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The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale » Part 1: l.1 - 76


1: Experience, though noon auctoritee
2: Were in this world, is right ynogh for me
3: To speke of wo that is in mariage;
4: For, lordynges, sith I twelve yeer was of age,
5: Thonked be God that is eterne on lyve,
6: Housbondes at chirche dore I have had fyve,
7: If I so ofte myghte have ywedded bee, 
8: And alle were worthy men in hir degree.
9: But me was toold, certeyn, nat longe agoon is,
10: That sith that crist ne wente nevere but onis
11: To weddyng, in the cane of galilee,
12: That by the same ensample taughte he me
13: That I ne sholde wedded be but ones.
14: Herkne eek, lo, which a sharp word for the nones,
15: Biside a welle, jhesus, God and man,
16: Spak in repreeve of the samaritan:
17: Thou hast yhad fyve housbondes, -- quod he,
18: -- And that ilke man that now hath thee
19: Is noght thyn housbonde, -- thus seyde he certeyn.
20: What that he mente therby, I kan nat seyn;
21: But that I axe, why that the fifthe man
22: Was noon housbonde to the samaritan?
23: How manye myghte she have in mariage?
24: Yet herde I nevere tellen in myn age
25: Upon this nombre diffinicioun.
26: Men may devyne and glosen, up and doun,
27: But wel I woot, expres, withoute lye,
28: God bad us for to wexe and multiplye;
29: That gentil text kan I wel understonde.
30: Eek wel I woot, he seyde myn housbonde
31: Sholde lete fader and mooder, and take to me.
32: But of no nombre mencion made he,
33: Of bigamye, or of octogamye;
34: Why sholde men thanne speke of it vileynye?
35: Lo, heere the wise kyng, daun salomon;
36: I trowe he hadde wyves mo than oon.
37: As wolde God it were leveful unto me
38: To be refresshed half so ofte as he!
39: Which yifte of God hadde he for alle his wyvys!
40: No man hath swich that in this world alyve is.
41: God woot, this noble kyng, as to my wit,
42: The firste nyght had many a myrie fit
43: With ech of hem, so wel was hym on lyve.
44: Yblessed be God that I have wedded fyve!
45: Welcome the sixte, whan that evere he shal.
46: For sothe, I wol nat kepe me chaast in al.
47: Whan myn housbonde is fro the world ygon,
48: Som cristen man shal wedde me anon,
49: For thanne, th' apostle seith that I am free
50: To wedde, a goddes half, where it liketh me.
51: He seith that to be wedded is no synne;
52: Bet is to be wedded than to brynne
53: What rekketh me, thogh folk seye vileynye
54: Of shrewed lameth and his bigamye?
55: I woot wel abraham was an hooly man,
56: And jacob eek, as ferforth as I kan;
57: And ech of hem hadde wyves mo than two,
58: And many another holy man also.
59: Wher can ye seye, in any manere age,
60: That hye God defended mariage
61: By expres word? I pray yow, telleth me.
62: Or where comanded he virginitee?
63: I woot as wel as ye, it is no drede,
64: Th' apostel, whan he speketh of maydenhede,
65: He seyde that precept therof hadde he noon.
66: Men may conseille a womman to been oon,
67: But conseillyng is no comandement.
68: He putte it in oure owene juggement;
69: For hadde God comanded maydenhede,
70: Thanne hadde he dampned weddyng with the dede.
71: And certes, if ther were no seed ysowe,
72: Virginitee, thanne wherof sholde it growe?
73: Poul dorste nat comanden, atte leeste,
74: A thyng of which his maister yaf noon heeste.
75: The dart is set up for virginitee:
76: Cacche whoso may, who renneth best lat see.