The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue Old Age Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
For winning wolde I al his lust endure,
And make me a feyned appetyt –
And yet in bacon hadde I nevere delyt.
The Wife says she takes no delight in "bacon," or aged meat, meaning old men. Yet she is willing to have sex with them for money and, in fact, her first four husbands were old men.
But, Lord Christ! whan that it remembreth me Upon my yowthe, and on my jolitee,
It tikleth me aboute myn herte rote.
Unto this day it dooth myn herte bote
That I have had my world as in my tyme.
The Wife claims that her memories of the frolicking and "jolitee" of her youth are an effective remedy ("bote") for the heart, which makes sense given her role as defender of life's pleasures. If even the memories of these pleasures can serve one well in old age, why not enjoy them in one's youth? On the other hand, the Wife's implication that her time for pleasures is over is not compatible with her stated intention to continue her lusty lifestyle into old age.
But age, allas, that al wole envenyme,
Hath me biraft my beautee and my pith!
Lat go, farewel, the devel go therwith! (480-482)
The Wife compares herself to a flower, or to bread, by saying age has taken her "pith." "Pith" can refer to either the structured center of a flower's stem, without which the flower droops and wilts, or the soft inner part of a loaf of bread. The Wife draws upon both of these meanings in the metaphors that follow (see below).