The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  The Wife of Bath’s Tale Page 11

page The Wife of Bath’s Tale: Page 11

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Thenketh how noble, as seith Valerius,
310Was thilke Tullius Hostilius,
That out of povert roos to heigh noblesse.
Redeth Senek, and redeth eek Boëce,
Ther shul ye seen expres that it no drede is,
That he is gentil that doth gentil dedis;
And therfore, leve housbond, I thus conclude,
Al were it that myne auncestres were rude,
Yet may the hye God, and so hope I,
Grante me grace to liven vertuously.
Thanne am I gentil, whan that I biginne
320To liven vertuously and weyve sinne.
“Remember the story the writer Valerius tells us of Tullius Hostilius, who was born to a poor family but eventually became the ruler of Rome. Or read the Roman philosophers Seneca and Boethius, who clearly say that nobility comes from doing good deeds. Therefore, my dear husband, even though I too come from a poor family, God knows that I was noble from the moment I chose to live virtuously.
And ther-as ye of povert me repreve,
The hye God, on whom that we bileve,
In wilful povert chees to live his lyf.
And certes every man, mayden, or wyf,
May understonde that Iesus, hevene king,
Ne wolde nat chese a vicious living.
Glad povert is an honest thing, certeyn;
This wol Senek and othere clerkes seyn.
Who-so that halt him payd of his poverte,
330I holde him riche, al hadde he nat a sherte.
He that coveyteth is a povre wight,
For he wolde han that is nat in his might.
But he that noght hath, ne coveyteth have,
Is riche, al-though ye holde him but a knave.
“And if you’re upset because I’m so poor, well then just remember that Jesus also chose to live in poverty. And every man, woman, and child knows that Jesus, king of heaven, would never choose to sin. There’s nothing wrong with living happily in poverty. Seneca and other philosophers have said so themselves. I think that whoever can live happily in poverty is actually very wealthy, even if she doesn’t have a dime to her name. The person who is greedy is actually the poor one because he wants more and more and can never do anything about it. But the person who doesn’t have anything and doesn’t want anything is truly wealthy, even if everyone else pities her because she doesn’t own any worldy things.