« PreviousContinue »
She is honoured over al wher she goth,
I sit at home, I have no thrifty cloth.
What dost thou at my neigheboures hous?
Is she so faire ? art thou so amorous?
What rownest thou with our maide ? benedicite,
Sire olde lechour, let thy japes be.
"And if I have a gossib, or a frend, (Withouten gilt) thou chidest as a fend, If that I walke or play unto his hous.
"Thou comest home as dronken as a mous, And prechest on thy benche, with evil prefe: Thou sayst to me, it is a gret meschiefe To wed a poure woman, for costage: And if that she be riche of high parage, Than sayst thou, that it is a tourmentrie To soffre hire pride and hire melancolie. And if that she be faire, thou veray kuave, Thou sayst that every holour wol hire have. She may no while in chastitee abide, That is assailled upon every side. Thou sayst som folk desire us for richesse, Some for our shape, and some for our fairnesse, And som, for she can other sing or dance, And som for gentillesse and daliance, Some for hire hondes and hire armes smale: Thus goth all to the devil by thy tale. Thou sayst, men may not kepe a castel wal, It may so long assailled be over al. And if that she be foul, thou sayst, that she Coveteth every man that she may see; For as a spaniel, she wol on him lepe, Til she may finden some man hire to chepe. Ne non so grey goos goth ther in the lake, (As sayst thou) that wol ben withoute a make. And sayst, it is an hard thing for to welde A thing, that no man wol his thankes helde. "Thus sayst thou, lorel, whan thou gost to bed And that no wise man nedeth for to wed, Ne no man that entendeth unto Heven. With wilde thonder diut and firy leven Mote thy welked nekke be to-broke.
"Thou sayst, that dropping houses, and eke And chiding wives maken men to flee Out of hir owen house; a, benedicite, What aileth swiche an old man for to chide? "Thou sayst, we wives wol our vices hide, Til we be fast, and than we wol hem shewe. Wel may that be a proverbe of a shrewe.
"Thou sayst, that oxen, asses, hors, and houndes, They ben assaied at diverse stoundes, Basins, lavoures, or that men hem bie,
Spones, stooles, and all swiche husbondrie,
And so ben pottes, clothes, and aray,
But folk of wives maken non assay,
Til they ben wedded, olde dotard shrewe!
And than, sayst thou, we wol our vices shewe.
"Thou sayst also, that it displeseth me,
But if that thou wolt preisen my beautee,
And but thou pore alway upon my face,
And clepe me faire dame in every place;
And but thou make a feste on thilke day
That I was borne, and make me fresh and gay;
And but thou do to my norice honour,
And to my chamberere within my bour,
And to my faders folk, and myn allies;
Thus sayst thou, olde barel ful of lies.
"And yet also of our prentis Jankin, For his crispe here, shining as gold so fin, And for he squiereth me both up and doun, Yet hast thou caught a false suspection:
I wol him nat, though thou were ded to-morwe. "But tell me this, why hidest thou with sorwe The keies of thy chest away fro me?
It is my good as wel as thin parde,
What, wenest thou make an idiot of our dame?
Now by that lord that cleped is Seint Jame,
Thou shalt not bothe, though that thou were wood,
Be maister of my body and of my good,
That on thou shalt forgo maugre thin eyen.
What helpeth it of me to enquere and spien?
I trow thou woldest locke me in thy cheste.
Thou shuldest say, fayr wif, go wher thee leste;
Take your disport; I wol nat leve no tales;
I know you for a trewe wif, dame Ales.
"We love no man, that taketh kepe or charge Wher that we gon, we wol be at our large. Of alle men yblessed mote he be The wise astrologien dan Ptholomee, That sayth this proverbe in his Almageste: "Of alle men his wisdom is higheste, That rekketh not who hath the world in hond.' "By this proverbe thou shalt wel understond, Have thou ynough, what thar thee rekke or care How merily that other folkes fare?
For certes, olde dotard, by your leve,
Ye shullen have queint right ynough at eve.
He is to gret a nigard that wol werne
A man to light a candel at his lanterne ;
He shall have never the lesse lighte parde.
Have thou ynough, thee thar not plainen thee.
"Thou sayst also, if that we make us gay
With clothing and with precious array,
That it is peril of our chastitee.
And yet, with sorwe, thou enforcest thee,
And sayst thise wordes in the apostles name:
In habit made with chastitee and shame
Ye women shul appareile you,' (quod he)
And nat in tressed here, and gay perrie,
As perles, ne with gold, ne clothes riche.'
"After thy text, ne after thy rubriche
I wol not work as mochel as a gnat.
"Thou sayst also, I walke out like a cat;
For who so wolde senge the cattes skin,
Than wol the cat wel dwellen in hire in ;
And if the cattes skin be sleke and gay,
She wol nat dwellen in hous half a day,
But forth she wol, or any day be dawed,
To shew hire skin, and gon a caterwaued.
This is to say, if I be gay, sire shrewe,
I wol renne out, my borel for to shewe.
Sire olde fool, what helpeth thee to spien?
Though thou pray Argus with his hundred eyen
To be my wardecorps, as he can best.
In faithe he shal not kepe me but me lest:
Yet coude I make his berd, so mote I the.
"Thou sayest eke, that ther ben thinges three, Which thinges gretly troublen all this erthe, And that no wight ne may endure the ferthe: O lefe sire shrewe, Jesu short thy lif
"Yet prechest thou, and sayst, an hateful wif Yrekened is for on of thise meschances. Be ther non other maner resemblances That ye may liken your parables to, But if a sely wif be on of tho?
"Thou likenest eke womans love to Helle, To barrein lond, ther water may not dwelle. "Thou likenest it also to wilde fire; The more it brenneth, the more it hath desire To consume every thing, that brent wol be. "Thou sayest right as wormes shende a tre, Right so a wif destroieth hire husbond; This knowen they that ben to wives bond.'
Lordings, right thus, as ye han understond, Bare I stifly min old husbondes on hond, That thus they saiden in hir dronkennesse ; And all was false, but as I toke witnesse On Jankin, and upon my nece also. O Lord, the peine I did hem, and the wo, Ful gilteles, by Goddes swete pine; For as an hors, I coude bite and whine; I coude plain, and I was in the gilt, Or elles oftentime I had ben spilt. Who so first cometh to the mill, first grint; I plained first, so was our werre ystint. They were ful glad to excusen hem ful blive Of thing, the which they never agilt hir live. Of wenches wold I beren hem on hond, Whan that for sike unnethes might they stond, Yet tikeled I his herte for that he Wend that I had of him so gret chiertee: I swore that all my walking out by night Was for to espien wenches that he dight: Under that colour had I many a mirth; For all swiche wit is yeven us in our birth; Deceite, weping, spinning, God hath yeven To woman kind, while that they may liven. And thus of o thing I may avaunten me, At th' ende I had the beter in eche degree, By sleight or force, or by som maner thing, As by continual murmur or grutching, Namely a-bed, ther hadden they meschance, Ther wold I chide, and don hem no plesance: I wold no lenger in the bed abide, If that I felt his arme over my side, Til he had made his raunson unto me, Than wold 1 soffre him do his nicetee. And therfore every man this tale I tell, Winne who so may, for all is for to sell: With empty hond men may no haukes lure, For winning wold I all his lust endure, And maken me a feined appetit, And yet in bacon had I never delit: That maked me that ever I wold hem chide. For though the Pope had sitten hem beside, I wold not spare hem at hir owen bord, For by my trouthe I quitte hem word for word.
As helpe me veray God omnipotent,
Tho I right now shuld make my testament,
I ne owe hem not a word, that it n'is quit,
I brought it so abouten by my wit,
That they must yeve it up, as for the best,
Or elles had we never ben in rest.
For though he loked as a wood leon,
Yet shuld he faille of his conclusion.
"Than wold I say, 'Now, goode lefe, take kepe,
How mekely loketh Wilkin oure shepe!
Come ner my spouse, and let me ba thy cheke.
Ye shulden be al patient and meke,
And han a swete spiced conscience,
Sith ye so preche of Jobes patience.
Suffreth alway, sin ye so wel can preche,
And but ye do, certain we shal you teche
That it is faire to han a wif in pees.
On of us two moste bowen doutelees:
And, sith a man is more resonable
Than woman is, ye mosten ben suffrable.
What aileth you to grutchen thus and grone?
Is it for ye wold have my queint alone?
Why take it all: lo, have it every del.
Peter, I shrew you but ye love it wel.
For if I wolde sell my belle chose,
I coude walke as freshe as is a rose,
But I wol kepe it for your owen toth.
Ye be to blame, by God, I say you soth.'
"Swiche maner wordes hadden we on hond.
Now wol I speken of my fourthe husbond.
My fourthe husbonde was a revellour,
This is to sayn, he had a paramour,
And I was yonge and ful of ragerie,
Stibborne and strong, and joly as a pie.
Tho coude I dancen to an harpe smale,.
And sing ywis as any nightingale,
Whan I had dronke a draught of swete wine.
Metellius, the foule cherle, the swine,
That with a staf beraft his wif hire lif
For she drank wine, though I had ben his wif,
Ne shuld he not have daunted me fro drinke:
And after wine of Venus most I thinke.
For al so siker as cold engendreth hayl,
A likerous mouth most han a likerous tayl.
In woman vinolent is no defence,
This knowen lechours by experience.
But, Lord Crist, whan that it remembreth me
Upon my youth, and on my jolitee,
It tikleth me about myn herte-rote.
Unto this day it doth myn herte bote,
That I have had my world as in my time.
But age, alas! that all wol envenime,
Hath me beraft my beautee and my pith:
go, farewel, the devil go therwith.
The flour is gon, ther n'is no more to tell,
The bren, as I best may, now moste I sell.
But yet to be right mery wol I fond,
Now forth to tellen of my fourthe husbond,
"I say, I had in herte gret despit,
That he of any other had delit;
But he was quit by God and by Seint Joce:
I made him of the same wood a croce,
Not of my body in no foule manere,
But certainly I made folk swiche chere,
That in his owen grese I made him frie
For anger and for veray jalousie.
By God, in earth I was his purgatorie,
For which I hope his soule be in glorie.
For, God it wote, he sate ful oft and songe,
Whan that his sho ful bitterly him wronge.
Ther was no wight, save God and he, that wiste
In many a wise how sore that I him twiste.
He died whan I came fro Jerusalem,
And lith ygrave under the rode-beem:
All is his tombe not so curious
As was the sepulcre of him Darius,
Which that Appelles wrought so sotelly.
It is but wast to bury hem preciously.
Let him farewel, God give his soule rest,
He is now in his grave and in his chest.
"Now of my fifthe husbonde wol I telle:
God let his soule never come in Helle.
And yet was he to me the moste shrew,
That fele I on my ribbes all by rew,
And ever shal, unto min ending day.
But in our bed he was so fresh and gay,
And therwithall he coude so wel me glose,
Whan that he wolde han my belle chose,
That, though he had me bet on every bon,
He coude win agen my love anon.
I trow, I love him the bet, for he
Was of his love so dangerous to me.
We wimmen han, if that I shal not lie,
In this matere a queinte fantasie.
Waite, what thing we may nat lightly have,
Therafter wol we cry all day and crave.
Forbede us thing, and that desiren we;
Prese on us fast, and thanne wol we flec,
With danger uttren we all our chaffare;
Gret prees at market maketh dere ware,
And to gret chepe is holden at litel prise;
This knoweth every woman that is wise.
"My fifthe husbonde, God his soule blesse, Which that I toke for love and no richesse, He somtime was a clerk of Oxenforde,
And had left scole, and went at home at borde
With my gossib, dwelling in our toun:
God have hire soule, hire name was Alisoun.
She knew my herte and all my privetee,
Bet than our parish preest, so mote I the.
To hire bewried I my conseil all;
For had my husbond pissed on a wall,
Or don a thing that shuld have cost his lif,
To hire, and to another worthy wif,
And to my nece, which that I loved wel,
I wold have told his conseil every del.
And so I did ful often, God it wote,
That made his face ful often red and hote
For veray shame, and blamed himself, for he
Had told to me so gret o privetee.
And so befell that ones in a Lent, (So often times I to my gossib went, For ever yet I loved to be gay,
And for to walke in March, April, and May,
From hous to hous, to heren sondry tales)
That Jankin clerk, and my gossib dame Ales,
And I myself, into the feldes went.
Myn husbond was at London all that Lent;
I had the better leiser for to pleie,
And for to see, and eke for to be seie
Of lusty folk; what wist I wher my grace
Was shapen for to be, or in what place?
Therfore made I my visitations
To vigilies, and to processions,
To prechings eke, and to thise pilgrimages,
To playes of miracles, and mariages,
And wered upon my gay skarlet gites.
Thise wormes, ne thise mothes, ne thise mites
Upon my paraille frett hem never a del,
And wost thou why? for they were used wel.
"Now wol I tellen forth what happed me:
I say, that in the feldes walked we,
Till trewely we had swiche daliance
This clerk and I, that of my purveance
I spake to him, and said him how that he,
If I were widewe, shulde wedden me.
For certainly, I say for no bobance,
Yet was I never without purveance
Of mariage, ne of other thinges eke:
I hold a mouses wit not worth a leke,
That hath but on hole for to sterten to,
And if that faille, than is all ydo.
"I bare him on hond, he hath enchanted me;
(My dame taughte me that subtiltee)
And eke I sayd, I mette of him all night,
He wold han slain me, as I lay upright,
And all my bed was full of veray blood;
But yet I hope that ye shuln do me good:
For blood betokeneth gold, as me was taught.
And al was false, I dremed of him right naught,
But as I folwed ay my dames lore,
As wel of that as other thinges more.
"But now, sire, let me see, what shall I sain?
A ha, by God I have my tale again.
Whan that my fourthe husbonde was on bere,
I wept algate and made a sory chere,
As wives moten, for it is the usage;
And with my coverchefe covered my visage;
But, for that I was purveyed of a make,
I wept but smal, and that I undertake.
To chirche was myn husbond born a-morwe
With neigheboures that for him maden sowre,
And Jankin oure clerk was on of tho:
As helpe me God, whan that I saw him go
After the bere, me thought he had a paire
Of legges and of feet, so clene and faire,
That all my herte I yave unto his hold.
He was, I trow, a twenty winter old,
And I was fourty, if I shal say soth,
But yet I had alway a coltes toth.
Gat-tothed I was, and that became me wele,
I had the print of seinte Venus sele.
As helpe me God, I was a lusty on,
And faire, and riche, and yonge, and wel begon:
And trewely, as min husbondes tolden me,
I had the beste queint that might be.
For certes I am all venerian
In feling, and my herte is marcian:
Venus me yave my lust and likerousnesse,
And Mars yave me my sturdy hardinesse.
Min ascendent was Taure, and Mars therinne:
Alas, alas, that ever love was sinne !
I folwed ay min inclination
By vertue of my constellation:
That made me that I coude nat withdraw
My chambre of Venus from a good felaw.
Yet have I Martes merke upon my face,
And also in another privee place.
For God so wisly be my salvation,
I loved never by no discresion,
But ever folwed min appetit,
All were he shorte, longe, blake, or white,
I toke no kepe, so that he liked me,
How poure he was, ne eke of what degree.
"What shuld I saye? but at the monthes ende
This jolly clerk Jankin, that was so hende,
Hath wedded me with gret solempnitee,
And to him yave I all the lond and fee,
That ever was me yeven therbefore:
But afterward repented me ful sore.
He n'olde suffre nothing of my list.
By God he smote me ones with his fist,
For that I rent out of his book a lefe,
That of the stroke myn ere wex al defe.
Stibborn I was, as is a leonesse,
And of my tonge a veray jangleresse,
And walk I wold, as I had don beforn,
Fro house to house, although he had it sworn:
For which he oftentimes wolde preche,
And me of olde Romaine gestes teche.
"How he Sulpitius Gallus left his wif,
And hire forsoke for terme of all his lif,
Not but for open-heded he hire say
Loking out at his dore upon a day.
"Another Romaine told he me by name, That, for his wif was at a sommer game Without his weting, he forsoke hire eke.
"And than wold he upon his Bible seke That ilke proverbe of Ecclesiaste, Wher he commandeth, and forbedeth faste, Man shal not suffer his wife go roule about. "Than wold he say right thus withouten doute: "Who so that bildeth his house all of salwes, And pricketh his blind hors over the falwes, And suffereth his wif to go seken halwes, Is worthy to be honged on the galwes.'
"But all for nought, I sette not an hawe
Of his proverbes, ne of his olde sawe;
Ne I wold not of him corrected be.
I hate hem that my vices tellen me,
And so do mo of us (God wote) than I.
This made him wood with me all utterly;
I n'olde not forbere him in no cas.
"Now wol I say you soth by Seint Thomas, Why that I rent of his book a lefe, For which he smote me, so that I was defe.
"He had a book, that gladly night and day For his disport he wolde it rede alway,
He cleped it Valerie, and Theophrast,
And with that book he lough alway ful fast.
And eke ther was a clerk somtime at Rome,
A cardinal, that highte Seint Jerome,
That made a book against Jovinian,
Which book was ther, and eke Tertullian,
Crisippus, Tortula, and Helowis,
That was abbesse not fer fro Paris;
And eke the paraboles of Salomon,
Ovides art, and bourdes many on;
And alle thise were bonden in o volume.
And every night and day was his custume
(Whan he had leiser and vacation
From other worldly occupation)
To reden in this book of wikked wives.
He knew of hem mo legendes and mo lives,
Than ben of goode wives in the Bible.
"For trusteth wel, it is an impossible,
That any clerk wol spoken good of wives,
(But if it be of holy seintes lives)
Ne of non other woman never the mo.
Who peinted the leon, telleth me, who?
By God, if wimmen hadden written stories,
As clerkes han, within hir oratories,
They wol have writ of men more wikkednesse
Than all the merke of Adam may redresse.
The children of Mercury and of Venus
Ben in hir werking ful contrarious.
Mercury loveth wisdom and science,
And Venus loveth riot and dispence.
And for hir divers disposition,
Eche falleth in others exaltation.
As thus, God wote, Mercury is desolat
In Pisces, wher Venus is exaltat,
And Venus falleth wher Mercury is reised.
Therfore no woman of no clerk is preised.
The clerk whan he is old, and may nought do
Of Venus werkes not worth his old sho,
Than siteth he doun, and writeth in his dotage,
That wimmen cannot kepe hir mariage.
But now to purpos, why I tolde thee,
That I was beten for a book parde.
"Upon a night Jankin, that was our sire, Red on his book, as he sate by the fire, Of Eva first, that for hire wikkednesse Was all mankind brought to wretchedness, For which that Jesu Crist himself was slain, That bought us with his herte-blood again.
"Lo here expresse of wimmen may ye find, That woman was the losse of all mankind.
"Tho redde he me how Sampson lost his heres Sleping, his lemman kitte hem with hire sheres, Thurgh whiche treson lost he both his eyen.
"Tho redde he me, if that I shal not lien, Of Hercules, and of his Deianire, That caused him to set himself a-fire.
"Nothing forgat he the care and the wo, That Socrates had with his wives two; How Xantippa cast pisse upon his hed. This sely man sat still, as he were ded, He wiped his hed, no more dorst he sain, But, er the thonder stint, ther cometh rain.
"Of Clitemnestra for hire lecherie
That falsely made hire husbond for to die,
He redde it with ful good devotion.
"He told me eke, for what occasion,
Amphiorax at Thebes lost his lif:
My husbond had a legend of his wif
Eriphile, that for an quche of gold
Hath prively unto the Grekes told,.
Wher that hire husbond hidde him in a place,
For which he had at Thebes sory grace.
"Of Lima told he me, and of Lucie:
They bothe made hir husbondes for to die,
That on for love, that other was for hate.
Lima hire husbond on an even late
Empoysoned hath, for that she was his fo:
Lucia likerous loved hir husbond so,
That for he shuld away upon her thinke,
She yave him swiche a maner love-drinke,
That he was ded er it was by the morwe:
And thus algates husbondes hadden sorwe.
"Than told he me, how on Latumeus
Complained to his felaw Arius,
That in his garden growed swiche a tree,
On which he said how that his wives three
Honged hemself for hertes despitous.
O leve brother,' quod this Arius,
'Yeve me a plant of thilke blessed tree,
And in my gardin planted shal it be.'
"Of later date of wives hath he redde,
That som had slain hir husbonds in hir bedde,
And let hir lechour dight hem all the night,
While that the corps lay in the flore upright:
And som han driven nailes in hir brain,
While that they slepe, and thus they han hem slain:
Som han hem yeven poison in hir drink :
He spake more harm than herte may bethinke.
"And therwithall he knew of mo proverbes,
Than in this world their growen gras or herbes.
"Bet is' (quod he) thin habitation
Be with a leon, or a foule dragon,
Than with a woman using for to chide.
"Bet is' (quod he) high in the roof abide, Than with an angry woman doun in the hous, They ben so wikked and contrarious: They haten, that hir husbonds loven ay.'
"He sayd, a woman cast hire shame away, Whan she cast of hire smock; and furthermo, A faire woman, but she be chast also, Is like a gold ring in a sowes nose.
"Who coude wene, or who coude suppose The wo that in min herte was, and the pine? And whan I saw he n'olde never fine To reden on this cursed book all night, Al sodenly three leves have I plight Out of his book, right as he redde, and eke I with my fist so toke him on the cheke, That in oure fire he fell bakward adoun. And he up sterte, as doth a wood leoun, And with his fist he smote me on the hed, That in the flore I lay as I were ded.
And whan he saw how stille that I lay,
He was agast, and wold have fled away,
Til at the last out of my swough I brayde.
⚫ O, hast thou slain me, false theef?' I sayde,
And for my lond thus hast thou mordered me ?
Er I be ded, yet wol I kissen thee.'
And nere he came, and kneled faire adoun,
And sayde; Dere suster Alisoun,
As helpe me God I shall thee never smite:
That I have don it is thyself to wite,
Foryeve it me, and that I thee beseke.'
And yet eftsones I hitte him ou the cheke,
And sayde; Theef, thus much am I awreke,
Now wol I die, I may no longer speke.'
"But at the last with mochel care and wo We fell accorded by ourselven two: He yaf me all the bridel in min hond To han the governance of hous and lond, And of his tonge, and of his hond also, And made him brenne his book anon right tho. "And whan that I had getten unto me
By maistrie all the soverainetee,
And that he sayd, Min owen trewe wif,
Do as thee list, the terme of all thy lif,
Kepe thin honour, and kepe eke min estat;'
After that day we never had debat.
God helpe me so; I was to him as kinde,
As any wif fro Denmark unto Inde.
And al so trewe, and so was he to me:
I pray to God that sit in majestee
So blisse his soule; for his mercy dere.
Now wol I say my tale if ye wol here."
The Frere lough whan he herd all this: "Now dame" (quod he), "so have I joye and bliss, This is a long preamble of a tale."
And whan the Sompnour herd the Frere gale, "Lo" (quod this Sompnour) "Goddes armes two, A frere wol entermit him evermo;
Lo, goode men, a flie and eke a frere
Wol fall in every dish and eke matere.
What spekest thou of preambulatioun ?
What? amble or trot; or pees, or go sit doun:
Thou lettest our disport in this matere."
"Ye, wolt thou so, sire Sompnour?" quod the
"Now by my faith I shal, er that I go,
Tell of a sompnour swiche a tale or two,
That all the folk shal laughen in this place."
"Now elles, Frere, I wol beshrewe thy face,"
(Quod this Sompnour)" and I beshrewe me,
But if I telle tales two or three
Of freres, or I come to Sidenborne,
That I shal make thin herte for to morne:
For wel I wot thy patience is gon."
Our Hoste cried; "Pees, and that anon;" And sayde; "Let the woman tell hire tale. Ye fare as folk that dronken ben of ale. Do, dame, tell forth your tale, and that is best." "Alredy, sire" (quod she), “right as you lest, If I have licence of this worthy frere." [here." "Yes, dame" (quod he)," tell forth, and I wol