The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale Page 12

page Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale: Page 12

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Thou seyst also, that if we make us gay
With clothing and with precious array,
That it is peril of our chastitee;
340And yet, with sorwe, thou most enforce thee,
And seye thise wordes in the apostles name,
“In habit, maad with chastitee and shame,
Ye wommen shul apparaille yow,” quod he,
“And noght in tressed heer and gay perree,
As perles, ne with gold, ne clothes riche;”
After thy text, ne after thy rubriche
I wol nat wirche as muchel as a gnat.
Thou seydest this, that I was lyk a cat;
For who-so wolde senge a cattes skin,
350Thanne wolde the cat wel dwellen in his in;
And if the cattes skin be slyk and gay,
She wol nat dwelle in house half a day,
But forth she wole, er any day be dawed,
To shewe hir skin, and goon a-caterwawed;
This is to seye, if I be gay, sir shrewe,
I wol renne out, my borel for to shewe.
“‘You also say that nice clothes and accessories will make women more likely to sleep around. You’re so fond of quoting St. Paul: “You women should dress modestly and seriously instead of wearing curls, fancy jewelry, or pearls or gold or fancy clothes.” Well I won’t follow those rules at all! You once said that I was like a cat because if someone burns off a cat’s fur, it’ll stay at home in shame, unlike the beautiful cat who won’t stay inside because she’s showing off and meowing in heat. You think that if I have nice clothes, I’ll never come home!
Sire olde fool, what eyleth thee to spyën?
Thogh thou preye Argus, with his hundred yën,
To be my warde-cors, as he can best,
360In feith, he shal nat kepe me but me lest;
Yet coude I make his berd, so moot I thee.
“‘Old fool! What do you think spying on me all the time will get you? Only Argus himself, bodyguard of the gods, with his hundred eyes could ever keep an eye on me, and I could even slip past him if I wanted to.