The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  The Wife of Bath’s Tale Page 9

page The Wife of Bath’s Tale: Page 9

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‘Amended?’ quod this knight, ‘allas! nay, nay!
It wol nat been amended never mo!
Thou art so loothly, and so old also,
And ther-to comen of so lowe a kinde,
That litel wonder is, thogh I walwe and winde.
So wolde God myn herte wolde breste!’
“Make it better? Make it better?” asked the knight incredulously. “No, no, of course you can’t make it better! You’re so old and disgusting! And you’re also poor and low class and a nobody. It’s no wonder that I’m tossing and turning. God, I wish I were dead!”
‘Is this,’ quod she, ‘the cause of your unreste?’
“Is that what’s bothering you?” she asked.
‘Ye, certainly,’ quod he, ‘no wonder is.’
“What do you think? Of course it is!” snapped the knight.
250‘Now, sire,’ quod she, ‘I coude amende al this,
If that me liste, er it were dayes three,
So wel ye mighte here yow unto me.
“Well then,” she said, “That isn’t a problem. I could fix all of this for you if I wanted to in just three days’ time if you’d just treat me a little better.
But for ye speken of swich gentillesse
As is descended out of old richesse,
That therfore sholden ye be gentil men,
Swich arrogance is nat worth an hen.
Loke who that is most vertuous alway,
Privee and apert, and most entendeth ay
To do the gentil dedes that he can,
260And tak him for the grettest gentil man.
Crist wol, we clayme of him our gentillesse,
Nat of our eldres for hir old richesse.
For thogh they yeve us al hir heritage,
For which we clayme to been of heigh parage,
Yet may they nat biquethe, for no-thing,
To noon of us hir vertuous living,
That made hem gentil men y-called be;
And bad us folwen hem in swich degree.
“As for the belief that ancient titles and land and heredity make people noble—well that’s just stupid. The noblest men on earth are the ones who are virtuous both inside and outside the home and who work hard and do good deeds. Christ wants our virtue to come from our faith, not from old family riches. Even though our ancestors can give us a family lineage, they can’t pass along virtue, which is the strength of a true nobleman.