The Marchaundes Tale

“Wepyng and wailyng, care and other sorwe
I knowe ynough, bothe on even and on morwe;”
Quod the Marchaund, “and so doon other mo,
That weddid ben; I trowe that it be so,
For wel I woot it fareth so with me.
I have a wyf, the worste that may be,
For though the feend to hir y-coupled were,
Sche wold him overmacche I dar wel swere.
What schuld I yow reherse in special
Hir high malice? sche is a schrewe at al.
Ther is a long and a large difference
Betwix Grisildes grete pacience,
And of my wyf the passyng cruelté.
Were I unbounden, al-so mot I the,
I wolde never eft come in the snare.
We weddid men lyve in sorwe and care,
Assay it who-so wil, and he schal fynde
That I say soth, by seint Thomas of Inde,
As for the more part, I say not alle;
God schilde that it scholde so byfalle.
A! good sir host, I have y-weddid be
Thise monethes tuo, and more not, pardé;
And yit I trowe that he, that al his lyve
Wyfles hath ben, though that men wold him rive
Unto the hert, ne couthe in no manere
Tellen so moche sorwe, as I now heere
Couthe telle of my wyfes cursednesse.”

“Now,” quod our ost,
“Marchaunt, so God yow blesse!
Sin ye so moche knowen of that art,
Ful hertily tellith us a part.”
“Gladly,” quod he, “but of myn oughne sore
For sory hert I telle may na more.”

Whilom ther was dwellyng in Lombardy
A worthy knight, that born was of Pavy,
In which he lyved in gret prosperité;
And fourty yer a wifles man was he,
And folwed ay his bodily delyt
On wommen, ther as was his appetyt,
As doon these fooles that ben seculere.
And whan that he was passed sixty yere,
Were it for holyness or for dotage,
I can not say, but such a gret corrage
Hadde this knight to ben a weddid man,
That day and night he doth al that he can
Taspye wher that he mighte weddid be;
Praying our Lord to graunte him, that he
Might oones knowen of that blisful lif
That is bitwix an housbond and his wyf,
And for to lyve under that holy bond
With which God first man to womman bond.
“Noon other lif,” sayd he, “is worth a bene;
For wedlok is so holy and so clene,
That in this world it is a paradis.”
Thus sayde this olde knight, that was so wys.
And certeinly, as soth as God is king,
To take a wyf is a glorious thing,
And namely whan a man is old and hoor,
Than is a wyf the fruyt of his tresor;
Than schuld he take a yong wif and a fair,
On which he might engendre him an hair,
And lede his lyf in mirthe and solace,
Wheras these bachileres synge allas,
Whan that thay fynde eny adversité
In love, which is but childes vanité.
And trewely it sit wel to be so,
That bachilers have ofte peyne and wo;
On brutil ground thay bulde, and brutelnesse
Thay fynde, whan thay wene sikernesse;
Thay lyve but as a brid other as a best,
In liberté and under noon arrest;
Ther as a weddid man, in his estate,
Lyvith his lif blisful and ordinate,
Under the yok of mariage i-bounde,
Wel may his herte in joye and blisse abounde;
For who can be so buxom as a wyf?
Who is so trewe and eek so ententyf
To kepe him, seek and hool, as is his make?
For wele or woo sche wol him not forsake.
Sche is not wery him to love and serve,
Theigh that he lay bedred til that he sterve.
And yet som clerkes seyn it is not so,
Of whiche Theofrast is oon of tho.
What fors though Theofraste liste lye?
Ne take no wif, quod he, for housbondrye,
As for to spare in houshold thy dispense;
A trewe servaunt doth more diligence
Thy good to kepe, than thin oughne wif,
For sche wol clayme half part in al hir life.
And if that thou be seek, so God me save,
Thyne verray frendes or a trewe knave
Wol kepe the bet than sche that waytith ay
After thy good, and hath doon many a day.
And if that thou take a wif, be war
Of oon peril, which declare I ne dar.

This entent, and an hundred sithe wors,
Writith this man, ther God his bones curs.
But take no keep of al such vanité;
Deffy Theofrast, and herkne me.
A wyf is Goddes yifte verrayly;
Al other maner yiftes hardily,
As landes, rentes, pasture, or comune,
Or other moeblis, ben yiftes of fortune,
That passen as a schadow on a wal.
But dred not, if I playnly telle schal,
A wyf wil last and in thin hous endure,
Wel lenger than the lust peradventure.
Mariage is a ful gret sacrament;
He which hath no wif I hold him schent;
He lyveth helples, and is al desolate
(I speke of folk in seculer estate).
And herken why, I say not this for nought,
That womman is for mannes help i-wrought.
The heighe God, whan he had Adam maked,
And saugh him al aloone body naked,
God of his grete goodnes sayde thanne,
Let us now make an helpe to this manne
Lyk to himself; and than he made Eve.
Her may ye see, and here may ye preve,
That wyf is mannes help and his comfort,
His paradis terrestre and his desport.
So buxom and so vertuous is sche,
Thay mosten neede lyve in unité;
O fleisch thay ben, and on blood, as I gesse,
Have but oon hert in wele and in distresse.

A wyf? a! seinte Mary, benedicite,
How might a man have eny adversité
That hath a wyf? certes I can not saye.
The joye that is betwixen hem twaye.
Ther may no tonge telle or herte thinke.
If he be pore, sche

  By PanEris using Melati.

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