The Canterbury Tales

[Page 17]

1. Group 1

1.1. The General Prologue

Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(so priketh hem nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of engelond to caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.
Bifil that in that seson on a day,
In southwerk at the tabard as I lay
Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage
To caunterbury with ful devout corage,
At nyght was come into that hostelrye
Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye,
Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle
In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle,
That toward caunterbury wolden ryde.
The chambres and the stables weren wyde,
And wel we weren esed atte beste.
And shortly, whan the sonne was to reste,
So hadde I spoken with hem everichon
That I was of hir felaweshipe anon,
And made forward erly for to ryse,
To take oure wey ther as I yow devyse.
But nathelees, whil I have tyme and space,
Er that I ferther in this tale pace,
Me thynketh it acordaunt to resoun
To telle yow al the condicioun
Of ech of hem, so as it semed me,
And whiche they weren, and of what degree,
And eek in what array that they were inne;
And at a knyght than wol I first bigynne.

1.1.1. The Knight's Portrait

A knyght ther was, and that a worthy man,
That fro the tyme that he first bigan
To riden out, he loved chivalrie,
Trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisie.
Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre,
And therto hadde he riden, no man ferre,
As wel in cristendom as in hethenesse,
And evere honoured for his worthynesse.
At alisaundre he was whan it was wonne.
Ful ofte tyme he hadde the bord bigonne
Aboven alle nacions in pruce;
In lettow hadde he reysed and in ruce,
No cristen man so ofte of his degree.
In gernade at the seege eek hadde he be
Of algezir, and riden in belmarye.
At lyeys was he and at satalye,
Whan they were wonne; and in the grete see
At many a noble armee hadde he be.
At mortal batailles hadde he been fiftene,
And foughten for oure feith at tramyssene
In lystes thries, and ay slayn his foo.
This ilke worthy knyght hadde been also
Somtyme with the lord of palatye
Agayn another hethen in turkye. [Page 18]
And everemoore he hadde a sovereyn prys;
And though that he were worthy, he was wys,
And of his port as meeke as is a mayde.
He nevere yet no vileynye ne sayde
In al his lyf unto no maner wight.
He was a verray, parfit gentil knyght.
But, for to tellen yow of his array,
His hors were goode, but he was nat gay.
Of fustian he wered a gypon
Al bismotered with his habergeon,
For he was late ycome from his viage,
And wente for to doon his pilgrymage.

1.1.2. The Squire's Portrait

With hym ther was his sone, a yong squier,
A lovyere and a lusty bacheler,
With lokkes crulle as they were leyd in presse.
Of twenty yeer of age he was, I gesse.
Of his stature he was of evene lengthe,
And wonderly delyvere, and of greet strengthe.
And he hadde been somtyme in chyvachie
In flaundres, in artoys, and pycardie,
And born hym weel, as of so litel space,
In hope to stonden in his lady grace.
Embrouded was he, as it were a meede
Al ful of fresshe floures, whyte and reede.
Syngynge he was, or floytynge, al the day;
He was as fressh as is the month of may.
Short was his gowne, with sleves longe and wyde.
Wel koude he sitte on hors and faire ryde.
He koude songes make and wel endite,
Juste and eek daunce, and weel purtreye and write.
So hoote he lovede that by nyghtertale.
He sleep namoore than dooth a nyghtyngale.
Curteis he was, lowely, and servysable,
And carf biforn his fader at the table.

1.1.3. The Yeoman's Portrait

A yeman hadde he and servantz namo
At that tyme, for hym liste ride so,
And he was clad in cote and hood of grene.
A sheef of pecok arwes, bright and kene,
Under his belt he bar ful thriftily,
(wel koude he dresse his takel yemanly:
His arwes drouped noght with fetheres lowe)
And in his hand he baar a myghty bowe.
A not heed hadde he, with a broun visage.
Of wodecraft wel koude he al the usage.
Upon his arm he baar a gay bracer,
And by his syde a swerd and a bokeler,
And on that oother syde a gay daggere
Harneised wel and sharp as point of spere;
A cristopher on his brest of silver sheene.
An horn he bar, the bawdryk was of grene;
A forster was he, soothly, as I gesse.

1.1.4. The Prioress' Portrait

Ther was also a nonne, a prioresse,
That of hir smylyng was ful symple and coy;
Hire gretteste ooth was but by seinte loy;
And she was cleped madame eglentyne.
Ful weel she soong the service dyvyne,
Entuned in hir nose ful semely,
And frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly,
After the scole of stratford atte bowe,
For frenssh of parys was to hire unknowe.
At mete wel ytaught was she with alle:
She leet no morsel from hir lippes falle,
Ne wette hir fyngres in hir sauce depe;
Wel koude she carie a morsel and wel kepe
That no drope ne fille upon hire brest.
In curteisie was set ful muchel hir lest.
Hir over-lippe wyped she so clene
That in hir coppe ther was no ferthyng sene
Of grece, whan she dronken hadde hir draughte.
Ful semely after hir mete she raughte.
And sikerly she was of greet desport,
And ful plesaunt, and amyable of port,
And peyned hire to countrefete cheere
Of court, and to been estatlich of manere,
And to ben holden digne of reverence.
But, for to speken of hire conscience,
She was so charitable and so pitous
She wolde wepe, if that she saugh a mous
Kaught in a trappe, if it were deed or bledde.
Of smale houndes hadde she that she fedde
With rosted flessh, or milk and wastel-breed.
But soore wepte she if oon of hem were deed,
Or if men smoot it with a yerde smerte;
And al was conscience and tendre herte.
Ful semyly hir wympul pynched was,
Hir nose tretys, hir eyen greye as glas,
Hir mouth ful smal, and therto softe and reed;
But sikerly she hadde a fair forheed;
It was almoost a spanne brood, I trowe;
For, hardily, she was nat undergrowe.
Ful fetys was hir cloke, as I was war.
Of smal coral aboute hire arm she bar
A peire of bedes, gauded al with grene,
And theron heng a brooch of gold ful sheene,
On which ther was first write a crowned a,
And after amor vincit omnia.

1.1.5. The Second Nun's Portrait

Another nonne with hire hadde she,
That was hir chapeleyne, and preestes thre.

1.1.6. The Monk's Portrait

A monk ther was, a fair for the maistrie,
An outridere, that lovede venerie,
A manly man, to been an abbot able.
Ful many a deyntee hors hadde he in stable,
And whan he rood, men myghte his brydel heere
Gynglen in a whistlynge wynd als cleere
And eek as loude as dooth the chapel belle. [Page 19]
Ther as this lord was kepere of the celle,
The reule of seint maure or of seint beneit,
By cause that it was old and somdel streit
This ilke monk leet olde thynges pace,
And heeld after the newe world the space.
He yaf nat of that text a pulled hen,
That seith that hunters ben nat hooly men,
Ne that a monk, whan he is recchelees,
Is likned til a fissh that is waterlees, --
This is to seyn, a monk out of his cloystre.
But thilke text heeld he nat worth an oystre;
And I seyde his opinion was good.
What sholde he studie and make hymselven wood,
Upon a book in cloystre alwey to poure,
Or swynken with his handes, and laboure,
As austyn bit? how shal the world be served?
Lat austyn have his swynk to hym reserved!
Therfore he was a prikasour aright:
Grehoundes he hadde as swift as fowel in flight;
Of prikyng and of huntyng for the hare
Was al his lust, for no cost wolde he spare.
I seigh his sleves purfiled at the hond
With grys, and that the fyneste of a lond;
And, for to festne his hood under his chyn,
He hadde of gold ywroght a ful curious pyn;
A love-knotte in the gretter ende ther was.
His heed was balled, that shoon as any glas,
And eek his face, as he hadde been enoynt.
He was a lord ful fat and in good poynt;
His eyen stepe, and rollynge in his heed,
That stemed as a forneys of a leed;
His bootes souple, his hors in greet estaat.
Now certeinly he was a fair prelaat;
He was nat pale as a forpyned goost.
A fat swan loved he best of any roost.
His palfrey was as broun as is a berye.

1.1.7. The Friar's Portrait

A frere ther was, a wantowne and a merye,
A lymytour, a ful solempne man.
In alle the ordres foure is noon that kan
So muchel of daliaunce and fair langage.
He hadde maad ful many a mariage
Of yonge wommen at his owene cost.
Unto his ordre he was a noble post.
Ful wel biloved and famulier was he
With frankeleyns over al in his contree,
And eek with worthy wommen of the toun;
For he hadde power of confessioun,
As seyde hymself, moore than a curat,
For of his ordre he was licenciat.
Ful swetely herde he confessioun,
And plesaunt was his absolucioun:
He was an esy man to yeve penaunce,
Ther as he wiste to have a good pitaunce.
For unto a povre ordre for to yive
Is signe that a man is wel yshryve;
For if he yaf, he dorste make avaunt,
He wiste that a man was repentaunt;
For many a man so hard is of his herte,
He may nat wepe, althogh hym soore smerte.
Therfore in stede of wepynge and preyeres
Men moote yeve silver to the povre freres.
His typet was ay farsed ful of knyves
And pynnes, for to yeven faire wyves.
And certeinly he hadde a murye note:
Wel koude he synge and pleyen on a rote;
Of yeddynges he baar outrely the pris.
His nekke whit was as the flour-de-lys;
Therto he strong was as a champioun.
He knew the tavernes wel in every toun
And everich hostiler and tappestere
Bet than a lazar or a beggestere;
For unto swich a worthy man as he
Acorded nat, as by his facultee,
To have with sike lazars aqueyntaunce.
It is nat honest, it may nat avaunce,
For to deelen with no swich poraille,
But al with riche and selleres of vitaille.
And over al, ther as profit sholde arise,
Curteis he was and lowely of servyse.
Ther nas no man nowher so vertuous.
He was the beste beggere in his hous;
(and yaf a certeyne ferme for the graunt;
Noon of his bretheren cam ther in his haunt;)
For thogh a wydwe hadde noght a sho,
So plesaunt was his in principio,
Yet wolde he have a ferthyng, er he wente.
His purchas was wel bettre than his rente.
And rage he koude, as it were right a whelp.
In love-dayes ther koude he muchel help,
For ther he was nat lyk a cloysterer
With a thredbare cope, as is a povre scoler,
But he was lyk a maister or a pope.
Of double worstede was his semycope,
That rounded as a belle out of the presse.
Somwhat he lipsed, for his wantownesse,
To make his englissh sweete upon his tonge;
And in his harpyng, whan that he hadde songe,
His eyen twynkled in his heed aryght,
As doon the sterres in the frosty nyght.
This worthy lymytour was cleped huberd.

1.1.8. The Merchant's Portrait

A marchant was ther with a forked berd,
In mottelee, and hye on horse he sat;
Upon his heed a flaundryssh bever hat,
His bootes clasped faire and fetisly.
His resons he spak ful solempnely,
Sownynge alwey th' encrees of his wynnyng. [Page 20]
He wolde the see were kept for any thyng
Bitwixe middelburgh and orewelle.
Wel koude he in eschaunge sheeldes selle.
This worthy man ful wel his wit bisette:
Ther wiste no wight that he was in dette,
So estatly was he of his governaunce
With his bargaynes and with his chevyssaunce.
For sothe he was a worthy man with alle,
But, sooth to seyn, I noot how men hym calle.

1.1.9. The Clerk's Portrait

A clerk ther was of oxenford also,
That unto logyk hadde longe ygo.
As leene was his hors as is a rake,
And he nas nat right fat, I undertake,
But looked holwe, and therto sobrely.
Ful thredbare was his overeste courtepy;
For he hadde geten hym yet no benefice,
Ne was so worldly for to have office.
For hym was levere have at his beddes heed
Twenty bookes, clad in blak or reed,
Of aristotle and his philosophie,
Than robes riche, or fithele, or gay sautrie.
But al be that he was a philosophre,
Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre;
But al that he myghte of his freendes hente,
On bookes and on lernynge he it spente,
And bisily gan for the soules preye
Of hem that yaf hym wherwith to scoleye.
Of studie took he moost cure and moost heede,
Noght o word spak he moore than was neede,
And that was seyd in forme and reverence,
And short and quyk and ful of hy sentence;
Sownynge in moral vertu was his speche,
And gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche.

1.1.10. The Man of Law's Portrait

A sergeant of the lawe, war and wys,
That often hadde been at the parvys,
Ther was also, ful riche of excellence.
Discreet he was and of greet reverence --
He semed swich, his wordes weren so wise.
Justice he was ful often in assise,
By patente and by pleyn commissioun.
For his science and for his heigh renoun,
Of fees and robes hadde he many oon.
So greet a purchasour was nowher noon:
Al was fee symple to hym in effect;
His purchasyng myghte nat been infect.
Nowher so bisy a man as he ther nas,
And yet he semed bisier than he was.
In termes hadde he caas and doomes alle
That from the tyme of kyng william were falle.
Therto he koude endite, and make a thyng,
Ther koude no wight pynche at his writyng;
And every statut koude he pleyn by rote.
He rood but hoomly in a medlee cote.
Girt with a ceint of silk, with barres smale;
Of his array telle I no lenger tale.

1.1.11. The Franklin's Portrait

A frankeleyn was in his compaignye.
Whit was his berd as is the dayesye;
Of his complexioun he was sangwyn.
Wel loved he by the morwe a sop in wyn;
To lyven in delit was evere his wone,
For he was epicurus owene sone,
That heeld opinioun that pleyn delit
Was verray felicitee parfit.
An housholdere, and that a greet, was he;
Seint julian he was in his contree.
His breed, his ale, was alweys after oon;
A bettre envyned man was nowher noon.
Withoute bake mete was nevere his hous
Of fissh and flessh, and that so plentevous,
It snewed in his hous of mete and drynke,
Of alle deyntees that men koude thynke.
After the sondry sesons of the yeer,
So chaunged he his mete and his soper.
Ful many a fat partrich hadde he in muwe,
And many a breem and many a luce in stuwe.
Wo was his cook but if his sauce were
Poynaunt and sharp, and redy al his geere.
His table dormant in his halle alway
Stood redy covered al the longe day.
At sessiouns ther was he lord and sire;
Ful ofte tyme he was knyght of the shire.
An anlaas and a gipser al of silk
Heeng at his girdel, whit as morne milk.
A shirreve hadde he been, and a contour.
Was nowher swich a worthy vavasour.

1.1.12. The Guildsmen's Portrait

An haberdasshere and a carpenter,
A webbe, a dyere, and a tapycer, --
And they were clothed alle in o lyveree
Of a solempne and a greet fraternitee.
Ful fressh and newe hir geere apiked was;
Hir knyves were chaped noght with bras
But al with silver; wroght ful clene and weel
Hire girdles and hir pouches everydeel.
Wel semed ech of hem a fair burgeys
To sitten in a yeldehalle on a deys.
Everich, for the wisdom that he kan,
Was shaply for to been an alderman.
For catel hadde they ynogh and rente,
And eek hir wyves wolde it wel assente;
And elles certeyn were they to blame.
It is ful fair to been ycleped madame,
And goon to vigilies al bifore,
And have a mantel roialliche ybore.

1.1.13. The Cook's Portrait

A cook they hadde with hem for the nones
To boille the chiknes with the marybones,
And poudre-marchant tart and galyngale.
Wel koude he knowe a draughte of londoun ale. [Page 21]
He koude rooste, and sethe, and broille, and frye,
Maken mortreux, and wel bake a pye.
But greet harm was it, as it thoughte me,
That on his shyne a mormal hadde he.
For blankmanger, that made he with the beste.

1.1.14. The Shipman's Portrait

A shipman was ther, wonynge fer by weste;
For aught I woot, he was of dertemouthe.
He rood upon a rounce, as he kouthe,
In a gowne of faldyng to the knee.
A daggere hangynge on a laas hadde he
Aboute his nekke, under his arm adoun.
The hoote somer hadde maad his hewe al broun;
And certeinly he was a good felawe.
Ful many a draughte of wyn had he ydrawe
Fro burdeux-ward, whil that the chapmen sleep.
Of nyce conscience took he no keep.
If that he faught, and hadde the hyer hond,
By water he sente hem hoom to every lond.
But of his craft to rekene wel his tydes,
His stremes, and his daungers hym bisides,
His herberwe, and his moone, his lodemenage,
Ther nas noon swich from hulle to cartage.
Hardy he was and wys to undertake;
With many a tempest hadde his berd been shake.
He knew alle the havenes, as they were,
Fro gootlond to the cape of fynystere,
And every cryke in britaigne and in spayne.
His barge ycleped was the maudelayne.

1.1.15. The Physician's Portrait

With us ther was a doctour of phisik;
In al this world ne was the noon hym lik,
To speke of phisik and of surgerye
For he was grounded in astronomye.
He kepte his pacient a ful greet deel
In houres by his magyk natureel.
Wel koude he fortunen the ascendent
Of his ymages for his pacient.
He knew the cause of everich maladye,
Were it of hoot, or coold, or moyste, or drye,
And where they engendred, and of what humour.
He was a verray, parfit praktisour:
The cause yknowe, and of his harm the roote,
Anon he yaf the sike man his boote.
Ful redy hadde he his apothecaries
To sende hym drogges and his letuaries,
For ech of hem made oother for to wynne --
Hir frendshipe nas nat newe to bigynne.
Wel knew he the olde esculapius,
And deyscorides, and eek rufus,
Olde ypocras, haly, and galyen,
Serapion, razis, and avycen,
Averrois, damascien, and constantyn,
Bernard, and gatesden, and gilbertyn.
Of his diete mesurable was he,
For it was of no superfluitee,
But of greet norissyng and digestible.
His studie was but litel on the bible.
In sangwyn and in pers he clad was al,
Lyned with taffata and with sendal;
And yet he was but esy of dispence;
He kepte that he wan in pestilence.
For gold in phisik is a cordial,
Therefore he lovede gold in special.

1.1.16. The Wife of Bath's Portrait

A good wif was ther of biside bathe,
But she was somdel deef, and that was scathe.
Of clooth-makyng she hadde swich an haunt,
She passed hem of ypres and of gaunt.
In al the parisshe wif ne was ther noon
That to the offrynge bifore hire sholde goon;
And if ther dide, certeyn so wrooth was she,
That she was out of alle charitee.
Hir coverchiefs ful fyne weren of ground;
I dorste swere they weyeden ten pound
That on a sonday weren upon hir heed.
Hir hosen weren of fyn scarlet reed,
Ful streite yteyd, and shoes ful moyste and newe.
Boold was hir face, and fair, and reed of hewe.
She was a worthy womman al hir lyve:
Housbondes at chirche dore she hadde fyve,
Withouten oother compaignye in youthe, --
But therof nedeth nat to speke as nowthe.
And thries hadde she been at jerusalem;
She hadde passed many a straunge strem;
At rome she hadde been, and at boloigne,
In galice at seint-jame, and at coloigne.
She koude muchel of wandrynge by the weye.
Gat-tothed was she, soothly for to seye.
Upon an amblere esily she sat,
Ywympled wel, and on hir heed an hat
As brood as is a bokeler or a targe;
A foot-mantel aboute hir hipes large,
And on hir feet a paire of spores sharpe.
In felaweshipe wel koude she laughe and carpe.
Of remedies of love she knew per chaunce,
For she koude of that art the olde daunce.

1.1.17. The Parson's Portrait

A good man was ther of religioun,
And was a povre persoun of a toun,
But riche he was of hooly thoght and werk.
He was also a lerned man, a clerk,
That cristes gospel trewely wolde preche;
His parisshens devoutly wolde he teche.
Benygne he was, and wonder diligent,
And in adversitee ful pacient, [Page 22]
And swich he was ypreved ofte sithes.
Ful looth were hym to cursen for his tithes,
But rather wolde he yeven, out of doute,
Unto his povre parisshens aboute
Of his offryng and eek of his substaunce.
He koude in litel thyng have suffisaunce.
Wyd was his parisshe, and houses fer asonder,
But he ne lefte nat, for reyn ne thonder,
In siknesse nor in meschief to visite
The ferreste in his parisshe, muche and lite,
Upon his feet, and in his hand a staf.
This noble ensample to his sheep he yaf,
That first he wroghte, and afterward he taughte.
Out of the gospel he tho wordes caughte,
And this figure he added eek therto,
That if gold ruste, what shal iren do?
For if a preest be foul, on whom we truste,
No wonder is a lewed man to ruste;
And shame it is, if a prest take keep,
A shiten shepherde and a clene sheep.
Wel oghte a preest ensample for to yive,
By his clennesse, how that his sheep sholde lyve.
He sette nat his benefice to hyre
And leet his sheep encombred in the myre
And ran to londoun unto seinte poules
To seken hym a chaunterie for soules,
Or with a bretherhed to been withholde;
But dwelte at hoom, and kepte wel his folde,
So that the wolf ne made it nat myscarie;
He was a shepherde and noght a mercenarie.
And though he hooly were and vertuous,
He was to synful men nat despitous,
Ne of his speche daungerous ne digne,
But in his techyng discreet and benygne.
To drawen folk to hevene by fairnesse,
By good ensample, this was his bisynesse.
But it were any persone obstinat,
What so he were, of heigh or lough estat,
Hym wolde he snybben sharply for the nonys.
A bettre preest I trowe that nowher noon ys.
He waited after no pompe and reverence,
Ne maked him a spiced conscience,
But cristes loore and his apostles twelve
He taughte, but first he folwed it hymselve.

1.1.18. The Plowman's Portrait

With hym ther was a plowman, was his brother,
That hadde ylad of dong ful many a fother;
A trewe swynkere and a good was he,
Lyvynge in pees and parfit charitee.
God loved he best with al his hoole herte
At alle tymes, thogh him gamed or smerte,
And thanne his neighebor right as hymselve.
He wolde thresshe, and therto dyke and delve,
For cristes sake, for every povre wight,
Withouten hire, if it lay in his myght.
His tithes payde he ful faire and wel,
Bothe of his propre swynk and his catel.
In a tabard he rood upon a mere.

1.1.19.

Ther was also a reve, and a millere,
A somnour, and a pardoner also,
A maunciple, and myself -- ther were namo.

1.1.20. The Miller's Portrait

The millere was a stout carl for the nones;
Ful byg he was of brawn, and eek of bones.
That proved wel, for over al ther he cam,
At wrastlynge he wolde have alwey the ram.
He was short-sholdred, brood, a thikke knarre;
Ther was no dore that he nolde heve of harre,
Or breke it at a rennyng with his heed.
His berd as any sowe or fox was reed,
And therto brood, as though it were a spade.
Upon the cop right of his nose he hade
A werte, and theron stood a toft of herys,
Reed as the brustles of a sowes erys;
His nosethirles blake were and wyde.
A swerd and bokeler bar he by his syde.
His mouth as greet was as a greet forneys.
He was a janglere and a goliardeys,
And that was moost of synne and harlotries.
Wel koude he stelen corn and tollen thries;
And yet he hadde a thombe of gold, pardee.
A whit cote and a blew hood wered he.
A baggepipe wel koude he blowe and sowne,
And therwithal he broghte us out of towne.

1.1.21. The Manciple's Portrait

A gentil maunciple was ther of a temple,
Of which achatours myghte take exemple
For to be wise in byynge of vitaille;
For wheither that he payde or took by taille,
Algate he wayted so in his achaat
That he was ay biforn and in good staat.
Now is nat that of God a ful fair grace
That swich a lewed mannes wit shal pace
The wisdom of an heep of lerned men?
Of maistres hadde he mo than thries ten,
That weren of lawe expert and curious,
Of which ther were a duszeyne in that hous
Worthy to been stywardes of rente and lond
Of any lord that is in engelond,
To make hym lyve by his propre good
In honour dettelees (but if he were wood),
Or lyve as scarsly as hym list desire;
And able for to helpen al a shire
In any caas that myghte falle or happe;
And yet this manciple sette hir aller cappe.

1.1.22. The Reeve's Portrait

The reve was a sclendre colerik man.
His berd was shave as ny as ever he kan;
His heer was by his erys ful round yshorn; [Page 23]
His top was dokked lyk a preest biforn
Ful longe were his legges and ful lene,
Ylyk a staf, ther was no calf ysene.
Wel koude he kepe a gerner and a bynne;
Ther was noon auditour koude on him wynne.
Wel wiste he by the droghte and by the reyn
The yeldynge of his seed and of his greyn.
His lordes sheep, his neet, his dayerye,
His swyn, his hors, his stoor, and his pultrye
Was hoolly in this reves governynge,
And by his covenant yaf the rekenynge,
Syn that his lord was twenty yeer of age.
Ther koude no man brynge hym in arrerage.
Ther nas baillif, ne hierde, nor oother hyne,
That he ne knew his sleighte and his covyne;
They were adrad of hym as of the deeth.
His wonyng was ful faire upon an heeth;
With grene trees yshadwed was his place.
He koude bettre than his lord purchace.
Ful riche he was astored pryvely:
His lord wel koude he plesen subtilly,
To yeve and lene hym of his owene good,
And have a thank, and yet a cote and hood.
In youthe he hadde lerned a good myster;
He was a wel good wrighte, a carpenter.
This reve sat upon a ful good stot,
That was al pomely grey and highte scot.
A long surcote of pers upon he hade,
And by his syde he baar a rusty blade.
Of northfolk was this reve of which I telle,
Biside a toun men clepen baldeswelle.
Tukked he was as is a frere aboute,
And evere he rood the hyndreste of oure route.

1.1.23. The Summoner's Portrait

A somonour was ther with us in that place,
That hadde a fyr-reed cherubynnes face,
For saucefleem he was, with eyen narwe.
As hoot he was and lecherous as a sparwe,
With scalled browes blake and piled berd.
Of his visage children were aferd.
Ther nas quyk-silver, lytarge, ne brymstoon,
Boras, ceruce, ne oille of tartre noon;
Ne oynement that wolde clense and byte,
That hym myghte helpen of his whelkes white,
Nor of the knobbes sittynge on his chekes.
Wel loved he garleek, oynons, and eek lekes,
And for to drynken strong wyn, reed as blood;
Thanne wolde he speke and crie as he were wood.
And whan that he wel dronken hadde the wyn,
Thanne wolde he speke no word but latyn.
A fewe termes hadde he, two or thre,
That he had lerned out of som decree --
No wonder is, he herde it al the day;
And eek ye knowen wel how that a jay
Kan clepen watte as wel as kan the pope.
But whoso koude in oother thyng hym grope,
Thanne hadde he spent al his philosophie;
Ay questio quid iuris wolde he crie.
He was a gentil harlot and a kynde;
A bettre felawe sholde men noght fynde.
He wolde suffre for a quart of wyn
A good felawe to have his concubyn
A twelf month, and excuse hym atte fulle;
Ful prively a fynch eek koude he pulle.
And if he foond owher a good felawe,
He wolde techen him to have noon awe
In swich caas of the ercedekenes curs,
But if a mannes soule were in his purs;
For in his purs he sholde ypunysshed be.
Purs is the ercedekenes helle, seyde he.
But wel I woot he lyed right in dede;
Of cursyng oghte ech gilty man him drede,
For curs wol slee right as assoillyng savith,
And also war hym of a significavit.
In daunger hadde he at his owene gise
The yonge girles of the diocise,
And knew hir conseil, and was al hir reed.
A gerland hadde he set upon his heed
As greet as it were for an ale-stake.
A bokeleer hadde he maad hym of a cake.

1.1.24. The Pardoner's Portrait

With hym ther rood a gentil pardoner
Of rouncivale, his freend and his compeer,
That streight was comen fro the court of rome.
Ful loude he soong com hider, love, to me!
This somonour bar to hym a stif burdoun;
Was nevere trompe of half so greet a soun.
This pardoner hadde heer as yelow as wex,
But smothe it heeng as dooth a strike of flex;
By ounces henge his lokkes that he hadde,
And therwith he his shuldres overspradde;
But thynne it lay, by colpons oon and oon.
But hood, for jolitee, wered he noon,
For it was trussed up in his walet.
Hym thoughte he rood al of the newe jet;
Dischevelee, save his cappe, he rood al bare.
Swiche glarynge eyen hadde he as an hare.
A vernycle hadde he sowed upon his cappe.
His walet lay biforn hym in his lappe,
Bretful of pardoun, comen from rome al hoot.
A voys he hadde as smal as hath a goot.
No berd hadde he, ne nevere sholde have;
As smothe it was as it were late shave.
I trowe he were a geldyng or a mare.
But of his craft, fro berwyk into ware,
Ne was ther swich another pardoner
For in his male he hadde a pilwe-beer,
Which that he seyde was oure lady veyl: [Page 24]
He seyde he hadde a gobet of the seyl
That seint peter hadde, whan that he wente
Upon the see, til jhesu crist hym hente.
He hadde a croys of latoun ful of stones,
And in a glas he hadde pigges bones.
But with thise relikes, whan that he fond
A povre person dwellynge upon lond,
Upon a day he gat hym moore moneye
Than that the person gat in monthes tweye;
And thus, with feyned flaterye and japes,
He made the person and the peple his apes.
But trewely to tellen atte laste,
He was in chirche a noble ecclesiaste.
Wel koude he rede a lessoun or a storie,
But alderbest he song an offertorie;
For wel he wiste, whan that song was songe,
He moste preche and wel affile his tonge
To wynne silver, as he ful wel koude;
Therefore he song the murierly and loude.

1.1.25.

Now have I toold you soothly, in a clause,
Th' estaat, th' array, the nombre, and eek the cause
Why that assembled was this compaignye
In southwerk at this gentil hostelrye
That highte the tabard, faste by the belle.
But now is tyme to yow for to telle
How that we baren us that ilke nyght,
Whan we were in that hostelrie alyght;
And after wol I telle of our viage
And al the remenaunt of oure pilgrimage.
But first I pray yow, of youre curteisye,
That ye n' arette it nat my vileynye,
Thogh that I pleynly speke in this mateere,
To telle yow hir wordes and hir cheere,
Ne thogh I speke hir wordes proprely.
For this ye knowen al so wel as I,
Whoso shal telle a tale after a man,
He moot reherce as ny as evere he kan
Everich a word, if it be in his charge,
Al speke he never so rudeliche and large,
Or ellis he moot telle his tale untrewe,
Or feyne thyng, or fynde wordes newe.
He may nat spare, althogh he were his brother;
He moot as wel seye o word as another.
Crist spak hymself ful brode in hooly writ,
And wel ye woot no vileynye is it.
Eek plato seith, whoso that kan hym rede,
The wordes moote be cosyn to the dede.
Also I prey yow to foryeve it me,
Al have I nat set folk in hir degree
Heere in this tale, as that they sholde stonde.
My wit is short, ye may wel understonde.
Greet chiere made oure hoost us everichon,
And to the soper sette he us anon.
He served us with vitaille at the beste;
Strong was the wyn, and wel to drynke us leste.
A semely man oure hooste was withalle
For to han been a marchal in an halle.
A large man he was with eyen stepe --
A fairer burgeys is ther noon in chepe --
Boold of his speche, and wys, and wel ytaught,
And of manhod hym lakkede right naught.
Eek therto he was right a myrie man,
And after soper pleyen he bigan,
And spak of myrthe amonges othere thynges,
Whan that we hadde maad oure rekenynges,
And seyde thus: now, lordynges, trewely,
Ye been to me right welcome, hertely;
For by my trouthe, if that I shal nat lye,
I saugh nat this yeer so myrie a compaignye
Atones in this herberwe as is now.
Fayn wolde I doon yow myrthe, wiste I how.
And of a myrthe I am right now bythoght,
To doon yow ese, and it shal coste noght.
Ye goon to caunterbury -- God yow speede,
The blisful martir quite yow youre meede!
And wel I woot, as ye goon by the weye,
Ye shapen yow to talen and to pleye;
For trewely, confort ne myrthe is noon
To ride by the weye doumb as a stoon;
And therfore wol I maken yow disport,
As I seyde erst, and doon yow som confort.
And if yow liketh alle by oon assent
For to stonden at my juggement,
And for to werken as I shal yow seye,
To-morwe, whan ye riden by the weye,
Now, by my fader soule that is deed,
But ye be myrie, I wol yeve yow myn heed!
Hoold up youre hondes, withouten moore speche.
Oure conseil was nat longe for to seche.
Us thoughte it was noght worth to make it wys,
And graunted hym withouten moore avys,
And bad him seye his voirdit as hym leste.
Lordynges, quod he, now herkneth for the beste;
But taak it nought, I prey yow, in desdeyn.
This is the poynt, to speken short and pleyn,
That ech of yow, to shorte with oure weye,
In this viage shal telle tales tweye
To caunterbury-ward, I mene it so,
And homward he shal tellen othere two,
Of aventures that whilom han bifalle.
And which of yow that bereth hym best of alle,
That is to seyn, that telleth in this caas
Tales of best sentence and moost solaas,
Shal have a soper at oure aller cost
Heere in this place, sittynge by this post, [Page 25]
Whan that we come agayn fro caunterbury.
And for to make yow the moore mury,
I wol myselven goodly with yow ryde,
Right at myn owene cost, and be youre gyde,
And whoso wole my juggement withseye
Shal paye al that we spenden by the weye.
And if ye vouche sauf that it be so,
Tel me anon, withouten wordes mo,
And I wol erly shape me therfore.
This thyng was graunted, and oure othes swore
With ful glad herte, and preyden hym also
That he wolde vouche sauf for to do so,
And that he wolde been oure governour,
And oure tales juge and reportour,
And sette a soper at a certeyn pris,
And we wol reuled been at his devys
In heigh and lough; and thus by oon assent
We been acorded to his juggement.
And therupon the wyn was fet anon;
We dronken, and to reste wente echon,
Withouten any lenger taryynge.
Amorwe, whan that day bigan to sprynge,
Up roos oure hoost, and was oure aller cok,
And gradrede us togidre alle in a flok,
And forth we riden a litel moore than paas
Unto the wateryng of seint thomas;
And there oure hoost bigan his hors areste
And seyde, lordynges, herkneth, if yow leste.
Ye woot youre foreward, and I it yow recorde.
If even-song and morwe-song accorde,
Lat se now who shal telle the firste tale.
As evere mote I drynke wyn or ale,
Whoso be rebel to my juggement
Shal paye for al that by the wey is spent.
Now draweth cut, er that we ferrer twynne;
He which that hath the shorteste shal bigynne.
Sire knyght, quod he, my mayster and my lord,
Now draweth cut, for that is myn accord.
Cometh neer, quod he, my lady prioresse.
And ye, sire clerk, lat be youre shamefastnesse,
Ne studieth noght; ley hond to, every man!
Anon to drawen every wight bigan,
And shortly for to tellen as it was,
Were it by aventure, or sort, or cas,
The sothe is this, the cut fil to the knyght,
Of which ful blithe and glad was every wyght,
And telle he moste his tale, as was resoun,
By foreward and by composicioun,
As ye han herd; what nedeth wordes mo?
And whan this goode man saugh that it was so,
As he that wys was and obedient
To kepe his foreward by his free assent,
He seyde, syn I shal bigynne the game,
What, welcome be the cut, a goddes name!
Now lat us ryde, and herkneth what I seye.
And with that word we ryden forth oure weye,
And he bigan with right a myrie cheere
His tale anon, and seyde as ye may heere.

1.2. The Knight's Tale

1.2.1. Part I

Whilom, as olde stories tellen us,
Ther was a duc that highte theseus;
Of atthenes he was lord and governour,
And in his tyme swich a conquerour,
That gretter was ther noon under the sonne.
Ful many a riche contree hadde he wonne;
What with his wysdom and his chivalrie,
He conquered al the regne of femenye,
That whilom was ycleped scithia,
And weddede the queene ypolita,
And broghte hire hoom with hym in his contree
With muchel glorie and greet solempnytee,
And eek hir yonge suster emelye.
And thus with victorie and with melodye
Lete I this noble duc to atthenes ryde,
And al his hoost in armes hym bisyde.
And certes, if it nere to long to heere,
I wolde have toold yow fully the manere
How wonnen was the regne of femenye
By theseus and by his chivalrye;
And of the grete bataille for the nones
Bitwixen atthenes and amazones; [Page 26]
And how asseged was ypolita,
The faire, hardy queene of scithia;
And of the feste that was at hir weddynge,
And of the tempest at hir hoom-comynge;
But al that thyng I moot as now forbere.
I have, God woot, a large feeld to ere,
And wayke been the oxen in my plough.
The remenant of the tale is long ynough.
I wol nat letten eek noon of this route;
Lat every felawe telle his tale aboute,
And lat se now who shal the soper wynne;
And ther I lefte, I wol ayeyn bigynne.
This duc, of whom I make mencioun,
Whan he was come almoost unto the toun,
In al his wele and in his mooste pride,
He was war, as he caste his eye aside,
Where that ther kneled in the heighe weye
A compaignye of ladyes, tweye and tweye,
Ech after oother, clad in clothes blake;
But swich a cry and swich a wo they make
That in this world nys creature lyvynge
That herde swich another waymentynge;
And of this cry they nolde nevere stenten
Til they the reynes of his brydel henten.
What fold been ye, that at myn homcomynge
Perturben so my feste with criynge?
Quod theseus. Have ye so greet envye
Of myn honour, that thus compleyne and crye?
Or who hath yow mysboden or offended?
And telleth me if it may been amended,
And why that ye been clothed thus in blak.
The eldeste lady of hem alle spak,
Whan she hadde swowned with a deedly cheere,
That it was routhe for to seen and heere.
She seyde: lord, to whom fortune hath yiven
Victorie, and as a conqueror to lyven,
Nat greveth us youre glorie and youre honour,
But we biseken mercy and socour.
Have mercy on oure wo and oure distresse!
Som drope of pitee, thurgh thy gentillesse,
Upon us wrecched wommen lat thou falle.
For, certes, lord, ther is noon of us alle,
That she ne hath been a duchesse or a queene.
Now be we caytyves, as it is wel seene,
Thanked be fortune and hire false wheel,
That noon estaat assureth to be weel.
And certes, lord, to abyden youre presence,
Heere in this temple of the goddesse clemence
We han ben waitynge al this fourtenyght.
Now help us, lord, sith it is in thy myght.
I, wrecche, which that wepe and wayle thus,
Was whilom wyf to kyng cappaneus,
That starf at thebes -- cursed be that day! --
And alle we that been in this array
And maken al this lamentacioun,
We losten alle oure housbondes at that toun,
Whil that the seege theraboute lay.
And yet now the olde creon, weylaway!
That lord is now of thebes the citee,
Fulfild of ire and of iniquitee,
He, for despit and for his tirannye,
To do the dede bodyes vileynye
Of alle oure lordes whiche that been yslawe,
Hath alle the bodyes on an heep ydrawe,
And wol nat suffren hem, by noon assent,
Neither to been yburyed nor ybrent,
But maketh houndes ete hem in despit.
And with that word, withouten moore respit,
They fillen gruf and criden pitously,
Have on us wrecched wommen som mercy,
And lat oure sorwe synken in thyn herte.
This gentil duc doun from his courser sterte
With herte pitous, whan he herde hem speke.
Hym thoughte that his herte wolde breke,
Whan he saugh hem so pitous and so maat,
That whilom weren of so greet estaat;
And in his armes he hem alle up hente,
And hem conforteth in ful good entente,
And swoor his ooth, as he was trewe knyght,
He wolde doon so ferforthly his myght
Upon the tiraunt creon hem to wreke,
That al the peple of grece sholde speke
How creon was of theseus yserved
As he that hadde his deeth ful wel deserved.
And right anoon, withouten moore abood,
His baner he desplayeth, and forth rood
To thebes-ward, and al his hoost biside.
No neer atthenes wolde he go ne ride,
Ne take his ese fully half a day,
But onward on his wey that nyght he lay,
And sente anon ypolita the queene,
And emelye, hir yonge suster sheene,
Unto the toun of atthenes to dwelle,
And forth he rit; ther is namoore to telle.
The rede statue of mars, with spere and targe,
So shyneth in his white baner large,
That alle the feeldes glyteren up and doun;
And by his baner born is his penoun
Of gold ful riche, in which ther was ybete
The mynotaur, which that he slough in crete.
Thus rit this duc, thus rit this conquerour,
And in his hoost of chivalrie the flour,
Til that he cam to thebes and alighte
Faire in a feeld, ther as he thoughte to fighte.
But shortly for to speken of this thyng,
With creon, which that was of thebes kyng, [Page 27]
He faught, and slough hym manly as a knyght
In pleyn bataille, and putte the folk to flyght;
And by assaut he wan the citee after,
And rente adoun bothe wall and sparre and rafter;
And to the ladyes he restored agayn
The bones of hir housbondes that were slayn,
To doon obsequies, as was tho the gyse.
But it were al to longe for to devyse
The grete clamour and the waymentynge
That the ladyes made at the brennynge
Of the bodies, and the grete honour
That theseus, the noble conquerour,
Dooth to the ladyes, whan they from hym wente;
But shortly for to telle is myn entente.
Whan that this worthy duc, this theseus,
Hath creon slayn, and wonne thebes thus,
Stille in that feeld he took al nyght his reste,
And dide with al the contree as hym leste.
To ransake in the taas of bodyes dede,
Hem for to strepe of harneys and of wede,
The pilours diden bisynesse and cure
After the bataille and disconfiture.
And so bifel that in the taas they founde,
Thurgh-girt with many a grevous blody wounde,
Two yonge knyghtes liggynge by and by,
Bothe in oon armes, wroght ful richely,
Of whiche two arcita highte that oon,
And that oother knyght highte palamon.
Nat fully quyke, ne fully dede they were,
But by hir cote-armures and by hir gere
The heraudes knewe hem best in special
As they that weren of the blood roial
Of thebes, and of sustren two yborn.
Out of the taas the pilours han hem torn,
And han hem caried softe unto the tente
Of theseus; and he ful soone hem sente
To atthenes, to dwellen in prisoun
Perpetuelly, -- he nolde no raunsoun.
And whan this worthy duc hath thus ydon,
He took his hoost, and hoom he rit anon
With laurer crowned as a conquerour;
And ther he lyveth in joye and in honour
Terme of his lyf; what nedeth wordes mo?
And in a tour, in angwissh and in wo,
This palamon and his felawe arcite
For everemoore; ther may no gold hem quite.
This passeth yeer by yeer and day by day,
Till it fil ones, in a morwe of may,
That emelye, that fairer was to sene
Than is the lylie upon his stalke grene,
And fressher than the may with floures newe --
For with the rose colour stroof hire hewe,
I noot which was the fyner of hem two --
Er it were day, as was hir wone to do,
She was arisen and al redy dight;
For may wole have no slogardie a-nyght.
The sesoun priketh every gentil herte,
And maketh hym out of his slep to sterte,
And seith arys, and do thyn observaunce.
This maked emelye have remembraunce
To doon honour to may, and for to ryse.
Yclothed was she fressh, for to devyse:
Hir yelow heer was broyded in a tresse
Bihynde hir bak, a yerde long, I gesse.
And in the gardyn, at the sonne upriste,
She walketh up and doun, and as hire liste
She gadereth floures, party white and rede,
To make a subtil gerland for hire hede;
And as an aungel hevenysshly she soong.
The grete tour, that was so thikke and stroong,
Which of the castel was the chief dongeoun,
(ther as the knyghtes weren in prisoun
Of which I tolde yow and tellen shal)
Was evene joynant to the gardyn wal
Ther as this emelye hadde hir pleyynge.
Bright was the sonne and cleer that morwenynge,
And palamoun, this woful prisoner,
As was his wone, by leve of his gayler,
Was risen and romed in a chambre an heigh,
In which he al the noble citee seigh,
And eek the gardyn, ful of braunches grene,
Ther as this fresshe emelye the shene
Was in hire walk, and romed up and doun.
This sorweful prisoner, this palamoun,
Goth in the chambre romynge to and fro,
And to hymself compleynynge of his wo.
That he was born, ful ofte he seyde, allas!
And so bifel, by aventure or cas,
That thurgh a wyndow, thikke of many a barre
Of iren greet and square as any sparre,
He cast his eye upon emelya,
And therwithal he bleynte and cride, a!
As though he stongen were unto the herte.
And with that cry arcite anon up sterte,
And seyde, cosyn myn, what eyleth thee,
That art so pale and deedly on to see?
Why cridestow? who hath thee doon offence?
For goddes love, taak al in pacience
Oure prisoun, for it may noon oother be.
Fortune hath yeven us this adversitee.
Som wikke aspect or disposicioun
Of saturne, by som constellacioun,
Hath yeven us this, although we hadde it sworn; [Page 28]
So stood the hevene whan that we were born.
We moste endure it; this is the short and playn.
This palamon answerde and seyde agayn:
Cosyn, for sothe, of this opinioun
Thow hast a veyn ymaginacioun.
This prison caused me nat for to crye,
But I was hurt right now thurghout myn ye
Into myn herte, that wol my bane be.
The fairnesse of that lady that I see
Yond in the gardyn romen to and fro
Is cause of al my criyng and my wo.
I noot wher she be womman or goddesse,
But venus is it soothly, as I gesse.
And therwithal on knees doun he fil,
And seyde: venus, if it be thy wil
Yow in this gardyn thus to transfigure
Bifore me, sorweful, wrecched creature,
Out of this prisoun help that we may scapen.
And if so be my destynee be shapen
By eterne word to dyen in prisoun,
Of oure lynage have som compassioun,
That is so lowe ybroght by tirannye.
And with that word arcite gan espye
Wher as this lady romed to and fro,
And with that sighte hir beautee hurte hym so,
That, if that palamon was wounded sore,
Arcite is hurt as muche as he, or moore.
And with a sigh he seyde pitously:
The fresshe beautee sleeth me sodeynly
Of hire that rometh in the yonder place,
And but I have hir mercy and hir grace,
That I may seen hire atte leeste weye,
I nam but deed; ther nis namoore to seye.
This palamon, whan he tho wordes herde,
Dispitously he looked and answerde,
Wheither seistow this in ernest or in pley?
Nay, quod arcite, in ernest, by my fey!
God helpe me so, me list ful yvele pleye.
This palamon gan knytte his browes tweye.
It nere, quod he, to thee no greet honour
For to be fals, ne for to be traitour
To me, that am thy cosyn and thy brother
Ysworn ful depe, and ech of us til oother,
That nevere, for to dyen in the peyne,
Til that the deeth departe shal us tweyne,
Neither of us in love to hyndre oother,
Ne in noon oother cas, my leeve brother;
But that thou sholdest trewely forthren me
In every cas, as I shal forthren thee, --
This was thyn ooth, and myn also, certeyn;
I woot right wel, thou darst it nat withseyn.
Thus artow of my conseil, out of doute,
And now thow woldest falsly been aboute
To love my lady, whom I love and serve,
And evere shal til that myn herte sterve.
Nay, certes, false arcite, thow shalt nat so.
I loved hire first, and tolde thee my wo
As to my conseil and my brother sworn
To forthre me, as I have toold biforn.
For which thou art ybounden as a knyght
To helpen me, if it lay in thy myght,
Or elles artow fals, I dar wel seyn.
This arcite ful proudly spak ageyn:
Thow shalt, quod he, be rather fals than I;
And thou art fals, I telle thee outrely,
For paramour I loved hire first er thow.
What wiltow seyen? thou woost nat yet now
Wheither she be a womman or goddesse!
Thyn is affeccioun of hoolynesse,
And myn is love, as to a creature;
For which I tolde thee myn aventure
As to my cosyn and my brother sworn.
I pose that thow lovedest hire biforn;
Wostow nat wel the olde clerkes sawe,
That "who shal yeve a lovere any lawe?"
Love is a gretter lawe, by my pan,
Than may be yeve to any erthely man;
And therfore positif lawe and swich decree
Is broken al day for love in ech degree.
A man moot nedes love, maugree his heed.
He may nat fleen it, thogh he sholde be deed,
Al be she mayde, or wydwe, or elles wyf.
And eek it is nat likly al thy lyf
To stonden in hir grace; namoore shal I;
For wel thou woost thyselven, verraily,
That thou and I be dampned to prisoun
Perpetuelly; us gayneth no raunsoun.
We stryve as dide the houndes for the boon;
They foughte al day, and yet hir part was noon.
Ther cam a kyte, whil that they were so wrothe,
And baar awey the boon bitwixe hem bothe.
And therfore, at the kynges court, my brother,
Ech man for hymself, ther is noon oother.
Love, if thee list, for I love and ay shal;
And soothly, leeve brother, this is al.
Heere in this prisoun moote we endure,
And everich of us take his aventure.
Greet was the strif and long bitwix hem tweye,
If that I hadde leyser for to seye,
But to th' effect. It happed on a day,
To telle it yow as shortly as I may,
A worthy duc that highte perotheus,
That felawe was unto duc theseus
Syn thilke day that they were children lite, [Page 29]
Was come to atthenes his felawe to visite,
And for to pleye as he was wont to do;
For in this world he loved no man so,
And he loved hym als tendrely agayn.
So wel they lovede, as olde bookes sayn,
That whan that oon was deed, soothly to telle,
His felawe wente and soughte hym doun in helle, --
But of that storie list me nat to write.
Duc perotheus loved wel arcite,
And hadde hym knowe at thebes yeer by yere,
And finally at requeste and preyere
Of perotheus, withouten any raunsoun,
Duc theseus hym leet out of prisoun
Frely to goon wher that hym liste over al,
In swich a gyse as I you tellen shal.
This was the forward, pleynly for t' endite,
Bitwixen theseus and hym arcite
That if so were that arcite were yfounde
Evere in his lif, by day or nyght, oo stounde
In any contree of this theseus,
And he were caught, it was acorded thus,
That with a swerd he sholde lese his heed.
Ther nas noon oother remedie ne reed;
But taketh his leve, and homward he him spedde.
Lat hym be war! his nekke lith to wedde.
How greet a sorwe suffreth now arcite!
The deeth he feeleth thurgh his herte smyte;
He wepeth, wayleth, crieth pitously;
To sleen hymself he waiteth prively.
He seyde, allas that day that I was born!
Now is my prisoun worse than biforn;
Now is me shape eternally to dwelle.
Noght in purgatorie, but in helle.
Allas, that evere knew I perotheus!
For elles hadde I dwelled with theseus,
Yfetered in his prisoun everemo.
Thanne hadde I been in blisse, and nat in wo.
Oonly the sighte of hire whom that I serve,
Though that I nevere hir grace may deserve,
Wolde han suffised right ynough for me.
O deere cosyn palamon, quod he,
Thyn is the victorie of this aventure.
Ful blisfully in prison maistow dure, --
In prison? certes nay, but in paradys!
Wel hath fortune yturned thee the dys,
That hast the sighte of hire, and I th' absence.
For possible is, syn thou hast hire presence,
And art a knyght, a worthy and an able,
That by som cas, syn fortune is chaungeable,
Thow maist to thy desir somtyme atteyne.
But I, that am exiled and bareyne
Of alle grace, and in so greet dispeir,
That ther nys erthe, water, fir, ne eir,
Ne creature that of hem maked is,
That may me helpe or doon confort in this,
Wel oughte I sterve in wanhope and distresse.
Farwel my lif, my lust, and my gladnesse!
Allas, why pleynen folk so in commune
On purveiaunce of god, or of fortune,
That yeveth hem ful ofte in many a gyse
Wel bettre than they kan hemself devyse?
Som man desireth for to han richesse,
That cause is of his mordre or greet siknesse;
And som man wolde out of his prisoun fayn,
That in his hous is of his meynee slayn.
Infinite harmes been in this mateere.
We witen nat what thing we preyen heere:
We faren as he that dronke is as a mous.
A dronke man woot wel he hath an hous,
But he noot which the righte wey is thider,
And to a dronke man the wey is slider.
And certes, in this world so faren we;
We seken faste after felicitee,
But we goon wrong ful often, trewely.
Thus may we seyen alle, and namely I,
That wende and hadde a greet opinioun
That if I myghte escapen from prisoun,
Thanne hadde I been in joye and perfit heele,
Ther now I am exiled fro my wele.
Syn that I may nat seen you, emelye,
I nam but deed; ther nys no remedye.
Upon that oother syde palamon,
Whan that he wiste arcite was agon,
Swich sorwe he maketh that the grete tour
Resouneth of his youlyng and clamour.
The pure fettres on his shynes grete
Weren of his bittre, salte teeres wete.
Allas, quod he, arcita, cosyn myn,
Of al oure strif, God woot, the fruyt is thyn.
Thou walkest now in thebes at thy large,
And of my wo thow yevest litel charge.
Thou mayst, syn thou hast wisdom and manhede,
Assemblen alle the folk of oure kynrede,
And make a werre so sharp on this citee,
That by som aventure or some tretee
Thow mayst have hire to lady and to wyf
For whom that I moste nedes lese my lyf.
For, as by wey of possibilitee,
Sith thou art at thy large, of prisoun free,
And art a lord, greet is thyn avauntage
Moore than is myn, that sterve here in a cage.
For I moot wepe and wayle, whil I lyve,
With al the wo that prison may me yive,
And eek with peyne that love me yeveth also,
That doubleth al my torment and my wo. [Page 30]
Therwith the fyr of jalousie up sterte
Withinne his brest, and hente him by the herte
So woodly that he lyk was to biholde
The boxtree or the asshen dede and colde.
Thanne seyde he, o crueel goddes that governe
This world with byndyng of youre word eterne,
And writen in the table of atthamaunt
Youre parlement and youre eterne graunt,
What is mankynde moore unto you holde
Than is the sheep that rouketh in the folde?
For slayn is man right as another beest,
And dwelleth eek in prison and arreest,
And hath siknesse and greet adversitee,
And ofte tymes giltelees, pardee.
What governance is in this prescience,
That giltelees tormenteth innocence?
And yet encresseth this al my penaunce,
That man is bounden to his observaunce,
For goddes sake, to letten of his wille,
Ther as a beest may al his lust fulfille.
And whan a beest is deed he hath no peyne;
But man after his deeth moot wepe and pleyne,
Though in this world he have care and wo.
Withouten doute it may stonden so.
The answere of this lete I to dyvynys,
But wel I woot that in this world greet pyne ys.
Allas, I se a serpent or a theef,
That many a trewe man hath doon mescheef,
Goon at his large, and where hym list may turne.
But I moot been in prisoun thurgh saturne,
And eek thurgh juno, jalous and eek wood,
That hath destroyed wel ny al the blood
Of thebes with his waste walles wyde;
And venus sleeth me on that oother syde
For jalousie and fere of hym arcite.
Now wol I stynte of palamon a lite,
And lete hym in his prisoun stille dwelle,
And of arcita forth I wol yow telle.
The somer passeth, and the nyghtes longe
Encressen double wise the peynes stronge
Bothe of the lovere and the prisoner.
I noot which hath the wofuller mester.
For, shortly for to seyn, this palamoun
Perpetuelly is dampned to prisoun,
In cheynes and in fettres to been deed;
And arcite is exiled upon his heed
For everemo, as out of that contree,
Ne nevere mo he shal his lady see.
Yow loveres axe I now this questioun:
Who hath the worse, arcite or palamoun?
That oon may seen his lady day by day,
But in prison he moot dwelle alway;
That oother wher hym list may ride or go,
But seen his lady shal he nevere mo.
Now demeth as yow liste, ye that kan,
For I wol telle forth as I bigan.
Explicit prima pars.

1.2.2. Sequitur pars secunda.

Whan that arcite to thebes comen was,
Ful ofte a day he swelte and seyde allas!
For seen his lady shal he nevere mo.
And shortly to concluden al his wo,
So muche sorwe hadde nevere creature
That is, or shal, whil that the world may dure.
His slep, his mete, his drynke, is hym biraft,
That lene he wex and drye as is a shaft;
His eyen holwe, and grisly to biholde,
His hewe falow and pale as asshen colde,
And solitarie he was and evere allone,
And waillynge al the nyght, makynge his mone;
And if he herde song or instrument,
Thanne wolde he wepe, he myghte nat be stent.
So feble eek were his spiritz, and so lowe,
And chaunged so, that no man koude knowe
His speche nor his voys, though men it herde.
And in his geere for al the world he ferde,
Nat oonly lik the loveris maladye
Of hereos, but rather lyk manye,
Engendred of humour malencolik,
Biforen, in his celle fantastik.
And shortly, turned was al up so doun
Bothe habit and eek disposicioun
Of hym, this woful lovere daun arcite.
What sholde I al day of his wo endite?
Whan he endured hadde a yeer or two
This crueel torment and this peyne and wo,
At thebes, in his contree, as I seyde,
Upon a nyght in sleep as he hym leyde,
Hym thoughte how that the wynged God mercurie
Biforn hym stood and bad hym to be murie.
His slepy yerde in hond he bar uprighte;
An hat he werede upon his heris brighte.
Arrayed was this god, as he took keep,
As he was whan that argus took his sleep;
And seyde hym thus: to atthenes shaltou wende,
Ther is thee shapen of thy wo an ende.
And with that word arcite wook and sterte.
Now trewely, hou soore that me smerte,
Quod he, to atthenes right now wol I fare,
Ne for the drede of deeth shal I nat spare
To se my lady, that I love and serve. [Page 31]
In hire presence I recche nat to sterve.
And with that word he caughte a greet mirour,
And saugh that chaunged was al his colour,
And saugh his visage al in another kynde.
And right anon it ran hym in his mynde,
That, sith his face was so disfigured
Of maladye the which he hadde endured,
He myghte wel, if that he bar hym lowe,
Lyve in atthenes everemoore unknowe.
And seen his lady wel ny day by day.
And right anon he chaunged his array,
And cladde hym as a povre laborer,
And al allone, save oonly a squier
That knew his privetee and al his cas,
Which was disgised povrely as he was,
To atthenes is he goon the nexte way.
And to the court he wente upon a day,
And at the gate he profreth his servyse
To drugge and drawe, what so men wol devyse.
And shortly of this matere for to seyn,
He fil in office with a chamberleyn
The which that dwellynge was with emelye;
For he was wys and koude soone espye
Of every servaunt which that serveth here.
Wel koude he hewen wode, and water bere,
For he was yong and myghty for the nones,
And therto he was long and big of bones
To doon that any wight kan hym devyse.
A yeer or two he was in this servyse,
Page of the chambre of emelye the brighte;
And philostrate he seyde that he highte.
But half so wel biloved a man as he
Ne was ther nevere in court of his degree;
He was so gentil of condicioun
That thurghout al the court was his renoun.
They seyden that it were a charitee
That theseus wolde enhauncen his degree,
And putten hym in worshipful servyse,
Ther as he myghte his vertu excercise.
And thus withinne a while his name is spronge,
Bothe of his dedes and his goode tonge,
That theseus hath taken hym so neer,
That of his chambre he made hym a squier,
And gaf hym gold to mayntene his degree.
And eek men broghte hym out of his contree,
From yeer to yeer, ful pryvely his rente;
But honestly and slyly he it spente,
That no man wondred how that he it hadde.
And thre yeer in this wise his lif he ladde,
And bar hym so, in pees and eek in werre,
Ther was no man that theseus hath derre.
And in this blisse lete I now arcite,
And speke I wole of palamon a lite.
In derknesse and horrible and strong prisoun
Thise seven yeer hath seten palamoun
Forpyned, what for wo and for distresse.
Who feeleth double soor and hevynesse
But palamon, that love destreyneth so
That wood out of his wit he goth for wo?
And eek therto he is a prisoner
Perpetuelly, noght oonly for a yer.
Who koude ryme in englyssh proprely
His martirdom? for sothe it am nat I;
Therfore I passe as lightly as I may.
It fel that in the seventhe yer, of may
The thridde nyght, (as olde bookes seyn,
That al this storie tellen moore pleyn)
Were it by aventure or destynee --
As, whan a thyng is shapen, it shal be --
That soone after the mydnyght palamoun,
By helpyng of a freend, brak his prisoun
And fleeth the citee faste as he may go.
For he hadde yeve his gayler drynke so
Of a clarree maad of a certeyn wyn,
With nercotikes and opie of thebes fyn,
That al that nyght, thogh that men wolde him shake,
The gayler sleep, he myghte nat awake;
And thus he fleeth as faste as evere he may.
The nyght was short and faste by the day,
That nedes cost he moot hymselven hyde;
And til a grove faste ther bisyde
With dredeful foot thanne stalketh palamon.
For, shortly, this was his opinion,
That in that grove he wolde hym hyde al day,
And in the nyght thanne wolde he take his way
To thebes-ward, his freendes for to preye
On theseus to helpe him to werreye;
And shortly, outher he wolde lese his lif,
Or wynnen emelye unto his wyf.
This is th' effect and his entente pleyn.
Now wol I turne to arcite ageyn,
That litel wiste how ny that was his care,
Til that fortune had broght him in the snare.
The bisy larke, messager of day,
Salueth in hir song the morwe gray,
And firy phebus riseth up so bright
That al the orient laugheth of the light,
And with his stremes dryeth in the greves
The silver dropes hangynge on the leves.
And arcita, that in the court roial
With theseus is squier principal,
Is risen and looketh on the myrie day.
And for to doon his observaunce to may,
Remembrynge on the poynt of his desir,
He on a courser, startlynge as the fir,
Is riden into the feeldes hym to pleye, [Page 32]
Out of the court, were it a myle or tweye.
And to the grove of which that I yow tolde
By aventure his wey he gan to holde,
To maken hym a gerland of the greves
Were it of wodebynde or hawethorn leves,
And loude he song ayeyn the sonne shene:
May, with alle thy floures and thy grene,
Welcome be thou, faire, fresshe may,
In hope that I som grene gete may.
And from his courser, with a lusty herte,
Into the grove ful hastily he sterte,
And in a path he rometh up and doun,
Ther as by aventure this palamoun
Was in a bussh, that no man myghte hym se,
For soore afered of his deeth was he.
No thyng ne knew he that it was arcite;
God woot he wolde have trowed it ful lite.
But sooth is seyd, go sithen many yeres,
That feeld hath eyen and the wode hath eres.
It is ful fair a man to bere hym evene,
For al day meeteth men at unset stevene.
Ful litel woot arcite of his felawe,
That was so ny to herknen al his sawe,
For in the bussh he sitteth now ful stille.
Whan that arcite hadde romed al his fille,
And songen al the roundel lustily,
Into a studie he fil sodeynly,
As doon thise loveres in hir queynte geres,
Now in the crope, now doun in the breres,
Now up, now doun, as boket in a welle.
Right as the friday, soothly for to telle,
Now it shyneth, now it reyneth faste,
Right so kan geery venus overcaste
The hertes of hir folk; right as hir day
Is gereful, right so chaungeth she array.
Selde is the friday al the wowke ylike.
Whan that arcite had songe, he gan to sike,
And sette hym doun withouten any moore.
Allas, quod he, that day that I was bore!
How longe, juno, thurgh thy crueltee,
Woltow werreyen thebes the citee?
Allas, ybroght is to confusioun
The blood roial of cadme and amphioun, --
Of cadmus, which that was the firste man
That thebes bulte, or first the toun bigan,
And of the citee first was crouned kyng.
Of his lynage am I and his ofspryng
By verray ligne, as of the stok roial,
And now I am so caytyf and so thral,
That he that is my mortal enemy,
I serve hym as his squier povrely.
And yet dooth juno me wel moore shame,
For I dar noght biknowe myn owene name;
But ther as I was wont to highte arcite,
Now highte I philostrate, noght worth a myte.
Allas, thou felle mars! allas, juno!
Thus hath youre ire oure lynage al fordo,
Save oonly me and wrecched palamoun,
That theseus martireth in prisoun.
And over al this, to sleen me outrely,
Love hath his firy dart so brennyngly
Ystiked thurgh my trewe, careful herte,
That shapen was my deeth erst than my sherte.
Ye sleen me with youre eyen, emelye!
Ye been the cause wherfore that I dye.
Of al the remenant of myn oother care
Ne sette I nat the montance of a tare,
So that I koude doon aught to youre plesaunce.
And with that word he fil doun in a traunce
A longe tyme, and after he up sterte.
This palamoun, that thoughte that thurgh his herte
He felte a coold swerd sodeynliche glyde,
For ire he quook, no lenger wolde he byde.
And whan that he had herd arcites tale,
As he were wood, with face deed and pale,
He stirte hym up out of the buskes thikke,
And seide: arcite, false traytour wikke,
Now artow hent, that lovest my lady so,
For whom that I have al this peyne and wo,
And art my blood, and to my conseil sworn,
As I ful ofte have told thee heerbiforn,
And hast byjaped heere duc theseus,
And falsly chaunged hast thy name thus!
I wol be deed, or elles thou shalt dye.
Thou shalt nat love my lady emelye,
But I wol love hire oonly and namo;
For I am palamon, thy mortal foo.
And though that I no wepene have in this place,
But out of prison am astert by grace,
I drede noght that outher thow shalt dye,
Or thow ne shalt nat loven emelye.
Chees which thou wolt, for thou shalt nat asterte!
This arcite, with ful despitous herte,
Whan he hym knew, and hadde his tale herd,
As fiers as leon pulled out his swerd,
And seyde thus: by God that sit above,
Nere it that thou art sik and wood for love,
And eek that thow no wepne hast in this place,
Thou sholdest nevere out of this grove pace,
That thou ne sholdest dyen of myn hond.
For I defye the seurete and the bond
Which that thou seist that I have maad to thee.
What, verray fool, thynk wel that love is free,
And I wol love hire maugree al thy myght! [Page 33]
But for as muche thou art a worthy knyght;
And wilnest to darreyne hire by bataille,
Have heer my trouthe, tomorwe I wol nat faille,
Withoute wityng of any oother wight,
That heere I wol be founden as a knyght,
And bryngen harneys right ynough for thee;
And ches the beste, and leef the worste for me.
And mete and drynke this nyght wol I brynge
Ynough for thee, and clothes for thy beddynge.
And if so be that thou my lady wynne,
And sle me in this wode ther I am inne,
Thow mayst wel have thy lady as for me.
This palamon answerde, I graunte it thee.
And thus they been departed til amorwe,
Whan ech of hem had leyd his feith to borwe.
O cupide, out of alle charitee!
O regne, that wolt no felawe have with thee!
Ful sooth is seyd that love ne lordshipe
Wol noght, his thankes, have no felaweshipe.
Wel fynden that arcite and palamoun.
Arcite is riden anon unto the toun,
And on the morwe, er it were dayes light,
Ful prively two harneys hath he dight,
Bothe suffisaunt and mete to darreyne
The bataille in the feeld bitwix hem tweyne;
And on his hors, allone as he was born,
He carieth al the harneys hym biforn.
And in the grove, at tyme and place yset,
This arcite and this palamon ben met.
Tho chaungen gan the colour in hir face,
Right as the hunters in the regne of trace,
That stondeth at the gappe with a spere,
Whan hunted is the leon or the bere,
And hereth hym come russhyyng in the greves,
And breketh bothe bowes and the leves,
And thynketh, heere cometh my mortal enemy!
Withoute faille, he moot be deed, or I;
For outher I moot sleen hym at the gappe,
Or he moot sleen me, if that me myshappe, --
So ferden they in chaungyng of hir hewe,
As fer as everich of hem oother knewe.
Ther nas no good day, ne no saluyng,
But streight, withouten word or rehersyng,
Everich of hem heelp for to armen oother
As freendly as he were his owene brother;
And after that, with sharpe speres stronge
They foynen ech at oother wonder longe.
Thou myghtest wene that this palamon
In his fightyng were a wood leon,
And as a crueel tigre was arcite;
As wilde bores gonne they to smyte,
That frothen whit as foom for ire wood.
Up to the ancle foghte they in hir blood.
And in this wise I lete hem fightyng dwelle,
And forth I wole of theseus yow telle.
The destinee, ministre general,
That executeth in the world over al
The purveiaunce that God hath seyn biforn,
So strong it is that, though the world had sworn
The contrarie of a thyng by ye or nay,
Yet somtyme it shal fallen on a day
That falleth nat eft withinne a thousand yeer.
For certeinly, oure appetites heer,
Be it of werre, or pees, or hate, or love,
Al is this reuled by the sighte above.
This mene I now by myghty theseus,
That for to hunten is so desirus,
And namely at the grete hert in may,
That in his bed ther daweth hym no day
That he nys clad, and redy for to ryde
With hunte and horn and houndes hym bisyde.
For in his huntyng hath he swich delit
That it is al his joye and appetit
To been hymself the grete hertes bane,
For after mars he serveth now dyane.
Cleer was the day, as I have toold er this,
And theseus with alle joye and blis,
With his ypolita, the faire queene,
And emelye, clothed al in grene,
On huntyng be they riden roially.
And to the grove that stood ful faste by,
In which ther was an hert, as men hym tolde,
Duc theseus the streighte wey hath holde.
And to the launde he rideth hym ful right,
For thider was the hert wont have his flight,
And over a brook, and so forth on his weye.
This duc wol han a cours at hym or tweye
With houndes swiche as that hym list comaunde.
And whan this duc was come unto the launde,
Under the sonne he looketh, and anon
He was war of arcite and palamon,
That foughten breme, as it were bores two.
The brighte swerdes wenten to and fro
So hidously that with the leeste strook
It semed as it wolde felle an ook.
But what they were, no thyng he ne woot.
This duc his courser with his spores smoot,
And at a stert he was bitwix hem two,
And pulled out a swerd, and cride, hoo!
Namoore, up peyne of lesynge of youre heed!
By myghty mars, he shal anon be deed
That smyteth any strook that I may seen.
But telleth me what myster men ye been,
That been so hardy for to fighten heere [Page 34]
Withouten juge or oother officere,
As it were in a lystes roially.
This palamon answerde hastily,
And seyde, sire, what nedeth wordes mo?
We have the deeth disserved bothe two.
Two woful wrecches been we, two caytyves,
That been encombred of oure owene lyves;
And as thou art a rightful lord and juge,
Ne yif us neither mercy ne refuge,
But sle me first, for seinte charitee!
But sle my felawe eek as wel as me;
Or sle hym first, for though thow knowest it lite,
This is thy mortal foo, this is arcite,
That fro thy lond is banysshed on his heed,
For which he hath deserved to be deed.
For this is he that cam unto thy gate
And seyde that he highte philostrate.
Thus hath he japed thee ful many a yer,
And thou hast maked hym thy chief squier;
And this is he that loveth emelye.
For sith the day is come that I shal dye,
I make pleynly my confessioun
That I am thilke woful palamoun
That hath thy prisoun broken wikkedly.
I am thy mortal foo, and it am I
That loveth so hoote emelye the brighte
That I wol dye present in hir sighte.
Wherfore I axe deeth and my juwise;
But sle my felawe in the same wise,
For bothe han we deserved to be slayn.
This worthy duc answerde anon agayn,
And seyde, this is a short conclusioun.
Youre owene mouth, by youre confessioun,
Hath dampned yow, and I wol it recorde;
It nedeth noght to pyne yow with the corde.
Ye shal be deed, by myghty mars the rede!
The queene anon, for verray wommanhede,
Gan for to wepe, and so dide emelye,
And alle the ladyes in the compaignye.
Greet pitee was it, as it thoughte hem alle,
That evere swich a chaunce sholde falle;
For gentil men they were of greet estaat,
And no thyng but for love was this debaat;
And saugh hir blody woundes wyde and soore,
And alle crieden, bothe lasse and moore,
Have mercy, lord, upon us wommen alle!
And on hir bare knees adoun they falle,
And wolde have kist his feet ther as he stood;
Til at the laste aslaked was his mood,
For pitee renneth soone in gentil herte.
And though he first for ire quook and sterte,
He hath considered shortly, in a clause,
The trespas of hem bothe, and eek the cause,
And although that his ire hir gilt accused,
Yet in his resoun he hem bothe excused,
As thus: he thoghte wel that every man
Wol helpe hymself in love, if that he kan,
And eek delivere hymself out of prisoun.
And eek his herte hadde compassioun
Of wommen, for they wepen evere in oon;
And in his gentil herte he thoughte anon,
And softe unto hymself he seyde, fy
Upon a lord that wol have no mercy,
But been a leon, bothe in word and dede,
To hem that been in repentaunce and drede,
As wel as to a proud despitous man
That wol mayntene that he first bigan.
That lord hath litel of discrecioun,
That in swich cas kan no divisioun,
But weyeth pride and humblesse after oon.
And shortly, whan his ire is thus agoon,
He gan to looken up with eyen lighte,
And spak thise same wordes al on highte:
The God of love, a, benedicite!
How myghty and how greet a lord is he!
Ayeyns his myght ther gayneth none obstacles.
He may be cleped a God for his myracles;
For he kan maken, at his owene gyse,
Of everich herte as that hym list divyse.
Lo heere this arcite and this palamoun,
That quitly weren out of my prisoun,
And myghte han lyved in thebes roially,
And witen I am hir mortal enemy,
And that hir deth lith in my myght also;
And yet hath love, maugree hir eyen two,
Broght hem hyder bothe for to dye.
Now looketh, is nat that an heigh folye?
Who may been a fool, but if he love?
Bihoold, for goddes sake that sit above,
Se how they blede! be they noght wel arrayed?
Thus hath hir lord, the God of love, ypayed
Hir wages and hir fees for hir servyse!
And yet they wenen for to been ful wyse
That serven love, for aught that may bifalle.
But this is yet the beste game of alle,
That she for whom they han this jolitee
Kan hem therfore as muche thank as me.
She woot namoore of al this hoote fare,
By god, than woot a cokkow or an hare!
But all moot ben assayed, hoot and coold;
A man moot ben a fool, or yong or oold, --
I woot it by myself ful yore agon,
For in my tyme a servant was I oon.
And therfore, syn I knowe of loves peyne,
And woot hou soore it kan a man distreyne,
As he that hath ben caught ofte in his laas,
I yow foryeve al hoolly this trespaas, [Page 35]
At requeste of the queene, that kneleth heere,
And eek of emelye, my suster deere.
And ye shul bothe anon unto me swere
That nevere mo ye shal my contree dere,
Ne make werre upon me nyght ne day,
But been my freendes in all that ye may.
I yow foryeve this trespas every deel.
And they hym sworen his axyng faire and weel,
And hym of lordshipe and of mercy preyde,
And he hem graunteth grace, and thus he seyde:
To speke of roial lynage and richesse,
Though that she were a queene or a princesse,
Ech of you bothe is worthy, doutelees,
To wedden whan tyme is, but nathelees
I speke as for my suster emelye,
For whom ye have this strif and jalousye.
Ye woot yourself she may nat wedden two
Atones, though ye fighten everemo.
That oon of you, al be hym looth or lief,
He moot go pipen in an yvy leef;
This is to seyn, she may nat now han bothe,
Al be ye never so jalouse ne so wrothe.
And forthy I yow putte in this degree,
That ech of yow shal have his destynee
As hym is shape, and herkneth in what wyse;
Lo heere youre ende of that I shal devyse.
My wyl is this, for plat conclusioun,
Withouten any repplicacioun, --
If that you liketh, take it for the beste:
That everich of you shal goon where hym leste
Frely, withouten raunson or daunger;
And this day fifty wykes, fer ne ner,
Everich of you shal brynge an hundred knyghtes
Armed for lystes up at alle rightes,
Al redy to darreyne hire by bataille.
And this bihote I yow withouten faille,
Upon my trouthe, and as I am a knyght,
That wheither of yow bothe that hath myght, --
This is to seyn, that wheither he or thow
May with his hundred, as I spak of now,
Sleen his contrarie, or out of lystes dryve,
Thanne shal I yeve emelya to wyve
To whom that fortune yeveth so fair a grace.
The lystes shal I maken in this place,
And God so wisly on my soule rewe,
As I shal evene juge been and trewe.
Ye shul noon oother ende with me maken,
That oon of yow ne shal be deed or taken.
And if yow thynketh this is weel ysayd,
Seyeth youre avys, and holdeth you apayd.
This is youre ende and youre conclusioun.
Who looketh lightly now but palamoun?
Who spryngeth up for joye but arcite?
Who kouthe telle, or who kouthe it endite,
The joye that is maked in the place
Whan theseus hath doon so fair a grace?
But doun on knees wente every maner wight,
And thonked hym with al hir herte and myght,
And namely the thebans often sithe.
And thus with good hope and with herte blithe
They taken hir leve, and homward gonne they ride
To thebes, with his olde walles wyde.
Explicit secunda pars.

1.2.3. Sequitur pars tercia.

I trowe men wolde deme it necligence
If I foryete to tellen the dispence
Of theseus, that gooth so bisily
To maken up the lystes roially,
That swich a noble theatre as it was,
I dar wel seyen in this world ther nas.
The circuit a myle was aboute,
Walled of stoon, and dyched al withoute.
Round was the shap, in manere of compas,
Ful of degrees, the heighte of sixty pas,
That whan a man was set on o degree,
He letted nat his felawe for to see.
Estward ther stood a gate of marbul whit,
Westward right swich another in the opposit.
And shortly to concluden, swich a place
Was noon in erthe, as in so litel space;
For in the lond ther was no crafty man
That geometrie or ars-metrike kan,
Ne portreyour, ne kervere of ymages,
That theseus ne yaf him mete and wages,
The theatre for to maken and devyse.
And for to doon his ryte and sacrifise,
He estward hath, upon the gate above,
In worshipe of venus, goddesse of love,
Doon make an auter and an oratorie;
And on the gate westward, in memorie
Of mars, he maked hath right swich another,
That coste largely of gold a fother.
And northward, in a touret on the wal,
Of alabastre whit and reed coral,
An oratorie, riche for to see,
In worshipe of dyane of chastitee,
Hath theseus doon wroght in noble wyse.
But yet hadde I foryeten to devyse
The noble kervyng and the portreitures,
The shap, the contenaunce, and the figures,
That weren in thise oratories thre. [Page 36]
First in the temple of venus maystow se
Wroght on the wal, ful pitous to biholde,
The broken slepes, and the sikes colde,
The sacred teeris, and the waymentynge,
The firy strokes of the desirynge
That loves servantz in this lyf enduren;
The othes that hir covenantz assuren;
Plesaunce and hope, desir, foolhardynesse,
Beautee and youthe, bauderie, richesse,
Charmes and force, lesynges, flaterye,
Despense, bisynesse, and jalousye,
That wered of yelewe gooldes a gerland,
And a cokkow sittynge on hir hand;
Festes, instrumentz, caroles, daunces,
Lust and array, and alle the circumstaunces
Of love, which that I rekned and rekne shal,
By ordre weren peynted on the wal,
And mo than I kan make of mencioun.
For soothly al the mount of citheroun,
Ther venus hath hir principal dwellynge,
Was shewed on the wal in portreyynge,
With al the gardyn and the lustynesse.
Nat was foryeten the porter, ydelnesse,
Ne narcisus the faire of yore agon,
Ne yet the folye of kyng salomon,
Ne yet the grete strengthe of ercules --
Th-enchauntementz of medea and circes --
Ne of turnus, with the hardy fiers corage,
The riche cresus, kaytyf in servage.
Thus may ye seen that wysdom ne richesse,
Beautee ne sleighte, strengthe ne hardynesse,
Ne may with venus holde champartie,
For as hir list the world than may she gye.
Lo, alle thise folk so caught were in hir las,
Til they for wo ful ofte seyde allas!
Suffiseth heere ensamples oon or two,
And though I koude rekene a thousand mo.
The statue of venus, glorious for to se,
Was naked, fletynge in the large see,
And fro the navele doun al covered was
With wawes grene, and brighte as any glas.
A citole in hir right hand hadde she,
And on hir heed, ful semely for to se,
A rose gerland, fressh and wel smellynge;
Above hir heed hir dowves flikerynge.
Biforn hire stood hir sone cupido;
Upon his shuldres wynges hadde he two,
And blynd he was, as it is often seene;
A bowe he bar and arwes brighte and kene.
Why sholde I noght as wel eek telle yow al
The portreiture that was upon the wal
Withinne the temple of myghty mars the rede?
Al peynted was the wal, in lengthe and brede,
Lyk to the estres of the grisly place
That highte the grete temple of mars in trace,
In thilke colde, frosty regioun
Ther as mars hath his sovereyn mansioun.
First on the wal was peynted a forest,
In which ther dwelleth neither man ne best,
With knotty, knarry, bareyne trees olde,
Of stubbes sharpe and hidouse to biholde,
In which ther ran a rumbel in a swough,
As though a storm sholde bresten every bough.
And dounward from an hille, under a bente,
Ther stood the temple of mars armypotente,
Wroght al of burned steel, of which the entree
Was long and streit, and gastly for to see.
And therout came a rage and swich a veze
That it made al the gate for to rese.
The northren lyght in at the dores shoon,
For wyndowe on the wal ne was ther noon,
Thurgh which men myghten any light discerne.
The dore was al of adamant eterne,
Yclenched overthwart and endelong
With iren tough; and for to make it strong,
Every pyler, the temple to sustene,
Was tonne-greet, of iren bright and shene.
Ther saugh I first the derke ymaginyng
Of felonye, and al the compassyng;
The crueel ire, reed as any gleede;
The pykepurs, and eek the pale drede;
The smylere with the knyf under the cloke;
The shepne brennynge with the blake smoke;
The tresoun of the mordrynge in the bedde;
The open werre, with woundes al bibledde;
Contek, with blody knyf and sharp manace.
Al ful of chirkyng was that sory place.
The sleere of hymself yet saugh I ther, --
His herte-blood hath bathed al his heer;
The nayl ydryven in the shode a-nyght;
The colde deeth, with mouth gapyng upright.
Amyddes of the temple sat meschaunce,
With disconfort and sory contenaunce.
Yet saugh I woodnesse, laughynge in his rage,
Armed compleint, outhees, and fiers outrage;
The careyne in the busk, with throte ycorve;
A thousand slayn, and nat of qualm ystorve;
The tiraunt, with the pray by force yraft;
The toun destroyed, ther was no thyng laft.
Yet saugh I brent the shippes hoppesteres;
The hunte strangled with the wilde beres;
The sowe freten the child right in the cradel;
The cook yscalded, for al his longe ladel.
Noght was foryeten by the infortune of marte
The cartere overryden with his carte:
Under the wheel ful lowe he lay adoun.
Ther were also, of martes divisioun, [Page 37]
The barbour, and the bocher, and the smyth,
That forgeth sharpe swerdes on his styth.
And al above, depeynted in a tour,
Saugh I conquest, sittynge in greet honour,
With the sharpe swerd over his heed
Hangynge by a soutil twynes threed.
Depeynted was the slaughtre of julius,
Of grete nero, and of antonius;
Al be that thilke tyme they were unborn,
Yet was hir deth depeynted ther-biforn
By manasynge of mars, right by figure.
So was it shewed in that portreiture,
As is depeynted in the sterres above
Who shal be slayn or elles deed for love.
Suffiseth oon ensample in stories olde;
I may nat rekene hem alle though I wolde.
The statue of mars upon a carte stood
Armed, and looked grym as he were wood;
And over his heed ther shynen two figures
Of sterres, that been cleped in scriptures,
That oon puella, that oother rubeus --
This God of armes was arrayed thus.
A wolf ther stood biforn hym at his feet
With eyen rede, and of a man he eet;
With soutil pencel depeynted was this storie
In redoutynge of mars and of his glorie.
Now to the temple of dyane the chaste,
As shortly as I kan, I wol me haste,
To telle yow al the descripsioun.
Depeynted been the walles up and doun
Of huntyng and of shamefast chastitee.
Ther saugh I how woful calistopee,
Whan that diane agreved was with here,
Was turned from a womman til a bere,
And after was she maad the loode-sterre;
Thus was it peynted, I kan sey yow no ferre.
Hir sone is eek a sterre, as men may see.
Ther saugh I dane, yturned til a tree, --
I mene nat the goddesse diane,
But penneus doghter, which that highte dane.
Ther saugh I attheon an hert ymaked,
For vengeaunce that he saugh diane al naked;
I saugh how that his houndes have hym caught
And freeten hym, for that they knewe hym naught.
Yet peynted was a litel forther moor
How atthalante hunted the wilde boor,
And meleagre, and many another mo,
For which dyane wroghte hym care and wo.
Ther saugh I many another wonder storie,
The which me list nat drawen to memorie.
This goddesse on an hert ful hye seet,
With smale houndes al aboute hir feet;
And undernethe hir feet she hadde a moone, --
Wexynge it was and sholde wanye soone.
In gaude grene hir statue clothed was,
With bowe in honde, and arwes in a cas.
Hir eyen caste she ful lowe adoun,
Ther pluto hath his derke regioun.
A womman travaillynge was hire biforn;
But for hir child so longe was unborn,
Ful pitously lucyna gan she calle,
And seyde, help, for thou mayst best of alle!
Wel koude he peynten lifly that it wroghte;
With many a floryn he the hewes boghte.
Now been thise lystes maad, and theseus,
That at his grete cost arrayed thus
The temples and the theatre every deel,
Whan it was doon, hym lyked wonder weel.
But stynte I wole of theseus a lite,
And speke of palamon and of arcite.
The day approcheth of hir retournynge,
That everich sholde an hundred knyghtes brynge
The bataille to darreyne, as I yow tolde.
And til atthenes, hir covenant for to holde,
Hath everich of hem broght an hundred knyghtes,
Wel armed for the werre at alle rightes.
And sikerly ther trowed many a man
That nevere, sithen that the world bigan,
As for to speke of knyghthod of hir hond,
As fer as God hath maked see or lond,
Nas of so fewe so noble a compaignye.
For every wight that lovede chivalrye,
And wolde, his thankes, han a passant name,
Hath preyed that he myghte been of that game;
And wel was hym that therto chosen was.
For if ther fille tomorwe swich a cas,
Ye knowen wel that every lusty knyght
That loveth paramours and hath his myght,
Were it in engelond or elleswhere,
They wolde, hir thankes, wilnen to be there, --
To fighte for a lady, benedicitee!
It were a lusty sighte for to see.
And right so ferden they with palamon.
With hym ther wenten knyghtes many on;
Som wol ben armed in an haubergeoun,
And in a brestplate and light gypoun;
And som wol have a paire plates large;
And som wol have a pruce sheeld or a targe;
Som wol ben armed on his legges weel,
And have an ax, and som a mace of steel --
Ther is no newe gyse that it nas old.
Armed were they, as I have yow told,
Everych after his opinioun.
Ther maistow seen, comynge with palamoun,
Lygurge hymself, the grete kyng of trace. [Page 38]
Blak was his berd, and manly was his face;
The cercles of his eyen in his heed,
They gloweden bitwixen yelow and reed,
And lik a grifphon looked he aboute,
With kempe heeris on his browes stoute;
His lymes grete, his brawnes harde and stronge,
His shuldres brode, his armes rounde and longe;
And as the gyse was in his contree,
Ful hye upon a chaar of gold stood he,
With foure white boles in the trays.
In stede of cote-armure over his harnays,
With nayles yelewe and brighte as any gold,
He hadde a beres skyn, col-blak for old.
His longe heer was kembd bihynde his bak;
As any ravenes fethere it shoon for blak;
A wrethe of gold, arm-greet, of huge wighte,
Upon his heed, set ful of stones brighte,
Of fyne rubyes and of dyamauntz.
Aboute his chaar ther wenten white alauntz,
Twenty and mo, as grete as any steer,
To hunten at the leoun or the deer,
And folwed hym with mosel faste ybounde,
Colered of gold, and tourettes fyled rounde.
An hundred lordes hadde he in his route,
Armed ful wel, with hertes stierne and stoute.
With arcita, in stories as men fynde,
The grete emetreus, the kyng of inde,
Upon a steede bay trapped in steel,
Covered in clooth of gold, dyapred weel,
Cam ridynge lyk the God of armes, mars.
His cote-armure was of clooth of tars
Couched with perles white and rounde and grete;
His sadel was of brend gold newe ybete;
A mantelet upon his shulder hangynge,
Bret-ful of rubyes rede as fyr sparklynge;
His crispe heer lyk rynges was yronne,
And that was yelow, and glytered as the sonne.
His nose was heigh, his eyen bright citryn,
His lippes rounde, his colour was sangwyn;
A fewe frakenes in his face yspreynd,
Bitwixen yelow and somdel blak ymeynd;
And as a leon he his lookyng caste.
Of fyve and twenty yeer his age I caste.
His berd was wel bigonne for to sprynge;
His voys was as a trompe thonderynge.
Upon his heed he wered of laurer grene
A gerland, fressh and lusty for to sene.
Upon his hand he bar for his deduyt
An egle tame, as any lilye whyt.
An hundred lordes hadde he with hym there,
Al armed, save hir heddes, in al hir gere,
Ful richely in alle maner thynges.
For trusteth wel that dukes, erles, kynges
Were gadered in this noble compaignye,
For love and for encrees of chivalrye.
Aboute this kyng ther ran on every part
Ful many a tame leon and leopart.
And in this wise thise lordes, alle and some,
Been on the sonday to the citee come
Aboute pryme, and in the toun alight.
This theseus, this duc, this worthy knyght,
Whan he had broght hem into his citee,
And inned hem, everich at his degree,
He festeth hem, and dooth so greet labour
To esen hem and doon hem al honour,
That yet men wenen that no mannes wit
Of noon estaat ne koude amenden it.
The mynstralcye, the service at the feeste,
The grete yiftes to the meeste and leeste,
The riche array of theseus paleys,
Ne who sat first ne last upon the deys,
What ladyes fairest been or best daunsynge,
Or which of hem kan dauncen best and synge,
Ne who moost felyngly speketh of love;
What haukes sitten on the perche above,
What houndes liggen on the floor adoun, --
Of al this make I now no mencioun,
But al th' effect, that thynketh me the beste.
Now cometh the point, and herkneth if yow leste.
The sonday nyght, er day bigan to sprynge,
Whan palamon the larke herde synge,
(although it nere nat day by houres two,
Yet song the larke) and palamon right tho
With hooly herte and with an heigh corage,
He roos to wenden on his pilgrymage
Unto the blisful citherea benigne, --
I mene venus, honurable and digne.
And in hir houre he walketh forth a pas
Unto the lystes ther hire temple was,
And doun he kneleth, and with humble cheere
And herte soor, he seyde as ye shal heere:
Faireste of faire, o lady myn, venus,
Doughter to jove, and spouse of vulcanus,
Thow gladere of the mount of citheron,
For thilke love thow haddest to adoon,
Have pitee of my bittre teeris smerte,
And taak myn humble preyere at thyn herte.
Allas! I ne have no langage to telle
Th' effectes ne the tormentz of myn helle;
Myn herte may myne harmes nat biwreye;
I am so confus that I kan noght seye
But, -- mercy, lady bright, that knowest weele
My thought, and seest what harmes that feele!
Considere al this and rewe upon my soore,
As wisly as I shal for everemoore, [Page 39]
Emforth my myght, thy trewe servant be,
And holden werre alwey with chastitee.
That make I myn avow, so ye me helpe!
I kepe noght of armes for to yelpe,
Ne I ne axe nat tomorwe to have victorie,
Ne renoun in this cas, ne veyne glorie
Of pris of armes blowen up and doun;
But I wolde have fully possessioun
Of emelye, and dye in thy servyse.
Fynd thow the manere hou, and in what wyse:
I recche nat but it may bettre be
To have victorie of hem, or they of me,
So that I have my lady in myne armes.
For though so be that mars is God of armes,
Youre vertu is so greet in hevene above
That if yow list, I shal wel have my love.
Thy temple wol I worshipe everemo,
And on thyn auter, where I ride or go,
I wol doon sacrifice and fires beete.
And if ye wol nat so, my lady sweete,
Thanne preye I thee, tomorwe with a spere
That arcita me thurgh the herte bere.
Thanne rekke I noght, whan I have lost my lyf,
Though that arcita wynne hire to his wyf.
This is th' effect and ende of my preyere:
Yif me my love, thow blisful lady deere.
Whan the orison was doon of palamon,
His sacrifice he dide, and that anon,
Ful pitously, with alle circumstaunces,
Al telle I noght as now his observaunces;
But atte laste the statue of venus shook,
And made a signe, wherby that he took
That his preyere accepted was that day.
For thogh the signe shewed a delay,
Yet wiste he wel that graunted was his boone;
And with glad herte he wente hym hoom ful soone.
The thridde houre inequal that palamon
Bigan to venus temple for to gon,
Up roos the sonne, and up roos emelye,
And to the temple of dyane gan hye.
Hir maydens, that she thider with hire ladde,
Ful redily with hem the fyr they hadde,
Th' encens, the clothes, and the remenant al
That to the sacrifice longen shal;
The hornes fulle of meeth, as was the gyse:
Ther lakked noght to doon hir sacrifise.
Smokynge the temple, ful of clothes faire,
This emelye, with herte debonaire,
Hir body wessh with water of a welle.
But hou she dide hir ryte I dar nat telle,
But it be any thing in general;
And yet it were a game to heeren al.
To hym that meneth wel it were no charge;
But it is good a man been at his large.
Hir brighte heer was kembd, untressed al;
A coroune of a grene ook cerial
Upon hir heed was set ful fair and meete.
Two fyres on the auter gan she beete,
And dide hir thynges, as men may biholde
In stace of thebes and thise bookes olde.
Whan kyndled was the fyr, with pitous cheere
Unto dyane she spak as ye may heere:
O chaste goddesse of the wodes grene,
To whom bothe hevene and erthe and see is sene,
Queene of the regne of pluto derk and lowe,
Goddesse of maydens, that myn herte hast knowe
Ful many a yeer, and woost what I desire,
As keepe me fro thy vengeaunce and thyn ire,
That attheon aboughte cruelly.
Chaste goddesse, wel wostow that I
Desire to ben a mayden al my lyf,
Ne nevere wol I be no love ne wyf.
I am, thow woost, yet of thy compaignye,
A mayde, and love huntynge and venerye,
And for to walken in the wodes wilde,
And noght to ben a wyf and be with childe.
Noght wol I knowe compaignye of man.
Now help me, lady, sith ye may and kan,
For tho thre formes that thou hast in thee.
And palamon, that hath swich love to me,
And eek arcite, that loveth me so soore,
(this grace I preye thee withoute moore)
As sende love and pees bitwixe hem two,
And from me turne awey hir hertes so
That al hire hoote love and hir desir,
And al hir bisy torment, and hir fir
Be queynt, or turned in another place.
And if so be thou wolt nat do me grace,
Or if my destynee be shapen so
That I shal nedes have oon of hem two,
As sende me hym that moost desireth me.
Bihoold, goddesse of clene chastitee,
The bittre teeris that on my chekes falle.
Syn thou art mayde and kepere of us alle,
My maydenhede thou kepe and wel conserve
And whil I lyve, a mayde I wol thee serve.
The fires brenne upon the auter cleere,
Whil emelye was thus in hir preyere.
But sodeynly she saugh a sighte queynte,
For right anon oon of the fyres queynte,
And quyked agayn, and after that anon
That oother fyr was queynt and al agon;
And as it queynte it made a whistelynge,
As doon thise wete brondes in hir brennynge,
And at the brondes ende out ran anon [Page 40]
As it were blody dropes many oon;
For which so soore agast was emelye
That she was wel ny mad, and gan to crye,
For she ne wiste what it signyfied;
But oonly for the feere thus hath she cried,
And weep that it was pitee for to heere.
And therwithal dyane gan appeere,
With bowe in honde, right as an hunteresse,
And seyde, doghter, stynt thyn hevynesse.
Among the goddes hye it is affermed,
And by eterne word writen and confermed,
Thou shalt ben wedded unto oon of tho
That han for thee so muchel care and wo;
But unto which of hem I may nat telle.
Farwel, for I ne may no lenger dwelle.
The fires which that on myn auter brenne
Shulle thee declaren, er that thou go henne,
Thyn aventure of love, as in this cas.
And with that word, the arwes in the caas
Of the goddesse clateren faste and rynge,
And forth she wente, and made a vanysshynge;
For which this emelye astoned was,
And seyde, what amounteth this, allas?
I putte me in thy proteccioun,
Dyane, and in thy disposicioun.
And hoom she goth anon the nexte weye.
This is th' effect; ther is namoore to seye.
The nexte houre of mars folwynge this,
Arcite unto the temple walked is
Of fierse mars, to doon his sacrifise,
With alle the rytes of his payen wyse.
With pitous herte and heigh devocioun,
Right thus to mars he seyde his orisoun:
O stronge god, that in the regnes colde
Of trace honoured art and lord yholde,
And hast in every regne and every lond
Of armes al the brydel in thyn hond,
And hem fortunest as thee lyst devyse,
Accepte of me my pitous sacrifise.
If so be that my youthe may deserve,
And that my myght be worthy for to serve
Thy godhede, that I may been oon of thyne,
Thanne preye I thee to rewe upon my pyne.
For thilke peyne, and thilke hoote fir
In which thow whilom brendest for desir,
Whan that thow usedest the beautee
Of faire, yonge, fresshe venus free,
And haddest hire in armes at thy wille --
Although thee ones on a tyme mysfille,
Whan vulcanus hadde caught thee in his las,
And foond thee liggynge by his wyf, allas! --
For thilke sorwe that was in thyn herte,
Have routhe as wel upon my peynes smerte.
I am yong and unkonnynge, as thow woost,
And, as I trowe, with love offended moost
That evere was any lyves creature;
For she that dooth me al this wo endure
Ne reccheth nevere wher I synke or fleete.
And wel I woot, er she me mercy heete,
I moot with strengthe wynne hire in the place,
And, wel I woot, withouten help or grace
Of thee, ne may my strengthe noght availle.
Thanne help me, lord, tomorwe in my bataille,
For thilke fyr that whilom brente thee,
As wel as thilke fyr now brenneth me,
And do that I tomorwe have victorie.
Myn be the travaille, and thyn be the glorie!
Thy sovereyn temple wol I moost honouren
Of any place, and alwey moost labouren
In thy plesaunce and in thy craftes stronge,
And in thy temple I wol my baner honge
And alle the armes of my compaignye;
And everemo, unto that day I dye,
Eterne fir I wol bifore thee fynde.
And eek to this avow I wol me bynde:
My beerd, myn heer, that hongeth long adoun,
That nevere yet ne felte offensioun
Of rasour nor of shere, I wol thee yive,
And ben thy trewe servant whil I lyve.
Now, lord, have routhe upon my sorwes soore;
Yif me victorie, I aske thee namoore.
The preyere stynt of arcita the stronge,
The rynges on the temple dore that honge,
And eek the dores, clatereden ful faste,
Of which arcita somwhat hym agaste.
The fyres brenden upon the auter brighte,
That it gan al the temple for to lighte;
A sweete smel the ground anon up yaf,
And arcita anon his hand up haf,
And moore encens into the fyr he caste,
With othere rytes mo; and atte laste
The statue of mars bigan his hauberk rynge;
And with that soun he herde a murmurynge
Ful lowe and dym, and seyde thus, victorie!
For which he yaf to mars honour and glorie.
And thus with joye and hope wel to fare
Arcite anon unto his in is fare,
As fayn as fowel is of the brighte sonne.
And right anon swich strif ther is bigonne,
For thilke grauntyng, in the hevene above,
Bitwixe venus, the goddesse of love,
And mars, the stierne God armypotente,
That juppiter was bisy it to stente;
Til that the pale saturnus the colde,
That knew so manye of aventures olde,
Foond in his olde experience an art
That he ful soone hath plesed every part.
As sooth is seyd, elde hath greet avantage; [Page 41]
In elde is bothe wysdom and usage;
Men may the olde atrenne, and noght atrede.
Saturne anon, to stynten strif and drede,
Al be it that it is agayn his kynde,
Of al this strif he gan remedie fynde.
My deere doghter venus, quod saturne,
My cours, that hath so wyde for to turne,
Hath moore power than woot any man.
Myn is the drenchyng in the see so wan;
Myn is the prison in the derke cote;
Myn is the stranglyng and hangyng by the throte,
The murmure and the cherles rebellyng,
The groynynge, and the pryvee empoysonyng;
I do vengeance and pleyn correccioun,
Whil I dwelle in the signe of the leoun.
Myn is the ruyne of the hye halles,
The fallynge of the toures and of the walles
Upon the mynour or the carpenter.
I slow sampsoun, shakynge the piler;
And myne be the maladyes colde,
The derke tresons, and the castes olde;
My lookyng is the fader of pestilence.
Now weep namoore, I shal doon diligence
That palamon, that is thyn owene knyght,
Shal have his lady, as thou hast him hight.
Though mars shal helpe his knyght, yet nathelees
Bitwixe yow ther moot be som tyme pees,
Al be ye noght of o compleccioun,
That causeth al day swich divisioun.
I am thyn aiel, redy at thy wille;
Weep now namoore, I wol thy lust fulfille.
Now wol I stynten of the goddes above,
Of mars, and of venus, goddesse of love,
And telle yow as pleynly as I kan
The grete effect, for which that I bygan.
Explicit tercia pars.

1.2.4. Sequitur pars quarta.

Greet was the feeste in atthenes that day,
And eek the lusty seson of that may
Made every wight to been in swich plesaunce
That al that monday justen they and daunce,
And spenden it in venus heigh servyse.
But by the cause that they sholde ryse
Eerly, for to seen the grete fight,
Unto hir reste wenten they at nyght.
And on the morwe, whan that day gan sprynge,
Of hors and harneys noyse and claterynge
Ther was in hostelryes al aboute;
And to the paleys rood ther many a route
Of lordes upon steedes and palfreys.
Ther maystow seen devisynge of harneys
So unkouth and so riche, and wroght so weel
Of goldsmythrye, of browdynge, and of steel;
The sheeldes brighte, testeres, and trappures,
Gold-hewen helmes, hauberkes, cote-armures;
Lordes in parementz on hir courseres,
Knyghtes of retenue, and eek squieres
Nailynge the speres, and helmes bokelynge;
Giggynge of sheeldes, with layneres lacynge
(there as nede is they weren no thyng ydel);
The fomy steedes on the golden brydel
Gnawynge, and faste the armurers also
With fyle and hamer prikynge to and fro;
Yemen on foote, and communes many oon
With fyle and hamer prikynge to and fro;
Pypes, trompes, nakers, clariounes,
That in the bataille blowen blody sounes;
The paleys ful of peple up and doun,
Heere thre, ther ten, holdynge hir questioun,
Dyvynynge of thise thebane knyghtes two.
Somme seyden thus, somme seyde it shal be so;
Somme helden with hym with the blake berd,
Somme with the balled, somme with the thikke herd;
Somme seyde he looked grymme, and he wolde fighte;
He hath a sparth of twenty pound of wighte.
Thus was the halle ful of divynynge,
Longe after that the sonne gan to sprynge.
The grete theseus, that of his sleep awaked
With mynstralcie and noyse that was maked,
Heeld yet the chambre of his paleys riche,
Til that the thebane knyghtes, bothe yliche
Honured, were into the paleys fet.
Duc theseus was at a wyndow set,
Arrayed right as he were a God in trone.
The peple preesseth thiderward ful soone
Hym for to seen, and doon heigh reverence,
And eek to herkne his heste and his sentence.
And heraud on a scaffold made an oo!
Til al the noyse of peple was ydo,
And whan he saugh the peple of noyse al stille,
Tho shewed he the myghty dukes wille.
The lord hath of his heigh discrecioun
Considered that it were destruccioun
To gentil blood to fighten in the gyse
Of mortal bataille now in this emprise.
Wherfore, to shapen that they shal nat dye,
He wol his firste purpos modifye.
No man therfore, up peyne of los of lyf,
No maner shot, ne polax, ne short knyf [Page 42]
Into the lystes sende, or thider brynge;
Ne short swerd, for to stoke with poynt bitynge,
No man ne drawe, ne bere it by his syde.
Ne no man shal unto his felawe ryde
But o cours, with a sharpe ygrounde spere;
Foyne, if hym list, on foote, hymself to were.
And he that is at meschief shal be take
And noght slayn, but be broght unto the stake
That shal ben ordeyned on either syde;
But thider he shal by force, and there abyde.
And if so falle the chieftayn be take
On outher syde, or elles sleen his make,
No lenger shal the turneiynge laste.
God spede you! gooth forth, and ley on faste!
With long swerd and with maces fighteth youre fille.
Gooth now youre wey, this is the lordes wille.
The voys of peple touchede the hevene,
So loude cride they with murie stevene,
God save swich a lord, that is so good,
He wilneth no destruccion of blood!
Up goon the trompes and the melodye,
And to the lystes rit the compaignye,
By ordinance, thurghout the citee large,
Hanged with clooth of gold, and nat with sarge.
Ful lik a lord this noble duc gan ryde,
Thise two thebans upon either syde;
And after rood the queene, and emelye,
And after that another compaignye
Of oon and oother, after hir degree.
And thus they passen thurghout the citee,
And to the lystes come they by tyme.
It nas nat of the day yet fully pryme
Whan set was theseus ful riche and hye,
Ypolita the queene, and emelye,
And othere ladys in degrees aboute.
Unto the seetes preesseth al the route.
And westward, thurgh the gates under marte,
Arcite, and eek the hondred of his parte,
With baner reed is entred right anon;
And in that selve moment palamon
Is under venus, estward in the place,
With baner whyt, and hardy chiere and face.
In al the world, to seken up and doun,
So evene, withouten variacioun,
Ther nere swiche compaignyes tweye;
For ther was noon so wys that koude seye
That any hadde of oother avauntage
Of worthynesse, ne of estaat, ne age,
So evene were they chosen, for to gesse.
And in two renges faire they hem dresse.
Whan that hir names rad were everichon,
That in hir nombre gyle were ther noon,
Tho were the gates shet, and cried was loude:
Do now youre devoir, yonge knyghtes proude!
The heraudes lefte hir prikyng up and doun;
Now ryngen trompes loude and clarioun.
Ther is namoore to seyn, but west and est
In goon the speres ful sadly in arrest;
In gooth the sharpe spore into the syde.
Ther seen men who kan juste and who kan ryde;
Ther shyveren shaftes upon sheeldes thikke;
He feeleth thurgh the herte-spoon the prikke.
Up spryngen speres twenty foot on highte;
Out goon the swerdes as the silver brighte;
The helmes they tohewen and toshrede;
Out brest the blood with stierne stremes rede;
With myghty maces the bones they tobreste.
He thurgh the thikkeste of the throng gan threste;
Ther stomblen steedes stronge, and doun gooth al;
He rolleth under foot as dooth a bal;
He foyneth on his feet with his tronchoun,
And he hym hurtleth with hors adoun;
He thurgh the body is hurt and sither take,
Maugree his heed, and broght unto the stake:
As forward was, right there he moste abyde.
Another lad is on that oother syde.
And some tyme dooth hem theseus to reste,
Hem to refresshe and drynken, if hem leste.
Ful ofte a day han thise thebanes two
Togydre ymet, and wroght his felawe wo;
Unhorsed hath ech oother of hem tweye.
Ther nas no tygre in the vale of galgopheye,
Whan that hir whelp is stole whan it is lite,
So crueel on the hunte as is arcite
For jelous herte upon this palamon.
Ne in belmarye ther nys so fel leon,
That hunted is, or for his hunger wood,
Ne of his praye desireth so the blood,
As palamon to sleen his foo arcite.
The jelous strokes on hir helmes byte;
Out renneth blood on bothe hir sydes rede.
Som tyme an ende ther is of every dede.
For er the sonne unto the reste wente,
The stronge kyng emetreus gan hente
This palamon, as he faught with arcite,
And made his swerd depe in his flessh to byte;
And by the force of twenty is he take
Unyolden, and ydrawe unto the stake.
And in the rescus of this palamoun
The stronge kyng lygurge is born adoun,
And kyng emetreus, for al his strengthe, [Page 43]
Is born out of his sadel a swerdes lengthe,
So hitte him palamoun er he were take;
But al for noght, he was broght to the stake.
His hardy herte myghte hym helpe naught:
He moste abyde, whan that he was caught,
By force and eek by composicioun.
Who sorweth now but woful palamoun,
That moot namoore goon agayn to fighte?
And whan that theseus hadde seyn this sighte,
Unto the folk that foghten thus echon
He cryde, hoo! namoore, for it is doon!
I wol be trewe juge, and no partie.
Arcite of thebes shal have emelie,
That by his fortune hath hire faire ywonne.
Anon ther is a noyse of peple bigonne
For joye of this, so loude and heighe withalle,
It semed that the lystes sholde falle.
What kan now faire venus doon above?
What seith she now? what dooth this queene of love,
But wepeth so, for wantynge of hir wille,
Til that hir teeres in the lystes fille?
She seyde, I am ashamed, douteless.
Saturnus seyde, doghter, hoold thy pees!
Mars hath his wille, his knyght hath al his boone,
And, by myn heed, thow shalt been esed soone.
The trompours, with the loude mynstralcie,
The heraudes, that ful loude yelle and crie,
Been in hire wele for joye of daun arcite.
But herkneth me, and stynteth noyse a lite,
Which a myracle ther bifel anon.
This fierse arcite hath of his helm ydon,
And on a courser, for to shewe his face,
He priketh endelong the large place
Lokynge upward upon this emelye;
And she agayn hym caste a freendlich ye
(for wommen, as to speken in comune,
Thei folwen alle the favour of fortune)
And was al his chiere, as in his herte.
Out of the ground a furie infernal sterte,
From pluto sent at requeste of saturne,
For which his hors for fere gan to turne,
And leep aside, and foundred as he leep;
And er that arcite may taken keep,
He pighte hym on the pomel of his heed,
That in the place he lay as he were deed,
His brest tobrosten with his sadel-bowe.
As blak he lay as any cole or crowe,
So was the blood yronnen in his face.
Anon he was yborn out of the place,
With herte soor, to theseus paleys.
Tho was he korven out of his harneys,
And in a bed ybrought ful faire and blyve;
For he was yet in memorie and alyve,
And alwey criynge after emelye.
Duc theseus, with al his compaignye,
Is comen hoom to atthenes his citee,
With alle blisse and greet solempnitee.
Al be it that this aventure was falle,
He nolde noght disconforten hem alle.
Men seyde eek that arcite shal nat dye;
He shal been heeled of his maladye.
And of another thyng they weren as fayn,
That of hem alle was ther noon yslayn,
Al were they soore yhurt, and namely oon,
That with a spere was thirled his brest boon.
To othere woundes and to broken armes
Somme hadden salves, and somme hadden charmes;
Fermacies of herbes, and eek save
They dronken, for they wolde hir lymes have.
For which this noble duc, as he wel kan,
Conforteth and honoureth every man,
And made revel al the longe nyght
Unto the straunge lordes, as was right.
Ne ther was holden no disconfitynge
But as a justes, or a tourneiynge;
For soothly ther was no disconfiture.
For fallyng nys nat but an aventure,
Ne to be lad by force unto the stake
Unyolden, and with twenty knyghtes take,
O persone allone, withouten mo,
And haryed forth by arme, foot, and too,
And eke his steede dryven forth with staves
With footmen, bothe yemen and eek knaves, --
It nas arretted hym no vileynye;
Ther may no man clepen it cowardye.
For which anon duc theseus leet crye,
To stynten alle rancour and envye,
The gree as wel of o syde as of oother,
And eyther syde ylik as ootheres brother;
And yaf hem yiftes after hir degree,
And fully heeld a feeste dayes three,
And conveyed the kynges worthily
Out of his toun a journee largely.
And hoom wente every man the righte way.
Ther was namoore but fare wel, have good day!
Of this bataille I wol namoore endite,
But speke of palamon and of arcite.
Swelleth the brest of arcite, and the soore
Encreesseth at his herte moore and moore.
The clothered blood, for any lechecraft,
Corrupteth, and is in his bouk ylaft,
That neither veyne-blood, ne ventusynge,
Ne drynke of herbes may ben his helpynge.
The vertu expulsif, or animal, [Page 44]
Fro thilke vertu cleped natural
Ne may the venym voyden ne expelle.
The pipes of his longes gonne to swelle,
And every lacerte in his brest adoun
Is shent with venym and corrupcioun.
Hym gayneth neither, for to gete his lif,
Vomyt upward, ne dounward laxatif.
Al is tobrosten thilke regioun;
Nature hath now no dominacioun.
And certeinly, ther nature wol nat wirche,
Fare wel phisik! go ber the man to chirche!
This al and som, that arcita moot dye;
For which he sendeth after emelye,
And palamon, that was his cosyn deere.
Thanne seyde he thus, as ye shal after heere:
Naught may the woful spirit in myn herte
Declare o point of alle my sorwes smerte
To yow, my lady, that I love moost;
But I biquethe the servyce of my goost
To yow aboven every creature,
Syn that my lyf may no lenger dure.
Allas, the wo! allas, the peynes stronge,
That I for yow have suffred, and so longe!
Allas, the deeth! allas, myn emelye!
Allas, departynge of oure compaignye!
Allas, myn hertes queene! allas, my wyf!
Myn hertes lady, endere of my lyf!
What is this world? what asketh men to have?
Now with his love, now in his colde grave
Allone, withouten any compaignye.
Fare wel, my sweete foo, myn emelye!
And softe taak me in youre armes tweye,
For love of god, and herkneth what I seye.
I have heer with my cosyn palamon
Had strif and rancour many a day agon
For love of yow, and for my jalousye.
And juppiter so wys my soule gye,
To speken of a servaunt proprely,
With alle circumstances trewely --
That is to seyen, trouthe, honour, knyghthede,
Wysdom, humblesse, estaat, and heigh kynrede,
Fredom, and al that longeth to that art --
So juppiter have of my soule part,
As in this world right now ne knowe I non
So worthy to ben loved as palamon,
That serveth yow, and wol doon al his lyf.
And if that evere ye shul ben a wyf,
Foryet nat palamon, the gentil man.
And with that word his speche faille gan,
For from his feet up to his brest was come
The coold of deeth, that hadde hym overcome,
And yet mooreover, for in his armes two
The vital strengthe is lost and al ago.
Oonly the intellect, withouten moore,
That dwelled in his herte syk and soore,
Gan faillen whan the herte felte deeth.
Dusked his eyen two, and failled breeth,
But on his lady yet caste he his ye;
His laste word was, mercy, emelye!
His spirit chaunged hous and wente ther,
As I cam nevere, I kan nat tellen wher.
Therfore I stynte, I nam no divinistre;
Of soules fynde I nat in this registre,
Ne me ne list thilke opinions to telle
Of hem, though that they writen wher they dwelle.
Arcite is coold, ther mars his soule gye!
Now wol I speken forth of emelye.
Shrighte emelye, and howleth palamon,
And theseus his suster took anon
Swownynge, and baar hire fro the corps away.
What helpeth it to tarien forth the day
To tellen how she weep bothe eve and morwe?
For in swich cas wommen have swich sorwe,
Whan that hir housbondes ben from hem ago,
That for the moore part they sorwen so,
Or ellis fallen in swich maladye,
That at the laste certeinly they dye.
Infinite been the sorwes and the teeres
Of olde folk, and folk of tendre yeeres,
In al the toun for deeth of this theban.
For hym ther wepeth bothe child and man;
So greet wepyng was ther noon, certayn,
Whan ector was ybroght, al fressh yslayn,
To troye. Allas, the pitee that was ther,
Cracchynge of chekes, rentynge eek of heer.
Why woldestow be deed, thise wommen crye,
And haddest gold ynough, and emelye?
No man myghte gladen theseus,
Savynge his olde fader egeus,
That knew this worldes transmutacioun,
As he hadde seyn it chaunge bothe up and doun,
Joye after wo, and wo after gladnesse,
And shewed hem ensamples and liknesse.
Right as ther dyed nevere man, quod he,
That he ne lyvede in erthe in some degree,
Right so ther lyvede never man, he seyde,
In al this world, that som tyme he ne deyde.
This world nys but a thurghfare ful of wo,
And we been pilgrymes, passynge to and fro.
Deeth is an ende of every worldly soore.
And over al this yet seyde he muchel moore
To this effect, ful wisely to enhorte
The peple that they sholde hem reconforte.
Duc theseus, with al his bisy cure, [Page 45]
Caste now wher that the sepulture
Of goode arcite may best ymaked be,
And eek moost honurable in his degree.
And at the laste he took conclusioun
That ther as first arcite and palamoun
Hadden for love the bataille hem bitwene,
That in that selve grove, swoote and grene,
Ther as he hadde his amorouse desires,
His compleynte, and for love his hoote fires,
He wolde make a fyr in which the office
Funeral he myghte al accomplice.
And leet comande anon to hakke and hewe
The okes olde, and leye hem on a rewe
In colpons wel arrayed for to brenne.
His officers with swifte feet they renne
And ryde anon at his comandement.
And after this, theseus hath ysent
After a beere, and it al over spradde
With clooth of gold, the richeste that he hadde.
And of the same suyte he cladde arcite;
Upon his hondes hadde he gloves white,
Eek on his heed a coroune of laurer grene,
And in his hond a swerd ful bright and kene.
He leyde hym, bare the visage, on the beere;
Therwith he weep that pitee was to heere.
And for the peple sholde seen hym alle,
Whan it was day, he broghte hym to the halle,
That roreth of the criyng and the soun.
Tho cam this woful theban palamoun,
With flotery berd and ruggy, asshy heeres,
In clothes blake, ydropped al with teeres;
And, passynge othere of wepynge, emelye,
The rewefulleste of al the compaignye.
In as muche as the servyce sholde be
The moore noble and riche in his degree,
Duc theseus leet forth thre steedes brynge,
That trapped were in steel al gliterynge,
And covered with the armes of daun arcite.
Upon thise steedes, that weren grete and white,
Ther seten folk, of whiche oon baar his sheeld,
Another his spere up on his hondes heeld,
The thridde baar with hym his bowe turkeys
(of brend gold was the caas and eek the harneys);
And riden forth a paas with sorweful cheere
Toward the grove, as ye shul after heere.
The nobleste of the grekes that ther were
Upon hir shuldres caryeden the beere,
With slakke paas, and eyen rede and wete,
Thurghout the citee by the maister strete,
That sprad was al with blak, and wonder hye
Right of the same is the strete ywrye.
Upon the right hond wente olde egeus,
And on that oother syde duc theseus,
With vessels in hir hand of gold ful fyn,
Al ful of hony, milk, and blood, and wyn;
Eek palamon, with ful greet compaignye;
And after that cam woful emelye,
With fyr in honde, as was that tyme the gyse,
To do the office of funeral servyse.
Heigh labour and ful greet apparaillynge
Was at the service and the fyr-makynge,
That with his grene top the hevene raughte;
And twenty fadme of brede the armes straughte --
This is to seyn, the bowes weren so brode.
Of stree first ther was leyd ful many a lode.
But how the fyr was maked upon highte,
Ne eek the names that the trees highte,
As ook, firre, birch, aspe, alder, holm, popler,
Wylugh, elm, plane, assh, box, chasteyn, lynde, laurer,
Mapul, thorn, bech, hasel, ew, whippeltree, --
How they weren feld, shal nat be toold for me;
Ne hou the goddes ronnen up and doun,
Disherited of hire habitacioun,
In which they woneden in reste and pees,
Nymphes, fawnes and amadrides;
Ne hou the beestes and the briddes alle
Fledden for fere, whan the wode was falle;
Ne how the ground agast was of the light,
That was nat wont to seen the sonne bright;
Ne how the fyr was couched first with stree,
And thanne with drye stikkes cloven a thre,
And thanne with grene wode and spicerye,
And thanne with clooth of gold and with perrye,
And gerlandes, hangynge with ful many a flour;
The mirre, th' encens, with al so greet odour;
Ne how arcite lay among al this,
Ne what richesse aboute his body is;
Ne how that emelye, as was the gyse,
Putte in the fyr of funeral servyse;
Ne how she swowned whan men made the fyr,
Ne what she spak, ne what was hir desir;
Ne what jeweles men in the fyre caste,
Whan that the fyr was greet and brente faste;
Ne how somme caste hir sheeld, and somme hir spere,
And of hire vestimentz, whiche that they were,
And coppes fulle of wyn, and milk, and blood,
Into the fyr, that brente as it were wood;
Ne how the grekes, with an huge route,
Thries riden al the fyr aboute
Upon the left hand, with a loud shoutynge,
And thries with hir speres claterynge;
And thries how the ladyes gonne crye; [Page 46]
Ne how that lad was homward emelye;
Ne how arcite is brent to asshen colde;
Ne how that lyche-wake was yholde
Al thilke nyght; ne how the grekes pleye
The wake-pleyes, ne kepe I nat to seye;
Who wrastleth best naked with oille enoynt,
Ne who that baar hym best, in no disjoynt.
I wol nat tellen eek how that they goon
Hoom til atthenes, whan the pley is doon;
But shortly to the point thanne wol I wende,
And maken of my longe tale an ende.
By processe and by lengthe of certeyn yeres,
Al stynted is the moornynge and the teres
Of grekes, by oon general assent.
Thanne semed me ther was a parlement
At atthenes, upon certein pointz and caas;
Among the whiche pointz yspoken was,
To have with certein contrees alliaunce,
And have fully of thebans obeisaunce.
For which this noble theseus anon
Leet senden after gentil palamon,
Unwist of hym what was the cause and why;
But in his blake clothes sorwefully
He cam at his comandement in hye.
Tho sente theseus for emelye.
Whan they were set, and hust was al the place,
And theseus abiden hadde a space
Er any word cam fram his wise brest,
His eyen sette he ther as was his lest.
And with a sad visage he siked stille,
And after that right thus he seyde his wille:
The firste moevere of the cause above,
Whan he first made the faire cheyne of love,
Greet was th' effect, and heigh was his entente.
Wel wiste he why, and what thereof he mente;
For with that faire cheyne of love he bond
The fyr, the eyr, the water, and the lond
In certeyn boundes, that they may nat flee.
That same prince and that moevere, quod he,
Hath stablissed in this wrecched world adoun
Certeyne dayes and duracioun
To al that is engendred in this place,
Over the whiche day they may nat pace,
Al mowe they yet tho dayes wel abregge.
Ther nedeth noght noon auctoritee t' allegge,
For it is preeved by experience,
But that me list declaren my sentence.
Thanne may men by this ordre wel discerne
That thilke moevere stable is and eterne.
Wel may men knowe, but it be a fool,
That every part dirryveth from his hool;
For nature hath nat taken his bigynnyng
Of no partie or cantel of a thyng,
But of a thyng that parfit is and stable,
Descendynge so til it be corrumpable.
And therfore, of his wise purveiaunce,
He hath so wel biset his ordinaunce,
That speces of thynges and progressiouns
Shullen enduren by successiouns,
And nat eterne, withouten any lye.
This maystow understonde and seen at ye.
Loo the ook, that hath so long a norisshynge
From tyme that it first bigynneth to sprynge,
And hath so long a lif, as we may see,
Yet at the laste wasted is the tree.
Considereth eek how that the harde stoon
Under oure feet, on which we trede and goon,
Yet wasteth it as it lyth by the weye.
The brode ryver somtyme wexeth dreye;
The grete tounes se we wane and wende.
Thanne may ye se that al this thyng hath ende.
Of man and womman seen we wel also
That nedes, in oon of thise termes two,
This is to seyn, in youthe or elles age,
He moot be deed, the kyng as shal a page;
Som in his bed, som in the depe see,
Som in the large feeld, as men may see;
Ther helpeth noght, al goth that ilke weye.
Thanne may I seyn that al this thyng moot deye.
What maketh this but juppiter, the kyng,
That is prince and cause of alle thyng,
Convertynge al unto his propre welle
From which it is dirryved, sooth to telle?
And heer-agayns no creature on lyve,
Of no degree, availleth for to stryve.
Thanne is it wysdom, as it thynketh me,
To maken vertu of necessitee,
And take it weel that we may nat eschue,
And namely that to us alle is due.
And whoso gruccheth ought, he dooth folye,
And rebel is to hym that al may gye.
And certeinly a man hath moost honour
To dyen in his excellence and flour,
Whan he is siker of his goode name;
Thanne hath he doon his freend, ne hym, no shame.
And gladder oghte his freend been of his deeth,
Whan with honour up yolden is his breeth,
Than whan his name apalled is for age,
For al forgeten is his vassellage.
Thanne is it best, as for a worthy fame,
To dyen whan that he is best of name.
The contrarie of al this is wilfulnesse.
Why grucchen we, why have we hevynesse,
That goode arcite, of chivalrie the flour,
Departed is with duetee and honour
Out of this foule prisoun of this lyf? [Page 47]
Why grucchen heere his cosyn and his wyf
Of his welfare, that loved hem so weel?
Kan he hem thank? nay, God woot, never a deel,
That both his soule and eek hemself offende,
And yet they mowe hir lustes nat amende.
What may I conclude of this longe serye,
But after wo I rede us to be merye,
And thanken juppiter of al his grace?
And er that we departen from this place
I rede that we make of sorwes two
O parfit joye, lastynge everemo.
And looketh now, wher moost sorwe is herinne,
Ther wol we first amenden and bigynne.
Suster, quod he, this is my fulle assent,
With al th' avys heere of my parlement,
That gentil palamon, youre owene knyght,
That serveth yow with wille herte, and myght,
And ever hath doon syn ye first hym knewe,
That ye shul of youre grace upon hym rewe,
And taken hym for housbonde and for lord.
Lene me youre hond, for this is oure accord.
Lat se now of youre wommanly pitee.
He is kynges brother sone, pardee;
And though he were a povre bacheler,
Syn he hath served yow so many a yeer,
And had for yow so greet adversitee,
It moste been considered, leeveth me;
For gentil mercy oghte to passen right.
Thanne seyde he thus to palamon the knight:
I trowe ther nedeth litel sermonyng
To make yow assente to this thyng.
Com neer, and taak youre lady by the hond.
Bitwixen hem was maad anon the bond
That highte matrimoigne or mariage,
By al the conseil and the baronage.
And thus with alle blisse and melodye
Hath palamon ywedded emelye.
And god, that al this wyde world hath wroght,
Sende hym his love that hath it deere aboght;
For now is palamon in alle wele,
Lyvynge in blisse, in richesse, and in heele,
And emelye hym loveth so tendrely,
And he hire serveth al so gentilly,
That nevere was ther no word hem bitwene
Of jalousie or any oother teene.
Thus endeth palamon and emelye;
And God save al this faire compaignye! amen.

1.3. The Miller's Prologue

Whan that the knyght had thus his tale ytoold,
In al the route nas ther yong ne oold
That he ne seyde it was a noble storie,
And worthy for to drawen to memorie;
And namely the gentils everichon.
Oure hooste lough and swoor, so moot I gon,
This gooth aright; unbokeled is the male.
Lat se now who shal telle another tale;
For trewely the game is wel bigonne.
Now telleth ye, sir monk, if that ye konne
Somwhat to quite with the knyghtes tale.
The millere, that for dronken was al pale,
So that unnethe upon his hors he sat,
He nolde avalen neither hood ne hat,
Ne abyde no man for his curteisie,
But in pilates voys he gan to crie,
And swoor, by armes, and by blood and bones,
I kan a noble tale for the nones,
With which I wol now quite the knyghtes tale.
Oure hooste saugh that he was dronke of ale,
And seyde, abyd, robyn, my leeve brother;
Som bettre man shal telle us first another.
Abyd, and lat us werken thriftily.
By goddes soule, quod he, that wol nat I;
For I wol speke, or elles go my wey.
Oure hoost answerde, tel on, a devel wey!
Thou art a fool; thy wit is overcome.
Now herkneth, quod the millere, alle and some!
But first I make a protestacioun
That I am dronke, I knowe it by my soun;
And therfore if that I mysspeke or seye, [Page 48]
Wyte it the ale of southwerk, I you preye.
For I wol telle a legende and a lyf
Bothe of a carpenter and of his wyf,
How that a clerk hath set the wrightes cappe.
The reve answerde and seyde, stynt thy clappe!
Lat be thy lewed dronken harlotrye.
It is a synne and eek a greet folye
To apeyren any man, or hym defame,
And eek to bryngen wyves in swich fame.
Thou mayst ynogh of othere thynges seyn.
This dronke millere spak ful soone ageyn
And seyde, leve brother osewold,
Who hath no wyf, he is no cokewold.
But I sey nat therfore that thou art oon;
Ther been ful goode wyves many oon,
And evere a thousand goode ayeyns oon badde.
That knowestow wel thyself, but if thou madde.
Why artow angry with my tale now?
I have a wyf, pardee, as wel as thow;
Yet nolde I, for the oxen in my plogh,
Take upon me moore than ynogh,
As demen of myself that I were oon;
I wol bileve wel that I am noon.
An housbonde shal nat been inquisityf
Of goddes pryvetee, nor of his wyf.
So he may fynde goddes foyson there,
Of the remenant nedeth nat enquere.
What sholde I moore seyn, but this millere
He nolde his wordes for no man forbere,
But tolde his cherles tale in his manere.
M' athynketh that I shal reherce it heere.
And therfore every gentil wight I preye,
For goddes love, demeth nat that I seye
Of yvel entente, but for I moot reherce
Hir tales alle, be they bettre or werse,
Or elles falsen som of my mateere.
And therfore, whoso list it nat yheere,
Turne over the leef and chese another tale;
For he shal fynde ynowe, grete and smale,
Of storial thyng that toucheth gentillesse,
And eek moralitee and hoolynesse.
Blameth nat me if that ye chese amys.
The millere is a cherl, ye knowe wel this;
So was the reve eek and othere mo,
And harlotrie they tolden bothe two.
Avyseth yow, and put me out of blame;
And eek men shal nat maken ernest of game.

1.4. The Miller's Tale

Whilom ther was dwellynge at oxenford
A riche gnof, that gestes heeld to bord,
And of his craft he was a carpenter.
With hym ther was dwellynge a poure scoler,
Hadde lerned art, but al his fantasye
Was turned for to lerne astrologye,
And koude a certeyn of conclusiouns,
To demen by interrogaciouns,
If that men asked hym in certein houres
Whan that men sholde have droghte or elles shoures,
Or if men asked hym what sholde bifalle
Of every thyng; I may nat rekene hem alle.
This clerk was cleped hende nicholas.
Of deerne love he koude and of solas;
And therto he was sleigh and ful privee,
And lyk a mayden meke for to see.
A chambre hadde he in that hostelrye
Allone, withouten any compaignye,
Ful fetisly ydight with herbes swoote;
And he hymself as sweete as is the roote
Of lycorys, or any cetewale.
His almageste, and bookes grete and smale,
His astrelabie, longynge for his art,
His augrym stones layen faire apart,
On shelves couched at his beddes heed;
His presse ycovered with a faldyng reed;
And al above ther lay a gay sautrie,
On which he made a-nyghtes melodie
So swetely that all the chambre rong;
And angelus ad virginem he song;
And after that he song the kynges noote.
Ful often blessed was his myrie throte.
And thus this sweete clerk his tyme spente
After his freendes fyndyng and his rente.
This carpenter hadde wedded newe a wyf,
Which that he lovede moore than his lyf;
Of eighteteene yeer she was of age.
Jalous he was, and heeld hire narwe in cage,
For she was wylde and yong, and he was old, [Page 49]
And demed hymself been lik a cokewold.
He knew nat catoun, for his wit was rude,
That bad man sholde wedde his simylitude.
Men sholde wedden after hire estaat,
For youthe and elde is often at debaat.
But sith that he was fallen in the snare,
He moste endure, as oother folk, his care.
Fair was this yonge wyf, and therwithal
As any wezele hir body gent and smal.
A ceynt she werede, barred al of silk,
A barmclooth eek as whit as morne milk
Upon hir lendes, ful of many a goore.
Whit was hir smok, and broyden al bifoore
And eek bihynde, on hir coler aboute,
Of col-blak silk, withinne and eek withoute.
The tapes of hir white voluper
Were of the same suyte of hir coler;
Hir filet brood of silk, and set ful hye.
And sikerly she hadde a likerous ye;
Ful smale ypulled were hire browes two,
And tho were bent and blake as any sloo.
She was ful moore blisful on to see
Than is the newe pere-jonette tree,
And softer than the wolle is of a wether.
And by hir girdel heeng a purs of lether,
Tasseled with silk, and perled with latoun.
In al this world, to seken up and doun,
There nys no man so wys that koude thenche
So gay a popelote or swich a wenche.
Ful brighter was the shynyng of hir hewe
Than in the tour the noble yforged newe.
But of hir song, it was as loude and yerne
As any swalwe sittynge on a berne.
Therto she koude skippe and make game,
As any kyde or calf folwynge his dame.
Hir mouth was sweete as bragot or the meeth,
Or hoord of apples leyd in hey or heeth.
Wynsynge she was, as is a joly colt,
Long as a mast, and upright as a bolt.
A brooch she baar upon hir lowe coler,
As brood as is the boos of a bokeler.
Hir shoes were laced on hir legges hye.
She was a prymerole, a piggesnye,
For any lord to leggen in his bedde,
Or yet for any good yeman to wedde.
Now, sire, and eft, sire, so bifel the cas,
That on a day this hende nicholas
Fil with this yonge wyf to rage and pleye,
Whil that hir housbonde was at oseneye,
As clerkes ben ful subtile and ful queynte;
And prively he caughte hire by the queynte,
And seyde, ywis, but if ich have my wille,
For deerne love of thee, lemman, I spille.
And heeld hire harde by the haunchebones,
And seyde, lemman, love me al atones,
Or I wol dyen, also God me save!
And she sproong as a colt dooth in the trave,
And with hir heed she wryed faste awey,
And seyde, I wol nat kisse thee, by my fey!
Why, lat be, quod she, lat be, nicholas,
Or I wol crie -- out, harrow -- and -- allas! --
Do wey youre handes, for youre curteisye!
This nicholas gan mercy for to crye,
And spak so faire, and profred him so faste,
That she hir love hym graunted atte laste,
And swoor hir ooth, by seint thomas of kent,
That she wol been at his comandement,
Whan that she may hir leyser wel espie.
Myn housbonde is so ful of jalousie
That but ye wayte wel and been privee,
I woot right wel I nam but deed, quod she.
Ye moste been ful deerne, as in this cas.
Nay, therof care thee noght, quod nicholas.
A clerk hadde litherly biset his whyle,
But if he koude a carpenter bigyle.
And thus they been accorded and ysworn
To wayte a tyme, as I have told biforn.
Whan nicholas had doon thus everideel,
And thakked hire aboute the lendes weel,
He kiste hire sweete and taketh his sawtrie,
And pleyeth faste, and maketh melodie.
Thanne fil it thus, that to the paryssh chirche,
Cristes owene werkes for to wirche,
This goode wyf went on an haliday.
Hir forheed shoon as bright as any day,
So was it wasshen whan she leet hir werk.
Now was ther of that chirche a parissh clerk,
The which that was ycleped absolon.
Crul was his heer, and as the gold it shoon,
And strouted as a fanne large and brode;
Ful streight and evene lay his joly shode.
His rode was reed, his eyen greye as goos.
With poules wyndow corven on his shoos,
In hoses rede he wente fetisly.
Yclad he was ful smal and proprely
Al in a kirtel of a lyght waget;
Ful faire and thikke been the poyntes set.
And therupon he hadde a gay surplys
As whit as is the blosme upon the rys.
A myrie child he was, so God me save.
Wel koude he laten blood and clippe and shave,
And maken a chartre of lond or acquitaunce.
In twenty manere koude he trippe and daunce
After the scole of oxenforde tho,
And with his legges casten to and fro,
And pleyen songes on a smal rubible;
Therto he song som tyme a loud quynyble; [Page 50]
And as wel koude he pleye on a giterne.
In al the toun nas brewhous ne taverne
That he ne visited with his solas,
Ther any gaylard tappestere was.
But sooth to seyn, he was somdeel squaymous
Of fartyng, and of speche daungerous.
This absolon, that jolif was and gay,
Gooth with a sencer on the haliday,
Sensynge the wyves of the parisshe faste;
And many a lovely look on hem he caste,
And namely on this carpenteris wyf.
To looke on hire hym thoughte a myrie lyf,
She was so propre and sweete and likerous.
I dar wel seyn, if she hadde been a mous,
And he a cat, he wolde hire hente anon.
This parissh clerk, this joly absolon,
Hath in his herte swich a love-longynge
That of no wyf took he noon offrynge;
For curteisie, he seyde, he wolde noon.
The moone, whan it was nyght, ful brighte shoon,
And absolon his gyterne hath ytake,
For paramours he thoghte for to wake.
And forth he gooth, jolif and amorous,
Til he cam to the carpenteres hous
A litel after cokkes hadde ycrowe,
And dressed hym up by a shot-wyndowe
That was upon the carpenteris wal.
He syngeth in his voys gentil and smal,
Now, deere lady, if thy wille be,
I praye yow that ye wole rewe on me,
Ful wel acordaunt to his gyternynge.
This carpenter awook, and herde him synge,
And spak unto his wyf, and seyde anon,
What! alison! herestow nat absolon,
That chaunteth thus under oure boures wal?
And she answerde hir housbonde therwithal,
Yis, God woot, john, I heere it every deel.
This passeth forth; what wol ye bet than weel?
Fro day to day this joly absolon
So woweth hire that hym is wo bigon.
He waketh al the nyght and al the day;
He kembeth his lokkes brode, and made hym gay;
He woweth hire by meenes and brocage,
And swoor he wolde been hir owene page;
He syngeth, brokkynge as a nyghtyngale;
He sente hire pyment, meeth, and spiced ale,
And wafres, pipyng hoot out of the gleede;
And, for she was of town, he profred meede.
For som folk wol ben wonnen for richesse,
And somme for strokes, and somme for gentillesse.
Somtyme, to shewe his lightnesse and maistrye,
He pleyeth herodes upon a scaffold hye.
But what availleth hym as in this cas?
She loveth so this hende nicholas
That absolon may blowe the bukkes horn;
He ne hadde for his labour but a scorn.
And thus she maketh absolon hire ape,
And al his ernest turneth til a jape.
Ful sooth is this proverbe, it is no lye,
Men seyn right thus, alwey the nye slye
Maketh the ferre leeve to be looth.
For though that absolon be wood or wrooth,
By cause that he fer was from hire sight,
This nye nicholas stood in his light.
Now ber thee wel, thou hende nicholas,
For absolon may waille and synge allas.
And so bifel it on a saterday,
This carpenter was goon til osenay;
And hende nicholas and alisoun
Acorded been to this conclusioun,
That nicholas shal shapen hym a wyle
This sely jalous housbonde to bigyle;
And if so be the game wente aright,
She sholde slepen in his arm al nyght,
For this was his desir and hire also.
And right anon, withouten wordes mo,
This nicholas no lenger wolde tarie,
But dooth ful softe unto his chambre carie
Bothe mete and drynke for a day or tweye,
And to hire housbonde bad hire for to seye,
If that he axed after nicholas,
She sholde seye she nyste where he was,
Of al that day she saugh hym nat with ye;
She trowed that he was in maladye,
For for no cry hir mayde koude hym calle,
He nolde answere for thyng that myghte falle.
This passeth forth al thilke saterday,
That nicholas stille in his chambre lay,
And eet and sleep, or dide what hym leste,
Til sonday, that the sonne gooth to reste.
This sely carpenter hath greet merveyle
Of nicholas, or what thyng myghte hym eyle,
And seyde, I am adrad, by seint thomas,
It stondeth nat aright with nicholas.
God shilde that he deyde sodeynly!
This world is now ful tikel, sikerly.
I saugh to-day a cors yborn to chirche
That now, on monday last, I saugh hym wirche.
Go up, quod he unto his knave anoon,
Clepe at his dore, or knokke with a stoon.
Looke how it is, and tel me boldely.
This knave gooth hym up ful sturdily, [Page 51]
And at the chambre dore whil that he stood,
He cride and knokked as that he were wood,
What! how! what do ye, maister nicholay?
How may ye slepen al the longe day?
But al for noght, he herde nat a word.
An hole he foond, ful lowe upon a bord,
Ther as the cat was wont in for to crepe,
And at that hole he looked in ful depe,
And at the laste he hadde of hym a sight.
This nicholas sat evere capyng upright,
As he had kiked on the newe moone.
Adoun he gooth, and tolde his maister soone
In what array he saugh this ilke man.
This carpenter to blessen hym bigan,
And seyde, help us, seinte frydeswyde!
A man woot litel what hym shal bityde.
This man is falle, with his astromye,
In some woodnesse or in som agonye.
I thoghte ay wel how that it sholde be!
Men sholde nat knowe of goddes pryvetee.
Ye, blessed be alwey a lewed man
That noght but oonly his bileve kan!
So ferde another clerk with astromye;
He walked in the feeldes, for to prye
Upon the sterres, what ther sholde bifalle,
Til he was in a marle-pit yfalle;
He saugh nat that. But yet, by seint thomas,
Me reweth soore of hende nicholas.
He shal be rated of his studiyng,
If that I may, by jhesus, hevene kyng!
Get me a staf, that I may underspore,
Whil that thou, robyn, hevest up the dore.
He shal out of his studiyng, as I gesse --
And to the chambre dore he gan hym dresse.
His knave was a strong carl for the nones,
And by the haspe he haaf it of atones;
Into the floor the dore fil anon.
This nicholas sat ay as stille as stoon,
And evere caped upward into the eir.
This carpenter wende he were in despeir,
And hente hym by the sholdres myghtily,
And shook hym harde, and cride spitously,
What! nicholay! what, how! what, looke adoun!
Awak, and thenk on cristes passioun!
I crouche thee from elves and fro wightes.
Therwith the nyght-spel seyde he anon-rightes
On foure halves of the hous aboute,
And on the thresshfold of the dore withoute:
Jhesu crist and seinte benedight,
Blesse this hous from every wikked wight,
For nyghtes verye, the white pater-noster!
Where wentestow, seinte petres soster?
And atte laste this hende nicholas
Gan for to sik soore, and seyde, allas!
Shal al the world be lost aftsoones now?
This carpenter answerde, what seystow?
What! thynk on god, as we doon, men that swynke.
This nicholas answerde, fecche me drynke,
And after wol I speke in pryvetee
Of certeyn thyng that toucheth me and thee.
I wol telle it noon oother man, certeyn.
This carpenter goth doun, and comth ageyn,
And broghte of myghty ale a large quart;
And whan that ech of hem had dronke his part,
This nicholas his dore faste shette,
And doun the carpenter by hym he sette.
He seyde john, myn hooste, lief and deere,
Thou shalt upon thy trouthe swere me heere
That to no wight thou shalt this conseil wreye;
For it is cristes conseil that I seye,
And if thou telle it man, thou art forlore;
For this vengeaunce thou shalt han therfore,
That if thou wreye me, thou shalt be wood.
Nay, crist forbede it, for his hooly blood!
Quod tho this sely man, I nam no labbe;
Ne, though I seye, I nam nat lief to gabbe.
Sey what thou wolt, I shal it nevere telle
To child ne wyf, by hym that harwed helle!
Now john, quod nicholas, I wol nat lye;
I have yfounde in myn astrologye,
As I have looked in the moone bright,
That now a monday next, at quarter nyght,
Shal falle a reyn, and that so wilde and wood,
That half so greet was nevere noes flood.
This world, he seyde, in lasse than an hour
Shal al be dreynt, so hidous is the shour.
Thus shal mankynde drenche, and lese hir lyf.
This carpenter answerde, allas, my wyf!
And shal she drenche? allas, myn alisoun!
For sorwe of this he fil almoost adoun,
And seyde, is ther no remedie in this cas?
Why, yis, for gode, quod hende nicholas,
If thou wolt werken after loore and reed.
Thou mayst nat werken after thyn owene heed;
For thus seith salomon, that was ful trewe,
Werk al by conseil, and thou shalt nat rewe. --
And if thou werken wolt by good conseil,
I undertake, withouten mast and seyl,
Yet shal I saven hire and thee and me.
Hastow nat herd hou saved was noe,
Whan that oure lord hadde warned hym biforn
That al the world with water sholde be lorn?
Yis, quod this carpenter, ful yoore ago.
Hastou nat herd, quod nicholas, also
The sorwe of noe with his felaweshipe, [Page 52]
Er that he myghte gete his wyf to shipe?
Hym hadde be levere, I dar wel undertake
At thilke tyme, than alle his wetheres blake
That she hadde had a ship hirself allone.
And therfore, woostou what is best to doone?
This asketh haste, and of an hastif thyng
Men may nat preche or maken tariyng.
Anon go gete us faste into this in
A knedyng trogh, or ellis a kymelyn,
For ech of us, but looke that they be large,
In which we mowe swymme as in a barge,
And han therinne vitaille suffisant
But for a day, -- fy on the remenant!
The water shal aslake and goon away
Aboute pryme upon the nexte day.
But robyn may nat wite of this, thy knave,
Ne eek thy mayde gille I may nat save;
Axe nat why, for though thou aske me,
I wol nat tellen goddes pryvetee.
Suffiseth thee, but if thy wittes madde,
To han as greet a grace as noe hadde.
Thy wyf shal I wel saven, out of doute.
Go now thy wey, and speed thee heer-aboute.
But whan thou hast, for hire and thee and me,
Ygeten us thise knedyng tubbes thre,
Thanne shaltow hange hem in the roof ful hye,
That no man of oure purveiaunce spye.
And whan thou thus hast doon, as I have seyd,
And hast oure vitaille faire in hem yleyd,
And eek an ax, to smyte the corde atwo,
Whan that the water comth, that we may go,
And breke an hole an heigh, upon the gable,
Unto the gardyn-ward, over the stable,
That we may frely passen forth oure way,
Whan that the grete shour is goon away,
Thanne shaltou swymme as myrie, I undertake,
As dooth the white doke after hire drake.
Thanne wol I clepe, -- how, alison! how, john!
Be myrie, for the flood wol passe anon. --
And thou wolt seyn, -- hayl, maister nicholay!
Good morwe, I se thee wel, for it is day. --
And thanne shul we be lordes al oure lyf
Of al the world, as noe and his wyf.
But of o thyng I warne thee ful right:
Be wel avysed on that ilke nyght
That we ben entred into shippes bord,
That noon of us ne speke nat a word,
Ne clepe, ne crie, but be in his preyere;
For it is goddes owene heeste deere.
Thy wyf and thou moote hange fer atwynne;
For that bitwixe yow shal be no synne,
Namoore in lookyng than ther shal in deede,
This ordinance is seyd. Go, God thee speede!
Tomorwe at nyght, whan men ben alle aslepe,
Into oure knedyng-tubbes wol we crepe,
And sitten there, abidyng goddes grace.
Go now thy wey, I have no lenger space
To make of this no lenger sermonyng.
Men seyn thus, -- sende the wise, and sey no thyng: --
Thou art so wys, it needeth thee nat teche.
Go, save oure lyf, and that I the biseche.
This sely carpenter goth forth his wey.
Ful ofte he seide allas and weylawey,
And to his wyf he tolde his pryvetee,
And she was war, and knew it bet than he,
What al this queynte cast was for to seye.
But nathelees she ferde as she wolde deye,
And seyde, allas! go forth thy wey anon,
Help us to scape, or we been dede echon!
I am thy trewe, verray wedded wyf;
Go, deere spouse, and help to save oure lyf.
Lo, which a greet thyng is affeccioun!
Men may dyen of ymaginacioun,
So depe may impressioun be take.
This sely carpenter bigynneth quake;
Hym thynketh verraily that he may see
Noees flood come walwynge as the see
To drenchen alisoun, his hony deere.
He wepeth, weyleth, maketh sory cheere;
He siketh with ful many a sory swogh;
He gooth and geteth hym a knedyng trogh,
And after that a tubbe and a kymelyn,
And pryvely he sente hem to his in,
And heng hem in the roof in pryvetee.
His owene hand he made laddres thre,
To clymben by the ronges and the stalkes
Unto the tubbes hangynge in the balkes,
And hem vitailled, bothe trogh and tubbe,
With breed and chese, and good ale in a jubbe,
Suffisynge right ynogh as for a day.
But er that he hadde maad al this array,
He sente his knave, and eek his wenche also,
Upon his nede to london for to go.
And on the monday, whan it drow to nyght,
He shette his dore withoute candel-lyght,
And dressed alle thyng as it sholde be.
And shortly, up they clomben alle thre;
They seten stille wel a furlong way.
Now, pater-noster, clom! seyde nicholay,
And clom, quod john, and clom, seyde alisoun.
This carpenter seyde his devocioun,
And stille he sit, and biddeth his preyere,
Awaitynge on the reyn, if he it heere.
The dede sleep, for wery bisynesse,
Fil on this carpenter right, as I gesse, [Page 53]
Aboute corfew-tyme, or litel moore;
For travaille of his goost he groneth soore,
And eft he routeth, for his heed myslay.
Doun of the laddre stalketh nicholay,
And alisoun ful softe adoun she spedde;
Withouten wordes mo they goon to bedde,
Ther as the carpenter is wont to lye.
Ther was the revel and the melodye;
And thus lith alison and nicholas,
In bisynesse of myrthe and of solas,
Til that the belle of laudes gan to rynge,
And freres in the chaunsel gonne synge.
This parissh clerk, this amorous absolon,
That is for love alwey so wo bigon,
Upon the monday was at oseneye
With compaignye, hym to disporte and pleye,
And axed upon cas a cloisterer
Ful prively after john the carpenter;
And he drough hym apart out of the chirche,
And seyde, I noot, I saugh hym heere nat wirche
Syn saterday; I trowe that he be went
For tymber, ther oure abbot hath hym sent;
For he is wont for tymber for to go,
And dwellen at the grange a day or two;
Or elles he is at his hous, certeyn.
Where that he be, I kan nat soothly seyn.
This absolon ful joly was and light,
And thoghte, now is tyme to wake al nyght;
For sikirly I saugh hym nat stirynge
Aboute his dore, syn day bigan to sprynge.
So moot I thryve, I shal, at cokkes crowe,
Ful pryvely knokken at his wyndowe
That stant ful lowe upon his boures wal.
To alison now wol I tellen al
My love-longynge, for yet I shal nat mysse
That at the leeste wey I shal hire kisse.
Som maner confort shal I have, parfay.
My mouth hath icched al this longe day;
That is a signe of kissyng atte leeste.
Al nyght me mette eek I was at a feeste.
Therfore I wol go slepe an houre or tweye,
And al the nyght thanne wol I wake and pleye.
Whan that the firste cok hath crowe, anon
Up rist this joly lovere absolon
And hym arraieth gay, at poynt-devys.
But first he cheweth greyn and lycorys,
To smellen sweete, er he hadde kembd his heer.
Under his tonge a trewe-love he beer,
For therby wende he to ben gracious.
He rometh to the carpenteres hous,
And stille he stant under the shot-wyndowe --
Unto his brest it raughte, it was so lowe --
And softe he cougheth with a semy soun --
What do ye, hony-comb, sweete alisoun,
My faire bryd, my sweete cynamome?
Awaketh, lemman myn, and speketh to me!
Wel litel thynken ye upon my wo,
That for youre love I swete ther I go.
No wonder is thogh that I swelte and swete;
I moorne as dooth a lamb after the tete.
Ywis, lemman, I have swich love-longynge,
That lik a turtel trewe is my moornynge.
I may nat ete na moore than a mayde.
go fro the wyndow, jakke fool, she sayde;
As help me god, it wol nat be 'com pa me.'
I love another -- and elles I were to blame --
Wel bet than thee, by jhesu, absolon.
Go forth thy wey, or I wol caste a ston,
And lat me slepe, a twenty devel wey!
allas, quod absolon, and weylawey,
That trewe love was evere so yvel biset!
Thanne kysse me, syn it may be no bet,
For jhesus love, and for the love of me.
Wiltow thanne go thy wey therwith? quod she.
Ye, certes, lemman, quod this absolon.
Thanne make thee redy, quod she, I come anon.
And unto nicholas she seyde stille,
Now hust, and thou shalt laughen al thy fille.
This absolon doun sette hym on his knees
And seyde, I am a lord at alle degrees;
For after this I hope ther cometh moore.
Lemman, thy grace, and sweete bryd, thyn oore!
The wyndow she undoth, and that in haste.
Have do, quod she, com of, and speed the faste,
Lest that oure neighebores thee espie.
This absolon gan wype his mouth ful drie.
Derk was the nyght as pich, or as the cole,
And at the wyndow out she putte hir hole,
And absolon, hym fil no bet ne wers,
But with his mouth he kiste hir naked ers
Ful savourly, er he were war of this.
Abak he stirte, and thoughte it was amys,
For wel he wiste a womman hath no berd.
He felte a thyng al rough and long yherd,
And seyde, fy! allas! what have I do?
Tehee! quod she, and clapte the wyndow to,
And absolon gooth forth a sory pas.
A berd! a berd! quod hende nicholas,
By goddes corpus, this goth faire and weel.
This sely absolon herde every deel,
And on his lippe he gan for anger byte, [Page 54]
And to hymself he seyde, I shal thee quyte.
Who rubbeth now, who froteth now his lippes
With dust, with sond, with straw, with clooth, with chippes,
But absolon, that seith ful ofte, allas!
My soule bitake I unto sathanas,
But me were levere than al this toun, quod he,
Of this despit awroken for to be.
Allas, quod he, allas, I ne hadde ybleynt!
His hoote love was coold and al yqueynt;
For fro that tyme that he hadde kist hir ers,
Of paramours he sette nat a kers;
For he was heeled of his maladie.
Ful ofte paramours he gan deffie,
And weep as dooth a child that is ybete.
A softe paas he wente over the strete
Until a smyth men cleped daun gerveys,
That in his forge smythed plough harneys;
He sharpeth shaar and kultour bisily.
This absolon knokketh al esily,
What, who artow? it am I, absalon.
And seyde, undo, gerveys, and that anon.
What, absolon! for cristes sweete tree,
Why rise ye so rathe? ey, benedicitee!
What eyleth yow? som gay gerl, God it woot,
Hath broght yow thus upon the viritoot.
By seinte note, ye woot wel what I mene.
This absolon ne roghte nat a bene
Of al his pley; no word agayn he yaf;
He hadde moore tow on his distaf
Than gerveys knew, and seyde, freend so deere,
That hoote kultour in the chymenee heere,
As lene it me, I have therwith to doone,
And I wol brynge it thee agayn ful soone.
Gerveys answerde, certes, were it gold,
Or in a poke nobles alle untold,
Thou sholdest have, as I am trewe smyth.
Ey, cristes foo! what wol ye do therwith?
Therof, quod absolon, be as be may.
I shal wel telle it thee to-morwe day --
And caughte the kultour by the colde stele.
Ful softe out at the dore he gan to stele,
And wente unto the carpenteris wal.
He cogheth first, and knokketh therwithal
Upon the wyndowe, right as he dide er.
This alison answerde, who is ther
That knokketh so? I warante it a theef.
Why, nay, quod he, God woot, my sweete leef,
I am thyn absolon, my deerelyng.
Of gold, quod he, I have thee broght a ryng.
My mooder yaf it me, so God me save;
Ful fyn it is, and therto wel ygrave.
This wol I yeve thee, if thou me kisse.
This nicholas was risen for to pisse,
And thoughte he wolde amenden al the jape;
He sholde kisse his ers er that he scape.
And up the wyndowe dide he hastily,
And out his ers he putteth pryvely
Over the buttok, to the haunche-bon;
And therwith spak this clerk, this absolon,
Spek, sweete bryd, I noot nat where thou art.
This nicholas anon leet fle a fart,
As greet as it had been a thonder-dent,
That with the strook he was almoost yblent;
And he was redy with his iren hoot,
And nicholas amydde the ers he smoot.
Of gooth the skyn an hande-brede aboute,
The hoote kultour brende so his toute,
And for the smert he wende for to dye.
As he were wood, for wo he gan to crye,
Help! water! water! water! help, for goddes herte!
This carpenter out of his slomber sterte,
And herde oon crien water as he were wood,
And thoughte, allas, now comth nowelis flood!
He sit hym up withouten wordes mo,
And with his ax he smoot the corde atwo,
And doun gooth al; he foond neither to selle,
Ne breed ne ale, til he cam to the celle
Upon the floor, and ther aswowne he lay.
Up stirte hire alison and nicholay,
And criden out and harrow in the strete.
The neighebores, bothe smale and grete,
In ronnen for to gauren on this man,
That yet aswowne lay, bothe pale and wan,
For with the fal he brosten hadde his arm.
But stonde he moste unto his owene harm;
For whan he spak, he was anon bore doun
With hende nicholas and alisoun.
They tolden every man that he was wood,
He was agast so of nowelis flood
Thurgh fantasie, that of his vanytee
He hadde yboght hym knedyng tubbes thre,
And hadde hem hanged in the roof above;
And that he preyed hem, for goddes love,
To sitten in the roof, par compaignye.
The folk gan laughen at his fantasye;
Into the roof they kiken and they cape,
And turned al his harm unto a jape.
For what so that this carpenter answerde,
It was for noght, no man his reson herde.
With othes grete he was so sworn adoun
That he was holde wood in al the toun;
For every clerk anonright heeld with oother. [Page 55]
They seyde, the man is wood, my leeve brother;
And every wight gan laughen at this stryf.
Thus swyved was this carpenteris wyf,
For al his kepyng and his jalousye;
And absolon hath kist hir nether ye;
And nicholas is scalded in the towte.
This tale is doon, and God save al the rowte!

1.5. The Reeve's Prologue

Whan folk hadde laughen at this nyce cas
Of absolon and hende nicholas,
Diverse folk diversely they seyde,
But for the moore part they loughe and pleyde.
Ne at this tale I saugh no man hym greve,
But it were oonly osewold the reve.
By cause he was of carpenteris craft,
A litel ire is in his herte ylaft;
He gan to grucche, and blamed it a lite.
So theek, quod he, ful wel koude I thee quite
With bleryng of a proud milleres ye,
If that me liste speke of ribaudye.
But ik am oold, me list not pley for age;
Gras tyme is doon, my fodder is now forage;
This white top writeth myne olde yeris;
Myn herte is also mowled as myne heris,
But if I fare as dooth an open-ers, --
That ilke fruyt is ever lenger the wers,
Til it be roten in mullok or in stree.
We olde men, I drede, so fare we:
Til we be roten, kan we nat be rype;
We hoppen alwey whil the world wol pype.
For in oure wyl ther stiketh evere a nayl,
To have an hoor heed and a grene tayl,
As hath a leek; for thogh oure myght be goon,
Oure wyl desireth folie evere in oon.
For whan we may nat doon, than wol we speke;
Yet in oure asshen olde is fyr yreke.
Foure gleedes han we, which I shal devyse, --
Avauntyng, liyng, anger, coveitise;
Thise foure sparkles longen unto eelde.
Oure olde lemes mowe wel been unweelde,
But wyl ne shal nat faillen, that is sooth.
And yet ik have alwey a coltes tooth,
As many a yeer as it is passed henne
Syn that my tappe of lif bigan to renne.
For sikerly, whan I was bore, anon
Deeth drough the tappe of lyf and leet it gon;
And ever sithe hath so the tappe yronne
Til that almoost al empty is the tonne.
The streem of lyf now droppeth on the chymbe.
The sely tonge may wel rynge and chymbe
Of wrecchednesse that passed is ful yoore;
With olde folk, save dotage, is namoore!
Whan that oure hoost hadde herd this sermonyng,
He gan to speke as lordly as a kyng.
He seide, what amounteth al this wit?
What shul we speke alday of hooly writ?
The devel made a reve for to preche,
Or of a soutere a shipman or a leche.
Sey forth thy tale, and tarie nat the tyme
Lo depeford! and it is half-wey pryme.
Lo grenewych, ther many a shrewe is inne!
It were al tyme thy tale to bigynne.
Now, sires, quod this osewold the reve,
I pray yow alle that ye nat yow greve,
Thogh I answere, and somdeel sette his howve;
For leveful is with force force of-showve.
This dronke millere hath ytoold us heer
How that bigyled was a carpenteer,
Peraventure in scorn, for I am oon.
And, by youre leve, I shal hym quite anoon;
Right in his cherles termes wol I speke.
I pray to God his nekke mote to-breke;
He kan wel in myn eye seen a stalke,
But in his owene he kan nat seen a balke.
[Page 56]

1.6. The Reeve's Tale

At trumpyngtoun, nat fer fro cantebrigge,
Ther gooth a brook, and over that a brigge,
Upon the whiche brook ther stant a melle;
And this is verray sooth that I yow telle:
A millere was ther dwellynge many a day.
As any pecok he was proud and gay.
Pipen he koude and fisshe, and nettes beete,
And turne coppes, and wel wrastle and sheete;
Ay by his belt he baar a long panade,
And of a swerd ful trenchant was the blade
A joly poppere baar he is in his pouche;
Ther was no man, for peril, dorste hym touche.
A sheffeld thwitel baar he in his hose.
Round was his face, and camus was his nose;
As piled as an ape was his skulle.
He was a market-betere atte fulle.
Ther dorste no wight hand upon hym legge,
That he ne swoor he sholde anon abegge.
A theef he was for sothe of corn and mele,
And that a sly, and usaunt for to stele.
His name was hoote deynous symkyn.
A wyf he hadde, ycomen of noble kyn;
The person of the toun hir fader was.
With hire he yaf ful many a panne of bras,
For that symkyn sholde in his blood allye.
She was yfostred in a nonnerye;
For symkyn wolde no wyf, as he sayde,
But she were wel ynorissed and a mayde,
To saven his estaat of yomanrye.
And she was proud, and peert as is a pye.
A ful fair sighte was it upon hem two;
On halydayes biforn hire wolde he go
With his typet bounden aboute his heed,
And she cam after in a gyte of reed;
And symkyn hadde hosen of the same.
Ther dorste no wight clepen hire but dame;
Was noon so hardy that wente by the weye
That with hire dorste rage or ones pleye,
But if he wolde be slayn of symkyn
With panade, or with knyf, or boidekyn.
For jalous folk ben perilous everemo;
Algate they wolde hire wyves wenden so.
And eek, for she was somdel smoterlich,
She was as digne as water in a dich,
And ful of hoker and of bisemare.
Hir thoughte that a lady sholde hire spare,
What for hire kynrede and hir nortelrie
That she hadde lerned in the nonnerie.
A doghter hadde they bitwixe hem two
Of twenty yeer, withouten any mo,
Savynge a child that was of half yeer age;
In cradel it lay and was a propre page.
This wenche thikke and wel ygrowen was,
With kamus nose, and eyen greye as glas,
With buttokes brode, and brestes rounde and hye;
But right fair was hire heer, I wol nat lye.
This person of the toun, for she was feir,
In purpos was to maken hire his heir,
Bothe of his catel and his mesuage,
And straunge he made it of hir mariage.
His purpos was for to bistowe hire hye
Into som worthy blood of auncetrye;
For hooly chirches good moot been despended
On hooly chirches blood, that is descended.
Therfore he wolde his hooly blood honoure,
Though that he hooly chirche sholde devoure.
Greet sokene hath this millere, out of doute,
With whete and malt of al the land aboute;
And nameliche ther was a greet collegge
Men clepen the soler halle at cantebregge;
Ther was hir whete and eek hir malt ygrounde.
And on a day it happed, in a stounde,
Sik lay the maunciple on a maladye;
Men wenden wisly that he sholde dye.
For which this millere stal bothe mele and corn
An hundred tyme moore than biforn;
For therbiforn he stal but curteisly,
But now he was a theef outrageously,
For which the wardeyn chidde and made fare.
But therof sette the millere nat a tare;
He craketh boost, and swoor it was nat so.
Thanne were ther yonge povre scolers two,
That dwelten in this halle, of which I seye.
Testif they were, and lusty for to pleye,
And, oonly for hire myrthe and revelrye,
Upon the wardeyn bisily they crye
To yeve hem leve, but a litel stounde,
To goon to mille and seen hir corn ygrounde;
And hardily they dorste leye hir nekke
The millere sholde not stele hem half a pekke
Of corn by sleighte, ne by force hem reve;
And at the laste the wardeyn yaf hem leve.
John highte that oon, and aleyn highte that oother; [Page 57]
Of o toun were they born, that highte strother,
Fer in the north, I kan nat telle where.
This aleyn maketh redy al his gere,
And on an hors the sak he caste anon.
Forth goth aleyn the clerk, and also john,
With good swerd and with bokeler by hir syde.
John knew the wey, -- hem nedede no gyde, --
And at the mille the sak adoun he layth.
Aleyn spak first, al hayl, symond, y-fayth!
Hou fares thy faire doghter and thy wyf?
Aleyn, welcome, quod symkyn, by my lyf!
And john also, how now, what do ye heer?
Symond, quod john, by god, nede has na peer.
Hym boes serve hymself that has na swayn,
Or elles he is a fool, as clerkes sayn.
Oure manciple, I hope he wil be deed,
Swa werkes ay the wanges in his heed;
And forthy is I come, and eek alayn,
To grynde oure corn and carie it ham agayn;
I pray yow spede us heythen that ye may.
It shal be doon, quod symkyn, by my fay!
What wol ye doon whil that it is in hande?
By god, right by the hopur wil I stande,
Quod john, and se howgates the corn gas in.
Yet saugh I nevere, by my fader kyn,
How that the hopur wagges til and fra.
Aleyn answerde, john, and wiltow swa?
Thanne wil I be bynethe, by my croun,
And se how that the mele falles doun
Into the trough; that sal be my disport.
For john, y-faith, I may been of youre sort;
I is as ille a millere as ar ye.
This millere smyled of hir nycetee,
And thoghte, al this nys doon but for a wyle.
They wene that no man may hem bigyle,
But by my thrift, yet shal I blere hir ye,
For al the sleighte in hir philosophye.
The moore queynte crekes that they make,
The moore wol I stele whan I take.
In stide of flour yet wol I yeve hem bren.
-- The gretteste clerkes been noght wisest men, --
As whilom to the wolf thus spak the mare.
Of al hir art ne counte I noght a tare.
Out at the dore he gooth ful pryvely,
Whan that he saugh his tyme, softely.
He looketh up and doun til he hath founde
The clerkes hors, ther as it stood ybounde
Bihynde the mille, under a levesel;
And to the hors he goth hym faire and wel;
He strepeth of the brydel right anon.
And whan the hors was laus, he gynneth gon
Toward the fen, ther wilde mares renne,
And forth with wehee, thurgh thikke and thurgh thenne.
This millere gooth agayn, no word he seyde,
But dooth his note, and with the clerkes pleyde,
Til that hir corn was faire and well ygrounde.
And whan the mele is sakked and ybounde,
This john goth out and fynt his hors away,
And gan to crie harrow! and weylaway! [Page 58]
Oure hors is lorn, alayn, for goddes banes,
Step on thy feet! com of, man, al atanes!
Allas, our wardeyn has his palfrey lorn.
This aleyn al forgat, bothe mele and corn;
Al was out of his mynde his housbondrie.
What, whilk way is he geen? he gan to crie.
The wyf cam lepynge inward with a ren.
She seyde, allas! youre hors goth to the fen
With wilde mares, as faste as he may go.
Unthank come on his hand that boond hym so,
And he that bettre sholde han knyt the reyne!
Allas, quod john, aleyn, for cristes peyne
Lay doun thy swerd, and I wil myn alswa.
I is ful wight, God waat, as is a raa;
By goddes herte, he sal nat scape us bathe!
Why ne had thow pit the capul in the lathe?
Ilhayl! by god, alayn, thou is a fonne!
Thise sely clerkes han ful faste yronne
Toward the fen, bothe aleyn and eek john.
And whan the millere saugh that they were gon,
He half a busshel of hir flour hath take,
And bad his wyf go knede it in a cake.
He seyde, I trowe the clerkes were aferd.
Yet kan a millere make a clerkes berd,
For al his art; now lat hem goon hir weye!
Lo, wher he gooth! ye, lat the children pleye.
They gete hym nat so lightly, by my croun.
Thise sely clerkes rennen up and doun
With keep! keep! stand! stand! jossa, warderere,
Ga whistle thou, and I shal kepe hym heere!
But shortly, til that it was verray nyght,
They koude nat, though they dide al hir myght,
Hir capul cacche, he ran alwey so faste,
Til in a dych they caughte hym atte laste.
Wery and weet, as beest is in the reyn,
Comth sely john, and with him comth aleyn.
Allas, quod john, the day that I was born!
Now are we dryve til hethyng and til scorn.
Oure corn is stoln, men wil us fooles calle,
Bathe the wardeyn and oure felawes alle,
And namely the millere, weylaway!
Thus pleyneth john as he gooth by the way
Toward the mille, and bayard in his hond.
The millere sittynge by the fyr he fond,
For it was nyght, and forther myghte they noght;
But for the love of God they hym bisoght
Of herberwe and of ese, as for hir peny.
The millere seyde agayn, if ther be eny,
Swich as it is, yet shal ye have youre part.
Myn hous is streit, but ye han lerned art;
Ye konne by argumentes make a place
A myle brood of twenty foot of space.
Lat se now if this place may suffise,
Or make it rowm with speche, as is youre gise.
Now, symond, seyde john, by seint cutberd,
Ay is thou myrie, and this is faire answerd.
I have herd seyd, -- man sal taa of twa thynges
Slyk as he fyndes, or taa slyk as he brynges. --
But specially I pray thee, hooste deere,
Get us som mete and drynke, and make us cheere,
And we wil payen trewely atte fulle.
With empty hand men may na haukes tulle;
Loo, heere oure silver, redy for to spende.
This millere into toun his doghter sende
For ale and breed, and rosted hem a goos,
And boond hire hors, it sholde namoore go loos;
And in his owene chambre hem made a bed,
With sheetes and with chalons faire yspred
Noght from his owene bed ten foot or twelve.
His doghter hadde a bed, al by hirselve,
Right in the same chambre by and by.
It myghte be no bet, and cause why?
Ther was no roumer herberwe in the place.
They soupen and they speke, hem to solace,
And drynken evere strong ale atte beste.
Aboute mydnyght wente they to reste.
Wel hath this millere vernysshed his heed;
Ful pale he was for dronken, and nat reed.
He yexeth, and he speketh thurgh the nose
As he were on the quakke, or on the pose.
To bedde he goth, and with hym goth his wyf.
As any jay she light was and jolyf,
So was hir joly whistle wel ywet.
The cradel at hir beddes feet is set,
To rokken, and to yeve the child to sowke.
And whan that dronken al was in the crowke,
To bedde wente the doghter right anon;
To bedde goth aleyn and also john;
Ther nas na moore, -- hem nedede no dwale.
This millere hath so wisely bibbed ale
That as an hors he fnorteth in his sleep,
Ne of his tayl bihynde he took no keep.
His wyf bar hym a burdon, a ful strong;
Men myghte hir rowtyng heere two furlong;
The wenche rowteth eek, par compaignye.
Aleyn the clerk, that herde this melodye,
He poked john, and seyde, slepestow?
Herdestow evere slyk a sang er now?
Lo, swilk a complyn is ymel hem alle,
A wilde fyr upon thair bodyes falle!
Wha herkned evere slyk a ferly thyng?
Ye, they sal have the flour of il endyng.
This lange nyght ther tydes me na reste;
But yet, nafors, al sal be for the beste.
For, john, seyde he, als evere moot I thryve,
If that I may, yon wenche wil I swyve.
Som esement has lawe yshapen us;
For, john, ther is a lawe that says thus,
That gif a man in a point be agreved,
That in another he sal be releved.
Oure corn is stoln, sothly, it is na nay,
And we han had an il fit al this day;
And syn I sal have neen amendement
Agayn my los, I will have esement.
By goddes sale, it sal neen other bee!
This john answerde, alayn, avyse thee!
The millere is a perilous man, he seyde,
And gif that he out of his sleep abreyde,
He myghte doon us bathe a vileynye.
Aleyn answerde, I counte hym nat a flye.
And up he rist, and by the wenche he crepte.
This wenche lay uprighte, and faste slepte,
Til he so ny was, er she myghte espie,
That it had been to late for to crie,
And shortly for to seyn, they were aton.
Now pley, aleyn, for I wol speke of john.
This john lith stille a furlong wey or two,
And to hymself he maketh routhe and wo.
Allas! quod he, this is a wikked jape;
Now may I seyn that I is but an ape.
Yet has my felawe somwhat for his harm;
He has the milleris doghter in his arm.
He auntred hym, and has his nedes sped,
And I lye as a draf-sak in my bed;
And when this jape is tald another day,
I sal been halde a daf, a cokenay!
I wil arise and auntre it, by my fayth!
-- Unhardy is unseely, -- thus men sayth.
And up he roos, and softely he wente
Unto the cradel, and in his hand it hente,
And baar it softe unto his beddes feet.
Soone after this the wyf hir rowtyng leet,
And gan awake, and wente hire out to pisse,
And cam agayn, and gan hir cradel mysse,
And groped heer and ther, but she foond noon. [Page 59]
Allas! quod she, I hadde almoost mysgoon;
I hadde almoost goon to the clerkes bed.
Ey, benedicite! thanne hadde I foule ysped.
And forth she gooth til she the cradel fond.
She gropeth alwey forther with hir hond,
And foond the bed, and thoghte noght but good,
By cause that the cradel by it stood,
And nyste wher she was, for it was derk;
But faire and wel she creep in to the clerk,
And lith ful stille, and wolde han caught a sleep.
Withinne a while this john the clerk up leep,
And on this goode wyf he leith on soore.
So myrie a fit ne hadde she nat ful yoore;
He priketh harde and depe as he were mad.
This joly lyf han thise two clerkes lad
Til that the thridde cok bigan to synge.
Aleyn wax wery in the dawenynge,
For he had swonken al the longe nyght,
And seyde, fare weel, malyne, sweete wight!
The day is come, I may no lenger byde;
But everemo, wher so I go or ryde,
I is thyn awen clerk, swa have I seel!
Now, deere lemman, quod she, go, far weel!
But er thow go, o thyng I wol thee telle:
Whan that thou wendest homward by the melle,
Right at the entree of the dore bihynde
Thou shalt a cake of half a busshel fynde
That was ymaked of thyn owene mele,
Which that I heelp my sire for to stele.
And, goode lemman, God thee save and kepe!
And with that word almoost she gan to wepe.
Aleyn up rist, and thoughte, er that it dawe,
I wol go crepen in by my felawe;
And fond the cradel with his hand anon.
By god, thoughte he, al wrang I have mysgon.
Myn heed is toty of my swynk to-nyght,
That makes me that I ga nat aright.
I woot wel by the cradel I have mysgo;
Heere lith the millere and his wyf also.
And forth he goth, a twenty devel way,
Unto the bed ther as the millere lay.
He wende have cropen by his felawe john,
And by the millere in he creep anon,
And caughte hym by the nekke, and softe he spak.
He seyde, thou john, thou swynes-heed, awak,
For cristes saule, and heer a noble game.
For by that lord that called is seint jame,
As I have thries in this shorte nyght
Swyved the milleres doghter bolt upright,
Whil thow hast, as a coward, been agast.
Ye, false harlot, quod the miller, hast?
A, false traitour! false clerk! quod he,
Thow shalt be deed, by goddes dignitee!
Who dorste be so boold to disparage
My doghter, that is come of swich lynage?
And by the throte-bolle he caughte alayn,
And he hente hym despitously agayn,
And on the nose he smoot hym with his fest.
Doun ran the blody streem upon his brest;
And in the floor, with nose and mouth tobroke,
They walwe as doon two pigges in a poke;
And up they goon, and doun agayn anon,
Til that the millere sporned at a stoon,
And doun he fil bakward upon his wyf,
That wiste no thyng of this nyce stryf;
For she was falle aslepe a lite wight
With john the clerk, that waked hadde al nyght,
And with the fal out of hir sleep she breyde.
Help! hooly croys of bromeholm, she seyde,
In manus tuas! lord, to thee I calle!
Awak, symond! the feend is on me falle.
Myn herte is broken; help! I nam but deed!
Ther lyth oon upon my wombe and on myn heed.
Help, symkyn, for the false clerkes fighte!
This john stirte up as faste as ever he myghte,
And graspeth by the walles to and fro,
To fynde a staf; and she stirte up also,
And knew the estres bet than dide this john,
And by the wal a staf she foond anon,
And saugh a litel shymeryng of a light,
For at an hole in shoon the moone bright;
And by that light she saugh hem bothe two,
But sikerly she nyste who was who,
But as she saugh a whit thyng in hir ye.
And whan she gan this white thyng espye,
She wende the clerk hadde wered a volupeer,
And with the staf she drow ay neer and neer,
And wende han hit this aleyn at the fulle,
And smooth the millere on the pyled skulle,
That doun he gooth, and cride, harrow! I dye!
Thise clerkes beete hym weel and lete hym lye;
And greythen hem, and tooke hir hors anon,
And eek hire mele, and on hir wey they gon.
And at the mille yet they tooke hir cake
Of half a busshel flour, ful wel ybake. [Page 60]
Thus is the proude millere wel ybete,
And hath ylost the gryndynge of the whete,
And payed for the soper everideel
Of aleyn and of john, that bette hym weel.
His wyf is swyved, and his doghter als.
Lo, swich it is a millere to be fals!
And therfore this proverbe is seyd ful sooth,
Hym thar nat wene wel that yvele dooth;
A gylour shal hymself bigyled be.
And god, that sitteth heighe in magestee,
Save al this compaignye, grete and smale!
Thus have I quyt the millere in my tale.

1.7. The Cook's Prologue

The cook of londoun, whil the reve spak,
For joye him thoughte he clawed him on the bak.
Ha! ha! quod he, for cristes passion,
This millere hadde a sharp conclusion
Upon his argument of herbergage!
Wel seyde salomon in his langage,
-- Ne bryng nat every man into thyn hous; --
For herberwynge by nyghte is perilous.
Wel oghte a man avysed for to be
Whom that he broghte into his pryvetee.
I pray to god, so yeve me sorwe and care
If evere, sitthe I highte hogge of ware,
Herde I a millere bettre yset a-werk.
He hadde a jape of malice in the derk.
But God forbede that we stynte heere;
And therfore, if ye vouche-sauf to heere
A tale of me, that am a povre man,
I wol yow telle, as wel as evere I kan,
A litel jape that fil in oure citee.
Oure hoost answerde and seide, I graunte it thee.
Now telle on, roger, looke that it be good;
For many a pastee hastow laten blood,
And many a jakke of dovere hastow soold
That hath been twies hoot and twies coold.
Of many a pilgrym hastow cristes curs,
For of thy percely yet they fare the wors,
That they han eten with thy stubbel goos;
For in thy shoppe is many a flye loos.
Now telle on, gentil roger by thy name.
But yet I pray thee, be nat wroth for game;
A man may seye ful sooth in game and pley.
Thou seist ful sooth, quod roger, by my fey!
But -- sooth pley, quaad pley, -- as the flemyng seith.
And therfore, herry bailly, by thy feith,
Be thou nat wrooth, er we departen heer,
Though that my tale be of an hostileer.
But nathelees I wol nat telle it yit;
But er we parte, ywis, thou shalt be quit.
And therwithal he lough and made cheere,
And seyde his tale, as ye shul after heere.

1.8. The Cook's Tale

A prentys whilom dwelled in oure citee,
And of a craft of vitailliers was hee.
Gaillard he was as goldfynch in the shawe,
Broun as a berye, a propre short felawe,
With lokkes blake, ykembd ful fetisly.
Dauncen he koude so wel and jolily
That he was cleped perkyn revelour.
He was as ful of love and paramour
As is the hyve ful of hony sweete:
Wel was the wenche with hym myghte meete. [Page 61]
At every bridale wolde he synge and hoppe;
He loved bet the taverne than the shoppe.
For whan ther any ridyng was in chepe,
Out of the shoppe thider wolde he lepe --
Til that he hadde al the sighte yseyn,
And daunced wel, he wolde nat come ayeyn --
And gadered hym a meynee of his sort
To hoppe and synge and maken swich disport;
And ther they setten stevene for to meete,
To pleyen at the dys in swich a streete.
For in the toune nas ther no prentys
That fairer koude caste a paire of dys
Than perkyn koude, and therto he was free
Of his dispense, in place of pryvetee.
That fond his maister wel in his chaffare;
For often tyme he foond his box ful bare.
For sikerly a prentys revelour
That haunteth dys, riot, or paramour.
His maister shal it in his shoppe abye,
Al have he no part of the mynstralcye.
For thefte and riot, they been convertible,
Al konne he pleye on gyterne or ribible.
Revel and trouthe, as in a lowe degree,
They been ful wrothe al day, as men may see.
this joly prentys with his maister bood,
Til he were ny out of his prentishood,
Al were he snybbed bothe erly and late,
And somtyme lad with revel to newegate.
But atte laste his maister him bithoghte.
Upon a day, whan he his papir soghte,
Of a proverbe that seith this same word,
Wel bet is roten appul out of hoord
Than that it rotie al the remenaunt.
So fareth it by a riotous servaunt;
It is ful lasse harm to lete hym pace,
Than he shende alle the servantz in the place.
Therfore his maister yaf hym acquitance,
And bad hym go, with sorwe and with meschance!
And thus this joly prentys hadde his leve.
Now lat hym riote al the nyght or leve.
And for ther is no theef withoute a lowke,
That helpeth hym to wasten and to sowke
Of that he brybe kan or borwe may,
Anon he sente his bed and his array
Unto a compeer of his owene sort,
That lovede dys, and revel, and disport,
And hadde a wyf that heeld for contenance
A shoppe, and swyved for hir sustenance.
[Page 62]

2. Group 2

2.1. The Introduction to the Man of Law's Tale

Oure hooste saugh wel that the brighte sonne
The ark of his artificial day hath ronne
The ferthe part, and half an houre and moore,
And though he were nat depe ystert in loore,
He wiste it was the eightetethe day
Of aprill, that is messager to may;
And saugh wel that the shadwe of every tree
Was as in lengthe the same quantitee
That was the body erect that caused it.
And therfore by the shadwe he took his wit
That phebus, which that shoon so clere and brighte,
Degrees was fyve and fourty clombe on highte;
And for that day, as in that latitude,
It was ten of the clokke, he gan conclude,
And sodeynly he plighte his hors aboute.
Lordynges, quod he, I warne yow, al this route,
The fourthe party of this day is gon.
Now, for the love of God and of seint john,
Leseth no tyme, as ferforth as ye may.
Lordynges, the tyme wasteth nyght and day,
And steleth from us, what pryvely slepynge,
And what thurgh necligence in oure wakynge,
As dooth the streem that turneth nevere agayn,
Descendynge fro the montaigne into playn.
Wel kan senec and many a philosophre
Biwaillen tyme moore than gold in cofre;
For -- los of catel may recovered be,
But los of tyme shendeth us, -- quod he.
It wol nat come agayn, withouten drede,
Namoore than wole malkynes maydenhede,
Whan she hath lost it in hir wantownesse.
Lat us nat mowlen thus in ydelnesse.
Sire man of lawe, quod he, so have ye blis,
Telle us a tale anon, as forward is.
Ye been submytted, thurgh youre free assent,
To stonden in this cas at my juggement.
Acquiteth yow now of youre biheeste;
Thanne have ye do youre devoir atte leeste.
Hooste, quod he, depardieux, ich assente;
To breke forward is nat myn entente.
Biheste is dette, and I wole holde fayn
Al my biheste, I kan no bettre sayn.
For swich lawe as a man yeveth another wight,
He sholde hymselven usen it, by right;
Thus wole oure text. But nathelees, certeyn,
I kan right now no thrifty tale seyn
That chaucer, thogh he kan but lewedly
On metres and on rymyng craftily,
Hath seyd hem in swich englissh as he kan
Of olde tyme, as knoweth many a man;
And if he have noght seyd hem, leve brother,
In o book, he hath seyd hem in another.
For he hath toold of loveris up and doun
Mo than ovide made of mencioun
In his episteles, that been ful olde.
What sholde I tellen hem, syn they been tolde?
In youthe he made of ceys and alcione,
And sitthen hath he spoken of everichone,
Thise noble wyves and thise loveris eke.
Whoso that wole his large volume seke,
Cleped the seintes legende of cupide,
Ther may he seen the large woundes wyde
Of lucresse, and of babilan tesbee;
The swerd of dido for the false enee;
The tree of phillis for hire demophon;
The pleinte of dianire and of hermyon,
Of adriane, and of isiphilee;
The bareyne yle stondynge in the see;
The dreynte leandre for his erro;
The teeris of eleyne, and eek the wo
Of brixseyde, and of the, ladomya;
The crueltee of the, queene medea,
Thy litel children hangynge by the hals,
For thy jason, that was of love so fals!
O ypermystra, penelopee, alceste,
Youre wifhod he comendeth with the beste!
But certeinly no word ne writeth he
Of thilke wikke ensample of canacee,
That loved hir owene brother synfully;
Of swiche cursed stories I sey fy!)
Or ellis of tyro appollonius,
How that the cursed kyng antiochus
Birafte his doghter of hir maydenhede,
That is so horrible a tale for to rede,
Whan he hir threw upon the pavement.
And therfore he, of ful avysement, [Page 63]
Nolde nevere write in none of his sermons
Of swiche unkynde abhomynacions,
Ne I wol noon reherce, if that I may.
But of my tale how shal I doon this day?
Me were looth be likned, doutelees,
To muses that men clepe pierides --
Methamorphosios woot what I mene;
But nathelees, I recche noght a bene
Though I come after hym with hawebake.
I speke in prose, and lat him rymes make.
And with that word he, with a sobre cheere,
Bigan his tale, as ye shal after heere.

2.2. The Man of Law's Prologue

O hateful harm, condicion of poverte!
With thurst, with coold, with hunger so confoundid!
To asken help thee shameth in thyn herte;
If thou noon aske, with nede artow so woundid
That verray nede unwrappeth al thy wounde hid!
Maugree thyn heed, thou most for indigence
Or stele, or begge, or borwe thy despence!
Thow blamest crist, and seist ful bitterly,
He mysdeparteth richesse temporal;
Thy neighebor thou wytest synfully,
And seist thou hast to lite, and he hath al.
0parfay, seistow, somtyme he rekene shal,
Whan that his tayl shal brennen in the gleede,
For he noght helpeth needfulle in hir neede.
Herkne what is the sentence of the wise:
Bet is to dyen than have indigence;
Thy selve neighebor wol thee despise.
If thou be povre, farwel thy reverence!
Yet of the wise man take this sentence:
Alle the dayes of povre men been wikke.
Be war, therfore, er thou come to that prikke!
If thou be povre, thy brother hateth thee,
And alle thy freendes fleen from thee, allas!
O riche marchauntz, ful of wele been yee,
O noble, o prudent folk, as in this cas!
Youre bagges been nat fild with ambes as,
But with sys cynk, that renneth for youre chaunce;
At cristemasse myrie may ye daunce!
Ye seken lond and see for yowre wynnynges;
As wise folk ye knowen al th' estaat
Of regnes; ye been fadres of tidynges
And tales, bothe of pees and of debaat.
I were right now of tales desolaat,
Nere that a marchant, goon is many a yeere,
Me taughte a tale, which that ye shal heere.

2.3. The Man of Law's Tale

In surrye whilom dwelte a compaignye
Of chapmen riche, and therto sadde and trewe,
That wyde-where senten hir spicerye,
Clothes of gold, and satyns riche of hewe.
Hir chaffare was so thrifty and so newe
That every wight hath deyntee to chaffare
With hem, and eek to sellen hem hire ware.
Now fil it that the maistres of that sort
Han shapen hem to rome for to wende;
Were it for chapmanhod or for disport,
Noon oother message wolde they thider sende,
But comen hemself to rome, this is the ende;
And in swich place as thoughte hem avantage
For hire entente, they take hir herbergage.
Sojourned han thise merchantz in that toun
A certein tyme, as fil to hire plesance.
And so bifel that th' excellent renoun
Of the emperoures doghter, dame custance,
Reported was, with every circumstance,
Unto thise surryen marchantz in swich wyse.
Fro day to day, as I shal yow devyse.
This was the commune voys of every man:
Oure emperour of rome -- God hym see! --
A doghter hath that, syn the world bigan,
To rekene as wel hir goodnesse as beautee,
Nas nevere swich another as is shee.
I prey to God in honour hire susteene,
And wolde she were of al europe the queene. [Page 64]
In hire is heigh beautee, withoute pride,
Yowthe, withoute grenehede or folye;
To alle hire werkes vertu is hir gyde;
Humblesse hath slayn in hire al tirannye.
She is mirour of alle curteisye;
Hir herte is verray chambre of hoolynesse,
Hir hand, ministre of fredam for almesse.
And al this voys was sooth, as God is trewe.
But now to purpos lat us turne agayn.
Thise marchantz han doon fraught hir shippes newe,
And whan they han this blisful mayden sayn,
Hoom to surrye been they went ful fayn,
And doon hir nedes as they han doon yoore,
And lyven in wele; I kan sey yow namoore.
Now fil it that thise marchantz stode in grace
Of hym that was the sowdan of surrye;
For whan they cam from any strange place,
He wolde, of his benigne curteisye,
Make hem good chiere, and bisily espye
Tidynges of sondry regnes, for to leere
The wondres that they myghte seen or heere.
Amonges othere thynges, specially,
Thise marchantz han hym toold of dame custance
So greet noblesse in ernest, ceriously,
That this sowdan hath caught so greet plesance
To han hir figure in his remembrance,
That al his lust and al his bisy cure
Was for to love hire while his lyf may dure.
Paraventure in thilke large book
Which that men clepe the hevene ywriten was
With sterres, whan that he his birthe took,
That he for love sholde han his deeth, allas!
For in the sterres, clerer than is glas,
Is writen, God woot, whoso koude it rede,
The deeth of every man, withouten drede.
In sterres, many a wynter therbiforn,
Was writen the deeth of ector, achilles,
Of pompei, julius, er they were born;
The strif of thebes; and of ercules,
Of sampson, turnus, and of socrates
The deeth; but mennes wittes ben so dulle
That no wight kan wel rede it atte fulle.
This sowdan for his privee conseil sente,
And, shortly of this matiere for to pace,
He hath to hem declared his entente,
And seyde hem, certein, but he myghte have grace
To han custance withinne a litel space,
He nas but deed; and charged hem in hye
To shapen for his lyf som remedye.
Diverse men diverse thynges seyden;
They argumenten, casten up and doun;
Many a subtil resoun forth they leyden;
They speken of magyk and abusioun.
But finally, as in conclusioun,
They kan nat seen in that noon avantage,
Ne in noon oother wey, save mariage.
Thanne sawe they therinne swich difficultee
By wey of reson, for to speke al playn,
By cause that ther was swich diversitee
Bitwene hir bothe lawes, that they sayn
They trowe, that no cristen prince wolde fayn
Wedden his child under oure lawe sweete
That us was taught by mahoun, oure prophete.
And he answerde, rather than I lese
Custance, I wol be cristned, doutelees.
I moot been hires, I may noon oother chese.
I prey yow hoold youre argumentz in pees;
Saveth my lyf, and beth noght recchelees
To geten hire that hath my lyf in cure;
For in this wo I may nat longe endure.
What nedeth gretter dilatacioun?
I seye, by tretys and embassadrie,
And by the popes mediacioun,
And al the chirche, and al the chivalrie,
That in destruccioun of mawmettrie,
And in encrees of cristes lawe deere,
They been acorded, so as ye shal heere:
How that the sowdan and his baronage
And alle his liges sholde ycristned be,
And he shal han custance in mariage,
And certein gold, I noot what quantitee;
And heer-to founden sufficient suretee.
This same accord was sworn on eyther syde;
Now, faire custance, almyghty God thee gyde!
Now wolde som men waiten, as I gesse,
That I sholde tellen al the purveiance
That th' emperour, of his grete noblesse,
Hath shapen for his doghter, dame custance.
Wel may men knowen that so greet ordinance
May no man tellen in a litel clause
As was arrayed for so heigh a cause.
Bisshopes been shapen with hire for to wende,
Lordes, ladies, knyghtes of renoun, [Page 65]
And oother folk ynowe, this is th' ende;
And notified is thurghout the toun
That every wight, with greet devocioun,
Sholde preyen crist that he this mariage
Receyve in gree, and spede this viage.
The day is comen of hir departynge;
I seye, the woful day fatal is come,
That ther may be no lenger tariynge,
But forthward they hem dressen, alle and some.
Custance, that was with sorwe al overcome,
Ful pale arist, and dresseth hire to wende;
For wel she seeth ther is noon oother ende.
Allas! what wonder is it thogh she wepte,
That shal be sent to strange nacioun
Fro freendes that so tendrely hire kepte,
And to be bounden under subjeccioun
Of oon, she knoweth nat his condicioun?
Housbondes been alle goode, and han ben yoore;
That knowen wyves; I dar sey yow na moore.
Fader, she seyde, thy wrecched child custance,
Thy yonge doghter fostred up so softe,
And ye, my mooder, my soverayn plesance
Over alle thyng, out-taken crist on-lofte,
Custance youre child hire recomandeth ofte
Unto youre grace, for I shal to surrye,
Ne shal I nevere seen yow moore with ye.
Allas! unto the barbre nacioun
I moste anoon, syn that it is youre wille;
But crist, that starf for our redempcioun
So yeve me grace his heestes to fulfille!
I, wrecche womman, no fors though I spille!
Wommen are born to thraldom and penance,
And to been under mannes governance.
I trowe at troye, whan pirrus brak the wal,
Or ilion brende, at thebes the citee,
N' at rome, for the harm thurgh hanybal
That romayns hath venquysshed tymes thre,
Nas herd swich tendre wepyng for pitee
As in the chambre was for hire departynge;
But forth she moot, wher-so she wepe or synge.
O firste moevyng! crueel firmament,
With thy diurnal sweigh that crowdest ay
And hurlest al from est til occident
That naturelly wolde holde another way,
Thy crowdyng set the hevene in swich array
At the bigynnyng of this fiers viage,
That crueel mars hath slayn this mariage.
Infortunat ascendent tortuous,
Of which the lord is helplees falle, allas,
Out of his angle into the derkeste hous!
O mars, o atazir, as in this cas!
O fieble moone, unhappy been thy paas!
Thou knyttest thee ther thou art nat receyved;
Ther thou were weel, fro thennes artow weyved.
Imprudent emperour of rome, allas!
Was ther no philosophre in al thy toun?
Is no tyme bet than oother in swich cas?
Of viage is ther noon eleccioun,
Namely to folk of heigh condicioun?
Noght whan a roote is of a burthe yknowe?
Allas, we been to lewed or to slowe!
To shippe is brought this woful faire mayde
Solempnely, with every circumstance.
Now jhesu crist be with yow alle! she sayde;
Ther nys namoore, but farewel, faire custance!
She peyneth hire to make good contenance;
And forth I lete hire saille in this manere,
And turne I wole agayn to my matere.
The mooder of the sowdan, welle of vices,
Espied hath hir sones pleyn entente,
How he wol lete his olde sacrifices;
And right anon she for hir conseil sente,
And they been come to knowe what she mente.
And whan assembled was this folk in-feere,
She sette hire doun, and seyde as ye shal heere.
Lordes, quod she, ye knowen everichon,
How that my sone in point is for to lete
The hooly lawes of our alkaron,
Yeven by goddes message makomete.
But oon avow to grete God I heete,
The lyf shal rather out of my body sterte
Or makometes lawe out of myn herte!
What sholde us tyden of this newe lawe
But thraldom to oure bodies and penance,
And afterward in helle to be drawe,
For we reneyed mahoun oure creance?
But, lordes, wol ye maken assurance,
As I shal seyn, assentynge to my loore,
And I shal make us sauf for everemoore?
They sworen and assenten, every man,
To lyve with hire and dye, and by hire stonde,
And everich, in the beste wise he kan,
To strengthen hire shal alle his frendes fonde; [Page 66]
And she hath this emprise ytake on honde,
Which ye shal heren that I shal devyse,
And to hem alle she spak right in this wyse:
We shul first feyne us cristendom to take, --
Coold water shal nat greve us but a lite!
And I shal swich a feeste and revel make
That, as I trowe, I shal the sowdan quite.
For thogh his wyf be cristned never so white,
She shal have nede to wasshe awey the rede,
Thogh she a font-ful water with hire lede.
O sowdanesse, roote of iniquitee!
Virago, thou semyrame the secounde!
O serpent under femynynytee,
Lik to the serpent depe in helle ybounde!
O feyned womman, al that may confounde
Vertu and innocence, thurgh thy malice,
Is bred in thee, as nest of every vice!
O sathan, envious syn thilke day
That thou were chaced from oure heritage,
Wel knowestow to wommen the olde way!
Thou madest eva brynge us in servage;
Thou wolt fordoon this cristen mariage.
Thyn instrument so, weylawey the while!
Makestow of wommen, whan thou wolt bigile.
This sowdanesse, whom I thus blame and warye,
Leet prively hire conseil goon hire way.
What sholde I in this tale lenger tarye?
She rydeth to the sowdan on a day,
And seyde hym that she wolde reneye hir lay,
And cristendom of preestes handes fonge,
Repentynge hire she hethen was so longe;
Bisechynge hym to doon hire that honour,
That she moste han the cristen folk to feeste, --
To plesen hem I wol do my labour.
The sowdan seith, I wol doon at youre heeste;
And knelynge thanketh hire of that requeste.
So glad he was, he nyste what to seye.
She kiste hir sone, and hoom she gooth hir weye.
Arryved been this cristen folk to londe
In surrye, with a greet solempne route,
And hastifliche this sowdan sente his sonde,
First to his mooder, and al the regne aboute,
And seyde his wyf was comen, out of doute,
And preyde hire for to ryde agayn the queene,
The honour of his regne to susteene.
Greet was the prees, and riche was th' array
Of surryens and romayns met yfeere;
The mooder of the sowdan, riche and gay,
Receyveth hire with also glad a cheere
As any mooder myghte hir doghter deere,
And to the nexte citee ther bisyde
A softe paas solempnely they ryde.
Noght trowe I the triumphe of julius,
Of which that lucan maketh swich a boost,
Was roialler ne moore curius
Than was th' assemblee of this blisful hoost.
But this scorpioun, this wikked goost,
The sowdanesse, for al hire flaterynge,
Caste under this ful mortally to stynge.
The sowdan comth hymself soone after this
So roially, that wonder is to telle,
And welcometh hire with alle joye and blis.
And thus in murthe and joye I lete hem dwelle;
The fryt of this matiere is that I telle.
Whan tyme cam, men thoughte it for the beste
That revel stynte, and men goon to hir reste.
The tyme cam this olde sowdanesse
Ordeyned hath this feeste of which I tolde,
And to the feeste cristen folk hem dresse
In general, ye, bothe yonge and olde.
Heere may men feeste and roialtee biholde,
And deyntees mo than I kan yow devyse;
But al to deere they boghte it er they ryse.
O sodeyn wo, that evere art successour
To worldly blisse, spreynd with bitternesse!
The ende of the joye of oure worldly labour!
Wo occupieth the fyn of oure gladnesse.
Herke this conseil for thy sikernesse:
Upon thy glade day have in thy mynde
The unwar wo or harm that comth bihynde.
For shortly for to tellen, at o word,
The sowdan and the cristen everichone
Been al tohewe and stiked at the bord,
But it were oonly dame custance allone.
This olde sowdanesse, cursed krone,
Hath with hir freendes doon this cursed dede,
For she hirself wolde al the contree lede.
Ne ther was surryen noon that was converted,
That of the conseil of the sowdan woot, [Page 67]
That he nas al tohewe er he asterted.
And custance han they take anon, foot-hoot,
And in a ship al steerelees, God woot,
They han hir set, and bidde hire lerne saille
Out of surrye agaynward to ytaille.
A certein tresor that she thider ladde,
And, sooth to seyn, vitaille greet plentee
They han hire yeven, and clothes eek she hadde,
And forth she sailleth in the salte see.
O my custance, ful of benignytee,
O emperoures yonge doghter deere,
He that is lord of fortune be thy steere!
She blesseth hire, and with ful pitous voys
Unto the croys of crist thus seyde she:
O cleere, o welful auter, hooly croys,
Reed of the lambes blood ful of pitee,
That wessh the world fro the olde iniquitee,
Me fro the feend and fro his clawes kepe,
That day that I shal drenchen in the depe.
Victorious tree, proteccioun of trewe,
That oonly worthy were for to bere
The kyng of hevene with his woundes newe,
The white lamb, that hurt was with a spere,
Flemere of feendes out of hym and here
On which thy lymes feithfully extenden,
Me kepe, and yif me myght my lyf t' amenden.
Yeres and dayes fleet this creature
Thurghout the see of grece unto the strayte
Of marrok, as it was hire aventure.
On many a sory meel now may she bayte;
After hir deeth ful often may she wayte,
Er that the wilde wawes wol hire dryve
Unto the place ther she shal arryve.
Men myghten asken why she was nat slayn
Eek at the feeste? who myghte hir body save?
And I answere to that demande agayn,
Who saved danyel in the horrible cave
Ther every wight save he, maister and knave,
Was with the leon frete er he asterte?
No wight but god, that he bar in his herte.
God liste to shewe his wonderful myracle
In hire, for we sholde seen his myghty werkis;
Crist, which that is to every harm triacle,
By certeine meenes ofte, as knowen clerkis,
Dooth thyng for certein ende that ful derk is
To mannes wit, that for oure ignorance
Ne konne noght knowe his prudent purveiance.
Now sith she was nat at the feeste yslawe,
Who kepte hire fro the drenchyng in the see?
Who kepte jonas in the fisshes mawe
Til he was spouted up at nynyvee?
Wel may men knowe it was no wight but he
That kepte peple ebrayk from hir drenchynge,
With drye feet thurghout the see passynge.
Who bad the foure spirites of tempest
That power han t' anoyen lond and see,
Bothe north and south, and also west and est,
Anoyeth, neither see, ne land, ne tree?
Soothly, the comandour of that was he
That fro the tempest ay this womman kepte
As wel whan she wook as whan she slepte.
Where myghte this womman mete and drynke have
Thre yeer and moore? how lasteth hire vitaille?
Who fedde the egipcien marie in the cave,
Or in desert? no wight but crist, sanz faille.
Fyve thousand folk it was as greet mervaille
With loves fyve and fisshes two to feede.
God sente his foyson at hir grete neede.
She dryveth forth into oure occian
Thurghout oure wilde see, til atte laste
Under an hoold that nempnen I ne kan,
Fer in northhumberlond the wawe hire caste,
And in the sond hir ship stiked so faste
That thennes wolde it noght of al a tyde;
The wyl of crist was that she sholde abyde.
The constable of the castel doun is fare
To seen this wrak, and al the ship he soghte,
And foond this wery womman ful of care;
He foond also the tresor that she broghte.
In hir langage mercy she bisoghte,
The lyf out of hir body for to twynne,
Hire to delivere of wo that she was inne.
A maner latyn corrupt was hir speche,
But algates therby was she understonde.
The constable, whan hym lyst no longer seche,
This woful womman broghte he to the londe.
She kneleth doun and thanketh goddes sonde;
But what she was she wolde no man seye,
For foul ne fair, thogh that she sholde deye.
She seyde she was so mazed in the see
That she forgat hir mynde, by hir trouthe.
The constable hath of hire so greet pitee,
And eek his wyf, that they wepen for routhe. [Page 68]
She was so diligent, withouten slouthe,
To serve and plesen everich in that place,
That alle hir loven that looken in hir face.
This constable and dame hermengyld, his, wyf,
Were payens, and that contree everywhere;
But hermengyld loved hire right as hir lyf,
And custance hath so longe sojourned there,
In orisons, with many a bitter teere,
Til jhesu hath converted thurgh his grace
Dame hermengyld, constablesse of that place.
In al that lond no cristen dorste route;
Alle cristen folk been fled fro that contree
Thurgh payens, that conquereden al aboute
The plages of the north, by land and see.
To walys fledde the cristyanytee
Of olde britons dwellynge in this ile;
Ther was hir refut for the meene while.
But yet nere cristene britons so exiled
That ther nere somme that in hir privetee
Honoured crist and hethen folk bigiled,
And ny the castel swiche ther dwelten three.
That oon of hem was blynd and myghte nat see,
But it were with thilke eyen of his mynde
With whiche men seen, after that they ben blynde.
Bright was the sonne as in that someres day,
For which the constable and his wyf also
And custance han ytake the righte way
Toward the see a furlong wey or two,
To pleyen and to romen to and fro;
And in hir walk this blynde man they mette,
Croked and oold, with eyen faste yshette.
In name of crist, cride this blinde britoun,
Dame hermengyld, yif me my sighte agayn!
This lady weex affrayed of the soun,
Lest that hir housbonde, shortly for to sayn,
Wolde hire for jhesu cristes love han slayn,
Til custance made hire boold, and bad hire wirche
The wyl of crist, as doghter of his chirche.
The constable weex abasshed of that sight,
And seyde, what amounteth al this fare?
Custance answerde, sire, it is cristes myght,
That helpeth folk out of the feendes snare.
And so ferforth she gan oure lay declare
That she the constable, er that it was eve
Converted, and on crist made hym bileve.
This constable was nothyng lord of this place
Of which I speke, ther he custance fond,
But kepte it strongly many a wyntres space
Under alla, kyng of al northhumbrelond,
That was ful wys, and worthy of his hond
Agayn the scottes, as men may wel heere;
But turne I wole agayn to my mateere.
Sathan, that evere us waiteth to bigile,
Saugh of custance al hire perfeccioun,
And caste anon how he myghte quite hir while,
And made a yong knyght that dwelte in that toun
Love hire so hoote, of foul affeccioun,
That verraily hym thoughte he sholde spille,
But he of hire myghte ones have his wille.
He woweth hire, but it availleth noght;
She wolde do no synne, by no weye.
And for despit he compassed in his thoght
To maken hire on shameful deeth to deye.
He wayteth whan the constable was aweye,
And pryvely upon a nyght he crepte
In hermengyldes chambre, whil she slepte.
Wery, forwaked in hire orisouns,
Slepeth custance, and hermengyld also.
This knyght, thurgh sathanas temptaciouns,
Al softely is to the bed ygo,
And kitte the throte of hermengyld atwo,
And leyde the blody knyf by dame custance,
And wente his wey, ther God yeve hym meschance!
Soone after cometh this constable hoom agayn,
And eek alla, that kyng was of that lond,
And saugh his wyf despitously yslayn,
For which ful ofte he weep and wroong his hond,
And in the bed the blody knyf he fond
By dame custance. Allas! what myghte she seye?
For verray wo hir wit was al aweye.
To kyng alla was toold al this meschance,
And eek the tyme, and where, and in what wise
That in a ship was founden this custance,
As heer-biforn that ye han herd devyse.
The kynges herte of pitee gan agryse,
Whan he saugh so benigne a creature
Falle in disese and in mysaventure.
For as the lomb toward his deeth is broght,
So stant this innocent bifore the kyng. [Page 69]
This false knyght, that hath this tresoun wroght,
Berth hire on hond that she hath doon thys thyng.
But nathelees, ther was greet moornyng
Among the peple, and seyn they kan nat gesse
That she had doon so greet a wikkednesse;
For they han seyn hire evere so vertuous,
And lovynge hermengyld right as hir lyf.
Of this baar witnesse everich in that hous,
Save he that hermengyld slow with his knyf.
This gentil kyng hath caught a greet motyf
Of this witnesse, and thoghte he wolde enquere
Depper in this, a trouthe for to lere.
Allas! custance, thou hast no champioun,
Ne fighte kanstow noght, so weylaway!
But he that starf for our redempcioun,
And boond sathan (and yet lith ther he lay),
So be thy stronge champion this day!
For, but if crist open myracle kithe,
Withouten gilt thou shalt be slayn as swithe.
She sette hire doun on knees, and thus she sayde:
Immortal god, that savedest susanne
Fro false blame, and thou, merciful mayde,
Marie I meene, doghter to seint anne,
Bifore whos child angeles synge osanne,
If I be giltlees of this felonye,
My socour be, for ellis shal I dye!
Have ye nat seyn somtyme a pale face,
Among a prees, of hym that hath be lad
Toward his deeth, wher as hym gat no grace,
And swich a colour in his face hath had,
Men myghte knowe his face that was bistad,
Amonges alle the faces in that route?
So stant custance, and looketh hire aboute.
O queenes, lyvynge in prosperitee,
Duchesses, and ye ladyes everichone,
Haveth som routhe on hire adversitee!
An emperoures doghter stant allone;
She hath no wight to whom to make hir mone.
O blood roial, that stondest in this drede,
Fer been thy freendes at thy grete nede!
This alla kyng hath swich compassioun,
As gentil herte is fulfild of pitee,
That from his eyen ran the water doun.
Now hastily do fecche a book, quod he,
And if this knyght wol sweren how that she
This womman slow, yet wol we us avyse
Whom that we wole that shal been oure justise.
A britoun book, written with evaungiles,
Was fet, and on this book he swoor anoon
She gilty was, and in the meene whiles
An hand hym smoot upon the nekke-boon,
That doun he fil atones as a stoon,
And bothe his eyen broste out of his face
In sighte of every body in that place.
A voys was herd in general audience,
And seyde, thou hast desclaundred, giltelees,
The doghter of hooly chirche in heigh presence;
Thus hastou doon, and yet holde I my pees!
Of this mervaille agast was al the prees;
As mazed folk they stoden everichone,
For drede of wreche, save custance allone.
Greet was the drede and eek the repentance
Of hem that hadden wrong suspecioun
Upon this sely innocent, custance;
And for this miracle, in conclusioun,
And by custances mediacioun,
The kyng -- and many another in that place --
Converted was, thanked be cristes grace!
This false knyght was slayn for his untrouthe
By juggement of alla hastifly;
And yet custance hadde of his deeth greet routhe.
And after this jhesus, of his mercy,
Made alla wedden ful solempnely
This hooly mayden, that is so bright and sheene;
And thus hath crist ymaad custance a queene.
But who was woful, if I shal nat lye,
Of this weddyng but donegild, and namo,
The kynges mooder, ful of tirannye?
Hir thoughte hir cursed herte brast atwo.
She wolde noght hir sone had do so;
Hir thoughte a despit that he sholde take
So strange a creature unto his make.
Me list nat of the chaf, ne of the stree,
Maken so long a tale as of the corn.
What sholde I tellen of the roialtee
At mariage, or which cours goth biforn;
Who bloweth in a trumpe or in an horn?
The fruyt of every tale is for to seye:
They ete, and drynke, and daunce, and synge, and pleye. [Page 70]
They goon to bedde, as it was skile and right;
For thogh that wyves be ful hooly thynges,
They moste take in pacience at nyght
Swiche manere necessaries as been plesynges
To folk that han ywedded hem with rynges,
And leye a lite hir hoolynesse aside,
As for the tyme, -- it may no bet bitide.
On hire he gat a knave child anon,
And to a bisshop, and his constable eke,
He took his wyf to kepe, whan he is gon
To scotlond-ward, his foomen for to seke.
Now faire custance, that is so humble and meke,
So longe is goon with childe, til that stille
She halt hire chambre, abidyng cristes wille.
The tyme is come a knave child she beer;
Mauricius at the fontstoon they hym calle.
This constable dooth forth come a messageer,
And wroot unto his kyng, that cleped was alle,
How that this blisful tidyng is bifalle,
And othere tidynges spedeful for to seye.
He taketh the lettre, and forth he gooth his weye.
This messager, to doon his avantage,
Unto the kynges mooder rideth swithe,
And salueth hire ful faire in his langage:
Madame, quod he, ye may be glad and blithe,
And thanketh God an hundred thousand sithe!
My lady queene hath child, withouten doute,
To joye and blisse to al this regne aboute.
Lo, heere the lettres seled of this thyng,
That I moot bere with al the haste I may.
If ye wol aught unto youre sone the kyng,
I am youre servant, bothe nyght and day.
Donegild answerde, as now at this tyme, nay;
But heere al nyght I wol thou take thy reste.
To-morwe wol I seye thee what me leste.
This messager drank sadly ale and wyn,
And stolen were his lettres pryvely
Out of his box, whil he sleep as a swyn;
And countrefeted was ful subtilly
Another lettre, wroght ful synfully,
Unto the kyng direct of this mateere
Fro his constable, as ye shal after heere.
The lettre spak the queene delivered was
Of so horrible a feendly creature
That in the castel noon so hardy was
That any while dorste ther endure.
The mooder was an elf, by aventure
Ycomen, by charmes or by sorcerie,
And every wight hateth hir compaignye.
Wo was this kyng whan he this lettre had sayn,
But to no wight he tolde his sorwes soore,
But of his owene hand he wroot agayn,
Welcome the sonde of crist for everemoore
To me that am now lerned in his loore!
Lord, welcome be thy lust and thy plesaunce;
My lust I putte al in thyn ordinaunce.
Kepeth this child, al be it foul or feir,
And eek my wyf, unto myn hoom-comynge.
Crist, whan hym list, may sende me an heir
Moore agreable than this to my likynge.
This lettre he seleth, pryvely wepynge,
Which to the messager was take soone,
And forth he gooth; ther is na moore to doone.
O messager, fulfild of dronkenesse,
Strong is thy breeth, thy lymes faltren ay,
And thou biwreyest alle secreenesse.
Thy mynde is lorn, thou janglest as a jay,
Thy face is turned in a newe array.
Ther dronkenesse regneth in any route,
Ther is no conseil hyd, withouten doute.
O donegild, I ne have noon englissh digne
Unto thy malice and thy tirannye!
And therfore to the feend I thee resigne;
Lat hym enditen of thy traitorie!
Fy, mannysh, fy! -- o nay, by god, I lye --
Fy, feendlych spirit, for I dar wel telle,
Thogh thou heere walke, thy spirit is in helle!
This messager comth fro the kyng agayn,
And at the kynges moodres court he lighte,
And she was of this messager ful fayn,
And plesed hym in al that ever she myghte.
He drank, and wel his girdel underpighte;
He slepeth, and he fnorteth in his gyse
Al nyght, til the sonne gan aryse.
Eft were his lettres stolen everychon,
And countrefeted lettres in this wyse:
The king comandeth his constable anon,
Up peyne of hangyng, and on heigh juyse,
That he ne sholde suffren in no wyse
Custance in-with his reawme for t' abyde
Thre dayes and o quarter of a tyde; [Page 71]
But in the same ship as he hire fond,
Hire, and hir yonge sone, and al hir geere,
He sholde putte, and croude hire fro the lond,
And charge hire that she never eft coome theere.
O my custance, wel may thy goost have feere,
And, slepynge, in thy dreem been in penance,
Whan donegild cast al this ordinance.
This messager on morwe, whan he wook,
Unto the castel halt the nexte way,
And to the constable he the lettre took;
And whan that he this pitous lettre say,
Ful ofte he seyde, allas! and weylaway!
Lord crist, quod he, how may this world endure,
So ful of synne is many a creature?
O myghty god, if that it be thy wille,
Sith thou art rightful juge, how may it be
That thou wolt suffren innocentz to spille,
And wikked folk regne in prosperitee?
O goode custance, allas! so wo is me
That I moot be thy tormentour, or deye
On shames deeth; ther is noon oother weye.
Wepen bothe yonge and olde in al that place
Whan that the kyng this cursed lettre sente,
And custance, with a deedly pale face,
The ferthe day toward hir ship she wente.
But nathelees she taketh in good entente
The wyl of crist, and knelynge on the stronde,
She seyde, lord, ay welcome be thy sonde!
He that me kepte fro the false blame
While I was on the lond amonges yow,
He kan me kepe from harm and eek fro shame
In salte see, althogh I se noght how.
As strong as evere he was, he is yet now.
In hym triste I, and in his mooder deere,
That is to me my seyl and eek my steere.
Hir litel child lay wepyng in hir arm,
And knelynge, pitously to hym she seyde,
Pees, litel sone, I wol do thee noon harm.
With that hir coverchief of hir heed she breyde,
And over his litel eyen she it leyde,
And in hir arm she lulleth it ful faste,
And into hevene hire eyen up she caste.
Mooder, quod she, and mayde bright, marie,
Sooth is that thurgh wommanes eggement
Mankynde was lorn, and damned ay to dye,
For which thy child was on a croys yrent.
Thy blisful eyen sawe al his torment;
Thanne is ther no comparison bitwene
Thy wo and any wo man may sustene.
Thow sawe thy child yslayn bifore thyne yen,
And yet now lyveth my litel child, parfay!
Now, lady bright, to whom alle woful cryen,
Thow glorie of wommanhede, thow faire may,
Thow haven of refut, brighte sterre of day,
Rewe on my child, that of thy gentillesse,
Rewest on every reweful in distresse.
O litel child, allas! what is thy gilt,
That nevere wroghtest synne as yet, pardee?
Why wil thyn harde fader han thee spilt?
O mercy, deere constable, quod she,
As lat my litel child dwelle heer with thee;
And if thou darst nat saven hym, for blame,
So kys hym ones in his fadres name!
Therwith she looked bakward to the londe,
And seyde, farewel, housbonde routhelees!
And up she rist, and walketh doun the stronde
Toward the ship, -- hir folweth al the prees, --
And evere she preyeth hire child to holde his pees;
And taketh hir leve, and with an hooly entente
She blisseth hire, and into ship she wente.
Vitailled was the ship, it is no drede,
Habundantly for hire ful longe space,
And othere necessaries that sholde nede
She hadde ynogh, heryed be goddes grace!
For wynd and weder almyghty God purchace,
And brynge hire hoom! I kan no bettre seye,
But in the see she dryveth forth hir weye.
Alla the kyng comth hoom soone after this
Unto his castel, of the which I tolde,
And asketh where his wyf and his child is.
The constable gan aboute his herte colde,
And pleynly al the manere he hym tolde
As ye han herd -- i kan telle it no bettre --
And sheweth the kyng his seel and eek his lettre,
And seyde, lord, as ye comanded me
Up peyne of deeth, so have I doon, certein.
This messager tormented was til he [Page 72]
Moste biknowe and tellen, plat and pleyn,
Fro nyght to nyght, in what place he had leyn;
And thus, by with and sotil enquerynge,
Ymagined was by whom this harm gan sprynge.
The hand was knowe that the lettre wroot,
And al the venym of this cursed dede,
But in what wise, certeinly, I noot.
Th' effect is this, that alla, out of drede,
His mooder slow -- that may men pleynly rede --
For that she traitour was to hire ligeance.
Thus endeth olde donegild, with meschance!
The sorwe that this alla nyght and day
Maketh for his wyf, and for his child also,
Ther is no tonge that it telle may.
But now wol I unto custance go,
That fleteth in the see, in peyne and wo,
Fyve yeer and moore, as liked cristes sonde,
Er that hir ship approched unto londe.
Under an hethen castel, atte laste,
Of which the name in my text noght I fynde,
Custance, and eek hir child, the see up caste.
Almyghty god, that saveth al mankynde,
Have on custance and on hir child som mynde,
That fallen is in hethen hand eft soone,
In point to spille, as I shal telle yow soone.
Doun fro the castel comth ther many a wight
To gauren on this ship and on custance.
But shortly, from the castel, on a nyght,
The lordes styward -- God yeve hym meschance! --
A theef, that hadde reneyed oure creance,
Cam into ship allone, and seyde he sholde
Hir lemman be, wher-so she wolde or nolde.
Wo was this wrecched womman tho bigon;
Hir child cride, and she cride pitously.
But blisful marie heelp hire right anon;
For with hir struglyng wel and myghtily
The theef fil over bord al sodeynly,
And in the see he dreynte for vengeance;
And thus hath crist unwemmed kept custance.
O foule lust of luxurie, lo, thyn ende!
Nat oonly that thou feyntest mannes mynde,
But verraily thou wolt his body shende.
Th' ende of thy werk, or of thy lustes blynde,
Is compleynyng. Hou many oon may men fynde
That noght for werk somtyme, but for th' entente
To doon this synne, been outher slayn or shente!
How may this wayke womman han this strengthe
Hire to defende agayn this renegat?
O golias, unmesurable of lengthe,
Hou myghte david make thee so maat,
So yong and of armure so desolaat?
Hou dorste he looke upon thy dredful face?
Wel may men seen, it nas but goddes grace.
Who yaf judith corage or hardynesse
To sleen hym olofernus in his tente,
And to deliveren out of wrecchednesse
The peple of god? I seye, for this entente,
That right as God spirit of vigour sente
To hem, and saved hem out of meschance,
So sente he myght and vigour to custance.
Forth gooth hir ship thurghout the narwe mouth
Of jubaltare and septe, dryvynge ay
Somtyme west, and somtyme north and south,
And somtyme est, ful many a wery day,
Til cristes mooder -- blessed be she ay! --
Hath shapen, thurgh hir endelees goodnesse,
To make an ende of al hir hevynesse.
Now lat us stynte of custance but a throwe,
And speke we of the romayn emperour,
That out of surrye hath by lettres knowe
The slaughtre of cristen folk, and dishonour
Doon to his doghter by a fals traytour,
I mene the cursed wikked sowdanesse
That at the feeste leet sleen bothe moore and lesse.
For which this emperour hath sent anon
His senatour, with roial ordinance,
And othere lordes, God woot, many oon,
On surryens to taken heigh vengeance.
They brennen, sleen, and brynge hem to meschance
Ful many a day; but shortly, this is th' ende,
Homward to rome they shapen hem to wende.
This senatour repaireth with victorie
To rome-ward, saillynge ful roially,
And mette the ship dryvynge, as seith the storie,
In which custance sit ful pitously.
Nothyng ne knew he what she was, ne why
She was in swich array, ne she nyl seye
Of hire estaat, althogh she sholde deye.
He bryngeth hire to rome, and to his wyf
He yaf hire, and hir yonge sone also; [Page 73]
And with the senatour she ladde hir lyf.
Thus kan oure lady bryngen out of wo
Woful custance, and many another mo.
And longe tyme dwelled she in that place,
In hooly werkes evere, as was hir grace.
The senatoures wyf hir aunte was,
But for al that she knew hire never the moore.
I wol no lenger tarien in this cas,
But to kyng alla, which I spak of yoore,
That for his wyf wepeth and siketh soore,
I wol retourne, and lete I wol custance
Under the senatoures governance.
Kyng alla, which that hadde his mooder slayn,
Upon a day fil in swich repentance
That, if I shortly tellen shal and playn,
To rome he comth to receyven his penance;
And putte hym in the popes ordinance
In heigh and logh, and jhesu crist bisoghte
Foryeve his wikked werkes that he wroghte.
The fame anon thurgh rome toun is born,
How alla kyng shal comen in pilgrymage,
By herbergeours that wenten hym biforn;
For which the senatour, as was usage,
Rood hym agayns, and many of his lynage,
As wel to shewen his heighe magnificence
As to doon any kyng a reverence.
Greet cheere dooth this noble senatour
To kyng alla, and he to hym also;
Everich of hem dooth oother greet honour.
And so bifel that in a day or two
This senatour is to kyng alla go
To feste, and shortly, if I shal nat lye,
Custances sone wente in his compaignye.
Som men wolde seyn at requeste of custance
This senatour hath lad this child to feeste;
I may nat tellen every circumstance, --
Be as be may, ther was he at the leeste.
But sooth is this, that at his moodres heeste
Biforn alla, durynge the metes space,
The child stood, lookynge in the kynges face.
This alla kyng hath of this child greet wonder,
And to the senatour he seyde anon,
Whos is that faire child that stondeth yonder?
I noot, quod he, by god, and by seint john!
A mooder he hath, but fader hath he noon
That I of woot -- and shortly, in a stounde,
He tolde alla how that this child was founde.
But God woot, quod this senatour also,
So vertuous a lyvere in my lyf
Ne saugh I nevere as she, ne herde of mo,
Of worldly wommen, mayde, ne of wyf.
I dar wel seyn hir hadde levere a knyf
Thurghout hir brest, than ben a womman wikke;
There is no man koude brynge hire to that prikke.
Now was this child as lyk unto custance
As possible is a creature to be.
This alla hath the face in remembrance
Of dame custance, and ther on mused he
If that the childes mooder were aught she
That is his wyf, and pryvely he sighte,
And spedde hym fro the table that he myghte.
Parfay, thoghte he, fantome is in myn heed!
I oghte deme, of skilful juggement,
That in the salte see my wyf is deed.
And afterward he made his argument:
What woot I if that crist have hyder ysent
My wyf by see, as wel as he hire sente
To my contree fro thennes that she wente?
And after noon, hoom with the senatour
Goth alla, for to seen this wonder chaunce.
This senatour dooth alla greet honour,
And hastifly he sente after custaunce.
But trusteth weel, hire liste nat to daunce,
Whan that she wiste wherfore was that sonde;
Unnethe upon hir feet she myghte stonde.
Whan alla saugh his wyf, faire he hire grette,
And weep, that it was routhe for to see;
For at the firste look he on hire sette,
He knew wel verraily that it was she.
And she, for sorwe, as doumb stant as a tree,
So was hir herte shet in hir distresse,
Whan she remembred his unkyndenesse.
Twyes she swowned in his owene sighte;
He weep, and hym excuseth pitously.
Now god, quod he, and alle his halwes brighte
So wisly on my soule as have mercy,
That of youre harm as giltelees am I
As is maurice my sone, so lyk youre face;
Elles the feend me fecche out of this place! [Page 74]
Long was the sobbyng and the bitter peyne,
Er that hir woful hertes myghte cesse;
Greet was the pitee for to heere hem pleyne,
Thurgh whiche pleintes gan hir wo encresse.
I pray yow alle my labour to relesse;
I may nat telle hir wo until to-morwe,
I am so wery for to speke of sorwe.
But finally, whan that the sothe is wist
That alla giltelees was of hir wo,
I trowe an hundred tymes been they kist,
And swich a blisse is ther bitwix hem two
That, save the joye that lasteth everemo,
Ther is noon lyk that any creature
Hath seyn or shal, whil that the world may dure.
Tho preyde she hir housbonde mekely,
In relief of hir longe, pitous pyne,
That he wolde preye hir fader specially
That of his magestee he wolde enclyne
To vouche sauf som day with hym to dyne.
She preyde hym eek he sholde by no weye
Unto hir fader no word of hire seye.
Som men wolde seyn how that the child maurice
Dooth this message unto this emperour;
But, as I gesse, alla was nat so nyce
To hym that was of so sovereyn honour
As he that is of cristen folk the flour,
Sente any child, but it is bet to deeme
He wente hymself, and so it may wel seeme.
This emperour hath graunted gentilly
To come to dyner, as he hym bisoughte;
And wel rede I he looked bisily
Upon this child, and on his doghter thoghte.
Alla goth to his in, and as hym oghte,
Arrayed for this feste in every wise
As ferforth as his konnyng may suffise.
The morwe cam, and alla gan hym dresse,
And eek his wyf, this emperour to meete;
And forth they ryde in joye and in gladnesse.
And whan she saugh hir fader in the strete,
She lighte doun, and falleth hym to feete.
Fader, quod she, youre yonge child custance
Is now ful clene out of youre remembrance.
I am youre doghter custance, quod she,
That whilom ye han sent unto surrye.
It am I, fader, that in the salte see
Was put allone and dampned for to dye.
Now, goode fader, mercy I yow crye!
Sende me namoore unto noon hethenesse,
But thonketh my lord heere of his kyndenesse.
Who kan the pitous joye tellen al
Bitwixe hem thre, syn they been thus ymette?
But of my tale make an ende I shal;
The day goth faste, I wol no lenger lette.
This glade folk to dyner they hem sette;
In joye and blisse at mete I lete hem dwelle
A thousand foold wel moore than I kan telle.
This child maurice with sithen emperour
Maad by the pope, and lyved cristenly;
To cristes chirche he dide greet honour.
But I lete al his storie passen by;
Of custance is my tale specially.
In the olde romayn geestes may men fynde
Maurices lyf; I bere it noght in mynde.
This kyng alla, whan he his tyme say,
With his custance, his hooly wyf so sweete,
To engelond been they come the righte way,
Wher as they lyve in joye and in quiete.
But litel while it lasteth, I yow heete,
Joye of this world, for tyme wol nat abyde;
Fro day to nyght it changeth as the tyde.
Who lyved euere in swich delit o day
That hym ne moeved outher conscience,
Or ire, or talent, or som kynnes affray,
Envye, or pride, or passion, or offence?
I ne seye but for this ende this sentence,
That litel while in joye or in plesance
Lasteth the blisse of alla with custance.
For deeth, that taketh of heigh and logh his rente,
Whan passed was a yeer, evene as I gesse,
Out of this world this kyng alla he hente,
For whom custance hath ful greet hevynesse.
Now lat us prayen God his soule blesse!
And dame custance, finally to seye,
Toward the toun of rome goth hir weye.
To rome is come this hooly creature,
And fyndeth hire freendes hoole and sounde;
Now is she scaped al hire aventure.
And whan that she hir fader hath yfounde,
Doun on hir knees falleth she to grounde;
Wepynge for tendrenesse in herte blithe,
She heryeth God an hundred thousand sithe. [Page 75]
In vertu and in hooly almus-dede
They lyven alle, and nevere asonder wende;
Til deeth departeth hem, this lyf they lede.
And fareth now weel! my tale is at an ende.
Now jhesu crist, that of his myght may sende
Joye after wo, governe us in his grace,
And kepe us alle that been in this place! amen

2.4. The Man of Law's Epilogue

(Owre hoost upon his stiropes stood anon,
And seyde, goode men, herkeneth everych on!
This was a thrifty tale for the nones!
Sir parisshe prest, quod he, for goddes bones,
Telle us a tale, as was thi forward yore.
I se wel that ye lerned men in lore
Can moche good, by goddes dignitee!
The parson hem answerde, benedicite!
What eyleth the man, so synfully to swere?
Oure host answerde, o jankin, be ye there?
I smelle a lollere in the wynd, quod he.
Now! goode men, quod oure hoste, herkeneth me;
Abydeth, for goddes digne passioun,
For we schal han a predicacioun;
This lollere heer wil prechen us somwhat.
Nay, by my fader soule, that schal he nat!
Seyde the shipman; heer schal he nat preche;
He schal no gospel glosen here ne teche.
We leven alle in the grete god, quod he;
He wolde sowen som difficulte,
Or springen cokkel in our clene corn.
And therfore, hoost, I warne thee biforn,
My joly body schal a tale telle,
And I schal clynken you so mery a belle,
That I schal waken al this compaignie.
But it schal not ben of philosophie,
Ne phislyas, ne termes queinte of lawe.
Ther is but litel latyn in my mawe!)
[Page 76]

3. Group 3

3.1. The Wife of Bath's Prologue

Experience, though noon auctoritee
Were in this world, is right ynogh for me
To speke of wo that is in mariage;
For, lordynges, sith I twelve yeer was of age,
Thonked be God that is eterne on lyve,
Housbondes at chirche dore I have had fyve, --
If I so ofte myghte have ywedded bee, --
And alle were worthy men in hir degree.
But me was toold, certeyn, nat longe agoon is,
That sith that crist ne wente nevere but onis
To weddyng, in the cane of galilee,
That by the same ensample taughte he me
That I ne sholde wedded be but ones.
Herkne eek, lo, which a sharp word for the nones,
Biside a welle, jhesus, God and man,
Spak in repreeve of the samaritan:
Thou hast yhad fyve housbondes, -- quod he,
-- And that ilke man that now hath thee
Is noght thyn housbonde, -- thus seyde he certeyn.
What that he mente therby, I kan nat seyn;
But that I axe, why that the fifthe man
Was noon housbonde to the samaritan?
How manye myghte she have in mariage?
Yet herde I nevere tellen in myn age
Upon this nombre diffinicioun.
Men may devyne and glosen, up and doun,
But wel I woot, expres, withoute lye,
God bad us for to wexe and multiplye;
That gentil text kan I wel understonde.
Eek wel I woot, he seyde myn housbonde
Sholde lete fader and mooder, and take to me.
But of no nombre mencion made he,
Of bigamye, or of octogamye;
Why sholde men thanne speke of it vileynye?
Lo, heere the wise kyng, daun salomon;
I trowe he hadde wyves mo than oon.
As wolde God it were leveful unto me
To be refresshed half so ofte as he!
Which yifte of God hadde he for alle his wyvys!
No man hath swich that in this world alyve is.
God woot, this noble kyng, as to my wit,
The firste nyght had many a myrie fit
With ech of hem, so wel was hym on lyve.
Yblessed be God that I have wedded fyve!
Welcome the sixte, whan that evere he shal.
For sothe, I wol nat kepe me chaast in al.
Whan myn housbonde is fro the world ygon,
Som cristen man shal wedde me anon,
For thanne, th' apostle seith that I am free
To wedde, a goddes half, where it liketh me.
He seith that to be wedded is no synne;
Bet is to be wedded than to brynne
What rekketh me, thogh folk seye vileynye
Of shrewed lameth and his bigamye?
I woot wel abraham was an hooly man,
And jacob eek, as ferforth as I kan;
And ech of hem hadde wyves mo than two,
And many another holy man also.
Wher can ye seye, in any manere age,
That hye God defended mariage
By expres word? I pray yow, telleth me.
Or where comanded he virginitee?
I woot as wel as ye, it is no drede,
Th' apostel, whan he speketh of maydenhede,
He seyde that precept therof hadde he noon.
Men may conseille a womman to been oon,
But conseillyng is no comandement.
He putte it in oure owene juggement;
For hadde God comanded maydenhede,
Thanne hadde he dampned weddyng with the dede.
And certes, if ther were no seed ysowe,
Virginitee, thanne wherof sholde it growe?
Poul dorste nat comanden, atte leeste,
A thyng of which his maister yaf noon heeste.
The dart is set up for birginitee:
Cacche whoso may, who renneth best lat see.
But this word is nat taken of every wight,
But ther as God lust gyve it of his myght.
I woot wel that th' apostel was a mayde; [Page 77]
But nathelees, thogh that he wroot and sayde
He wolde that every wight were swich as he,
Al nys but conseil to virginitee.
And for to been a wyf he yaf me leve
Of indulgence; so nys it no repreve
To wedde me, if that my make dye,
Withouten excepcion of bigamye.
Al were it good no womman for to touche, --
He mente as in his bed or in his couche;
For peril is bothe fyr and tow t' assemble:
Ye knowe what this ensample may resemble.
This is al and som, he heeld virginitee
Moore parfit than weddyng in freletee.
Freletee clepe I, but if that he and she
Wolde leden al hir lyf in chastitee.
I graunte it wel, I have noon envie,
Thogh maydenhede preferre bigamye.
It liketh hem to be clene, body and goost;
Of myn estaat I nyl nat make no boost.
For wel ye knowe, a lord in his houshold,
He nath nat every vessel al of gold;
Somme been of tree, and doon hir lord servyse.
God clepeth folk to hym in sondry wyse,
And everich hath of God a propre yifte,
Som this, som that, as hym liketh shifte.
Virginitee is greet perfeccion,
And continence eek with devocion,
But crist, that of perfeccion is welle,
Bad nat every wight he sholde go selle
Al that he hadde, and gyve it to the poore
And in swich wise folwe hym and his foore.
He spak to hem that wolde lyve parfitly;
And lordynges, by youre leve, that am nat I.
I wol bistowe the flour of al myn age
In the actes and in fruyt of mariage.
Telle me also, to what conclusion
Were membres maad of generacion,
And of so parfit wys a wight ywroght?
Trusteth right wel, they were nat maad for noght.
Glose whoso wole, and seye bothe up and doun,
That they were maked for purgacioun
Of uryne, and oure bothe thynges smale
Were eek to knowe a femele from a male,
And for noon oother cause, -- say ye no?
The experience woot wel it is noght so.
So that the clerkes be nat with me wrothe,
I sey this, that they maked ben for bothe,
This is to seye, for office, and for ese
Of engendrure, ther we nat God displese.
Why sholde men elles in hir bookes sette
That man shal yelde to his wyf hire dette?
Now wherwith sholde he make his paiement,
If he ne used his sely instrument?
Thanne were they maad upon a creature
To purge uryne, and eek for engendrure.
But I seye noght that every wight is holde,
That hath swich harneys as I to yow tolde,
To goon and usen hem in engendrure.
Thanne sholde men take of chastitee no cure.
Crist was a mayde, and shapen as a man,
And many a seint, sith that the world bigan;
Yet lyved they evere in parfit chastitee.
I nyl envye no virginitee.
Lat hem be breed of pured whete-seed,
And lat us wyves hoten barly-breed;
And yet with barly-breed, mark telle kan,
Oure lord jhesu refresshed many a man.
In swich estaat as God hath cleped us
I wol persevere; I nam nat precius.
In wyfhod I wol use myn instrument
As frely as my makere hath it sent.
If I be daungerous, God yeve me sorwe!
Myn housbonde shal it have bothe eve and morwe,
Whan that hym list come forth and paye his dette.
An housbonde I wol have, I wol nat lette,
Which shal be bothe my dettour and my thral,
And have his tribulacion withal
Upon his flessh, whil that I am his wyf.
I have the power durynge al my lyf
Upon his propre body, and noght he.
Right thus the apostel tolde it unto me;
And bad oure housbondes for to love us weel.
Al this sentence me liketh every deel --
Up stirte the pardoner, and that anon:
Now, dame, quod he, by God and by seint john!
Ye been a noble prechour in this cas.
I was aboute to wedde a wyf; allas!
What sholde I bye it on my flessh so deere?
Yet hadde I levere wedde no wyf to-yeere!
Abyde! quod she, my tale is nat bigonne.
Nay, thou shalt drynken of another tonne,
Er that I go, shal savoure wors than ale.
And whan that I have toold thee forth my tale
Of tribulacion in mariage,
Of which I am expert in al myn age,
This is to seyn, myself have been the whippe, --
Than maystow chese wheither thou wolt sippe
Of thilke tonne that I shal abroche.
Be war of it, er thou to ny approche;
For I shal telle ensamples mo than ten.
--Whoso that nyl be war by othere men,
By hym shul othere men corrected be. --
The same wordes writeth ptholomee;
Rede in his almageste, and take it there. [Page 78]
Dame, I wolde praye yow, if youre wyl it were,
Seyde this pardoner, as ye bigan,
Telle forth youre tale, spareth for no man,
And teche us yonge men of youre praktike.
Gladly, quod she, sith it may yow like;
But that I praye to al this compaignye,
If that I speke after my fantasye,
As taketh not agrief of that I seye;
For myn entente is nat but for to pleye.
Now, sire, now wol I telle forth my tale. --
As evere moote I drynken wyn or ale,
I shal seye sooth, tho housbondes that I hadde,
As thre of hem were goode, and two were badde.
The thre were goode men, and riche, and olde;
Unnethe myghte they the statut holde
In which that they were bounden unto me.
Ye woot wel what I meene of this, pardee!
As help me god, I laughe whan I thynke
How pitously a-nyght I made hem swynke!
And, by my fey, I tolde of it no stoor.
They had me yeven hir lond and hir tresoor;
Me neded nat do lenger diligence
To wynne hir love, or doon hem reverence.
They loved me so wel, by God above,
That I ne tolde no deyntee of hir love!
A wys womman wol bisye hire evere in oon
To gete hire love, ye, ther as she hath noon.
But sith I hadde hem hoolly in myn hond,
And sith they hadde me yeven al hir lond,
What sholde I taken keep hem for to plese,
But it were for my profit and myn ese?
I sette hem so a-werke, by my fey,
That many a nyght they songen -- weilawey! --
The bacon was nat fet for hem, I trowe,
That som men han in essex at dunmowe.
I governed hem so wel, after my lawe,
That ech of hem ful blisful was and fawe
To brynge me gaye thynges fro the fayre.
They were ful glad whan I spak to hem faire;
For, God it woot, I chidde hem spitously.
Now herkneth hou I baar me proprely,
Ye wise wyves, that kan understonde.
Thus shulde ye speke and bere hem wrong on honde;
For half so boldely kan ther no man
Swere and lyen, as a womman kan.
I sey nat this by wyves that been wyse,
But if it be whan they hem mysavyse.
A wys wyf shal, it that she kan hir good,
Bere hym on honde that the cow is wood,
And take witnesse of hir owene mayde
Of hir assemt; but herkneth how I sayde:
Sire olde kaynard, is this thyn array?
Why is my neighbores wyf so gay?
She is honoured over al ther she gooth;
I sitte at hoom I have no thrifty clooth.
What dostow at my neighebores hous?
Is she so fair? artow so amorous?
What rowne ye with oure mayde? benedicite!
Sire olde lecchour, lat thy japes be!
And if I have a gossib or a freend,
Withouten gilt, thou chidest as a feend,
If that I walke or pleye unto his hous!
Thou comest hoom as dronken as a mous,
And prechest on thy bench, with yvel preef!
Thou seist to me it is a greet meschief
To wedde a povre womman, for costage;
And if that she be riche, of heigh parage,
Thanne seistow that it is a tormentrie
To soffre hire pride and hire malencolie.
And if that she be fair, thou verray knave,
Thou seyst that every holour wol hire have;
She may no while in chastitee abyde,
That is assailled upon ech a syde.
Thou seyst som folk desiren us for richesse,
Somme for oure shap, and somme for oure fairnesse,
And som for she kan outher synge or daunce,
And som for gentillesse and daliaunce;
Som for hir handes and hir armes smale:
Thus goth al to the devel, by thy tale.
Thou seyst men may nat kepe a castel wal,
It may so longe assailled been over al.
And if that she be foul, thou seist that she
Coveiteth every man that she may se,
For as a spaynel she wol on hym lepe,
Til that she fynde som man hire to chepe.
Ne noon so grey goos gooth ther in the lake
As, seistow, wol been withoute make.
And seyst it is an hard thyng for to welde
A thyng that no man wole, his thankes, helde.
Thus seistow, lorel, whan thow goost to bedde;
And that no wys man nedeth for to wedde,
Ne no man that entendeth unto hevene.
With wilde thonder-dynt and firy levene
Moote thy welked nekke be tobroke!
Thow seyst that droppyng houses, and eek smoke,
And chidyng wyves maken men to flee
Out of his owene hous; a! benedicitee!
What eyleth swich an old man for to chide?
Thow seyst we wyves wol oure vices hide
Til we be fast, and thanne we wol hem shewe, --
Wel may that be a proverbe of a shrewe!
Thou seist that oxen, asses, hors, and houndes, [Page 79]
They been assayed at diverse stoundes;
Bacyns, lavours, er that men hem bye,
Spoones and stooles, and al swich housbondrye,
And so been pottes, clothes, and array;
But folk of wyves maken noon assay,
Til they be wedded; olde dotard shrewe!
And thanne, seistow, we wol oure vices shewe.
Thou seist also that it displeseth me
But if that thou wolt preyse my beautee,
And but thou poure alwey upon my face,
And clepe me faire dame in every place.
And but thou make a feeste on thilke day
That I was born, and make me fressh and gay;
And but thou do to my norice honour,
And to my chamberere withinne my bour,
And to my fadres folk and his allyes, --
Thus seistow, olde barel-ful of lyes!
And yet of oure apprentice janekyn,
For his crispe heer, shynynge as gold so fyn,
And for he squiereth me bothe up and doun,
Yet hastow caught a fals suspecioun.
I wol hym noght, thogh thou were deed tomorwe!
But tel me this: why hydestow, with sorwe,
They keyes of thy cheste awey fro me?
It is my good as wel as thyn, pardee!
What, wenestow make an ydiot of oure dame?
Now by that lord that called is seint jame,
Thou shalt nat bothe, thogh that thou were wood,
Be maister of my body and of my good;
That oon thou shalt forgo, maugree thyne yen.
What helpith it of me to enquere or spyen?
I trowe thou woldest loke me in thy chiste?
Thou sholdest seye, wyf, go wher thee liste;
Taak youre disport, I wol nat leve no talys.
I knowe yow for a trewe wyf, dame alys.
We love no man that taketh kep or charge
Wher that we goon; we wol ben at oure large.
Of alle men yblessed moot he be,
The wise astrologien, daun ptholome,
That seith this proverbe in his almageste --
Of alle men his wysdom is the hyeste
That rekketh nevere who hath the world in honde.
By this proverbe thou shalt understonde,
Have thou ynogh, what thar thee recche or care
How myrily that othere folkes fare?
For, certeyn, olde dotard, by youre leve,
Ye shul have queynte right ynogh at eve.
He is to greet a nygard that wolde werne
A man to light a candle at his lanterne;
He shal have never the lasse light, pardee.
Have thou ynogh, thee thar nat pleyne thee.
Thou seyst also, that if we make us gay
With clothyng, and with precious array,
That it is peril of oure chastitee;
And yet, with sorwe! thou most enforce thee,
And seye thise wordes in the apostles name:
in habit maad with chastitee and shame
Ye wommen shul apparaille yow, quod he,
And noght in tressed heer and gay perree,
As perles, ne with gold, ne clothes riche.
After thy text, ne after thy rubriche,
I wol nat wirche as muchel as a gnat.
Thou seydest this, that I was lyk a cat;
For whoso wolde senge a cattes skyn,
Thanne wolde the cat wel dwellen in his in;
And if the cattes skyn be slyk and gay,
She wol nat dwelle in house half a day,
But forth she wole, er any day be dawed,
To shewe hir skyn, and goon a-caterwawed.
This is to seye, if I be gay, sire shrewe,
I wol renne out, my borel for to shewe.
Sire olde fool, what helpeth thee to spyen?
Thogh thou preye argus with his hundred yen
To be my warde-cors, as he kan best,
In feith, he shal nat kepe me but me lest;
Yet koude I make his berd, so moot I thee!
Thou seydest eek that ther been thynges thre,
The whiche thynges troublen al this erthe,
And that no wight may endure the ferthe.
O leeve sire shrewe, jhesu shorte thy lyf!
Yet prechestow and seyst and hateful wyf
Yrekened is for oon of thise meschances.
Been ther none othere maner resemblances
That ye may likne youre parables to,
But if a sely wyf be oon of tho?
Thou liknest eek wommenes love to helle,
To bareyne lond, ther water may nat dwelle.
Thou liknest it also to wilde fyr;
The moore it brenneth, the moore it hath desir
To consume every thyng that brent wole be.
Thou seyest, right as wormes shende a tree,
Right so a wyf destroyeth hire housbonde;
This knowe they that been to wyves bonde. --
Lordynges, right thus, as ye have understonde,
Baar I stifly myne olde housbondes on honde
That thus they seyden in hir dronkenesse;
And al was fals, but that I took witnesse
On janekyn, and on my nece also.
O lord! the peyne I dide hem and the wo,
Ful giltelees, by goddes sweete pyne!
For as an hors I koude byte and whyne.
I koude pleyne, and yit was in the gilt,
Or elles often tyme hadde I been spilt. [Page 80]
Whose that first to mille comth, first grynt;
I pleyned first, so was oure werre ystynt.
They were ful glade to excuse hem blyve
Of thyng of which they nevere agilte hir lyve.
Of wenches wolde I beren hem on honde,
Whan that for syk unnethes myghte they stonde.
Yet tikled I his herte, for that he
Wende that I hadde of hym so greet chiertee!
I swoor that al my walkynge out by nyghte
Was for t' espye wenches that he dighte;
Under that colour hadde I many a myrthe.
For al swich wit is yeven us in oure byrthe;
Deceite, wepyng, spynnyng God hath yive
To wommen kyndely, whil that they may lyve.
And thus of o thyng I avaunte me,
Atte ende I hadde the bettre in ech degree,
By sleighte, or force, or by som maner thyng,
As by continueel murmur or grucchyng.
Namely abedde hadden they meschaunce:
Ther wolde I chide, and do hem no plesaunce;
I wolde no lenger in the bed abyde,
If that I felte his arm over my syde,
Til he had maad his raunson unto me;
Thanne wolde I suffre hym do his necetee.
And therfore every man this tale I telle,
Wynne whose may, for al is for to selle;
With empty hand men may none haukes lure.
For wynnyng wolde I al his lust endure,
And make me feyned appetit;
And yet in bacon hadde I nevere delit;
That made me that evere I wolde hem chide.
For thogh the pope hadde seten hem biside,
I wolde nat spare hem at hir owene bord;
For, by my trouthe, I quitte hem word for word.
As helpe me verray God omnipotent,
Though I right now sholde make my testament,
I ne owe hem nat a word that it nys quit.
I broghte it so aboute by my wit
That they moste yeve it up, as for the beste,
Or elles hadde we nevere been in reste.
For thogh he looked as a wood leon,
Yet sholde he faille of his conclusion.
Thanne wolde I seye, -- goode lief, taak keep
How mekely looketh wilkyn, oure sheep!
Com neer, my spouse, lat me ba thy cheke!
Ye sholde been al pacient and meke,
And han a sweete spiced conscience,
Sith ye so preche of jobes pacience.
Suffreth alwey, syn ye so wel kan preche;
And but ye do, certein we shal yow teche
That it is fair to have a wyf in pees.
Oon of us two moste bowen, doutelees;
And sith a man is moore resonable
Than womman is, ye moste been suffrable.
What eyleth yow to grucche thus and grone?
Is it for ye wolde have my queynte allone?
Wy, taak it al! lo, have it every deel!
Peter! I shrewe yow, but ye love it weel;
For if I wolde selle my bele chose,
I koude walke as fressh as is a rose;
But I wol kepe it for youre owene tooth.
Ye be to blame, by god! I sey yow sooth. --
Swiche manere wordes hadde we on honde.
Now wol I speken of my fourthe housbonde.
My fourthe housbonde was a revelour;
This is to seyn, he hadde a paramour;
And I was yong and ful of ragerye,
Stibourn and strong, and joly as a pye.
How koude I daunce to an harpe smale,
And synge, ywis, as any nyghtyngale,
Whan I had dronke a draughte of sweete wyn!
Metellius, the foule cherl, the swyn,
That with a staf birafte his wyf hir lyf,
For she drank wyn, thogh I hadde been his wyf,
He sholde nat han daunted me from drynke!
And after wyn on venus moste I thynke,
For al so siker as cold engendreth hayl,
A likerous mouth moste han a likerous tayl.
In wommen vinolent is no defence, --
This knowen lecchours by experience.
But, lord crist! whan that it remembreth me
Upon my yowthe, and on my jolitee,
It tikleth me aboute myn herte roote.
Unto this day it dooth myn herte boote
That I have had my world as in my tyme.
But age, allas! that al wole envenyme,
Hath me biraft my beautee and my pith.
Lat go, farewel! the devel go therwith!
The flour is goon, ther is namoore to telle;
The bren, as I best kan, now moste I selle;
But yet to be right myrie wol I fonde.
Now wol I tellen of my fourthe housbonde.
I seye, I hadde in herte greet despit
That he of any oother had delit.
But he was quit, by God and by seint joce!
I made hym of the same wode a croce;
Nat of my body, in no foul manere,
But certeinly, I made folk swich cheere
That in his owene grece I made hym frye
For angre, and for verray jalousye.
By god! in erthe I was his purgatorie,
For which I hope his soule be in glorie.
For, God it woot, he sat ful ofte and song,
Whan that his shoo ful bitterly hym wrong.
Ther was no wight, save God and he, that wiste, [Page 81]
In many wise, how soore I hym twiste.
He deyde whan I cam fro jerusalem,
And lith ygrave under the roode beem,
Al is his tombe noght so curyus
As was the sepulcre of hym daryus,
Which that appeles wroghte subtilly;
It nys but wast to burye hym preciously.
Lat hym fare wel, God yeve his soul reste!
He is now in his grave and in his cheste.
Now of my fifthe housbonde wol I telle.
God lete his soule nevere come in helle!
And yet was he to me the mooste shrewe;
That feele I on my ribbes al by rewe,
And evere shal unto myn endyng day.
But in oure bed he was so fressh and gay,
And therwithal so wel koude he me glose,
Whan that he wolde han my bele chose,
That thogh he hadde me bete on every bon,
He koude wynne agayn my love anon.
I trowe I loved hym best, for that he
Was of his love daungerous to me.
We wommen han if that I shal nat lye,
In this matere a queynte fantasye;
Wayte what thyng we may nat lightly have,
Therafter wol we crie al day and crave.
Forbede us thyng, and that desiren we;
Preesse on us faste, and thanne wol we fle.
With daunger oute we al oure chaffare;
Greet prees at market maketh deere ware,
And to greet cheep is holde at litel prys:
This knoweth every womman that is wys.
My fifthe housbonde, God his soule blesse!
Which that I took for love, and no richesse,
He som tyme was a clerk of oxenford,
And hadde left scole, and wente at hom to bord
With my gossib, dwellynge in oure toun;
God have hir soule! hir name was alisoun.
She knew myn herte, and eek my privetee,
Bet than oure parisshe preest, so moot I thee!
To hire biwreyed I my conseil al.
For hadde myn housbonde pissed on a wal,
Or doon a thyng that sholde han cost his lyf,
To hire, and to another worthy wyf,
And to my nece, which that I loved weel,
I wolde han toold his conseil every deel.
And so I dide ful often, God it woot,
That made his face often reed and hoot
For verray shame, and blamed hymself for he
Had toold to me so greet a pryvetee.
And so bifel that ones in a lente --
So often tymes I to my gossyb wente,
For evere yet I loved to be gay,
And for to walke in march, averill, and may,
Fro hous to hous, to heere sondry talys --
That jankyn clerk, and my gossyb dame alys,
And I myself, into the feeldes wente.
Myn housbonde was at londoun al that lente;
I hadde the bettre leyser for to pleye,
And for to se, and eek for to be seye
Of lusty folk. What wiste I wher my grace
Was shapen for to be, or in what place?
Therfore I made my visitaciouns
To vigilies and to processiouns,
To prechyng eek, and to thise pilgrimages,
To pleyes of myracles, and to mariages,
And wered upon my gaye scarlet gytes.
Thise wormes, ne thise motthes, ne thise mytes,
Upon my peril, frete hem never a deel;
And wostow why? for they were used weel.
Now wol I tellen forth what happed me.
I seye that in the feeldes walked we,
Til trewely we hadde swich daliance,
This clerk and I, that of my purveiance
I spak to hym and seyde hym how that he,
If I were wydwe, sholde wedde me.
For certeinly, I sey for no bobance,
Yet was I nevere withouten purveiance
Of mariage, n' of othere thynges eek.
I holde a mouses herte nat worth a leek
That hath but oon hole for to sterte to,
And if that faille, thanne is al ydo.
I bar hym on honde he hadde enchanted me, --
My dame taughte me that soutiltee.
And eek I seyde I mette of hym al nyght,
He wolde han slayn me as I lay upright,
And al my bed was ful of verray blood;
But yet I hope that he shal do me good,
For blood bitokeneth gold, as me was taught.
And al was fals; I dremed of it right naught,
But as I folwed ay my dames loore,
As wel of this as of othere thynges moore.
But now, sire, lat me se, what I shal seyn?
A ha! by god, I have my tale ageyn.
Whan that my fourthe housbonde was on beere,
I weep algate, and made sory cheere,
As wyves mooten, for it is usage,
And with my coverchief covered my visage,
But for that I was purveyed of a make,
I wepte but smal, and that I undertake.
To chirche was myn housbonde born a-morwe
With neighebores, that for hym maden sorwe;
And jankyn, oure clerk, was oon of tho.
As help me god! whan that I saugh hym go
After the beere, me thoughte he hadde a paire
Of legges and of feet so clene and faire [Page 82]
That al myn herte I yaf unto his hoold.
He was, I trowe, a twenty wynter oold,
And I was fourty, if I shal seye sooth;
But yet I hadde alwey a coltes tooth.
Gat-tothed I was, and that bicam me weel;
I hadde the prente of seinte venus seel.
As help me god! I was a lusty oon,
And faire, and riche, and yong, and wel bigon;
And trewely, as myne housbondes tolde me,
I hadde the beste quoniam myghte be.
For certes, I am al venerien
In feelynge, and myn herte is marcien.
Venus me yaf my lust, my likerousnesse,
And mars yaf me my sturdy hardynesse;
Myn ascendent was taur, and mars therinne.
Allas! allas! that evere love was synne!
I folwed ay myn inclinacioun
By vertu of my constellacioun;
That made me I koude noght withdrawe
My chambre of venus from a good felawe.
Yet have I martes mark upon my face,
And also in another privee place.
For God so wys be my savacioun,
I ne loved nevere by no discrecioun,
But evere folwede myn appetit,
Al were he short, or long, or blak, or whit;
I took no kep, so that he liked me,
How poore he was, ne eek of what degree.
What sholde I seye? but, at the monthes ende,
This joly clerk, jankyn, that was so hende,
Hath wedded me with greet solempnytee;
And to hym yaf I al the lond and fee
That evere was me yeven therbifoore.
But afterward repented me ful soore;
He nolde suffre nothyng of my list.
By god! he smoot me ones on the lyst,
For that I rente out of his book a leef,
That of the strook myn ere wax al deef.
Stibourn I was as is a leonesse,
And of my tonge verray jangleresse,
And walke I wolde, as I had doon biforn,
From hous to hous, although he had it sworn;
For which he often tymes wolde preche,
And me of olde romayn geestes teche;
How he symplicius gallus lefte his wyf,
And hire forsook for terme of al his lyf,
Noght but for open-heveded he hir say
Lookynge out at his dore upon a day.
Another romayn tolde he me by name,
That, for his wyf was at a someres game
Withouten his wityng, he forsook hire eke.
And thanne wolde he upon his bible seke
That ilke proverbe of ecclesiaste
Where he comandeth, and forbedeth faste,
Man shal nat suffre his wyf go roule aboute.
Thanne wolde he seye right thus, withouten doute:
-whoso that buyldeth his hous al of salwes,
And priketh his blynde hors over the falwes,
And suffreth his wyf to go seken halwes,
Is worthy to been hanged on the galwes! --
But al for noght, I sette noght an hawe
Of his proverbes n' of his olde sawe,
Ne I wolde nat of hym corrected be.
I hate hym that my vices telleth me,
And so doo mo, God woot, of us than I.
This made hym with me wood al outrely;
I nolde noght forbere hym in no cas.
Now wol I seye yow sooth, by seint thomas,
Why that I rente out of his book a leef,
For which he smoot me so that I was deef.
He hadde a book that gladly, nyght and day,
For his desport he wolde rede alway;
He cleped it valerie and theofraste,
At which book he lough alwey ful faste.
And eek ther was somtyme a clerk at rome,
A cardinal, that highte seint jerome,
That made a book agayn jovinian;
In which book eek ther was tertulan,
Crisippus, trotula, and helowys,
That was abbesse nat fer fro parys;
And eek the parables of salomon,
Ovides art, and bookes many on,
And alle thise were bounden in o volume.
And every nyght and day was his custume,
Whan he hadde leyser and vacacioun
From oother worldly occupacioun,
To reden on this book of wikked wyves.
He knew of hem mo legendes and lyves
Than been of goode wyves in the bible.
For trusteth wel, it is an impossible
That any clerk wol speke good of wyves,
But if it be of hooly seintes lyves,
Ne of noon oother womman never the mo.
Who peyntede the leon, tel me who?
By god! if wommen hadde writen stories,
As clerkes han withinne hire oratories,
They wolde han writen of men moore wikkednesse
Than al the mark of adam may redresse.
The children of mercurie and of venus
Been in hir wirkyng ful contrarius;
Mercurie loveth wysdam and science,
And venus loveth ryot and dispence.
And, for hire diverse disposicioun,
Ech falleth in otheres exaltacioun.
And thus, God woot, mercurie is desolat [Page 83]
In pisces, wher venus is exaltat;
And venus falleth ther mercurie is reysed.
Therfore no womman of no clerk is preysed.
The clerk, whan he is oold, and may noght do
Of venus werkes worth his olde sho,
Thanne sit he doun, and writ in his dotage
That wommen kan nat kepe hir mariage!
But now to purpos, why I tolde thee
That I was beten for a book, pardee!
Upon a nyght jankyn, that was oure sire,
Redde on his book, as he sat by the fire,
Of eva first, that for hir wikkednesse
Was al mankynde broght to wrecchednesse,
For which that jhesu crist hymself was slayn,
That boghte us with his herte blood agayn.
Lo, heere expres of womman may ye fynde,
That womman was the los of al mankynde.
The redde he me how sampson loste his heres:
Slepynge, his lemman kitte it with hir sheres;
Thurgh which treson loste he bothe his yen.
Tho redde he me, if that I shal nat lyen,
Of hercules and of his dianyre,
That caused hym to sette hymself afyre.
No thyng forgat he the care and the wo
That socrates hadde with his wyves two;
How xantippa caste pisse upon his heed.
This sely man sat stille as he were deed;
He wiped his heed, namoore dorste he seyn,
But -- er that thonder stynte, comth a reyn! --
Of phasipha, that was the queen of crete,
For shrewednesse, hym thoughte the tale swete;
Fy! spek namoore -- it is a grisly thyng --
Of hire horrible lust and hir likyng.
Of clitermystra, for hire lecherye,
That falsly made hire housbonde for to dye,
He redde it with ful good devocioun.
He tolde me eek for what occasioun
Amphiorax at thebes loste his lyf.
Myn housbonde hadde a legende of his wyf,
Eriphilem, that for an ouche of gold
Hath prively unto the grekes told
Wher that hir housbonde hidde hym in a place,
For which he hadde at thebes sory grace.
Of lyvia tolde he me, and of lucye:
They bothe made hir housbondes for to dye;
That oon for love, that oother was for hate.
Lyvia hir housbonde, on an even late,
Empoysoned hath, for that she was his fo;
Lucia, likerous, loved hire housbonde so
That, for he sholde alwey upon hire thynke,
She yaf hym swich a manere love-drynke
That he was deed er it were by the morwe;
And thus algates housbondes han sorwe.
Thanne tolde he me how oon latumyus
Compleyned unto his felawe arrius
That in his gardyn growed swich a tree
On which he seyde how that his wyves thre
Hanged hemself for herte despitus.
-- O leeve brother, -- quod this arrius,
-- Yif me a plante of thilke blissed tree,
And in my gardyn planted shal it bee. --
Of latter date, of wyves hath he red
That somme han slayn hir housbondes in hir bed,
And lete hir lecchour dighte hire al the nyght,
Whan that the corps lay in the floor upright.
And somme han dryve nayles in hir brayn,
Whil that they slepte, and thus they had hem slayn.
Somme han hem yeve poysoun in hire drynke.
He spak moore harm than herte may bithynke;
And therwithal he knew of mo proverbes
Than in this world ther growen gras or herbes.
-- Bet is, -- quod he, -- thyn habitacioun
Be with a leon or foul dragoun,
Than with a womman usynge for to chyde --
-- Bet is, -- quod he, -- hye in the roof abyde,
Than with an angry wyf doun in the hous;
They been so wikked and contrarious,
They haten that hir housbondes loven ay. --
He seyde, -- a womman cast hir shame away,
Whan she cast of hir smok; -- and forthermo,
-- A fair womman, but she be chaast also,
Is lyk a gold ryng in a sowes nose. --
Who wolde wene, or who wolde suppose,
The wo that in myn herte was, and pyne?
And whan I saugh he wolde nevere fyne
To reden on this cursed book al nyght,
Al sodeynly thre leves have I plyght
Out of his book, right as he radde, and eke
I with my fest so took hym on the cheke
That in oure fyr he fil bakward adoun.
And he up stirte as dooth a wood leoun,
And with his fest he smoot me on the heed,
That in the floor I lay as I were deed.
And whan he saugh how stille that I lay,
He was agast, and wolde han fled his way,
Til atte laste out of my swogh I breyde.
-- O! hastow slayn me, false theef? -- I seyde,
-- And for my land thus hastow mordred me?
Er I be deed, yet wol I kisse thee. --
And neer he cam and kneled faire adoun,
And seyde, -- deere suster alisoun,
As help me god! I shal thee nevere smyte.
That I have doon, it is thyself to wyte.
Foryeve it me, and that I thee biseke! -- [Page 84]
And yet eftsoones I hitte hym on the cheke,
And seyde, -- theef, thus muchel am I wreke;
Now wol I dye, I may no lenger speke. --
But atte laste, with muchel care and wo,
We fille acorded by us selven two.
He yaf me al the bridel in myn hond,
To han the governance of hous and lond,
And of his tonge, and of his hond also;
And made hym brenne his book anon right tho.
And whan that I hadde geten unto me,
By maistrie, al the soveraynette,
And that he seyde, -- myn owene trewe wyf,
Do as thee lust the terme of al thy lyf;
Keep thyn honour, and keep eek myn estaat --
After that day we hadden never debaat.
God helpe me so, I was to hym as kynde
As any wyf from denmark unto ynde,
And also trewe, and so was he to me.
I prey to god, that sit in magestee,
So blesse his soule for his mercy deere.
Now wol I seye my tale, if ye wol heere.
The frere lough, whan he hadde herd al this;
Now dame, quod he, so have I joye or blis,
This is a long preable of a tale!
And whan the somonour herde the frere gale,
Lo, quod the somonour, goddes armes two!
A frere wol entremette hym everemo.
Lo, goode men, a flye and eek a frere
Wol falle in every dyssh and eek mateere.
What spwkestow of preambulacioun?
What! amble, or trotte, or pees, or go sit doun!
Thou lettest oure disport in this manere.
Ye, woltow so, sire somonour? quod the frere;
Now, by my feith, I shal, er that I go,
Telle of a somonour swich a tale or two,
That alle the folk shal laughen in this place.
Now elles, frere, I bishrewe thy face,
Quod this somonour, and I bishrewe me,
But if I telle tales two or thre
Of freres, er I come to sidyngborne,
That I shal make thyn herte for to morne,
For wel I woot thy pacience is gon.
Oure hooste cride pees! and that anon!
And seyde, lat the womman telle hire tale.
Ye fare as folk that dronken ben of ale.
Do, dame, telle forth youre tale, and that is best.
Al redy, sire, quod she, right as yow lest,
If I have licence of this worthy frere.
Yis, dame, quod he, tel forth, and I wol heere.

3.2. The Wife of Bath's Tale

In th' olde dayes of the kyng arthour,
Of which that britons speken greet honour,
Al was this land fulfild of fayerye.
The elf-queene, with hir joly compaignye,
Daunced ful ofte in many a grene mede.
This was the olde opinion, as I rede;
I speke of manye hundred yeres ago.
But now kan no man se none elves mo,
For now the grete charitee and prayers
Of lymytours and othere hooly freres,
That serchen every lond and every streem,
As thikke as motes in the sonne-beem,
Blessynge halles, chambres, kichenes, boures,
Citees, burghes, castels, hye toures,
Thropes, bernes, shipnes, dayeryes --
This maketh that ther ben no fayeryes.
For ther as wont to walken was an elf,
Ther walketh now the lymytour hymself
In undermeles and in morwenynges,
And seyth his matyns and his hooly thynges
As he gooth in his lymytacioun.
Wommen may go now saufly up and doun.
In every bussh or under every tree
Ther is noon oother incubus but he,
And he ne wol doon hem but dishonour.
And so bifel it that this kyng arthour
Hadde in his hous a lusty bacheler,
That on a day cam ridynge fro ryver; [Page 85]
And happed that, allone as he was born,
He saugh a mayde walkynge hym biforn,
Of which mayde anon, maugree hir heed,
By verray force, he rafte hire maydenhed;
For which oppressioun was swich clamour
And swich pursute unto the kyng arthour,
That dampned was this knyght for to be deed,
By cours of lawe, and sholde han lost his heed --
Paraventure swich was the statut tho --
But that the queene and othere ladyes mo
So longe preyeden the kyng of grace,
Til he his lyf hym graunted in the place,
And yaf hym to the queene, al at hir wille,
To chese wheither she wolde hym save or spille.
The queene thanketh the kyng with al hir myght,
And after this thus spak she to the knyght,
Whan that she saugh hir tyme, upon a day:
Thou standest yet, quod she, in swich array
That of thy lyf yet hastow no suretee.
I grante thee lyf, if thou kanst tellen me
What thyng is it that wommen moost desiren.
Be war, and keep thy nekke-boon from iren!
And if thou kanst nat tellen it anon,
Yet wol I yeve thee leve for to gon
A twelf-month and a day, to seche and leere
An answere suffisant in this mateere;
And suretee wol I han, er that thou pace,
Thy body for to yelden in this place.
Wo was this knyght, and sorwefully he siketh;
But what! he may nat do al as hym liketh.
And at the laste he chees hym for to wende,
And come agayn, right at the yeres ende,
With swich answere as God wolde hym purveye;
And taketh his leve, and wendeth froth his weye.
He seketh every hous and and every place
Where as he hopeth for to fynde grace,
To lerne what thyng wommen loven moost;
But he ne koude arryven in no coost
Wher as he myghte fynde in this mateere
Two creatures accordynge in-feere.
Somme seyde wommen loven best richesse,
Somme seyde honour, somme seyde jolynesse,
Somme riche array, somme seyden lust abedde,
And oftetyme to be wydwe and wedde.
Somme seyde that oure hertes been moost esed
Whan that we ben yflatered and yplesed.
He gooth ful ny the sothe, I wol nat lye.
A man shal wynne us best with flaterye;
And with attendance, and with bisynesse,
Been we ylymed, bothe moore and lesse.
And somme seyen that we loven best
For to be free, and do right as us lest,
And that no man repreve us of oure vice,
But seye that we be wise, and no thyng nyce.
For trewely ther is noon of us alle,
If any wight wol clawe us on the galle,
That we nel kike, for he seith us sooth.
Assay, and he shal fynde it that so dooth;
For, be we never so vicious withinne,
We wol been holden wise and clene of synne.
And somme seyn that greet delit han we
For to been holden stable, and eek secree,
And in o purpos stedefastly to dwelle,
And nat biwreye thyng that men us telle.
But that tale is nat worth a rake-stele.
Pardee, we wommen konne no thyng hele;
Witnesse on myda, -- wol ye heere the tale?
Ovyde, amonges othere thynges smale,
Seyde myda hadde, under his longe heres,
Growynge upon his heed two asses eres,
The whiche vice he hydde, as he best myghte,
Ful subtilly from every mannes sighte,
That, save his wyf, ther wiste of it namo.
He loved hire moost, and trusted hire also;
He preyede hire that to no creature
She sholde tellen of his disfigure.
She swoor him, nay, for al this world to wynne,
She nolde do that vileynye or synne,
To make hir housbonde han so foul a name.
She nolde nat telle it for hir owene shame.
But nathelees, hir thoughte that she dyde,
That she so longe sholde a conseil hyde;
Hir thoughte it swal so soore aboute hir herte
That nedely som word hire moste asterte;
And sith she dorste telle it to no man,
Doun to a mareys faste by she ran
Til she cam there, hir herte was a-fyre --
And as a bitore bombleth in the myre,
She leyde hir mouth unto the water doun:
Biwreye me nat, thou water, with thy soun,
Quod she; -- to thee I telle it and namo;
Myn housbonde hath longe asses erys two!
Now is myn herte al hool, now is it oute.
I myghte no lenger kepe it, out of doute.
Heere may ye se, thogh we a tyme abyde,
Yet out it moot; we kan no conseil hyde.
The remenant of the tale if ye wol heere,
Redeth ovyde, and ther ye may it leere.
This knyght, of which my tale is specially,
Than that he saugh he myghte nat come therby, [Page 86]
This is to seye, what wommen love moost,
Withinne his brest ful sorweful was the goost.
But hoom he gooth, he myghte nat sojourne;
The day was come that homward moste he tourne.
And in his wey it happed hym to ryde,
In al this care, under a forest syde,
Wher as he saugh upon a daunce go
Of ladyes foure and twenty, and yet mo;
Toward the whiche daunce he drow ful yerne,
In hope that som wysdom sholde he lerne.
But certeinly, er he cam fully there,
Vanysshed was this daunce, he nyste where.
No creature saugh he that bar lyf,
Save on the grene he saugh sittynge a wyf --
A fouler wight ther may no man devyse.
Agayn the knyght this olde wyf gan ryse,
And seyde, sire knyght, heer forth ne lith no wey.
Tel me what that ye seken, by youre fey!
Paraventure it may the bettre be;
Thise olde folk kan muchel thyng, quod she.
My leeve mooder, quod this knyght, certeyn
I nam but deed, but if that I kan seyn
What thyng it is that wommen moost desire.
Koude ye me wisse, I wolde wel quite youre hire.
Plight me thy trouthe heere in myn hand, quod she,
The nexte thyng that I requere thee,
Thou shalt it do, if it lye in thy myght,
And I wol telle it yow er it be nyght.
Have heer my trouthe, quod the knyght, I grante.
Thanne, quod she, I dar me wel avante
Thy lyf is sauf; for I wol stonde therby,
Upon my lyf, the queene wol seye as I.
Lat se which is the proudeste of hem alle,
That wereth on a coverchief or a calle,
That day seye nay of that I shal thee teche.
Lat us go forth, withouten lenger speche.
Tho rowned she a pistel in his ere,
And bad hym to be glad, and have no fere.
Whan they be comen to the court, this knyght
Seyde he had holde his day, as he hadde hight,
And redy was his answere, as he sayde.
Ful many a noble wyf, and many a mayde,
And many a wydwe, for that they been wise,
The queene hirself sittynge as a justise,
Assembled been, his answere for to heere;
And afterward this knyght was bode appeere.
To every wight comanded was silence,
And that the knyght sholde telle in audience
What thyng that worldly wommen loven best.
This knyght ne stood nat stille as doth a best,
But to his questioun anon answerde
With manly voys, that al the court it herde:
My lige lady, generally, quod he,
Wommen desiren to have sovereynetee
As wel over his housbond as hir love,
And for to been in maistrie hym above.
This is youre mooste desir, thogh ye me kille.
Dooth as yow list; I am heer at youre wille.
In al the court ne was ther wyf, ne mayde,
Ne wydwe, that contraried that he sayde,
But seyden he was worthy han his lyf.
And with that word up stirte the olde wyf,
Which that the knyght saugh sittynge on the grene:
Mercy, quod she, my sovereyn lady queene!
Er that youre court departe, do me right.
I taughte this answere unto the knyght;
For which he plighte me his trouthe there,
The firste thyng that I wolde hym requere,
He wolde it do, if it lay in his myghte.
Bifore the court thanne preye I thee, sir knyght,
Quod she, that thou me take unto thy wyf;
For wel thou woost that I have kept thy lyf.
If I seye fals, sey nay, upon thy fey!
This knyght answerde, allas! and weylawey!
I woot right wel that swich was my biheste.
For goddes love, as chees a newe requeste!
Taak al my good, and lat my body go.
Nay, thanne, quod she, I shrewe us bothe two!
For thogh that I be foul, and oold, and poore,
I nolde for al the metal, ne for oore,
That under erthe is grave, or lith above,
But if thy wyf I were, and eek thy love.
My love? quod he, nay, my dampnacioun!
Allas! that any of my nacioun
Sholde evere so foule disparaged be!
But al for noght; the ende is this, that he
Constreyned was, he nedes moste hire wedde;
And taketh his olde wyf, and gooth to bedde.
Now wolden som men seye, paraventure,
That for my necligence I do no cure
To tellen yow the joye and al th' array
That at the feeste was that ilke day.
To which thyng shortly answeren I shal:
I seye ther nas no joye ne feeste at al;
Ther nas but hevynesse and muche sorwe. [Page 87]
For prively he wedded hire on the morwe,
And al day after hidde hym as an owle,
So wo was hym, his wyf looked so foule.
Greet was the wo the knyght hadde in his thoght,
Whan he was with his wyf abedde ybroght;
He walweth and he turneth to and fro.
His olde wyf lay smylynge everemo,
And seyde, o deere housbonde, benedicitee!
Fareth every knyght thys with his wyf as ye?
Is this the lawe of kyng arthures hous?
Is every knyght of his so dangerous?
I am youre owene love and eek youre wyf;
I am she which that saved hath youre lyf,
And, certes, yet ne dide I yow nevere unright;
Why fare ye thus with me this firste nyght?
Ye faren lyk a man had lost his wit.
What is my gilt? for goddes love, tel me it,
And it shal been amende, if I may.
Amended? quod this knyght, allas! nay, nay!
It wol nat been amended nevere mo.
Thou art so loothly, and so oold also,
And therto comen of so lough a kynde,
That litel wonder is thogh I walwe and wynde.
So wolde God myn herte wolde breste!
Is this, quod she, the cause of youre unreste?
Ye, certeinly, quod he, no wonder is.
Now, sire, quod she, I koude amende al this,
If that me liste, er it were dayes thre,
So wel ye myghte bere yow unto me.
But, for ye speken of swich gentillesse
As is descended out of old richesse,
That therfore sholden ye be gentil men,
Swich arrogance is nat worth an hen.
Looke who that is moost vertuous alway,
Pryvee and apert, and moost entendeth ay
To do the gentil dedes that he kan;
Taak hym for the grettest gentil man.
Crist wole we clayme of hym oure gentillesse,
Nat of oure eldres for hire old richesse.
For thogh they yeve us al hir heritage,
For which we clayme to been of heigh parage,
Yet may they nat biquethe, for no thyng,
To noon of us hir vertuous lyvyng,
That made hem gentil men ycalled be,
And bad us folwen hem in swich degree.
Wel kan the wise poete of florence,
That highte dant, speken in this sentence.
Lo, in swich maner rym is dantes tale:
-- Ful selde up riseth by his brances smale
Prowesse of man, for god, of his goodnesse,
Wole that of hym we clayme oure gentillesse; --
For of oure eldres may we no thyng clayme
But temporel thyng, that man may hurte and mayme.
Eek every wight woot this as wel as I,
If gentillesse were planted natureelly
Unto a certeyn lynage doun the lyne,
Pryvee and apert, thanne wolde they nevere fyne
To doon of gentillesse the faire office;
They myghte do no vileynye or vice.
Taak fyr, and ber it in the derkeste hous
Bitwix this and the mount of kaukasous,
And lat men shette the dores and go thenne;
Yet wole the fyr as faire lye and brenne
As twenty thousand men myghte it biholde;
His office natureel ay wol it holde,
Up peril of my lyf, til that it dye.
Heere may ye se wel how that genterye
Is nat annexed to possessioun,
Sith folk ne doon hir operacioun
Alwey, as dooth the fyr, lo, in his kynde.
For, God it woot, men may wel often fynde
A lordes sone do shame and vileynye;
And he that wole han pris of his gentrye,
For he was boren of a gentil hous,
And hadde his eldres noble and vertuous,
And nel hymselven do no gentil dedis,
Ne folwen his gentil auncestre that deed is,
He nys nat gentil, be he duc or erl;
For vileyns synful dedes make a cherl.
For gentillesse nys but renomee
Of thyne auncestres, for hire heigh bountee,
Which is a strange thyng to thy persone.
Thy gentillesse cometh fro God allone.
Thanne comth oure verray gentillesse of grace;
It was no thyng biquethe us with oure place.
Thenketh how noble, as seith valerius,
Was thilke tullius hostillius,
That out of poverte roos to heigh noblesse.
Reedeth senek, and redeth eek boece;
Ther shul ye seen expres that it no drede is
That he is gentil that dooth gentil dedis.
And therfore, leeve housbonde, thus conclude:
Al were it that myne auncestres were rude,
Yet may the hye god, and so hope I,
Grante 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,
In wilful poverte chees to lyve his lyf. [Page 88]
And certes every man, mayden, or wyf,
May understonde that jhesus, hevene kyng,
Ne wolde nat chese a vicious lyvyng.
Glad poverte is an honest thyng, certeyn;
This wole senec and othere clerkes seyn.
Whoso 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;
But 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,
Bifore the theves he may synge and pleye.
Poverte is hateful good and, as I gesse,
A ful greet bryngere out of bisynesse;
A greet amendere eek of sapience
To hym that taketh it in pacience.
Poverte 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,
Thurgh which he may his verray freendes see.
And therfore, sire, syn that I noght yow greve,
Of my poverte namoore ye me repreve.
No, sire, of elde ye repreve me;
And certes, sire, thogh noon auctoritee
Were in no book, ye gentils of honour
Seyn that men sholde an oold wight doon favour,
And clepe hym fader, for youre gentillesse;
And auctours shal I fynde, as I gesse.
Now ther ye seye that I am foul and old,
Than drede you noght to been a cokewold;
For filthe and eelde, also moot I thee,
Been grete wardeyns upon chastitee.
But nathelees, syn I knowe youre delit,
I shal fulfille youre worldly appetit.
Chese now, quod she, oon of thise thynges tweye:
To han me foul and old til that I deye,
And be to yow a trewe, humble wyf,
And nevere yow displese in al my lyf;
Or elles ye wol han me yong and fair,
And take youre aventure of the repair
That shal be to youre hous by cause of me,
Or in som oother place, may wel be.
Now chese yourselven, wheither that yow liketh.
This knyght avyseth hym and sore siketh,
But atte laste he seyde in this manere:
My lady and my love, and wyf so deere,
I put me in youre wise governance;
Cheseth youreself which may be moost plesance,
And moost honour to yow and me also.
I do no fors the wheither of the two;
For as yow liketh, it suffiseth me.
Thanne have I gete of yow maistrie, quod she,
Syn I may chese and governe as me lest?
Ye, certes, wyf, quod he, I holde it best.
Kys me, quod she, we be no lenger wrothe;
For, by my trouthe, I wol be to yow bothe,
This is to seyn, ye, bothe fair and good.
I prey to God that I moote sterven wood,
But I to yow be also good and trewe
As evere was wyf, syn that the world was newe.
And but I be to-morn as fair to seene
As any lady, emperice, or queene,
That is bitwixe the est and eke the west,
Dooth with my lyf and deth right as yow lest.
Cast up the curtyn, looke how that it is.
And whan the knyght saugh verraily al this,
That she so fair was, and so yong therto,
For joye he hente hire in his armes two,
His herte bathed in a bath of blisse.
A thousand tyme a-rewe he gan hire kisse,
And she obeyed hym in every thyng
That myghte doon hym plesance or likyng.
And thys they lyve unto hir lyves ende
In parfit joye; and jhesu crist us sende
Housbondes meeke, yonge, and fressh abedde,
And grace t' overbyde hem that we wedde;
And eek I praye jhesu shorte hir lyves
That wol nat be governed by hir wyves;
And olde and angry nygardes of dispence,
God sende hem soone verray pestilence!
[Page 89]

3.3. The Friar's Prologue

This worthy lymytour, this noble frere,
He made alwey a maner louryng chiere
Upon the somonour, but for honestee
No vileyns word as yet to hym spak he.
But atte laste he seyde unto the wyf,
Dame, quod he, God yeve yow right good lyf!
Ye han heer touched, also moot I thee,
In scole-matere greet difficultee.
Ye han seyd muche thyng right wel, I seye;
But, dame, heere as we ryde by the weye,
Us nedeth nat to speken but of game,
And lete auctoritees, on goddes name,
To prechyng and to scole eek of clergye.
But if it lyke to this compaignye,
I wol yow of a somonour telle a game.
Pardee, ye may wel knowe by the name
That of a somonour may no good be sayd;
I praye that noon of you be yvele apayd.
A somonour is a rennere up and doun
With mandementz for fornicacioun,
And is ybet at every townes ende.
Oure hoost tho spak, a! sire, ye sholde be hende
And curteys, as a man of youre estaat;
In compaignye we wol have no debaat.
Telleth youre tale, and lat the somonour be.
Nay, quod the somonour, lat hym seye to me
What so hym list; whan it comth to me lot,
By god! I shal hym quiten every grot.
I shal hym tellen which a greet honour
It is to be a flaterynge lymytour;
And eek of many another manere cryme
Which nedeth nat rehercen at this tyme;
And his office I shal hym telle, ywis.
Oure hoost answerde, pees, namoore of this!
And after this he seyde unto the frere,
Tel forth youre tale, my leeve maister deere.

3.4. The Friar's Tale

Whilom ther was dwellynge in my contree
And erchedeken, a man of heigh degree,
That boldely dide execucioun
In punysshynge of fornicacioun,
Of wicchecraft, and eek of bawderye,
Of difamacioun, and avowtrye,
Of chirche reves, and of testamentz,
Of contractes and of lakke of sacramentz,
Of usure, and of symonye also.
But certes, lecchours dide he grettest wo;
They sholde syngen if that they were hent;
And smale tytheres weren foule yshent,
If any persoun wolde upon hem pleyne.
Ther myghte asterte hym no pecunyal peyne.
For smale tithes and for smal offrynge
He made the peple pitously to synge.
For er the bisshop caughte hem with his hook,
They weren in the erchedeknes book.
Thanne hadde he, thurgh his jurisdiccioun,
Power to doon on hem correccioun.
He hadde a somonour redy to his hond;
A slyer boye nas noon in engelond;
For subtilly he hadde his espiaille,
That taughte hym wel wher that hym myghte availle.
He koude spare of lecchours oon or two,
To techen hym to foure and twenty mo.
For thogh this somonour wood were as an hare,
To telle his harlotrye I wol nat spare;
For we been out of his correccioun.
They han of us no jurisdiccioun,
Ne nevere shullen, terme of alle hir lyves. --
Peter! so been the wommen of the styves,
Quod the somonour, yput out of oure cure!
Pees! with myschance and with mysaventure! [Page 90]
Thys seyde oure hoost, and lat hym telle his tale.
Now telleth forth, thogh that the somonour gale;
Ne spareth nat, myn owene maister deere. --
This false theef, this somonour, quod the frere,
Hadde alwey bawdes redy to his hond,
As any hauk to lure in engelond,
That tolde hym al the secree that they knewe;
For hire acqueyntace was nat come of newe.
They weren his approwours prively.
He took hymself a greet profit therby;
His maister knew nat alwey what he wan.
Withouten mandement a lewed man
He koude somne, on peyne of cristes curs,
And they were glade for to fille his purs,
And make hym grete feestes atte nale.
And right as judas hadde purses smale,
And was a theef, right swich a theef was he;
His maister hadde but half his duetee.
He was, if I shal yeven hym his laude,
A theef, and eek a somnour, and baude.
He hadde eek wenches at his retenue,
That, wheither that sir robert or sir huwe,
Or jakke, or rauf, or whoso that it were
That lay by hem, they tolde it in his ere.
Thus was the wenche and he of oon assent;
And he wolde fecche a feyned mandement,
And somne hem to chapitre bothe two,
And pile the man, and lete the wenche go.
Thanne wolde he seye, freend, I shal for thy sake
Do striken hire out of oure lettres blake;
Thee thar namoore as in this cas travaille.
I am thy freend, ther I thee may availle.
Certeyn he knew of briberyes mo
Than possible is to telle in yeres two.
For in this world nys dogge for the bowe
That kan an hurt deer from an hool yknowe
Bet than this somnour knew a sly lecchour,
Or an avowtier, or a paramour.
And for that was the fruyt of al his rente,
Therfore on it he sette al his entente.
And so bifel that ones on a day
This somnour, evere waityng on his pray,
Rood for to somne an old wydwe, a ribibe,
Feynynge a cause, for he wolde brybe.
And happed that he saugh bifore hym ryde
A gay yeman, under a forest syde,
A bowe he bar, and arwes brighte and kene;
He hadde upon a courtepy of grene,
An hat upon his heed with frenges blake.
Sire, quod this somnour, hayl, and wel atake!
Welcome, quod he, and every good felawe!
Wher rydestow, under this grene-wode shawe?
Seyde this yeman, wiltow fer to day?
This somnour hym answerde and seyde, nay;
Heere faste by, quod he, is myn entente
To ryden, for to reysen up a rente
That longeth to my lordes duetee.
Artow thanne a bailly? ye, quod he.
He dorste nat, for verray filthe and shame
Seye that he was a somonour, for the name.
Depardieux, quod this yeman, deere broother,
Thou art a bailly, and I am another.
I am unknowen as in this contree;
Of thyn aqueyntance I wolde praye thee,
And eek of bretherhede, if that yow leste.
I have gold and silver in my cheste;
If that thee happe to comen in oure shire,
Al shal be thyn, right as thou wolt desire.
Grantmercy, quod this somonour, by my feith!
Everych on ootheres hand his trouthe leith,
For to be sworne bretheren til they deye.
In daliance they ryden forth and pleye.
This somonour, which that was as ful of jangles,
As ful of venym been thise waryangles,
And evere enqueryng upon every thyng,
Brother, quod he, where is now youre dwellyng
Another day if that I sholde yow seche?
This yeman hym answerde in softe speche,
Brother, quod he, fer in the north contree,
Where-as I hope som tyme I shal thee see.
Er we departe, I shal thee so wel wisse
That of myn hous ne shaltow nevere mysse.
Now, brother, quod this somonour, I yow preye,
Teche me, whil that we ryden by the weye,
Syn that ye been a baillif as am I,
Som subtiltee, and tel me feithfully
In myn office how that I may moost wynne;
And spareth nat for conscience ne synne,
But as my brother tel me, how do ye.
Now, by my trouthe, brother deere, seyde he,
As I shal tellen thee a feithful tale,
My wages been ful streite and ful smale.
My lord is hard to me and daungerous,
And myn office is ful laborous,
And therfore by extorcions I lyve.
For sothe, I take al that men wol me yive. [Page 91]
Algate,by gleyghte or by violence,
Fro yeer to yeer I wynne al my dispence.
I kan no bettre telle, feithfully.
Now certes, quod this somonour, so fare I.
I spare nat to taken, God it woot,
But if it be to hevy or to hoot.
What I may gete in conseil prively,
No maner conscience of that have I.
Nere myn extorcioun, I myghte nat lyven,
Ne of swiche japes wol I nat be shryven.
Stomak ne conscience ne knowe I noon;
I shrewe thise shrifte-fadres everychoon.
Wel be we met, by God and by seint jame!
But, leeve brother, tel me thanne thy name,
Quod this somonour. In this meene while
This yeman gan a litel for to smyle.
Brother, quod he, wiltow that I thee telle?
I am a feend; my dwellyng is in helle,
And heere I ryde aboute my purchasyng,
To wite wher men wol yeve me any thyng.
My purchas is th' effect of al my rente.
Looke how thou rydest for the same entente,
To wynne good, thou rekkest nevere how;
Right so fare I, for ryde wolde I now
Unto the worldes ende for a preye.
Al! quod this somonour, benedicite! sey ye?
I wende ye were a yeman trewely.
Ye han a mannes shap as wel as I;
Han ye a figure thanne determinat
In helle, ther ye been in youre estat?
Nay, certeinly, quod he, ther have we noon;
But whan us liketh, we kan take us oon,
Or elles make yow seme we been shape
Somtyme lyk a man, or lyk an ape,
Or lyk an angel kan I ryde or go.
It is no wonder thyng thogh it be so;
A lowsy jogelour kan deceyve thee,
And pardee, yet kan I moore craft than he.
Why, quod this somonour, ryde ye thanne or goon
In sondry shap, and nat alwey in oon?
For we, quod he, wol us swiche formes make
As moost able is oure preyes for to take.
What maketh yow to han al this labour?
Ful many a cause, leeve sire somonour,
Seyde this feend, but alle thyng hath tyme.
The day is short, and it is passed pryme,
And yet ne wan I nothyng in this day.
I wol entende to wynnyng, if I may,
And nat entende oure wittes to declare.
For, brother myn, thy wit is al to bare
To understonde, althogh I tolde hem thee.
But, for thou axest why labouren we --
For somtyme we been goddes instrumentz,
And meenes to doon his comandementz,
Whan that hym list, upon his creatures,
In divers art and in diverse figures.
Withouten hym we have no myght, certayn,
If that hym list stonden ther-agayn.
And somtyme, at oure prayere, han we leve
Oonly the body and nat the soule greve;
Witnesse on job, whom that we diden wo.
And somtyme han we myght of bothe two,
This is to seyn, of soule and body eke.
And somtyme be we suffred for to seke
Upon a man, and doon his soule unreste,
And nat his body, and al is for the beste.
Whan he withstandeth oure temptacioun,
It is a cause of his savacioun,
Al be it that it was nat oure entente
He sholde be sauf, but that we wolde hym hente.
And somtyme be we servant unto man,
As to the erchebisshop seint dunstan,
And to the apostles servent eek was I.
Yet tel me, quod the somonour, feithfully,
Make ye yow newe bodies thus alway
Of elementz? the feend answerde, nay.
Somtyme we feyne, and somtyme we aryse
With dede bodyes, in ful sondry wyse,
And speke as renably and faire and wel
As to the phitonissa dide samuel.
(and yet wol som men seye it was nat he;
I do no fors of youre dyvynytee.)
But o thyng warne I thee, I wol nat jape, --
Thou wolt algates wite how we been shape;
Thou shalt herafterward, my brother deere,
Come there thee nedeth nat of me to leere.
For thou shalt, by thyn owene experience,
Konne in a chayer rede of this sentence
Bet than virgile, while he was on lyve,
Or dant also. Now lat us ryde blyve,
For I wole holde compaignye with thee
Til it be so that thou forsake me.
Nay, quod this somonour, that shal nat bityde!
I am a yeman, knowen is ful wyde;
My trouthe wol I holde, as in this cas.
For though thou were the devel sathanas,
My trouthe wol I holde to my brother,
As I am sworn, and ech of us til oother,
For to be trewe brother in this cas;
And bothe we goon abouten oure purchas. [Page 92]
Taak thou thy part, what that men wol thee yive,
And I shal myn; thus may we bothe lyve.
And if that any of us have moore than oother,
Lat hym be trewe, and parte it with his brother.
I graunte, quod the devel, by my fey.
And with that word they ryden forth hir wey.
And right at the entryng of the townes ende,
To which this somonour shoop hym for to wende,
They saugh a cart that charged was with hey,
Which that a cartere droof forth in his wey.
Deep was the wey, for which the carte stood.
The cartere smoot, and cryde as he were wood,
Hayt, brok! hayt, scot! what spare ye for the stones?
The feend, quod he, yow fecche, body and bones,
As ferforthly as evere were ye foled,
So muche wo as I have with yow tholed!
The devel have al, bothe hors and cart and hey!
This somonour seyde, heere shal we have a pley.
And neer the feend he drough, as noght ne were,
Ful prively, and rowned in his ere:
Herkne, my brother, herkne, by thy feith!
Herestow nat how that the cartere seith?
Hent it anon, for he hath yeve it thee,
Bothe hey and cart, and eek his caples thre.
Nay, quod the devel, God woot, never a deel!
It is nat his entente, trust me weel.
Axe hym thyself, it thou nat trowest me;
Or elles stynt a while, and thou shalt see.
This cartere thakketh his hors upon the croupe,
And they bigonne to drawen and to stoupe.
Heyt! now, quod he, ther jhesu crist yow blesse,
And al his handwerk, bothe moore and lesse!
That was wel twight, myn owene lyard boy.
I pray God save thee, and seinte loy!
Now is my cart out of the slow, pardee!
Lo, brother, quod the feend, what tolde I thee?
Heere may ye se, myn owene deere brother,
The carl spak oo thing, but he thoghte another.
Lat us go forth abouten oure viage;
Heere wynne I nothyng upon cariage.
Whan that they coomen somwhat out of towne,
This somonour to his brother gan to rowne:
Brother, quod he, heere woneth an old rebekke,
That hadde almoost as lief to lese hire nekke
As for to yeve a peny of hir good.
I wole han twelf pens, though that she be wood,
Or I wol sompne hire unto oure office;
And yet, God woot, of hire knowe I no vice.
But for thou kanst nat, as in this contree,
Wynne thy cost, taak heer ensample of me.
This somonour clappeth at the wydwes gate.
Com out, quod he, thou olde virytrate!
I trowe thou hast som frere or preest with thee.
Who clappeth? seyde this wyf, benedicitee!
God save you, sire, what is youre sweete wille?
I have, quod he, of somonce here a bille;
Up peyne of cursyng, looke that thou be
To-morn bifore the erchedeknes knee,
T' answere to the court of certeyn thynges.
Now, lord, quod she, crist jhesu, kyng of kynges,
So wisly helpe me, as I ne may.
I have been syk, and that ful many a day.
I may nat go so fer, quod she, ne ryde,
But I be deed, so priketh it in my syde.
May I nat axe a libel, sire somonour,
And answere there by my procuratour
To swich thyng as men wole opposen me?
Yis, quod this somonour, pay anon, lat se,
Twelf pens to me, and I wol thee acquite.
I shal no profit han therby but lite;
My maister hath the profit, and nat I.
Com of, and lat me ryden hastily;
Yif me twelf pens, I may no lenger tarye.
Twelf pens! quod she, now, lady seinte marie
So wisly help me out of care and synne,
This wyde world thogh that I sholde wynne,
Ne have I nat twelf pens withinne myn hoold.
Ye knowen wel that I am povre and oold;
Kithe youre almesse on me povre wrecche.
Nay thanne, quod he, the foule feend me fecche
If I th' excuse, though thou shul be spilt!
allas! quod she, God woot, I have no gilt.
Pay me, quod he, or by the swete seinte anne,
As I wol bere awey thy newe panne
For dette which thou owest me of old. [Page 93]
Whan that thou madest thyn housbonde cokewold,
I payde at hoom for thy correccioun.
Thou lixt! quod she, by my savacioun,
Ne was I nevere er now, wydwe ne wyf,
Somoned unto youre court in al my lyf;
Ne nevere I nas but of my body trewe!
Unto the devel blak and rough of hewe
Yeve I thy body and my panne also!
And whan the devel herde hire cursen so
Upon hir knees, he seyde in this manere,
Now, mabely, myn owene mooder deere,
Is this youre wyl in ernest that ye seye?
The devel, quod she, so fecche hym er he deye,
And panne and al, but he wol hym repente!
Nay, olde stot, that is nat myn entente,
Quod this somonour, for to repente me
For any thyng that I have had of thee.
I wolde I hadde thy smok and every clooth!
Now, brother, quod the devel, be nat wrooth;
Thy body and this panne been myne by right.
Thow shalt with me to helle yet to-nyght,
Where thou shalt knowen of oure privetee
Moore than a maister of dyvynytee.
And with that word this foule feend hym hente;
Body and soule he with the devel wente
Where as that somonours han hir heritage.
And god, that maked after his ymage
Mankynde, save and gyde us, alle and some,
And leve thise somonours goode men bicome!
Lordynges, I koude han toold yow, quod this frere,
Hadde I had leyser for this somonour heere,
After the text of crist, poul, and john,
And of oure othere doctours many oon,
Swiche peynes that youre hertes myghte agryse,
Al be it so no tonge may it devyse,
Thogh that I myghte a thousand wynter telle
The peynes of thilke cursed hous of helle.
But for to kepe us fro that cursed place,
Waketh, and preyeth jhesu for his grace
So kepe us from the temptour sathanas.
Herketh this word! beth war, as in this cas:
The leoun sit in his awayt alway
To sle the innocent, if that he may.
Disposeth ay youre hertes to withstonde
The feend, that yow wolde make thral and bonde.
He may nat tempte yow over youre myght,
For crist wol be youre champion and knyght.
And prayeth that thise somonours hem repente
Of hir mysdedes, er that the feend hem hente!

3.5. The Summoner's Prologue

This somonour in his styropes hye stood;
Upon this frere his herte was so wood
That lyk an aspen leef he quook for ire.
Lordynges, quod he, but o thyng I desire;
I yow biseke that, of youre curteisye,
Syn ye han herd this false frere lye,
As suffreth me I may my tale telle.
This frere bosteth that he knoweth helle,
And God it woot, that it is litel wonder;
Freres and feendes been but lyte asonder.
For, pardee, ye han ofte tyme herd telle
How that a frere ravyshed was to helle
In spirit ones by a visioun;
And as an angel ladde hym up and doun,
To shewen hym the peynes that the were,
In al the place saugh he nat a frere;
Of oother folk he saugh ynowe in wo.
Unto this angel spak the frere tho:
Now, sire, quod he, han freres swich a grace
That noon of hem shal come to this place?
Yis, quod this aungel, many a millioun!
And unto sathanas he ladde hym doun.
-- And now hath sathanas, -- seith he, -- a tayl
Brodder than of a carryk is the sayl.
Hold up thy tayl, thou sathanas! -- quod he;
-- shewe forth thyn ers, and lat the frere se
Where is the nest of freres in this place! --
And er that half a furlong wey of space,
Right so as bees out swarmen from an hyve,
Out of the develes ers ther gonne dryve [Page 94]
Twenty thousand freres on a route,
And thurghout helle swarmed al aboute,
And comen agayn as faste as they may gon,
And in his ers they crepten everychon.
He clapte his tayl agayn and lay ful stille.
This frere, whan he looked hadde his fille
Upon the tormentz of this sory place,
His spirit God restored, of his grace,
Unto his body agayn, and he awook.
But natheles, for fere yet he quook,
So was the develes ers ay in his mynde,
That is his heritage of verray kynde.
God save yow alle, save this cursed frere!
My prologe wol I ende in this manere.

3.6. The Summoner's Tale

Lordynges, ther is in yorkshire, as I gesse,
A mersshy contree called holdernesse,
In which ther wente a lymytour aboute,
To preche, and eek to begge, it so no doute.
And so bifel that on a day this frere
Hadde preched at a chirche in his manere,
And specially, aboven every thyng,
Excited he the peple in his prechyng
To trentals, and to yeve, for goddes sake,
Wherwith men myghte hooly houses make,
Ther as divine servyce is honoured,
Nat ther as it is wasted and devoured,
Ne ther it nedeth nat for to be yive,
As to possessioners, that mowen lyve,
Thanked be god, in wele and habundaunce.
Trentals, seyde he, deliveren fro penaunce
Hir freendes soules, as wel olde as yonge, --
Ye, whan that they been hastily ysonge,
Nat for to holde a preest holy and gay --
He syngeth nat but o masse in a day.
Delivereth out, quod he, anon the soules!
Ful hard it is with flesshhook or with oules
To been yclawed, or to brenne or bake.
Now spede yow hastily, for cristes sake!
And whan this frere had seyd al his entente,
With qui cum patre forth his wey he wente.
Whan folk in chirche had yeve him what hem leste,
He wente his wey, no lenger wolde he reste,
With scrippe and tipped staf, ytukked hye,
In every hous he gan to poure and prye,
And beggeth mele and chese, or elles corn.
His felawe hadde a staf tipped with horn,
A peyre of tables al of yvory,
And a poyntel polysshed fetisly,
And wrooth the names alwey, as he stood,
Of alle folk that yaf hym any good,
Ascaunces that he wolde for hem preye.
Yif us a busshel whete, malt, or reye,
A goddes kechyl, or a trype of chese,
Or elles what yow lyst, we may nat cheese;
A goddes halfpeny, or a masse peny,
Or yif us of youre brawn, if ye have eny;
A dagon of youre blanket, leeve dame,
Oure suster deere, -- lo! heere I write youre name, --
Bacon or beef, or swich thyng as ye fynde.
A sturdy harlot wente ay hem bihynde,
That was hir hostes man, and bar a sak,
And what men yaf hem, leyde it on his bak.
And whan that he was out at dore, anon
He planed awey the names everichon
That he biforn had writen in his tables;
He served hem with nyfles and with fables.
Nay, ther thou lixt, thou somonour! quod the frere.
Pees, quod oure hoost, for cristes mooder deere!
Tel forth thy tale, and spare it nat at al.
So thryve I, quod this somonour, so I shal!
So longe he wente, hous by hous, til he
Cam til an hous ther he was wont to be
Refresshed moore than in an hundred placis.
Syk lay the goode man whos that the place is;
Bedrede upon a couche lowe he lay.
Deus hic! quod he, o thomas, freend, good day!
Seyde this frere, curteisly and softe.
Thomas, quod he, God yelde yow! ful ofte
Have I upon this bench faren ful weel;
Heere have I eten many a myrie meel.
And fro the bench he droof awey the cat,
And leyde adoun his potente and his hat,
And eek his scrippe, and sette hym softe adoun.
His felawe was go walked into toun [Page 95]
Forth with his knave, into that hostelrye
Where as he shoop hym thilke nyght to lye.
O deere maister, quod this sike man,
How han ye fare sith that march bigan?
I saugh yow noght this fourtenyght or moore.
God woot, quod he, laboured have I ful soore,
And specially, for thy savacion
Have I seyd many a precious orison,
And for oure othere freendes, God hem blesse!
I have to day been at youre chirche at messe,
And seyd a sermon after my symple wit,
Nat al after the text of hooly writ;
For it is hard to yow, as I suppose,
And therfore wol I teche yow al the glose.
Glosynge is a glorious thyng, certeyn,
For lettre sleeth, so as we clerkes seyn.
There have I taught hem to be charitable,
And spende hir good ther it is resonable;
And there I saugh oure dame, -- a! where is she?
Yond in the yerd I trowe that she be,
Seyde this man,and she wol come anon.
Ey, maister, welcome be ye, by seint john!
Seyde this wyf, how fare ye, hertely?
The frere ariseth up ful curteisly,
And hire embraceth in his armes narwe,
And kiste hire sweete, and chirketh as a sparwe
With his lyppes: dame, quod he, right weel,
As he that is youre servent every deel,
Thanked be god, that yow yaf soule and lyf!
Yet saugh I nat this day so fair a wyf
In al the chirche, God so save me!
Ye, God amende defautes, sire, quod she.
Algates, welcome be ye, by my fey!
Graunt mercy, dame, this have I founde alwey.
But of youre grete goodnesse, by youre leve,
I wolde prey yow that ye nat yow greve,
I wole with thomas speke a litel throwe.
Thise curatz been ful necligent and slowe
To grope tendrely a conscience
In shrift; in prechyng is my diligence,
And studie in petres wordes and in poules.
I walke, and fisshe cristen mennes soules,
To yelden jhesu crist his propre rente;
To sprede his word is set al myn entente.
Now, by youre leve, o deere sire, she,
Chideth him weel, for seinte trinitee!
He is as angry as a pissemyre,
Though that he have al that he kan desire,
Though I hym wrye a-nyght and make hym warm,
And over hym leye my leg outher myn arm,
He groneth lyk oure boor, lith in oure sty.
Oother desport right noon of hym have I;
I may nat plese hym in no maner cas.
O thomas, je vous dy, thomas! thomas!
This maketh the feend; this moste ben amended.
Ire is a thyng that hye God defended,
And therof wol I speke a word or two.
Now, maister, quod the wyf, er that I go,
What wol ye dyne? I wol go theraboute.
Now dame, quod he, now je vous dy sanz doute,
Have I nat of a capon but the lyvere,
And of youre softe breed nat but a shyvere,
And after that a rosted pigges heed --
But that I nolde no beest for me were deed --
Thanne hadde I with yow hoomly suffisaunce.
I am a man of litel sustenaunce;
My spirit hath his fostryng in the bible.
The body is ay so redy and penyble
To wake, that my stomak is destroyed.
I prey yow, dame, ye be nat anoyed,
Though I so freendly yow my conseil shewe.
By god! I wolde nat telle it but a fewe.
Now, sire, quod she, but o word er I go.
My child is deed withinne thise wykes two,
Soone after that ye wente out of this toun.
His deeth saugh I by revelacioun,
Seide this frere, at hoom in oure dortour.
I dar wel seyn that, er that half an hour
After his deeth, I saugh hym born to blisse
In myn avision, so God me wisse!
So didde oure sexteyn and oure fermerer,
That han been trewe freres fifty yeer;
They may now -- God be thanked of his loone! --
Maken hir jubilee and walke allone.
And up I roos, and al oure covent eke,
With many a teere trillyng on my cheke,
Withouten noyse or claterynge of belles;
Te deum was oure song, and nothyng elles,
Save that to crist I seyde an orison,
Thankynge hym of his revelacion.
For, sire and dame, trusteth me right weel,
Oure orisons been moore effectueel,
And moore we seen of cristes secree thynges,
Than burel folk, although they weren kynges.
We lyve in poverte and in abstinence,
And burell folk in richesse and despence
Of mete and drynke, and in hir foul delit.
We han this worldes lust al in despit.
Lazar and dives lyveden diversly,
And divers gerdon hadden they therby. [Page 96]
Whoso wol preye, he moot faste and be clene,
And fatte his soule, and make his body lene.
We fare as seith th' apostle; clooth and foode
Suffisen us, though they be nat ful goode.
The clennesse and the fastynge of us freres
Maketh that crist accepteth oure preyeres.
Lo, moyses fourty dayes and fourty nyght
Fasted, er that the heighe God of myght
Spak with hym in the mountayne of synay.
With empty wombe, fastynge many a day,
Receyved he the lawe that was writen
With goddes fynger; and elye, wel ye witen,
In mount oreb, er he hadde any speche
With hye god, that is oure lyves leche,
He fasted longe, and was in contemplaunce.
Aaron, that hadde the temple in governaunce,
And eek the othere preestes everichon,
Into the temple whan they sholde gon
To preye for the peple, and do servyse,
They nolden drynken in no maner wyse
No drynke which that myghte hem dronke make,
But there in abstinence preye and wake,
Lest that they deyden. Taak heede what I seye!
But they be sobre that for the peple preye,
War that I seye -- namoore, for it suffiseth.
Oure lord jhesu, as hooly writ devyseth,
Yaf us ensample of fastynge and preyeres.
Therfore we mendynantz, we sely freres,
Been wedded to poverte and continence,
To charite, humblesse, and abstinence,
To persecucioun for rightwisnesse,
To wepynge, misericorde, and clennesse.
And therfore may ye se that oure preyeres --
I speke of us, we mendynantz, we freres --
Been to the hye God moore acceptable
Than youres, with youre feestes at the table.
Fro paradys first, if I shal nat lye,
Was man out chaced for his glotonye;
And chaast was man in paradys, certeyn.
But herkne now, thomas, what I shal seyn.
I ne have no text of it, as I suppose,
But I shal fynde it in a maner glose,
That specially oure sweete lord jhesus
Spak this by freres, whan he seyde thus:
-- Blessed be they that povere in spirit been. --
And so forth al the gospel may ye seen,
Wher it be likker oure professioun,
Or hirs that swymmen in possessioun.
Fy on hire pompe and on hire glotonye!
And for hir lewednesse I hem diffye.
My thynketh they been lyk jovinyan,
Fat as a whale, and walkynge as a swan,
Al vinolent as botel in the spence.
Hir preyere is of ful greet reverence,
Whan they for soules seye the psalm of davit;
Lo, -- buf! -- they seye, -- cor meum eructavit! --
Who folweth cristes gospel and his foore,
But we that humble been, and chaast, and poore,
Werkeris of goddes word, nat auditours?
Therfore, right as an hauk up at a sours
Up springeth into th' eir, right so prayeres
Of charitable and chaste bisy freres
Maken hir sours to goddes eres two.
Thomas! thomas! so moote I ryde or go,
And by that lord that clepid is seint yve,
Nere thou oure brother, sholdestou nat thryve.
In our chapitre prayer we day and nyght
To crist, that he thee sende heele and myght
Thy body for to weelden hastily.
God woot, quod he, nothyng therof feele i!
As help me crist, as I in fewe yeres,
Have spent upon diverse manere freres
Ful many a pound; yet fare I never the bet.
Certeyn, my good have I almoost biset.
Farwel, my gold, for it is al ago!
The frere answerde, o thomas, dostow so?
What nedeth yow diverse freres seche?
What nedeth hym that hath a parfit leche
To sechen othere leches in the toun?
Youre inconstance is youre confusioun.
Holde ye thanne me, or elles oure covent,
To praye for yow been insufficient?
Thomas, that jape nys nat worth a myte.
Youre maladye is for we han to lyte.
A! yif that covent half a quarter otes!
A! yif that covent foure and twenty grotes!
A! yif that frere a peny, and lat hym go!
Nay, nay, thomas, it may no thyng be so!
What is a ferthyng worth parted in twelve?
Lo, ech thyng that is oned in himselve
Is moore strong than whan it is toscatered.
Thomas, of me thou shalt nat been yflatered;
Thou woldest han oure labour al for noght.
The hye god, that al this world hath wroght,
Seith that the werkman worthy is his hyre.
Thomas, noght of youre tresor I desire
As for myself, but that al oure covent
To preye for yow is ay so diligent,
And for to buylden cristes owene chirche.
Thomas, if ye wol lernen for to wirche,
Of buyldynge up of chirches may ye fynde, [Page 97]
If it be good, in thomas lyf of inde.
Ye lye heere ful of anger and of ire,
With which the devel set youre herte afyre,
And chiden heere the sely innocent,
Youre wyf, that is so meke and pacient.
And therfore, thomas, trowe me if thee leste,
Ne stryve nat with thy wyf, as for thy beste;
And ber this word awey now, by thy feith,
Touchynge swich thyng, lo, what the wise seith:
-- Withinne thyn hous ne be thou no leon;
To thy subgitz do noon oppression,
Ne make thyne aqueyntances nat to flee. --
And, thomas, yet eft-soones I charge thee,
Be war from hire that in thy bosom slepeth;
War fro the serpent that so slily crepeth
Under the gras, and styngeth subtilly.
Be war, my sone, and herkne paciently,
That twenty thousand men han lost hir lyves
For stryvyng with hir lemmans and hir wyves.
Now sith ye han so hooly and meke a wyf,
What nedeth yow, thomas, to maken stryf?
Ther nys, ywys, no serpent so cruel,
Whan man tret on his tayl, ne half so fel,
As womman is, whan she hath caught an ire;
Vengeance is thanne al that they desire.
Ire is a synne, oon of the grete of sevene,
Abhomynable unto the God of hevene;
And to hymself it is destruccion.
This every lewed viker or person
Kan seye, how ire engendreth homycide.
Ire is, in sooth, executour of pryde.
I koude of ire seye so muche sorwe,
My tale sholde laste til to-morwe.
And therfore preye I god, bothe day and nyght,
An irous man, God sende hym litel myght!
It is greet harm and certes greet pitee
To sette an irous man in heigh degree.
Whilom ther was an irous potestat,
As seith senek, that, durynge his estaat,
Upon a day out ryden knyghtes two,
And as fortune wolde that it were so,
That oon of hem cam hoom, that oother noght.
Anon the knyght bifore the juge is broght,
That seyde thus, -- thou hast thy felawe slayn,
For which I deme thee to the deeth, certayn. --
And to another knyght comanded he,
-- Go lede hym to the deeth, I charge thee, --
And happed, as they wente by the weye
Toward the place ther he sholde deye,
The knyght cam which men wenden had be deed.
Thanne thoughte they it were the beste reed
To lede hem bothe to the juge agayn.
They seiden, -lord, the knyght ne hath nat slayn
His felawe; heere he standeth hool alyve. --
-- Ye shul be deed, -- quod he, -- so moot I thryve!
That is to seyn, bothe oon, and two, and thre! --
And to the firste knyght right thus spak he,
-- I dampned thee; thou most algate be deed.
And thou also most nedes lese thyn heed,
For thou art cause why thy felawe deyth. --
And to the thridde knyght right thus he seith,
-- Thou hast nat doon that I comanded thee. --
And thus he dide doon sleen hem alle thre.
Irous cambises was eek dronkelewe,
And ay delited hym to been a shrewe.
And so bifel, a lord of his meynee,
That loved vertuous moralitee,
Seyde on a day bitwix hem two right thus:
-- A lord is lost, if he be vicius;
And dronkenesse is eek a foul record
Of any man, and namely in a lord.
Ther is ful many an eye and many an ere
Awaityng on a lord, and he noot where.
For goddes love, drynk moore attemprely!
Wyn maketh man to lesen wrecchedly
His mynde and eek his lymes everichon. --
-- The revers shaltou se, -- quod he, -- anon,
And preve it by thyn owene experience,
That wyn ne dooth to folk no swich offence.
Ther is no wyn bireveth me my myght
Of hand ne foot, ne of myne eyen sight. --
And for despit he drank ful muchel moore,
An hondred part, than he hadde don bifoore;
And right anon this irous, cursed wrecche
Leet this knyghtes sone bifore hym fecche,
Comandynge hym he sholde bifore hym stonde.
And sodeynly he took his bowe in honde,
And up the streng he pulled to his ere,
And with an arwe he slow the child right there.
-- Now wheither have I a siker hand or noon? --
Quod he; -- is al my myght and mynde agon?
Hath wyn bireved me myn eyen sight? --
What sholde I telle th' answere of the knyght?
His sone was slayn, ther is namoore to seye.
Beth war, therfore, with lordes how ye pleye.
Syngeth placebo, and -- I shal, if I kan, --
But if it be unto a povre man.
To a povre man men sholde his vices telle,
But nat to a lord, thogh he sholde go to helle.
Lo irous cirus, thilke percien,
How he destroyed the ryver of gysen,
For that an hors of his was dreynt therinne,
Whan that he wente babiloigne to wynne.
He made that the ryver was so smal
That wommen myghte wade it over al.
Lo, what seyde he that so wel teche kan? [Page 98]
-- Ne be no felawe to an irous man,
Ne with no wood man walke by the weye,
Lest thee repente; -- I wol no ferther seye.
Now, thomas, leeve brother, lef thyn ire;
Thou shalt me fynde as just as is a squyre.
Hoold nat the develes knyf ay at thyn herte --
Thyn angre dooth thee al to soore smerte --
But shewe to me al thy confessioun.
nay, quod the sike man, by seint symoun!
I have be shryven this day at my curat.
I have hym toold hoolly al myn estat;
Nedeth namoore to speken of it, seith he,
But if me list, of myn humylitee.
Yif me thanne of thy gold, to make oure cloystre,
Quod he, for many a muscle and many an oystre,
Whan othere men han ben ful wel at eyse,
Hath been oure foode, our cloystre for to reyse.
And yet, God woot, unnethe the fundement
Parfourned is, ne of our pavement
Nys nat a tyle yet withinne oure wones.
By god! we owen fourty pound for stones.
Now help, thomas, for hym that harwed helle!
For elles moste we oure bookes selle.
And if yow lakke oure predicacioun,
Thanne goth the world al to destruccioun.
For whoso wolde us fro this world bireve,
So God me save, thomas, by youre leve,
He wolde bireve out of this world the sonne.
For who kan teche and werchen as we konne?
And that is nat of litel tyme, quod he,
But syn elye was, or elise,
Han freres been, that funde I of record,
In charitee, ythanked be oure lord!
Now thomas, help, for seinte charitee!
And doun anon he sette hym on his knee.
This sike man wax wel ny wood for ire;
He wolde that the frere had been on-fire,
With his false dissymulacioun.
Swich thyng as is in my possessioun,
Quod he, that may I yeve yow, and noon oother.
Ye sey me thus, how that I am youre brother?
Ye, certes, quod the frere, trusteth weel.
I took oure dame oure lettre with oure seel.
Now wel, quod he, and somwhat shal I yive
Unto youre hooly covent whil I lyve;
And in thyn hand thou shalt it have anon,
On this condicion, and oother noon,
That thou departe it so, my deere brother,
That every frere have also muche as oother.
This shaltou swere on thy professioun,
Withouten fraude or cavillacioun.
I swere it, quod this frere, by my feith!
And therwithal his hand in his he leith,
Lo, heer my feith; in me shal be no lak.
Now thanne, put in thyn hand doun by my bak,
Seyde this man, and grope wel bihynde.
Bynethe my buttok there shaltow fynde
A thyng that I have hyd in pryvetee.
A! thoghte this frere, that shal go with me!
And doun his hand he launcheth to the clifte,
In hope for to fynde there a yifte.
And whan this sike man felte this frere
Aboute his tuwel grope there and heere,
Amydde his hand he leet the frere a fart,
Ther nys no capul, drawynge in a cart,
That myghte have lete a fart of swich a soun.
The frere up stirte as dooth a wood leoun, --
A! false cherl, quod he, for goddes bones!
This hastow for despit doon for the nones.
Thou shalt abye this fart, if that I may!
His meynee, whiche that herden this affray,
Cam lepynge in and chaced out the frere;
And forth he gooth, with a ful angry cheere,
And fette his felawe, ther as lay his stoor.
He looked as it were a wilde boor;
He grynte with his teeth, so was he wrooth.
A sturdy paas doun to the court he gooth,
Wher as ther woned a man of greet honour,
To whom that he was alwey confessour.
This worthy man was lord of that village.
This frere cam as he were in a rage,
Where as this lord sat etyng at his bord;
Unnethes myghte the frere speke a word,
Til atte laste he seyde, God yow see!
This lord gan looke, and seide, benedicitee!
What, frere john, what maner world is this?
I se wel that som thyng ther is amys;
Ye looken as the wode were ful of thevys.
Sit doun anon, and tel me what youre grief is,
And it shal been amended, if I may.
I have, quod he, had a despit this day,
God yelde yow, adoun in youre village,
That in this world is noon so povre a page
That he nolde have abhomynacioun
Of that I have receyved in youre toun.
And yet ne greveth me nothyng so soore,
As that this olde cherl with lokkes hoore
Blasphemed hath oure hooly covent eke.
Now, maister, quod this lord, I yow biseke, -- [Page 99]
No maister, sire, quod he, but servitour,
Thogh I have had in scole that honour.
God liketh nat that -- raby -- men us calle,
Neither in market ne in youre large halle.
No fors, quod he, but tel me al youre grief.
Sire, quod this frere, and odious meschief
This day bityd is to myn ordre and me,
And so, per consequens, to ech degree
Of hooly chirche, God amende it soone!
Sire, quod the lord, ye woot what is to doone.
Distempre yow noght, ye be my confessour;
Ye been the salt of the erthe and the savour.
For goddes love, youre pacience ye holde!
Tel me youre grief; and anon hym tolde,
As ye han herd biforn, ye woot wel what.
The lady of the hous ay stille sat
Til she had herd what the frere sayde.
Ey, goddes mooder, quod she, blisful mayde!
Is ther oght elles? telle me feithfully.
Madame, quod he, how thynke ye herby?
How that me thynketh? quod she, so God me speede,
I seye, a cherl hath doon a cherles dede.
What shold I seye? God lat hym nevere thee!
His sike heed is ful of vanytee;
I holde hym in a manere frenesye.
Madame, quod he, by god, I shal nat lye
But in on oother wyse may be wreke,
I shal disclaundre hym over al ther I speke,
This false blasphemour, that charged me
To parte that wol nat departed be,
To every man yliche, with meschaunce!
The lord sat stille as he were in a traunce,
And in his herte he rolled up and doun,
How hadde this cherl ymaginacioun
To shewe swich a probleme to the frere?
Nevere erst er now herde I of swich mateere.
I trowe the devel putte it in his mynde.
In ars-metrike shal ther no man fynde,
Biforn this day, of swich a question.
Who sholde make a demonstracion
That every man sholde have yliche his part
As of the soun or savour of a fart?
O nyce, proude cherl, I shrewe his face!
Lo, sires, quod the lord, with harde grace!
Who evere herde of swich a thyng er now?
To every man ylike, tel me how?
It is an inpossible, it may nat be.
Ey, nyce cherl, God lete him nevere thee!
The rumblynge of a fart, and every soun,
Nis but of eir reverberacioun,
And evere it wasteth litel and litel awey.
Ther is no man kan deemen, by my fey,
If that it were departed equally.
What, lo, my cherl, lo, yet how shrewedly
Unto my confessour to-day he spak!
I holde hym certeyn a demonyak!
Now ete youre mete, and lat the cherl go pleye;
Lat hym go honge hymself a devel weye!
Now stood the lordes squier at the bord,
That karf his mete, and herde word by word
Of alle thynges whiche I have yow sayd.
My lord, quod he, be ye nat yvele apayd,
I koude telle, for a gowne-clooth,
To yow, sire frere, so ye be nat wrooth,
How that this fart sholde evene deled be
Among youre covent, if it lyked me.
Tel, quod the lord, and thou shalt have anon
A gowne-clooth, by God and by seint john!
My lord, quod he, whan that the weder is fair,
Withouten wynd or perturbynge of air,
Lat brynge a cartwheel heere into this halle;
But looke that it have his spokes alle, --
Twelve spokes hath a cartwheel comunly.
And bryng me thanne twelve freres, woot ye why?
For thrittene is a covent, as I gesse.
Youre confessour heere, for his worthynesse,
Shal parfoune up the nombre of his covent,
Thanne shal they knele doun, by oon assent,
And to every spokes ende, in this manere,
Ful sadly leye his nose shal a frere.
Youre noble confessour -- there God hym save! --
Shal holde his nose upright under the nave.
Thanne shal this cherl, with bely stif and toght
As any tabour, hyder been ybroght;
And sette hym on the wheel right of this cart.
Upon the nave, and make hym lete a fart.
And ye shul seen, up peril of my lyf,
By preeve which that is demonstratif,
That equally the soun of it wol wende,
And eke the stynk, unto the spokes ende.
Save that this worthy man, youre confessour,
By cause he is a man of greet honour,
Shal have the firste fruyt, as resoun is. [Page 100]
The noble usage of freres yet is this,
The worthy men of hem shul first be served;
And certeinly he hath it well disserved.
He hath to-day taught us so muche good
With prechyng in the pulpit the he stood,
That I may vouche sauf, I sey for me,
He hadde the firste smel of fartes thre;
And so wolde al his covent hardily,
He bereth hym so faire and hoolily.
The lord, the lady, and ech man, save the frere,
Seyde that jankyn spak, in this matere,
As wel as euclide dide or ptholomee.
Touchynge the cherl, they seyde, subtiltee
And heigh wit made hym speken as he spak;
He nys no fool, ne no demonyak.
And jankyn hath ywonne a newe gowne. --
My tale is doon; we been almost at towne.
[Page 101]

4. Group 4

4.1. The Clerk's Prologue

Sire clerk of oxenford, oure hooste sayde,
Ye ryde as coy and stille as dooth a mayde
Were newe spoused, sittynge at the bord;
This day ne herde I of youre tonge a word.
I trowe ye studie aboute som sophyme;
But salomon seith -- every thyng hath tyme. --
For goddes sake, as beth of bettre cheere!
It is no tyme for to studien heere.
Telle us som myrie tale, by youre fey!
For what man that is entred in a pley,
He nedes moot unto the pley assente.
But precheth nat, as freres doon in lente,
To make us for oure olde synnes wepe,
Ne that thy tale make us nat to slepe.
Telle us som murie thyng of aventures.
Youre termes, youre colours, and youre figures,
Keepe hem in stoor til so be that ye endite
Heigh style, as whan that men to kynges write.
Speketh so pleyn at this tyme, we yow preye,
That we may understonde what ye seye.
This worthy clerk benignely answerde:
Hooste, quod he, I am under youre yerde;
Ye han of us as now the governance,
And therfore wol I do yow obeisance,
As fer as resoun axeth, hardily.
I wol yow telle a tale which that I
Lerned at padowe of a worthy clerk,
As preved by his wordes and his werk.
He is now deed and nayled in his cheste,
I prey to God so yeve his soule reste!
Fraunceys petrak, the lauriat poete,
Highte this clerk, whos rethorike sweete
Enlumyned al ytaille of poetrie,
As lynyan dide of philosophie,
Or lawe, or oother art particuler;
But deeth, that wol nat suffre us dwellen heer,
But as it were a twynklyng of an ye,
Hem bothe hath slayn, and alle shul we dye.
But forth to tellen of this worthy man
That taughte me this tale, as I bigan,
I seye that first with heigh stile he enditeth,
Er he the body of his tale writeth,
A prohemye, in the which discryveth he
Pemond, and of saluces the contree,
And speketh of apennyn, the hilles hye,
That been the boundes of west lumbardye,
And of mount vesulus in special,
Where as the poo out of a welle smal
Taketh his firste spryngyng and his sours,
That estward ay encresseth in his cours
To emele-ward, to ferrare, and venyse;
The which a long thyng were to devyse.
And trewely, as to my juggement,
Me thynketh it a thyng impertinent,
Save that he wole conveyen his mateere;
But this his tale, which that ye may heere.

4.2. The Clerk's Tale

4.2.1. Part I

Ther is, right at the west syde of ytaille,
Doun at the roote of vesulus the colde,
A lusty playn, habundant of vitaille,
Where many a tour and toun thou mayst biholde,
That founded were in tyme of fadres olde,
And many another delitable sighte,
And saluces this noble contree highte.
A markys whilom lord was of that lond,
As were his worthy eldres hym bifore;
And obeisant, ay redy to his hond,
Were alle his liges, bothe lasse and moore.
Thus in delit he lyveth, and hath doon yoore,
Biloved and drad, thurgh favour of fortune,
Bothe of his lordes and of his commune. [Page 102]
Therwith he was, to speke as of lynage,
The gentillest yborn of lumbardye,
A fair persone, and strong, and yong of age,
And ful of honour and of curteisye;
Discreet ynogh his contree for to gye,
Save in somme thynges that he was to blame;
And walter was this yonge lordes name.
I blame hym thus, that he considered noght
In tyme comynge what myghte hym bityde,
But on his lust present was al his thoght,
As for to hauke and hunte on every syde.
Wel ny alle othere cures leet he slyde,
And eek he nolde -- and that was worst of alle --
Wedde no wyf, for noght that may bifalle.
Oonly that point his peple bar so soore
That flokmeele on a day they to hym wente,
And oon of he, that wisest was of loore --
Or elles that the lord best wolde assente
That he sholde telle hym what his peple mente,
Or elles koude he shewe wel swich mateere --
He to the markys seyde as ye shul heere:
O noble markys, youre humanitee
Asseureth us and yeveth us hardinesse,
As ofte as tyme is of necessitee,
That we to yow mowe telle oure hevynesse.
Accepteth, lord, now of youre gentilesse
That we with pitous herte unto yow pleyne,
And lat youre eres nat my voys desdeyne.
Al have I noght to doone in this mateere
Moore than another man hath in this place,
Yet for as muche as ye, my lord so deere,
Han alwey shewed me favour and grace
I dar the bettre aske of yow a space
Of audience, to shewen oure requeste,
And ye, my lord, to doon right as yow leste.
For certes, lord, so wel us liketh yow
And al youre werk, and evere han doon, that we
Ne koude nat us self devysen how
We myghte lyven in moore felicitee,
Save o thyng, lord, if it youre wille be,
That for to been a wedded man yow leste;
Thanne were youre peple in sovereyn hertes reste.
Boweth youre nekke under that blisful yok
Of sovereynetee, noght of servyse,
Which that men clepe spousaille or wedlok;
And thanketh, lord, among youre thoghtes wyse
How that oure dayes passe in sondry wyse;
For thogh we slepe, or wake, or rome, or ryde,
Ay fleeth the tyme; it nyl no man abyde.
And thogh youre grene youthe floure as yit,
In crepeth age alwey, as stille as stoon,
And deeth manaceth every age, and smyt
In ech estaat, for ther escapeth noon;
And al so certein as we knowe echoon
That we shul deye, as uncerteyn we alle
Been of that day whan deeth shal on us falle
Accepteth thanne of us the trewe entente,
That nevere yet refuseden thyn heeste,
And we wol, lord, if that ye wole assente,
Chese yow a wyf, in short tyme atte leeste,
Born of the gentilleste and of the meeste
Of al this land, so that it oghte seme
Honour to God and yow, as we kan deeme.
Delivere us out of al this bisy drede,
And taak a wyf, for hye goddes sake!
For if it so bifelle, as God forbede,
That thurgh youre deeth youre lynage sholde slake,
And that a straunge successour sholde take
Youre heritage, o, wo were us alyve!
Wherfore we pray you hastily to wyve.
Hir meeke preyere and hir pitous cheer
Made the markys herte han pitee.
Ye wol, quod he, myn owene peple deere,
To that I nevere erst thoughte streyne me.
I me rejoysed of my liberte.
That seelde tyme is founde in mariage;
Ther I was free, I moot been in servage.
But nathelees I se youre trewe entente,
And truste upon youre wit, and have doon ay;
Wherfore of my free wyl I wole assente
To wedde me, as soone as evere I may.
But ther as ye han profred me to-day
To chese me a wyf, I yow relesse
That choys, and prey yow of that profre cesse.
For God it woot, that children ofte been
Unlyk hir worthy eldress hem bifore;
Bountee comth al of god, nat of the streen
Of which they been engendred and ybore.
I truste in goddes bountee, and therfore
My mariage and myn estaat and reste
I hym bitake; he may doon as hym leste.
Lat me allone in chesynge of my wyf, --
That charge upon my bak I wole endure. [Page 103]
But I yow preye, and charge upon youre lyf,
That what wyf that I take, ye me assure
To worshipe hire, whil that hir lyf may dure,
In word and werk, bothe heere and everywheere,
As she and emperoures doghter weere.
And forthermoore, this shal ye swere, that ye
Agayn my choys shul neither grucche ne stryve;
For sith I shal forgoon my libertee
At youre requeste, as evere moot I thryve,
Ther as myn herte is set, ther wol I wyve;
And but ye wole assente in swich manere,
I prey yow, speketh namoore of this matere.
With hertely wyl they sworen and assenten
To al this thyng, ther seyde no wight nay;
Bisekynge hym of grace, er that they wenten,
That he wolde graunten hem a certein day
Of his spousaille, as soone as evere he may;
For yet alwey the peple somwhat dredde,
Lest that the markys no wyf wolde wedde.
He graunted hem a day, swich as hym leste,
On which he wolde be wedded sikerly.
And seyde he dide al this at hir requeste.
And they, with humble entente, buxomly,
Knelynge upon hir knees ful reverently,
Hym thonken alle; and thus they han an ende
Of hire entente, and hoom agayn they wende.
And heerupon he to his officeres
Comaundeth for the feste to purveye,
And to his privee knyghtes and squieres
Swich charge yaf as hym liste on hem leye;
And they to his comandement obeye,
And ech of hem dooth al his diligence
To doon unto the feeste reverence.
Explicit prima pars

4.2.2. Incipit secunda pars

Noght fer fro thilke paleys honurable,
Wher as this markys shoop his mariage,
There stood a throop, of site delitable,
In which that povre folk of that village
Hadden hir beestes and hir herbergage,
And of hire labour tooke hir sustenance,
After that the erthe yaf hem habundance.
Amonges thise povre folk ther dwelte a man
Which that was holden povrest of hem alle;
But hye God somtyme senden kan
His grace into litel oxes stalle;
Janicula men of that throop hym calle.
A doghter hadde he, fair ynogh to sighte,
And grisildis this yonge mayden highte.
But for to speke of vertuous beautee,
Thanne was she oon the faireste under sonne;
For povreliche yfostred up was she,
No likerous lust was thurgh hire herte yronne.
Wel ofter of the welle than of the tonne
She drank, and for she wolde vertu plese,
She knew wel labour, but noon ydel ese.
But thogh this mayde tendre were of age,
Yet in the brest of hire virginitee
Ther was enclosed rype and sad corage;
And in greet reverence and charitee
Hir olde povre fader fostred shee.
A fewe sheep, spynnynge, on feeld she kepte;
She wolde noght been ydel til she slepte.
And whan she homward cam, she wolde brynge
Wortes or othere herbes tymes ofte,
The whiche she shredde and seeth for hir lyvynge,
And made hir bed ful hard and nothyng softe;
And ay she kepte hir fadres lyf on-lofte
With everich obeisaunce and diligence
That child may doon to fadres reverence.
Upon grisilde, this povre creature,
Ful ofte sithe this markys sette his ye
As he on huntyng rood paraventure;
And whan it fil that he myghte hire espye,
He noght with wantown lookyng of folye
His eyen caste on hire, but in sad wyse
Upon hir chiere he wolde hym ofte avyse,
Commendynge in his herte hir wommanhede,
And eek hir verty, passynge any wight
Of so yong age, as wel in chiere as dede.
For thogh the peple have no greet insight
In verty, he considered ful right
Hir bountee, and disposed that he wolde
Wedde hire oonly, if evere he wedde sholde.
The day of weddyng cam, but no wight kan
Telle what womman that it sholde be;
For which merveille wondred many a man,
And seyden, whan they were in privetee,
Wol nat oure lord yet leve his vanytee?
Wol he nat wedde? allas; allas, the while!
Why wole he thus hymself and us bigile? [Page 104]
But nathelees this markys hath doon make
Of gemmes, set in gold and in asure,
Brooches and rynges, for grisildis sake;
And of hir clothyng took he the mesure
By a mayde lyk to hire stature,
And eek of othere aornementes alle
That unto swich a weddyng sholde falle.
The time of undren of the same day
Approcheth, that this weddyng sholde be;
And al the paleys put was in array,
Bothe halle and chambres, ech in his degree;
Houses of office stuffed with plentee
Ther maystow seen, of deyntevous vitaille
That may be founde as fer al last ytaille.
This roial markys, richely arrayed,
Lordes and ladyes in his compaignye,
The whiche that to the feeste weren yprayed,
And of his retenue the bachelrye,
With manya soun of sondry melodye,
Unto the village of the which I tolde,
In this array the righte wey han holde.
Grisilde of this, God woot, ful innocent,
That for hire shapen was al this array,
To fecchen water at a welle is went,
And cometh hoom as soone as ever she may;
For wel she hadde herd seyd that thilke day
The markys sholde wedde, and if she myghte,
She wolde fayn han seyn som of that sighte.
She thoghte, I wole with othere maydens stonde,
That been my felawes, in oure dore and se
The markysesse, and therfore wol I fonde
To doon at hoom, as soone as it may be,
The labour which that longeth unto me;
And thanne I may at leyser hire biholde,
If she this wey unto the castel holde.
And as she wolde over hir thresshfold gon,
The markys cam and gan hire for to calle;
And she set doun hir water pot anon,
Biside the thresshfold, in an oxes stalle,
And doun upon hir knes she gan to falle,
And with sad contenance kneleth stille,
Til she had herd what was the lordes wille.
This thoghtful markys spak unto this mayde
Ful sobrely, and seyde in this manere:
Where is youre fader, o grisildis? he sayde.
And she with reverence, in humble cheere,
Answerde, lord, he is al redy heere.
And in she gooth withouten lenger lette,
And to the markys she hir fader fette.
He by the hand thanne took this olde man,
And seyde thus, whan he hym hadde asyde:
Janicula, I neither may ne kan
Lenger the plesance of myn herte hyde.
If that thou vouche sauf, what so bityde,
Thy doghter wol I take, er that I wende,
As for my wyf, unto hir lyves ende.
Thou lovest me, I woot it wel certeyn,
And art my feithful lige man ybore;
And al that liketh me, I dar wel seyn
It liketh thee, and specially therfore
Tel me that poynt that I have seyd bifore,
If that thou wolt unto that purpos drawe,
To take me as for thy sone-in-lawe.
This sodeyn cas this man astonyed so
That reed he wax; abayst and al quakynge
He stood; unnethes seyde he wordes mo,
But oonly thus: lord, quod he, my willynge
Is as ye wole, ne ayeynes youre likynge
I wol no thyng, ye be my lord so deere;
Right as yow lust, governeth this mateere.
Yet wol I, quod this markys softely,
That in thy chambre I and thou and she
Have a collacioun, and wostow why?
For I wol axe if it hire wille be
To be my wyf, and reule hire after me.
And al this shal be doon in thy presence;
I wol noght speke out of thyn audience.
And in the chambre, whil they were aboute
Hir tretys, which as ye shal after heere,
The peple cam unto the hous withoute,
And wondred hem in how honest manere
And tentifly she kepte hir fader deere.
But outrely grisildis wondre myghte,
For nevere erst ne saugh she swich a sighte.
No wonder is thogh that she were astoned
To seen so greet a gest come in that place;
She nevere was to swiche gestes woned,
For which she looked with ful pale face.
But shortly forth this matere for to chace,
Thise arn the wordes that the markys sayde
To this benigne, verray, feithful mayde.
Grisilde, he seyde, ye shal wel understonde
It liketh to youre fader and to me [Page 105]
That I yow wedde, and eek it may so stonde,
As I suppose, ye wol that it so be.
But thise demandes axe I first, quod he,
That, sith it shal be doon in hastif wyse,
Wol ye assente, or elles yow avyse?
I seye this, be ye redy with good herte
To al my lust, and that I frely may,
As me best thynketh, do yow laughe or smerte,
And nevere ye to grucche it, nyght ne day?
And eek whan I sey 'ye,' ne sey nat 'nay,'
Neither by word ne frownyng contenance?
Swere this, and heere I swere oure alliance.
Wondrynge upon this word, quakynge for drede,
She seyde, lord, undigne and unworthy
Am I to thilke honour that ye me beede,
But as ye wole youreself, right so wol I.
And heere I swere that nevere willyngly,
In werk ne thogh, I nyl yow disobeye,
For to be deed, though me were looth to deye.
This is ynogh, grisilde myn, quod he.
And forth he gooth, with a ful sobre cheere,
Out at the dore, and after that cam she,
And to the peple he seyde in this manere:
This is my wyf, quod he, that standeth heere.
Honoureth hire and loveth hire, I preye,
Whoso me loveth; ther is namoore to seye.
And for that no thyng of hir olde geere
She sholde brynge into his hous, he bad
That wommen sholde dispoillen hire right theere;
Of which thise ladyes were nat right glad
To handle hir clothes, wherinne she was clad.
But nathelees, this mayde bright of hewe
Fro foot to heed they clothed han al newe.
Hir heris han they kembd, that lay untressed
Ful rudely, and with hir fyngres smale
A corone on hire heed they han ydressed,
And sette hire ful of nowches grete and smale.
Of hire array what sholde I make a tale?
Unnethe the peple hir knew for hire fairnesse,
Whan she translated was in swich richesse.
This markys hath hire spoused with a ryng
Broght for the same cause, and thanne hire sette
Upon an hors, snow-whit and wel amblyng,
And to his paleys, er he lenger lette,
With joyful peple that hire ladde and mette,
Conveyed hire, and thus the day they spende
In revel, til the sonne gan descende.
And shortly forth this tale for to chace,
I seye that to this newe markysesse
God hath swich favour sent hire of his grace,
That it ne semed nat by liklynesse
That she was born and fed in rudenesse,
As in a cote or in an oxe-stalle,
But norissed in an emperoures halle.
To every wight she woxen is so deere
And worshipful that folk ther she was bore,
And from hire birthe knewe hire yeer by yeere,
Unnethe trowed they, -- but dorste han swore --
That to janicle, of which I spak bifore,
She doghter were, for, as by conjecture,
Hem thoughte she was another creature.
For though that evere vertuous was she,
She was encressed in swich excellence
Of thewes goode, yset in heigh bountee,
And so discreet and fair of eloquence,
So benigne and so digne of reverence,
And koude so the peples herte embrace,
That ech hire lovede that looked in hir face.
Noght oonly of saluces in the toun
Publiced was the bountee of hir name,
But eek biside in many a regioun,
If oon seide wel, another seyde the same;
So spradde of hire heighe bountee the fame
That men and wommen, as wel yonge as olde,
Goon to saluce, upon hire to biholde.
Thus walter lowely -- nay, but roially --
Wedded with fortunat honestetee,
In goddes pees lyveth ful esily
At hoom, and outward grace ynogh had he;
And for he saugh that under low degree
Was ofte vertu hid, the peple hym heelde
A prudent man, and that is seyn ful seelde.
Nat oonly this grisildis thurgh hir wit
Koude al the feet of wyfly hoomlinesse,
But eek, whan that the cas required it,
The commune profit koude she redresse.
Ther nas discord, rancour, ne hevynesse
In al that land, that she ne koude apese,
And wisely brynge hem alle in reste and ese.
Though that hire housbonde absent were anon,
If gentil men or othere of hire contree [Page 106]
Were wrothe, she wolde bryngen hem aton;
So wise and rype wordes hadde she,
And juggementz of so greet equitee,
That she from hevene sent was, as men wende,
Peple to save and every wrong t' amende.
Nat longe tyme after that this grisild
Was wedded, she a doghter hath ybore.
Al had hire levere have born a knave child,
Glad was this markys and the folk therfore;
For though a mayde child coome al bifore,
She may unto a knave child attayne
By liklihede, syn she nys nat bareyne.
Explicit secunda pars.

4.2.3. Incipit tercia pars.

Ther fil, as it bifalleth tymes mo,
Whan that this child had souked but a throwe,
This markys in his herte longeth so
To tempte his wyf, hir sadnesse for to knowe,
That he ne myghte out of his herte throwe
This merveillous desir his wyf t' assaye;
Nedelees, God woot, he thoghte hire for t' affraye.
He hadde assayed hire ynogh bifore,
And foond hire evere good; what neded it
Hire for to tempte, and alwey moore and moore,
Though som men preise it for a subtil wit?
But as for me, I seye that yvele it sit
To assaye a wyf whan that it is no nede,
And putten hire in angwyssh and in drede.
For which this markys wroghte in this manere:
He cam allone a-nyght, ther as she lay,
With stierne face and with ful trouble cheere,
And seyde thus: grisilde, quod he, that day
That I yow took out of youre povere array,
And putte yow in estaat of heigh noblesse, --
Ye have nat that forgeten, as I gesse?
I seye, grisilde, this present dignitee,
In which that I have put yow, as I trowe,
Maketh yow nat foryetful for to be
That I yow took in povre estaat ful lowe,
For any wele ye moot youreselven knowe.
Taak heede of every word that y yow seye;
Ther is no wight that hereth it but we tweye.
Ye woot youreself wel how that ye cam heere
Into this hous, it is nat longe ago;
And though to me that ye be lief and deere,
Unto my gentils ye be no thyng so.
They seyn, to hem it is greet shame and wo
For to be subgetz and been in servage
To thee, that born art of a smal village.
And namely sith thy doghter was ybore
Thise wordes han they spoken, doutelees.
But I desire, as I have doon bifore,
To lyve my lyf with hem in reste and pees.
I may nat in this caas be recchelees;
I moot doon with thy doghter for the beste,
Nat as I wolde, but as my peple leste.
And yet, God woot, this is ful looth to me;
But nathelees withoute youre wityng
I wol nat doon; but this wol I, quod he,
That ye to me assente as in this thyng.
Shewe now youre pacience in youre werkyng,
That ye me highte and swore in youre village
That day that maked was oure mariage.
Whan she had herd al this, she noght ameved
Neither in word, or chiere, or contenaunce;
For, as it semed, she was nat agreved.
She seyde, lord, al lyth in youre plesaunce.
My child and I, with hertely obeisaunce,
Been youres al, and ye mowe save or spille
Youre owene thyng; weketh after youre wille.
Ther may no thyng, God so my soule save,
Liken to yow that may displese me;
Ne I desire no thyng for to have,
Ne drede for to leese, save oonly yee.
This wyl is in myn herte, and ay shal be;
No lengthe of tyme or deeth may this deface,
Ne chaunge my corage to another place.
Glad was this markys of hire answeryng,
But yet he feyned as he were nat so;
Al drery was his cheere and his lookyng,
Whan that he sholde out of the chambre go.
Soone after this, a furlong wey or two,
He prively hath toold al his entente
Unto a man, and to his wyf hym sente.
A maner sergeant was this privee man,
The which that feithful ofte he founden hadde
In thynges grete, and eek swich folk wel kan
Doon execucioun in thynges badde.
The lord knew wel that he hym loved and dradde;
And whan this sergeant wist his lordes wille,
Into the chambre he stalked hym ful stille. [Page 107]
Madame, he seyde, ye moote foryeve it me,
Though I do thyng to which I am constreyned.
Ye been so wys that ful wel knowe ye
That lordes heestes mowe nat been yfeyned;
They mowe wel been biwailled or compleyned,
But men moote nede unto hire lust obeye,
And so wol I; ther is namoore to seye.
This child I am comanded for to take, --
And spak namoore, but out the child he hente
Despitously, and gan a cheere make
As though he wolde han slayn it er he wente.
Grisildis moot al suffre and al consente;
And as a lamb she sitteth meke and stille,
And leet this crueel sergeant doon his wille.
Suspecious was the diffame of this man,
Suspect his face, suspect his word also;
Suspect the tyme in which he this bigan.
Allas! hir doghter that she loved so,
She wende he wolde han slawen it right tho.
But nathelees she neither weep ne syked,
Conformynge hire to that the markys lyked.
But atte laste to speken she bigan,
And mekely she to the sergeant preyde,
So as he was a worthy gentil man,
That she moste kisse hire child er that it deyde.
And in hir barm this litel child she leyde
With ful sad face, and gan the child to blisse,
And lulled it, and after gan it kisse.
And thus she seyde in hire benigne voys,
Fareweel my child! I shal thee nevere see.
But sith I thee have marked with the croys
Of thilke fader -- blessed moote he be! --
That for us deyde upon a croys of tree,
Thy soule, litel child, I hym bitake,
For this nyght shaltow dyen for my sake.
I trowe that to a norice in this cas
It had been hard this reuthe for to se;
Wel myghte a mooder thanne han cryd allas!
But nathelees so sad stidefast was she
That she endured al adversitee,
And to the sergeant mekely she sayde,
Have heer agayn your litel yonge mayde.
Gooth now, quod she, and dooth my lordes heeste;
But o thyng wol I prey yow of youre grace,
That, but my lord forbad yow, atte leeste
Burieth this litel body in som place
That beestes ne no briddes it torace.
But he no word wol to that purpos seye,
But took the child and wente upon his weye.
This sergeant cam unto his lord ageyn,
And of grisildis wordes and hire cheere
He tolde hym point for point, in short and pleyn,
And hym presenteth with his doghter deere.
Somwhat this lord hadde routhe in his manere,
But nathelees his purpos heeld he stille,
As lordes doon, whan they wol han hir wille;
And bad this sergeant that he pryvely
Sholde this child ful softe wynde and wrappe,
With alle circumstances tendrely,
And carie it in a cofre or in a lappe;
But, upon peyne his heed of for to swappe,
That no man sholde knowe of his entente,
Ne whenne he cam, ne whider that he wente;
But at boloigne to his suster deere,
That thilke tyme of panik was countesse,
He sholde it take, and shewe hire this mateere,
Bisekynge hire to doon hire bisynesse
This child to fostre in alle gentillesse;
And whos child that it was he bad hire hyde
From every wight, for oght that may bityde.
The sergeant gooth, and hath fulfild this thyng;
But to this markys now retourne we.
For now gooth he ful faste ymaginyng
If by his wyves cheere he myghte se,
Or by hire word aperceyve, that she
Were chaunged; but he nevere hire koude fynde
But evere in oon ylike sad and kynde.
As glad, as humble, as bisy in servyse,
And eek in love, as she was wont to be,
Was she to hym in every maner wyse;
Ne of hir doghter noght a word spak she.
Noon accident, for noon adversitee,
Was seyn in hire, ne nevere hir doghter name
Ne nempned she, in ernest nor in game.
Explicit terci pars

4.2.4. Sequitur pars quarta.

In this estaat the passed been foure yeer
Er she with childe was, but, as God wolde,
A knave child she bar by this walter,
Ful gracious and fair for to biholde. [Page 108]
And whan that folk it to his fader tolde,
Nat oonly he, but al his contree merye
Was for this child, and God they thanke and herye.
Whan it was two yeer old, and fro the brest
Departed of his norice, on a day
This markys caughte yet another lest
To tempte his wyf yet ofter, if he may.
O nedelees was she tempted in assay!
But wedded men ne knowe no mesure,
Whan that they fynde a pacient creature.
Wyf, quod this markys, ye han herd er this,
My peple sikly berth oure mariage;
And namely sith my sone yboren is,
Now is it worse than evere in al oure age.
The murmur sleeth myn herte and my corage,
For to myne eres comth the voys so smerte
That it wel ny destroyed hath myn herte.
Now sey they thus: -- whan walter is agon,
Thanne shal the blood of janicle succede
And been oure lord, for oother have we noon.
Swiche wordes seith my peple, out of drede.
Wel oughte I of swich murmur taken heede;
For certeinly I drede swich sentence,
Though they nat pleyn speke in myn audience.
I wolde lyve in pees, if that I myghte;
Wherfore I am disposed outrely,
As I his suster servede by nyghte,
Right to thenke I to serve hym pryvely.
This warne I yow, that ye nat sodeynly
Out of youreself for no wo sholde outreye;
Beth pacient, and therof I yow preye.
I have, quod she, seyd thys, and evere shal:
I wol no thyng, ne nyl no thyng, certayn,
But as yow list. Naught greveth me at al,
Though that my doughter and my sone be slayn, --
At youre comandement, this is to sayn.
I have noght had no part of children tweyne
But first siknesse, and after, wo and peyne.
Ye been oure lord, dooth with youre owene thyng
Right as yow list; axeth no reed at me.
For as I lefte at hoom al my clothyng,
Whan I first cam to yow, right so, quod she,
Lefte I my wyl and al my libertee,
And took youre clothyng; wherfore I yow preye,
Dooth youre plesaunce, I wol youre lust obeye.
And certes, if I hadde prescience
Youre wyl to knowe, er ye youre lust me tolde,
I wolde it doon withouten necligence;
But now I woot youre lust, and what ye wolde,
Al youre plesance ferme and stable I holde;
For wiste I that my deeth wolde do yow ese,
Right gladly wolde I dyen, yow to plese.
Deth may noght make no comparisoun
Unto youre love. And whan this markys say
The constance of hys wyf, he caste adoun
His eyen two, and wondreth that she may
In pacience suffre al this array;
And forth he goth with drery contenance,
But to his herte it was ful greet plesance.
This ugly sergeant, in the same wyse
That he hire doghter caughte, right so he,
Or worse, if men worse kan devyse,
Hath hent hire sone, that ful was of beautee.
And evere in oon so pacient was she
That she no chiere maade of hevynesse,
But kiste hir sone, and after gan it blesse;
Save this, she preyede hym that, if he myghte,
Hir litel sone he wolde in erthe grave,
His tendre lymes, delicaat to sighte,
Fro foweles and fro beestes for to save.
But she noon answere of hym myghte have.
He wente his wey, as hym no thyng ne roghte;
But to boloigne he tendrely it broghte.
This markys wondred, evere lenger the moore,
Upon hir pacience, and if that he
Ne hadde soothly knowen therbifoore
That parfitly hir children loved she,
He wolde have wend that of som subtiltee,
And of malice, or for crueel corage,
That she hadde suffred this with sad visage.
But wel he knew that next hymself, certayn,
She loved hir children best in every wyse.
But now of wommen wolde I axen fayn
If thise assayes myghte nat suffise?
What koude a sturdy housbonde moore devyse
To preeve hir wyfhod and hir stedefastnesse,
And he continuynge evere in sturdinesse? [Page 109]
But ther been folk of swich condicion
That whan they have a certein purpos take,
They kan nat stynte of hire entencion,
But, right as they were bounden to a stake,
They wol nat of that firste purpos slake.
Right so this markys fulliche hath purposed
To tempte his wyf as he was first disposed.
He waiteth if by word or contenance
That she to hym was changed of corage;
But nevere koude he fynde variance.
She was ay oon in herte and in visage;
And ay the forther that she was in age,
The moore trewe, if that it were possible,
She was to hym in love, and moore penyble.
For which it semed thus, that of hem two
Ther nas but o wyl; for, as walter leste,
The same lust was hire plesance also.
And, God be thanked, al fil for the beste.
She shewed wel, for no worldly unreste
A wyf, as of hirself, nothing ne sholde
Wille in effect, but as hir housbonde wolde.
The sclaundre of walter ofte and wyde spradde,
That of a crueel herte he wikkedly,
For he a povre womman wedded hadde,
Hath mordred bothe his children prively.
Swich murmur was among hem comunly.
No wonder is, for to the peples ere
Ther cam no word, but that they mordred were.
For which, where as his peple therbifore
Hadde loved hym wel, the sclaundre of his diffame
Made hem that they hym hatede therfore.
To been a mordrere is an hateful name;
But nathelees, for ernest ne for game,
He of his crueel purpos nolde stente;
To tempte his wyf was set al his entente.
Than that his doghter twelve yeer was of age,
He to the court of rome, in subtil wyse
Enformed of his wyl, sente his message,
Comaundynge hem swiche bulles to devyse
As to his crueel purpos may suffyse,
How that the pope, as for his peples reste,
Bad hym to wedde another, if hym leste.
I seye, he bad they sholde countrefete
The popes bulles, makynge mencion
That he hath leve his firste wyf to lete,
As by the popes dispensacion,
To stynte rancour and dissencion
Bitwixe his peple and hym; thus seyde the bulle,
The which they han publiced atte fulle.
The rude peple, as it no wonder is,
Wenden ful wel that it hadde be right so;
But whan thise tidynges came to grisildis,
I deeme that hire herte was ful wo.
But she, ylike sad for everemo,
Disposed was, this humble creature,
The adversitee of fortune al t' endure,
Abidynge evere his lust and his plesance,
To whom that she was yeven herte and al,
As to hire verray worldly suffisance.
But shortly if this storie I tellen shal,
This markys writen hath in special
A lettre, in which he sheweth his entente,
And secreely he to boloigne it sente.
To the erl of panyk, which that hadde tho
Wedded his suster, preyde he specially
To bryngen hoom agayn his children two
In honurable estaat al openly.
But o thyng he hym preyede outrely,
That he to no wight, though men wolde enquere,
Sholde nat telle whos children that they were,
But seye, the mayden sholde ywedded be
Unto the markys of saluce anon.
And as this erl was preyed, so dide he;
For at day set he on his wey is goon
Toward saluce, and lordes many oon
In riche array, this mayden for to gyde,
Hir yonge brother ridynge hire bisyde.
Arrayed was toward hir mariage
This fresshe mayde, ful of gemmes cleere;
Hir brother, which that seven yeer was of age.
Arrayed eek ful fressh in his manere.
And thus in greet noblesse and with glad cheere,
Toward saluces shapynge hir journey,
Fro day to day they ryden in hir wey.
Explicit quarta pars.

4.2.5. Sequitur pars quinta.

Among al this, after his wikke usage,
This markys, yet his wyf to tempte moore [Page 110]
To the outtreste preeve of hir corage,
Fully to han experience and loore
If that she were as stidefast as bifoore,
He on a day, in open audience,
Ful boistously hath seyd hire this sentence:
Certes, grisilde, I hadde ynogh plesance
To han yow to my wyf for youre goodnesse,
As for youre trouthe and for youre obeisance,
Noght for youre lynage, ne for youre richesse;
But now knowe I in verray soothfastnesse
That in greet lordshipe, if I wel avyse,
Ther is greet servitute in sondry wyse.
I may nat doon as every plowman may.
My peple me constreyneth for to take
Another wyf, and crien day by day;
And eek the pope, rancour for to slake.
Consenteth it, that dar I undertake;
And trewely thus muche I wol yow seye,
My newe wyf is comynge by the weye.
Be strong of herte, and voyde anon hir place,
And thilke dowere that ye broghten me,
Taak it agayn; I graunte it of my grace.
Retourneth to youre fadres hous, quod he;
No man may alwey han prosperitee.
With evene herte I rede yow t' endure
The strook of fortune or of aventure.
And she agayn answerde in pacience,
My lord, quod she, I woot, and wiste alway,
How that bitwixen youre magnificence
And my poverte no wight kan ne may
Maken comparison; it is no nay.
I ne heeld me nevere digne in no manere
To be youre wyf, no, ne youre chamberere.
And in this hous, ther ye me lady maade --
The heighe God take I for my witnesse,
And also wysly he my soule glaade --
I nevere heeld me lady ne mistresse,
But humble servant to youre worthynesse,
And evere shal, whil that my lyf may dure,
Aboven every worldly creature.
That ye so longe of youre benignitee
Han holden me in honour and nobleye,
Where as I was noght worthy for to bee,
That thonke I God and yow, to whom I preye
Foryelde it yow; ther is namoore to seye.
Unto my fader gladly wol I wende,
And with hym dwelle unto my lyves ende.
Ther I was fostred of a child ful smal,
Til I be deed my lyf ther wol I lede,
A wydwe clene in body, herte, and al.
For sith I yaf to yow my maydenhede,
And am youre trewe wyf, it is no drede,
God shilde swich a lordes wyf to take
Another man to housbonde or to make!
And of youre newe wyf God of his grace
So graunte yow wele and prosperitee!
For I wol gladly yelden hire my place,
In which that I was blisful wont to bee.
For sith it liketh yow, my lord, quod shee,
That whilom weren al myn hertes reste,
That I shal goon, I wol goon whan yow leste.
But ther as ye me profre swich dowaire
As I first broghte, it is wel in my mynde
It were my wrecched clothes, nothyng faire,
The whiche to me were hard now for to fynde.
O goode god! how gentil and how kynde
Ye semed by youre speche and youre visage
The day that maked was oure mariage!
But sooth is seyd -- algate I fynde it trewe,
For in effect it preeved is on me --
Love is noght oold as whan that it is newe.
But certes, lord, for noon adversitee,
To dyen in the cas, it shal nat bee
That evere in word or werk I shal repente
That I yow yaf myn herte in hool entente.
My lord, ye woot that in my fadres place
Ye dide me streepe out of my povre weede,
And richely me cladden, of youre grace.
To yow broghte I noght elles, out of drede,
But feith, and nakednesse, and maydenhede;
And heere agayn your clothyng I restoore,
And eek your weddyng ryng, for everemore.
The remenant of youre jueles redy be
Inwith youre chambre, dar I saufly sayn.
Naked out of my fadres hous, quod she,
I cam, and naked moot I turne agayn.
Al youre plesance wol I folwen fayn;
But yet I hope it be nat youre entente
That I smoklees out of youre paleys wente.
Ye koude nat doon so dishonest a thyng,
That thilke wombe in which youre children leye
Sholde biforn the peple, in my walkyng,
Be seyn al bare; wherfore I yow preye,
Lat me nat lyk a worm go by the weye. [Page 111]
Remembre yow, myn owene lord so deere,
I was youre wyf, though I unworthy weere.
Wherfore, in gerdon of my maydenhede,
Which that I broghte, and noght agayn I bere,
As voucheth sauf to yeve me, to my meede,
But swich a smok as I was wont to were,
That I therwith may wrye the wombe of here
That was youre wyf. And heer take I my leeve
Of yow, myn owene lord, lest I yow greve.
The smok, quod he, that thou hast on thy bak,
Lat it be stille, and bere it forth with thee.
But wel unnethes thilke word he spak,
But wente his wey, for routhe and for pitee.
Biforn the folk hirselven strepeth she,
And in hir smok, with heed and foot al bare,
Toward hir fadre hous forth is she fare.
The folk hire folwe, wepynge in hir weye,
And fortune ay they cursen as they goon;
But she fro wepyng kepte hire eyen dreye,
Ne in this tyme word ne spak she noon.
Hir fader, that this tidynge herde anoon,
Curseth the day and tyme that nature
Shoop hym to been a lyves creature.
For out of doute this olde poure man
Was evere in suspect of hir mariage;
For evere he demed, sith that it bigan,
That whan the lord fulfild hadde his corage,
Hym wolde thynke it were a disparage
To his estaat so lowe for t' alighte,
And voyden hire as soone as ever he myghte.
Agayns his doghter hastily goth he,
For he by noyse of folk knew hire comynge,
And with hire olde coote, as it myghte be
He covered hire, ful sorwefully wepynge.
But on hire body myghte he it nat brynge,
For rude was the clooth, and moore of age
By dayes fele than at hire mariage.
Thus with hire fader, for a certeyn space,
Dwelleth this flour of wyfly pacience,
That neither by hire wordes ne hire face,
Biforn the folk, ne eek in hire absence,
Ne shewed she that hire was doon offence;
Ne of hire heighe astaat no remembraunce
Ne hadde she, as by hire contenaunce.
No wonder is for in hire grete estaat
Hire goost was evere in pleyn humylitee;
No tendre mouth, noon herte delicaat,
No pompe, no semblant of roialtee,
But ful of pacient benyngnytee,
Discreet and pridelees, ay honurable,
And to hire housbonde evere meke and stable.
Men speke of job, and moost for humblesse,
As clerkes, whan hem list, konne wel endite,
Namely of men, but as in soothfastnesse,
Though clerkes preise wommen but a lite,
Ther kan no man in humbless hym acquite
As womman kan, ne kan been half so trewe
As wommen been, but it be falle of newe.

4.2.6. Part VI

Fro boloigne is this erl of panyk come,
Of which the fame up sprang to moore and lesse,
And to the peples eres, alle and some,
Was kouth eek that a newe markysesse
He with hym broghte, in swich pompe and richesse
That nevere was ther seyn with mannes ye
So noble array in al west lumbardye.
The markys, which that shoop and knew al this,
Er that this erl was come, sente his message
For thilke sely povre grisildis;
And she with humble herte and glad visage,
Nat with no swollen thoght in hire corage,
Cam at his heste, and on hire knees hire sette,
And reverently and wisely she hym grette.
Grisilde, quod he, my wyl is outrely,
This mayden, that shal wedded been to me,
Received be to-morwe as roially
As it possible is in myn hous to be,
And eek that every wight in his degree
Have his estaat, in sittyng and servyse
And heigh plesaunce, as I kan best devyse.
I have no wommen suffisaunt, certayn,
The chambres for t' arraye in ordinaunce
After my lust, and therfore wolde I fayn
That thyn were al swich manere governaunce.
Thou knowest eek of old al my plesaunce;
Thogh thyn array be badde and yvel biseye,
Do thou thy devoir at the leeste weye.
Nat oonly, lord, that I am glad, quod she,
To doon youre lust, but I desire also
Yow for to serve and plese in my degree [Page 112]
Withouten feyntyng, and shal everemo;
Ne nevere, for no wele ne no wo,
Ne shal the goost withinne myn herte stente
To love yow best with al my trewe entente.
And with that word she gan the hous to dighte,
And tables for to sette, and beddes make;
And peyned hire to doon al that she myghte,
Preyynge the chambereres, for goddes sake,
To hasten hem, and faste swepe and shake;
And she, the mooste servysable of alle,
Hath every chambre arrayed and his halle.
Abouten undren gan this erl alighte,
That with hym broghte thise noble children tweye,
For which the peple ran to seen the sighte
Of hire array, so richely biseye;
And thanne at erst amonges hem they seye
That walter was no fool, thogh that hym leste
To chaunge his wyf, for it was for the beste.
For she is fairer, as they deemen alle,
That is grisilde, and moore tendre of age,
And fairer fruyt bitwene hem sholde falle,
And moore plesant, for hire heigh lynage.
Hir brother eek so fair was of visage
That hem to seen the peple hath caught plesaunce,
Commendynge now the markys governaunce.
O stormy peple! unsad and evere untrewe!
Ay undiscreet and chaungynge as a fane!
Delitynge evere in rumbul that is newe,
For lyk the moone ay wexe ye and wane!
Ay ful of clappyng, deere ynogh a jane!
Youre doom is fals, youre constance preeveth;
A ful greet fool is he that on yow leeveth.
Thus seyden sadde folk in that citee,
Whan that the peple gazed up and doun;
For they were glad, right for the noveltee,
To han a newe lady of hir toun.
Namoore of this make I now mencioun,
But to grisilde agayn wol I me dresse,
And telle hir constance and hir bisynesse. --
Ful bisy was grisilde in every thyng
That to the feeste was apertinent.
Right noght was she abayst of hire clothyng,
Thogh it were rude and somdeel eek torent;
But with glad cheere to the yate is went
With oother folk, to greete the markysesse,
And after that dooth forth hire bisynesse.
With so glad chiere his gestes she receyveth,
And konnyngly, everich in his degree,
That no defaute no man aperceyveth,
But ay they wondren what she myghte bee
That in so povre array was for to see,
And koude swich honour and reverence,
And worthily they preisen hire prudence.
In al this meene while she ne stente
This mayde and eek hir brother to commende
With al hir herte, in ful benyngne entente,
So wel that no man koude hir pris amende.
But atte laste, whan that thise lordes wende
To sitten doun to mete, he gan to calle
Grisilde, as she was bisy in his halle.
Grisilde, quod he, as it were in his pley,
How liketh thee my wyf and hire beautee?
Right wel, quod she, my lord; for, in good fey,
A fairer saugh I nevere noon than she.
I prey to God yeve hire prosperitee;
And so hope I that he wol to yow sende
Plesance ynogh unto youre lyves ende.
O thyng biseke I yow, and warne also,
That ye ne prikke with no tormentynge
This tendre mayden, as ye han doon mo;
For she is fostred in hire norissynge
Moore tendrely, and, to my supposynge,
She koude nat adversitee endure
As koude a povre fostred creature.
And whan this walter saugh hire pacience,
Hir glade chiere, and no malice at al,
And he so ofte had doon to hire offence,
And she ay sad and constant as a wal,
Continuynge evere hire innocence overal,
This sturdy markys gan his herte dresse
To rewen upon hire wyfly stedfastnesse.
This is ynogh, grisilde myn, quod he;
Be now namoore agast ne yvele apayed.
I have thy feith and thy benyngnytee,
As wel as evere womman was, assayed,
In greet estaat, and povreliche arrayed.
Now knowe I, dere wyf, thy stedfastnesse, --
And hire in armes took and gan hire kesse.
And she for wonder took of it no keep;
She herde nat what thyng he to hire seyde; [Page 113]
She ferde as she had stert out of a sleep,
Til she out of hire mazednesse abreyde.
Grisilde, quod he, by god, that for us deyde,
Thou art my wyf, ne noon oother I have,
Ne nevere hadde, as God my soule save!
This is thy doghter, which thou hast supposed
To be my wyf; that oother feithfully
Shal be myn heir, as I have ay disposed;
Thou bare hym in thy body trewely.
At boloigne have I kept hem prively;
Taak hem agayn, for now maystow nat seye
That thou hast lorn noon of thy children tweye.
And folk that ootherweys han seyd of me,
I warne hem wel that I have doon this deede
For no malice, ne for no crueltee,
But for t' assaye in thee thy wommanheede,
And nat to sleen my children -- God forbeede! --
But for to kepe hem pryvely and stille,
Til I thy purpos knewe and al thy wille.
Whan she this herde, aswowne doun she falleth
For pitous joye, and after hire swownynge
She bothe hire yonge children to hire calleth,
And in hire armes, pitously wepynge,
Embraceth hem, and tendrely kissynge
Ful lyk a mooder, with hire salte teeres
She bathed bothe hire visage and hire heeres.
O which a pitous thyng it was to se
Hir swownyng, and hire humble voys to heere!
Grauntmercy, lord, God thanke it yow, quod she,
That ye han saved me my children deere!
Now rekke I nevere to been deed right heere;
Sith I stonde in youre love and in youre grace,
No fors of deeth, ne whan my spirit pace!
O tendre, o deere, o yonge children myne!
Youre woful mooder wende stedfastly
That crueel houndes or som foul vermyne
Hadde eten yow; but god, of his mercy,
And youre benyngne fader tendrely
Hath doon yow kept, -- and in that same stounde
Al sodeynly she swapte adoun to grounde,
And in hire swough so sadly holdeth she
Hire children two, whan she gan hem t' embrace,
That with greet sleighte and greet difficultee
The children from hire arm they gonne arace.
O many a teere on many a pitous face
Doun ran of hem that stooden hire bisyde;
Unnethe abouten hire myghte they abyde.
Walter hire gladeth, and hire sorwe slaketh;
She riseth up, abaysed, from hire traunce,
And every wight hire joye and feeste maketh
Til she hath caught agayn hire contenaunce.
Walter hire dooth so feithfully plesaunce
That it was deyntee for to seen the cheere
Bitwixe hem two, now they been met yfeere.
Thise ladyes, whan that they hir tyme say,
Han taken hire and into chambre gon,
And strepen hire out of hire rude array,
And in a clooth of gold that brighte shoon,
With a coroune of many a riche stoon
Upon hire heed, they into halle hire broghte,
And ther she was honured as hire oghte.
Thus hath this pitous day a blisful ende,
For every man and womman dooth his myght
This day in murthe and revel to dispende
Til on the welkne shoon the sterres lyght.
For moore solempne in every mannes syght
This feste was, and gretter of costage,
Than was the revel of hire mariage.
Ful many a yeer in heigh prosperitee
Lyven thise two in concord and in reste,
And richely his doghter maryed he
Unto a lord, oon of the worthieste
Of al ytaille; and thanne in pees and reste
His wyves fader in his court he kepeth,
Til that the soule out of his body crepeth.
His sone succedeth in his heritage
In reste and pees, after his fader day,
And fortunat was eek in mariage,
Al putte he nat his wyf in greet assay.
This world is nat so strong, it is no nay,
As it hath been in olde tymes yoore,
And herkneth what this auctour seith therfoore.
This storie is seyd, nat for that wyves sholde
Folwen grisilde as in humylitee,
For it were inportable, though they wolde;
But for that every wight, in his degree,
Sholde be constant in adversitee
As was grisilde; therfore petrak writeth
This storie, which with heigh stile he enditeth. [Page 114]
For, sith a womman was so pacient
Unto a mortal man, wel moore us oghte
Receyven al in gree that God us sent;
For greet skile is, he preeve that he wroghte.
But he ne tempteth no man that he boghte,
As seith seint jame, if ye his pistel rede;
He preeveth folk al day, it is no drede,
And suffreth us, as for oure excercise,
With sharpe scourges of adversitee
Ful ofte to be bete in sondry wise;
Nat for to knowe oure wyl, for certes he,
Er we were born, knew al oure freletee;
And for oure beste is al his governaunce.
Lat us thanne lyve in vertuous suffraunce.
But o work lordynges, herkneth er I go:
It were ful hard to fynde now-a-dayes
In al a toun grisildis thre or two;
For if that they were put to swiche assayes,
The gold of hem hath now so badde alayes
With bras, that thogh the coyne be fair at ye,
It wolde rather breste a-two than plye.
For which heere, for the wyves love of bathe --
Whos lyf and al hire secte God mayntene
In heigh maistrie, and elles were it scathe --
I wol with lusty herte, fressh and grene,
Seyn yow a song to glade yow, I wene;
And lat us stynte of ernestful matere.
Herkneth my song that seith in this manere:

4.2.7. Lenvoy de Chaucer

Grisilde is deed, and eek hire pacience,
And bothe atones buryed in ytaille;
For which I crie in open audience,
No wedded man so hardy be t' assaille
His wyves pacience in trust to fynde
Grisildis, for in certein he shal faille.
O noble wyves, ful of heigh prudence,
Lat noon humylitee youre tonge naille,
Ne lat no clerk have cause or diligence
To write of yow a storie of swich mervaille
As of grisildis pacient and kynde,
Lest chichevache yow swelwe in hire entraille!
Folweth ekko, that holdeth no silence,
But evere answereth at the countretaille.
Beth nat bidaffed for youre innocence,
But sharply taak on yow the governaille.
Emprenteth wel this lessoun in youre mynde,
For commune profit sith it may availle.
Ye archewyves, stondeth at defense,
Syn ye be strong as is a greet camaille;
Ne suffreth nat that men yow doon offense.
And sklendre wyves, fieble as in bataille,
Beth egre as is a tygre yond in ynde;
Ay clappeth as a mille, I yow consaille.
Ne dreed hem nat, doth hem no reverence,
For though thyn housbonde armed be in maille,
The arwes of thy crabbed eloquence
Shal perce his brest, and eek his aventaille.
In jalousie I rede eek thou hym bynde,
And thou shalt make hym couche as doth a quaille.
If thou be fair, ther folk been in presence,
Shewe thou thy visage and thyn apparaille;
If thou be foul, be fre of thy dispence;
To gete thee freendes ay do thy travaille;
Be ay of chiere as light as leef on lynde,
And lat hym care, and wepe, and wrynge, and waille!
This worthy clerk, whan ended was his tale,
Oure hooste seyde, and swoor, by goddes bondes,
Me were levere than a barel ale
My wyf at hoom had herd this legende ones!
This is a gentil tale for the nones,
As to my purpos, wiste ye my wille;
But thyng that wol nat be, lat it be stille.
[Page 115]

4.3. The Merchant's Prologue

Wepyng and waylyng, care and oother sorwe
I knowe ynogh, on even and a-morwe,
Quod the marchant, and so doon other mo
That wedded been. I trowe that it be so,
For wel I woot it fareth so with me.
I have awyf, the worste that may be;
For thogh the feend to hire ycoupled were,
She sholde I yow reherce in special
What sholde I yow reherce in special
Hir hye malice? she is a shrewe at al.
Ther is a long and large difference
Bitwix grisildis grete pacience
And of my wyf the passyng crueltee.
Were I unbounden, also moot I thee!
I wolde nevere eft comen in the sanre.
We wedded men lyven in sorwe and care.
Assaye whoso wole, and he shal fynde
That I seye sooth , by seint thomas of ynde,
As for the moore part, I sey nat alle.
God shilde that it sholde so bifalle!
A! goode sire hoost, I have ywedded bee
Thise monthes two, and moore nat, pardee;
And yet, I trowe, he that al his lyve
Wyflees hath been, though that men wolde him ryve
Unto the herte, ne koude in no manere
Tellen so muchel sorwe as I now heere
Koude tellen of my wyves cursednesse!
Now, quod oure hoost, marchaunt, so God yow blesse,
Syn ye so muchel knowen of that art
Ful hertely I pray yow telle us part.
Gladly, quod he, but of myn owene soore,
For soory herte, I telle may namoore.

4.4. The Merchant's Tale

Whilom ther was dwellynge in lumbardye
A worthy knyght, that born was of pavye,
In which he lyved in greet prosperitee;
And sixty yeer a wyflees man was hee,
And folwed ay his bodily delyt
On wommen, ther as was his appetyt,
As doon thise fooles that been seculeer.
And whan that he was passed sixty yeer,
Were it for hoolynesse or for dotage,
I kan nat seye, but swich a greet corage
Hadde this knyght to been a wedded man
That day and nyght he dooth al that he kan
T' espien where he myghte wedded be,
Preyinge oure lord to graunten him that he
Mighte ones knowe of thilke blisful lyf
That is bitwixe an housbonde and his wyf,
And for to lyve under that hooly boond
With which that first God man and womman bond.
Noon oother lyf, seyde he, is worth a bene;
For wedlok is so esy and so clene,
That in this world it is paradys.
Thus seyde this olde knyght, that was so wys.
And certeinly, as sooth as God is kyng,
To take a wyf it is a glorious thyng,
And namely whan a man is oold and hoor;
Thanne is a wyf the fruyt of his tresor.
Thanne sholde he take a yong wyf and a feir,
On which he myghte engendren hym and heir,
And lede his lyf in joye and in solas,
Where as thise bacheleris synge allas,
Whan that they funden any adversitee
In love, which nys but childyssh vanytee.
And trewely it sit wel to be so,
That bacheleris have often peyne and wo;
On brotel ground they buylde, and brotelnesse
They fynde, whan they wene sikernesse.
They lyve but as a bryd or as a beest,
In libertee, and under noon arreest,
Ther as a wedded man in his estaat
Lyveth a lyf blisful and ordinaat,
Under this yok of mariage ybounde.
Wel may his herte in joy and blisse habounde,
For who kan be so buxom as a wyf? [Page 116]
Who is so trewe, and eek so ententyf
To kepe hym, syk and hool, as is his make?
For wele or wo she wole hym nat forsake;
She nys nat wery hym to love and serve,
Thogh that he lye bedrede, til he sterve.
And yet somme clerkes seyn it nys nat so,
Of whiche he theofraste is oon of tho.
What force though theofraste liste lye?
Ne take no wyf, quod he, for housbondrye,
As for to spare in houshold thy dispence.
A trewe servant dooth moore diligence
Thy good to kepe, than thyn owene wyf,
For she wol clayme half part al hir lyf.
And if that thou be syk, so God me save,
Thy verray freendes, or a trewe knave,
Wol kepe thee bet than she that waiteth ay
After thy good and hath doon many a day.
And if thou take a wyf unto thyn hoold,
Ful lightly maystow been a cokewold.
This sentence, and an hundred thynges worse,
Writeth this man, ther God his bones corse!
But take no kep of al swich vanytee;
Deffie theofraste, and herke me.
A wyf is goddes yifte verraily;
Alle othere manere yiftes hardily,
As londes, rentes, pasture, or commune,
Or moebles, alle been yiftes of fortune,
That passen as a shadwe upon a wal.
But drede nat, if pleynly speke I shal,
A wyf wol laste, and thyn hous endure,
Wel lenger than thee list, paraventure.
Mariage is a ful greet sacrement.
He which that hath no wyf, I holde hym shent;
He lyveth helplees and al desolat, --
I speke of folk in seculer estaat.
And herke why, I sey nat this for noght,
That womman is for mannes helpe ywroght.
The hye god, whan he hadde adam maked,
And saugh him al allone, bely-naked,
God of his grete goodnesse syde than,
Lat us now make an helpe unto this man
Lyk to hymself; and thanne he made him eve.
Heere may ye se, and heerby may ye preve,
That wyf is mannes helpe and his confort,
His paradys terrestre, and his disport.
So buxom and so vertuous is she,
They moste nedes lyve in unitee.
O flessh they been, and o fleesh, as I gesse,
Hath but oon herte, in wele and in distresse.
A wyf! a, seinte marie, benedicite!
How myghte man han any adversitee
That hath a wyf? certes, I kan nat seye.
the blisse which that is bitwixe hem tweye
Ther may no tonge telle, or herte thynke.
If he be povre, she helpeth hym to swynke;
She kepeth his good, and wasteth never a deel;
Al that hire housbonde lust, hire liketh weel;
She seith nat ones nay, whan he seith ye.
Do this, seith he; al redy, sire, seith she.
O blisful ordre of wedlok precious,
Thou art so murye, and eek so vertuous,
And so commended and appreved eek
That every man that halt hym worth a leek,
Upon his bare knees oughte al his lyf
Thanken his God that hym hath sent a wyf,
Or elles preye to God hym for to sende
A wyf, to laste unto his lyves ende.
For thanne his lyf is set in sikernesse;
He may nat be deceyved, as I gesse,
So that he werke after his wyves reed.
Thanne may he boldely beren up his heed,
They been so trewe, and therwithal so wyse;
For which, if thou wolt werken as the wyse,
Do alwey so as wommen wol thee rede.
Lo, how that jacob, as thise clerkes rede,
By good conseil of his mooder rebekke,
Boond the kydes skyn aboute his nekke,
For which his fadres benyson he wan.
Lo, how that jacob, as thise clerkes rede,
By wys conseil she goddes peple kepte,
And slow hym olofernus, whil he slepte.
Lo abigayl, by good conseil, how she
Saved hir housbonde nabal, whan that he
Sholde han be slayn; and looke, ester also
By good conseil delyvered out of wo
The peple of god, and made hym mardochee
Of assuere enhaunced for to be.
Ther nys no thyng in gree superlatyf,
As seith senek, above and humble wyf.
Suffre thy wyves tonge, as catoun bit;
She shal comande, and thou shalt suffren it,
And yet she wole obeye of curteisye.
A wyf is kepere of thyn housbondrye;
Wel may the sike man biwaille and wepe,
Ther as ther nys no wyf the hous to kepe.
I warne thee, if wisely thou wolt wirche,
Love wel thy wyf, as crist loved his chirche.
If thou lovest thyself, thou lovest thy wyf;
No man hateth his flessh, but in his lyf
He fostreth it, and therfore bidde I thee,
Cherisse thy wyf, or thou shalt nevere thee.
Housbonde and wyf, what so men jape or pleye,
Of worldly folk holden the siker weye;
They been so knyt ther may noon harm bityde,
And namely upon the wyves syde.
For which this januarie, of whom I tolde, [Page 117]
Considered hath, inwith his dayes olde,
The lusty lyf, the vertuous quyete,
That is in mariage hony-sweete;
And for his freendes on a day he sente,
To tellen hem th' effect of his entente.
With face sad his tale he hath hem toold.
He seyde, freendes, I am hoor and oold,
And almost, God woot, on my pittes brynke;
Upon my soule somwhat moste I thynke.
I have my body folily despended;
Blessed be God that it shal been amended!
For I wol be, certeyn, a wedded man,
And that anoon in al the haste I kan.
Unto som mayde fair and tendre of age,
I prey yow, shapeth for my mariage
Al sodeynly, for I wol nat abyde;
And I wol fonde t' espien, on my syde,
To whom I may be wedded hastily.
But forasmuche as ye been mo than I,
Ye shullen rather swich a thyng espyen
Than I, and where me best were to allyen.
But o thyng warne I yow, my freendes deere,
I wol moon oold wyf han in no manere.
She shal nat passe twenty yeer, certayn;
Oold fissh and yong flessh wolde I have ful fayn.
Bet is, quod he, a pyk than a pykerel,
And bet than old boef is the tendre veel.
I wol no womman thritty yeer of age;
It is but bene-straw and greet forage.
And eek thise olde wydwes, God it woot,
They konne so muchel craft on wades boot,
So muchel broken harm, whan that hem leste,
That with hem sholde I nevere lyve in reste.
For sondry scoles maken sotile clerkis;
Womman of manye scoles half a clerk is.
But certeynly, a yong thyng may men gye,
Right as men may warm wex with handes plye.
Wherfore I sey yow pleynly, in a clause,
I wol noon oold wyf han right for this cause.
For if so were I hadde swich myschaunce,
That I in hire ne koude han no plesaunce,
Thanne sholde I lede my lyf in avoutrye,
And go streight to the devel, whan I dye.
Ne children sholde I none upon hire geten;
Yet were me levere houndes hand me eten,
Than that myn heritage sholde falle
In straunge hand, and this I telle yow alle.
I dote nat, I woot the cause why
Men sholde wedde, and forthermoore woot I,
Ther speketh many a man of mariage
That woot namoore of it than woot my page,
For whiche causes man sholde take a wyf.
If he ne may nat lyven chaast his lyf,
Take hym a wyf with greet devocioun,
By cause of leverful procreacioun
Of children, to th' onour of God above,
And nat oonly for paramour or love;
And for they sholde leccherye eschue,
And yelde hir dette whan that it is due;
Or for that ech of hem sholde helpen oother
In meschief, as a suster shal the brother;
And lyve in chastitee ful holily.
But sires, by youre leve, that am nat I.
For, God be thanked! I dar make avaunt,
I feele my lymes stark and suffisaunt
To do al that a man bilongeth to;
I woot myselven best what I may do.
Though I be hoor, I fare as dooth a tree
That blosmeth er that fruyt ywoxen bee;
And blosmy tree nys neither drye ne deed.
I feele me nowhere hoor but on myn heed;
Myn herte and alle my lymes been as grene
As laurer thurgh the yeer is for to sene.
And syn that ye han herd al myn entente,
I prey yow to my wyl ye wole assente.
Diverse men diversely hym tolde
Of mariage manye ensamples olde.
Somme blamed it, somme preysed it, certeyn;
But atte laste, shortly for to seyn,
As al day falleth altercacioun
Bitwixen freendes in disputisoun,
Ther fil a stryf bitwixe his bretheren two,
Of whiche that oon was cleped placebo,
Justinus soothly called was that oother.
Placebo seyde, o januarie, brother,
Ful litel nede hadde ye, my lord so deere,
Conseil to axe of any that is heere,
But that ye been so ful of sapience
That yow ne liketh, for youre heighe prudence,
To weyven fro the word of salomon.
This word seyde he unto us everychon:
Wirk alle thyng by conseil, -- thus seyde he,
-- And thanne shaltow nat repente thee. --
But though that salomon spak swich a word,
Myn owene deere brother and my lord,
So wysly God my soule brynge at reste,
I holde youre owene conseil is the beste.
For, brother myn, of me taak this motyf,
I have now been a court-man al my lyf,
And God it woot, though I unworthy be,
I have stonden in ful greet degree
Abouten lordes of ful heigh estaat;
Yet hadde I nevere with noon of hem debaat.
I nevere hem contraried, trewely;
I woot wel that my lord kan moore than I.
With that he seith, I holde it ferme and stable; [Page 118]
I seye the same, or elles thyng semblable.
A ful greet fool is any conseillour
That serveth any lord of heigh honour,
That dar presume, or elles thanken it,
That his conseil sholde passe his lordes wit.
Nay, lordes been no fooles, by my fay!
Ye han youreselven shewed heer to-day
So heigh sentence, so holily and weel,
That I consente and conferme everydeel
Youre wordes alle and youre opinioun.
By god, ther nys no man in al this toun,
Ne in ytaille, that koude bet han sayd!
Crist halt hym of this conseil ful wel apayd.
And trewely, it is an heigh corage
Of any man that stapen is in age
To take a yong wyf; by my fader kyn,
Youre herte hangeth on a joly pyn!
Dooth now in this matiere right as yow leste,
For finally I holde it for the beste.
Justinus, that ay stille sat and herde,
Right in this wise he to placebo answerde:
Now, brother myn, be pacient, I preye,
Syn ye han seyd, and herkneth what I seye.
Senek, amonges othere wordes wyse,
Seith that a man oghte hym right wel avyse
To whom he yeveth his lond or his catel.
And syn I oghte avyse me right wel
To whom I yeve my good awey from me,
Wel muchel moore I oghte avysed be
To whom I yeve my body for alwey.
I warne yow wel, it is no childes pley
To take a wyf withouten avysement.
Men moste enquere, this is myn assent,
Wher she be wys, or sobre, or dronkelewe,
Or proud, or elles ootherweys a shrewe,
A chidestere, or wastour of thy good,
Or riche, or poore, or elles mannyssh wood.
Al be it so that no man fynden shal
Noon in this world that trotteth hool in al,
Ne man, ne beest, swich as men koude devyse;
But nathelees it oghte ynough suffise
With any wyf, if so were that she hadde
Mo goode thewes than hire vices badde;
And al this axeth leyser for t' enquere.
For, God it woot, I have wept many a teere
Ful pryvely, syn I have had a wyf.
Preyse whoso wole a wedded mannes lyf,
Certein I fynde in it but cost and care
And observances, of alle blisses bare.
And yet, God woot, my neighebores aboute,
And namely of wommen many a route,
Seyn that I have the mooste stedefast wyf,
And eek the mekeste oon that bereth lyf;
But I woot best where wryngeth me my sho.
Ye mowe, for me, right as yow liketh do;
Avyseth yow -- ye been a man of age --
How that ye entren into mariage,
And namely with a yong wyf and a fair.
By hym that made water, erthe, and air,
The yongeste man that is in al this route
Is bisy ynough to bryngen it aboute
To han his wyf allone. Trusteth me,
Ye shul nat plesen hire fully yeres thre, --
This is to seyn, to doon hire ful plesaunce.
A wyf axeth ful many an observaunce.
I prey yow that ye be nat yvele apayd.
Wel, quod this januarie, and hastow sayd?
Straw for thy senek, and for thy proverbes!
I counte nat a panyer ful of herbes
Of scole-termes. Wyser men than thow,
As thou hast herd, assenteden right now
To my purpos. Placebo, what sey ye?
I seye it is a cursed man, quod he,
That letteth matrimoigne, sikerly.
And with that word they rysen sodeynly,
And been assented fully that he sholde
Be wedded whanne hym liste, and where he wolde.
Heigh fantasye and curious bisynesse
Fro day to day gan in the soule impresse
Of januarie aboute his mariage.
Many fair shap and many a fair visage
Ther passeth thurgh his herte nyght by nyght,
As whoso tooke a mirour, polisshed bryght,
And sette it in a commune market-place,
Thanne sholde he se ful many a figure pace
By his mirour; and in the same wyse
Gan januarie inwith his thoght devyse
Of maydens whiche that dwelten hym bisyde.
He wiste nat wher that he myghte abyde.
For if that oon have beaute in hir face,
Another stant so in the peples grace
For hire sadnesse and hire benyngnytee
That of the peple grettest voys hath she;
And somme were riche, and hadden badde name.
But nathelees, bitwixe ernest and game,
He atte laste apoynted hym on oon,
And leet alle othere from his herte goon,
And chees hire of his owene auctoritee;
For love is blynd alday, and may nat see.
And whan that he was in his bed ybroght,
He purtreyed in his herte and in his thoght
Hir fresshe beautee and hir age tendre,
Hir myddel smal, hire armes longe and sklendre,
Hir wise governaunce, hir gentillesse, [Page 119]
Hir wommanly berynge, and hire sadnesse.
And whan that he on hire was condescended,
Hym thoughte his choys myghte nat ben amended.
For whan that he hymself concluded hadde,
Hym thoughte ech oother mannes wit so badde
That inpossible it were to repplye
Agayn his choys, this was his fantasye.
His freendes sente he to, at his instaunce,
And preyed hem to doon hym that plesaunce,
That hastily they wolden to hym come;
He wolde abregge hir labour, alle and some.
Nedeth namoore for hym to go ne ryde;
He was apoynted ther he wolde abyde.
Placebo cam, and eek his freendes soone,
And alderfirst he bad hem alle a boone,
That noon of hem none argumentes make
Agayn the purpos which that he hath take,
Which purpos was plesant to god, seyde he,
And verray ground of his prosperitee.
He seyde ther was a mayden in the toun,
Which that of beautee hadde greet renoun,
Al were it so she were of smal degree;
Suffiseth hym hir yowthe and hir beautee.
Which mayde, he seyde, he wolde han to his wyf,
To lede in ese and hoolynesse his lyf;
And thanked God that he myghte han hire al,
That no wight his blisse parten shal.
And preyed hem to laboure in this nede,
And shapen that he faille nat to spede;
For thanne, he seyde, his spirit was at ese.
Thanne is, quod he, no thyng may me displese,
Save o thyng priketh in my conscience,
The which I wol reherce in youre presence.
I have, quod he, herd seyd, ful yoore ago,
Ther may no man han parfite blisses two, --
This is to seye, in erthe and eek in hevene.
For though he kepe hym fro the synnes sevene,
And eek from every branche of thilke tree,
Yet is ther so parfit felicitee
And so greet ese and lust in mariage,
That evere I am agast now in myn age
That I shal lede now so myrie a lyf,
So delicat, withouten wo and stryf,
That I shal have myn hevene in erthe heere.
For sith that verray hevene is boght so deere
With tribulation and greet penaunce,
How sholde I thanne, that lyve in swich plesaunce
As alle wedded men doon with hire wyvys,
Come to the blisse ther crist eterne on lyve ys?
This is my drede, and ye, my bretheren tweye,
Assoilleth me this question, I preye.
Justinus, which that hated his folye,
Answerde anon right in his japerye;
And for he wolde his longe tale abregge,
He wolde noon auctoritee allegge,
But seyde, sire, so ther be noon obstacle
Oother than this, God of his hygh myracle
And of his mercy may so for yow wirche
That, er ye have youre right of hooly chirche,
Ye may repente of wedded mannes lyf,
In which ye seyn ther is no wo ne stryf.
And elles, God forbede but he sente
A wedded man hym grace to repente
Wel ofte rather than a sengle man!
And therfore, sire -- the beste reed I kan --
Dispeire yow noght, but have in youre memorie,
Paraunter she may be youre purgatorie!
She may be goddes meene and goddes whippe;
Thanne shal youre soule up to hevene skippe
Swifter than dooth and arwe out of bowe.
I hope to god, herafter shul ye knowe
That ther nys no so greet felicitee
In mariage, ne nevere mo shal bee,
That yow shal lette of youre savacion,
So that ye sue, as skile is an reson,
The lustes of youre wyf attemprely,
And that ye plese hire nat to amorously,
And that ye kepe yow eek from oother synne.
My tale is doon, for my wit is thynne.
Beth nat agast herof, my brother deere,
But lat us waden out of this mateere.
The wyf of bethe, if ye han understonde,
Of mariage, which we have on honde,
Declared hath ful wel in litel space.
Fareth now wel, God have yow in his grace.
And with this word this justyn and his brother
Han take hir leve, and ech of hem of oother.
For whan they saughe that it moste nedes be,
They wroghten so, by sly and wys tretee,
That she, this mayden, which that mayus highte,
As hastily as evere that she myghte,
Shal wedded be unto this januarie.
I trowe it were to longe yow to tarie,
If I yow tolde of every scrit and bond
By which that she was feffed in his lond,
Or for to herknen of hir riche array.
But finally ycomen is the day
That to the chirche bothe be they went [Page 120]
For to receyve the hooly sacrement.
Forth comth the preest, with stole aboute his nakke,
And bad hire be lyk sarra and rebekke
In wysdom and in trouthe of mariage;
And seyde his orisons, as is usage,
And croucheth hem, and bad God sholde hem blesse,
And made al siker ynogh with hoolynesse.
Thus been they wedded with solempnitee,
And at the feeste sitteth he and she
With othere worthy folk upon the deys.
Al ful of joye and blisse is the paleys,
And ful of instrumentz and of vitaille,
The mooste deyntevous of al ytaille.
Biforn hem stoode instrumentz of swich soun
That orpheus, ne of thebes amphioun,
Ne maden nevere swich a melodye.
At every cours thanne cam loud mynstralcye,
That nevere tromped joab for to heer,
Nor he theodomas, yet half so cleere,
At thebes, whan the citee was in doute.
Bacus the wyn hem shynketh al aboute,
And venus laugheth upon every wight,
For januarie was bicome hir knyght,
And wolde bothe assayen his corage
In libertee, and eek in mariage;
And with hire fyrbrond in hire hand aboute
Daunceth biforn the bryde and al the route.
And certeinly, I dar right wel seyn this,
Ymeneus, that God of weddyng is,
Saugh nevere his lyf so myrie a wedded man.
Hoold thou thy pees, thou poete marcian,
That writest us that ilke weddyng murie
Of hire philologie and hym mercurie,
And of the songes that the muses songe!
To smal is bothe thy penen, and eek thy tonge,
For to descryven of this mariage.
Whan tendre youthe hath wedded stoupyng age,
Ther is swich myrthe that it may nat be writen.
Assayeth it youreself, thanne may ye witen
If that I lye or noon in this matiere.
Mayus, that sit with so benyngne a chiere,
Hire to biholde it semed fayerye.
Queene ester looked nevere with swich an ye
On assuer, so meke a look hath she.
I may yow nat devyse al hir beautee.
But thus muche of hire beautee telle I may,
That she was lyk the brighte morwe of may,
Fulfild of alle beautee and plesaunce.
This januarie is ravysshed in a traunce
At every tyme he looked on hir face;
But in his herte he gan hire to manace
That he that nyght in armes wolde hire streyne
Harder than evere parys dide eleyne.
But nathelees yet hadde he greet pitee
That thilke nyght offenden hire moste he,
And thoughte, allas! o tendre creature,
Now wolde God ye myghte wel endure
Al my corage, it is so sharp and keene!
I am agast ye shul it nat sustene.
But God forbede that I dide al my myght!
Now wolde God that it were woxen nyght,
And that the nyght wolde lasten everemo.
I wolde that al this peple were ago.
And finally he dooth al his labour,
As he best myghte, savynge his honour,
To haste hem fro the mete in subtil wyse.
The tyme cam that resoun was to ryse;
And after that men daunce and drynken faste,
And spices al aboute the hous they caste,
And ful of joye and blisse is every man, --
Al but a squyer, highte damyan,
Which carf biforn the knyght ful many a day.
He was so ravysshed on his lady may
That for the verray peyne he was ny wood.
Almoost he swelte and swowned ther he stood,
So soore hath venus hurt hym with hire brond,
As that she bar it daunsynge in hire hond;
And to his bed he wente hym hastily.
Namoore of hym as at this tyme speke I,
But there I lete hym wepe ynogh and pleyne,
Til fresshe may wol rewen on his peyne.
O perilous fyr, that in the bedstraw bredeth!
O famulier foo, that his servyce bedeth!
O servant traytour, false hoomly hewe,
Lyk to the naddre in bosom sly untrewe,
God shilde us alle from youre aqueyntaunce!
O januarie, dronken in plesaunce
In mariage, se how thy damyan,
Thyn owene squier and thy borne man,
Entendeth for to do thee vileynye.
God graunte thee thyn hoomly fo t' espye!
For in this world nys worse pestilence
Than hoomly foo al day in thy presence.
Parfourned hath the sonne his ark diurne;
No lenger may the body of hym sojurne
On th' orisonte, as in that latitude.
Night with his mantel, that is derk and rude,
Gan oversprede the hemysperie aboute;
For which departed is this lusty route
Fro januarie, with thank on every syde.
Hoom to hir houses lustily they ryde,
Where as they doon hir thynges as hem leste,
And whan they sye hir tyme, goon to reste.
Soone after than, this hastif januarie
Wolde go to bedde, he wolde no lenger tarye. [Page 121]
He drynketh ypocras, clarree, and vernage
Of spices hoote, t' encreessen his corage;
And many a letuarie hath he ful fyn,
Swiche as the cursed monk, daun constantyn,
Hath writen in his book de coitu;
To eten hem alle he nas no thyng eschu.
And to his privee freendes thus seyde he:
For goddes love, as soone as it may be,
Lat voyden al this hous in curteys wyse.
And they han doon right as he wol devyse.
Men drynken, and the travers drawe anon.
The bryde was broght abedde as stille as stoon;
And whan the bed was with the preest yblessed,
Out of the chambre hath every wight hym dressed;
And januarie hath faste in armes take
His fresshe may, his paradys, his make.
He lulleth hire, he kisseth hire ful ofte;
With thikke brustles of his berd unsofte,
Lyk to the skyn of houndfyssh, sharp as brere --
For he was shave al newe in his manere --
He rubbeth hire aboute hir tendre face,
And seyde thus, allas! I moot trespace
To yow, my spouse, and yow greetly offende,
Er tyme come that I wil doun descende.
But nathelees, considereth this, quod he,
Ther nys no werkman, whatsoevere he be,
That may bothe werke wel and hastily;
This wol be doon at leyser parfitly.
It is no fors how longe that we pleye;
In trewe wedlok coupled be we tweye;
And blessed be the yok that we been inne,
For in oure actes we mowe do no synne.
A man may do no synne with his wyf,
Ne hurte hymselven with his owene knyf;
For we han leve to pleye us by the lawe.
Thus laboureth he til that the day gan dawe;
And thanne he taketh a sop in fyn clarree,
And upright in his bed thanne sitteth he,
And after that he sang ful loude and cleere,
And kiste his wyf, and made wantown cheere
He was al coltissh, ful of ragerye,
And ful of jargon as a flekked pye.
The slakke skyn aboute his nekke shaketh,
Whil that he sang, so chaunteth he and craketh.
But God woot what that may thoughte in hir herte,
Whan she hym saugh up sittynge in his sherte,
In his nyght-cappe, and with his nekke lene;
She preyseth nat his pleyyng worth a bene.
Thanne seide he thus, my reste wol I take;
Now day is come, I may no lenger wake.
And doun he leyde his heed, and sleep til pryme.
And afterward, whan that he saugh his tyme,
Up ryseth januarie; but fresshe may
Heeld hire chambre unto the fourthe day,
As usage is of wyves for the beste.
For every labour somtyme moot han reste,
Or elles longe may he nat endure;
This is to seyn, no lyves creature,
Be it of fyssh, or bryd, or beest, or man.
Now wol I speke of woful damyan,
That langwissheth for love, as ye shul heere;
Therfore I speke to hym in this manere:
I seye, o sely damyan, allas!
Andswere to my demaunde, as in this cas.
How shaltow to thy lady, fresshe may,
Telle thy wo? she wole alwey seye nay.
Eek if thou speke, she wol thy wo biwreye.
God be thyn helpe! I kan no bettre seye.
This sike damyan in venus fyr
So brenneth that he dyeth for desyr,
For which he putte his lyf in aventure.
No lenger myghte he in this wise endure,
But prively a penner gan he borwe,
And in a lettre wroot he al his sorwe,
In manere of a compleynt or a lay,
Unto his faire, fresshe lady may;
And in a purs of sylk, heng on his sherte
He hath it put, and leyde it at his herte.
The moone, that at noon was thilke day
That januarie hath wedded fresshe may
In two of tawr, was into cancre glyden;
So longe hath mayus in hir chambre abyden,
As custume is unto thise nobles alle.
A bryde shal nat eten in the halle
Til dayes foure, or thre dayes atte leeste,
Ypassed been; thanne lat hire go to feeste.
The fourthe day compleet fro noon to noon,
Whan that the heighe masse was ydoon,
In halle sit this januarie and may,
As fressh as is the brighte someres day.
And so bifel how that this goode man
Remembred hym upon this damyan,
And seyde, seynte marie! how may this be,
That damyan entendeth nat to me?
Is he ay syk, or how may this bityde?
His squieres, whiche that stooden ther bisyde,
Excused hym by cause of his siknesse,
Which letted hym to doon his bisynesse;
Noon oother cause myghte make hym tarye.
That me forthynketh, quod this januarie,
He is a gentil squier, by my trouthe!
If that he deyde, it were harm and routhe.
He is as wys, discreet, and as secree
As any man I woot of his degree,
And therto manly, and eek servysable. [Page 122]
And for to been a thrifty man right able.
But after mete, as soone as evere I may,
I wol myself visite hym, and eek may,
To doon hym al the confort that I kan.
And for that word hym blessed every man,
That of his bountee and his gentillesse
He wolde so conforten in siknesse
His squier, for it was a gentil dede.
Dame, quod this januarie, taak good hede,
At after-mete ye with youre wommen alle,
Whan ye han been in chambre out of this halle,
That alle ye go se this damyan.
Dooth hym disport -- he is a gentil man;
And telleth hym that I wol hym visite,
Have I no thyng but rested me a lite;
And spede yow faste, for I wole abyde
Til that ye slepe faste by my syde.
And with that word he gan to hym to calle
A squier, that was marchal of his halle,
And tolde hym certeyn thynges, what he wolde.
This fresshe may hath streight hir wey yholde,
With alle hir wommen, unto damyan.
Doun by his beddes syde sit she than,
Confortynge hym as goodly as she may.
This damyan, whan that his tyme he say,
In secree wise his purs and eek his bille,
In which that he ywriten hadde his wille,
Hath put into hire hand, withouten moore,
And softely to hire right thus seyde he:
And softely to hire right thus seyde he:
Mercy! and that ye nat discovere me,
For I am deed if that this thyng be kyd.
This purs hath she inwith hir bosom hyd,
And wente hire wey; ye gete namoore of me.
But unto januarie ycomen is she,
That on his beddes syde sit ful softe.
He taketh hire, and kisseth hire ful ofte,
And leyde hym doun to slepe, and that anon.
She feyned hire as that she moste gon
Ther as ye woot that every wight moot neede;
And whan she of this bille hath taken heede,
She rente it al to cloutes atte laste,
And in the pryvee softely it caste.
Who studieth now but faire fresshe may?
Adoun by olde januarie she lay,
That sleep til that the coughe hath hym awaked.
Anon he preyde hire strepen hire al naked;
He wolde of hire, he seyde, han som plesaunce,
And seyde hir clothes dide hym encombraunce,
And she obeyeth, be hire lief or looth.
But lest that precious folk be with me wrooth,
How that he wroghte, I dar nat to yow telle;
Or wheither hire thoughte it paradys or helle.
But heere I lete hem werken in hir wyse
Til evensong rong, and that they moste aryse.
Were it by destynee or aventure,
Were it by influence or by nature,
Or constellacion, that in swich estaat
The hevene stood, that tyme fortunaat
Was for to putte a bille of venus werkes --
For alle thyng hath tyme, as seyn thise clerkes --
To any womman, for to gete hire love,
I kan nat seye; but grete God above,
That knoweth that noon act is causeless,
He deme of al, for I wole hole my pees.
But sooth is this, how that this fresshe may
Hath take swich impression that day
Of pitee of this sike damyan,
That from hire herte she ne dryve kan
The remembrance for to doon hym ese.
Certeyn, thoghte she, whom that this thyng displese,
I rekke noght, for heere I hym assure
To love hym best of any creature,
Though he namoore hadde than his sherte.
Lo, pitee renneth soone in gentil herte!
Heere may ye se how excellent franchise
In wommen is, whan they hem narwe avyse.
Som tyrant is, as ther be many oon,
That hath an herte as hard as any stoon,
Which wolde han lat hym sterven in the place
Wel rather than han graunted hym hire grace;
And hem rejoysen in hire crueel pryde,
And rekke nat to been an homycide.
This gentil may, fulfilled of pitee,
Right of hire hand a lettre made she,
In which she graunteth hym hire verray grace.
Ther lakketh noght, oonly but day and place,
Wher that she myghte unto his lust suffise;
For it shal be right as he wole devyse.
And whan she saugh hir tyme, upon a day,
To visite this damyan gooth may,
And sotilly this lettre doun she threste
Under his pilwe, rede it if hym leste.
She taketh hym by the hand, and harde hym twiste
So secrely that no wight of it wiste,
And bad hym been al hool, and forth she wente
To januarie, whan that he for hire sente.
Up riseth damyan the nexte morwe;
Al passed was his siknesse and his sorwe.
He kembeth hym, he preyneth hym and pyketh,
He dooth al that his lady lust and lyketh;
And eek to januarie he gooth as lowe
As evere dide a dogge for the bowe. [Page 123]
He is so plesant unto every man
(for craft is al, whoso that do it kan)
That every wight is fayn to speke hym good;
And fully in his lady grace he stood.
Thus lete I damyan aboute his nede,
And in my tale forth I wol procede.
Somme clerkes holden that felicitee
Stant in delit, and therfore certeyn he,
This noble januarie, with al his myght,
In honest wyse, as longeth to a knyght,
Shoop hym to lyve ful deliciously.
His housynge, his array, as honestly
To his degree was maked as a kynges.
Amonges othere of his honeste thynges,
He made a gardyn, walled al with stoon;
So fair a gardyn woot I nowher noon.
For, out of doute, I verraily suppose
That he that wroot the romance of the rose
Ne koude of it the beautee wel devyse;
Ne priapus ne myghte nat suffise,
Though he be God of gardyns, for to telle
The beautee of the gardyn and the welle,
That stood under a laurer alwey grene.
Ful ofte tyme he pluto and his queene,
Proserpina, and al hire fayerye,
Disporten hem and maken melodye
Aboute that welle, and daunced, as men tolde.
This noble knyght, this januarie the olde,
Swich deyntee hath in it to walke and pleye,
That he wol no wight suffren bere the keye
Save he hymself; for of the smale wyket
He baar alwey of silver a clyket,
With which, whan that hym leste, he it unshette.
And whan he wolde paye his wyf hir dette
In somer seson, thider wolde he go,
And may his wyf, and no wight but they two;
And thynges whiche that were nat doon abedde,
He in the gardyn parfourned hem and spedde.
And in this wyse, many a murye day,
Lyved this januarie and fresshe may.
But worldly joye may nat alwey dure
To januarie, ne to creature.
O sodeyn hap! o thou fortune unstable!
Lyk to the scorpion so deceyvable,
That flaterest with thyn heed whan thou wolt stynge;
Thy tayl is deeth, thurgh thyn envenymynge.
O brotil joye! o sweete venym queynte!
O monstre, that so subtilly kanst peynte
Thy yiftes under hewe of stidefastnesse,
That thou deceyvest bothe moore and lesse!
Why hastow januarie thus deceyved,
That haddest hym for thy fulle freend receyved?
And now thou hast biraft hym bothe his ye,
For sorwe of which desireth he to dyen.
Allas! this noble januarie free,
Amydde his lust and his prosperitee,
Is woxen blynd, and that al sodeynly,
He wepeth and he wayleth pitously;
And therwithal the fyr of jalousie,
Lest that his wyf sholde falle in som folye,
So brente his herte that he wolde fayn
That som man bothe hire and hym had slayn.
For neither after his deeth, nor in his lyf,
Ne wolde he that she were love ne wyf,
But evere lyve as wydwe in clothes blake,
Soul as the turtle that lost hath hire make,
But atte laste, after a month or tweye
His sorwe gan aswage, sooth to seye;
For whan he wiste it may noon oother be,
He paciently took his adversitee,
Save, out of doute, he may nat forgoon
That he nas jalous everemoore in oon;
Which jalousye it was so outrageous,
That neither in halle, n' yn noon oother hous,
Ne in noon oother place, neverthemo,
He nolde suffre hire for to ryde or go,
But if that he had hond on hire alway;
For which ful ofte wepeth fresshe may,
That loveth damyan so benyngnely
That she moot outher dyen sodeynly,
Or elles she moot han hym as hir leste.
She wayteth whan hir herte wolde breste.
Upon that oother syde damyan
Bicomen is the sorwefulleste man
That evere was; for neither nyght ne day
Ne myghte he speke a word to fresshe may,
As to his purpos, of no swich mateere,
But if that januarie moste it heere,
That hadde an hand upon hire everemo.
But nathelees, by writyng to and fro,
And privee signes, wiste he what she mente,
And she knew eek the fyn of his entente.
O januarie, what myghte it thee availle,
Thogh thou myghte se as fer as shippes saille?
For as good is blynd deceyved be
As to be deceyved whan a man may se.
Lo, argus, which that hadde an hondred yen,
For al that evere he koude poure or pryen,
Yet was he blent, and, God woot, so been mo,
That wenen wisly that it be nat so.
Passe over is an ese, I sey namoore.
This fresshe may, that I spak of so yoore,
In warm wex hath emprented the clyket
That januarie bar of the smale wyket, [Page 124]
By which into his gardyn ofte he wente;
And damyan, that knew al hire entente,
The cliket countrefeted pryvely.
Ther nys namoore to seye, but hastily
Som wonder by this clyket shal bityde,
Which ye shul heeren, if ye wole abyde.
O noble ovyde, ful sooth seystou, God woot,
What sleighte is it, thogh it be long and hoot,
That love nyl fynde it out in som manere?
By piramus and tesbee may men leere;
Thogh they were kept ful longe streite overal,
They been accorded, rownynge thurgh a wal,
Ther no wight koude han founde out swich a sleighte.
But now to purpos: er that dayes eighte
Were passed, er the month of juyn, bifil
That januarie hath caught so greet a wil,
Thurgh eggyng of his wyf, hym for to pleye
In his gardyn, and no wight but they tweye,
That in a morwe unto his may seith he:
Rys up, my wyf, my love, my lady free!
The turtles voys is herd, my dowve sweete;
The wynter is goon with alle his reynes weete.
Com forth now, with thyne eyen columbyn!
How fairer been thy brestes than is wyn!
The gardyn is enclosed al aboute;
Com forth, my white spouse! out of doute
Thou hast me wounded in myn herte, o wyf!
No spot of thee ne knew I al my lyf.
Com forth, and lat us taken oure disport;
I chees thee for my wyf and my confort.
Swiche olde lewed wordes used he.
On damyan a signe made she,
That he sholde go biforn with his cliket.
This damyan thanne hath opened the wyket,
And in he stirte, and that in swich manere
That no wight myghte it se neither yheere,
And stille he sit under a bussh anon.
This januarie, as blynd as is a stoon,
With mayus in his hand, and no wight mo,
Into his fresshe gardyn is ago,
And clapte to the wyket sodeynly.
Now wyf, quod he, heere nys but thou and I,
That art the creature that I best love.
For by that lord that sit in hevene above,
Levere ich hadde to dyen on a knyf,
Than thee offende, trewe deere wyf!
For goddes sake, thenk how I thee chees,
Noght for no coveitise, doutelees,
But oonly for the love I had to thee.
And though that I be oold, and may nat see,
Beth to me trewe, and I wol telle yow why.
Thre thynges, certes, shal ye wynne therby:
First, love of crist, and to youreself honour,
And al myn heritage, toun and tour;
I yeve it yow, maketh chartres as yow leste;
This shal be doon to-morwe er sonne reste,
So wisly God my soule brynge in blisse.
I prey yow first, in covenant ye me kisse;
And though that I be jalous, wyte me noght.
Ye been so depe enprented in my thoght
That, whan that I considere youre beautee,
And therwithal the unlikly elde of me,
I may nat, certes, though I sholde dye,
Forbere to been out of youre compaignye
For verray love; this is withouten doute.
Now kys me, wyf, and lat us rome aboute.
This fresshe may, whan she thise wordes herde,
Benyngnely to januarie answerde,
But first and forward she bigan to wepe.
I have, quod she, a soule for to kepe
As wel as ye, and also myn honour,
And of my wyfhod thilke tendre flour,
Which that I have assured in youre hond,
Whan that the preest to yow my body bond;
Wherfore I wole answere in this manere,
By the leve of yow, my lord so deere:
I prey to God that nevere dawe the day
That I ne sterve, as foule as womman may,
If evere I do unto my kyn that shame,
Or elles I empeyre so my name,
That I be fals; and if I do that lak,
Do strepe me and put me in a sak,
And in the nexte ryver do me drenche.
I am a gentil womman and no wenche.
Why speke ye thus? but men been evere untrewe,
And wommen have repreve of yow ay newe.
Ye han noon oother contenance, I leeve,
But speke to us of untrust and repreeve.
And with that word she saugh wher damyan
Sat in the bussh, and coughen she bigan,
And with hir fynger signes made she
That damyan sholde clymbe upon a tree,
That charged was with fruyt, and up he wente.
For verraily he knew al hire entente,
And every signe that she koude make,
Wel bet than januarie, hir owene make;
For in a lettre she hadde toold hym al
Of this matere, how he werchen shal.
And thus I lete hym sitte upon the pyrie,
And januarie and may romynge ful myrie.
Bright was the day, and blew the firmament;
Phebus hath of gold his stremes doun ysent, [Page 125]
To gladen every flour with his warmnesse.
He was that tyme in geminis, as I gesse,
But litel fro his declynacion
Of cancer, jovis exaltacion.
And so bifel, that brighte morwe-tyde,
That in that gardyn, in the ferther syde,
Pluto, that is kyng of fayerye,
And many a lady in his compaignye,
Folwynge his wyf, the queene proserpyna,
Which that he ravysshed out of ethna
Whil that she gadered floures in the mede --
In claudyan ye may the stories rede,
How in his grisely carte he hire fette --
This kyng of fairye thanne adoun hym sette
Upon a bench of turves, fressh and grene,
And right anon thus seyde he to his queene:
My wyf, quod he, ther may no wight seye nay;
Th' experience so preveth every day
The tresons whiche that wommen doon to man.
Ten hondred thousand (tales) tellen I kan
Notable of youre untrouthe and brotilnesse.
O salomon, wys, and richest of richesse,
Fulfild of sapience and of worldly glorie,
Ful worthy been thy wordes to memorie
To every wight that wit and reson kan.
Thus preiseth he yet the bountee of man:
-- Amonges a thousand men yet foond I oon,
But of wommen alle foond I noon. --
Thus seith the kyng that knoweth youre wikkednesse.
And jhesus, filius syrak, as I gesse,
Ne speketh of yow but seelde reverence.
A wylde fyr and corrupt pestilence
So falle upon youre bodyes yet to-nyght!
Ne se ye nat this honurable knyght,
By cause, allas! that he is blynd and old,
His owene man shal make hym cokewold.
Lo, where he sit, the lechour, in the tree!
Now wol I graunten, of my magestee,
Unto this olde, blynde, worthy knyght
That he shal have ayen his eyen syght,
Whan that his wyf wold doon hym vileynye.
Thanne shal he knowen al hire harlotrye,
Bothe in repreve of hire and othere mo.
Ye shal? quod proserpyne, wol ye so?
Now by my moodres sires soule I swere
That I shal yeven hire suffisant answere,
And alle wommen after, for hir sake;
That, though they be in any gilt ytake,
With face boold they shulle hemself excuse,
And bere hem doun that wolden hem accuse.
For lak of answere noon of hem shal dyen.
Al hadde man seyn a thyng with bothe his yen,
Yit shul we wommen visage it hardily,
And wepe, and swere, and chyde subtilly,
So that ye man shul been as lewed as gees.
What rekketh me of youre auctoritees?
I woot wel that this jew, this salomon,
Foond of us wommen fooles many oon.
But though that he ne foond no good womman,
Yet hath ther founde many another man
Wommen ful trewe, ful goode, and vertuous.
Witnesse on hem that dwelle in cristes hous;
With martirdom they preved hire constance.
The romayn geestes eek make remembrance
Of many a verray, trewe wyf also.
But, sire, ne be nat wrooth, al be it so,
Though that he seyde he foond no good womman,
I prey yow take the sentence of the man;
He mente thus, that in sovereyn bontee
Nis noon but god, but neither he ne she.
Ey! for verray god, that nys but oon,
What make ye so muche of salomon?
What though he made a temple, goddes hous?
What though he were riche and glorious?
So made he eek a temple of false goddis.
How myghte he do a thyng that moore forbode is?
Pardee, as faire as ye his name emplastre,
He was a lecchour and an ydolastre,
And in his elde he verray God forsook;
And if this God ne hadde, as seith the book,
Yspared hem for his fadres sake, he sholde
Have lost his regne rather than he wolde.
I sette right noght, of al the vileynye
That ye of wommen write, a boterflye!
I am a womman, nedes moot I speke,
Of elles swelle til myn herte breke.
For sithen he seyde that we been jangleresses,
As evere hool I moote brouke my tresses,
I shal nat spare, for no curteisye,
To speke hym harm that wolde us vileynye.
Dame, quod this pluto, be no lenger wrooth;
I yeve it up! but sith I swoor myn ooth
That I wolde graunten hym his sighte ageyn,
My word shal stonde, I warne yow certeyn.
I am a kyng, it sit me noght to lye.
And I, quod she, a queene of fayerye!
Hir answere shal she have, I undertake.
Lat us namoore wordes heerof make;
For sothe, I wol no lenger yow contrarie.
Now lat us turne agayn to januarie,
That in the gardyn with his faire may
Syngeth ful murier than the papejay,
Yow love I best, and shal, and oother noon. [Page 126]
So longe aboute the aleyes is he goon,
Til he was come agaynes thilke pyrie
Where as this damyan sitteth ful myrie
An heigh among the fresshe leves grene.
This fresshe may, that is so bright and sheene,
Gan for to syke, and seyde, allas, my syde!
Now sire, quod she, for aught that may bityde,
I moste han of the peres that I see,
Or I moot dye, so soore longeth me
To eten of the smale peres grene.
Help, for hir love that is of hevene queene!
I telle yow wel, a womman in my plit
May han to fruyt so greet an appetit
That she may dyen, but she of it have.
Allas! quod he, that I ne had heer a knave
That koude clymbe! allas, allas, quod he,
For I am blynd! ye, sire, no fors, quod she;
-- But wolde ye vouche sauf, for goddes sake,
The pyrie inwith youre armes for to take,
For wel I woot that ye mystruste me,
Thanne sholde I clymbe wel ynogh, quod she,
So I my foot myghte sette ypon youre bak.
Certes,quod he, theron shal be no lak,
Mighte I yow helpen with myn herte blood.
He stoupeth doun, and on his bak she stood,
And caughte hire by a twiste, and up she gooth --
Ladyes, I prey yow that ye be nat wrooth;
I kan nat glose, I am a rude man --
And sodeynly anon this damyan
Gan pullen up the smok, and in he throng.
And whan that pluto saugh this grete wrong,
To januarie he gaf agayn his sighte,
And made hym se as wel as evere he myghte.
And whan that he hadde caught his sighte agayn,
Ne was ther nevere man of thyng so fayn,
But on his wyf his thoght was everemo.
Up to the tree he caste his eyen two,
And saugh that damyan his wyf had dressed
In swich manere it may nat been expressed,
But if I wolde speke uncurteisly;
And up he yaf a roryng and a cry,
As dooth the mooder whan the child shal dye:
Out! he gan to crye,
O stronge lady stoore, what dostow?
And she answerde, sire, what eyleth yow?
Have pacience and resoun in youre mynde!
I have yow holpe on bothe youre eyen blynde.
Up peril of my soule, I shal nat lyen,
As me was taught, to heele with youre eyen,
Was no thyng bet, to make yow to see,
Than strugle with a man upon a tree.
God woot, I dide it in ful good entente.
Strugle! quod he, ye algate in it wente!
God yeve yow bothe on shames deth to dyen!
He swyved thee, I saugh it with myne yen,
And elles be I hanged by the hals!
thanne is, quod she, my medicyne fals;
For certeinly, if that ye myghte se.
Ye wolde nat seyn thise wordes unto me.
Ye han som glymsyng, and no parfit sighte.
I se, quod he, as wel as evere I myghte,
Thonked be god! with bothe myne eyen two,
And by my trouthe, me thoughte he dide thee so.
ye maze, maze, goode sire, quod she;
This thank have I for I have maad yow see.
Allas, quod she, that evere I was so kynde!
Now, dame, quod he, lat al passe out of mynde.
Com doun, my lief, and if I have myssayd,
God helpe me so, as I am yvele apayd.
But, by my fader soule, I wende han seyn
How that this damyan hadde by thee leyn,
And that thy smok hadde leyn upon his brest.
Ye sire, quod she, ye may wene as yow lest.
But, sire, a man that waketh out of his sleep,
He may nat sodeynly wel taken keep
Upon a thyng, ne seen it parfitly,
Til that he be adawed verraily.
Right so a man that longe hath blynd ybe,
Ne may nat sodeynly so wel yse,
First whan his sighte is newe come ageyn,
As he that hath a day or two yseyn.
Til that youre sighte ysatled be a while,
Ther may ful many a sighte yow bigile.
Beth war, I prey yow; for, by hevene kyng,
Ful many a man weneth to seen a thyng,
And it is al another than it semeth.
He that mysconceyveth, he mysdemeth.
And with that word she leep doun fro the tree,
This januarie, who is glad but he?
He kisseth hire, and clippeth hire ful ofte,
And on hire wombe he stroketh hire ful softe,
And to his palays hoom he hath hire lad.
Now, goode men, I pray yow to be glad.
Thus endeth heere my tale of januarie;
God blesse us, and his mooder seinte marie!
[Page 127]

4.5. The Merchant's Epilogue

Ey! goddes marcy! seyde oure hooste tho,
Now swich a wyf I pray God kepe me fro!
Lo, whiche sleightes and subtilitees
In wommen been! for ay as bisy as bees
Been they, us sely men for to deceyve,
And from the soothe evere wol they weyve;
By this marchauntes tale it preveth weel.
But doutelees, as trewe as any steel
I have a wyf, though that she povre be,
Nut of hir tonge, a labbyng shrewe is she,
And yet she hath an heep of vices mo;
Therof no fors! lat alle swiche thynges go.
But wyte ye what? in conseil be it seyd,
Me reweth soore I am unto hire teyd.
For, and I sholde rekenen every vice
Which that she hath, ywis I were to nyce;
And cause why, it sholde reported by
And toold to hire of somme of this meynee, --
Of whom, it nedeth nat for to declare,
Syn wommen konnen outen swich chaffare;
And eek my with suffiseth nat therto,
To tellen al, wherfore my tale is do.
[Page 128]

5. Group 5

5.1. The Squire's Prologue

Squier, com neer, if it youre wille be,
And sey somwhat of love; for certes ye
Konnen theron as muche as any man.
Nay, sire, quod he, but I wol seye as I kan
With hertly wyl; for I wol nat rebelle
Agayn youre lust; a tale wol I telle.
Have me excused if I speke amys;
My wyl is good, and lo, my tale is this.

5.2. The Squire's Tale

5.2.1. Part I

At sarray, in the land of tartarye,
Ther dwelte a kyng that werreyed russye,
Thurgh which ther dyde many a doughty man.
This noble kyng was cleped cambyuskan,
Which in his tyme was of so greet renoun
That ther was nowher in no regioun
So excellent a lord in alle thyng.
Hym lakked noght that longeth to a king.
As of the secte of which that he was born
He kepte his lay, to which that he was sworn;
And therto he was hardy, wys, and riche,
And pitous and just, alwey yliche;
Sooth of this word, benigne, and honurable;
Of his corage as any centre stable;
Yong, fressh, and strong, in armes desirous
As any bacheler of al his hous.
A fair persone he was and fortunat,
And kepte alwey so wel roial estat
That ther was nowher swich another man.
This noble kyng, this tartre cambyuskan,
Hadde two sones on elpheta his wyf,
Of whiche the eldeste highte algarsyf,
That oother sone was cleped cambalo.
A doghter hadde this worthy kyng also,
That yongest was, and highte canacee.
But for to telle yow al hir beautee,
It lyth nat in my tonge, n' yn my konnyng;
I dar nat undertake so heigh a thyng.
Myn englissh eek is insufficient.
It moste been a rethor excellent,
That koude his colours longynge for that art,
If he sholde hire discryven every part.
I am noon swich, I moot speke as I kan.
And so bifel that whan this cambyuskan
Hath twenty wynter born his diademe,
As he was wont fro yeer to yeer, I deme,
He leet the feeste of his nativitee
Doon cryen thurghout sarray his citee,
The laste idus of march, after the yeer.
Phebus the sonne ful joly was and cleer;
For he was neigh his exaltacioun
In martes face, and in his mansioun
In aries, the colerik hoote signe.
Ful lusty was the weder benigne,
For which the foweles, agayn the sonne sheene,
What for the sesoun and the yonge grene,
Ful loude songen hire affecciouns.
Hem semed han geten hem protecciouns
Agayn the swerd of wynter, keene and coold.
This cambyuskan, of which I have yow toold,
In roial vestiment sit on his deys,
With diademe, ful heighe in his paleys,
And halt his feeste so solempne and so ryche
That in this world ne was ther noon it lyche;
Of which if I shal tellen al th' array,
Thanne wolde it occupie a someres day;
And eek it nedeth nat for to devyse
At every cours the ordre of hire servyse.
I wol nat tellen of hir strange sewes,
Ne of hir swannes, ne of hire heronsewes.
Eek in that lond, as tellen knyghtes olde,
Ther is som mete that is ful deynte holde,
That in this lond men recche of it but smal;
Ther nys no man that may reporten al.
I wol nat taryen yow, for it is pryme, [Page 129]
And for it is no fruyt, but los of tyme;
Unto my firste I wole have my recours.
And so bifel that after the thridde cours,
Whil that this kyng sit thus in his nobleye,
Herknynge his mynstralles hir thynges pleye
Biforn hym at the bord deliciously,
In at the halle dore al sodeynly
Ther cam a knyght upon a steede of bras,
And in his hand a brood mirour of glas.
Upon his thombe he hadde of gold a ryng,
And by his syde a naked swerd hangyng;
And up he rideth to the heighe bord.
In al the halle ne was ther spoken a word
For merveille of this knyght; hym to biholde
Ful bisily they wayten, yonge and olde.
This strange knyght, that cam thus sodeynly,
Al armed, save his heed, ful richely,
Saleweth kyng and queene and lordes alle,
By ordre, as they seten in the halle,
With so heigh reverence and obeisaunce,
As wel in speche as in his contenaunce,
That gawayn, with his olde curteisye,
Though he were comen ayeyn out of fairye,
Ne koude hym nat amende with a word.
And after this, biforn the heighe bord,
He with a manly voys seide his message,
After the forme used in his langage,
Withouten vice of silable or of lettre;
And, for his tale sholde seme the bettre,
Accordant to his wordes was his cheere,
As techeth art of speche hem that it leere.
Al be it that I kan nat sowne his stile,
Ne kan nat clymben over so heigh a style,
Yet seye I this, as to commune entente,
Thus muche smounteth al that evere he mente,
If it so be that I have it in mynde.
He seyde, the kyng of arabe and of inde,
My lige lord, on this solempne day
Saleweth yow, as he best kan and may,
And sendeth yow, in honour of youre feeste,
By me, that am al redy at youre heeste,
This steede of bras, that esily and weel
Kan in the space of o day natureel --
This is to seyn, in foure and twenty houres --
Wher-so yow lyst, in droghte or elles shoures,
Beren youre body into every place
To which youre herte wilneth for to pace;
Withouten wem of yow, thurgh foul or fair;
Or, if yow lyst to fleen as hye in the air
As dooth an egle whan hym list to soore,
This same steede shal bere yow evere moore,
Withouten harm, til ye be ther yow leste,
Though that ye slepen on his bak or reste,
And turne ayeyn with writhyng of a pyn.
He that it wroghte koude ful many a gyn.
He wayted many a constellacion
Er he had doon this operacion,
And knew ful many a seel and many a bond.
This mirour eek, that I have in myn hond,
Hath swich a myght that men may in it see
Whan ther shal fallen any adversitee
Unto youre regne or to youreself also,
And openly who is your freend or foo.
And over al this, if any lady bright
Hath set hire herte on any maner wight,
If he be fals, she shal his tresoun see,
His newe love, and al his subtiltee,
So openly that ther shal no thyng hyde.
Wherfore, ageyn this lusty someres tyde,
This morour and this ryng, that ye may see,
He hath sent to my lady canacee,
Youre excellente doghter that is heere.
The vertu of the ryng, if ye wol heere,
Is this, that if hire lust it for to were
Upon his thombe, or in hir purs it bere,
Ther is no fowel that fleeth under the hevene
That she ne shal wel understonde his stevene,
And knowe his menyng openly and pleyn,
And answere hym in his langage ageyn;
And every gras that groweth upon roote
She shal eek knowe, and whom it wol do boote,
Al be his wondes never so depe and wyde.
This naked swerd, that hangeth by my syde,
Swich verty hath that, what man so ye smyte,
Thurgh out his armure it wole kerve an byte,
Were it as thikke as is a branched ook;
And what man that is wounded with the strook
Shal never be hool til that yow list, of grace,
To stroke hym with the plat in thilke place
Ther he is hurt; this is as muche to seyn,
Ye moote with the platte swerd ageyn
Stroke hym in the wounde, and it wol close.
This is a verray sooth, withouten glose;
It failleth nat whils it is in youre hoold.
And whan this knyght hath thus his tale toold,
He rideth out of halle, and doun he lighte.
His steede, which that shoon as sonne brighte,
Stant in the court as stille as any stoon.
This knyght is to his chambre lad anoon,
And is unarmed, and to mete yset.
The presentes been ful roially yfet, --
This is to seyn, the swerd and the mirour,
And born anon into the heighe tour
With certeine officers ordeyned therfore;
And unto canacee this ryng is bore
Solempnely, ther she sit at the table. [Page 130]
But sikerly, withouten any fable,
The hors of bras, that may nat be remewed,
It stant as it were to the ground yglewed.
Ther may no man out of the place it dryve
For noon engyn of wyndas or polyve;
And cause why? for they kan nat the craft.
And therfore in the place they han it laft,
Til that the knyght hath taught hem the manere
To voyden hym, as ye shal after heere.
Greet was the prees that swarmeth to and fro
To gauren on this hors that stondeth so;
For it so heigh was, and so brood and long,
So wel proporcioned for to been strong,
Right as it were a steede of lumbardye;
Therwith so horsly, and so quyk of ye,
As it a gentil poilleys courser were.
For certes, fro his tayl unto his ere,
Nature ne art ne koude hym nat amende
In no degree, as al the peple wende.
But everemoore hir mooste wonder was
How that it koude gon, and was of bras;
It was of fairye, as the peple semed.
Diverse folk diversely they demed;
As many heddes, as manye wittes ther been.
They murmureden as dooth a swarm of been,
And maden skiles after hir fantasies,
Rehersynge of thise olde poetries,
And seyden it was lyk the pegasee,
The hors that hadde wynges for to flee;
Or elles it was the grekes hors synon,
That broghte troie to destruccion,
As man moun in thise olde geestes rede.
Myn herte, quod oon, is everemoore in drede;
I trowe som men of armes been therinne,
That shapen hem this citee for to wynne.
It were right good that al swich thyng were knowe.
Another rowned to his felawe lowe,
And seyde, he lyeth, for it is rather lyk
An apparence ymaad by som magyk,
As jogelours pleyen at thise feestes grete.
Of sondry doutes thus they jangle and trete,
As lewed peple demeth comunly
Of thynges that been maad moore subtilly
Than they kan in hire lewednesse comprehende;
They demen gladly to the badder ende.
And somme of hem wondred on the mirour,
That born was up into the maister-tour,
Hou men myghte in it swiche thynges se.
Another answerde, and seyde it myghte wel be
Naturelly, by composiciouns
Of anglis and of slye reflexiouns,
And seyde that in rome was swich oon
They speken of alocen and vitulon,
And aristotle, that writen in hir lyves
Of queynte mirours and of perspectives,
As knowen they that han hire bookes herd.
And oother folk han wondred on the swerd
That wolde percen thurghout every thyng,
And fille in speche of thelophus the kyng,
And of achilles with his queynte swerd
For he koude with it bothe heele and dere.
Right in swich wise as men may with the swerd
Of which right now ye han youreselven herd.
They speken of sondry hardyng of metal,
And speke of medicynes therwithal,
And how and whanne it sholde yharded be,
Which is unknowe, algates unto me.
Tho speeke they of canacees ryng,
And seyden alle that swich an wonder thyng
Of craft of rynges herde they nevere noon,
Save that he moyses and kyng salomon
Hadde a name of konnyng in swich art.
Thus seyn the peple, and drawen hem apart.
But nathelees somme seiden that it was
Wonder to maken of fern-asshen glas,
And yet nys glas nat lyk asshen of fern;
But, for they han yknowen it so fern,
Therfore cesseth hir janglyng and hir wonder.
As soore wondren somme on cause of thonder,
On ebbe, on flood, on gossomer, and on myst,
And alle thyng, til that the cause is wyst.
Thus jangle they, and demen, and devyse,
Til that the kyng gan fro the bord aryse.
Phebus hath laft the angle meridional,
And yet ascendynge was the beest roial,
The gentil leon, with his aldiran,
Whan that this tartre knyg, this cambyuskan,
Roos fro his bord, ther as he sat ful hye.
Toforn hym gooth the loude mynstralcye,
Til he cam to his chambre of parementz,
Ther as they sownen diverse instrumentz,
That it is lyk an hevene for the heere.
Now dauncen lusty venus children deere,
For in the fyssh hir lady sat ful hye,
And looketh on hem with a freendly ye.
This noble kyng is set upon his trone.
This strange knyght is fet to hym ful soone,
And on the daunce he gooth with canacee.
Heere is the revel and the jolitee
That is nat able a dul man to devyse.
He moste han knowen love and his servyse,
And been a feestlych man as fressh as may,
That sholde yow devysen swich array. [Page 131]
Who koude telle yow the forme of daunces
So unkouthe, and swiche fresshe contenaunces,
Swich subtil lookyng and disymulynges
For drede of jalouse meenes aperceyvynges?
No man but launcelot, and he is deed.
Therfore I passe of al this lustiheed;
I sey namoore, but in this jolynesse
I lete hem, til men to the soper dresse.
The styward bit the spices for the hye,
And eek the wyn, in al this melodye.
The usshers and the squiers been ygoon,
The spices and the wyn is come anoon.
They ete and drynke; and whan this hadde and ende,
Unto the temple, as reson was, they wende.
The service doon, they soupen al by day.
What nedeth yow rehercen hire array?
Ech man woot wel that at a kynges feeste
Hath plentee to the meeste and to the leeste,
And deyntees mo than been in my knowyng.
At after-soper gooth this noble kyng
To seen this hors of bras, with al a route
Of lordes and of ladyes hym aboute.
Swich wondryng was ther on this hors of bras
That syn the grete sege of troie was,
Theras men wondreden on an hors also,
Ne was ther swich a wondryng as was tho.
But fynally the kyng axeth this knyght
The vertu of this courser and the myght,
And preyde hym to telle his governaunce.
This hors anoon bigan to trippe and daunce,
Whan that this knyght leyde hand upon his reyne,
And seyde, sire, ther is namoore to seyne,
But, whan yow list to ryden anywhere,
Ye mooten trille a pyn, stant in his ere,
Which I shal telle yow bitwix us two.
Ye moote nempne hym to what place also,
Or to what contree, that yow list to ryde.
And whan ye come ther as yow list abyde,
Bidde hym descende, and trille another pyn,
For therin lith th' effect of al the gyn,
And he wol doun descende and doon youre wille,
And in that place he wol abyde stille.
Though al the world the contrarie hadde yswore,
He shal nat thennes been ydrawe ne ybore.
Or, if yow liste bidde hym thennes goon,
Trille this pyn, and he wol vanysshe anoon
Out of the sighte of every maner wight,
And come agayn, be it by day or nyght,
Whan that yow list to clepen hym ageyn
In swich a gyse as I shal to yow seyn
Bitwixe yow and me, and that ful soone.
Ride whan yow list, ther is namoore to doone.
Enformed whan the kyng was of that knyght,
And hath conceyved in his wit aright
The manere and the forme of al this thyng,
Ful glad and blithe, this noble doughty kyng
Repeireth to his revel as biforn.
The brydel is unto the tour yborn
And kept among his jueles leeve and deere,
The hors vanysshed, I noot in what manere,
Out of hir sighte; ye gete namoore of me.
But thus I lete in lust and jolitee
This cambyuskan his lordes festeiynge,
Til wel ny the day bigan to sprynge.
Explicit prima pars.

5.2.2. Sequitur pars secunda

The norice of digestioun, the sleep,
Gan on hem wynke and bad hem taken keep
That muchel drynke and labour wolde han reste;
And with a galpyng mouth hem alle he keste,
And seyde that it was tyme to lye adoun,
For blood was in his domynacioun.
Cherisseth blood, natures freend, quod he.
They thanken hym galpynge, by two, by thre,
And every wight gan drawe hym to his reste,
As sleep hem bad; they tooke it for the beste.
Hire dremes shul nat now been toold for me;
Ful were hire heddes of fumositee,
That causeth dreem of which ther nys no charge.
They slepen til that it was pryme large,
The mooste part, but it were canacee.
She was ful mesurable, as wommen be;
For of hir fader hadde she take leve
To goon to reste soone after it was eve.
Hir liste nat appalled for to be,
Ne on the morwe unfeestlich for to se,
And slepte hire firste sleep, and thanne awook.
For swich a joye she in hir herte took
Bothe of hir queynte ryng and hire mirour,
That twenty tyme she changed hir colour;
And in hire sleep, right for impressioun
Of hire mirour, she hadde a visioun.
Wherfore, er that the sonne gan up glyde,
She cleped on hir maistresse hire bisyde,
And seyde that hire liste for to ryse.
Thise olde wommen that been gladly wyse,
As is hire maistresse, answerde hire anon,
And seyde, madame, whider wil ye goon [Page 132]
Thus erly, for the folk been alle on reste?
I wol, quod she, arise, for me leste
Ne lenger for to slepe, and walke aboute.
Hire maistresse clepeth wommen a greet route,
And up they rysen, wel a ten or twelve;
Up riseth fresshe canacee hireselve,
As rody and bright as dooth the yonge sonne,
That in the ram is foure degrees up ronne --
Noon hyer was he whan she redy was --
And forth she walketh esily a pas,
Arrayed after the lusty seson soote
Lightly, for to pleye and walke on foote,
Nat but with fyve or sixe of hir meynee;
And in a trench forth in the park gooth she.
The vapour which that fro the erthe glood
Made the sonne to seme rody and brood;
But nathelees it was so fair a sighte
That it made alle hire hertes for to lighte,
What for the seson and the morwenynge,
And for the foweles that she herde synge.
For right anon she wiste what they mente,
Right by hir song, and knew al hire entente.
The knotte why that every tale is toold,
If it be taried til that lust be coold
Of hem that han it after herkned yoore,
The savour passeth ever lenger the moore,
For fulsomnesse of his prolixitee;
And by the same resoun, thynketh me,
I sholde to the knotte condescende,
And maken of hir walkyng soone an ende.
Amydde a tree, for drye as whit as chalk,
As canacee was pleyyng in hir walk,
Ther sat a faucon over hire heed ful hye,
That with a pitous voys so gan to crye
That all the wode resouned of hire cry.
Ybeten hadde she hirself so pitously
With bothe hir wynges, til the rede blood
Ran endelong the tree ther-as she stood.
And evere in oon she cryde alwey and shrighte,
And with hir beek herselven so she prighte,
That ther nys tygre, ne noon so crueel beest,
That dwelleth outher in wode or in forest,
That nolde han wept, if that he wepe koude,
For sorwe of hire, she shrighte alwey so loude.
For ther nas nevere yet no man on lyve,
If that I koude a faucon wel discryve,
That herde of swich another of fairnesse,
As wel of plumage as of gentillesse
Of shap, of al that myghte yrekened be.
A faucon peregryn thanne semed she
Of fremde land; and everemoore, as she stood,
She swowneth now and now for lak of blood,
Til wel neigh is she fallen fro the tree.
This faire kynges doghter, canacee,
That on hir fynger baar the queynte ryng,
Thurgh which she understood wel every thyng
That any fowel may in his leden seyn,
And koude answeren hym in his ledene ageyn,
Hath understonde what this faucon seyde,
And wel neigh for the routhe almoost she deyde.
And to the tree she gooth ful hastily,
And on this faukon looketh pitously,
And heeld hir lappe abrood, for wel she wiste
The faukon moste fallen fro the twiste,
Whan that it swowned next, for lak of blood.
A longe whil to wayten hire she stood,
Til atte laste she spak in this manere
Unto the hauk, as ye shal after heere:
What is the cause, if it be for to telle,
That ye be in this furial pyne of helle?
Quod canacee unto this hauk above.
Is this for sorwe of deeth or los of love?
For, as I trowe, thise been causes two
That causen moost a gentil herte wo;
Of oother harm it nedeth nat to speke.
For ye youreself upon yourself yow wreke,
Which proveth wel that outher ire or drede
Moot been enchesoun of youre cruel dede,
Syn that I see noon oother wight yow chace.
For love of god, as dooth youreselven grace,
Or what may been youre help? for west nor est
Ne saugh I nevere er now no bryd ne beest
That ferde with hymself so pitously.
Ye sle me with youre sorwe verraily,
I have of yow so greet compassioun.
For goddes love, com fro the tree adoun;
And as I am a kynges doghter trewe,
If that I verraily the cause knewe
Of youre disese, if it lay in my myght,
I wole amenden it er that it were nyght,
As wisly helpe me grete God of kynde!
And herbes shal I right ynowe yfynde
To heel with youre hurtes hastily.
Tho shrighte this faucon yet moore pitously
Than ever she dide, and fil to grounde anon,
And lith aswowne, deed and lyk a stoon,
Til canacee hath in hire lappe hire take
Unto the tyme she gan of swough awake.
And after that she of hir swough gan breyde,
Right in hir haukes ledene thus she seyde:
That pitee renneth soone in gentil herte,
Feelynge his similitude in peynes smerte,
Is preved alday, as men may it see,
As wel by werk as by auctoritee;
For gentil herte kitheth gentillesse.
I se wel that ye han of my distresse [Page 133]
Compassion, my faire canacee,
Of verray wommanly benignytee
That nature in youre principles hath set.
But for noon hope for to fare the bet,
But for to obeye unto youre herte free,
And for to maken othere be war by me,
As by the whelp chasted is the leon,
Right for that cause and that conclusion,
Whil that I have a leyser and a space,
Myn harm I wol confessen er I pace.
And evere, whil that oon hir sorwe tolde,
That oother weep as she to water wolde,
Til that the faucon bad hire to be stille,
And, with a syk, right thus she seyde hir wille:
Ther I was bred -- allas, that ilke day! --
And fostred in a roche of marbul gray
So tendrely that no thyng eyled me,
I nyste nat what was adversitee,
Til I koude flee ful hye under the sky.
Tho dwelte a tercelet me faste by,
That semed welle of alle gentillesse;
Al were he ful of treson and falsnesse,
It was so wrapped under humble cheere,
And under hewe of trouthe in swich manere,
Under plesance, and under bisy peyne,
That no wight koude han wend he koude feyne,
So depe in greyn he dyed his coloures.
Right as a serpent hit hym under floures
Til he may seen his tyme for to byte,
Right so this God of loves ypocryte
Dooth so his cerymonyes and obeisaunces,
And kepeth in semblaunt alle his observaunces
That sownen into gentillesse of love.
As in a toumbe is al the faire above,
And under is the corps, swich as ye woot,
Swich was this ypocrite, bothe coold and hoot.
And in this wise he served his entente,
That, save the feend, noon wiste what he mente,
Til he so longe hadde wopen and compleyned,
And many a yeer his service to me feyned,
Til that myn herte, to pitous and to nyce,
Al innocent of his crouned malice,
Forfered of his deeth, as thoughte me,
Upon his othes and his seuretee,
Graunted hym love, on this condicioun,
That everemoore myn honour and renoun
Were saved, bothe privee and apert;
This is to seyn, that after his desert,
I yaf hym al myn herte and al my thoght --
God woot and he, that ootherwise noght --
And took his herte in chaunge of myn for ay.
But sooth is seyd, goon sithen many a day,
-- A trewe wight and a theef thenken nat oon. --
And whan he saugh the thyng so fer ygoon
That I hadde graunted hym fully my love,
In swich a gyse as I have seyd above,
And yeven hym my trewe herte as free
As he swoor he yaf his herte to me;
Anon this tigre, ful of doublenesse,
Fil on his knees with so devout humblesse,
With so heigh reverence, and, as by his cheere,
So lyk a gentil lovere of manere,
So ravysshed, as it semed, for the joye,
That nevere jason ne parys of troye --
Jason? certes, ne noon oother man
Syn lameth was, that alderfirst bigan
To loven two, as writen folk biforn --
Ne nevere, syn the firste man was born,
Ne koude man, by twenty thousand part,
Countrefete the sophymes of his art,
Ne were worthy unbokelen his galoche,
Ther doublenesse or feynyng sholde approche,
Ne so koude thonke a wight as he dide me!
His manere was an hevene for to see
Til any womman, were she never so wys,
So peynted he and kembde at point-devys
As wel his wordes as his contenaunce.
And I so loved hym for his obeisaunce,
And for the trouthe I demed in his herte,
That if so were that any thyng hym smerte,
Al were it never so lite, and I it wiste,
Me thoughte I felte deeth myn herte twiste.
And shortly, so ferforth this thyng is went,
That my wyl was his willes instrument;
This is to seyn, my wyl obeyed his wyl
In alle thyng, as fer as reson fil,
Kepynge the boundes of my worshipe evere.
Ne nevere hadde I thyng so lief, ne levere,
As hym, God woot! ne nevere shal namo.
This laste lenger than a yeer or two,
That I supposed of hym noght but good.
But finally, thus atte laste it stood,
That fortune wolde that he moste twynne
Out of that place which that I was inne.
Wher me was wo, that is no questioun;
I kan nat make of it discripsioun;
For o thyng dar I tellen boldely,
I knowe what is the peyne of deeth therby;
Swich harm I felte for he ne myghte bileve.
So on a day of me he took his leve,
So sorwefully eek that I wende verraily
That he had felt as muche harm as I,
Whan that I herde hym speke, and saugh his hewe.
But nathelees, I thoughte he was so trewe,
And eek that he repaire sholde ageyn
Withinne a litel while, sooth to seyn; [Page 134]
And resoun wolde eek that he moste go
For his honour, as ofte it happeth so,
That I made vertu of necessitee,
And took it wel, syn that it moste be.
As I best myghte, I hidde fro hym my sorwe,
And took hym by the hond, seint john to borwe,
And seyde hym thus: lo, I am youres al;
Beth swich as I to yow have been and shal. --
What he answerde, it nedeth noght reherce;
Who kan sey bet than he, who kan do werse?
Whan he hath al wel seyd, thanne hath he doon.
-- Therfore bihoveth hire a ful long spoon
That shal ete with a feend, -- thus herde I seye.
So atte laste he moste forth his weye,
And forth he fleeth til he cam ther hym leste.
Whan it cam hym to purpos for to reste,
I trowe he hadde thilke text in mynde,
That -- alle thyng, repeirynge to his kynde,
Gladeth hymself; -- thus seyn men, as I gesse.
Men loven of propre kynde newefangelnesse,
As briddes doon that men in cages fede.
For though thou nyght and day take of hem hede,
And strawe hir cage faire and softe as silk,
And yeve hem sugre, hony, breed and milk,
Yet right anon as that his dore is uppe,
He with his feet wol spurne adoun his cuppe,
And to the wode he wole, and wormes ete;
So newefangel been they of hire mete,
And loven novelries of propre kynde;
No gentillesse of blood ne may hem bynde.
So ferde this tercelet, allas the day!
Though he were gentil born, and fressh and gay,
And goodlich for to seen, and humble and free,
He saugh upon a tyme a kyte flee,
And sodeynly he loved this kyte so
That al his love is clene fro me ago;
And hath his trouthe falsed in this wyse.
Thus hath the kyte my love in hire servyse,
And I am lorn withouten remedie!
And with that word this faucon gan to crie,
And swowned eft in canacees barm.
Greet was the sorwe for the haukes harm
That canacee and alle hir wommen made;
They nyste hou they myghte the faucon glade.
But canacee hom bereth hire in hir lappe,
And softely in plastres gan hire wrappe,
Ther as she with hire beek hadde hurt hirselve.
Now kan nat canacee but herbes delve
Out of the ground, and make salves newe
Of herbes preciouse and fyne of hewe,
To heelen with this hauk. Fro day to nyght
She dooth hire bisynesse and al hire myght,
And by hire beddes heed she made a mewe,
And covered it with veluettes blewe,
In signe of trouthe that is in wommen sene.
And al withoute, the mewe is peynted grene,
In which were peynted alle this false fowles,
As ben thise tidyves, tercelettes, and owles;
Right for despit were peynted hem bisyde,
Pyes, on hem for to crie and chyde.
Thus lete I canacee hir hauk kepyng;
I wol namoore as now speke of hir ryng,
Til it come eft to purpos for to seyn
How that this faucon gat hire love ageyn
Repentant, as the storie telleth us,
By mediacion of cambalus,
The kynges sone, of which that I yow tolde.
But hennesforth I wol my proces holde
To speken of aventures and of batailles,
That nevere yet was herd so grete mervailles.
First wol I telle yow of cambyuskan,
That in his tyme many a citee wan;
And after wol I speke of algarsif,
How that he wan theodora to his wif,
For whom ful ofte in greet peril he was,
Ne hadde he ben helpen by the steede of bras;
And after wol I speke of cambalo,
That faught in lystes with the bretheren two
For canacee er that he myghte hire wynne.
And ther I lefte I wol ayeyn bigynne.
Explicit secunda pars.

5.2.3. Incipit pars tercia.

Appollo whirleth up his chaar so hye,
Til that the God mercurius hous, the slye --

5.3. The Franklin's words to the Squire

In feith, squier, thow hast thee wel yquit
And gentilly. I preise wel thy wit,
Quod the frankeleyn, considerynge thy yowthe,
So feelyngly thou spekest, sire, I allow the!
As to my doom, ther is noon that is heere
Of eloquence that shal be thy peere,
If that thou lyve; God yeve thee good chaunce,
And in vertu sende thee continuance!
For of thy speche I have greet deyntee. [Page 135]
I have a sone, and by the trinitee,
I hadde levere than twenty pounnd worth lond,
Though it right now were fallen in myn hond,
He were a man of swich discrecioun
As that ye been! fy on possessioun,
But if a man be vertuous withal!
I have my sone snybbed, and yet shal,
For he to vertu listeth nat entende;
But for to pleye at dees, and to despende
And lese al that he hath, is his usage.
And he hath levere talken with a page
Than to comune with any gentil wight
Where he myghte lerne gentillesse aright.
Straw for youre gentillesse! quod oure hoost.
What, frankeleyn! pardee, sire, wel thou woost
That ech of yow moot tellen atte leste
A tale or two, or breken his biheste.
That knowe I wel, sire, quod the frankeleyn.
I prey yow, haveth me nat in desdeyn,
Though to this man I speke a word or two.
Telle on thy tale withouten wordes mo.
Gladly, sire hoost, quod he, I wole obeye
Unto your wyl; now herkneth what I seye.
I wol yow nat contrarien in no wyse
As fer as that my wittes wol suffyse.
I prey to God that it may plesen yow;
Thanne woot I wel that it is good ynow.

5.4. The Franklin's Prologue

Thise olde gentil britouns in hir dayes
Of diverse aventures maden layes,
Rymeyed in hir firste briton tonge;
Whiche leyes with hir instrumentz songe,
Or elles redden hem for hir plesaunce,
And oon of hem have I in remembraunce,
Which I shal seyn with good wyl as I kan.
But, sires, by cause I am a burel man,
At my bigynnyng first I yow biseche,
Have me excused of my rude speche.
I lerned nevere rethorik, certeyn;
Thyng that I speke, it moot be bare and pleyn.
I sleep nevere on the mount of pernaso,
Ne lerned marcus tullius scithero.
Colours ne knowe I none, withouten drede,
But swiche colours as growen in the mede,
Or elles swiche as men dye or peynte.
Colours of rethoryk been to me queynte;
My spririt feeleth noght of swich mateere.
But if yow list, my tale shul ye heere.

5.5. The Franklin's Tale

In armorik, that called is britayne,
Ther was a knyght that loved and dide his payne
To serve a lady in his beste wise;
And many a labour, many a greet emprise
He for his lady wroghte, er she were wonne.
For she was oon the faireste under sonne,
And eek therto comen of so heigh kynrede
That wel unnethes dorste this knyght, drede,
Telle hire his wo, his peyne, and his distresse.
But atte laste she, for his worthynesse,
And namely for his meke obeysaunce,
Hath swich a pitee caught of his penaunce
That pryvely she fil of his accord
To take hym for hir housbonde and hir lord,
Of swich lordshipe as men han over hir wyves.
And for to lede the moore in blisse hir lyves,
Of his free wyl he swoor hire as a knyght
That nevere in al his lyf he, day ne nyght, [Page 136]
Ne sholde upon hym take no maistrie
Agayn hir wyl, ne kithe hire jalousie,
But hire obeye, and folwe hir wyl in al,
As any lovere to his lady shal,
Save that the name of soveraynetee,
That wolde he have for shame of his degree.
She thanked hym, and with ful greet humblesse
She seyde, sire, sith of youre gentillesse
Ye profre me to have so large a reyne,
Ne wolde nevere God bitwixe us tweyne,
As in my gilt, were outher werre or stryf.
Sire, I wol be youre humble trewe wyf;
Have heer my trouthe, til that myn herte breste.
Thus been they bothe in quiete and in reste.
For o thyng, sires, saufly dar I seye,
That freendes everych oother moot obeye,
If they wol longe holden compaignye.
Love wol nat been constreyned by maistrye.
Whan maistrie comth, the God of love anon
Beteth his wynges, and farewel, he is gon!
Love is a thyng as any spirit free.
Wommen, of kynde, desiren libertee,
And nat to been constreyned as a thral;
And so doon men, if I sooth seyen shal.
Looke who that is moost pacient in love,
He is at his advantage al above.
Pacience is an heigh vertu, certeyn,
For it venquysseth, as thise clerkes seyn,
Thynges that rigour sholde nevere atteyne.
For every word men may nat chide or pleyne.
Lerneth to suffre, or elles, so moot I goon,
Ye shul it lerne, wher so ye wole or noon;
For in this world, certein, ther no wight is
That he ne dooth or seith somtyme amys.
Ire, siknesse, or constellacioun,
Wyn, wo, or chaungynge of complexioun
Causeth ful ofte to doon amys or speken.
On every wrong a man may nat be wreken.
After the tyme moste be temperaunce
To every wight that kan on governaunce.
And therfore hath this wise, worthy knyght,
To lyve in ese, suffrance hire bihight,
And she to hym ful wisly gan to swere
That nevere sholde ther be defaunte in here.
Heere may men seen an humble, wys accord;
Thus hath she take hir servant and hir lord, --
Servant in love, and lord in mariage.
Thanne was he bothe in lordshipe and servage.
Servage? nay, but in lordshipe above,
Sith he hath bothe his lady and his love;
His lady, certes, and his wyf also,
The which that lawe of love acordeth to.
And whan he was in this prosperitee,
Hoom with his wyf he gooth to his contree,
Nat fer fro pedmark, ther his dwellyng was,
Where as he lyveth in blisse and in solas.
Who koude telle, but he hadde wedded be,
The joye, the ese, and the prosperitee
That is bitwixe and housbonde and his wyf?
A yeer and moore lasted this blisful lyf,
Til that the knyght of which I speke thus,
That of kayrrud was cleped arveragus,
Shoop hym to goon and dwelle a yeer or tweyne
In engelond, that cleped was eek briteyne,
To seke in armes worshipe and honour;
For al his lust he sette in swich labour;
And dwelled there two yeer, the book seith thus.
now wol I stynten of this arveragus,
And speken I wole of dorigen his wyf,
That loveth hire housbonde as hire hertes lyf,
For his absence wepeth she and siketh,
As doon thise noble wyves whan hem liketh.
She moorneth, waketh, wayleth, fasteth, pleyneth;
Desir of his presence hire so destreyneth
That al this wyde world she sette at noght.
Hire freendes, whiche that knewe hir hevy thoght,
Conforten hire in al that ever they may.
They prechen hire, they telle hire nyght and day
That causelees she sleeth hirself, allas!
And every confort possible in this cas
They doon to hire with al hire bisynesse,
Al for to make hire leve hire hevynesse.
by process, as ye knowen everichoon,
Men may so longe graven in a stoon
Til som figure therinne emprented be.
So longe han they conforted hire, til she
Receyved hath, by hope and by resoun,
The empreyntyng of hire consolacioun,
Thurgh which hir grete sorwe gan aswage;
She may nat alwey duren in swich rage
and eek arveragus, in al this care,
Hath sent hire lettres hoom of his welfare,
And that he wol come hastily agayn;
Or elles hadde this sorwe hir herte slayn.
hire freendes sawe hir sorwe gan to slake,
And preyde hire on knees, for goddes sake,
To come and romen hire in compaignye,
Awey to dryve hire derke fantasye.
And finally she graunted that requeste,
For wel she saugh that it was for the beste.
now stood hire castel faste by the see,
And often with hire freendes walketh shee, [Page 137]
Hire to disporte, upon the bank an heigh,
Where as she many a ship and barge seigh
Seillynge hir cours, where as hem liste go.
But thanne was that a parcel of hire wo,
For to hirself ful ofte, allas! seith she,
Is ther no ship, of so manye as I se,
Wol bryngeth hom my lord? thanne were myn herte
Al warisshed of his bittre peynes smerte.
another tyme them wolde she sitte and thynke,
And caste hir eyen dounward fro the brynke.
But whan she saugh the grisly rokkes blake,
For verray feere so wolde hir herte quake
That on hire feet she myghte hire noght sustene.
Thanne wolde she sitte adoun upon the grene,
And pitously into the see biholde,
And seyn right thus, with sorweful sikes colde --
eterne god, that thurgh thy purveiaunce
Ledest the world by certein governaunce,
In ydel, as men seyn, ye no thyng make,
But, lord, thise grisly feendly rokkes blake,
That semen rather a foul confusion
Of werk than any fair creacion
Of swich a parfit wys God and a stable
Why han ye wroght this werk unresonable?
For by this werk, south, north, ne west, ne eest,
Ther nys yfostred man, ne bryd, ne beest;
It dooth no good, to my wit, but anoyeth.
So ye nat, lord, how mankynde it destroyeth?
An hundred thousand bodyes of mankynde
Han rokkes slayn, al be they nat in mynde,
Which mankynde is so fair part of thy werk
That thou it madest lyk to thyn owene merk.
Thanne semed it ye hadde a greet chiertee
Toward mankynde; but how thanne may it bee
That ye swiche meenes make it to destroyen,
Whiche meenes do no good, but evere anoyen?
I woot wel clerkes wol seyn as hem leste,
By argumentz, that al is for the beste,
Though I ne kan the causes nat yknowe.
But thilke God that made wynd to blowe
As kepe my lord! this my conclusion.
To clerkes lete I al disputison.
But wolde God that alle thise rokkes blake
Were sonken into helle for his sake!
Thise rokkes sleen myn herte for the feere.
Thus wolde she seyn, with many a pitous teere.
hire freendes sawe that it was no disport
To romen by the see, but disconfort,
And shopen for to pleyen somwher elles.
They leden hire by ryveres and by welles,
And eek in othere places delitables;
They dauncen, and they pleyen at ches and tables.
so on a day, right in the morwe-tyde,
Unto a gardyn that was ther bisyde,
In which that they hadde maad hir ordinaunce
Of vitaille and of oother purveiaunce,
They goon and pleye hem al the longe day.
And this was on the sixte morwe of may,
Which may hadde peynted with his softe shoures
This gardyn ful of leves and of floures;
And craft of mannes hand so curiously
Arrayed hadde this gardyn, trewely,
That nevere was ther gardyn of swich prys,
But if it were the verray paradys.
The odour of floures and the fresshe sighte
Wolde han maked any herte lighte
That evere was born, but if to greet siknesse,
Or to greet sorwe, helde it in distresse;
So ful it was of beautee with plesaunce.
At after-dyner gonne they to daunce,
And synge also, save dorigen allone,
Which made alwey hir compleint and hir moone,
For she ne saugh hym on the daunce go
That was hir housbonde and hir love also.
But nathelees she moste a tyme abyde,
And with good hope lete hir sorwe slyde.
upon this daunce, amonges othere men,
Daunced a squier biforn dorigen,
That fressher was and jolyer of array,
As to my doom, than is the month of may.
He syngeth, daunceth, passynge any man
That is, or was, sith that the world bigan.
Therwith he was, if men sholde hym discryve,
Oon of the beste farynge man on lyve;
Yong, strong, right vertuous, and riche, and wys,
And wel biloved, and holden in greet prys.
And shortly, if the sothe I tellen shal,
Unwityng of this dorigen at al,
This lusty squier, servant to venus,
Which that ycleped was aurelius,
Hadde loved hire best of any creature
Two yeer and moore, as was his aventure,
But nevere dorste he tellen hire his grevaunce.
Withouten coppe he drank al his penaunce.
He was despeyred; no thyng dorste he seye,
Save in his songes somwhat wolde he wreye
His wo, as in a general compleynyng;
He seyde he lovede, and was biloved no thyng.
Of swich matere made he manye layes,
Songes, compleintes, roundels, virelayes,
How that he dorste nat his sorwe telle, [Page 138]
But langwissheth as a furye dooth in helle;
And dye he moste, he seyde, as dide ekko
For narcisus, that dorste nat telle hir wo.
In oother manere than ye heere me seye,
Ne dorste he nat to hire his wo biwreye,
Save that, paraventure, somtyme at daunces,
Ther yonge folk kepen hir observaunces,
It may wel be he looked on hir face
In swich a wise as man that asketh grace;
But nothyng wiste she of his entente.
Nathelees it happed, er they thennes wente,
By cause that he was hire neighebour,
And was a man of worshipe and honour,
And hadde yknowen hym of tyme yoore,
They fille in speche; and forth, moore and moore,
Unto his purpos drough aurelius,
and whan he saugh his tyme, he seyde thus --
madame, quod he, by God that this world made,
So that I wiste it myghte youre herte glade,
I wolde that day that youre arveragus
Wente over the see, that I, aurelius,
Hadde went ther nevere I sholde have come agayn.
For wel I woot my servyce is in vayn;
My gerdon is but brestyng of myn herte.
Madame, reweth upon my peynes smerte;
For with a word ye may me sleen or save.
Heere at youre feet God wolde that I were grave!
I ne have as now no leyser moore to seye;
Have mercy, sweete, or ye wol do me deye!
she gan to looke upon aurelius --
Is this youre wyl, quod she, and sey ye thus?
Nevere erst, quod she, ne wiste I what ye mente.
But now, aurelie, I knowe your entente,
By thilke God that yaf me soule and lyf,
Ne shal I nevere been untrewe wyf
In word ne werk, as fer as I have wit;
I wol been his to whom that I am knyt.
Taak this for fynal answere as of me.
But after that in pley thus seyde she --
aurelie, quod she, by heighe God above,
Yet wolde I graunte yow to been youre love,
Syn I yow se so pitously complayne.
Looke what day that endelong britayne
Ye remoeve alle the rokkes, stoon by stoon,
That they ne lette ship ne boot to goon, --
I seye, whan ye han maad the coost so clene
Of rokkes that ther nys no stoon ysene,
Thanne wol I love yow best of any man,
Have heer my trouthe, in al that evere I kan.
Is ther noon oother grace in yow? quod he.
no, by that lord, quod she, that maked me!
For wel I woot that it shal never bityde.
Lat swiche folies out of youre herte slyde.
What deyntee sholde a man han in his lyf
For to go love another mannes wyf,
That hath hir body whan so that hym liketh?
aurelius ful ofte soore siketh;
Wo was aurelie whan that he this herde,
And with a sorweful herte he thus answerde;
madame, quod he, this were inpossible!
Thanne moot I dye of sodeyn deth horrible.
And with that word he turned hym anon.
Tho coome hir othere freendes many oon,
And in the aleyes romeden up and doun,
And nothyng wiste of this conclusioun,
But sodeynly bigonne revel newe
Til that the brighte sonne loste his hewe;
For th'orisonte hath reft the sonne his lyght, --
This is as muche to seye as it was nyght! --
And hoom they goon in joye and in solas,
Save oonly wrecche aurelius, allas!
He to his hous is goon with sorweful herte.
He seeth he may nat fro his deeth asterte;
Hym semed that he felte his herte colde.
Up to the hevene his handes he gan holde,
And on his knowes bare he sette hym doun,
And in his ravyng seyde his orisoun.
For verray wo out of his wit he breyde.
He nyste what he spak, but thus he seyde;
With pitous herte his pleynt hath bigonne
Unto the goddes, and first unto the sonne;
he seyde, appollo, God and governour
Of every plaunte, herbe, tree, and flour,
That yevest, after thy declinacion,
To ech of hem his tyme and his seson,
As thyn herberwe chaungeth lowe or heighe,
Lord phebus, cast thy merciable eighe
On wrecche aurelie, which that am but lorn.
Lo, lord! my lady hath my deeth ysworn
Withoute gilt, but thy benignytee
Upon my dedly herte have som pitee.
For wel I woot, lord phebus, if yow lest,
Ye may me helpen, save my lady, best.
Now voucheth sauf that I may yow devyse
How that I may been holpen and in what wyse.
youre blisful suster, lucina the sheene,
That of the see is chief goddesse and queene
(though neptunus have deitee in the see,,
Yet emperisse aboven hym is she),
Ye knowen wel, lord, that right as hir desir
Is to be quyked and lighted of youre fir, [Page 139]
For which she folweth yow ful bisily,
Right so the see desireth naturelly
To folwen hire, as she that is goddesse
Bothe in the see and ryveres moore and lesse.
Wherfore, lord phebus, this is my requeste --
Do this miracle, or do myn herte breste --
That now next at this opposicion
Which in the signe shal be of the leon,
As preieth hire so greet a flood to brynge
That fyve fadme at the leeste it oversprynge
The hyeste rokke in armorik briteyne;
And lat this flood endure yeres tweyne.
Thanne certes to my lady may I seye,
'holdeth youre heste, the rokkes been aweye.'
lord phebus, dooth this miracle for me.
Preye hire she go no faster cours than ye;
I seye, preyeth your suster that she go
No faster cours than ye thise yeres two.
Thanne shal she been evene atte fulle alwey,
And spryng flood laste bothe nyght and day.
And but she vouche sauf in swich manere
To graunte me my sovereyn lady deere,
Prey hire to synken every rok adoun
Into hir owene dirke regioun
Under the ground, ther pluto dwelleth inne,
Or nevere mo shal I my lady wynne.
Thy temple in delphos wol I barefoot seke.
Lord phebus, se the teris on my cheke,
And of my peyne have som compassioun.
And with that word in swowne he fil adoun,
And longe tyme he lay forth in a traunce.
his brother, which that knew of his penaunce,
Up caughte hym, and to bedde he hath hym broght.
Dispeyred in this torment and this thoght
Lete I this woful creature lye;
Chese he, for me, wheither he wol lyve or dye.
arveragus, with heele and greet honour,
As he that was of chivalrie the flour,
Is comen hoom, and othere worthy men.
O blisful artow now, thou dorigen,
That hast thy lusty housbonde in thyne armes,
The fresshe knyght, the worthy man of armes,
That loveth thee as his owene hertes lyf.
No thyng list hym to been ymaginatyf,
If any wight hadde spoke, whil he was oute,
To hire of love; he hadde of it no doute.
He noght entendeth to no swich mateere,
But daunceth, justeth, maketh hire good cheere;
And thus in joye and blisse I lete hem dwelle,
And of the sike aurelius wol I telle.
in langour and in torment furyus
Two yeer and moore lay wrecche aurelyus,
Er any foot he myghte on erthe gon;
Ne confort in this tyme hadde he noon,
Save of his brother, which that was a clerk.
He knew of al this wo and al this werk;
For to noon oother creature, certeyn,
Of this matere he dorste no word seyn.
Under his brest he baar it moore secree
Than evere dide pamphilus for galathee.
His brest was hool, withoute for to sene,
But in his herte ay was the arwe kene.
And wel ye knowe that of a sursanure
In surgerye is perilus the cure,
But men myghte touche the arwe, or come therby.
His brother weep and wayled pryvely,
Til atte laste hym fil in remembraunce,
That whiles he was at orliens in fraunce,
As yonge clerkes, that been lykerous
To redern artes that been curious,
Seken in every halke and every herne
Particuler sciences for to lerne --
He hym remembred that, upon a day,
At orliens in studie a book he say
Of magyk natureel, which his felawe,
That was that tyme a bacheler of lawe,
Al were he ther to lerne another craft,
Hadde prively upon his desk ylaft;
Which book spak muchel of the operaciouns
Touchynge the eighte and twenty mansiouns
That longen to the moone, and swich folye
As in oure dayes is nat worth a flye, --
For hooly chirches feith in our bileve
Ne suffreth noon illusioun us to greve.
And whan this book was in his remembraunce,
Anon for joye his herte gan to daunce,
And to hymself he seyde pryvely;
My brother shal be warisshed hastily;
For I am siker that ther be sciences
By whiche men make diverse apparences,
Swiche as thise subtile tregetoures pleye.
For ofte at feestes have I wel herd seye
That tregetours, withinne an halle large,
Have maad come in a water and a barge,
And in the halle rowen up and doun.
Somtyme hath semed come a grym leoun;
And sometyme floures sprynge as in a mede;
Somtyme a vyne, and grapes white and rede;
Somtyme a castel, al of lym and stoon;
And whan hem lyked, voyded it anon.
Thus semed it to every mannes sighte.
Now thanne conclude I thus, that if I myghte
At orliens som oold felawe yfynde
That hadde thise moones mansions in mynde, [Page 140]
Or oother magyk natureel above,
He sholde wel make my brother han his love.
For with an apparence a clerk may make,
To mannes sighte, that alle the rokkes blake
Of britaigne weren yvoyded everichon,
And shippes by the brynke comen and gon,
And in swich forme enduren a wowke or two.
Thanne were my brother warisshed of his wo;
Thanne moste she nedes holden hire biheste,
Or elles he shal shame hire atte leeste.
what sholde I make a lenger tale of this?
Unto his brotheres bed he comen is,
And swich confort he yaf hym for to gon
To orliens that he up stirte anon,
And on his wey forthward thanne is he fare
In hope for to been lissed of his care.
whan they were come almoost to that citee,
But if it were a two furlong or thre,
A yong clerk romynge by hymself they mette,
Which that in latyn thriftily hem grette,
And after that he seyde a wonder thyng --
I knowe, quod he, the cause of youre comyng.
And er they ferther any foote wente,
He tolde hem al that was in hire entente.
this briton clerk hym asked of felawes
The whiche that he had knowe in olde dawes,
And he answerde hym that they dede were,
For which he weep ful ofte many a teere.
doun of his hors aurelius lighte anon,
And with this magicien forth is he gon
Hoom to his hous, and maden hem wel at ese.
Hem lakked no vitaille that myghte hem plese.
So wel arrayed hous as ther was oon
Aurelius in his lyf saugh nevere noon.
he shewed hym, er he wente to sopeer,
Forestes, parkes ful of wilde deer;
Ther saugh he hertes with hir hornes hye,
The gretteste that evere were seyn with ye.
He saugh of hem an hondred slayn with houndes,
And somme with arwes blede of bittre woundes.
He saugh, whan voyded were thise wilde deer,
Thise fauconers upon a fair ryver,
That with hir haukes han the heron slayn.
tho saugh he knyghtes justyng in a playn;
And after this he dide hym swich plesaunce
That he hym shewed his lady on a daunce,
On which hymself he daunced, as hym thoughte.
And whan this maister that this magyk wroughte
Saugh it was tyme, he clapte his handes two,
And farewel! al oure revel was ago,
And yet remoeved they nevere out of the hous,
Whil they saugh al this sighte merveillous,
But in his studie, ther as his bookes be,
They seten stille, and no wight but they thre.
to hym this maister called his squier,
And seyde hym thus -- is redy oure soper?
Almoost an houre it is, I undertake,
Sith I yow bad oure soper for to make,
Whan that thise wrothy men wenten with me
Into my studie, ther as my bookes be.
sire, quod this squier, whan it liketh yow,
It is al redy, though ye wol right now.
Go we thanne soupe, quod he, as for the beste.
Thise amorous folk somtyme moote han hir reste.
at after-soper fille they in tretee
What somme sholde this maistres gerdon be,
To remoeven alle the rokkes of britayne,
And eek from gerounde to the mouth of sayne.
he made it straunge, and swoor, so God hym save,
Lasse than a thousand pound he wolde nat have,
Ne gladly for than somme he wolde nat goon.
aurelius, with blisful herte anoon,
Answerde thus -- fy on a thousand pound!
This wyde world, which that men seye is round,
I wolde it yeve, if I were lord of it.
This bargayn is ful dryve, for we been knyt.
Ye shal be payed trewely, by my trouthe!
But looketh now, for no necligence or slouthe
Ye tarie us heere no lenger than to-morwe.
nay, quod this clerk, have heer my feith to borwe.
to bedde is goon aurelius whan hym leste,
And wel ny al that nyght he hadde his reste.
What for his labour and his hope of blisse,
His woful herte of penaunce hadde a lisse.
upon the morwe, what that it was day,
To britaigne tooke they the righte way,
Aurelius and this magicien bisyde,
And been descended ther they wolde abyde.
And this was, as thise bookes me remembre,
The colde, frosty seson of decembre.
phebus wax old, and hewed lyk laton,
That in his hoote declynacion
Shoon as the burned gold with stremes brighte;
But now in capricorn adoun he lighte,
Where as he shoon ful pale, I dar wel seyn,
The bittre frostes, with the sleet and reyn, [Page 141]
Destroyed hath the grene in every yerd.
Janus sit by the fyr, with double berd,
And drynketh of his bugle horn the wyn;
Biforn hym stant brawen of the tusked swyn,
And nowel crieth every lusty man.
aurelius, in al that evere he kan,
Dooth to this maister chiere and reverence,
And preyeth hym to doon his diligence
To bryngen hym out of his peynes smerte,
Or with swerd that he wolde slitte his herte.
this subtil clerk swich routhe had of this man
That nyght and day he spedde hym that he kan
To wayten a tyme of his conclusioun;
This is to seye, to maken illusioun,
By swich an apparence or jogelrye --
I ne kan no termes of astrologye --
That she and every wight sholde wene and seye
That of britaigne the rokkes were aweye,
Or ellis they were sonken under grounde.
So atte laste he hath his tyme yfounde
To maken his japes and his wrecchednesse
Of swich a supersticiuos cursednesse.
His tables tolletanes forth he brought,
Ful wel corrected, ne ther lakked nought,
Neither his collect ne his expans yeeris,
Ne his rootes, ne his othere geeris,
As been his centris and his argumentz
And his proporcioneles convenientz
For his equacions in every thyng.
And by his eighte speere in his wirkyng
He knew ful wel how fer alnath was shove
For the heed of thilke fixe aries above,
That in the ninthe speere considered is;
Ful subtilly he kalkulled al this.
whan he hadde founde his firste mansioun,
He knew the remenaunt by propocioun,
And knew the arisyng of his moone weel,
And in whos face, and terme, and everydeel;
And knew ful weel the moones mansioun
Acordaunt to his operacioun,
And knew also his othere observaunces
For swiche illusiouns and swiche meschaunces
As hethen folk useden in thilke dayes.
For which no lenger maked he delayes,
But thurgh his magik, for a wyke or tweye,
It semed that alle the rokkes were aweye.
aurelius, which that yet despeired is
Wher he shal han his love or fare amys,
Awaitheth nyght and day on this myracle;
And whan he knew that ther was noon obstacle,
That voyded were thise rokkes everychon,
Doun to his maistres feet he fil anon,
And seyde, I woful wrecche, aurelius,
Thanke yow, lord, and lady myn venus,
That me han holpen fro my cares colde.
And to the temple his wey forth hath he holde,
Where as he knew he sholde his lady see.
And whan he saugh his tyme, anon-right hee,
With dredful herte and with ful humble cheere,
Salewed hath his sovereyn lady deere --
my righte lady, quod this woful man,
Whom I moost drede and love as best I kan,
And lothest were of al this world displese,
Nere it that I for yow have swich disese
That I moste dyen heere at youre foot anon,
Noght wolde I telle how me is wo bigon.
But certes outher moste I dye or pleyne;
Ye sle me giltelees for verray peyne.
But of my deeth thogh that ye have no routhe,
Avyseth yow er that ye breke youre trouthe.
Repenteth yow, for thilke God above,
Er ye me sleen by cause that I yow love.
For, madame, wel ye woot what ye han hight --
Nat that I chalange any thyng of right
Of yow, my sovereyn lady, but youre grace --
But in a gardyn yond, at swich a place,
Ye woot right wel what ye bihighten me;
And in my hand youre trouthe plighten ye
To love me best -- God woot, ye seyde so,
Al be that I unworthy am therto.
Madame, I speke it for the honour of yow
Moore than to save myn hertes lyf right now, --
I have do so as ye comanded me;
And if ye vouche sauf, ye may go see.
Dooth as yow list; have youre biheste in mynde,
For, quyk or deed, right there ye shal me fynde.
In yow lith al to do me lyve or deye, --
But wel I woot the rokkes been aweye.
he taketh his leve, and she astoned stood;
In al hir face nas a drope of blood.
She wende nevere han come in swich a trappe.
Allas, quod she, that evere this sholde happe!
For wende I nevere by possibilitee
That swich a monstre or merveille myghte be!
It is agayns the proces of nature.
And hoom she goth a sorweful creature;
For verray feere unnethe may she go.
She wepeth, wailleth, al a day or two.
And swowneth, that it routhe was to see.
But why it was to no wight tolde shee,
For out of towne was goon arveragus.
But to hirself she spak, and seyde thus,
With face pale and with ful sorweful cheere,
In hire compleynt, as ye shal after heere --
allas, quod she, on thee, fortune, I pleyne, [Page 142]
That unwar wrapped hast me in thy cheyne,
Fro which t'escape woot I no socour,
Save oonly deeth or elles dishonour;
Oon of thise two bihoveth me to chese.
But nathelees, yet have I levere to lese
My lif than of my body to have a shame,
Or knowe myselven fals, or lese my name;
And with my deth I may be quyt, ywis.
Hath ther nat many a noble wyf er this,
And many a mayde, yslayn hirself, allas!
Rather than with hir body doon trespas?
yis, certes, lo, thise stories beren witnesse --
Whan thritty tirauntz, ful of cursednesse,
Hadde slayn phidon in atthenes atte feste,
They comanded his doghtres for t'areste,
And bryngen hem biforn hem in despit,
Al naked, to fulfille hir foul delit,
And in hir fadres blood they made hem daunce
Upon the pavement, God yeve hem meschaunce!
For which thise woful maydens, ful of drede,
Rather than they wolde lese hir maydenhede,
They prively been stirt into a welle,
And dreynte hemselven, as the bookes telle.
they of mecene leete enquere and seke
Of lacedomye fifty maydens eke,
On whiche they wolden doon hir lecherye.
But was ther noon of al that compaignye
That she nas slayn, and with a good entente
Chees rather for to dye than assente
To been oppressed of hir maydenhede.
Why sholde I thanne to dye been in drede?
Lo, eek, the tiraunt aristoclides,
That loved a mayden, heet stymphalides,
Whan that hir fader slayn was on a nyght,
Unto dianes temple goth she right,
And hente the ymage in hir handes two,
Fro which ymage wolde she nevere go.
No wight ne myghte hir handes of it arace
Til she was slayn, right in the selve place.
now sith that maydens hadden swich despit
To been defouled with mannes foul delit,
Wel oghte a wyf rather hirselven slee
Than be defouled, as it thynketh me.
What shal I seyn of hasdrubales wyf,
That at cartage birafte hirself hir lyf?
For whan she saugh that romayns wan the toun,
She took hir children alle, and skipte adoun
Into the fyr, and chees rather to dye
Than any romayn dide hire vileynye.
Hath nat lucresse yslayn hirself, allas!
At rome, whan that she oppressed was
Of tarquyn, for hire thoughte it was a shame
To lyven whan that she had lost hir name?
The sevene maydens of milesie also
Han slayn hemself, for verrey drede and wo,
Rather than folk of gawle hem sholde oppresse.
Mo than a thousand stories, as I gesse,
Koude I now telle as touchynge this mateere.
Whan habradate was slayn, his wyf so deere
Hirselven slow, and leet hir blood to glyde
In habradates woundes depe and wyde,
And seyde, my body, at the leeste way,
Ther shal no wight defoulen, if I may.
what sholde I mo ensamples heerof sayn,
Sith that so manye han hemselven slayn
Wel rather than they wolde defouled be?
I wol conclude that it is bet for me
To sleen myself than been defouled thus.
I wol be trewe unto arveragus,
Or rather sleen myself in som manere,
As dide demociones doghter deere
By cause that she wolde nat defouled be.
O cedasus, it is ful greet pitee
To reden how thy doghtren deyde, allas!
That slowe hemself for swich a manere cas.
As greet a pitee was it, or wel moore,
The theban mayden that for nichanore
Hirselven slow, right for swich manere wo.
Another theban mayden dide right so;
For oon of macidonye hadde hire oppressed,
She with hire deeth hir maydenhede redressed.
What shal I seye of nicerates wyf,
That for swich cas birafte hirself hir lyf?
How trewe eek was to alcebiades
His love, that rather for to dyen chees
Than for to suffre his body unburyed be.
Lo, which a wyf was alceste, quod she.
What seith omer of good penalopee?
Al grece knoweth of hire chastitee
Pardee, of laodomya is writen thus,
That whan at troie was slayn protheselaus,
Ne lenger wolde she lyve after his day.
The same of noble porcia telle I may;
Withoute brutus koude she nat lyve,
To whom she hadde al hool hir herte yive.
The parfit wyfhod of arthemesie
Honured is thurgh al the barbarie.
O teuta, queene! thy wyfly chastitee
To alle wyves may a mirour bee.
The same thyng I seye of bilyea,
Of rodogne, and eek valeria.
thus pleyned dorigen a day or tweye,
Purposynge evere that she wolde deye.
But nathelees, upon the thridde nyght,
Hoom cam arveragus, this worthy knyght,
And asked hire why that she weep so soore; [Page 143]
And she gan wepen ever lenger the moore.
Allas, quod she, that evere was I born!
Thus have I seyd, quod she, thus have I sworn --
And toold hym al as ye han herd bifore;
It nedeth nat reherce it yow namoore.
This housbonde, with glad chiere, in freendly wyse
Answerde and seyde as I shal yow devyse --
Is ther oght elles, dorigen, but this?
nay, nay, quod she, God helpe me so as wys!
This is to muche, and it were goddes wille.
ye, wyf, quod he, lat slepen that is stille.
It may be wel, paraventure, yet to day.
Ye shul youre trouthe holden, by my fay!
For God so wisly have mercy upon me,
I hadde wel levere ystiked for to be
For verray love which I to yow have,
But if ye sholde youre trouthe kepe and save.
Trouthe is the hyeste thyng that man may kepe --
But with that word he brast anon to wepe,
And seyde, I yow forbede, up peyne of deeth,
That nevere, whil thee lasteth lyf ne breeth,
To no wight telle thou of this aventure, --
As I may best, I wol my wo endure
Ne make no contenance of hevynesse,
That folk of yow may demen harm or gesse.
and forth he cleped a squier and a mayde --
Gooth forth anon with dorigen, he sayde,
And bryngeth hire to swich a place anon.
They take hir leve, and on hir wey they gon
But they ne wiste why she thider wente.
He nolde no wight tellen his entente.
paraventure an heep of yow, ywis,
Wol holden hym a lewed man in this
That he wol putte his wyf in jupartie.
Herkneth the tale er ye upon hire crie.
She may have bettre fortune than yow semeth;
And whan that ye han herd the tale, demeth.
this squier, which that highte aurelius,
On dorigen that was so amorous,
Of aventure happed hire to meete
Amydde the toun, right in the quykkest strete,
As she was bown to goon the wey forth right
Toward the gardyn ther as she had hight.
And he was to the gardyn-ward also --
For wel he spyed whan she wolde go
Out of hir hous to any maner place.
But thus they mette, of aventure or grace,
And he saleweth hire with glad entente,
And asked of hire whiderward she wente;
And she answerde, half as she were mad,
Unto the gardyn, as myn housbonde bad,
My trouthe for to holde, allas! allas!
aurelius gan wondren on this cas,
And in his herte hadde greet compassioun
Of hire and of hire lamentacioun,
And of arveragus, the worthy knyght,
That bad hire holden al that she had hight,
So looth hym was his wyf sholde breke hir trouthe
And in his herte he caughte of this greet routhe,
Considerynge the beste on every syde,
That fro his lust yet were hym levere abyde
Than doon so heigh a cherlyssh wrecchednesse
Agayns franchise and all gentillesse;
For which in fewe wordes seyde he thus --
madame, seyth to youre lord arveragus,
That sith I se his grete gentillesse
To yow, and eek I se wel youre distresse,
That him were levere han shame (and that were routhe)
Than ye to me sholde breke thus youre trouthe,
I have wel levere evere to suffre wo
Than I departe the love bitwix yow two.
I yow relesse, madame, into youre hond
Quyt every serement and every bond
That ye han maad to me as heerbiforn,
Sith thilke tyme which that ye were born.
My trouthe I plighte, I shal yow never repreve
Of no biheste, and heere I take my leve,
As of the treweste and the beste wyf
That evere yet I knew in al my lyf.
But every wyf be war of hire biheeste!
Or dorigen remembreth, atte leeste.
Thus kan a squier doon a gentil dede
As wel as kan a knyght, withouten drede.
she thonketh hym upon hir knees al bare,
And hoom unto hir housbonde is she fare,
And tolde hym al, as ye han herd me sayd;
And be ye siker, he was so weel apayd
That it were inpossible me to wryte.
What sholde I lenger of this cas endyte?
arveragus and dorigen his wyf
In sovereyn blisse leden forth hir lyf.
Nevere eft ne was ther angre hem bitweene.
He cherisseth hire as though she were a queene,
And she was to hym trewe for everemoore.
Of thise two folk ye gete of me namoore.
aurelius, that his cost hath al forlorn,
Curseth the tyme that evere he was born --
Allas, quod he, allas, that I bihighte
Of pured gold a thousand pound of wighte
Unto this philosophre! how shal I do? [Page 144]
I se namoore but that I am fordo.
Myn heritage moot I nedes selle,
And been a beggere; heere may I nat dwelle,
And shamen al my kynrede in this place,
But I of hym may gete bettre grace.
But nathelees, I wole of hym assaye,
At certeyn dayes, yeer by yeer, to paye,
And thanke hym of his grete curteisye.
My trouthe wol I kepe, I wol nat lye.
with herte soor he gooth unto his cofre,
And broghte gold unto his philosophre,
The value of fyve hundred pound, I gesse,
And hym bisecheth, of his gentillesse,
To graunte hym dayes of the remenaunt;
And seyde, maister, I dar wel make avaunt,
I failled nevere of my trouthe as yit,
For sikerly my dette shal be quyt
Towardes yow, howevere that I fare
To goon a-begged in my kirtle bare.
But wolde ye vouche sauf, upon seuretee,
Two yeer or thre for to respiten me,
Thanne were I wel; for elles moot I selle
Myn heritage; ther is namoore to telle.
this philosophre sobrely answerde,
And seyde thus, whan he thise wordes herde --
Have I nat holden covenant unto thee?
yes, certes, wel and trewely, quod he.
hastow nat had thy lady as thee liketh?
no, no, quod he, and sorwefully he siketh.
what was the cause? tel me if thou kan.
aurelius his tale anon bigan,
And tolde hym al, as ye han herd biroore;
It nedeth nat to yow reherce it moore.
he seide, arveragus, of gentillesse,
Hadde levere dye in sorwe and in distresse
Than that his wyf were of hir trouthe fals.
The sorwe of dorigen he tolde hym als;
How looth hire was to been a wikked wyf,
And that she levere had lost that day hir lyf,
And that hir trouthe she swoor thurgh innocence,
She nevere erst hadde herd speke of apparence.
That made me han of hire so greet pitee;
And right as frely as he sente hire me,
As frely sente I hire to hym ageyn,
This al and som; ther is namoore to seyn.
This philosophre answerde, leeve brother,
Everich of yow dide gentilly til oother.
Thou art a squier, and he is a knyght;
But God forbede, for his blisful myght,
But if a clerk koude doon a gentil dede
As wel as any of yow, it is no drede!
sire, I releesse thee thy thousand pound,
As thou right now were cropen out of the ground,
Ne nevere er now ne haddest knowen me.
For, sire, I wol nat taken a peny of thee
For al my craft, ne noght for my travaille.
Thou hast ypayed wel for my vitaille.
It is ynogh, and farewel, have good day!
And took his hors, and forth he goth his way.
Lordynges, this question, thanne, wol I aske now,
Which was the mooste fre, as thenketh yow?
Now telleth me, er that ye ferther wende.
I kan namoore; my tale is at an ende.
[Page 145]

6. Group 6

6.1. The Physician's Tale

ther was, as telleth titus livius,
A knyght that called was virginius,
Fulfild of honour and of worthynesse,
And strong of freendes, and of greet richesse.
this knyght a doghter hadde by his wyf;
No children hadde he mo in al his lyf.
Fair was this mayde in excellent beautee
Aboven every wight that man may see;
For nature hath with sovereyn diligence
Yformed hire in so greet excellence,
As though she wolde seyn, lo! I, nature,
Thus kan I forme and peynte a creature,
Whan that me list; who kan me countrefete?
Pigmalion noght, though he ay forge and bete,
Or grave, or peynte; for I dar wel seyn,
Apelles, zanzis, sholde werche in veyn
Outher to grave, or peynte, or forge, or bete,
If they presumed me to countrefete.
For he that is the formere principal
Hath maked me his vicaire general,
To forme and peynten erthely creaturis
Right as me list, and ech thyng in my cure is
Under the moone, that may wane and waxe;
And for my werk right no thyng wol I axe;
My lord and I been ful of oon accord.
I made hire to the worshipe of my lord;
So do I alle myne othere creatures,
What colour that they han, or what figures.
Thus semeth me that nature wolde seye.
this mayde of age twelve yeer was and tweye,
In which that nature hadde swich delit.
For right as she kan peynte a lilie whit,
And reed a rose, right with swich peynture
She peynted hath this noble creature,
Er she were born, upon hir lymes fre,
Where as by right swiche colours sholde be;
And phebus dyed hath hire tresses grete
Lyk to the stremes of his burned heete.
And if that excellent was hire beautee,
A thousand foold moore vertuous was she.
In hire ne lakked no condicioun
That is to preyse, as by discrecioun.
As wel in goost as body chast was she;
For which she floured in virginitee
With alle humylitee and abstinence,
With alle attemperaunce and pacience,
With mesure eek of beryng and array.
Discreet she was in answeryng alway;
Though she were wis as pallas, dar I seyn,
Hir facound eek ful wommanly and pleyn,
No countrefeted termes hadde she
To seme wys; but after hir degree
She spak, and alle hire wordes, moore and lesse,
Sownynge in vertu and in gentillesse.
Shamefast she was in maydens shamefastnesse,
Constant in herte, and evere in bisynesse
To dryve hire out of ydel slogardye.
Bacus hadde of hir mouth right no maistrie;
For wyn and youthe dooth venus encresse,
As men in fyr wol casten oille or greesse.
And of hire owene vertu, unconstreyned,
She hath ful ofte tyme syk hire feyned,
For that she wolde fleen the compaignye
Where likly was to treten of folye,
As is at feestes, revels, and at daunces,
That been occasions of daliaunces.
Swich thynges maken children for to be
To soone rype and boold, as men may se,
Which is ful perilous, and hath been yoore.
For al to soone may she lerne loore
Of booldnesse, whan she woxen is a wyf.
and ye maistresses, in youre olde lyf,
That lordes doghtres han in governaunce,
Ne taketh of my wordes no displesaunce.
Thenketh that ye been set in governynges
Of lordes doghtres, oonly for two thynges --
Outher for ye han kept youre honestee,
Of elles ye han falle in freletee,
And knowen wel ynough the olde daunce,
And han forsaken fully swich meschaunce
For everemo; therfore, for cristes sake,
To teche hem vertu looke that ye ne slake.
a theef of venysoun, that hath forlaft
His likerousnesse and al his olde craft,
Kan kepe a forest best of any man.
Now kepeth wel, for if ye wole, ye kan.
Looke wel that ye unto no vice assente,
Lest ye be dampned for youre wikke entente; [Page 146]
For whoso dooth, a traitour is, certeyn.
And taketh kep of that that I shal seyn --
Of alle tresons sovereyn pestilence
Is whan a wight bitrayseth innocence.
ye fadres and ye moodres eek also,
Though ye han children, be it oon or mo,
Youre is the charge of al hir surveiaunce,
Whil that they been under youre governaunce.
Beth war, that by ensample of youre lyvynge,
Or by youre necligence in chastisynge,
That they ne perisse; for I dar wel seye,
If that they doon, ye shul it deere abeye.
Under a shepherde softe and necligent
The wolf hath many a sheep and lamb torent.
Suffiseth oon ensample now as heere,
For I moot turne agayn to my matere.
this mayde, of which I wol this tale expresse,
So kepte hirself hir neded no maistresse;
For in hir lyvyng maydens myghten rede,
As in a book, every good word or dede
That longeth to a mayden vertuous,
She was so prudent and so bountevous.
For which the fame out sprong on every syde,
Bothe of hir beautee and hir bountee wyde,
That thurgh that land they preised hire echone
That loved vertu, save envye allone,
That sory is of oother mennes wele,
And glad is of his sorwe and his unheele.
(the doctour maketh this descripcioun).
this mayde upon a day wente in the toun
Toward a temple, with hire mooder deere,
As is of yonge maydens the manere.
Now was ther thanne a justice in that toun,
That governour was of that regioun.
And so bifel this juge his eyen caste
Upon this mayde, avysynge hym ful faste,
As she cam forby ther as this juge stood.
Anon his herte chaunged and his mood,
So was he caught with beautee of this mayde,
And to hymself ful pryvely he sayde,
This mayde shal be myn, for any man!
anon the feend into his herte ran,
And taughte hym sodeynly that he by slyghte
The mayden to his purpos wynne myghte.
For certes, by no force ne by no meede,
Hym thoughte, he was nat able for to speede;
For she was strong of freendes, and eek she
Confermed was in swich soverayn bountee,
That wel he wiste he myghte hire nevere wynne
As for to make hire with hir body synne.
For which, by greet deliberacioun,
He sente after a cherl, was in the toun,
Which that he knew for subtil and for boold.
This juge unto this cherl his tale hath toold
In secree wise, and made hym to ensure
He sholde telle it to no creature,
And if he dide, he sholde lese his heed.
Whan that assented was this cursed reed,
Glad was this juge, and maked him greet cheere,
And yaf hym yiftes preciouse and deere.
whan shapen was al hire conspiracie
Fro point to point, how that his lecherie
Parfouned sholde been ful subtilly,
As ye shul heere it after openly,
Hoom gooth the cherl, that highte claudius.
This false juge, that highte apius,
(so was his name, for this is no fable,
But knowen for historial thyng notable;
The sentence of it sooth is, out of doute),
This false juge gooth now faste aboute
To hasten his delit al that he may.
And so bifel soone after, on a day,
This false juge, as telleth us the storie,
As he was wont, sat in his consistorie,
And yaf his doomes upon sondry cas.
This false cherl cam forth a ful greet pas,
And seyde, lord, if that it be youre wille,
As dooth me right upon this pitous bille,
In which I pleyne upon virginius;
And if that he wol seyn it is nat thus,
I wol it preeve, and fynde good witnesse,
That sooth is that my bille wol expresse.
the juge answerde, of this, in his absence,
I may nat yeve diffynytyf sentence.
Lat do hym calle, and I wol gladly heere;
Thou shalt have al right, and no wrong heere.
virginius cam to wite the juges wille,
And right anon was rad this cursed bille;
The sentence of it was as ye shul heere --
to yow, my lord, sire apius so deere,
Sheweth youre povre servant claudius
How that a knyght, called virginius,
Agayns the lawe, agayn al equitee,
Holdeth, expres agayn the wyl of me,
My servant, which that is my thral by right,
Which fro myn hous was stole upon a nyght,
Whil that she was ful yong; this wol I preeve
By witnesse, lord, so that it nat yow greeve.
She nys his doghter nat, what so he seye.
Wherfore to yow, my lord the juge, I preye,
Yeld me my thral, if that it be youre wille.
Lo, this was al the sentence of his bille.
virginius gan upon the cherl biholde,
But hastily, er he his tale tolde,
And wolde have preeved it as sholde a knyght,
And eek by witnessyng of many a wight, [Page 147]
That al was fals that seyde his adversarie,
This cursed juge wolde no thyng tarie,
Ne heere a word moore of virginius,
But yaf his juggement, and seyde thus --
I deeme anon this cherl his servant have;
Thou shalt no lenger in thyn hous hir save.
Go bryng hire forth, and put hire in oure warde.
The cherl shal have his thral, this I awarde.
and whan this worthy knyght virginius,
Thurgh sentence of this justice apius,
Moste by force his deere doghter yiven
Unto the juge, in lecherie to lyven,
He gooth hym hoom, and sette him in his halle,
And leet anon his deere doghter calle,
And with a face deed as asshen colde
Upon hir humble face he gan biholde,
With fadres pitee stikynge thurgh his herte,
Al wolde he from his purpos nat converte.
doghter, quod he, virginia, by thy name,
Ther been two weyes, outher deeth or shame,
That thou most suffre; allas, that I was bore!
For nevere thou deservedest wherfore
To dyen with a swerd or with a knyf.
O deere doghter, endere of my lyf,
Which I have fostred up with swich plesaunce
That thou were nevere out of my remembraunce!
O doghter, which that art my laste wo,
And in my lyf my laste joye also,
O gemme of chastitee, in pacience
Take thou thy deeth, for this is my sentence.
For love, and nat for hate, thou most be deed;
My pitous hand moot smyten of thyn heed.
Allas, that evere apius the say!
Thus hath he falsly jugged the to-day --
And tolde hire al the cas, as ye bifore
Han herd; nat nedeth for to telle it moore.
o mercy, deere fader! quod this mayde,
And with that word she bothe hir armes layde
Aboute his nekke, as she was wont to do.
The teeris bruste out of hir eyen two,
And seyde, goode fader, shal I dye?
Is ther no grace, is ther no remedye?
no, certes, deere doghter myn, quod he.
thanne yif me leyser, fader myn, quod she,
My deeth for to compleyne a litel space;
For, pardee, jepte yaf his doghter grace
For to compleyne, er he hir slow, allas!
And, God it woot, no thyng was hir trespas,
But for she ran hir fader first to see,
To welcome hym with greet solempnitee.
And with that word she fil aswowne anon,
And after, whan hir swownyng is agon,
She riseth up, and to hir fader sayde,
Blissed be god, that I shal dye a mayde!
Yif me my deeth, er that I have a shame;
Dooth with youre child youre wyl, a goddes name!
and with that word she preyed hym ful ofte
That with his swerd he sholde smyte softe;
And with that word aswowne doun she fil.
Hir fader, with ful sorweful herte and wil,
Hir heed of smoot, and by the top it hente,
And to the juge he gan it to presente,
As he sat yet in doom in consistorie.
And whan the juge it saugh, as seith the storie,
He bad to take hym and anhange hym faste;
But right anon a thousand peple in thraste,
To save the knyght, for routhe and for pitee,
For knowen was the false iniquitee.
The peple anon had suspect in this thyng,
By manere of the cherles chalangyng,
That it was by the assent of apius;
They wisten wel that he was lecherus.
For which unto this apius they gon,
And caste hym in prisoun right anon,
Ther as he slow hymself; and claudius,
That servant was unto this apius,
Was demed for to hange upon a tree,
But that virginius, of his pitee,
So preyde for hym that he was exiled;
And elles, certes, he had been bigyled.
The remenant were anhanged, moore and lesse,
That were consentant of this cursednesse,
heere may men seen how synne hath his merite.
Beth war, for no man woot whom God wol smyte
In no degree, ne in which manere wyse
The worm of conscience may agryse
Of wikked lyf, though it so pryvee be
That no man woot therof but God and he.
For be he lewed man, or ellis lered,
He noot how soone that he shal been afered.
Therfore I rede yow this conseil take --
Forsaketh synne, er synne yow forsake.
[Page 148]

6.2. The Introduction to the Pardoner's Tale

Oure hooste gan to swere as he were wood;
Harrow! quod he, by nayles and by blood!
This was a fals cherl and a fals justise.
As shameful deeth as herte may devyse
Come to thise juges and hire advocatz!
Algate this sely mayde is slayn, allas!
Allas, to deere boughte she beautee!
Wherfore I seye al day that men may see
That yiftes of fortune and of nature
Been cause of deeth to many a creature.
Hire beautee was hire deth, I dar wel sayn.
Allas, so pitously as she was slayn!
Of bothe yiftes that I speke of now
Men han ful ofte moore for harm than prow.
But trewely, myn owene maister deere,
This is a pitous tale for to heere.
But nathelees, passe over, is no fors.
I pray to God so save thy gentil cors,
And eek thyne urynals and thy jurdones,
Thyn ypocras, and eek thy galiones,
And every boyste ful of the letuarie;
God blesse hem, and oure lady seinte marie!
So moot I theen, thou art a propre man,
And lyk a prelat, by seint ronyan!
Seyde I nat wel? I kan nat speke in terme;
But wel I woot thou doost myn herte to erme,
That I almoost have caught a cardynacle.
By corpus bones! but I have triacle,
Or elles a draughte of moyste and corny ale,
Or but I heere anon a myrie tale,
Myn herte is lost for pitee of this mayde.
Thou beel amy, thou pardoner, he sayde,
Telle us som myrthe or japes right anon.
it shal be doon, quod he, by seint ronyon!
But first, quod he, heere at this alestake
I wol bothe drynke and eten of a cake.
but right anon thise gentils gonne to crye,
Nay, lat hym telle us of no ribaudye!
Telle us som moral thyng, that we may leere
Som wit, and thanne wol we gladly heere.
I graunte, ywis, quod he, but I moot thynke
Upon som honest thyng while that I drynke.

6.3. The Pardoner's Prologue

lordynges, quod he, in chirches whan I preche,
I peyne me to han an hauteyn speche,
And rynge it out as round as gooth a belle,
For I kan al by rote that I telle.
My theme is alwey oon, and evere was --
Radix malorum est cupiditas.
first I pronounce wheenes that I come,
And thanne my bulles shewe I, alle and some.
Oure lige lordes seel on my patente,
That shewe I first, my body to warente,
That no man be so boold, ne preest ne clerk,
Me to destourbe of cristes hooly werk.
And after that thanne telle I forth my tales;
Bulles of popes and of cardynales,
Of patriarkes and bishopes I shewe
And in latyn I speke a wordes fewe,
To saffron with my predicacioun,
And for to stire hem to devocioun.
Thanne shewe I forth my longe cristal stones,
Ycrammed ful of cloutes and of bones, --
Relikes been they, as wenen they echoon.
Thanne have I in latoun a sholder-boon
Which that was of an hooly jewes sheep.
Goode men, I seye, taak of my wordes keep;
If that this boon be wasshe in any welle,
If cow, or calf, or sheep, or oxe swelle
That any worm hath ete, or worm ystonge,
Taak water of that welle and wassh his tonge,
And it is hool anon; and forthermoore, [Page 149]
Of pokkes and of scabbe, and every soore
Shal every sheep be hool that of this welle
Drynketh a draughte. Taak kep eek what I telle --
If that the good-man that the beestes oweth
Wol every wyke, er that the cok hym croweth,
Fastynge, drynken of this welle a draughte,
As thilke hooly jew oure eldres taughte,
His beestes and his stoor shal multiplie.
and, sires, also it heeleth jalousie;
For though a man be falle in jalous rage,
Lat maken with this water his potage,
And nevere shal he moore his wyf mystriste,
Though he the soothe of hir defaute wiste,
Al had she taken prestes two or thre.
heere is a miteyn eek, that ye may se.
He that his hand wol putte in this mitayn,
He shal have multipliyng of his grayn,
Whan he hath sowen, be it whete or otes,
So that he offre pens, or elles grotes.
goode men and wommen, o thyng warne I yow --
If any wight be in this chirche now
That hath doon synne horrible, that he
Dar nat, for shame, of it yshryven be,
Or any womman, be she yong or old,
That hath ymaad hir housbonde cokewold,
Swich folk shal have no power ne no grace
To offren to my relikes in this place.
And whoso fyndeth hym out of swich blame,
He wol come up and offre in goddes name,
And I assoille him by the auctoritee
Which that by bulle ygraunted was to me.
by this gaude have I wonne, yeer by yeer,
An hundred mark sith I was pardoner.
I stonde lyk a clerk in my pulpet,
And whan the lewed peple is doun yset,
I preche so as ye han herd bifoore,
And telle an hundred false japes moore.
Thanne peyne I me to strecche forth the nekke,
And est and west upon the peple I bekke,
As dooth a dowve sittynge on a berne.
Myne handes and my tonge goon so yerne
That it is joye to se my bisynesse.
Of avarice and of swich cursednesse
Is al my prechyng, for to make hem free
To yeven hir pens, and namely unto me.
For myn entente is nat but for to wynne,
And nothyng for correccioun of synne.
I rekke nevere, whan that they been beryed,
Though that hir soules goon a-blakeberyed!
For certes, many a predicacioun
Comth ofte tyme of yvel entencioun;
Som for plesance of folk and flaterye,
To been avaunced by ypocrisye,
And som for veyne glorie, and som for hate.
For whan I dar noon oother weyes debate,
Thanne wol I stynge hym with my tonge smerte
In prechyng, so that he shal nat asterte
To been defamed falsly, if that he
Hath trespased to my bretheren or to me.
For though I telle noght his propre name,
Men shal wel knowe that it is the same,
By signes, and by othere circumstances.
Thus quyte I folk that doon us displesances;
Thus spitte I out my venym under hewe
Of hoolynesse, to semen hooly and trewe.
but shortly myn entente I wol devyse --
I preche of no thyng but for coveityse.
Therfore my theme is yet, and evere was,
Radix malorum est cupiditas.
Thus kan I preche agayn that same vice
Which that I use, and that is avarice.
But though myself be gilty in that synne,
Yet kan I maken oother folk to twynne
From avarice, and soore to repente.
But that is nat my principal entente;
I preche nothyng but for coveitise.
Of this mateere it oghte ynogh suffise.
thanne telle I hem ensamples many oon
Of olde stories longe tyme agoon.
For lewed peple loven tales olde;
Swiche thynges kan they wel reporte and holde.
What, trowe ye, that whiles I may preche,
And wynne gold and silver for I teche,
That I wol lyve in poverte wilfully?
Nay, nay, I thoghte it nevere, trewwly!
For I wol preche and begge in sondry landes;
I wol nat do no labour with myne handes,
Ne make baskettes, and lyve therby,
By cause I wol nat beggen ydelly.
I wol noon of the apostles countrefete;
I wol have moneie, wolle, chese, and whete,
Al were it yeven of the povereste page,
Or of the povereste wydwe in a village,
Al sholde hir children sterve for famyne.
Nay, I wol drynke licour of the vyne,
And have a joly wenche in every toun.
But herkneth, lordynges, in conclusioun --
Youre likyng is that I shal telle a tale.
Now have I dronke a draughte of corny ale,
By god, I hope I shal yow telle a thyng
That shal be reson been at youre likyng.
For though myself be a ful vicious man,
A moral tale yet I yow telle kan,
Which I am wont to preche for to wynne.
Now hoold youre pees! my tale I wol bigynne.
[Page 150]

6.4. The Pardoner's Tale

in flaundres whilom was a compaignye
Of yonge folk that haunteden folye,
As riot, hasard, stywes, and tavernes,
Where as with harpes, lutes, and gyternes,
They daunce and pleyen at dees bothe day and nyght,
And eten also and drynken over hir myght,
Thurgh which they doon the devel sacrifise
Withinne that develes temple, in cursed wise,
By superfluytee abhomynable.
Hir othes been so grete and so dampnable
That it is grisly for to heere hem swere.
Oure blissed lordes body they totere, --
Hem thoughte that jewes rente hym noght ynough;
And ech of hem at otheres synne lough.
And right anon thanne comen tombesteres
Fetys and smale, and yonge frutesteres,
Syngeres with harpes, baudes, wafereres,
Whiche been the verray develes officeres
To kyndle and blowe the fyr of lecherye,
That is annexed unto glotonye.
The hooly writ take I to my witnesse
That luxurie is in wyn and dronkenesse.
lo, how that dronken looth, unkyndely,
Lay by his doghtres two, unwityngly;
So dronke he was, he nyste what he wroughte.
herodes, whoso wel the stories soghte,
Whan he of wyn was repleet at his feeste,
Right at his owene table he yaf his heeste
To sleen the baptist john, ful giltelees.
senec seith a good word doutelees;
He seith he kan no difference fynde
Bitwix a man that is out of his mynde
And a man which that is dronkelewe,
But that woodnessse, yfallen in a shrewe,
Persevereth lenger than doth dronkenesse.
O glotonye, ful of cursednesse!
O cause first of oure confusioun!
O original of oure dampnacioun,
Til crist hadde boght us with his blood agayn!
Lo, how deere, shortly for to sayn,
Aboght was thilke cursed vileynye
Corrupt was al this world for glotonye.
adam oure fader, and his wyf also,
Fro paradys to labour and to wo
Were dryven for that vice, it is no drede.
For whil that adam fasted, as I rede,
He was in paradys; and whan that he
Eet of the fruyt deffended on the tree,
Anon he was out cast to wo and peyne.
O glotonye, on thee wel oghte us pleyne!
O, wiste a man how manye maladyes
Folwen of excesse and of glotonyes,
He wolde been the moore mesurable
Of his diete, sittynge at his table.
Allas! the shorte throte, the tendre mouth,
Maketh that est and west and north and south,
In erthe, in eir, in water, men to swynke
To gete a glotoun deyntee mete and drynke!
Of this matiere, o paul, wel kanstow trete --
Mete unto wombe, and wombe eek unto mete,
Shal God destroyen bothe, as paulus seith.
Allas! a foul thyng is it, by my feith,
To seye this word, and fouler is the dede,
Whan man so drynketh of the white and rede
That of his throte be maketh his pryvee,
Thurgh thilke cursed superfluitee.
the apostel wepyng seith ful pitously,
Ther walken manye of whiche yow toold have I --
I seye it now wepyng, with pitous voys --
That they been enemys of cristes croys,
Of whiche the ende is deeth, wombe is hir god!
O wombe! o bely! o stynkyng cod,
Fulfilled of dong and of corrupcioun!
At either ende of thee foul is the soun.
How greet labour and cost is thee to fynde!
Thise cookes, how they stampe, and streyne, and grynde,
And turnen substaunce into accident,
To fulfille al thy likerous talent!
Out of the harde bones knokke they
The mary, for they caste noght awey
That may go thurgh the golet softe and swoote.
Of spicerie of leef, and bark, and roote
Shal been his sauce ymaked by delit,
To make hym yet a newer appetit.
But, certes, he that haunteth swiche delices
Is deed, whil that he lyveth in tho vices.
a lecherous thyng is wyn, and dronkenesse
Is ful of stryvyng and of wrecchednesse.
O dronke man, disfigured is thy face,
Sour is thy breeth, foul artow to embrace,
And thurgh thy dronke nose semeth the soun [Page 151]
As though thou seydest as sampsoun, sampsoun!
And yet, God woot, sampsoun drank nevere no wyn.
Thou fallest as it were a styked swyn;
Thy tonge is lost, and al thyn honeste cure;
For dronkenesse is verray sepulture
Of mannes wit and his discrecioun.
In whom that drynke hath dominacioun
He kan no conseil kepe, it is no drede.
Now kepe yow fro the white and fro the rede,
And namely fro the white wyn of lepe,
That is to selle in fysshstrete or in chepe.
This wyn of spaigne crepeth subtilly
In othere wynes, growynge faste by,
Of which ther ryseth swich fumositee
That whan a man hath dronken draughtes thre,
And weneth that he be at hoom in chepe,
He is in spaigne, right at the toune of lepe, --
Nat at the rochele, ne at burdeux toun;
And thanne wol he seye sampsoun, sampsoun!
but herkneth, lordynges, o word, I yow preye,
That alle the sovereyn actes,dar I seye,
Of victories in the olde testament,
Thurgh verray god, that is omnipotent,
Were doon in abstinence and in preyere.
Looketh the bible, and ther ye may it leere.
looke, attila, the grete conquerour,
Deyde in his sleep, with shame and dishonour,
Bledynge ay at his nose in dronkenesse.
A capitayn sholde lyve in sobrenesse.
And over al this, avyseth yow right wel
What was comaunded unto lamuel --
Nat samuel, but lamuel, seye I;
Redeth the bible, and fynde it expresly
Of wyn-yevyng to hem that han justise.
Namoore of this, for it may wel suffise.
and now that I have spoken of glotonye,
Now wol I yow deffenden hasardrye.
Hasard is verray mooder of lesynges,
And of deceite, and cursed forswerynges,
Blaspheme of crist, manslaughtre, and wast also
Of catel and of tyme; and forthermo,
It is repreeve and contrarie of honour
For to ben holde a commune hasardour.
And ever the hyer he is of estaat.
The moore is he yholden desolaat.
If that a prynce useth hasardrye.
In alle governaunce and policye
He is, as by commune opinioun,
Yholde the lasse in reputacioun.
stilboun, that was a wys embassadour,
Was sent to corynthe, in ful greet honour,
Fro lacidomye, to make hire alliaunce.
And whan he cam, hym happede, par chaunce,
That alle the gretteste that were of that lond,
Pleyynge atte hasard he hem fond.
For which, as soone as it myghte be,
He stal hym hoom agayn to his contree,
And seyde, ther wol I nat lese my name,
Ne I wol nat take on me so greet defame,
Yow for to allie unto none hasardours.
Sendeth othere wise embassadours;
For, by my trouthe, me were levere dye
That I yow sholde to hasardours allye.
For ye, that been so glorious in honours,
Shul nat allyen yow with hasadours
As by my wyl, ne as by my tretee.
This wise philosophre, thus seyde hee.
looke eek that to the kyng demetrius,
The kyng of parthes, as the book seith us,
Sente him a paire of dees of gold in scorn,
For he hadde used hasard ther-biforn;
For which he heeld his glorie or his renoun
At no value or reputacioun.
Lordes nay fynden oother maner pley
Honest ynough to dryve the day awey.
now wol I speke of othes false and grete
A word or two, as olde bookes trete.
Gret sweryng is a thyng abhominable,
And fals sweryng is yet moore reprevable.
The heighe God forbad sweryng at al,
Witnesse on mathew; but in special
Of sweryng seith the hooly jeremye,
Thou shalt swere sooth thyne othes, and nat lye,
And swere in doom, and eek in rightwisnesse;
But ydel sweryng is a cursednesse.
Bihoold and se that in the firste table
Of heighe goddes heestes honurable,
Hou that the seconde heeste of hym is this --
Take nat my name in ydel or amys.
Lo, rather be forbedeth swich sweryng
Than homycide or many a cursed thyng;
I seye that, as by ordre, thus it stondeth;
This knoweth, that his heestes understondeth,
How that the seconde heeste of God is that.
And forther over, I wol thee telle al plat,
That vengeance shal nat parten from his hous
That of his othes is to outrageous.
By goddes precious herte, and by his nayles,
And by the blood of crist that is in hayles,
Sevene is my chaunce, and thyn is cynk and treye! [Page 152]
By goddes armes, if thou falsly pleye,
This daggere shal thurghout thyn herte go! --
This fruyt cometh of the bicched bones two,
Forsweryng, ire, falsnesse, homycide.
Now, for the love of crist, that for us dyde,
Lete youre othes, bothe grete and smale.
But, sires, now wol I telle forth my tale.
thise riotoures thre of which I telle,
Longe erst er prime rong of any belle,
Were set hem in a taverne for to drynke,
And as they sat, they herde a belle clynke
Biforn a cors, was caried to his grave.
That oon of hem gan callen to his knave --
Go bet, quod he, and axe redily
What cors is this that passeth heer forby;
And looke that thou reporte his name weel.
sire, quod this boy, it nedeth never-a-deel;
It was me toold er ye cam heer two houres.
He was, pardee, an old felawe of youres;
And sodeynly he was yslayn to-nyght,
Fordronke, as he sat on his bench upright.
Ther can a privee theef men clepeth deeth,
That in this contree al the peple sleth,
And with his spere he smoot his herte atwo,
And wente his wey withouten wordes mo.
He hath a thousand slayn this pestilence.
And, maister, er ye come in his presence.
Me thynketh that it were necessarie
For to be war of swich an adversarie.
Beth redy for to meete hym everemoore;
Thus taughte me my dame; I sey namoore.
By seinte marie! seyde this taverner,
The child seith sooth, for he hath slayn this yeer,
Henne over a mile, withinne a greet village,
Bothe man and womman, child, and hyne, and page;
I trowe his habitacioun be there.
To been avysed greet wysdom it were,
Er that he dide a man a dishonour.
ye, goddes armes! quod this riotour,
Is it swich peril with hym for to meete?
I shal hym seke by wey and eek by strete,
I make avow to goddes digne bones!
Herkneth, felawes, we thre been al ones;
Lat ech of us holde up his hand til oother,
And ech of us bicomen otheres brother.
And we wol sleen this false traytour deeth.
He shal be slayn, he that so manye sleeth,
By goddes dignitee, er it be nyght!
togidres han thise thre hir trouthes plight
To lyve and dyen ech of hem for oother,
As though he were his owene ybore brother.
And up they stirte, al dronken in this rage,
And forth they goon towardes that village
Of which the taverner hadde spoke biforn.
And many a grisly ooth thanne han they sworn,
And cristes blessed body al torente --
Deeth shal be deed, if that they may hym hente!
whan they han goon nat fully half a mile,
Right as they wolde han troden over a stile,
An oold man and a povre with hem mette.
This olde man ful mekely hem grette,
And seyde thus, now, lordes, God yow see!
the proudeste of thise riotoures three
Answerde agayn, what, carl, with sory grace!
Why artow al forwrapped save thy face?
Why lyvestow so longe in so greet age?
this olde man gan looke in his visage,
And seyde thus -- for I ne kan nat fynde
A man, though that I walked into ynde,
Neither in citee ne in no village,
That wolde chaunge his youthe for myn age;
And therfore moot I han myn age stille,
As longe tyme as it is goddes wille.
Ne deeth, allas! ne wol nat han my lyf
Thus walke I, lyk a restelees kaitif,
And on the ground, which is my moodres gate,
I knokke with my staf, bothe erly and late,
And seye leeve mooder, leet me in!
Lo how I vanysshe, flessh, and blood, and skyn!
Allas! whan shul my bones been at reste?
Mooder, with yow wolde I chaunge my cheste
That in my chambre longe tyme hath be,
Ye, for an heyre clowt to wrappe in me!
But yet to me she wol nat do that grace,
For which ful pale and welked is my face.
but, sires, to yow it is no curteisye
To speken to an old man vileynye,
But he trespasse in word, or elles in dede.
In hooly writ ye may yourself wel rede --
Agayns an oold man, hoor upon his heed,
Ye sholde arise; wherfore I yeve yow reed,
Ne dooth unto an oold man noon harm now,
Namoore than that ye wolde men did to yow
In age, if that ye so longe abyde.
And God be with yow, where ye go or ryde!
I moot go thider as I have to go.
nay, olde cherl, by god, thou shalt not so,
Seyde this oother hasardour anon;
Thou partest nat so lightly, by seint john!
Thou spak right now of thilke traytour deeth,
That in this contree alle oure freendes sleeth.
Have heer my trouthe, as thou art his espye,
Telle where he is, or thou shalt it abye,
By god, and by the hooly sacrement! [Page 153]
For soothly thou art oon of his assent
To sleen us yonge folk, thou false theef!
now, sires, quod he, if that yow be so leef
To fynde deeth, turne up this croked wey,
For in that grove I lafte hym, by my fey,
Under a tree, and there he wole abyde;
Noght for youre boost he wole him no thyng hyde.
Se ye that ook? right there ye shal hym fynde.
God save yow, that boghte agayn mankynde,
And yow amende! thus seyde this olde man;
And everich of thise riotoures ran
Til he cam to that tree, and ther they founde
Of floryns fyne of gold ycoyned rounde
Wel ny an eighte busshels, as hem thoughte.
No lenger thanne after deeth they soughte,
But ech of hem so glad was of that sighte,
For that the floryns been so faire and brighte,
That doun they sette hem by this precious hoord.
The worste of hem, he spak the firste word.
bretheren, quod he, taak kep what that I seye;
My wit is greet, though that I bourde and pleye.
This tresor hath fortune unto us yiven,
In myrthe and joliftee oure lyf to lyven,
And lightly as it comth, so wol we spende.
Ey! goddes precious dignitee! who wende
To-day that we sholde han so fair a grace?
But myghte this gold be caried fro this place
Hoom to myn hous, or elles unto youres --
For wel ye woot that al this gold is oures --
Thanne were we in heigh felicitee.
But trewely, by daye it may nat bee.
Men wolde seyn that we were theves stronge,
And for oure owene tresor doon us honge.
This tresor moste ycaried be by nyghte
As wisely and as slyly as it myghte.
Wherfore I rede that cut among us alle
Be drawe, and lat se wher the cut wol falle;
And he that hath the cut with herte blithe
Shal renne to the toun, and that ful swithe,
And brynge us breed and wyn ful prively.
And two of us shul kepen subtilly
This tresor wel; and if he wol nat tarie,
Whan it is nyght, we wol this tresor carie,
By oon assent, where as us thynketh best.
That oon of hem the cut broghte in his fest,
And bad hem drawe, and looke where it wol falle;
And if fil on the yongeste of hem alle,
And forth toward the toun he wente anon.
And also soone as that he was gon,
That oon of hem spak thus unto that oother --
Thou knowest wel tho art my sworen brother;
Thy profit wol I telle thee anon.
Thou woost wel that oure felawe is agon.
And heere is gold, and that ful greet plentee,
That shal departed been among us thre.
But nathelees, if I kan shape it so
That it departed were among us two,
Hadde I nat doon a freendes torn to thee?
that oother answerde, I noot hou that may be.
He woot wel that the gold is with us tweye;
What shal we doon? what shal we to hym seye?
shal it be conseil? seyde the firste shrewe,
And I shal tellen in a wordes fewe
What we shal doon, and brynge it wel aboute.
I graunte, quod that oother, out of doute,
That, by my trouthe, I wol thee nat biwreye.
now, quod the firste, thou woost wel we be tweye;
And two of us shul strenger be than oon.
Looke whan that he is set, that right anoon
Arys as though thou woldest with hym pleye,
And I shal ryve hym thurgh the sydes tweye
Whil that thou strogelest with hym as in game,
And with thy daggere looke thou do the same;
And thanne shal al this gold departed be,
My deere freend, bitwixen me and thee.
Thanne may we bothe oure lustes all fulfille,
And pleye at dees right at oure owene wille.
And thus acorded been thise shrewes tweye
To sleen the thridde, as ye han herd me seye.
this yongeste, which that wente to the toun,
Ful ofte in herte he rolleth up and doun
The beautee of thise floryns newe and brighte.
O lord! quod he, if so were that I myghte
Have al this tresor to myself allone,
Ther is no man that lyveth under the trone
Of God that sholde lyve so murye as i!
And atte laste the feend, oure enemy,
Putte in his thought that he sholde poysen beye,
With which he myghte sleen his felawes tweye;
For-why the feend foond hym in swich lyvynge
That he hadde leve him to sorwe brynge.
For this was outrely his fulle entente,
To sleen hem bothe, and nevere to repente.
And forth he gooth, no lenger wolde he tarie,
Into the toun, unto a pothecarie,
And preyde hym that he hym wolde selle
Som poyson, that he myghte his rattes quelle;
And eek ther was a polcat in his hawe, [Page 154]
That, as he seyde, his capouns hadde yslawe,
And fayn he wolde wreke hym, if he myghte,
On vermyn that destroyed hym by nyghte.
the pothecarie answerde, and thou shalt have
A thyng that, also God my soule save,
In al this world ther is no creature,
That eten or dronken hath of this confiture
Noght but the montance of a corn of whete,
That he ne shal his lif anon forlete;
Ye, sterve he shal, and that in lasse while
Than thou wolt goon a paas nat but a mile,
This poysoun is so strong and violent.
this cursed man hath in his hond yhent
This poysoun in a box, and sith he ran
Into the nexte strete unto a man,
And borwed of hym large botelles thre;
And in the two his poyson poured he;
The thridde he kepte clene for his drynke.
For al the nyght he shoop hym for to swynke
In cariynge of the gold out of that place.
And whan this riotour, with sory grace,
Hadde filled with wyn his grete botels thre,
To his felawes agayn repaireth he.
what nedeth it to sermone of it moore?
For right as they hadde cast his deeth bifoore,
Right so they han hym slayn, and that anon.
And whan that this was doon, thus spak that oon --
Now lat us sitte and drynke, and make us merie,
And afterward we wol his body berie.
And with that word it happed hym, par cas,
To take the botel ther the poyson was,
And drank, and yaf his felawe drynke also,
For which anon they storven bothe two.
but certes, I suppose that avycen
Wroot nevere in no canon, ne in no fen,
Mo wonder signes of empoisonyng
Than hadde thise wrecches two, er hir endyng.
Thus ended been thise homycides two,
And eek the false empoysonere also.
o cursed synne of alle cursednesse!
O traytours homycide, o wikkednesse!
O gloronye, luxurie, and hasardrye!
Thou blasphemour of crist with vileynye
And othes grete, of usage and of pride!
Allas! mankynde, how may it bitide
That to thy creatour, which that the wroghte,
And with his precious herte-blood thee boghte,
Thou art so fals and so unkynde, allas?
now goode men, God foryeve yow youre trespas,
And ware yow fro the synne of avarice!
Myn hooly pardoun may yow alle warice,
So that ye offre nobles or sterlynges,
Or elles silver broches, spoones, rynges.
Boweth youre heed under this hooly bulle!
Cometh up, ye wyves, offreth of youre wolle!
Youre names I entre heer in my rolle anon;
Into the blisse of hevene shul ye gon.
I yow assoile, by myn heigh power,
Yow that wol offre, as clene and eek as cleer
As ye were born. -- and lo, sires, thus I preche.
And jhesu crist, that is oure soules leche,
So graunte yow his pardoun to receyve,
For that is best; I wol yow nat deceyve.
but, sires, o word forgat I in my tale --
I have relikes and pardoun in my male,
As faire as any man in engelond.
Whiche were me yeven by the popes hond.
If any of yow wole, of devocion,
Offren, and han myn absolucion,
Com forth anon, and kneleth heere adoun,
And mekely receyveth my pardoun;
Or elles taketh pardoun as ye wende,
Al newe and fressh at every miles ende,
So that ye offren, alwey newe and newe,
Nobles or pens, whiche that be goode and trewe.
It is an honour to everich that is heer
That ye mowe have a suffisant pardoneer
T'assoile yow, in contree as ye ryde,
For aventures whiche that may bityde.
Paraventure ther may fallen oon or two
Doun of his hors, and breke his nekke atwo.
Looke which a seuretee is it to yow alle
That I am in youre felaweshipe yfalle,
That may assoille yow, bothe moore and lasse,
Whan that the soule shal fro the body passe.
I rede that oure hoost heere shal bigynne,
For he is moost envoluped in synne.
Com forth, sire hoost, and offre first anon,
And thou shalt kisse the relikes everychon,
Ye, for a grote! unbokele anon thy purs.
nay, nay! quod he, thanne have I cristes curs!
Lat be, quod he, it shal nat be, so theech!
Thou woldest make me kisse thyn olde breech,
And swere it were a relyk of a seint,
Though it were with thy fundement depeint!
But, by the croys which that seint eleyne fond,
I wolde I hadde thy coillons in myn hond
In stide of relikes or os seintuarie.
Lat kutte hem of, I wol thee helpe hem carie;
They shul be shryned in an hogges toord!
this pardoner answerde nat a word;
So wrooth he was, no word ne wolde he seye. [Page 155]
now, quod oure hoost, I wol no lenger pleye
With thee, ne with noon oother angry man.
But right anon the worthy knyght bigan,
Whan that he saugh that al the peple lough,
Namoore of this, for it is right ynough!
Sire pardoner, be glad and myrie of cheere;
And ye, sire hoost, that been to me so deere,