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From The Wife of Bath's Tale, lines 1131-1170:
Dante on the origin of gentility
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From The Canterbury Tales:
The Wife of Bath's Tale
lines 1171-1212: Reflections on poverty and gentility


       Thenketh hou noble, as seith Valerius,
Was thilke Tullius Hostillius,
That out of poverte roos to heigh noblesse.
Reedeth Senek, and redeth eek Boece,
1175Ther shul ye seen expres that it no drede is,
That he is gentil that dooth gentil dedis.
And therfore, leeve housbonde, I thus conclude:
Al were it that myne auncestres weren rude,
Yet may the hye God, and so hope I,
1180Grante me grace to lyven vertuously.
Thanne am I gentil whan that I bigynne
To lyven vertuously, and weyve synne.
       And ther as ye of poverte me repreeve,
The hye God, on whom that we bileeve,
1185In wilful poverte chees to lyve his lyf.
And certes every man, mayden or wyf,
May understonde that Jesus, hevene kyng,
Ne wolde nat chesen vicious lyvyng.
Glad poverte is an honeste thyng, certeyn,
1190This wole Senec and othere clerkes seyn.
Who so that halt hym payd of his poverte,
I holde hym riche, al hadde he nat a sherte.
He that coveiteth is a povre wight,
For he wolde han that is nat in his myght;
1195But he that noght hath, ne coveiteth have,
Is riche, although ye holde hym but a knave.
Verray poverte, it syngeth proprely;
Juvenal seith of poverte myrily:
`The povre man, whan he goth by the weye,
1200Bifore the theves he may synge and pleye.'
Poverte is hateful good, and, as I gesse,
A ful greet bryngere out of bisynesse;
A greet amender eek of sapience
To hym that taketh it in pacience.
1205Poverte is this, although it seme alenge,
Possessioun, that no wight wol chalenge.
Poverte ful ofte, whan a man is lowe,
Maketh his God and eek hymself to knowe.
Poverte a spectacle is, as thynketh me,
1210Thurgh which he may hise verray freendes see.
And therfore, sire, syn that I noght yow greve,
Of my poverte namoore ye me repreve.
       Think how noble, as says Valerius,
Was that same Tullius Hostilius,
Who out of poverty rose to high estate.
Seneca and Boethius inculcate,
1175Expressly (and no doubt it thus proceeds),
That he is noble who does noble deeds;
And therefore, husband dear, I thus conclude:
Although my ancestors mayhap were rude,
Yet may the High Lord God, and so hope I,
1180Grant me the grace to live right virtuously.
Then I'll be gentle when I do begin
To live in virtue and to do no sin.
       And when you me reproach for poverty,
The High God, in Whom we believe, say I,
1185In voluntary poverty lived His life.
And surely every man, or maid, or wife
May understand that Jesus, Heaven's King,
Would not have chosen vileness of living.
Glad poverty's an honest thing, that's plain,
1190Which Seneca and other clerks maintain.
Whoso will be content with poverty,
I hold him rich, though not a shirt has he.
And he that covets much is a poor wight,
For he would gain what's all beyond his might,
1195But he that has not, nor desires to have,
Is rich, although you hold him but a knave.
"True poverty, it sings right naturally;
Juvenal gaily says of poverty:
'The poor man, when he walks along the way,
1200Before the robbers he may sing and play.'
Poverty's odious good, and, as I guess,
It is a stimulant to busyness;
A great improver, too, of sapience
In him that takes it all with due patience.
1205Poverty's this, though it seem misery -
Its quality may none dispute, say I.
Poverty often, when a man is low,
Makes him his God and even himself to know.
And poverty's an eye-glass, seems to me,
1210Through which a man his loyal friends may see.
Since you've received no injury from me,
Then why reproach me for my poverty.




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From The Wife of Bath's Prologue, lines 1213-1241:
The two choices of the knight
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