The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale Page 19

page Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale: Page 19

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I bar him on honde, he hadde enchanted me;
My dame taughte me that soutiltee.
And eek I seyde, I mette of him al night;
He wolde han slayn me as I lay up-right,
And al my bed was ful of verray blood,
580But yet I hope that he shal do me good;
For blood bitokeneth gold, as me was taught.
And al was fals, I dremed of it right naught,
But as I folwed ay my dames lore,
As wel of this as of other thinges more.
“I made Jankin believe that I was utterly smitten with him, a little trick my mother taught me. I also told him that I’d dreamed he’d raped me as I was lying in bed and that I was covered in blood. This sounds pretty bad, but I said I knew this was a good dream because the blood symbolized gold. None of this was true, of course. I hadn’t dreamed this at all. I was just following my mom’s advice, as I do with most everything else.
But now sir, lat me see, what I shal seyn?
A! ha! by God, I have my tale ageyn.
“But wait a minute. Let me see . . . what was I talking about again? Oh, right! I remember now.
Whan that my fourthe housbond was on bere,
I weep algate, and made sory chere,
As wyves moten, for it is usage,
590And with my coverchief covered my visage;
But for that I was purveyed of a make,
I weep but smal, and that I undertake.
“When my fourth husband died, I cried, acted sad, wore a veil, and did everything a wife in mourning was supposed to do. But I didn’t cry much, that’s for sure, because I already had my next husband lined up.
To chirche was myn housbond born a-morwe
With neighebores, that for him maden sorwe;
And Iankin oure clerk was oon of tho.
As help me God, whan that I saugh him go
After the bere, me thoughte he hadde a paire
Of legges and of feet so clene and faire,
That al myn herte I yaf unto his hold.
600He was, I trowe, a twenty winter old,
And I was fourty, if I shal seye sooth;
But yet I hadde alwey a coltes tooth.
Gat-tothed I was, and that bicam me weel;
I hadde the prente of sëynt Venus seel.
As help me God, I was a lusty oon,
And faire and riche, and yong, and wel bigoon;
And trewely, as myne housbondes tolde me,
I had the beste quoniam mighte be.
For certes, I am al Venerien
610In felinge, and myn herte is Marcien.
Venus me yaf my lust, my likerousnesse,
And Mars yaf me my sturdy hardinesse.
Myn ascendent was Taur, and Mars ther-inne.
Allas! allas! that ever love was sinne!
I folwed ay myn inclinacioun
By vertu of my constellacioun;
That made me I coude noght withdrawe
My chambre of Venus from a good felawe.
Yet have I Martes mark upon my face,
620And also in another privee place.
For, God so wis be my savacioun,
I ne loved never by no discrecioun,
But ever folwede myn appetyt,
Al were he short or long, or blak or whyt;
I took no kepe, so that he lyked me,
How pore he was, ne eek of what degree.
“They brought the body of my dead husband to the church the next day, and all of our neighbors were there to mourn for him, including Jankin. So help me God, I swear I fell in love with him right then and there when I saw him walk into the church with his muscular legs and well-kept body. He was only twenty years old, I think, and I was forty, but I always did have a thing for younger men. I had a gap in my front teeth, which is the sign of Venus and lust. God, I was a horny one, young and beautiful and rich and, at least according to my husbands, the best piece of ass around. There’s no doubt that everything I have comes from Venus and Mars: Venus gave me my lust and Mars my practicality. This is because Mars and Venus were in the sky when I was born. In fact, I still have the birthmark Mars gave me on my face—and on my private parts too. These traits control my body, which means I’ve never been able to keep hot guys out of my bed. It’s too bad that sex is such a sin! I’m not too picky. I just go with whomever turns me on, whether he’s short or tall, black or white, rich or poor. I don’t care, as long as he can get me off.