Posts tagged ‘1528’

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Unyoked is Best! Happy the Woman Without a Man by Anna Bijns

How good to be a woman, how much better to be a man!
Maidens and wenches, remember the lesson you’re about to hear.
Don’t hurtle yourself into marriage far too soon.
The saying goes: “Where’s your spouse? Where’s your honor?”
But one who earns her board and clothes
Shouldn’t scurry to suffer a man’s rod.
So much for my advice, because I suspect—
Nay, see it sadly proven day by day—
‘T happens all the time!
However rich in goods a girl might be,
Her marriage ring will shackle her for life.
If however she stays single
With purity and spotlessness foremost,
Then she is lord as well as lady. Fantastic, not?
Though wedlock I do not decry:
Unyoked is best! Happy the woman without a man.

Fine girls turning into loathly hags—
Tis true! Poor sluts! Poor tramps! Cruel marriage!
Which makes me deaf to wedding bells.
Huh! First they marry the guy, luckless dears,
Thinking their love just too hot to cool.
Well, they’re sorry and sad within a single year.
Wedlock’s burden is far too heavy.
They know best whom it harnessed.
So often is a wife distressed, afraid.
When after troubles hither and thither he goes
In search of dice and liquor, night and day,
She’ll curse herself for that initial “yes.”
So, beware ere you begin.
Just listen, don’t get yourself into it.
Unyoked is best! Happy the woman without a man.

A man oft comes home all drunk and pissed
Just when his wife had worked her fingers to the bone
(So many chores to keep a decent house!),
But if she wants to get in a word or two,
She gets to taste his fist—no more.
And that besotted keg she is supposed to obey?
Why, yelling and scolding is all she gets,
Such are his ways—and hapless his victim.
And if the nymphs of Venus he chooses to frequent,
What hearty welcome will await him home.
Maidens, young ladies: learn from another’s doom,
Ere you, too, end up in fetters and chains.
Please don’t argue with me on this,
No matter who contradicts, I stick to it:
Unyoked is best! Happy the woman without a man.

A single lady has a single income,
But likewise, isn’t bothered by another’s whims.
And I think: that freedom is worth a lot.
Who’ll scoff at her, regardless what she does,
And though every penny she makes herself,
Just think of how much less she spends!
An independent lady is an extraordinary prize—
All right, of a man’s boon she is deprived,
But she’s lord and lady of her very own hearth.
To do one’s business and no explaining sure is lots of fun!
Go to bed when she list, rise when she list, all as she will,
And no one to comment! Grab tight your independence then.
Freedom is such a blessed thing.
To all girls: though the right Guy might come along:
Unyoked is best! Happy the woman without a man.

Regardless of the fortune a woman might bring,
Many men consider her a slave, that’s all.
Don’t let a honeyed tongue catch you off guard,
Refrain from gulping it all down. Let them rave,
For, I guess, decent men resemble white ravens.
Abandon the airy castles they will build for you.
Once their tongue has limed a bird:
Bye bye love—and love just flies away.
To women marriage comes to mean betrayal
And the condemnation to a very awful fate.
All her own is spent, her lord impossible to bear.
It’s peine forte et dure instead of fun and games.
Oft it was the money, and not the man
Which goaded so many into their fate.
Unyoked is best! Happy the woman without a man.


Date: c1528 (original in Flemish/Dutch); 1987 (translation in English)

By: Anna Bijns (1493-1575)

Translated by: Kristiaan P. G. Aercke (19??- )