Part sixteen: l.772 'He spak moore' - l.828 'Now wol I seye'
Synopsis of l.772-828
The Wife wins the battle over the book of wicked wives
The catalogue of wicked wives and Jankin's assertions about difficult and shameless women continues and brings ‘wo' (woe) to the Wife's heart. It seemed he would never finish reading this book. Exasperated, the Wife recalls how she tore three leaves out of the manuscript and knocked her young husband backward into the fire. He then gave her the blow in the head that made her deaf, but was aghast when he saw her unmoving on the floor.
Quick to take advantage, the Wife accused Jankin of trying to murder her for her land. He begged forgiveness and they then lived happily together for not quite ever after. He conceded ‘soverayntee' (supremacy) to the Wife, and she agreed to behave honourably towards him.
The Wife claims to have been kind to her fifth husband. She thinks of him fondly, probably because he is now dead, although the Wife is not quite clear here. She refers to her time with him as in the past but does not actually make reference to his death.
Commentary on l.772-828
l.773-85 proverbes: Jankin quotes from the Apocrypha as well as elaborating on some of the pithy sayings attributed to Solomon:
- The apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus 25:16 reads ‘I had rather dwell with a lion and a dragon, than to keep house with a wicked woman.'
- A quarrelsome wife Proverbs 21:9 becomes ‘an angry wife' who is ‘wicked and contrary'
- An attractive woman is advised to have discretion Proverbs 11:22 whereas Jankin demands chastity.
l.787,792: wo … in myn herte … and pyne? / … I with my fest so took hym on the cheke: Having evoked pathos for the genuine distress experienced by the Wife, Chaucer soon undercuts it by the almost comic-book violence with which she retaliates.
l.796 I lay as I were deed: Chaucer depicts the physical comedy of the Wife feigning death so to get Jankin's forgiveness. She still has the energy to hit him just before the moment when she claims that speech will leave her for ever!
l.802,808 yet wol I kisse thee. / … I hitte hym on the cheke: The Wife's attributes of Venus and Mars are evident here. There is an element of knockabout farce to Chaucer's depiction of her relationship.
l.813 He yaf me al the bridel in myn hond: The wife is again associated with animals in Chaucer's image of mastery.
l.820 Do as thee lust the terme of al thy lyf: At last the Wife hears the sentiments she has longed to hear (see l.318-19).
l.826-7: I prey to god, … / So blesse his soule: The Wife rounds off her account of marriage to Jankin with the same request as she started with, that God should bless him (see l.504).
- Read 1. The opening of The General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales / 2. l.45 of the Wife's Prologue in which she seems to claim that she would welcome a sixth husband / 3. The line near the end of her Prologue in which the Wife seems to refer to Jankin as now dead
- What connections can you make between these passages?
- English Standard Version
- King James Version
1The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. 2Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart. 3To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. 4Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin. 5The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. 6The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death. 7The violence of the wicked will sweep them away, because they refuse to do what is just. 8The way of the guilty is crooked, but the conduct of the pure is upright. 9It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife. 10The soul of the wicked desires evil; his neighbor finds no mercy in his eyes. 11When a scoffer is punished, the simple becomes wise; when a wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge. 12The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked; he throws the wicked down to ruin. 13Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered. 14A gift in secret averts anger, and a concealed bribe, strong wrath. 15When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers. 16One who wanders from the way of good sense will rest in the assembly of the dead. 17Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich. 18The wicked is a ransom for the righteous, and the traitor for the upright. 19It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman. 20Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man's dwelling, but a foolish man devours it. 21Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor. 22A wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings down the stronghold in which they trust. 23Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. 24Scoffer is the name of the arrogant, haughty man who acts with arrogant pride. 25The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. 26All day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back. 27The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with evil intent. 28A false witness will perish, but the word of a man who hears will endure. 29A wicked man puts on a bold face, but the upright gives thought to his ways. 30No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord. 31The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.
1The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will. 2Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts. 3To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. 4An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin. 5The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want. 6The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death. 7The robbery of the wicked shall destroy them; because they refuse to do judgment. 8The way of man is froward and strange: but as for the pure, his work is right. 9It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house. 10The soul of the wicked desireth evil: his neighbour findeth no favour in his eyes. 11When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise: and when the wise is instructed, he receiveth knowledge. 12The righteous man wisely considereth the house of the wicked: but God overthroweth the wicked for their wickedness. 13Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard. 14A gift in secret pacifieth anger: and a reward in the bosom strong wrath. 15It is joy to the just to do judgment: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity. 16The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead. 17He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich. 18The wicked shall be a ransom for the righteous, and the transgressor for the upright. 19It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman. 20There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up. 21He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honour. 22A wise man scaleth the city of the mighty, and casteth down the strength of the confidence thereof. 23Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles. 24Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who dealeth in proud wrath. 25The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour. 26He coveteth greedily all the day long: but the righteous giveth and spareth not. 27The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: how much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked mind? 28A false witness shall perish: but the man that heareth speaketh constantly. 29A wicked man hardeneth his face: but as for the upright, he directeth his way. 30There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD. 31The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD.
- English Standard Version
- King James Version
1A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight. 2When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. 3The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them. 4Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. 5The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight, but the wicked falls by his own wickedness. 6The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust. 7When the wicked dies, his hope will perish, and the expectation of wealth perishes too. 8The righteous is delivered from trouble, and the wicked walks into it instead. 9With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor, but by knowledge the righteous are delivered. 10When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness. 11By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown. 12Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent. 13Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered. 14Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. 15Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm, but he who hates striking hands in pledge is secure. 16A gracious woman gets honor, and violent men get riches. 17A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself. 18The wicked earns deceptive wages, but one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward. 19Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live, but he who pursues evil will die. 20Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the Lord, but those of blameless ways are his delight. 21Be assured, an evil person will not go unpunished, but the offspring of the righteous will be delivered. 22Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman without discretion. 23The desire of the righteous ends only in good; the expectation of the wicked in wrath. 24One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. 25Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. 26The people curse him who holds back grain, but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it. 27Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor, but evil comes to him who searches for it. 28Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf. 29Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart. 30The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise. 31If the righteous is repaid on earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner!
1A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight. 2When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom. 3The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them. 4Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death. 5The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness. 6The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them: but transgressors shall be taken in their own naughtiness. 7When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth. 8The righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked cometh in his stead. 9An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered. 10When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting. 11By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked. 12He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace. 13A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter. 14Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety. 15He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and he that hateth suretiship is sure. 16A gracious woman retaineth honour: and strong men retain riches. 17The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh. 18The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward. 19As righteousness tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death. 20They that are of a froward heart are abomination to the LORD: but such as are upright in their way are his delight. 21Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished: but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered. 22As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion. 23The desire of the righteous is only good: but the expectation of the wicked is wrath. 24There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. 25The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself. 26He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it. 27He that diligently seeketh good procureth favour: but he that seeketh mischief, it shall come unto him. 28He that trusteth in his riches shall fall; but the righteous shall flourish as a branch. 29He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart. 30The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise. 31Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner.
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In the Old Testament the son of David; third king of Israel, whose Temple to God was a magnificent symbol of God's might. Famous for his wisdom.
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