The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale Page 9

page Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale: Page 9

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Thou seyst, som folk desyre us for richesse,
Somme for our shap, and somme for our fairnesse;
And som, for she can outher singe or daunce,
260And som, for gentillesse and daliaunce;
Som, for hir handes and hir armes smale;
Thus goth al to the devel by thy tale.
Thou seyst, men may nat kepe a castel-wal;
It may so longe assailled been over-al.
“‘You tell us that some of these admirers like us for our money, others for our curvy figures, and some because we’re too beautiful. Some men like a woman because she can sing and dance, while others like her because she comes from a good family or flirts a lot. Others like her small hands and arms. There’s always some reason why she’s going to fail you and cheat on you! As you men are fond of saying, “No castle wall can sustain constant attack.”
And if that she be foul, thou seist that she
Coveiteth every man that she may se;
For as a spaynel she wol on him lepe,
Til that she finde som man hir to chepe;
Ne noon so grey goos goth ther in the lake,
270As, seistow, that wol been with-oute make.
And seyst, it is an hard thing for to welde
A thing that no man wol, his thankes, helde.
Thus seistow, lorel, whan thow goost to bedde;
And that no wys man nedeth for to wedde,
Ne no man that entendeth unto hevene.
With wilde thonder-dint and firy levene
Mote thy welked nekke be to-broke!
“‘But if a woman is ugly, then you claim that she wants to sleep with every man she lays eyes on and will hump any man who’ll let her, just like a dog. There’s someone for everyone out there no matter how ugly, you say. And you complain that it’s hard to keep track of a wife who doesn’t want to stay put and that you shouldn’t have gotten married at all, even as you go to bed with her. May God strike you down and kill you!
Thow seyst that dropping houses, and eek smoke,
And chyding wyves, maken men to flee
280Out of hir owene hous; a! benedicite!
What eyleth swich an old man for to chyde?
Thow seyst, we wyves wol our vyces hyde
Til we be fast, and than we wol hem shewe;
Wel may that be a proverbe of a shrewe!
“‘You like to say that leaky roofs, fire, and nagging wives are the three things that will chase a man from his own house. But what in God’s name did we ever do to you to deserve this kind of abuse? You say that we women have tricked you in marriage. That’s certainly a hypocritical thing for an abusive old scoundrel to say!