Art. 83, De mal mariage

ART. 83, DE MAL MARIAGE: EXPLANATORY NOTES


Abbreviations: AND: Anglo-Norman Dictionary; ANL: Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts (R. Dean and Boulton); BL: British Library (London); Bodl.: Bodleian Library (Oxford); CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; CUL: Cambridge University Library (Cambridge); DOML: Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library; FDT: French Devotional Texts of the Middle Ages (Sinclair 1979); FDT-1French Devotional Texts of the Middle Ages, . . . First Supplement (Sinclair 1982); IMEV: The Index of Middle English Verse (Brown and Robbins); MED: Middle English Dictionary; MWME: A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050–1500 (Severs et al.); NIMEV: A New Index of Middle English Verse (Boffey and Edwards); NLS: National Library of Scotland (Edinburgh).

5 provee. “Experienced.” The manuscript reading is prorree or proriee, an error for provee, the reading found in MS Douce 210 (Kennedy, p. 127). This reading makes better sense than priee, “prayed,” the word read by Wright 1841, Dove 1969, and Kennedy.

39 Pieres de Corbloi. Peter of Corbeil (d. 1222) was a scholastic philosopher at the University of Paris who was appointed Archbishop of Sens in 1200.

41 Laurence. Lawrence of Durham (d. 1154), an English prelate, poet, and hagiographer.

44 Johan ov la bouche d’or. Saint John Chrysostom (ca. 349–407), a Greek saint known for eloquence as a preacher. By legend, he committed one act of fornication and for this sin and others, he suffered excruciating penance for years, crawling on his hands and knees and grazing like an animal, until he earned forgiveness. He was also known for his censure of women (Blamires, pp. 58–59).

83–84 This warning to unmarried men about women's sexual insatiability is signaled by the scribe with a marginal Nota. Compare the second Nota on nagging women at lines 153-54.

153–54 These lines, marked Nota, express a folksy/academic commonplace on evil women (Whiting, T267), occasionally repeated in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. See, in the prose Tale of Melibee: “that is to seyn, smoke, droppyng of reyn, and wikked wyves” (line 1086); and the Wife of Bath’s variant on the idea: “Thow seyst that dropping houses, and eek smoke, / And chiding wyves maken men to flee / Out of hir owene houses; a, benedicitee!” (Wife of Bath’s Prologue, lines 270–280). See also the Parson’s Tale, line 631, and compare Proverbs 27:15: “Roofs dropping through in a cold day, and a contentious woman are alike.” For further background, see The Riverside Chaucer, 925 (note to line 1086).


ART. 83, DE MAL MARIAGE: TEXTUAL NOTES


ABBREVIATIONS: As: Aspin; : Böddeker; Br: Brook; BS: Bennett and Smithers; BZ: Brandl and Zippel; B13: Brown 1937; Dea: J. M. Dean; Do: Dove 1969; Fl: Flood; : Förster; Fu: Furnivall; HB: Hunt and Bliss; Kem: Kemble; Ken: Kennedy; Mi: Millett; Mo: Morris and Skeat; MS: MS Harley 2253; Mu1: H. J. R. Murray; Mu2: J. A. H. Murray; NB: Noomen and van den Boogard; Pa: Patterson; Rev: Revard 2005a; Ri: Ritson 1877; Ro: Robbins 1959; SP: Short and Pearcy; Si: Silverstein; St: Stemmler 1970; Tu: Turville-Petre 1989; Ul: Ulrich; W1: Wright 1839; W2: Wright 1841; W3: Wright 1842; WH: Wright and Halliwell.

2 d’enconbrement. So MS, W2, Ken. Do: d’encombrement.

5 provee. So W2, Ken, Do. MS: prorree (ro abbreviated).

8 d’enconbraunce. So MS, W2, Do. Ken: d’encombraunce.

11 prendre. So W2, Do. MS, Ken: predre.

19 cele. So MS, W2, Ken. Do: vele.

22 Quaunt. So MS (ua abbreviated), Do. W2, Ken: Quant.

64 bon. So MS, W2, Ken. Do: bone.

76 Un. So MS, W2, Ken. Do: vu.

84 saulee. So MS, Ken, Do. W2: saulce.

100 que. So MS, W2, Ken. Do: qe.

111 tierz. So MS, W2, Do. Ken: tirez.

124 purchassaunt. So MS, W2, Do. Ken: perchassaunt.

130 hounie. So MS. W2, Ken: honnie. Do: houme.

131 l’orra. So MS, W2, Ken. Do: lerra.

133 unqe. So MS, W2, Do. Ken: unque.

134 unque. So MS, W2, Do. Ken: unqe.

139 allas. So MS, W2, Do. Ken: alas.

140 Yl. So MS, Ken, Do. W2: Il.

144 seigneur. So MS, W2, Ken. Do: seignur.

149 prodhonme. So MS (ro abbreviated), W2. Ken: prudhonme. D: prudhoume.

158 pluz. So MS (plu3), W2. Ken, Do: plus.

162 col. So MS, W2, Ken. Do: doel.

167 trois. So MS (ro abbreviated), Ken, Do. W2: treis.

170 seigneurs. So MS, W2, Ken. Do: seignurs.

172 merci. So MS, W2, Do. Ken: merdi.

173 Fis. So MS, W2, Do. Ken: fils.

175 gloire. So MS, W2, Ken. Do: glorie.

 
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   ¶ Bené soit Dieu omnipotent,
Qe delivre d’enconbrement
Ceux qu’en li ont affiaunce
Par bone foi e dreite creaunce.
Par moi, le di qe, l’ay provee.
Gawein par noun su nomee.
Dieu me salva par sa puissaunce
De grant anuy e d’enconbraunce,
Si vous dirroi bien coment.
Ore escotez bonement.
   Jadis voloi femme prendre
Une pucele bele e tendre
Qe mout estoit de grant belté.
Devant totes l’avoi amee.
De lui esposer fust trop somounz
E conseillee des compaignoms
Que femmes prises avoient
E en sposailles viveient.
Mout preyserent cele vie
Pur moi trere a lur compagnie,
Qu’il se puissent de moi gabber
Quaunt yl me verrount repenter,
Sicome eux meismes feseient.
De lur affere se repenteient!
Tant me mistrent en le oraille,
E taunt preyserent esposaille,
Qe je fu tot consillee
M’amie aver esposee —
E me aver mis en aconbraunce
E tote ma vie en peysaunce!
   Mes Dieu par sa merci
Me salva, come eynz vous di.
Par sa merci me salva,
Par treis aungles qu’il m’envoia
En une valoie come aloy
Tot soul juer, come dirroi.
   Coment les aungles furent nomez
Q’a moi furent maundez:
Pieres de Corbloi fust le premer
Qe vint a moi come messager.
Le secounde out noun Laurence,
Honme de grant sapience.
E le tierz compaignoun
Johan ov la bouche d’or appelom.
Treis aungles les nomay,
Si vous dirroi bien pur quay:
En seinte Escripture um puet lyre
Qe aungel valt taunt a dyre,
“Come cely qu’est bon messager,
Que bone chose vint nouncier.”
E bone chose ount nouncié,
Ces trois aungles, pur verité,
Quar par eux su eschapé
Longe peyne la, merci Dé!
   Pieres dit qe femme est frele,
Ja ne soit ele si bele.
Laurence dit que ele est chaungable,
Fauce, fole, e movable.
Johan dit qe ele est corousouse,
Decevable, e orguillouse.
Veiez ci povre comencement
A doner honme bon talent!
De femme prendre en esposaille
N’est mie bon, je dy sauntz faille!
   Pieres dit, “Qe femme prent,
Yl se charge grevement,
De tiel fees s’en est chargee
Dount ja ne serra deschargee.
Entre femme e soun marry —
Par cel affere, ce vous dy —
Qe c’est charnele compagnie.
Quant le baroun ne puet mie
Fere le si sovent
Come la femme avereit talent,
Donqe prent, a grant honeysoun,
Un ou deus desouz soun baroun
(Ou assez plus, par aventure)
Pur estauncher cel ordure.
E uncore, sachez vous,
Ja ne soit il si prous,
Ne la puet assez trover
A soun talent de cel mester.
Bien puet estre lasse devendra,
Mes jamés saulee ne serra.
Pur ce, Gaweyn, fetez que sage,
Gardez vous de tiel outrage!”
Pieres sa resone ad fyny,
Qe bien est digne d’estre oy,
E pri qe um ly vueill entendre
E sa resoun de rien mesprendre.
   Ore vint avaunt Laurence,
E sa resone issi comence:
“Femme est fole e trop legere,
De fol semblant e fole chere,
Trop variable e trop coveitaunt,
Meinte chose desirraunt.
Quar si le baroun ne puet
Trover la quanqe ele veut,
Meintenaunt se dorra
A un que trover la porra.
Riche atyr, noble vesture,
Bele robe ov riche pelure —
Coment qu’il aile, force ne fet
For que ele eit son pleisir tret.
Dieu, quel dolour e damage
Avient sovent de mal mariage!
Pur ce, Gaweyn, bel douz amy,
Seiez avysé e garni:
De femme prendre ne le fetes mye!
Dont, serrez sages, quei qe um en dye.”     
   E Johan, le tierz compaignoun,
Ore comence sa resoun:
“Certes,” fet il, “mariage
Est la plus haute servage
Qe soit pur honme qe vit;
Car il n’avera jamés respit,
Nient plus qe le buef joynt
En la charue, qu’est point
Sovent d’aguilloun agu,
Sovent maldit e feru.
Tot ensi ce veiomz nous
Avient del cheytif um espous:
Si tous jours ne soit traveillant,
Eynz e hors purchassaunt,
Sa femme sovent ly poindra
De le aguilloun qe ele a —
C’est la lange trop legere
De mesdire, e trop amere!
Meintefoiz serra tencé,
Mesdit, hounie, e ledengee.
Tant l’orra mesdire e tencer
Qu’il ne savera quel part torner!
‘Allas’ fet il, ‘qe unqe fu mary!’
‘Allas’ fet ele, ‘qe unque vous vy!’
‘Allas’ fet yl, ‘que su vyfs!’
‘Allas’ fet ele, ‘qe unqe vous pris!’
Allas’ de sa, ‘allas’ de la —
Ou qu’il tourne, ‘allas’ y a!
Mes coment qu’il ‘allas’ en die,
Yl ne puet eschaper mye.
Soffryr ly covient cele peyne
Tous les jours de la symeygne.
Bien, dust estre, par resoun,
Sire e seigneur de la mesoun,
Mes ele velt la seignurye
Tot aver e la mestrye.
E, ov ce, le hounte sourt,
Car ele tence sovent e plourt,
E le prodhonme leve sus,
Si s’en va hors a le hus,
E soule la lesse covenyr,
Fere e dire soun pleysyr.
Femme, plue, fumé, e tensoun
Enchacent honme de sa mesoun.
De tote peynes, la plus amere
Est mort en sa manere,
Mes male femme a soun tort
Est pluz cruele qe la mort.
Car mort passe en poi de ure,
E femme est languor qe trop dure!
Mieux valsist par temps morir
Qe longement al col languyr.
Languir covent, verroiment,
Qe male femme a compaigne prent!
Pur ce, Gaweyn, fetes qe sage.
Gardez vous de mal mariage!”
   Quant ces trois ount parlé
E moi ensi councylé,
Je respoundy brevement,
“Bels seigneurs, e je consent.”
Tot ensi su eschapé
Longe peyne, merci Dé!
   En le noun de le Piere e de le Fis
E de le seintz Espyritz,
A cui honour e gloire apent,
Sauntz fyn e sauntz comencement,
Sicome est, fust, e serra,
En le siecle qe tous jours durra.
   ¶ Blessed be God omnipotent,
Who delivers from hardship
Those who trust in him
With good faith and right belief.
For myself, I affirm, I’ve experienced it.     
Gawain am I called by name.
God saved me by his power
From great trouble and hardship,
And I’ll tell you exactly how.
Now listen kindly.
   Once I wanted to take a wife
A fair and tender maiden
Who was extremely beautiful.
I had loved her above all others.
To marry her I was pressured
And advised by friends
Who had taken wives
And lived in wedlock.
They highly praised that life
In order to draw me into their company,
So that they could mock me
When they’d see me repent,
Just as they themselves had done.
They repented of their deed!
So much did they make me listen,
And so highly praised wedlock,
That I was wholly determined
To marry my love —
To place myself in servitude
And all my life in heaviness!
   But God in his mercy
Saved me, as I’ve just told you.
He saved me by his mercy,
By means of three angels he sent to me
In a valley as I traveled
All by myself to play, as I shall recount.
   [Here’s] how were named the angels
Who were sent to me:
Peter of Corbeil was the first
Who came to me as a messenger.
The second had the name Lawrence,
A man of great wisdom.
And the third companion
We call John of the golden mouth.
I’ve called them three angels,
And I’ll tell you exactly why:
In Holy Scripture one can read
That angel is as much as to say,
“He who’s a good messenger,
Who’s come to announce a good thing.”
And a good thing they’ve announced,
These three angels, in truth,
For by them I’ve escaped
Long suffering there, thank God!
   Peter says that woman is frail,
However beautiful she may be.
Lawrence says that she’s fickle,
False, foolish, and unsteady.
John says that she’s wrathful,
Deceptive, and proud.
Here’s a poor beginning
To give a man courage!
Taking a woman in marriage
Is not at all good, I affirm without doubt!
   Peter says, “Whoever takes a wife,
He burdens himself grievously,
He’s charged with a load
Of which he’ll never be unburdened.
Between a wife and her husband —
Of this business, I tell you this —
It’s fleshly companionship.
When the husband cannot
Do it as often
As the wife desires,
Then she takes, very shamefully,
One or two lower than her husband
(Or many more, perhaps)
To staunch this filth.
Moreover, as you know,
Be he ever so worthy,
He can’t for her muster enough
For her desire in this office.
It may well be she’ll grow tired,
But never will she be sated.
Therefore, Gawain, act wisely,
Guard yourself against such excess!”
Peter has finished his argument,
Which is worthy of being heard,
And I pray people will want to heed him
And not mistake his argument at all.
   Now Lawrence comes forward,
And thus begins his argument:
“Woman is silly and too shallow,
Of silly looks and silly bearing,
Too variable and too greedy,
Desiring many things.
For if the husband cannot
Provide whatever she wants,
Quickly she’ll give herself
To one who can get it for her.
Rich attire, noble clothing,
A beautiful robe with rich fur —
However it goes, she makes no fuss
So long as she gets her pleasure.
God, what suffering and harm
Often comes of a bad marriage!
Therefore, Gawain, dear sweet friend,
Be advised and warned:
Don’t take a wife at all!
In this, you’ll be wise, whatever people say.”
   And John, the third companion,
Now begins his argument:
“Certainly,” he says, “marriage
Is the greatest servitude
That exists for living man;
For he’ll never have rest,
No more than the ox yoked
To the plow, which is poked
Often by the sharp goad,
Often cursed and beaten.
Exactly thus do we see it
Happen to the wretched married man:
If he’s not always exerting himself,
Running after things inside and out,
His wife frequently prods him
With the goad that she’s got —
It’s the tongue ever ready
With curses, and too bitter!
Often he’ll be contradicted,
Cursed, shamed, and slandered.
He’ll hear her curse and argue so much
That he won’t know which way to turn!
‘Alas,’ says he, ‘that ever I was married!’
‘Alas,’ says she, ‘that ever I saw you!’
‘Alas,’ says he, ‘that I’m alive!’
‘Alas,’ says she, ‘that ever I took you!’
‘Alas’ here, ‘alas’ there —
Wherever he turns, there’s an ‘alas’!
But however much he says ‘alas,’
He’s not able at all to escape.
He must suffer that torment
Every day of the week.
Certainly, he ought to be, by rights,
Lord and master of the house,
But she wants entirely to have
The lordship and the mastery.
And, with this, the shame begins,
For she argues often and weeps,
And the good man gets up,
Then goes out by the door,
And leaves the decision to her alone,
To do and speak as she wishes.
Woman, rain, smoke, and argument
Drive a man out of his house.
Of all torments, the most bitter
Is death in its way,
But a bad wife by her wrongdoing
Is more cruel than death.
For death passes in a little while,
And a wife is disease that lasts too long!
It would be better to die quickly
Than hang by the neck a long time.
He must suffer, truly,
Who takes a bad woman for a mate!
Therefore, Gawain, act wisely.
Watch out for a bad marriage!”
   When these three had spoken
And advised me in this manner,
I answered briefly,
“Good lords, I consent.”
In this way I completely escaped
Long-lasting pain, thank God!
   In the name of the Father and the Son
And the Holy Ghost,
To whom honor and glory belong,
Without end and without beginning,
Just as it is, was, and ever shall be,
In the world that will last forever.

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Go To Art. 84, La gagure, ou L’esquier e la chaunbrere, introduction
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