To reden in this book of wikked wives.
He knew of hem mo legendes and mo lives,
Than ben of goode wives in the Bible.

For trusteth wel, it is an impossible,
That any clerk wol speken good of wives,
(But if it be of holy seintes lives)
Ne of non other woman never the mo.
Who peinted the leon, telleth me, who?
By God, if wimmen hadden written stories,
As clerkes han, within hir oratories,
They wold have writ of men more wikkednesse,
Than all the merke of Adam


The children of Mercury and of Venus
Ben in hir werking ful contrarious.
Mercury loveth wisdom and science,
And Venus loveth riot and dispence.
And for hir divers disposition,
Eche falleth in others exaltation.
As thus, God wote, Mercury is desolat
In Pisces, wher Venus is exaltat,
And Venus falleth wher Mercury is reised.
Therfore no woman of no clerk is preised.
The clerk whan he is old, and may nought do
Of Venus werkes not worth his old sho,
Than siteth he doun, and writeth in his dotage,
That wimmen cannot kepe hir mariage.
But now to purpos, why I tolde thee,
That I was beten for a book parde.

Upon a night Jankin, that was our sire,
Red on his book, as he sate by the fire,
Of Eva first, that for hire wikkednesse
Was all mankinde brought to wretchednesse,
For which that Jesu Crist himself was slain,
That bought us with his herte-blood again.

Lo here expresse of wimmen may ye find, That woman was the losse of all mankind.

Tho redde he me how Sampson lost his heres Sleping, his lemman kitte hem with hire sheres, Thurgh whiche treson lost he both his eyen.

Tho redde he me, if that I shal not lien,
Of Hercules, and of his Deianire,
That caused him to set himself a-fire.

Nothing forgat he the care and the wo,
That Socrates had with his wives two;
How Xantippa cast pisse upon his hed.
This sely man sat still, as he were ded,
He wiped his hed, no more dorst he sain,
But, er the thonder stint ther cometh rain.

Of Pasiphae, that was the quene of Crete,
For shrewednesse him thought the tale swete.
Fie, speke no more (it is a grisely thing)
Of hire horrible lust and hire liking.

Of Clitemnestra for hire lecherie
That falsely made hire husbond for to die,
He redde it with ful good devotion.

He told me eke, for what occasion
Amphiorax at Thebes lost his lif:
My husbond had a legend of his wif
Eriphile, that for an ouche of gold
Hath prively unto the Grekes told,
Wher that hire husbond hidde him in a place,
For which he had at Thebes sory grace.

Of Lima told he me, and of Lucie: They bothe made hir husbondes for to die, That on for love, that other was for hate. Lima hire husbond on an even late Empoysoned hath, for that she was his fo: Lucia likerous loved hire husbond so,

That for he shuld alway upon hire thinke,

him swiche a maner love-drinke, That he was ded er it were by the morwe: And thus algates husbondes hadden sorwe.

Than told he me, how on Latumeus
Complained to his felaw Arius,
That in his gardin growed swiche a tree,
On which he said how that his wives three
Honged hemself for hertes despitous.
O leve brother, quod this Arius,
Yeve me a plant of thilke blessed tree,
And in my gardin planted shal it be.

Of later date of wives hath he redde,
That som han slain hir husbonds in hir bedde,
And let hir lechour dight hem all the night,
While that the corps lay in the flore upright:
And som han driven nailes in hir brain,
While that they slepe, and thus they han hem

slain: Som han hem yeven poyson in hir drink: He spake more harm than herte may bethinke.

And therwithall he knew of mo proverbes, Than in this world their growen grass or herbes.

Bet is (quod he) thin habitation
Be with a leon, or a foule dragon,
Than with a woman using for to chide.

Bet is (quod he) high in the roof abide,
Than with an angry woman doun in the hous,
They ben so wikked and contrarious:
They haten, that hir husbonds loven ay.

He sayd, a woman cast hire shame away, Whan she cast of hire smock; and forthermo, A faire woman, but she be chast also,


Is like a gold ring in a sowes nose.

Who coude wene, or who coude suppose The wo that in min herte was, and the pine ? And whan I saw he n'olde never fine To reden on this cursed book all night, Al sodenly three leves have I plight Out of his book, right as he redde, and eke I with my fist so toke him on the cheke, That in oure fire he fell bakward adoun. And he up sterte, as doth a wood leoun, And with his fist he smote me on the hed, That in the flore I lay as I were ded. And whan he saw how stille that I lay, He was agast, and wold have fled away, Til at the last out of my swough I brayde. 0, hast thou slain me, false theef? I sayde, And for


lond thus hast thou mordred me? Er I be ded, yet wol I kissen thee. And nere he came, and kneled faire adoun, And sayde; dere suster Alisoun, As helpe me God I shal thee never smite: That I have don it is thyself to wite, Foryeve it me, and that I thee beseke. And yet eftsones I hitte him on the cheke, And sayde; theef, thus much am I awreke. Now wol I die, 1 may no longer speke.

But at the last, with mochel care and wo We fell accorded by ourselven two: He yaf me all the bridel in min hond To han the governance of hous and lond, And of his tonge, and of his hond also, And made him brenne his book anon right tho.

And whan that I had getten unto me By maistrie all the soverainetee,



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And that he sayd, min owen trewe wif,
Do as thee list, the terme of all thy lif,
Kepe thin honour, and kepe eke min estat;
After that day we never had debat.
God helpe me so, I was to him as kinde,
As any wif fro Denmark unto Inde,
And al so trewe, and so was he to me:
I pray to God that sit in majestee
So blisse his soule, for his mercy dere.
Now wol I

say my
tale if


wol here. The frere lough whan he had herd all this: Now dame, quod he, so have I joye and blis, This is a long preamble of a tale.

And whan the Sompnour herd the frere gale, Lo (quod this Sompnour) Goddes armes two, A frere wol entermete him evermo: Lo, goode men, a flie and eke a frere Wol fall in every dish and eke matere. What spekest thou of preambulatioun? What? amble or trot; or pees, or go sit doun: Thou lettest our disport in this matere.

Ye,wolt thou so,Sire Sompnour?quod the frere; Now by my faith I shal, er that I Tell of a Sompnour swiche a tale or two, That all the folk shal laughen in this place.

Now elles, frere, I wol beshrewe thy face, (Quod this Sompnour) and I beshrewe me, But if I telle tales two or three Of freres, or I come to Sidenborne, That I shal make thin herte for to morne: For wel I wot thy patience is gon.

Our hoste cried; pees, and that anon; And sayde; let the woman tell hire tale. Ye fare as folk that dronken ben of ale.



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