“Experience, through no auctoritee
Were in this world, were right ynough for me
To speke of wo that is in mariage,
For, lordynges, since I twelf yeer was of age,
Y-thonked be God that is eterne alive
Housbondes at chirche dore I have had fyve:
For I so ofte have y-wedded be;
And alle were worthi men in there degree.
But me was told certayn not long agone is,
That since that Christ had never gone but once
To weddyng in the Cane of Galilee
That by the same example taught he me,
That I shold wedded be but oonly once.
Herken, eek, what a sharp word for the nonce.
Beside a welle, Jhesus, God and man,
Spak in reprove of the Samaritan:
‘Thou hast y-had fyve housbondes,’ quoth he,
And that same man the which that hath now thee
Is not thyn housbonde;’ thus seyde he certeyn.
What that he mente ther by, I can not sayn;
But that I axe why the fifte man
Was noon housbond to the Samaritan
How many might she have in mariage?
Yet herd I never tellen in myn age
Upon this number deffinicioun.
Men may divine and glosen up and doun.
But wel I wot, withouten eny lye,
God bad us for to wax and multiplie;
That gentil tixt can I wel understonde.
Ek wel I wot, he sayde, myn housebonde
Schulde lete fader and moder, and folwe me;
But of no noumber mencioun made he,
Of bygamye or of octogomye;
Why schulde men speken of that vilonye?
Lo hier the wise kyng daun Salamon,
I trow he hadde wifes mo than oon,
As wolde God it were leful unto me
To be refreisshed half so oft as he!
Which gift of God had he for alle his wyvys!
No man hath such, that in the world on lyve is.
God wot, this nobil king, as to my wit,
The firste night hadde many a mery fit
With ech of hem, so wel was him on lyve.
I-blessid be God that I have weddid fyve!
Welcome the sixte whan that ever he schal!
For-sothe I nyl not kepe me chast in al;
Whan myn housbond is fro the world i-gon,
Som cristne man schal wedde me anoon,
For than thapostil saith that I am fre
To wedde, a goddis half, wher so it be.
He saith, that to be weddid is no synne;
Bet is to be weddid than to brynne.
What recchith me what folk sayn vilonye
Of schrewid Lameth, or of his bigamye?
I wot wel Abram was an holy man,
And Jacob eek, as ferforth as I can,
And ech of hem hadde wyves mo than tuo,
And many another holy man also.
Whan sawe ye in eny maner age
That highe God defendide mariage
By expres word? I pray you tellith me;
Or wher commaunded he virginité?
I wot as wel as ye, it is no drede,
Thapostil, when he spekth of maydenhede,
He sayde, that precept therof had he noon;
Men may counseil a womman to be oon,
But counselyng nys no comaundement;
He put it in our owne juggement.
For hadde God comaundid maydenhede,
Than had he dampnyd weddyng with the dede;
And certes, if ther were no seed i-sowe,
Virginité whereon schuld it growe?
Poul ne dorste not comaunde atte leste
A thing, of which his maister yaf non heste.
The dart is set upon virginité,
Cach who-so may, who rennith best let se.
But this word is not taken of every wight,
But ther as God list yive it of his might.
I wot wel that thapostil was a mayde,
But natheless, though that he wrot or sayde,
He wolde that every wight were such as he,
Al nys but counseil unto virginité.
And for to ben a wyf he gaf me leve,
Of indulgence, so nys it to repreve
To wedde me, if that my make deye,
Withoute excepcioun of bigamye;
Al were it good no womman for to touche,
(He mente in his bed or in his couche)
For peril is bothe fuyr and tow to assemble;
Ye knowe what this ensample wolde resemble.
This is al and som, he holdith virginité
More parfit than weddying in frelté;
(Frelté clepe I, but-if that he and sche
Wolde leden al her lif in chastité).
I graunt it wel, I have noon envye,
Though maidenhede preferre bygamye;
It liketh hem to be clene in body and gost;
Of myn estate I nyl make no bost.
For wel ye wot, a lord in his household
He nath not every vessel ful of gold;
Som ben of tre, and don her lord servise.
God clepeth folk to him in sondry wise,
And every hath of God a propre yifte,
Som this, som that, as him likith to schifte.
Virginité is gret perfeccioun,
And continens eek with gret devocioun;
But Christ, that of perfeccioun is welle,
Bad nought every wight schulde go and selle
Al that he had, and yive it to the pore,
And in such wise folwe him and his fore.
He spak to hem that wolde lyve parfytly,
But, lordyngs, by your leve, that am not I;
I wol bystowe the flour of myn age
In the actes and in the fruytes of mariage.
Tel me also, to what conclusioun
Were membres maad of generacioun,
And of so parfit wise, and why y-wrought?
Trustith right wel, they were nought maad for nought.
Glose who-so wol, and say bothe up and doun,
That thay were made for purgacioun
Of uryn, and oure bothe thinges smale
Were eek to knowe a femel fro a male;
And for non other cause:— say ye no?
Thexperiens wot wel it is not so.
So that these clerkes ben not with me wrothe,
I say this, that thay makid ben for bothe,
That is to saye, for office and for ease
Of engendrure, ther we God nought displease.
Why schulde men elles in her bokes sette,
That man schal yelde to his wif his dette?
Now wherwith schuld he make his payement
If he ne used his sely instrument?
Than were thay maad upon a creature
To purge uryn, and eek for engendrure.
But I say not that every wight is holde,
That hath such harneys as I to you tolde,
To gon and usen hem in engendrure;
Than schulde men take of chastité no cure.
Crist was a mayde, and schapen as a man.
And many a seynt, sin that the world bygan,
Yet lyvede thay ever in parfyt chastité.
I nyl envye no virginité.
Let hem be bred of pured whete seed,
And let us wyves eten barly breed.
And yet with barly bred, men telle can,
Oure Lord Jhesu refreisschide many a man.
In such astaat as God hath cleped ous
I wil persever, I am not precious;
In wyfhode I wil use myn instrument
Als frely as my maker hath me it sent.
If I be daungerous, God yive me sorwe,
Myn housbond schal han it at eve and at morwe,
Whan that him list com forth and pay his dette.
An housbond wol I have, I wol not lette,
Which schal be bothe my dettour and my thral,
And have his tribulacioun withal
Upon his fleissch, whil that I am his wyf.
I have the power duryng al my lif
Upon his propre body, and not he;
Right thus thapostil told it unto me.
And bad oure housbondes for to love us wel;
Al this sentence me likith every del.”
Up starte the pardoner, and that anoon;
“Now, dame,” quod he, “by God and by seint Jon,
Ye ben a noble prechour in this caas.
I was aboute to wedde a wif, allaas!
What? schal I buy it on my fleisch so deere?
Yit had I lever wedde no wyf to yere!”
“Abyd,” quod sche, “my tale is not bygonne.
Nay, thou schalt drinke of another tonne
Er that I go, schal savere wors than ale.
And whan that I have told the forth my tale
Of tribulacioun in mariage,
Of which I am expert in al myn age,
This is to saye, myself hath ben the whippe,
Than might thou chese whethir thou wilt sippe
Of thilke tonne, that I schal abroche.
Be war of it, er thou to neigh approche.
For I schal telle ensamples mo than ten:
Who-so that nyl be war by other men
By him schal other men corrected be.
The same wordes writeth Ptholomé,
Rede in his Almagest, and tak it there.”
“Dame, I wolde praye you, if that youre wille were,”
Sayde this pardoner, “as ye bigan,
Tel forth youre tale, and sparith for no man,
Tecche us yonge men of youre practike.”
“Gladly,” quod sche, “syns it may yow like.
But that I pray to al this companye,
If that I speke after my fantasie,
As taketh nought agreef of that I saye,
For myn entente is nought but to playe.
“Now, sires, now wol I telle forth my tale.
As ever mote I drinke wyn or ale,
I schal saye soth of housbondes that I hadde,
As thre of hem were goode, and tuo were badde.
Tuo of hem were goode, riche, and olde;
Unnethes mighte thay the statute holde,
In which that thay were bounden unto me;
Ye wot wel what I mene of this pardé!
As help me God, I laugh whan that I thinke,
How pitously on night I made hem swynke,
But, by my fay! I told of it no stoor;
Thay hadde me yive her lond and her tresor,
Me nedith not no lenger doon diligence
To wynne her love or doon hem reverence.
They lovede me so wel, by God above!
That I tolde no deynte of her love.
A wys womman wol bysi hir ever in oon
To gete hir love, there sche hath noon.
But synnes I had hem holly in myn hond,
And synnes thay hadde me yeven al her lond,
What schuld I take keep hem for to please,
But it were for my profyt, or myn ease?
I sette hem so on werke, by my fay!
That many a night they songen weylaway.
The bacoun was nought fet for hem, I trowe,
That som men fecche in Essex at Donmowe.
I governed hem so wel after my lawe,
That ech of hem ful blisful was and fawe
To bringe me gaye thinges fro the faire.
Thay were ful glad whan I spak to hem faire;
For, God it woot, I chidde hem spitously.
Now herkeneth how I bar me proprely.
Ye wise wyves, that can understonde,
Thus scholde ye speke, and bere hem wrong on honde;
For half so boldely can ther no man
Swere and lye as a womman can.
(I say not by wyves that ben wise,
But-if it be whan thay ben mysavise.)
I-wis a wif, if that sche can hir good,
Schal beren him on hond the cow is wood,
And take witnes on hir oughne mayde
Of hire assent; but herkenith how I sayde.
See, olde caynard, is this thin array?
Why is my neghebores wif so gay?
Sche is honoured overal ther sche goth;
I sitte at hom, I have no thrifty cloth.
What dostow at my neighebores hous?
Is sche so fair? what, artow amorous?
What roune ye with hir maydenes? benedicite,
Sir olde lecchour, let thi japes be.
And if I have a gossib, or a frend
Withouten gilt, thou chidest as a fend,
If that I walk or play unto his hous.
Thou comest hom as dronken as a mous.
And prechist on thy bench, with evel preef,
Thou saist to me, it is a gret meschief
To wedde a pover womman, for costage;
And if that sche be riche and of parage,
Thanne saist thou, that it is a tormentrie
To suffre hir pride and hir malencolie.
And if that sche be fair, thou verray knave,
Thou saist that every holour wol hir have;
Sche may no while in chastité abyde,
That is assayled thus on eche syde.
Thou saist that som folk desire us for riches,
Som for our schap, and som for our fairnes,
And some, for that sche can synge and daunce,
And some for gentilesse or daliaunce,
Som for hir handes and hir armes smale:
Thus goth al to the devel by thi tale.
Thou saist, men may nought kepe a castel wal,
It may so be biseged over al.
And if sche be foul, thanne thou saist, that sche
Coveitith every man that sche may se;
For, as a spaynel, sche wol on him lepe.
Til that sche fynde som man hire to chepe.
Ne noon so gray a goos goth in the lake,
As sayest thou, wol be withouten make.
And saist, it is an hard thing for to wolde
Thing that no man wol, his willes, holde.
Thus seistow, lorel, whan thou gost to bedde,
And that no wys man nedith for to wedde,
Ne no man that entendith unto hevene.
With wilde thunder dynt and fuyry levene
Mote thi wickede necke be to-broke!
Thou saist, that droppyng hous, and eek smoke,
And chydyng wyves maken men to fle
Out of here oughne hous; a, benedicite,
What eylith such an old man for to chyde?
Thou seist, we wyves woln oure vices hide,
Til we ben weddid, and than we wil hem schewe.
Wel may that be a proverbe of a schrewe.
Thou saist, that assen, oxen, and houndes,
Thay ben assayed at divers stoundes,
Basyns, lavours eek, er men hem bye,
Spones, stooles, and al such housbondrie,
Also pottes, clothes, and array;
But folk of wyves maken non assay,
Til thay ben weddid, olde dotard schrewe!
And thanne, saistow, we woln oure vices schewe.
Thou saist also, that it displesith me
But-if that thou wilt praysen my beauté,
And but thou pore alway in my face,
And clepe me faire dame in every place;
And but thou make a fest on thilke day
That I was born, and make me freisch and gay;
And but thou do my norice honoure,
And to my chamberer withinne my boure,
And to my fadres folk, and myn allies:
Thus saistow, olde barel ful of lies!
And yit of oure apprentys Jankyn,
For his crisp her, schynyng as gold so fyn.
And for he squiereth me up and doun,
Yet hastow caught a fals suspeccioun;
I nyl him nought, though thou were deed to morwe.
But tel me wherfor hydestow with sorwe
The keyes of thy chist away fro me?
It is my good as wel as thin, pardè.
“What! wenest thou make an ydiot of oure dame?
Now by that lord that cleped is seint Jame,
Thow schalt not bothe, though thou were wood,
Be maister of my body and of my good;
That oon thou schalt forgo maugrè thin yen!
What helpith it on me tenqueren or espien?
I trowe thou woldest lokke me in thy chest.
Thou scholdist say, ‘wif, go wher the lest;
Take youre disport; I nyl lieve no talis;
I know yow for a trewe wif, dame Alis.’
We loveth no man, that takith keep or charge
Wher that we goon; we love to be at large.
“Of alle men i-blessed most he be
The wise astrologe daun Ptholomè,
That saith this proverbe in his Almagest:
Of alle men his wisedom is highest,
That rekkith not who hath the world in honde
By this proverbe thou schalt understonde,
Have thou ynough, what thar the recch or care
How merily that other folkes fare?
For certes, olde dotard, with your leve,
Ye schul have queynte right ynough at eve.
He is to gret a nygard that wol werne
A man to light a candel at his lanterne;
He schal have never the lasse light, pardè.
Have thou ynough, the thar not pleyne the.
“Thou saist also, that if we make us gay
With clothing and with precious array,
That it is peril of our chastitè.
And yit, with sorwe, thou most enforce the,
And saye these wordes in thapostles name:
In abyt maad with chastitè and schame
Ye wommen schuld apparayle yow, quod he,
And nought with tressed her, and gay perrè.
As perles, ne with golde, ne clothis riche.
After thy text, ne after thin rubriche,
I wol nought wirche as moche as a gnat.
Thow saist thus that I was lik a cat;
For who-so wolde senge the cattes skyn,
Than wolde the catte duellen in his in;
And if the cattes skyn be slyk and gay,
Sche wol not duelle in house half a day,
But forth sche wil, er eny day be dawet,
To schewe hir skyn, and goon a caterwrawet.
This is to say, if I be gay, sir schrewe,
I wol renne aboute, my borel for to schewe.
Sir olde fool, what helpith the to aspien?
Though thou praydest Argus with his hundrid yen
To be my wardecorps, as he can best,
In faith he schulde not kepe me but-if me lest;
Yit couthe I make his berd, though queynte he be.
Thou saydest eek, that ther ben thinges thre,
The whiche thinges troublen al this erthe,
And that no wight may endure the ferthe.
O leve sire schrewe, Jhesu schorte thy lif!
Yit prechestow, and saist, an hateful wif
I-rekened is for oon of these meschaunces.
Ben ther noon other of thy resemblaunces
That ye may liken youre parables unto,
But-if a cely wyf be oon of tho?
Thow likenest wommannes love to helle,
To bareyn lond, ther water may not duelle.
Thou likenest it also to wild fuyr;
The more it brenneth, the more it hath desir
To consume every thing, that brent wol be.
Thou saist, right as wormes schenden a tre,
Right so a wif schendith hir housebonde;
This knowen tho that ben to wyves bonde.
“Lordynges, right thus, as ye han understonde,
Bar I styf myn housebondes on honde,
That thus thay sayde in her dronkenesse;
And al was fals, but that I took witnesse
On Jankyn, and upon my nece also.
O Lord, the peyne I dede hem, and the wo,
Ful gulteles, by Goddes swete Pyne;
For as an hors, I couthe bothe bite and whyne;
I couthe pleyne, and yet I was in the gilt,
Or elles I hadde often tyme be spilt.
Who- so first cometh to the mylle, first grynt;
I pleynede first, so was oure werre stynt.
Thay were ful glad to excuse hem ful blyve
Of thing, that thay never agilt in her lyve.
And wenches wold I beren hem on honde,
Whan that for - seek thay mighte unnethes stonde,
Yit tykeled I his herte for that he
Wende I had of him so gret chiereté.
I swor that al my walkyng out a nyghte
Was for to aspie wenches that he dighte.
Under that colour had I many a mirthe.
For al such witte is yeven us of birthe;
Deceipt wepyng, spynnyng, God hath give
To wymmen kyndely whil that thay may lyve.
And thus of o thing I avaunte me,
At thende I hadde the best in ech degré,
By sleight or fors, or of som maner thing,
As by continuel murmur or chidyng,
Namly on bedde, hadden thay meschaunce,
Ther wolde I chide, and do hem no pleasaunce;
I wold no lenger in the bed abyde,
If that I felt his arm over my syde,
Til he hadde maad his raunsoun unto me,
Than wold I suffre him doon his nyceté.
And therfor every man this tale telle,
Wynne who-so may, for al is for to selle;
With empty hond men may noon haukes lure,
For wynnyng wold I al his lust endure,
And make me a feyned appetyt,
And yit in bacoun had I never delyt;
That made me that ever I wold hem chyde.
For though the pope hadde seten hem bisyde,
I nolde not spare hem at her oughne bord,
For, by my trouthe, I quyt hem word for word.
Als help me verray God omnipotent,
Though I right now schulde make my testament,
I owe hem nought a word, that it nys quitte,
I brought it so aboute by my witte,
That they moste yeve it up, as for the best,
Or ellis hadde we never ben in rest.
For though he loked as a grym lyoun,
Yit schuld he fayle of his conclusioun.
Than wold I saye, ‘now, goode leefe, tak keep,
How mekly lokith Wilkyn our scheep!
Com ner, my spouse, let me ba thy cheke.
Ye schulde be al pacient and meke,
And have a swete spiced consciens,
Siththen ye preche so of Jopes paciens.
Suffreth alway, syns ye so wel can preche,
And but ye do, certeyn we schul yow teche
That it is fair to have a wyf in pees.
On of us tuo mot bowe douteles;
And, siththen man in more resonable
Than womman is, ye moste be suffrable.
What aylith yow thus for to grucche and grone?
Is it for ye wold have my queynt allone?
Why, tak it al; lo, have it every del
Peter! I schrewe yow but ye love it wel.
For if I wolde selle my bele chose,
I couthe walk as freisch as eny rose,
But I wol kepe it for youre owne toth.
Ye ben to blame, by God, I say yow soth!’
Such maner wordes hadde we on honde.
“Now wol I speke of my fourth housbonde.
My fourthe housbond was a revelour,
This is to say, he had a paramour,
And I was yong, and ful of ragerie,
Stiborn and strong, and joly as a pye.
Lord! how couthe I daunce to an harpe smale,
And synge y-wys as eny nightyngale,
Whan I hadde dronke a draught of swete wyn.
Metillius, the foule cherl, the swyn,
That with a staf byraft his wyf hir lyf
For sche drank wyn, though I hadde ben his wif,
Ne schuld he nought have daunted me fro drinke;
And after wyn on Venus most I thinke,
For al-so siker as cold engendrith hayl,
A likorous mouth most have a licorous tail.
In wymmen vinolent is no defens,
This knowen lecchours by experiens.
But, lord Crist, whan that it remembrith me
Upon my youthe, and on my jolité,
It tikelith me aboute myn herte-roote!
Unto this day it doth myn herte boote,
That I have had my world as in my tyme.
But age, allas! that al wol envenyme,
Hath me bireft my beauté and my pith;
Let go, farwel, the devyl go therwith.
The flour is goon, ther nis no more to telle,
The bran, as I best can, now mot I selle.
But yit to be mery wol I fonde.
“Now wol I telle of my fourth housbonde.
I say, I had in herte gret despyt,
That he of eny other hadde delit;
But he was quit, by God, and by seint Joce;
I made him of the same woode a croce,
Nought of my body in no foul manere,
But certeynly I made folk such chere,
That in his owne grees I made him frie
For anger, and for verraie jalousie.
By God, in erthe I was his purgatory,
For which I hope his soule be in glory.
For, God it wot, he sat ful stille and song,
Whan that his scho ful bitterly him wrong
Ther was no wight, sauf God and he, that wiste
In many wyse how sore I him twiste.
He dyede whan I cam fro Jerusalem,
And lith i-grave under the roode-bem;
Al is his tombe nought so curious
As was the sepulcre of him Darius,
Which that Appellus wroughte so subtily.
It nys but wast to burie him preciously.
Let him farwel, God yive his soule rest,
He is now in his grave and in his chest.
“Now of my fifte housbond wol I telle;
God let his soule never come in helle!
And yet was he to me the moste schrewe,
That fele I on my ribbes alle on rewe,
And ever schal, unto myn endyng day.
But in oure bed he was so freisch and gay,
And therwithal so wel he couthe me glose,
When that he wolde have my bele chose,
That, though he hadde me bete on every boon,
He couthe wynne my love right anoon.
I trowe, I loved him beste, for that he
Was of his love daungerous to me.
We wymmen han, if that I schal nought lye,
In this matier a queynte fantasie.
Wayte, what thyng we maye not lightly have,
Therafter wol we sonnest crie and crave.
Forbeed us thing, and that desire we;
Pres on us fast, and thanne wol we fle.
With daunger outen alle we oure ware;
Greet pres at market makith deer chaffare,
And to greet chep is holden at litel pris;
This knowith every womman that is wys.
My fyfte housbond, God his soule blesse,
Which that I took for love and no richesse,
He som tyme was a clerk of Oxenford,
And hadde left scole, and went at hoom to borde
With my gossib, duellyng in our toun:
God have hir soule, hir name was Alisoun.
Sche knew myn herte and my privite
Bet than oure parisch prest, so mot I the.
To hir bywreyed I my counseil al;
For hadde myn housbond pissed on a wal,
Or don a thing that schuld have cost his lif,
To hir, and to another worthy wyf,
And to my neece, which I lovede wel,
I wold have told his counseil every del.
And so I dide ful ofte, God it woot,
That made his face ofte reed and hoot
For verry schame, and blamyd himself, that he
Hadde told to me so gret a priveté.
And so byfel that oones in a Lente,
(So ofte tyme to my gossib I wente,
For ever yit I lovede to be gay,
And for to walk in March, Averil, and May
From hous to hous, to here sondry talis)
That Jankyn clerk, and my gossib dame Alis,
And I myself, into the feldes wente.
Myn housbond was at Londone al that Lente;
I hadde the bettir leysir for to pleye,
And for to see, and eek for to be seye
Of lusty folk; what wist I wher my grace
Was schapen for to be, or in what place?
Therfore I made my visitaciouns
To vigiles, and to processiouns,
To prechings eek, and to this pilgrimages,
To pleyes of miracles, and mariages,
And wered upon my gay scarlet gytes.
These wormes, these moughtes, ne these mytes
Upon my perel fretith hem never a deel,
And wostow why? for thay were used wel.
Now wol I telle forth what happide me:—
I say, that in the feldes walkide we,
Til trewely we hadde such daliaunce
This clerk and I, that of my purvyaunce
I spak to him, and sayde how that he,
If I were wydow, schulde wedde me.
For certeynly, I say for no bobaunce,
Yit was I never withouten purveyaunce
Of mariage, ne of no thinges eeke;
I hold a mouses hert not worth a leek,
That hath but oon hole to sterte to,
And if that faile, than is al i-do.
I bare him on honde he hadde enchauntede me;
(My dame taughte me that subtylté)
And eke I sayde, I mete of him alle nyght,
He wolde have slayne me, as I laye uprighte,
And alle my bedde was fulle of vereye blode;
Butte yette I hope that ye shulle do me gode;
For blode betokenethe golde, as me was taughte;
And alle was false, I dremede of hitt righte naughte,
Butte as I followede ay my dames lore,
As welle of that as of other thinges more.
But now, sir, let me se, what I schal sayn;
A ha! by God, I have my tale agayn.
“Whan that my fourthe housbond was on bere,
I wept algate and made a sory cheere,
As wyves mooten, for it is usage;
And with my kerchief coverede my visage;
But, for that I was purveyed of a make,
I wepte but smal, and that I undertake.
To chirche was myn housbond brought on morwe
With neighebors that for him made sorwe,
And Jankyn oure clerk was oon of tho.
As help me God, whan that I saugh him go
After the beere, me thought he had a paire
Of legges and of feet so clene and faire,
That al myn hert I yaf unto his hold.
He was, I trowe, twenty wynter old,
And I was fourty, if I schal say the sothe,
But yit I had alway a coltis tothe.
Gattothid I was, and that bycom me wel,
I hadde the prynte of seynt Venus sel.
As helpe me God, I was a lusti one.
And faire, and riche, and yong, and wel begone;
And trewly, as myn hosbonde tolde me,
I hadde the beste quoniam that myghte be.
For certis I am al fulli venerian
In felyng, and myn herte alle marcian:
Venus me yaf my lust and licorousnesse.
And Mars yaf me my sturdi hardynesse.
Myn ascent was Taur, and Mars therinne;
Allas, alas, that ever love was synne!
I folwed ay myn inclinacioun
By vertu of my constillacioun:
That made me that I couthe nought withdrawe
My chambre of Venus from a good felawe.
Yet have I a marke of Mars uppon my face,
And also in another pryvé place.
For God so wisse be my salvacion,
I lovyde nevyr bi non discrescion,
But evyr folewed myn owne appetite,
Alle were he schort, long, blak, or white;
I toke no kepe, so that he liked me,
How pore he was, ne eke of what degre.
What schuld I say? but at the monthis ende
This joly clerk Jankyn, that was so heende,
Hath weddid me with gret solempnitee,
And to him yaf I al the londe and fee
That ever was me yive therbifore.
But aftir-ward repentede me ful sore.
He nolde suffre nothing of my list.
By God, he smot me oones with his fist,
For I rent oones out of his book a lef,
That of that strok myn eere wax al deef.
Styborn I was, as is a leones,
And of my tonge a verray jangleres,
And walk I wold, as I hadde don biforn,
Fro hous to hous, although he had it sworn;
For which he ofte tymes wolde preche,
And me of olde Romayn gestes teche.
How he Simplicius Gallus left his wyf,
And hir forsok for terme of al his lyf,
Nought but for open heedid he hir say
Lokyng out at his dore upon a day.
Another Romayn told he me by name,
That, for his wyf was at a somer game
Without his wityng, he forsok hir eeke.
And thanne wold he upon his book seeke
That ilke proverbe of Ecclesiaste,
Wher he comaundith, and forbedith faste,
Man schal not suffre his wyf go roule aboute.
Than wold he saye right thus withouten doubte:
‘Who that buyldith his hous al of salwes,
And Priketh his blynde hors over the falwes,
And suffrith his wyf to go seken halwes,
Is worthy to ben honged on the galwes.
But al for nought; I sette nought an hawe
Of his proverbe, ne of his olde sawe;
Ne I wolde not of him corretted be.
I hate him that my vices tellith me,
And so doon mo, God it wot, than I.
This made him with me wood al outerly;
I nolde not forbere him in no cas.
Now wol I saye yow soth, by seint Thomas,
Why that I rent out of the book a leef,
For which he smot me, that I was al def.
He had a book, that gladly night and day
For his desport he wolde rede alway;
“He clepyd it Valerye and Theofrast,
At which book he lough alway ful fast.
And eek thay say her was som tyme a clerk at Rome,
A cardynal, that heet seint Jerome,
That made a book ayens Jovynyan.
In which book eek ther was Tertulyan,
Crisippus, Tortula, and eek Helewys,
That was abbas not fer fro Paris;
And eek the parablis of Salamon,
Ovydes Art, and bourdes many oon;
And alle these were bounde in oo volume.
And every night and day was his custume,
Whan he hadde leysir and vacacioun
From other worldely occupacioun,
To reden in this book of wikked wyves.
He knew of hem mo legendes and lyves,
Than ben of goode wyves in the Bible.
For trustith wel; it is an inpossible,
That any clerk schal speke good of wyves
But-if it be of holy seintes lyves,
Ne of noon other wyfes never the mo.
Who peyntide the leoun, tel me, who?
By God, if wommen hadde writen stories,
As clerkes have withinne her oratories,
Thay wold have write of men more wickidnes,
Than al the mark of Adam may redres.
These children of Mercury and of Venus
Ben in her werkyng ful contrarious
Mercury lovith wisdom and science,
And Venus loveth ryot and dispense.
And for her divers disposicioun,
Ech fallith in otheres exaltacioun.
And thus, God wot, Mercury is desolate
In Pisces, wher Venus is exaltate,
And Venus faylith wher Mercury is reysed.
Therfor no womman of clerkes is preised.
The clerk whan he is old, and may nought do
Of Venus werkis, is not worth a scho;
Than sit he doun, and writ in his dotage,
That wommen can nought kepe here mariage.
But now to purpos, why I tolde the,
That I was beten for a leef, pardé.
Upon a night Jankyn, that was oure sire,
Rad on his book, as he sat by the fyre,
Of Eva first, that for hir wikkidnes,
Was al mankynde brought to wrecchednes,
For whiche that Jhesu Crist himselfe was slayne,
That boughte us with his herte-blood agayne.
Lo here expresse of wommen may ye fynde,
That woman was the loose of alle mankynde.
Tho rad he me how Sampson lest his heris
Slepyng, his lemman kut it with hir scheris,
Thurgh which tresoun lost he bothe his yen.
Tho rad he me, if that I schal not lyen,
Of Ercules, and of his Dejanyre,
That caused him to sette himself on fuyre.
No thing foryat he the care and wo
That Socrates hadde with his wyves tuo;
Now Exantipa caste pisse upon his heed.
This seely man sat stille, as he were deed,
He wyped his heed, no more durst he sayn,
But ‘Er thunder stynte ther cometh rayn.’
Of Phasipha, that was the queen of Creete,
For schrewednes him thoughte the tale sweete.
Fy! spek no more, it is a grisly thing,
Of her horribil lust and her likyng.
Of Clydemystra for hir leccherie
That falsly made hir housbond for to dye,
He rad it with ful good devocioun.
He tolde me eek, for what occasioun
Amphiores at Thebes lest his lif;
Myn housbond had a legend of his wyf
Exiphilem, that for an ouche of gold
Hath prively unto the Grekes told
Wher that hir housbond hyd him in a place,
For which he had at Thebes sory grace.
Of Lyma told he me, and of Lucye;
Thay bothe made her housbondes for to dye,
That oon for love, that other was for hate.
Lyma hir housbond on an even late
Empoysond hath, for that sche was his of;
Lucia licorous loved hir housbond so,
For that he schuld alway upon hir thinke,
Sche yaf him such a maner love-drinke,
That he was deed er it was by the morwe;
And thus algates housbondes hadde sorwe.
Than told he me, how oon Latumyus
Compleigned unto his felaw Arrius,
That in his gardyn growede such a tre,
On which he sayde how that his wyves thre
Honged hemselfe for herte despitous.
‘O leve brother,’ quod this Arrious,
‘Yif me a plont of thilke blessid tre,
And in my gardyn schal it plantid be.’
Of latter date of wyves hath he red
That some han slayn her housbondes in her bed,
And let her lecchour dighten al the night,
Whil that the corps lay in the flor upright;
And som han dryven nayles in her brayn,
Whiles thay sleepe, and thus they han hem slayn;
Som have hem yive poysoun in her drinke;
He spak more harm than herte may bythynke.
And therwithal he knew mo proverbes
Than in this world ther growen gres or herbes.
Better is, quod he, thyn habitacioun
Be with a leoun, or a foul dragoun,
Than with a womman using for to chyde.
Better is, quod he, hihe in the roof abyde,
Than with an angry womman doun in a hous;
Thay ben so wicked and so contrarious,
Thay haten that her housbondes loven ay.
He sayd, a womman cast hir schame away,
Whan sche cast of hir smok; and forthermo,
A fair womman, but sche be chast also,
Is lyk a gold ryng in a sowes nose.
Who wolde wene, or who wolde suppose
The wo that in myn herte was and pyne?
And whan I saugh he nolde never fyne
To reden on this cursed book al night,
Al sodeinly thre leves have I plight
Out of this booke that he had, and eeke
I with my fist so took him on the cheeke,
That in oure fuyr he fal bak-ward adoun.
And he upstert, as doth a wood leoun,
And with his fist he smot me on the hed,
That in the floor I lay as I were deed.
And whan he saugh so stille that I lay,
He was agast, and wold have fled away.
Til atte last out of my swown I brayde.
‘O, hastow slayn me, false thef?’ I sayde,
‘And for my lond thus hastow mourdrid me?
Er I be deed, yit wol I kisse the.’
And ner he cam, and knelith faire adoun,
And sayde, ’Deere suster Alisoun,
As help me God, I schal the never smyte;
That I have doon it is thiself to wite;
Foryive it me, and that I the biseke.’
And yet eftsones I hyt him on the cheke,
And sayde, ‘Thef, thus mekil I me wreke.
Now wol I dye, I may no lenger speke.’
But atte last, with mochil care and wo,
We fyl accordid by ourselven tuo;
He yaf me al the bridil in myn hand
To have the governaunce of hous and land,
And of his tonge, and of his hond also,
And made him brenne his book anoon right tho.
And whan I hadde geten unto me
By maistry al the sovereynete,
And that he sayde, ‘Myn owne trewe wyf,
Do as the list in term of al thy lyf,
Kepe thyn honour, and kep eek my myn estat;’
And after that day we never hadde debat.
God help me so, I was to him as kynde
As eny wyf fro Denmark unto Inde,
And al-so trewe was he unto me.
I pray to God that sitte in magesté
So blesse his soule, for his mercy deere.
Now wol I say my tale, if ye wol heere.”
The Frere lough when he had herd al this:
“Now, dame,” quod he, “so have I joye and blis,
This a long preambel of a tale.”
And whan the Sompnour herd the Frere gale,
“Lo!” quod this Sompnour, “for Goddes armes tuo,
A frer wol entremet him evermo.
Lo, goode men, a flie and eek a frere
Woln falle in every dissche and matiere.
What spekst thou of perambulacioun?
What? ambil, or trot; or pees, or go sit doun;
Thou lettest oure disport in this matere.”
“Ye, woltow so, sir sompnour!” quod the Frere:
“Now, by my fay, I schal, er that I go,
Telle of a sompnour such a tale or tuo,
That alle the folk schuln laughen in this place.”
“Now, ellis, frere, I byschrew thy face,”
Quod this Sompnour, “and I byschrewe me,
But-if I telle tales tuo or thre
Of freres, er I come to Sydingborne,
That I schal make thin herte for to morne,
For wel I wot thy paciens is goon.”
Oure Hoste cride, “Pees, and that anoon;”
And sayde, “Let the womman telle hir tale.
Ye fare as folkes that dronken ben of ale.
Do, dame, tel forth your tale, and that is best.”
“Al redy, sir,” quod sche, “right as you lest,
If I have the licence of this worthy frere.”
“Yis, dame,” quod he, “tel forth, and I schal heere.”
In olde dayes of the kyng Arthoúr,
Of which that Britouns speken gret honoúr,
This lond was al fulfilled of fäerie;
The elf-queen, with hir joly companye,
Dauncède ful oft in many a grene mede.
This was the old opynyoun, as I rede;
I speke of many hundrid yer ago;
But now can no man see noon elves mo.
For now the grete charitee and prayeres
Of prechours and of other holy freres,
That sechen every lond and every streem,
As thik as motes in the sonne-beam,
And bless the halles, chambres, kitchenes, boures,
Citees and burghes, castels hihe and toures,
The thorpes, barnes, stables, dayeries,
That makith that ther be no fayeries.
For where was wont to walken many an elf,
Ther walkith non but the prechour by himself,
In evening tymes and in morwenynges,
And saith his matyns and his holy thinges
As he goth prechyng through villáge and toun.
Women may now go safely up and doun,
In every bush, or under every tre,
Ther is no other incubus but he,
And he wil do women no dishonoúr.
And so bifel it, that this king Arthoúr
Had in his hous a lusty bacheler.
That on a day com rydyng fro rivér;
And happèd, al alone as she was born,
He saw a mayde walkyng him byforn,
Of which mayden anon, with foule dede,
By verray fors bireft hir maydenhed.
For which oppressioun was such clamoúr,
And such pursuyte made to kyng Arthoúr,
That damnèd was the knight and shuld be ded
By cours of lawe, and shuld have lost his hed,
(Paráventure such was the statut tho,)
But that the queen and other ladys mo
So longe preyeden thay the kynges grace,
Til he his lif hath graunted in the place,
And gaf him to the queen, al at hir wille
To choose wethir she wolde him save or spille.
The queen thankèd the kyng with al hir might;
And after thus she spak unto the knight,
Whan that she saw hir tyme upon a day:
“Thou stondest yet,” quoth she, “in such array,
That of thy lyf hast thou no suretee;
I graunte thy lif, if thou canst telle me,
What thing is it that women most desiren;
Be ware, and keep thy nek-bone fro the iron.
And if thou canst not tellen it anon,
Yet wil I yive thee leve for to goon
A twelfmonth and a day, for to enquere
An answer suffisaunt in this matére.
And suretee wil I have, ere that thou pace,
Thy body for to yielden in this place.”
Wo was this knight, and sorwfully he sighèd;
But what? he may not do al as him likèd,
And atte last he chose him for to wende,
And com agein right at the yeres ende
With swich answer as God him wolde purveye;
And takith his leve, and wendith forth his weye.
He sekith every hous and every place
Wher-so he hopith for to fynde grace,
To lerne what thing wommen loven most;
But he ne coude arryven in no coast,
Wher as he mighte fynde in this matére
Two créatúres áccordyng togider.
Some sayden, women loven best richésse,
Some sayde honoúr, and some sayde jolynesse.
Some sayden that oure herte is then most easèd
When that we be y-flaterid and y-pleasèd,
He goth ful nigh the soth, I wil not lye;
A man shal wynne us best with flaterye;
And with attendaunce, and with busynesse
We are y-limèd bothe more and lesse.
Some sayden eke, that we loven best
For to be free, and to do as we lest,
And that no man reprove us of oure vice,
But say that in al thinges we be wyse.
For trewely ther is noon of us alle,
If eny wight wolde stroke us on the galle,
We wil him like and take his word as soth;
Assay, and he shal fynd it, who so doth.
For be we never so vicious withinne,
We shuln be holden wys and clene of synne.
And somme sayn, that gret delit have we
For to be holden stabil and secree,
And in one purpos stedfastly to duelle,
And nought betraye thing that men us telle.
But that tale, pardee, is not worth a pyn.
We wymmen can right no thing hold withinne,
Witnes on Mydas; wil ye here the tale?
Ovyd, among his other thinges smale,
Sayde Mydas had under his longe heres
Growyng upon his hed tuo asses eeres;
The whiche vice he hid, as he best might,
Ful subtilly fro every mannes sight,
That, save his wyf, ther wist of that nomo;
He loved hir most, and trusted hir also;
He prayèd hir, that to no créatúre
She shulde tellen of his dísfigúre.
She swor him, nay, for al this world to wynne,
She wold not do that vilonye or synne
To make hir housbond have so foul a name;
She wolde not tel it for hir owne shame.
But natheles she thoughte to have dyed,
If she so longe sholde a counseil hyde;
Hir thought it swelled so sore about hir hert,
That needely som word must from her stert;
And sins she dorst not tel it unto man,
Doun to a poole faste by she ran,
Til she cam ther, hir herte was on fyre;
And as a bittern boometh in the myre,
She layde hir mouth unto the water doun.
“Betray me not, thou watir, with thy soun,”
Quoth she, “to thee I telle it, and nomo,
Myn housbond hath long asses eeris tuo.
Now is myn hert al hole, now is it oute,
I mighte no lenger kepe it out of doute.”
Here may ye see, though we a tyme abyde,
Yet out it must, we can no counseil hyde.
The remenaunt of the tale, if ye wil here,
Rede in Ovid, and ther ye may it leere.
This knight, of which my tale is specially,
When that he saw he mighte nought come therby,
This is to say, what women loven most,
Withinne his brest ful sorwful was the ghost.
But home he goth, he might not long sojourne,
The day was come, that hom-ward most he torne.
And in his way, it hapnyd him to ride
In al his care, under a forest side,
Wher as he saw upon a daunce go
Of ladys four and twenty, and yit mo.
Toward this ilke daunce his feet he set,
In hope that he som wisdom shuld i-get;
But certeynly, ere he com fully there,
Y-vanysshid was this daunce, he knew not where;
No créatúre saw he that bar lif,
But on the greene he saw sittyng a wyf,
A fouler wight ther may no man devyse.
To meet the knight this olde wyf gan ryse,
And sayde, “Sir Knight, heer forth there lieth no way;
Tel me then what ye seekyn, by your fay
Paráventure it may the better be:
Thise olde folk have moche power,” quoth she,
“My lieve modir,” quoth this knight, “certayn
I am but ded but-if that I can sayn
What thing is it that women most desire;
Coude ye me tell, I wolde wel quyt your hyre.”
“Plight me thy troth here in myn hond,” quoth she,
“The nexte thing that I require thee,
Thou shalt it doo, if it be in thy might,
And I wol telle it thee, ere it be night,”
“Have here my trothe,” quoth the knight, “I graunte.”
“Thenne,” quoth she, “I dar me wel avaunte,
Thy lif is sauf, for I wol stonde therby
Upon my lif the queen wil say as I;
Let see, which is the proudest of them alle,
That werith keverchief or cappe or caul,
That dar saye nay to that I shal thee teche.
Let us go forth withouten more speche.”
Tho whispered she a word into his eere,
And bad him to be glad, and have no fere.
When they be comen to the court, this knight
Sayd he had holde his day, as he hadde plight,
Al redy was his answer, as he sayde.
Ful many a noble wyf, and many a mayde,
And many a wydow, for that they be wyse,
The queen hirself sittyng as a justise,
Assemblid be, his answer for to here;
And after-ward this knight was bidden appere,
To every wight comaundid was silence,
And that the knight shuld telle in audience
What thing that worldly women loven best.
This knight he stood not stille, as doth a best,
But to the questioún anon answérde,
With manly voys, that al the court it herde;
“My liege lady, generally,” quoth he,
“Women desiren to have soverayntee
As wel over their housbond as over their love,
And for to be in maystry him above.
This is the most desir, though ye me kille;
Do as you list, I am heer at your wille.”
In al the court ther was not myf, or mayde,
Or wydow, that contráried that he sayde;
But sayden, he was worthy have his lif.
And with that word upstart that olde wif,
Which that the knight saw sittyng on the grene.
“Mercy,” quoth she, “my soveraign lady queene,
Ere that your court departe, do me right.
I taughte this same answer to the knight;
For which he plighte me his trothe there,
The firste thing that I wold him requere,
He wold it do, if it lay in his might.
Before this court then pray I thee, sir knight,”
Quoth she, “that thou me take unto thy wif,
For wel thou knowest, that I have kept thy lif;
If I say fals, sey nay, upon thy fey.”
This knight answerd, “Allas and weylawey!
I wot right wel that such was my byhest.
For Goddes love, choose then a new request;
Tak al my good, and let my body go.”
“Nay,” quoth she then, “beshrew us bothe tuo.
For though that I be olde, foule and poure,
I wold not for the metal or the ore
That under erthe is grave, or lith above,
But I thy wife were and eek thy love.”
“My love?” quoth he, “nay, my damnacioún.
Allas! that eny of my nacioun
Shuld ever foully disparágid be!”
But al for nought; the ende is this, that he
Constreinèd was, he needes most hir wedde,
And take his wyf, and go with hir to bedde.
Now wolden som men say peráventure,
That for my negligence I do no care
To telle you the joye and the array
That at that fest was made that ilke day.
To which thing shortly answeren I shal,
And say ther was not fest or joy at al,
Ther was but hevynes and moche sorwe;
For privily he weddyd hir on the morrow,
And alday hidde himself as doth an oule,
So wo was him, his wyf lokèd so foule.
Gret was the wo the knight had in his thought
When he was with his wyf on bedde brought,
He walloweth, and he torneth to and fro.
His olde wyf lay smylyng ever mo,
And sayd, “Deere housbond, benedicite,
Fareth every knighte with his wyf as ye!
Is this the lawe of king Arthùres hous?
Is every knight of his thus daungerous?
I am your oune love, and eek your wyf,
And I am she that savyd hath your lyf,
And certes never dede I you unright.
Why fare ye thus with me the firste night?
Ye fare lik a man that had lost his wit.
What is my gult? for Godes love, tel me it,
And it shal be amendid, if that I may.”
“Amendid!” quoth this knight, “allas! nay, nay,
If wol nought be amendid, never mo;
Thou art so lothly, and so old also,
And therto comen of so low a kynde,
That litil wonder is I walwe and wynde;
So wolde God, myn herte wolde brest!”
“Is this,” quoth she, “the cause of your unrest?”
“Ye, certeynly,” quoth he, “no wonder is!”
“Now, sir,” quoth she, “I coude amende al this,
If that me list, ere it were dayes three,
So that ye wolde bear you wel to me.
But for ye speken of such gentilesse
As is descendid out of old richesse,
Therfor shulde ye be holden gentil men;
Such arrogaunce it is not worth an hen.
Look who that is most vertuous alway,
Open and secret, and most entendith ay
To do the gentil dedes that he can,
Tak him to be the grettest gentil man.
Crist wills we clayme of him oure gentilesse,
Nought of oure eldres for their olde richesse.
For though they give us al their heritage,
For which we clayme to be of high peerage,
Yit may thay not biquethe, for no thing
To noon of us, so vertuous lyvyng,
That made them gentil men y-callid be,
And bad us folwe them in such degree.
Wel knew the wyse poet of Florence,
That highte Daunt, to speke of this sentence;
Lo, in such maner of rym is Dauntes tale;
Ful seldom risith to the braunchis smale
Prowes of man, for God of his prowesse
Wil that we clayme of him our gentilesse;
For of our auncestres we no thing clayme
But temporal thing, that men may hurt and mayme.
Ek every wight knoweth this as wel as I,
If gentiless were plaunted naturelly
Unto a certayn lignage certeynly,
Open or secret, they wolde never try
To do of gentilesce the fair office,
Thay might nought do no vileny or vice.
Take fyr and ber it in the derkest hous
Bitwixe this and the mount Caukasous,
And let men shut the dores, and go thenne,
Yit wol the fyr as fair and lighte brenne
As twenty thousand men might it biholde;
His office naturel ay wil it holde,
On peril on my lif, til that it dye.
Here may ye see wel, how that genterye
Is nought annexid to possessioun,
Since folk do not their operacioun
Alway, as doth the fyr, lo, in his kynde.
For God it wot, men may ful often fynde
A lordes sone do shame and vilonye.
And he that wil have pris of his gentrie,
For he was boren of a gentil hous,
And had his eldres noble and vertuous,
And will himselve do no gentil dedis,
Or follow his gentil auncester, that ded is,
He is nought gentil, be he duk or erl;
For vileyn synful deedes maketh a cherl,
For gentilnesse is but the name to thee
Of thin auncestres, for their high bountee,
Which is a straunge thing to thy persone;
Thy gentilesse cometh fro God allone.
Thence comth oure verray gentilesse of grace,
It was no thing biquethe us with oure place.
Think thou how nobil, as saith Valerius,
Was thilke Tullius Hostilius,
That out of povert rose to high noblesse.
Rede thou Senek, and rede thou eek Boece,
Ther shuln ye see expresse, that no dred is,
That he is gentil that doth gentil dedis.
And therfor, lieve housbond, I conclude,
Al were it that myn auncestres wer rude,
Yit may the highe God, and so hope I,
Graunte me grace to lyve vertuously;
Than am I gentil, wham that I bygynne
To lyve vertuously, and leven synne.
And for that ye of povert me repreve,
The highe God, on whom that we bilieve,
In wilful povert chose to lede his lif;
And certes, every man, mayden, or wyf,
May understonde that Jhesus, heven king,
Wolde not choose a vicious lyvyng.
Glad povert is an honest thing certayn;
This wil Senek and other clerkes sayn.
Who that himself is glad of his povert,
I hold him riche, al had he nought a shert.
He that coveitith is a pore wight,
For he wold have that is not in his might.
But he that nought hath, and coveyteth nought to have,
Is riche, although ye hold him but a knave
Verray povert it singeth proprely.
Juvenal saith of povert merily,
The pore man when he goth by the way
Bifore the theves he may synge and play.
Povert is sorrowful good, and, as I gesse,
A ful gret brynger out of busynesse;
A gret amender eek of sapiens
To him that takith it in paciens.
Povert is this, although it seme sorrow,
Possessioun no other wight wil borrow.
Povert, ful often, whan a man is lowe,
Makith him his God and eek himself to knowe.
Povert a spectacle is, as thinkith me,
Thurgh which he may his verray frendes see;
And therfor, sir, since that I you nought greve,
Of my povert no more ye me repreve.
“Now, sir, of elde ye repreve me;
And certes, sir, though noon auctoritee
Were in no book, ye gentils of honoúr
Sayn that men shuld an old wight do favour,
And clepe him fader, for your gentilesse;
And auctours I shal fynden, as I gesse.
“Now ther that ye sayn I am foul and old,
Then drede you nought to be a cokewold.
For filthe and elde, so may I thrive, thay be
Grete wardeyns upon faire chastitee.
But natheles, since I knowe your delyt,
I shal fulfille youre worldly appetyt.
Choose, now,” quoth she, “one of these thinges tweye,
To have me foul and old til that I deye,
And be to you a trewe and humble wyf,
And never you displease in al my lyf;
Or elles ye wil have me yong and fair,
And take your áventúre of the repair
That shal be to your hous bycause of me,
Or in som other place it may wel be.
Now choose yourselven whethir that you liketh.”
This knight avysith him, and sore sighith,
But atte last he sayd in this manére:
“My lady and my love, and wyf so deere,
I putte me in your wyse governaunce,
Choose ye yourself which may be most pleasaúnce
And most honoúr to you and me also,
I care not the whether of the tuo,
For as you likith, it suffisith me.”
“Then have I get the mastery,” quoth she,
“Since I may govern and choosen as me list?”
“Yea certis, wyf,” quoth he, “I hold it best.”
“Kys me,” quoth she, “we be no longer wrothe,
For, by my trothe, I will be to you bothe,
That is to saye, yea, bothe fair and true.
I pray to God that I may dyen now,
Unless I be to you as good and trewe
As ever was wyf, since the world was newe;
And but I be to morrow as fair to seen
As eny lady, emperesse, or queen,
That is bitwix the east and eek the west,
Do by my lyf right even as you lest.
Cast up the curtains, and look what this is.”
And whan the knyght saw verrayly al this,
That she so fair was, and so yong therto,
For joye he caught hir in his armes tuo;
His herte bathid in a bath of blisse,
A thousand tyme on rowe he gan hir kisse.
And she obeyèd him in every thing
That mighte do him pleisauns or likyng.
And thus thay lyve unto their lyves end
In parfyt joye; and Jhesu Crist us sende
Housbondes meke, yonge, and fresshe on bedde,
And grace to overcome them that we wedde.
And eek I pray to Jhesus shorten their lyves,
That wil nought be govérnèd after their wyves.
And old and angry nygardes of despense,
God send them sone verray pestilence!
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52