afyre --
                  Until she came there her heart was afire --
972         And as a bitore bombleth in the myre,
                  And as a bittern bumbles in the mire,
973         She leyde hir mouth unto the water doun:
                  She laid her mouth down unto the water:
974         "Biwreye me nat, thou water, with thy soun,"
                  "Betray me not, thou water, with thy sound,"
975         Quod she; "to thee I telle it and namo;
                  She said; "to thee I tell it and no others;
976         Myn housbonde hath longe asses erys two!
                  My husband has two long asses ears!
977         Now is myn herte al hool; now is it oute.
                  Now is my heart all whole; now is it out.
978         I myghte no lenger kepe it, out of doute."
                  I could no longer keep it, without doubt."
979         Heere may ye se, thogh we a tyme abyde,
                  Here you may see, though we a time abide,
980         Yet out it moot; we kan no conseil hyde.
                  Yet out it must come; we can hide no secret.
981         The remenant of the tale if ye wol heere,
                  The remnant of the tale if you will hear,
982         Redeth Ovyde, and ther ye may it leere.
                  Read Ovid, and there you may learn it.

983         This knyght, of which my tale is specially,
                  This knight, of whom my tale is in particular,
984         Whan that he saugh he myghte nat come therby --
                  When he saw he might not come to that --
985         This is to seye, what wommen love moost --
                  This is to say, what women love most --
986         Withinne his brest ful sorweful was the goost.
                  Within his breast very sorrowful was the spirit.
987         But hoom he gooth; he myghte nat sojourne;
                  But home he goes; he could not linger;
988         The day was come that homward moste he tourne.
                  The day was come that homeward he must turn.
989         And in his wey it happed hym to ryde,
                  And in his way he happened to ride,
990         In al this care, under a forest syde,
                  In all this care, near a forest side,
991         Wher as he saugh upon a daunce go
                  Where he saw upon a dance go
992         Of ladyes foure and twenty, and yet mo;
                  Ladies four and twenty, and yet more;
993         Toward the whiche daunce he drow ful yerne,
                  Toward the which dance he drew very eagerly,
994         In hope that som wysdom sholde he lerne.
                  In hope that he should learn some wisdom.
995         But certeinly, er he cam fully there,
                  But certainly, before he came fully there,
996         Vanysshed was this daunce, he nyste where.
                  Vanished was this dance, he knew not where.
997         No creature saugh he that bar lyf,
                  He saw no creature that bore life,
998         Save on the grene he saugh sittynge a wyf --
                  Save on the green he saw sitting a woman --
999         A fouler wight ther may no man devyse.
                  There can no man imagine an uglier creature.
1000       Agayn the knyght this olde wyf gan ryse,
                  At the knight's coming this old wife did rise,
1001       And seyde, "Sire knyght, heer forth ne lith no wey.
                  And said, "Sir knight, there lies no road out of here.
1002       Tel me what that ye seken, by youre fey!
                  Tell me what you seek, by your faith!
1003       Paraventure it may the bettre be;
                  Perhaps it may be the better;
1004       Thise olde folk kan muchel thyng," quod she.
                  These old folk know many things," she said.

1005       "My leeve mooder," quod this knyght, "certeyn
                  "My dear mother," said this knight, "certainly
1006       I nam but deed but if that I kan seyn
                  I am as good as dead unless I can say
1007       What thyng it is that wommen moost desire.
                  What thing it is that women most desire.
1008       Koude ye me wisse, I wolde wel quite youre hire."
                  If you could teach me, I would well repay you."

1009       "Plight me thy trouthe heere in myn hand," quod she,
                  "Pledge me thy word here in my hand," she said,
1010       "The nexte thyng that I requere thee,
                  "The next thing that I require of thee,
1011       Thou shalt it do, if it lye in thy myght,
                  Thou shalt do it, if it lies in thy power,
1012       And I wol telle it yow er it be nyght."
                  And I will tell it to you before it is night."

1013       "Have heer my trouthe," quod the knyght, "I grante."
                  "Have here my pledged word," said the knight, "I agree."
1014       "Thanne," quod she, "I dar me wel avante
                  "Then," she said, "I dare me well boast
1015       Thy lyf is sauf, for I wol stonde therby;
                  Thy life is safe, for I will stand thereby;
1016       Upon my lyf, the queene wol seye as I.
                  Upon my life, the queen will say as I.
1017       Lat se which is the proudeste of hem alle
                  Let's see which is the proudest of them all
1018       That wereth on a coverchief or a calle
                  That wears a kerchief or a hairnet
1019       That dar seye nay of that I shal thee teche.
                  That dares say `nay' of what I shall teach thee.
1020       Lat us go forth withouten lenger speche."
                  Let us go forth without longer speech."
1021       Tho rowned she a pistel in his ere,
                  Then she whispered a message in his ear,
1022       And bad hym to be glad and have no fere.
                  And commanded him to be glad and have no fear.
1023       Whan they be comen to the court, this knyght
                  When they are come to the court, this knight
1024       Seyde he had holde his day, as he hadde hight,
                  Said he had held his day, as he had promised,
1025       And redy was his answere, as he sayde.
                  And his answer was ready, as he said.
1026       Ful many a noble wyf, and many a mayde,
                  Very many a noble wife, and many a maid,
1027       And many a wydwe, for that they been wise,
                  And many a widow, because they are wise,
1028       The queene hirself sittynge as a justise,
                  The queen herself sitting as a justice,
1029       Assembled been, his answere for to heere;
                  Are assembled, to hear his answer;
1030       And afterward this knyght was bode appeere.
                  And afterward this knight was commanded to appear.

1031       To every wight comanded was silence,
                  Silence was commanded to every person,
1032       And that the knyght sholde telle in audience
                  And that the knight should tell in open court
1033       What thyng that worldly wommen loven best.
                  What thing (it is) that worldly women love best.
1034       This knyght ne stood nat stille as doth a best,
                  This knight stood not silent as does a beast,
1035       But to his questioun anon answerde
                  But to his question straightway answered
1036       With manly voys, that al the court it herde:
                  With manly voice, so that all the court heard it:

1037       "My lige lady, generally," quod he,
                  "My liege lady, without exception," he said,
1038       "Wommen desiren to have sovereynetee
                  "Women desire to have sovereignty
1039       As wel over hir housbond as hir love,
                  As well over her husband as her love,
1040       And for to been in maistrie hym above.
                  And to be in mastery above him.
1041       This is youre mooste desir, thogh ye me kille.
                  This is your greatest desire, though you kill me.
1042       Dooth as yow list; I am heer at youre wille."
                  Do as you please; I am here subject to your will."
1043       In al the court ne was ther wyf, ne mayde,
                  In all the court there was not wife, nor maid,
1044       Ne wydwe that contraried that he sayde,
                  Nor widow that denied what he said,
1045       But seyden he was worthy han his lyf.
                  But said that he was worthy to have his life.
1046       And with that word up stirte the olde wyf,
                  And with that word up sprang the old woman,
1047       Which that the knyght saugh sittynge on the grene:
                  Whom the knight saw sitting on the green:
1048       "Mercy," quod she, "my sovereyn lady queene!
                  "Mercy," she said, "my sovereign lady queen!
1049       Er that youre court departe, do me right.
                  Before your court departs, do me justice.
1050       I taughte this answere unto the knyght;
                  I taught this answer to the knight;
1051       For which he plighte me his trouthe there,
                  For which he pledged me his word there,
1052       The firste thyng that I wolde hym requere
                  The first thing that I would ask of him
1053       He wolde it do, if it lay in his myghte.
                  He would do, if it lay in his power.
1054       Bifore the court thanne preye I thee, sir knyght,"
                  Before the court then I pray thee, sir knight,"
1055       Quod she, "that thou me take unto thy wyf,
                  Said she, "that thou take me as thy wife,
1056       For wel thou woost that I have kept thy lyf.
                  For well thou know that I have saved thy life.
1057       If I seye fals, sey nay, upon thy fey!"
                  If I say false, say `nay', upon thy faith!"

1058       This knyght answerde, "Allas and weylawey!
                  This knight answered, "Alas and woe is me!
1059       I woot right wel that swich was my biheste.
                  I know right well that such was my promise.
1060       For Goddes love, as chees a newe requeste!
                  For God's love, choose a new request!
1061       Taak al my good and lat my body go."
                  Take all my goods and let my body go."

1062       "Nay, thanne," quod she, "I shrewe us bothe two!
                  "Nay, then," she said, "I curse both of us two!
1063       For thogh that I be foul, and oold, and poore
                  For though I am ugly, and old, and poor
1064       I nolde for al the metal, ne for oore
                  I would not for all the metal, nor for ore
1065       That under erthe is grave or lith above,
                  That under earth is buried or lies above,
1066       But if thy wyf I were, and eek thy love."
                  Have anything except that I were thy wife, and also thy love."

1067       "My love?" quod he, "nay, my dampnacioun!
                  "My love?" he said, "nay, my damnation!
1068       Allas, that any of my nacioun
                  Alas, that any of my family
1069       Sholde evere so foule disparaged be!"
                  Should ever be so foully degraded!"
1070       But al for noght; the ende is this, that he
                  But all for naught; the end is this, that he
1071       Constreyned was; he nedes moste hire wedde,
                  Constrained was; he must by necessity wed her,
1072       And taketh his olde wyf, and gooth to bedde.
                  And takes his old wife, and goes to bed.

1073       Now wolden som men seye, paraventure,
                  Now would some men say, perhaps,
1074       That for my necligence I do no cure
                  That because of my negligence I make no effort
1075       To tellen yow the joye and al th' array
                  To tell you the joy and all the rich display
1076       That at the feeste was that ilke day.
                  That was at the (wedding) feast that same day.
1077       To which thyng shortly answeren I shal:
                  To which thing shortly I shall answer:
1078       I seye ther nas no joye ne feeste at al;
                  I say there was no joy nor feast at all;
1079       Ther nas but hevynesse and muche sorwe.
                  There was nothing but heaviness and much sorrow.
1080       For prively he wedded hire on morwe,
                  For he wedded her in private in the morning,
1081       And al day after hidde hym as an owle,
                  And all day after hid himself like an owl,
1082       So wo was hym, his wyf looked so foule.
                  So woeful was he, his wife looked so ugly.

1083       Greet was the wo the knyght hadde in his thoght,
                  Great was the woe the knight had in his thought,
1084       Whan he was with his wyf abedde ybroght;
                  When he was brought to bed with his wife;
1085       He walweth and he turneth to and fro.
                  He wallows and he turns to and fro.
1086       His olde wyf lay smylynge everemo,
                  His old wife lay smiling evermore,
1087       And seyde, "O deere housbonde, benedicitee!
                  And said, "O dear husband, bless me!
1088       Fareth every knyght thus with his wyf as ye?
                  Does every knight behave thus with his wife as you do?
1089       Is this the lawe of kyng Arthures hous?
                  Is this the law of king Arthur's house?
1090       Is every knyght of his so dangerous?
                  Is every knight of his so aloof?
1091       I am youre owene love and youre wyf;
                  I am your own love and your wife;
1092       I am she which that saved hath youre lyf,
                  I am she who has saved your life,
1093       And, certes, yet ne dide I yow nevere unright;
                  And, certainly, I did you never wrong yet;
1094       Why fare ye thus with me this firste nyght?
                  Why behave you thus with me this first night?
1095       Ye faren lyk a man had lost his wit.
                  You act like a man who had lost his wit.
1096       What is my gilt? For Goddes love, tel it,
                  What is my offense? For God's love, tell it,
1097       And it shal been amended, if I may."
                  And it shall be amended, if I can."

1098       "Amended?" quod this knyght, "Allas, nay, nay!
                  "Amended?" said this knight, "Alas, nay, nay!
1099       It wol nat been amended nevere mo.
                  It will not be amended ever more.
1100       Thou art so loothly, and so oold also,
                  Thou art so loathsome, and so old also,
1101       And therto comen of so lough a kynde,
                  And moreover descended from such low born lineage,
1102       That litel wonder is thogh I walwe and wynde.
                  That little wonder is though I toss and twist about.
1103       So wolde God myn herte wolde breste!"
                  So would God my heart would burst!"

1104       "Is this," quod she, "the cause of youre unreste?"
                  "Is this," she said, "the cause of your distress?"

1105       "Ye, certeinly," quod he, "no wonder is."
                  "Yes, certainly," he said, "it is no wonder."

1106       "Now, sire," quod she, "I koude amende al this,
                  "Now, sir," she said, "I could amend all this,
1107       If that me liste, er it were dayes thre,
                  If I pleased, before three days were past,
1108       So wel ye myghte bere yow unto me.
                  Providing that you might behave well towards me.

1109       "But, for ye speken of swich gentillesse
                  "But, since you speak of such nobility
1110       As is descended out of old richesse,
                  As is descended out of old riches,
1111       That therfore sholden ye be gentil men,
                  That therefore you should be noble men,
1112       Swich arrogance is nat worth an hen.
                  Such arrogance is not worth a hen.
1113       Looke who that is moost vertuous alway,
                  Look who is most virtuous always,
1114       Pryvee and apert, and moost entendeth ay
                  In private and public, and most intends ever
1115       To do the gentil dedes that he kan;
                  To do the noble deeds that he can;
1116       Taak hym for the grettest gentil man.
                  Take him for the greatest noble man.
1117       Crist wole we clayme of hym oure gentillesse,
                  Christ wants us to claim our nobility from him,
1118       Nat of oure eldres for hire old richesse.
                  Not from our ancestors for their old riches.
1119       For thogh they yeve us al hir heritage,
                  For though they give us all their heritage,
1120       For which we clayme to been of heigh parage,
                  For which we claim to be of noble lineage,
1121       Yet may they nat biquethe for no thyng
                  Yet they can not bequeath by any means
1122       To noon of us hir vertuous lyvyng,
                  To any of us their virtuous living,
1123       That made hem gentil men ycalled be,
                  That made them be called noble men,
1124       And bad us folwen hem in swich degree.
                  And commanded us to follow them in such matters.

1125       "Wel kan the wise poete of Florence,
                  "Well can the wise poet of Florence,
1126       That highte Dant, speken in this sentence.
                  Who is called Dante, speak on this matter.
1127       Lo, in swich maner rym is Dantes tale:
                  Lo, in such sort of rime is Dante's speech:
1128       `Ful selde up riseth by his branches smale
                  `Very seldom grows up from its small branches
1129       Prowesse of man, for God, of his goodnesse,
                  Nobility of man, for God, of his goodness,
1130       Wole that of hym we clayme oure gentillesse';
                  Wants us to claim our nobility from him';
1131       For of oure eldres may we no thyng clayme
                  For from our ancestors we can claim no thing
1132       But temporel thyng, that man may hurte and mayme.
                  Except temporal things, that may hurt and injure a man.

1133       "Eek every wight woot this as wel as I,
                  "Also every person knows this as well as I,
1134       If gentillesse were planted natureelly
                  If nobility were planted naturally
1135       Unto a certeyn lynage doun the lyne,
                  Unto a certain lineage down the line,
1136       Pryvee and apert thanne wolde they nevere fyne
                  Then in private and in public they would never cease
1137       To doon of gentillesse the faire office;
                  To do the just duties of nobility;
1138       They myghte do no vileynye or vice.
                  They could do no dishonor or vice.

1139       "Taak fyr and ber it in the derkeste hous
                  "Take fire and bear it in the darkest house
1140       Bitwix this and the mount of Kaukasous,
                  Between this and the mount of Caucasus,
1141       And lat men shette the dores and go thenne;
                  And let men shut the doors and go away;
1142       Yet wole the fyr as faire lye and brenne
                  Yet will the fire as brightly blaze and burn
1143       As twenty thousand men myghte it biholde;
                  As if twenty thousand men might it behold;
1144       His office natureel ay wol it holde,
                  Its natural function it will always hold,
1145       Up peril of my lyf, til that it dye.
                  On peril of my life (I say), until it dies.

1146       "Heere may ye se wel how that genterye
                  "Here may you see well that nobility
1147       Is nat annexed to possessioun,
                  Is not joined with possession,
1148       Sith folk ne doon hir operacioun
                  Since folk not do behave as they should
1149       Alwey, as dooth the fyr, lo, in his kynde.
                  Always, as does the fire, lo, in its nature.
1150       For, God it woot, men may wel often fynde
                  For, God knows it, men may well often find
1151       A lordes sone do shame and vileynye;
                  A lord's son doing shame and dishonor;
1152       And he that wole han pris of his gentrye,
                  And he who will have praise for his noble birth,
1153       For he was boren of a gentil hous
                  Because he was born of a noble house
1154       And hadde his eldres noble and vertuous,
                  And had his noble and virtuous ancestors,
1155       And nel hymselven do no gentil dedis
                  And will not himself do any noble deeds
1156       Ne folwen his gentil auncestre that deed is,
                  Nor follow his noble ancestry that is dead,
1157       He nys nat gentil, be he duc or erl,
                  He is not noble, be he duke or earl,
1158       For vileyns synful dedes make a cherl.
                  For churlish sinful deeds make a churl.
1159       For gentillesse nys but renomee
                  For nobility is nothing but renown
1160       Of thyne auncestres, for hire heigh bountee,
                  Of thy ancestors, for their great goodness,
1161       Which is a strange thyng to thy persone.
                  Which is a thing not naturally part of thy person.
1162       Thy gentillesse cometh fro God allone.
                  Thy nobility comes from God alone.
1163       Thanne comth oure verray gentillesse of grace;
                  Then our true nobility comes from grace ;
1164       It was no thyng biquethe us with oure place.
                  It was not at all bequeathed to us with our social rank.

1165       "Thenketh hou noble, as seith Valerius,
                  "Think how noble, as says Valerius,
1166       Was thilke Tullius Hostillius,
                  Was that same Tullius Hostillius,
1167       That out of poverte roos to heigh noblesse.
                  That out of poverty rose to high nobility.
1168       Reedeth Senek, and redeth eek Boece;
                  Read Seneca, and read also Boethius;
1169       Ther shul ye seen expres that it no drede is
                  There shall you see clearly that it is no doubt
1170       That he is gentil that dooth gentil dedis.
                  That he is noble who does noble deeds.
1171       And therfore, leeve housbonde, I thus conclude:
                  And therefore, dear husband, I thus conclude:
1172       Al were it that myne auncestres were rude,
                  Although it is so that my ancestors were rude,
1173       Yet may the hye God, and so hope I,
                  Yet may the high God, and so hope I,
1174       Grante me grace to lyven vertuously.
                  Grant me grace to live virtuously.
1175       Thanne am I gentil, whan that I bigynne
                  Then am I noble, when I begin
1176       To lyven vertuously and weyve synne.
                  To live virtuously and abandon sin.

1177       "And ther as ye of poverte me repreeve,
                  "And whereas you reprove me for poverty,
1178       The hye God, on whom that we bileeve,
                  The high God, on whom we believe,
1179       In wilful poverte chees to lyve his lyf.
                  In voluntary poverty chose to live his life.
1180       And certes every man, mayden, or wyf
                  And certainly every man, maiden, or woman
1181       May understonde that Jhesus, hevene kyng,
                  Can understand that Jesus, heaven's king,
1182       Ne wolde nat chese a vicious lyvyng.
                  Would not choose a vicious form of living.
1183       Glad poverte is an honest thyng, certeyn;
                  Glad poverty is an honest thing, certain;
1184       This wole Senec and othere clerkes seyn.
                  This will Seneca and other clerks say.
1185       Whoso that halt hym payd of his poverte,
                  Whoever considers himself satisfied with his poverty,
1186       I holde hym riche, al hadde he nat a sherte.
                  I consider him rich, although he had not a shirt.
1187       He that coveiteth is a povre wight,
                  He who covets is a poor person,
1188       For he wolde han that is nat in his myght;
                  For he would have that which is not in his power;
1189       But he that noght hath, ne coveiteth have,
                  But he who has nothing, nor covets to have anything,
1190       Is riche, although ye holde hym but a knave.
                  Is rich, although you consider him but a knave.
1191       Verray poverte, it syngeth proprely;
                  True poverty, it rightly sings;
1192       Juvenal seith of poverte myrily:
                  Juvenal says of poverty merrily:
1193       `The povre man, whan he goth by the weye,
                  `The poor man, when he goes along the roadway,
1194       Bifore the theves he may synge and pleye.'
                  Before the thieves he may sing and play.'
1195       Poverte is hateful good and, as I gesse,
                  Poverty is a hateful good and, as I guess,
1196       A ful greet bryngere out of bisynesse;
                  A very great remover of cares;
1197       A greet amendere eek of sapience
                  A great amender also of wisdom
1198       To hym that taketh it in pacience.
                  To him that takes it in patience.
1199       Poverte is this, although it seme alenge:
                  Poverty is this, although it may seem miserable:
1200       Possessioun that no wight wol chalenge.
                  A possession that no one will challenge.
1201       Poverte ful ofte, whan a man is lowe,
                  Poverty very often, when a man is low,
1202       Maketh his God and eek hymself to knowe.
                  Makes him know his God and also himself.
1203       Poverte a spectacle is, as thynketh me,
                  Poverty is an eye glass, as it seems to me,
1204       Thurgh which he may his verray freendes see.
                  Through which one may see his true friends.
1205       And therfore, sire, syn that I noght yow greve,
                  And therefore, sir, since I do not injure you,
1206       Of my poverte namoore ye me repreve.
                  You (should) no longer reprove me for my poverty.

1207       "Now, sire, of elde ye repreve me;
                  "Now, sir, of old age you reprove me;
1208       And certes, sire, thogh noon auctoritee
                  And certainly, sir, though no authority
1209       Were in no book, ye gentils of honour
                  Were in any book, you gentlefolk of honor
1210       Seyn that men sholde an oold wight doon favour
                  Say that men should be courteous to an old person
1211       And clepe hym fader, for youre gentillesse;
                  And call him father, because of your nobility;
1212       And auctours shal I fynden, as I gesse.
                  And authors shall I find, as I guess.

1213       "Now ther ye seye that I am foul and old,
                  "Now where you say that I am ugly and old,
1214       Than drede you noght to been a cokewold;
                  Than do not fear to be a cuckold;
1215       For filthe and eelde, also moot I thee,
                  For filth and old age, as I may prosper,
1216       Been grete wardeyns upon chastitee.
                  Are great guardians of chastity.
1217       But nathelees, syn I knowe youre delit,
                  But nonetheless, since I know your delight,
1218       I shal fulfille youre worldly appetit.
                  I shall fulfill your worldly appetite.

1219       "Chese now," quod she, "oon of thise thynges tweye:
                  "Choose now," she said, "one of these two things:
1220       To han me foul and old til that I deye,
                  To have me ugly and old until I die,
1221       And be to yow a trewe, humble wyf,
                  And be to you a true, humble wife,
1222       And nevere yow displese in al my lyf,
                  And never displease you in all my life,
1223       Or elles ye wol han me yong and fair,
                  Or else you will have me young and fair,
1224       And take youre aventure of the repair
                  And take your chances of the crowd
1225       That shal be to youre hous by cause of me,
                  That shall be at your house because of me,
1226       Or in som oother place, may wel be.
                  Or in some other place, as it may well be.
1227       Now chese yourselven, wheither that yow liketh."
                  Now choose yourself, whichever you please."

1228       This knyght avyseth hym and sore siketh,
                  This knight deliberates and painfully sighs,
1229       But atte laste he seyde in this manere:
                  But at the last he said in this manner:
1230       "My lady and my love, and wyf so deere,
                  "My lady and my love, and wife so dear,
1231       I put me in youre wise governance;
                  I put me in your wise governance;
1232       Cheseth youreself which may be moost plesance
                  Choose yourself which may be most pleasure
1233       And moost honour to yow and me also.
                  And most honor to you and me also.
1234       I do no fors the wheither of the two,
                  I do not care which of the two,
1235       For as yow liketh, it suffiseth me."
                  For as it pleases you, is enough for me."

1236       "Thanne have I gete of yow maistrie," quod she,
                  "Then have I gotten mastery of you," she said,
1237       "Syn I may chese and governe as me lest?"
                  "Since I may choose and govern as I please?"

1238       "Ye, certes, wyf," quod he, "I holde it best."
                  "Yes, certainly, wife," he said, "I consider it best."

1239       "Kys me," quod she, "we be no lenger wrothe,
                  "Kiss me," she said, "we are no longer angry,
1240       For, by my trouthe, I wol be to yow bothe --
                  For, by my troth, I will be to you both --
1241       This is to seyn, ye, bothe fair and good.
                  This is to say, yes, both fair and good.
1242       I prey to God that I moote sterven wood,
                  I pray to God that I may die insane
1243       But I to yow be also good and trewe
                  Unless I to you be as good and true
1244       As evere was wyf, syn that the world was newe.
                  As ever was wife, since the world was new.
1245       And but I be to-morn as fair to seene
                  And unless I am tomorrow morning as fair to be seen
1246       As any lady, emperice, or queene,
                  As any lady, empress, or queen,
1247       That is bitwixe the est and eke the west,
                  That is between the east and also the west,
1248       Dooth with my lyf and deth right as yow lest.
                  Do with my life and death right as you please.
1249       Cast up the curtyn, looke how that it is."
                  Cast up the curtain, look how it is."

1250       And whan the knyght saugh verraily al this,
                  And when the knight saw truly all this,
1251       That she so fair was, and so yong therto,
                  That she so was beautiful, and so young moreover,
1252       For joye he hente hire in his armes two.
                  For joy he clasped her in his two arms.
1253       His herte bathed in a bath of blisse.
                  His heart bathed in a bath of bliss.
1254       A thousand tyme a-rewe he gan hire kisse,
                  A thousand time in a row he did her kiss,
1255       And she obeyed hym in every thyng
                  And she obeyed him in every thing
1256       That myghte doon hym plesance or likyng.
                  That might do him pleasure or enjoyment.

1257       And thus they lyve unto hir lyves ende
                  And thus they live unto their lives' end
1258       In parfit joye; and Jhesu Crist us sende
                  In perfect joy; and Jesus Christ us send
1259       Housbondes meeke, yonge, and fressh abedde,
                  Husbands meek, young, and vigorous in bed,
1260       And grace t' overbyde hem that we wedde;
                  And grace to outlive them whom we wed;
1261       And eek I praye Jhesu shorte hir lyves
                  And also I pray Jesus shorten their lives
1262       That noght wol be governed by hir wyves;
                  That will not be governed by their wives;
1263       And olde and angry nygardes of dispence,
                  And old and angry misers in spending,
1264       God sende hem soone verray pestilence!
                  God send them soon the very pestilence!

 

Heere endeth the Wyves Tale of Bathe

 

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