The Wife of Bath’s Prologue

From The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

WBT 1 “Experience, though noon auctoritee
WBT 2 Were in this world, is right ynogh for me
WBT 3 To speke of wo that is in mariage;
WBT 4 For, lordynges, sith I twelve yeer was of age,
WBT 5 Thonked be God that is eterne on lyve,
WBT 6 Housbondes at chirche dore I have had fyve —
WBT 7 If I so ofte myghte have ywedded bee —
WBT 8 And alle were worthy men in hir degree.
WBT 9 But me was toold, certeyn, nat longe agoon is,
WBT 10 That sith that Crist ne wente nevere but onis
WBT 11 To weddyng, in the Cane of Galilee,
WBT 12 That by the same ensample taughte he me
WBT 13 That I ne sholde wedded be but ones.
WBT 14 Herkne eek, lo, which a sharp word for the nones,
WBT 15 Biside a welle, Jhesus, God and man,
WBT 16 Spak in repreeve of the Samaritan:
WBT 17 ‘Thou hast yhad fyve housbondes,’ quod he,
WBT 18 ‘And that ilke man that now hath thee
WBT 19 Is noght thyn housbonde,’ thus seyde he certeyn.
WBT 20 What that he mente therby, I kan nat seyn;
WBT 21 But that I axe, why that the fifthe man
WBT 22 Was noon housbonde to the Samaritan?
WBT 23 How manye myghte she have in mariage?
WBT 24 Yet herde I nevere tellen in myn age
WBT 25 Upon this nombre diffinicioun.
WBT 26 Men may devyne and glosen, up and doun,
WBT 27 But wel I woot, expres, withoute lye,
WBT 28 God bad us for to wexe and multiplye;
WBT 29 That gentil text kan I wel understonde.
WBT 30 Eek wel I woot, he seyde myn housbonde
WBT 31 Sholde lete fader and mooder and take to me.
WBT 32 But of no nombre mencion made he,
WBT 33 Of bigamye, or of octogamye;
WBT 34 Why sholde men thanne speke of it vileynye?
WBT 35 Lo, heere the wise kyng, daun Salomon;
WBT 36 I trowe he hadde wyves mo than oon.
WBT 37 As wolde God it leveful were unto me
WBT 38 To be refresshed half so ofte as he!
WBT 39 Which yifte of God hadde he for alle his wyvys!
WBT 40 No man hath swich that in this world alyve is.
WBT 41 God woot, this noble kyng, as to my wit,
WBT 42 The firste nyght had many a myrie fit
WBT 43 With ech of hem, so wel was hym on lyve.
WBT 44 Yblessed be God that I have wedded fyve!
WBT 44a [Of whiche I have pyked out the beste,
WBT 44b Bothe of here nether purs and of here cheste.
WBT 44c Diverse scoles maken parfyt clerkes,
WBT 44d And diverse practyk in many sondry werkes
WBT 44e Maketh the werkman parfyt sekirly;
WBT 44f Of fyve husbondes scoleiyng am I.]
WBT 45 Welcome the sixte, whan that evere he shal.
WBT 46 For sothe, I wol nat kepe me chaast in al.
WBT 47 Whan myn housbonde is fro the world ygon,
WBT 48 Som Cristen man shal wedde me anon,
WBT 49 For thanne th’ apostle seith that I am free
WBT 50 To wedde, a Goddes half, where it liketh me.
WBT 51 He seith that to be wedded is no synne;
WBT 52 Bet is to be wedded than to brynne.
WBT 53 What rekketh me, thogh folk seye vileynye
WBT 54 Of shrewed Lameth and his bigamye?
WBT 55 I woot wel Abraham was an hooly man,
WBT 56 And Jacob eek, as ferforth as I kan;
WBT 57 And ech of hem hadde wyves mo than two,
WBT 58 And many another holy man also.
WBT 59 Wher can ye seye, in any manere age,
WBT 60 That hye God defended mariage
WBT 61 By expres word? I pray yow, telleth me.
WBT 62 Or where comanded he virginitee?
WBT 63 I woot as wel as ye, it is no drede,
WBT 64 Th’ apostel, whan he speketh of maydenhede,
WBT 65 He seyde that precept therof hadde he noon.
WBT 66 Men may conseille a womman to been oon,
WBT 67 But conseillyng is no comandement.
WBT 68 He putte it in oure owene juggement;
WBT 69 For hadde God comanded maydenhede,
WBT 70 Thanne hadde he dampned weddyng with the dede.
WBT 71 And certes, if ther were no seed ysowe,
WBT 72 Virginitee, thanne wherof sholde it growe?
WBT 73 Poul dorste nat comanden, atte leeste,
WBT 74 A thyng of which his maister yaf noon heeste.
WBT 75 The dart is set up for virginitee;
WBT 76 Cacche whoso may, who renneth best lat see.
WBT 77 But this word is nat taken of every wight,
WBT 78 But ther as God lust gyve it of his myght.
WBT 79 I woot wel that th’ apostel was a mayde;
WBT 80 But nathelees, thogh that he wroot and sayde
WBT 81 He wolde that every wight were swich as he,
WBT 82 Al nys but conseil to virginitee.
WBT 83 And for to been a wyf he yaf me leve
WBT 84 Of indulgence; so nys it no repreve
WBT 85 To wedde me, if that my make dye,
WBT 86 Withouten excepcion of bigamye.
WBT 87 Al were it good no womman for to touche —
WBT 88 He mente as in his bed or in his couche,
WBT 89 For peril is bothe fyr and tow t’ assemble;
WBT 90 Ye knowe what this ensample may resemble.
WBT 91 This is al and som: he heeld virginitee
WBT 92 Moore parfit than weddyng in freletee.
WBT 93 Freletee clepe I, but if that he and she
WBT 94 Wolde leden al hir lyf in chastitee.
WBT 95 I graunte it wel; I have noon envie,
WBT 96 Thogh maydenhede preferre bigamye.
WBT 97 It liketh hem to be clene, body and goost;
WBT 98 Of myn estaat I nyl nat make no boost,
WBT 99 For wel ye knowe, a lord in his houshold,
WBT 100 He nath nat every vessel al of gold;
WBT 101 Somme been of tree, and doon hir lord servyse.
WBT 102 God clepeth folk to hym in sondry wyse,
WBT 103 And everich hath of God a propre yifte —
WBT 104 Som this, som that, as hym liketh shifte.
WBT 105 Virginitee is greet perfeccion,
WBT 106 And continence eek with devocion,
WBT 107 But Crist, that of perfeccion is welle,
WBT 108 Bad nat every wight he sholde go selle
WBT 109 Al that he hadde, and gyve it to the poore,
WBT 110 And in swich wise folwe hym and his foore.
WBT 111 He spak to hem that wolde lyve parfitly;
WBT 112 And lordynges, by youre leve, that am nat I.
WBT 113 I wol bistowe the flour of al myn age
WBT 114 In the actes and in fruyt of mariage.
WBT 115 Telle me also, to what conclusion
WBT 116 Were membres maad of generacion,
WBT 117 And of so parfit wys a [wright] ywroght?
WBT 118 Trusteth right wel, they were nat maad for noght.
WBT 119 Glose whoso wole, and seye bothe up and doun
WBT 120 That they were maked for purgacioun
WBT 121 Of uryne, and oure bothe thynges smale
WBT 122 Were eek to knowe a femele from a male,
WBT 123 And for noon oother cause — say ye no?
WBT 124 The experience woot wel it is noght so.
WBT 125 So that the clerkes be nat with me wrothe,
WBT 126 I sey this: that they maked ben for bothe;
WBT 127 That is to seye, for office and for ese
WBT 128 Of engendrure, ther we nat God displese.
WBT 129 Why sholde men elles in hir bookes sette
WBT 130 That man shal yelde to his wyf hire dette?
WBT 131 Now wherwith sholde he make his paiement,
WBT 132 If he ne used his sely instrument?
WBT 133 Thanne were they maad upon a creature
WBT 134 To purge uryne, and eek for engendrure.
WBT 135 But I seye noght that every wight is holde,
WBT 136 That hath swich harneys as I to yow tolde,
WBT 137 To goon and usen hem in engendrure.
WBT 138 Thanne sholde men take of chastitee no cure.
WBT 139 Crist was a mayde and shapen as a man,
WBT 140 And many a seint, sith that the world bigan;
WBT 141 Yet lyved they evere in parfit chastitee.
WBT 142 I nyl envye no virginitee.
WBT 143 Lat hem be breed of pured whete-seed,
WBT 144 And lat us wyves hoten barly-breed;
WBT 145 And yet with barly-breed, Mark telle kan,
WBT 146 Oure Lord Jhesu refresshed many a man.
WBT 147 In swich estaat as God hath cleped us
WBT 148 I wol persevere; I nam nat precius.
WBT 149 In wyfhod I wol use myn instrument
WBT 150 As frely as my Makere hath it sent.
WBT 151 If I be daungerous, God yeve me sorwe!
WBT 152 Myn housbonde shal it have bothe eve and morwe,
WBT 153 Whan that hym list come forth and paye his dette.
WBT 154 An housbonde I wol have — I wol nat lette —
WBT 155 Which shal be bothe my dettour and my thral,
WBT 156 And have his tribulacion withal
WBT 157 Upon his flessh, whil that I am his wyf.
WBT 158 I have the power durynge al my lyf
WBT 159 Upon his propre body, and noght he.
WBT 160 Right thus the Apostel tolde it unto me,
WBT 161 And bad oure housbondes for to love us weel.
WBT 162 Al this sentence me liketh every deel” —
WBT 163 Up stirte the Pardoner, and that anon;
WBT 164 “Now, dame,” quod he, “by God and by Seint John!
WBT 165 Ye been a noble prechour in this cas.
WBT 166 I was aboute to wedde a wyf; allas!
WBT 167 What sholde I bye it on my flessh so deere?
WBT 168 Yet hadde I levere wedde no wyf to-yeere!”
WBT 169 “Abyde!” quod she, “my tale is nat bigonne.
WBT 170 Nay, thou shalt drynken of another tonne,
WBT 171 Er that I go, shal savoure wors than ale.
WBT 172 And whan that I have toold thee forth my tale
WBT 173 Of tribulacion in mariage,
WBT 174 Of which I am expert in al myn age —
WBT 175 This is to seyn, myself have been the whippe —
WBT 176 Than maystow chese wheither thou wolt sippe
WBT 177 Of thilke tonne that I shal abroche.
WBT 178 Be war of it, er thou to ny approche;
WBT 179 For I shal telle ensamples mo than ten.
WBT 180 ‘Whoso that nyl be war by othere men,
WBT 181 By hym shul othere men corrected be.’
WBT 182 The same wordes writeth Ptholomee;
WBT 183 Rede in his Almageste, and take it there.”
WBT 184 “Dame, I wolde praye yow, if youre wyl it were,”
WBT 185 Seyde this Pardoner, “as ye bigan,
WBT 186 Telle forth youre tale, spareth for no man,
WBT 187 And teche us yonge men of youre praktike.”
WBT 188 “Gladly,” quod she, “sith it may yow like;
WBT 189 But yet I praye to al this compaignye,
WBT 190 If that I speke after my fantasye,
WBT 191 As taketh not agrief of that I seye,
WBT 192 For myn entente nys but for to pleye.
WBT 193 Now, sire, now wol I telle forth my tale.
WBT 194 As evere moote I drynken wyn or ale,
WBT 195 I shal seye sooth; tho housbondes that I hadde,
WBT 196 As thre of hem were goode, and two were badde.
WBT 197 The thre were goode men, and riche, and olde;
WBT 198 Unnethe myghte they the statut holde
WBT 199 In which that they were bounden unto me.
WBT 200 Ye woot wel what I meene of this, pardee!
WBT 201 As help me God, I laughe whan I thynke
WBT 202 How pitously a-nyght I made hem swynke!
WBT 203 And, by my fey, I tolde of it no stoor.
WBT 204 They had me yeven hir lond and hir tresoor;
WBT 205 Me neded nat do lenger diligence
WBT 206 To wynne hir love, or doon hem reverence.
WBT 207 They loved me so wel, by God above,
WBT 208 That I ne tolde no deyntee of hir love!
WBT 209 A wys womman wol bisye hire evere in oon
WBT 210 To gete hire love, ye, ther as she hath noon.
WBT 211 But sith I hadde hem hoolly in myn hond,
WBT 212 And sith they hadde me yeven al hir lond,
WBT 213 What sholde I taken keep hem for to plese,
WBT 214 But it were for my profit and myn ese?
WBT 215 I sette hem so a-werke, by my fey,
WBT 216 That many a nyght they songen ‘Weilawey!’
WBT 217 The bacon was nat fet for hem, I trowe,
WBT 218 That som men han in Essex at Dunmowe.
WBT 219 I governed hem so wel, after my lawe,
WBT 220 That ech of hem ful blisful was and fawe
WBT 221 To brynge me gaye thynges fro the fayre.
WBT 222 They were ful glad whan I spak to hem faire,
WBT 223 For, God it woot, I chidde hem spitously.
WBT 224 Now herkneth hou I baar me proprely,
WBT 225 Ye wise wyves, that kan understonde.
WBT 226 Thus shulde ye speke and bere hem wrong on honde,
WBT 227 For half so boldely kan ther no man
WBT 228 Swere and lyen, as a womman kan.
WBT 229 I sey nat this by wyves that been wyse,
WBT 230 But if it be whan they hem mysavyse.
WBT 231 A wys wyf, if that she kan hir good,
WBT 232 Shal beren hym on honde the cow is wood,
WBT 233 And take witnesse of hir owene mayde
WBT 234 Of hir assent. But herkneth how I sayde:
WBT 235 ‘Sire olde kaynard, is this thyn array?
WBT 236 Why is my neighebores wyf so gay?
WBT 237 She is honoured overal ther she gooth;
WBT 238 I sitte at hoom; I have no thrifty clooth.
WBT 239 What dostow at my neighebores hous?
WBT 240 Is she so fair? Artow so amorous?
WBT 241 What rowne ye with oure mayde? Benedicite!
WBT 242 Sire olde lecchour, lat thy japes be!
WBT 243 And if I have a gossib or a freend,
WBT 244 Withouten gilt, thou chidest as a feend,
WBT 245 If that I walke or pleye unto his hous!
WBT 246 Thou comest hoom as dronken as a mous,
WBT 247 And prechest on thy bench, with yvel preef!
WBT 248 Thou seist to me it is a greet meschief
WBT 249 To wedde a povre womman, for costage;
WBT 250 And if that she be riche, of heigh parage,
WBT 251 Thanne seistow that it is a tormentrie
WBT 252 To soffre hire pride and hire malencolie.
WBT 253 And if that she be fair, thou verray knave,
WBT 254 Thou seyst that every holour wol hire have;
WBT 255 She may no while in chastitee abyde,
WBT 256 That is assailled upon ech a syde.
WBT 257 Thou seyst som folk desiren us for richesse,
WBT 258 Somme for oure shap, and somme for oure fairnesse,
WBT 259 And som for she kan outher synge or daunce,
WBT 260 And som for gentillesse and daliaunce;
WBT 261 Som for hir handes and hir armes smale;
WBT 262 Thus goth al to the devel, by thy tale.
WBT 263 Thou seyst men may nat kepe a castel wal,
WBT 264 It may so longe assailled been overal.
WBT 265 And if that she be foul, thou seist that she
WBT 266 Coveiteth every man that she may se,
WBT 267 For as a spanyel she wol on hym lepe,
WBT 268 Til that she fynde som man hire to chepe.
WBT 269 Ne noon so grey goos gooth ther in the lake
WBT 270 As, seistow, wol been withoute make.
WBT 271 And seyst it is an hard thyng for to welde
WBT 272 A thyng that no man wole, his thankes, helde.
WBT 273 Thus seistow, lorel, whan thow goost to bedde,
WBT 274 And that no wys man nedeth for to wedde,
WBT 275 Ne no man that entendeth unto hevene.
WBT 276 With wilde thonder-dynt and firy levene
WBT 277 Moote thy welked nekke be tobroke!
WBT 278 Thow seyst that droppyng houses, and eek smoke,
WBT 279 And chidyng wyves maken men to flee
WBT 280 Out of hir owene houses; a, benedicitee!
WBT 281 What eyleth swich an old man for to chide?
WBT 282 Thow seyst we wyves wol oure vices hide
WBT 283 Til we be fast, and thanne we wol hem shewe —
WBT 284 Wel may that be a proverbe of a shrewe!
WBT 285 Thou seist that oxen, asses, hors, and houndes,
WBT 286 They been assayed at diverse stoundes;
WBT 287 Bacyns, lavours, er that men hem bye,
WBT 288 Spoones and stooles, and al swich housbondrye,
WBT 289 And so been pottes, clothes, and array;
WBT 290 But folk of wyves maken noon assay,
WBT 291 Til they be wedded — olde dotard shrewe! —
WBT 292 And thanne, seistow, we wol oure vices shewe.
WBT 293 Thou seist also that it displeseth me
WBT 294 But if that thou wolt preyse my beautee,
WBT 295 And but thou poure alwey upon my face,
WBT 296 And clepe me “faire dame” in every place.
WBT 297 And but thou make a feeste on thilke day
WBT 298 That I was born, and make me fressh and gay;
WBT 299 And but thou do to my norice honour,
WBT 300 And to my chamberere withinne my bour,
WBT 301 And to my fadres folk and his allyes —
WBT 302 Thus seistow, olde barel-ful of lyes!
WBT 303 And yet of oure apprentice Janekyn,
WBT 304 For his crispe heer, shynynge as gold so fyn,
WBT 305 And for he squiereth me bothe up and doun,
WBT 306 Yet hastow caught a fals suspecioun.
WBT 307 I wol hym noght, thogh thou were deed tomorwe!
WBT 308 But tel me this: why hydestow, with sorwe,
WBT 309 The keyes of thy cheste awey fro me?
WBT 310 It is my good as wel as thyn, pardee!
WBT 311 What, wenestow make an ydiot of oure dame?
WBT 312 Now by that lord that called is Seint Jame,
WBT 313 Thou shalt nat bothe, thogh that thou were wood,
WBT 314 Be maister of my body and of my good;
WBT 315 That oon thou shalt forgo, maugree thyne yen.
WBT 316 What helpith it of me to enquere or spyen?
WBT 317 I trowe thou woldest loke me in thy chiste!
WBT 318 Thou sholdest seye, “Wyf, go wher thee liste;
WBT 319 Taak youre disport; I wol nat leve no talys.
WBT 320 I knowe yow for a trewe wyf, dame Alys.”
WBT 321 We love no man that taketh kep or charge
WBT 322 Wher that we goon; we wol ben at oure large.
WBT 323 Of alle men yblessed moot he be,
WBT 324 The wise astrologien, Daun Ptholome,
WBT 325 That seith this proverbe in his Almageste:
WBT 326 “Of alle men his wysdom is the hyeste
WBT 327 That rekketh nevere who hath the world in honde.”
WBT 328 By this proverbe thou shalt understonde,
WBT 329 Have thou ynogh, what thar thee recche or care
WBT 330 How myrily that othere folkes fare?
WBT 331 For, certeyn, olde dotard, by youre leve,
WBT 332 Ye shul have queynte right ynogh at eve.
WBT 333 He is to greet a nygard that wolde werne
WBT 334 A man to lighte a candle at his lanterne;
WBT 335 He shal have never the lasse light, pardee.
WBT 336 Have thou ynogh, thee thar nat pleyne thee.
WBT 337 Thou seyst also, that if we make us gay
WBT 338 With clothyng, and with precious array,
WBT 339 That it is peril of oure chastitee;
WBT 340 And yet — with sorwe! — thou most enforce thee,
WBT 341 And seye thise wordes in the Apostles name:
WBT 342 “In habit maad with chastitee and shame
WBT 343 Ye wommen shul apparaille yow,” quod he,
WBT 344 “And noght in tressed heer and gay perree,
WBT 345 As perles, ne with gold, ne clothes riche.”
WBT 346 After thy text, ne after thy rubriche,
WBT 347 I wol nat wirche as muchel as a gnat.
WBT 348 Thou seydest this, that I was lyk a cat;
WBT 349 For whoso wolde senge a cattes skyn,
WBT 350 Thanne wolde the cat wel dwellen in his in;
WBT 351 And if the cattes skyn be slyk and gay,
WBT 352 She wol nat dwelle in house half a day,
WBT 353 But forth she wole, er any day be dawed,
WBT 354 To shewe hir skyn and goon a-caterwawed.
WBT 355 This is to seye, if I be gay, sire shrewe,
WBT 356 I wol renne out my borel for to shewe.
WBT 357 Sire olde fool, what helpeth thee to spyen?
WBT 358 Thogh thou preye Argus with his hundred yen
WBT 359 To be my warde-cors, as he kan best,
WBT 360 In feith, he shal nat kepe me but me lest;
WBT 361 Yet koude I make his berd, so moot I thee!
WBT 362 Thou seydest eek that ther been thynges thre,
WBT 363 The whiche thynges troublen al this erthe,
WBT 364 And that no wight may endure the ferthe.
WBT 365 O leeve sire shrewe, Jhesu shorte thy lyf!
WBT 366 Yet prechestow and seyst an hateful wyf
WBT 367 Yrekened is for oon of thise meschances.
WBT 368 Been ther none othere maner resemblances
WBT 369 That ye may likne youre parables to,
WBT 370 But if a sely wyf be oon of tho?
WBT 371 Thou liknest eek wommenes love to helle,
WBT 372 To bareyne lond, ther water may nat dwelle.
WBT 373 Thou liknest it also to wilde fyr;
WBT 374 The moore it brenneth, the moore it hath desir
WBT 375 To consume every thyng that brent wole be.
WBT 376 Thou seyest, right as wormes shende a tree,
WBT 377 Right so a wyf destroyeth hire housbonde;
WBT 378 This knowe they that been to wyves bonde.’
WBT 379 Lordynges, right thus, as ye have understonde,
WBT 380 Baar I stifly myne olde housbondes on honde
WBT 381 That thus they seyden in hir dronkenesse;
WBT 382 And al was fals, but that I took witnesse
WBT 383 On Janekyn, and on my nece also.
WBT 384 O Lord! The peyne I dide hem and the wo,
WBT 385 Ful giltelees, by Goddes sweete pyne!
WBT 386 For as an hors I koude byte and whyne.
WBT 387 I koude pleyne, and yit was in the gilt,
WBT 388 Or elles often tyme hadde I been spilt.
WBT 389 Whoso that first to mille comth, first grynt;
WBT 390 I pleyned first, so was oure werre ystynt.
WBT 391 They were ful glade to excuse hem blyve
WBT 392 Of thyng of which they nevere agilte hir lyve.
WBT 393 Of wenches wolde I beren hem on honde,
WBT 394 Whan that for syk unnethes myghte they stonde.
WBT 395 Yet tikled I his herte, for that he
WBT 396 Wende that I hadde of hym so greet chiertee!
WBT 397 I swoor that al my walkynge out by nyghte
WBT 398 Was for t’ espye wenches that he dighte;
WBT 399 Under that colour hadde I many a myrthe.
WBT 400 For al swich wit is yeven us in oure byrthe;
WBT 401 Deceite, wepyng, spynnyng God hath yive
WBT 402 To wommen kyndely, whil that they may lyve.
WBT 403 And thus of o thyng I avaunte me:
WBT 404 Atte ende I hadde the bettre in ech degree,
WBT 405 By sleighte, or force, or by som maner thyng,
WBT 406 As by continueel murmur or grucchyng.
WBT 407 Namely abedde hadden they meschaunce:
WBT 408 Ther wolde I chide and do hem no plesaunce;
WBT 409 I wolde no lenger in the bed abyde,
WBT 410 If that I felte his arm over my syde,
WBT 411 Til he had maad his raunson unto me;
WBT 412 Thanne wolde I suffre hym do his nycetee.
WBT 413 And therfore every man this tale I telle,
WBT 414 Wynne whoso may, for al is for to selle;
WBT 415 With empty hand men may none haukes lure.
WBT 416 For wynnyng wolde I al his lust endure,
WBT 417 And make me a feyned appetit;
WBT 418 And yet in bacon hadde I nevere delit.
WBT 419 That made me that evere I wolde hem chide,
WBT 420 For thogh the pope hadde seten hem biside,
WBT 421 I wolde nat spare hem at hir owene bord,
WBT 422 For, by my trouthe, I quitte hem word for word.
WBT 423 As helpe me verray God omnipotent,
WBT 424 Though I right now sholde make my testament,
WBT 425 I ne owe hem nat a word that it nys quit.
WBT 426 I broghte it so aboute by my wit
WBT 427 That they moste yeve it up, as for the beste,
WBT 428 Or elles hadde we nevere been in reste;
WBT 429 For thogh he looked as a wood leon,
WBT 430 Yet sholde he faille of his conclusion.
WBT 431 Thanne wolde I seye, ‘Goode lief, taak keep
WBT 432 How mekely looketh Wilkyn, oure sheep!
WBT 433 Com neer, my spouse, lat me ba thy cheke!
WBT 434 Ye sholde been al pacient and meke,
WBT 435 And han a sweete spiced conscience,
WBT 436 Sith ye so preche of Jobes pacience.
WBT 437 Suffreth alwey, syn ye so wel kan preche;
WBT 438 And but ye do, certein we shal yow teche
WBT 439 That it is fair to have a wyf in pees.
WBT 440 Oon of us two moste bowen, doutelees,
WBT 441 And sith a man is moore resonable
WBT 442 Than womman is, ye moste been suffrable.
WBT 443 What eyleth yow to grucche thus and grone?
WBT 444 Is it for ye wolde have my queynte allone?
WBT 445 Wy, taak it al! Lo, have it every deel!
WBT 446 Peter! I shrewe yow, but ye love it weel;
WBT 447 For if I wolde selle my bele chose,
WBT 448 I koude walke as fressh as is a rose;
WBT 449 But I wol kepe it for youre owene tooth.
WBT 450 Ye be to blame, by God! I sey yow sooth.’
WBT 451 Swiche manere wordes hadde we on honde.
WBT 452 Now wol I speken of my fourthe housbonde.
WBT 453 My fourthe housbonde was a revelour —
WBT 454 This is to seyn, he hadde a paramour —
WBT 455 And I was yong and ful of ragerye,
WBT 456 Stibourn and strong, and joly as a pye.
WBT 457 How koude I daunce to an harpe smale,
WBT 458 And synge, ywis, as any nyghtyngale,
WBT 459 Whan I had dronke a draughte of sweete wyn!
WBT 460 Metellius, the foule cherl, the swyn,
WBT 461 That with a staf birafte his wyf hir lyf,
WBT 462 For she drank wyn, thogh I hadde been his wyf,
WBT 463 He sholde nat han daunted me fro drynke!
WBT 464 And after wyn on Venus moste I thynke,
WBT 465 For al so siker as cold engendreth hayl,
WBT 466 A likerous mouth moste han a likerous tayl.
WBT 467 In wommen vinolent is no defence —
WBT 468 This knowen lecchours by experience.
WBT 469 But — Lord Crist! — whan that it remembreth me
WBT 470 Upon my yowthe, and on my jolitee,
WBT 471 It tikleth me aboute myn herte roote.
WBT 472 Unto this day it dooth myn herte boote
WBT 473 That I have had my world as in my tyme.
WBT 474 But age, allas, that al wole envenyme,
WBT 475 Hath me biraft my beautee and my pith.
WBT 476 Lat go. Farewel! The devel go therwith!
WBT 477 The flour is goon; ther is namoore to telle;
WBT 478 The bren, as I best kan, now moste I selle;
WBT 479 But yet to be right myrie wol I fonde.
WBT 480 Now wol I tellen of my fourthe housbonde.
WBT 481 I seye, I hadde in herte greet despit
WBT 482 That he of any oother had delit.
WBT 483 But he was quit, by God and by Seint Joce!
WBT 484 I made hym of the same wode a croce;
WBT 485 Nat of my body, in no foul manere,
WBT 486 But certeinly, I made folk swich cheere
WBT 487 That in his owene grece I made hym frye
WBT 488 For angre, and for verray jalousye.
WBT 489 By God, in erthe I was his purgatorie,
WBT 490 For which I hope his soule be in glorie.
WBT 491 For, God it woot, he sat ful ofte and song,
WBT 492 Whan that his shoo ful bitterly hym wrong.
WBT 493 Ther was no wight, save God and he, that wiste,
WBT 494 In many wise, how soore I hym twiste.
WBT 495 He deyde whan I cam fro Jerusalem,
WBT 496 And lith ygrave under the roode beem,
WBT 497 Al is his tombe noght so curyus
WBT 498 As was the sepulcre of hym Daryus,
WBT 499 Which that Appelles wroghte subtilly;
WBT 500 It nys but wast to burye hym preciously.
WBT 501 Lat hym fare wel; God yeve his soule reste!
WBT 502 He is now in his grave and in his cheste.
WBT 503 Now of my fifthe housbonde wol I telle.
WBT 504 God lete his soule nevere come in helle!
WBT 505 And yet was he to me the mooste shrewe;
WBT 506 That feele I on my ribbes al by rewe,
WBT 507 And evere shal unto myn endyng day.
WBT 508 But in oure bed he was so fressh and gay,
WBT 509 And therwithal so wel koude he me glose,
WBT 510 Whan that he wolde han my bele chose;
WBT 511 That thogh he hadde me bete on every bon,
WBT 512 He koude wynne agayn my love anon.
WBT 513 I trowe I loved hym best, for that he
WBT 514 Was of his love daungerous to me.
WBT 515 We wommen han, if that I shal nat lye,
WBT 516 In this matere a queynte fantasye:
WBT 517 Wayte what thyng we may nat lightly have,
WBT 518 Therafter wol we crie al day and crave.
WBT 519 Forbede us thyng, and that desiren we;
WBT 520 Preesse on us faste, and thanne wol we fle.
WBT 521 With daunger oute we al oure chaffare;
WBT 522 Greet prees at market maketh deere ware,
WBT 523 And to greet cheep is holde at litel prys:
WBT 524 This knoweth every womman that is wys.
WBT 525 My fifthe housbonde — God his soule blesse! —
WBT 526 Which that I took for love, and no richesse,
WBT 527 He som tyme was a clerk of Oxenford,
WBT 528 And hadde left scole, and wente at hom to bord
WBT 529 With my gossib, dwellynge in oure toun;
WBT 530 God have hir soule! Hir name was Alisoun.
WBT 531 She knew myn herte, and eek my privetee,
WBT 532 Bet than oure parisshe preest, so moot I thee!
WBT 533 To hire biwreyed I my conseil al.
WBT 534 For hadde myn housbonde pissed on a wal,
WBT 535 Or doon a thyng that sholde han cost his lyf,
WBT 536 To hire, and to another worthy wyf,
WBT 537 And to my nece, which that I loved weel,
WBT 538 I wolde han toold his conseil every deel.
WBT 539 And so I dide ful often, God it woot,
WBT 540 That made his face often reed and hoot
WBT 541 For verray shame, and blamed hymself for he
WBT 542 Had toold to me so greet a pryvetee.
WBT 543 And so bifel that ones in a Lente —
WBT 544 So often tymes I to my gossyb wente,
WBT 545 For evere yet I loved to be gay,
WBT 546 And for to walke in March, Averill, and May,
WBT 547 Fro hous to hous, to heere sondry talys —
WBT 548 That Jankyn clerk, and my gossyb dame Alys,
WBT 549 And I myself, into the feeldes wente.
WBT 550 Myn housbonde was at Londoun al that Lente;
WBT 551 I hadde the bettre leyser for to pleye,
WBT 552 And for to se, and eek for to be seye
WBT 553 Of lusty folk. What wiste I wher my grace
WBT 554 Was shapen for to be, or in what place?
WBT 555 Therfore I made my visitaciouns
WBT 556 To vigilies and to processiouns,
WBT 557 To prechyng eek, and to thise pilgrimages,
WBT 558 To pleyes of myracles, and to mariages,
WBT 559 And wered upon my gaye scarlet gytes.
WBT 560 Thise wormes, ne thise motthes, ne thise mytes,
WBT 561 Upon my peril, frete hem never a deel;
WBT 562 And wostow why? For they were used weel.
WBT 563 Now wol I tellen forth what happed me.
WBT 564 I seye that in the feeldes walked we,
WBT 565 Til trewely we hadde swich daliance,
WBT 566 This clerk and I, that of my purveiance
WBT 567 I spak to hym and seyde hym how that he,
WBT 568 If I were wydwe, sholde wedde me.
WBT 569 For certeinly — I sey for no bobance —
WBT 570 Yet was I nevere withouten purveiance
WBT 571 Of mariage, n’ of othere thynges eek.
WBT 572 I holde a mouses herte nat worth a leek
WBT 573 That hath but oon hole for to sterte to,
WBT 574 And if that faille, thanne is al ydo.
WBT 575 I bar hym on honde he hadde enchanted me —
WBT 576 My dame taughte me that soutiltee —
WBT 577 And eek I seyde I mette of hym al nyght,
WBT 578 He wolde han slayn me as I lay upright,
WBT 579 And al my bed was ful of verray blood;
WBT 580 ‘But yet I hope that ye shal do me good,
WBT 581 For blood bitokeneth gold, as me was taught.’
WBT 582 And al was fals; I dremed of it right naught,
WBT 583 But as I folwed ay my dames loore,
WBT 584 As wel of this as of othere thynges moore.
WBT 585 But now, sire, lat me se what I shal seyn.
WBT 586 A ha! By God, I have my tale ageyn.
WBT 587 Whan that my fourthe housbonde was on beere,
WBT 588 I weep algate, and made sory cheere,
WBT 589 As wyves mooten, for it is usage,
WBT 590 And with my coverchief covered my visage,
WBT 591 But for that I was purveyed of a make,
WBT 592 I wepte but smal, and that I undertake.
WBT 593 To chirche was myn housbonde born a-morwe
WBT 594 With neighebores, that for hym maden sorwe;
WBT 595 And Jankyn, oure clerk, was oon of tho.
WBT 596 As help me God, whan that I saugh hym go
WBT 597 After the beere, me thoughte he hadde a paire
WBT 598 Of legges and of feet so clene and faire
WBT 599 That al myn herte I yaf unto his hoold.
WBT 600 He was, I trowe, twenty wynter oold,
WBT 601 And I was fourty, if I shal seye sooth;
WBT 602 But yet I hadde alwey a coltes tooth.
WBT 603 Gat-tothed I was, and that bicam me weel;
WBT 604 I hadde the prente of seinte Venus seel.
WBT 605 As help me God, I was a lusty oon,
WBT 606 And faire, and riche, and yong, and wel bigon,
WBT 607 And trewely, as myne housbondes tolde me,
WBT 608 I hadde the beste quoniam myghte be.
WBT 609 For certes, I am al Venerien
WBT 610 In feelynge, and myn herte is Marcien.
WBT 611 Venus me yaf my lust, my likerousnesse,
WBT 612 And Mars yaf me my sturdy hardynesse;
WBT 613 Myn ascendent was Taur, and Mars therinne.
WBT 614 Allas, allas! That evere love was synne!
WBT 615 I folwed ay myn inclinacioun
WBT 616 By vertu of my constellacioun;
WBT 617 That made me I koude noght withdrawe
WBT 618 My chambre of Venus from a good felawe.
WBT 619 Yet have I Martes mark upon my face,
WBT 620 And also in another privee place.
WBT 621 For God so wys be my savacioun,
WBT 622 I ne loved nevere by no discrecioun,
WBT 623 But evere folwede myn appetit,
WBT 624 Al were he short, or long, or blak, or whit;
WBT 625 I took no kep, so that he liked me,
WBT 626 How poore he was, ne eek of what degree.
WBT 627 What sholde I seye but, at the monthes ende,
WBT 628 This joly clerk, Jankyn, that was so hende,
WBT 629 Hath wedded me with greet solempnytee,
WBT 630 And to hym yaf I al the lond and fee
WBT 631 That evere was me yeven therbifoore.
WBT 632 But afterward repented me ful soore;
WBT 633 He nolde suffre nothyng of my list.
WBT 634 By God, he smoot me ones on the lyst,
WBT 635 For that I rente out of his book a leef,
WBT 636 That of the strook myn ere wax al deef.
WBT 637 Stibourn I was as is a leonesse,
WBT 638 And of my tonge a verray jangleresse,
WBT 639 And walke I wolde, as I had doon biforn,
WBT 640 From hous to hous, although he had it sworn;
WBT 641 For which he often tymes wolde preche,
WBT 642 And me of olde Romayn geestes teche;
WBT 643 How he Symplicius Gallus lefte his wyf,
WBT 644 And hire forsook for terme of al his lyf,
WBT 645 Noght but for open-heveded he hir say
WBT 646 Lookynge out at his dore upon a day.
WBT 647 Another Romayn tolde he me by name,
WBT 648 That, for his wyf was at a someres game
WBT 649 Withouten his wityng, he forsook hire eke.
WBT 650 And thanne wolde he upon his Bible seke
WBT 651 That ilke proverbe of Ecclesiaste
WBT 652 Where he comandeth and forbedeth faste
WBT 653 Man shal nat suffre his wyf go roule aboute.
WBT 654 Thanne wolde he seye right thus, withouten doute:
WBT 655 ‘Whoso that buyldeth his hous al of salwes,
WBT 656 And priketh his blynde hors over the falwes,
WBT 657 And suffreth his wyf to go seken halwes,
WBT 658 Is worthy to been hanged on the galwes!’
WBT 659 But al for noght, I sette noght an hawe
WBT 660 Of his proverbes n’ of his olde sawe,
WBT 661 Ne I wolde nat of hym corrected be.
WBT 662 I hate hym that my vices telleth me,
WBT 663 And so doo mo, God woot, of us than I.
WBT 664 This made hym with me wood al outrely;
WBT 665 I nolde noght forbere hym in no cas.
WBT 666 Now wol I seye yow sooth, by Seint Thomas,
WBT 667 Why that I rente out of his book a leef,
WBT 668 For which he smoot me so that I was deef.
WBT 669 He hadde a book that gladly, nyght and day,
WBT 670 For his desport he wolde rede alway;
WBT 671 He cleped it Valerie and Theofraste,
WBT 672 At which book he lough alwey ful faste.
WBT 673 And eek ther was somtyme a clerk at Rome,
WBT 674 A cardinal, that highte Seint Jerome,
WBT 675 That made a book agayn Jovinian;
WBT 676 In which book eek ther was Tertulan,
WBT 677 Crisippus, Trotula, and Helowys,
WBT 678 That was abbesse nat fer fro Parys,
WBT 679 And eek the Parables of Salomon,
WBT 680 Ovides Art, and bookes many on,
WBT 681 And alle thise were bounden in o volume.
WBT 682 And every nyght and day was his custume,
WBT 683 Whan he hadde leyser and vacacioun
WBT 684 From oother worldly occupacioun,
WBT 685 To reden on this book of wikked wyves.
WBT 686 He knew of hem mo legendes and lyves
WBT 687 Than been of goode wyves in the Bible.
WBT 688 For trusteth wel, it is an impossible
WBT 689 That any clerk wol speke good of wyves,
WBT 690 But if it be of hooly seintes lyves,
WBT 691 Ne of noon oother womman never the mo.
WBT 692 Who peyntede the leon, tel me who?
WBT 693 By God, if wommen hadde writen stories,
WBT 694 As clerkes han withinne hire oratories,
WBT 695 They wolde han writen of men moore wikkednesse
WBT 696 Than al the mark of Adam may redresse.
WBT 697 The children of Mercurie and of Venus
WBT 698 Been in hir wirkyng ful contrarius;
WBT 699 Mercurie loveth wysdam and science,
WBT 700 And Venus loveth ryot and dispence.
WBT 701 And, for hire diverse disposicioun,
WBT 702 Ech falleth in otheres exaltacioun.
WBT 703 And thus, God woot, Mercurie is desolat
WBT 704 In Pisces, wher Venus is exaltat,
WBT 705 And Venus falleth ther Mercurie is reysed.
WBT 706 Therfore no womman of no clerk is preysed.
WBT 707 The clerk, whan he is oold, and may noght do
WBT 708 Of Venus werkes worth his olde sho,
WBT 709 Thanne sit he doun, and writ in his dotage
WBT 710 That wommen kan nat kepe hir mariage!
WBT 711 But now to purpos, why I tolde thee
WBT 712 That I was beten for a book, pardee!
WBT 713 Upon a nyght Jankyn, that was oure sire,
WBT 714 Redde on his book, as he sat by the fire,
WBT 715 Of Eva first, that for hir wikkednesse
WBT 716 Was al mankynde broght to wrecchednesse,
WBT 717 For which that Jhesu Crist hymself was slayn,
WBT 718 That boghte us with his herte blood agayn.
WBT 719 Lo, heere expres of womman may ye fynde
WBT 720 That womman was the los of al mankynde.
WBT 721 Tho redde he me how Sampson loste his heres:
WBT 722 Slepynge, his lemman kitte it with hir sheres;
WBT 723 Thurgh which treson loste he bothe his yen.
WBT 724 Tho redde he me, if that I shal nat lyen,
WBT 725 Of Hercules and of his Dianyre,
WBT 726 That caused hym to sette hymself afyre.
WBT 727 No thyng forgat he the care and the wo
WBT 728 That Socrates hadde with his wyves two,
WBT 729 How Xantippa caste pisse upon his heed.
WBT 730 This sely man sat stille as he were deed;
WBT 731 He wiped his heed, namoore dorste he seyn,
WBT 732 But ‘Er that thonder stynte, comth a reyn!’
WBT 733 Of Phasipha, that was the queene of Crete,
WBT 734 For shrewednesse, hym thoughte the tale swete;
WBT 735 Fy! Spek namoore — it is a grisly thyng —
WBT 736 Of hire horrible lust and hir likyng.
WBT 737 Of Clitermystra, for hire lecherye,
WBT 738 That falsly made hire housbonde for to dye,
WBT 739 He redde it with ful good devocioun.
WBT 740 He tolde me eek for what occasioun
WBT 741 Amphiorax at Thebes loste his lyf.
WBT 742 Myn housbonde hadde a legende of his wyf,
WBT 743 Eriphilem, that for an ouche of gold
WBT 744 Hath prively unto the Grekes told
WBT 745 Wher that hir housbonde hidde hym in a place,
WBT 746 For which he hadde at Thebes sory grace.
WBT 747 Of Lyvia tolde he me, and of Lucye:
WBT 748 They bothe made hir housbondes for to dye,
WBT 749 That oon for love, that oother was for hate.
WBT 750 Lyvia hir housbonde, on an even late,
WBT 751 Empoysoned hath, for that she was his fo;
WBT 752 Lucia, likerous, loved hire housbonde so
WBT 753 That, for he sholde alwey upon hire thynke,
WBT 754 She yaf hym swich a manere love-drynke
WBT 755 That he was deed er it were by the morwe;
WBT 756 And thus algates housbondes han sorwe.
WBT 757 Thanne tolde he me how oon Latumyus
WBT 758 Compleyned unto his felawe Arrius
WBT 759 That in his gardyn growed swich a tree
WBT 760 On which he seyde how that his wyves thre
WBT 761 Hanged hemself for herte despitus.
WBT 762 ‘O leeve brother,’ quod this Arrius,
WBT 763 ‘Yif me a plante of thilke blissed tree,
WBT 764 And in my gardyn planted shal it bee.’
WBT 765 Of latter date, of wyves hath he red
WBT 766 That somme han slayn hir housbondes in hir bed,
WBT 767 And lete hir lecchour dighte hire al the nyght,
WBT 768 Whan that the corps lay in the floor upright.
WBT 769 And somme han dryve nayles in hir brayn,
WBT 770 Whil that they slepte, and thus they had hem slayn.
WBT 771 Somme han hem yeve poysoun in hire drynke.
WBT 772 He spak moore harm than herte may bithynke,
WBT 773 And therwithal he knew of mo proverbes
WBT 774 Than in this world ther growen gras or herbes.
WBT 775 ‘Bet is,’ quod he, ‘thyn habitacioun
WBT 776 Be with a leon or a foul dragoun,
WBT 777 Than with a womman usynge for to chyde.
WBT 778 Bet is,’ quod he, ‘hye in the roof abyde,
WBT 779 Than with an angry wyf doun in the hous;
WBT 780 They been so wikked and contrarious,
WBT 781 They haten that hir housbondes loven ay.’
WBT 782 He seyde, ‘A womman cast hir shame away,
WBT 783 Whan she cast of hir smok’; and forthermo,
WBT 784 ‘A fair womman, but she be chaast also,
WBT 785 Is lyk a gold ryng in a sowes nose.’
WBT 786 Who wolde wene, or who wolde suppose,
WBT 787 The wo that in myn herte was, and pyne?
WBT 788 And whan I saugh he wolde nevere fyne
WBT 789 To reden on this cursed book al nyght,
WBT 790 Al sodeynly thre leves have I plyght
WBT 791 Out of his book, right as he radde, and eke
WBT 792 I with my fest so took hym on the cheke
WBT 793 That in oure fyr he fil bakward adoun.
WBT 794 And he up stirte as dooth a wood leoun,
WBT 795 And with his fest he smoot me on the heed
WBT 796 That in the floor I lay as I were deed.
WBT 797 And whan he saugh how stille that I lay,
WBT 798 He was agast and wolde han fled his way,
WBT 799 Til atte laste out of my swogh I breyde.
WBT 800 ‘O! hastow slayn me, false theef?’ I seyde,
WBT 801 ‘And for my land thus hastow mordred me?
WBT 802 Er I be deed, yet wol I kisse thee.’
WBT 803 And neer he cam, and kneled faire adoun,
WBT 804 And seyde, ‘Deere suster Alisoun,
WBT 805 As help me God, I shal thee nevere smyte!
WBT 806 That I have doon, it is thyself to wyte.
WBT 807 Foryeve it me, and that I thee biseke!’
WBT 808 And yet eftsoones I hitte hym on the cheke,
WBT 809 And seyde, ‘Theef, thus muchel am I wreke;
WBT 810 Now wol I dye, I may no lenger speke.’
WBT 811 But atte laste, with muchel care and wo,
WBT 812 We fille acorded by us selven two.
WBT 813 He yaf me al the bridel in myn hond,
WBT 814 To han the governance of hous and lond,
WBT 815 And of his tonge, and of his hond also;
WBT 816 And made hym brenne his book anon right tho.
WBT 817 And whan that I hadde geten unto me,
WBT 818 By maistrie, al the soveraynetee,
WBT 819 And that he seyde, ‘Myn owene trewe wyf,
WBT 820 Do as thee lust the terme of al thy lyf;
WBT 821 Keep thyn honour, and keep eek myn estaat’ —
WBT 822 After that day we hadden never debaat.
WBT 823 God helpe me so, I was to hym as kynde
WBT 824 As any wyf from Denmark unto Ynde,
WBT 825 And also trewe, and so was he to me.
WBT 826 I prey to God, that sit in magestee,
WBT 827 So blesse his soule for his mercy deere.
WBT 828 Now wol I seye my tale, if ye wol heere.”
WBT 829 The Frere lough, whan he hadde herd al this;
WBT 830 “Now dame,” quod he, “so have I joye or blis,
WBT 831 This is a long preamble of a tale!”
WBT 832 And whan the Somonour herde the Frere gale,
WBT 833 “Lo,” quod the Somonour, “Goddes armes two!
WBT 834 A frere wol entremette hym everemo.
WBT 835 Lo, goode men, a flye and eek a frere
WBT 836 Wol falle in every dyssh and eek mateere.
WBT 837 What spekestow of preambulacioun?
WBT 838 What! amble, or trotte, or pees, or go sit doun!
WBT 839 Thou lettest oure disport in this manere.”
WBT 840 “Ye, woltow so, sire Somonour?” quod the Frere;
WBT 841 “Now, by my feith I shal, er that I go,
WBT 842 Telle of a somonour swich a tale or two
WBT 843 That alle the folk shal laughen in this place.”
WBT 844 “Now elles, Frere, I bishrewe thy face,”
WBT 845 Quod this Somonour, “and I bishrewe me,
WBT 846 But if I telle tales two or thre
WBT 847 Of freres er I come to Sidyngborne
WBT 848 That I shal make thyn herte for to morne,
WBT 849 For wel I woot thy pacience is gon.”
WBT 850 Oure Hooste cride “Pees! And that anon!”
WBT 851 And seyde, “Lat the womman telle hire tale.
WBT 852 Ye fare as folk that dronken ben of ale.
WBT 853 Do, dame, telle forth youre tale, and that is best.”
WBT 854 “Al redy, sire,” quod she, “right as yow lest,
WBT 855 If I have licence of this worthy Frere.”
WBT 856 “Yis, dame,” quod he, “tel forth, and I wol heere.”