Geoffrey Chaucer

The Wife of Bath’s Tale

1 - In th' olde dayes of the Kyng Arthour,
      In the old days of King Arthur, 

2 - Of which that Britons speken greet honour,
      Of whom Britons speak great honor,

3 - Al was this land fulfild of fayerye.
      This land was all filled full of supernatural creatures. 

4 - The elf-queene, with hir joly compaignye,
      The elf-queen, with her jolly company,

5 - Daunced ful ofte in many a grene mede.
      Danced very often in many a green mead.

6 - This was the olde opinion, as I rede;
      This was the old belief, as I read;

7 - I speke of manye hundred yeres ago.
      I speak of many hundred years ago.

8 - But now kan no man se none elves mo,
      But now no man can see any more elves,

9 - For now the grete charitee and prayeres
      For now the great charity and prayers

10 -  Of lymytours and othere hooly freres,
        Of licensed beggars and other holy friars,

11 - That serchen every lond and every streem,
       That overrun every land and every stream,

12 - As thikke as motes in the sonne-beem,
       As thick as specks of dust in the sun-beam,

13 - Blessynge halles, chambres, kichenes, boures,
       Blessing halls, chambers, kitchens, bedrooms,

14 - Citees, burghes, castels, hye toures,
       Cities, towns, castles, high towers,

15 - Thropes, bernes, shipnes, dayeryes --
       Villages, barns, stables, dairies —

16 - This maketh that ther ben no fayeryes.
       This makes it that there are no fairies.

17 - For ther as wont to walken was an elf
       For where an elf was accustomed to walk 

18 - Ther walketh now the lymytour hymself
       There walks now the licensed begging friar himself

19 - In undermeles and in morwenynges,
       In late mornings and in early mornings,

20 - And seyth his matyns and his hooly thynges
       And says his morning prayers and his holy things

21 - As he gooth in his lymytacioun.
       As he goes in his assigned district.

22 - Wommen may go saufly up and doun.
       Women may go safely up and down.

23 - In every bussh or under every tree
       In every bush or under every tree

24 - Ther is noon oother incubus but he,
       There is no other evil spirit but he,

25 - And he ne wol doon hem but dishonour.
       And he will not do them any harm except dishonor.

       26 - And so bifel that this kyng Arthour
              And so it happened that this king Arthur

27 - Hadde in his hous a lusty bacheler,
       Had in his house a lusty bachelor,

28 - That on a day cam ridynge fro ryver,
       That on one day came riding from hawking,

29 - And happed that, allone as he was born,
       And it happened that, alone as he was born,

30 - He saugh a mayde walkynge hym biforn,
       He saw a maiden walking before him,

31 - Of which mayde anon, maugree hir heed,
       Of which maiden straightway, despite all she could do,

32 - By verray force, he rafte hire maydenhed;
       By utter force, he took away her maidenhead;

33 - For which oppressioun was swich clamour
       For which wrong was such clamor

34 - And swich pursute unto the kyng Arthour
       And such demand for justice unto king Arthur

35 - That dampned was this knyght for to be deed,
       That this knight was condemned to be dead,

36 - By cours of lawe, and sholde han lost his heed --
       By course of law, and should have lost his head —

37 - Paraventure swich was the statut tho --
       Perhaps such was the statute then —

38 - But that the queene and other ladyes mo
       Except that the queen and other ladies as well

39 - So longe preyeden the kyng of grace
       So long prayed the king for grace

40 - Til he his lyf hym graunted in the place,
       Until he granted him his life right there,

41 - And yaf hym to the queene, al at hir wille,
       And gave him to the queen, all at her will,

42 - To chese wheither she wolde hym save or spille.
       To choose whether she would him save or put to death.

       43 - The queene thanketh the kyng with al hir myght,
              The queen thanks the king with all her might,

44 - And after this thus spak she to the knyght,
       And after this she spoke thus to the knight,

45 - Whan that she saugh hir tyme, upon a day:
       When she saw her time, upon a day:

46 - "Thou standest yet," quod she, "in swich array
       "Thou standest yet," she said, "in such condition,

47 - That of thy lyf yet hastow no suretee.
       That of thy life yet thou hast no assurance

48 - I grante thee lyf, if thou kanst tellen me
       I grant thee life, if thou canst tell me

49 - What thyng is it that wommen moost desiren.
       What thing it is that women most desire.

50 - Be war, and keep thy nekke-boon from iren!
       Beware, and keep thy neck-bone from iron (axe)!

51 - And if thou kanst nat tellen it anon,
       And if thou canst not tell it right now,

52 - Yet wol I yeve thee leve for to gon
       Yet I will give thee leave to go

53 - A twelf-month and a day, to seche and leere
       A twelvemonth and a day, to seek to learn

54 - An answere suffisant in this mateere;
       A satisfactory answer in this matter;

55 - And suretee wol I han, er that thou pace,
       And I will have, before thou go, a pledge 

56 - Thy body for to yelden in this place."
       To surrender thy body in this place."

       57 - Wo was this knyght, and sorwefully he siketh;
              Woe was this knight, and sorrowfully he sighs;

58 - But what! He may nat do al as hym liketh.
       But what! He can not do all as he pleases.

59 - And at the laste he chees hym for to wende
       And at the last he chose to leave

60 - And come agayn, right at the yeres ende,
       And come again, exactly at the year's end,

61 - With swich answere as God wolde hym purveye;
       With such answer as God would provide him;

62 - And taketh his leve, and wendeth forth his weye.
       And takes his leave, and goes forth on his way.

63 -    He seketh every hous and every place
          He seeks every house and every place

64 - Where as he hopeth for to fynde grace
           Where he hopes to have the luck

65 - To lerne what thyng wommen loven moost,
       To learn what thing women love most,

66 - But he ne koude arryven in no coost
       But he could not arrive in any region
67 - Wher as he myghte fynde in this mateere
       Where he might find in this matter

68 - Two creatures accordynge in-feere.
       Two creatures agreeing together.

69 - Somme seyde wommen loven best richesse,
       Some said women love riches best,

70 - Somme seyde honour, somme seyde jolynesse,
       Some said honor, some said gaiety,

71 - Somme riche array, somme seyden lust abedde,
       Some rich clothing, some said lust in bed,

72 - And oftetyme to be wydwe and wedde.
       And frequently to be widow and wedded.

73 - Somme seyde that oure hertes been moost esed
       Some said that our hearts are most eased

74 - Whan that we been yflatered and yplesed.
       When we are flattered and pleased.

75 - He gooth ful ny the sothe, I wol nat lye.
       He goes very near the truth, I will not lie.

76 - A man shal wynne us best with flaterye,
       A man shall win us best with flattery,

77 - And with attendance and with bisynesse
       And with attentions and with solicitude

78 - Been we ylymed, bothe moore and lesse.
       We are caught, every one of us.

       79 - And somme seyen that we loven best
           And some say that we love best

80 - For to be free and do right as us lest,
       To be free and do just as we please,

81 - And that no man repreve us of oure vice,
       And that no man reprove us for our vices,

82 - But seye that we be wise and no thyng nyce.
       But say that we are wise and not at all silly.

83 - For trewely ther is noon of us alle,
       For truly there is not one of us all,

84 - If any wight wol clawe us on the galle,
       If any one will scratch us on the sore spot, 

85 - That we nel kike, for he seith us sooth.
       That we will not kick back, because he tells us the truth.

86 - Assay, and he shal fynde it that so dooth;
       Try it, and whoever so does shall find it true;

87 - For, be we never so vicious withinne,
       For, be we never so vicious within,

88 - We wol been holden wise and clene of synne.
       We want to be considered wise and clean of sin.

89 -    And somme seyn that greet delit han we
           And some say that we have great delight 

90 - For to been holden stable, and eek secree,
       To be considered steadfast, and also (able to keep a) secret,

91 - And in o purpos stedefastly to dwelle,
       And in one purpose steadfastly to remain,

92 - And nat biwreye thyng that men us telle.
       And not reveal things that men tell us.

93 - But that tale is nat worth a rake-stele.
       But that tale is not worth a rake handle.

94 - Pardee, we wommen konne no thyng hele;
       By God, we women can hide nothing;

95 - Witnesse on Myda -- wol ye heere the tale?
       Witness on Midas -- will you hear the tale?

       96 - Ovyde, amonges othere thynges smale,
              Ovid, among other small matters, 

97 - Seyde Myda hadde, under his longe heres,
       Said Midas had, under his long hair,

98 - Growynge upon his heed two asses eres,
       Two ass's ears, growing upon his head,

99 - The whiche vice he hydde as he best myghte
       The which vice he hid as he best could

100 - Ful subtilly from every mannes sighte,
         Very skillfully from every man's sight,

101 - That, save his wyf, ther wiste of it namo.
       That, except for his wife, there knew of it no others.

102 - He loved hire moost, and trusted hire also;
       He loved her most, and trusted her also;

103 - He preyede hire that to no creature
       He prayed her that to no creature

104 - She sholde tellen of his disfigure.
       She should tell of his disfigurement.

       105 - She swoor him, "Nay"; for al this world to wynne,
                She swore him, "Nay"; for all this world to win,

106 - She nolde do that vileynye or synne,
          She would not do that dishonor or sin,

107 - To make hir housbonde han so foul a name.
          To make her husband have so foul a reputation.

108 - She nolde nat telle it for hir owene shame.
          She would not tell it for her own shame.

109 - But nathelees, hir thoughte that she dyde
          But nonetheless, she thought that she would die

110 - That she so longe sholde a conseil hyde;
          If she should hide a secret so long;

111 - Hir thoughte it swal so soore aboute hir herte
        She thought it swelled so sore about her heart

112 - That nedely som word hire moste asterte;
         That necessarily some word must escape her;

113 - And sith she dorste telle it to no man,
         And since she dared tell it to no man,

114 - Doun to a mareys faste by she ran --
         She ran down to a marsh close by —

115 - Til she cam there hir herte was afyre --
         Until she came there her heart was afire —

116 - And as a bitore bombleth in the myre,
         And as a bittern bumbles in the mire,

117 - She leyde hir mouth unto the water doun:
         She laid her mouth down unto the water:

118 - "Biwreye me nat, thou water, with thy soun,"
         "Betray me not, thou water, with thy sound,”

118 - Quod she; "to thee I telle it and namo;
         She said; "to thee I tell it and no others;

120 - Myn housbonde hath longe asses erys two!
         My husband has two long asses ears!

121 - Now is myn herte al hool; now is it oute.
         Now is my heart all whole; now is it out.

122 - I myghte no lenger kepe it, out of doute."
         I could no longer keep it, without doubt.”

123 - Heere may ye se, thogh we a tyme abyde,
         Here you may see, though we a time abide,

124 - Yet out it moot; we kan no conseil hyde.
         Yet out it must come; we can hide no secret.

125 - The remenant of the tale if ye wol heere,
         The remnant of the tale if you will hear,

126 - Redeth Ovyde, and ther ye may it leere.
         Read Ovid, and there you may learn it.

       127 - This knyght, of which my tale is specially,
                This knight, of whom my tale is in particular,

128 - Whan that he saugh he myghte nat come therby --
         When he saw he might not come to that —

129 - This is to seye, what wommen love moost --
         This is to say, what women love most —

130 - Withinne his brest ful sorweful was the goost.
         Within his breast very sorrowful was the spirit.

131 - But hoom he gooth; he myghte nat sojourne;
         But home he goes; he could not linger;

132 - The day was come that homward moste he tourne.
         The day was come that homeward he must turn.

133 - And in his wey it happed hym to ryde,
         And in his way he happened to ride,

134 - In al this care, under a forest syde,
         In all this care, near a forest side,

135 - Wher as he saugh upon a daunce go
         Where he saw upon a dance go

136 - Of ladyes foure and twenty, and yet mo;
         Ladies four and twenty, and yet more;

137 - Toward the whiche daunce he drow ful yerne,
         Toward the which dance he drew very eagerly,

138 - In hope that som wysdom sholde he lerne.
         In hope that he should learn some wisdom.

139 - But certeinly, er he cam fully there,
         But certainly, before he came fully there,

140 - Vanysshed was this daunce, he nyste where.
         Vanished was this dance, he knew not where.

141 - No creature saugh he that bar lyf,
         He saw no creature that bore life,

142 - Save on the grene he saugh sittynge a wyf --
          Save on the green he saw sitting a woman —

143 - A fouler wight ther may no man devyse.
          There can no man imagine an uglier creature.

144 - Agayn the knyght this olde wyf gan ryse,
          At the knight's coming this old wife did rise,

145 - And seyde, "Sire knyght, heer forth ne lith no wey.
          And said, "Sir knight, there lies no road out of here.

146 - Tel me what that ye seken, by youre fey!
          Tell me what you seek, by your faith!

147 - Paraventure it may the bettre be;
          Perhaps it may be the better;

148 - Thise olde folk kan muchel thyng," quod she.
          These old folk know many things," she said.

       149 - "My leeve mooder," quod this knyght, "certeyn
                 "My dear mother," said this knight, "certainly

150 - I nam but deed but if that I kan seyn
          I am as good as dead unless I can say

151 - What thyng it is that wommen moost desire.
          What thing it is that women most desire.

152 - Koude ye me wisse, I wolde wel quite youre hire."
          If you could teach me, I would well repay you."

       153 - "Plight me thy trouthe heere in myn hand," quod she,
                "Pledge me thy word here in my hand," she said,

154 - "The nexte thyng that I requere thee,
          "The next thing that I require of thee,

155 - Thou shalt it do, if it lye in thy myght,
          Thou shalt do it, if it lies in thy power,

156 - And I wol telle it yow er it be nyght."
          And I will tell it to you before it is night."

       157 - "Have heer my trouthe," quod the knyght, "I grante."
                "Have here my pledged word," said the knight, "I agree.”

158 - "Thanne," quod she, "I dar me wel avante
         "Then," she said, "I dare me well boast

159 - Thy lyf is sauf, for I wol stonde therby;
         Thy life is safe, for I will stand thereby;

160 - Upon my lyf, the queene wol seye as I.
         Upon my life, the queen will say as I.

161 - Lat se which is the proudeste of hem alle
         Let's see which is the proudest of them all

162 - That wereth on a coverchief or a calle
         That wears a kerchief or a hairnet

163 - That dar seye nay of that I shal thee teche.
         That dares say `nay' of what I shall teach thee.

164 - Lat us go forth withouten lenger speche."
         Let us go forth without longer speech.”

165 - Tho rowned she a pistel in his ere,
         Then she whispered a message in his ear,

166 - And bad hym to be glad and have no fere.
         And commanded him to be glad and have no fear.

167 - Whan they be comen to the court, this knyght
         When they are come to the court, this knight

168 - Seyde he had holde his day, as he hadde hight,
         Said he had held his day, as he had promised,

169 - And redy was his answere, as he sayde.
         And his answer was ready, as he said.

170 - Ful many a noble wyf, and many a mayde,
         Very many a noble wife, and many a maid,

171 - And many a wydwe, for that they been wise,
         And many a widow, because they are wise,

172 - The queene hirself sittynge as a justise,
         The queen herself sitting as a justice,

173 - Assembled been, his answere for to heere;
         Are assembled, to hear his answer;

174 - And afterward this knyght was bode appeere.
         And afterward this knight was commanded to appear.

       175 - To every wight comanded was silence,
                Silence was commanded to every person,

176 - And that the knyght sholde telle in audience
         And that the knight should tell in open court

177 - What thyng that worldly wommen loven best.
         What thing (it is) that worldly women love best.

178 - This knyght ne stood nat stille as doth a best,
         This knight stood not silent as does a beast,

179 - But to his questioun anon answerde
         But to his question straightway answered

       180 - With manly voys, that al the court it herde:
         With manly voice, so that all the court heard it:

       181 - "My lige lady, generally," quod he,
                 "My liege lady, without exception," he said,

182 - "Wommen desiren to have sovereynetee
         "Women desire to have sovereignty

183 - As wel over hir housbond as hir love,
         As well over her husband as her love,

184 - And for to been in maistrie hym above.
         And to be in mastery above him.

185 - This is youre mooste desir, thogh ye me kille.
         This is your greatest desire, though you kill me.

186 - Dooth as yow list; I am heer at youre wille."
         Do as you please; I am here subject to your will.”

187 - In al the court ne was ther wyf, ne mayde,
         In all the court there was not wife, nor maid,

188 - Ne wydwe that contraried that he sayde,
         Nor widow that denied what he said,

189 - But seyden he was worthy han his lyf.
         But said that he was worthy to have his life.

190 - And with that word up stirte the olde wyf,
         And with that word up sprang the old woman,

191 - Which that the knyght saugh sittynge on the grene:
         Whom the knight saw sitting on the green:

192 - "Mercy," quod she, "my sovereyn lady queene!
         "Mercy," she said, "my sovereign lady queen!

193 - Er that youre court departe, do me right.
         Before your court departs, do me justice.

194 - I taughte this answere unto the knyght;
         I taught this answer to the knight;

195 - For which he plighte me his trouthe there,
         For which he pledged me his word there,

196 - The firste thyng that I wolde hym requere
         The first thing that I would ask of him

197 - He wolde it do, if it lay in his myghte.
         He would do, if it lay in his power.

198 - Bifore the court thanne preye I thee, sir knyght,"
         Before the court then I pray thee, sir knight,”

199 - Quod she, "that thou me take unto thy wyf,
         Said she, "that thou take me as thy wife,

200 - For wel thou woost that I have kept thy lyf.
         For well thou know that I have saved thy life.

201 - If I seye fals, sey nay, upon thy fey!"
         If I say false, say `nay', upon thy faith!"

       202 - This knyght answerde, "Allas and weylawey!
                 This knight answered, "Alas and woe is me!

203 - I woot right wel that swich was my biheste.
         I know right well that such was my promise.

204 - For Goddes love, as chees a newe requeste!
         For God's love, choose a new request!

205 - Taak al my good and lat my body go."
         Take all my goods and let my body go."

       206 - "Nay, thanne," quod she, "I shrewe us bothe two!
                 "Nay, then," she said, "I curse both of us two!

207 - For thogh that I be foul, and oold, and poore
         For though I am ugly, and old, and poor

208 - I nolde for al the metal, ne for oore
         I would not for all the metal, nor for ore

209 - That under erthe is grave or lith above,
         That under earth is buried or lies above,

210 - But if thy wyf I were, and eek thy love."
         Have anything except that I were thy wife, and also thy love."

       211 - "My love?" quod he, "nay, my dampnacioun!
                 "My love?" he said, "nay, my damnation!

212 - Allas, that any of my nacioun
         Alas, that any of my family

213 - Sholde evere so foule disparaged be!"
         Should ever be so foully degraded!”

214 - But al for noght; the ende is this, that he
         But all for naught; the end is this, that he

215 - Constreyned was; he nedes moste hire wedde,
         Constrained was; he must by necessity wed her,

216 - And taketh his olde wyf, and gooth to bedde.
         And takes his old wife, and goes to bed.

       217 - Now wolden som men seye, paraventure,
                Now would some men say, perhaps,

218 - That for my necligence I do no cure
         That because of my negligence I make no effort

219 - To tellen yow the joye and al th' array
         To tell you the joy and all the rich display

220- That at the feeste was that ilke day.
         That was at the (wedding) feast that same day.

221 - To which thyng shortly answeren I shal:
          To which thing shortly I shall answer:

222-  seye ther nas no joye ne feeste at al;
         I say there was no joy nor feast at all;

223 - Ther nas but hevynesse and muche sorwe.
         There was nothing but heaviness and much sorrow.

224 - For prively he wedded hire on morwe,
         For he wedded her in private in the morning,

225 - And al day after hidde hym as an owle,
         And all day after hid himself like an owl,

226 - So wo was hym, his wyf looked so foule.
         So woeful was he, his wife looked so ugly.

       227 - Greet was the wo the knyght hadde in his thoght,
                 Great was the woe the knight had in his thought,

228 - Whan he was with his wyf abedde ybroght;
         When he was brought to bed with his wife;

229 - He walweth and he turneth to and fro.
         He wallows and he turns to and fro.

230 - His olde wyf lay smylynge everemo,
         His old wife lay smiling evermore,

231 - And seyde, "O deere housbonde, benedicitee!
         And said, "O dear husband, bless me!

232 - Fareth every knyght thus with his wyf as ye?
         Does every knight behave thus with his wife as you do?

233 - Is this the lawe of kyng Arthures hous?
         Is this the law of king Arthur's house?

234 - Is every knyght of his so dangerous?
         Is every knight of his so aloof?

235 - I am youre owene love and youre wyf;
         I am your own love and your wife;

236 - I am she which that saved hath youre lyf,
         I am she who has saved your life,

237 - And, certes, yet ne dide I yow nevere unright;
         And, certainly, I did you never wrong yet;

238 - Why fare ye thus with me this firste nyght?
         Why behave you thus with me this first night?

239 - Ye faren lyk a man had lost his wit.
         You act like a man who had lost his wit.

240 - What is my gilt? For Goddes love, tel it,
         What is my offense? For God's love, tell it,

241 - And it shal been amended, if I may."
         And it shall be amended, if I can."

       242 - "Amended?" quod this knyght, "Allas, nay, nay!
                "Amended?" said this knight, "Alas, nay, nay!

243 - It wol nat been amended nevere mo.
         It will not be amended ever more.

244 - Thou art so loothly, and so oold also,
         Thou art so loathsome, and so old also,

245 - And therto comen of so lough a kynde,
         And moreover descended from such low born lineage,

246 - That litel wonder is thogh I walwe and wynde.
         That little wonder is though I toss and twist about.

247 - So wolde God myn herte wolde breste!"
         So would God my heart would burst!"

       248 - "Is this," quod she, "the cause of youre unreste?"
                "Is this," she said, "the cause of your distress?"

       249 - "Ye, certeinly," quod he, "no wonder is."
                "Yes, certainly," he said, "it is no wonder."

       250 - "Now, sire," quod she, "I koude amende al this,
                "Now, sir," she said, "I could amend all this,

251 - If that me liste, er it were dayes thre,
         If I pleased, before three days were past,

252 - So wel ye myghte bere yow unto me.
         Providing that you might behave well towards me.

253 - "But, for ye speken of swich gentillesse
         "But, since you speak of such nobility

254 - As is descended out of old richesse,
         As is descended out of old riches,

255 - That therfore sholden ye be gentil men,
         That therefore you should be noble men,

256 - Swich arrogance is nat worth an hen.
         Such arrogance is not worth a hen.

257 - Looke who that is moost vertuous alway,
         Look who is most virtuous always,

258- Pryvee and apert, and moost entendeth ay
         In private and public, and most intends ever

259 - To do the gentil dedes that he kan;
         To do the noble deeds that he can;

260 - Taak hym for the grettest gentil man.
         Take him for the greatest noble man.

261 - Crist wole we clayme of hym oure gentillesse,
         Christ wants us to claim our nobility from him,

262 - Nat of oure eldres for hire old richesse.
         Not from our ancestors for their old riches.

263 - For thogh they yeve us al hir heritage,
         For though they give us all their heritage,

264 - For which we clayme to been of heigh parage,
         For which we claim to be of noble lineage,

265 - Yet may they nat biquethe for no thyng
         Yet they can not bequeath by any means

266 - To noon of us hir vertuous lyvyng,
         To any of us their virtuous living,

267 - That made hem gentil men ycalled be,
         That made them be called noble men,

268 - And bad us folwen hem in swich degree.
         And commanded us to follow them in such matters.

       269 - "Wel kan the wise poete of Florence,
                "Well can the wise poet of Florence, 

270 - That highte Dant, speken in this sentence.
         Who is called Dante, speak on this matter.

271 - Lo, in swich maner rym is Dantes tale:
         Lo, in such sort of rime is Dante's speech:

272 - `Ful selde up riseth by his branches smale
         `Very seldom grows up from its small branches

273 - Prowesse of man, for God, of his goodnesse,
         Nobility of man, for God, of his goodness,

274 - Wole that of hym we clayme oure gentillesse';
         Wants us to claim our nobility from him’;

275 - For of oure eldres may we no thyng clayme
         For from our ancestors we can claim no thing 

276 - But temporel thyng, that man may hurte and mayme.
         Except temporal things, that may hurt and injure a man.

       277 - "Eek every wight woot this as wel as I,
                 "Also every person knows this as well as I,

278 - If gentillesse were planted natureelly
         If nobility were planted naturally

279 - Unto a certeyn lynage doun the lyne,
         Unto a certain lineage down the line,

280 - Pryvee and apert thanne wolde they nevere fyne
         Then in private and in public they would never cease

281 - To doon of gentillesse the faire office;
         To do the just duties of nobility;

282 - They myghte do no vileynye or vice.
         They could do no dishonor or vice.

       283 - "Taak fyr and ber it in the derkeste hous
                "Take fire and bear it in the darkest house

284 - Bitwix this and the mount of Kaukasous,
         Between this and the mount of Caucasus,

285 - And lat men shette the dores and go thenne;
         And let men shut the doors and go away;

286 - Yet wole the fyr as faire lye and brenne
         Yet will the fire as brightly blaze and burn 

287 - As twenty thousand men myghte it biholde;
         As if twenty thousand men might it behold;

288 - His office natureel ay wol it holde,
         Its natural function it will always hold,

289 - Up peril of my lyf, til that it dye.
         On peril of my life (I say), until it dies.

       290 - "Heere may ye se wel how that genterye
                "Here may you see well that nobility

291 - Is nat annexed to possessioun,
         Is not joined with possession,

292 - Sith folk ne doon hir operacioun
         Since folk not do behave as they should

293 - Alwey, as dooth the fyr, lo, in his kynde.
         Always, as does the fire, lo, in its nature.

294 - For, God it woot, men may wel often fynde
         For, God knows it, men may well often find

295- A lordes sone do shame and vileynye;
         A lord's son doing shame and dishonor;

296 - And he that wole han pris of his gentrye,
         And he who will have praise for his noble birth,

297- For he was boren of a gentil hous
         Because he was born of a noble house

298 - And hadde his eldres noble and vertuous,
         And had his noble and virtuous ancestors,

299 - And nel hymselven do no gentil dedis
         And will not himself do any noble deeds

300 - Ne folwen his gentil auncestre that deed is,
         Nor follow his noble ancestry that is dead,

301 - He nys nat gentil, be he duc or erl,
         He is not noble, be he duke or earl,

302 - For vileyns synful dedes make a cherl.
         For churlish sinful deeds make a churl.

303 - For gentillesse nys but renomee
         For nobility is nothing but renown

304 - Of thyne auncestres, for hire heigh bountee,
         Of thy ancestors, for their great goodness,

305 - Which is a strange thyng to thy persone.
         Which is a thing not naturally part of thy person.

306 - Thy gentillesse cometh fro God allone.
         Thy nobility comes from God alone.

307 - Thanne comth oure verray gentillesse of grace;
         Then our true nobility comes from grace;

308 - It was no thyng biquethe us with oure place.
         It was not at all bequeathed to us with our social rank.

       309 - "Thenketh hou noble, as seith Valerius,
                "Think how noble, as says Valerius,

310 - Was thilke Tullius Hostillius,
          Was that same Tullius Hostillius,

311 - That out of poverte roos to heigh noblesse.
         That out of poverty rose to high nobility.

312 - Reedeth Senek, and redeth eek Boece;
         Read Seneca, and read also Boethius;

313- Ther shul ye seen expres that it no drede is
         There shall you see clearly that it is no doubt

314 - That he is gentil that dooth gentil dedis.
         That he is noble who does noble deeds.

315 - And therfore, leeve housbonde, I thus conclude:
         And therefore, dear husband, I thus conclude:

316 - Al were it that myne auncestres were rude,
         Although it is so that my ancestors were rude,

317 - Yet may the hye God, and so hope I,
         Yet may the high God, and so hope I,

318 - Grante me grace to lyven vertuously.
         Grant me grace to live virtuously.

319- Thanne am I gentil, whan that I bigynne
         Then am I noble, when I begin

320 - To lyven vertuously and weyve synne.
         To live virtuously and abandon sin.

       321 - "And ther as ye of poverte me repreeve,
                "And whereas you reprove me for poverty,

322 - The hye God, on whom that we bileeve,
         The high God, on whom we believe,

323 - In wilful poverte chees to lyve his lyf.
         In voluntary poverty chose to live his life.

324 - And certes every man, mayden, or wyf
         And certainly every man, maiden, or woman

325 - May understonde that Jhesus, hevene kyng,
         Can understand that Jesus, heaven's king,

326 - Ne wolde nat chese a vicious lyvyng.
         Would not choose a vicious form of living.

327 - Glad poverte is an honest thyng, certeyn;
         Glad poverty is an honest thing, certain;

328 - This wole Senec and othere clerkes seyn.
         This will Seneca and other clerks say.

329- Whoso that halt hym payd of his poverte,
         Whoever considers himself satisfied with his poverty,

330 - I holde hym riche, al hadde he nat a sherte.
         I consider him rich, although he had not a shirt.

331 - He that coveiteth is a povre wight,
         He who covets is a poor person,

332 - For he wolde han that is nat in his myght;
         For he would have that which is not in his power;

333 - But he that noght hath, ne coveiteth have,
         But he who has nothing, nor covets to have anything,

334 - Is riche, although ye holde hym but a knave.
         Is rich, although you consider him but a knave.

335 - Verray poverte, it syngeth proprely;
         True poverty, it rightly sings; 

336 - Juvenal seith of poverte myrily:
         Juvenal says of poverty merrily:

337 - `The povre man, whan he goth by the weye,
         `The poor man, when he goes along the roadway,

338 - Bifore the theves he may synge and pleye.'
         Before the thieves he may sing and play.’

339- Poverte is hateful good and, as I gesse,
         Poverty is a hateful good and, as I guess,

340- A ful greet bryngere out of bisynesse;
         A very great remover of cares;

341 - A greet amendere eek of sapience
         A great amender also of wisdom

342 - To hym that taketh it in pacience.
         To him that takes it in patience.

343 - Poverte is this, although it seme alenge:
         Poverty is this, although it may seem miserable:

344 - Possessioun that no wight wol chalenge.
         A possession that no one will challenge.

345 - Poverte ful ofte, whan a man is lowe,
         Poverty very often, when a man is low,

346 - Maketh his God and eek hymself to knowe.
         Makes him know his God and also himself.

347 - Poverte a spectacle is, as thynketh me,
         Poverty is an eye glass, as it seems to me,

348 - Thurgh which he may his verray freendes see.
         Through which one may see his true friends.

349 - And therfore, sire, syn that I noght yow greve,
         And therefore, sir, since I do not injure you,

350 - Of my poverte namoore ye me repreve.
         You (should) no longer reprove me for my poverty.

       351 - "Now, sire, of elde ye repreve me;
                "Now, sir, of old age you reprove me;

352 - And certes, sire, thogh noon auctoritee
         And certainly, sir, though no authority

353 - Were in no book, ye gentils of honour
         Were in any book, you gentlefolk of honor

354 - Seyn that men sholde an oold wight doon favour
         Say that men should be courteous to an old person

355 - And clepe hym fader, for youre gentillesse;
         And call him father, because of your nobility;

356 - And auctours shal I fynden, as I gesse.
         And authors shall I find, as I guess.

       357 - "Now ther ye seye that I am foul and old,
                "Now where you say that I am ugly and old,

358 - Than drede you noght to been a cokewold;
         Than do not fear to be a cuckold;

359 - For filthe and eelde, also moot I thee,
         For filth and old age, as I may prosper,

360 - Been grete wardeyns upon chastitee.
         Are great guardians of chastity.

361 - But nathelees, syn I knowe youre delit,
         But nonetheless, since I know your delight,

362 - I shal fulfille youre worldly appetit.
         I shall fulfill your worldly appetite.

       363 - "Chese now," quod she, "oon of thise thynges tweye:
                 "Choose now," she said, "one of these two things:

364 - To han me foul and old til that I deye,
          To have me ugly and old until I die,

365 - And be to yow a trewe, humble wyf,
          And be to you a true, humble wife,

366 - And nevere yow displese in al my lyf,
         And never displease you in all my life,

367 - Or elles ye wol han me yong and fair,
         Or else you will have me young and fair,

368 - And take youre aventure of the repair
         And take your chances of the crowd

369 - That shal be to youre hous by cause of me,
         That shall be at your house because of me,

370 - Or in som oother place, may wel be.
         Or in some other place, as it may well be.

371 - Now chese yourselven, wheither that yow liketh."
         Now choose yourself, whichever you please."

       372 - This knyght avyseth hym and sore siketh,
                This knight deliberates and painfully sighs,

373- But atte laste he seyde in this manere:
         But at the last he said in this manner:

374 - "My lady and my love, and wyf so deere,
         "My lady and my love, and wife so dear,

375 - I put me in youre wise governance;
         I put me in your wise governance;

376 - Cheseth youreself which may be moost plesance
         Choose yourself which may be most pleasure

377 - And moost honour to yow and me also.
         And most honor to you and me also.

378 - I do no fors the wheither of the two,
         I do not care which of the two,

379 - For as yow liketh, it suffiseth me."
         For as it pleases you, is enough for me."

       380 - "Thanne have I gete of yow maistrie," quod she,
                "Then have I gotten mastery of you," she said,

381 - "Syn I may chese and governe as me lest?"
         "Since I may choose and govern as I please?"

       382 - "Ye, certes, wyf," quod he, "I holde it best."
                "Yes, certainly, wife," he said, "I consider it best."

       383 - "Kys me," quod she, "we be no lenger wrothe,
                "Kiss me," she said, "we are no longer angry,

384 - For, by my trouthe, I wol be to yow bothe --
         For, by my troth, I will be to you both —

385 - This is to seyn, ye, bothe fair and good.
         This is to say, yes, both fair and good.

386 - I prey to God that I moote sterven wood,
         I pray to God that I may die insane

387 - But I to yow be also good and trewe
         Unless I to you be as good and true

388 - As evere was wyf, syn that the world was newe.
         As ever was wife, since the world was new.

389 - And but I be to-morn as fair to seene
         And unless I am tomorrow morning as fair to be seen

390 - As any lady, emperice, or queene,
         As any lady, empress, or queen,

391 - That is bitwixe the est and eke the west,
         That is between the east and also the west,

392 - Dooth with my lyf and deth right as yow lest.
         Do with my life and death right as you please.

393 - Cast up the curtyn, looke how that it is."
         Cast up the curtain, look how it is."

       394 - And whan the knyght saugh verraily al this,
                And when the knight saw truly all this,

395 - That she so fair was, and so yong therto,
         That she so was beautiful, and so young moreover,

396 - For joye he hente hire in his armes two.
         For joy he clasped her in his two arms.

397 - His herte bathed in a bath of blisse.
         His heart bathed in a bath of bliss.

398 - A thousand tyme a-rewe he gan hire kisse,
         A thousand time in a row he did her kiss,

399 - And she obeyed hym in every thyng
         And she obeyed him in every thing

400 - That myghte doon hym plesance or likyng.
         That might do him pleasure or enjoyment.

       401 - And thus they lyve unto hir lyves ende
                And thus they live unto their lives' end

402 - In parfit joye; and Jhesu Crist us sende
         In perfect joy; and Jesus Christ us send

403 - Housbondes meeke, yonge, and fressh abedde,
         Husbands meek, young, and vigorous in bed,

404 - And grace t' overbyde hem that we wedde;
         And grace to outlive them whom we wed;

405 - And eek I praye Jhesu shorte hir lyves
         And also I pray Jesus shorten their lives

406 - That noght wol be governed by hir wyves;
         That will not be governed by their wives;

407 - And olde and angry nygardes of dispence,
         And old and angry misers in spending,

408 - God sende hem soone verray pestilence!
         God send them soon the very pestilence!

spoken =Brian Ó Broin