The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale Page 14

page Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale: Page 14

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Of wenches wolde I beren him on honde,
Whan that for syk unnethes mighte he stonde.
Yet tikled it his herte, for that he
Wende that I hadde of him so greet chiertee.
I swoor that al my walkinge out by nighte
Was for tespye wenches that he dighte;
Under that colour hadde I many a mirthe.
400For al swich wit is yeven us in our birthe;
Deceite, weping, spinning God hath yive
To wommen kindely, whyl they may live.
And thus of o thing I avaunte me,
Atte ende I hadde the bettre in ech degree,
By sleighte, or force, or by som maner thing,
As by continuel murmur or grucching;
Namely a bedde hadden they meschaunce,
Ther wolde I chyde and do hem no plesaunce;
I wolde no lenger in the bed abyde,
410If that I felte his arm over my syde,
Til he had maad his raunson unto me;
Than wolde I suffre him do his nycetee.
And ther-fore every man this tale I telle,
Winne who-so may, for al is for to selle.
With empty hand men may none haukes lure;
For winning wolde I al his lust endure,
And make me a feyned appetyt;
And yet in bacon hadde I never delyt;
That made me that ever I wolde hem chyde.
420For thogh the pope had seten hem biside,
I wolde nat spare hem at hir owene bord.
For by my trouthe, I quitte hem word for word.
As help me verray God omnipotent,
Thogh I right now sholde make my testament,
I ne owe hem nat a word that it nis quit.
I broghte it so aboute by my wit,
That they moste yeve it up, as for the beste;
Or elles hadde we never been in reste.
For thogh he loked as a wood leoun,
430Yet sholde he faille of his conclusioun.
“I’d accuse them of having affairs, even when they were sick and couldn’t stand up straight, let alone do anything in bed. I think they secretly liked my accusations because they thought they reflected feelings of jealousy in me. I swore that I was out and about at night to find out who they were sleeping with when I was really out having fun. God made women naturally good at lying, crying, and spinning yarn. I can say that in the end I always got my way whether I lied, cheated, complained, or nagged my husbands. I particularly gave them a lot of trouble over sex, and I’d often make them go without getting any. If my husband was in the mood and started touching me at night, I’d refuse even to stay in bed with him unless he got me off first. Only then would I let him finish. The point is that everything has a price: Even though I wasn’t attracted to my extremely old husbands, I pretended to be interested in them in order to get their money and the deeds to their land. That’s why I harassed them all the time…because I couldn’t actually stand them. Even if the pope himself were there, I’d still have lit into them. God help me, though, if I died right now I know that I’d have nothing to answer for regarding those marriages because I certainly paid my price in bed with them. They had to make some sacrifices for me because they sure struggled to get it up.