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The wife and her lover
by Janet Oates

The Wife and her lover, for soprano, theorbo and alto recorder, is a light-hearted song paraphrasing a 'morality' fable by Marie de France (fl.1160 to 1215). The wife is a shrewd, adulterous character who appears in several stories, each time getting one over on her hapless husband. In this setting, the singer speaks, sighs, laughs and takes on the roles of wife, husband and narrator, aided by commentary from the recorder and simple accompaniment from theorbo. Written to contrast with the seriousness and timbre of many of the other pieces, it's fun and accessible.

Watch the video of the live premiere here:

Janet is a London-based composer and performer, and the founder of the Theorbo Today project. 

The wife and her lover

fable by Marie de France, paraphrased by Janet Oates

 

 

A peasant, one day, was watching:

His eye to the keyhole, was spying.

Now, what did he catch sight of on his bed?

His wife... and another man!

As he said “alas, what did I see?”,

 

 

Suddenly, his wife appeared at his side:

‘And what did you see, husband dear?’

‘What? Another man, I’ll have you know,

On the bed, wrapped in your arms!”

 

 

She burst out angrily:

Oh ho, not again,

You’re as stupid as the day I met you!

Oh ho, not again,

You’re bonkers if you think

everything you see is the truth

 

 

Madame led him by the hand

To a tank of water, full to the brim

And ordered him to look at it, asking him

What he saw there. Well, of course, he said

he could see his own image.

 

 

‘And yet, of course, you are not

Under the water fully dressed,

Whatever appearances might suggest!

You mustn’t have confidence

In your eyes which so often lie.’ [are so easy to trick?]

 

 

And he said, ‘I’m sorry.

Everyone must believe absolutely

In what his wife tells him to be true,

Not what we see with our misleading eyes, 

Those masters of folly and error.’

 

 

By this example you can clearly see

That having a crafty mind

Is more useful to many people

Than all their morals and upbringing.