Skip over navigation

The Canterbury Tales

Original Text

Modern Text






40





This Carpenter had wedded newe a wyf
Which that he lovede more than his lyf;
Of eightetene yeer she was of age.
Ialous he was, and heeld hir narwe in cage,
For she was wilde and yong, and he was old
And demed him-self ben lyk a cokewold.
He knew nat Catoun, for his wit was rude,
That bad man sholde wedde his similitude.
Men sholde wedden after hir estaat,
For youthe and elde is often at debaat.
But sith that he was fallen in the snare,
He moste endure, as other folk, his care.
Now, this carpenter had just gotten married to a girl he loved more than life itself. He kept her in the house all the time, though, because she was wild and only eighteen years old. He was much older, and he worried that if he didn’t keep a close eye on her, she’d make him a

cuckold

A man whose wife has cheated on him.

cuckold
. I guess he was too ignorant to have heard of the Roman philosopher Cato, who said that people should marry someone at the same stage in life as themselves because young people and older people often want different things. But since he’d already made this mistake, there was nothing he could do but live with it.



50









60









70









80



Fair was this yonge wyf, and ther-with-al
As any wesele hir body gent and smal.
A ceynt she werede barred al of silk,
A barmclooth eek as whyt as morne milk
Upon hir lendes, ful of many a gore.
Whyt was hir smok, and brouded al bifore
And eek bihinde, on hir coler aboute,
Of col-blak silk, with-inne and eek with-oute.
The tapes of hir whyte voluper
Were of the same suyte of hir coler;
Hir filet brood of silk, and set ful hye:
And sikerly she hadde a likerous yë.
Ful smale y-pulled were hir browes two,
And tho were bent, and blake as any sloo.
She was ful more blisful on to see
Than is the newe pere-ionette tree;
And softer than the wolle is of a wether.
And by hir girdel heeng a purs of lether
Tasseld with silk, and perled with latoun.
In al this world, to seken up and doun,
There nis no man so wys, that coude thenche
So gay a popelote, or swich a wenche.
Ful brighter was the shyning of hir hewe
Than in the tour the noble y-forged newe.
But of hir song, it was as loude and yerne
As any swalwe sittinge on a berne.
Ther-to she coude skippe and make game,
As any kide or calf folwinge his dame.
Hir mouth was swete as bragot or the meeth,
Or hord of apples leyd in hey or heeth.
Winsinge she was, as is a Ioly colt,
Long as a mast, and upright as a bolt.
A brooch she baar upon hir lowe coler,
As brood as is the bos of a bocler.
Hir shoes were laced on hir legges hye;
She was a prymerole, a pigges-nye
For any lord to leggen in his bedde,
Or yet for any good yeman to wedde.
Anyway, this young wife—whose name was Alison—was beautiful, with a body as small and slim as a weasel’s. She wore an apron around her waist that was as white as milk. She also wore a blouse embroidered in black silk all the way around the collar. She had matching ribbons in her hair as well as a headband on the crown of her head. She wore a leather purse at her waist that had dangling tassles made of silk and shiny metal beads. She also had a large brooch pinned to her collar, and her shoes were laced high up her legs. She had a flirtatious look in her eyes. She trimmed her eyebrows, too, which were black as coal and arched. Her skin, meanwhile, was as soft as sheep’s wool, and her lips were as sweet as wine made from honey and as red as the reddest apple. She sparkled like a newly minted coin from the royal treasury. This girl was more beautiful to look at than an orchard full of spring blossoms. She was so beautiful, in fact, that you’d never be able to find someone who could even conceive of such beauty. Plus, she was happy and always smiling and playing or singing with that enchanting voice of hers. She was a rose, pure and simple, and fit for any king to sleep with—or any good man to make his wife.

More Help

Previous Next