Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale
THE WIFE OF BATH'S PROLOGUE AND TALE
by Geoffrey Chaucer
Source: on-line modern translation at Virginia Tech (no longer
See, however, a complete edition of the same public domain translation, as well as
Middle English texts, at:
. The Hypertext version at
JSU's local site is prepared by Dr. Joanne E. Gates. Lines have been numbered to
conform to the
Longman Anthology of British Literature,
Volume 1A (2nd edition at
1. Experience, though no authority
2. Were in this world, were good enough for me,
3. To speak of woe that is in all marriage;
4. For, masters, since I was twelve years of age,
5. Thanks be to God Who is for aye alive,
6. Of husbands at church door have I had five;
7. For men so many times have wedded me;
8. And all were worthy men in their degree.
9. But someone told me not so long ago
10. That since Our Lord, save once, would never go
11. To wedding (that at Cana in Galilee),
12. Thus, by this same example, showed He me
13. I never should have married more than once.
14. Lo and behold! What sharp words, for the nonce,
15. Beside a well Lord Jesus, God and man,
16. Spoke in reproving the Samaritan:
17. 'For thou hast had five husbands,' thus said He,
18. 'And he whom thou hast now to be with thee
19. Is not thine husband.' Thus He said that day,
20. But what He meant thereby I cannot say;
21. And I would ask now why that same fifth man
22. Was not husband to the Samaritan?
23. How many might she have, then, in marriage?
24. For I have never heard, in all my age,
25. Clear exposition of this number shown,
26. Though men may guess and argue up and down.
27. But well I know and say, and do not lie,
28. God bade us to increase and multiply;
29. That worthy text can I well understand.
30. And well I know He said, too, my husband
31. Should father leave, and mother, and cleave to me;
32. But no specific number mentioned He,
33. Whether of bigamy or octogamy;
34. Why should men speak of it reproachfully?
35. Lo, there's the wise old king Dan Solomon;
36. I understand he had more wives than one;
37. And now would God it were permitted me
38. To be refreshed one half as oft as he!