The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  The Wife of Bath’s Tale Page 5

page The Wife of Bath’s Tale: Page 5

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This knight, of which my tale is specially,
Whan that he saugh he mighte nat come therby,
This is to seye, what wommen loven moost,
130With-inne his brest ful sorweful was the goost;
But hoom he gooth, he mighte nat soiourne.
The day was come, that hoomward moste he tourne,
And in his wey it happed him to ryde,
In al this care, under a forest-syde,
Wher-as he saugh upon a daunce go
Of ladies foure and twenty, and yet mo;
Toward the whiche daunce he drow ful yerne,
In hope that som wisdom sholde he lerne.
But certeinly, er he came fully there,
140Vanisshed was this daunce, he niste where.
No creature saugh he that bar lyf,
Save on the grene he saugh sittinge a wyf;
A fouler wight ther may no man devyse.
Agayn the knight this olde wyf gan ryse,
And seyde, ‘sir knight, heer-forth ne lyth no wey.
Tel me, what that ye seken, by your fey?
Paraventure it may the bettre be;
Thise olde folk can muchel thing,’ quod she.
Well anyway, that knight that I was telling you about just couldn’t find the answer to what women wanted most, which made him very depressed. Still, when it came time to report back to the queen, he went straight back as promised without dawdling. On his way home, however, he came upon more than two-dozen young ladies dancing on the edges of the forest. He rode toward them hoping that they might know what women want the most, but they vanished just before he reached them. In their place sat the ugliest old woman you could possibly imagine. She stood up as the knight approached and said, “Sir knight, there aren’t any roads that go through this forest. But tell me what you’re looking for. We old people know many things, and I might be able to help you.”
‘My leve mooder,’ quod this knight certeyn,
150‘I nam but deed, but-if that I can seyn
What thing it is that wommen most desyre;
Coude ye me wisse, I wolde wel quyte your hyre.’
“Granny,” the knight started, “I’m trying to find out what women want more than anything else in the world. I’m probably going to die very soon unless I can find the answer. If you know the answer, please tell me. It’s worth a lot to me.”