THE FARMER'S TALE
A MODERN ADAPTATION OF THE FRANKLIN'S TALE FROM CHAUCER'S CANTERBURY TALES
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THE FARMER'S PROLOGUE
"Well said!" the farmer cried. "I,
too, hate those THE FARMER'S
TALE Agesino was a farmer
THE FARMER'S TALE
Agesino was a farmer
"He's neither good nor kind, nor just nor wise;
In fact, he's just the sort I should despise,
Yet all I do is feel unwanted lust
And fantasize his love because I must.
I cannot sleep or eat or even think.
And now I must confide I'm on the brink
Of going to him. This I'm telling you,
That you, my love, might know of me what's true.
I love you more than ever, please believe
Me! I cannot possibly conceive
Of life without you! That's precisely why
I tell you this -- I would not live a lie."
Agesino took some time for thought,
Dismantled by the truth that she had brought,
For truth it was, of that he had no doubt,
And so he needed time to figure out
What might be the wisest thing to do,
Once his rage and jealousy were through.
He loved Delfina still, and pain apart,
Was grateful she had bared her anguished heart,
For she could easily have cheated him
And secretly enjoyed her lustful sin.
But now that she had told him: What to do?
The ground of life had shifted, now he knew.
"My dear Delfina," he at last replied,
"I am so happy that you haven't lied!
Of course the truth is hard for me to bear,
But in the end, I'd rather be aware
Of what is in your heart than live my life
With someone who's a stranger for my wife.
"I know that I am old and cannot be
The man you need. Please understand you're free
To do what makes you happy. But beware
Of those romantic men who do not care
For those they might seduce, since that might mean
They could not vanish quickly from the scene,
But might be forced to play the grownup man
By what they feel for someone other than
Themselves. Misogynists all, they play at love,
Loving whom they hate, as time will prove,
Using women for their passing pleasure
And then abandoning them, while those who treasure
Them must watch with painful indignation
Their lover's naked self-humiliation.
"So do not give yourself unless you're sure
The one who takes you feels a love as pure
As yours, as mine for you has ever been.
This you owe yourself." From his chin
Ran drops of tears streaming from his eyes.
Delfina, too, as you may well surmise,
Wept at these words bitterly, and said:
"My darling husband, would that I were dead
Rather than inflict on you such pain.
I ought not play at life. But I would claim
This chance for ecstasy! This once I must
Seek out the unmarked boundaries of my lust!"
"So go," he answered, "go and do your will,
Knowing that your husband loves you still."
Perhaps there are of you some who would say
No man would send a wife he loved away
To have sex with another. Wait and see!
The outcome will persuade you presently.
Delfina went to meet her lover, but
With half a heart. Her husband's goodness put
Her lust out in the sun, where it would dry,
And in the merciless heat begin to die.
Her heart was full of sorrow for his pain,
And so it was reluctantly she came
To meet her lover at the appointed time,
Repenting her still-uncommitted crime.
"Alejandro," she began when they had kissed,
Holding him back firmly by the wrist,
"There's something I must tell you before we
Begin to take our pleasure. I couldn't be
Myself and live a lie, and so I told
My husband of our plans." Alejandro rolled
His eyes with an incredulous disgust.
"You what?" he said. "You what?" And all his lust
Ran out of him like liquid down a drain.
"I hope you didn't let him know my name!"
"Of course not!" Delfina said. "I wouldn't do
Anything that might cause harm to you."
"What did he say?" Alejandro asked, relieved.
"He thanked me for the truth, and though he grieved
To hear of my desire, said that he
Would love me still, though I might faithless be."
"The gutless fool!" Alejandro said. "Come here!
Now we can have at it without fear.
With his permission, let us have our way,
And make mad love till sunshine says it's day!
Then send you home to him, the coward who
Could not, even in pain, say what is true:
That he is full of jealousy and rage,
And would, if honest, keep you in a cage,
Or murder you if you step out of line!
But all the milksop does is weep and whine!
"I'll show you what a man is!" And he pulled
Her towards him, by rage, not passion, ruled,
An anger that welled up, he knew not why,
From inner charities he would defy,
That turned against the woman in his arms
And made it spite to decimate her charms.
But she pushed back, now weeping, and then cried,
"Let me go, please!" as violently he tried
To rip her shirt and bra off, bent on rape,
Knowing that his prey could not escape,
And, guilty as she was, would never scream.
But still she fought, as though in a bad dream,
And wept, and begged for mercy, till his rage,
Too, turned away, and limping left the stage,
Done in by what dead love could come to life
To save the honor of the helpless wife.
"Thank you," she said as he let her go.
"I've wronged us all, all three, as I well know.
But I must ask you, please, to go away.
And since I am the cause that you can't stay,
I'll give you four months' wages, so that you
Might look for work without constraint undue."
"You'll give me money now to disappear?
I don't need your money! Never fear!
I'll go away, all on my own, since I
Need no bribes! But look me in the eye
And say that you don't want me!" So she did,
And for one moment there was nothing hid
Between them, both the evil and the good.
Alejandro shuddered, as he should,
And turned away at last from what he saw:
Himself in her forgiveness -- truth too raw
To let him keep the luster of his lust.
And so my tale ends, as end it must:
Alejandro left; Delfina came
Back to Agesino, all her shame
Washed clean in his acceptance of her whole,
And love not just for body but for soul,
The two as loving after as before.
That's all I have to say -- I'll say no more.
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