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1: Experience, though noon auctoritee
2: Were in this world, is right ynogh for me
3: To speke of wo that is in mariage;
4: For, lordynges, sith I twelve yeer was of age,
5: Thonked be God that is eterne on lyve,
6: Housbondes at chirche dore I have had fyve, --
7: If I so ofte myghte have ywedded bee, --
8: And alle were worthy men in hir degree.
9: But me was toold, certeyn, nat longe agoon is,
10: That sith that crist ne wente nevere but onis
11: To weddyng, in the cane of galilee,
12: That by the same ensample taughte he me
13: That I ne sholde wedded be but ones.
14: Herkne eek, lo, which a sharp word for the nones,
15: Biside a welle, jhesus, God and man,
16: Spak in repreeve of the samaritan:
17: Thou hast yhad fyve housbondes, -- quod he,
18: -- And that ilke man that now hath thee
19: Is noght thyn housbonde, -- thus seyde he certeyn.
20: What that he mente therby, I kan nat seyn;
21: But that I axe, why that the fifthe man
22: Was noon housbonde to the samaritan?
23: How manye myghte she have in mariage?
24: Yet herde I nevere tellen in myn age
25: Upon this nombre diffinicioun.
26: Men may devyne and glosen, up and doun,
27: But wel I woot, expres, withoute lye,
28: God bad us for to wexe and multiplye;
29: That gentil text kan I wel understonde.
30: Eek wel I woot, he seyde myn housbonde
31: Sholde lete fader and mooder, and take to me.
32: But of no nombre mencion made he,
33: Of bigamye, or of octogamye;
34: Why sholde men thanne speke of it vileynye?
35: Lo, heere the wise kyng, daun salomon;
36: I trowe he hadde wyves mo than oon.
37: As wolde God it were leveful unto me
38: To be refresshed half so ofte as he!
39: Which yifte of God hadde he for alle his wyvys!
40: No man hath swich that in this world alyve is.
41: God woot, this noble kyng, as to my wit,
42: The firste nyght had many a myrie fit
43: With ech of hem, so wel was hym on lyve.
44: Yblessed be God that I have wedded fyve!
45: Welcome the sixte, whan that evere he shal.
46: For sothe, I wol nat kepe me chaast in al.
47: Whan myn housbonde is fro the world ygon,
48: Som cristen man shal wedde me anon,
49: For thanne, th' apostle seith that I am free
50: To wedde, a goddes half, where it liketh me.
51: He seith that to be wedded is no synne;
52: Bet is to be wedded than to brynne
53: What rekketh me, thogh folk seye vileynye
54: Of shrewed lameth and his bigamye?
55: I woot wel abraham was an hooly man,
56: And jacob eek, as ferforth as I kan;
57: And ech of hem hadde wyves mo than two,
58: And many another holy man also.
59: Wher can ye seye, in any manere age,
60: That hye God defended mariage
61: By expres word? I pray yow, telleth me.
62: Or where comanded he virginitee?
63: I woot as wel as ye, it is no drede,
64: Th' apostel, whan he speketh of maydenhede,
65: He seyde that precept therof hadde he noon.
66: Men may conseille a womman to been oon,
67: But conseillyng is no comandement.
68: He putte it in oure owene juggement;
69: For hadde God comanded maydenhede,
70: Thanne hadde he dampned weddyng with the dede.
71: And certes, if ther were no seed ysowe,
72: Virginitee, thanne wherof sholde it growe?
73: Poul dorste nat comanden, atte leeste,
74: A thyng of which his maister yaf noon heeste.
75: The dart is set up for birginitee:
76: Cacche whoso may, who renneth best lat see.
77: But this word is nat taken of every wight,
78: But ther as God lust gyve it of his myght.
79: I woot wel that th' apostel was a mayde;
80: But nathelees, thogh that he wroot and sayde
81: He wolde that every wight were swich as he,
82: Al nys but conseil to virginitee.
83: And for to been a wyf he yaf me leve
84: Of indulgence; so nys it no repreve
85: To wedde me, if that my make dye,
86: Withouten excepcion of bigamye.
87: Al were it good no womman for to touche, --
88: He mente as in his bed or in his couche;
89: For peril is bothe fyr and tow t' assemble:
90: Ye knowe what this ensample may resemble.
91: This is al and som, he heeld virginitee
92: Moore parfit than weddyng in freletee.
93: Freletee clepe I, but if that he and she
94: Wolde leden al hir lyf in chastitee.
95: I graunte it wel, I have noon envie,
96: Thogh maydenhede preferre bigamye.
97: It liketh hem to be clene, body and goost;
98: Of myn estaat I nyl nat make no boost.
99: For wel ye knowe, a lord in his houshold,
100: He nath nat every vessel al of gold;
101: Somme been of tree, and doon hir lord servyse.
102: God clepeth folk to hym in sondry wyse,
103: And everich hath of God a propre yifte,
104: Som this, som that, as hym liketh shifte.
105: Virginitee is greet perfeccion,
106: And continence eek with devocion,
107: But crist, that of perfeccion is welle,
108: Bad nat every wight he sholde go selle
109: Al that he hadde, and gyve it to the poore
110: And in swich wise folwe hym and his foore.
111: He spak to hem that wolde lyve parfitly;
112: And lordynges, by youre leve, that am nat I.
113: I wol bistowe the flour of al myn age
114: In the actes and in fruyt of mariage.
115: Telle me also, to what conclusion
116: Were membres maad of generacion,
117: And of so parfit wys a wight ywroght?
118: Trusteth right wel, they were nat maad for noght.
119: Glose whoso wole, and seye bothe up and doun,
120: That they were maked for purgacioun
121: Of uryne, and oure bothe thynges smale
122: Were eek to knowe a femele from a male,
123: And for noon oother cause, -- say ye no?
124: The experience woot wel it is noght so.
125: So that the clerkes be nat with me wrothe,
126: I sey this, that they maked ben for bothe,
127: This is to seye, for office, and for ese
128: Of engendrure, ther we nat God displese.
129: Why sholde men elles in hir bookes sette
130: That man shal yelde to his wyf hire dette?
131: Now wherwith sholde he make his paiement,
132: If he ne used his sely instrument?
133: Thanne were they maad upon a creature
134: To purge uryne, and eek for engendrure.
135: But I seye noght that every wight is holde,
136: That hath swich harneys as I to yow tolde,
137: To goon and usen hem in engendrure.
138: Thanne sholde men take of chastitee no cure.
139: Crist was a mayde, and shapen as a man,
140: And many a seint, sith that the world bigan;
141: Yet lyved they evere in parfit chastitee.
142: I nyl envye no virginitee.
143: Lat hem be breed of pured whete-seed,
144: And lat us wyves hoten barly-breed;
145: And yet with barly-breed, mark telle kan,
146: Oure lord jhesu refresshed many a man.
147: In swich estaat as God hath cleped us
148: I wol persevere; I nam nat precius.
149: In wyfhod I wol use myn instrument
150: As frely as my makere hath it sent.
151: If I be daungerous, God yeve me sorwe!
152: Myn housbonde shal it have bothe eve and morwe,
153: Whan that hym list come forth and paye his dette.
154: An housbonde I wol have, I wol nat lette,
155: Which shal be bothe my dettour and my thral,
156: And have his tribulacion withal
157: Upon his flessh, whil that I am his wyf.
158: I have the power durynge al my lyf
159: Upon his propre body, and noght he.
160: Right thus the apostel tolde it unto me;
161: And bad oure housbondes for to love us weel.
162: Al this sentence me liketh every deel --
163: Up stirte the pardoner, and that anon:
164: Now, dame, quod he, by God and by seint john!
165: Ye been a noble prechour in this cas.
166: I was aboute to wedde a wyf; allas!
167: What sholde I bye it on my flessh so deere?
168: Yet hadde I levere wedde no wyf to-yeere!
169: Abyde! quod she, my tale is nat bigonne.
170: Nay, thou shalt drynken of another tonne,
171: Er that I go, shal savoure wors than ale.
172: And whan that I have toold thee forth my tale
173: Of tribulacion in mariage,
174: Of which I am expert in al myn age,
175: This is to seyn, myself have been the whippe, --
176: Than maystow chese wheither thou wolt sippe
177: Of thilke tonne that I shal abroche.
178: Be war of it, er thou to ny approche;
179: For I shal telle ensamples mo than ten.
180: -- Whoso that nyl be war by othere men,
181: By hym shul othere men corrected be. --
182: The same wordes writeth ptholomee;
183: Rede in his almageste, and take it there.
184: Dame, I wolde praye yow, if youre wyl it were,
185: Seyde this pardoner, as ye bigan,
186: Telle forth youre tale, spareth for no man,
187: And teche us yonge men of youre praktike.
188: Gladly, quod she, sith it may yow like;
189: But that I praye to al this compaignye,
190: If that I speke after my fantasye,
191: As taketh not agrief of that I seye;
192: For myn entente is nat but for to pleye.
193: Now, sire, now wol I telle forth my tale. --
194: As evere moote I drynken wyn or ale,
195: I shal seye sooth, tho housbondes that I hadde,
196: As thre of hem were goode, and two were badde.
197: The thre were goode men, and riche, and olde;
198: Unnethe myghte they the statut holde
199: In which that they were bounden unto me.
200: Ye woot wel what I meene of this, pardee!
201: As help me god, I laughe whan I thynke
202: How pitously a-nyght I made hem swynke!
203: And, by my fey, I tolde of it no stoor.
204: They had me yeven hir lond and hir tresoor;
205: Me neded nat do lenger diligence
206: To wynne hir love, or doon hem reverence.
207: They loved me so wel, by God above,
208: That I ne tolde no deyntee of hir love!
209: A wys womman wol bisye hire evere in oon
210: To gete hire love, ye, ther as she hath noon.
211: But sith I hadde hem hoolly in myn hond,
212: And sith they hadde me yeven al hir lond,
213: What sholde I taken keep hem for to plese,
214: But it were for my profit and myn ese?
215: I sette hem so a-werke, by my fey,
216: That many a nyght they songen -- weilawey! --
217: The bacon was nat fet for hem, I trowe,
218: That som men han in essex at dunmowe.
219: I governed hem so wel, after my lawe,
220: That ech of hem ful blisful was and fawe
221: To brynge me gaye thynges fro the fayre.
222: They were ful glad whan I spak to hem faire;
223: For, God it woot, I chidde hem spitously.
224: Now herkneth hou I baar me proprely,
225: Ye wise wyves, that kan understonde.
226: Thus shulde ye speke and bere hem wrong on honde;
227: For half so boldely kan ther no man
228: Swere and lyen, as a womman kan.
229: I sey nat this by wyves that been wyse,
230: But if it be whan they hem mysavyse.
231: A wys wyf shal, it that she kan hir good,
232: Bere hym on honde that the cow is wood,
233: And take witnesse of hir owene mayde
234: Of hir assemt; but herkneth how I sayde:
235: Sire olde kaynard, is this thyn array?
236: Why is my neighbores wyf so gay?
237: She is honoured over al ther she gooth;
238: I sitte at hoom I have no thrifty clooth.
239: What dostow at my neighebores hous?
240: Is she so fair? artow so amorous?
241: What rowne ye with oure mayde? benedicite!
242: Sire olde lecchour, lat thy japes be!
243: And if I have a gossib or a freend,
244: Withouten gilt, thou chidest as a feend,
245: If that I walke or pleye unto his hous!
246: Thou comest hoom as dronken as a mous,
247: And prechest on thy bench, with yvel preef!
248: Thou seist to me it is a greet meschief
249: To wedde a povre womman, for costage;
250: And if that she be riche, of heigh parage,
251: Thanne seistow that it is a tormentrie
252: To soffre hire pride and hire malencolie.
253: And if that she be fair, thou verray knave,
254: Thou seyst that every holour wol hire have;
255: She may no while in chastitee abyde,
256: That is assailled upon ech a syde.
257: Thou seyst som folk desiren us for richesse,
258: Somme for oure shap, and somme for oure fairnesse,
259: And som for she kan outher synge or daunce,
260: And som for gentillesse and daliaunce;
261: Som for hir handes and hir armes smale:
262: Thus goth al to the devel, by thy tale.
263: Thou seyst men may nat kepe a castel wal,
264: It may so longe assailled been over al.
265: And if that she be foul, thou seist that she
266: Coveiteth every man that she may se,
267: For as a spaynel she wol on hym lepe,
268: Til that she fynde som man hire to chepe.
269: Ne noon so grey goos gooth ther in the lake
270: As, seistow, wol been withoute make.
271: And seyst it is an hard thyng for to welde
272: A thyng that no man wole, his thankes, helde.
273: Thus seistow, lorel, whan thow goost to bedde;
274: And that no wys man nedeth for to wedde,
275: Ne no man that entendeth unto hevene.
276: With wilde thonder-dynt and firy levene
277: Moote thy welked nekke be tobroke!
278: Thow seyst that droppyng houses, and eek smoke,
279: And chidyng wyves maken men to flee
280: Out of his owene hous; a! benedicitee!
281: What eyleth swich an old man for to chide?
282: Thow seyst we wyves wol oure vices hide
283: Til we be fast, and thanne we wol hem shewe, --
284: Wel may that be a proverbe of a shrewe!
285: Thou seist that oxen, asses, hors, and houndes,
286: They been assayed at diverse stoundes;
287: Bacyns, lavours, er that men hem bye,
288: Spoones and stooles, and al swich housbondrye,
289: And so been pottes, clothes, and array;
290: But folk of wyves maken noon assay,
291: Til they be wedded; olde dotard shrewe!
292: And thanne, seistow, we wol oure vices shewe.
293: Thou seist also that it displeseth me
294: But if that thou wolt preyse my beautee,
295: And but thou poure alwey upon my face,
296: And clepe me faire dame in every place.
297: And but thou make a feeste on thilke day
298: That I was born, and make me fressh and gay;
299: And but thou do to my norice honour,
300: And to my chamberere withinne my bour,
301: And to my fadres folk and his allyes, --
302: Thus seistow, olde barel-ful of lyes!
303: And yet of oure apprentice janekyn,
304: For his crispe heer, shynynge as gold so fyn,
305: And for he squiereth me bothe up and doun,
306: Yet hastow caught a fals suspecioun.
307: I wol hym noght, thogh thou were deed tomorwe!
308: But tel me this: why hydestow, with sorwe,
309: They keyes of thy cheste awey fro me?
310: It is my good as wel as thyn, pardee!
311: What, wenestow make an ydiot of oure dame?
312: Now by that lord that called is seint jame,
313: Thou shalt nat bothe, thogh that thou were wood,
314: Be maister of my body and of my good;
315: That oon thou shalt forgo, maugree thyne yen.
316: What helpith it of me to enquere or spyen?
317: I trowe thou woldest loke me in thy chiste?
318: Thou sholdest seye, wyf, go wher thee liste;
319: Taak youre disport, I wol nat leve no talys.
320: I knowe yow for a trewe wyf, dame alys.
321: We love no man that taketh kep or charge
322: Wher that we goon; we wol ben at oure large.
323: Of alle men yblessed moot he be,
324: The wise astrologien, daun ptholome,
325: That seith this proverbe in his almageste --
326: Of alle men his wysdom is the hyeste
327: That rekketh nevere who hath the world in honde.
328: By this proverbe thou shalt understonde,
329: Have thou ynogh, what thar thee recche or care
330: How myrily that othere folkes fare?
331: For, certeyn, olde dotard, by youre leve,
332: Ye shul have queynte right ynogh at eve.
333: He is to greet a nygard that wolde werne
334: A man to light a candle at his lanterne;
335: He shal have never the lasse light, pardee.
336: Have thou ynogh, thee thar nat pleyne thee.
337: Thou seyst also, that if we make us gay
338: With clothyng, and with precious array,
339: That it is peril of oure chastitee;
340: And yet, with sorwe! thou most enforce thee,
341: And seye thise wordes in the apostles name:
342: in habit maad with chastitee and shame
343: Ye wommen shul apparaille yow, quod he,
344: And noght in tressed heer and gay perree,
345: As perles, ne with gold, ne clothes riche.
346: After thy text, ne after thy rubriche,
347: I wol nat wirche as muchel as a gnat.
348: Thou seydest this, that I was lyk a cat;
349: For whoso wolde senge a cattes skyn,
350: Thanne wolde the cat wel dwellen in his in;
351: And if the cattes skyn be slyk and gay,
352: She wol nat dwelle in house half a day,
353: But forth she wole, er any day be dawed,
354: To shewe hir skyn, and goon a-caterwawed.
355: This is to seye, if I be gay, sire shrewe,
356: I wol renne out, my borel for to shewe.
357: Sire olde fool, what helpeth thee to spyen?
358: Thogh thou preye argus with his hundred yen
359: To be my warde-cors, as he kan best,
360: In feith, he shal nat kepe me but me lest;
361: Yet koude I make his berd, so moot I thee!
362: Thou seydest eek that ther been thynges thre,
363: The whiche thynges troublen al this erthe,
364: And that no wight may endure the ferthe.
365: O leeve sire shrewe, jhesu shorte thy lyf!
366: Yet prechestow and seyst and hateful wyf
367: Yrekened is for oon of thise meschances.
368: Been ther none othere maner resemblances
369: That ye may likne youre parables to,
370: But if a sely wyf be oon of tho?
371: Thou liknest eek wommenes love to helle,
372: To bareyne lond, ther water may nat dwelle.
373: Thou liknest it also to wilde fyr;
374: The moore it brenneth, the moore it hath desir
375: To consume every thyng that brent wole be.
376: Thou seyest, right as wormes shende a tree,
377: Right so a wyf destroyeth hire housbonde;
378: This knowe they that been to wyves bonde. --
379: Lordynges, right thus, as ye have understonde,
380: Baar I stifly myne olde housbondes on honde
381: That thus they seyden in hir dronkenesse;
382: And al was fals, but that I took witnesse
383: On janekyn, and on my nece also.
384: O lord! the peyne I dide hem and the wo,
385: Ful giltelees, by goddes sweete pyne!
386: For as an hors I koude byte and whyne.
387: I koude pleyne, and yit was in the gilt,
388: Or elles often tyme hadde I been spilt.
389: Whose that first to mille comth, first grynt;
390: I pleyned first, so was oure werre ystynt.
391: They were ful glade to excuse hem blyve
392: Of thyng of which they nevere agilte hir lyve.
393: Of wenches wolde I beren hem on honde,
394: Whan that for syk unnethes myghte they stonde.
395: Yet tikled I his herte, for that he
396: Wende that I hadde of hym so greet chiertee!
397: I swoor that al my walkynge out by nyghte
398: Was for t' espye wenches that he dighte;
399: Under that colour hadde I many a myrthe.
400: For al swich wit is yeven us in oure byrthe;
401: Deceite, wepyng, spynnyng God hath yive
402: To wommen kyndely, whil that they may lyve.
403: And thus of o thyng I avaunte me,
404: Atte ende I hadde the bettre in ech degree,
405: By sleighte, or force, or by som maner thyng,
406: As by continueel murmur or grucchyng.
407: Namely abedde hadden they meschaunce:
408: Ther wolde I chide, and do hem no plesaunce;
409: I wolde no lenger in the bed abyde,
410: If that I felte his arm over my syde,
411: Til he had maad his raunson unto me;
412: Thanne wolde I suffre hym do his necetee.
413: And therfore every man this tale I telle,
414: Wynne whose may, for al is for to selle;
415: With empty hand men may none haukes lure.
416: For wynnyng wolde I al his lust endure,
417: And make me feyned appetit;
418: And yet in bacon hadde I nevere delit;
419: That made me that evere I wolde hem chide.
420: For thogh the pope hadde seten hem biside,
421: I wolde nat spare hem at hir owene bord;
422: For, by my trouthe, I quitte hem word for word.
423: As helpe me verray God omnipotent,
424: Though I right now sholde make my testament,
425: I ne owe hem nat a word that it nys quit.
426: I broghte it so aboute by my wit
427: That they moste yeve it up, as for the beste,
428: Or elles hadde we nevere been in reste.
429: For thogh he looked as a wood leon,
430: Yet sholde he faille of his conclusion.
431: Thanne wolde I seye, -- goode lief, taak keep
432: How mekely looketh wilkyn, oure sheep!
433: Com neer, my spouse, lat me ba thy cheke!
434: Ye sholde been al pacient and meke,
435: And han a sweete spiced conscience,
436: Sith ye so preche of jobes pacience.
437: Suffreth alwey, syn ye so wel kan preche;
438: And but ye do, certein we shal yow teche
439: That it is fair to have a wyf in pees.
440: Oon of us two moste bowen, doutelees;
441: And sith a man is moore resonable
442: Than womman is, ye moste been suffrable.
443: What eyleth yow to grucche thus and grone?
444: Is it for ye wolde have my queynte allone?
445: Wy, taak it al! lo, have it every deel!
446: Peter! I shrewe yow, but ye love it weel;
447: For if I wolde selle my bele chose,
448: I koude walke as fressh as is a rose;
449: But I wol kepe it for youre owene tooth.
450: Ye be to blame, by god! I sey yow sooth. --
451: Swiche manere wordes hadde we on honde.
452: Now wol I speken of my fourthe housbonde.
453: My fourthe housbonde was a revelour;
454: This is to seyn, he hadde a paramour;
455: And I was yong and ful of ragerye,
456: Stibourn and strong, and joly as a pye.
457: How koude I daunce to an harpe smale,
458: And synge, ywis, as any nyghtyngale,
459: Whan I had dronke a draughte of sweete wyn!
460: Metellius, the foule cherl, the swyn,
461: That with a staf birafte his wyf hir lyf,
462: For she drank wyn, thogh I hadde been his wyf,
463: He sholde nat han daunted me from drynke!
464: And after wyn on venus moste I thynke,
465: For al so siker as cold engendreth hayl,
466: A likerous mouth moste han a likerous tayl.
467: In wommen vinolent is no defence, --
468: This knowen lecchours by experience.
469: But, lord crist! whan that it remembreth me
470: Upon my yowthe, and on my jolitee,
471: It tikleth me aboute myn herte roote.
472: Unto this day it dooth myn herte boote
473: That I have had my world as in my tyme.
474: But age, allas! that al wole envenyme,
475: Hath me biraft my beautee and my pith.
476: Lat go, farewel! the devel go therwith!
477: The flour is goon, ther is namoore to telle;
478: The bren, as I best kan, now moste I selle;
479: But yet to be right myrie wol I fonde.
480: Now wol I tellen of my fourthe housbonde.
481: I seye, I hadde in herte greet despit
482: That he of any oother had delit.
483: But he was quit, by God and by seint joce!
484: I made hym of the same wode a croce;
485: Nat of my body, in no foul manere,
486: But certeinly, I made folk swich cheere
487: That in his owene grece I made hym frye
488: For angre, and for verray jalousye.
489: By god! in erthe I was his purgatorie,
490: For which I hope his soule be in glorie.
491: For, God it woot, he sat ful ofte and song,
492: Whan that his shoo ful bitterly hym wrong.
493: Ther was no wight, save God and he, that wiste,
494: In many wise, how soore I hym twiste.
495: He deyde whan I cam fro jerusalem,
496: And lith ygrave under the roode beem,
497: Al is his tombe noght so curyus
498: As was the sepulcre of hym daryus,
499: Which that appeles wroghte subtilly;
500: It nys but wast to burye hym preciously.
501: Lat hym fare wel, God yeve his soul reste!
502: He is now in his grave and in his cheste.
503: Now of my fifthe housbonde wol I telle.
504: God lete his soule nevere come in helle!
505: And yet was he to me the mooste shrewe;
506: That feele I on my ribbes al by rewe,
507: And evere shal unto myn endyng day.
508: But in oure bed he was so fressh and gay,
509: And therwithal so wel koude he me glose,
510: Whan that he wolde han my bele chose,
511: That thogh he hadde me bete on every bon,
512: He koude wynne agayn my love anon.
513: I trowe I loved hym best, for that he
514: Was of his love daungerous to me.
515: We wommen han if that I shal nat lye,
516: In this matere a queynte fantasye;
517: Wayte what thyng we may nat lightly have,
518: Therafter wol we crie al day and crave.
519: Forbede us thyng, and that desiren we;
520: Preesse on us faste, and thanne wol we fle.
521: With daunger oute we al oure chaffare;
522: Greet prees at market maketh deere ware,
523: And to greet cheep is holde at litel prys:
524: This knoweth every womman that is wys.
525: My fifthe housbonde, God his soule blesse!
526: Which that I took for love, and no richesse,
527: He som tyme was a clerk of oxenford,
528: And hadde left scole, and wente at hom to bord
529: With my gossib, dwellynge in oure toun;
530: God have hir soule! hir name was alisoun.
531: She knew myn herte, and eek my privetee,
532: Bet than oure parisshe preest, so moot I thee!
533: To hire biwreyed I my conseil al.
534: For hadde myn housbonde pissed on a wal,
535: Or doon a thyng that sholde han cost his lyf,
536: To hire, and to another worthy wyf,
537: And to my nece, which that I loved weel,
538: I wolde han toold his conseil every deel.
539: And so I dide ful often, God it woot,
540: That made his face often reed and hoot
541: For verray shame, and blamed hymself for he
542: Had toold to me so greet a pryvetee.
543: And so bifel that ones in a lente --
544: So often tymes I to my gossyb wente,
545: For evere yet I loved to be gay,
546: And for to walke in march, averill, and may,
547: Fro hous to hous, to heere sondry talys --
548: That jankyn clerk, and my gossyb dame alys,
549: And I myself, into the feeldes wente.
550: Myn housbonde was at londoun al that lente;
551: I hadde the bettre leyser for to pleye,
552: And for to se, and eek for to be seye
553: Of lusty folk. What wiste I wher my grace
554: Was shapen for to be, or in what place?
555: Therfore I made my visitaciouns
556: To vigilies and to processiouns,
557: To prechyng eek, and to thise pilgrimages,
558: To pleyes of myracles, and to mariages,
559: And wered upon my gaye scarlet gytes.
560: Thise wormes, ne thise motthes, ne thise mytes,
561: Upon my peril, frete hem never a deel;
562: And wostow why? for they were used weel.
563: Now wol I tellen forth what happed me.
564: I seye that in the feeldes walked we,
565: Til trewely we hadde swich daliance,
566: This clerk and I, that of my purveiance
567: I spak to hym and seyde hym how that he,
568: If I were wydwe, sholde wedde me.
569: For certeinly, I sey for no bobance,
570: Yet was I nevere withouten purveiance
571: Of mariage, n' of othere thynges eek.
572: I holde a mouses herte nat worth a leek
573: That hath but oon hole for to sterte to,
574: And if that faille, thanne is al ydo.
575: I bar hym on honde he hadde enchanted me, --
576: My dame taughte me that soutiltee.
577: And eek I seyde I mette of hym al nyght,
578: He wolde han slayn me as I lay upright,
579: And al my bed was ful of verray blood;
580: But yet I hope that he shal do me good,
581: For blood bitokeneth gold, as me was taught.
582: And al was fals; I dremed of it right naught,
583: But as I folwed ay my dames loore,
584: As wel of this as of othere thynges moore.
585: But now, sire, lat me se, what I shal seyn?
586: A ha! by god, I have my tale ageyn.
587: Whan that my fourthe housbonde was on beere,
588: I weep algate, and made sory cheere,
589: As wyves mooten, for it is usage,
590: And with my coverchief covered my visage,
591: But for that I was purveyed of a make,
592: I wepte but smal, and that I undertake.
593: To chirche was myn housbonde born a-morwe
594: With neighebores, that for hym maden sorwe;
595: And jankyn, oure clerk, was oon of tho.
596: As help me god! whan that I saugh hym go
597: After the beere, me thoughte he hadde a paire
598: Of legges and of feet so clene and faire
599: That al myn herte I yaf unto his hoold.
600: He was, I trowe, a twenty wynter oold,
601: And I was fourty, if I shal seye sooth;
602: But yet I hadde alwey a coltes tooth.
603: Gat-tothed I was, and that bicam me weel;
604: I hadde the prente of seinte venus seel.
605: As help me god! I was a lusty oon,
606: And faire, and riche, and yong, and wel bigon;
607: And trewely, as myne housbondes tolde me,
608: I hadde the beste quoniam myghte be.
609: For certes, I am al venerien
610: In feelynge, and myn herte is marcien.
611: Venus me yaf my lust, my likerousnesse,
612: And mars yaf me my sturdy hardynesse;
613: Myn ascendent was taur, and mars therinne.
614: Allas! allas! that evere love was synne!
615: I folwed ay myn inclinacioun
616: By vertu of my constellacioun;
617: That made me I koude noght withdrawe
618: My chambre of venus from a good felawe.
619: Yet have I martes mark upon my face,
620: And also in another privee place.
621: For God so wys be my savacioun,
622: I ne loved nevere by no discrecioun,
623: But evere folwede myn appetit,
624: Al were he short, or long, or blak, or whit;
625: I took no kep, so that he liked me,
626: How poore he was, ne eek of what degree.
627: What sholde I seye? but, at the monthes ende,
628: This joly clerk, jankyn, that was so hende,
629: Hath wedded me with greet solempnytee;
630: And to hym yaf I al the lond and fee
631: That evere was me yeven therbifoore.
632: But afterward repented me ful soore;
633: He nolde suffre nothyng of my list.
634: By god! he smoot me ones on the lyst,
635: For that I rente out of his book a leef,
636: That of the strook myn ere wax al deef.
637: Stibourn I was as is a leonesse,
638: And of my tonge verray jangleresse,
639: And walke I wolde, as I had doon biforn,
640: From hous to hous, although he had it sworn;
641: For which he often tymes wolde preche,
642: And me of olde romayn geestes teche;
643: How he symplicius gallus lefte his wyf,
644: And hire forsook for terme of al his lyf,
645: Noght but for open-heveded he hir say
646: Lookynge out at his dore upon a day.
647: Another romayn tolde he me by name,
648: That, for his wyf was at a someres game
649: Withouten his wityng, he forsook hire eke.
650: And thanne wolde he upon his bible seke
651: That ilke proverbe of ecclesiaste
652: Where he comandeth, and forbedeth faste,
653: Man shal nat suffre his wyf go roule aboute.
654: Thanne wolde he seye right thus, withouten doute:
655: -whoso that buyldeth his hous al of salwes,
656: And priketh his blynde hors over the falwes,
657: And suffreth his wyf to go seken halwes,
658: Is worthy to been hanged on the galwes! --
659: But al for noght, I sette noght an hawe
660: Of his proverbes n' of his olde sawe,
661: Ne I wolde nat of hym corrected be.
662: I hate hym that my vices telleth me,
663: And so doo mo, God woot, of us than I.
664: This made hym with me wood al outrely;
665: I nolde noght forbere hym in no cas.
666: Now wol I seye yow sooth, by seint thomas,
667: Why that I rente out of his book a leef,
668: For which he smoot me so that I was deef.
669: He hadde a book that gladly, nyght and day,
670: For his desport he wolde rede alway;
671: He cleped it valerie and theofraste,
672: At which book he lough alwey ful faste.
673: And eek ther was somtyme a clerk at rome,
674: A cardinal, that highte seint jerome,
675: That made a book agayn jovinian;
676: In which book eek ther was tertulan,
677: Crisippus, trotula, and helowys,
678: That was abbesse nat fer fro parys;
679: And eek the parables of salomon,
680: Ovides art, and bookes many on,
681: And alle thise were bounden in o volume.
682: And every nyght and day was his custume,
683: Whan he hadde leyser and vacacioun
684: From oother worldly occupacioun,
685: To reden on this book of wikked wyves.
686: He knew of hem mo legendes and lyves
687: Than been of goode wyves in the bible.
688: For trusteth wel, it is an impossible
689: That any clerk wol speke good of wyves,
690: But if it be of hooly seintes lyves,
691: Ne of noon oother womman never the mo.
692: Who peyntede the leon, tel me who?
693: By god! if wommen hadde writen stories,
694: As clerkes han withinne hire oratories,
695: They wolde han writen of men moore wikkednesse
696: Than al the mark of adam may redresse.
697: The children of mercurie and of venus
698: Been in hir wirkyng ful contrarius;
699: Mercurie loveth wysdam and science,
700: And venus loveth ryot and dispence.
701: And, for hire diverse disposicioun,
702: Ech falleth in otheres exaltacioun.
703: And thus, God woot, mercurie is desolat
704: In pisces, wher venus is exaltat;
705: And venus falleth ther mercurie is reysed.
706: Therfore no womman of no clerk is preysed.
707: The clerk, whan he is oold, and may noght do
708: Of venus werkes worth his olde sho,
709: Thanne sit he doun, and writ in his dotage
710: That wommen kan nat kepe hir mariage!
711: But now to purpos, why I tolde thee
712: That I was beten for a book, pardee!
713: Upon a nyght jankyn, that was oure sire,
714: Redde on his book, as he sat by the fire,
715: Of eva first, that for hir wikkednesse
716: Was al mankynde broght to wrecchednesse,
717: For which that jhesu crist hymself was slayn,
718: That boghte us with his herte blood agayn.
719: Lo, heere expres of womman may ye fynde,
720: That womman was the los of al mankynde.
721: The redde he me how sampson loste his heres:
722: Slepynge, his lemman kitte it with hir sheres;
723: Thurgh which treson loste he bothe his yen.
724: Tho redde he me, if that I shal nat lyen,
725: Of hercules and of his dianyre,
726: That caused hym to sette hymself afyre.
727: No thyng forgat he the care and the wo
728: That socrates hadde with his wyves two;
729: How xantippa caste pisse upon his heed.
730: This sely man sat stille as he were deed;
731: He wiped his heed, namoore dorste he seyn,
732: But -- er that thonder stynte, comth a reyn! --
733: Of phasipha, that was the queen of crete,
734: For shrewednesse, hym thoughte the tale swete;
735: Fy! spek namoore -- it is a grisly thyng --
736: Of hire horrible lust and hir likyng.
737: Of clitermystra, for hire lecherye,
738: That falsly made hire housbonde for to dye,
739: He redde it with ful good devocioun.
740: He tolde me eek for what occasioun
741: Amphiorax at thebes loste his lyf.
742: Myn housbonde hadde a legende of his wyf,
743: Eriphilem, that for an ouche of gold
744: Hath prively unto the grekes told
745: Wher that hir housbonde hidde hym in a place,
746: For which he hadde at thebes sory grace.
747: Of lyvia tolde he me, and of lucye:
748: They bothe made hir housbondes for to dye;
749: That oon for love, that oother was for hate.
750: Lyvia hir housbonde, on an even late,
751: Empoysoned hath, for that she was his fo;
752: Lucia, likerous, loved hire housbonde so
753: That, for he sholde alwey upon hire thynke,
754: She yaf hym swich a manere love-drynke
755: That he was deed er it were by the morwe;
756: And thus algates housbondes han sorwe.
757: Thanne tolde he me how oon latumyus
758: Compleyned unto his felawe arrius
759: That in his gardyn growed swich a tree
760: On which he seyde how that his wyves thre
761: Hanged hemself for herte despitus.
762: -- O leeve brother, -- quod this arrius,
763: -- Yif me a plante of thilke blissed tree,
764: And in my gardyn planted shal it bee. --
765: Of latter date, of wyves hath he red
766: That somme han slayn hir housbondes in hir bed,
767: And lete hir lecchour dighte hire al the nyght,
768: Whan that the corps lay in the floor upright.
769: And somme han dryve nayles in hir brayn,
770: Whil that they slepte, and thus they had hem slayn.
771: Somme han hem yeve poysoun in hire drynke.
772: He spak moore harm than herte may bithynke;
773: And therwithal he knew of mo proverbes
774: Than in this world ther growen gras or herbes.
775: -- Bet is, -- quod he, -- thyn habitacioun
776: Be with a leon or foul dragoun,
777: Than with a womman usynge for to chyde --
778: -- Bet is, -- quod he, -- hye in the roof abyde,
779: Than with an angry wyf doun in the hous;
780: They been so wikked and contrarious,
781: They haten that hir housbondes loven ay. --
782: He seyde, -- a womman cast hir shame away,
783: Whan she cast of hir smok; -- and forthermo,
784: -- A fair womman, but she be chaast also,
785: Is lyk a gold ryng in a sowes nose. --
786: Who wolde wene, or who wolde suppose,
787: The wo that in myn herte was, and pyne?
788: And whan I saugh he wolde nevere fyne
789: To reden on this cursed book al nyght,
790: Al sodeynly thre leves have I plyght
791: Out of his book, right as he radde, and eke
792: I with my fest so took hym on the cheke
793: That in oure fyr he fil bakward adoun.
794: And he up stirte as dooth a wood leoun,
795: And with his fest he smoot me on the heed,
796: That in the floor I lay as I were deed.
797: And whan he saugh how stille that I lay,
798: He was agast, and wolde han fled his way,
799: Til atte laste out of my swogh I breyde.
800: -- O! hastow slayn me, false theef? -- I seyde,
801: -- And for my land thus hastow mordred me?
802: Er I be deed, yet wol I kisse thee. --
803: And neer he cam and kneled faire adoun,
804: And seyde, -- deere suster alisoun,
805: As help me god! I shal thee nevere smyte.
806: That I have doon, it is thyself to wyte.
807: Foryeve it me, and that I thee biseke! --
808: And yet eftsoones I hitte hym on the cheke,
809: And seyde, -- theef, thus muchel am I wreke;
810: Now wol I dye, I may no lenger speke. --
811: But atte laste, with muchel care and wo,
812: We fille acorded by us selven two.
813: He yaf me al the bridel in myn hond,
814: To han the governance of hous and lond,
815: And of his tonge, and of his hond also;
816: And made hym brenne his book anon right tho.
817: And whan that I hadde geten unto me,
818: By maistrie, al the soveraynette,
819: And that he seyde, -- myn owene trewe wyf,
820: Do as thee lust the terme of al thy lyf;
821: Keep thyn honour, and keep eek myn estaat --
822: After that day we hadden never debaat.
823: God helpe me so, I was to hym as kynde
824: As any wyf from denmark unto ynde,
825: And also trewe, and so was he to me.
826: I prey to god, that sit in magestee,
827: So blesse his soule for his mercy deere.
828: Now wol I seye my tale, if ye wol heere.
829: The frere lough, whan he hadde herd al this;
830: Now dame, quod he, so have I joye or blis,
831: This is a long preamble of a tale!
832: And whan the somonour herde the frere gale,
833: Lo, quod the somonour, goddes armes two!
834: A frere wol entremette hym everemo.
835: Lo, goode men, a flye and eek a frere
836: Wol falle in every dyssh and eek mateere.
837: What spwkestow of preambulacioun?
838: What! amble, or trotte, or pees, or go sit doun!
839: Thou lettest oure disport in this manere.
840: Ye, woltow so, sire somonour? quod the frere;
841: Now, by my feith, I shal, er that I go,
842: Telle of a somonour swich a tale or two,
843: That alle the folk shal laughen in this place.
844: Now elles, frere, I bishrewe thy face,
845: Quod this somonour, and I bishrewe me,
846: But if I telle tales two or thre
847: Of freres, er I come to sidyngborne,
848: That I shal make thyn herte for to morne,
849: For wel I woot thy pacience is gon.
850: Oure hooste cride pees! and that anon!
851: And seyde, lat the womman telle hire tale.
852: Ye fare as folk that dronken ben of ale.
853: Do, dame, telle forth youre tale, and that is best.
854: Al redy, sire, quod she, right as yow lest,
855: If I have licence of this worthy frere.
856: Yis, dame, quod he, tel forth, and I wol heere.