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◈ The Canterbury Tales (캔터베리 이야기) ◈

◇ The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale ◇

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 1. The Wife of Bath’s Prologue
 2. The Wife of Bath’s Tale

1. The Wife of Bath’s Prologue

0 The Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale
1 Experience, though no authority
2 Ruled in this world, would be enough for me
3 To speak of the woe that is in marriage.
4 For, lordings, since I twelve years was of age,
5 Thanks be to God who eternally does thrive,
6 Husbands at church-door have I had five
7 If it be allowed so oft to wedded be
8 And all were worthy men in their degree.
9 But I was told, for sure, and not long since,
10 That since Christ never went but once
11 To a wedding, in Cana of Galilee,
12 That by the same example He taught me
13 That I should only be wedded once.
14 Hark too, lo, what sharp words for the nonce
15 Beside a well, Jesus, God and Man,
16 Spoke in reproof of the Samaritan:
17 You have had five husbands,’ quoth he,
18 And that same man that now has thee
19 Is not your husband’ – so he said for certain.
20 What he meant by that, I can’t explain;
21 But I ask you why the fifth man
22 Was not husband of the Samaritan?
23 How many was she allowed in marriage?
24 I have never yet had despite my age
25 Of that number any definition.
26 Men may divine and gloss, up and down,
27 But well I know, indeed, without a lie,
28 God bade us all to wax and multiply.
29 That gentle text I well can understand!
30 And I know too He said that my husband
31 Should leave father and mother and cleave to me;
32 But of no number mention made He,
33 Of bigamy or of octogamy.
34 Why should men then speak of it evilly?
35 Lo, here, the wise King, old Solomon,
36 I think he had more wives than one!
37 As would to God it were permitted me
38 To be refreshed half so oft as he!
39 A gift of God had he of all those wives!
40 No man has such that’s in this world alive.
41 God knows, that noble king, as I see it,
42 The first night had many a merry fit
43 With each of them, so happy was his life!
44 Blessed be God, that I have wedded five,
45 And they I picked out from all the best,
46 Both for their nether purse and their chest.
47 Diverse schools make perfect clerks,
48 And diverse practice in many sundry works,
49 Makes the workman perfect, certainly.
50 Of five husbands have I made a study;
51 Welcome the sixth, whenever he befall!
52 Forsooth, I will not keep me chaste in all;
53 When my husband from this world is gone,
54 Some Christian man shall wed me anon.
55 For then the Apostle says that I am free
56 To wed, in God’s name, where it pleases me.
57 He says to be wedded is no sin, I learn:
58 Better to be wedded than to burn.’
59 What care I if folk speak maliciously
60 Of wicked Lamech and his bigamy?
61 I know that Abraham was a holy man,
62 And Jacob also, as far as ever I can,
63 And each of them had more wives than two,
64 And many another holy man had too.
65 Where can you show me, in any age
66 That God on high forbade our marriage
67 By express word? I pray you, tell it me.
68 Or where commanded he virginity?
69 I know as well as you, what he said,
70 The Apostle, when he spoke of maidenhead,
71 He said that precepts for it he had none.
72 Men may counsel a woman to live alone,
73 But counselling is no commandment;
74 He has left it to our own judgement.
75 For had God commanded maidenhood,
76 Then had he ended marriage and for good.
77 And surely, if there were never seed sown,
78 Virginity, where would that be grown?
79 Paul did not dare command, not in the least,
80 A thing of which his Master never preached.
81 The spear, the prize, is there of virginity;
82 Catch it who may, and who runs best let’s see!
83 But this word is not said of every wight,
84 Rather God’s pleased to grant it of his might.
85 I know well that the Apostle was a maid,
86 But nonetheless, though he wrote and said
87 He wished that everyone was such as He,
88 He was but counselling virginity,
89 And to be wife he still gave me leave
90 Of indulgence; so no reproof indeed,
91 If my husband die, in wedding me,
92 No objection on grounds of bigamy,
93 Though it were good no woman for to touch
94 He meant in bed or on a couch or such
95 For peril it is, fire and tow to assemble
96 You know what this image does resemble!
97 The long and short: he held virginity
98 More perfect than marriage in frailty.
99 Frailty I say, unless the he and she
100 Would live all their life in chastity.
101 I grant it well, I would have no envy,
102 Though maidenhood devalue bigamy.
103 They like to be clean in body and ghost.
104 And of my state I will make no boast;
105 For you well know, a lord in his household
106 Has not ever vessel made all of gold.
107 Some are of wood, and do good service.
108 God calls folk in sundry ways like this,
109 And everyone has from God his own gift,
110 Some this, some that, as is in His wish.
111 Virginity is a great perfection
112 And continence also with devotion.
113 But Christ, of perfection is the well,
114 And bade not everyone to go and sell
115 All that he had, and give it to the poor,
116 And in that guise follow him, for sure.
117 He spoke to those who would live perfectly;
118 And, lordings, by your leave, that is not me!
119 I will bestow the flower of my age
120 On the actions and the fruits of marriage.
121 Tell me then, to what end and conclusion
122 Were made the members of generation,
123 And in so perfect wise Man was wrought?
124 Trust me right well, they were not made for naught.
125 Gloss as you will and give the explanation
126 That they were made merely for purgation
127 Of urine, and both our things, so the tale,
128 Made but to know the female from the male,
129 And for no other purposesay you no?
130 Experience knows well it is not so.
131 So long as the clerics with me be not wrath,
132 I say this: that they are made for both
133 That is to say, for office and for ease
134 Of procreation, that we not God displease.
135 Why else is it in the books clearly set
136 That a man shall pay his wife her debt?
137 Now wherewith should he make his payment,
138 If he did not use his blessed instrument?
139 Thus were they added to the creature
140 To purge urine, and continue nature.
141 But I do not say every wight is told
142 That has such tackle, as I unfold,
143 To go and use it to engender there
144 Or men for chastity would have no care.
145 Christ was a maid, yet formed as a man,
146 And many a saint since the world began,
147 Yet lived they ever in perfect chastity.
148 I have no quarrel with virginity;
149 Of pure wheat-seed let them be bred,
150 And let us wives be dubbed barley-bread
151 And yet with barley-bread, as Mark can
152 Remind you, Jesus fed full many a man.
153 In such a state as God has called us,
154 I will persevere; I am not precious.
155 In wifehood will I use my instrument
156 As freely as my Maker has it sent.
157 If I be niggardly, God give me sorrow!
158 My husband shall have it eve and morrow,
159 When he would come forth and pay his debt.
160 A husband I will have, I will as yet,
161 Who shall be both my debtor and my thrall,
162 And bear the tribulation withal
163 On his own flesh, while I am his wife.
164 I have the power during my whole life
165 Over his proper body, and not he.
166 Right thus the Apostle told it me,
167 And bade our husbands for to love us well;
168 On that saying I ever like to dwell.’
169 Up started the Pardoner, and that anon:
170 Now dame,’ quoth he, ‘by God and by Saint John,
171 You are a noble preacher in this cause!
172 I was about to wed a wife: I pause!
173 What! Should I pay, with my own flesh, so dear?
174 I’d rather wed no wife, then, any year!’
175 Abide,’ quoth she, ‘my tale’s not yet begun.
176 Nay, you will drink from a different tun,
177 Before I go, and savour worse than ale.
178 And when I have told you all my tale
179 Of tribulation in marriage,
180 In which I am an expert at my age
181 That is to say, I have been the whip
182 Then please yourself whether you wish to sip
183 Of this tun that I shall broach.
184 Beware of it, before a close approach!
185 For I shall give examples more than ten.
186 Whoever will not be warned by other men,
187 To other men shall an example be.’
188 These very words writes Ptolemy;
189 Read in his Almagest, and find them there.’
190 Dame, I would pray you, if it is your care,’
191 Said this Pardoner, ‘as you began,
192 Tell forth your tale; spare not any man,
193 And teach us young men of your practices.’
194 Gladly,’ quoth she, ‘if you it pleases.
195 But yet I ask of all this company,
196 If I should chance to speak out of whimsy,
197 Take no offence then at what I say,
198 For my intention is but to play.
199 Now sir, then will I tell you all my tale.
200 If ever I might drink of wine or ale,
201 I shall speak true: those husbands that I had
202 Three of them were good, and two were bad.
203 The three good men were rich and old.
204 With difficulty only could they hold
205 To the articles that bound them to me
206 You know well what I mean by that, I see!
207 So help me God, I laugh when I think
208 That sad to say they never slept a wink.
209 And, by my faith, I set by it no store.
210 They gave me land and treasure more;
211 I had no need to show them diligence
212 To win their love, or do them reverence.
213 They loved me so well, by God above
214 I had no need to set store by their love.
215 A wise woman will busy herself anon
216 To win her love, yes, if she has none.
217 But since I held them wholly in my hand,
218 And since they had given me all their land,
219 Why should I be concerned to please,
220 Except for my own profit and my ease?
221 I set them so to work, by my faith,
222 That many a night they sangwell-away!”
223 But never for us the flitch of bacon though,
224 That some may win in Essex at Dunmow.
225 I ruled them so according to my law,
226 That each of them was blissful and in awe,
227 And brought me pretty things from the fair.
228 They were full glad when I spoke them fair,
229 For God knows, I chid them mercilessly.
230 Now hearken how to act properly.
231 You wise wives that will understand,
232 Put them ever in the wrong, out of hand,
233 For half so boldly there never was a man
234 Could swear oaths and lie as woman can.
235 I say this not for wives who are wise,
236 Unless it be when they are mis-advised.
237 A wise wife, if she knows good from bad,
238 Will call the chattering magpies merely mad,
239 And obtain the witness of her own maid
240 To what she assertslisten how I played:
241 Old sir dotard is this then your way?
242 Why is my neighbour’s wife dressed so gay?
243 She is honoured now wherever she goes;
244 I sit at home; and lacking decent clothes.
245 What are you doing at my neighbour’s house?
246 Is she so fair? Are you so amorous?
247 What do you whisper to the maid, benedicitee?
248 Old sir lecher, away with your trickery!
249 And if I have a gossip with a friend,
250 All innocently, you chide like the fiend
251 If I walk or wander to his house.
252 Yet you come home drunk as a mouse,
253 And preach from your chair, beyond belief!
254 You tell me, then, how it’s a great mischief
255 To wed a poor woman, the expense,
256 And then if she’s rich, of good descent,
257 Then you say it’s a torment, and misery
258 To endure her pride and melancholy.
259 And if she be fair, you proper knave,
260 You say that every lecher has his way
261 With her, since none in chastity abide,
262 When they are assailed from every side.
263 You say, that some desire us for our riches,
264 Some for our shapeliness, some for our fairness,
265 And some because we can sing or dance,
266 And some for gentleness and dalliance,
267 Some for our hands and arms so small
268 By your word, thus to the devil go us all!
269 You say men never hold a castle wall,
270 If it is long laid siege to, it will fall.
271 And if she be foul, you say that she
272 Covets every man that she might see,
273 For like a spaniel she will at him leap
274 Till she finds some man to take her cheap;
275 Never a goose so grey swam on the lake
276 That, say you, it will not find a mate.
277 You say it’s a hard thing to control
278 What no man willingly will hold.
279 Thus say you, lord, on your way to bed,
280 And that no wise man ever needs to wed,
281 Nor no man that has his eye on Heaven
282 Wild thunderbolts and lightning-fire then
283 Fall on your withered neck till it be broke!
284 You say that leaking roofs, and thick smoke,
285 And chiding wives can make men flee
286 From their own houseah, benedicitee,
287 What ails the old man so to make him chide?
288 You say we wives will all our vices hide
289 Till we be wed, and then we show them you.
290 That may well be the saying of a shrew!
291 You say that oxen, asses, horse and hound,
292 Can be tried over every sort of ground,
293 Basins, bowls, before a man may buy;
294 Spoons, stools, and all such things we try,
295 And likewise pots, clothes, and finery,
296 But wives must remain a mystery
297 Till they be wedded, you old dotard shrew!
298 And then, we will our vices show, says you.
299 You say too that it displeases me
300 Unless you forever praise my beauty,
301 And every moment pore o’er my face,
302 And call mefair damein every place,
303 And lay out for a feast upon the day
304 When I was born, and make me fresh and gay,
305 And do my old nurse every honour,
306 And my chambermaid in my bower,
307 And my father’s kin and his allies;
308 So say you, old barrel-full of lies!
309 And yet because of our apprentice, Jankin,
310 And his crisp hair, that shines as gold so fine,
311 And his squiring me both up and down,
312 You harbour false suspicion, as I found;
313 I would not want him if you died tomorrow!
314 But tell me this, why do you hide, a sorrow,
315 The keys of your chest away from me?
316 They are my goods as well as yours, pardee!
317 What, will you make an idiot of your dame?
318 Now, by that lord who is called Saint James,
319 You shall not both, whatever be your moods,
320 Be master of my body, and my goods.
321 One you shall forgo, so say I,
322 What need have you to enquire or spy?
323 I think you’d like to lock me in your chest!
324 You should say: “Wife, go where you wish.
325 Take your pleasure; I’ll believe no malice.
326 I know you for a true wife, Dame Alice.”
327 We love no man that keeps watch, takes charge
328 Of where we go; we wish to be at large.
329 Of all men the most blessed must be,
330 That wise astrologer, old Ptolemy,
331 That writ this proverb in his Almagest:
332 Of all men his wisdom is the highest
333 That cares not who has this world in his hand.”
334 By this proverb you must understand,
335 If youve enough, why should you care
336 How merrily other folks do fare?
337 Be sure, old dotard, by your leave
338 You shall have all you wish at eve.
339 He is too great a niggard who will spurn
340 A man who wants a light from his lantern;
341 He will have no less light, pardee!
342 If youve enough, don’t complain to me.
343 You say too, if we make ourselves gay
344 With clothing, and with precious array,
345 It puts us in peril of our chastity.
346 And yetcurse ityou make free
347 With these words in the Apostle’s name:
348 In clothing made of chastity and shame
349 You women shall adorn yourselves,” quoth he,
350 And not with braided hair, or jewellery,
351 With pearls, or with gold, or clothes rich.”
352 According to your text, as your tricks,
353 I’ll not act, not as much as a gnat!
354 You said then, that I was like a cat,
355 For whosoever singes a cat’s skin
356 Then will the cat keep to his inn;
357 While if the cat’s skin be sleek and gay,
358 Shell not dwell in that house half a day.
359 But out shell pad, ere any daylight fall,
360 To show her skin, and go and caterwaul.
361 That is to say, if I feel gay, sir shrew,
362 I’ll run and show my old clothes to the view.
363 Sir, old fool, what use to you are spies?
364 Though you beg Argus with his hundred eyes
365 To be my body-guard, since he best is,
366 In faith, he shall not if it’s not my wish.
367 Yet I will trim his beard, as I may thee!
368 Then you said that there are things three,
369 The which things trouble all this earth,
370 And that no man may endure the fourth
371 Away, sir shrew, Jesus trim your life!
372 You preach again and say a hateful wife
373 Is reckoned to be one of these mischances.
374 Are there then no other circumstances
375 You could address your parables to,
376 Without a poor wife acting one for you?
377 You even liken woman’s love to Hell,
378 To barren land, where water may not dwell.
379 You liken it then, as well, to a wild fire:
380 The more it burns, the more it has desire
381 To consume everything that burnt can be.
382 You say, that just as insects kill a tree,
383 Just so a wife destroys her husband;
384 This they know who to a wife are bound.”
385 Lordings, like this it was, you understand,
386 I kept my older husbands well in hand
387 With what they said in their drunkenness;
388 And all was false, but I had witnesses
389 In Jankin, and in my niece also.
390 O Lord, the pain I did them and the woe,
391 Full innocent, by God’s sweet destiny!
392 For like a horse I could bite and whinny.
393 I could moan, when I was the guilty one
394 Or else I’d oftentimes been done and gone.
395 Who at the mill is first, first grinds their grain;
396 So was our strife ended: I did first complain.
397 They were right glad and quick to apologise
398 For things they never did in all their lives.
399 For wenching I would take the man in hand,
400 Though him so sick he could hardly stand.
401 Yet it tickled his heart, in that he
402 Thought I was fond of him as he of me.
403 I swore that all my walking out at night
404 Was just to spy on the wenches that I cite;
405 Flying that flag caused me many a mirth.
406 For all such wit is given us at birth;
407 Deceit, weeping, spinning, God gives
408 To woman by nature, while she lives.
409 And of one thing I can boast, you see:
410 I had the better of them in high degree,
411 By cunning, force, or some manner of thing,
412 Such as continual murmuring and grumbling.
413 And in bed especially they had mischance:
414 There was my chiding and remonstrance.
415 I would no longer in the bed abide,
416 If I felt his arm across my side,
417 Till he had paid his ransom to me;
418 Then would I let him do his nicety.
419 And therefore every man this tale I tell,
420 Win whosoever may, for all’s to sell!
421 With empty hand you will no falcon lure.
422 In winning would I all his lust endure,
423 And display a feigned appetite
424 And yet in bacon I took no delight.
425 That was the cause ever I would them chide;
426 For though the Pope had sat down beside,
427 I would not spare them at their own board,
428 For, by my troth, I paid them word for word.
429 As may aid me God the Omnipotent,
430 Though I this minute make my testament,
431 I owe them not a word that was not quits!
432 I brought it about so by my wits
433 That they were forced to yield, for the best,
434 Or else we would never have found rest.
435 For though he might rage like a maddened lion,
436 Yet he would always fail in his conclusion.
437 Then would I say: “My dear, note how meek
438 The look that Willikin displays, our sheep!
439 Come here, my spouse, let me kiss your cheek.
440 You should be as patient, and as meek,
441 And have as sweet and mild a conscience,
442 Since you preach so much of Job’s patience.
443 Practice endurance ever that you preach;
444 And if you don’t then certainly I’ll teach
445 How fair it is to have a wife at peace.
446 One of us two must yield, at least,
447 And since a man is more reasonable
448 Than a woman, you should be tractable.
449 What ails you, to grumble so and groan?
450 Is it you would possess my sex alone?
451 Why, take it all; lo, have it every bit!
452 Saint Peter damn you if you don’t enjoy it!
453 For if I were to sell my belle chose,
454 I could go as fresh as is the rose;
455 But I will keep it for your own use.
456 By God, you are to blame, and that’s the truth.”
457 Such manner of words have we on hand.
458 Now will I speak of my fourth husband.
459 My fourth husband was a reveller;
460 That is to say, he kept a lover.
461 And I was young, and my spirits high,
462 Stubborn and strong, and pert as a magpie.
463 How I danced to the harp, without fail,
464 And sang, indeed, like any nightingale,
465 When I had drunk a draught of sweet wine.
466 Metellius, the foul churl, the swine,
467 That with a stick robbed his wife of life
468 For drinking wine, though I had been his wife
469 Would never have frightened me from drink!
470 And after wine on Venus I would think,
471 For as surely as cold engenders hail,
472 A gluttonous mouth gets a lecherous tail.
473 A drunken woman has no true defence;
474 This lechers know from their experience.
475 But, Lord Christ, whenever in memory
476 I recall my youth and all my jollity,
477 It tickles me about my heart’s root.
478 To this day it does my heart good,
479 That I have had the world, in my time.
480 But age, alas, that poisons every clime,
481 Bereft me of beauty, vigour with it.
482 Let go, farewell; and the devil take it!
483 The flour is gone, what more is there to tell.
484 The bran, as best I can, now I must sell.
485 But yet to be right merry, I have planned!
486 Now will I tell you of my fourth husband.
487 I say, I felt at heart a deal of spite
488 If he in any other took delight;
489 But he was paid, by God and Saint Judoc!
490 I made him of the same wood a crook
491 Not of my body, in some foul manner,
492 But was such friends with folk, by and by,
493 That in his own grease I made him fry,
494 For anger, and for very jealousy.
495 By God, on earth I was his purgatory!
496 For which I hope his soul is in glory.
497 For, God knows, he sat full oft in song,
498 When his shoe pinched him all along.
499 There is none but God and he who knew
500 In how many ways I tortured him anew.
501 He died when I returned from Jerusalem,
502 And lies there buried under the rood-beam,
503 Albeit his tomb’s not so curious
504 As was the sepulchre of Darius,
505 That Apelles sculpted subtly;
506 It were a waste to bury him preciously.
507 May he fare well, God give his soul rest!
508 He is now in his grave and in his chest.
509 Now of my fifth husband will I tell.
510 God may his soul never come to Hell!
511 And yet to me he was the worst, I know
512 I feel it on my ribs all in a row,
513 And ever shall, until my dying day.
514 But in our bed he was so fresh, I say,
515 And could cajole me so, God knows,
516 When that he would have my belle chose,
517 That though he’d beaten me on every bone,
518 He could still win my love to him anon.
519 I swear I loved him best, because he
520 Was in his love niggardly to me.
521 We women have, youll hear no lie from me,
522 In this affair a strange fantasy:
523 Whatever we may not easily get,
524 We cry all day and crave for it.
525 Forbid us aught, desire it then will we;
526 Press on us hard, and we will flee.
527 Reluctantly we show our goods at fairs;
528 Great crowds at market make for dear wares,
529 And what is cheap is held a worthless prize.
530 This knows every woman who is wise.
531 My fifth husbandGod his soul bless! –
532 Whom I took for love, not for riches,
533 He sometime was a clerk of Oxford town,
534 And left the college, and seeking found
535 Lodgings with my friend, there made one
536 God keep her soul! Her name was Alison.
537 She knew my heart, and my secrets she,
538 Better than our parish priest, trust me.
539 To her I revealed my secrets all;
540 For had my husband pissed against a wall,
541 Or done some crime that would cost his life,
542 To her, and to another worthy wife,
543 And to my niece, that I loved as well,
544 I would have told the secret, just to tell.
545 And so I did full often, God knows
546 It made his face full often like a rose,
547 Red hot for very shame, and sorry he
548 For telling me his secret privately.
549 And so befell it that one day in Lent
550 For often to my friend’s house I went,
551 As ever yet I loved to laugh and play,
552 And to walk in March, April, and May,
553 To hear sundry tales among the alleys
554 Jankin clerk, and I, and my friend Alice,
555 Into the fields about the city went.
556 My husband was in London all that Lent;
557 I had the greater leisure for to play,
558 And to see, and be seen, every day
559 By lusty folk. How did I know what grace
560 Might be my destiny, and in what place?
561 Therefore I made my visitations
562 Went to vigils, and also to processions,
563 To preaching too, and these pilgrimages,
564 To the miracle plays, and marriages,
565 And wore my gay scarlet as I might.
566 The worms, and the moths, and mites
567 Upon my soul, gnawed it never a bit;
568 And why? Well, I was never out of it.
569 I’ll tell you now what happened to me:
570 I say that in the fields around walked we,
571 Till truly we made such a dalliance,
572 This clerk and I, that at a chance
573 I spoke to him, and said to him that he,
574 If I became a widow, should marry me.
575 For certainly, with no false modesty,
576 I was never without a little surety
577 Of marriage, nor ever had far to seek.
578 I hold a mouse’s heart not worth a leek,
579 That only has one little hole to bolt to,
580 And if that fail, then everything is through.
581 I maintained he had enchanted me;
582 My mother taught me that subtlety.
583 And I said too, I dreamed of him all night;
584 He seemed to slay me as I lay upright,
585 And all my bed indeed was full of blood
586 But yet I hope that you will do me good,
587 For blood betokens gold as I was taught.”
588 And all was false; I never dreamed of aught,
589 But by way of following mother’s lore,
590 In things like that as well as others more.
591 But now, sirlet me seewhat’s to explain?
592 Aha! By God, I have my tale again!
593 When my fourth husband was on his bier,
594 I wept for hours, and sorry did appear
595 As wives must, since it’s common usage,
596 And with my kerchief covered up my visage.
597 But since I was provided with a mate,
598 I only wept a little, I should state.
599 To church was my husband borne that morrow,
600 With neighbours that wept for him in sorrow,
601 And Jankin, our clerk, was one of those.
602 So help me God, when I saw him go
603 After the bier, I thought he had a pair
604 Of legs and of feet so fine and fair,
605 That all my heart I gave to him to hold.
606 He was, I swear, but twenty winters old,
607 And I was forty, to tell the truth,
608 But yet I always had a coltish tooth.
609 Gap-toothed I was, and that became me well;
610 I’d the print of Venusseal, truth to tell.
611 So help me God, I was a lusty one,
612 And fair, and rich, high-spirited and young!
613 And truly, as my husbands told me,
614 I had the finest quoniam that might be.
615 For certain, I am all Venereal
616 In feeling, and my heart is Martial.
617 Venus gave me my lust, lasciviousness,
618 And Mars gave me rebellious boldness.
619 My ascendant Taurus, with Mars therein
620 Alas, alas, that ever love was sin!
621 I always followed my inclination,
622 By virtue of my constellation.
623 It made me so I could never withhold
624 My chamber of Venus from a fellow bold.
625 Yet have I Marsmark upon my face,
626 And also in another private place.
627 For, God wisely be my salvation,
628 I never loved with any discretion,
629 But ever followed my appetite,
630 Whether he was long, or short, or black or white.
631 I cared not, so long as he liked me,
632 How rich he was, nor of what degree.
633 What can I say, but at the month’s end,
634 This jolly clerk Jankin, my godsend,
635 Wedded me with great solemnity,
636 And him I gave the land and property
637 All that had been given to me before.
638 But after I repented of it full sore;
639 He would allow me nothing I held dear.
640 By God, he smote me once on the ear,
641 Because I tore a page from his book,
642 So that my ear was deaf from the stroke.
643 Stubborn I was, as is a lioness,
644 And with a tongue nagging to excess,
645 And walk I would, as I had done before,
646 From house to house, something he deplored.
647 About which he often times would preach,
648 And of the old Roman tales he’d teach
649 How Simplicius Gallus left his wife,
650 And forsook her for the rest of his life,
651 Because he saw her hatless in the way,
652 As he looked out his door one fine day.
653 Another Roman, he told me his names,
654 Because his wife went to the summer Games
655 Without him knowing, he forsook her too.
656 And then would he to his Bible go anew
657 And seek that proverb of the Ecclesiast,
658 Where he commands and forbids, aghast:
659 Man shall not suffer his wife to gad about.”
660 Then would he speak like this, without doubt:
661 Whoever builds his house of willows,
662 And spurs his blind horse o’er the fallows,
663 And sees his wife a pilgrim to All Hallows,
664 Is worthy to be hanged on the gallows!”
665 But all for naught – I cared never a haw
666 For his proverbs, and his old saw,
667 Nor would I by him corrected be.
668 I hate him who my vice tells to me;
669 And so do more, God knows, of us than I!
670 He was enraged with me, fit to die;
671 I could not stand him in any case, alas.
672 Now will I tell you true, by Saint Thomas,
673 Why I tore that page out of his book,
674 From which my ear was deafened by his stroke.
675 He had a book that gladly night and day,
676 For his pleasure he would read always.
677 He called it Theophrastus and Valerius
678 At which he used to laugh fit to bust.
679 And then there was some clerk at Rome,
680 A Cardinal, named Saint Jerome,
681 Who made a book against Jovinian;
682 In which book bound up was Tertullian,
683 With Chrysippus, Trotula, Heloise,
684 That was abbess not far from Paris,
685 And the parables of Solomon,
686 Ovid’s Art of Love, and many a one.
687 And all of these bound in the one volume,
688 And every night and day it was his custom,
689 When he had leisure and vacation
690 From other worldly occupation,
691 To read in this book of wicked wives.
692 He knew of them more legends and lives
693 Than there are of good wives in the Bible.
694 For trust me well, it is impossible
695 For any clerk to speak well of wives
696 Unless it is of holy saintslives,
697 Never of any other woman though.
698 Who wrote the histories, tell me who?
699 By God, if women had written the stories
700 As clerics have within their oratories,
701 They’d have written of men more wickedness
702 Than all the sons of Adam could redress!
703 The children of Venus and Mercury
704 In all their workings are contrary:
705 Mercury loves wisdom and science,
706 And Venus loves spending, revelry, and dance.
707 And because of their diverse disposition,
708 Each is in fall in the other’s exaltation;
709 So, God knows, Mercury is helpless,
710 In Pisces where exalted is Venus,
711 And Venus falls when Mercury is raised.
712 Therefore no woman is by cleric praised.
713 The clerk, when he is old, and cannot do
714 Of Venusworks the worth of his old shoe,
715 Then sits he down and writes in his dotage
716 That women cannot be true in marriage!
717 But now to my purpose, as I told you,
718 How I was beaten for a book, all true.
719 One night Jankin, that was our sire,
720 Read his book, as he sat by the fire,
721 Of Eve first, that through her wickedness
722 Brought all mankind to wretchedness,
723 For which indeed was Jesus Christ slain,
724 Who purchased us with his heart’s-blood again.
725 Lo here, expressed of women may you find,
726 That woman was the bane of all mankind!
727 Then he read to me how Samson lost his hair:
728 Sleeping, his lover cut it with her shears,
729 Through which treason he lost both his eyes.
730 Then he read me, for I’ll tell no lies,
731 Of Hercules, Deianira, and the pyre
732 Where, through her, he set himself on fire.
733 Nor did he miss the sorrow and woe too
734 That Socrates had with his wives two
735 How Xantippe poured piss over his head.
736 The foolish man sat still, as he were dead.
737 He wiped his head; no more dare say again,
738 But: “Ere the thunder stops, comes the rain.”
739 Of Pasiphae, that was the Queen of Crete;
740 Out of maliciousness he thought that sweet
741 Fie, speak no more, it is a grisly thing,
742 Of her fierce lust, and perverse liking!
743 Of Clytemnestra, for her lechery
744 That made her husband die by treachery;
745 He read all that with great devotion.
746 He told me also on what occasion
747 Amphiaraus at Thebes lost his life;
748 My husband had the legend of his wife,
749 Eriphyle, who for a necklace of gold
750 Secretly to all the Greeks had told
751 Of her husband’s private hiding-place,
752 For which at Thebes he did misfortune taste.
753 Of Livia he told me, and Lucilia:
754 They both killed their husbands there,
755 The one for love, the other out of hate.
756 Livia her husband one evening late
757 Empoisoned, because she was his foe.
758 Lucilia, lascivious, loved hers so
759 That, to make him always of her think,
760 She gave him such a manner of love-drink
761 That he was dead ere it was the morrow
762 And thus in every way husbands have sorrow.
763 Then he told me how one Latumius
764 Complained to his comrade Arrius,
765 That in his garden there grew a tree
766 On which he said that his wives three
767 Hanged themselves, for spite it was.
768 Oh dear brother,” quoth this Arrius,
769 Give me a cutting from that blessed tree,
770 And in my garden planted it shall be!”
771 Of wives of later date he also read,
772 How some had slain their husbands in their bed,
773 And let their lovers pleasure them all night,
774 While the corpse lay on the floor upright;
775 And some had driven nails through their brain,
776 While they were sleeping, and thus them slain.
777 Some had given them poison in their drink.
778 He spoke more harm than heart could think,
779 And with all that he knew more proverbs
780 Than in this world grow grass or herbs.
781 Better,” quoth he, “that your habitation
782 Be with a lion or a foul dragon,
783 Than with a woman who will always chide.
784 Better,” quoth he, “high on the roof to abide,
785 Than with an angry wife down in the house;
786 They are so wicked and cantankerous
787 They hate what their husbands love,” he’d say,
788 “A woman always casts her shame away
789 When she casts off her smock,” and lo,
790 “A fair woman unless she’s chaste also,
791 Is like a gold ring in a sow’s nose.”
792 Who would think, or who could suppose
793 The woe, that in my heart was, and pain?
794 And when I say he did begin again
795 Reading of that cursed book all night,
796 All suddenly three leaves then did I
797 Pluck from his book, as he read and, weak
798 As I am, my fist so took him on the cheek
799 That in our fireplace he fell backward down.
800 And started up as does a raging lion,
801 And with his fist he struck me on the head,
802 That on the floor I lay as I were dead.
803 And when he saw how still that I lay,
804 He was aghast, and would have fled away,
805 Till at last I came to and raised my head.
806 Oh, have you slain me, false thief,” I said,
807 And for my land thus have you murdered me?
808 Ere I be dead, yet will I kiss thee!”
809 And near he came and knelt right down,
810 And said: “Dear sister, my Alison,
811 So help me God, I shall thee never smite.
812 That I have done so was your fault outright;
813 Forgive me yet, and that I do beseech.”
814 And once again I hit him on the cheek,
815 And said: “Thief, my vengeance thus I wreak!
816 Now will I die; I may no longer speak.”
817 But in the end, with care and much ado,
818 We came to an agreement did we two.
819 He gave the bridle all into my hand,
820 To me the governance of house and land,
821 And of his tongue and of his hand also,
822 And I made him burn his book of woe.
823 And when that I had gotten unto me
824 By mastery all the sovereignty,
825 And that he said: “Mine own true wife,
826 Do as you wish through all your term of life;
827 Guard your honour, and my good estate,”
828 After that day we had no more debate.
829 God help me so, I was as kind to him
830 As any wife from Denmark unto Inde,
831 And also true, and so was he to me.
832 I pray to God that sits in majesty,
833 To bless his soul, of His mercy dear!
834 Now will I say my tale, if you will hear.’
835 Behold the words between the Summoner and Friar
836 The Friar laughed when he had heard all this;
837 Now dame,’ quoth he, ‘so send me joy and bliss,
838 This is a long preamble to a tale!’
839 And when the Summoner heard the Friar rail,
840 Lo,’ quoth the Summoner, ‘God’s arms two,
841 A Friar will interfere whatever you do!
842 Lo, good men, a fly and then a friar
843 Will fall in every dish and every fire!
844 What do you mean by yourpreambulation’?
845 Come, amble, or trot, or sit, or stay in motion!
846 Youre hindering our sport in this manner.’
847 You think so, Sir Summoner,’ quoth the Friar.
848 Now, by my faith, I shall, before I go
849 Tell of a summoner a tale or so,
850 That all the folk shall laugh in this place.’
851 Now if not, Friar, I will curse your face,’
852 Quoth the Summoner, ‘and then curse me,
853 If I do not tell a tale or two or three,
854 Of Friars, ere I come to Sittingborne,
855 That will make your very heart go mourn,
856 For well I know your patience is all gone.’
857 Our Host cried: ‘Peace, and that anon!’
858 And said: ‘Let the woman tell her tale.
859 You bicker like folk full drunk on ale.
860 Come, dame, tell forth your tale, that will be best.’
861 All ready, sir,’ quoth she, ‘just as you wish,
862 If I have licence of this worthy Friar.’
863 Yes, dame,’ quoth he, ‘tell forth and I will hear.’
864 Here ends the Wife of Bath’s Prologue and her Tale begins

2. The Wife of Bath’s Tale

0 In the olden days of King Arthur,
1 Of whom Britons speak with great honour,
2 All this land was filled full with faerie.
3 The Elf-Queen with her fair company
4 Danced full oft in many a green mead.
5 That was the old opinion, as I read
6 I speak of many hundred years ago.
7 But now no man sees elves I know,
8 For now the endless charity and prayers
9 Of limiters and other holy friars,
10 Who search every