The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale Page 18

page Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale: Page 18

Original Text

Modern Text

And so bifel that ones, in a Lente,
(So often tymes I to my gossib wente,
For ever yet I lovede to be gay,
And for to walke, in March, Averille, and May,
Fro hous to hous, to here sondry talis),
That Iankin clerk, and my gossib dame Alis,
And I my-self, in-to the feldes wente.
550Myn housbond was at London al that Lente;
I hadde the bettre leyser for to pleye,
And for to see, and eek for to be seye
Of lusty folk; what wiste I wher my grace
Was shapen for to be, or in what place?
Therefore I made my visitaciouns,
To vigilies and to processiouns,
To preching eek and to thise pilgrimages,
To pleyes of miracles and mariages,
And wered upon my gaye scarlet gytes.
560Thise wormes, ne thise motthes, ne thise mytes,
Upon my peril, frete hem never a deel;
And wostow why? for they were used weel.
“Well, one day during Lent (a time when I always enjoy visiting friends), Jankin and my good friend Alison and I went for a walk through the countryside, which I just love to do in March, April, and May. My fourth husband was in London at the time, which gave me all the more time to have fun, go out on the town, and hang out with attractive people. You just never know when your luck will change or where life will take you, you know. So I’d put on my red dress and go to all the big parties and banquets, to lectures and plays and weddings and on holy pilgrimages. Moths never had a chance to eat that red dress because I was always wearing it!
Now wol I tellen forth what happed me.
I seye, that in the feeldes walked we,
Til trewely we hadde swich daliance,
This clerk and I, that of my purveyance
I spak to him, and seyde him, how that he,
If I were widwe, sholde wedde me.
For certeinly, I sey for no bobance,
570Yet was I never with-outen purveyance
Of mariage, nof othere thinges eek.
I holde a mouses herte nat worth a leek,
That hath but oon hole for to sterte to,
And if that faille, thanne is al y-do.
“Anyway, so here’s what happened: We were walking through the fields, and Jankin and I were flirting with each other so much that I told him I’d marry him if my fourth husband ever died. I always have a backup plan in place when it comes to marriage and everything else I do because, as the saying goes, a mouse that has only one hole to hide in will always be stressed out, worrying what will happen if that hole gets covered.