The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale in the Hengwrt Manuscript of the Canterbury Tales

Original Text: 
Nat. Lib. Wales Peniarth 392. From Geoffrey Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales: A Facsimile and Transcription of the Hengwrt Manuscript, with Variants from the Ellesmere Manuscript, ed. Paul G. Ruggiers, introduction by Donald C. Baker, A. I. Doyle, and M. B. Parkes. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1979. PR 1866 .R8 1979 Robarts Library
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¶Here bigynneth the prologe of the tale
of the Wyf of Bathe
2Were in this world / is right ynogh for me
3To speke of wo / that is in mariage
4ffor lordynges / sith |þt| I twelf yeer was of age
5Thonked be god / that is eterne on lyue
6Hou{s}bondes atte chirche dore / I haue had fyue
7If I so ofte / myghte han wedded be
8And alle were worthy men / in hir degree
9But me was told certeyn / noght longe agon is
10That sith |þt| Cri{s}t/ ne wente ne|uer|e but onys
11To weddyng/ in the Cane of Galilee
12That by the same en{s}ample / taughte he me
13That I ne sholde / wedded be but ones
14¶Herke eek / lo / which a sharp word for the nones
15Bi{s}yde a welle / |Ihus| / god and man
16Spak / in repreeue of the Samaritan
17¶Thow ha{s}t yhad / fyue hou{s}bondes quod he
18And that ilke man / which that now hath thee
19Is nat thyn hou{s}bonde / thus he seyde |cer|teyn
20What that he mente ther by / I kan nat seyn
21But |þt| I axe / why |þt| the fifthe man
22Was noon hou{s}bonde / to the Samaritan
23How manye / myghte she han in mariage
24Yet herde I neuere / tellen in myn age
25Vp on this nombre / diffyncycioun
26Men may dyuyne / and glo{s}en vp |&| doun
27But wel I woot ex|pre|{s} / with outen lye
28God bad vs / for to wexe and multiplye
29That gentil text/ kan I wel vnder{s}tonde
30¶Eek wel I woot/ he seyde |þt| myn hou{s}bonde
31Sholde lete / fader and moder/ and take to me
32But of {^}{{no}} nombre / mencio|un| made he
33Of Bigamye / or of Octogamye
34Why sholde men thanne speke of it vileynye
35¶Lo here / the wi{s}e kyng/ daun Salomon
36I trowe / he hadde wyues many oon
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37As wolde god / it leueful were to me
38To be refre{ss}hed / half {s}o ofte as he
39Which yifte of god hadde he / for alle hi{s}e wyuys
40No man hath swith / that in this world alyue is
41God woot/ this noble kyng/ as to my wit
42The fir{s}te nyght/ hadde many a murye fit
43With ech of hem / {s}o wel was hym on lyue
44Ble{ss}ed be god / that I haue wedded fyue
45Wel come the sixte / whan |þt| e|uer|e he shal
46ffor sith I wol nat kepe {^}{{me}} / chaa{s}t in al
47Whan myn hou{s}bonde / is fro the world agon
48Som cri{s}ten man / shal wedde me anon
49ffor thanne thapo{s}tle seith / |þt| I am free
50To wedde a goddes half / where it liketh me
51He seith / that to be wedded is no synne
52Bet is to be wedded / than to brynne
53What rekketh me / theigh folk / seye vileynye
54Of shrewed Lameth / and his bigamye
55I woot wel / Abraham was an holy man
56And Iacob eek/ as fer as e|uer|e I kan
57And ech of hem / hadde wyues mo than two
58And many another / holy man al{s}o
59¶Where kan ye seye / in any maner age
60That heighe god / defended mariage
61By expres word / I pray yow telleth me
62Or where comanded he virgynytee
63I woot as wel as ye / it is no drede
64Thapo{s}tle / whan he speketh of maydenhede
65He seyde / that |pre|cept ther of / hadde he noon
66Men may con{s}eille a womman / to be oon
67But con{s}eillyng/ nys no comandement/
68He put it/ in oure owene Iuggement/
69ffor hadde god / comanded maydenhede
70Thanne hadde he dampned weddyng/ |with| the dede
71And certes / if ther were no seed y{s}owe
72Virgynytee thanne / wher of sholde it growe
73Poul dor{s}te nat comanden / at the lee{s}te
74A thyng/ of which / his may{s}ter yaf noon hee{s}te
75The dart / is set vp for virgynytee
76Cacche who so may / who renneth be{s}t lat se
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77But this word / is noght take of euery wight/
78But ther as god / li{s}t yeue it of his myght/
79I woot wel / that thapo{s}tle was a mayde
80But nathelees / thogh |þt| he wroot/ or sayde
81He wolde / that euery wight/ were swich as he
82Al nys but con{s}eil / to virgynytee
83And for to been a wyf / he yaf me leue
84Of Indulgence / so nys it no repreue
85To wedde me / if that my make dye
86With outen excepcio|un| of bigamye
87Al were it good / no womman for to touche
88He mente / as in his bed / or in his couche
89ffor |per|il is / bothe fyr and tow ta{ss}emble
90Ye knowe / what this en{s}ample may re{s}emble
91This al and som / he heeld virgynytee
92Moore |per|fit/ than weddyng in freletee
93ffreletee clepe I / but if |þt| he and she
94Wolde leden / al hir lyf/ in cha{s}titee
95I graunte it wel / I haue noon enuye
96Thogh maydenhede / |pre|ferre bigamye
97It liketh hem to be clene / in body and goo{s}t/
98Of myn e{s}tat/ ne wol I make no boo{s}t/
99ffor wel ye knowe / a lord in his hou{s}hold
100Ne hath nat euery ve{ss}el / al of gold
101S|om|me been of tree / and doon hir lord s[er]uy{s}e
102God clepeth folk to hym / in sondry wy{s}e
103And euerich / hath of god a |prop|re yifte
104Som this / som that/ as hym liketh shifte
105Virgynytee / is greet |per|feccio|un|
106And continence eek/ with deuocio|un|
107But Cri{s}t/ that of |per|feccion / is welle
108Bad nat euery wight / he sholde go selle
109Al that he hadde / and yeue it to the poore
110And in swich wi{s}e / folwe hym and his foore
111He spak to hem / that wol lyue |per|fitly
112And lordynges / by youre leue / that am nat I
113I wol bi{s}towe / the flour of al myn age
114In thactes / and in fruyt of mariage
questio
115¶Telle me al{s}o / to what conclu{s}io|un|
116Were membres maad / of generacio|un|
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117And of so |per|fit/ wys a wight ywroght/
118Tru{s}teth right wel / they were nat maad for noght/
119Glo{s}e who {s}o wole / and seye bothe vp and doun
120That they were maad / for purgacioun
121Of Vryne / and oure bothe thynges smale
122Was eek to knowe / a femelle / from a male
123And for noon oother cau{s}e / sey ye / no{?.}
124Thex|per|ience / woot wel it is noght so
125So that the Clerkes / be nat with me wrothe
126I sey this / |þt| they maked been for bothe
127That is to seyn / for office and for e{s}e
128Of engendrure / ther we nat god di{s}ple{s}e
129Why sholde men ellis / in hir bokes sette
130That man shal yelde / to his wyf hir dette
131Now wherwith / sholde he make his paiement
132If he ne v{s}ed / his sely In{s}trument/
133Thanne were they maad / vp on a creature
134To purge vryne / and eek for engendrure
135¶But I seye noght/ |þt| euery wight is holde
136That hath swich harneys / as I to yow tolde
137To goon / and v{s}en hem in engendrure
138Thanne sholde men take / of Cha{s}titee no cure
139Cri{s}t was a mayde / and shapen as a man
140And many a Seynt/ sith that the world bigan
141Yet lyued they euere / in |per|fit Cha{s}titee
142I nyl envie / no virgynytee
143Lat hem be breed / of pured whete seed
144And lat vs wyues / hote Barlybreed
145And yet |with| Barly breed / Mark telle kan
146Oure lord |Iesu| / refre{ss}hed many a man
147In swich e{s}tat/ as god hath clepyd vs
148I wol |per|{s}euere / I nam nat |pre|cius
149In wifhode / wol I v{s}e myn In{s}trument/
150As frely / as my makere hath it sent/
151If I be daungerous / god yeue me sorwe
152Myn hou{s}bonde / shal it han / bothe eue and morwe
153Whan that hym li{s}t/ com forth and paye his dette
154And hou{s}bonde / wol I haue / I wol nat lette
155Which shal be / bothe / my dettour and my thral
156And haue / his tribulacion / with al
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157Vp on his fle{ss}h / whil that I am his wyf
158I haue the power / duryng al my lyf
159Vp on his |prop|re body / and nat he
160Right thus / thapo{s}tle / tolde it vn to me
161And bad oure hou{s}bondes / for to loue vs wel
162Al this sentence / me liketh euery del
163Vp stirte the Pardoner / and that anon
164Now dame quod he / by god and by Seint |Iohan|
165Ye been a noble Prechour/ in this cas
166I was aboute / to wedde a wyf allas
167What/ sholde I bye {^}{{it}} / on my fle{ss}h {s}o deere
168Yet hadde I leuere / wedde no wyf to yeere
169¶Abyd quod she / my tale is nat bigonne
170Nay /thow shalt drynken / of another tonne
171Er |þt| I go / shal {s}auoure wors than Ale
172And whan that I / haue toold thee forth my tale
173Of tribulacion / in maryage
174Of which I am expert/ in al myn age
175This is to seye / my self hath been the whippe
176Thanne may{s}tow / che{s}e / wheither |þt| thow wolt sippe
177Of thilke tonne / that I shal abroche
178Be war of it / er thow to neigh approche
179ffor I shal telle en{s}amples / mo than ten
180Who so |þt| nyle / be war/ by othere men
181By hym / shal othere men corrected be
182Thi{s}e same wordes / writeth Protholome
183Rede in his Almage{s}te / and take it there
184¶Dame I wolde pray yow / if youre wyl it were
185Seyde this Pardoner / as ye bigan
186Telle forth youre tale / spareth for no man
187And techeth vs yonge men / of youre praktyke
188¶Gladly quod she / syn it may yow lyke
189But that I praye / to al this compaignye
190If that I speke / after my fanta{s}ye
191As taketh nat agrief / of that I seye
192ffor myn entente / nys but for to pleye
193Now sire / thanne wol I telle yow forth my tale
194As euere / moot I drynke / wyn or Ale
195I shal seye sooth / tho hou{s}bondes |þt| I hadde
196As three of hem were goode / and two were badde
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197The thre men / were goode / and ryche / and olde
198Vnnethe myghte they / the Statut holde
199In which / that they were bounden vn to me
200Ye woot wel / what I mene of this |per|dee
201As help me god / I laughe whan I thynke
202How pitou{s}ly / a nyght I made hem swynke
203And by my fey / I tolde of it no stoor
204They hadde me yeuen / hir land and hir tre{s}oor
205Me neded nat/ do lenger diligence
206To wynne hir loue / or doon hem re|uer|ence
207They loued me so wel / by god aboue
208That I ne tolde / no deyntee of hir loue
209A wys womman / wol bi{s}ye hi|re| / e|uer|e in oon
210To gete hir loue / ye ther as she hath noon
211But sith I hadde hem / hoolly in myn hond
212And sith that they / hadde yeuen me al hir lond
213What sholde I take kepe / hem for to ple{s}e
214But it were / for my |pro|fit/ and myn e{s}e
215I sette hem awerk/ by my fey
216That many a night/ they songen weylawey
217The bacon / was nat fet for hem I trowe
218That {s}om men han / in E{ss}e|x'| at Donmowe
219I go|uer|ned hem / so wel after my lawe
220That ech of hem / ful bli{s}ful was and fawe
221To brynge me / gaye thynges fro the ffeyre
222They were ful glad / whan I spak to hem feyre
223ffor god it woot/ I chidde hem spitou{s}ly
224¶Now herkneth / how I bar me |prop|rely
225Ye wi{s}e wyues / that konne vnder{s}tonde
226Thus sholde ye speke / and bere hem wrong on honde
227ffor half {s}o boldely / kan ther no man
228Swere and lye / as a womman kan
229I sey nat this / by wyues |þt| ben wy{s}e
230But if it be / whan they hem my{s}auy{s}e
231A wys wyf / if that she kan hir good
232Shal bere hym an hond / the Cow is wood
233And take witne{ss}e / of hir owene mayde
234Of hire a{ss}ent/ but herkneth how I sayde
235¶Sire olde kaynard / is this thyn array
236Why is / my Neghebores wyf {s}o gay
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237She is hon|our|ed / ouer al ther she goth
238I sitte at hoom / I haue no thrifty cloth
239What do{s}tow / at my neghebores hous
240Is she so fair / artow so amorous
241What rowne ye with oure mayde / benedicite
242Sire olde lechour / lat thy Iapes be
243And if I haue / a go{ss}ib / or A freend
244With outen gilt/ ye chiden as a feend
245If that I walke / or pleye vn to his hous
246Thow come{s}t hoom / as dronken as a mous
247And |pre|che{s}t on thy bench / with yuel preef
248Thow sey{s}t to me / it is a greet me{s}cheef
249To wedde a poure womman / for co{s}tage
250And if that she be ryche / of heigh parage
251Thanne sei{s}tow / that it is a tormentrye
252To suffre / hir pryde / and hir malencolye
253And if |þt| she be fair / thow verray knaue
254Thow sei{s}t/ that euery holour wol hi|re| haue
255She may no while / in cha{s}titee abyde
256That is a{ss}ayled / vp on ech a syde
257¶Thow sey{s}t/ som folk de{s}iren vs for riche{ss}e
258S|om|me for oure shap / and s|om|me for oure fairne{ss}e
259And s|om|me / for she kan outher synge / or daunce
260And s|om|me / for gentille{ss}e / and dalyaunce
261S|om|me for hir handes / and hir armes smale
262Thus goth al to the deuel / by thy tale
263Thow sey{s}t / men may nat kepe a Ca{s}tel wal
264It may so longe / a{ss}aylled been ouer al
265And if that she be foul / thow sey{s}t |þt| she
266Coueiteth euery man / that she may se
267ffor as a Spaynel / she wol on hym lepe
268Til that she fynde / som man hir to chepe
269Ne noon so grey goos / goth ther in the lake
270As sei{s}tow / wol be with oute make
271And sey{s}t/ it is an hard thyng / for to wolde
272A thyng / that no man wol his thankes holde
273Thus sei{s}tow lorel / whan thow goo{s}t to bedde
274And that no wys man / nedeth for to wedde
275Ne no man / that entendeth vn to heuene
276With wilde thonder dynt/ and firy leuene
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277Moote thy welked nekke / be to broke
278Thow sey{s}t/ that droppyng hou{s}es / and eek smoke
279And chidyng wyues / maken men to flee
280Out of hir owene hou{s}es / a |_bn|dicitee |?|
281What eyleth / swich an old man for to chide
282Thow sey{s}t/ we wyues / wil oure vices hyde
283Til we be fa{s}t/ and thanne we wol hem shewe
284Wel may that be / a prouerbe of a Shrewe
285Thow sei{s}t/ |þt| Oxen / A{ss}es / hors / and houndes
286They been a{ss}ayed / at dy|uer|{s}e {s}toundes
287Bacynes / lauours / er that men hem bye
288Spoones / stooles / and al swich hou{s}bondrye
289And so be pottes / clothes / and array
290But folk / of wyues / maken noon a{ss}ay
291Til they be wedded / olde dotard shrewe
292And thanne sei{s}tow / we wil oure vices shewe
293Thow sei{s}t al{s}o / that it di{s}ple{s}eth me
294But if that thow / wolt prei{s}e my beautee
295And but thow powre / alwey vp on my face
296And clepe me faire dame / in e|uer|y place
297And but thow make a fee{s}te / on thilke day
298That I was born / and make me fre{ss}h and gay
299And but thow do / to my norice honour
300And to my chambrere / with Inne my bour
301And to my fadres folk / and his allyes
302Thus sei{s}tow / olde barel ful of lyes
303And yet/ of oure Ap|pre|tice / Iankyn
304ffor his crisp heer / shynyng/ as gold so fyn
305And for he Squyereth me / bothe vp and doun
306Yet ha{s}tow caught/ fals su{s}pecioun
307I wil hym nat/ thogh thow were deed to morwe
308¶But tel me this / why hide{s}tow with sorwe
309The keyes of thy Che{s}te / awey fro me
310It is my good / as wel as thyn pardee
311What wene{s}tow / make an ydiote of oure dame
312Now by that lord / that called is Seint Iame
313Thow shalt noght bothe / thogh |þt| thow were wood
314Be mai{s}ter / of my body / and my good
315That oon thow shalt forgo / maugree thyne eyen
316What helpeth it/ of me enquere and spyen
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317I trowe / thow wolde{s}t/ lok me in thy chi{s}te
318Thow sholde{s}t seye / wyf / go wher thee li{s}te
319Taak youre di{s}port/ I nyl leue no talis
320I knowe yow / for a trewe wyf / Dame Alis
321We loue no man / that taketh kepe / or charge
322Wher |þt| we goon / we wol been at oure large
323Of alle men / yble{ss}ed moote he be
324The wi{s}e A{s}trologen / Daun Protholome
325That seith this prouerbe / in his Almage{s}te
326Of alle men / his wi{s}dom is hye{s}te
327That rekketh nat/ who hath the world in honde
328By this |pro||uer|be / thow shalt vnder{s}tonde
329Haue thow ynogh / what thar thee rekke / or care
330How myrily / that othere folkes fare
331ffor |cer|tes / olde dotard / by youre leue
332Ye shal han queynte / right ynogh at eue
333He is to greet a nygard / that wil werne
334A man to lighte a candle / at his lanterne
335He shal han / neuer the la{ss}e light pardee
336Haue thow ynogh / thee thar nat pleyne thee
337¶Thow sei{s}t al{s}o / that if we make vs gay
338With clothyng/ and with |pre|cious array
339That it is peril / of oure cha{s}titee
340And yet with sorwe / thow mo{s}t enforce thee
341And seye thi{s}e wordes / in thapo{s}tles name
342In habit/ maad with cha{s}titee and shame
343Ye w|om|men / shal apparaille yow quod he
344And nat in tre{ss}ed heer / and gay perree
345As perlys / ne with gold / ne clothes ryche
346After thy text/ ne after thy rubryche
347I wol nat werke / as muche / as is a gnat/
348Thow seyde{s}t this / |þt| I was lyk a Cat/
349ffor who so wolde senge / a Cattes skyn
350Thanne wolde the Cat/ wel dwellen in his In
351And if the Cattes skyn / be slyk/ and gay
352She wol nat dwelle in hou{s}e / half a day
353But forth she wole / er any day be dawed
354To shewe hir skyn / and goon a Caterwawed
355This is to seye / if I be gay si|re| shrewe
356I wol renne out/ my borel for to shewe
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357Sire olde fool / what helpeth thee te{s}pyen
358Thogh thow preye Argus / |with| his hundred eyen
359To be my warde corps / as he kan be{s}t
360In feith / he shal nat kepe me / but me le{s}t/
361Yet koude I make his berd / as mote I thee
362¶Thow seyde{s}t eek/ |þt| ther ben thynges three
363The whiche thynges / troublen al this erthe
364And that no wight/ may endure the ferthe
365O leeue sire shrewe / |Iesu| shorte thy lyf
366Yet |pre|che{s}tow / and sei{s}t an hateful wyf
367Yrekened is / for oon of thi{s}e my{s}chaunces
368Been ther / noone othere re{s}emblaunces
369That ye may likne / youre |per|ables to
370But if a sely wyf/ be oon of tho
371¶Thow likne{s}t eek / w|om|manes loue to helle
372To bareyne lond / ther water may nat dwelle
373Thow likne{s}t it al{s}o / to wilde fyr
374The moore it brenneth / the moore it hath de{s}yr
375To con{s}umen euery thyng/ |þt| brent wol be
376Thow sei{s}t/ right as wormes shende a tree
377Right so a wyf / de{s}troyeth hir hou{s}bonde
378This knowen they / that been to wyues bonde
379¶Lordynges / right thus / as ye han vnder{s}tonde
380Bar I stifly / myne olde hou{s}bondes on honde
381That thus they seyden / in hir dronkene{ss}e
382And al was fals / but that I took witne{ss}e
383On Iankyn / and on my Nece al{s}o
384O lord / the pyne I dide hem / and the wo
385fful giltlees / by goddes swete pyne
386ffor as an hors / I koude byte and whyne
387I koude pleyne / and I was in the gilt
388Or ellis / often tyme / I hadde been spilt/
389Who so that fir{s}t to Mille comth / fir{s}t grynt/
390I pleyned fir{s}t/ so was oure wer|re| stynt/
391They were ful glad / to excu{s}en hem ful blyue
392Of thyng/ of which they neuere agilte hir lyue
393Of wenches / wolde I bern hem on honde
394Whan that for syk/ they myghte vnnethe stonde
395Yet tikled I his herte / for that he
396Wende that I hadde had of hym / {s}o greet chiertee
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397I swoor / that my walkyng/ out by nyghte
398Was for to e{s}pye / wenches that he dighte
399Vnder that colour / hadde I many a myrthe
400ffor al swich wit/ is yeuen vs in oure birthe
401Deceite / wepyng/ spynnyng/ god hath yeue
402To wommen kyndely / whil they may lyue
403And thus / of o thyng/ I auante me
404At ende / I hadde the bet in ech degree
405By sleighte / or force / or by som maner thyng/
406As by continuel murmur / or grucchyng/
407Namely abedde / hadden they me{s}chaunce
408Ther wolde I chide / and do hem no ple{s}aunce
409I wolde no lenger / in the bed abyde
410If that I felte his arm / ouer my syde
411Til he hadde maad / his raunceon vn to me
412Thanne wolde I suffre hym / do his nycetee
413And ther fore / euery man / this tale I telle
414Wynne who so may / for al is for to selle
415With empty hond / men may none haukes lure
416ffor wynnyng/ wolde I al his lu{s}t endure
417And make me / a feyned appetit/
418And yet in baco|un| / hadde I ne|uer|e delit
419That made me / that euere I wolde hem chyde
420ffor thogh the Pope / hadde seten hem bi{s}yde
421I wolde noght spare hem / at hir owene bord
422ffor by my trouthe / I quytte hem / word for word
423As help me / verray god omnipotent
424Togh I right now / sholde make my te{s}tament/
425I ne owe hem nat a word / that it nys quyt/
426I broghte it so aboute / by my wit
427That they mo{s}te yeue it vp / as for the be{s}te
428Or ellis / hadde we ne|uer|e been in re{s}te
429ffor thogh he looked / as a wood leo|un|
430Yet sholde he faille / of his conclu{s}io|un|
431¶Thanne wolde I seye / good lief taak keep
432How mekely / looketh Wilkyn oure sheep
433Com neer my spou{s}e / lat me ba thy cheke
434Ye sholden be / al pacient / and meke
435And han / a swete spyced con{s}cience
436Sith ye so |pre|che / of Iobes pacience
{{Folio 63v}}
437Suffreth alwey / syn ye so wel kan |pre|che
438And but ye do / |cer|teyn we shal yow teche
439That it is fair / to han a wyf in pees
440Oon of vs two / mo{s}te bowen doutelees
441And sith a man / is moore re{s}onable
442Than womman is / ye mo{s}ten been suffrable
443What eyleth yow / to grucche thus and grone
444Is it/ for ye wolde haue / my queynte allone
445Wy taak it al / lo haue it euery del
446Peter I shrewe yow / but ye loue it wel
447ffor if I wolde selle / my bele cho{s}e
448I koude walke / as fre{ss}h as is a ro{s}e
449But I wol kepe it/ for youre owene tooth
450Ye be to blame / by god I sey yow sooth
451Swiche manere wordes / hadde we on honde
452Now wol I speke / of my ferthe hou{s}bonde
453My ferthe hou{s}bonde / was a reuelour
454This is to seyn / he hadde a |per|amour
455And I was yong/ and ful of ragerye
456Stibourne and strong/ and ioly as a pye
457How koude I daunce / to an harpe smale
458And synge ywys / as any nyghtyngale
459Whan I hadde dronke / a draghte of swete wyn
460Metellyus / the foule cherl the swyn
461That with a staf / birafte his wyf hir lyf
462ffor she drank/ wyn /. though I hadde been his wyf
463Ne sholde nat/ han daunted me fro drynke
464And after wyn / on Venus mo{s}te I thynke
465ffor al{s}o siker / as coold engendreth hayl
466A likerous mouth / mo{s}te han a likerous tayl
467In womman vynolent / is no defence
468This knowen lechours / by experience
469But lord cri{s}t/ whan |þt| it remembreth me
470Vp on my youthe / and on my iolytee
471It tikeleth me / aboute myn herte roote
472Vn to this day / it dooth myn herte boote
473That I haue had my world / as in my tyme
474But age allas / that al wole enuenyme
475Hath me biraft/ my beautee / and my pith
476Lat go farwel / the deuel go ther with
{{Folio 64r}}
477The flour is goon / ther is namoore to telle
478The bren as I be{s}t kan / now mo{s}te I selle
479But yet/ to be right murye / wol I fonde
480Now wol I tellen / of my ferthe hou{s}bonde
481¶I seye I hadde in herte gret de{s}pit
482That he / of any oother had delit
483But he was quyt/ by god and by Seint Ioce
484I made hym / of the same wode a troce
485Nat of my body / in no foul manere
486But |cer|teynly / I made folk swich chiere
487That in his owene grece / I made hym frye
488ffor angre / and for verray Ialou{s}ye
489By god / in erthe / I was his purgatorie
490ffor which I hope / his soule be in glorie
491ffor god it woot/ he sat ful ofte and soong /
492Whan |þt| his shoo / ful bitterly hym wroong/
493Ther was no wight/ saue god and he / |þt| wi{s}te
494In many wi{s}e / how soore I hym twi{s}te
495He deyde / whan I cam fro |Ier{_lm}|
496And lyth ygraue / vnder the roode beem
497Al is his toumbe / noght so curyus
498As was the sepulcre / of hym Daryus
499Which that Appellus / wroghte subtilly
500It nys but wa{s}t/ to burye hym |pre|ciou{s}ly
501Lat hym fare wel / god gyue his soule re{s}te
+
502He is now / in his |gra|ue / and in his che{s}te
+
503Now / of my fifthe hou{s}bonde / wol I telle
504God lat his soule / neuere come in helle
505And yet was he to me / the moo{s}te shrewe
506That feele I / on my rybbes al by rewe
507And euere shal / vn to myn endyng day
508But in oure bed / he was so fre{ss}h and gay
509And ther with al / so wel koude he me glo{s}e
510Whan that he wolde / han my bele cho{s}e
511That thogh he hadde me bet/ on euery bon
512He koude wynne agayn / my loue anon
513I trowe I loued hym be{s}t/ for that he
514Was of his loue / daungerous to me
515We wommen han / if that I shal nat lye
516In this matere / a queynte fanta{s}ye
{{Folio 64v}}
517Wayte what thyng/ we may nat lightly haue
518Ther after / wol we crye al day / and craue
519fforbede vs thyng/ and that de{s}iren we
520Pree{ss}e on vs fa{s}te / and thanne wol we fle
521With daunger / oute we / al oure chaffare
522Greet prees at Market / maketh deere ware
523And to greet cheep / is holden at litel prys
524This knoweth euery womman / that is wys
525¶My fifthe hou{s}bonde / god his soule ble{ss}e
526Which |þt| I took for loue / and no ryche{ss}e
527He som tyme / was a clerk of Oxenford
528And hadde laft scole / and wente at hom to bord
529With my go{ss}yb / dwellyng in oure town
530God haue hir soule / hir name was Ali{s}oun
531She knew myn herte / and eek my pryuetee
532Bet than oure pary{ss}he pree{s}t/ as mote I thee
533To hire biwreyed I / my con{s}eil al
534ffor hadde myn hou{s}bonde / pi{ss}ed on a wal
535Or doon a thyng/ that sholde haue co{s}t his lyf
536To hire / and to another worthy wyf
537And to my Nece / which |þt| I loued wel
538I wolde han toold / his con{s}eil euery del
539And so I dide / ful often / god it woot/
540That made his face / often reed and hoot
541ffor verray shame / and blamed hym self/ for he
542Hadde toold to me / so greet a pryuetee
543¶And so bifel / that ones in a lente
544So often tymes / I to my go{ss}yb wente
545ffor euere yet/ I louede to be gay
546And for to walke / in March / Aueryll / and May
547ffrom hous to hous / to here sondry tales
548That Iankyn Clerk / and my go{ss}yb dame Alys
549And I my self / in to the feeldes wente
550Myn hou{s}bonde was at londo|un| / al that lente
551I hadde / the bettre ley{s}er for to pleye
552And for to se / and eek for to be seye
553Of lu{s}ty folk/ what wi{s}te {^}{{I}} wher my |gra|ce
554Was shapen for to be / or in what place
555Ther fore / I made my vi{s}itacions
556To vigilies / and to proce{ss}ions
{{Folio 65r}}
557To |pre|chyng/ eek / and to thi{s}e pilgrymages
558To pleyes of myracles / and to mariages
559And wered vp on / my gaye scarlet gytes
560Thi{s}e wormes / ne thi{s}e moththes / ne thi{s}e Mytes
561Vp on my peril / frete hem neuer a del
562And wo{s}tow / why / for they were v{s}ed wel
563¶Now wol I tellen forth / what happed me
564I seye / that in the feeldes walked we
565Til trewely / we hadde swich daliaunce
566This clerk / and I / that of my |pur|ueiaunce
567I spak to hym / and seyde hym / how that he
568If I were wydewe / sholde wedde me
569ffor certeynly / I seye for no bob|_an|ce
570Yet was I neuere / with outen puruei|an|ce
571Of mariage / nof othere thynges eek /
572I holde a mou{s}es herte / noght worth a leek/
573That hath but oon hole / for to sterte to
574And if that faille / thanne is al y do
575But now {s}ire / lat me se / what shal I seyn
576A .ha. by god / I haue my tale ageyn
577¶Whan that my fourthe hou{s}bonde / was a beere
578I weep algate / and made sory cheere
579As wyues mooten / for it is v{s}age
580And with my co|uer|chief / couered my vi{s}age
581But for that I was / purueyed of a make
582I wepte but smal / and that I vndertake
583¶To chirche was myn hou{s}bonde / born a morwe
584With neghebores / that for hym maden sorwe
585And Iankyn oure clerk / was oon of tho
586As help me god / whan that I saw hym go
587After the beere / me thoughte he hadde a payre
588Of legges / and of feet/ so clene and fayre
589That al myn herte / I yaf vn to his hoold
590He was I trowe / twenty wynter oold
591And I was fourty / if I shal seye sooth
592But yet I hadde alwey / a coltes tooth
593Gat tothed I was / |&| that bicam me weel
594I hadde the preente / of Seynt Venus seel
595As help me god / I was a lu{s}ty oon
596And fayr/ and ryche / and yong/ and wel bigoon
{{Folio 65v}}
597And trewely / as myne hou{s}bondes tolde me
598I hadde the be{s}te quonyam / myghte be
599Myn a{s}cendent/ was Taur / and Mars ther Inne
600Allas / allas / that e|uer|e loue was synne
601I folwed ay / myn Inclinacio|un|
602By vertu / of my con{s}tellacio|un|
603That made me / I koude noght withdrawe
604My chambre of Venus / from a good felawe
605¶What sholde I seye / but at the Monthes ende
606This ioly clerk / Iankyn |þt| was so hende
607Hath wedded me / with greet solempnytee
608And to hym yaf I / al the lond and fee
609That euere was me yeuen / ther bifore
610But afterward / repented me ful sore
611He nolde suffre / no thyng of my li{s}t/
612By god / he smoot me ones / on the ly{s}t/
613ffor that I rente / out of his book {^}{{a}} leef
614That of the strook/ myn ere weex al deef
615Stibourne I was as is a leone{ss}e
616And of my tonge / a verray Ianglere{ss}e
617And walke I wolde / as I hadde doon biforn
618ffrom hous to hous / al thogh he hadde it sworn
619ffor which / he often tymes / wolde |pre|che
620And me / of olde Romayn ge{s}tes teche
621How he Symplicius Gallus / lafte his wif
622And hire for{s}ook/ for terme of al his lif/
623Noght/ but for open heueded he hir say
624Lokynge out at his dore / vp on a day
625¶Another Romayn / tolde he me by name
626That for his wyf / was at a so|mer|es game
627With outen his wityng/ he for{s}ook hi|re| eke
628And thanne wolde he / vp on his Bible seke
629That ilke |pro||uer|be / of Eccle{s}ia{s}te
630Where he comandeth / and forbedeth fa{s}te
631Man shal nat suffre his wyf / go roule aboute
632Thanne wolde he seye right thus / with outen doute
633Who so |þt| buyldeth his hous / al of salwes }
634And priketh his blynde hors / ouer the falwes }
No|ta|
635And suffreth his wyf / to go seken halwes
636Is worthy / to ben hanged on the galwes
{{Folio 66r}}
637But al for noght/ I sette noght an hawe
638Of his |pro||uer|be / nof his olde sawe
639Ny wolde nat/ of hym corrected be
640I hate hym / |þt| my vices telleth me
641And so doon mo / god woot of vs than I
642This made hym / with me wood al outrely
643I nolde noght forbere hym / in no cas
644¶Now wol I sey yow sooth / by Seint Thomas
645Why |þt| I rente / out of his book a leef
646ffor which / he smoot me so / |þt| I was deef
647He hadde a book / |þt| gladly nyght and day
648ffor his di{s}port/ he wolde rede alway
649He clepyd it/ Valerie and Theofra{s}te
650At which book / he logh alwey ful fa{s}te
651And eek ther was / som tyme a clerk at Rome
652A Cardynal / that highte Seint Ierome
653That made a book/ agayn Iovinian
654In which book/ eek ther was Tertulan
655Cri{s}ippus / Trotula / and Helowys
656That was Abbe{ss}e / nat fer fro Parys
657And eek the parables / of Salomon
658Ouydes art/ and bokes many on
659And alle thi{s}e were bounden / in o volume
660And euery nyght and day / was his cu{s}tume
661Whan he hadde ley{s}er / and vacacio|un|
662ffrom oother / worldly ocupacio|un|
663To reden in this book/ of wikked wyues
664He knew of hem / mo legendes and lyues
665Than been of goode wyues in the Bible
666ffor tru{s}teth wel / it is an inpo{ss}ible
667That any clerk/ wol speke good of wyues
668But if it be / of holy seintes lyues
669Nof noon oother womman / neuer the mo
670Who peynted the leo|un| / tel me who
671By god / if w|om|men / hadden writen stories
672As clerkes han / with Inne hir oratories
673They wolde han writen of men / moore wikkedne{ss}e
674Than al the mark of Adam may redre{ss}e
675The children / of Mercurie and Venus
676Been in hir wirkyng / ful contrarius
{{Folio 66v}}
677Mercurie loueth / wy{s}dam and science
678And Venus loueth / Riot and di{s}pence
679And for hir di|uer|{s}e / di{s}po{s}icio|un|
680Ech faileth / in ootheres exaltacio|un|
681And thus god woot/ Mercurie is de{s}olat
682In pi{s}ces / wher Venus is exaltat/
683And Venus faileth / ther Mercurie is rey{s}ed
684Ther fore no w|om|man / of no clerk is prey{s}ed
685The clerk/ whan he is old / and may noght do
686Of Venus werkes / worth his olde sho
687Thanne sit he doun / and writ in his dotage
688That wommen / kan nat kepe hir mariage
689¶But now to purpos / why I tolde thee
690That I was beten / for a book pardee
691Vp on a nyght/ Iankyn |þt| was oure sire
692Redde on his book / as he sat by the fire
693Of Eua fir{s}t / |þt| for hir wikkedne{ss}e
694Was al man kynde / broght to wrecchedne{ss}e
695¶Tho redde he me / how Samp{s}on lo{s}te his herys
696Slepynge / his lemman kitte it |with| hir sherys
697Thurgh which tre{s}o|un| / lo{s}te he bothe hi{s}e eyen
698¶Tho redde he me / if that I shal nat lyen
699Of Hercules / and of his Dianyre
700That cau{s}ed hym / to sette hym self afyre
701¶No thyng forgat he / the sorwe and wo
702That Socrates / hadde with his wyues two
703How xantippa / ca{s}te pi{ss}e vp on his heed
704This sely man sat {s}tille / as he were deed
705He wipte his heed / namoore dor{s}te he seyn
706But er that thonder stynte / comth a reyn
707¶Of Pha{s}ifpha / that was the queene of Crete
708ffor shrewedne{ss}e / hym thoughte the tale swete
709ffy spek namoore / it is a gri{s}ly thyng/
710Of hi|re| horrible lu{s}t/ and hir likyng/
711¶Of Clitermy{s}tra / for hir lecherye
712That fal{s}ly / made hir hou{s}bonde for to dye
713He redde it/ with ful good deuocio|un|
714¶He tolde me eek / for what occa{s}io|un|
715Amphiorax / at Thebes lo{s}te his lyf
716Myn hou{s}bonde / hadde a legende of his wyf
{{Folio 67r}}
717¶Exiphilem / that for an Ouch of gold
718Hath |pre|uely / vn to the grekys told
719Wher |þt| hir hou{s}bonde / hidde hym in a place
720ffor which / he hadde at Thebes sory grace
721¶Of lyma tolde he me / and of lucie
722They bothe / made hir hou{s}bondes for to dye
723That oon for loue / that oother was for hate
724Lyma hir hou{s}bonde / on an euen late
725Empoy{s}oned hath / for |þt| she was his fo
726Lucya likerous / loued hir hou{s}bonde so
727That for he sholde alwey / vp on hir thynke
728She yaf hym / swich a manere loue drynke
729That he was deed / er it were by the morwe
730And thus algates / hou{s}bondes han sorwe
731¶Thanne tolde he me / how |þt| oon latumyus
732Compleyned / vn to his felawe Arrius
733That in his gardyn / growed swich a tree
734On which he seyde / how |þt| hi{s}e wyues thre
735Honged hem self / for hertes de{s}pitus
736¶O leeue brother / quod this Arrius
737Yif me a plante / of thilke ble{ss}ed tree
738And in my gardyn / planted shal it be
739¶Of latter date of wyues / hath he red
740That s|om|me han slayn / hir hou{s}bondes in hir bed
741And lete hir Lechour / dighte hi|re| al the nyght/
742Whan |þt| the corps / lay in the floor vp ryght/
743¶And s|om|me / han dryuen nayles in hir brayn
744Whil |þt| they sleepe / and thus they han hem slayn
745¶S|om|me han hem yeuen poy{s}o|un| / in hir drynke
746He spak moore harm / than herte may bithynke
747And ther with al / he knew of mo |pro|uerbes
748Than in this world / ther growen gras or herbes
749Bet is quod he / thyn habitacio|un|
750Be with a leo|un| / or a foul drago|un|
751Than |with| a womman / v{s}yng for to chide
752Bet is quod he / hye in the roof abyde
753Than with an angry wyf / down in the hous
754They been {s}o wikked / and contrarious
755They haten / that hir hou{s}bondes loueth ay
756He seyde / a womman / ca{s}t hir shame away
{{Folio 67v}}
757Whan she ca{s}t of hir smok/ and forther mo
758A fair w|om|man / but she be chaa{s}t al{s}o
759Is lyk a gold ryng/ in a sowes no{s}e
760Who wolde wene / or who wolde suppo{s}e
761The wo / that in myn herte was and pyne
762¶And whan I say / he wolde ne|uer|e fyne
763To reden / on this cur{s}ed book al nyght/
764Al {s}odeynly / thre leues / haue I plyght/
765Out of his book/ right as he radde / and eke
766I with my fi{s}t/ so took on the cheke
767That in oure fyr / he fil bakward adown
768And he vp {s}tirte / as dooth a wood leoun
769And with his fe{s}t / he smoot me on the heed
770That in the floor / I lay as I were deed
771And whan he say / how stille |þt| I lay
772He was aga{s}t/ and wolde haue fled his way
773Til atte la{s}te / out of my swowgh I brayde
774O ha{s}tow slayn me / fal{s}e theef I sayde
775And for my land / thus ha{s}tow mordred me
776Er I be deed / yet wol I ki{ss}e thee
777¶And neer he cam / and kneled faire adown
778And seyde / deere su{s}ter Ali{s}oun
779As help me god / I shal thee ne|uer|e smyte
780That I haue doon / it is thy self to wyte
781fforyeue it me / and that I thee bi{s}eke
782And yet eft {s}oones / I hitte hym on the cheke
783And seyde theef / thus muchel am I wreke
784Now wol I dye / I may no lenger speke
785¶But at the la{s}te / with muchel care and wo
786We fille acorded / by vs seluen two
787He yaf me / al the brydel in myn hond
788To han the gouernance / of hous and lond
789And of his tonge / and his hond al{s}o
790And made hym brenne his book/ anon right tho
791And whan that I hadde / geten vn to me
792By mai{s}trye / al the soueraynetee
793And |þt| he seyde / myn owene trewe wyf
794Do as thee lu{s}t/ the |ter|me of al thy lyf
795Keep thyn honour / and keep eek myn e{s}taat
796After that day / we hadden ne|uer|e debaat /
{{Folio 68r}}
797God help me {s}o / I was to hym as kynde
798As any wyf / from Denmark/ vn to Inde
799And al{s}o trewe / and so was he to me
800I pray to god / that sit in mage{s}tee
801So ble{ss}e his soule / for his |mer|cy deere
802Now wol I seye my tale / if ye wol heere
803The frere logh / whan he hadde herd al this
804Now dame quod he / so haue I ioye / or blys
805This is a long |pre|amble / of a tale
806And whan the Somnour / herde the frere gale
807¶Lo quod the Somnour / goddes armes two
808A frere / wol entremette hym e|uer|e mo
809Loo goode men / a flye / and eek a frere
810Wol falle in euery dy{ss}h and matere
811What speke{s}tow / of preambulacioun
812What amble / or trotte / or pees / or go sit doun
813Thow lette{s}t oure di{s}port/ in this manere
814¶Ye woltow so / sir Somnour / quod the frere
815Now by my feith / I shal er that I go
816Telle of a Somnour / swich a tale / or two
817That al the folk / shal laughen in this place
818¶Now ellis frere / I wol bi{s}hrewe thy face
819Quod this Somnour / and I bi{s}hrewe me
820But if I telle tales / two or thre
821Of freres / er I come to Sydyngborne
822That I shal make thyn herte for to morne
823ffor wel I woot/ thy pacience is gon
824¶Oure hoo{s}t/ cryde pees / and that anon
825And seyde / lat the womman / telle hir tale
826Ye fare as folk / that dronken ben of Ale
827Do dame / tel forth youre tale / and that is be{s}t/
828¶Al reddy sire quod she / right as yow le{s}t/
829If I haue licence / of this worthy frere
830¶Yis dame quod he / tel forth / and I wol heere
¶Here endeth the prologe of the Wyf of Bathe
{{Folio 68v}}
¶Here bigynneth the tale / of the Wyf of Bathe
1IN tholde dayes / of the kyng Arthour
2Of which that Britons / speken greet honour
3Al was this land / fulfild of ffairye
4The Elf queene / with hir ioly compaignye
5Daunced ful ofte / in many a grene mede
6This was / the olde opynyo|un| / as I rede
7I speke / of many hundred yerys ago
8But now kan no man / se none Elues mo
9ffor now the grete charitee / and prayeres
10Of lymytours / and othere holy freres
11That serchen / euery lond and euery streem
12As thikke / as motes in the sonne beem
13Ble{ss}ynge halles / chambres / kichenes boures
14Citees / Burghes / Ca{s}tels / hye Toures
15Thropes / Bernes / Shipnes / Dayeryes
16This maketh / |þt| ther been no fairyes
17ffor ther as wont/ to walken was an Elf
18Ther walketh now / the lymytour hym self
19In vndermelys / and in morwenynges
20And seith his matyns / and his holy thynges
21As he gooth / in his lymytacioun
22Wommen / may go saufly vp and down
23In euery bu{ss}h / or vnder euery tree
24Ther is noon oother Incubus / but he
25And he ne wol doon hem / but di{s}honour
26¶And so bifel / that this kyng Arthour
27Hadde in his hous / a lu{s}ty Bachiler
28That on a day / cam ridyng fro Ryuer
29And happed that allone / as he was born
30He say a mayde / walkynge hym biforn
31Of which mayde / anoon maugree hir hed
32By verray force / he rafte hir maydenhed
33ffor which o|pp'|{ss}io|un| / was swich clamour
34And swich pur{s}uyte / vn to the kyng Arthour
35That dampned was this knyght / for to be deed
36By cours of lawe / and sholde han lo{s}t his heed
{{Folio 69r}}
37Par auenture / swich was the statut tho
38But that the queene / and othere ladyes mo
39So longe preyden / the kyng of grace
40Til he his lyf / hym graunted in the place
41And yaf hym to the queene / al at hir wille
42To che{s}e / wheither she wolde / hym saue or spille
43And after this / thus spak she to the knyght
44Whan that she saw / hir tyme vp on a day
45Thow stande{s}t yet quod she / in swich array
46That of thy lyf / yet ha{s}tow no {s}uretee
47I graunte thee lyf / if thow kan{s}t tellen me
48What thyng is it/ |þt| wommen moo{s}t de{s}iren
49Be war / and keep thy nekke boon from Iren
50And if thow kan{s}t nat / tellen me anon
51Yet/ wol I yeue thee leue / for to gon
52A twelf monthe and a day / to seche and lere
53An an{s}were suffi{s}ant/ in this matere
54And {s}euretee wol I han / er that thow pace
55Thy body / for to yelden / in this place
56¶Wo was this knyght/ and sorwefully he siketh
57But what/ he may nat doon / al as hym liketh
58And atte la{s}te / he chees hym for to wende
59And come agayn / right at the yeres ende
60With swich an{s}were / as god wolde hym |pur|ueye
61And taketh his leue / and wendeth forth his weye
62He seketh euery hous / and euery place
63Where as he hopeth / for to fynde grace
64To lerne / what thyng/ wommen loue moo{s}t
65But he ne koude / arryuen in no coo{s}t/
66Where as he myghte fynde / in this matere
67Two creatures / acordyng/ in feere
68¶S|om|me seyden / wommen louen be{s}t riche{ss}e
69S|om|me seyde honour / s|om|me seyde Iolifne{ss}e
70S|om|me riche array / s|om|me lu{s}t abedde
71And ofte tyme / to be widwe and wedde
72S|om|me seyde / that oure herte / is moo{s}t e{s}ed
73Whan that we been / yflatered and yple{s}ed
74He gooth ful ny the sothe / I wol nat lye
75A man shal wynne vs be{s}t / with flaterye
{{Folio 69v}}
76And with attendaunce / and with bi{s}yne{ss}e
77Been we ylymed / bothe moore and le{ss}e
78¶And s|om|me seyn / |þt| we louen be{s}t
79ffor to be free / and do right as vs le{s}t/
80And that no man / repreue vs of oure vice
81But seye |þt| we be wi{s}e / and no thyng nyce
82ffor trewely / ther is noon of vs alle
83If any wight/ wolde clawe vs on the galle
84That we nyl kike / for he weith vs sooth
85A{ss}ay / and he shal fynde it/ that so dooth
86ffor be we / ne|uer| {s}o vicious / with Inne
87We wol be holden wi{s}e / and clene of synne
88¶And s|om|me seyn / that greet delit han we
89ffor to be holden / stable and eek secree
90And in o purpos / {s}tedefa{s}tly to dwelle
91And nat biwreye thyng/ that men vs telle
92But that tale / is nat worth a Rake stele
93Pardee / we wommen / konne no thyng hele
94Witne{ss}e on Mida / wol ye heere the tale
95¶Ouyde / amonges othere thynges smale
96Seyde / Mida / hadde vnder his longe herys
97Growynge vp on his heed / two A{ss}es erys
98The which vice he hidde / as he be{s}t myghte
99fful sotilly / from euery mannes sighte
100That {s}aue his wyf / ther wi{s}te of it na mo
101He loued hi|re| moo{s}t/ and tru{s}ted hi|re| al{s}o
102He preyed hi|re| / that to no creature
103SHe sholde tellen / of his diffigure
104¶She swoor hym nay / for al this world to wynne
105She nolde do / that vileynye / or syn
106To make hir hou{s}bonde / han {s}o foul a name
107She nolde nat telle it/ for hir owene shame
108But nathelees / hir thoughte |þt| she dyde
109That she {s}o longe / sholde a con{s}eil hyde
110Hir thoughte / it swal {s}o {s}oore aboute hir herte
111That nedely / som word / hir mo{s}te a{s}terte
112And sith / she dor{s}te nat telle it to no man
113Doun to a Marys / fa{s}te by she ran
114Til she cam there / hir herte was a fyre
115And as a Bitore / bombleth in the Myre
{{Folio 70r}}
116She leyde hir mouth / vn to the water down
117Biwrey me nat/ thow water with thy sown
118Quod she / to thee I telle it and namo
119Myn hou{s}bonde / hath longe A{ss}es erys two
120Now is myn herte al hool / now it is oute
121I myghte no lenger / kepe it out of doute
122Heere may ye see / thogh we a tyme abyde
123Yet out it moot/ we kan no con{s}eil hyde
124The remenant of the tale / if ye wol heere
125Redeth Ouyde / and ther ye may it leere
126¶This knyght/ of which my tale is specially
127Whan that he say / he myghte nat come ther by
128This is to seye / what wommen louen moo{s}t/
129With Inne his bre{s}t/ ful sorweful was the goo{s}t /
130But hom he gooth / he myghte nat soiorne
131The day was come / that homward mo{s}te he torne
132And in his wey / it happed hym to ryde
133In al this care / vnder a ffore{s}t syde
134Wher as he say / vp on a daunce go
135Of ladyes .xxiiij. and yet mo
136Toward the whiche daunce / he drow ful yerne
137In hope / that som wi{s}dom sholde he lerne
138But |cer|teynly / er he cam fully there
139Vany{ss}hed was this daunce / he ny{s}te where
140No creature say he / that bar lyf
141Saue on the grene / he say sittynge a wyf
142A fouler wight/ ther may no man deuy{s}e
143Agayn the knyght/ this olde wyf gan ry{s}e
144And seyde sire knyght/ heer forth ne lyth no wey
145Tel me / what |þt| ye seken by youre fey
146Par auenture / it may the bettre be
147This olde folk/ konne muchel thyng quod she
148¶My leeue moder / quod this knyght |cer|teyn
149I nam but deed / but if that I kan seyn
150What thyng it is / that wommen moo{s}t de{s}ire
151Koude ye me wi{ss}e / I wolde wel quyte youre hyre
152¶Plight me thy trouthe / here in myn hand quod she
153The nexte thyng/ that I requere thee
154Thow shalt it do / if it lye in thy myght/
155And I wol telle it yow / er it be nyght/
{{Folio 70v}}
156[¶]Haue here my trouthe / quod the knyght I graunte
157¶Thanne quod she / I dar me wel auaunte
158Thy lyf is sauf / for I wole {s}tonde ther by
159Vp on my lyf / the queene wol {s}eye as I
160Lat see / which is the proudde{s}te of hem alle
161That wereth on / a co|uer|chief / or a calle
162That dar weye nay / of that I shal thee teche
163Lat vs go forth / with outen lenger speche
164Tho rowned she / a pi{s}tel in his ere
165And bad hym to be glad / and haue no fere
166¶Whan they be comen to the Court/ this knyght/
167Seyde / he hadde holde his day / as he had hight/
168And redy was his an{s}were / as he sayde
169fful many a noble wyf/ and many a mayde
170And many a widwe / for |þt| they ben wi{s}e
171The queene hir self / sittyng as Iu{s}ti{s}e
172A{ss}embled been / this an{s}were for to here
173And afterward / this knyght was bode appere
174To euery wight/ comanded was silence
175And that the knyght/ sholde telle in audience
176What thyng/ that worldly wommen louen be{s}t/
177This knyght/ ne stood nat {s}tille as dooth a be{s}t/
178But to his que{s}tion / anon an{s}werde
179With manly voys / that al the court it herde
180¶My lige lady / generally quod he
181Wommen de{s}ire / to haue souereyntee
182As wel / ouer hir hou{s}bonde / as hir loue
183And for to been in mai{s}trie / hym aboue
184This is youre moo{s}te de{s}ir / thogh ye me kille
185Dooth as yow li{s}t/ I am here at youre wille
186¶In al the Court/ ne was ther wyf ne mayde
187Ne wydwe / that contraryed that he sayde
188But seyden / he was worthy han his lyf
189¶And with that word / vp {s}tirte that olde wyf
190Which that the knyght/ say sittyng on the grene
191Mercy quod she / my so|uer|eyn lady queene
192Er that youre Court departe / do me right/
193I taughte this an{s}were / vn to the knyght/
194ffor which / he plighte me his trouthe there
195The fir{s}te thyng/ I wolde hym requere
{{Folio 71r}}
196He wolde it do / if it laye in his myght/
197Bifore the court/ thanne preye I thee sire knyght/
198Quod she / that thow me take vn to thy wyf
199ffor wel thow woo{s}t/ that I haue kept thy lyf
200If I seye fals / sey nay vp on thy fey
201¶This knyght an{s}werde / allas and weilawey
202I woot right wel / that swich was my bihe{s}te
203ffor goddes loue / as chees a newe reque{s}te
204Taak al my good / and lat my body go
205¶Nay thanne quod she / I shrewe vs bothe two
206ffor thogh |þt| I be foul / old / and poore
207I nolde for al the metal / ne for oore
208That vnder erthe is graue / / or lith aboue
209But if thy wyf I were / and eek thy loue
210¶My loue quod he / nay my dampnacio|un|
211Allas / that any of my nacio|un|
212Sholde euere / so foule dis|per|aged be
213But al for noght/ thende is this / that he
214Con{s}treyned was / he nedes mo{s}te hir wedde
215And taketh his olde wyf / and goth to bedde
216¶Now wolden som men / seye |per| auenture
217That for my necligence / I do no cure
218To tellen yow / the ioye / and al tharray
219That at the fe{s}te / was that ilke day
220To which thyng/ shortly / an{s}were I shal
221I seye / ther nas no ioye / ne fe{s}te at al
222Ther nas but heuyne{ss}e / and muche sorwe
223ffor |pri|uely / he wedded hi|re| on morwe
224And al day after/ hidde hym as an Owle
225So wo was hym / his wyf looked {s}o foule
226¶Greet was the wo / the knyght hadde in his thoght/
227Whan he was with his wyf / a bedde ybroght/
228He walweth / and he turneth to and fro
229His olde wyf / lay smylyng e|uer|e mo
230And seyde / o deere hou{s}bonde benedicite
231ffareth euery knyght thus with his wyf / as ye
232Is this the lawe / of kyng Arthures hous
233Is euery knyght of his/ thus daungerous
234I am youre owene loue / and youre wyf
235I am she / which that saued hath youre lyf
{{Folio 71v}}
236And |cer|tes / yet ne dide I yow ne|uer|e vnright/
237Why fare ye thus with me / this fir{s}te nyght/
238Ye faren lyk a man / hadde lo{s}t his wit
239What is my gilt / for goddes loue tel it
240And it shal ben amended / if I may
241¶Amended quod this knyght/ allas nay / nay
242It wol nat ben amended ne|uer|e mo
243Thow art so loothly / and {s}o old al{s}o
244And ther to comen / of {s}o lowe a kynde
245That litel wonder is / thogh I walwe and wynde
246So wolde god / myn herte wolde bre{s}te
247¶Is this quod she / the cau{s}e of youre vnre{s}te
248¶Ye |cer|teynly quod he / no wonder is
249¶Now sire quod she / I koude amende al this
250If that me li{s}te / er it were dayes thre
251So wel ye myghte / bere yow vn to me
¶No|ta| bene
252¶But for ye speken / of swich gentille{ss}e
253As is de{s}cended / out of old riche{ss}e
254That therfore / sholden ye be gentil men
255Swich erroga|un|ce / is nat worth an hen
256Looke who |þt| is / moo{s}t |ver|tuous alway
257Pryuee and apert/ and moo{s}t entendeth ay
258To do / the gentil dedes / |þt| he kan
259Taak hym / for the gentile{s}te man
260Cri{s}t / wol we clayme of hym oure gentile{ss}e
261Nat of oure eldres / for hir old riche{ss}e
262ffor thogh they yeue vs / al hir heritage
263ffor which we clame / to been of hir parage
264Yet may they nat biquethe / for no thyng/
265To noon of vs / hir vertuous lyuyng/
266That made hem / gentil men ycalled be
267And bad vs / folwen hem in swich degree
268¶Wel kan / the wi{s}e poete of fflorence
269That highte Dant/ speken in this {s}entence
270Lo / in swich maner rym / is Dantes tale
271fful selde vp ri{s}eth / by his bra|un|ches smale
272Prowe{ss}e of man / for god of his prowe{ss}e
273Wole /. that of hym / we clayme oure gentile{ss}e
274ffor of oure eldres / may we no thyng clayme
275But temporel thyng/ that man may hurte and mayme
{{Folio 72r}}
276Eek e|uer|y wight/ woot this as wel I
277If gentile{ss}e / were planted naturelly
278Vn to a |cer|teyn lynage / doun the lyne
279Pryuee and apert/ thanne wolde they ne|uer|e fyne
280To doon / of gentile{ss}e / the faire office
281They myghte do / no vileynye or vice
282¶Taak fyr / and bere it in the derke{s}te hous
283Bitwix this / and the mount of kauka{s}ous
284And lat men shette the dores / and go thenne
285Yet wol the fyr / as faire lye and brenne
286As twenty thou{s}and men / myghte it biholde
287His office naturel / ay wol it holde
288Vp |per|il of my lyf/ til that it dye
289Here may ye se wel / how |þt| genterye
290Is nat annexed / to po{ss}e{ss}io|un|
291Sith folk/ ne doon hir o|per|acio|un|
292Alwey / as dooth the fyr lo in his kynde
293ffor god it woot/ men may wel often fynde
294A lordes sone / do shame and vileynye
295And he |þt| wol han prys / of his gentrye
296ffor he was born / of a gentil hous
297And hadde hi{s}e eldres / noble and |ver|tuous
298And nyl hym seluen / do no gentil dedis
299Ne folwen his gentil Aunce{s}tre / that deed is
300He nys nat gentil / be he Duc/ or Erl
301ffor vileynes synful dedes / maken a cherl
302ffor gentile{ss}e / nys but renomee
303Of thyne Aunce{s}tres / for hir hye bo|un|tee
304Which is straunge thyng/ for thy |per|{s}one
305Thy gentile{ss}e / cometh fro god allone
306Thanne comth / oure verray gentile{ss}e of |gra|ce
307It was no thyng/ biquethe vs / with oure place
308¶Thenketh how noble / as seith Valerius
309Was thilke / Tullius ho{s}tillius
310That out of pouerte / roos to heigh noble{ss}e
311Redeth Senek/ and redeth eek Boece
312Ther shul ye {s}een expres / |þt| no drede is
313That he is gentil / that dooth gentil dedis
314And ther fore / leue hou{s}bonde / I thus conclude
315Al were it/ that myne Aunce{s}tres weren rude
{{Folio 72v}}
316Yet may the hye god / and {s}o hope I /
317Graunte me grace / to lyuen |ver|tuou{s}ly
318Thanne am I gentil / whan |þt| I bigynne
319To lyuen |ver|tuou{s}ly / and weyue synne
320¶And ther as ye / of po|uer|te me repreue
321The hye god / on whom |þt| we bileue
322In wilful po|uer|te / chees to lyue his lyf
. . .
323And certes euery man / mayden / or wyf
324May vnder{s}tonde / |þt| |Iesus| heuene kyng/
325Ne wolde nat che{s}e / a vicious lyuyng/
326Glad po|uer|te / is an hone{s}te thyng |cer|teyn
327This wol Senek/ and othere clerkes seyn
328Who {s}o |þt| halt hym payd / of his pouerte
329I holde hym riche / al hadde he nat a sherte
330He that coueiteth / is a poure wight/
331ffor he wolde han / that is nat in his myght/
332But he |þt| noght hath / ne coueiteth haue
333Is riche / al thogh we holde hym but a knaue
334Verray pouerte / is synne |prop|rely
335Iuuenal seith / of pouerte myrily
336¶The poure man / whan he gooth by the weye
337Biforn the theues / he may synge and pleye
338Pouerte is hateful good / and as I ge{ss}e
339A ful greet brynge|re| / out of bi{s}yne{ss}e
340A greet amendere eek/ of Sapience
341To hym / that taketh it in pacience
342Pouerte is thyng/ al thogh it {s}eme elenge
343Po{ss}e{ss}io|un| / that no wight wol chalenge
344Pouerte ful often / whan a man is lowe
345Maketh hym self / and eek his god to knowe
346Pouerte / a spectacle is / as thynketh me
347Thurgh which he may / his verray freendes se
348And ther fore sire / syn |þt| I noght yow greue
349Of my pouerte / namoore ye me repreue
350¶Now sire / of elde ye repreue me
351And certes sire / thogh noon auctoritee
352Were in no book / ye gentils of honour
353Seyn / |þt| men an old wight/ sholde doon fauour
354And clepe hym fader / for youre gentile{ss}e
355And Auctours / shal I fynden / as I ge{ss}e
{{Folio 73r}}
356¶Now ther ye seye / that I am foul and old
357Thanne drede yow noght/ to been a Cokewold
358ffor filthe and elde / al {s}o mote I thee
359Been grete wardeyns / vp on cha{s}titee
360But nathelees / syn I knowe youre delit /
361I shal fulfille / youre worldly appetit/
362¶Chees now quod she / oon of thi{s}e thynges tweye
363To han me foul and old / til that I deye
364And be to yow / a trewe humble wyf
365And ne|uer|e yow di{s}ple{s}e / in al my lyf
366Or ellis / ye wol han me / yong and fair
367And take youre auenture / of the repair
368That shal be to youre hous / by cau{s}e of me
369Or in {s}om oother place / may wel be
370Now chees your seluen / wheither |þt| yow liketh
371¶This knyght auy{s}eth hym / and {s}oore siketh
372But atte la{s}te / he seyde in this manere
373My lady and my loue / and wyf {s}o deere
374I putte me / in youre wi{s}e gouerna|un|ce
375Che{s}eth you|re| self/ which |þt| may be moo{s}t ple{s}|_an|ce
376And moo{s}t honour to yow / and me al{s}o
377I do no fors / the wheither of the two
378ffor as yow liketh / it suffi{s}eth me
379¶Thanne haue I gete / of yow mai{s}trye / quod she
380Syn I may che{s}e / and gouerne as me le{s}t/
381¶Ye |cer|tes wyf quod he / I holde it be{s}t/
382¶Kys me quod she / we be no lenger wrothe
383ffor by my trouthe / I wol be to yow bothe
384This is to seyn / ye bothe fair and good
385I pray to god / that I mote {s}teruen wood
386But I to yow / be al {s}o good and trewe
387As euere was wyf / syn |þt| the world was newe
388And but I be to morn / as fair to sene
389As any lady / Emperice / or Queene
390That is bitwix the E{s}t/ and eek the We{s}t/
391Do with my lyf/ and deth / right as yow le{s}t/
392Ca{s}t vp the Curtyn / looke how |þt| it is
393And whan the knyght/ say verraily al this
394That she {s}o fair was / and so yong ther to
. . .
395ffor ioye he hente hi|re| / in his armes two
{{Folio 73v}}
396His herte bathed / in a bath of bli{ss}e
397A thou{s}and tyme a rewe / he gan hir ki{ss}e
398And she obeyed hym / in euery thyng/
399That myghte do hym ple{s}ance / or likyng/
400And thus they lyue / vn to hir lyues ende
401In |per|fit ioye / and |Iesu| cri{s}t vs sende
402Hou{s}bondes meke / yonge / and fre{ss}h a bedde
403And grace / to|uer|byde hem that we wedde
404And eek / I praye |Iesu| shorte hir lyues
405That noght wol be go|uer|ned / by hir wyues
406And olde / and angry nygardes of di{s}pence
407God sende hem {s}oone / verray pe{s}tilence
¶Here endeth the Wyues tale of Bathe

Notes

1] Old spelling is retained except for ligatured letters, which are normalized. Expanded contractions and abbreviations are placed within vertical bars. The original lineation is retained, but not small capitals and the text of signatures, catchwords, and running titles. Irregularities in spacing are ignored. Reference citations are by folio numbers and editorial through-ms and through-tale line numbers. Unusual characters are identified as follows:
{s} : long-s
{ss} : ligatured long-s long-s
{C|} : capitulum
{`,} : comma under opening single quotation mark
{?.} : punctus elevatus
{^} : caret
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Publication Start Year: 
1866
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
1966
Rhyme: 
Special Copyright: 

Assisted by Nancy Misener and Alex Bisset.