Poems » gilbert white » the wife of bath s prologue and tale in the hengwrt manuscript of the canterbury tales


{{Folio 58r}}
¶Here bigynneth the prologe of the tale
of the Wyf of Bathe

EXperience / thogh noon Auctoritee
Were in this world / is right ynogh for me
To speke of wo / that is in mariage
ffor lordynges / sith |þt| I twelf yeer was of age
Thonked be god / that is eterne on lyue
Hou{s}bondes atte chirche dore / I haue had fyue
If I so ofte / myghte han wedded be
And alle were worthy men / in hir degree
But me was told certeyn / noght longe agon is
That sith |þt| Cri{s}t/ ne wente ne|uer|e but onys
To weddyng/ in the Cane of Galilee
That by the same en{s}ample / taughte he me
That I ne sholde / wedded be but ones
¶Herke eek / lo / which a sharp word for the nones
Bi{s}yde a welle / |Ihus| / god and man
Spak / in repreeue of the Samaritan
¶Thow ha{s}t yhad / fyue hou{s}bondes quod he
And that ilke man / which that now hath thee
Is nat thyn hou{s}bonde / thus he seyde |cer|teyn
What that he mente ther by / I kan nat seyn
But |þt| I axe / why |þt| the fifthe man
Was noon hou{s}bonde / to the Samaritan
How manye / myghte she han in mariage
Yet herde I neuere / tellen in myn age
Vp on this nombre / diffyncycioun
Men may dyuyne / and glo{s}en vp |&| doun
But wel I woot ex|pre|{s} / with outen lye
God bad vs / for to wexe and multiplye
That gentil text/ kan I wel vnder{s}tonde
¶Eek wel I woot/ he seyde |þt| myn hou{s}bonde
Sholde lete / fader and moder/ and take to me
But of {^}{{no}} nombre / mencio|un| made he
Of Bigamye / or of Octogamye
Why sholde men thanne speke of it vileynye
¶Lo here / the wi{s}e kyng/ daun Salomon
I trowe / he hadde wyues many oon

{{Folio 58v}}

As wolde god / it leueful were to me
To be refre{ss}hed / half {s}o ofte as he
Which yifte of god hadde he / for alle hi{s}e wyuys
No man hath swith / that in this world alyue is
God woot/ this noble kyng/ as to my wit
The fir{s}te nyght/ hadde many a murye fit
With ech of hem / {s}o wel was hym on lyue
Ble{ss}ed be god / that I haue wedded fyue
Wel come the sixte / whan |þt| e|uer|e he shal
ffor sith I wol nat kepe {^}{{me}} / chaa{s}t in al
Whan myn hou{s}bonde / is fro the world agon
Som cri{s}ten man / shal wedde me anon
ffor thanne thapo{s}tle seith / |þt| I am free
To wedde a goddes half / where it liketh me
He seith / that to be wedded is no synne
Bet is to be wedded / than to brynne
What rekketh me / theigh folk / seye vileynye
Of shrewed Lameth / and his bigamye
I woot wel / Abraham was an holy man
And Iacob eek/ as fer as e|uer|e I kan
And ech of hem / hadde wyues mo than two
And many another / holy man al{s}o
¶Where kan ye seye / in any maner age
That heighe god / defended mariage
By expres word / I pray yow telleth me
Or where comanded he virgynytee
I woot as wel as ye / it is no drede
Thapo{s}tle / whan he speketh of maydenhede
He seyde / that |pre|cept ther of / hadde he noon
Men may con{s}eille a womman / to be oon
But con{s}eillyng/ nys no comandement/
He put it/ in oure owene Iuggement/
ffor hadde god / comanded maydenhede
Thanne hadde he dampned weddyng/ |with| the dede
And certes / if ther were no seed y{s}owe
Virgynytee thanne / wher of sholde it growe
Poul dor{s}te nat comanden / at the lee{s}te
A thyng/ of which / his may{s}ter yaf noon hee{s}te
The dart / is set vp for virgynytee
Cacche who so may / who renneth be{s}t lat se

{{Folio 59r}}

But this word / is noght take of euery wight/
But ther as god / li{s}t yeue it of his myght/
I woot wel / that thapo{s}tle was a mayde
But nathelees / thogh |þt| he wroot/ or sayde
He wolde / that euery wight/ were swich as he
Al nys but con{s}eil / to virgynytee
And for to been a wyf / he yaf me leue
Of Indulgence / so nys it no repreue
To wedde me / if that my make dye
With outen excepcio|un| of bigamye
Al were it good / no womman for to touche
He mente / as in his bed / or in his couche
ffor |per|il is / bothe fyr and tow ta{ss}emble
Ye knowe / what this en{s}ample may re{s}emble
This al and som / he heeld virgynytee
Moore |per|fit/ than weddyng in freletee
ffreletee clepe I / but if |þt| he and she
Wolde leden / al hir lyf/ in cha{s}titee
I graunte it wel / I haue noon enuye
Thogh maydenhede / |pre|ferre bigamye
It liketh hem to be clene / in body and goo{s}t/
Of myn e{s}tat/ ne wol I make no boo{s}t/
ffor wel ye knowe / a lord in his hou{s}hold
Ne hath nat euery ve{ss}el / al of gold
S|om|me been of tree / and doon hir lord s[er]uy{s}e
God clepeth folk to hym / in sondry wy{s}e
And euerich / hath of god a |prop|re yifte
Som this / som that/ as hym liketh shifte
Virgynytee / is greet |per|feccio|un|
And continence eek/ with deuocio|un|
But Cri{s}t/ that of |per|feccion / is welle
Bad nat euery wight / he sholde go selle
Al that he hadde / and yeue it to the poore
And in swich wi{s}e / folwe hym and his foore
He spak to hem / that wol lyue |per|fitly
And lordynges / by youre leue / that am nat I
I wol bi{s}towe / the flour of al myn age
In thactes / and in fruyt of mariage


¶Telle me al{s}o / to what conclu{s}io|un|
Were membres maad / of generacio|un|

{{Folio 59v}}

And of so |per|fit/ wys a wight ywroght/
Tru{s}teth right wel / they were nat maad for noght/
Glo{s}e who {s}o wole / and seye bothe vp and doun
That they were maad / for purgacioun
Of Vryne / and oure bothe thynges smale
Was eek to knowe / a femelle / from a male
And for noon oother cau{s}e / sey ye / no{?.}
Thex|per|ience / woot wel it is noght so
So that the Clerkes / be nat with me wrothe
I sey this / |þt| they maked been for bothe
That is to seyn / for office and for e{s}e
Of engendrure / ther we nat god di{s}ple{s}e
Why sholde men ellis / in hir bokes sette
That man shal yelde / to his wyf hir dette
Now wherwith / sholde he make his paiement
If he ne v{s}ed / his sely In{s}trument/
Thanne were they maad / vp on a creature
To purge vryne / and eek for engendrure
¶But I seye noght/ |þt| euery wight is holde
That hath swich harneys / as I to yow tolde
To goon / and v{s}en hem in engendrure
Thanne sholde men take / of Cha{s}titee no cure
Cri{s}t was a mayde / and shapen as a man
And many a Seynt/ sith that the world bigan
Yet lyued they euere / in |per|fit Cha{s}titee
I nyl envie / no virgynytee
Lat hem be breed / of pured whete seed
And lat vs wyues / hote Barlybreed
And yet |with| Barly breed / Mark telle kan
Oure lord |Iesu| / refre{ss}hed many a man
In swich e{s}tat/ as god hath clepyd vs
I wol |per|{s}euere / I nam nat |pre|cius
In wifhode / wol I v{s}e myn In{s}trument/
As frely / as my makere hath it sent/
If I be daungerous / god yeue me sorwe
Myn hou{s}bonde / shal it han / bothe eue and morwe
Whan that hym li{s}t/ com forth and paye his dette
And hou{s}bonde / wol I haue / I wol nat lette
Which shal be / bothe / my dettour and my thral
And haue / his tribulacion / with al

{{Folio 60r}}

Vp on his fle{ss}h / whil that I am his wyf
I haue the power / duryng al my lyf
Vp on his |prop|re body / and nat he
Right thus / thapo{s}tle / tolde it vn to me
And bad oure hou{s}bondes / for to loue vs wel
Al this sentence / me liketh euery del
Vp stirte the Pardoner / and that anon
Now dame quod he / by god and by Seint |Iohan|
Ye been a noble Prechour/ in this cas
I was aboute / to wedde a wyf allas
What/ sholde I bye {^}{{it}} / on my fle{ss}h {s}o deere
Yet hadde I leuere / wedde no wyf to yeere
¶Abyd quod she / my tale is nat bigonne
Nay /thow shalt drynken / of another tonne
Er |þt| I go / shal {s}auoure wors than Ale
And whan that I / haue toold thee forth my tale
Of tribulacion / in maryage
Of which I am expert/ in al myn age
This is to seye / my self hath been the whippe
Thanne may{s}tow / che{s}e / wheither |þt| thow wolt sippe
Of thilke tonne / that I shal abroche
Be war of it / er thow to neigh approche
ffor I shal telle en{s}amples / mo than ten
Who so |þt| nyle / be war/ by othere men
By hym / shal othere men corrected be
Thi{s}e same wordes / writeth Protholome
Rede in his Almage{s}te / and take it there
¶Dame I wolde pray yow / if youre wyl it were
Seyde this Pardoner / as ye bigan
Telle forth youre tale / spareth for no man
And techeth vs yonge men / of youre praktyke
¶Gladly quod she / syn it may yow lyke
But that I praye / to al this compaignye
If that I speke / after my fanta{s}ye
As taketh nat agrief / of that I seye
ffor myn entente / nys but for to pleye
Now sire / thanne wol I telle yow forth my tale
As euere / moot I drynke / wyn or Ale
I shal seye sooth / tho hou{s}bondes |þt| I hadde
As three of hem were goode / and two were badde

{{Folio 60v}}

The thre men / were goode / and ryche / and olde
Vnnethe myghte they / the Statut holde
In which / that they were bounden vn to me
Ye woot wel / what I mene of this |per|dee
As help me god / I laughe whan I thynke
How pitou{s}ly / a nyght I made hem swynke
And by my fey / I tolde of it no stoor
They hadde me yeuen / hir land and hir tre{s}oor
Me neded nat/ do lenger diligence
To wynne hir loue / or doon hem re|uer|ence
They loued me so wel / by god aboue
That I ne tolde / no deyntee of hir loue
A wys womman / wol bi{s}ye hi|re| / e|uer|e in oon
To gete hir loue / ye ther as she hath noon
But sith I hadde hem / hoolly in myn hond
And sith that they / hadde yeuen me al hir lond
What sholde I take kepe / hem for to ple{s}e
But it were / for my |pro|fit/ and myn e{s}e
I sette hem awerk/ by my fey
That many a night/ they songen weylawey
The bacon / was nat fet for hem I trowe
That {s}om men han / in E{ss}e|x'| at Donmowe
I go|uer|ned hem / so wel after my lawe
That ech of hem / ful bli{s}ful was and fawe
To brynge me / gaye thynges fro the ffeyre
They were ful glad / whan I spak to hem feyre
ffor god it woot/ I chidde hem spitou{s}ly
¶Now herkneth / how I bar me |prop|rely
Ye wi{s}e wyues / that konne vnder{s}tonde
Thus sholde ye speke / and bere hem wrong on honde
ffor half {s}o boldely / kan ther no man
Swere and lye / as a womman kan
I sey nat this / by wyues |þt| ben wy{s}e
But if it be / whan they hem my{s}auy{s}e
A wys wyf / if that she kan hir good
Shal bere hym an hond / the Cow is wood
And take witne{ss}e / of hir owene mayde
Of hire a{ss}ent/ but herkneth how I sayde
¶Sire olde kaynard / is this thyn array
Why is / my Neghebores wyf {s}o gay

{{Folio 61r}}

She is hon|our|ed / ouer al ther she goth
I sitte at hoom / I haue no thrifty cloth
What do{s}tow / at my neghebores hous
Is she so fair / artow so amorous
What rowne ye with oure mayde / benedicite
Sire olde lechour / lat thy Iapes be
And if I haue / a go{ss}ib / or A freend
With outen gilt/ ye chiden as a feend
If that I walke / or pleye vn to his hous
Thow come{s}t hoom / as dronken as a mous
And |pre|che{s}t on thy bench / with yuel preef
Thow sey{s}t to me / it is a greet me{s}cheef
To wedde a poure womman / for co{s}tage
And if that she be ryche / of heigh parage
Thanne sei{s}tow / that it is a tormentrye
To suffre / hir pryde / and hir malencolye
And if |þt| she be fair / thow verray knaue
Thow sei{s}t/ that euery holour wol hi|re| haue
She may no while / in cha{s}titee abyde
That is a{ss}ayled / vp on ech a syde
¶Thow sey{s}t/ som folk de{s}iren vs for riche{ss}e
S|om|me for oure shap / and s|om|me for oure fairne{ss}e
And s|om|me / for she kan outher synge / or daunce
And s|om|me / for gentille{ss}e / and dalyaunce
S|om|me for hir handes / and hir armes smale
Thus goth al to the deuel / by thy tale
Thow sey{s}t / men may nat kepe a Ca{s}tel wal
It may so longe / a{ss}aylled been ouer al
And if that she be foul / thow sey{s}t |þt| she
Coueiteth euery man / that she may se
ffor as a Spaynel / she wol on hym lepe
Til that she fynde / som man hir to chepe
Ne noon so grey goos / goth ther in the lake
As sei{s}tow / wol be with oute make
And sey{s}t/ it is an hard thyng / for to wolde
A thyng / that no man wol his thankes holde
Thus sei{s}tow lorel / whan thow goo{s}t to bedde
And that no wys man / nedeth for to wedde
Ne no man / that entendeth vn to heuene
With wilde thonder dynt/ and firy leuene

{{Folio 61v}}

Moote thy welked nekke / be to broke
Thow sey{s}t/ that droppyng hou{s}es / and eek smoke
And chidyng wyues / maken men to flee
Out of hir owene hou{s}es / a |_bn|dicitee |?|
What eyleth / swich an old man for to chide
Thow sey{s}t/ we wyues / wil oure vices hyde
Til we be fa{s}t/ and thanne we wol hem shewe
Wel may that be / a prouerbe of a Shrewe
Thow sei{s}t/ |þt| Oxen / A{ss}es / hors / and houndes
They been a{ss}ayed / at dy|uer|{s}e {s}toundes
Bacynes / lauours / er that men hem bye
Spoones / stooles / and al swich hou{s}bondrye
And so be pottes / clothes / and array
But folk / of wyues / maken noon a{ss}ay
Til they be wedded / olde dotard shrewe
And thanne sei{s}tow / we wil oure vices shewe
Thow sei{s}t al{s}o / that it di{s}ple{s}eth me
But if that thow / wolt prei{s}e my beautee
And but thow powre / alwey vp on my face
And clepe me faire dame / in e|uer|y place
And but thow make a fee{s}te / on thilke day
That I was born / and make me fre{ss}h and gay
And but thow do / to my norice honour
And to my chambrere / with Inne my bour
And to my fadres folk / and his allyes
Thus sei{s}tow / olde barel ful of lyes
And yet/ of oure Ap|pre|tice / Iankyn
ffor his crisp heer / shynyng/ as gold so fyn
And for he Squyereth me / bothe vp and doun
Yet ha{s}tow caught/ fals su{s}pecioun
I wil hym nat/ thogh thow were deed to morwe
¶But tel me this / why hide{s}tow with sorwe
The keyes of thy Che{s}te / awey fro me
It is my good / as wel as thyn pardee
What wene{s}tow / make an ydiote of oure dame
Now by that lord / that called is Seint Iame
Thow shalt noght bothe / thogh |þt| thow were wood
Be mai{s}ter / of my body / and my good
That oon thow shalt forgo / maugree thyne eyen
What helpeth it/ of me enquere and spyen

{{Folio 62r}}

I trowe / thow wolde{s}t/ lok me in thy chi{s}te
Thow sholde{s}t seye / wyf / go wher thee li{s}te
Taak youre di{s}port/ I nyl leue no talis
I knowe yow / for a trewe wyf / Dame Alis
We loue no man / that taketh kepe / or charge
Wher |þt| we goon / we wol been at oure large
Of alle men / yble{ss}ed moote he be
The wi{s}e A{s}trologen / Daun Protholome
That seith this prouerbe / in his Almage{s}te
Of alle men / his wi{s}dom is hye{s}te
That rekketh nat/ who hath the world in honde
By this |pro||uer|be / thow shalt vnder{s}tonde
Haue thow ynogh / what thar thee rekke / or care
How myrily / that othere folkes fare
ffor |cer|tes / olde dotard / by youre leue
Ye shal han queynte / right ynogh at eue
He is to greet a nygard / that wil werne
A man to lighte a candle / at his lanterne
He shal han / neuer the la{ss}e light pardee
Haue thow ynogh / thee thar nat pleyne thee
¶Thow sei{s}t al{s}o / that if we make vs gay
With clothyng/ and with |pre|cious array
That it is peril / of oure cha{s}titee
And yet with sorwe / thow mo{s}t enforce thee
And seye thi{s}e wordes / in thapo{s}tles name
In habit/ maad with cha{s}titee and shame
Ye w|om|men / shal apparaille yow quod he
And nat in tre{ss}ed heer / and gay perree
As perlys / ne with gold / ne clothes ryche
After thy text/ ne after thy rubryche
I wol nat werke / as muche / as is a gnat/
Thow seyde{s}t this / |þt| I was lyk a Cat/
ffor who so wolde senge / a Cattes skyn
Thanne wolde the Cat/ wel dwellen in his In
And if the Cattes skyn / be slyk/ and gay
She wol nat dwelle in hou{s}e / half a day
But forth she wole / er any day be dawed
To shewe hir skyn / and goon a Caterwawed
This is to seye / if I be gay si|re| shrewe
I wol renne out/ my borel for to shewe

{{Folio 62v}}

Sire olde fool / what helpeth thee te{s}pyen
Thogh thow preye Argus / |with| his hundred eyen
To be my warde corps / as he kan be{s}t
In feith / he shal nat kepe me / but me le{s}t/
Yet koude I make his berd / as mote I thee
¶Thow seyde{s}t eek/ |þt| ther ben thynges three
The whiche thynges / troublen al this erthe
And that no wight/ may endure the ferthe
O leeue sire shrewe / |Iesu| shorte thy lyf
Yet |pre|che{s}tow / and sei{s}t an hateful wyf
Yrekened is / for oon of thi{s}e my{s}chaunces
Been ther / noone othere re{s}emblaunces
That ye may likne / youre |per|ables to
But if a sely wyf/ be oon of tho
¶Thow likne{s}t eek / w|om|manes loue to helle
To bareyne lond / ther water may nat dwelle
Thow likne{s}t it al{s}o / to wilde fyr
The moore it brenneth / the moore it hath de{s}yr
To con{s}umen euery thyng/ |þt| brent wol be
Thow sei{s}t/ right as wormes shende a tree
Right so a wyf / de{s}troyeth hir hou{s}bonde
This knowen they / that been to wyues bonde
¶Lordynges / right thus / as ye han vnder{s}tonde
Bar I stifly / myne olde hou{s}bondes on honde
That thus they seyden / in hir dronkene{ss}e
And al was fals / but that I took witne{ss}e
On Iankyn / and on my Nece al{s}o
O lord / the pyne I dide hem / and the wo
fful giltlees / by goddes swete pyne
ffor as an hors / I koude byte and whyne
I koude pleyne / and I was in the gilt
Or ellis / often tyme / I hadde been spilt/
Who so that fir{s}t to Mille comth / fir{s}t grynt/
I pleyned fir{s}t/ so was oure wer|re| stynt/
They were ful glad / to excu{s}en hem ful blyue
Of thyng/ of which they neuere agilte hir lyue
Of wenches / wolde I bern hem on honde
Whan that for syk/ they myghte vnnethe stonde
Yet tikled I his herte / for that he
Wende that I hadde had of hym / {s}o greet chiertee

{{Folio 63r}}

I swoor / that my walkyng/ out by nyghte
Was for to e{s}pye / wenches that he dighte
Vnder that colour / hadde I many a myrthe
ffor al swich wit/ is yeuen vs in oure birthe
Deceite / wepyng/ spynnyng/ god hath yeue
To wommen kyndely / whil they may lyue
And thus / of o thyng/ I auante me
At ende / I hadde the bet in ech degree
By sleighte / or force / or by som maner thyng/
As by continuel murmur / or grucchyng/
Namely abedde / hadden they me{s}chaunce
Ther wolde I chide / and do hem no ple{s}aunce
I wolde no lenger / in the bed abyde
If that I felte his arm / ouer my syde
Til he hadde maad / his raunceon vn to me
Thanne wolde I suffre hym / do his nycetee
And ther fore / euery man / this tale I telle
Wynne who so may / for al is for to selle
With empty hond / men may none haukes lure
ffor wynnyng/ wolde I al his lu{s}t endure
And make me / a feyned appetit/
And yet in baco|un| / hadde I ne|uer|e delit
That made me / that euere I wolde hem chyde
ffor thogh the Pope / hadde seten hem bi{s}yde
I wolde noght spare hem / at hir owene bord
ffor by my trouthe / I quytte hem / word for word
As help me / verray god omnipotent
Togh I right now / sholde make my te{s}tament/
I ne owe hem nat a word / that it nys quyt/
I broghte it so aboute / by my wit
That they mo{s}te yeue it vp / as for the be{s}te
Or ellis / hadde we ne|uer|e been in re{s}te
ffor thogh he looked / as a wood leo|un|
Yet sholde he faille / of his conclu{s}io|un|
¶Thanne wolde I seye / good lief taak keep
How mekely / looketh Wilkyn oure sheep
Com neer my spou{s}e / lat me ba thy cheke
Ye sholden be / al pacient / and meke
And han / a swete spyced con{s}cience
Sith ye so |pre|che / of Iobes pacience

{{Folio 63v}}

Suffreth alwey / syn ye so wel kan |pre|che
And but ye do / |cer|teyn we shal yow teche
That it is fair / to han a wyf in pees
Oon of vs two / mo{s}te bowen doutelees
And sith a man / is moore re{s}onable
Than womman is / ye mo{s}ten been suffrable
What eyleth yow / to grucche thus and grone
Is it/ for ye wolde haue / my queynte allone
Wy taak it al / lo haue it euery del
Peter I shrewe yow / but ye loue it wel
ffor if I wolde selle / my bele cho{s}e
I koude walke / as fre{ss}h as is a ro{s}e
But I wol kepe it/ for youre owene tooth
Ye be to blame / by god I sey yow sooth
Swiche manere wordes / hadde we on honde
Now wol I speke / of my ferthe hou{s}bonde
My ferthe hou{s}bonde / was a reuelour
This is to seyn / he hadde a |per|amour
And I was yong/ and ful of ragerye
Stibourne and strong/ and ioly as a pye
How koude I daunce / to an harpe smale
And synge ywys / as any nyghtyngale
Whan I hadde dronke / a draghte of swete wyn
Metellyus / the foule cherl the swyn
That with a staf / birafte his wyf hir lyf
ffor she drank/ wyn /. though I hadde been his wyf
Ne sholde nat/ han daunted me fro drynke
And after wyn / on Venus mo{s}te I thynke
ffor al{s}o siker / as coold engendreth hayl
A likerous mouth / mo{s}te han a likerous tayl
In womman vynolent / is no defence
This knowen lechours / by experience
But lord cri{s}t/ whan |þt| it remembreth me
Vp on my youthe / and on my iolytee
It tikeleth me / aboute myn herte roote
Vn to this day / it dooth myn herte boote
That I haue had my world / as in my tyme
But age allas / that al wole enuenyme
Hath me biraft/ my beautee / and my pith
Lat go farwel / the deuel go ther with

{{Folio 64r}}

The flour is goon / ther is namoore to telle
The bren as I be{s}t kan / now mo{s}te I selle
But yet/ to be right murye / wol I fonde
Now wol I tellen / of my ferthe hou{s}bonde
¶I seye I hadde in herte gret de{s}pit
That he / of any oother had delit
But he was quyt/ by god and by Seint Ioce
I made hym / of the same wode a troce
Nat of my body / in no foul manere
But |cer|teynly / I made folk swich chiere
That in his owene grece / I made hym frye
ffor angre / and for verray Ialou{s}ye
By god / in erthe / I was his purgatorie
ffor which I hope / his soule be in glorie
ffor god it woot/ he sat ful ofte and soong /
Whan |þt| his shoo / ful bitterly hym wroong/
Ther was no wight/ saue god and he / |þt| wi{s}te
In many wi{s}e / how soore I hym twi{s}te
He deyde / whan I cam fro |Ier{_lm}|
And lyth ygraue / vnder the roode beem
Al is his toumbe / noght so curyus
As was the sepulcre / of hym Daryus
Which that Appellus / wroghte subtilly
It nys but wa{s}t/ to burye hym |pre|ciou{s}ly
Lat hym fare wel / god gyue his soule re{s}te


He is now / in his |gra|ue / and in his che{s}te


Now / of my fifthe hou{s}bonde / wol I telle
God lat his soule / neuere come in helle
And yet was he to me / the moo{s}te shrewe
That feele I / on my rybbes al by rewe
And euere shal / vn to myn endyng day
But in oure bed / he was so fre{ss}h and gay
And ther with al / so wel koude he me glo{s}e
Whan that he wolde / han my bele cho{s}e
That thogh he hadde me bet/ on euery bon
He koude wynne agayn / my loue anon
I trowe I loued hym be{s}t/ for that he
Was of his loue / daungerous to me
We wommen han / if that I shal nat lye
In this matere / a queynte fanta{s}ye

{{Folio 64v}}

Wayte what thyng/ we may nat lightly haue
Ther after / wol we crye al day / and craue
fforbede vs thyng/ and that de{s}iren we
Pree{ss}e on vs fa{s}te / and thanne wol we fle
With daunger / oute we / al oure chaffare
Greet prees at Market / maketh deere ware
And to greet cheep / is holden at litel prys
This knoweth euery womman / that is wys
¶My fifthe hou{s}bonde / god his soule ble{ss}e
Which |þt| I took for loue / and no ryche{ss}e
He som tyme / was a clerk of Oxenford
And hadde laft scole / and wente at hom to bord
With my go{ss}yb / dwellyng in oure town
God haue hir soule / hir name was Ali{s}oun
She knew myn herte / and eek my pryuetee
Bet than oure pary{ss}he pree{s}t/ as mote I thee
To hire biwreyed I / my con{s}eil al
ffor hadde myn hou{s}bonde / pi{ss}ed on a wal
Or doon a thyng/ that sholde haue co{s}t his lyf
To hire / and to another worthy wyf
And to my Nece / which |þt| I loued wel
I wolde han toold / his con{s}eil euery del
And so I dide / ful often / god it woot/
That made his face / often reed and hoot
ffor verray shame / and blamed hym self/ for he
Hadde toold to me / so greet a pryuetee
¶And so bifel / that ones in a lente
So often tymes / I to my go{ss}yb wente
ffor euere yet/ I louede to be gay
And for to walke / in March / Aueryll / and May
ffrom hous to hous / to here sondry tales
That Iankyn Clerk / and my go{ss}yb dame Alys
And I my self / in to the feeldes wente
Myn hou{s}bonde was at londo|un| / al that lente
I hadde / the bettre ley{s}er for to pleye
And for to se / and eek for to be seye
Of lu{s}ty folk/ what wi{s}te {^}{{I}} wher my |gra|ce
Was shapen for to be / or in what place
Ther fore / I made my vi{s}itacions
To vigilies / and to proce{ss}ions

{{Folio 65r}}

To |pre|chyng/ eek / and to thi{s}e pilgrymages
To pleyes of myracles / and to mariages
And wered vp on / my gaye scarlet gytes
Thi{s}e wormes / ne thi{s}e moththes / ne thi{s}e Mytes
Vp on my peril / frete hem neuer a del
And wo{s}tow / why / for they were v{s}ed wel
¶Now wol I tellen forth / what happed me
I seye / that in the feeldes walked we
Til trewely / we hadde swich daliaunce
This clerk / and I / that of my |pur|ueiaunce
I spak to hym / and seyde hym / how that he
If I were wydewe / sholde wedde me
ffor certeynly / I seye for no bob|_an|ce
Yet was I neuere / with outen puruei|an|ce
Of mariage / nof othere thynges eek /
I holde a mou{s}es herte / noght worth a leek/
That hath but oon hole / for to sterte to
And if that faille / thanne is al y do
But now {s}ire / lat me se / what shal I seyn
A .ha. by god / I haue my tale ageyn
¶Whan that my fourthe hou{s}bonde / was a beere
I weep algate / and made sory cheere
As wyues mooten / for it is v{s}age
And with my co|uer|chief / couered my vi{s}age
But for that I was / purueyed of a make
I wepte but smal / and that I vndertake
¶To chirche was myn hou{s}bonde / born a morwe
With neghebores / that for hym maden sorwe
And Iankyn oure clerk / was oon of tho
As help me god / whan that I saw hym go
After the beere / me thoughte he hadde a payre
Of legges / and of feet/ so clene and fayre
That al myn herte / I yaf vn to his hoold
He was I trowe / twenty wynter oold
And I was fourty / if I shal seye sooth
But yet I hadde alwey / a coltes tooth
Gat tothed I was / |&| that bicam me weel
I hadde the preente / of Seynt Venus seel
As help me god / I was a lu{s}ty oon
And fayr/ and ryche / and yong/ and wel bigoon

{{Folio 65v}}

And trewely / as myne hou{s}bondes tolde me
I hadde the be{s}te quonyam / myghte be
Myn a{s}cendent/ was Taur / and Mars ther Inne
Allas / allas / that e|uer|e loue was synne
I folwed ay / myn Inclinacio|un|
By vertu / of my con{s}tellacio|un|
That made me / I koude noght withdrawe
My chambre of Venus / from a good felawe
¶What sholde I seye / but at the Monthes ende
This ioly clerk / Iankyn |þt| was so hende
Hath wedded me / with greet solempnytee
And to hym yaf I / al the lond and fee
That euere was me yeuen / ther bifore
But afterward / repented me ful sore
He nolde suffre / no thyng of my li{s}t/
By god / he smoot me ones / on the ly{s}t/
ffor that I rente / out of his book {^}{{a}} leef
That of the strook/ myn ere weex al deef
Stibourne I was as is a leone{ss}e
And of my tonge / a verray Ianglere{ss}e
And walke I wolde / as I hadde doon biforn
ffrom hous to hous / al thogh he hadde it sworn
ffor which / he often tymes / wolde |pre|che
And me / of olde Romayn ge{s}tes teche
How he Symplicius Gallus / lafte his wif
And hire for{s}ook/ for terme of al his lif/
Noght/ but for open heueded he hir say
Lokynge out at his dore / vp on a day
¶Another Romayn / tolde he me by name
That for his wyf / was at a so|mer|es game
With outen his wityng/ he for{s}ook hi|re| eke
And thanne wolde he / vp on his Bible seke
That ilke |pro||uer|be / of Eccle{s}ia{s}te
Where he comandeth / and forbedeth fa{s}te
Man shal nat suffre his wyf / go roule aboute
Thanne wolde he seye right thus / with outen doute
Who so |þt| buyldeth his hous / al of salwes }
And priketh his blynde hors / ouer the falwes }


And suffreth his wyf / to go seken halwes
Is worthy / to ben hanged on the galwes

{{Folio 66r}}

But al for noght/ I sette noght an hawe
Of his |pro||uer|be / nof his olde sawe
Ny wolde nat/ of hym corrected be
I hate hym / |þt| my vices telleth me
And so doon mo / god woot of vs than I
This made hym / with me wood al outrely
I nolde noght forbere hym / in no cas
¶Now wol I sey yow sooth / by Seint Thomas
Why |þt| I rente / out of his book a leef
ffor which / he smoot me so / |þt| I was deef
He hadde a book / |þt| gladly nyght and day
ffor his di{s}port/ he wolde rede alway
He clepyd it/ Valerie and Theofra{s}te
At which book / he logh alwey ful fa{s}te
And eek ther was / som tyme a clerk at Rome
A Cardynal / that highte Seint Ierome
That made a book/ agayn Iovinian
In which book/ eek ther was Tertulan
Cri{s}ippus / Trotula / and Helowys
That was Abbe{ss}e / nat fer fro Parys
And eek the parables / of Salomon
Ouydes art/ and bokes many on
And alle thi{s}e were bounden / in o volume
And euery nyght and day / was his cu{s}tume
Whan he hadde ley{s}er / and vacacio|un|
ffrom oother / worldly ocupacio|un|
To reden in this book/ of wikked wyues
He knew of hem / mo legendes and lyues
Than been of goode wyues in the Bible
ffor tru{s}teth wel / it is an inpo{ss}ible
That any clerk/ wol speke good of wyues
But if it be / of holy seintes lyues
Nof noon oother womman / neuer the mo
Who peynted the leo|un| / tel me who
By god / if w|om|men / hadden writen stories
As clerkes han / with Inne hir oratories
They wolde han writen of men / moore wikkedne{ss}e
Than al the mark of Adam may redre{ss}e
The children / of Mercurie and Venus
Been in hir wirkyng / ful contrarius

{{Folio 66v}}

Mercurie loueth / wy{s}dam and science
And Venus loueth / Riot and di{s}pence
And for hir di|uer|{s}e / di{s}po{s}icio|un|
Ech faileth / in ootheres exaltacio|un|
And thus god woot/ Mercurie is de{s}olat
In pi{s}ces / wher Venus is exaltat/
And Venus faileth / ther Mercurie is rey{s}ed
Ther fore no w|om|man / of no clerk is prey{s}ed
The clerk/ whan he is old / and may noght do
Of Venus werkes / worth his olde sho
Thanne sit he doun / and writ in his dotage
That wommen / kan nat kepe hir mariage
¶But now to purpos / why I tolde thee
That I was beten / for a book pardee
Vp on a nyght/ Iankyn |þt| was oure sire
Redde on his book / as he sat by the fire
Of Eua fir{s}t / |þt| for hir wikkedne{ss}e
Was al man kynde / broght to wrecchedne{ss}e
¶Tho redde he me / how Samp{s}on lo{s}te his herys
Slepynge / his lemman kitte it |with| hir sherys
Thurgh which tre{s}o|un| / lo{s}te he bothe hi{s}e eyen
¶Tho redde he me / if that I shal nat lyen
Of Hercules / and of his Dianyre
That cau{s}ed hym / to sette hym self afyre
¶No thyng forgat he / the sorwe and wo
That Socrates / hadde with his wyues two
How xantippa / ca{s}te pi{ss}e vp on his heed
This sely man sat {s}tille / as he were deed
He wipte his heed / namoore dor{s}te he seyn
But er that thonder stynte / comth a reyn
¶Of Pha{s}ifpha / that was the queene of Crete
ffor shrewedne{ss}e / hym thoughte the tale swete
ffy spek namoore / it is a gri{s}ly thyng/
Of hi|re| horrible lu{s}t/ and hir likyng/
¶Of Clitermy{s}tra / for hir lecherye
That fal{s}ly / made hir hou{s}bonde for to dye
He redde it/ with ful good deuocio|un|
¶He tolde me eek / for what occa{s}io|un|
Amphiorax / at Thebes lo{s}te his lyf
Myn hou{s}bonde / hadde a legende of his wyf

{{Folio 67r}}

¶Exiphilem / that for an Ouch of gold
Hath |pre|uely / vn to the grekys told
Wher |þt| hir hou{s}bonde / hidde hym in a place
ffor which / he hadde at Thebes sory grace
¶Of lyma tolde he me / and of lucie
They bothe / made hir hou{s}bondes for to dye
That oon for loue / that oother was for hate
Lyma hir hou{s}bonde / on an euen late
Empoy{s}oned hath / for |þt| she was his fo
Lucya likerous / loued hir hou{s}bonde so
That for he sholde alwey / vp on hir thynke
She yaf hym / swich a manere loue drynke
That he was deed / er it were by the morwe
And thus algates / hou{s}bondes han sorwe
¶Thanne tolde he me / how |þt| oon latumyus
Compleyned / vn to his felawe Arrius
That in his gardyn / growed swich a tree
On which he seyde / how |þt| hi{s}e wyues thre
Honged hem self / for hertes de{s}pitus
¶O leeue brother / quod this Arrius
Yif me a plante / of thilke ble{ss}ed tree
And in my gardyn / planted shal it be
¶Of latter date of wyues / hath he red
That s|om|me han slayn / hir hou{s}bondes in hir bed
And lete hir Lechour / dighte hi|re| al the nyght/
Whan |þt| the corps / lay in the floor vp ryght/
¶And s|om|me / han dryuen nayles in hir brayn
Whil |þt| they sleepe / and thus they han hem slayn
¶S|om|me han hem yeuen poy{s}o|un| / in hir drynke
He spak moore harm / than herte may bithynke
And ther with al / he knew of mo |pro|uerbes
Than in this world / ther growen gras or herbes
Bet is quod he / thyn habitacio|un|
Be with a leo|un| / or a foul drago|un|
Than |with| a womman / v{s}yng for to chide
Bet is quod he / hye in the roof abyde
Than with an angry wyf / down in the hous
They been {s}o wikked / and contrarious
They haten / that hir hou{s}bondes loueth ay
He seyde / a womman / ca{s}t hir shame away

{{Folio 67v}}

Whan she ca{s}t of hir smok/ and forther mo
A fair w|om|man / but she be chaa{s}t al{s}o
Is lyk a gold ryng/ in a sowes no{s}e
Who wolde wene / or who wolde suppo{s}e
The wo / that in myn herte was and pyne
¶And whan I say / he wolde ne|uer|e fyne
To reden / on this cur{s}ed book al nyght/
Al {s}odeynly / thre leues / haue I plyght/
Out of his book/ right as he radde / and eke
I with my fi{s}t/ so took on the cheke
That in oure fyr / he fil bakward adown
And he vp {s}tirte / as dooth a wood leoun
And with his fe{s}t / he smoot me on the heed
That in the floor / I lay as I were deed
And whan he say / how stille |þt| I lay
He was aga{s}t/ and wolde haue fled his way
Til atte la{s}te / out of my swowgh I brayde
O ha{s}tow slayn me / fal{s}e theef I sayde
And for my land / thus ha{s}tow mordred me
Er I be deed / yet wol I ki{ss}e thee
¶And neer he cam / and kneled faire adown
And seyde / deere su{s}ter Ali{s}oun
As help me god / I shal thee ne|uer|e smyte
That I haue doon / it is thy self to wyte
fforyeue it me / and that I thee bi{s}eke
And yet eft {s}oones / I hitte hym on the cheke
And seyde theef / thus muchel am I wreke
Now wol I dye / I may no lenger speke
¶But at the la{s}te / with muchel care and wo
We fille acorded / by vs seluen two
He yaf me / al the brydel in myn hond
To han the gouernance / of hous and lond
And of his tonge / and his hond al{s}o
And made hym brenne his book/ anon right tho
And whan that I hadde / geten vn to me
By mai{s}trye / al the soueraynetee
And |þt| he seyde / myn owene trewe wyf
Do as thee lu{s}t/ the |ter|me of al thy lyf
Keep thyn honour / and keep eek myn e{s}taat
After that day / we hadden ne|uer|e debaat /

{{Folio 68r}}

God help me {s}o / I was to hym as kynde
As any wyf / from Denmark/ vn to Inde
And al{s}o trewe / and so was he to me
I pray to god / that sit in mage{s}tee
So ble{ss}e his soule / for his |mer|cy deere
Now wol I seye my tale / if ye wol heere
The frere logh / whan he hadde herd al this
Now dame quod he / so haue I ioye / or blys
This is a long |pre|amble / of a tale
And whan the Somnour / herde the frere gale
¶Lo quod the Somnour / goddes armes two
A frere / wol entremette hym e|uer|e mo
Loo goode men / a flye / and eek a frere
Wol falle in euery dy{ss}h and matere
What speke{s}tow / of preambulacioun
What amble / or trotte / or pees / or go sit doun
Thow lette{s}t oure di{s}port/ in this manere
¶Ye woltow so / sir Somnour / quod the frere
Now by my feith / I shal er that I go
Telle of a Somnour / swich a tale / or two
That al the folk / shal laughen in this place
¶Now ellis frere / I wol bi{s}hrewe thy face
Quod this Somnour / and I bi{s}hrewe me
But if I telle tales / two or thre
Of freres / er I come to Sydyngborne
That I shal make thyn herte for to morne
ffor wel I woot/ thy pacience is gon
¶Oure hoo{s}t/ cryde pees / and that anon
And seyde / lat the womman / telle hir tale
Ye fare as folk / that dronken ben of Ale
Do dame / tel forth youre tale / and that is be{s}t/
¶Al reddy sire quod she / right as yow le{s}t/
If I haue licence / of this worthy frere
¶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

IN tholde dayes / of the kyng Arthour
Of which that Britons / speken greet honour
Al was this land / fulfild of ffairye
The Elf queene / with hir ioly compaignye
Daunced ful ofte / in many a grene mede
This was / the olde opynyo|un| / as I rede
I speke / of many hundred yerys ago
But now kan no man / se none Elues mo
ffor now the grete charitee / and prayeres
Of lymytours / and othere holy freres
That serchen / euery lond and euery streem
As thikke / as motes in the sonne beem
Ble{ss}ynge halles / chambres / kichenes boures
Citees / Burghes / Ca{s}tels / hye Toures
Thropes / Bernes / Shipnes / Dayeryes
This maketh / |þt| ther been no fairyes
ffor ther as wont/ to walken was an Elf
Ther walketh now / the lymytour hym self
In vndermelys / and in morwenynges
And seith his matyns / and his holy thynges
As he gooth / in his lymytacioun
Wommen / may go saufly vp and down
In euery bu{ss}h / or vnder euery tree
Ther is noon oother Incubus / but he
And he ne wol doon hem / but di{s}honour
¶And so bifel / that this kyng Arthour
Hadde in his hous / a lu{s}ty Bachiler
That on a day / cam ridyng fro Ryuer
And happed that allone / as he was born
He say a mayde / walkynge hym biforn
Of which mayde / anoon maugree hir hed
By verray force / he rafte hir maydenhed
ffor which o|pp'|{ss}io|un| / was swich clamour
And swich pur{s}uyte / vn to the kyng Arthour
That dampned was this knyght / for to be deed
By cours of lawe / and sholde han lo{s}t his heed

{{Folio 69r}}

Par auenture / swich was the statut tho
But that the queene / and othere ladyes mo
So longe preyden / the kyng of grace
Til he his lyf / hym graunted in the place
And yaf hym to the queene / al at hir wille
To che{s}e / wheither she wolde / hym saue or spille
And after this / thus spak she to the knyght
Whan that she saw / hir tyme vp on a day
Thow stande{s}t yet quod she / in swich array
That of thy lyf / yet ha{s}tow no {s}uretee
I graunte thee lyf / if thow kan{s}t tellen me
What thyng is it/ |þt| wommen moo{s}t de{s}iren
Be war / and keep thy nekke boon from Iren
And if thow kan{s}t nat / tellen me anon
Yet/ wol I yeue thee leue / for to gon
A twelf monthe and a day / to seche and lere
An an{s}were suffi{s}ant/ in this matere
And {s}euretee wol I han / er that thow pace
Thy body / for to yelden / in this place
¶Wo was this knyght/ and sorwefully he siketh
But what/ he may nat doon / al as hym liketh
And atte la{s}te / he chees hym for to wende
And come agayn / right at the yeres ende
With swich an{s}were / as god wolde hym |pur|ueye
And taketh his leue / and wendeth forth his weye
He seketh euery hous / and euery place
Where as he hopeth / for to fynde grace
To lerne / what thyng/ wommen loue moo{s}t
But he ne koude / arryuen in no coo{s}t/
Where as he myghte fynde / in this matere
Two creatures / acordyng/ in feere
¶S|om|me seyden / wommen louen be{s}t riche{ss}e
S|om|me seyde honour / s|om|me seyde Iolifne{ss}e
S|om|me riche array / s|om|me lu{s}t abedde
And ofte tyme / to be widwe and wedde
S|om|me seyde / that oure herte / is moo{s}t e{s}ed
Whan that we been / yflatered and yple{s}ed
He gooth ful ny the sothe / I wol nat lye
A man shal wynne vs be{s}t / with flaterye

{{Folio 69v}}

And with attendaunce / and with bi{s}yne{ss}e
Been we ylymed / bothe moore and le{ss}e
¶And s|om|me seyn / |þt| we louen be{s}t
ffor to be free / and do right as vs le{s}t/
And that no man / repreue vs of oure vice
But seye |þt| we be wi{s}e / and no thyng nyce
ffor trewely / ther is noon of vs alle
If any wight/ wolde clawe vs on the galle
That we nyl kike / for he weith vs sooth
A{ss}ay / and he shal fynde it/ that so dooth
ffor be we / ne|uer| {s}o vicious / with Inne
We wol be holden wi{s}e / and clene of synne
¶And s|om|me seyn / that greet delit han we
ffor to be holden / stable and eek secree
And in o purpos / {s}tedefa{s}tly to dwelle
And nat biwreye thyng/ that men vs telle
But that tale / is nat worth a Rake stele
Pardee / we wommen / konne no thyng hele
Witne{ss}e on Mida / wol ye heere the tale
¶Ouyde / amonges othere thynges smale
Seyde / Mida / hadde vnder his longe herys
Growynge vp on his heed / two A{ss}es erys
The which vice he hidde / as he be{s}t myghte
fful sotilly / from euery mannes sighte
That {s}aue his wyf / ther wi{s}te of it na mo
He loued hi|re| moo{s}t/ and tru{s}ted hi|re| al{s}o
He preyed hi|re| / that to no creature
SHe sholde tellen / of his diffigure
¶She swoor hym nay / for al this world to wynne
She nolde do / that vileynye / or syn
To make hir hou{s}bonde / han {s}o foul a name
She nolde nat telle it/ for hir owene shame
But nathelees / hir thoughte |þt| she dyde
That she {s}o longe / sholde a con{s}eil hyde
Hir thoughte / it swal {s}o {s}oore aboute hir herte
That nedely / som word / hir mo{s}te a{s}terte
And sith / she dor{s}te nat telle it to no man
Doun to a Marys / fa{s}te by she ran
Til she cam there / hir herte was a fyre
And as a Bitore / bombleth in the Myre

{{Folio 70r}}

She leyde hir mouth / vn to the water down
Biwrey me nat/ thow water with thy sown
Quod she / to thee I telle it and namo
Myn hou{s}bonde / hath longe A{ss}es erys two
Now is myn herte al hool / now it is oute
I myghte no lenger / kepe it out of doute
Heere may ye see / thogh we a tyme abyde
Yet out it moot/ we kan no con{s}eil hyde
The remenant of the tale / if ye wol heere
Redeth Ouyde / and ther ye may it leere
¶This knyght/ of which my tale is specially
Whan that he say / he myghte nat come ther by
This is to seye / what wommen louen moo{s}t/
With Inne his bre{s}t/ ful sorweful was the goo{s}t /
But hom he gooth / he myghte nat soiorne
The day was come / that homward mo{s}te he torne
And in his wey / it happed hym to ryde
In al this care / vnder a ffore{s}t syde
Wher as he say / vp on a daunce go
Of ladyes .xxiiij. and yet mo
Toward the whiche daunce / he drow ful yerne
In hope / that som wi{s}dom sholde he lerne
But |cer|teynly / er he cam fully there
Vany{ss}hed was this daunce / he ny{s}te where
No creature say he / that bar lyf
Saue on the grene / he say sittynge a wyf
A fouler wight/ ther may no man deuy{s}e
Agayn the knyght/ this olde wyf gan ry{s}e
And seyde sire knyght/ heer forth ne lyth no wey
Tel me / what |þt| ye seken by youre fey
Par auenture / it may the bettre be
This olde folk/ konne muchel thyng quod she
¶My leeue moder / quod this knyght |cer|teyn
I nam but deed / but if that I kan seyn
What thyng it is / that wommen moo{s}t de{s}ire
Koude ye me wi{ss}e / I wolde wel quyte youre hyre
¶Plight me thy trouthe / here in myn hand quod she
The nexte thyng/ that I requere thee
Thow shalt it do / if it lye in thy myght/
And I wol telle it yow / er it be nyght/

{{Folio 70v}}

[¶]Haue here my trouthe / quod the knyght I graunte
¶Thanne quod she / I dar me wel auaunte
Thy lyf is sauf / for I wole {s}tonde ther by
Vp on my lyf / the queene wol {s}eye as I
Lat see / which is the proudde{s}te of hem alle
That wereth on / a co|uer|chief / or a calle
That dar weye nay / of that I shal thee teche
Lat vs go forth / with outen lenger speche
Tho rowned she / a pi{s}tel in his ere
And bad hym to be glad / and haue no fere
¶Whan they be comen to the Court/ this knyght/
Seyde / he hadde holde his day / as he had hight/
And redy was his an{s}were / as he sayde
fful many a noble wyf/ and many a mayde
And many a widwe / for |þt| they ben wi{s}e
The queene hir self / sittyng as Iu{s}ti{s}e
A{ss}embled been / this an{s}were for to here
And afterward / this knyght was bode appere
To euery wight/ comanded was silence
And that the knyght/ sholde telle in audience
What thyng/ that worldly wommen louen be{s}t/
This knyght/ ne stood nat {s}tille as dooth a be{s}t/
But to his que{s}tion / anon an{s}werde
With manly voys / that al the court it herde
¶My lige lady / generally quod he
Wommen de{s}ire / to haue souereyntee
As wel / ouer hir hou{s}bonde / as hir loue
And for to been in mai{s}trie / hym aboue
This is youre moo{s}te de{s}ir / thogh ye me kille
Dooth as yow li{s}t/ I am here at youre wille
¶In al the Court/ ne was ther wyf ne mayde
Ne wydwe / that contraryed that he sayde
But seyden / he was worthy han his lyf
¶And with that word / vp {s}tirte that olde wyf
Which that the knyght/ say sittyng on the grene
Mercy quod she / my so|uer|eyn lady queene
Er that youre Court departe / do me right/
I taughte this an{s}were / vn to the knyght/
ffor which / he plighte me his trouthe there
The fir{s}te thyng/ I wolde hym requere

{{Folio 71r}}

He wolde it do / if it laye in his myght/
Bifore the court/ thanne preye I thee sire knyght/
Quod she / that thow me take vn to thy wyf
ffor wel thow woo{s}t/ that I haue kept thy lyf
If I seye fals / sey nay vp on thy fey
¶This knyght an{s}werde / allas and weilawey
I woot right wel / that swich was my bihe{s}te
ffor goddes loue / as chees a newe reque{s}te
Taak al my good / and lat my body go
¶Nay thanne quod she / I shrewe vs bothe two
ffor thogh |þt| I be foul / old / and poore
I nolde for al the metal / ne for oore
That vnder erthe is graue / / or lith aboue
But if thy wyf I were / and eek thy loue
¶My loue quod he / nay my dampnacio|un|
Allas / that any of my nacio|un|
Sholde euere / so foule dis|per|aged be
But al for noght/ thende is this / that he
Con{s}treyned was / he nedes mo{s}te hir wedde
And taketh his olde wyf / and goth to bedde
¶Now wolden som men / seye |per| auenture
That for my necligence / I do no cure
To tellen yow / the ioye / and al tharray
That at the fe{s}te / was that ilke day
To which thyng/ shortly / an{s}were I shal
I seye / ther nas no ioye / ne fe{s}te at al
Ther nas but heuyne{ss}e / and muche sorwe
ffor |pri|uely / he wedded hi|re| on morwe
And al day after/ hidde hym as an Owle
So wo was hym / his wyf looked {s}o foule
¶Greet was the wo / the knyght hadde in his thoght/
Whan he was with his wyf / a bedde ybroght/
He walweth / and he turneth to and fro
His olde wyf / lay smylyng e|uer|e mo
And seyde / o deere hou{s}bonde benedicite
ffareth euery knyght thus with his wyf / as ye
Is this the lawe / of kyng Arthures hous
Is euery knyght of his/ thus daungerous
I am youre owene loue / and youre wyf
I am she / which that saued hath youre lyf

{{Folio 71v}}

And |cer|tes / yet ne dide I yow ne|uer|e vnright/
Why fare ye thus with me / this fir{s}te nyght/
Ye faren lyk a man / hadde lo{s}t his wit
What is my gilt / for goddes loue tel it
And it shal ben amended / if I may
¶Amended quod this knyght/ allas nay / nay
It wol nat ben amended ne|uer|e mo
Thow art so loothly / and {s}o old al{s}o
And ther to comen / of {s}o lowe a kynde
That litel wonder is / thogh I walwe and wynde
So wolde god / myn herte wolde bre{s}te
¶Is this quod she / the cau{s}e of youre vnre{s}te
¶Ye |cer|teynly quod he / no wonder is
¶Now sire quod she / I koude amende al this
If that me li{s}te / er it were dayes thre
So wel ye myghte / bere yow vn to me

¶No|ta| bene

¶But for ye speken / of swich gentille{ss}e
As is de{s}cended / out of old riche{ss}e
That therfore / sholden ye be gentil men
Swich erroga|un|ce / is nat worth an hen
Looke who |þt| is / moo{s}t |ver|tuous alway
Pryuee and apert/ and moo{s}t entendeth ay
To do / the gentil dedes / |þt| he kan
Taak hym / for the gentile{s}te man
Cri{s}t / wol we clayme of hym oure gentile{ss}e
Nat of oure eldres / for hir old riche{ss}e
ffor thogh they yeue vs / al hir heritage
ffor which we clame / to been of hir parage
Yet may they nat biquethe / for no thyng/
To noon of vs / hir vertuous lyuyng/
That made hem / gentil men ycalled be
And bad vs / folwen hem in swich degree
¶Wel kan / the wi{s}e poete of fflorence
That highte Dant/ speken in this {s}entence
Lo / in swich maner rym / is Dantes tale
fful selde vp ri{s}eth / by his bra|un|ches smale
Prowe{ss}e of man / for god of his prowe{ss}e
Wole /. that of hym / we clayme oure gentile{ss}e
ffor of oure eldres / may we no thyng clayme
But temporel thyng/ that man may hurte and mayme

{{Folio 72r}}

Eek e|uer|y wight/ woot this as wel I
If gentile{ss}e / were planted naturelly
Vn to a |cer|teyn lynage / doun the lyne
Pryuee and apert/ thanne wolde they ne|uer|e fyne
To doon / of gentile{ss}e / the faire office
They myghte do / no vileynye or vice
¶Taak fyr / and bere it in the derke{s}te hous
Bitwix this / and the mount of kauka{s}ous
And lat men shette the dores / and go thenne
Yet wol the fyr / as faire lye and brenne
As twenty thou{s}and men / myghte it biholde
His office naturel / ay wol it holde
Vp |per|il of my lyf/ til that it dye
Here may ye se wel / how |þt| genterye
Is nat annexed / to po{ss}e{ss}io|un|
Sith folk/ ne doon hir o|per|acio|un|
Alwey / as dooth the fyr lo in his kynde
ffor god it woot/ men may wel often fynde
A lordes sone / do shame and vileynye
And he |þt| wol han prys / of his gentrye
ffor he was born / of a gentil hous
And hadde hi{s}e eldres / noble and |ver|tuous
And nyl hym seluen / do no gentil dedis
Ne folwen his gentil Aunce{s}tre / that deed is
He nys nat gentil / be he Duc/ or Erl
ffor vileynes synful dedes / maken a cherl
ffor gentile{ss}e / nys but renomee
Of thyne Aunce{s}tres / for hir hye bo|un|tee
Which is straunge thyng/ for thy |per|{s}one
Thy gentile{ss}e / cometh fro god allone
Thanne comth / oure verray gentile{ss}e of |gra|ce
It was no thyng/ biquethe vs / with oure place
¶Thenketh how noble / as seith Valerius
Was thilke / Tullius ho{s}tillius
That out of pouerte / roos to heigh noble{ss}e
Redeth Senek/ and redeth eek Boece
Ther shul ye {s}een expres / |þt| no drede is
That he is gentil / that dooth gentil dedis
And ther fore / leue hou{s}bonde / I thus conclude
Al were it/ that myne Aunce{s}tres weren rude

{{Folio 72v}}

Yet may the hye god / and {s}o hope I /
Graunte me grace / to lyuen |ver|tuou{s}ly
Thanne am I gentil / whan |þt| I bigynne
To lyuen |ver|tuou{s}ly / and weyue synne
¶And ther as ye / of po|uer|te me repreue
The hye god / on whom |þt| we bileue
In wilful po|uer|te / chees to lyue his lyf

. . .

And certes euery man / mayden / or wyf
May vnder{s}tonde / |þt| |Iesus| heuene kyng/
Ne wolde nat che{s}e / a vicious lyuyng/
Glad po|uer|te / is an hone{s}te thyng |cer|teyn
This wol Senek/ and othere clerkes seyn
Who {s}o |þt| halt hym payd / of his pouerte
I holde hym riche / al hadde he nat a sherte
He that coueiteth / is a poure wight/
ffor he wolde han / that is nat in his myght/
But he |þt| noght hath / ne coueiteth haue
Is riche / al thogh we holde hym but a knaue
Verray pouerte / is synne |prop|rely
Iuuenal seith / of pouerte myrily
¶The poure man / whan he gooth by the weye
Biforn the theues / he may synge and pleye
Pouerte is hateful good / and as I ge{ss}e
A ful greet brynge|re| / out of bi{s}yne{ss}e
A greet amendere eek/ of Sapience
To hym / that taketh it in pacience
Pouerte is thyng/ al thogh it {s}eme elenge
Po{ss}e{ss}io|un| / that no wight wol chalenge
Pouerte ful often / whan a man is lowe
Maketh hym self / and eek his god to knowe
Pouerte / a spectacle is / as thynketh me
Thurgh which he may / his verray freendes se
And ther fore sire / syn |þt| I noght yow greue
Of my pouerte / namoore ye me repreue
¶Now sire / of elde ye repreue me
And certes sire / thogh noon auctoritee
Were in no book / ye gentils of honour
Seyn / |þt| men an old wight/ sholde doon fauour
And clepe hym fader / for youre gentile{ss}e
And Auctours / shal I fynden / as I ge{ss}e

{{Folio 73r}}

¶Now ther ye seye / that I am foul and old
Thanne drede yow noght/ to been a Cokewold
ffor filthe and elde / al {s}o mote I thee
Been grete wardeyns / vp on cha{s}titee
But nathelees / syn I knowe youre delit /
I shal fulfille / youre worldly appetit/
¶Chees now quod she / oon of thi{s}e thynges tweye
To han me foul and old / til that I deye
And be to yow / a trewe humble wyf
And ne|uer|e yow di{s}ple{s}e / in al my lyf
Or ellis / ye wol han me / yong and fair
And take youre auenture / of the repair
That shal be to youre hous / by cau{s}e of me
Or in {s}om oother place / may wel be
Now chees your seluen / wheither |þt| yow liketh
¶This knyght auy{s}eth hym / and {s}oore siketh
But atte la{s}te / he seyde in this manere
My lady and my loue / and wyf {s}o deere
I putte me / in youre wi{s}e gouerna|un|ce
Che{s}eth you|re| self/ which |þt| may be moo{s}t ple{s}|_an|ce
And moo{s}t honour to yow / and me al{s}o
I do no fors / the wheither of the two
ffor as yow liketh / it suffi{s}eth me
¶Thanne haue I gete / of yow mai{s}trye / quod she
Syn I may che{s}e / and gouerne as me le{s}t/
¶Ye |cer|tes wyf quod he / I holde it be{s}t/
¶Kys me quod she / we be no lenger wrothe
ffor by my trouthe / I wol be to yow bothe
This is to seyn / ye bothe fair and good
I pray to god / that I mote {s}teruen wood
But I to yow / be al {s}o good and trewe
As euere was wyf / syn |þt| the world was newe
And but I be to morn / as fair to sene
As any lady / Emperice / or Queene
That is bitwix the E{s}t/ and eek the We{s}t/
Do with my lyf/ and deth / right as yow le{s}t/
Ca{s}t vp the Curtyn / looke how |þt| it is
And whan the knyght/ say verraily al this
That she {s}o fair was / and so yong ther to
. . .

ffor ioye he hente hi|re| / in his armes two

{{Folio 73v}}

His herte bathed / in a bath of bli{ss}e
A thou{s}and tyme a rewe / he gan hir ki{ss}e
And she obeyed hym / in euery thyng/
That myghte do hym ple{s}ance / or likyng/
And thus they lyue / vn to hir lyues ende
In |per|fit ioye / and |Iesu| cri{s}t vs sende
Hou{s}bondes meke / yonge / and fre{ss}h a bedde
And grace / to|uer|byde hem that we wedde
And eek / I praye |Iesu| shorte hir lyues
That noght wol be go|uer|ned / by hir wyues
And olde / and angry nygardes of di{s}pence
God sende hem {s}oone / verray pe{s}tilence

¶Here endeth the Wyues tale of Bathe