The Canterbury Tales
Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale: Page 2
Lo, here the wyse king, dan Salomon;
I trowe he hadde wyves mo than oon;
As, wolde God, it leveful were to me
To be refresshed half so ofte as he!
Which yifte of God hadde he for alle his wyvis!
No man hath swich, that in this world alyve is.
God woot, this noble king, as to my wit,
The firste night had many a mery fit
With ech of hem, so wel was him on lyve!
Blessed be God that I have wedded fyve!
Welcome the sixte, whan that ever he shal.
For sothe, I wol nat kepe me chast in al;
Whan myn housbond is fro the world y-gon,
Som Cristen man shal wedde me anon;
For thanne thapostle seith, that I am free
To wedde, a Goddes half, wher it lyketh me.
He seith that to be wedded is no sinne;
Bet is to be wedded than to brinne.
What rekketh me, thogh folk seye vileinye
Of shrewed Lameth and his bigamye?
I woot wel Abraham was an holy man,
And Iacob eek, as ferforth as I can;
And ech of hem hadde wyves mo than two;
And many another holy man also.
Whan saugh ye ever, in any maner age,
That hye God defended mariage
By expres word? I pray you, telleth me;
Or wher comanded he virginitee?
I woot as wel as ye, it is no drede,
Thapostel, whan he speketh of maydenhede;
He seyde, that precept ther-of hadde he noon.
Men may conseille a womman to been oon,
But conseilling is no comandement;
He putte it in our owene Iugement.
For hadde God comanded maydenhede,
Thanne hadde he dampned wedding with the dede;
And certes, if ther were no seed y-sowe,
Virginitee, wher-of than sholde it growe?
Poul dorste nat comanden atte leste
A thing of which his maister yaf noon heste.
The dart is set up for virginitee;
Cacche who so may, who renneth best lat see.
|“Just look at King Solomon—he had more than one wife. I wish to God I could get off as often as he must have! His many wives were certainly a very pleasurable gift from God. No one living today has received any gift like that. God knows Solomon probably had a few good rolls in the hay with each wife the first time he slept with her. Wow, he must have had a great life. Praise the Lord that I’ve been able to marry five men, and I’m looking forward to marrying the sixth whenever I meet him. I don’t want to abstain from sex forever, you know. I hope it won’t be long after my current husband dies before I’m able to marry my next husband. St. Paul, the Apostle, said that I’ll be free to marry again. He said that getting married is better than burning. So what, then, if people say bad things about marrying more than once? Lamech, Abraham, and Jacob were all holy men, as far as I can tell, and they all had more than a couple wives, as have many others like them. Has God ever expressly forbidden marriage before? Huh? Or has he ever commanded people to remain virgins all their lives? I know as well as you that St. Paul only recommended women to maintain their viriginity—he never ordered it. Giving advice and making commands are two different things, and he left it up to us to decide how to live. Besides, if God preferred virgins, then He would pretty much be against marriage, now wouldn’t He? And if people weren’t having sex, well then how would we make more virgins? No, St. Paul would never order anything that God himself wouldn’t want. Anyway, whoever wants to aspire to maintaining their virginity can do so, but we’ll see who comes out on top in the end.|