The Canterbury Tales
Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale: Page 25
And whan I saugh he wolde never fyne
To reden on this cursed book al night,
Al sodeynly three leves have I plight
Out of his book, right as he radde, and eke,
I with my fist so took him on the cheke,
That in our fyr he fil bakward adoun.
And he up-stirte as dooth a wood leoun,
And with his fist he smoot me on the heed,
That in the floor I lay as I were deed.
And when he saugh how stille that I lay,
He was agast, and wolde han fled his way,
Til atte laste out of my swogh I breyde:
“O! hastow slayn me, false theef?” I seyde,
“And for my land thus hastow mordred me?
Er I be deed, yet wol I kisse thee.”
|“Well, when I realized that he was never going to stop saying such things, I got so angry that I ripped three pages out of the book, right there as he was reading it. I also punched him in the face with my fist so hard that he fell backward into the fire in the fireplace. He sprang up like a pouncing lion and punched me right back on the side of my head so hard that I fell down and didn’t move, just as if I were dead. And when he saw what he had done and thought he’d killed me, he was so horrified that he would have run away had I not come to just then. ‘Are you trying to kill me, you murderer? Are you going to kill me so that you can have all my money and land? Even so, let me kiss you one last time before I die.’|
And neer he cam, and kneled faire adoun,
And seyde, “dere suster Alisoun,
As help me God, I shal thee never smyte;
That I have doon, it is thy-self to wyte.
Foryeve it me, and that I thee biseke”—
And yet eft-sones I hitte him on the cheke,
And seyde, “theef, thus muchel am I wreke;
Now wol I dye, I may no lenger speke.”
But atte laste, with muchel care and wo,
We fille acorded, by us selven two.
He yaf me al the brydel in myn 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 hadde geten unto me,
By maistrie, al the soveraynetee,
And that he seyde, “myn owene trewe wyf,
Do as thee lust the terme of al thy lyf,
Keep thyn honour, and keep eek myn estaat”—
After that day we hadden never debaat.
God help me so, I was to him as kinde
As any wyf from Denmark unto Inde,
And also trewe, and so was he to me.
I prey to God that sit in magestee,
So blesse his soule, for his mercy dere!
Now wol I seye my tale, if ye wol here.’
|“He came over to me, knelt down, and said, ‘What have I done? My dear wife, Alison, so help me God, I’ll never hit you again. Please forgive me. I beg you.’ As he said this, though, I punched him in the face once again and said, ‘Take that, you bastard. I’m dying and can’t talk anymore.’ But, after much care and some more fighting, I finally recovered, and Jankin and I worked things out. He put me in charge of our household and over all our money and property, and he also promised that he wouldn’t say such horrible things about women or hit me again. And I made him burn that horrid book too. He told me, ‘Alison, do whatever you want with your life, and I leave it to you to do what’s best for the both of us.’ And when I’d finally won complete freedom and control over my own affairs and destiny, we never had reason to fight again. In fact, I am now a better wife to him than any woman between Denmark and India has ever been. And he became an equally excellent husband. May God on high bless his soul! And on that note, I’m ready to begin my story.”|