(Thanked be God that is eterne on live)
Husbondes at chirche dore have I had five,
(If I so often might han wedded be)
And all were worthy men in lir degree.
But me was told, not longe time agon

That sithen Crist ne went never but onis
To wedding, in the Cane of Galilee,
That by that ilke ensample taught he me,
That I ne shulde wedded be but ones.
Lo, herke eke, which a sharpe word for the nones,
Beside a welle Jesu, God and man,
Spake in reprefe of the Samaritan:
Thou hast yhadde five husbonds, sayde he:
And thilke man, that now hath wedded thee,
Is not thyn husbond: thus said he certain;
What that he ment therby, I can not sain,
But that I aske, why that the fifthe man
Was non husbond to the Samaritan?
How many might she have in mariage?
Yet herd I never tellen in min age
Upon this noumbre diffinitioun;
Men may devine, and glosen up and doun.

But wel I wot, expresse withouten lie
God bad us for to wex and multiplie;
That gentil text can I wel understond.
Eke wel I wot, he sayd, that min husbond
Shuld leve fader and moder, and take to me;
But of no noumbre mention made he,
Of bigamie or of octogamie;
Why shuld men than speke of it vilanie?

Lo here the wise king Dan Salomon,
I trow he hadde wives mo than on,
(As wolde God it leful were to me
To be refreshed half so oft as he)

Which a gift of God had he for alle his wives?
No man hath swiche, that in this world on live is.
God wot, this noble king, as to my witte,
The firste night had many a mery fitte
With eche of hem, so wel was him on live.
Blessed be God that I have wedded five,
Welcome the sixthe whan that ever he shall.
For sith I wol not kepe me chaste in all,
Whan min husbond is fro the world ygon,
Som cristen man shal wedden me anon.
For than the apostle saith, that I am fre
To wedde, a' goddes half, wher it liketh me.
He saith, that to be wedded is no sinne;
Better is to be wedded than to brinne.
What rekketh me though folk say

Of shrewed Lamech, and his bigamie?
I wot wel Abraham was an holy man,
And Jacob eke, as fer as ever I can,
And eche of hem had wives mo than two,

many another holy man also.
Wher can ye seen in any maner age
That highe God defended mariage
By expresse word? I pray you telleth me,
Or wher commanded he virginitee?

I wot as wel as ye, it is no drede,
The apostle, whan he spake of maidenhede,
He said, that precept therof had he non:
Men may

conseille a woman to ben on, But conseilling is no commandement; He put it in our owen jugement.

For hadde God commanded maidenhede, Than had he dampned wedding out of drede; And certes, if ther were no sede ysowe, Virginitee than wherof shuld it growe?

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Poule dorste not commanden at the lest A thing, of which his maister yaf non hest. The dart is sette up for virginitee, Catch who so may, who renneth best let see. But this word is not take of every wight, But ther as God wol yeve it of his might. I wot wel that the apostle was a maid, But natheles, though that he wrote and said, He wold that every wight were swiche as he, All n’is but conseil to virginitee. And for to ben a wif he yaf me leve, Of indulgence, so n'is it non repreve To wedden me,

if that


make die, Withoute exception of bigamie; All were it good no woman for to touche, (He ment as in his bed or in his couche) For peril is both fire and tow to assemble; Ye know what this ensample may resemble.

This is all and som, he held virginitee More parfit than wedding in freeltee: (Freeltee clepe I, but if that he and she Wold lede hir lives all in chastitee) I graunt it wel, I have of non envie, Who maidenhed preferre to bigamie; It liketh hem to be clene in body and gost; Of min estat I wol not maken bost. For wel


know, a lord in his houshold Ne hath nat every vessell all of gold: Som ben of tree; and don hir lord service. God clepeth folk to him in sondry wise, And everich hath of God a propre gift, Som this, som that, as that him liketh shift. Virginitee gret perfection, And continence eke with devotion;

it to the poure,


But Crist, that of perfection is welle,
Ne bade not every wight he shulde go

selle All that he had, and

And in swiche wise folow him and his lore:
He spake to hem that wold live parfitly,
And, lordings, (by your leve) that am nat I;
I wol bestow the flour of all myn age
In th' actes and the fruit of mariage.

Tell me also, to what conclusion
Were membres made of generation,
And of so parfit wise a wight ywrought?
Trusteth me wel, they were nat made for nought.
Glose who so wol, and



and doun,
That they were made for purgatioun
Of urine, and of other thinges smale,
And eke to know a female from a male:
And for non other cause? say ye no?
The experience wot wel it is not so.
So that the clerkes be not with me wroth,
I say this, that they maked ben for both,
This is to sayn, for office, and for ese
Of engendrure, ther we not God displese.
Why shuld men elles in hir bookes sette,
That man shal yelden to his wif hire dette?
Now wherwith shuld he make his payement,
If he ne used his sely instrument?
Than were they made upon a creature
To purge urine, and eke for engendrure.

But I say not that every wight is hold,
That hath swiche harneis as I to you told,

and usen hem in engendrure;
Than shuld men take of chastitee no cure.
Crist was a maide, and shapen as a man,
And many a seint, sith that this world began,


Yet lived they ever in parfit chastitee.
I n'ill envie with no virginitee.
Let hem with bred of pured whete be fed,
And let us wives eten barly bred.
And yet with barly bred, Mark tellen can,
Our Lord Jesu refreshed many a man.
In swiche estat as God hath cleped us,
I wol persever, I n'am not precious,
In wif hode wol I use min instrument
As frely as my maker hath it sent.
If I be dangerous God yeve me sorwe,
Min husbond shal it have both even and morwe,
Whan that him list come forth and


his dette. An husbond wol I have, I wol not lette, Which shal be both

dettour and

And have his tribulation withall
Upon his flesh, while that I am his wif.
I have the power during all my
Upon his propre body, and nat he;
Right thus the apostle told it unto me,
And bad our husbonds for to love us wel;
All this sentence me


Up stert the pardoner, and that anon;
Now, dame, quod he, by God and by Seint John,
Ye ben a noble prechour in this cas.
I was about to wed a wif, alas!
What? shuld I bie it on my flesh so dere?
Yet had I lever wed no wif to-yere.

Abide, quod she, my tale is not begonne.
Nay, thou shalt drinken of another tonne
Er that I

shal savour worse than ale.
And whan that I have told thee forth my tale
Of tribulation in mariage,
Of which I am expert in all min age,



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