The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale Page 20

page Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale: Page 20

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What sholde I seye, but, at the monthes ende,
This Ioly clerk Iankin, that was so hende,
Hath wedded me with greet solempnitee,
630And to him yaf I al the lond and fee
That ever was me yeven ther-bifore;
But afterward repented me ful sore.
He nolde suffre nothing of my list.
By God, he smoot me ones on the list,
For that I rente out of his book a leef,
That of the strook myn ere wex al deef.
Stiborn I was as is a leonesse,
And of my tonge a verray Iangleresse,
And walke I wolde, as I had doon biforn,
640From hous to hous, al-though he had it sworn.
For which he often tymes wolde preche,
And me of olde Romayn gestes teche,
How he, Simplicius Gallus, lefte his wyf,
And hir forsook for terme of al his lyf,
Noght but for open-heeded he hir say
Lokinge out at his dore upon a day.
“Well, there really isn’t a whole lot more to say. Jankin and I got married about a month later, and I handed over all the money and property that all my previous husbands had left me, something I’d seriously regret doing later on. Jankin turned out to be so domineering that I wasn’t allowed to do anything I wanted. In fact, one time he hit me so hard on the side of the head for tearing a page out of his most beloved book that I lost all the hearing in that ear permanently. Still, I was incredibly stubborn and wouldn’t keep quiet. I continued to go out and visit my friends as I used to do, despite the fact that he ordered me to stay at home. For this reason he’d preach and tell me stories of ancient Romans who controlled their wives, such as Simplicius Gallus, who divorced his wife simply because she had poked her head out the door one day without covering her head.
Another Romayn tolde he me by name,
That, for his wyf was at a someres game
With-oute his witing, he forsook hir eke.
650And than wolde he upon his Bible seke
That ilke proverbe of Ecclesiaste,
Wher he comandeth and forbedeth faste,
Man shal nat suffre his wyf go roule aboute;
Than wolde he seye right thus, with-outen doute,
“Who-so that buildeth his hous al of salwes,
And priketh his blinde hors over the falwes,
And suffreth his wyf to go seken halwes,
Is worthy to been hanged on the galwes!”
But al for noght, I sette noght an hawe
660Of his proverbes nof his olde sawe,
Ne I wolde nat of him corrected be.
I hate him that my vices telleth me,
And so do mo, God woot! of us than I.
This made him with me wood al outrely;
I nolde noght forbere him in no cas.
“He also told me of another Roman man who divorced his wife because she went to a sporting event without first asking for his permission. And then Jankin would break out his Bible to find that proverb in the book of Ecclesiasticus in the apocrypha that tells men not to let their wives go out and about. Then he’d always say, ‘The guy who builds his house of straw and uses a blind horse to plow his fields and lets his wife go out by herself ought to be hanged!’ As for men, though, I didn’t give a rat’s ass for his proverbs or his misogynistic crap, nor would I let him tell me what to do. I hate it when people point out my faults, and God knows, I’m not the only one either. My refusal to listen or obey really pissed him off, but I wouldn’t ever back down.