'Experience, though no authority
Were in this world, is right enough for me
To speak of woe that is in marriage;
For, lordings, since I twelve year was of age,
Thanked be God that is eternally alive,
Husbands at church door I have had five -
If I so oft might have wedded be -
And all were worthy men in their degree.
But me was told, certain, not long ago is,
That since that Christ went never but once
To wedding, in the Cana of Galilee,
That by the same example taught he me
That I should wedded be but once.
Hearken too, lo, which a sharp word for the nonce,
Beside a well, Jesus, God and man,
Spoke in reproof of the Samaritan:
`Thou hast had five husbands, ' said he,
`And that same man that now has thee
Is not thy husband, ' thus said he certain.
What that he meant thereby, I can not say;
But that I ask, why that the fifth man
Was no husband to the Samaritan?
How many might she have in marriage?
I heard I never tell in my age
Upon this number definition.
Men may divine and gloss, up and down,
But well I know, expressly, without lie,
God bade us for to wax and multiply;
That gentle text can I well understand.
Too well I know, he said my husband
Should leave father and mother and take to me.
But of no number mention made he,
Of bigamy, or of octogamy;
Why should men then speak of it villainy?
Lo, here the wise king, lord Salomon;
I trust he had wives more than one.
As would God it lawful were unto me
To be refreshed half so often as he!
Which a gift of God had he for all his wives!
No man has such that in this world alive is.
God knows, this noble king, as to my wit,
The first night had many a merry fit
With each of them, so well was him on live.
Blessed be God that I have wedded five!
[Of which I have picked out the best,
Both of their nether purse and of their chest.
Diverse schools schools make perfect clerks,
And diverse practice in many sundry works
Makes the workman perfect surely;
Of five husbands' schooling am I.]
Welcome the sixth, when that ever he shall.
For truth, I will not keep me chaste in all.
When my husband is from the world gone,
Some Christian man shall wed me anon,
For then the apostle says that I am free
To wed, by God's half, where it liketh me.
He says that to be wedded is no sin;
Better is to be wedded than to burn.
What reckon me, though folk say villainy
Of wicked Lamech and his bigamy?
I know well Abraham was a holy man,
And Jacob too, insofar as I kan;
And each of them had wives more than two,
And many another holy man also.
Where can you see, in any manner age,
That high God forbade marriage
By express word? I pray you, tell me.
Or where commanded he virginity?
I know as well as you, it is no dread,
The apostle, when he speaks of maidenhead,
He said that percept thereof had no none.
Men may counsel a woman to be one,
But counseling is no commandment.
He put it to our own judgment;
For had God commanded maidenhead,
Then had he damned wedding with the deed.
And certain, if there were no seed sown,
Virginity, then whereof should it grow?
Paul dare not command, at least,
A thing of which his master gave no heste.
The dart is set up for virginity;
Catch whoso may, who runneth best let's see.
But this word is not taken of every wight,
But there as God lust give it of his might.
I know well that the apostle was a maid;
But nonetheless, though that he wrote and said
He would that every wight were such as he,
All's not but counsel to virginity.
And for to be a wife he gave me leave
Of indulgence; so it's no reprieve
To wed me, if that my mate die,
Without exception of bigamy.
All were it good no woman for to touch -
He meant as in his bed or in his couch,
For peril is both fire and tow to assemble;
You know what this example may resemble.
This is all and sum: he held virginity
More perfect than wedding in frailty.
Frailty call I, but if that he and she
Would lead all their life in chastity.
I grant it well; I have no envy,
maidenhood prefer bigamy.
It like them to be clean, body and ghost;
Of my estate I'll not make no boast,
For well you know, a lord in his household,
He has not every vessel all of gold;
Some be of tree, and do their lord service.
God calls folk to him in sundry ways,
And every one has of God an proper gift -
Some this, some that, as himi liketh shift.
Virginity is great perfection,
And continence too with devotion,
But Christ, that of perfection is well,
Bade not every wight he should go sell
All that he had, and give it to the poor,
And in such wise follow him and his fore.
He spoke to them that would live perfectly;
And lordings, by your leave, that am not I.
I will bestow the flower of all my age
In the acts and in fruit of marriage.
Tell me also, to what conclusion
Were members made of generation,
And of so perfect wise a wright wrought?
Trust right well, they were not made for nought.
Gloss whoso will, and say both up and down
That they were made for purgation
Of urine, and our both things small
Were too to know a female from a male,
And for no other cause - say you no?
The experience knows well it is not so.
So that the clerks be not with me wroth,
I say this: that they made be for both;
That is to say, for office and for ease
Of engender, there we not God displease.
Why should men else in their books set
That man shall yield to his wife her debt?
Now wherewith should he make his payment,
If he not use his holy instrument?
Then were they made upon a creature
To purge urine, and too for engender.
But I say not that every wight is hold,
That has such harness as I to you told,
To go and use them in engender.
Then should men take of chastity no cure.
Christ was a maid and shaped as a man,
And many a saint, since that the world began;
Yet lived they ever in perfect chastity.
I'll envy no virginity.
Let them be bread of pure wheat-seed,
And let us wives be called barley-bread;
And yet with barley-bread, Mark tell can,
Our Lord Jesus refreshed many a man.
In such estate as God has called us
I will persevere; I am not precious.
In wifehood I will use my instrument
As freely as my Maker has it sent.
If I be dangerous, God give me sorrow!
My husband shall have it both eve and morrow,
When that him list come forth and pay his debt.
A husband I will have - I will not let -
Whick shall be both my debtor and my thrall,
And have his tribulation withal
Upon his flesh, while that I am his wife.
I have the power during all my life
Over his proper body, and not he.
Right thus the Apostle told it unto me,
And bade our husbands for to love us well.
Al this sentence me liketh every deel' -
Up start the Pardoner, and that anon;
'Now, dame, ' said he, 'by God and by Saint John!
You be a noble preacher in this case.
I was about to wed a wife; alas!
What should I buy it on my flesh so dear?
Yet had I lief wed no wife this year! '
'Abide! ' said she, 'my tale is not begun.
Nay, thou shalt drink of another tun,
Er that I go, shall savor worse than ale.
And when that I have told thee forth my tale
Of tribulation in marriage,
Of which I am expert in all my age -
This is to say, myself have been the whip -
Than may thou choose whether thou will sip
Of that tun that I shall abroche.
Beware of it, er thou too night approach;
For I shall tell examples more than ten.
`Whoso that won't be warned by other men,
By him shall other men corrected be.'
The same words writes Ptolemy;
Read in his Almagest, and take it there.'
'Dame, I would pray you, if your will it were, '
Said this Pardoner, 'as you began,
Tell forth your tale, spareth for no man,
And teach us young men of your practice.'
'Gladly, ' said she, 'since it may you like;
But yet I pray to all this company,
If that I speak after my fantasy,
As taketh not agrief of that I say,
For my intent is but for to play.
Now, sir, now will I tell forth my tale.
As ever may I drink wine or ale,
I shall say sooth; those husbands that I had,
As three of them were good, and two were bad.
The three were good men, and rich, and old;
Hardly might they the statute hold
In which that they were bound unto me.
You know well what I mean of this, pardee!
As help me God, I laugh when I think
How piteously at night I made them swink!
And, by my faith, I told of it no store.
They had me given their land and their treasure;
I needed not so longer diligence
To win their love, or do them reverence.
They loved me so well, by God above,
That I told no dainty of their love!
A wise woman will busy her ever in one
To get their love, yes, there as she has none.
But since I had them wholly in my hand,
And since they had me given all their land,
What should I take keep them for to please,
But it were for my profit and my ease?
I set them so at work, by my faith,
That many a night they sang `Wail away! '
The bacon was not fat for them, I trow,
That some men have in Essex at Dunmowe.
I governed them so well, after my law,
That each of them full blissful was and fawe
To bring me gay things from the fair.
They were full glad when I spoke to them fair,
For, God it knows, I chide them spitously.
Now hearken how I bore me properly,
You wise wives, that can understand.
Thus should you speak and bear them wrong on hand,
For half so boldly can there no man
Swear and lie, as a woman can.
I say not this by wives that be wise,
But if it be when they them misadvise.
A wise wife, if that she knows her good,
Shall bear him on hand the cow is wood,
And take witness of her own maid
Of her assent. But hearken how I said:
`Sir old cainard, is this thy array?
Why is my neighbor's wife so gay?
She is honored overall there she goes;
I sit at home; I have no thrifty clothes.
What dost thou at my neighbor's house?
Is she so fair? Art thou so amorous?
What whisper you with our maid? Benedicite!
Sir old lecher, let thy japes be!
And if I have a godsib or a friend,
Innocently, thou chidest as a fiend,
If that I walk or play unto his house!
Thou comest home as drunk as a mouse,
And preach on thy bench, bad evil proof!
Thou sayest to me it is a great misfortune
To wed a poor woman, for costage;
And if that she be rich, of high lineage,
Then sayest thou that it is a tormentry
To suffer her pride and her melancholy.
And if that she be fair, thou very knave,
Thou sayest that every whorer will her have;
She may no while in chastity abide,
Who is assailed upon each a side.
Thou sayest some folk desire us for riches,
Some for our shape, and some for our fairness,
And some for she can either sing or dance,
And some for gentleness and dalliance;
Some for her hands and her arms small;
Thus goes all to the devil, by thy tale.
Thou sayest men may not keep a castle wall,
It may so long assailed be overall.
And if that she be foul, thou sayest that she
Covets every man that she may see,
For as a spaniel she will on him leap,
Until she find some man her to cheap.
Nor does so grey goose go there in the lake,
As, sayest thou, will be without mate.
And sayest it is an hard thing for to wield
A thing that no man will, his thanks, hold.
Thus sayest thou, lorel, when thou goes to bed,
And that no wise man needs for to wed,
Nor no man that intended unto heaven.
With wild thunder-bolt and fiery lightning
May thy wrinkled neck be to broke!
Thou sayest that dripping houses, and also smoke,
And chiding make men to flee
Out of their own houses; ah, benedicite!
What ails such an old man for to chide?
Thou sayest we wives will our vices hide
Til we be fast, and then we will them show -
Well may that be a proverb of a shrew!
Thou sayest that oxen, asses, horses, and hounds,
They've been assayed at diverse stounds;
Basins, lavours, er that men them buy,
Spoons and stools, and all such husbandry,
And so be pots, clothes, and array;
But folk of wives make no assay,
Til they be wedded - old dottard shrew! -
And then, sayest thou, we will our vices show.
Thou sayest also that it displeases me
But if that thou will praise my beauty,
And but thou peer always upon my face,
And call me 'fair dame' in every place.
And but thou make a feast on this day
That I was born, and make me fresh gay;
And but thou do to my nurse honor,
And to my chamberer within my bower,
And to my father's folk and his allies -
Thus sayest thou, old barrelful of lies!
And yet of our apprentice Janekin,
For his crispy hair, shining as gold so fine,
And for he squireth me both up and down,
Yet hast thou caught a false suspicion.
I will him not, though thou were dead tomorrow!
But tell me this: why hidest thou, with sorrow,
The keys of thy chest away from me?
It is my good as well as thine, pardee!
What, think thou make an idiot of our dame?
Now by that lord that called is Saint James,
Thou shalt not both, though thou were wood,
Be master of my body and of my good;
That one thou shalt forgo, despite thy yearn.
What helps it of me to inquire or spy?
I trust thou would lock me in thy chest!
Thou should say, 'Wife, go where you list;
Take your sport; I will believe no tales.
I know you for a true wife, dame Alice.'
We love no man that takes keep or charge
Where that we go; we will be at our large.
Of all men blessed may he be,
The wise astrologer, Dan Ptolemy,
That says this proverb in his Almagest:
'Of all men his wisdom is the highest
That reckons never who has the world in his hand.'
By this proverb thou shalt understand,
Have thou enough, what should thee reck or care
How merrily that other folks fare?
For, certainly, old dottard, by your leave,
You shall have quite right enough at eve.
He is too great a niggard that would werne
A man to light a candle at his lantern;
He shall have never the less light, pardee.
Have thou enough, you should not plain thee.
Thou sayest also, that if we make us gay
With clothing, and with precious array,
That it is peril of our chastity;
And yet - with sorrow! - thou must enforce thee,
And say these words in the Apostle's name:
'In habit made with chastity and shame
You women shall apparel you, ' he said,
'And not in tressed hair and gay perrie,
As pearls, nor with gold, nor clothes rich."
After thy text, nor after thy rubric,
I will not work as much as a gnat.
Thou said this, that I was like a cat;
For whoso would singe a cat's skin,
Then would the cat well dwell in his inn;
And if the cat's skin be sleek and gay,
She will not dwell in house half a day,
But forth she will, er any day be dawned,
To show her skin and go a-caterwauled.
This is to say, if I be gay, sir shrew,
I will run out my burel for to show.
Sir old fool, what helps thee to spy?
Though thou pray Argus with his hundred eyes
To be my wardecors as he can best,
In fait, he shall not keep me but me lest;
Yet could I make his beard, so might I thee!
Thou said too that there be things three,
The which things trouble all this earth,
And that no wight may endure the fourth.
O leave sir shrew, Jesus shorten thy life!
Yet preachest thou and sayest a hateful wife
Reckoned is for one of these mischances.
Be there no other manner resemblances
That you may liken your parables to,
But if a silly wife be one of those?
Thou likens too women's love to hell,
To barren land, there water may not dwell.
Thou likens it also to wild fire;
The more it burns, the more it has desire
To consume every thing that burnt will be.
Thou sayest, just as worms shend a tree,
Right so a wife destroys her husband;
This know they that be to wives bound.'
Lord, right thus, as you have underestand,
Bore I stiffly my old husband's own hand
That thus they said in their drunkenness;
And all was false, but that I took witness
On Janekin, and on my niece also.
O Lord! The pain I did them and the woe,
Full guiltless, by God's sweet pain!
For as a horse I could bite and whin.
I could plain, and yet was in the guile,
Or else often time had I been spilt.
Whoso that first to mill comes, first grint;
I plained first, so was our war stint.
They were full glad to excuse them blive
Of things of which they were aguilt their live.
Of wenches would I bear them on hand,
When that for sickness might they stand.
Yet tickled I his heart, for that he
Wend that I had of him so great charity!
I swore that all my walking out by night
Was for to spy wenches that he dight;
Under that color had I many a mirth.
For all such wit is given us in our birth;
Deceit, weeping, spinning God has give
To women kindly, while that they may live.
And thus of one thing I avaunt me:
At the end I had the better in each degree,
By sleight, or force, or by some manner thing,
As by continual murmur or grouching.
Namely abed had they mischance:
There would I scold and do them no pleasance;
I would no longer in the bed abide,
If that I felt his arm over my side,
Til he had made his ransom unto me;
Then would I suffer him do his nicety.
And therefore every man this tale I tell,
Win whoso may, for all is for to sell;
With empty hand men may no hawks lure.
For winning would I all his lust endure,
And make me a feigned appetite;
And yet in bacon had I never delight.
That made me that ever I would them chide,
For though the pope had sat them beside,
I would not spare them at their own board,
For, by my troth, I quit them word for word.
As help me very God omnipotent,
Though I right now should make my testament,
I owe them not a word that isn't quit.
I brought it so about by my wit
That they must give it up, as for the best,
Or else had we never been in rest;
For though he looked as a wood lion,
Yet should he fail of his conclusion.
Then I would say, `Good lief, take keep
How meekly looks Willy, our sheep!
Come near, my spouse, let me ba thy cheek!
You should be all patient and meek,
And have a sweet spiced conscience,
Since you so preach of Job's patience.
Suffer always, since you so well can preach;
And but you do, certain we shall you teach
That it is fair to have a wife in peace.
One of us two must bow, doubtless,
And since a man is more reasonable
Than woman is, you must be sufferable.
What ails you to grouch thus and groan?
Is it for you would have my queynte alone?
Why, take it all! Lo, have it every deel!
Peter! I shrew you, but you love it well;
For if I would sell my belle chose,
I could walk as fresh as is a rose;
But I will keep it for your own tooth.
You be to blame, by God! I say you sooth.'
Such manner words had we on hand.
Now will I speak of my fourth husband.
My fourth husband was a reveller -
This is to say, he had a paramour -
And I was young and full of gaiety,
Stubborn and strong, and jolly as a pie.
How could I dance to a harp small,
And sing, indeed, as any nightingale,
When I had drunk a draft of sweet wine!
Metellius, the foul churl, the swine,
Who with a staff bereft his wife her life,
For she drank wine, though I had been his wife,
He should not have daunted me from drink!
And after wine on Venus must I think,
For al so certain as cold engenders hail,
A lecherous mouth must have a lecherous tail.
In women vinolent is no defense -
This know lechers by experience.
But - Lord Christ! - when that it remembered me
Upon my youth, and on my jolity,
It tickles me about my heart's root.
Unto this day it does my heart boot
That I have had my world as in my time.
But age, alas, that all will envenom,
Has me bereft my beauty and my pith.
Let go. Farewell! The devil go therewith!
The flour is gone; there is no more to tell;
The bran, as I best can, now must I sell;
But yet to be right merry will I fond.
Now will I tell of my fourth husband.
I say, I had in heart great despite
That he of any other had delight.
But he was quit, by God and by Saint Joss!
I made him of the same wood a cross;
Not of my body, in no foul manner,
But certainly, I made folk such cheer
That in his own grease I made him fry
For anger, and for very jealousy.
By God, in earth I was his purgatory,
For which I hope his soul be in glory.
For, God it knows, he sat full oft and song,
When his shoe full bitterly him wrong.
There was no wight, save God and he, that wiste
In many wise, how sore I him twist.
He died when I came from Jerusalem,
And lies agrave under the rood beam,
All is his tomb not so curious
As was the sepulcher of him Darius,
Which that Appelles wrought subtly;
It's not but waste to bury him preciously.
Let him fare well; God give his soul rest!
He is now in his grave and in his chest.
Now of my fifth husband will I tell.
God let his soul never come in hell!
And yet was he to me the most shrew;
That feel I on my ribs all by rue,
And ever shall unto my ending day.
But in our bed he was so fresh and gay,
And therewithal so well could he me gloss,
When that he would have my belle chose;
That though he had me beat on every bone,
He could win again my love anon.
I trow I loved him best, for that he
Was of his love dangerous to me.
We women have, if that I shall not lie,
In this matter a quaint fantasy:
Wait what thing we may not lightly have,
Thereafter will we cry all day and crave.
Forbid us thing, and that desire we;
Press on us fast, and then will we flee.
With danger out we all our chaffer;
Great press at market makes dear ware,
And too great cheap is held at little price:
This knows every woman that is wise.
My fifth husband - God his soul bless! -
Which that I took for love, and no riches,
He some time was a clerk of Oxford,
And had left school, and went at home to board
With my godsib, dwelling in our town;
God have her soul! Her name was Alison.
She knew my heart, and too my privity,
Better than our parish priest, so moot I thee!
To her bewrayed I my counsel all.
For had my husband pissed on a wall,
Or done a thing that should have cost his life,
To her, and to another worthy wife,
And to my niece, which that I loved well,
I would have told every deel.
And so I did full often, God it want,
That made his face often red and hot
For very shame, and blamed himself for he
Had told to me so great a privity.
And so befell that once in a Lent -
Since often times I to my godsib went,
For ever yet I loved to be gay,
And for to walk in March, April, and May,
From house to house, to hear sundry tales -
That Jankin the clerk, and my godsib dame Alys,
And I myself, into the fields went.
My husband was at London all that Lent;
I had the better leisure for to play,
And for to see, and too for to be seen
Of lusty folk. What wised I where my grace
Was shaped for to be, or in what place?
Therefore I made my visitations
To vigils and to processions,
To preaching too, and to these pilgrimages,
To plays of miracles, and to marriages,
And wore upon my gay scarlet gites.
These worms, nor these moths, nor these mites,
Upon my peril, bit them never a deel;
And would you know why? For they were used well.
Now will I tell forth what happened me.
I say that in the fields walked we,
Til truly we had such dalliance,
This clerk and I, that of my purveyance
I spoke to him and said him how that he,
If I were widow, should wed me.
For certainly - I say for no bobance -
Yet was I never without purveyance
Of marriage, nor of other things eek.
I hold a mouse's heart not worth a leek
That has but one hole for to start to,
And if that fail, then all is ado.
I bare him on hand he had enchanted me -
My dame taught me that subtlety -
And too I said I dreamed of him all night,
He would have slain me as I lay upright,
And all my bed was full of verey blood;
`But yet I hope that you shall do me good,
For blood betokens gold, as me was taught.'
And all was false; I dreamed of it right not,
But I followed aye my dame's lore,
As well of this as of other things more.
But now, sir, let me see what I shall say.
A ha! By God, I have my tale again.
When that my fourth husband was on bier,
I wept algate, and made sorry cheer,
As wives must, for it is usage,
And with my kerchief covered my visage,
But because I was purveyed of a make,
I wept but small, and that I undertake.
To church was my husband born a morrow
With neighbors, that for him made sorrow;
And Jankin, our clerk, was one of those.
As help me God, when that I saw him go
After the bier, me thought he had a pair
Of legs and of feet so clean and fair
That all my heart I gave unto his hold.
He was, I trow, twenty winter old,
And I was forty, if I shall say sooth;
But yet I had always a colt's tooth.
Gap-toothed I was, and that became me well;
I had the print of Saint Venus' seal
As help me God, I was a lusty one,
And fair, and rich, and young, and well bigon,
And truly, as my husbands told me,
I had the best quoniam might be.
For certainly, I am all Venerian
In feeling, and my heart is Martian.
Venus me gave my lust, my lecherousness,
And Mars gave me my sturdy hardiness;
My ascendant was Taurus, and Mars therein.
Alas, alas! That ever love was sin!
I followed aye my inclination
By virtue of my constellation;
That made me I could not withdraw
My chamber of Venus from a good fellow.
Yet have I Mars' mark upon my face,
And also in another private place.
For God so wise be my salvation,
I loved never by no discretion,
But ever followed my appetite,
All were he short, or long, or black, or white;
I took no keep, so that he liked me,
How poor he was, nor too of what degree.
What should I say but, at the month's end,
This jolly clerk, Jankin, that was so hend,
Has wedded me with great solemnity,
And to him gave I all the land and fee
That ever was me given therebefore.
But afterward repented me full sore;
He would suffer nothing of my list.
By God, he smote me once on the list,
For that I rent out of his book a leaf,
That of the stroke my ear wax all deaf.
Stubborn I was as is a lioness,
And of my tongue a very jangleress,
And walk I would, as I had done before,
From house to house, although he had it sworn;
For which he often times would preach,
And me of old Roman gestes teach;
How he, Simplicius Gallus, left his wife,
And her forsook for term of all his life,
Not but for open-headed he her say
Looking out at his door upon a day.
Another Roman told he me by name,
That, for his wife was at a summer's game
Without his witting, he forsook her eke.
And then would he upon his Bible seek
That same proverb of Ecclesiast
Where he commands and forbiddeth fast
Man should suffer his wife go roll about.
Then would he say right thus, without doubt:
`Whoso that builds his house all of sallows,
And pricks his blind horse over the fallows,
And suffers his wife to go seek hallows,
Is worthy to be hanged on the gallows! '
But all for naught, I set not a hawe
Of his proverbs nor of his old sawe,
Nor I would not of him corrected be.
I hate him that my vices telleth me,
And so do more, God knows, of us than I.
This made him with me mad al utterly;
I would not forbear him in no case.
Now will I say you true, by Saint Thomas,
Why that I rent out of his book a leaf,
For which he smote me so that I was deaf.
He had a book that gladly, night and day,
For his disport he would read alway.
He called it Valerie and Theofraste,
At which book he laughed always full fast.
And too there was some time a clerk at Rome,
A cardinal that called Saint Jerome,
That made a book against Jovinian,
In which book too there was Tertullian,
Crisippus, Trotula, and Heloise,
That was abbess not far from Paris,
And too the Parables of Solomon,
Ovid's Art, and book many on,
And all these were bound in one volume,
And every night and day was his custome
When he had leisure and vacation
From other worldly occupation
To read on this book of wicked wives.
He knew of them more legends and lives
Than be of good wives in the Bible.
For trust well, it is an impossible
That any clerk will speak good of wives,
But if it be of holy saints' lives,
Nor of no other woman never the more.
Who painted the lion, tel me, who?
By God! if women had written stories,
As clerks have within their oratories,
They would have written of men more wickedness
Than all the mark of Adam may redress.
The children of Mercury and Venus
Been in their workings full contrarius,
Mercury loves wisdom and science,
And Venus loves riot and dispence.
And for their diverse disposition
Each falls in other's exaltation,
And thus, God knows, Mercurie is desolate
In Pisces, where Venus is exaltat;
And Venus falls there Mercury is raised.
Therfore no woman of no clerk is praised.
The clerk, when he is old and may not do
Of Venus' works worth his old shoe,
Then sit he down, and write in his dotage
That women cannot keep their marriage.
But now to purpose, why I told thee
That I was beaten for a book, pardee.
Upon a night Jankyn, that was our sire,
Read on his book as he sat by the fire
Of Eve first, that for her wickedness
Was all mankind brought to wretchedness,
For which that Jesus Crist himself was slain,
That bought us with his heart's blood again.
Lo, here express of woman may you find,
That woman was the loss of all mankind.
Though read he me how Sampson loste his hairs,
Sleeping, his leman cut it with her shears,
Throught which treason lost he both his eyes.
Though read he me, if that I shall not lie,
Of Hercules and of his Diana,
That caused him to set himself afire.
No thing forgot he the penance and woe
That Socrates had with his wives two,
How Xanthippe cast piss upon his head.
This silly man sat still as he were dead;
He wiped his head, nomore does he say
But, 'Ere that thuder stint, comes a ray.'
Of Pasiphaë, that was the queen of Crete,
For shrewedness he thought the tale sweet-
Fye! Speak no more - it is a grissly thing -
Of her horrible lust and her liking.
Of Clytemnestra for her lechery,
That falsely made her husband for to die,
He read it with full good devotion.
He told me too for what occasion
Amphiorax at Thebes lost his life.
My husband had a legend of his wife
Eriphyle, that for an ounce of gold
Had prively unto the Greeks told
Where that her husbancd hid him in a place,
For which he had at Thebes'sorry grace.
Of Livia tolde he me, and of Lucia,
They both made their husbands for to die,
That one for love, that other was for hate.
Livia her husband, on an even late,
Empoisoned had, for that she was his foe.
Lucia, lecherous, loved her husband so,
That for he should always upon her think,
She gave him such a manner love-drink
That he was dead, ere it were by the morow.
And thus always husbands have sorrow.
Then told he me, how that Latomus
Complained unto his fellow Arius,
That in his garden growed such a tree,
On which he said how that his wives three
Hanged themselves, for heart despiteous.
O dear brother, ' said this Arius,
'Give me a plant of this blessed tree,
And in my garden planted it shall be.'
Of later date of wives has he read,
That some have slain their husbands in their bed,
And let her lecher dight her all the night,
When that the corpse lay in the floor upright.
And some have drive nails in their brain
While that they slept, and thus they have them slain.
Some have them give poison in their drink.
He spoke more harm than heart may bethink,
And therewithal he knew of more proverbs
Than in this world there grows grass or herbs.
'Better, ' said he, 'thy habitation
Be with a lion, or a foul dragon,
Than with a woman using for to chide.'
'Better, ' said he, 'high in the roof abide
Than with an angry wife down in the house,
They be so wicked and contrarious.
They hate that their husbands love always.'
He said, 'a woman cast her shame away
When she cast off her smock, ' and further more,
'A fair woman, but she be chaste also,
Is like a gold ring in a sow's nose.'
Who would leave, or who would suppose
The woe that in my heart was, and pine?
And when I saw he would never fine
To read on this cursed book all night,
All suddenly three leaves have I plight
Out of his book, right as he read, and eke
I with my fist so took him on the cheek,
That in our fire he role backward adown.
And he up-start as does a wood lion,
And with his fist he smote me on the head
That in the floor I lay, as I were dead.
And when he saw how still that I lay,
He was aghast, and would have fled his way,
Til at last out of my swoon I braid.
'O, hast thou slain me, false thief, ' I said,
'And for my land thus hast thou murdered me?
Ere I be dead, yet will I kiss thee.'
And near he came and kneeled fair adown,
And said, 'Deere sister Alison,
As help me God, I shall thee never smite.
That I have done, it is thyself to wite,
Forgive it me, and that I thee beseek.'
And yet again I hit him on the cheek,
And said, 'Theif, thus much am I wreke;
Now will I die, I may no longer speak.'
But at last, with much care and woe,
We fill accorded by ourselves two.
He gave me all the bridal in my hand,
To have the governance of house and land,
And of his tounge, and of his hand also,
And made him burn his book anon right though.
And when that I had gotten unto me
By mastery, all the sovereignty,
And that he said, 'My own true wife,
Do as thee lust the term of all thy life,
Keep thy honor, and keep too my estate, ' -
After that day we had never debate.
God help me so, I was to him as kind
As any wife from Denmark unto Indie,
And also true, and so was he to me.
I pray to God, that sit in magesty,
So bless his soul for his mercy dear.
Now will I say my tale, if you will hear.
Behold the words between the Summoner the Friar.
The Friar laughed when he had heard all this.-
'Now dame, ' said he, 'so have I joy or bliss,
This is a long preamble of a tale.'
And when the Summoner heard the Friar gale,
'Lo, ' said the Summoner, 'God's arms two,
A friar will entermet him everemore.
Lo good men, a fly and too a friar
Will fall in every dish and too mateer.
What speaks thou of perambulation?
What, amble, or trot, or peace, or go sit down,
Thou lettest our disport in this manner.'
'Yea, will thou so, sir Summoner? ' said the Friar,
'Now by my faith, I shall ere that I go
Tell of a summoner such a tale or two
That all the folk shall laugh in this place.'
'Now else, friar, I beshrew thy face, '
Said this Summoner, 'and I beshrew me,
But if I tell tales two or three
Of friars, ere I come to Sittingbourne,
That I shall make thy heart for to mourn
For well I know thy patience in gone.'
Oure Host cried, 'Peace, and that anon! '
And said, 'let the woman tell hir tale,
Ye fare as folk that drunk were of ale.
Do, dame, tell forth your tale, and that is best.'
'Al ready, sire, ' said she, 'right as you lest,
If I have licence of this worthy Friar.'
'Yes, dame, ' said he, 'tell forth, and I will hear.'
Here endeth the Wife of Bath her Prologue.