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The Canterbury Tales
Geoffery Chaucer

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Translation of "The Merchant's Tale" courtesy Gerard NeCastro, University of Maine at Machias.


The Merchant's Tale

Here begins the Merchant's Tale.

Some time ago there dwelt in Lombardy5 a worthy knight, born in Pavia, in which town he lived in great prosperity; and for sixty years he was wifeless and always pursued his carnal pleasure on women where his appetite was set, just as these fools do who are laymen6. And when he was past sixty years, this knight had such a mind to be a wedded man--whether it was from holiness or dotage, I cannot say--that he did all he could, day and night, to determine how he might become wedded. Praying our Lord to grant him once to know that very blissful existence that is between husband and wife, and to live under that holy bond with which God first bound man and woman. [1262]

"No other way of life," he said, "is worth a bean. For wedlock is so simple and pure that it is paradise on earth." Thus spoke this old knight, who was so wise. [1266]

"And certainly, as true as God is King, it is glorious to take a wife, especially when a man is old and white-haired; then a wife is the fruit of his treasure. Then he ought to take a young and beautiful wife, on whom to beget himself an heir; and lead his life in joy and bliss, while these bachelors sing 'alas,' when they find any adversity in their affairs of love, which are but childish vanity. [1276]

"And in truth it is fitting that bachelors often have pain and woe; they build on brittle ground, and find brittleness when they look for certainty. They live just as a bird or a beast, in freedom, under no restraint, while a wedded man in his degree lives a life blessed and ordered, secured under the yoke of marriage. [1285]

"Well may his heart abound in all gladness and bliss. For who can be as obedient as a wife? Who is as faithful as his mate, and as attentive to care for him, sick and well?



5 Lombardy The central northern region of Italy.
6 laymen Some take this as evidence that this tale should have been told by a religious person on the pilgrimage such as the monk.  Others see it as a touch of self-deprecating irony.
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