Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Living with a Basilisk - Mathieu of Boulogne

I, who once used to compose and polish off fine poems while my studies flourished and gave me great pleasure, have now fallen on hard times, not because of advancing age, but because of the constant nagging which upsets me. It's making me old before my time, allowing me no truce or respite. While asleep I dream of battles which end worse than they begin; I feel as if I am constantly at war whether awake or asleep. It's not surprising if I'm fed up with suffering such a cruel life, a life worse than death; for death stops once it has killed you, whereas this torture goes on and on and yet I must endure it. Since I am dying a terrible death, I should serve as a warning to all other men not to get married and to learn from my mistakes, thereby escaping woman and her wiles. If one's neighbour's house is on fire and one sees the flames leaping higher, one ought to fear for one's own house.

If there is anyone who is so naive that he is untutored in woman's art, let him read this very work and select from it the most pleasing formulations himself. He will learn a lot from it provided that he uses it wisely. Dear reader, make sure that you rid yourself of women. Once you are acquainted with their opinions, behaviour and character (which I shall describe if I have the chance) then I believe that justice will prevail, that you will side with me and will rightly condemn them. Woman is always quarrelsome, a nag, cruel and shrewish. Peace and quiet are foreign to her. She recites her own litany of grievances, her own version of scriptures and the liturgy, just to annoy me. She often breaks her promises. My nagging wife sings her own Tenebrae [spiritual songs]; "Damn you," she says, and haunts my lamentations. She curses all the time or nags or weeps. Every wife intones and plays the same quarrelsome tune to her husband; she sings and chimes in every hour on the hour and is a terribly perverse creature. She is in the habit of shouting out and bawling during Responses, providing her own contrafacture of the Tenebrae. She begins the antiphon with "Damn you," causing her husband much grief and pain. She goes on like this all the time. Whether she is weeping or nagging, her husband hears everything, whether he wants to or not. Yet he dares not complain about it for in return for one word of complaint he would get a thousand. Instead he has to leave home and escape from his house. This treacherous cow treats him so badly that the man has to flee. It's true that smoke, rain, and a wife's unjustified nagging drive a man away from his home. When a woman argues and disputes she is often the one to start the quarrel. The water becomes undrinkable, the smoke from the hearth clouds his sight, making his eyes weep and he is unable to stay any longer in those conditions. In order to start a fight the wife pretends that she has caught her husband in the act of adultery. She attacks or turns on him, or strikes their child so that it screams and she couldn't be bothered to calm it down, she is such a cruel viper.

Just as it is impossible for a fish to live out of water, so a wife can't live without abusing her husband and fighting. So I tell you truly, take in carefully what you read, for she is like a basilisk and may God protect you from this snake that kills people with its gaze. Above all retain this piece of advice: the only antidote is to flee it. Man is much safer with a snake or a lion than with a woman in fighting mood. I can demonstrate this with indisputable proof. You can tame all wild beasts by using chains or cages, ingenuity and cunning, and break their proud spirits, but you can't do this with your wife, for you can't get rid of an old crease in a boot. Even if you could conquer a whole empire by feats of arms, you would not be able to subjugate a woman. You can see this illustrated in paintings and Holy Scripture bears witness to this too. No man exists who has nothing to fear from her. If you are willing to acknowledge the truth, there is no man, however powerful. who isn't ultimately defeated by woman and her shield.

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