Witnesse on Mida; wol ye here the tale?
Ovide, amonges other thinges smale,
Said, Mida had under his longe heres
Growing upon his hed two asses eres;
The whiche vice he hid, as he beste might,
Ful subtilly from every mannes sight,
That, save his wif, ther wist of it no mo;
He loved hire most, and trusted hire also;
He praied hire, that to no creature
She n'olde tellen of his disfigure.

She swore him, nay, for all the world to winne, She n'olde do that vilanie, ne sinne,

To make hire husbond han so foule a name:
She n'olde not tell it for hire owen shame.
But natheles hire thoughte that she dide,
That she so longe shuld a conseil hide;
Hire thought it swal so sore aboute hire herte,
That nedely som word hire must asterte;
And sith she dorst nat telle it to no man,
Doun to a mareis faste by she ran,
Til she came ther, hire herte was a-fire:
And as a bitore bumbleth in the mire,
She laid hire mouth unto the water doun.
Bewrey me not, thou water, with thy soun,
Quod she, to thee I tell it, and no mo,
Min husbond hath long asses eres two.
Now is min herte all hole, now is it out,
I might no lenger kepe it out of dout,
Here may ye see, though we a time abide,
Yet out it moste, we can no conseil hide.
The remenant of the tale, if ye wol here,
Redeth Ovide, and ther ye may it lere.

This knight, of which my tale is specially, Whan that he saw he might not come therby,

(This is to sayn, what women loven most)
Within his brest ful sorweful was his gost.
But home he goth, he mighte not sojourne,
The day was come, that homward must he turne.
And in his way, it happed him to ride
In all his care, under a forest side,
Wheras he saw upon a dance go

Of ladies foure and twenty, and yet mo.
Toward this ilke dance he drow ful yerne,
In hope that he som wisdom shulde lerne;
But certainly, er he came fully there,
Yvanished was this dance, he n'iste not wher;
No creature saw he that bare lif,

Save on the grene he saw sitting a wif,
A fouler wight, ther may no man devise.
Againe this knight this olde wif gan arise,
And said; sire knight, here forth ne lith no way.
Tell me what that ye seken by your fay.
Paraventure it may the better be:
Thise olde folk con mochel thing, quod she.
My leve mother, quod this knight, certain,
I n'am but ded, but if that I can sain,
What thing it is that women most desire:
Coude ye me wisse, I wold quite wel your hire.
Plight me thy trouthe here in myn hond, quod she,
The nexte thing that I requere of thee

Thou shalt it do, if it be in thy might,
And I wol tell it you or it be night.


Have here my trouthe, quod the knight, I
Thanne, quod she, I dare me wel avaunte,

Thy lif is sauf, for I wol stond therby,
Upon my lif the quene wol say as I:
Let see, which is the proudest of hem alle,
That wereth on a kerchef or a calle,

That dare sayn nay of that I shal
you teche.
Let us go forth withouten lenger speche.

Tho rowned she a pistel in his ere,

And bad him to be glad, and have no fere.

Whan they ben comen to the court, this knight Said, he had hold his day, as he had hight, And redy was his answere, as he saide. Ful many a noble wif, and many a maide, And many a widewe, for that they ben wise, (The quene hireself sitting as a justice) Assembled ben, his answer for to here, And afterward this knight was bode appere. To every wight commanded was silence, And that the knight shuld tell in audience, What thing that worldly women loven best. This knight ne stood not still, as doth a best, But to this question anon answerd With manly vois, that all the court it herd. My liege lady, generally, quod he, Women desiren to han soverainetee, As well over hir husbond as hir love, And for to ben in maistrie him above. This is your most desire, though ye me kille, Doth as you list, I am here at your wille.

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In all the court ne was ther wif ne maide, Ne widewe, that contraried that he saide, But said, he was worthy to han his lif.

And with that word up stert this olde wif, Which that the knight saw sitting on the grene. Mercy, quod she, my soveraine lady quene, Er that your court depart, as doth me right. I taughte this answer unto this knight, For which he plighte me his trouthe there, The firste thing I wold of him requere,

He wold it do, if it lay in his might.

Before this court than pray I thee, sire knight,
Quod she, that thou me take unto thy wif,
For wel thou wost, that I have kept thy lif:
If I say false, say nay upon thy fay.


This knight answered, alas and wala wa!
I wot right wel that swiche was my behest.
For Goddes love as chese a new request:
Take all my good, and let my body go.
Nay than, quod she, I shrewe us bothe two.
For though that I be olde, foule, and
I n'olde for all the metal ne the ore,
That under erthe is grave, or lith above,
But if thy wif I were and eke thy love.
My love? quod he, nay, my dampnation.
Alas! that any of my nation
Shuld ever so foule disparaged be.
But all for nought; the end is this, that he
Constrained was, he nedes must hire wed,
And taketh this olde wif, and goth to bed.

Now wolden som men sayn paraventure,
That for my negligence I do no cure
To tellen you the joye and all the array,
That at the feste was that ilke day.


To which thing shortly answeren I shal:
say ther was no joye ne feste at al,

Ther n'as but hevinesse and mochel sorwe:
For prively he wedded hire on the morwe,
And all day after hid him as an oule,
So wo was him, his wif loked so foule.

Gret was the wo the knight had in his thought
Whan he was with his wif a-bed ybrought,
He walweth, and he turneth to and fro.
This olde wif lay smiling evermo,

And said: O dere husbond, benedicite,
Fareth every knight thus with his wif as ye?
Is this the lawe of king Artoures hous?
Is every knight of his thus dangerous?
I am your owen love, and eke your wif,
I am she, which that saved hath your lif,
And certes yet did I you never unright.
Why fare

ye thus with me this firste night?

Ye faren like a man had lost his wit.

What is my gilt? for Goddes love tell it,
And it shal ben amended, if I may.

Amended? quod this knight, alas! nay, nay,
It wol not ben amended never mo;
Thou art so lothly, and so olde also,
And therto comen of so low a kind,

That litel wonder is though I walwe and wind; So wolde God, min herte wolde brest.

Is this, quod she, the cause of your unrest?
Ye certainly, quod he, no wonder is.
Now sire, quod she, I coude amend all this,
If that me list, er it were dayes three,
So wel ye mighten bere you unto me.

But for ye speken of swiche gentillesse,
As is descended out of old richesse,
That therfore shullen ye be gentilmen;
Swiche arrogance n'is not worth an hen.

Loke who that is most vertuous alway,
Prive and apert, and most entendeth ay
To do the gentil dedes that he can,
And take him for the gretest gentilman.
Crist wol we claime of him our gentillesse,
Not of our elders for hir old richesse.
For though they yeve us all hir heritage,
For which we claime to ben of high parage,

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