The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale Page 17

page Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale: Page 17

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Now of my fifthe housbond wol I telle.
God lete his soule never come in helle!
And yet was he to me the moste shrewe;
That fele I on my ribbes al by rewe,
And ever shal, unto myn ending-day.
But in our bed he was so fresh and gay,
And ther-with-al so wel coude he me glose,
510Whan that he wolde han my bele chose,
That thogh he hadde me bet on every boon,
He coude winne agayn my love anoon.
I trowe I loved him beste, for that he
Was of his love daungerous to me.
We wommen han, if that I shal nat lye,
In this matere a queynte fantasye;
Wayte what thing we may nat lightly have,
Ther-after wol we crye al-day and crave.
Forbede us thing, and that desyren we;
520Prees on us faste, and thanne wol we flee.
With daunger oute we al our chaffare;
Greet prees at market maketh dere ware,
And to greet cheep is holde at litel prys;
This knoweth every womman that is wys.
“And then there was my fifth husband, Jankin, that young man I told you about before. May God save him from the pits of hell! He treated me so horribly that I can still feel the bruises he gave me all up and down my ribs and always will until the day I die. He was an animal in bed, though, and knew how to turn me on so much when he wanted my vagina that even if he beat every bone in my body, he could win my love again in no time at all. I believe I loved him the most of all my husbands because he’d hardly show his love or affection. There’s this funny thing about women, you see, that we crave whatever we can’t have. Tell us we can’t have something, and we want it, but shove it in our faces, and then we run away. Be aloof, and we’ll sell ourselves to you, but give it up too easily and we won’t want you. Any woman worth her salt can tell you this.
My fifthe housbonde, God his soule blesse!
Which that I took for love and no richesse,
He som-tyme was a clerk of Oxenford,
And had left scole, and wente at hoom to bord
With my gossib, dwellinge in oure toun,
530God have hir soule! hir name was Alisoun.
She knew myn herte and eek my privetee
Bet than our parisshe-preest, so moot I thee!
To hir biwreyed I my conseil al.
For had myn housbonde pissed on a wal,
Or doon a thing that sholde han cost his lyf,
To hir, and to another worthy wyf,
And to my nece, which that I loved weel,
I wolde han told his conseil every-deel.
And so I dide ful often, God it woot,
540That made his face ful often reed and hoot
For verray shame, and blamed him-self for he
Had told to me so greet a privetee.
“I actually married this last husband of mine—God bless his soul—for love, not money. He used to be a student at Oxford University, but he rented a room from a close friend of mine, who was also named Alison, when he left school and returned home. God bless her! My friend Alison knew everything about me and knew me even better that our local priest did. I confided all my secrets to her because, whether my husband pissed on a wall or did something truly illegal, I would have told her anything. In fact, I would tell her, another woman I was friends with, and my own niece, whom I’m very close with. God knows, I spilled Jankin’s secrets to them all the time, which really embarrassed him and pissed him off for having trusted me in the first place.