Skip over navigation

The Canterbury Tales

Original Text

Modern Text


90




And somme seyn, that greet delyt han we
For to ben holden stable and eek secree,
And in o purpos stedefastly to dwelle,
And nat biwreye thing that men us telle.
But that tale is nat worth a rake-stele;
Pardee, we wommen conne no-thing hele;
Witnesse on Myda; wol ye here the tale?
Some people say that we women like people to think that we’re good confidantes and secret-keepers and that we’re the most loyal creatures on earth. This is just a bunch of crap, though, because everyone knows that women can’t keep secrets. Just remember the story of King Midas!




100



Ovyde, amonges othere thinges smale,
Seyde, Myda hadde, under his longe heres,
Growinge upon his heed two asses eres,
The which vyce he hidde, as he best mighte,
Ful subtilly from every mannes sighte,
That, save his wyf, ther wiste of it na-mo.
He loved hir most, and trusted hir also;
He preyede hir, that to no creature
She sholde tellen of his disfigure.
The Roman poet Ovid tells the story of King Midas in his collection of tales. Midas had donkey ears growing out of his head, and he hid them with his long hair so well that no one except his wife knew they were there. He loved and trusted her very much and begged her not to tell anyone about his funny ears.





110









120





She swoor him ‘nay, for al this world to winne,
She nolde do that vileinye or sinne,
To make hir housbond han so foul a name;
She nolde nat telle it for hir owene shame.’
But nathelees, hir thoughte that she dyde,
That she so longe sholde a conseil hyde;
Hir thoughte it swal so sore aboute hir herte,
That nedely som word hir moste asterte;
And sith she dorste telle it to no man,
Doun to a mareys faste by she ran;
Til she came there, hir herte was a-fyre,
And, as a bitore bombleth in the myre,
She leyde hir mouth unto the water doun:
‘Biwreye me nat, thou water, with thy soun,’
Quod she, ‘to thee I telle it, and namo;
Myn housbond hath longe asses eres two!
Now is myn herte all hool, now is it oute;
I mighte no lenger kepe it, out of doute,’
Heer may ye se, thogh we a tyme abyde,
Yet out it moot, we can no conseil hyde;
The remenant of the tale if ye wol here,
Redeth Ovyde, and ther ye may it lere.
Midas’s wife swore up and down that she’d never tell anyone about her husband’s donkey ears. At the same time, though, she thought she’d die from having to keep such a juicy secret bottled up inside her forever. It seemed as if this secret was so strong it would burst out of her unless she could release it. But since she’d promised her husband she wouldn’t tell anyone, she ran down to the lake, put her lips to the water, and said, ‘Don’t tell anyone what I’m about to tell you. You—and you—alone will hear my secret: My husband has the ears of a donkey! Okay, I’ve said it, and I feel much better because of it. I just couldn’t stand it any longer.’ You can read all about it in Ovid’s Metamorphoses if you want to know the rest of the story. Still, this example shows that women can’t keep secrets because it’s only a matter of time before we let them slip out.

More Help

Previous Next