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[Transcriber's note:

This e-text uses a number of characters that depend on utf-8 encoding,
particularly small and capital yogh (ȝ, Ȝ), small and capital thorn (þ,
Þ), double l with a tilde through (l̴l̴), u with a macron (ū), h with a
line through the top (ħ), r with a upwards hook attached to the
horizontal stem (r̛) and ae ligature with an acute accent (ǽ). If they
do not display properly, you may refer to transliterated (Latin-1)
version of this text.

This e-text also uses some characters that are not in unicode. I have
rendered them following:

{m~} for a m with a loop back over the character.
{n)} for a n with a ) attached to the right side.
{d+} for the d with a little crook attached to the top right of the d.

There is also one instance of (on line 391 of the poem) a m with a )
attached to the right side (rendered as {m)}), but this is probably a
typo for {m~}. I have left this as is.

Text and letters in brackets [ ] is original.

Obvious typos are corrected in this e-text.]

The Wright's Chaste Wife.

Early English Text Society

Original Series, No. 12


Reprinted 1891, 1905, 1965

Price 7_s._ 6_d._


Wright's Chaste Wife,


"A Fable of a wrygħt that was maryde to a pore
wydows dowt_re_ / the whiche wydow havyng
noo good to geve w_i_t_h_ her / gave as for
a p_re_cyous Johel̴l̴ to hy_m_ a Rose
garlond / the whyche sche affermyd
wold nev_er_ fade while sche
kept truly her wedlok."

A Merry Tale, by Adam of Cobsam.

_From a MS. in the Library of the Archbishop of Canterbury, at Lambeth,
about 1462 A.D._


_Published for_
_by the_


REPRINTED 1891, 1905, 1965.

Original Series No. 12



Good wine needs no bush, and this tale needs no Preface. I shall not
tell the story of it - let readers go to the verse itself for that; nor
shall I repeat to those who begin it the exhortation of the englisher of
_Sir Generides_,

"for goddes sake, or ye hens wende,
Here this tale unto the ende." - (ll. 3769-70.)

If any one having taken it up is absurd enough to lay it down without
finishing it, let him lose the fun, and let all true men pity him.
Though the state of morals disclosed by the story is not altogether
satisfactory, yet it is a decided improvement on that existing in Roberd
of Brunne's time in 1303, for he had to complain of the lords of his

Also do þese lordynges,
Þe[y] trespas moche yn twey þynges;
Þey rauys a mayden aȝens here wyl,
And mennys wyuys þey lede awey þertyl.
A grete vylanye þarte he dous
Ȝyf he make therof hys rouse [boste]:
Þe dede ys confusyun,
And more ys þe dyffamacyun.

The volume containing the poem was shown to me by Mr Stubbs, the
Librarian at Lambeth, in order that I might see the version of Sir
Gyngelayne, son of Sir Gawain, which Mr Morris is some day, I trust, to
edit for the Society in one of his Gawain volumes.[1] Finding the
present poem also on the paper leaves, I copied it out the same
afternoon, and here it is for a half-hour's amusement to any reader who
chooses to take it up.

The handwriting of the MS. must be of a date soon after 1460, and this
agrees well with the allusion to Edward the Fourth's accession, and the
triumph of the White Rose o'er the Red alluded to in the last lines of
the poem. The Garlond,

It was made ...
Of flourys most of honoure,
Of roses whyte þat wyl̴l̴ nott fade,
Whych floure al̴l̴ ynglond doth glade....
Vn-to the whych floure I-wys
The loue of God and of the comonys
Subdued bene of ryght.

For, that the Commons of England were glad of their Yorkist king, and
loved Duke Richard's son, let Holinshed's record prove. He testifies:

"Wherevpon it was againe demanded of the commons, if they would
admit and take the said erle as their prince and souereigne lord;
which all with one voice cried: Yea, yea....

"Out of the ded stocke sprang a branch more mightie than the stem;
this Edward the Fourth, a prince so highlie fauoured of the peple,
for his great liberalite, clemencie, vpright dealing, and courage,
that aboue all other, he with them stood in grace alone: by reason
whereof, men of all ages and degrees to him dailie repaired, some
offering themselues and their men to ioepard their liues with him,
and other plentiouslie gaue monie to support his charges, and to
mainteine his right."

Would that we knew as much of Adam of Cobsam as of our White-Rose king.
He must have been one of the Chaucer breed,[2] but more than this poem
tells of him I cannot learn.

_3, St George's Square, N.W.,
23 November, 1865._

P.S. - There are other Poems about Edward IV. in the volume, which will
be printed separately.[3] One on Women is given at the end of the
present text.

* * * * *

PP.S. 1869. - Mr C.H. Pearson, the historian of the Early and Middle Ages
of England, has supplied me with the immediate original of this story.
He says:

"The Wright's Chaste Wife is a reproduction of one of the _Gesta
Romanorum_, cap. 69, de Castitate, ed. Keller. The Latin story
begins 'Gallus regnavit prudens valde.' The Carpenter gets a shirt
with his wife, which is never to want washing unless one of them is
unfaithful. The lovers are three Knights (_milites_), and they are
merely kept on bread and water, not made to work; nor is any wife
introduced to see her lord's discomfiture. The English version,
therefore, is much quainter and fuller of incident than its
original. But the 'morality' of the Latin story is rich beyond
description. 'The wife is holy Mother Church,' 'the Carpenter is
the good Christian,' 'the shirt is our Faith, because, as the
apostle says, it is impossible to please God without faith.' The
Wright's work typifies 'the building up the pure heart by the works
of mercy.' The three Knights are 'the pride of life, the lust of
the eyes, and the lust of the flesh.' 'These you must shut up in
the chamber of penance till you get an eternal reward from the
eternal King.' 'Let us therefore pray God,' &c."

With the Wright's Chaste Wife may also be compared the stories mentioned
in the Notes, p. 20, and the Ballad "The Fryer well fitted; or

A Pretty jest that once befel,
How a maid put a Fryer to cool in the well"

printed "in the Bagford Collection; in the Roxburghe (ii. 172); the
Pepys (iii. 145); the Douce (p. 85); and in _Wit and Mirth, an Antidote
to Melancholy_, 8vo. 1682; also, in an altered form, in Pills to purge
Melancholy, 1707, i. 340; or 1719, iii. 325"; and the tune of which,
with an abstract of the story, is given in Chappell's _Popular Music_,
i. 273-5. The Friar makes love to the Maid; she refuses him for fear of

Tush, quoth the Friar, thou needst not doubt;
If thou wert in Hell, I could sing thee out.

So she consents if he'll bring her an angel of money. He goes home to
fetch it, and she covers the well over with a cloth. When he comes back,
and has given her the money, she pretends that her father is coming,
tells the Friar to run behind the cloth, and down he flops into the
well. She won't help him at first, because if he could sing her out of
hell, he can clearly sing himself out of the well: but at last she does
help him out, keeps his money because he's dirtied the water, and sends
him home dripping along the street like a new-washed sheep.

[Footnote 1: The since printing of the Romance in the Percy Folio MS.
Ballads and Romances, (_Lybius Disconius_, ii. 404,) will probably
render this unnecessary. (1869.)]

[Footnote 2: Chaucer brings off his Carpenter, though, triumphant, and
not with the swived wife and broken arm that he gives his befooled
Oxford craftsman in _The Milleres Tale_. (1869.)]

[Footnote 3: In _Political, Religious, and Love Poems_, E.E. Text Soc.,


[_MS. Lambeth 306, leaves 178-187._]

Al̴l̴myghty god, maker of all_e_,
My sovereigns, Saue you my sou_er_eyns in towre & hall_e_,
And send yoū good grace! 3
If ye wyl̴l̴ a stounde blynne,
I will tell you Of a story I wyl̴l̴ begynne,
a tale And telle you al̴l̴ the cas, 6
Meny farleyes þat I haue herd_e_,
Ye would haue wondyr how yt ferde;
Lystyn, and ye schal̴l̴ here; 9
of a wright Of a wryght I wyl̴l̴ you telle,
of this land, That some tyme in thys land gan dwelle,
And lyued by hys myster. 12
who, at work, was Whether that he were yn or owte,
afraid of no Of erthely man hadde he no dowte,
earthly man. To werke hows, harowe, nor plowgh, 15
Or other werkes, what so they were,
Thous wrought he hem farre and nere,
And dyd tham wele I-nough. 18
At first he would Thys wryght would wedde no wyfe,
wed no wife, Butt yn yougeth to lede hys lyfe
[leaf 178, back] In myrthe and oþer melody; 21
for wherever he Ou_er_ al̴l̴ where he gan wende,
went he was Al̴l̴ they seyd "welcome, frende,
welcome; Sytt downe, and do gla[d]ly." 24
but at last he Tyl̴l̴ on a tyme he was wyllyng, THE WRIGHT FALLS
wished As tyme comyth of all_e_ thyng, IN LOVE, AND
(So seyth the p_ro_fesye,) PROPOSES. 27
to have a spouse A wyfe for to wedde & haue
to look after his That myght hys goodes kepe and saue,
goods. And for to leue al̴l̴ foly. 30
A widow near had a Ther dwellyd a wydowe in þat contre
fair daughter That hadde a doughter feyre & fre;
Of her, word sprang wyde, 33
true and meek. For sche was bothe stabyl̴l̴ & trewe,
Meke of maners, and feyr̛ of hewe;
So seyd men in that tyde. 36
The wryght seyde, "so god me saue,
Her the wright Such a wyfe would I haue
would like to lie To lye nyghtly by my syde." 39
by him, He þought to speke wyth þat may,
and therefore went And rose erly on a daye
to her mother And þyder gan he to ryde. 42
The wryght was welcome to þe wyfe,
And her saluyd al̴l̴ so blyve,
And so he dyd her doughter fre: 45
and proposed for For the erand that he for ca{m~}
the maiden. Tho he spake, þat good yema{n)};
Than to hym seyd sche: 48
The mother says The wydowe seyd, "by heuen kyng,
she can only give I may geue wyth her no þing,
him as a portion (And þat forthynketh me;) 51
a garland Saue a garlond I wyl̴l̴ the geue,
Ye schal̴l̴ neu_er_ see, whyle ye lyve,
None such in thys contre: 54
of roses Haue here thys garlond of roses ryche,
In al̴l̴ thys lond ys none yt lyche,
that will keep its For ytt wyl̴l̴ eu_er_ be newe, 57
colour [leaf 179] Wete þou wele w_i_t_h_owtyn fable,
while his wife is Al̴l̴ the whyle thy wyfe ys stable
true, The chaplett wolle hold hewe; 60
but change when And yf thy wyfe vse putry, HE RECEIVES A
she is faithless. Or tolle eny man to lye her by, ROSE GARLAND
Than wolle yt change hewe, WITH HIS WIFE. 63
And by the garlond þou may see,
Fekyl̴l̴ or fals yf þat sche be,
Or ellys yf sche be trewe." 66
The wright is Of thys chaplett hym was ful̴l̴ fayne,
delighted with his And of hys wyfe, was nott to layne;
garland and wife, He weddyd her ful̴l̴ sone, 69
marries her and And ladde her home wyth solempnite,
takes her home; And hyld her brydal̴l̴ dayes thre.
Whan they home come, 72
and then begins to Thys wryght in hys hart cast,
think that when he If that he walkyd est or west
is out at work As he was wonte to done, 75
men will try to "My wyfe þat ys so bryght of ble,
corrupt his wife. Men wolle desyre her̛ fro me,
And þat hastly and sone;" 78
So he plans a Butt sone he hym byþought
crafty room and That a chambyr schuld be wrought
tower, Bothe of lyme and stone, 81
Wyth wallys strong as eny stele,
And dorres sotylly made and wele,
He owte framyd yt sone; 84
and builds it soon The chambyr he lett make fast,
with plaster of Wyth plast_er_ of parys þ_a_t wyl̴l̴ last,
Paris, Such ous know I neu_er_ none; 87
which no one could Ther ys [ne] kyng ne emp_er_oure,
ever get out of if And he were lockyn in þat towre,
he once got into That cowde gete owte of þat wonne. 90
it, Nowe hath he done as he þought,
And in the myddes of the flore wrought
for there was a A wondyr strange gyle, 93
trapdoor in the A trapdoure rounde abowte
[leaf 179, back] That no man myght come yn nor owte;
middle, It was made wyth a wyle, 96
and if any one That who-so touchyd yt eny thyng, THE WRIGHT
only touched it, In to þe pytt he schuld flyng GOES TO
down he'd go into Wythyn a lytyl̴l̴ whyle. WORK, AND 99
a pit. For hys wyfe he made that place, LEAVES HIS
This was to stop That no man schuld beseke her of grace, WIFE AT
any tricks with Nor her to begyle. HOME. 102
his wife.
Just then the town By þat tyme þe lord of the towne
Lord Hadde ordeynyd tymbyr redy bowne,
An halle to make of tre. 105
sends for him to Aft_er_ the wryght the lord lett sende,
build a Hall, For þat he schuld wyth hym lende
(a job for two or Monythys two or thre. 108
three months,) The lord seyd, "woult þou haue þi wyfe?
and offers to I wyl̴l̴ send aft_er_ her blyve
fetch his wife That sche may com to the." 111
too. The wryght hys garlond hadde take w_y_t_h_ hy{m~},
That was bryght and no þing dymme,
Yt wes feyre on to see. 114
He sees the The lord axyd hym as he satt,
wright's garland, "Felowe, where hadyst þou þis hatte
and asks what it That ys so feyre and newe?" 117
means. The wryght answerd al̴l̴ so blyue,
"Sir, it will And seyd, "syr, I hadde yt wyth my wyfe,
And þat dare me neuer̛ rewe; 120
tell me whether my Syr, by my garlond I may see
wife is false or Fekyl̴l̴ or fals yf þat sche be,
true; Or[1] yf þat sche be trewe; 123
and will change And yf my wyfe loue a p_ar_amoure,
its colour if she Than wyl̴l̴ my garlond vade coloure,
go wrong." And change wyl̴l̴ yt the hewe." 126
The lord þought "by godys myght,
"I'll try that," That wyl̴l̴ I wete thys same nyght
thinks the Lord, Whether thys tale be trewe." 129
and goes to the To the wryghtys howse anon he went,
wright's wife. He fonde the wyfe ther-in p_re_sente
[leaf 180] That was so bryght and schene; THE LORD 132
Sone he hayled her trewly, BRIBES THE
And so dyd sche the lord curtesly: WRIGHT'S WIFE
Sche seyd, "welcome ye be;" TO LIE WITH 135
Thus seyd the wyfe of the hows, HIM.
She asks after her "Syr, howe faryth my swete spouse
husband That hewyth vppon your̛ tre?" 138
but the Lord "Sertes, dame," he seyd, "wele,
And I am come, so haue I hele,
To wete the wylle of the; 141
declares his own My loue ys so vppon the cast
love for her, That me thynketh my hert wolle brest,
It wolle none otherwyse be; 144
and prays her to Good dame, graunt me thy grace
grant him his To pley with the in some preuy place
will. For gold and eke for fee." 147
She entreats him "Good syr, lett be youre fare,
to let that be, And of such wordes speke no mare
For hys loue þat dyed on tre; 150
Hadde we onys begonne þat gle,
My husbond by his garlond myght see;
For sorowe he would wexe woode." 153
but he presses "Certes, dame," he seyd, "naye;
her, Loue me, I pray you, in þat ye maye:
For godys loue change thy mode, 156
and offers her 40 Forty marke schal̴l̴ be youre mede
marks. Of sylu_er_ and of gold[_e_] rede,
And that schal̴l̴ do the good." 159
On this she "Syr, that deede schal̴l̴ be done;
consents if he'll Take me that mony here anon_e_."
put down the "I swere by the holy rode 162
money. I thought when I cam hydder̛
For to bryng[2] yt al̴l̴ to-gydder̛,
As I mott broke my heele." 165
The 40 marks she Ther sche toke xl marke
takes Of syluer and gold styff and sterke:
Sche toke yt feyre and welle; THE 168
and tells him to Sche seyd, "in to the chambyr wyl̴l̴ we, LORD IS
go [leaf 180, back] Ther no man schal̴l̴ vs see; DROPPED
into the secret No lenger wyl̴l̴ we spare." 171
chamber. Vp the steyer they gan[3] hye: THROUGH
Upstairs he goes, The stepes were made so queyntly A TRAPDOOR,
That farther myght he nott fare. 174
stumbles, The lord stumbyllyd as he went in hast,
and pops down 40 He fel̴l̴ doune in to þat chaste
feet through the Forty fote and somedele more. 177
wright's trapdoor. The lord began to crye;
The wyfe seyd to hym in hye,
"Syr, what do ye there?" 180
He prays the "Dame, I can nott seye howe
That I am come hydder nowe
To thys hows þat ys so newe; 183
I am so depe in thys sure flore
That I ne can come owte att no dore;
good dame to have Good dame, on me þou rewe!" 186
pity on him. "Nay," sche seyd, "so mut y the,
"Nay," says she, Tyl̴l̴ myne husbond come and se,
"not till my I schrewe hym þat yt þought." 189
husband sees you." The lord arose and lokyd abowte
The Lord tries to If he myght eny where gete owte,
get out, but Butt yt holpe hy{m~} ryght nogħt, 192
can't, The wallys were so thycke w_y_t_h_y{n)},
That he no where myght owte wynne
But helpe to hy{m~} were brought; 195
and then threatens And eu_er_ the lord made euyl̴l̴ chere,
the wife, And seyd, "dame, þou schalt by thys dere."
Sche seyd that sche ne rougħt; 198
but she doesn't Sche seyd "I recke nere
care for that, Whyle I am here and þou art there,
I schrewe herre þat þe doth drede." 201
The lord was sone owte of her þought,
and goes away to The wyfe went in to her lofte,
her work. Sche satte and dyd her dede. AND HAS 204
Next day the Lord Than yt fel̴l̴ on þat oþer daye, TO BEAT FLAX
begs for food. Of mete and drynke he gan her p_ra_y, TO EARN HIS
There of he hadde gret nede. DINNER. 207
[leaf 181] He seyd, "dame, for seynt charyte,
Wyth some mete þou comfort me."
"You'll get none Sche seyd, "nay, so god me spede, 210
from me For I swere by swete seynt Iohn_e_,
Mete ne drynke ne getyst þou none
unless you sweat Butt þou wylt swete or swynke; 213
for it," says she; For I haue both hempe and lyne,
"spin me some And a betyngstocke ful̴l̴ fyne,
flax." And a swyngyl̴l̴ good and grete; 216
If þou wylt worke, tell me sone."
He says he will: "Dame, bryng yt forthe, yt schal̴l̴ be done,
Ful̴l̴ gladly would I ete." 219
she throws him the Sche toke the stocke in her honde,
tools, And in to the pytt sche yt sclang
With a grete hete: 222
the flax and hemp, Sche brought the lyne and hempe on her backe,
and says, "Work "Syr lord," sche seyd, "haue þou þat,
away." And lerne for to swete." 225
Ther sche toke hym a bonde
For to occupy hys honde,
And bade hym fast on to bete. 228
He does, He leyd yt downe on the[4] stone,
lays on well, And leyd on strockes wel̴l̴ good wone,
And sparyd nott on to leyne. 231
Whan þat he hadde wrought a thraue,
and then asks for Mete and drynke he gan to craue,
his food, And would haue hadde yt fayne; 234
"That I hadde somewhat for to ete
Now aft_er_ my gret swete;
Me thynketh yt were rygħt, 237
for he's toiled For I haue labouryd nyght and daye
night and day. The for to plese, dame, I saye,
And therto putt my myght." 240
The wife The wyfe seyd "so mutt I haue hele, THE STEWARD
And yf þi worke be wrought wele RESOLVES TO
Thou schalt haue to dyne." TEMPT THE 243
gives him meat Mete and drynke sche hym bare, WRIGHT'S
[leaf 181, back] Wyth a thrafe of flex mare WIFE.
and drink Of ful̴l̴ long boundyn lyne. 246
and more flax, So feyre the wyfe the lord gan praye
and keeps him up That he schuld be werkyng aye,
to his work. And nought þat he schuld blynne; 249
The lord was fayne to werke tho,
Butt hys men knewe nott of hys woo
Nor of þer lordes pyne. 252

The Steward asks The stuard to þe wryght gan saye,
the wright after "Sawe þou owte of my lord to-daye,
his Lord, Whether that he ys wende?" 255
The wryght answerde and seyd "naye;
I sawe hym nott syth yesterdaye;
I trowe þat he be schent." 258
then notices the The stuard stode þe wryght by,
garland, And of hys garlond hadde ferly
What þat yt be-mente. 261

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