The canterbury tales, p.32
The Canterbury Tales,
In which book eek ther was Tertulan,
Crisippus, Trotula, and Helowis,
That was abbesse nat fer fro Paris,
And eek the Parables of Salomon,
680 Ovides Art, and bokes many on.
And alle thise were bounde in o681 volume,
And every night and day was his custume,
Whan he hadde leiser and vacacioun683
From oother worldly occupacioun,
685 To reden in this book of wikked wives.
He knew of hem mo legendes and lives
Than been of goode wives in the Bible.
For trusteth wel, it is an inpossible688
That any clerk wol speke good of wives,
690 But if it be of holy seintes lives,
Ne of noon oother womman neverthemo691.
Who peinted the leoun, tel me who?
By God, if wommen hadde writen stories,
As clerkes han withinne hir oratories,
695 They wolde han write695 of men moore wikkednesse
Than al the mark696 of Adam may redresse!
The children of Mercurye697 and of Venus
Been in hir wirking698 ful contrarius:
Mercurye loveth wisdam and science699,
700 And Venus loveth riot700 and dispence.
And for hir diverse disposicioun,
Ech falleth in otheres exaltacioun;702
And thus, God woot, Mercurye is desolat
In Pisces, wher Venus is exaltat704,
705 And Venus falleth ther Mercurye is reised.
Therfore no womman of no clerk is preised.
The clerk, whan he is old, and may noght do
Of Venus werkes708 worth his olde sho,
Thanne sit709 he doun and writ in his dotage
710 That wommen kan nat kepe hir mariage!
‘But now to purpos711, why I tolde thee
That I was beten for a book, pardee.
Upon a night, Jankin, that was oure sire,
Redde on his book, as he sat by the fire,
715 Of Eva first, that for hir wikkednesse
Was al mankinde ybroght to wrecchednesse716,
For which that Jesu Crist himself was slain,
That boghte us with his herte-blood again.
Lo here, expres719 of wimmen may ye finde,
720 That womman was the los of al mankinde!
‘Tho721 redde he me how Sampson loste his heres:
Slepinge, his lemman722 kitte it with hir sheres,
Thurgh which tresoun loste he bothe his eyen.
‘Tho redde he me, if that I shal nat lien,
725 Of Hercules, and of his Dianire,
That caused him to sette himself afire.
‘Nothing727 forgat he the sorwe and wo
That Socrates hadde with his wives two –
How Xantippa caste pisse upon his heed.
730 This sely730 man sat stille as he were deed.
He wipte731 his heed; namoore dorste he seyn,
But “Er that thonder stinte732, comth a rein!” 703 desolat helpless
– Of Phasipha, that was the queen of Crete;
For shrewednesse734 him thoughte the tale swete –
735 Fy, spek namoore, it is a grisly thing,
Of hir horrible lust and hir liking736!
– Of Clitermystra, for hir lecherye
That falsly made hir housbonde for to die;
He redde it with ful good devocioun.
740 ‘He tolde me eek for what occasioun
Amphiorax at Thebes loste his lif;
Min housbonde hadde a legende742 of his wif,
Eriphilem, that for an ouche743 of gold
Hath prively744 unto the Grekes told
745 Wher that hir housbonde hidde him in a place,
For which he hadde at Thebes sory grace746.
‘Of Livia tolde he me, and of Lucye:
They bothe made hir housbondes for to die,
That oon for love, that oother was for hate.
750 Livia hir housbonde on an even750 late
Empoisoned hath, for that she was his fo.
Lucia, likerous752, loved hir housbonde so
That, for he sholde alwey upon hir thinke,
She yaf him swich a maner754 love-drinke
755 That he was deed er it were by the morwe –
And thus algates756 housbondes han sorwe.
‘Thanne tolde he me how oon Latumius
Compleined unto his felawe Arrius,
That in his gardin growed swich a tree,
760 On which he seide how that his wives thre
Honged hemself, for herte despitus761.
“O leeve762 brother,” quod this Arrius,
“Yif763 me a plante of thilke blessed tree,
And in my gardin planted shal it be!”
765 ‘Of latter date765 of wives hath he red,
That somme han slain hir housbondes in hir bed,
And lete hir lechour dighte hire al the night,767
Whan that the corps lay in the floor upright768;
And somme han driven nailes in hir brain,
770 Whil that they sleepe, and thus they han hem slain.
Somme han hem yeven poisoun in hir drinke.
He spak moore harm than herte may bithinke772;
And therwithal he knew of mo proverbes
Than in this world ther growen gras or herbes.
775 “Bet is”, quod he, “thin habitacioun775
Be with a leoun or a foul dragoun,
Than with a womman using777 for to chide.
Bet is”, quod he, “hye778 in the roof abide,
Than with an angry wif doun in the hous.
780 They been so wikked and contrarious;
They haten that781 hir housbondes loveth ay.”
He seide, “A womman cast hir shame away
Whan she cast of783 hir smok,” and forthermo,
“A fair womman, but784 she be chaast also,
785 Is lik a gold ring in a sowes nose.”
Who wolde wene786, or who wolde suppose
The wo that in min herte was, and pine787?
‘And whan I say he wolde nevere fine788
To reden on this cursed book al night,
790 Al sodeinly thre leves have I plight790
Out of his book, right as he radde, and eke
I with my fist so took him on the cheke
That in oure fir he fil bakward adoun.
And he up stirte as dooth a wood794 leoun,
795 And with his fest795 he smoot me on the heed,
That in the floor I lay as I were deed.
And whan he saugh how stille that I lay,
He was agast, and wolde han fled his way,798
Til atte laste out of my swough I braide799.
800 “O, hastow slain me, false theef?” I saide,
“And for my land thus hastow mordred me?
Er I be deed, yet wol I kisse thee!”
‘And neer he cam, and kneled faire adoun,
And seide, “Deere suster Alisoun,
805 As help me God, I shal thee nevere smite.
That I have doon, it is thyself to wite806;
Foryeve it me, and that I thee biseke807.”
And yet eftsoones808 I hitte him on the cheke,
And seide, “Theef, thus muchel am I wreke809!
810 Now wol I die; I may no lenger speke.”
But at the laste, with muchel care811 and wo,
We fille acorded812 by us selven two.
He yaf me al the bridel813 in min hond,
To han the governaunce814 of hous and lond,
815 And of his tonge and of his hond also,
And made him brenne his book anon-right tho816.
And whan that I hadde geten unto me
By maistrye818 al the soverainetee,
And that he seide, “Min owene trewe wif,
820 Do as thee lust the terme of al thy lif;820
Keep thin honour, and keep eek min esta
After that day we hadden nevere debaat822.
God help me so, I was to him as kinde
As any wif from Denmark unto Inde824,
825 And also trewe, and so was he to me.
I pray to God that sit in magestee,
So blesse his soule, for his mercy deere!
Now wol I seye my tale, if ye wol here.’
Biholde the wordes bitwene the Somonour and the Frere.
The Frere logh829 whan he hadde herd al this;
830 ‘Now dame,’ quod he, ‘so have I joye or blis830,
This is a long preamble of a tale!’
And whan the Somnour herde the Frere gale832,
‘Lo,’ quod the Somnour, ‘Goddes armes two,
A frere wol entremette him everemo834!
835 Loo, goode men, a flye and eek a frere
Wol falle in every dissh and eek matere836!
What spekestow of preambulacioun?837
What, amble, or trotte, or paas838, or go sit doun!
Thow lettest839 oure disport in this manere.’
840 ‘Ye, woltow so840, sir Somnour?’ quod the Frere.
‘Now, by my feith, I shal, er that I go,
Telle of a somnour swich a tale or two
That al the folk shal laughen in this place.’
‘Now elles, Frere, I bishrewe844 thy face,’
845 Quod this Somnour, ‘and I bishrewe me,
But if I846 telle tales two or three
Of freres, er I come to Sidingborne,
That I shal make thin herte for to morne848,
For wel I woot thy pacience is gon.’
850 Oure Hooste cride, ‘Pees, and that anon!’
And seide, ‘Lat the womman telle hir tale.
Ye fare as852 folk that dronken ben of ale.
Do, dame, tel forth youre tale, and that is best.’
‘Al redy, sire,’ quod she, ‘right as yow lest,
855 If I have licence of this worthy frere.’
‘Yis, dame,’ quod he, ‘tel forth, and I wol here856.’
Heere endeth the Wif of Bathe hir Prologe and biginneth hir Tale.
THE WIFE OF BATH’S TALE
In th’olde dayes of the king Arthour,
Of which that858 Britons speken greet honour,
Al was this land fulfild of faierye859.
860 The elf-queene with hir joly860 compaignye
Daunced ful ofte in many a grene mede861.
This was the olde opinioun, as I rede –
I speke of many hundred yeres ago.
But now kan no man se none elves mo,
865 For now the grete charitee and prayeres
Of limitours866 and othere holy freres,
That serchen867 every lond and every streem
As thikke as motes in the sonne-beem868,
Blessinge halles, chambres, kichenes, boures869,
870 Citees, burghes870, castels, hye toures,
Thropes, bernes, shipnes, daieryes –871
This maketh that ther been no faieryes.
For ther as wont to walken was an elf,873
Ther walketh now the limitour himself
875 In undermeles and in morweninges,875
And seyth his matins and his holy thinges876
As he gooth in his limitacioun877.
Wommen may go saufly878 up and doun;
In every bussh or under every tree,
880 Ther is noon oother incubus880 but he,
And he ne wol doon hem but881 dishonour.
And so bifel that this king Arthour
Hadde in his hous a lusty bacheler883
That on a day cam riding fro river884,
885 And happed that, allone as he was born,
He saugh a maide walkinge him biforn,
Of which maide anoon, maugree hir hed887,
By verray force he rafte888 hir maidenhed;
For which oppressioun889 was swich clamour
890 And swich pursuite890 unto the king Arthour
That dampned891 was this knight for to be deed
By cours of lawe, and sholde han lost his heed –
Paraventure, swich was the statut tho –
But that the queene and othere ladies mo
895 So longe preyeden the king of grace895
Til he his lif him graunted in the place,
And yaf him to the queene, al at hir wille,
To chese wher she wolde him save or spille898.
The queene thanketh the king with al hir might;
900 And after this thus spak she to the knight,
Whan that she saugh hir time upon a day,901
‘Thow standest yet902’, quod she, ‘in swich array
That of thy lif yet hastow no suretee903.
I graunte thee lif, if thow kanst tellen me
905 What thing is it that wommen moost desiren.
Be war906 and keep thy nekke-boon from iren!
And if thow kanst nat tellen it anon907,
Yet wol I yeve thee leve for to gon
A twelf-monthe and a day, to seche909 and lere
910 An answere suffisant910 in this matere.
And suretee wol I han, er that thow pace,911
Thy body for to yelden912 in this place.’
Wo was this knight, and sorwefully he siketh913,
But what! he may nat doon al as him liketh.
915 And at the laste he chees him for to wende915,
And come again, right at the yeres ende,
With swich answere as God wolde him purveye917;
And taketh his leve, and wendeth forth his weye918.
He seketh every hous and every place
920 Whereas he hopeth for to finde grace920,
To lerne what thing wommen loven moost;
But he ne koude arriven in no coost922
Whereas he mighte finde in this matere
Two creatures acording in-feere924.
925 Somme seiden wommen loven best richesse;
Somme seide honour, somme seide jolynesse926;
Somme riche array927, somme seiden lust abedde,
And ofte time to be widwe928 and wedde.
Somme seide that oure herte is moost esed929
930 Whan that we been yflatered and yplesed.
(He gooth ful ny the sothe931, I wol nat lie!
A man shal winne us best with flaterye;
And with attendaunce and with bisinesse933
Been we ylimed934, bothe moore and lesse.)
935 And somme seyen that we loven best
For to be free, and do right as us lest936,
And that no man repreve937 us of oure vice,
But seye that we be wise, and nothing nice938.
For trewely, ther is noon of us alle,
940 If any wight wol clawe us on the galle,940
That we nil kike941 for he seyth us sooth.
Assay942, and he shal finde it, that so dooth.
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