Wife of Bath

The Wife of Bath’s Tale – Lyrics

Read Chaucer’s Wife of Bath’s Tale

Back in the days of the dark ages,

When King Arthur made his mark, and courageous

Knights with tight young pages embarked

On outrageous quests and fought for ladies’ hearts,

The shady parts among the hills and knolls

Were filled with fairies, elves and trolls,

And dwarves were known to dwell in holes,

And nymphs to succor willing souls.

These thrilling folds, in time, emerged as

Badly out of line with churches,

Which cursed all fairy kind and purged us,

To cleanse us of our primal urges.

To try and discourage us from growing tense,

The hills were filled with holy men,

And women could lie alone, content

Without incubi, only them.

And so it went that from King Arthur’s court

A strong young warrior marched his horse,

And through the woods he charted his course,

And he met a young girl in the heart of the forest,

And with heartless force, in less than a minute he

Committed an act of criminal obscenity,

And since there was no one else in the vicinity,

No one prevented him from taking her virginity.

This sinister deed was so repugnant

That the knight was thrown in the castle dungeon

To await judgment, but what should be done with him?

King Arthur favoured capital punishment,

A tactic of governments that live in fear,

But the Queen, Gwenevere, whispered in his ear:

“My Lord, his remorse is not insincere,

I say we let the poor kid live a year,

In fact, give him here, let me deal with him.”

And King Arthur granted her appeal, a decision

That revealed he was a man of vision and real wisdom.

That is, a husband able to still listen.

And from his steel prison the knight was brought

To the Queen, who said, “boy, you’re in a tight spot.

Your guilt is certain, but your life is not.

Your head might head right to the chopping block,

Or you might just walk, and get clemency,

If you can tell me what women need.

Answer me what it is every woman’s tendency

To want, and I’ll suspend sentencing.

Now let your penance bring you some cheer;

Come here again after one year,

And then I want to hear from you some clear

Response. Now, I suggest you run, dear.”

And Gwenevere gave him his walking papers,

And the knight thanked her, and set off on this caper

To save his life, and began to talk to his neighbours’

Wives, and got them to list off their favourites,

Like a census taker. He took to the streets,

And spent the year asking every woman he’d meet:

“If you could have just one thing, what would it be?”

But you wouldn’t believe the diversity;

They just couldn’t agree. Once asked,

Some said this, and some said that:

“Confidence,” “compliments,” “comfort,” “class,”

“Compassion,” “fashion,” or for their passion to come back,

And as the months passed, the knight realized

That he would soon be deceased unless he arrived

At a conclusion, and he badly needed to be advised,

‘Cause with all this disagreement he could only theorize,

And he wouldn’t be alive to end the debate.

And after eleven months and twenty-six days,

He still wasn’t sure what he intended to say

As he headed back to the court to be handed his fate,

And what could stand in his way? On the road home

The knight ran into an ugly old crone

Whose face was so wrinkled he thought it had no bones,

And as he passed, she heard a low moan

And asked, “So alone, without any company?

Something’s eating you, boy, anyone can see,

But what could upset someone so young and sweet?

It’s gonna be okay, son; you can come to me

If you need comforting.” And the knight was so distressed

That he lowered his defenses and took a load off his chest

And wept, and told the oldest woman he’d met

The whole messy story of his hopeless quest

And the approach of his death, and once she’d got the gist

Of his predicament, she said, “Promise me this:

The next thing I ask for, you’ll honestly give,

And I’ll tell you what the answer to your quandary is.”

“As long as I live,” he frantically stressed,

“I promise, if I can, I’ll grant your request!”

And with that, she laid the man’s panic to rest,

And taught him the bottom line, the way to answer best

The standing question that had been on his mind:

How in God’s name do you please womankind?

The knight had spent twelve months listening blind

To opinions, and found all women differently inclined.

But when his time had finally expired,

Again the knight stood in the line of fire

Before the court and Queen, in their fine attire,

And said, “Strike me dead if you think I’m a liar.

Women desire to have sovereignty

Over their loves, and to have their husbands be

Happy if their wives live above them, free.

Now is there any woman here who doesn’t agree?”

And everyone could see that the knight had it right,

And he didn’t deserve to be sacrificed,

And the queen was about to give him back his life,

When at that precise moment, the old nasty wife

Who just last night was so happy to save him,

Stood up and smiled with the face of a raisin,

And said, “He just recited the answer I gave him,

Now he owes me a favour, and I’m ready for payment.”

And instead of evasion, the knight cheerfully

Agreed, “Fair is fair, what kind of care do you need?”

And she turned to the Queen and said, “He’s very sweet,

And I’ll get all the care I need when he marries me.”

The knight stared in disbelief at the smiling face

Of this tiny old granny of at least ninety-eight

Whose eye kept climbing his thighs in a slimy way,

And he realized there was no line of escape,

Though he still tried to beg, and barter and plead,

And he offered the deed to his father’s property,

And sobbed, “take whatever you want, please,

Impoverish me and let my body go free!”

But it was obvious she needed no persuading.

She said, “Oh baby, you know I’m an old lady,

Decades over eighty. There’s no way you can pay me

Enough. Now take me, before I go crazy!”

And since there was no debating, the knight refused to get

Too upset, for fear he might lose his head,

And that very same night the “I do’s” were said,

And with the Queen’s blessing the two were wed

And went straight to their bed and began undressing,

But when his manly flesh felt those hands caressing,

The knight decided he could stand the rest,

And he cried, “I can’t handle this, it’s scandalous!”

And his wife grinned with lips like an empty cave,

And asked, “Is this how all men behave

On their wedding day, when their lives have been saved

By their wives, and they’ve escaped knives with thin blades?

Other knights have been brave when their freedom’s suspended,

But I can see by your face that you believe I’ve offended

You, though I never intended to, perhaps it can be mended.

Tell me what I did and I’ll try to amend it.”

“When this marriage is ended, then I think I’ll be happy,”

Said the knight, “you’re low-class, wrinkled and nasty,

The type that would do anything to entrap me.”

And she asked, “you really find these things distracting

When we’re interacting?” “Definitely,”

Said the knight, “how else would you expect it to be?”

And she replied, “Then all I ask is that you listen to me,

And we’ll see if afterwards you think differently.

You’ve given me two reasons why you can’t love me;

You find me disgusting, low-class and ugly.

Well as for low-class, you can’t rashly judge me;

Class is just something that holds us back, and nothing

Goes bad as fast as the souls of nobility,

Whose work-loads leave them with gold, but no ability

To show compassion, cash, but no humility,

Besides, with the middle-class and upward mobility

The only gentility left with any importance

Proceeds from a person’s actions, not their fortunes,

So no more ill-inform class distortions.

And as for the fact that I’m not exactly gorgeous,

Perhaps you’re just gonna have to be grateful

That you’re in a marriage that you’re actually able

To trust, ’cause I pretty much have to be faithful.

But it you’d rather have me attractive, just say so.

I can magically change to the shape of a blushing

Young maid with a face that’s both graceful and lovely,

But in that case, you’ll never be able to trust me.

Would you rather a sexy, disgracefully lusty,

Insatiable slut finding ways to annoy you,

And raise up your jealous rage to a boil,

Or would you rather have me this age, and loyal?”

But the knight couldn’t say which way would make this enjoyable

And which way would spoil the mood, and he sighed,

“You are truly wise, my toothless bride.

I think you should choose between the two sides,

And I’ll make do with whatever you decide.”

And as soon as the knight let his wife get control

Of his life, and showed he was able to let go,

The next moment she changed from a gray, decrepit old

Creature to a young lady with such incredible

Features, the knight was speechless and stood in a trance,

More deeply enchanted each time he took in a glance,

And his wife saw his standing as stiff as a wooden lance

And said, “Few understand the union of woman and man.

Common sense says we should be treated the same,

But what’s really needed to keep people sane

Is for men to treat women like queens, with free domain.

When you finally agreed to give me the reigns

It allowed me to change and become graceful and beautiful

And young, and still remain faithful and dutiful,

‘Cause you’ll never make me behave in an unsuitable

Way, now that you’ve found the undisputable

Root of all happy relationships.”

And with that she leaned forward, and gave him a kiss,

And the knight was bathed in a sense of weightlessness,

And they lived out the rest of their days in bliss.

The End