The Canterbury Tales
Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale: Page 4
Virginitee is greet perfeccioun,
And continence eek with devocioun.
But Crist, that of perfeccioun is welle,
Bad nat every wight he shold go selle
All that he hadde, and give it to the pore,
And in swich wyse folwe hime and his fore.
He spak to hem that wolde live parfitly;
And lordinges, by your leve, that am nat I.
I wol bistowe the flour of al myn age
In the actes and in fruit of mariage.
|“Virginity is a kind of perfection, as is devoted moderation. But Jesus—who is the epitome of perfection—never said we should be like him, sell everything we have, and give it to the poor. That message was intended for people who wanted to live perfect lives—and that, mind you, isn’t me. I have chosen to invest everything I have in the acts and fruits of marriage.|
Telle me also, to what conclusioun
Were membres maad of generacioun,
And for what profit was a wight y-wroght?
Trusteth right wel, they wer nat maad for noght.
Glose who-so wole, and seye bothe up and doun,
That they were maked for purgacioun
Of urine, and our bothe thinges smale
Were eek to knowe a femele from a male,
And for noone other cause: sey ye no?
The experience woot wel it is noght so;
So that the clerkes be nat with me wrothe,
I sey this, that they maked been for bothe,
This is to seye, for office, and for ese
Of engendrure, ther we nat God displese.
Why sholde men elles in hir bokes sette,
That man shal yelde to his wyf hir dette?
Now wher-with sholde he make his payement,
If he ne used his sely instrument?
Than were they maad upon a creature,
To purge uryne, and eek for engendrure.
|“And another thing: Why were male and female genitals made so perfectly for each other if they weren’t meant to be used? They weren’t made for nothing, that’s for sure! Some people will swear up and down until they’re blue in the face that our privates were made for peeing and telling the difference between men and women and nothing else. What do you think of that? Experience, however, tells us this isn’t so. But, for the sake of you nuns, priests, and friars riding with us, I’ll just say that our private parts were made for both business and pleasure, so long as it’s for having children so that we don’t anger God. Why else do men write that husbands should ‘pay their wives their debt,’ i.e., give them sexual pleasure? Now, how can a guy go about ‘paying his debt’ to his wife unless he uses his masculine member? So you see, our privates were given to us for peeing and for having children.|