The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale Page 13

page Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale: Page 13

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Thou seydest eek, that ther ben thinges three,
The whiche thinges troublen al this erthe,
And that no wight ne may endure the ferthe;
O leve sir shrewe, Iesu shorte thy lyf!
Yet prechestow, and seyst, an hateful wyf
Y-rekened is for oon of thise meschances.
Been ther none othere maner resemblances
That ye may lykne your parables to,
370But-if a sely wyf be oon of tho?
“‘You say that there have been three things that have brought hardship to the world and that man can’t endure a fourth. And still you go on and on about how women ruin the world. You old bastard, I hope Jesus takes you to heaven soon! Can’t you find something else to complain about besides your wife?
Thou lykenest wommanes love to helle,
To bareyne lond, ther water may not dwelle.
Thou lyknest it also to wilde fyr;
The more it brenneth, the more it hath desyr
To consume every thing that brent wol be.
Thou seyst, that right as wormes shende a tree,
Right so a wyf destroyeth hir housbonde;
This knowe they that been to wyves bonde.’
“‘You say that a woman’s love is like a dry desert or even hell itself. You say a woman’s love is like wildfire because the more it burns, the more it wants to burn down everything it can. You even say every married man knows that women are like a tree-killing fungus, and just like that a wife will destroy her husband.’
Lordinges, right thus, as ye have understonde,
380Bar I stifly myne olde housbondes on honde,
That thus they seyden in hir dronkenesse;
And al was fals, but that I took witnesse
On Ianekin and on my nece also.
O lord, the peyne I dide hem and the wo,
Ful giltelees, by Goddes swete pyne!
For as an hors I coude byte and whyne.
I coude pleyne, thogh I were in the gilt,
Or elles often tyme hadde I ben spilt.
Who-so that first to mille comth, first grint;
390I pleyned first, so was our werre y-stint.
They were ful glad to excusen hem ful blyve
Of thing of which they never agilte hir lyve.
“So that’s how I harassed my husbands. I told them they said these stupid things in their drunkenness. Nothing I said was actually true, but I had that guy Janken and my niece back me up by lying too. God, I harassed them so much, even though they hadn’t done anything wrong! I bit and kicked like a horse, even though I was the guilty one and could have been caught in my lies dozens of times. The early bird gets the worm, as they say, so I made sure to always accuse him first in order to win our fights. They were always happy to just confess and apologize for things they hadn’t even done.