The Canterbury Tales and Other Poems by Geoffrey Chaucer Part III

THE SOMPNOUR’S TALE.

THE PROLOGUE.

The Sompnour in his stirrups high he stood,
Upon this Friar his hearte was so wood,* *furious
That like an aspen leaf he quoke* for ire: *quaked, trembled
“Lordings,” quoth he, “but one thing I desire;
I you beseech, that of your courtesy,
Since ye have heard this false Friar lie,
As suffer me I may my tale tell
This Friar boasteth that he knoweth hell,
And, God it wot, that is but little wonder,
Friars and fiends be but little asunder.
For, pardie, ye have often time heard tell,
How that a friar ravish’d was to hell
In spirit ones by a visioun,
And, as an angel led him up and down,
To shew him all the paines that there were,
In all the place saw he not a frere;
Of other folk he saw enough in woe.
Unto the angel spake the friar tho;* *then
‘Now, Sir,’ quoth he, ‘have friars such a grace,
That none of them shall come into this place?’
‘Yes’ quoth the angel; ‘many a millioun:’
And unto Satanas he led him down.
‘And now hath Satanas,’ said he, ‘a tail
Broader than of a carrack<1> is the sail.
Hold up thy tail, thou Satanas,’ quoth he,
‘Shew forth thine erse, and let the friar see
Where is the nest of friars in this place.’
And *less than half a furlong way of space* *immediately* <2>
Right so as bees swarmen out of a hive,
Out of the devil’s erse there gan to drive
A twenty thousand friars *on a rout.* *in a crowd*
And throughout hell they swarmed all about,
And came again, as fast as they may gon,
And in his erse they creeped every one:
He clapt his tail again, and lay full still.
This friar, when he looked had his fill
Upon the torments of that sorry place,
His spirit God restored of his grace
Into his body again, and he awoke;
But natheless for feare yet he quoke,
So was the devil’s erse aye in his mind;
That is his heritage, *of very kind* *by his very nature*
God save you alle, save this cursed Frere;
My prologue will I end in this mannere.

Notes to the Prologue to the Sompnour’s Tale

1. Carrack: A great ship of burden used by the Portuguese; the name is from the Italian, “cargare,” to load

2. In less than half a furlong way of space: immediately; literally, in less time than it takes to walk half a furlong (110 yards).

THE TALE.

Lordings, there is in Yorkshire, as I guess,
A marshy country called Holderness,
In which there went a limitour about
To preach, and eke to beg, it is no doubt.
And so befell that on a day this frere
Had preached at a church in his mannere,
And specially, above every thing,
Excited he the people in his preaching
To trentals, <1> and to give, for Godde’s sake,
Wherewith men mighte holy houses make,
There as divine service is honour’d,
Not there as it is wasted and devour’d,
Nor where it needeth not for to be given,
As to possessioners, <2> that may liven,
Thanked be God, in wealth and abundance.
“Trentals,” said he, “deliver from penance
Their friendes’ soules, as well old as young,
Yea, when that they be hastily y-sung, —
Not for to hold a priest jolly and gay,
He singeth not but one mass in a day.
“Deliver out,” quoth he, “anon the souls.
Full hard it is, with flesh-hook or with owls* *awls
To be y-clawed, or to burn or bake: <3>
Now speed you hastily, for Christe’s sake.”
And when this friar had said all his intent,
With qui cum patre<4> forth his way he went,
When folk in church had giv’n him what them lest;* *pleased
He went his way, no longer would he rest,
With scrip and tipped staff, *y-tucked high:* *with his robe tucked
In every house he gan to pore* and pry, up high* *peer
And begged meal and cheese, or elles corn.
His fellow had a staff tipped with horn,
A pair of tables* all of ivory, *writing tablets
And a pointel* y-polish’d fetisly,** *pencil **daintily
And wrote alway the names, as he stood;
Of all the folk that gave them any good,
Askaunce* that he woulde for them pray. *see note <5>
“Give us a bushel wheat, or malt, or rey,* *rye
A Godde’s kichel,* or a trip** of cheese, *little cake<6> **scrap
Or elles what you list, we may not chese;* *choose
A Godde’s halfpenny, <6> or a mass penny;
Or give us of your brawn, if ye have any;
A dagon* of your blanket, leve dame, *remnant
Our sister dear, — lo, here I write your name,—
Bacon or beef, or such thing as ye find.”
A sturdy harlot* went them aye behind, *manservant <7>
That was their hoste’s man, and bare a sack,
And what men gave them, laid it on his back
And when that he was out at door, anon
He *planed away* the names every one, *rubbed out*
That he before had written in his tables:
He served them with nifles* and with fables. — *silly tales

“Nay, there thou liest, thou Sompnour,” quoth the Frere.
“Peace,” quoth our Host, “for Christe’s mother dear;
Tell forth thy tale, and spare it not at all.”
“So thrive I,” quoth this Sompnour, “so I shall.” —

So long he went from house to house, till he
Came to a house, where he was wont to be
Refreshed more than in a hundred places
Sick lay the husband man, whose that the place is,
Bed-rid upon a couche low he lay:
*”Deus hic,”* quoth he; “O Thomas friend, good day,” *God be here*
Said this friar, all courteously and soft.
“Thomas,” quoth he, “God *yield it you,* full oft *reward you for*
Have I upon this bench fared full well,
Here have I eaten many a merry meal.”
And from the bench he drove away the cat,
And laid adown his potent* and his hat, *staff <8>
And eke his scrip, and sat himself adown:
His fellow was y-walked into town
Forth with his knave,* into that hostelry *servant
Where as he shope* him that night to lie. *shaped, purposed

“O deare master,” quoth this sicke man,
“How have ye fared since that March began?
I saw you not this fortenight and more.”
“God wot,” quoth he, “labour’d have I full sore;
And specially for thy salvation
Have I said many a precious orison,
And for mine other friendes, God them bless.
I have this day been at your church at mess,* *mass
And said sermon after my simple wit,
Not all after the text of Holy Writ;
For it is hard to you, as I suppose,
And therefore will I teach you aye the glose.* *gloss, comment
Glosing is a full glorious thing certain,
For letter slayeth, as we clerkes* sayn. *scholars
There have I taught them to be charitable,
And spend their good where it is reasonable.
And there I saw our dame; where is she?”
“Yonder I trow that in the yard she be,”
Saide this man; “and she will come anon.”
“Hey master, welcome be ye by Saint John,”
Saide this wife; “how fare ye heartily?”

This friar riseth up full courteously,
And her embraceth *in his armes narrow,* *closely
And kiss’th her sweet, and chirketh as a sparrow
With his lippes: “Dame,” quoth he, “right well,
As he that is your servant every deal.* *whit
Thanked be God, that gave you soul and life,
Yet saw I not this day so fair a wife
In all the churche, God so save me,”
“Yea, God amend defaultes, Sir,” quoth she;
“Algates* welcome be ye, by my fay.” *always
“Grand mercy, Dame; that have I found alway.
But of your greate goodness, by your leave,
I woulde pray you that ye not you grieve,
I will with Thomas speak *a little throw:* *a little while*
These curates be so negligent and slow
To grope tenderly a conscience.
In shrift* and preaching is my diligence *confession
And study in Peter’s wordes and in Paul’s;
I walk and fishe Christian menne’s souls,
To yield our Lord Jesus his proper rent;
To spread his word is alle mine intent.”
“Now by your faith, O deare Sir,” quoth she,
“Chide him right well, for sainte charity.
He is aye angry as is a pismire,* *ant
Though that he have all that he can desire,
Though I him wrie* at night, and make him warm, *cover
And ov’r him lay my leg and eke mine arm,
He groaneth as our boar that lies in sty:
Other disport of him right none have I,
I may not please him in no manner case.”
“O Thomas, *je vous dis,* Thomas, Thomas, *I tell you*
This *maketh the fiend,* this must be amended. *is the devil’s work*
Ire is a thing that high God hath defended,* *forbidden
And thereof will I speak a word or two.”
“Now, master,” quoth the wife, “ere that I go,
What will ye dine? I will go thereabout.”
“Now, Dame,” quoth he, “je vous dis sans doute, <9>
Had I not of a capon but the liver,
And of your white bread not but a shiver,* *thin slice
And after that a roasted pigge’s head,
(But I would that for me no beast were dead,)
Then had I with you homely suffisance.
I am a man of little sustenance.
My spirit hath its fost’ring in the Bible.
My body is aye so ready and penible* *painstaking
To wake,* that my stomach is destroy’d. *watch
I pray you, Dame, that ye be not annoy’d,
Though I so friendly you my counsel shew;
By God, I would have told it but to few.”
“Now, Sir,” quoth she, “but one word ere I go;
My child is dead within these weeke’s two,
Soon after that ye went out of this town.”

“His death saw I by revelatioun,”
Said this friar, “at home in our dortour.* *dormitory <10>
I dare well say, that less than half an hour
Mter his death, I saw him borne to bliss
In mine vision, so God me wiss.* *direct
So did our sexton, and our fermerere,* *infirmary-keeper
That have been true friars fifty year, —
They may now, God be thanked of his love,
Make their jubilee, and walk above.<12>
And up I rose, and all our convent eke,
With many a teare trilling on my cheek,
Withoute noise or clattering of bells,
Te Deum was our song, and nothing else,
Save that to Christ I bade an orison,
Thanking him of my revelation.
For, Sir and Dame, truste me right well,
Our orisons be more effectuel,
And more we see of Christe’s secret things,
Than *borel folk,* although that they be kings. *laymen*<13>
We live in povert’, and in abstinence,
And borel folk in riches and dispence
Of meat and drink, and in their foul delight.
We have this worlde’s lust* all in despight** * pleasure **contempt
Lazar and Dives lived diversely,
And diverse guerdon* hadde they thereby. *reward
Whoso will pray, he must fast and be clean,
And fat his soul, and keep his body lean
We fare as saith th’ apostle; cloth* and food *clothing
Suffice us, although they be not full good.
The cleanness and the fasting of us freres
Maketh that Christ accepteth our prayeres.
Lo, Moses forty days and forty night
Fasted, ere that the high God full of might
Spake with him in the mountain of Sinai:
With empty womb* of fasting many a day *stomach
Received he the lawe, that was writ
With Godde’s finger; and Eli,<14> well ye wit,* *know
In Mount Horeb, ere he had any speech
With highe God, that is our live’s leech,* *physician, healer
He fasted long, and was in contemplance.
Aaron, that had the temple in governance,
And eke the other priestes every one,
Into the temple when they shoulde gon
To praye for the people, and do service,
They woulde drinken in no manner wise
No drinke, which that might them drunken make,
But there in abstinence pray and wake,
Lest that they died: take heed what I say —
But* they be sober that for the people pray — *unless
Ware that, I say — no more: for it sufficeth.
Our Lord Jesus, as Holy Writ deviseth,* *narrates
Gave us example of fasting and prayeres:
Therefore we mendicants, we sely* freres, *simple, lowly
Be wedded to povert’ and continence,
To charity, humbless, and abstinence,
To persecution for righteousness,
To weeping, misericorde,* and to cleanness. *compassion
And therefore may ye see that our prayeres
(I speak of us, we mendicants, we freres),
Be to the highe God more acceptable
Than youres, with your feastes at your table.
From Paradise first, if I shall not lie,
Was man out chased for his gluttony,
And chaste was man in Paradise certain.
But hark now, Thomas, what I shall thee sayn;
I have no text of it, as I suppose,
But I shall find it in *a manner glose;* *a kind of comment*
That specially our sweet Lord Jesus
Spake this of friars, when he saide thus,
‘Blessed be they that poor in spirit be’
And so forth all the gospel may ye see,
Whether it be liker our profession,
Or theirs that swimmen in possession;
Fy on their pomp, and on their gluttony,
And on their lewedness! I them defy.
Me thinketh they be like Jovinian,<15>
Fat as a whale, and walking as a swan;
All vinolent* as bottle in the spence;** *full of wine **store-room
Their prayer is of full great reverence;
When they for soules say the Psalm of David,
Lo, ‘Buf’ they say, Cor meum eructavit.<16>
Who follow Christe’s gospel and his lore* *doctrine
But we, that humble be, and chaste, and pore,* *poor
Workers of Godde’s word, not auditours?* *hearers
Therefore right as a hawk *upon a sours* *rising*
Up springs into the air, right so prayeres
Of charitable and chaste busy freres
*Make their sours* to Godde’s eares two. *rise*
Thomas, Thomas, so may I ride or go,
And by that lord that called is Saint Ive,
*N’ere thou our brother, shouldest thou not thrive;* *see note <17>*
In our chapiter pray we day and night
To Christ, that he thee sende health and might,
Thy body for to *wielde hastily.* *soon be able to move freely*

“God wot,” quoth he, “nothing thereof feel I;
So help me Christ, as I in fewe years
Have spended upon *divers manner freres* *friars of various sorts*
Full many a pound, yet fare I ne’er the bet;* *better
Certain my good have I almost beset:* *spent
Farewell my gold, for it is all ago.”* *gone
The friar answer’d, “O Thomas, dost thou so?
What needest thou diverse friars to seech?* *seek
What needeth him that hath a perfect leech,* *healer
To seeken other leeches in the town?
Your inconstance is your confusioun.
Hold ye then me, or elles our convent,
To praye for you insufficient?
Thomas, that jape* it is not worth a mite; *jest
Your malady is *for we have too lite.* *because we have
Ah, give that convent half a quarter oats; too little*
And give that convent four and twenty groats;
And give that friar a penny, and let him go!
Nay, nay, Thomas, it may no thing be so.
What is a farthing worth parted on twelve?
Lo, each thing that is oned* in himselve *made one, united
Is more strong than when it is y-scatter’d.
Thomas, of me thou shalt not be y-flatter’d,
Thou wouldest have our labour all for nought.
The highe God, that all this world hath wrought,
Saith, that the workman worthy is his hire
Thomas, nought of your treasure I desire
As for myself, but that all our convent
To pray for you is aye so diligent:
And for to builde Christe’s owen church.
Thomas, if ye will learne for to wirch,* *work
Of building up of churches may ye find
If it be good, in Thomas’ life of Ind.<18>
Ye lie here full of anger and of ire,
With which the devil sets your heart on fire,
And chide here this holy innocent
Your wife, that is so meek and patient.
And therefore trow* me, Thomas, if thee lest,** *believe **please
Ne strive not with thy wife, as for the best.
And bear this word away now, by thy faith,
Touching such thing, lo, what the wise man saith:
‘Within thy house be thou no lion;
To thy subjects do none oppression;
Nor make thou thine acquaintance for to flee.’
And yet, Thomas, eftsoones* charge I thee, *again
Beware from ire that in thy bosom sleeps,
Ware from the serpent, that so slily creeps
Under the grass, and stingeth subtilly.
Beware, my son, and hearken patiently,
That twenty thousand men have lost their lives
For striving with their lemans* and their wives. *mistresses
Now since ye have so holy and meek a wife,
What needeth you, Thomas, to make strife?
There is, y-wis,* no serpent so cruel, *certainly
When men tread on his tail nor half so fell,* *fierce
As woman is, when she hath caught an ire;
Very* vengeance is then all her desire. *pure, only
Ire is a sin, one of the greate seven,
Abominable to the God of heaven,
And to himself it is destruction.
This every lewed* vicar and parson *ignorant
Can say, how ire engenders homicide;
Ire is in sooth th’ executor* of pride. *executioner
I could of ire you say so muche sorrow,
My tale shoulde last until to-morrow.
And therefore pray I God both day and ight,
An irous* man God send him little might. *passionate
It is great harm, and certes great pity
To set an irous man in high degree.

“Whilom* there was an irous potestate,** *once **judge<19>
As saith Senec, that during his estate* *term of office
Upon a day out rode knightes two;
And, as fortune would that it were so,
The one of them came home, the other not.
Anon the knight before the judge is brought,
That saide thus; ‘Thou hast thy fellow slain,
For which I doom thee to the death certain.’
And to another knight commanded he;
‘Go, lead him to the death, I charge thee.’
And happened, as they went by the way
Toward the place where as he should dey,* *die
The knight came, which men weened* had been dead *thought
Then thoughte they it was the beste rede* *counsel
To lead them both unto the judge again.
They saide, ‘Lord, the knight hath not y-slain
His fellow; here he standeth whole alive.’
‘Ye shall be dead,’ quoth he, ‘so may I thrive,
That is to say, both one, and two, and three.’
And to the firste knight right thus spake he:
‘I damned thee, thou must algate* be dead: *at all events
And thou also must needes lose thine head,
For thou the cause art why thy fellow dieth.’
And to the thirde knight right thus he sayeth,
‘Thou hast not done that I commanded thee.’
And thus he did do slay them alle three.

Irous Cambyses was eke dronkelew,* *a drunkard
And aye delighted him to be a shrew.* *vicious, ill-tempered
And so befell, a lord of his meinie,* *suite
That loved virtuous morality,
Said on a day betwixt them two right thus:
‘A lord is lost, if he be vicious.
[An irous man is like a frantic beast,
In which there is of wisdom *none arrest*;] *no control*
And drunkenness is eke a foul record
Of any man, and namely* of a lord. *especially
There is full many an eye and many an ear
*Awaiting on* a lord, he knows not where. *watching
For Godde’s love, drink more attemperly:* *temperately
Wine maketh man to lose wretchedly
His mind, and eke his limbes every one.’
‘The reverse shalt thou see,’ quoth he, ‘anon,
And prove it by thine own experience,
That wine doth to folk no such offence.
There is no wine bereaveth me my might
Of hand, nor foot, nor of mine eyen sight.’
And for despite he dranke muche more
A hundred part* than he had done before, *times
And right anon this cursed irous wretch
This knighte’s sone let* before him fetch, *caused
Commanding him he should before him stand:
And suddenly he took his bow in hand,
And up the string he pulled to his ear,
And with an arrow slew the child right there.
‘Now whether have I a sicker* hand or non?’** *sure **not
Quoth he; ‘Is all my might and mind agone?
Hath wine bereaved me mine eyen sight?’
Why should I tell the answer of the knight?
His son was slain, there is no more to say.
Beware therefore with lordes how ye play,* *use freedom
Sing placebo;<20> and I shall if I can,
*But if* it be unto a poore man: *unless
To a poor man men should his vices tell,
But not t’ a lord, though he should go to hell.
Lo, irous Cyrus, thilke* Persian, *that
How he destroy’d the river of Gisen,<21>
For that a horse of his was drowned therein,
When that he wente Babylon to win:
He made that the river was so small,
That women mighte wade it *over all.* *everywhere
Lo, what said he, that so well teache can,
‘Be thou no fellow to an irous man,
Nor with no wood* man walke by the way, *furious
Lest thee repent;’ I will no farther say.

“Now, Thomas, leve* brother, leave thine ire, *dear
Thou shalt me find as just as is as squire;
Hold not the devil’s knife aye at thine heaat;
Thine anger doth thee all too sore smart;* *pain
But shew to me all thy confession.”
“Nay,” quoth the sicke man, “by Saint Simon
I have been shriven* this day of my curate; *confessed
I have him told all wholly mine estate.
Needeth no more to speak of it, saith he,
But if me list of mine humility.”
“Give me then of thy good to make our cloister,”
Quoth he, “for many a mussel and many an oyster,
When other men have been full well at ease,
Hath been our food, our cloister for to rese:* *raise, build
And yet, God wot, unneth* the foundement** *scarcely **foundation
Performed is, nor of our pavement
Is not a tile yet within our wones:* *habitation
By God, we owe forty pound for stones.
Now help, Thomas, for *him that harrow’d hell,* *Christ <22>
For elles must we oure bookes sell,
And if ye lack our predication,
Then goes this world all to destruction.
For whoso from this world would us bereave,
So God me save, Thomas, by your leave,
He would bereave out of this world the sun
For who can teach and worken as we conne?* *know how to do
And that is not of little time (quoth he),
But since Elijah was, and Elisee,* *Elisha
Have friars been, that find I of record,
In charity, y-thanked be our Lord.
Now, Thomas, help for sainte charity.”
And down anon he set him on his knee,
The sick man waxed well-nigh wood* for ire, *mad
He woulde that the friar had been a-fire
With his false dissimulation.
“Such thing as is in my possession,”
Quoth he, “that may I give you and none other:
Ye say me thus, how that I am your brother.”
“Yea, certes,” quoth this friar, “yea, truste well;
I took our Dame the letter of our seal”<23>
“Now well,” quoth he, “and somewhat shall I give
Unto your holy convent while I live;
And in thine hand thou shalt it have anon,
On this condition, and other none,
That thou depart* it so, my deare brother, *divide
That every friar have as much as other:
This shalt thou swear on thy profession,
Withoute fraud or cavillation.”* *quibbling
“I swear it,” quoth the friar, “upon my faith.”
And therewithal his hand in his he lay’th;
“Lo here my faith, in me shall be no lack.”
“Then put thine hand adown right by my back,”
Saide this man, “and grope well behind,
Beneath my buttock, there thou shalt find
A thing, that I have hid in privity.”
“Ah,” thought this friar, “that shall go with me.”
And down his hand he launched to the clift,* *cleft
In hope for to finde there a gift.
And when this sicke man felte this frere
About his taile groping there and here,
Amid his hand he let the friar a fart;
There is no capel* drawing in a cart, *horse
That might have let a fart of such a soun’.
The friar up start, as doth a wood* lioun: *fierce
“Ah, false churl,” quoth he, “for Godde’s bones,
This hast thou in despite done for the nones:* *on purpose
Thou shalt abie* this fart, if that I may.” *suffer for
His meinie,* which that heard of this affray, *servants
Came leaping in, and chased out the frere,
And forth he went with a full angry cheer* *countenance
And fetch’d his fellow, there as lay his store:
He looked as it were a wilde boar,
And grounde with his teeth, so was he wroth.
A sturdy pace down to the court he go’th,
Where as there wonn’d* a man of great honour, *dwelt
To whom that he was always confessour:
This worthy man was lord of that village.
This friar came, as he were in a rage,
Where as this lord sat eating at his board:
Unnethes* might the friar speak one word, *with difficulty
Till at the last he saide, “God you see.”* *save

This lord gan look, and said, “Ben’dicite!
What? Friar John, what manner world is this?
I see well that there something is amiss;
Ye look as though the wood were full of thieves.
Sit down anon, and tell me what your grieve* is, *grievance, grief
And it shall be amended, if I may.”
“I have,” quoth he, “had a despite to-day,
God *yielde you,* adown in your village, *reward you
That in this world is none so poor a page,
That would not have abominatioun
Of that I have received in your town:
And yet ne grieveth me nothing so sore,
As that the olde churl, with lockes hoar,
Blasphemed hath our holy convent eke.”
“Now, master,” quoth this lord, “I you beseek” —
“No master, Sir,” quoth he, “but servitour,
Though I have had in schoole that honour. <24>
God liketh not, that men us Rabbi call
Neither in market, nor in your large hall.”
*”No force,”* quoth he; “but tell me all your grief.” *no matter*
Sir,” quoth this friar, “an odious mischief
This day betid* is to mine order and me, *befallen
And so par consequence to each degree
Of holy churche, God amend it soon.”
“Sir,” quoth the lord, “ye know what is to doon:* *do
*Distemp’r you not,* ye be my confessour. *be not impatient*
Ye be the salt of th’ earth, and the savour;
For Godde’s love your patience now hold;
Tell me your grief.” And he anon him told
As ye have heard before, ye know well what.
The lady of the house aye stiller sat,
Till she had hearde what the friar said,
“Hey, Godde’s mother;” quoth she, “blissful maid,
Is there ought elles? tell me faithfully.”
“Madame,” quoth he, “how thinketh you thereby?”
“How thinketh me?” quoth she; “so God me speed,
I say, a churl hath done a churlish deed,
What should I say? God let him never the;* *thrive
His sicke head is full of vanity;
I hold him in *a manner phrenesy.”* *a sort of frenzy*
“Madame,” quoth he, “by God, I shall not lie,
But I in other wise may be awreke,* *revenged
I shall defame him *ov’r all there* I speak; *wherever
This false blasphemour, that charged me
To parte that will not departed be,
To every man alike, with mischance.”

The lord sat still, as he were in a trance,
And in his heart he rolled up and down,
“How had this churl imaginatioun
To shewe such a problem to the frere.
Never ere now heard I of such mattere;
I trow* the Devil put it in his mind. *believe
In all arsmetrik* shall there no man find, *arithmetic
Before this day, of such a question.
Who shoulde make a demonstration,
That every man should have alike his part
As of the sound and savour of a fart?
O nice* proude churl, I shrew** his face. *foolish **curse
Lo, Sires,” quoth the lord, “with harde grace,
Who ever heard of such a thing ere now?
To every man alike? tell me how.
It is impossible, it may not be.
Hey nice* churl, God let him never the.** *foolish **thrive
The rumbling of a fart, and every soun’,
Is but of air reverberatioun,
And ever wasteth lite* and lite* away; *little
There is no man can deemen,* by my fay, *judge, decide
If that it were departed* equally. *divided
What? lo, my churl, lo yet how shrewedly* *impiously, wickedly
Unto my confessour to-day he spake;
I hold him certain a demoniac.
Now eat your meat, and let the churl go play,
Let him go hang himself a devil way!”

Now stood the lorde’s squier at the board,
That carv’d his meat, and hearde word by word
Of all this thing, which that I have you said.
“My lord,” quoth he, “be ye not *evil paid,* *displeased*
I coulde telle, for a gowne-cloth,* *cloth for a gown*
To you, Sir Friar, so that ye be not wrot,
How that this fart should even* dealed be *equally
Among your convent, if it liked thee.”
“Tell,” quoth the lord, “and thou shalt have anon
A gowne-cloth, by God and by Saint John.”
“My lord,” quoth he, “when that the weather is fair,
Withoute wind, or perturbing of air,
Let* bring a cart-wheel here into this hall, cause*
But looke that it have its spokes all;
Twelve spokes hath a cart-wheel commonly;
And bring me then twelve friars, know ye why?
For thirteen is a convent as I guess;<25>
Your confessor here, for his worthiness,
Shall *perform up* the number of his convent. *complete*
Then shall they kneel adown by one assent,
And to each spoke’s end, in this mannere,
Full sadly* lay his nose shall a frere; *carefully, steadily
Your noble confessor there, God him save,
Shall hold his nose upright under the nave.
Then shall this churl, with belly stiff and tought* *tight
As any tabour,* hither be y-brought; *drum
And set him on the wheel right of this cart
Upon the nave, and make him let a fart,
And ye shall see, on peril of my life,
By very proof that is demonstrative,
That equally the sound of it will wend,* *go
And eke the stink, unto the spokes’ end,
Save that this worthy man, your confessour’
(Because he is a man of great honour),
Shall have the firste fruit, as reason is;
The noble usage of friars yet it is,
The worthy men of them shall first be served,
And certainly he hath it well deserved;
He hath to-day taught us so muche good
With preaching in the pulpit where he stood,
That I may vouchesafe, I say for me,
He had the firste smell of fartes three;
And so would all his brethren hardily;
He beareth him so fair and holily.”

The lord, the lady, and each man, save the frere,
Saide, that Jankin spake in this mattere
As well as Euclid, or as Ptolemy.
Touching the churl, they said that subtilty
And high wit made him speaken as he spake;
He is no fool, nor no demoniac.
And Jankin hath y-won a newe gown;
My tale is done, we are almost at town.

Notes to the Sompnour’s Tale

1. Trentals: The money given to the priests for performing thirty masses for the dead, either in succession or on the anniversaries of their death; also the masses themselves, which were very profitable to the clergy.

2. Possessioners: The regular religious orders, who had lands and fixed revenues; while the friars, by their vows, had to depend on voluntary contributions, though their need suggested many modes of evading the prescription.

3. In Chaucer’s day the most material notions about the tortures of hell prevailed, and were made the most of by the clergy, who preyed on the affection and fear of the survivors, through the ingenious doctrine of purgatory. Old paintings and illuminations represent the dead as torn by hooks, roasted in fires, boiled in pots, and subjected to many other physical torments.

4. Qui cum patre: “Who with the father”; the closing words of the final benediction pronounced at Mass.

5. Askaunce: The word now means sideways or asquint; here it means “as if;” and its force is probably to suggest that the second friar, with an ostentatious stealthiness, noted down the names of the liberal, to make them believe that they would be remembered in the holy beggars’ orisons.

6. A Godde’s kichel/halfpenny: a little cake/halfpenny, given for God’s sake.

7. Harlot: hired servant; from Anglo-Saxon, “hyran,” to hire; the word was commonly applied to males.

8. Potent: staff; French, “potence,” crutch, gibbet.

9. Je vous dis sans doute: French; “I tell you without doubt.”

10. Dortour: dormitory; French, “dortoir.”

12. The Rules of St Benedict granted peculiar honours and immunities to monks who had lived fifty years — the jubilee period — in the order. The usual reading of the words ending the two lines is “loan” or “lone,” and “alone;” but to walk alone does not seem to have been any peculiar privilege of a friar, while the idea of precedence, or higher place at table and in processions, is suggested by the reading in the text.

13. Borel folk: laymen, people who are not learned; “borel” was a kind of coarse cloth.

14. Eli: Elijah (1 Kings, xix.)

15. An emperor Jovinian was famous in the mediaeval legends for his pride and luxury

16. Cor meum eructavit: literally, “My heart has belched forth;” in our translation, (i.e. the Authorised “King James” Version – Transcriber) “My heart is inditing a goodly matter.” (Ps. xlv. 1.). “Buf” is meant to represent the sound of an eructation, and to show the “great reverence” with which “those in possession,” the monks of the rich monasteries, performed divine service,

17. N’ere thou our brother, shouldest thou not thrive: if thou wert not of our brotherhood, thou shouldst have no hope of recovery.

18. Thomas’ life of Ind: The life of Thomas of India – i.e. St. Thomas the Apostle, who was said to have travelled to India.

19. Potestate: chief magistrate or judge; Latin, “potestas;” Italian, “podesta.” Seneca relates the story of Cornelius Piso; “De Ira,” i. 16.

20. Placebo: An anthem of the Roman Church, from Psalm cxvi. 9, which in the Vulgate reads, “Placebo Domino in regione vivorum” — “I will please the Lord in the land of the living”

21. The Gysen: Seneca calls it the Gyndes; Sir John Mandeville tells the story of the Euphrates. “Gihon,” was the name of one of the four rivers of Eden (Gen. ii, 13).

22. Him that harrowed Hell: Christ. See note 14 to the Reeve’s Tale.

23. Mr. Wright says that “it was a common practice to grant under the conventual seal to benefactors and others a brotherly participation in the spiritual good works of the convent, and in their expected reward after death.”

24. The friar had received a master’s degree.

25. The regular number of monks or friars in a convent was fixed at twelve, with a superior, in imitation of the apostles and their Master; and large religious houses were held to consist of so many convents.

THE CLERK’S TALE.

THE PROLOGUE.

“SIR Clerk of Oxenford,” our Hoste said,
“Ye ride as still and coy, as doth a maid
That were new spoused, sitting at the board:
This day I heard not of your tongue a word.
I trow ye study about some sophime:* *sophism
But Solomon saith, every thing hath time.
For Godde’s sake, be of *better cheer,* *livelier mien*
It is no time for to study here.
Tell us some merry tale, by your fay;* *faith
For what man that is entered in a play,
He needes must unto that play assent.
But preache not, as friars do in Lent,
To make us for our olde sinnes weep,
Nor that thy tale make us not to sleep.
Tell us some merry thing of aventures.
Your terms, your coloures, and your figures,
Keep them in store, till so be ye indite
High style, as when that men to kinges write.
Speake so plain at this time, I you pray,
That we may understande what ye say.”

This worthy Clerk benignely answer’d;
“Hoste,” quoth he, “I am under your yerd,* *rod <1>
Ye have of us as now the governance,
And therefore would I do you obeisance,
As far as reason asketh, hardily:* *boldly, truly
I will you tell a tale, which that I
Learn’d at Padova of a worthy clerk,
As proved by his wordes and his werk.
He is now dead, and nailed in his chest,
I pray to God to give his soul good rest.
Francis Petrarc’, the laureate poet,<2>
Highte* this clerk, whose rhetoric so sweet *was called
Illumin’d all Itale of poetry,
As Linian <3> did of philosophy,
Or law, or other art particulere:
But death, that will not suffer us dwell here
But as it were a twinkling of an eye,
Them both hath slain, and alle we shall die.

“But forth to tellen of this worthy man,
That taughte me this tale, as I began,
I say that first he with high style inditeth
(Ere he the body of his tale writeth)
A proem, in the which describeth he
Piedmont, and of Saluces <4> the country,
And speaketh of the Pennine hilles high,
That be the bounds of all West Lombardy:
And of Mount Vesulus in special,
Where as the Po out of a welle small
Taketh his firste springing and his source,
That eastward aye increaseth in his course
T’Emilia-ward, <5> to Ferraro, and Venice,
The which a long thing were to devise.* *narrate
And truely, as to my judgement,
Me thinketh it a thing impertinent,* *irrelevant
Save that he would conveye his mattere:
But this is the tale, which that ye shall hear.”

Notes to the Prologue to the Clerk’s Tale

1. Under your yerd: under your rod; as the emblem of government or direction.

2. Francesco Petrarca, born 1304, died 1374; for his Latin epic poem on the carer of Scipio, called “Africa,” he was solemnly crowned with the poetic laurel in the Capitol of Rome, on Easter-day of 1341.

3. Linian: An eminent jurist and philosopher, now almost forgotten, who died four or five years after Petrarch.

4. Saluces: Saluzzo, a district of Savoy; its marquises were celebrated during the Middle Ages.

5. Emilia: The region called Aemilia, across which ran the Via
Aemilia — made by M. Aemilius Lepidus, who was consul at
Rome B.C. 187. It continued the Flaminian Way from
Ariminum (Rimini) across the Po at Placentia (Piacenza) to
Mediolanum (Milan), traversing Cisalpine Gaul.

THE TALE.<1>

*Pars Prima.* *First Part*

There is, right at the west side of Itale,
Down at the root of Vesulus<2> the cold,
A lusty* plain, abundant of vitaille;* *pleasant **victuals
There many a town and tow’r thou may’st behold,
That founded were in time of fathers old,
And many another delectable sight;
And Saluces this noble country hight.

A marquis whilom lord was of that land,
As were his worthy elders* him before, *ancestors
And obedient, aye ready to his hand,
Were all his lieges, bothe less and more:
Thus in delight he liv’d, and had done yore,* *long
Belov’d and drad,* through favour of fortune, *held in reverence
Both of his lordes and of his commune.* *commonalty

Therewith he was, to speak of lineage,
The gentilest y-born of Lombardy,
A fair person, and strong, and young of age,
And full of honour and of courtesy:
Discreet enough his country for to gie,* *guide, rule
Saving in some things that he was to blame;
And Walter was this younge lordes name.

I blame him thus, that he consider’d not
In time coming what might him betide,
But on his present lust* was all his thought, *pleasure
And for to hawk and hunt on every side;
Well nigh all other cares let he slide,
And eke he would (that was the worst of all)
Wedde no wife for aught that might befall.

Only that point his people bare so sore,
That flockmel* on a day to him they went, *in a body
And one of them, that wisest was of lore
(Or elles that the lord would best assent
That he should tell him what the people meant,
Or elles could he well shew such mattere),
He to the marquis said as ye shall hear.

“O noble Marquis! your humanity
Assureth us and gives us hardiness,
As oft as time is of necessity,
That we to you may tell our heaviness:
Accepte, Lord, now of your gentleness,
What we with piteous heart unto you plain,* *complain of
And let your ears my voice not disdain.

“All* have I nought to do in this mattere *although
More than another man hath in this place,
Yet forasmuch as ye, my Lord so dear,
Have always shewed me favour and grace,
I dare the better ask of you a space
Of audience, to shewen our request,
And ye, my Lord, to do right *as you lest.* *as pleaseth you*

“For certes, Lord, so well us like you
And all your work, and ev’r have done, that we
Ne coulde not ourselves devise how
We mighte live in more felicity:
Save one thing, Lord, if that your will it be,
That for to be a wedded man you lest;
Then were your people *in sovereign hearte’s rest.* *completely

“Bowe your neck under the blissful yoke
Of sovereignty, and not of service,
Which that men call espousal or wedlock:
And thinke, Lord, among your thoughtes wise,
How that our dayes pass in sundry wise;
For though we sleep, or wake, or roam, or ride,
Aye fleeth time, it will no man abide.

“And though your greene youthe flow’r as yet,
In creepeth age always as still as stone,
And death menaceth every age, and smit* *smiteth
In each estate, for there escapeth none:
And all so certain as we know each one
That we shall die, as uncertain we all
Be of that day when death shall on us fall.

“Accepte then of us the true intent,* *mind, desire
That never yet refused youre hest,* *command
And we will, Lord, if that ye will assent,
Choose you a wife, in short time at the lest,* *least
Born of the gentilest and of the best
Of all this land, so that it ought to seem
Honour to God and you, as we can deem.

“Deliver us out of all this busy dread,* *doubt
And take a wife, for highe Godde’s sake:
For if it so befell, as God forbid,
That through your death your lineage should slake,* *become extinct
And that a strange successor shoulde take
Your heritage, oh! woe were us on live:* *alive
Wherefore we pray you hastily to wive.”

Their meeke prayer and their piteous cheer
Made the marquis for to have pity.
“Ye will,” quoth he, “mine owen people dear,
To that I ne’er ere* thought constraine me. *before
I me rejoiced of my liberty,
That seldom time is found in rnarriage;
Where I was free, I must be in servage!* *servitude

“But natheless I see your true intent,
And trust upon your wit, and have done aye:
Wherefore of my free will I will assent
To wedde me, as soon as e’er I may.
But whereas ye have proffer’d me to-day
To choose me a wife, I you release
That choice, and pray you of that proffer cease.

“For God it wot, that children often been
Unlike their worthy elders them before,
Bounte* comes all of God, not of the strene** *goodness
Of which they be engender’d and y-bore: **stock, race
I trust in Godde’s bounte, and therefore
My marriage, and mine estate and rest,
I *him betake;* he may do as him lest. *commend to him

“Let me alone in choosing of my wife;
That charge upon my back I will endure:
But I you pray, and charge upon your life,
That what wife that I take, ye me assure
To worship* her, while that her life may dure, *honour
In word and work both here and elleswhere,
As she an emperore’s daughter were.

“And farthermore this shall ye swear, that ye
Against my choice shall never grudge* nor strive. *murmur
For since I shall forego my liberty
At your request, as ever may I thrive,
Where as mine heart is set, there will I live
And but* ye will assent in such mannere, *unless
I pray you speak no more of this mattere.”

With heartly will they sworen and assent
To all this thing, there said not one wight nay:
Beseeching him of grace, ere that they went,
That he would grante them a certain day
Of his espousal, soon as e’er he rnay,
For yet always the people somewhat dread* *were in fear or doubt
Lest that the marquis woulde no wife wed.

He granted them a day, such as him lest,
On which he would be wedded sickerly,* *certainly
And said he did all this at their request;
And they with humble heart full buxomly,* *obediently <3>
Kneeling upon their knees full reverently,
Him thanked all; and thus they have an end
Of their intent, and home again they wend.

And hereupon he to his officers
Commanded for the feaste to purvey.* *provide
And to his privy knightes and squiers
Such charge he gave, as him list on them lay:
And they to his commandement obey,
And each of them doth all his diligence
To do unto the feast all reverence.

*Pars Secunda* *Second Part*

Not far from thilke* palace honourable, *that
Where as this marquis shope* his marriage, *prepared; resolved on
There stood a thorp,* of sighte delectable, *hamlet
In which the poore folk of that village
Hadde their beastes and their harbourage,* *dwelling
And of their labour took their sustenance,
After the earthe gave them abundance.

Among this poore folk there dwelt a man
Which that was holden poorest of them all;
But highe God sometimes sende can
His grace unto a little ox’s stall;
Janicola men of that thorp him call.
A daughter had he, fair enough to sight,
And Griseldis this younge maiden hight.

But for to speak of virtuous beauty,
Then was she one the fairest under sun:
Full poorely y-foster’d up was she;
No *likerous lust* was in her heart y-run; *luxurious pleasure*
Well ofter of the well than of the tun
She drank, <4> and, for* she woulde virtue please *because
She knew well labour, but no idle ease.

But though this maiden tender were of age;
Yet in the breast of her virginity
There was inclos’d a *sad and ripe corage;* *steadfast and mature
And in great reverence and charity spirit*
Her olde poore father foster’d she.
A few sheep, spinning, on the field she kept,
She woulde not be idle till she slept.

And when she homeward came, she would bring
Wortes,* and other herbes, times oft, *plants, cabbages
The which she shred and seeth’d for her living,
And made her bed full hard, and nothing soft:
And aye she kept her father’s life on loft* *up, aloft
With ev’ry obeisance and diligence,
That child may do to father’s reverence.

Upon Griselda, this poor creature,
Full often sithes* this marquis set his eye, *times
As he on hunting rode, paraventure:* *by chance
And when it fell that he might her espy,
He not with wanton looking of folly
His eyen cast on her, but in sad* wise *serious
Upon her cheer* he would him oft advise;** *countenance **consider

Commending in his heart her womanhead,
And eke her virtue, passing any wight
Of so young age, as well in cheer as deed.
For though the people have no great insight
In virtue, he considered full right
Her bounte,* and disposed that he would *goodness
Wed only her, if ever wed he should.

The day of wedding came, but no wight can
Telle what woman that it shoulde be;
For which marvail wonder’d many a man,
And saide, when they were in privity,
“Will not our lord yet leave his vanity?
Will he not wed? Alas, alas the while!
Why will he thus himself and us beguile?”

But natheless this marquis had *done make* *caused to be made*
Of gemmes, set in gold and in azure,
Brooches and ringes, for Griselda’s sake,
And of her clothing took he the measure
Of a maiden like unto her stature,
And eke of other ornamentes all
That unto such a wedding shoulde fall.* *befit

The time of undern* of the same day *evening <5>
Approached, that this wedding shoulde be,
And all the palace put was in array,
Both hall and chamber, each in its degree,
Houses of office stuffed with plenty
There may’st thou see of dainteous vitaille,* *victuals, provisions
That may be found, as far as lasts Itale.

This royal marquis, richely array’d,
Lordes and ladies in his company,
The which unto the feaste were pray’d,
And of his retinue the bach’lery,
With many a sound of sundry melody,
Unto the village, of the which I told,
In this array the right way did they hold.

Griseld’ of this (God wot) full innocent,
That for her shapen* was all this array, *prepared
To fetche water at a well is went,
And home she came as soon as e’er she may.
For well she had heard say, that on that day
The marquis shoulde wed, and, if she might,
She fain would have seen somewhat of that sight.

She thought, “I will with other maidens stand,
That be my fellows, in our door, and see
The marchioness; and therefore will I fand* *strive
To do at home, as soon as it may be,
The labour which belongeth unto me,
And then I may at leisure her behold,
If she this way unto the castle hold.”

And as she would over the threshold gon,
The marquis came and gan for her to call,
And she set down her water-pot anon
Beside the threshold, in an ox’s stall,
And down upon her knees she gan to fall,
And with sad* countenance kneeled still, *steady
Till she had heard what was the lorde’s will.

The thoughtful marquis spake unto the maid
Full soberly, and said in this mannere:
“Where is your father, Griseldis?” he said.
And she with reverence, *in humble cheer,* *with humble air*
Answered, “Lord, he is all ready here.”
And in she went withoute longer let* *delay
And to the marquis she her father fet.* *fetched

He by the hand then took the poore man,
And saide thus, when he him had aside:
“Janicola, I neither may nor can
Longer the pleasance of mine hearte hide;
If that thou vouchesafe, whatso betide,
Thy daughter will I take, ere that I wend,* *go
As for my wife, unto her life’s end.

“Thou lovest me, that know I well certain,
And art my faithful liegeman y-bore,* *born
And all that liketh me, I dare well sayn
It liketh thee; and specially therefore
Tell me that point, that I have said before, —
If that thou wilt unto this purpose draw,
To take me as for thy son-in-law.”

This sudden case* the man astonied so, *event
That red he wax’d, abash’d,* and all quaking *amazed
He stood; unnethes* said he wordes mo’, *scarcely
But only thus; “Lord,” quoth he, “my willing
Is as ye will, nor against your liking
I will no thing, mine owen lord so dear;
Right as you list governe this mattere.”

“Then will I,” quoth the marquis softely,
“That in thy chamber I, and thou, and she,
Have a collation;* and know’st thou why? *conference
For I will ask her, if her will it be
To be my wife, and rule her after me:
And all this shall be done in thy presence,
I will not speak out of thine audience.”* *hearing

And in the chamber while they were about
The treaty, which ye shall hereafter hear,
The people came into the house without,
And wonder’d them in how honest mannere
And tenderly she kept her father dear;
But utterly Griseldis wonder might,
For never erst* ne saw she such a sight. *before

No wonder is though that she be astoned,* *astonished
To see so great a guest come in that place,
She never was to no such guestes woned;* *accustomed, wont
For which she looked with full pale face.
But shortly forth this matter for to chase,* *push on, pursue
These are the wordes that the marquis said
To this benigne, very,* faithful maid. *true <6>

“Griseld’,” he said, “ye shall well understand,
It liketh to your father and to me
That I you wed, and eke it may so stand,
As I suppose ye will that it so be:
But these demandes ask I first,” quoth he,
“Since that it shall be done in hasty wise;
Will ye assent, or elles you advise?* *consider

“I say this, be ye ready with good heart
To all my lust,* and that I freely may, *pleasure
As me best thinketh, *do you* laugh or smart, *cause you to*
And never ye to grudge,* night nor day, *murmur
And eke when I say Yea, ye say not Nay,
Neither by word, nor frowning countenance?
Swear this, and here I swear our alliance.”

Wond’ring upon this word, quaking for dread,
She saide; “Lord, indigne and unworthy
Am I to this honour that ye me bede,* *offer
But as ye will yourself, right so will I:
And here I swear, that never willingly
In word or thought I will you disobey,
For to be dead; though me were loth to dey.”* *die

“This is enough, Griselda mine,” quoth he.
And forth he went with a full sober cheer,
Out at the door, and after then came she,
And to the people he said in this mannere:
“This is my wife,” quoth he, “that standeth here.
Honoure her, and love her, I you pray,
Whoso me loves; there is no more to say.”

And, for that nothing of her olde gear
She shoulde bring into his house, he bade
That women should despoile* her right there; *strip
Of which these ladies were nothing glad
To handle her clothes wherein she was clad:
But natheless this maiden bright of hue
From foot to head they clothed have all new.

Her haires have they comb’d that lay untress’d* *loose
Full rudely, and with their fingers small
A crown upon her head they have dress’d,
And set her full of nouches <7> great and small:
Of her array why should I make a tale?
Unneth* the people her knew for her fairness, *scarcely
When she transmuted was in such richess.

The marquis hath her spoused with a ring
Brought for the same cause, and then her set
Upon a horse snow-white, and well ambling,
And to his palace, ere he longer let* *delayed
With joyful people, that her led and met,
Conveyed her; and thus the day they spend
In revel, till the sunne gan descend.

And, shortly forth this tale for to chase,
I say, that to this newe marchioness
God hath such favour sent her of his grace,
That it ne seemed not by likeliness
That she was born and fed in rudeness, —
As in a cot, or in an ox’s stall, —
But nourish’d in an emperore’s hall.

To every wight she waxen* is so dear *grown
And worshipful, that folk where she was born,
That from her birthe knew her year by year,
*Unnethes trowed* they, but durst have sworn, *scarcely believed*
That to Janicol’ of whom I spake before,
She was not daughter, for by conjecture
Them thought she was another creature.

For though that ever virtuous was she,
She was increased in such excellence
Of thewes* good, y-set in high bounte, *qualities
And so discreet, and fair of eloquence,
So benign, and so digne* of reverence, *worthy
And coulde so the people’s heart embrace,
That each her lov’d that looked on her face.

Not only of Saluces in the town
Published was the bounte of her name,
But eke besides in many a regioun;
If one said well, another said the same:
So spread of here high bounte the fame,
That men and women, young as well as old,
Went to Saluces, her for to behold.

Thus Walter lowly, — nay, but royally,-
Wedded with fortn’ate honestete,* *virtue
In Godde’s peace lived full easily
At home, and outward grace enough had he:
And, for he saw that under low degree
Was honest virtue hid, the people him held
A prudent man, and that is seen full seld’.* *seldom

Not only this Griseldis through her wit
*Couth all the feat* of wifely homeliness, *knew all the duties*
But eke, when that the case required it,
The common profit coulde she redress:
There n’as discord, rancour, nor heaviness
In all the land, that she could not appease,
And wisely bring them all in rest and ease

Though that her husband absent were or non,* *not
If gentlemen or other of that country,
Were wroth,* she woulde bringe them at one, *at feud
So wise and ripe wordes hadde she,
And judgement of so great equity,
That she from heaven sent was, as men wend,* *weened, imagined
People to save, and every wrong t’amend

Not longe time after that this Griseld’
Was wedded, she a daughter had y-bore;
All she had lever* borne a knave** child, *rather **boy
Glad was the marquis and his folk therefore;
For, though a maiden child came all before,
She may unto a knave child attain
By likelihood, since she is not barren.

*Pars Tertia.* *Third Part*

There fell, as falleth many times mo’,
When that his child had sucked but a throw,* little while
This marquis in his hearte longed so
To tempt his wife, her sadness* for to know, *steadfastness
That he might not out of his hearte throw
This marvellous desire his wife t’asssay;* *try
Needless,* God wot, he thought her to affray.** *without cause
**alarm, disturb
He had assayed her anough before,
And found her ever good; what needed it
Her for to tempt, and always more and more?
Though some men praise it for a subtle wit,
But as for me, I say that *evil it sit* *it ill became him*
T’assay a wife when that it is no need,
And putte her in anguish and in dread.

For which this marquis wrought in this mannere:
He came at night alone there as she lay,
With sterne face and with full troubled cheer,
And saide thus; “Griseld’,” quoth he “that day
That I you took out of your poor array,
And put you in estate of high nobless,
Ye have it not forgotten, as I guess.

“I say, Griseld’, this present dignity,
In which that I have put you, as I trow* *believe
Maketh you not forgetful for to be
That I you took in poor estate full low,
For any weal you must yourselfe know.
Take heed of every word that I you say,
There is no wight that hears it but we tway.* *two

“Ye know yourself well how that ye came here
Into this house, it is not long ago;
And though to me ye be right lefe* and dear, *loved
Unto my gentles* ye be nothing so: *nobles, gentlefolk
They say, to them it is great shame and woe
For to be subject, and be in servage,
To thee, that born art of small lineage.

“And namely* since thy daughter was y-bore *especially
These wordes have they spoken doubteless;
But I desire, as I have done before,
To live my life with them in rest and peace:
I may not in this case be reckeless;
I must do with thy daughter for the best,
Not as I would, but as my gentles lest.* *please

“And yet, God wot, this is full loth* to me: *odious
But natheless withoute your weeting* *knowing
I will nought do; but this will I,” quoth he,
“That ye to me assenten in this thing.
Shew now your patience in your working,
That ye me hight* and swore in your village *promised
The day that maked was our marriage.”

When she had heard all this, she not amev’d* *changed
Neither in word, in cheer, nor countenance
(For, as it seemed, she was not aggriev’d);
She saide; “Lord, all lies in your pleasance,
My child and I, with hearty obeisance
Be youres all, and ye may save or spill* *destroy
Your owen thing: work then after your will.

“There may no thing, so God my soule save,
*Like to* you, that may displease me: *be pleasing*
Nor I desire nothing for to have,
Nor dreade for to lose, save only ye:
This will is in mine heart, and aye shall be,
No length of time, nor death, may this deface,
Nor change my corage* to another place.” *spirit, heart

Glad was the marquis for her answering,
But yet he feigned as he were not so;
All dreary was his cheer and his looking
When that he should out of the chamber go.
Soon after this, a furlong way or two,<8>
He privily hath told all his intent
Unto a man, and to his wife him sent.

A *manner sergeant* was this private* man, *kind of squire*
The which he faithful often founden had *discreet
In thinges great, and eke such folk well can
Do execution in thinges bad:
The lord knew well, that he him loved and drad.* *dreaded
And when this sergeant knew his lorde’s will,
Into the chamber stalked he full still.

“Madam,” he said, “ye must forgive it me,
Though I do thing to which I am constrain’d;
Ye be so wise, that right well knowe ye
*That lordes’ hestes may not be y-feign’d;* *see note <9>*
They may well be bewailed and complain’d,
But men must needs unto their lust* obey; *pleasure
And so will I, there is no more to say.

“This child I am commanded for to take.”
And spake no more, but out the child he hent* *seized
Dispiteously,* and gan a cheer** to make *unpityingly **show, aspect
As though he would have slain it ere he went.
Griseldis must all suffer and consent:
And as a lamb she sat there meek and still,
And let this cruel sergeant do his will

Suspicious* was the diffame** of this man, *ominous **evil reputation
Suspect his face, suspect his word also,
Suspect the time in which he this began:
Alas! her daughter, that she loved so,
She weened* he would have it slain right tho,** *thought **then
But natheless she neither wept nor siked,* *sighed
Conforming her to what the marquis liked.

But at the last to speake she began,
And meekly she unto the sergeant pray’d,
So as he was a worthy gentle man,
That she might kiss her child, ere that it died:
And in her barme* this little child she laid, *lap, bosom
With full sad face, and gan the child to bless,* *cross
And lulled it, and after gan it kiss.

And thus she said in her benigne voice:
Farewell, my child, I shall thee never see;
But since I have thee marked with the cross,
Of that father y-blessed may’st thou be
That for us died upon a cross of tree:
Thy soul, my little child, I *him betake,* *commit unto him*
For this night shalt thou dien for my sake.

I trow* that to a norice** in this case *believe **nurse
It had been hard this ruthe* for to see: *pitiful sight
Well might a mother then have cried, “Alas!”
But natheless so sad steadfast was she,
That she endured all adversity,
And to the sergeant meekely she said,
“Have here again your little younge maid.

“Go now,” quoth she, “and do my lord’s behest.
And one thing would I pray you of your grace,
*But if* my lord forbade you at the least, *unless*
Bury this little body in some place,
That neither beasts nor birdes it arace.”* *tear <10>
But he no word would to that purpose say,
But took the child and went upon his way.

The sergeant came unto his lord again,
And of Griselda’s words and of her cheer* *demeanour
He told him point for point, in short and plain,
And him presented with his daughter dear.
Somewhat this lord had ruth in his mannere,
But natheless his purpose held he still,
As lordes do, when they will have their will;

And bade this sergeant that he privily
Shoulde the child full softly wind and wrap,
With alle circumstances tenderly,
And carry it in a coffer, or in lap;
But, upon pain his head off for to swap,* *strike
That no man shoulde know of his intent,
Nor whence he came, nor whither that he went;

But at Bologna, to his sister dear,
That at that time of Panic’* was Countess, *Panico
He should it take, and shew her this mattere,
Beseeching her to do her business
This child to foster in all gentleness,
And whose child it was he bade her hide
From every wight, for aught that might betide.

The sergeant went, and hath fulfill’d this thing.
But to the marquis now returne we;
For now went he full fast imagining
If by his wife’s cheer he mighte see,
Or by her wordes apperceive, that she
Were changed; but he never could her find,
But ever-in-one* alike sad** and kind. *constantly **steadfast

As glad, as humble, as busy in service,
And eke in love, as she was wont to be,
Was she to him, in every *manner wise;* *sort of way*
And of her daughter not a word spake she;
*No accident for no adversity* *no change of humour resulting
Was seen in her, nor e’er her daughter’s name from her affliction*
She named, or in earnest or in game.

*Pars Quarta* *Fourth Part*

In this estate there passed be four year
Ere she with childe was; but, as God wo’ld,
A knave* child she bare by this Waltere, *boy
Full gracious and fair for to behold;
And when that folk it to his father told,
Not only he, but all his country, merry
Were for this child, and God they thank and hery.* *praise

When it was two year old, and from the breast
Departed* of the norice, on a day *taken, weaned
This marquis *caughte yet another lest* *was seized by yet
To tempt his wife yet farther, if he may. another desire*
Oh! needless was she tempted in as say;* *trial
But wedded men *not connen no measure,* *know no moderation*
When that they find a patient creature.

“Wife,” quoth the marquis, “ye have heard ere this
My people *sickly bear* our marriage; *regard with displeasure*
And namely* since my son y-boren is, *especially
Now is it worse than ever in all our age:
The murmur slays mine heart and my corage,
For to mine ears cometh the voice so smart,* *painfully
That it well nigh destroyed hath mine heart.

“Now say they thus, ‘When Walter is y-gone,
Then shall the blood of Janicol’ succeed,
And be our lord, for other have we none:’
Such wordes say my people, out of drede.* *doubt
Well ought I of such murmur take heed,
For certainly I dread all such sentence,* *expression of opinion
Though they not *plainen in mine audience.* *complain in my hearing*

“I woulde live in peace, if that I might;
Wherefore I am disposed utterly,
As I his sister served ere* by night, *before
Right so think I to serve him privily.
This warn I you, that ye not suddenly
Out of yourself for no woe should outraie;* *become outrageous, rave
Be patient, and thereof I you pray.”

“I have,” quoth she, “said thus, and ever shall,
I will no thing, nor n’ill no thing, certain,
But as you list; not grieveth me at all
Though that my daughter and my son be slain
At your commandement; that is to sayn,
I have not had no part of children twain,
But first sickness, and after woe and pain.

“Ye be my lord, do with your owen thing
Right as you list, and ask no rede of me:
For, as I left at home all my clothing
When I came first to you, right so,” quoth she,
“Left I my will and all my liberty,
And took your clothing: wherefore I you pray,
Do your pleasance, I will your lust* obey. *will

“And, certes, if I hadde prescience
Your will to know, ere ye your lust* me told, *will
I would it do withoute negligence:
But, now I know your lust, and what ye wo’ld,
All your pleasance firm and stable I hold;
For, wist I that my death might do you ease,
Right gladly would I dien you to please.

“Death may not make no comparisoun
Unto your love.” And when this marquis say* *saw
The constance of his wife, he cast adown
His eyen two, and wonder’d how she may
In patience suffer all this array;
And forth he went with dreary countenance;
But to his heart it was full great pleasance.

This ugly sergeant, in the same wise
That he her daughter caught, right so hath he
(Or worse, if men can any worse devise,)
Y-hent* her son, that full was of beauty: *seized
And ever-in-one* so patient was she, *unvaryingly
That she no cheere made of heaviness,
But kiss’d her son, and after gan him bless.

Save this she prayed him, if that he might,
Her little son he would in earthe grave,* *bury
His tender limbes, delicate to sight,
From fowles and from beastes for to save.
But she none answer of him mighte have;
He went his way, as him nothing ne raught,* *cared
But to Bologna tenderly it brought.

The marquis wonder’d ever longer more
Upon her patience; and, if that he
Not hadde soothly knowen therebefore
That perfectly her children loved she,
He would have ween’d* that of some subtilty, *thought
And of malice, or for cruel corage,* *disposition
She hadde suffer’d this with sad* visage. *steadfast, unmoved

But well he knew, that, next himself, certain
She lov’d her children best in every wise.
But now of women would I aske fain,
If these assayes mighte not suffice?
What could a sturdy* husband more devise *stern
To prove her wifehood and her steadfastness,
And he continuing ev’r in sturdiness?

But there be folk of such condition,
That, when they have a certain purpose take,
Thiey cannot stint* of their intention, *cease
But, right as they were bound unto a stake,
They will not of their firste purpose slake:* *slacken, abate
Right so this marquis fully hath purpos’d
To tempt his wife, as he was first dispos’d.

He waited, if by word or countenance
That she to him was changed of corage:* *spirit
But never could he finde variance,
She was aye one in heart and in visage,
And aye the farther that she was in age,
The more true (if that it were possible)
She was to him in love, and more penible.* *painstaking in devotion

For which it seemed thus, that of them two
There was but one will; for, as Walter lest,* *pleased
The same pleasance was her lust* also; *pleasure
And, God be thanked, all fell for the best.
She shewed well, for no worldly unrest,
A wife as of herself no thinge should
Will, in effect, but as her husbaud would.

The sland’r of Walter wondrous wide sprad,
That of a cruel heart he wickedly,
For* he a poore woman wedded had, *because
Had murder’d both his children privily:
Such murmur was among them commonly.
No wonder is: for to the people’s ear
There came no word, but that they murder’d were.

For which, whereas his people therebefore
Had lov’d him well, the sland’r of his diffame* *infamy
Made them that they him hated therefore.
To be a murd’rer is a hateful name.
But natheless, for earnest or for game,
He of his cruel purpose would not stent;
To tempt his wife was set all his intent.

When that his daughter twelve year was of age,
He to the Court of Rome, in subtle wise
Informed of his will, sent his message,* *messenger
Commanding him such bulles to devise
As to his cruel purpose may suffice,
How that the Pope, for his people’s rest,
Bade him to wed another, if him lest.* *wished

I say he bade they shoulde counterfeit
The Pope’s bulles, making mention
That he had leave his firste wife to lete,* *leave
To stinte* rancour and dissension *put an end to
Betwixt his people and him: thus spake the bull,
The which they have published at full.

The rude people, as no wonder is,
Weened* full well that it had been right so: *thought, believed
But, when these tidings came to Griseldis.
I deeme that her heart was full of woe;
But she, alike sad* for evermo’, *steadfast
Disposed was, this humble creature,
Th’ adversity of fortune all t’ endure;

Abiding ever his lust and his pleasance,
To whom that she was given, heart and all,
As *to her very worldly suffisance.* *to the utmost extent
But, shortly if this story tell I shall, of her power*
The marquis written hath in special
A letter, in which he shewed his intent,
And secretly it to Bologna sent.

To th’ earl of Panico, which hadde tho* *there
Wedded his sister, pray’d he specially
To bringe home again his children two
In honourable estate all openly:
But one thing he him prayed utterly,
That he to no wight, though men would inquere,
Shoulde not tell whose children that they were,

But say, the maiden should y-wedded be
Unto the marquis of Saluce anon.
And as this earl was prayed, so did he,
For, at day set, he on his way is gone
Toward Saluce, and lorde’s many a one
In rich array, this maiden for to guide, —
Her younge brother riding her beside.

Arrayed was toward* her marriage *as if for
This freshe maiden, full of gemmes clear;
Her brother, which that seven year was of age,
Arrayed eke full fresh in his mannere:
And thus, in great nobless, and with glad cheer,
Toward Saluces shaping their journey,
From day to day they rode upon their way.

*Pars Quinta.* *Fifth Part*

*Among all this,* after his wick’ usage, *while all this was
The marquis, yet his wife to tempte more going on*
To the uttermost proof of her corage,
Fully to have experience and lore* *knowledge
If that she were as steadfast as before,
He on a day, in open audience,
Full boisterously said her this sentence:

“Certes, Griseld’, I had enough pleasance
To have you to my wife, for your goodness,
And for your truth, and for your obeisance,
Not for your lineage, nor for your richess;
But now know I, in very soothfastness,
That in great lordship, if I well advise,
There is great servitude in sundry wise.

“I may not do as every ploughman may:
My people me constraineth for to take
Another wife, and cryeth day by day;
And eke the Pope, rancour for to slake,
Consenteth it, that dare I undertake:
And truely, thus much I will you say,
My newe wife is coming by the way.

“Be strong of heart, and *void anon* her place; *immediately vacate*
And thilke* dower that ye brought to me, *that
Take it again, I grant it of my grace.
Returne to your father’s house,” quoth he;
“No man may always have prosperity;
With even heart I rede* you to endure *counsel
The stroke of fortune or of aventure.”

And she again answer’d in patience:
“My Lord,” quoth she, “I know, and knew alway,
How that betwixte your magnificence
And my povert’ no wight nor can nor may
Make comparison, it *is no nay;* *cannot be denied*
I held me never digne* in no mannere *worthy
To be your wife, nor yet your chamberere.* *chamber-maid

“And in this house, where ye me lady made,
(The highe God take I for my witness,
And all so wisly* he my soule glade),** *surely **gladdened
I never held me lady nor mistress,
But humble servant to your worthiness,
And ever shall, while that my life may dure,
Aboven every worldly creature.

“That ye so long, of your benignity,
Have holden me in honour and nobley,* *nobility
Where as I was not worthy for to be,
That thank I God and you, to whom I pray
Foryield* it you; there is no more to say: *reward
Unto my father gladly will I wend,* *go
And with him dwell, unto my lifes end,

“Where I was foster’d as a child full small,
Till I be dead my life there will I lead,
A widow clean in body, heart, and all.
For since I gave to you my maidenhead,
And am your true wife, it is no dread,* *doubt
God shielde* such a lordes wife to take *forbid
Another man to husband or to make.* *mate

“And of your newe wife, God of his grace
So grant you weal and all prosperity:
For I will gladly yield to her my place,
In which that I was blissful wont to be.
For since it liketh you, my Lord,” quoth she,
“That whilom weren all mine hearte’s rest,
That I shall go, I will go when you lest.

“But whereas ye me proffer such dowaire
As I first brought, it is well in my mind,
It was my wretched clothes, nothing fair,
The which to me were hard now for to find.
O goode God! how gentle and how kind
Ye seemed by your speech and your visage,
The day that maked was our marriage!

“But sooth is said, — algate* I find it true, *at all events
For in effect it proved is on me, —
Love is not old as when that it is new.
But certes, Lord, for no adversity,
To dien in this case, it shall not be
That e’er in word or work I shall repent
That I you gave mine heart in whole intent.

“My Lord, ye know that in my father’s place
Ye did me strip out of my poore weed,* *raiment
And richely ye clad me of your grace;
To you brought I nought elles, out of dread,
But faith, and nakedness, and maidenhead;
And here again your clothing I restore,
And eke your wedding ring for evermore.

“The remnant of your jewels ready be
Within your chamber, I dare safely sayn:
Naked out of my father’s house,” quoth she,
“I came, and naked I must turn again.
All your pleasance would I follow fain:* *cheerfully
But yet I hope it be not your intent
That smockless* I out of your palace went. *naked

“Ye could not do so dishonest* a thing, *dishonourable
That thilke* womb, in which your children lay, *that
Shoulde before the people, in my walking,
Be seen all bare: and therefore I you pray,
Let me not like a worm go by the way:
Remember you, mine owen Lord so dear,
I was your wife, though I unworthy were.

“Wherefore, in guerdon* of my maidenhead, *reward
Which that I brought and not again I bear,
As vouchesafe to give me to my meed* *reward
But such a smock as I was wont to wear,
That I therewith may wrie* the womb of her *cover
That was your wife: and here I take my leave
Of you, mine owen Lord, lest I you grieve.”

“The smock,” quoth he, “that thou hast on thy back,
Let it be still, and bear it forth with thee.”
But well unnethes* thilke word he spake, *with difficulty
But went his way for ruth and for pity.
Before the folk herselfe stripped she,
And in her smock, with foot and head all bare,
Toward her father’s house forth is she fare.* *gone

The folk her follow’d weeping on her way,
And fortune aye they cursed as they gon:* *go
But she from weeping kept her eyen drey,* *dry
Nor in this time worde spake she none.
Her father, that this tiding heard anon,
Cursed the day and time, that nature
Shope* him to be a living creature. *formed, ordained

For, out of doubt, this olde poore man
Was ever in suspect of her marriage:
For ever deem’d he, since it first began,
That when the lord *fulfill’d had his corage,* *had gratified his whim*
He woulde think it were a disparage* *disparagement
To his estate, so low for to alight,
And voide* her as soon as e’er he might. *dismiss

Against* his daughter hastily went he *to meet
(For he by noise of folk knew her coming),
And with her olde coat, as it might be,
He cover’d her, full sorrowfully weeping:
But on her body might he it not bring,
For rude was the cloth, and more of age
By dayes fele* than at her marriage. *many <11>

Thus with her father for a certain space
Dwelled this flow’r of wifely patience,
That neither by her words nor by her face,
Before the folk nor eke in their absence,
Ne shewed she that her was done offence,
Nor of her high estate no remembrance
Ne hadde she, *as by* her countenance. *to judge from*

No wonder is, for in her great estate
Her ghost* was ever in plein** humility; *spirit **full
No tender mouth, no hearte delicate,
No pomp, and no semblant of royalty;
But full of patient benignity,
Discreet and prideless, aye honourable,
And to her husband ever meek and stable.

Men speak of Job, and most for his humbless,
As clerkes, when them list, can well indite,
Namely* of men; but, as in soothfastness, *particularly
Though clerkes praise women but a lite,* *little
There can no man in humbless him acquite
As women can, nor can be half so true
As women be, *but it be fall of new.* *unless it has lately
come to pass*

*Pars Sexta* *Sixth Part*

From Bologn’ is the earl of Panic’ come,
Of which the fame up sprang to more and less;
And to the people’s eares all and some
Was know’n eke, that a newe marchioness
He with him brought, in such pomp and richess
That never was there seen with manne’s eye
So noble array in all West Lombardy.

The marquis, which that shope* and knew all this, *arranged
Ere that the earl was come, sent his message* *messenger
For thilke poore sely* Griseldis; *innocent
And she, with humble heart and glad visage,
Nor with no swelling thought in her corage,* *mind
Came at his hest,* and on her knees her set, *command
And rev’rently and wisely she him gret.* *greeted

“Griseld’,” quoth he, “my will is utterly,
This maiden, that shall wedded be to me,
Received be to-morrow as royally
As it possible is in my house to be;
And eke that every wight in his degree
Have *his estate* in sitting and service, *what befits his
And in high pleasance, as I can devise. condition*

“I have no women sufficient, certain,
The chambers to array in ordinance
After my lust;* and therefore would I fain *pleasure
That thine were all such manner governance:
Thou knowest eke of old all my pleasance;
Though thine array be bad, and ill besey,* *poor to look on
*Do thou thy devoir at the leaste way.”* * do your duty in the
quickest manner*
“Not only, Lord, that I am glad,” quoth she,
“To do your lust, but I desire also
You for to serve and please in my degree,
Withoute fainting, and shall evermo’:
Nor ever for no weal, nor for no woe,
Ne shall the ghost* within mine hearte stent** *spirit **cease
To love you best with all my true intent.”

And with that word she gan the house to dight,* *arrange
And tables for to set, and beds to make,
And *pained her* to do all that she might, *she took pains*
Praying the chambereres* for Godde’s sake *chamber-maids
To hasten them, and faste sweep and shake,
And she the most serviceable of all
Hath ev’ry chamber arrayed, and his hall.

Aboute undern* gan the earl alight, *afternoon <5>
That with him brought these noble children tway;
For which the people ran to see the sight
Of their array, so *richely besey;* *rich to behold*
And then *at erst* amonges them they say, *for the first time*
That Walter was no fool, though that him lest* *pleased
To change his wife; for it was for the best.

For she is fairer, as they deemen* all, *think
Than is Griseld’, and more tender of age,
And fairer fruit between them shoulde fall,
And more pleasant, for her high lineage:
Her brother eke so fair was of visage,
That them to see the people hath caught pleasance,
Commending now the marquis’ governance.

“O stormy people, unsad* and ev’r untrue, *variable
And undiscreet, and changing as a vane,
Delighting ev’r in rumour that is new,
For like the moon so waxe ye and wane:
Aye full of clapping, *dear enough a jane,* *worth nothing <12>*
Your doom* is false, your constance evil preveth,** *judgment **proveth
A full great fool is he that you believeth.”

Thus saide the sad* folk in that city, *sedate
When that the people gazed up and down;
For they were glad, right for the novelty,
To have a newe lady of their town.
No more of this now make I mentioun,
But to Griseld’ again I will me dress,
And tell her constancy and business.

Full busy was Griseld’ in ev’ry thing
That to the feaste was appertinent;
Right nought was she abash’d* of her clothing, *ashamed
Though it were rude, and somedeal eke to-rent;* *tattered
But with glad cheer* unto the gate she went *expression
With other folk, to greet the marchioness,
And after that did forth her business.

With so glad cheer* his guestes she receiv’d *expression
And so conningly* each in his degree, *cleverly, skilfully
That no defaulte no man apperceiv’d,
But aye they wonder’d what she mighte be
That in so poor array was for to see,
And coude* such honour and reverence; *knew, understood
And worthily they praise her prudence.

In all this meane while she not stent* *ceased
This maid, and eke her brother, to commend
With all her heart in full benign intent,
So well, that no man could her praise amend:
But at the last, when that these lordes wend* *go
To sitte down to meat, he gan to call
Griseld’, as she was busy in the hall.

“Griseld’,” quoth he, as it were in his play,
“How liketh thee my wife, and her beauty?”
“Right well, my Lord,” quoth she, “for, in good fay,* *faith
A fairer saw I never none than she:
I pray to God give you prosperity;
And so I hope, that he will to you send
Pleasance enough unto your lives end.

“One thing beseech I you, and warn also,
That ye not pricke with no tormenting
This tender maiden, as ye have done mo:* *me <13>
For she is foster’d in her nourishing
More tenderly, and, to my supposing,
She mighte not adversity endure
As could a poore foster’d creature.”

And when this Walter saw her patience,
Her gladde cheer, and no malice at all,
And* he so often had her done offence, *although
And she aye sad* and constant as a wall, *steadfast
Continuing ev’r her innocence o’er all,
The sturdy marquis gan his hearte dress* *prepare
To rue upon her wifely steadfastness.

“This is enough, Griselda mine,” quoth he,
“Be now no more *aghast, nor evil paid,* *afraid, nor displeased*
I have thy faith and thy benignity
As well as ever woman was, assay’d,
In great estate and poorely array’d:
Now know I, deare wife, thy steadfastness;”
And her in arms he took, and gan to kiss.

And she for wonder took of it no keep;* *notice
She hearde not what thing he to her said:
She far’d as she had start out of a sleep,
Till she out of her mazedness abraid.* *awoke
“Griseld’,” quoth he, “by God that for us died,
Thou art my wife, none other I have,
Nor ever had, as God my soule save.

“This is thy daughter, which thou hast suppos’d
To be my wife; that other faithfully
Shall be mine heir, as I have aye dispos’d;
Thou bare them of thy body truely:
At Bologna kept I them privily:
Take them again, for now may’st thou not say
That thou hast lorn* none of thy children tway. *lost

“And folk, that otherwise have said of me,
I warn them well, that I have done this deed
For no malice, nor for no cruelty,
But to assay in thee thy womanhead:
And not to slay my children (God forbid),
But for to keep them privily and still,
Till I thy purpose knew, and all thy will.”

When she this heard, in swoon adown she falleth
For piteous joy; and after her swooning,
She both her younge children to her calleth,
And in her armes piteously weeping
Embraced them, and tenderly kissing,
Full like a mother, with her salte tears
She bathed both their visage and their hairs.

O, what a piteous thing it was to see
Her swooning, and her humble voice to hear!
“Grand mercy, Lord, God thank it you,” quoth she,
That ye have saved me my children dear;
Now reck* I never to be dead right here; *care
Since I stand in your love, and in your grace,
No *force of* death, nor when my spirit pace.* *no matter for* *pass

“O tender, O dear, O young children mine,
Your woeful mother *weened steadfastly* *believed firmly*
That cruel houndes, or some foul vermine,
Had eaten you; but God of his mercy,
And your benigne father tenderly
Have *done you keep:”* and in that same stound* *caused you to
All suddenly she swapt** down to the ground. be preserved*
*hour **fell
And in her swoon so sadly* holdeth she *firmly
Her children two, when she gan them embrace,
That with great sleight* and great difficulty *art
The children from her arm they can arace,* *pull away
O! many a tear on many a piteous face
Down ran of them that stoode her beside,
Unneth’* aboute her might they abide. *scarcely

Walter her gladdeth, and her sorrow slaketh:* *assuages
She riseth up abashed* from her trance, *astonished
And every wight her joy and feaste maketh,
Till she hath caught again her countenance.
Walter her doth so faithfully pleasance,
That it was dainty for to see the cheer
Betwixt them two, since they be met in fere.* *together

The ladies, when that they their time sey,* *saw
Have taken her, and into chamber gone,
And stripped her out of her rude array,
And in a cloth of gold that brightly shone,
And with a crown of many a riche stone
Upon her head, they into hall her brought:
And there she was honoured as her ought.

Thus had this piteous day a blissful end;
For every man and woman did his might
This day in mirth and revel to dispend,
Till on the welkin* shone the starres bright: *firmament
For more solemn in every mannes sight
This feaste was, and greater of costage,* *expense
Than was the revel of her marriage.

Full many a year in high prosperity
Lived these two in concord and in rest;
And richely his daughter married he
Unto a lord, one of the worthiest
Of all Itale; and then in peace and rest
His wife’s father in his court he kept,
Till that the soul out of his body crept.

His son succeeded in his heritage,
In rest and peace, after his father’s day:
And fortunate was eke in marriage,
All* he put not his wife in great assay: *although
This world is not so strong, it *is no nay,* *not to be denied*
As it hath been in olde times yore;
And hearken what this author saith, therefore;

This story is said, <14> not for that wives should
Follow Griselda in humility,
For it were importable* though they would; *not to be borne
But for that every wight in his degree
Shoulde be constant in adversity,
As was Griselda; therefore Petrarch writeth
This story, which with high style he inditeth.

For, since a woman was so patient
Unto a mortal man, well more we ought
Receiven all in gree* that God us sent. good-will
*For great skill is he proved that he wrought:* *see note <15>*
But he tempteth no man that he hath bought,
As saith Saint James, if ye his ‘pistle read;
He proveth folk all day, it is no dread.* *doubt

And suffereth us, for our exercise,
With sharpe scourges of adversity
Full often to be beat in sundry wise;
Not for to know our will, for certes he,
Ere we were born, knew all our frailty;
And for our best is all his governance;
Let us then live in virtuous sufferance.

But one word, lordings, hearken, ere I go:
It were full hard to finde now-a-days
In all a town Griseldas three or two:
For, if that they were put to such assays,
The gold of them hath now so bad allays* *alloys
With brass, that though the coin be fair *at eye,* *to see*
It woulde rather break in two than ply.* *bend

For which here, for the Wife’s love of Bath, —
Whose life and all her sex may God maintain
In high mast’ry, and elles were it scath,* — *damage, pity
I will, with lusty hearte fresh and green,
Say you a song to gladden you, I ween:
And let us stint of earnestful mattere.
Hearken my song, that saith in this mannere.

L’Envoy of Chaucer.

“Griseld’ is dead, and eke her patience,
And both at once are buried in Itale:
For which I cry in open audience,
No wedded man so hardy be t’ assail
His wife’s patience, in trust to find
Griselda’s, for in certain he shall fail.

“O noble wives, full of high prudence,
Let no humility your tongues nail:
Nor let no clerk have cause or diligence
To write of you a story of such marvail,
As of Griselda patient and kind,
Lest Chichevache<16> you swallow in her entrail.

“Follow Echo, that holdeth no silence,
But ever answereth at the countertail;* *counter-tally <17>
Be not bedaffed* for your innocence, *befooled
But sharply take on you the governail;* *helm
Imprinte well this lesson in your mind,
For common profit, since it may avail.

“Ye archiwives,* stand aye at defence, *wives of rank
Since ye be strong as is a great camail,* *camel
Nor suffer not that men do you offence.
And slender wives, feeble in battail,
Be eager as a tiger yond in Ind;
Aye clapping as a mill, I you counsail.

“Nor dread them not, nor do them reverence;
For though thine husband armed be in mail,
The arrows of thy crabbed eloquence
Shall pierce his breast, and eke his aventail;<18>
In jealousy I rede* eke thou him bind, *advise
And thou shalt make him couch* as doth a quail. *submit, shrink

“If thou be fair, where folk be in presence
Shew thou thy visage and thine apparail:
If thou be foul, be free of thy dispence;
To get thee friendes aye do thy travail:
Be aye of cheer as light as leaf on lind,* *linden, lime-tree
And let him care, and weep, and wring, and wail.”

Notes to the Clerk’s Tale

1. Petrarch, in his Latin romance, “De obedientia et fide uxoria Mythologia,” (Of obedient and faithful wives in Mythology) translated the charming story of “the patient Grizel” from the Italian of Bocaccio’s “Decameron;” and Chaucer has closely followed Petrarch’s translation, made in 1373, the year before that in which he died. The fact that the embassy to Genoa, on which Chaucer was sent, took place in 1372-73, has lent countenance to the opinion that the English poet did actually visit the Italian bard at Padua, and hear the story from his own lips. This, however, is only a probability; for it is a moot point whether the two poets ever met.

2. Vesulus: Monte Viso, a lofty peak at the junction of the Maritime and Cottian Alps; from two springs on its east side rises the Po.

3. Buxomly: obediently; Anglo-Saxon, “bogsom,” old English, “boughsome,” that can be easily bent or bowed; German, “biegsam,” pliant, obedient.

4. Well ofter of the well than of the tun she drank: she drank water much more often than wine.

5. Undern: afternoon, evening, though by some “undern” is understood as dinner-time — 9 a. m. See note 4 to the Wife of Bath’s Tale.

6. Very: true; French “vrai”.

7. Nouches: Ornaments of some kind not precisely known; some editions read “ouches,” studs, brooches. (Transcriber’s note: The OED gives “nouches” as a form of “ouches,” buckles)

8. A furlong way or two: a short time; literally, as long as it takes to walk one or two furlongs (a furlong is 220 yards)

9. Lordes’ hestes may not be y-feign’d: it will not do merely to feign compliance with a lord’s commands.

10. Arace: tear; French, “arracher.”

11. Fele: many; German, “viel.”

12. Dear enough a jane: worth nothing. A jane was a small coin of little worth, so the meaning is “not worth a red cent”.

13. Mo: me. “This is one of the most licentious corruptions of orthography,” says Tyrwhitt, “that I remember to have observed in Chaucer;” but such liberties were common among the European poets of his time, when there was an extreme lack of certainty in orthography.

14. The fourteen lines that follow are translated almost literally from Petrarch’s Latin.

15. For great skill is he proved that he wrought: for it is most reasonable that He should prove or test that which he made.

16. Chichevache, in old popular fable, was a monster that fed only on good women, and was always very thin from scarcity of such food; a corresponding monster, Bycorne, fed only on obedient and kind husbands, and was always fat. The origin of the fable was French; but Lydgate has a ballad on the subject. “Chichevache” literally means “niggardly” or “greedy cow.”

17. Countertail: Counter-tally or counter-foil; something exactly corresponding.

18. Aventail: forepart of a helmet, vizor.

THE MERCHANT’S TALE.

THE PROLOGUE.<l>

“Weeping and wailing, care and other sorrow,
I have enough, on even and on morrow,”
Quoth the Merchant, “and so have other mo’,
That wedded be; I trow* that it be so; *believe
For well I wot it fareth so by me.
I have a wife, the worste that may be,
For though the fiend to her y-coupled were,
She would him overmatch, I dare well swear.
Why should I you rehearse in special
Her high malice? she is *a shrew at all.* *thoroughly, in
There is a long and large difference everything wicked*
Betwixt Griselda’s greate patience,
And of my wife the passing cruelty.
Were I unbounden, all so may I the,* *thrive
I woulde never eft* come in the snare. *again
We wedded men live in sorrow and care;
Assay it whoso will, and he shall find
That I say sooth, by Saint Thomas of Ind,<2>
As for the more part; I say not all, —
God shielde* that it shoulde so befall. *forbid
Ah! good Sir Host, I have y-wedded be
These moneths two, and more not, pardie;
And yet I trow* that he that all his life *believe
Wifeless hath been, though that men would him rive* *wound
Into the hearte, could in no mannere
Telle so much sorrow, as I you here
Could tellen of my wife’s cursedness.”* *wickedness

“Now,” quoth our Host, “Merchant, so God you bless,
Since ye so muche knowen of that art,
Full heartily I pray you tell us part.”
“Gladly,” quoth he; “but of mine owen sore,
For sorry heart, I telle may no more.”

Notes to the Prologue to the Merchant’s Tale

1. Though the manner in which the Merchant takes up the closing words of the Envoy to the Clerk’s Tale, and refers to the patience of Griselda, seems to prove beyond doubt that the order of the Tales in the text is the right one, yet in some manuscripts of good authority the Franklin’s Tale follows the Clerk’s, and the Envoy is concluded by this stanza: — “This worthy Clerk when ended was his tale, Our Hoste said, and swore by cocke’s bones ‘Me lever were than a barrel of ale My wife at home had heard this legend once; This is a gentle tale for the nonce; As, to my purpose, wiste ye my will. But thing that will not be, let it be still.'”

In other manuscripts of less authority the Host proceeds, in two similar stanzas, to impose a Tale on the Franklin; but Tyrwhitt is probably right in setting them aside as spurious, and in admitting the genuineness of the first only, if it be supposed that Chaucer forgot to cancel it when he had decided on another mode of connecting the Merchant’s with the Clerk’s Tale.

2. Saint Thomas of Ind: St. Thomas the Apostle, who was believed to have travelled in India.

THE TALE.<l>

Whilom there was dwelling in Lombardy
A worthy knight, that born was at Pavie,
In which he liv’d in great prosperity;
And forty years a wifeless man was he,
And follow’d aye his bodily delight
On women, where as was his appetite,
As do these fooles that be seculeres.<2>
And, when that he was passed sixty years,
Were it for holiness, or for dotage,
I cannot say, but such a great corage* *inclination
Hadde this knight to be a wedded man,
That day and night he did all that he can
To espy where that he might wedded be;
Praying our Lord to grante him, that he
Mighte once knowen of that blissful life
That is betwixt a husband and his wife,
And for to live under that holy bond
With which God firste man and woman bond.
“None other life,” said he, “is worth a bean;
For wedlock is so easy, and so clean,
That in this world it is a paradise.”
Thus said this olde knight, that was so wise.
And certainly, as sooth* as God is king, *true
To take a wife it is a glorious thing,
And namely* when a man is old and hoar, *especially
Then is a wife the fruit of his treasor;
Then should he take a young wife and a fair,
On which he might engender him an heir,
And lead his life in joy and in solace;* *mirth, delight
Whereas these bachelors singen “Alas!”
When that they find any adversity
In love, which is but childish vanity.
And truely it sits* well to be so, *becomes, befits
That bachelors have often pain and woe:
On brittle ground they build, and brittleness
They finde when they *weene sickerness:* *think that there
They live but as a bird or as a beast, is security*
In liberty, and under no arrest;* *check, control
Whereas a wedded man in his estate
Liveth a life blissful and ordinate,
Under the yoke of marriage y-bound;
Well may his heart in joy and bliss abound.
For who can be so buxom* as a wife? *obedient
Who is so true, and eke so attentive
To keep* him, sick and whole, as is his make?** *care for **mate
For weal or woe she will him not forsake:
She is not weary him to love and serve,
Though that he lie bedrid until he sterve.* *die
And yet some clerkes say it is not so;
Of which he, Theophrast, is one of tho:* *those
*What force* though Theophrast list for to lie? *what matter*

“Take no wife,” quoth he, <3> “for husbandry,* *thrift
As for to spare in household thy dispence;
A true servant doth more diligence
Thy good to keep, than doth thine owen wife,
For she will claim a half part all her life.
And if that thou be sick, so God me save,
Thy very friendes, or a true knave,* *servant
Will keep thee bet than she, that *waiteth aye *ahways waits to
After thy good,* and hath done many a day.” inherit your property*
This sentence, and a hundred times worse,
Writeth this man, there God his bones curse.
But take no keep* of all such vanity, *notice
Defy* Theophrast, and hearken to me. *distrust

A wife is Godde’s gifte verily;
All other manner giftes hardily,* *truly
As handes, rentes, pasture, or commune,* *common land
Or mebles,* all be giftes of fortune, *furniture <4>
That passen as a shadow on the wall:
But dread* thou not, if plainly speak I shall, *doubt
A wife will last, and in thine house endure,
Well longer than thee list, paraventure.* *perhaps
Marriage is a full great sacrament;
He which that hath no wife, I hold him shent;* *ruined
He liveth helpless, and all desolate
(I speak of folk *in secular estate*): *who are not
And hearken why, I say not this for nought, — of the clergy*
That woman is for manne’s help y-wrought.
The highe God, when he had Adam maked,
And saw him all alone belly naked,
God of his greate goodness saide then,
Let us now make a help unto this man
Like to himself; and then he made him Eve.
Here may ye see, and hereby may ye preve,* *prove
That a wife is man s help and his comfort,
His paradise terrestre and his disport.
So buxom* and so virtuous is she, *obedient, complying
They muste needes live in unity;
One flesh they be, and one blood, as I guess,
With but one heart in weal and in distress.
A wife? Ah! Saint Mary, ben’dicite,
How might a man have any adversity
That hath a wife? certes I cannot say
The bliss the which that is betwixt them tway,
There may no tongue it tell, or hearte think.
If he be poor, she helpeth him to swink;* *labour
She keeps his good, and wasteth never a deal;* *whit
All that her husband list, her liketh* well; *pleaseth
She saith not ones Nay, when he saith Yea;
“Do this,” saith he; “All ready, Sir,” saith she.
O blissful order, wedlock precious!
Thou art so merry, and eke so virtuous,
And so commended and approved eke,
That every man that holds him worth a leek
Upon his bare knees ought all his life
To thank his God, that him hath sent a wife;
Or elles pray to God him for to send
A wife, to last unto his life’s end.
For then his life is set in sickerness,* *security
He may not be deceived, as I guess,
So that he work after his wife’s rede;* *counsel
Then may he boldely bear up his head,
They be so true, and therewithal so wise.
For which, if thou wilt worken as the wise,
Do alway so as women will thee rede. * *counsel
Lo how that Jacob, as these clerkes read,
By good counsel of his mother Rebecc’
Bounde the kiddes skin about his neck;
For which his father’s benison* he wan. *benediction
Lo Judith, as the story telle can,
By good counsel she Godde’s people kept,
And slew him, Holofernes, while he slept.
Lo Abigail, by good counsel, how she
Saved her husband Nabal, when that he
Should have been slain. And lo, Esther also
By counsel good deliver’d out of woe
The people of God, and made him, Mardoche,
Of Assuere enhanced* for to be. *advanced in dignity
There is nothing *in gree superlative* *of higher esteem*
(As saith Senec) above a humble wife.
Suffer thy wife’s tongue, as Cato bit;* *bid
She shall command, and thou shalt suffer it,
And yet she will obey of courtesy.
A wife is keeper of thine husbandry:
Well may the sicke man bewail and weep,
There as there is no wife the house to keep.
I warne thee, if wisely thou wilt wirch,* *work
Love well thy wife, as Christ loveth his church:
Thou lov’st thyself, if thou lovest thy wife.
No man hateth his flesh, but in his life
He fost’reth it; and therefore bid I thee
Cherish thy wife, or thou shalt never the.* *thrive
Husband and wife, what *so men jape or play,* *although men joke
Of worldly folk holde the sicker* way; and jeer* *certain
They be so knit there may no harm betide,
And namely* upon the wife’s side. * especially

For which this January, of whom I told,
Consider’d hath within his dayes old,
The lusty life, the virtuous quiet,
That is in marriage honey-sweet.
And for his friends upon a day he sent
To tell them the effect of his intent.
With face sad,* his tale he hath them told: *grave, earnest
He saide, “Friendes, I am hoar and old,
And almost (God wot) on my pitte’s* brink, *grave’s
Upon my soule somewhat must I think.
I have my body foolishly dispended,
Blessed be God that it shall be amended;
For I will be certain a wedded man,
And that anon in all the haste I can,
Unto some maiden, fair and tender of age;
I pray you shape* for my marriage * arrange, contrive
All suddenly, for I will not abide:
And I will fond* to espy, on my side, *try
To whom I may be wedded hastily.
But forasmuch as ye be more than,
Ye shalle rather* such a thing espy
Than I, and where me best were to ally.
But one thing warn I you, my friendes dear,
I will none old wife have in no mannere:
She shall not passe sixteen year certain.
Old fish and younge flesh would I have fain.
Better,” quoth he, “a pike than a pickerel,* *young pike
And better than old beef is tender veal.
I will no woman thirty year of age,
It is but beanestraw and great forage.
And eke these olde widows (God it wot)
They conne* so much craft on Wade’s boat,<5> *know
*So muche brooke harm when that them lest,* *they can do so much
That with them should I never live in rest. harm when they wish*
For sundry schooles make subtle clerkes;
Woman of many schooles half a clerk is.
But certainly a young thing men may guy,* *guide
Right as men may warm wax with handes ply.* *bend,mould
Wherefore I say you plainly in a clause,
I will none old wife have, right for this cause.
For if so were I hadde such mischance,
That I in her could have no pleasance,
Then should I lead my life in avoutrie,* *adultery
And go straight to the devil when I die.
Nor children should I none upon her getten:
Yet *were me lever* houndes had me eaten *I would rather*
Than that mine heritage shoulde fall
In strange hands: and this I tell you all.
I doubte not I know the cause why
Men shoulde wed: and farthermore know I
There speaketh many a man of marriage
That knows no more of it than doth my page,
For what causes a man should take a wife.
If he ne may not live chaste his life,
Take him a wife with great devotion,
Because of lawful procreation
Of children, to th’ honour of God above,
And not only for paramour or love;
And for they shoulde lechery eschew,
And yield their debte when that it is due:
Or for that each of them should help the other
In mischief,* as a sister shall the brother, *trouble
And live in chastity full holily.
But, Sires, by your leave, that am not I,
For, God be thanked, I dare make avaunt,* *boast
I feel my limbes stark* and suffisant *strong
To do all that a man belongeth to:
I wot myselfe best what I may do.
Though I be hoar, I fare as doth a tree,
That blossoms ere the fruit y-waxen* be; *grown
The blossomy tree is neither dry nor dead;
I feel me now here hoar but on my head.
Mine heart and all my limbes are as green
As laurel through the year is for to seen.* *see
And, since that ye have heard all mine intent,
I pray you to my will ye would assent.”

Diverse men diversely him told
Of marriage many examples old;
Some blamed it, some praised it, certain;
But at the haste, shortly for to sayn
(As all day* falleth altercation *constantly, every day
Betwixte friends in disputation),
There fell a strife betwixt his brethren two,
Of which that one was called Placebo,
Justinus soothly called was that other.

Placebo said; “O January, brother,
Full little need have ye, my lord so dear,
Counsel to ask of any that is here:
But that ye be so full of sapience,
That you not liketh, for your high prudence,
To waive* from the word of Solomon. *depart, deviate
This word said he unto us every one;
Work alle thing by counsel, — thus said he, —
And thenne shalt thou not repente thee
But though that Solomon spake such a word,
Mine owen deare brother and my lord,
So wisly* God my soule bring at rest, *surely
I hold your owen counsel is the best.
For, brother mine, take of me this motive; * *advice, encouragement
I have now been a court-man all my life,
And, God it wot, though I unworthy be,
I have standen in full great degree
Aboute lordes of full high estate;
Yet had I ne’er with none of them debate;
I never them contraried truely.
I know well that my lord can* more than I; *knows
What that he saith I hold it firm and stable,
I say the same, or else a thing semblable.
A full great fool is any counsellor
That serveth any lord of high honour
That dare presume, or ones thinken it;
That his counsel should pass his lorde’s wit.
Nay, lordes be no fooles by my fay.
Ye have yourselfe shewed here to day
So high sentence,* so holily and well *judgment, sentiment
That I consent, and confirm *every deal* *in every point*
Your wordes all, and your opinioun
By God, there is no man in all this town
Nor in Itale, could better have y-said.
Christ holds him of this counsel well apaid.* *satisfied
And truely it is a high courage
Of any man that stopen* is in age, *advanced <6>
To take a young wife, by my father’s kin;
Your hearte hangeth on a jolly pin.
Do now in this matter right as you lest,
For finally I hold it for the best.”

Justinus, that aye stille sat and heard,
Right in this wise to Placebo answer’d.
“Now, brother mine, be patient I pray,
Since ye have said, and hearken what I say.
Senec, among his other wordes wise,
Saith, that a man ought him right well advise,* *consider
To whom he gives his hand or his chattel.
And since I ought advise me right well
To whom I give my good away from me,
Well more I ought advise me, pardie,
To whom I give my body: for alway
I warn you well it is no childe’s play
To take a wife without advisement.
Men must inquire (this is mine assent)
Whe’er she be wise, or sober, or dronkelew,* *given to drink
Or proud, or any other ways a shrew,
A chidester,* or a waster of thy good, *a scold
Or rich or poor; or else a man is wood.* *mad
Albeit so, that no man finde shall
None in this world, that *trotteth whole in all,* *is sound in
No man, nor beast, such as men can devise,* every point* *describe
But nathehess it ought enough suffice
With any wife, if so were that she had
More goode thewes* than her vices bad: * qualities
And all this asketh leisure to inquere.
For, God it wot, I have wept many a tear
Full privily, since I have had a wife.
Praise whoso will a wedded manne’s life,
Certes, I find in it but cost and care,
And observances of all blisses bare.
And yet, God wot, my neighebours about,
And namely* of women many a rout,** *especially **company
Say that I have the moste steadfast wife,
And eke the meekest one, that beareth life.
But I know best where wringeth* me my shoe, *pinches
Ye may for me right as you like do
Advise you, ye be a man of age,
How that ye enter into marriage;
And namely* with a young wife and a fair, * especially
By him that made water, fire, earth, air,
The youngest man that is in all this rout* *company
Is busy enough to bringen it about
To have his wife alone, truste me:
Ye shall not please her fully yeares three,
This is to say, to do her full pleasance.
A wife asketh full many an observance.
I pray you that ye be not *evil apaid.”* *displeased*

“Well,” quoth this January, “and hast thou said?
Straw for thy Senec, and for thy proverbs,
I counte not a pannier full of herbs
Of schoole termes; wiser men than thou,
As thou hast heard, assented here right now
To my purpose: Placebo, what say ye?”
“I say it is a cursed* man,” quoth he, *ill-natured, wicked
“That letteth* matrimony, sickerly.” *hindereth
And with that word they rise up suddenly,
And be assented fully, that he should
Be wedded when him list, and where he would.

High fantasy and curious business
From day to day gan in the soul impress* *imprint themselves
Of January about his marriage
Many a fair shape, and many a fair visage
There passed through his hearte night by night.
As whoso took a mirror polish’d bright,
And set it in a common market-place,
Then should he see many a figure pace
By his mirror; and in the same wise
Gan January in his thought devise
Of maidens, which that dwelte him beside:
He wiste not where that he might abide.* *stay, fix his choice
For if that one had beauty in her face,
Another stood so in the people’s grace
For her sadness* and her benignity, *sedateness
That of the people greatest voice had she:
And some were rich and had a badde name.
But natheless, betwixt earnest and game,
He at the last appointed him on one,
And let all others from his hearte gon,
And chose her of his own authority;
For love is blind all day, and may not see.
And when that he was into bed y-brought,
He pourtray’d in his heart and in his thought
Her freshe beauty, and her age tender,
Her middle small, her armes long and slender,
Her wise governance, her gentleness,
Her womanly bearing, and her sadness.* *sedateness
And when that he *on her was condescended,* *had selected her*
He thought his choice might not be amended;
For when that he himself concluded had,
He thought each other manne’ s wit so bad,
That impossible it were to reply
Against his choice; this was his fantasy.
His friendes sent he to, at his instance,
And prayed them to do him that pleasance,
That hastily they would unto him come;
He would abridge their labour all and some:
Needed no more for them to go nor ride,<7>
*He was appointed where he would abide.* *he had definitively

Placebo came, and eke his friendes soon, made his choice*
And *alderfirst he bade them all a boon,* *first of all he asked
That none of them no arguments would make a favour of them*
Against the purpose that he had y-take:
Which purpose was pleasant to God, said he,
And very ground of his prosperity.
He said, there was a maiden in the town,
Which that of beauty hadde great renown;
All* were it so she were of small degree, *although
Sufficed him her youth and her beauty;
Which maid, he said, he would have to his wife,
To lead in ease and holiness his life;
And thanked God, that he might have her all,
That no wight with his blisse parte* shall; *have a share
And prayed them to labour in this need,
And shape that he faile not to speed:
For then, he said, his spirit was at ease.
“Then is,” quoth he, “nothing may me displease,
Save one thing pricketh in my conscience,
The which I will rehearse in your presence.
I have,” quoth he, “heard said, full yore* ago, *long
There may no man have perfect blisses two,
This is to say, on earth and eke in heaven.
For though he keep him from the sinne’s seven,
And eke from every branch of thilke tree,<8>
Yet is there so perfect felicity,
And so great *ease and lust,* in marriage, *comfort and pleasure*
That ev’r I am aghast,* now in mine age *ashamed, afraid
That I shall head now so merry a life,
So delicate, withoute woe or strife,
That I shall have mine heav’n on earthe here.
For since that very heav’n is bought so dear,
With tribulation and great penance,
How should I then, living in such pleasance
As alle wedded men do with their wives,
Come to the bliss where Christ *etern on live is?* *lives eternally*
This is my dread;* and ye, my brethren tway, *doubt
Assoile* me this question, I you pray.” *resolve, answer

Justinus, which that hated his folly,
Answer’d anon right in his japery;* *mockery, jesting way
And, for he would his longe tale abridge,
He woulde no authority* allege, *written texts
But saide; “Sir, so there be none obstacle
Other than this, God of his high miracle,
And of his mercy, may so for you wirch,* *work
That, ere ye have your rights of holy church,
Ye may repent of wedded manne’s life,
In which ye say there is no woe nor strife:
And elles God forbid, *but if* he sent *unless
A wedded man his grace him to repent
Well often, rather than a single man.
And therefore, Sir, *the beste rede I can,* *this is the best counsel
Despair you not, but have in your memory, that I know*
Paraventure she may be your purgatory;
She may be Godde’s means, and Godde’s whip;
And then your soul shall up to heaven skip
Swifter than doth an arrow from a bow.
I hope to God hereafter ye shall know
That there is none so great felicity
In marriage, nor ever more shall be,
That you shall let* of your salvation; *hinder
So that ye use, as skill is and reason,
The lustes* of your wife attemperly,** *pleasures **moderately
And that ye please her not too amorously,
And that ye keep you eke from other sin.
My tale is done, for my wit is but thin.
Be not aghast* hereof, my brother dear, *aharmed, afraid
But let us waden out of this mattere,
The Wife of Bath, if ye have understand,
Of marriage, which ye have now in hand,
Declared hath full well in little space;
Fare ye now well, God have you in his grace.”

And with this word this Justin’ and his brother
Have ta’en their leave, and each of them of other.
And when they saw that it must needes be,
They wroughte so, by sleight and wise treaty,
That she, this maiden, which that *Maius hight,* *was named May*
As hastily as ever that she might,
Shall wedded be unto this January.
I trow it were too longe you to tarry,
If I told you of every *script and band* *written bond*
By which she was feoffed in his hand;
Or for to reckon of her rich array
But finally y-comen is the day
That to the churche bothe be they went,
For to receive the holy sacrament,
Forth came the priest, with stole about his neck,
And bade her be like Sarah and Rebecc’
In wisdom and in truth of marriage;
And said his orisons, as is usage,
And crouched* them, and prayed God should them bless, *crossed
And made all sicker* enough with holiness. *certain

Thus be they wedded with solemnity;
And at the feaste sat both he and she,
With other worthy folk, upon the dais.
All full of joy and bliss is the palace,
And full of instruments, and of vitaille, * *victuals, food
The moste dainteous* of all Itale. *delicate
Before them stood such instruments of soun’,
That Orpheus, nor of Thebes Amphioun,
Ne made never such a melody.
At every course came in loud minstrelsy,
That never Joab trumped for to hear,
Nor he, Theodomas, yet half so clear
At Thebes, when the city was in doubt.
Bacchus the wine them skinked* all about. *poured <9>
And Venus laughed upon every wight
(For January was become her knight,
And woulde both assaye his courage
In liberty, and eke in marriage),
And with her firebrand in her hand about
Danced before the bride and all the rout.
And certainly I dare right well say this,
Hymeneus, that god of wedding is,
Saw never his life so merry a wedded man.
Hold thou thy peace, thou poet Marcian,<10>
That writest us that ilke* wedding merry *same
Of her Philology and him Mercury,
And of the songes that the Muses sung;
Too small is both thy pen, and eke thy tongue
For to describen of this marriage.
When tender youth hath wedded stooping age,
There is such mirth that it may not be writ;
Assay it youreself, then may ye wit* *know
If that I lie or no in this mattere.

Maius, that sat with so benign a cheer,* *countenance
Her to behold it seemed faerie;
Queen Esther never look’d with such an eye
On Assuere, so meek a look had she;
I may you not devise all her beauty;
But thus much of her beauty tell I may,
That she was hike the bright morrow of May
Full filled of all beauty and pleasance.
This January is ravish’d in a trance,
At every time he looked in her face;
But in his heart he gan her to menace,
That he that night in armes would her strain
Harder than ever Paris did Helene.
But natheless yet had he great pity
That thilke night offende her must he,
And thought, “Alas, O tender creature,
Now woulde God ye mighte well endure
All my courage, it is so sharp and keen;
I am aghast* ye shall it not sustene. *afraid
But God forbid that I did all my might.
Now woulde God that it were waxen night,
And that the night would lasten evermo’.
I would that all this people were y-go.”* *gone away
And finally he did all his labour,
As he best mighte, saving his honour,
To haste them from the meat in subtle wise.

The time came that reason was to rise;
And after that men dance, and drinke fast,
And spices all about the house they cast,
And full of joy and bliss is every man,
All but a squire, that highte Damian,
Who carv’d before the knight full many a day;
He was so ravish’d on his lady May,
That for the very pain he was nigh wood;* *mad
Almost he swelt* and swooned where he stood, *fainted
So sore had Venus hurt him with her brand,
As that she bare it dancing in her hand.
And to his bed he went him hastily;
No more of him as at this time speak I;
But there I let him weep enough and plain,* *bewail
Till freshe May will rue upon his pain.
O perilous fire, that in the bedstraw breedeth!
O foe familiar,* that his service bedeth!** *domestic <11> **offers
O servant traitor, O false homely hewe,* *servant <12>
Like to the adder in bosom shy untrue,
God shield us alle from your acquaintance!
O January, drunken in pleasance
Of marriage, see how thy Damian,
Thine owen squier and thy boren* man, *born <13>
Intendeth for to do thee villainy:* *dishonour, outrage
God grante thee thine *homehy foe* t’ espy. *enemy in the household*
For in this world is no worse pestilence
Than homely foe, all day in thy presence.

Performed hath the sun his arc diurn,* *daily
No longer may the body of him sojourn
On the horizon, in that latitude:
Night with his mantle, that is dark and rude,
Gan overspread the hemisphere about:
For which departed is this *lusty rout* *pleasant company*
From January, with thank on every side.
Home to their houses lustily they ride,
Where as they do their thinges as them lest,
And when they see their time they go to rest.
Soon after that this hasty* January *eager
Will go to bed, he will no longer tarry.
He dranke hippocras, clarre, and vernage <14>
Of spices hot, to increase his courage;
And many a lectuary* had he full fine, *potion
Such as the cursed monk Dan Constantine<15>
Hath written in his book *de Coitu;* *of sexual intercourse*
To eat them all he would nothing eschew:
And to his privy friendes thus said he:
“For Godde’s love, as soon as it may be,
Let *voiden all* this house in courteous wise.” *everyone leave*
And they have done right as he will devise.
Men drinken, and the travers* draw anon; *curtains
The bride is brought to bed as still as stone;
And when the bed was with the priest y-bless’d,
Out of the chamber every wight him dress’d,
And January hath fast in arms y-take
His freshe May, his paradise, his make.* *mate
He lulled her, he kissed her full oft;
With thicke bristles of his beard unsoft,
Like to the skin of houndfish,* sharp as brere** *dogfish **briar
(For he was shav’n all new in his mannere),
He rubbed her upon her tender face,
And saide thus; “Alas! I must trespace
To you, my spouse, and you greatly offend,
Ere time come that I will down descend.
But natheless consider this,” quoth he,
“There is no workman, whatsoe’er he be,
That may both worke well and hastily:
This will be done at leisure perfectly.
It is *no force* how longe that we play; *no matter*
In true wedlock coupled be we tway;
And blessed be the yoke that we be in,
For in our actes may there be no sin.
A man may do no sinne with his wife,
Nor hurt himselfe with his owen knife;
For we have leave to play us by the law.”

Thus labour’d he, till that the day gan daw,
And then he took a sop in fine clarre,
And upright in his bedde then sat he.
And after that he sang full loud and clear,
And kiss’d his wife, and made wanton cheer.
He was all coltish, full of ragerie * *wantonness
And full of jargon as a flecked pie.<16>
The slacke skin about his necke shaked,
While that he sang, so chanted he and craked.* *quavered
But God wot what that May thought in her heart,
When she him saw up sitting in his shirt
In his night-cap, and with his necke lean:
She praised not his playing worth a bean.
Then said he thus; “My reste will I take
Now day is come, I may no longer wake;
And down he laid his head and slept till prime.
And afterward, when that he saw his time,
Up rose January, but freshe May
Helde her chamber till the fourthe day,
As usage is of wives for the best.
For every labour some time must have rest,
Or elles longe may he not endure;
This is to say, no life of creature,
Be it of fish, or bird, or beast, or man.

Now will I speak of woeful Damian,
That languisheth for love, as ye shall hear;
Therefore I speak to him in this manneare.
I say. “O silly Damian, alas!
Answer to this demand, as in this case,
How shalt thou to thy lady, freshe May,
Telle thy woe? She will alway say nay;
Eke if thou speak, she will thy woe bewray; * *betray
God be thine help, I can no better say.
This sicke Damian in Venus’ fire
So burned that he died for desire;
For which he put his life *in aventure,* *at risk*
No longer might he in this wise endure;
But privily a penner* gan he borrow, *writing-case
And in a letter wrote he all his sorrow,
In manner of a complaint or a lay,
Unto his faire freshe lady May.
And in a purse of silk, hung on his shirt,
He hath it put, and laid it at his heart.

The moone, that at noon was thilke* day *that
That January had wedded freshe May,
In ten of Taure, was into Cancer glided;<17>
So long had Maius in her chamber abided,
As custom is unto these nobles all.
A bride shall not eaten in the ball
Till dayes four, or three days at the least,
Y-passed be; then let her go to feast.
The fourthe day complete from noon to noon,
When that the highe masse was y-done,
In halle sat this January, and May,
As fresh as is the brighte summer’s day.
And so befell, how that this goode man
Remember’d him upon this Damian.
And saide; “Saint Mary, how may this be,
That Damian attendeth not to me?
Is he aye sick? or how may this betide?”
His squiers, which that stoode there beside,
Excused him, because of his sickness,
Which letted* him to do his business: *hindered
None other cause mighte make him tarry.
“That me forthinketh,”* quoth this January *grieves, causes
“He is a gentle squier, by my truth; uneasiness
If that he died, it were great harm and ruth.
He is as wise, as discreet, and secre’,* *secret, trusty
As any man I know of his degree,
And thereto manly and eke serviceble,
And for to be a thrifty man right able.
But after meat, as soon as ever I may
I will myself visit him, and eke May,
To do him all the comfort that I can.”
And for that word him blessed every man,
That of his bounty and his gentleness
He woulde so comforten in sickness
His squier, for it was a gentle deed.

“Dame,” quoth this January, “take good heed,
At after meat, ye with your women all
(When that ye be in chamb’r out of this hall),
That all ye go to see this Damian:
Do him disport, he is a gentle man;
And telle him that I will him visite,
*Have I nothing but rested me a lite:* *when only I have rested
And speed you faste, for I will abide me a little*
Till that ye sleepe faste by my side.”
And with that word he gan unto him call
A squier, that was marshal of his hall,
And told him certain thinges that he wo’ld.
This freshe May hath straight her way y-hold,
With all her women, unto Damian.
Down by his beddes side sat she than,* *then
Comforting him as goodly as she may.
This Damian, when that his time he say,* *saw
In secret wise his purse, and eke his bill,
In which that he y-written had his will,
Hath put into her hand withoute more,
Save that he sighed wondrous deep and sore,
And softely to her right thus said he:
“Mercy, and that ye not discover me:
For I am dead if that this thing be kid.”* *discovered <18>
The purse hath she in her bosom hid,
And went her way; ye get no more of me;
But unto January come is she,
That on his bedde’s side sat full soft.
He took her, and he kissed her full oft,
And laid him down to sleep, and that anon.
She feigned her as that she muste gon
There as ye know that every wight must need;
And when she of this bill had taken heed,
She rent it all to cloutes* at the last, *fragments
And in the privy softely it cast.
Who studieth* now but faire freshe May? *is thoughtful
Adown by olde January she lay,
That slepte, till the cough had him awaked:
Anon he pray’d her strippe her all naked,
He would of her, he said, have some pleasance;
And said her clothes did him incumbrance.
And she obey’d him, be her *lefe or loth.* *willing or unwilling*
But, lest that precious* folk be with me wroth, *over-nice <19>
How that he wrought I dare not to you tell,
Or whether she thought it paradise or hell;
But there I let them worken in their wise
Till evensong ring, and they must arise.

Were it by destiny, or aventure,* * chance
Were it by influence, or by nature,
Or constellation, that in such estate
The heaven stood at that time fortunate
As for to put a bill of Venus’ works
(For alle thing hath time, as say these clerks),
To any woman for to get her love,
I cannot say; but greate God above,
That knoweth that none act is causeless,
*He deem* of all, for I will hold my peace. *let him judge*
But sooth is this, how that this freshe May
Hath taken such impression that day
Of pity on this sicke Damian,
That from her hearte she not drive can
The remembrance for *to do him ease.* *to satisfy
“Certain,” thought she, “whom that this thing displease his desire*
I recke not, for here I him assure,
To love him best of any creature,
Though he no more haddee than his shirt.”
Lo, pity runneth soon in gentle heart.
Here may ye see, how excellent franchise* *generosity
In women is when they them *narrow advise.* *closely consider*
Some tyrant is, — as there be many a one, —
That hath a heart as hard as any stone,
Which would have let him sterven* in the place *die
Well rather than have granted him her grace;
And then rejoicen in her cruel pride.
And reckon not to be a homicide.
This gentle May, full filled of pity,
Right of her hand a letter maked she,
In which she granted him her very grace;
There lacked nought, but only day and place,
Where that she might unto his lust suffice:
For it shall be right as he will devise.
And when she saw her time upon a day
To visit this Damian went this May,
And subtilly this letter down she thrust
Under his pillow, read it if him lust.* *pleased
She took him by the hand, and hard him twist
So secretly, that no wight of it wist,
And bade him be all whole; and forth she went
To January, when he for her sent.
Up rose Damian the nexte morrow,
All passed was his sickness and his sorrow.
He combed him, he proined <20> him and picked,
He did all that unto his lady liked;
And eke to January he went as low
As ever did a dogge for the bow.<21>
He is so pleasant unto every man
(For craft is all, whoso that do it can),
Every wight is fain to speak him good;
And fully in his lady’s grace he stood.
Thus leave I Damian about his need,
And in my tale forth I will proceed.

Some clerke* holde that felicity *writers, scholars
Stands in delight; and therefore certain he,
This noble January, with all his might
In honest wise as longeth* to a knight, *belongeth
Shope* him to live full deliciously: *prepared, arranged
His housing, his array, as honestly* *honourably, suitably
To his degree was maked as a king’s.
Amonges other of his honest things
He had a garden walled all with stone;
So fair a garden wot I nowhere none.
For out of doubt I verily suppose
That he that wrote the Romance of the Rose <22>
Could not of it the beauty well devise;* *describe
Nor Priapus <23> mighte not well suffice,
Though he be god of gardens, for to tell
The beauty of the garden, and the well* *fountain
That stood under a laurel always green.
Full often time he, Pluto, and his queen
Proserpina, and all their faerie,
Disported them and made melody
About that well, and danced, as men told.
This noble knight, this January old
Such dainty* had in it to walk and play, *pleasure
That he would suffer no wight to bear the key,
Save he himself, for of the small wicket
He bare always of silver a cliket,* *key
With which, when that him list, he it unshet.* *opened
And when that he would pay his wife’s debt,
In summer season, thither would he go,
And May his wife, and no wight but they two;
And thinges which that were not done in bed,
He in the garden them perform’d and sped.
And in this wise many a merry day
Lived this January and fresh May,
But worldly joy may not always endure
To January, nor to no creatucere.

O sudden hap! O thou fortune unstable!
Like to the scorpion so deceivable,* *deceitful
That fhatt’rest with thy head when thou wilt sting;
Thy tail is death, through thine envenoming.
O brittle joy! O sweete poison quaint!* *strange
O monster, that so subtilly canst paint
Thy giftes, under hue of steadfastness,
That thou deceivest bothe *more and less!* *great and small*
Why hast thou January thus deceiv’d,
That haddest him for thy full friend receiv’d?
And now thou hast bereft him both his eyen,
For sorrow of which desireth he to dien.
Alas! this noble January free,
Amid his lust* and his prosperity *pleasure
Is waxen blind, and that all suddenly.
He weeped and he wailed piteously;
And therewithal the fire of jealousy
(Lest that his wife should fall in some folly)
So burnt his hearte, that he woulde fain,
That some man bothe him and her had slain;
For neither after his death, nor in his life,
Ne would he that she were no love nor wife,
But ever live as widow in clothes black,
Sole as the turtle that hath lost her make.* *mate
But at the last, after a month or tway,
His sorrow gan assuage, soothe to say.
For, when he wist it might none other be,
He patiently took his adversity:
Save out of doubte he may not foregon
That he was jealous evermore-in-one:* *continually
Which jealousy was so outrageous,
That neither in hall, nor in none other house,
Nor in none other place never the mo’
He woulde suffer her to ride or go,
*But if* that he had hand on her alway. *unless
For which full often wepte freshe May,
That loved Damian so burningly
That she must either dien suddenly,
Or elles she must have him as her lest:* *pleased
She waited* when her hearte woulde brest.** *expected **burst
Upon that other side Damian
Becomen is the sorrowfullest man
That ever was; for neither night nor day
He mighte speak a word to freshe May,
As to his purpose, of no such mattere,
*But if* that January must it hear, *unless*
That had a hand upon her evermo’.
But natheless, by writing to and fro,
And privy signes, wist he what she meant,
And she knew eke the fine* of his intent. *end, aim

O January, what might it thee avail,
Though thou might see as far as shippes sail?
For as good is it blind deceiv’d to be,
As be deceived when a man may see.
Lo, Argus, which that had a hundred eyen, <24>
For all that ever he could pore or pryen,
Yet was he blent;* and, God wot, so be mo’, *deceived
That *weene wisly* that it be not so: *think confidently*
Pass over is an ease, I say no more.
This freshe May, of which I spake yore,* *previously
In warm wax hath *imprinted the cliket* *taken an impression
That January bare of the small wicket of the key*
By which into his garden oft he went;
And Damian, that knew all her intent,
The cliket counterfeited privily;
There is no more to say, but hastily
Some wonder by this cliket shall betide,
Which ye shall hearen, if ye will abide.

O noble Ovid, sooth say’st thou, God wot,
What sleight is it, if love be long and hot,
That he’ll not find it out in some mannere?
By Pyramus and Thisbe may men lear;* *learn
Though they were kept full long and strait o’er all,
They be accorded,* rowning** through a wall, *agreed **whispering
Where no wight could have found out such a sleight.
But now to purpose; ere that dayes eight
Were passed of the month of July, fill* *it befell
That January caught so great a will,
Through egging* of his wife, him for to play *inciting
In his garden, and no wight but they tway,
That in a morning to this May said he: <25>
“Rise up, my wife, my love, my lady free;
The turtle’s voice is heard, mine owen sweet;
The winter is gone, with all his raines weet.* *wet
Come forth now with thine *eyen columbine* *eyes like the doves*
Well fairer be thy breasts than any wine.
The garden is enclosed all about;
Come forth, my white spouse; for, out of doubt,
Thou hast me wounded in mine heart, O wife:
No spot in thee was e’er in all thy life.
Come forth, and let us taken our disport;
I choose thee for my wife and my comfort.”
Such olde lewed* wordes used he. *foolish, ignorant
On Damian a signe made she,
That he should go before with his cliket.
This Damian then hath opened the wicket,
And in he start, and that in such mannere
That no wight might him either see or hear;
And still he sat under a bush. Anon
This January, as blind as is a stone,
With Maius in his hand, and no wight mo’,
Into this freshe garden is y-go,
And clapped to the wicket suddenly.
“Now, wife,” quoth he, “here is but thou and I;
Thou art the creature that I beste love:
For, by that Lord that sits in heav’n above,
Lever* I had to dien on a knife, *rather
Than thee offende, deare true wife.
For Godde’s sake, think how I thee chees,* *chose
Not for no covetise* doubteless, * covetousness
But only for the love I had to thee.
And though that I be old, and may not see,
Be to me true, and I will tell you why.
Certes three thinges shall ye win thereby:
First, love of Christ, and to yourself honour,
And all mine heritage, town and tow’r.
I give it you, make charters as you lest;
This shall be done to-morrow ere sun rest,
So wisly* God my soule bring to bliss! *surely
I pray you, on this covenant me kiss.
And though that I be jealous, wite* me not; *blame
Ye be so deep imprinted in my thought,
That when that I consider your beauty,
And therewithal *th’unlikely eld* of me, *dissimilar age*
I may not, certes, though I shoulde die,
Forbear to be out of your company,
For very love; this is withoute doubt:
Now kiss me, wife, and let us roam about.”

This freshe May, when she these wordes heard,
Benignely to January answer’d;
But first and forward she began to weep:
“I have,” quoth she, “a soule for to keep
As well as ye, and also mine honour,
And of my wifehood thilke* tender flow’r *that same
Which that I have assured in your hond,
When that the priest to you my body bond:
Wherefore I will answer in this mannere,
With leave of you mine owen lord so dear.
I pray to God, that never dawn the day
That I *no sterve,* as foul as woman may, *do not die*
If e’er I do unto my kin that shame,
Or elles I impaire so my name,
That I bee false; and if I do that lack,
Do strippe me, and put me in a sack,
And in the nexte river do me drench:* *drown
I am a gentle woman, and no wench.
Why speak ye thus? but men be e’er untrue,
And women have reproof of you aye new.
Ye know none other dalliance, I believe,
But speak to us of untrust and repreve.”* *reproof

And with that word she saw where Damian
Sat in the bush, and coughe she began;
And with her finger signe made she,
That Damian should climb upon a tree
That charged was with fruit; and up he went:
For verily he knew all her intent,
And every signe that she coulde make,
Better than January her own make.* *mate
For in a letter she had told him all
Of this matter, how that he worke shall.
And thus I leave him sitting in the perry,* *pear-tree
And January and May roaming full merry.

Bright was the day, and blue the firmament;
Phoebus of gold his streames down had sent
To gladden every flow’r with his warmness;
He was that time in Geminis, I guess,
But little from his declination
Of Cancer, Jove’s exaltation.
And so befell, in that bright morning-tide,
That in the garden, on the farther side,
Pluto, that is the king of Faerie,
And many a lady in his company
Following his wife, the queen Proserpina, —
Which that he ravished out of Ethna,<26>
While that she gather’d flowers in the mead
(In Claudian ye may the story read,
How in his grisly chariot he her fet*), — *fetched
This king of Faerie adown him set
Upon a bank of turfes fresh and green,
And right anon thus said he to his queen.
“My wife,” quoth he, “there may no wight say nay, —
Experience so proves it every day, —
The treason which that woman doth to man.
Ten hundred thousand stories tell I can
Notable of your untruth and brittleness * *inconstancy
O Solomon, richest of all richess,
Full fill’d of sapience and worldly glory,
Full worthy be thy wordes of memory
To every wight that wit and reason can. * *knows
Thus praised he yet the bounte* of man: *goodness
‘Among a thousand men yet found I one,
But of all women found I never none.’ <27>
Thus said this king, that knew your wickedness;
And Jesus, Filius Sirach, <28> as I guess,
He spake of you but seldom reverence.
A wilde fire and corrupt pestilence
So fall upon your bodies yet to-night!
Ne see ye not this honourable knight?
Because, alas! that he is blind and old,
His owen man shall make him cuckold.
Lo, where he sits, the lechour, in the tree.
Now will I granten, of my majesty,
Unto this olde blinde worthy knight,
That he shall have again his eyen sight,
When that his wife will do him villainy;
Then shall be knowen all her harlotry,
Both in reproof of her and other mo’.”
“Yea, Sir,” quoth Proserpine,” and will ye so?
Now by my mother Ceres’ soul I swear
That I shall give her suffisant answer,
And alle women after, for her sake;
That though they be in any guilt y-take,
With face bold they shall themselves excuse,
And bear them down that woulde them accuse.
For lack of answer, none of them shall dien.

All* had ye seen a thing with both your eyen, *although
Yet shall *we visage it* so hardily, *confront it*
And weep, and swear, and chide subtilly,
That ye shall be as lewed* as be geese. *ignorant, confounded
What recketh me of your authorities?
I wot well that this Jew, this Solomon,
Found of us women fooles many one:
But though that he founde no good woman,
Yet there hath found many another man
Women full good, and true, and virtuous;
Witness on them that dwelt in Christes house;
With martyrdom they proved their constance.
The Roman gestes <29> make remembrance
Of many a very true wife also.
But, Sire, be not wroth, albeit so,
Though that he said he found no good woman,
I pray you take the sentence* of the man: *opinion, real meaning
He meant thus, that in *sovereign bounte* *perfect goodness
Is none but God, no, neither *he nor she.* *man nor woman*
Hey, for the very God that is but one,
Why make ye so much of Solomon?
What though he made a temple, Godde’s house?
What though he were rich and glorious?
So made he eke a temple of false goddes;
How might he do a thing that more forbode* is? *forbidden
Pardie, as fair as ye his name emplaster,* *plaster over, “whitewash”
He was a lechour, and an idolaster,* *idohater
And in his eld he very* God forsook. *the true
And if that God had not (as saith the book)
Spared him for his father’s sake, he should
Have lost his regne* rather** than he would. *kingdom **sooner
I *sette not of* all the villainy *value not*
That he of women wrote, a butterfly.
I am a woman, needes must I speak,
Or elles swell until mine hearte break.
For since he said that we be jangleresses,* *chatterers
As ever may I brooke* whole my tresses, *preserve
I shall not spare for no courtesy
To speak him harm, that said us villainy.”
“Dame,” quoth this Pluto, “be no longer wroth;
I give it up: but, since I swore mine oath
That I would grant to him his sight again,
My word shall stand, that warn I you certain:
I am a king; it sits* me not to lie.” *becomes, befits
“And I,” quoth she, “am queen of Faerie.
Her answer she shall have, I undertake,
Let us no more wordes of it make.
Forsooth, I will no longer you contrary.”

Now let us turn again to January,
That in the garden with his faire May
Singeth well merrier than the popinjay:* *parrot
“You love I best, and shall, and other none.”
So long about the alleys is he gone,
Till he was come to *that ilke perry,* *the same pear-tree*
Where as this Damian satte full merry
On high, among the freshe leaves green.
This freshe May, that is so bright and sheen,
Gan for to sigh, and said, “Alas my side!
Now, Sir,” quoth she, “for aught that may betide,
I must have of the peares that I see,
Or I must die, so sore longeth me
To eaten of the smalle peares green;
Help, for her love that is of heaven queen!
I tell you well, a woman in my plight <30>
May have to fruit so great an appetite,
That she may dien, but* she of it have. ” *unless
“Alas!” quoth he, “that I had here a knave* *servant
That coulde climb; alas! alas!” quoth he,
“For I am blind.” “Yea, Sir, *no force,”* quoth she; *no matter*
“But would ye vouchesafe, for Godde’s sake,
The perry in your armes for to take
(For well I wot that ye mistruste me),
Then would I climbe well enough,” quoth she,
“So I my foot might set upon your back.”
“Certes,” said he, “therein shall be no lack,
Might I you helpe with mine hearte’s blood.”
He stooped down, and on his back she stood,
And caught her by a twist,* and up she go’th. *twig, bough
(Ladies, I pray you that ye be not wroth,
I cannot glose,* I am a rude man): *mince matters
And suddenly anon this Damian
Gan pullen up the smock, and in he throng.* *rushed <31>
And when that Pluto saw this greate wrong,
To January he gave again his sight,
And made him see as well as ever he might.
And when he thus had caught his sight again,
Was never man of anything so fain:
But on his wife his thought was evermo’.
Up to the tree he cast his eyen two,
And saw how Damian his wife had dress’d,
In such mannere, it may not be express’d,
*But if* I woulde speak uncourteously. *unless*
And up he gave a roaring and a cry,
As doth the mother when the child shall die;
“Out! help! alas! harow!” he gan to cry;
“O stronge, lady, stowre! <32> what doest thou?”

And she answered: “Sir, what aileth you?
Have patience and reason in your mind,
I have you help’d on both your eyen blind.
On peril of my soul, I shall not lien,
As me was taught to helpe with your eyen,
Was nothing better for to make you see,
Than struggle with a man upon a tree:
God wot, I did it in full good intent.”
“Struggle!” quoth he, “yea, algate* in it went. *whatever way
God give you both one shame’s death to dien!
He swived* thee; I saw it with mine eyen; *enjoyed carnally
And elles be I hanged by the halse.”* *neck
“Then is,” quoth she, “my medicine all false;
For certainly, if that ye mighte see,
Ye would not say these wordes unto me.
Ye have some glimpsing,* and no perfect sight.” *glimmering
“I see,” quoth he, “as well as ever I might,
(Thanked be God!) with both mine eyen two,
And by my faith me thought he did thee so.”
“Ye maze,* ye maze, goode Sir,” quoth she; *rave, are confused
“This thank have I for I have made you see:
Alas!” quoth she, “that e’er I was so kind.”
“Now, Dame,” quoth he, “let all pass out of mind;
Come down, my lefe,* and if I have missaid, *love
God help me so, as I am *evil apaid.* *dissatisfied*
But, by my father’s soul, I ween’d have seen
How that this Damian had by thee lain,
And that thy smock had lain upon his breast.”
“Yea, Sir,” quoth she, “ye may *ween as ye lest:* *think as you
But, Sir, a man that wakes out of his sleep, please*
He may not suddenly well take keep* *notice
Upon a thing, nor see it perfectly,
Till that he be adawed* verily. *awakened
Right so a man, that long hath blind y-be,
He may not suddenly so well y-see,
First when his sight is newe come again,
As he that hath a day or two y-seen.
Till that your sight establish’d be a while,
There may full many a sighte you beguile.
Beware, I pray you, for, by heaven’s king,
Full many a man weeneth to see a thing,
And it is all another than it seemeth;
He which that misconceiveth oft misdeemeth.”
And with that word she leapt down from the tree.
This January, who is glad but he?
He kissed her, and clipped* her full oft, *embraced
And on her womb he stroked her full soft;
And to his palace home he hath her lad.* *led
Now, goode men, I pray you to be glad.
Thus endeth here my tale of January,
God bless us, and his mother, Sainte Mary.

Notes to The Merchant’s Tale

1. If, as is probable, this Tale was translated from the French, the original is not now extant. Tyrwhitt remarks that the scene “is laid in Italy, but none of the names, except Damian and Justin, seem to be Italian, but rather made at pleasure; so that I doubt whether the story be really of Italian growth. The adventure of the pear-tree I find in a small collection of Latin fables, written by one Adoiphus, in elegiac verses of his fashion, in the year 1315. . . . Whatever was the real origin of the Tale, the machinery of the fairies, which Chaucer has used so happily, was probably added by himself; and, indeed, I cannot help thinking that his Pluto and Proserpina were the true progenitors of Oberon and Titania; or rather, that they themselves have, once at least, deigned to revisit our poetical system under the latter names.”

2. Seculeres: of the laity; but perhaps, since the word is of two- fold meaning, Chaucer intends a hit at the secular clergy, who, unlike the regular orders, did not live separate from the world, but shared in all its interests and pleasures — all the more easily and freely, that they had not the civil restraint of marriage.

3. This and the next eight lines are taken from the “Liber aureolus Theophrasti de nuptiis,” (“Theophrastus’s Golden Book of Marriage”) quoted by Hieronymus, “Contra Jovinianum,” (“Against Jovinian”) and thence again by John of Salisbury.

4. Mebles: movables, furniture, &c.; French, “meubles.”

5. “Wade’s boat” was called Guingelot; and in it, according to the old romance, the owner underwent a long series of wild adventures, and performed many strange exploits. The romance is lost, and therefore the exact force of the phrase in the text is uncertain; but Mr Wright seems to be warranted in supposing that Wade’s adventures were cited as examples of craft and cunning — that the hero, in fact, was a kind of Northern Ulysses, It is possible that to the same source we may trace the proverbial phrase, found in Chaucer’s “Remedy of Love,” to “bear Wattis pack” signifying to be duped or beguiled.

6. Stopen: advanced; past participle of “step.” Elsewhere “y-stept in age” is used by Chaucer.

7. They did not need to go in quest of a wife for him, as they had promised.

8. Thilke tree: that tree of original sin, of which the special sins are the branches.

9. Skinked: poured out; from Anglo-Saxon, “scencan.”

10. Marcianus Capella, who wrote a kind of philosophical romance, “De Nuptiis Mercurii et Philologiae” (Of the Marriage of Mercury and Philology) . “Her” and “him,” two lines after, like “he” applied to Theodomas, are prefixed to the proper names for emphasis, according to the Anglo- Saxon usage.

11. Familiar: domestic; belonging to the “familia,” or household.

12. Hewe: domestic servant; from Anglo-Saxon, “hiwa.” Tyrwhitt reads “false of holy hue;” but Mr Wright has properly restored the reading adopted in the text.

13. Boren man: born; owing to January faith and loyalty because born in his household.

14. Hippocras: spiced wine. Clarre: also a kind of spiced wine. Vernage: a wine believed to have come from Crete, although its name — Italian, “Vernaccia” — seems to be derived from Verona.

15. Dan Constantine: a medical author who wrote about 1080; his works were printed at Basle in 1536.

16. Full of jargon as a flecked pie: he chattered like a magpie

17. Nearly all the manuscripts read “in two of Taure;” but Tyrwhitt has shown that, setting out from the second degree of Taurus, the moon, which in the four complete days that Maius spent in her chamber could not have advanced more than fifty- three degrees, would only have been at the twenty-fifth degree of Gemini — whereas, by reading “ten,” she is brought to the third degree of Cancer.

18. Kid; or “kidde,” past participle of “kythe” or “kithe,” to show or discover.

19. Precious: precise, over-nice; French, “precieux,” affected.

20. Proined: or “pruned;” carefully trimmed and dressed himself. The word is used in falconry of a hawk when she picks and trims her feathers.

21. A dogge for the bow: a dog attending a hunter with the bow.

22 The Romance of the Rose: a very popular mediaeval romance, the English version of which is partly by Chaucer. It opens with a description of a beautiful garden.

23. Priapus: Son of Bacchus and Venus: he was regarded as the promoter of fertility in all agricultural life, vegetable and animal; while not only gardens, but fields, flocks, bees — and even fisheries — were supposed to be under his protection.

24. Argus was employed by Juno to watch Io with his hundred eyes but he was sent to sleep by the flute of Mercury, who then cut off his head.

25. “My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone: The flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of the birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.” — Song of Solomon, ii. 10-12.

26. “That fair field,
Of Enna, where Proserpine, gath’ring flowers,
Herself a fairer flow’r, by gloomy Dis
Was gather’d.”
— Milton, Paradise Lost, iv. 268

27. “Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account: Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man amongst a thousand have I found, but a woman among all those I have not found. Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright.” Ecclesiastes vii. 27-29.

28. Jesus, the son of Sirach, to whom is ascribed one of the books of the Apochrypha — that called the “Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus;” in which, especially in the ninth and twenty-fifth chapters, severe cautions are given against women.

29. Roman gestes: histories; such as those of Lucretia, Porcia, &c.

30. May means January to believe that she is pregnant, and that she has a craving for unripe pears.

31. At this point, and again some twenty lines below, several verses of a very coarse character had been inserted in later manuscripts; but they are evidently spurious, and are omitted in the best editions.

32. “Store” is the general reading here, but its meaning is not obvious. “Stowre” is found in several manuscripts; it signifies “struggle” or “resist;” and both for its own appropriateness, and for the force which it gives the word “stronge,” the reading in the text seems the better.

THE SQUIRE’S TALE.

THE PROLOGUE.

“HEY! Godde’s mercy!” said our Hoste tho,* *then
“Now such a wife I pray God keep me fro’.
Lo, suche sleightes and subtilities
In women be; for aye as busy as bees
Are they us silly men for to deceive,
And from the soothe* will they ever weive,** *truth **swerve, depart
As this Merchante’s tale it proveth well.
But natheless, as true as any steel,
I have a wife, though that she poore be;
But of her tongue a labbing* shrew is she; *chattering
And yet* she hath a heap of vices mo’. *moreover
Thereof *no force;* let all such thinges go. *no matter*
But wit* ye what? in counsel** be it said, *know **secret, confidence
Me rueth sore I am unto her tied;
For, an’* I shoulde reckon every vice *if
Which that she hath, y-wis* I were too nice;** *certainly **foolish
And cause why, it should reported be
And told her by some of this company
(By whom, it needeth not for to declare,
Since women connen utter such chaffare <1>),
And eke my wit sufficeth not thereto
To tellen all; wherefore my tale is do.* *done
Squier, come near, if it your wille be,
And say somewhat of love, for certes ye
*Conne thereon* as much as any man.” *know about it*
“Nay, Sir,” quoth he; “but such thing as I can,
With hearty will, — for I will not rebel
Against your lust,* — a tale will I tell. *pleasure
Have me excused if I speak amiss;
My will is good; and lo, my tale is this.”

Notes to the Prologue to the Squire’s Tale

1. Women connen utter such chaffare: women are adepts at giving circulation to such wares. The Host evidently means that his wife would be sure to hear of his confessions from some female member of the company.

THE TALE.<1>

*Pars Prima.* *First part*

At Sarra, in the land of Tartary,
There dwelt a king that warrayed* Russie, <2> *made war on
Through which there died many a doughty man;
This noble king was called Cambuscan,<3>
Which in his time was of so great renown,
That there was nowhere in no regioun
So excellent a lord in alle thing:
Him lacked nought that longeth to a king,
As of the sect of which that he was born.
He kept his law to which he was y-sworn,
And thereto* he was hardy, wise, and rich, *moreover, besides
And piteous and just, always y-lich;* *alike, even-tempered
True of his word, benign and honourable;
*Of his corage as any centre stable;* *firm, immovable of spirit*
Young, fresh, and strong, in armes desirous
As any bachelor of all his house.
A fair person he was, and fortunate,
And kept alway so well his royal estate,
That there was nowhere such another man.
This noble king, this Tartar Cambuscan,
Hadde two sons by Elfeta his wife,
Of which the eldest highte Algarsife,
The other was y-called Camballo.
A daughter had this worthy king also,
That youngest was, and highte Canace:
But for to telle you all her beauty,
It lies not in my tongue, nor my conning;* *skill
I dare not undertake so high a thing:
Mine English eke is insufficient,
It muste be a rhetor* excellent, *orator
*That couth his colours longing for that art,* * see <4>*
If he should her describen any part;
I am none such, I must speak as I can.

And so befell, that when this Cambuscan
Had twenty winters borne his diadem,
As he was wont from year to year, I deem,
He let *the feast of his nativity* *his birthday party*
*Do crye,* throughout Sarra his city, *be proclaimed*
The last Idus of March, after the year.
Phoebus the sun full jolly was and clear,
For he was nigh his exaltation
In Marte’s face, and in his mansion <5>
In Aries, the choleric hot sign:
Full lusty* was the weather and benign; *pleasant
For which the fowls against the sunne sheen,* *bright
What for the season and the younge green,
Full loude sange their affections:
Them seemed to have got protections
Against the sword of winter keen and cold.
This Cambuscan, of which I have you told,
In royal vesture, sat upon his dais,
With diadem, full high in his palace;
And held his feast so solemn and so rich,
That in this worlde was there none it lich.* *like
Of which if I should tell all the array,
Then would it occupy a summer’s day;
And eke it needeth not for to devise* *describe
At every course the order of service.
I will not tellen of their strange sewes,* *dishes <6>
Nor of their swannes, nor their heronsews.* *young herons <7>
Eke in that land, as telle knightes old,
There is some meat that is full dainty hold,
That in this land men *reck of* it full small: *care for*
There is no man that may reporten all.
I will not tarry you, for it is prime,
And for it is no fruit, but loss of time;
Unto my purpose* I will have recourse. *story <8>
And so befell that, after the third course,
While that this king sat thus in his nobley,* *noble array
Hearing his ministreles their thinges play
Before him at his board deliciously,
In at the halle door all suddenly
There came a knight upon a steed of brass,
And in his hand a broad mirror of glass;
Upon his thumb he had of gold a ring,
And by his side a naked sword hanging:
And up he rode unto the highe board.
In all the hall was there not spoke a word,
For marvel of this knight; him to behold
Full busily they waited,* young and old. *watched

This strange knight, that came thus suddenly,
All armed, save his head, full richely,
Saluted king, and queen, and lordes all,
By order as they satten in the hall,
With so high reverence and observance,
As well in speech as in his countenance,
That Gawain <9> with his olde courtesy,
Though he were come again out of Faerie,
Him *coulde not amende with a word.* *could not better him
And after this, before the highe board, by one word*
He with a manly voice said his message,
After the form used in his language,
Withoute vice* of syllable or letter. *fault
And, for his tale shoulde seem the better,
Accordant to his worde’s was his cheer,* *demeanour
As teacheth art of speech them that it lear.* *learn
Albeit that I cannot sound his style,
Nor cannot climb over so high a stile,
Yet say I this, as to *commune intent,* *general sense or meaning*
*Thus much amounteth* all that ever he meant, *this is the sum of*
If it so be that I have it in mind.
He said; “The king of Araby and Ind,
My liege lord, on this solemne day
Saluteth you as he best can and may,
And sendeth you, in honour of your feast,
By me, that am all ready at your hest,* *command
This steed of brass, that easily and well
Can in the space of one day naturel
(This is to say, in four-and-twenty hours),
Whereso you list, in drought or else in show’rs,
Beare your body into every place
To which your hearte willeth for to pace,* *pass, go
Withoute wem* of you, through foul or fair. *hurt, injury
Or if you list to fly as high in air
As doth an eagle, when him list to soar,
This same steed shall bear you evermore
Withoute harm, till ye be where *you lest* *it pleases you*
(Though that ye sleepen on his back, or rest),
And turn again, with writhing* of a pin. *twisting
He that it wrought, he coude* many a gin;** *knew **contrivance <10>
He waited* in any a constellation, *observed
Ere he had done this operation,
And knew full many a seal <11> and many a bond
This mirror eke, that I have in mine hond,
Hath such a might, that men may in it see
When there shall fall any adversity
Unto your realm, or to yourself also,
And openly who is your friend or foe.
And over all this, if any lady bright
Hath set her heart on any manner wight,
If he be false, she shall his treason see,
His newe love, and all his subtlety,
So openly that there shall nothing hide.
Wherefore, against this lusty summer-tide,
This mirror, and this ring that ye may see,
He hath sent to my lady Canace,
Your excellente daughter that is here.
The virtue of this ring, if ye will hear,
Is this, that if her list it for to wear
Upon her thumb, or in her purse it bear,
There is no fowl that flyeth under heaven,
That she shall not well understand his steven,* *speech, sound
And know his meaning openly and plain,
And answer him in his language again:
And every grass that groweth upon root
She shall eke know, to whom it will do boot,* *remedy
All be his woundes ne’er so deep and wide.
This naked sword, that hangeth by my side,
Such virtue hath, that what man that it smite,
Throughout his armour it will carve and bite,
Were it as thick as is a branched oak:
And what man is y-wounded with the stroke
Shall ne’er be whole, till that you list, of grace,
To stroke him with the flat in thilke* place *the same
Where he is hurt; this is as much to sayn,
Ye muste with the flatte sword again
Stroke him upon the wound, and it will close.
This is the very sooth, withoute glose;* *deceit
It faileth not, while it is in your hold.”

And when this knight had thus his tale told,
He rode out of the hall, and down he light.
His steede, which that shone as sunne bright,
Stood in the court as still as any stone.
The knight is to his chamber led anon,
And is unarmed, and to meat y-set.* *seated
These presents be full richely y-fet,* — *fetched
This is to say, the sword and the mirrour, —
And borne anon into the highe tow’r,
With certain officers ordain’d therefor;
And unto Canace the ring is bore
Solemnely, where she sat at the table;
But sickerly, withouten any fable,
The horse of brass, that may not be remued.* *removed <12>
It stood as it were to the ground y-glued;
There may no man out of the place it drive
For no engine of windlass or polive; * *pulley
And cause why, for they *can not the craft;* *know not the cunning
And therefore in the place they have it laft, of the mechanism*
Till that the knight hath taught them the mannere
To voide* him, as ye shall after hear. *remove

Great was the press, that swarmed to and fro
To gauren* on this horse that stoode so: *gaze
For it so high was, and so broad and long,
So well proportioned for to be strong,
Right as it were a steed of Lombardy;
Therewith so horsely, and so quick of eye,
As it a gentle Poileis <13> courser were:
For certes, from his tail unto his ear
Nature nor art ne could him not amend
In no degree, as all the people wend.* *weened, thought
But evermore their moste wonder was
How that it coulde go, and was of brass;
It was of Faerie, as the people seem’d.
Diverse folk diversely they deem’d;
As many heads, as many wittes been.
They murmured, as doth a swarm of been,* *bees
And made skills* after their fantasies, *reasons
Rehearsing of the olde poetries,
And said that it was like the Pegasee,* *Pegasus
The horse that hadde winges for to flee;* *fly
Or else it was the Greeke’s horse Sinon,<14>
That broughte Troye to destruction,
As men may in the olde gestes* read. *tales of adventures
Mine heart,” quoth one, “is evermore in dread;
I trow some men of armes be therein,
That shape* them this city for to win: *design, prepare
It were right good that all such thing were know.”
Another rowned* to his fellow low, *whispered
And said, “He lies; for it is rather like
An apparence made by some magic,
As jugglers playen at these feastes great.”
Of sundry doubts they jangle thus and treat.
As lewed* people deeme commonly *ignorant
Of thinges that be made more subtilly
Than they can in their lewdness comprehend;
They *deeme gladly to the badder end.* *are ready to think
And some of them wonder’d on the mirrour, the worst*
That borne was up into the master* tow’r, *chief <15>
How men might in it suche thinges see.
Another answer’d and said, it might well be
Naturally by compositions
Of angles, and of sly reflections;
And saide that in Rome was such a one.
They speak of Alhazen and Vitellon,<16>
And Aristotle, that wrote in their lives
Of quainte* mirrors, and of prospectives, *curious
As knowe they that have their bookes heard.
And other folk have wonder’d on the swerd,* *sword
That woulde pierce throughout every thing;
And fell in speech of Telephus the king,
And of Achilles for his quainte spear, <17>
For he could with it bothe heal and dere,* *wound
Right in such wise as men may with the swerd
Of which right now ye have yourselves heard.
They spake of sundry hard’ning of metal,
And spake of medicines therewithal,
And how, and when, it shoulde harden’d be,
Which is unknowen algate* unto me. *however
Then spake they of Canacee’s ring,
And saiden all, that such a wondrous thing
Of craft of rings heard they never none,
Save that he, Moses, and King Solomon,
Hadden *a name of conning* in such art. *a reputation for
Thus said the people, and drew them apart. knowledge*
Put natheless some saide that it was
Wonder to maken of fern ashes glass,
And yet is glass nought like ashes of fern;
*But for* they have y-knowen it so ferne** *because **before <18>
Therefore ceaseth their jangling and their wonder.
As sore wonder some on cause of thunder,
On ebb and flood, on gossamer and mist,
And on all things, till that the cause is wist.* *known
Thus jangle they, and deemen and devise,
Till that the king gan from his board arise.

Phoebus had left the angle meridional,
And yet ascending was the beast royal,
The gentle Lion, with his Aldrian, <19>
When that this Tartar king, this Cambuscan,
Rose from the board, there as he sat full high
Before him went the loude minstrelsy,
Till he came to his chamber of parements,<20>
There as they sounded diverse instruments,
That it was like a heaven for to hear.
Now danced lusty Venus’ children dear:
For in the Fish* their lady sat full *Pisces
And looked on them with a friendly eye. <21>
This noble king is set upon his throne;
This strange knight is fetched to him full sone,* *soon
And on the dance he goes with Canace.
Here is the revel and the jollity,
That is not able a dull man to devise:* *describe
He must have knowen love and his service,
And been a feastly* man, as fresh as May, *merry, gay
That shoulde you devise such array.
Who coulde telle you the form of dances
So uncouth,* and so freshe countenances** *unfamliar **gestures
Such subtle lookings and dissimulances,
For dread of jealous men’s apperceivings?
No man but Launcelot,<22> and he is dead.
Therefore I pass o’er all this lustihead* *pleasantness
I say no more, but in this jolliness
I leave them, till to supper men them dress.
The steward bids the spices for to hie* *haste
And eke the wine, in all this melody;
The ushers and the squiers be y-gone,
The spices and the wine is come anon;
They eat and drink, and when this hath an end,
Unto the temple, as reason was, they wend;
The service done, they suppen all by day
What needeth you rehearse their array?
Each man wot well, that at a kinge’s feast
Is plenty, to the most*, and to the least, *highest
And dainties more than be in my knowing.

At after supper went this noble king
To see the horse of brass, with all a rout
Of lordes and of ladies him about.
Such wond’ring was there on this horse of brass,
That, since the great siege of Troye was,
There as men wonder’d on a horse also,
Ne’er was there such a wond’ring as was tho.* *there
But finally the king asked the knight
The virtue of this courser, and the might,
And prayed him to tell his governance.* *mode of managing him
The horse anon began to trip and dance,
When that the knight laid hand upon his rein,
And saide, “Sir, there is no more to sayn,
But when you list to riden anywhere,
Ye muste trill* a pin, stands in his ear, *turn <23>
Which I shall telle you betwixt us two;
Ye muste name him to what place also,
Or to what country that you list to ride.
And when ye come where you list abide,
Bid him descend, and trill another pin

(For therein lies th’ effect of all the gin*), *contrivance <10>
And he will down descend and do your will,
And in that place he will abide still;
Though all the world had the contrary swore,
He shall not thence be throwen nor be bore.
Or, if you list to bid him thennes gon,
Trill this pin, and he will vanish anon
Out of the sight of every manner wight,
And come again, be it by day or night,
When that you list to clepe* him again *call
In such a guise, as I shall to you sayn
Betwixte you and me, and that full soon.
Ride <24> when you list, there is no more to do’n.’
Informed when the king was of the knight,
And had conceived in his wit aright
The manner and the form of all this thing,
Full glad and blithe, this noble doughty king
Repaired to his revel as beforn.
The bridle is into the tower borne,
And kept among his jewels lefe* and dear; *cherished
The horse vanish’d, I n’ot* in what mannere, *know not
Out of their sight; ye get no more of me:
But thus I leave in lust and jollity
This Cambuscan his lordes feastying,* *entertaining <25>
Until well nigh the day began to spring.

*Pars Secunda.* *Second Part*

The norice* of digestion, the sleep, *nurse
Gan on them wink, and bade them take keep,* *heed
That muche mirth and labour will have rest.
And with a gaping* mouth he all them kest,** *yawning **kissed
And said, that it was time to lie down,
For blood was in his dominatioun: <26>
“Cherish the blood, nature’s friend,” quoth he.
They thanked him gaping, by two and three;
And every wight gan draw him to his rest;
As sleep them bade, they took it for the best.
Their dreames shall not now be told for me;
Full are their heades of fumosity,<27>
That caused dreams *of which there is no charge:* *of no significance*
They slepte; till that, it was *prime large,* *late morning*
The moste part, but* it was Canace; *except
She was full measurable,* as women be: *moderate
For of her father had she ta’en her leave
To go to rest, soon after it was eve;
Her liste not appalled* for to be; *to look pale
Nor on the morrow *unfeastly for to see;* *to look sad, depressed*
And slept her firste sleep; and then awoke.
For such a joy she in her hearte took
Both of her quainte a ring and her mirrour,.
That twenty times she changed her colour;
And in her sleep, right for th’ impression
Of her mirror, she had a vision.
Wherefore, ere that the sunne gan up glide,
She call’d upon her mistress’* her beside, *governesses
And saide, that her liste for to rise.

These olde women, that be gladly wise
As are her mistresses answer’d anon,
And said; “Madame, whither will ye gon
Thus early? for the folk be all in rest.”
“I will,” quoth she, “arise; for me lest
No longer for to sleep, and walk about.”
Her mistresses call’d women a great rout,
And up they rose, well a ten or twelve;
Up rose freshe Canace herselve,
As ruddy and bright as is the yonnge sun
That in the Ram is four degrees y-run;
No higher was he, when she ready was;
And forth she walked easily a pace,
Array’d after the lusty* season swoot,** *pleasant **sweet
Lightely for to play, and walk on foot,
Nought but with five or six of her meinie;
And in a trench* forth in the park went she. *sunken path
The vapour, which up from the earthe glode,* *glided
Made the sun to seem ruddy and broad:
But, natheless, it was so fair a sight
That it made all their heartes for to light,* *be lightened, glad
What for the season and the morrowning,
And for the fowles that she hearde sing.
For right anon she wiste* what they meant *knew
Right by their song, and knew all their intent.
The knotte,* why that every tale is told, *nucleus, chief matter
If it be tarried* till the list* be cold *delayed **inclination
Of them that have it hearken’d *after yore,* *for a long time*
The savour passeth ever longer more;
For fulsomness of the prolixity:
And by that same reason thinketh me.
I shoulde unto the knotte condescend,
And maken of her walking soon an end.

Amid a tree fordry*, as white as chalk, *thoroughly dried up
There sat a falcon o’er her head full high,
That with a piteous voice so gan to cry;
That all the wood resounded of her cry,
And beat she had herself so piteously
With both her winges, till the redde blood
Ran endelong* the tree, there as she stood *from top to bottom
And ever-in-one* alway she cried and shright;** *incessantly **shrieked
And with her beak herselfe she so pight,* *wounded
That there is no tiger, nor cruel beast,
That dwelleth either in wood or in forest;
But would have wept, if that he weepe could,
For sorrow of her; she shriek’d alway so loud.
For there was never yet no man alive,
If that he could a falcon well descrive;* *describe
That heard of such another of fairness
As well of plumage, as of gentleness;
Of shape, of all that mighte reckon’d be.
A falcon peregrine seemed she,
Of fremde* land; and ever as she stood *foreign <28>
She swooned now and now for lack of blood;
Till well-nigh is she fallen from the tree.

This faire kinge’s daughter Canace,
That on her finger bare the quainte ring,
Through which she understood well every thing
That any fowl may in his leden* sayn, **language <29>
And could him answer in his leden again;
Hath understoode what this falcon said,
And well-nigh for the ruth* almost she died;. *pity
And to the tree she went, full hastily,
And on this falcon looked piteously;
And held her lap abroad; for well she wist
The falcon muste falle from the twist* *twig, bough
When that she swooned next, for lack of blood.
A longe while to waite her she stood;
Till at the last she apake in this mannere
Unto the hawk, as ye shall after hear:
“What is the cause, if it be for to tell,
That ye be in this furial* pain of hell?” *raging, furious
Quoth Canace unto this hawk above;
“Is this for sorrow of of death; or loss of love?
For; as I trow,* these be the causes two; *believe
That cause most a gentle hearte woe:
Of other harm it needeth not to speak.
For ye yourself upon yourself awreak;* *inflict
Which proveth well, that either ire or dread* *fear
Must be occasion of your cruel deed,
Since that I see none other wight you chase:
For love of God, as *do yourselfe grace;* *have mercy on
Or what may be your help? for, west nor east, yourself*
I never saw ere now no bird nor beast
That fared with himself so piteously
Ye slay me with your sorrow verily;
I have of you so great compassioun.
For Godde’s love come from the tree adown
And, as I am a kinge’s daughter true,
If that I verily the causes knew
Of your disease,* if it lay in my might, *distress
I would amend it, ere that it were night,
So wisly help me the great God of kind.** *surely **nature
And herbes shall I right enoughe find,
To heale with your hurtes hastily.”
Then shriek’d this falcon yet more piteously
Than ever she did, and fell to ground anon,
And lay aswoon, as dead as lies a stone,
Till Canace had in her lap her take,
Unto that time she gan of swoon awake:
And, after that she out of swoon abraid,* *awoke
Right in her hawke’s leden thus she said:

“That pity runneth soon in gentle heart
(Feeling his simil’tude in paines smart),
Is proved every day, as men may see,
As well *by work as by authority;* *by experience as by doctrine*
For gentle hearte kitheth* gentleness. *sheweth
I see well, that ye have on my distress
Compassion, my faire Canace,
Of very womanly benignity
That nature in your princples hath set.
But for no hope for to fare the bet,* *better
But for t’ obey unto your hearte free,
And for to make others aware by me,
As by the whelp chastis’d* is the lion, *instructed, corrected
Right for that cause and that conclusion,
While that I have a leisure and a space,
Mine harm I will confessen ere I pace.”* *depart
And ever while the one her sorrow told,
The other wept, *as she to water wo’ld,* *as if she would dissolve
Till that the falcon bade her to be still, into water*
And with a sigh right thus she said *her till:* *to her*
“Where I was bred (alas that ilke* day!) *same
And foster’d in a rock of marble gray
So tenderly, that nothing ailed me,
I wiste* not what was adversity, *knew
Till I could flee* full high under the sky. *fly
Then dwell’d a tercelet <30> me faste by,
That seem’d a well of alle gentleness;
*All were he* full of treason and falseness, *although he was*
It was so wrapped *under humble cheer,* *under an aspect
And under hue of truth, in such mannere, of humility*
Under pleasance, and under busy pain,
That no wight weened that he coulde feign,
So deep in grain he dyed his colours.
Right as a serpent hides him under flow’rs,
Till he may see his time for to bite,
Right so this god of love’s hypocrite
Did so his ceremonies and obeisances,
And kept in semblance all his observances,
That *sounden unto* gentleness of love. *are consonant to*
As on a tomb is all the fair above,
And under is the corpse, which that ye wet,
Such was this hypocrite, both cold and hot;
And in this wise he served his intent,
That, save the fiend, none wiste what he meant:
Till he so long had weeped and complain’d,
And many a year his service to me feign’d,
Till that mine heart, too piteous and too nice,* *foolish, simple
All innocent of his crowned malice,
*Forfeared of his death,* as thoughte me, *greatly afraid lest
Upon his oathes and his surety he should die*
Granted him love, on this conditioun,
That evermore mine honour and renown
Were saved, bothe *privy and apert;* *privately and in public*
This is to say, that, after his desert,
I gave him all my heart and all my thought
(God wot, and he, that *other wayes nought*), *in no other way*
And took his heart in change of mine for aye.
But sooth is said, gone since many a day,
A true wight and a thiefe *think not one.* *do not think alike*
And when he saw the thing so far y-gone,
That I had granted him fully my love,
In such a wise as I have said above,
And given him my true heart as free
As he swore that he gave his heart to me,
Anon this tiger, full of doubleness,
Fell on his knees with so great humbleness,
With so high reverence, as by his cheer,* *mien
So like a gentle lover in mannere,
So ravish’d, as it seemed, for the joy,
That never Jason, nor Paris of Troy, —
Jason? certes, nor ever other man,
Since Lamech <31> was, that alderfirst* began *first of all
To love two, as write folk beforn,
Nor ever since the firste man was born,
Coulde no man, by twenty thousand
Counterfeit the sophimes* of his art; *sophistries, beguilements
Where doubleness of feigning should approach,
Nor worthy were t’unbuckle his galoche,* *shoe <32>
Nor could so thank a wight, as he did me.
His manner was a heaven for to see
To any woman, were she ne’er so wise;
So painted he and kempt,* *at point devise,* *combed, studied
As well his wordes as his countenance. *with perfect precision*
And I so lov’d him for his obeisance,
And for the truth I deemed in his heart,
That, if so were that any thing him smart,* *pained
All were it ne’er so lite,* and I it wist, *little
Methought I felt death at my hearte twist.
And shortly, so farforth this thing is went,* *gone
That my will was his wille’s instrument;
That is to say, my will obey’d his will
In alle thing, as far as reason fill,* *fell; allowed
Keeping the boundes of my worship ever;
And never had I thing *so lefe, or lever,* *so dear, or dearer*
As him, God wot, nor never shall no mo’.

“This lasted longer than a year or two,
That I supposed of him naught but good.
But finally, thus at the last it stood,
That fortune woulde that he muste twin* *depart, separate
Out of that place which that I was in.
Whe’er* me was woe, it is no question; *whether
I cannot make of it description.
For one thing dare I telle boldely,
I know what is the pain of death thereby;
Such harm I felt, for he might not byleve.* *stay <33>
So on a day of me he took his leave,
So sorrowful eke, that I ween’d verily,
That he had felt as muche harm as I,
When that I heard him speak, and saw his hue.
But natheless, I thought he was so true,
And eke that he repaire should again
Within a little while, sooth to sayn,
And reason would eke that he muste go
For his honour, as often happ’neth so,
That I made virtue of necessity,
And took it well, since that it muste be.
As I best might, I hid from him my sorrow,
And took him by the hand, Saint John to borrow,* *witness, pledge
And said him thus; ‘Lo, I am youres all;
Be such as I have been to you, and shall.’
What he answer’d, it needs not to rehearse;
Who can say bet* than he, who can do worse? *better
When he had all well said, then had he done.
Therefore behoveth him a full long spoon,
That shall eat with a fiend; thus heard I say.
So at the last he muste forth his way,
And forth he flew, till he came where him lest.
When it came him to purpose for to rest,
I trow that he had thilke text in mind,
That alle thing repairing to his kind
Gladdeth himself; <34> thus say men, as I guess;
*Men love of [proper] kind newfangleness,* *see note <35>*
As birdes do, that men in cages feed.
For though thou night and day take of them heed,
And strew their cage fair and soft as silk,
And give them sugar, honey, bread, and milk,
Yet, *right anon as that his door is up,* *immediately on his
He with his feet will spurne down his cup, door being opened*
And to the wood he will, and wormes eat;
So newefangle be they of their meat,
And love novelties, of proper kind;
No gentleness of bloode may them bind.
So far’d this tercelet, alas the day!
Though he were gentle born, and fresh, and gay,
And goodly for to see, and humble, and free,
He saw upon a time a kite flee,* *fly
And suddenly he loved this kite so,
That all his love is clean from me y-go:
And hath his trothe falsed in this wise.
Thus hath the kite my love in her service,
And I am lorn* withoute remedy.” *lost, undone

And with that word this falcon gan to cry,
And swooned eft* in Canacee’s barme** *again **lap
Great was the sorrow, for that hawke’s harm,
That Canace and all her women made;
They wist not how they might the falcon glade.* *gladden
But Canace home bare her in her lap,
And softely in plasters gan her wrap,
There as she with her beak had hurt herselve.
Now cannot Canace but herbes delve
Out of the ground, and make salves new
Of herbes precious and fine of hue,
To heale with this hawk; from day to night
She did her business, and all her might.
And by her bedde’s head she made a mew,* *bird cage
And cover’d it with velouettes* blue,<36> *velvets
In sign of truth that is in woman seen;
And all without the mew is painted green,
In which were painted all these false fowls,
As be these tidifes,* tercelets, and owls; *titmice
And pies, on them for to cry and chide,
Right for despite were painted them beside.

Thus leave I Canace her hawk keeping.
I will no more as now speak of her ring,
Till it come eft* to purpose for to sayn *again
How that this falcon got her love again
Repentant, as the story telleth us,
By mediation of Camballus,
The kinge’s son of which that I you told.
But henceforth I will my process hold
To speak of aventures, and of battailes,
That yet was never heard so great marvailles.
First I will telle you of Cambuscan,
That in his time many a city wan;
And after will I speak of Algarsife,
How he won Theodora to his wife,
For whom full oft in great peril he was,
*N’had he* been holpen by the horse of brass. *had he not*
And after will I speak of Camballo, <37>
That fought in listes with the brethren two
For Canace, ere that he might her win;
And where I left I will again begin.
. . . . <38>

Notes to the Squire’s Tale

1. The Squire’s Tale has not been found under any other form among the literary remains of the Middle Ages; and it is unknown from what original it was derived, if from any. The Tale is unfinished, not because the conclusion has been lost, but because the author left it so.

2. The Russians and Tartars waged constant hostilities between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries.

3. In the best manuscripts the name is “Cambynskan,” and thus, no doubt, it should strictly be read. But it is a most pardonable offence against literal accuracy to use the word which Milton has made classical, in “Il Penseroso,” speaking of

           “him that left half-told
The story of Cambuscan bold,
Of Camball, and of Algarsife,
And who had Canace to wife,
That owned the virtuous Ring and Glass,
And of the wondrous Horse of Brass,
On which the Tartar King did ride”

Surely the admiration of Milton might well seem to the spirit of Chaucer to condone a much greater transgression on his domain than this verbal change — which to both eye and ear is an unquestionable improvement on the uncouth original.

4. Couth his colours longing for that art: well skilled in using the colours — the word-painting — belonging to his art.

5. Aries was the mansion of Mars — to whom “his” applies. Leo was the mansion of the Sun.

6. Sewes: Dishes, or soups. The precise force of the word is uncertain; but it may be connected with “seethe,” to boil, and it seems to describe a dish in which the flesh was served up amid a kind of broth or gravy. The “sewer,” taster or assayer of the viands served at great tables, probably derived his name from the verb to “say” or “assay;” though Tyrwhitt would connect the two words, by taking both from the French, “asseoir,” to place — making the arrangement of the table the leading duty of the “sewer,” rather than the testing of the food.

7. Heronsews: young herons; French, “heronneaux.”

8. Purpose: story, discourse; French, “propos.”

9. Gawain was celebrated in mediaeval romance as the most courteous among King Arthur’s knights.

10. Gin: contrivance; trick; snare. Compare Italian, “inganno,” deception; and our own “engine.”

11. Mr Wright remarks that “the making and arrangement of seals was one of the important operations of mediaeval magic.”

12. Remued: removed; French, “remuer,” to stir.

13. Polies: Apulian. The horses of Apulia — in old French “Poille,” in Italian “Puglia” — were held in high value.

14. The Greeke’s horse Sinon: the wooden horse of the Greek Sinon, introduced into Troy by the stratagem of its maker.

15. Master tower: chief tower; as, in the Knight’s Tale, the principal street is called the “master street.” See note 86 to the Knight’s Tale.

16. Alhazen and Vitellon: two writers on optics — the first supposed to have lived about 1100, the other about 1270. Tyrwhitt says that their works were printed at Basle in 1572, under the title “Alhazeni et Vitellonis Opticae.”

17. Telephus, a son of Hercules, reigned over Mysia when the Greeks came to besiege Troy, and he sought to prevent their landing. But, by the art of Dionysus, he was made to stumble over a vine, and Achilles wounded him with his spear. The oracle informed Telephus that the hurt could be healed only by him, or by the weapon, that inflicted it; and the king, seeking the Grecian camp, was healed by Achilles with the rust of the charmed spear.

18. Ferne: before; a corruption of “forne,” from Anglo-Saxon, “foran.”

19. Aldrian: or Aldebaran; a star in the neck of the constellation Leo.

20. Chamber of parements: Presence-chamber, or chamber of state, full of splendid furniture and ornaments. The same expression is used in French and Italian.

21. In Pisces, Venus was said to be at her exaltation or greatest power. A planet, according to the old astrologers, was in “exaltation” when in the sign of the Zodiac in which it exerted its strongest influence; the opposite sign, in which it was weakest, was called its “dejection.”

22. Launcelot: Arthur’s famous knight, so accomplished and courtly, that he was held the very pink of chivalry.

23. Trill: turn; akin to “thirl”, “drill.”

24. Ride: another reading is “bide,” alight or remain.

25. Feastying: entertaining; French, “festoyer,” to feast.

26. The old physicians held that blood dominated in the human body late at night and in the early morning. Galen says that the domination lasts for seven hours.

27. Fumosity: fumes of wine rising from the stomach to the head.

28. Fremde: foreign, strange; German, “fremd” in the northern dialects, “frem,” or “fremmed,” is used in the same sense.

29. Leden: Language, dialect; from Anglo-Saxon, “leden” or “laeden,” a corruption from “Latin.”

30. Tercelet: the “tassel,” or male of any species of hawk; so called, according to Cotgrave, because he is one third (“tiers”) smaller than the female.

31. “And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one Adah, and the name of the other Zillah” (Gen. iv. 19).

32. Galoche: shoe; it seems to have been used in France, of a “sabot,” or wooden shoe. The reader cannot fail to recall the same illustration in John i. 27, where the Baptist says of Christ: “He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me; whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.”

33. Byleve; stay; another form is “bleve;” from Anglo-Saxon, “belitan,” to remain. Compare German, “bleiben.”

34. This sentiment, as well as the illustration of the bird which follows, is taken from the third book of Boethius, “De Consolatione Philosophiae,” metrum 2. It has thus been rendered in Chaucer’s translation: “All things seek aye to their proper course, and all things rejoice on their returning again to their nature.”

35. Men love of proper kind newfangleness: Men, by their own — their very — nature, are fond of novelty, and prone to inconstancy.

36. Blue was the colour of truth, as green was that of inconstancy. In John Stowe’s additions to Chaucer’s works, printed in 1561, there is “A balade whiche Chaucer made against women inconstaunt,” of which the refrain is, “In stead of blue, thus may ye wear all green.”

37. Unless we suppose this to be a namesake of the Camballo who was Canace’s brother — which is not at all probable — we must agree with Tyrwhitt that there is a mistake here; which no doubt Chaucer would have rectified, if the tale had not been “left half-told,” One manuscript reads “Caballo;” and though not much authority need be given to a difference that may be due to mere omission of the mark of contraction over the “a,” there is enough in the text to show that another person than the king’s younger son is intended. The Squire promises to tell the adventures that befell each member of Cambuscan’s family; and in thorough consistency with this plan, and with the canons of chivalric story, would be “the marriage of Canace to some knight who was first obliged to fight for her with her two brethren; a method of courtship,” adds Tyrwhitt, “very consonant to the spirit of ancient chivalry.”

38. (Trancriber’s note) In some manuscripts the following two lines, being the beginning of the third part, are found: –

Apollo whirleth up his chair so high,
Till that Mercurius’ house, the sly…

THE FRANKLIN’S TALE.

THE PROLOGUE. <1>

“IN faith, Squier, thou hast thee well acquit,
And gentilly; I praise well thy wit,”
Quoth the Franklin; “considering thy youthe
So feelingly thou speak’st, Sir, I aloue* thee, *allow, approve
*As to my doom,* there is none that is here *so far as my judgment
Of eloquence that shall be thy peer, goes*
If that thou live; God give thee goode chance,
And in virtue send thee continuance,
For of thy speaking I have great dainty.* *value, esteem
I have a son, and, by the Trinity;
*It were me lever* than twenty pound worth land, *I would rather*
Though it right now were fallen in my hand,
He were a man of such discretion
As that ye be: fy on possession,
*But if* a man be virtuous withal. *unless
I have my sone snibbed* and yet shall, *rebuked; “snubbed.”
For he to virtue *listeth not t’intend,* *does not wish to
But for to play at dice, and to dispend, apply himself*
And lose all that he hath, is his usage;
And he had lever talke with a page,
Than to commune with any gentle wight,
There he might learen gentilless aright.”

Straw for your gentillesse!” quoth our Host.
“What? Frankelin, pardie, Sir, well thou wost* *knowest
That each of you must tellen at the least
A tale or two, or breake his behest.”* *promise
“That know I well, Sir,” quoth the Frankelin;
“I pray you have me not in disdain,
Though I to this man speak a word or two.”
“Tell on thy tale, withoute wordes mo’.”
“Gladly, Sir Host,” quoth he, “I will obey
Unto your will; now hearken what I say;
I will you not contrary* in no wise, *disobey
As far as that my wittes may suffice.
I pray to God that it may please you,
Then wot I well that it is good enow.

“These olde gentle Bretons, in their days,
Of divers aventures made lays,<2>
Rhymeden in their firste Breton tongue;
Which layes with their instruments they sung,
Or elles reade them for their pleasance;
And one of them have I in remembrance,
Which I shall say with good will as I can.
But, Sirs, because I am a borel* man, *rude, unlearned
At my beginning first I you beseech
Have me excused of my rude speech.
I learned never rhetoric, certain;
Thing that I speak, it must be bare and plain.
I slept never on the mount of Parnasso,
Nor learned Marcus Tullius Cicero.
Coloures know I none, withoute dread,* *doubt
But such colours as growen in the mead,
Or elles such as men dye with or paint;
Colours of rhetoric be to me quaint;* *strange
My spirit feeleth not of such mattere.
But, if you list, my tale shall ye hear.”

Notes to the Prologue to the Franklin’s Tale

1. In the older editions, the verses here given as the prologue were prefixed to the Merchant’s Tale, and put into his mouth. Tyrwhitt was abundantly justified, by the internal evidence afforded by the lines themselves, in transferring them to their present place.

2. The “Breton Lays” were an important and curious element in the literature of the Middle Ages; they were originally composed in the Armorican language, and the chief collection of them extant was translated into French verse by a poetess calling herself “Marie,” about the middle of the thirteenth century. But though this collection was the most famous, and had doubtless been read by Chaucer, there were other British or Breton lays, and from one of those the Franklin’s Tale is taken. Boccaccio has dealt with the same story in the “Decameron” and the “Philocopo,” altering the circumstances to suit the removal of its scene to a southern clime.

THE TALE.

In Armoric’, that called is Bretagne,
There was a knight, that lov’d and *did his pain* *devoted himself,
To serve a lady in his beste wise; strove*
And many a labour, many a great emprise,* *enterprise
He for his lady wrought, ere she were won:
For she was one the fairest under sun,
And eke thereto come of so high kindred,
That *well unnethes durst this knight for dread,* *see note <1>*
Tell her his woe, his pain, and his distress
But, at the last, she for his worthiness,
And namely* for his meek obeisance, *especially
Hath such a pity caught of his penance,* *suffering, distress
That privily she fell of his accord
To take him for her husband and her lord
(Of such lordship as men have o’er their wives);
And, for to lead the more in bliss their lives,
Of his free will he swore her as a knight,
That never in all his life he day nor night
Should take upon himself no mastery
Against her will, nor kithe* her jealousy, *show
But her obey, and follow her will in all,
As any lover to his lady shall;
Save that the name of sovereignety
That would he have, for shame of his degree.
She thanked him, and with full great humbless
She saide; “Sir, since of your gentleness
Ye proffer me to have so large a reign,
*Ne woulde God never betwixt us twain,
As in my guilt, were either war or strife:* *see note <2>*
Sir, I will be your humble true wife,
Have here my troth, till that my hearte brest.”* *burst
Thus be they both in quiet and in rest.

For one thing, Sires, safely dare I say,
That friends ever each other must obey,
If they will longe hold in company.
Love will not be constrain’d by mastery.
When mast’ry comes, the god of love anon
Beateth <3> his wings, and, farewell, he is gone.
Love is a thing as any spirit free.
Women *of kind* desire liberty, *by nature*
And not to be constrained as a thrall,* *slave
And so do men, if soothly I say shall.
Look who that is most patient in love,
He *is at his advantage all above.* *enjoys the highest
Patience is a high virtue certain, advantages of all*
For it vanquisheth, as these clerkes sayn,
Thinges that rigour never should attain.
For every word men may not chide or plain.
Learne to suffer, or, so may I go,* *prosper
Ye shall it learn whether ye will or no.
For in this world certain no wight there is,
That he not doth or saith sometimes amiss.
Ire, or sickness, or constellation,* *the influence of
Wine, woe, or changing of complexion, the planets*
Causeth full oft to do amiss or speaken:
On every wrong a man may not be wreaken.* *revenged
After* the time must be temperance *according to
To every wight that *can of* governance. *is capable of*
And therefore hath this worthy wise knight
(To live in ease) sufferance her behight;* *promised
And she to him full wisly* gan to swear *surely
That never should there be default in her.
Here may men see a humble wife accord;
Thus hath she ta’en her servant and her lord,
Servant in love, and lord in marriage.
Then was he both in lordship and servage?
Servage? nay, but in lordship all above,
Since he had both his lady and his love:
His lady certes, and his wife also,
The which that law of love accordeth to.
And when he was in this prosperrity,
Home with his wife he went to his country,
Not far from Penmark,<4> where his dwelling was,
And there he liv’d in bliss and in solace.* *delight
Who coulde tell, but* he had wedded be, *unless
The joy, the ease, and the prosperity,
That is betwixt a husband and his wife?
A year and more lasted this blissful life,
Till that this knight, of whom I spake thus,
That of Cairrud <5> was call’d Arviragus,
Shope* him to go and dwell a year or twain *prepared, arranged
In Engleland, that call’d was eke Britain,
To seek in armes worship and honour
(For all his lust* he set in such labour); *pleasure
And dwelled there two years; the book saith thus.

Now will I stint* of this Arviragus, *cease speaking
And speak I will of Dorigen his wife,
That lov’d her husband as her hearte’s life.
For his absence weepeth she and siketh,* *sigheth
As do these noble wives when them liketh;
She mourneth, waketh, waileth, fasteth, plaineth;
Desire of his presence her so distraineth,
That all this wide world she set at nought.
Her friendes, which that knew her heavy thought,
Comforte her in all that ever they may;
They preache her, they tell her night and day,
That causeless she slays herself, alas!
And every comfort possible in this case
They do to her, with all their business,* *assiduity
And all to make her leave her heaviness.
By process, as ye knowen every one,
Men may so longe graven in a stone,
Till some figure therein imprinted be:
So long have they comforted her, till she
Received hath, by hope and by reason,
Th’ imprinting of their consolation,
Through which her greate sorrow gan assuage;
She may not always duren in such rage.
And eke Arviragus, in all this care,
Hath sent his letters home of his welfare,
And that he will come hastily again,
Or elles had this sorrow her hearty-slain.
Her friendes saw her sorrow gin to slake,* *slacken, diminish
And prayed her on knees for Godde’s sake
To come and roamen in their company,
Away to drive her darke fantasy;
And finally she granted that request,
For well she saw that it was for the best.

Now stood her castle faste by the sea,
And often with her friendes walked she,
Her to disport upon the bank on high,
There as many a ship and barge sigh,* *saw
Sailing their courses, where them list to go.
But then was that a parcel* of her woe, *part
For to herself full oft, “Alas!” said she,
Is there no ship, of so many as I see,
Will bringe home my lord? then were my heart
All warish’d* of this bitter paine’s smart.” *cured <6>
Another time would she sit and think,
And cast her eyen downward from the brink;
But when she saw the grisly rockes blake,* *black
For very fear so would her hearte quake,
That on her feet she might her not sustene* *sustain
Then would she sit adown upon the green,
And piteously *into the sea behold,* *look out on the sea*
And say right thus, with *careful sikes* cold: *painful sighs*
“Eternal God! that through thy purveyance
Leadest this world by certain governance,
*In idle,* as men say, ye nothing make; *idly, in vain*
But, Lord, these grisly fiendly rockes blake,
That seem rather a foul confusion
Of work, than any fair creation
Of such a perfect wise God and stable,
Why have ye wrought this work unreasonable?
For by this work, north, south, or west, or east,
There is not foster’d man, nor bird, nor beast:
It doth no good, to my wit, but *annoyeth.* *works mischief* <7>
See ye not, Lord, how mankind it destroyeth?
A hundred thousand bodies of mankind
Have rockes slain, *all be they not in mind;* *though they are
Which mankind is so fair part of thy work, forgotten*
Thou madest it like to thine owen mark.* *image
Then seemed it ye had a great cherte* *love, affection
Toward mankind; but how then may it be
That ye such meanes make it to destroy?
Which meanes do no good, but ever annoy.
I wot well, clerkes will say as them lest,* *please
By arguments, that all is for the best,
Although I can the causes not y-know;
But thilke* God that made the wind to blow, *that
As keep my lord, this is my conclusion:
To clerks leave I all disputation:
But would to God that all these rockes blake
Were sunken into helle for his sake
These rockes slay mine hearte for the fear.”
Thus would she say, with many a piteous tear.

Her friendes saw that it was no disport
To roame by the sea, but discomfort,
And shope* them for to playe somewhere else. *arranged
They leade her by rivers and by wells,
And eke in other places delectables;
They dancen, and they play at chess and tables.* *backgammon
So on a day, right in the morning-tide,
Unto a garden that was there beside,
In which that they had made their ordinance* *provision, arrangement
Of victual, and of other purveyance,
They go and play them all the longe day:
And this was on the sixth morrow of May,
Which May had painted with his softe showers
This garden full of leaves and of flowers:
And craft of manne’s hand so curiously
Arrayed had this garden truely,
That never was there garden of such price,* *value, praise
*But if* it were the very Paradise. *unless*
Th’odour of flowers, and the freshe sight,
Would have maked any hearte light
That e’er was born, *but if* too great sickness *unless*
Or too great sorrow held it in distress;
So full it was of beauty and pleasance.
And after dinner they began to dance
And sing also, save Dorigen alone
Who made alway her complaint and her moan,
For she saw not him on the dance go
That was her husband, and her love also;
But natheless she must a time abide
And with good hope let her sorrow slide.

Upon this dance, amonge other men,
Danced a squier before Dorigen
That fresher was, and jollier of array
*As to my doom,* than is the month of May. *in my judgment*
He sang and danced, passing any man,
That is or was since that the world began;
Therewith he was, if men should him descrive,
One of the *beste faring* men alive, *most accomplished*
Young, strong, and virtuous, and rich, and wise,
And well beloved, and holden in great price.* *esteem, value
And, shortly if the sooth I telle shall,
*Unweeting of* this Dorigen at all, *unknown to*
This lusty squier, servant to Venus,
Which that y-called was Aurelius,
Had lov’d her best of any creature
Two year and more, as was his aventure;* *fortune
But never durst he tell her his grievance;
Withoute cup he drank all his penance.
He was despaired, nothing durst he say,
Save in his songes somewhat would he wray* *betray
His woe, as in a general complaining;
He said, he lov’d, and was belov’d nothing.
Of suche matter made he many lays,
Songes, complaintes, roundels, virelays <8>
How that he durste not his sorrow tell,
But languished, as doth a Fury in hell;
And die he must, he said, as did Echo
For Narcissus, that durst not tell her woe.
In other manner than ye hear me say,
He durste not to her his woe bewray,
Save that paraventure sometimes at dances,
Where younge folke keep their observances,
It may well be he looked on her face
In such a wise, as man that asketh grace,
But nothing wiste she of his intent.
Nath’less it happen’d, ere they thennes* went, *thence (from the
Because that he was her neighebour, garden)*
And was a man of worship and honour,
And she had knowen him *of time yore,* *for a long time*
They fell in speech, and forth aye more and more
Unto his purpose drew Aurelius;
And when he saw his time, he saide thus:
Madam,” quoth he, “by God that this world made,
So that I wist it might your hearte glade,* *gladden
I would, that day that your Arviragus
Went over sea, that I, Aurelius,
Had gone where I should never come again;
For well I wot my service is in vain.
My guerdon* is but bursting of mine heart. *reward
Madame, rue upon my paine’s smart,
For with a word ye may me slay or save.
Here at your feet God would that I were grave.
I have now no leisure more to say:
Have mercy, sweet, or you will *do me dey.”* *cause me to die*

She gan to look upon Aurelius;
“Is this your will,” quoth she, “and say ye thus?
Ne’er erst,”* quoth she, “I wiste what ye meant: *before
But now, Aurelius, I know your intent.
By thilke* God that gave me soul and life, *that
Never shall I be an untrue wife
In word nor work, as far as I have wit;
I will be his to whom that I am knit;
Take this for final answer as of me.”
But after that *in play* thus saide she. *playfully, in jest*
“Aurelius,” quoth she, “by high God above,
Yet will I grante you to be your love
(Since I you see so piteously complain);
Looke, what day that endelong* Bretagne *from end to end of
Ye remove all the rockes, stone by stone,
That they not lette* ship nor boat to gon, *prevent
I say, when ye have made this coast so clean
Of rockes, that there is no stone seen,
Then will I love you best of any man;
Have here my troth, in all that ever I can;
For well I wot that it shall ne’er betide.
Let such folly out of your hearte glide.
What dainty* should a man have in his life *value, pleasure
For to go love another manne’s wife,
That hath her body when that ever him liketh?”
Aurelius full often sore siketh;* *sigheth
Is there none other grace in you?” quoth he,
“No, by that Lord,” quoth she, “that maked me.
Woe was Aurelius when that he this heard,
And with a sorrowful heart he thus answer’d.
“Madame, quoth he, “this were an impossible.
Then must I die of sudden death horrible.”
And with that word he turned him anon.

Then came her other friends many a one,
And in the alleys roamed up and down,
And nothing wist of this conclusion,
But suddenly began to revel new,
Till that the brighte sun had lost his hue,
For th’ horizon had reft the sun his light
(This is as much to say as it was night);
And home they go in mirth and in solace;
Save only wretch’d Aurelius, alas
He to his house is gone with sorrowful heart.
He said, he may not from his death astart.* *escape
Him seemed, that he felt his hearte cold.
Up to the heav’n his handes gan he hold,
And on his knees bare he set him down.
And in his raving said his orisoun.* *prayer
For very woe out of his wit he braid;* *wandered
He wist not what he spake, but thus he said;
With piteous heart his plaint hath he begun
Unto the gods, and first unto the Sun.
He said; “Apollo God and governour
Of every plante, herbe, tree, and flower,
That giv’st, after thy declination,
To each of them his time and his season,
As thine herberow* changeth low and high; *dwelling, situation
Lord Phoebus: cast thy merciable eye
On wretched Aurelius, which that am but lorn.* *undone
Lo, lord, my lady hath my death y-sworn,
Withoute guilt, but* thy benignity *unless
Upon my deadly heart have some pity.
For well I wot, Lord Phoebus, if you lest,* *please
Ye may me helpe, save my lady, best.
Now vouchsafe, that I may you devise* *tell, explain
How that I may be holp,* and in what wise. *helped
Your blissful sister, Lucina the sheen, <9>
That of the sea is chief goddess and queen, —
Though Neptunus have deity in the sea,
Yet emperess above him is she; —
Ye know well, lord, that, right as her desire
Is to be quick’d* and lighted of your fire, *quickened
For which she followeth you full busily,
Right so the sea desireth naturally
To follow her, as she that is goddess
Both in the sea and rivers more and less.
Wherefore, Lord Phoebus, this is my request,
Do this miracle, or *do mine hearte brest;* *cause my heart
That flow, next at this opposition, to burst*
Which in the sign shall be of the Lion,
As praye her so great a flood to bring,
That five fathom at least it overspring
The highest rock in Armoric Bretagne,
And let this flood endure yeares twain:
Then certes to my lady may I say,
“Holde your hest,” the rockes be away.
Lord Phoebus, this miracle do for me,
Pray her she go no faster course than ye;
I say this, pray your sister that she go
No faster course than ye these yeares two:
Then shall she be even at full alway,
And spring-flood laste bothe night and day.
And *but she* vouchesafe in such mannere *if she do not*
To grante me my sov’reign lady dear,
Pray her to sink every rock adown
Into her owen darke regioun
Under the ground, where Pluto dwelleth in
Or nevermore shall I my lady win.
Thy temple in Delphos will I barefoot seek.
Lord Phoebus! see the teares on my cheek
And on my pain have some compassioun.”
And with that word in sorrow he fell down,
And longe time he lay forth in a trance.
His brother, which that knew of his penance,* *distress
Up caught him, and to bed he hath him brought,
Despaired in this torment and this thought
Let I this woeful creature lie;
Choose he for me whe’er* he will live or die. *whether

Arviragus with health and great honour
(As he that was of chivalry the flow’r)
Is come home, and other worthy men.
Oh, blissful art thou now, thou Dorigen!
Thou hast thy lusty husband in thine arms,
The freshe knight, the worthy man of arms,
That loveth thee as his own hearte’s life:
*Nothing list him to be imaginatif* *he cared not to fancy*
If any wight had spoke, while he was out,
To her of love; he had of that no doubt;* *fear, suspicion
He not intended* to no such mattere, *occupied himself with
But danced, jousted, and made merry cheer.
And thus in joy and bliss I let them dwell,
And of the sick Aurelius will I tell
In languor and in torment furious
Two year and more lay wretch’d Aurelius,
Ere any foot on earth he mighte gon;
Nor comfort in this time had he none,
Save of his brother, which that was a clerk.* *scholar
He knew of all this woe and all this work;
For to none other creature certain
Of this matter he durst no worde sayn;
Under his breast he bare it more secree
Than e’er did Pamphilus for Galatee.<10>
His breast was whole withoute for to seen,
But in his heart aye was the arrow keen,
And well ye know that of a sursanure <11>
In surgery is perilous the cure,
But* men might touch the arrow or come thereby. *except
His brother wept and wailed privily,
Till at the last him fell in remembrance,
That while he was at Orleans <12> in France, —
As younge clerkes, that be likerous* — *eager
To readen artes that be curious,
Seeken in every *halk and every hern* *nook and corner* <13>
Particular sciences for to learn,—
He him remember’d, that upon a day
At Orleans in study a book he say* *saw
Of magic natural, which his fellaw,
That was that time a bachelor of law
All* were he there to learn another craft, *though
Had privily upon his desk y-laft;
Which book spake much of operations
Touching the eight and-twenty mansions
That longe to the Moon, and such folly
As in our dayes is not worth a fly;
For holy church’s faith, in our believe,* *belief, creed
Us suff’reth none illusion to grieve.
And when this book was in his remembrance
Anon for joy his heart began to dance,
And to himself he saide privily;
“My brother shall be warish’d* hastily *cured
For I am sicker* that there be sciences, *certain
By which men make divers apparences,
Such as these subtle tregetoures play. *tricksters <14>
For oft at feaste’s have I well heard say,
That tregetours, within a halle large,
Have made come in a water and a barge,
And in the halle rowen up and down.
Sometimes hath seemed come a grim lioun,
And sometimes flowers spring as in a mead;
Sometimes a vine, and grapes white and red;
Sometimes a castle all of lime and stone;
And, when them liked, voided* it anon: *vanished
Thus seemed it to every manne’s sight.
Now then conclude I thus; if that I might
At Orleans some olde fellow find,
That hath these Moone’s mansions in mind,
Or other magic natural above.
He should well make my brother have his love.
For with an appearance a clerk* may make, *learned man
To manne’s sight, that all the rockes blake
Of Bretagne were voided* every one, *removed
And shippes by the brinke come and gon,
And in such form endure a day or two;
Then were my brother warish’d* of his woe, *cured
Then must she needes *holde her behest,* *keep her promise*
Or elles he shall shame her at the least.”
Why should I make a longer tale of this?
Unto his brother’s bed he comen is,
And such comfort he gave him, for to gon
To Orleans, that he upstart anon,
And on his way forth-ward then is he fare,* *gone
In hope for to be lissed* of his care. *eased of <15>

When they were come almost to that city,
*But if it were* a two furlong or three, *all but*
A young clerk roaming by himself they met,
Which that in Latin *thriftily them gret.* *greeted them
And after that he said a wondrous thing; civilly*
I know,” quoth he, “the cause of your coming;”
Aud ere they farther any foote went,
He told them all that was in their intent.
The Breton clerk him asked of fellaws
The which he hadde known in olde daws,* *days
And he answer’d him that they deade were,
For which he wept full often many a tear.
Down off his horse Aurelius light anon,
And forth with this magician is be gone
Home to his house, and made him well at ease;
Them lacked no vitail* that might them please. *victuals, food
So well-array’d a house as there was one,
Aurelius in his life saw never none.
He shewed him, ere they went to suppere,
Forestes, parkes, full of wilde deer.
There saw he hartes with their hornes high,
The greatest that were ever seen with eye.
He saw of them an hundred slain with hounds,
And some with arrows bleed of bitter wounds.
He saw, when voided* were the wilde deer, *passed away
These falconers upon a fair rivere,
That with their hawkes have the heron slain.
Then saw he knightes jousting in a plain.
And after this he did him such pleasance,
That he him shew’d his lady on a dance,
In which himselfe danced, as him thought.
And when this master, that this magic wrought,
Saw it was time, he clapp’d his handes two,
And farewell, all the revel is y-go.* *gone, removed
And yet remov’d they never out of the house,
While they saw all the sightes marvellous;
But in his study, where his bookes be,
They satte still, and no wight but they three.
To him this master called his squier,

And said him thus, “May we go to supper?
Almost an hour it is, I undertake,
Since I you bade our supper for to make,
When that these worthy men wente with me
Into my study, where my bookes be.”
“Sir,” quoth this squier, “when it liketh you.
It is all ready, though ye will right now.”
“Go we then sup,” quoth he, “as for the best;
These amorous folk some time must have rest.”
At after supper fell they in treaty
What summe should this master’s guerdon* be, *reward
To remove all the rockes of Bretagne,
And eke from Gironde <16> to the mouth of Seine.
He made it strange,* and swore, so God him save, *a matter of
Less than a thousand pound he would not have, difficulty*
*Nor gladly for that sum he would not gon.* *see note <17>*
Aurelius with blissful heart anon
Answered thus; “Fie on a thousand pound!
This wide world, which that men say is round,
I would it give, if I were lord of it.
This bargain is full-driv’n, for we be knit;* *agreed
Ye shall be payed truly by my troth.
But looke, for no negligence or sloth,
Ye tarry us here no longer than to-morrow.”
“Nay,” quoth the clerk, *”have here my faith to borrow.”* *I pledge my
To bed is gone Aurelius when him lest, faith on it*
And well-nigh all that night he had his rest,
What for his labour, and his hope of bliss,
His woeful heart *of penance had a liss.* *had a respite
from suffering*
Upon the morrow, when that it was day,
Unto Bretagne they took the righte way,
Aurelius and this magician beside,
And be descended where they would abide:
And this was, as the bookes me remember,
The colde frosty season of December.
Phoebus wax’d old, and hued like latoun,* *brass
That in his hote declinatioun
Shone as the burned gold, with streames* bright; *beams
But now in Capricorn adown he light,
Where as he shone full pale, I dare well sayn.
The bitter frostes, with the sleet and rain,
Destroyed have the green in every yard. *courtyard, garden
Janus sits by the fire with double beard,
And drinketh of his bugle horn the wine:
Before him stands the brawn of tusked swine
And “nowel”* crieth every lusty man *Noel <18>
Aurelius, in all that ev’r he can,
Did to his master cheer and reverence,
And prayed him to do his diligence
To bringe him out of his paines smart,
Or with a sword that he would slit his heart.
This subtle clerk such ruth* had on this man, *pity
That night and day he sped him, that he can,
To wait a time of his conclusion;
This is to say, to make illusion,
By such an appearance of jugglery
(I know no termes of astrology),
That she and every wight should ween and say,
That of Bretagne the rockes were away,
Or else they were sunken under ground.
So at the last he hath a time found
To make his japes* and his wretchedness *tricks
Of such a *superstitious cursedness.* *detestable villainy*
His tables Toletanes <19> forth he brought,
Full well corrected, that there lacked nought,
Neither his collect, nor his expanse years,
Neither his rootes, nor his other gears,
As be his centres, and his arguments,
And his proportional convenients
For his equations in everything.
And by his eighte spheres in his working,
He knew full well how far Alnath <20> was shove
From the head of that fix’d Aries above,
That in the ninthe sphere consider’d is.
Full subtilly he calcul’d all this.
When he had found his firste mansion,
He knew the remnant by proportion;
And knew the rising of his moone well,
And in whose face, and term, and every deal;
And knew full well the moone’s mansion
Accordant to his operation;
And knew also his other observances,
For such illusions and such meschances,* *wicked devices
As heathen folk used in thilke days.
For which no longer made he delays;
But through his magic, for a day or tway, <21>
It seemed all the rockes were away.

Aurelius, which yet despaired is
Whe’er* he shall have his love, or fare amiss, *whether
Awaited night and day on this miracle:
And when he knew that there was none obstacle,
That voided* were these rockes every one, *removed
Down at his master’s feet he fell anon,
And said; “I, woeful wretch’d Aurelius,
Thank you, my Lord, and lady mine Venus,
That me have holpen from my cares cold.”
And to the temple his way forth hath he hold,
Where as he knew he should his lady see.
And when he saw his time, anon right he
With dreadful* heart and with full humble cheer** *fearful **mien
Saluteth hath his sovereign lady dear.
“My rightful Lady,” quoth this woeful man,
“Whom I most dread, and love as I best can,
And lothest were of all this world displease,
Were’t not that I for you have such disease,* *distress, affliction
That I must die here at your foot anon,
Nought would I tell how me is woebegone.
But certes either must I die or plain;* *bewail
Ye slay me guilteless for very pain.
But of my death though that ye have no ruth,
Advise you, ere that ye break your truth:
Repente you, for thilke God above,
Ere ye me slay because that I you love.
For, Madame, well ye wot what ye have hight;* *promised
Not that I challenge anything of right
Of you, my sovereign lady, but of grace:
But in a garden yond’, in such a place,
Ye wot right well what ye behighte* me, *promised
And in mine hand your trothe plighted ye,
To love me best; God wot ye saide so,
Albeit that I unworthy am thereto;
Madame, I speak it for th’ honour of you,
More than to save my hearte’s life right now;
I have done so as ye commanded me,
And if ye vouchesafe, ye may go see.
Do as you list, have your behest in mind,
For, quick or dead, right there ye shall me find;
In you hes all to *do me live or dey;* *cause me to
But well I wot the rockes be away.” live or die*

He took his leave, and she astonish’d stood;
In all her face was not one drop of blood:
She never ween’d t’have come in such a trap.
“Alas!” quoth she, “that ever this should hap!
For ween’d I ne’er, by possibility,
That such a monster or marvail might be;
It is against the process of nature.”
And home she went a sorrowful creature;
For very fear unnethes* may she go. *scarcely
She weeped, wailed, all a day or two,
And swooned, that it ruthe was to see:
But why it was, to no wight tolde she,
For out of town was gone Arviragus.
But to herself she spake, and saide thus,
With face pale, and full sorrowful cheer,
In her complaint, as ye shall after hear.
“Alas!” quoth she, “on thee, Fortune, I plain,* *complain
That unware hast me wrapped in thy chain,
From which to scape, wot I no succour,
Save only death, or elles dishonour;
One of these two behoveth me to choose.
But natheless, yet had I lever* lose *sooner, rather
My life, than of my body have shame,
Or know myselfe false, or lose my name;
And with my death *I may be quit y-wis.* *I may certainly purchase
Hath there not many a noble wife, ere this, my exemption*
And many a maiden, slain herself, alas!
Rather than with her body do trespass?
Yes, certes; lo, these stories bear witness. <22>
When thirty tyrants full of cursedness* *wickedness
Had slain Phidon in Athens at the feast,
They commanded his daughters to arrest,
And bringe them before them, in despite,
All naked, to fulfil their foul delight;
And in their father’s blood they made them dance
Upon the pavement, — God give them mischance.
For which these woeful maidens, full of dread,
Rather than they would lose their maidenhead,
They privily *be start* into a well, *suddenly leaped
And drowned themselves, as the bookes tell.
They of Messene let inquire and seek
Of Lacedaemon fifty maidens eke,
On which they woulde do their lechery:
But there was none of all that company
That was not slain, and with a glad intent
Chose rather for to die, than to assent
To be oppressed* of her maidenhead. *forcibly bereft
Why should I then to dien be in dread?
Lo, eke the tyrant Aristoclides,
That lov’d a maiden hight Stimphalides,
When that her father slain was on a night,
Unto Diana’s temple went she right,
And hent* the image in her handes two, *caught, clasped
From which image she woulde never go;
No wight her handes might off it arace,* *pluck away by force
Till she was slain right in the selfe* place. *same
Now since that maidens hadde such despite
To be defouled with man’s foul delight,
Well ought a wife rather herself to sle,* *slay
Than be defouled, as it thinketh me.
What shall I say of Hasdrubale’s wife,
That at Carthage bereft herself of life?
For, when she saw the Romans win the town,
She took her children all, and skipt adown
Into the fire, and rather chose to die,
Than any Roman did her villainy.
Hath not Lucretia slain herself, alas!
At Rome, when that she oppressed* was *ravished
Of Tarquin? for her thought it was a shame
To live, when she hadde lost her name.
The seven maidens of Milesie also
Have slain themselves for very dread and woe,
Rather than folk of Gaul them should oppress.
More than a thousand stories, as I guess,
Could I now tell as touching this mattere.
When Abradate was slain, his wife so dear <23>
Herselfe slew, and let her blood to glide
In Abradate’s woundes, deep and wide,
And said, ‘My body at the leaste way
There shall no wight defoul, if that I may.’
Why should I more examples hereof sayn?
Since that so many have themselves slain,
Well rather than they would defouled be,
I will conclude that it is bet* for me *better
To slay myself, than be defouled thus.
I will be true unto Arviragus,
Or elles slay myself in some mannere,
As did Demotione’s daughter dear,
Because she woulde not defouled be.
O Sedasus, it is full great pity
To reade how thy daughters died, alas!
That slew themselves *for suche manner cas.* *in circumstances of
As great a pity was it, or well more, the same kind*
The Theban maiden, that for Nicanor
Herselfe slew, right for such manner woe.
Another Theban maiden did right so;
For one of Macedon had her oppress’d,
She with her death her maidenhead redress’d.* *vindicated
What shall I say of Niceratus’ wife,
That for such case bereft herself her life?
How true was eke to Alcibiades
His love, that for to dien rather chese,* *chose
Than for to suffer his body unburied be?
Lo, what a wife was Alceste?” quoth she.
“What saith Homer of good Penelope?
All Greece knoweth of her chastity.
Pardie, of Laedamia is written thus,
That when at Troy was slain Protesilaus, <24>
No longer would she live after his day.
The same of noble Porcia tell I may;
Withoute Brutus coulde she not live,
To whom she did all whole her hearte give. <25>
The perfect wifehood of Artemisie <26>
Honoured is throughout all Barbarie.
O Teuta <27> queen, thy wifely chastity
To alle wives may a mirror be.” <28>

Thus plained Dorigen a day or tway,
Purposing ever that she woulde dey;* *die
But natheless upon the thirde night
Home came Arviragus, the worthy knight,
And asked her why that she wept so sore.
And she gan weepen ever longer more.
“Alas,” quoth she, “that ever I was born!
Thus have I said,” quoth she; “thus have I sworn. ”
And told him all, as ye have heard before:
It needeth not rehearse it you no more.
This husband with glad cheer,* in friendly wise, *demeanour
Answer’d and said, as I shall you devise.* *relate
“Is there aught elles, Dorigen, but this?”
“Nay, nay,” quoth she, “God help me so, *as wis* *assuredly*
This is too much, an* it were Godde’s will.” *if
“Yea, wife,” quoth he, “let sleepe what is still,
It may be well par’venture yet to-day.
Ye shall your trothe holde, by my fay.
For, God so wisly* have mercy on me, *certainly
*I had well lever sticked for to be,* *I had rather be slain*
For very love which I to you have,
But if ye should your trothe keep and save.
Truth is the highest thing that man may keep.”
But with that word he burst anon to weep,
And said; “I you forbid, on pain of death,
That never, while you lasteth life or breath,
To no wight tell ye this misaventure;
As I may best, I will my woe endure,
Nor make no countenance of heaviness,
That folk of you may deeme harm, or guess.”
And forth he call’d a squier and a maid.
“Go forth anon with Dorigen,” he said,
“And bringe her to such a place anon.”
They take their leave, and on their way they gon:
But they not wiste why she thither went;
He would to no wight telle his intent.

This squier, which that hight Aurelius,
On Dorigen that was so amorous,
Of aventure happen’d her to meet
Amid the town, right in the quickest* street, *nearest
As she was bound* to go the way forthright *prepared, going <29>
Toward the garden, there as she had hight.* *promised
And he was to the garden-ward also;
For well he spied when she woulde go
Out of her house, to any manner place;
But thus they met, of aventure or grace,
And he saluted her with glad intent,
And asked of her whitherward she went.
And she answered, half as she were mad,
“Unto the garden, as my husband bade,
My trothe for to hold, alas! alas!”
Aurelius gan to wonder on this case,
And in his heart had great compassion
Of her, and of her lamentation,
And of Arviragus, the worthy knight,
That bade her hold all that she hadde hight;
So loth him was his wife should break her truth* *troth, pledged word
And in his heart he caught of it great ruth,* *pity
Considering the best on every side,
*That from his lust yet were him lever abide,* *see note <30>*
Than do so high a churlish wretchedness* *wickedness
Against franchise,* and alle gentleness; *generosity
For which in fewe words he saide thus;
“Madame, say to your lord Arviragus,
That since I see the greate gentleness
Of him, and eke I see well your distress,
That him were lever* have shame (and that were ruth)** *rather **pity
Than ye to me should breake thus your truth,
I had well lever aye* to suffer woe, *forever
Than to depart* the love betwixt you two. *sunder, split up
I you release, Madame, into your hond,
Quit ev’ry surement* and ev’ry bond, *surety
That ye have made to me as herebeforn,
Since thilke time that ye were born.
Have here my truth, I shall you ne’er repreve* *reproach
*Of no behest;* and here I take my leave, *of no (breach of)
As of the truest and the beste wife promise*
That ever yet I knew in all my life.
But every wife beware of her behest;
On Dorigen remember at the least.
Thus can a squier do a gentle deed,
As well as can a knight, withoute drede.”* *doubt

She thanked him upon her knees bare,
And home unto her husband is she fare,* *gone
And told him all, as ye have hearde said;
And, truste me, he was so *well apaid,* *satisfied*
That it were impossible me to write.
Why should I longer of this case indite?
Arviragus and Dorigen his wife
In sov’reign blisse ledde forth their life;
Ne’er after was there anger them between;
He cherish’d her as though she were a queen,
And she was to him true for evermore;
Of these two folk ye get of me no more.

Aurelius, that his cost had *all forlorn,* *utterly lost*
Cursed the time that ever he was born.
“Alas!” quoth he, “alas that I behight* *promised
Of pured* gold a thousand pound of weight *refined
To this philosopher! how shall I do?
I see no more, but that I am fordo.* *ruined, undone
Mine heritage must I needes sell,
And be a beggar; here I will not dwell,
And shamen all my kindred in this place,
But* I of him may gette better grace. *unless
But natheless I will of him assay
At certain dayes year by year to pay,
And thank him of his greate courtesy.
My trothe will I keep, I will not he.”
With hearte sore he went unto his coffer,
And broughte gold unto this philosopher,
The value of five hundred pound, I guess,
And him beseeched, of his gentleness,
To grant him *dayes of* the remenant; *time to pay up*
And said; “Master, I dare well make avaunt,
I failed never of my truth as yet.
For sickerly my debte shall be quit
Towardes you how so that e’er I fare
To go a-begging in my kirtle bare:
But would ye vouchesafe, upon surety,
Two year, or three, for to respite me,
Then were I well, for elles must I sell
Mine heritage; there is no more to tell.”

This philosopher soberly* answer’d, *gravely
And saide thus, when he these wordes heard;
“Have I not holden covenant to thee?”
“Yes, certes, well and truely,” quoth he.
“Hast thou not had thy lady as thee liked?”
“No, no,” quoth he, and sorrowfully siked.* *sighed
“What was the cause? tell me if thou can.”
Aurelius his tale anon began,
And told him all as ye have heard before,
It needeth not to you rehearse it more.
He said, “Arviragus of gentleness
Had lever* die in sorrow and distress, *rather
Than that his wife were of her trothe false.”
The sorrow of Dorigen he told him als’,* *also
How loth her was to be a wicked wife,
And that she lever had lost that day her life;
And that her troth she swore through innocence;
She ne’er erst* had heard speak of apparence** *before **see note <31>
That made me have of her so great pity,
And right as freely as he sent her to me,
As freely sent I her to him again:
This is all and some, there is no more to sayn.”

The philosopher answer’d; “Leve* brother, *dear
Evereach of you did gently to the other;
Thou art a squier, and he is a knight,
But God forbidde, for his blissful might,
But if a clerk could do a gentle deed
As well as any of you, it is no drede* *doubt
Sir, I release thee thy thousand pound,
As thou right now were crept out of the ground,
Nor ever ere now haddest knowen me.
For, Sir, I will not take a penny of thee
For all my craft, nor naught for my travail;* *labour, pains
Thou hast y-payed well for my vitaille;
It is enough; and farewell, have good day.”
And took his horse, and forth he went his way.
Lordings, this question would I aske now,
Which was the moste free,* as thinketh you? *generous <32>
Now telle me, ere that ye farther wend.
I can* no more, my tale is at an end. *know, can tell

Notes to The Franklin’s Tale

1. Well unnethes durst this knight for dread: This knight hardly dared, for fear (that she would not entertain his suit.)

2. “Ne woulde God never betwixt us twain, As in my guilt, were either war or strife” Would to God there may never be war or strife between us, through my fault.

3. Perhaps the true reading is “beteth” — prepares, makes ready, his wings for flight.

4. Penmark: On the west coast of Brittany, between Brest and L’Orient. The name is composed of two British words, “pen,” mountain, and “mark,” region; it therefore means the mountainous country

5. Cairrud: “The red city;” it is not known where it was situated.

6. Warished: cured; French, “guerir,” to heal, or recover from sickness.

7. Annoyeth: works mischief; from Latin, “nocco,” I hurt.

8. Virelays: ballads; the “virelai” was an ancient French poem of two rhymes.

9. Lucina the sheen: Diana the bright. See note 54 to the Knight’s Tale.

10. In a Latin poem, very popular in Chaucer’s time, Pamphilus relates his amour with Galatea, setting out with the idea adopted by our poet in the lines that follow.

11. Sursanure: A wound healed on the surface, but festering beneath.

12. Orleans: Where there was a celebrated and very famous university, afterwards eclipsed by that of Paris. It was founded by Philip le Bel in 1312.

13. Every halk and every hern: Every nook and corner, Anglo- Saxon, “healc,” a nook; “hyrn,” a corner.

14. Tregetoures: tricksters, jugglers. The word is probably derived — in “treget,” deceit or imposture — from the French “trebuchet,” a military machine; since it is evident that much and elaborate machinery must have been employed to produce the effects afterwards described. Another derivation is from the Low Latin, “tricator,” a deceiver.

15. Lissed of: eased of; released from; another form of “less” or “lessen.”

16. Gironde: The river, formed by the union of the Dordogne and Garonne, on which Bourdeaux stands.

17. Nor gladly for that sum he would not gon: And even for that sum he would not willingly go to work.

18. “Noel,” the French for Christmas — derived from “natalis,” and signifying that on that day Christ was born — came to be used as a festive cry by the people on solemn occasions.

19. Tables Toletanes: Toledan tables; the astronomical tables composed by order Of Alphonso II, King of Castile, about 1250 and so called because they were adapted to the city of Toledo.

20. “Alnath,” Says Mr Wright, was “the first star in the horns of Aries, whence the first mansion of the moon is named.”

21. Another and better reading is “a week or two.”

22. These stories are all taken from the book of St Jerome “Contra Jovinianum,” from which the Wife of Bath drew so many of her ancient instances. See note 1 to the prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale.

23. Panthea. Abradatas, King of Susa, was an ally of the Assyrians against Cyrus; and his wife was taken at the conquest of the Assyrian camp. Struck by the honourable treatment she received at the captors hands, Abradatas joined Cyrus, and fell in battle against his former alhes. His wife, inconsolable at his loss, slew herself immediately.

24. Protesilaus was the husband of Laedamia. She begged the gods, after his death, that but three hours’ converse with him might be allowed her; the request was granted; and when her dead husband, at the expiry of the time, returned to the world of shades, she bore him company.

25. The daughter of Cato of Utica, Porcia married Marcus Brutus, the friend and the assassin of Julius Caesar; when her husband died by his own hand after the battle of Philippi, she committed suicide, it is said, by swallowing live coals — all other means having been removed by her friends.

26. Artemisia, Queen of Caria, who built to her husband Mausolus, the splendid monument which was accounted among the wonders of the world; and who mingled her husband’s ashes with her daily drink. “Barbarie” is used in the Greek sense, to designate the non-Hellenic peoples of Asia.

27. Teuta: Queen of Illyria, who, after her husband’s death, made war on and was conquered by the Romans, B.C 228.

28. At this point, in some manuscripts, occur thefollowing two
lines: —
“The same thing I say of Bilia,
Of Rhodegone and of Valeria.”

29. Bound: prepared; going. To “boun” or “bown” is a good old word, whence comes our word “bound,” in the sense of “on the way.”

30. That from his lust yet were him lever abide: He would rather do without his pleasure.

31. Such apparence: such an ocular deception, or apparition — more properly, disappearance — as the removal of the rocks.

32. The same question is stated a the end of Boccaccio’s version of the story in the “Philocopo,” where the queen determines in favour of Aviragus. The question is evidently one of those which it was the fashion to propose for debate in the mediaeval “courts of love.”

THE DOCTOR’S TALE.

THE PROLOGUE. <1>

[“YEA, let that passe,” quoth our Host, “as now.
Sir Doctor of Physik, I praye you,
Tell us a tale of some honest mattere.”
“It shall be done, if that ye will it hear,”
Said this Doctor; and his tale gan anon.
“Now, good men,” quoth he, “hearken everyone.”]

Notes to the Prologue to the Doctor’s Tale

1. The authenticity of the prologue is questionable. It is found in one manuscript only; other manuscripts give other prologues, more plainly not Chaucer’s than this; and some manuscripts have merely a colophon to the effect that “Here endeth the Franklin’s Tale and beginneth the Physician’s Tale without a prologue.” The Tale itself is the well-known story of Virginia, with several departures from the text of Livy. Chaucer probably followed the “Romance of the Rose” and Gower’s “Confessio Amantis,” in both of which the story is found.

THE TALE.

There was, as telleth Titus Livius, <1>
A knight, that called was Virginius,
Full filled of honour and worthiness,
And strong of friendes, and of great richess.
This knight one daughter hadde by his wife;
No children had he more in all his life.
Fair was this maid in excellent beauty
Aboven ev’ry wight that man may see:
For nature had with sov’reign diligence
Y-formed her in so great excellence,
As though she woulde say, “Lo, I, Nature,
Thus can I form and paint a creature,
When that me list; who can me counterfeit?
Pygmalion? not though he aye forge and beat,
Or grave or painte: for I dare well sayn,
Apelles, Zeuxis, shoulde work in vain,
Either to grave, or paint, or forge, or beat,
If they presumed me to counterfeit.
For he that is the former principal,
Hath made me his vicar-general
To form and painten earthly creatures
Right as me list, and all thing in my cure* is, *care
Under the moone, that may wane and wax.
And for my work right nothing will I ax* *ask
My lord and I be full of one accord.
I made her to the worship* of my lord;
So do I all mine other creatures,
What colour that they have, or what figures.”
Thus seemeth me that Nature woulde say.

This maiden was of age twelve year and tway,* *two
In which that Nature hadde such delight.
For right as she can paint a lily white,
And red a rose, right with such painture
She painted had this noble creature,
Ere she was born, upon her limbes free,
Where as by right such colours shoulde be:
And Phoebus dyed had her tresses great,
Like to the streames* of his burned heat. *beams, rays
And if that excellent was her beauty,
A thousand-fold more virtuous was she.
In her there lacked no condition,
That is to praise, as by discretion.
As well in ghost* as body chaste was she: *mind, spirit
For which she flower’d in virginity,
With all humility and abstinence,
With alle temperance and patience,
With measure* eke of bearing and array. *moderation
Discreet she was in answering alway,
Though she were wise as Pallas, dare I sayn;
Her faconde* eke full womanly and plain, *speech <2>
No counterfeited termes hadde she
To seeme wise; but after her degree
She spake, and all her worde’s more and less
Sounding in virtue and in gentleness.
Shamefast she was in maiden’s shamefastness,
Constant in heart, and ever *in business* *diligent, eager*
To drive her out of idle sluggardy:
Bacchus had of her mouth right no mast’ry.
For wine and slothe <3> do Venus increase,
As men in fire will casten oil and grease.
And of her owen virtue, unconstrain’d,
She had herself full often sick y-feign’d,
For that she woulde flee the company,
Where likely was to treaten of folly,
As is at feasts, at revels, and at dances,
That be occasions of dalliances.
Such thinges make children for to be
Too soone ripe and bold, as men may see,
Which is full perilous, and hath been yore;* *of old
For all too soone may she learne lore
Of boldeness, when that she is a wife.

And ye mistresses,* in your olde life *governesses, duennas
That lordes’ daughters have in governance,
Take not of my wordes displeasance
Thinke that ye be set in governings
Of lordes’ daughters only for two things;
Either for ye have kept your honesty,
Or else for ye have fallen in frailty
And knowe well enough the olde dance,
And have forsaken fully such meschance* *wickedness <4>
For evermore; therefore, for Christe’s sake,
To teach them virtue look that ye not slake.* *be slack, fail
A thief of venison, that hath forlaft* *forsaken, left
His lik’rousness,* and all his olde craft, *gluttony
Can keep a forest best of any man;
Now keep them well, for if ye will ye can.
Look well, that ye unto no vice assent,
Lest ye be damned for your wick’* intent, *wicked, evil
For whoso doth, a traitor is certain;
And take keep* of that I shall you sayn; *heed
Of alle treason, sov’reign pestilence
Is when a wight betrayeth innocence.
Ye fathers, and ye mothers eke also,
Though ye have children, be it one or mo’,
Yours is the charge of all their surveyance,* *supervision
While that they be under your governance.
Beware, that by example of your living,
Or by your negligence in chastising,
That they not perish for I dare well say,
If that they do, ye shall it dear abeye.* *pay for, suffer for
Under a shepherd soft and negligent
The wolf hath many a sheep and lamb to-rent.
Suffice this example now as here,
For I must turn again to my mattere.

This maid, of which I tell my tale express,
She kept herself, her needed no mistress;
For in her living maidens mighte read,
As in a book, ev’ry good word and deed
That longeth to a maiden virtuous;
She was so prudent and so bounteous.
For which the fame out sprang on every side
Both of her beauty and her bounte* wide: *goodness
That through the land they praised her each one
That loved virtue, save envy alone,
That sorry is of other manne’s weal,
And glad is of his sorrow and unheal* — *misfortune
The Doctor maketh this descriptioun. — <5>
This maiden on a day went in the town
Toward a temple, with her mother dear,
As is of younge maidens the mannere.
Now was there then a justice in that town,
That governor was of that regioun:
And so befell, this judge his eyen cast
Upon this maid, avising* her full fast, *observing
As she came forth by where this judge stood;
Anon his hearte changed and his mood,
So was he caught with beauty of this maid
And to himself full privily he said,
“This maiden shall be mine *for any man.”* *despite what any
Anon the fiend into his hearte ran, man may do*
And taught him suddenly, that he by sleight
This maiden to his purpose winne might.
For certes, by no force, nor by no meed,* *bribe, reward
Him thought he was not able for to speed;
For she was strong of friendes, and eke she
Confirmed was in such sov’reign bounte,
That well he wist he might her never win,
As for to make her with her body sin.
For which, with great deliberatioun,
He sent after a clerk <6> was in the town,
The which he knew for subtle and for bold.
This judge unto this clerk his tale told
In secret wise, and made him to assure
He shoulde tell it to no creature,
And if he did, he shoulde lose his head.
And when assented was this cursed rede,* *counsel, plot
Glad was the judge, and made him greate cheer,
And gave him giftes precious and dear.
When shapen* was all their conspiracy *arranged
From point to point, how that his lechery
Performed shoulde be full subtilly,
As ye shall hear it after openly,
Home went this clerk, that highte Claudius.
This false judge, that highte Appius, —
(So was his name, for it is no fable,
But knowen for a storial* thing notable; *historical, authentic
The sentence* of it sooth** is out of doubt); — *account **true
This false judge went now fast about
To hasten his delight all that he may.
And so befell, soon after on a day,
This false judge, as telleth us the story,
As he was wont, sat in his consistory,
And gave his doomes* upon sundry case’; *judgments
This false clerk came forth *a full great pace,* *in haste
And saide; Lord, if that it be your will,
As do me right upon this piteous bill,* *petition
In which I plain upon Virginius.
And if that he will say it is not thus,
I will it prove, and finde good witness,
That sooth is what my bille will express.”
The judge answer’d, “Of this, in his absence,
I may not give definitive sentence.
Let do* him call, and I will gladly hear; *cause
Thou shalt have alle right, and no wrong here.”
Virginius came to weet* the judge’s will, *know, learn
And right anon was read this cursed bill;
The sentence of it was as ye shall hear
“To you, my lord, Sir Appius so clear,
Sheweth your poore servant Claudius,
How that a knight called Virginius,
Against the law, against all equity,
Holdeth, express against the will of me,
My servant, which that is my thrall* by right, *slave
Which from my house was stolen on a night,
While that she was full young; I will it preve* *prove
By witness, lord, so that it you *not grieve;* *be not displeasing*
She is his daughter not, what so he say.
Wherefore to you, my lord the judge, I pray,
Yield me my thrall, if that it be your will.”
Lo, this was all the sentence of the bill.
Virginius gan upon the clerk behold;
But hastily, ere he his tale told,
And would have proved it, as should a knight,
And eke by witnessing of many a wight,
That all was false that said his adversary,
This cursed judge would no longer tarry,
Nor hear a word more of Virginius,
But gave his judgement, and saide thus:
“I deem* anon this clerk his servant have; *pronounce, determine
Thou shalt no longer in thy house her save.
Go, bring her forth, and put her in our ward
The clerk shall have his thrall: thus I award.”

And when this worthy knight, Virginius,
Through sentence of this justice Appius,
Muste by force his deare daughter give
Unto the judge, in lechery to live,
He went him home, and sat him in his hall,
And let anon his deare daughter call;
And with a face dead as ashes cold
Upon her humble face he gan behold,
With father’s pity sticking* through his heart, *piercing
All* would he from his purpose not convert.** *although **turn aside
“Daughter,” quoth he, “Virginia by name,
There be two wayes, either death or shame,
That thou must suffer, — alas that I was bore!* *born
For never thou deservedest wherefore
To dien with a sword or with a knife,
O deare daughter, ender of my life,
Whom I have foster’d up with such pleasance
That thou were ne’er out of my remembrance;
O daughter, which that art my laste woe,
And in this life my laste joy also,
O gem of chastity, in patience
Take thou thy death, for this is my sentence:
For love and not for hate thou must be dead;
My piteous hand must smiten off thine head.
Alas, that ever Appius thee say!* *saw
Thus hath he falsely judged thee to-day.”
And told her all the case, as ye before
Have heard; it needeth not to tell it more.

“O mercy, deare father,” quoth the maid.
And with that word she both her armes laid
About his neck, as she was wont to do,
(The teares burst out of her eyen two),
And said, “O goode father, shall I die?
Is there no grace? is there no remedy?”
“No, certes, deare daughter mine,” quoth he.
“Then give me leisure, father mine, quoth she,
“My death for to complain* a little space *bewail
For, pardie, Jephthah gave his daughter grace
For to complain, ere he her slew, alas! <7>
And, God it wot, nothing was her trespass,* *offence
But for she ran her father first to see,
To welcome him with great solemnity.”
And with that word she fell a-swoon anon;
And after, when her swooning was y-gone,
She rose up, and unto her father said:
“Blessed be God, that I shall die a maid.
Give me my death, ere that I have shame;
Do with your child your will, in Godde’s name.”
And with that word she prayed him full oft
That with his sword he woulde smite her soft;
And with that word, a-swoon again she fell.
Her father, with full sorrowful heart and fell,* *stern, cruel
Her head off smote, and by the top it hent,* *took
And to the judge he went it to present,
As he sat yet in doom* in consistory. *judgment

And when the judge it saw, as saith the story,
He bade to take him, and to hang him fast.
But right anon a thousand people *in thrast* *rushed in*
To save the knight, for ruth and for pity
For knowen was the false iniquity.
The people anon had suspect* in this thing, *suspicion
By manner of the clerke’s challenging,
That it was by th’assent of Appius;
They wiste well that he was lecherous.
For which unto this Appius they gon,
And cast him in a prison right anon,
Where as he slew himself: and Claudius,
That servant was unto this Appius,
Was doomed for to hang upon a tree;
But that Virginius, of his pity,
So prayed for him, that he was exil’d;
And elles certes had he been beguil’d;* *see note <8>
The remenant were hanged, more and less,
That were consenting to this cursedness.* *villainy
Here men may see how sin hath his merite:* *deserts
Beware, for no man knows how God will smite
In no degree, nor in which manner wise
The worm of conscience may agrise* frighten, horrify
Of wicked life, though it so privy be,
That no man knows thereof, save God and he;
For be he lewed* man or elles lear’d,** *ignorant **learned
He knows not how soon he shall be afear’d;
Therefore I rede* you this counsel take, *advise
Forsake sin, ere sinne you forsake.

Notes to the Doctor’s Tale

1. Livy, Book iii. cap. 44, et seqq.

2. Faconde: utterance, speech; from Latin, “facundia,” eloquence.

3. Slothe: other readings are “thought” and “youth.”

4. Meschance: wickedness; French, “mechancete.”

5. This line seems to be a kind of aside thrown in by Chaucer himself.

6. The various readings of this word are “churl,” or “cherl,” in the best manuscripts; “client” in the common editions, and “clerk” supported by two important manuscripts. “Client” would perhaps be the best reading, if it were not awkward for the metre; but between “churl” and ”clerk” there can be little doubt that Mr Wright chose wisely when he preferred the second.

7. Judges xi. 37, 38. “And she said unto her father, Let . . . me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows. And he said, go.”

8. Beguiled: “cast into gaol,” according to Urry’s explanation; though we should probably understand that, if Claudius had not been sent out of the country, his death would have been secretly contrived through private detestation.

THE PARDONER’S TALE.

THE PROLOGUE.

OUR Hoste gan to swear as he were wood;
“Harow!” quoth he, “by nailes and by blood, <1>
This was a cursed thief, a false justice.
As shameful death as hearte can devise
Come to these judges and their advoca’s.* *advocates, counsellors
Algate* this sely** maid is slain, alas! *nevertheless **innocent
Alas! too deare bought she her beauty.
Wherefore I say, that all day man may see
That giftes of fortune and of nature
Be cause of death to many a creature.
Her beauty was her death, I dare well sayn;
Alas! so piteously as she was slain.
[Of bothe giftes, that I speak of now
Men have full often more harm than prow,*] *profit
But truely, mine owen master dear,
This was a piteous tale for to hear;
But natheless, pass over; ’tis *no force.* *no matter*
I pray to God to save thy gentle corse,* *body
And eke thine urinals, and thy jordans,
Thine Hippocras, and eke thy Galliens, <2>
And every boist* full of thy lectuary, *box <3>
God bless them, and our lady Sainte Mary.
So may I the’,* thou art a proper man, *thrive
And like a prelate, by Saint Ronian;
Said I not well? Can I not speak *in term?* *in set form*
But well I wot thou dost* mine heart to erme,** *makest **grieve<4>
That I have almost caught a cardiacle:* *heartache <5>
By corpus Domini <6>, but* I have triacle,** *unless **a remedy
Or else a draught of moist and corny <7> ale,
Or but* I hear anon a merry tale, *unless
Mine heart is brost* for pity of this maid. *burst, broken
Thou *bel ami,* thou Pardoner,” he said, *good friend*
“Tell us some mirth of japes* right anon.” *jokes
“It shall be done,” quoth he, “by Saint Ronion.
But first,” quoth he, “here at this ale-stake* *ale-house sign <8>
I will both drink, and biten on a cake.”
But right anon the gentles gan to cry,
“Nay, let him tell us of no ribaldry.
Tell us some moral thing, that we may lear* *learn
Some wit,* and thenne will we gladly hear.” *wisdom, sense
“I grant y-wis,”* quoth he; “but I must think *surely
Upon some honest thing while that I drink.”

Notes to the Prologue to the Pardoner’s Tale

1. The nails and blood of Christ, by which it was then a fashion to swear.

2. Mediaeval medical writers; see note 36 to the Prologue to the Tales.

3. Boist: box; French “boite,” old form “boiste.”

4. Erme: grieve; from Anglo-Saxon, “earme,” wretched.

5. Cardiacle: heartache; from Greek, “kardialgia.”

6. Corpus Domini: God’s body.

7. Corny ale: New and strong, nappy. As to “moist,” see note 39 to the Prologue to the Tales.

8. (Transcriber’s Note)In this scene the pilgrims are refreshing themselves at tables in front of an inn. The pardoner is drunk, which explains his boastful and revealing confession of his deceits.

THE TALE <1>

Lordings (quoth he), in churche when I preach,
I paine me to have an hautein* speech, *take pains **loud <2>
And ring it out, as round as doth a bell,
For I know all by rote that I tell.
My theme is always one, and ever was;
Radix malorum est cupiditas.<3>
First I pronounce whence that I come,
And then my bulles shew I all and some;
Our liege lorde’s seal on my patent,
That shew I first, *my body to warrent,* *for the protection
That no man be so hardy, priest nor clerk, of my person*
Me to disturb of Christe’s holy werk.
And after that then tell I forth my tales.
Bulles of popes, and of cardinales,
Of patriarchs, and of bishops I shew,
And in Latin I speak a wordes few,
To savour with my predication,
And for to stir men to devotion
Then show I forth my longe crystal stones,
Y-crammed fall of cloutes* and of bones; *rags, fragments
Relics they be, as *weene they* each one. *as my listeners think*
Then have I in latoun* a shoulder-bone *brass
Which that was of a holy Jewe’s sheep.
“Good men,” say I, “take of my wordes keep;* *heed
If that this bone be wash’d in any well,
If cow, or calf, or sheep, or oxe swell,
That any worm hath eat, or worm y-stung,
Take water of that well, and wash his tongue,
And it is whole anon; and farthermore
Of pockes, and of scab, and every sore
Shall every sheep be whole, that of this well
Drinketh a draught; take keep* of that I tell. *heed

“If that the goodman, that the beastes oweth,* *owneth
Will every week, ere that the cock him croweth,
Fasting, y-drinken of this well a draught,
As thilke holy Jew our elders taught,
His beastes and his store shall multiply.
And, Sirs, also it healeth jealousy;
For though a man be fall’n in jealous rage,
Let make with this water his pottage,
And never shall he more his wife mistrist,* *mistrust
*Though he the sooth of her defaulte wist;* *though he truly
All had she taken priestes two or three. <4> knew her sin*
Here is a mittain* eke, that ye may see; *glove, mitten
He that his hand will put in this mittain,
He shall have multiplying of his grain,
When he hath sowen, be it wheat or oats,
So that he offer pence, or elles groats.
And, men and women, one thing warn I you;
If any wight be in this churche now
That hath done sin horrible, so that he
Dare not for shame of it y-shriven* be; *confessed
Or any woman, be she young or old,
That hath y-made her husband cokewold,* *cuckold
Such folk shall have no power nor no grace
To offer to my relics in this place.
And whoso findeth him out of such blame,
He will come up and offer in God’s name;
And I assoil* him by the authority *absolve
Which that by bull y-granted was to me.”

By this gaud* have I wonne year by year *jest, trick
A hundred marks, since I was pardonere.
I stande like a clerk in my pulpit,
And when the lewed* people down is set, *ignorant
I preache so as ye have heard before,
And telle them a hundred japes* more. *jests, deceits
Then pain I me to stretche forth my neck,
And east and west upon the people I beck,
As doth a dove, sitting on a bern;* *barn
My handes and my tongue go so yern,* *briskly
That it is joy to see my business.
Of avarice and of such cursedness* *wickedness
Is all my preaching, for to make them free
To give their pence, and namely* unto me. *especially
For mine intent is not but for to win,
And nothing for correction of sin.
I recke never, when that they be buried,
Though that their soules go a blackburied.<5>
For certes *many a predication *preaching is often inspired
Cometh oft-time of evil intention;* by evil motives*
Some for pleasance of folk, and flattery,
To be advanced by hypocrisy;
And some for vainglory, and some for hate.
For, when I dare not otherwise debate,
Then will I sting him with my tongue smart* *sharply
In preaching, so that he shall not astart* *escape
To be defamed falsely, if that he
Hath trespass’d* to my brethren or to me. *offended
For, though I telle not his proper name,
Men shall well knowe that it is the same
By signes, and by other circumstances.
Thus *quite I* folk that do us displeasances: *I am revenged on*
Thus spit I out my venom, under hue
Of holiness, to seem holy and true.
But, shortly mine intent I will devise,
I preach of nothing but of covetise.
Therefore my theme is yet, and ever was, —
Radix malorum est cupiditas. <3>
Thus can I preach against the same vice
Which that I use, and that is avarice.
But though myself be guilty in that sin,
Yet can I maken other folk to twin* *depart
From avarice, and sore them repent.
But that is not my principal intent;
I preache nothing but for covetise.
Of this mattere it ought enough suffice.
Then tell I them examples many a one,
Of olde stories longe time gone;
For lewed* people love tales old; *unlearned
Such thinges can they well report and hold.
What? trowe ye, that whiles I may preach
And winne gold and silver for* I teach, *because
That I will live in povert’ wilfully?
Nay, nay, I thought it never truely.
For I will preach and beg in sundry lands;
I will not do no labour with mine hands,
Nor make baskets for to live thereby,
Because I will not beggen idlely.
I will none of the apostles counterfeit;* *imitate (in poverty)
I will have money, wool, and cheese, and wheat,
All* were it given of the poorest page, *even if
Or of the pooreste widow in a village:
All should her children sterve* for famine. *die
Nay, I will drink the liquor of the vine,
And have a jolly wench in every town.
But hearken, lordings, in conclusioun;
Your liking is, that I shall tell a tale
Now I have drunk a draught of corny ale,
By God, I hope I shall you tell a thing
That shall by reason be to your liking;
For though myself be a full vicious man,
A moral tale yet I you telle can,
Which I am wont to preache, for to win.
Now hold your peace, my tale I will begin.

In Flanders whilom was a company
Of younge folkes, that haunted folly,
As riot, hazard, stewes,* and taverns; *brothels
Where as with lutes, harpes, and giterns,* *guitars
They dance and play at dice both day and night,
And eat also, and drink over their might;
Through which they do the devil sacrifice
Within the devil’s temple, in cursed wise,
By superfluity abominable.
Their oathes be so great and so damnable,
That it is grisly* for to hear them swear. *dreadful <6>
Our blissful Lorde’s body they to-tear;* *tore to pieces <7>
Them thought the Jewes rent him not enough,
And each of them at other’s sinne lough.* *laughed
And right anon in come tombesteres <8>
Fetis* and small, and younge fruitesteres.** *dainty **fruit-girls
Singers with harpes, baudes,* waferers,** *revellers **cake-sellers
Which be the very devil’s officers,
To kindle and blow the fire of lechery,
That is annexed unto gluttony.
The Holy Writ take I to my witness,
That luxury is in wine and drunkenness. <9>
Lo, how that drunken Lot unkindely* *unnaturally
Lay by his daughters two unwittingly,
So drunk he was he knew not what he wrought.
Herodes, who so well the stories sought, <10>
When he of wine replete was at his feast,
Right at his owen table gave his hest* *command
To slay the Baptist John full guilteless.
Seneca saith a good word, doubteless:
He saith he can no difference find
Betwixt a man that is out of his mind,
And a man whiche that is drunkelew:* *a drunkard <11>
But that woodness,* y-fallen in a shrew,* *madness **one evil-tempered
Persevereth longer than drunkenness.

O gluttony, full of all cursedness;
O cause first of our confusion,
Original of our damnation,
Till Christ had bought us with his blood again!
Looke, how deare, shortly for to sayn,
Abought* was first this cursed villainy: *atoned for
Corrupt was all this world for gluttony.
Adam our father, and his wife also,
From Paradise, to labour and to woe,
Were driven for that vice, it is no dread.* *doubt
For while that Adam fasted, as I read,
He was in Paradise; and when that he
Ate of the fruit defended* of the tree, *forbidden <12>
Anon he was cast out to woe and pain.
O gluttony! well ought us on thee plain.
Oh! wist a man how many maladies
Follow of excess and of gluttonies,
He woulde be the more measurable* *moderate
Of his diete, sitting at his table.
Alas! the shorte throat, the tender mouth,
Maketh that east and west, and north and south,
In earth, in air, in water, men do swink* *labour
To get a glutton dainty meat and drink.
Of this mattere, O Paul! well canst thou treat
Meat unto womb,* and womb eke unto meat, *belly
Shall God destroye both, as Paulus saith. <13>
Alas! a foul thing is it, by my faith,
To say this word, and fouler is the deed,
When man so drinketh of the *white and red,* *i.e. wine*
That of his throat he maketh his privy
Through thilke cursed superfluity
The apostle saith, <14> weeping full piteously,
There walk many, of which you told have I, —
I say it now weeping with piteous voice, —
That they be enemies of Christe’s crois;* *cross
Of which the end is death; womb* is their God. *belly
O womb, O belly, stinking is thy cod,* *bag <15>
Full fill’d of dung and of corruptioun;
At either end of thee foul is the soun.
How great labour and cost is thee to find!* *supply
These cookes how they stamp, and strain, and grind,
And turne substance into accident,
To fulfill all thy likerous talent!
Out of the harde bones knocke they
The marrow, for they caste naught away
That may go through the gullet soft and swoot* *sweet
Of spicery and leaves, of bark and root,
Shall be his sauce y-maked by delight,
To make him have a newer appetite.
But, certes, he that haunteth such delices
Is dead while that he liveth in those vices.

A lecherous thing is wine, and drunkenness
Is full of striving and of wretchedness.
O drunken man! disfgur’d is thy face,<16>
Sour is thy breath, foul art thou to embrace:
And through thy drunken nose sowneth the soun’,
As though thous saidest aye, Samsoun! Samsoun!
And yet, God wot, Samson drank never wine.
Thou fallest as it were a sticked swine;
Thy tongue is lost, and all thine honest cure;* *care
For drunkenness is very sepulture* *tomb
Of manne’s wit and his discretion.
In whom that drink hath domination,
He can no counsel keep, it is no dread.* *doubt
Now keep you from the white and from the red,
And namely* from the white wine of Lepe,<17> *especially
That is to sell in Fish Street <18> and in Cheap.
This wine of Spaine creepeth subtilly —
In other wines growing faste by,
Of which there riseth such fumosity,
That when a man hath drunken draughtes three,
And weeneth that he be at home in Cheap,
He is in Spain, right at the town of Lepe,
Not at the Rochelle, nor at Bourdeaux town;
And thenne will he say, Samsoun! Samsoun!
But hearken, lordings, one word, I you pray,
That all the sovreign actes, dare I say,
Of victories in the Old Testament,
Through very God that is omnipotent,
Were done in abstinence and in prayere:
Look in the Bible, and there ye may it lear.* *learn
Look, Attila, the greate conqueror,
Died in his sleep, <19> with shame and dishonour,
Bleeding aye at his nose in drunkenness:
A captain should aye live in soberness
And o’er all this, advise* you right well *consider, bethink
What was commanded unto Lemuel; <20>
Not Samuel, but Lemuel, say I.
Reade the Bible, and find it expressly
Of wine giving to them that have justice.
No more of this, for it may well suffice.

And, now that I have spoke of gluttony,
Now will I you *defende hazardry.* *forbid gambling*
Hazard is very mother of leasings,* *lies
And of deceit, and cursed forswearings:
Blasphem’ of Christ, manslaughter, and waste also
Of chattel* and of time; and furthermo’ *property
It is repreve,* and contrar’ of honour, *reproach
For to be held a common hazardour.
And ever the higher he is of estate,
The more he is holden desolate.* *undone, worthless
If that a prince use hazardry,
In alle governance and policy
He is, as by common opinion,
Y-hold the less in reputation.

Chilon, that was a wise ambassador,
Was sent to Corinth with full great honor
From Lacedemon, <21> to make alliance;
And when he came, it happen’d him, by chance,
That all the greatest that were of that land,
Y-playing atte hazard he them fand.* *found
For which, as soon as that it mighte be,
He stole him home again to his country
And saide there, “I will not lose my name,
Nor will I take on me so great diffame,* *reproach
You to ally unto no hazardors.* *gamblers
Sende some other wise ambassadors,
For, by my troth, me were lever* die, *rather
Than I should you to hazardors ally.
For ye, that be so glorious in honours,
Shall not ally you to no hazardours,
As by my will, nor as by my treaty.”
This wise philosopher thus said he.
Look eke how to the King Demetrius
The King of Parthes, as the book saith us,
Sent him a pair of dice of gold in scorn,
For he had used hazard therebeforn:
For which he held his glory and renown
At no value or reputatioun.
Lordes may finden other manner play
Honest enough to drive the day away.

Now will I speak of oathes false and great
A word or two, as olde bookes treat.
Great swearing is a thing abominable,
And false swearing is more reprovable.
The highe God forbade swearing at all;
Witness on Matthew: <22> but in special
Of swearing saith the holy Jeremie, <23>
Thou thalt swear sooth thine oathes, and not lie:
And swear in doom* and eke in righteousness; *judgement
But idle swearing is a cursedness.* *wickedness
Behold and see, there in the firste table
Of highe Godde’s hestes* honourable, *commandments
How that the second best of him is this,
Take not my name in idle* or amiss. *in vain
Lo, rather* he forbiddeth such swearing, *sooner
Than homicide, or many a cursed thing;
I say that as by order thus it standeth;
This knoweth he that his hests* understandeth, *commandments
How that the second hest of God is that.
And farthermore, I will thee tell all plat,* *flatly, plainly
That vengeance shall not parte from his house,
That of his oathes is outrageous.
“By Godde’s precious heart, and by his nails, <24>
And by the blood of Christ, that is in Hailes, <25>
Seven is my chance, and thine is cinque and trey:
By Godde’s armes, if thou falsely play,
This dagger shall throughout thine hearte go.”
This fruit comes of the *bicched bones two,* *two cursed bones (dice)*
Forswearing, ire, falseness, and homicide.
Now, for the love of Christ that for us died,
Leave your oathes, bothe great and smale.
But, Sirs, now will I ell you forth my tale.

These riotoures three, of which I tell,
Long *erst than* prime rang of any bell, *before
Were set them in a tavern for to drink;
And as they sat, they heard a belle clink
Before a corpse, was carried to the grave.
That one of them gan calle to his knave,* *servant
“Go bet,” <26> quoth he, “and aske readily
What corpse is this, that passeth here forth by;
And look that thou report his name well.”
“Sir,” quoth the boy, “it needeth never a deal;* *whit
It was me told ere ye came here two hours;
He was, pardie, an old fellow of yours,
And suddenly he was y-slain to-night;
Fordrunk* as he sat on his bench upright, *completely drunk
There came a privy thief, men clepe Death,
That in this country all the people slay’th,
And with his spear he smote his heart in two,
And went his way withoute wordes mo’.
He hath a thousand slain this pestilence;
And, master, ere you come in his presence,
Me thinketh that it were full necessary
For to beware of such an adversary;
Be ready for to meet him evermore.
Thus taughte me my dame; I say no more.”
“By Sainte Mary,” said the tavernere,
“The child saith sooth, for he hath slain this year,
Hence ov’r a mile, within a great village,
Both man and woman, child, and hind, and page;
I trow his habitation be there;
To be advised* great wisdom it were, *watchful, on one’s guard
Ere* that he did a man a dishonour.” *lest

“Yea, Godde’s armes,” quoth this riotour,
“Is it such peril with him for to meet?
I shall him seek, by stile and eke by street.
I make a vow, by Godde’s digne* bones.” *worthy
Hearken, fellows, we three be alle ones:* *at one
Let each of us hold up his hand to other,
And each of us become the other’s brother,
And we will slay this false traitor Death;
He shall be slain, he that so many slay’th,
By Godde’s dignity, ere it be night.”
Together have these three their trothe plight
To live and die each one of them for other
As though he were his owen sworen brother.
And up they start, all drunken, in this rage,
And forth they go towardes that village
Of which the taverner had spoke beforn,
And many a grisly* oathe have they sworn, *dreadful
And Christe’s blessed body they to-rent;* *tore to pieces <7>
“Death shall be dead, if that we may him hent.”* *catch
When they had gone not fully half a mile,
Right as they would have trodden o’er a stile,
An old man and a poore with them met.
This olde man full meekely them gret,* *greeted
And saide thus; “Now, lordes, God you see!”* *look on graciously
The proudest of these riotoures three
Answer’d again; “What? churl, with sorry grace,
Why art thou all forwrapped* save thy face? *closely wrapt up
Why livest thou so long in so great age?”
This olde man gan look on his visage,
And saide thus; “For that I cannot find
A man, though that I walked unto Ind,
Neither in city, nor in no village go,
That woulde change his youthe for mine age;
And therefore must I have mine age still
As longe time as it is Godde’s will.
And Death, alas! he will not have my life.
Thus walk I like a resteless caitife,* *miserable wretch
And on the ground, which is my mother’s gate,
I knocke with my staff, early and late,
And say to her, ‘Leve* mother, let me in. *dear
Lo, how I wane, flesh, and blood, and skin;
Alas! when shall my bones be at rest?
Mother, with you I woulde change my chest,
That in my chamber longe time hath be,
Yea, for an hairy clout to *wrap in me.’* *wrap myself in*
But yet to me she will not do that grace,
For which fall pale and welked* is my face. *withered
But, Sirs, to you it is no courtesy
To speak unto an old man villainy,
But* he trespass in word or else in deed. *except
In Holy Writ ye may yourselves read;
‘Against* an old man, hoar upon his head, *to meet
Ye should arise:’ therefore I you rede,* *advise
Ne do unto an old man no harm now,
No more than ye would a man did you
In age, if that ye may so long abide.
And God be with you, whether ye go or ride
I must go thither as I have to go.”

“Nay, olde churl, by God thou shalt not so,”
Saide this other hazardor anon;
“Thou partest not so lightly, by Saint John.
Thou spakest right now of that traitor Death,
That in this country all our friendes slay’th;
Have here my troth, as thou art his espy;* *spy
Tell where he is, or thou shalt it abie,* *suffer for
By God and by the holy sacrament;
For soothly thou art one of his assent
To slay us younge folk, thou false thief.”
“Now, Sirs,” quoth he, “if it be you so lief* *desire
To finde Death, turn up this crooked way,
For in that grove I left him, by my fay,
Under a tree, and there he will abide;
Nor for your boast he will him nothing hide.
See ye that oak? right there ye shall him find.
God save you, that bought again mankind,
And you amend!” Thus said this olde man;
And evereach of these riotoures ran,
Till they came to the tree, and there they found
Of florins fine, of gold y-coined round,
Well nigh a seven bushels, as them thought.
No longer as then after Death they sought;
But each of them so glad was of the sight,
For that the florins were so fair and bright,
That down they sat them by the precious hoard.
The youngest of them spake the firste word:
“Brethren,” quoth he, “*take keep* what I shall say; *heed*
My wit is great, though that I bourde* and play *joke, frolic
This treasure hath Fortune unto us given
In mirth and jollity our life to liven;
And lightly as it comes, so will we spend.
Hey! Godde’s precious dignity! who wend* *weened, thought
Today that we should have so fair a grace?
But might this gold he carried from this place
Home to my house, or elles unto yours
(For well I wot that all this gold is ours),
Then were we in high felicity.
But truely by day it may not be;
Men woulde say that we were thieves strong,
And for our owen treasure do us hong.* *have us hanged
This treasure muste carried be by night,
As wisely and as slily as it might.
Wherefore I rede,* that cut** among us all *advise **lots
We draw, and let see where the cut will fall:
And he that hath the cut, with hearte blithe
Shall run unto the town, and that full swithe,* *quickly
And bring us bread and wine full privily:
And two of us shall keepe subtilly
This treasure well: and if he will not tarry,
When it is night, we will this treasure carry,
By one assent, where as us thinketh best.”
Then one of them the cut brought in his fist,
And bade them draw, and look where it would fall;
And it fell on the youngest of them all;
And forth toward the town he went anon.
And all so soon as that he was y-gone,
The one of them spake thus unto the other;
“Thou knowest well that thou art my sworn brother,
*Thy profit* will I tell thee right anon. *what is for thine
Thou knowest well that our fellow is gone, advantage*
And here is gold, and that full great plenty,
That shall departed* he among us three. *divided
But natheless, if I could shape* it so *contrive
That it departed were among us two,
Had I not done a friende’s turn to thee?”
Th’ other answer’d, “I n’ot* how that may be; *know not
He knows well that the gold is with us tway.
What shall we do? what shall we to him say?”
“Shall it be counsel?”* said the firste shrew;** *secret **wretch
“And I shall tell to thee in wordes few
What we shall do, and bring it well about.”
“I grante,” quoth the other, “out of doubt,
That by my truth I will thee not bewray.”* *betray
“Now,” quoth the first, “thou know’st well we be tway,
And two of us shall stronger be than one.
Look; when that he is set,* thou right anon *sat down
Arise, as though thou wouldest with him play;
And I shall rive* him through the sides tway, *stab
While that thou strugglest with him as in game;
And with thy dagger look thou do the same.
And then shall all this gold departed* be, *divided
My deare friend, betwixte thee and me:
Then may we both our lustes* all fulfil, *pleasures
And play at dice right at our owen will.”
And thus accorded* be these shrewes** tway *agreed **wretches
To slay the third, as ye have heard me say.

The youngest, which that wente to the town,
Full oft in heart he rolled up and down
The beauty of these florins new and bright.
“O Lord!” quoth he, “if so were that I might
Have all this treasure to myself alone,
There is no man that lives under the throne
Of God, that shoulde have so merry as I.”
And at the last the fiend our enemy
Put in his thought, that he should poison buy,
With which he mighte slay his fellows twy.* *two
For why, the fiend found him *in such living,* *leading such a
That he had leave to sorrow him to bring. (bad) life*
For this was utterly his full intent
To slay them both, and never to repent.
And forth he went, no longer would he tarry,
Into the town to an apothecary,
And prayed him that he him woulde sell
Some poison, that he might *his rattes quell,* *kill his rats*
And eke there was a polecat in his haw,* *farm-yard, hedge <27>
That, as he said, his eapons had y-slaw:* *slain
And fain he would him wreak,* if that he might, *revenge
Of vermin that destroyed him by night.
Th’apothecary answer’d, “Thou shalt have
A thing, as wisly* God my soule save, *surely
In all this world there is no creature
That eat or drank hath of this confecture,
Not but the mountance* of a corn of wheat, *amount
That he shall not his life *anon forlete;* *immediately lay down*
Yea, sterve* he shall, and that in lesse while *die
Than thou wilt go *apace* nought but a mile: *quickly*
This poison is so strong and violent.”
This cursed man hath in his hand y-hent* *taken
This poison in a box, and swift he ran
Into the nexte street, unto a man,
And borrow’d of him large bottles three;
And in the two the poison poured he;
The third he kepte clean for his own drink,
For all the night he shope him* for to swink** *purposed **labour
In carrying off the gold out of that place.
And when this riotour, with sorry grace,
Had fill’d with wine his greate bottles three,

To his fellows again repaired he.
What needeth it thereof to sermon* more? *talk, discourse
For, right as they had cast* his death before, *plotted
Right so they have him slain, and that anon.
And when that this was done, thus spake the one;
“Now let us sit and drink, and make us merry,
And afterward we will his body bury.”
And with that word it happen’d him *par cas* *by chance
To take the bottle where the poison was,
And drank, and gave his fellow drink also,
For which anon they sterved* both the two. *died
But certes I suppose that Avicen
Wrote never in no canon, nor no fen, <28>
More wondrous signes of empoisoning,
Than had these wretches two ere their ending.
Thus ended be these homicides two,
And eke the false empoisoner also.

O cursed sin, full of all cursedness!
O trait’rous homicide! O wickedness!
O glutt’ny, luxury, and hazardry!
Thou blasphemer of Christ with villany,* *outrage, impiety
And oathes great, of usage and of pride!
Alas! mankinde, how may it betide,
That to thy Creator, which that thee wrought,
And with his precious hearte-blood thee bought,
Thou art so false and so unkind,* alas! *unnatural
Now, good men, God forgive you your trespass,
And ware* you from the sin of avarice. *keep
Mine holy pardon may you all warice,* *heal
So that ye offer *nobles or sterlings,* *gold or silver coins*
Or elles silver brooches, spoons, or rings.
Bowe your head under this holy bull.
Come up, ye wives, and offer of your will;
Your names I enter in my roll anon;
Into the bliss of heaven shall ye gon;
I you assoil* by mine high powere, *absolve <29>
You that will offer, as clean and eke as clear
As ye were born. Lo, Sires, thus I preach;
And Jesus Christ, that is our soules’ leech,* *healer
So grante you his pardon to receive;
For that is best, I will not deceive.

But, Sirs, one word forgot I in my tale;
I have relics and pardon in my mail,
As fair as any man in Engleland,
Which were me given by the Pope’s hand.
If any of you will of devotion
Offer, and have mine absolution,
Come forth anon, and kneele here adown
And meekely receive my pardoun.
Or elles take pardon, as ye wend,* *go
All new and fresh at every towne’s end,
So that ye offer, always new and new,
Nobles or pence which that be good and true.
‘Tis an honour to evereach* that is here, *each one
That ye have a suffisant* pardonere *suitable
T’assoile* you in country as ye ride, *absolve
For aventures which that may betide.
Paraventure there may fall one or two
Down of his horse, and break his neck in two.
Look, what a surety is it to you all,
That I am in your fellowship y-fall,
That may assoil* you bothe *more and lass,* *absolve
When that the soul shall from the body pass. *great and small*
I rede* that our Hoste shall begin, *advise
For he is most enveloped in sin.
Come forth, Sir Host, and offer first anon,
And thou shalt kiss; the relics every one,
Yea, for a groat; unbuckle anon thy purse.

“Nay, nay,” quoth he, “then have I Christe’s curse!
Let be,” quoth he, “it shall not be, *so the’ch.* *so may I thrive*
Thou wouldest make me kiss thine olde breech,
And swear it were a relic of a saint,
Though it were with thy *fundament depaint’.* *stained by your bottom*
But, by the cross which that Saint Helen fand,* *found <30>
I would I had thy coilons* in mine hand, *testicles
Instead of relics, or of sanctuary.
Let cut them off, I will thee help them carry;
They shall be shrined in a hogge’s turd.”
The Pardoner answered not one word;
So wroth he was, no worde would he say.

“Now,” quoth our Host, “I will no longer play
With thee, nor with none other angry man.”
But right anon the worthy Knight began
(When that he saw that all the people lough*), *laughed
“No more of this, for it is right enough.
Sir Pardoner, be merry and glad of cheer;
And ye, Sir Host, that be to me so dear,
I pray you that ye kiss the Pardoner;
And, Pardoner, I pray thee draw thee ner,* *nearer
And as we didde, let us laugh and play.”
Anon they kiss’d, and rode forth their way.

Notes to the Pardoner’s Tale

1. The outline of this Tale is to be found in the “Cento Novelle Antiche,” but the original is now lost. As in the case of the Wife of Bath’s Tale, there is a long prologue, but in this case it has been treated as part of the Tale.

2. Hautein: loud, lofty; from French, “hautain.”

3. Radix malorum est cupiditas: “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Tim.vi. 10)

4.All had she taken priestes two or three: even if she had committed adultery with two or three priests.

5. Blackburied: The meaning of this is not very clear, but it is probably a periphrastic and picturesque way of indicating damnation.

6. Grisly: dreadful; fitted to “agrise” or horrify the listener.

7. Mr Wright says: “The common oaths in the Middle Ages were by the different parts of God’s body; and the popular preachers represented that profane swearers tore Christ’s body by their imprecations.” The idea was doubtless borrowed from the passage in Hebrews (vi. 6), where apostates are said to “crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.”

8. Tombesteres: female dancers or tumblers; from Anglo- Saxon, “tumban,” to dance.

9. “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess.” Eph. v.18.

10. The reference is probably to the diligent inquiries Herod made at the time of Christ’s birth. See Matt. ii. 4-8

11. A drunkard. “Perhaps,” says Tyrwhitt, “Chaucer refers to Epist. LXXXIII., ‘Extende in plures dies illum ebrii habitum; nunquid de furore dubitabis? nunc quoque non est minor sed brevior.'” (“Prolong the drunkard’s condition to several days; will you doubt his madness? Even as it is, the madness is no less; merely shorter.”)

12. Defended: forbidden; French, “defendu.” St Jerome, in his book against Jovinian, says that so long as Adam fasted, he was in Paradise; he ate, and he was thrust out.

13. “Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats; but God shall destroy both it and them.” 1 Cor. vi. 13.

14. “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” Phil. iii. 18, 19.

15. Cod: bag; Anglo-Saxon, “codde;” hence peas-cod, pin-cod (pin-cushion), &c.

16. Compare with the lines which follow, the picture of the drunken messenger in the Man of Law’s Tale.

17. Lepe: A town near Cadiz, whence a stronger wine than the Gascon vintages afforded was imported to England. French wine was often adulterated with the cheaper and stronger Spanish.

18. Another reading is “Fleet Street.”

19. Attila was suffocated in the night by a haemorrhage, brought on by a debauch, when he was preparing a new invasion of Italy, in 453.

20. “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes strong drink; lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.” Prov. xxxi. 4, 5.

21. Most manuscripts, evidently in error, have “Stilbon” and “Calidone” for Chilon and Lacedaemon. Chilon was one of the seven sages of Greece, and flourished about B.C. 590. According to Diogenes Laertius, he died, under the pressure of age and joy, in the arms of his son, who had just been crowned victor at the Olympic games.

22. “Swear not at all;” Christ’s words in Matt. v. 34.

23. “And thou shalt swear, the lord liveth in truth, in judgement, and in righteousness.” Jeremiah iv. 2

24. The nails that fastened Christ on the cross, which were regarded with superstitious reverence.

25. Hailes: An abbey in Gloucestershire, where, under the designation of “the blood of Hailes,” a portion of Christ’s blood was preserved.

26. Go bet: a hunting phrase; apparently its force is, “go beat up the game.”

27. Haw; farm-yard, hedge Compare the French, “haie.”

28. Avicen, or Avicenna, was among the distinguished physicians of the Arabian school in the eleventh century, and very popular in the Middle Ages. His great work was called “Canon Medicinae,” and was divided into “fens,” “fennes,” or sections.

29. Assoil: absolve. compare the Scotch law-term “assoilzie,” to acquit.

30. Saint Helen, according to Sir John Mandeville, found the cross of Christ deep below ground, under a rock, where the Jews had hidden it; and she tested the genuineness of the sacred tree, by raising to life a dead man laid upon it.

THE SHIPMAN’S TALE.<1>

THE PROLOGUE

Our Host upon his stirrups stood anon,
And saide; “Good men, hearken every one,
This was a thrifty* tale for the nones. *discreet, profitable
Sir Parish Priest,” quoth he, “for Godde’s bones,
Tell us a tale, as was thy *forword yore:* *promise formerly*
I see well that ye learned men in lore
Can* muche good, by Godde’s dignity.” *know
The Parson him answer’d, “Ben’dicite!
What ails the man, so sinfully to swear?”
Our Host answer’d, “O Jankin, be ye there?
Now, good men,” quoth our Host, “hearken to me.
I smell a Lollard <2> in the wind,” quoth he.
“Abide, for Godde’s digne* passion, *worthy
For we shall have a predication:
This Lollard here will preachen us somewhat.”
“Nay, by my father’s soul, that shall he not,
Saide the Shipman; “Here shall he not preach,
He shall no gospel glose* here nor teach. *comment upon
We all believe in the great God,” quoth he.
“He woulde sowe some difficulty,
Or springe cockle <3> in our cleane corn.
And therefore, Host, I warne thee beforn,
My jolly body shall a tale tell,
And I shall clinke you so merry a bell,
That I shall waken all this company;
But it shall not be of philosophy,
Nor of physic, nor termes quaint of law;
There is but little Latin in my maw.”* *belly

Notes to the Prologue to the Shipman’s Tale

1. The Prologue here given was transferred by Tyrwhitt from the place, preceding the Squire’s Tale, which it had formerly occupied; the Shipman’s Tale having no Prologue in the best manuscripts.

2. Lollard: A contemptuous name for the followers of Wyckliffe; presumably derived from the Latin, “lolium,” tares, as if they were the tares among the Lord’s wheat; so, a few lines below, the Shipman intimates his fear lest the Parson should “spring cockle in our clean corn.”

3. Cockle: A weed, the “Agrostemma githago” of Linnaeus; perhaps named from the Anglo-Saxon, “ceocan,” because it chokes the corn. (Transcriber’s note: It is also possible Chaucer had in mind Matthew 13:25, where in some translations, an enemy sowed “cockle” amongst the wheat. (Other translations have “tares” and “darnel”.))

THE TALE. <1>

A Merchant whilom dwell’d at Saint Denise,
That riche was, for which men held him wise.
A wife he had of excellent beauty,
And *companiable and revellous* was she, *fond of society and
Which is a thing that causeth more dispence merry making*
Than worth is all the cheer and reverence
That men them do at feastes and at dances.
Such salutations and countenances
Passen, as doth the shadow on the wall;
Put woe is him that paye must for all.
The sely* husband algate** he must pay, *innocent **always
He must us <2> clothe and he must us array
All for his owen worship richely:
In which array we dance jollily.
And if that he may not, paraventure,
Or elles list not such dispence endure,
But thinketh it is wasted and y-lost,
Then must another paye for our cost,
Or lend us gold, and that is perilous.

This noble merchant held a noble house;
For which he had all day so great repair,* *resort of visitors
For his largesse, and for his wife was fair,
That wonder is; but hearken to my tale.
Amonges all these guestes great and smale,
There was a monk, a fair man and a bold,
I trow a thirty winter he was old,
That ever-in-one* was drawing to that place. *constantly
This younge monk, that was so fair of face,
Acquainted was so with this goode man,
Since that their firste knowledge began,
That in his house as familiar was he
As it is possible any friend to be.
And, for as muchel as this goode man,
And eke this monk of which that I began,
Were both the two y-born in one village,
The monk *him claimed, as for cousinage,* *claimed kindred
And he again him said not once nay, with him*
But was as glad thereof as fowl of day;
“For to his heart it was a great pleasance.
Thus be they knit with etern’ alliance,
And each of them gan other to assure
Of brotherhood while that their life may dure.
Free was Dan <3> John, and namely* of dispence,** *especially **spending
As in that house, and full of diligence
To do pleasance, and also *great costage;* *liberal outlay*
He not forgot to give the leaste page
In all that house; but, after their degree,
He gave the lord, and sithen* his meinie,** *afterwards **servants
When that he came, some manner honest thing;
For which they were as glad of his coming
As fowl is fain when that the sun upriseth.
No more of this as now, for it sufficeth.

But so befell, this merchant on a day
Shope* him to make ready his array *resolved, arranged
Toward the town of Bruges <4> for to fare,
To buye there a portion of ware;* *merchandise
For which he hath to Paris sent anon
A messenger, and prayed hath Dan John
That he should come to Saint Denis, and play* *enjoy himself
With him, and with his wife, a day or tway,
Ere he to Bruges went, in alle wise.
This noble monk, of which I you devise,* *tell
Had of his abbot, as him list, licence,
(Because he was a man of high prudence,
And eke an officer out for to ride,
To see their granges and their barnes wide); <5>
And unto Saint Denis he came anon.
Who was so welcome as my lord Dan John,
Our deare cousin, full of courtesy?
With him he brought a jub* of malvesie, *jug
And eke another full of fine vernage, <6>
And volatile,* as aye was his usage: *wild-fowl
And thus I let them eat, and drink, and play,
This merchant and this monk, a day or tway.
The thirde day the merchant up ariseth,
And on his needeis sadly him adviseth;
And up into his countour-house* went he, *counting-house <7>
To reckon with himself as well may be,
Of thilke* year, how that it with him stood, *that
And how that he dispended bad his good,
And if that he increased were or non.
His bookes and his bagges many a one
He laid before him on his counting-board.
Full riche was his treasure and his hoard;
For which full fast his countour door he shet;
And eke he would that no man should him let* *hinder
Of his accountes, for the meane time:
And thus he sat, till it was passed prime.

Dan John was risen in the morn also,
And in the garden walked to and fro,
And had his thinges said full courteously.
The good wife came walking full privily
Into the garden, where he walked soft,
And him saluted, as she had done oft;
A maiden child came in her company,
Which as her list she might govern and gie,* *guide
For yet under the yarde* was the maid. *rod <8>
“O deare cousin mine, Dan John,” she said,
“What aileth you so rath* for to arise?” *early
“Niece,” quoth he, “it ought enough suffice
Five houres for to sleep upon a night;’
But* it were for an old appalled** wight, *unless **pallid, wasted
As be these wedded men, that lie and dare,* *stare
As in a forme sits a weary hare,
Alle forstraught* with houndes great and smale; *distracted, confounded
But, deare niece, why be ye so pale?
I trowe certes that our goode man
Hath you so laboured, since this night began,
That you were need to reste hastily.”
And with that word he laugh’d full merrily,
And of his owen thought he wax’d all red.
This faire wife gan for to shake her head,
And saide thus; “Yea, God wot all” quoth she.
“Nay, cousin mine, it stands not so with me;
For by that God, that gave me soul and life,
In all the realm of France is there no wife
That lesse lust hath to that sorry play;
For I may sing alas and well-away!
That I was born; but to no wight,” quoth she,
“Dare I not tell how that it stands with me.
Wherefore I think out of this land to wend,
Or elles of myself to make an end,
So full am I of dread and eke of care.”

This monk began upon this wife to stare,
And said, “Alas! my niece, God forbid
That ye for any sorrow, or any dread,
Fordo* yourself: but telle me your grief, *destroy
Paraventure I may, in your mischief,* *distress
Counsel or help; and therefore telle me
All your annoy, for it shall be secre.
For on my portos* here I make an oath, *breviary
That never in my life, *for lief nor loth,* *willing or unwilling*
Ne shall I of no counsel you bewray.”
“The same again to you,” quoth she, “I say.
By God and by this portos I you swear,
Though men me woulden all in pieces tear,
Ne shall I never, for* to go to hell, *though I should
Bewray* one word of thing that ye me tell, *betray
For no cousinage, nor alliance,
But verily for love and affiance.”* *confidence, promise
Thus be they sworn, and thereupon they kiss’d,
And each of them told other what them list.
“Cousin,” quoth she, “if that I hadde space,
As I have none, and namely* in this place, *specially
Then would I tell a legend of my life,
What I have suffer’d since I was a wife
With mine husband, all* be he your cousin. *although
“Nay,” quoth this monk, “by God and Saint Martin,
He is no more cousin unto me,
Than is the leaf that hangeth on the tree;
I call him so, by Saint Denis of France,
To have the more cause of acquaintance
Of you, which I have loved specially
Aboven alle women sickerly,* *surely
This swear I you *on my professioun;* *by my vows of religion
Tell me your grief, lest that he come adown,
And hasten you, and go away anon.”

“My deare love,” quoth she, “O my Dan John,
Full lief* were me this counsel for to hide, *pleasant
But out it must, I may no more abide.
My husband is to me the worste man
That ever was since that the world began;
But since I am a wife, it sits* not me *becomes
To telle no wight of our privity,
Neither in bed, nor in none other place;
God shield* I shoulde tell it for his grace; *forbid
A wife shall not say of her husband
But all honour, as I can understand;
Save unto you thus much I telle shall;
As help me God, he is nought worth at all
In no degree, the value of a fly.
But yet me grieveth most his niggardy.* *stinginess
And well ye wot, that women naturally
Desire thinges six, as well as I.
They woulde that their husbands shoulde be
Hardy,* and wise, and rich, and thereto free, *brave
And buxom* to his wife, and fresh in bed. *yielding, obedient
But, by that ilke* Lord that for us bled, *same
For his honour myself for to array,
On Sunday next I muste needes pay
A hundred francs, or elles am I lorn.* *ruined, undone
Yet *were me lever* that I were unborn, *I would rather*
Than me were done slander or villainy.
And if mine husband eke might it espy,
I were but lost; and therefore I you pray,
Lend me this sum, or elles must I dey.* *die
Dan John, I say, lend me these hundred francs;
Pardie, I will not faile you, *my thanks,* *if I can help it*
If that you list to do that I you pray;
For at a certain day I will you pay,
And do to you what pleasance and service
That I may do, right as you list devise.
And but* I do, God take on me vengeance, *unless
As foul as e’er had Ganilion <9> of France.”

This gentle monk answer’d in this mannere;
“Now truely, mine owen lady dear,
I have,” quoth he, “on you so greate ruth,* *pity
That I you swear, and plighte you my truth,
That when your husband is to Flanders fare,* *gone
I will deliver you out of this care,
For I will bringe you a hundred francs.”
And with that word he caught her by the flanks,
And her embraced hard, and kissed her oft.
“Go now your way,” quoth he, “all still and soft,
And let us dine as soon as that ye may,
For by my cylinder* ’tis prime of day; *portable sundial
Go now, and be as true as I shall be .”
“Now elles God forbidde, Sir,” quoth she;
And forth she went, as jolly as a pie,
And bade the cookes that they should them hie,* *make haste
So that men mighte dine, and that anon.
Up to her husband is this wife gone,
And knocked at his contour boldely.
*”Qui est la?”* quoth he. “Peter! it am I,” *who is there?*
Quoth she; “What, Sir, how longe all will ye fast?
How longe time will ye reckon and cast
Your summes, and your bookes, and your things?
The devil have part of all such reckonings!
Ye have enough, pardie, of Godde’s sond.* *sending, gifts
Come down to-day, and let your bagges stond.* *stand
Ne be ye not ashamed, that Dan John
Shall fasting all this day elenge* gon? *see note <10>
What? let us hear a mass, and go we dine.”
“Wife,” quoth this man, “little canst thou divine
The curious businesse that we have;
For of us chapmen,* all so God me save, *merchants
And by that lord that cleped is Saint Ive,
Scarcely amonges twenty, ten shall thrive
Continually, lasting unto our age.
We may well make cheer and good visage,
And drive forth the world as it may be,
And keepen our estate in privity,
Till we be dead, or elles that we play
A pilgrimage, or go out of the way.
And therefore have I great necessity
Upon this quaint* world to advise** me. *strange **consider
For evermore must we stand in dread
Of hap and fortune in our chapmanhead.* *trading
To Flanders will I go to-morrow at day,
And come again as soon as e’er I may:
For which, my deare wife, I thee beseek *beseech
As be to every wight buxom* and meek, *civil, courteous
And for to keep our good be curious,
And honestly governe well our house.
Thou hast enough, in every manner wise,
That to a thrifty household may suffice.
Thee lacketh none array, nor no vitail;
Of silver in thy purse thou shalt not fail.”

And with that word his contour door he shet,* *shut
And down he went; no longer would he let;* *delay, hinder
And hastily a mass was there said,
And speedily the tables were laid,
And to the dinner faste they them sped,
And richely this monk the chapman fed.
And after dinner Dan John soberly
This chapman took apart, and privily
He said him thus: “Cousin, it standeth so,
That, well I see, to Bruges ye will go;
God and Saint Austin speede you and guide.
I pray you, cousin, wisely that ye ride:
Governe you also of your diet
Attemperly,* and namely** in this heat. *moderately
Betwixt us two needeth no *strange fare;* *ado, ceremony*
Farewell, cousin, God shielde you from care.
If any thing there be, by day or night,
If it lie in my power and my might,
That ye me will command in any wise,
It shall be done, right as ye will devise.
But one thing ere ye go, if it may be;
I woulde pray you for to lend to me
A hundred frankes, for a week or twy,
For certain beastes that I muste buy,
To store with a place that is ours
(God help me so, I would that it were yours);
I shall not faile surely of my day,
Not for a thousand francs, a mile way.
But let this thing be secret, I you pray;
For yet to-night these beastes must I buy.
And fare now well, mine owen cousin dear;
*Grand mercy* of your cost and of your cheer.” *great thanks*

This noble merchant gentilly* anon *like a gentleman
Answer’d and said, “O cousin mine, Dan John,
Now sickerly this is a small request:
My gold is youres, when that it you lest,
And not only my gold, but my chaffare;* *merchandise
Take what you list, *God shielde that ye spare.* *God forbid that you
But one thing is, ye know it well enow should take too little*
Of chapmen, that their money is their plough.
We may creance* while we have a name, *obtain credit
But goldless for to be it is no game.
Pay it again when it lies in your ease;
After my might full fain would I you please.”

These hundred frankes set he forth anon,
And privily he took them to Dan John;
No wight in all this world wist of this loan,
Saving the merchant and Dan John alone.
They drink, and speak, and roam a while, and play,
Till that Dan John rode unto his abbay.
The morrow came, and forth this merchant rideth
To Flanders-ward, his prentice well him guideth,
Till he came unto Bruges merrily.
Now went this merchant fast and busily
About his need, and buyed and creanced;* *got credit
He neither played at the dice, nor danced;
But as a merchant, shortly for to tell,
He led his life; and there I let him dwell.

The Sunday next* the merchant was y-gone, *after
To Saint Denis y-comen is Dan John,
With crown and beard all fresh and newly shave,
In all the house was not so little a knave,* *servant-boy
Nor no wight elles that was not full fain
For that my lord Dan John was come again.
And shortly to the point right for to gon,
The faire wife accorded with Dan John,
That for these hundred francs he should all night
Have her in his armes bolt upright;
And this accord performed was in deed.
In mirth all night a busy life they lead,
Till it was day, that Dan John went his way,
And bade the meinie* “Farewell; have good day.” *servants
For none of them, nor no wight in the town,
Had of Dan John right no suspicioun;
And forth he rode home to his abbay,
Or where him list; no more of him I say.

The merchant, when that ended was the fair,
To Saint Denis he gan for to repair,
And with his wife he made feast and cheer,
And tolde her that chaffare* was so dear, *merchandise
That needes must he make a chevisance;* *loan <11>
For he was bound in a recognisance
To paye twenty thousand shields* anon. *crowns, ecus
For which this merchant is to Paris gone,
To borrow of certain friendes that he had
A certain francs, and some with him he lad.* *took
And when that he was come into the town,
For great cherte* and great affectioun *love
Unto Dan John he wente first to play;
Not for to borrow of him no money,
Bat for to weet* and see of his welfare, *know
And for to telle him of his chaffare,
As friendes do, when they be met in fere.* *company
Dan John him made feast and merry cheer;
And he him told again full specially,
How he had well y-bought and graciously
(Thanked be God) all whole his merchandise;
Save that he must, in alle manner wise,
Maken a chevisance, as for his best;
And then he shoulde be in joy and rest.
Dan John answered, “Certes, I am fain* *glad
That ye in health be come borne again:
And if that I were rich, as have I bliss,
Of twenty thousand shields should ye not miss,
For ye so kindely the other day
Lente me gold, and as I can and may
I thanke you, by God and by Saint Jame.
But natheless I took unto our Dame,
Your wife at home, the same gold again,
Upon your bench; she wot it well, certain,
By certain tokens that I can her tell
Now, by your leave, I may no longer dwell;
Our abbot will out of this town anon,
And in his company I muste gon.
Greet well our Dame, mine owen niece sweet,
And farewell, deare cousin, till we meet.

This merchant, which that was full ware and wise,
*Creanced hath,* and paid eke in Paris *had obtained credit*
To certain Lombards ready in their hond
The sum of gold, and got of them his bond,
And home he went, merry as a popinjay.* *parrot
For well he knew he stood in such array
That needes must he win in that voyage
A thousand francs, above all his costage.* *expenses
His wife full ready met him at the gate,
As she was wont of old usage algate* *always
And all that night in mirthe they beset;* *spent
For he was rich, and clearly out of debt.
When it was day, the merchant gan embrace
His wife all new, and kiss’d her in her face,
And up he went, and maked it full tough.

“No more,” quoth she, “by God ye have enough;”
And wantonly again with him she play’d,
Till at the last this merchant to her said.
“By God,” quoth he, “I am a little wroth
With you, my wife, although it be me loth;
And wot ye why? by God, as that I guess,
That ye have made a *manner strangeness* *a kind of estrangement*
Betwixte me and my cousin, Dan John.
Ye should have warned me, ere I had gone,
That he you had a hundred frankes paid
By ready token; he *had him evil apaid* *was displeased*
For that I to him spake of chevisance,* *borrowing
(He seemed so as by his countenance);
But natheless, by God of heaven king,
I thoughte not to ask of him no thing.
I pray thee, wife, do thou no more so.
Tell me alway, ere that I from thee go,
If any debtor hath in mine absence
Y-payed thee, lest through thy negligence
I might him ask a thing that he hath paid.”

This wife was not afeared nor afraid,
But boldely she said, and that anon;
“Mary! I defy that false monk Dan John,
I keep* not of his tokens never a deal:** *care **whit
He took me certain gold, I wot it well. —
What? evil thedom* on his monke’s snout! — *thriving
For, God it wot, I ween’d withoute doubt
That he had given it me, because of you,
To do therewith mine honour and my prow,* *profit
For cousinage, and eke for belle cheer
That he hath had full often here.
But since I see I stand in such disjoint,* *awkward position
I will answer you shortly to the point.
Ye have more slacke debtors than am I;
For I will pay you well and readily,
From day to day, and if so be I fail,
I am your wife, score it upon my tail,
And I shall pay as soon as ever I may.
For, by my troth, I have on mine array,
And not in waste, bestow’d it every deal.
And, for I have bestowed it so well,
For your honour, for Godde’s sake I say,
As be not wroth, but let us laugh and play.
Ye shall my jolly body have *to wed;* *in pledge*
By God, I will not pay you but in bed;
Forgive it me, mine owen spouse dear;
Turn hitherward, and make better cheer.”

The merchant saw none other remedy;
And for to chide, it were but a folly,
Since that the thing might not amended be.
“Now, wife,” he said, “and I forgive it thee;
But by thy life be no more so large;* *liberal, lavish
Keep better my good, this give I thee in charge.”
Thus endeth now my tale; and God us send
Taling enough, until our lives’ end!

Notes to the Shipman’s Tale

1. In this Tale Chaucer seems to have followed an old French story, which also formed the groundwork of the first story in the eighth day of the “Decameron.”

2. “He must us clothe”: So in all the manuscripts and from this and the following lines, it must be inferred that Chaucer had intended to put the Tale in the mouth of a female speaker.

3. Dan: a title bestowed on priests and scholars; from “Dominus,” like the Spanish “Don”.

4. Bruges was in Chaucer’s time the great emporium of European commerce.

5. The monk had been appointed by his abbot to inspect and manage the rural property of the monastery.

6. Malvesie or Malmesy wine derived its name from Malvasia, a region of the Morea near Cape Malea, where it was made, as it also was on Chios and some other Greek islands. Vernage was “vernaccia”, a sweet Italian wine.

7. Contour-house: counting-house; French, “comptoir.”

8. Under the yarde: under the rod; in pupillage; a phrase properly used of children, but employed by the Clerk in the prologue to his tale. See note 1 to the Prologue to the Clerk’s Tale.

9. Genelon, Ganelon, or Ganilion; one of Charlemagne’s officers, whose treachery was the cause of the disastrous defeat of the Christians by the Saracens at Roncevalles; he was torn to pieces by four horses.

10. Elenge: From French, “eloigner,” to remove; it may mean either the lonely, cheerless condition of the priest, or the strange behaviour of the merchant in leaving him to himself.

11. Make a chevisance: raise money by means of a borrowing agreement; from French, “achever,” to finish; the general meaning of the word is a bargain, an agreement.

THE PRIORESS’S TALE.

THE PROLOGUE.

“WELL said, by *corpus Domini,”* quoth our Host; *the Lord’s body*
“Now longe may’st thou saile by the coast,
Thou gentle Master, gentle Marinere.
God give the monk *a thousand last quad year!* *ever so much evil* <1>
Aha! fellows, beware of such a jape.* *trick
The monk *put in the manne’s hood an ape,* *fooled him*
And in his wife’s eke, by Saint Austin.
Drawe no monkes more into your inn.
But now pass over, and let us seek about,
Who shall now telle first of all this rout
Another tale;” and with that word he said,
As courteously as it had been a maid;
“My Lady Prioresse, by your leave,
So that I wist I shoulde you not grieve,* *offend
I woulde deeme* that ye telle should *judge, decide
A tale next, if so were that ye would.
Now will ye vouchesafe, my lady dear?”
“Gladly,” quoth she; and said as ye shall hear.

Notes to the Prologue to the Prioress’s Tale.

1. A thousand last quad year: ever so much evil. “Last” means a load, “quad,” bad; and literally we may read “a thousand weight of bad years.” The Italians use “mal anno” in the same sense.

THE TALE. <1>

O Lord our Lord! thy name how marvellous
Is in this large world y-spread! <2> (quoth she)
For not only thy laude* precious *praise
Performed is by men of high degree,
But by the mouth of children thy bounte* *goodness
Performed is, for on the breast sucking
Sometimes showe they thy herying.* <3> *glory

Wherefore in laud, as I best can or may
Of thee, and of the white lily flow’r
Which that thee bare, and is a maid alway,
To tell a story I will do my labour;
Not that I may increase her honour,
For she herselven is honour and root
Of bounte, next her son, and soules’ boot.* *help

O mother maid, O maid and mother free!* *bounteous
O bush unburnt, burning in Moses’ sight,
That ravished’st down from the deity,
Through thy humbless, the ghost that in thee light; <4>
Of whose virtue, when he thine hearte light,* *lightened, gladdened
Conceived was the Father’s sapience;
Help me to tell it to thy reverence.

Lady! thy bounty, thy magnificence,
Thy virtue, and thy great humility,
There may no tongue express in no science:
For sometimes, Lady! ere men pray to thee,
Thou go’st before, of thy benignity,
And gettest us the light, through thy prayere,
To guiden us unto thy son so dear.

My conning* is so weak, O blissful queen, *skill, ability
For to declare thy great worthiness,
That I not may the weight of it sustene;
But as a child of twelvemonth old, or less,
That can unnethes* any word express, *scarcely
Right so fare I; and therefore, I you pray,
Guide my song that I shall of you say.

There was in Asia, in a great city,
Amonges Christian folk, a Jewery,<5>
Sustained by a lord of that country,
For foul usure, and lucre of villainy,
Hateful to Christ, and to his company;
And through the street men mighte ride and wend,* *go, walk
For it was free, and open at each end.

A little school of Christian folk there stood
Down at the farther end, in which there were
Children an heap y-come of Christian blood,
That learned in that schoole year by year
Such manner doctrine as men used there;
This is to say, to singen and to read,
As smalle children do in their childhead.

Among these children was a widow’s son,
A little clergion,* seven year of age, *young clerk or scholar
That day by day to scholay* was his won,** *study **wont
And eke also, whereso he saw th’ image
Of Christe’s mother, had he in usage,
As him was taught, to kneel adown, and say
Ave Maria as he went by the way.

Thus had this widow her little son y-taught
Our blissful Lady, Christe’s mother dear,
To worship aye, and he forgot it not;
For sely* child will always soone lear.** *innocent **learn
But aye when I remember on this mattere,
Saint Nicholas <6> stands ever in my presence;
For he so young to Christ did reverence.

This little child his little book learning,
As he sat in the school at his primere,
He Alma redemptoris <7> hearde sing,
As children learned their antiphonere; <8>
And as he durst, he drew him nere and nere,* *nearer
And hearken’d aye the wordes and the note,
Till he the firste verse knew all by rote.

Nought wist he what this Latin was tosay,* *meant
For he so young and tender was of age;
But on a day his fellow gan he pray
To expound him this song in his language,
Or tell him why this song was in usage:
This pray’d he him to construe and declare,
Full oftentime upon his knees bare.

His fellow, which that elder was than he,
Answer’d him thus: “This song, I have heard say,
Was maked of our blissful Lady free,
Her to salute, and eke her to pray
To be our help and succour when we dey.* *die
I can no more expound in this mattere:
I learne song, I know but small grammere.”

“And is this song y-made in reverence
Of Christe’s mother?” said this innocent;
Now certes I will do my diligence
To conne* it all, ere Christemas be went; *learn; con
Though that I for my primer shall be shent,* *disgraced
And shall be beaten thries in an hour,
I will it conne, our Lady to honour.”

His fellow taught him homeward* privily *on the way home
From day to day, till he coud* it by rote, *knew
And then he sang it well and boldely
From word to word according with the note;
Twice in a day it passed through his throat;
To schoole-ward, and homeward when he went;
On Christ’s mother was set all his intent.

As I have said, throughout the Jewery,
This little child, as he came to and fro,
Full merrily then would he sing and cry,
O Alma redemptoris, evermo’;
The sweetness hath his hearte pierced so
Of Christe’s mother, that to her to pray
He cannot stint* of singing by the way. *cease

Our firste foe, the serpent Satanas,
That hath in Jewes’ heart his waspe’s nest,
Upswell’d and said, “O Hebrew people, alas!
Is this to you a thing that is honest,* *creditable, becoming
That such a boy shall walken as him lest
In your despite, and sing of such sentence,
Which is against your lawe’s reverence?”

From thenceforth the Jewes have conspired
This innocent out of the world to chase;
A homicide thereto have they hired,
That in an alley had a privy place,
And, as the child gan forth by for to pace,
This cursed Jew him hent,* and held him fast *seized
And cut his throat, and in a pit him cast.

I say that in a wardrobe* he him threw, *privy
Where as the Jewes purged their entrail.
O cursed folk! O Herodes all new!
What may your evil intente you avail?
Murder will out, certain it will not fail,
And namely* where th’ honour of God shall spread; *especially
The blood out crieth on your cursed deed.

O martyr souded* to virginity, *confirmed <9>
Now may’st thou sing, and follow ever-in-one* *continually
The white Lamb celestial (quoth she),
Of which the great Evangelist Saint John
In Patmos wrote, which saith that they that gon
Before this Lamb, and sing a song all new,
That never fleshly woman they ne knew.<10>

This poore widow waited all that night
After her little child, but he came not;
For which, as soon as it was daye’s light,
With face pale, in dread and busy thought,
She hath at school and elleswhere him sought,
Till finally she gan so far espy,
That he was last seen in the Jewery.

With mother’s pity in her breast enclosed,
She went, as she were half out of her mind,
To every place, where she hath supposed
By likelihood her little child to find:
And ever on Christ’s mother meek and kind
She cried, and at the laste thus she wrought,
Among the cursed Jewes she him sought.

She freined,* and she prayed piteously *asked* <11>
To every Jew that dwelled in that place,
To tell her, if her childe went thereby;
They saide, “Nay;” but Jesus of his grace
Gave in her thought, within a little space,
That in that place after her son she cried,
Where he was cast into a pit beside.

O greate God, that preformest thy laud
By mouth of innocents, lo here thy might!
This gem of chastity, this emeraud,* *emerald
And eke of martyrdom the ruby bright,
Where he with throat y-carven* lay upright, *cut
He Alma Redemptoris gan to sing
So loud, that all the place began to ring.

The Christian folk, that through the streete went,
In came, for to wonder on this thing:
And hastily they for the provost sent.
He came anon withoute tarrying,
And heried* Christ, that is of heaven king, *praised
And eke his mother, honour of mankind;
And after that the Jewes let* he bind. *caused

With torment, and with shameful death each one
The provost did* these Jewes for to sterve** *caused **die
That of this murder wist, and that anon;
He woulde no such cursedness observe* *overlook
Evil shall have that evil will deserve;
Therefore with horses wild he did them draw,
And after that he hung them by the law.

The child, with piteous lamentation,
Was taken up, singing his song alway:
And with honour and great procession,
They crry him unto the next abbay.
His mother swooning by the biere lay;
Unnethes* might the people that were there *scarcely
This newe Rachel bringe from his bier.

Upon his biere lay this innocent
Before the altar while the masses last’;* *lasted
And, after that, th’ abbot with his convent
Have sped them for to bury him full fast;
And when they holy water on him cast,
Yet spake this child, when sprinkled was the water,
And sang, O Alma redemptoris mater!

This abbot, which that was a holy man,
As monkes be, or elles ought to be,
This younger child to conjure he began,
And said; “O deare child! I halse* thee, *implore <12>
In virtue of the holy Trinity;
Tell me what is thy cause for to sing,
Since that thy throat is cut, to my seeming.”

“My throat is cut unto my necke-bone,”
Saide this child, “and, as *by way of kind,* *in course of nature*
I should have died, yea long time agone;
But Jesus Christ, as ye in bookes find,
Will that his glory last and be in mind;
And, for the worship* of his mother dear, *glory
Yet may I sing O Alma loud and clear.

“This well* of mercy, Christe’s mother sweet, *fountain
I loved alway, after my conning:* *knowledge
And when that I my life should forlete,* *leave
To me she came, and bade me for to sing
This anthem verily in my dying,
As ye have heard; and, when that I had sung,
Me thought she laid a grain upon my tongue.

“Wherefore I sing, and sing I must certain,
In honour of that blissful maiden free,
Till from my tongue off taken is the grain.
And after that thus saide she to me;
‘My little child, then will I fetche thee,
When that the grain is from thy tongue take:
Be not aghast,* I will thee not forsake.'” *afraid

This holy monk, this abbot him mean I,
His tongue out caught, and took away the grain;
And he gave up the ghost full softely.
And when this abbot had this wonder seen,
His salte teares trickled down as rain:
And groff* he fell all flat upon the ground, *prostrate, grovelling
And still he lay, as he had been y-bound.

The convent* lay eke on the pavement *all the monks
Weeping, and herying* Christ’s mother dear. *praising
And after that they rose, and forth they went,
And took away this martyr from his bier,
And in a tomb of marble stones clear
Enclosed they his little body sweet;
Where he is now, God lene* us for to meet. *grant

O younge Hugh of Lincoln!<13> slain also
With cursed Jewes, — as it is notable,
For it is but a little while ago, —
Pray eke for us, we sinful folk unstable,
That, of his mercy, God so merciable* *merciful
On us his greate mercy multiply,
For reverence of his mother Mary.

Notes to the Prioress’s Tale

1. Tales of the murder of children by Jews were frequent in the Middle Ages, being probably designed to keep up the bitter feeling of the Christians against the Jews. Not a few children were canonised on this account; and the scene of the misdeeds was laid anywhere and everywhere, so that Chaucer could be at no loss for material.

2. This is from Psalm viii. 1, “Domine, dominus noster,quam admirabile est nomen tuum in universa terra.”

3. “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast Thou ordained strength.” — Psalms viii. 2.

4. The ghost that in thee light: the spirit that on thee alighted; the Holy Ghost through whose power Christ was conceived.

5. Jewery: A quarter which the Jews were permitted to inhabit; the Old Jewry in London got its name in this way.

6. St. Nicholas, even in his swaddling clothes — so says the “Breviarium Romanum” —gave promise of extraordinary virtue and holiness; for, though he sucked freely on other days, on Wednesdays and Fridays he applied to the breast only once, and that not until the evening.

7. “O Alma Redemptoris Mater,” (“O soul mother of the Redeemer”) — the beginning of a hymn to the Virgin.

8. Antiphonere: A book of anthems, or psalms, chanted in the choir by alternate verses.

9. Souded; confirmed; from French, “soulde;” Latin, “solidatus.”

10. “And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.” — Revelations xiv. 3, 4.

11. Freined: asked, inquired; from Anglo-Saxon, “frinan,” “fraegnian.” Compare German, “fragen.”

12. Halse: embrace or salute; implore: from Anglo-Saxon “hals,” the neck.

14 A boy said to have been slain by the Jews at Lincoln in 1255, according to Matthew Paris. Many popular ballads were made about the event, which the diligence of the Church doubtless kept fresh in mind at Chaucer’s day.

CHAUCER’S TALE OF SIR THOPAS.

THE PROLOGUE.<1>

WHEN said was this miracle, every man
As sober* was, that wonder was to see, *serious
Till that our Host to japen* he began, *talk lightly
And then *at erst* he looked upon me, *for the first time*
And saide thus; “What man art thou?” quoth he;
“Thou lookest as thou wouldest find an hare,
For ever on the ground I see thee stare.

“Approache near, and look up merrily.
Now ware you, Sirs, and let this man have place.
He in the waist is shapen as well as I; <2>
This were a puppet in an arm t’embrace
For any woman small and fair of face.
He seemeth elvish* by his countenance, *surly, morose
For unto no wight doth he dalliance.

“Say now somewhat, since other folk have said;
Tell us a tale of mirth, and that anon.”
“Hoste,” quoth I, “be not evil apaid,* *dissatisfied
For other tale certes can* I none, *know
Eut of a rhyme I learned yore* agone.” *long
“Yea, that is good,” quoth he; “now shall we hear
Some dainty thing, me thinketh by thy cheer.”* *expression, mien

Notes to the Prologue to Chaucer’s Tale of Sir Thopas

1. This prologue is interesting, for the picture which it gives of Chaucer himself; riding apart from and indifferent to the rest of the pilgrims, with eyes fixed on the ground, and an “elvish”, morose, or rather self-absorbed air; portly, if not actually stout, in body; and evidently a man out of the common, as the closing words of the Host imply.

2. Referring to the poet’s corpulency.

THE TALE <1>

The First Fit* *part

Listen, lordings, in good intent,
And I will tell you verrament* *truly
Of mirth and of solas,* *delight, solace
All of a knight was fair and gent,* *gentle
In battle and in tournament,
His name was Sir Thopas.

Y-born he was in far country,
In Flanders, all beyond the sea,
At Popering <2> in the place;
His father was a man full free,
And lord he was of that country,
As it was Godde’s grace. <3>

Sir Thopas was a doughty swain,
White was his face as paindemain, <4>
His lippes red as rose.
His rode* is like scarlet in grain, *complexion
And I you tell in good certain
He had a seemly nose.

His hair, his beard, was like saffroun,
That to his girdle reach’d adown,
His shoes of cordewane:<5>
Of Bruges were his hosen brown;
His robe was of ciclatoun,<6>
That coste many a jane.<7>

He coulde hunt at the wild deer,
And ride on hawking *for rivere* *by the river*
With gray goshawk on hand: <8>
Thereto he was a good archere,
Of wrestling was there none his peer,
Where any ram <9> should stand.

Full many a maiden bright in bow’r
They mourned for him par amour,
When them were better sleep;
But he was chaste, and no lechour,
And sweet as is the bramble flow’r
That beareth the red heep.* *hip

And so it fell upon a day,
For sooth as I you telle may,
Sir Thopas would out ride;
He worth* upon his steede gray, *mounted
And in his hand a launcegay,* *spear <10>
A long sword by his side.

He pricked through a fair forest,
Wherein is many a wilde beast,
Yea, bothe buck and hare;
And as he pricked north and east,
I tell it you, him had almest *almost
Betid* a sorry care. *befallen

There sprange herbes great and small,
The liquorice and the setewall,* *valerian
And many a clove-gilofre, <12>
And nutemeg to put in ale,
Whether it be moist* or stale, *new
Or for to lay in coffer.

The birdes sang, it is no nay,
The sperhawk* and the popinjay,** *sparrowhawk **parrot <13>
That joy it was to hear;
The throstle-cock made eke his lay,
The woode-dove upon the spray
She sang full loud and clear.

Sir Thopas fell in love-longing
All when he heard the throstle sing,
And *prick’d as he were wood;* *rode as if he
His faire steed in his pricking were mad*
So sweated, that men might him wring,
His sides were all blood.

Sir Thopas eke so weary was
For pricking on the softe grass,
So fierce was his corage,* *inclination, spirit
That down he laid him in that place,
To make his steed some solace,
And gave him good forage.

“Ah, Saint Mary, ben’dicite,
What aileth thilke* love at me *this
To binde me so sore?
Me dreamed all this night, pardie,
An elf-queen shall my leman* be, *mistress
And sleep under my gore.* *shirt

An elf-queen will I love, y-wis,* *assuredly
For in this world no woman is
Worthy to be my make* *mate
In town;
All other women I forsake,
And to an elf-queen I me take
By dale and eke by down.” <14>

Into his saddle he clomb anon,
And pricked over stile and stone
An elf-queen for to spy,
Till he so long had ridden and gone,
That he found in a privy wonne* *haunt
The country of Faery,
So wild;
For in that country was there none
That to him durste ride or gon,
Neither wife nor child.

Till that there came a great giaunt,
His name was Sir Oliphaunt,<15>
A perilous man of deed;
He saide, “Child,* by Termagaunt, <16> *young man
*But if* thou prick out of mine haunt, *unless
Anon I slay thy steed
With mace.
Here is the Queen of Faery,
With harp, and pipe, and symphony,
Dwelling in this place.”

The Child said, “All so may I the,* *thrive
To-morrow will I meete thee,
When I have mine armor;
And yet I hope, *par ma fay,* *by my faith*
That thou shalt with this launcegay
Abyen* it full sore; *suffer for
Thy maw* *belly
Shall I pierce, if I may,
Ere it be fully prime of day,
For here thou shalt be slaw.”* *slain

Sir Thopas drew aback full fast;
This giant at him stones cast
Out of a fell staff sling:
But fair escaped Child Thopas,
And all it was through Godde’s grace,
And through his fair bearing. <17>

Yet listen, lordings, to my tale,
Merrier than the nightingale,
For now I will you rown,* *whisper
How Sir Thopas, with sides smale,* *small <18>
Pricking over hill and dale,
Is come again to town.

His merry men commanded he
To make him both game and glee;
For needes must he fight
With a giant with heades three,
For paramour and jollity
Of one that shone full bright.

“*Do come,*” he saide, “my minstrales *summon*
And gestours* for to telle tales. *story-tellers
Anon in mine arming,
Of romances that be royales, <19>
Of popes and of cardinales,
And eke of love-longing.”

They fetch’d him first the sweete wine,
And mead eke in a maseline,* *drinking-bowl
And royal spicery; of maple wood <20>
Of ginger-bread that was full fine,
And liquorice and eke cumin,
With sugar that is trie.* *refined

He didde,* next his white lere,** *put on **skin
Of cloth of lake* fine and clear, *fine linen
A breech and eke a shirt;
And next his shirt an haketon,* *cassock
And over that an habergeon,* *coat of mail
For piercing of his heart;

And over that a fine hauberk,* *plate-armour
Was all y-wrought of Jewes’* werk, *magicians’
Full strong it was of plate;
And over that his coat-armour,* *knight’s surcoat
As white as is the lily flow’r, <21>
In which he would debate.* *fight

His shield was all of gold so red
And therein was a boare’s head,
A charboucle* beside; *carbuncle <22>
And there he swore on ale and bread,
How that the giant should be dead,
Betide whatso betide.

His jambeaux* were of cuirbouly, <23> *boots
His sworde’s sheath of ivory,
His helm of latoun* bright, *brass
His saddle was of rewel <24> bone,
His bridle as the sunne shone,
Or as the moonelight.

His speare was of fine cypress,
That bodeth war, and nothing peace;
The head full sharp y-ground.
His steede was all dapple gray,
It went an amble in the way
Full softely and round
In land.

Lo, Lordes mine, here is a fytt;
If ye will any more of it,
To tell it will I fand.* *try

The Second Fit

Now hold your mouth for charity,
Bothe knight and lady free,
And hearken to my spell;* *tale <25>
Of battle and of chivalry,
Of ladies’ love and druerie,* *gallantry
Anon I will you tell.

Men speak of romances of price* * worth, esteem
Of Horn Child, and of Ipotis,
Of Bevis, and Sir Guy, <26>
Of Sir Libeux, <27> and Pleindamour,
But Sir Thopas, he bears the flow’r
Of royal chivalry.

His goode steed he all bestrode,
And forth upon his way he glode,* *shone
As sparkle out of brand;* *torch
Upon his crest he bare a tow’r,
And therein stick’d a lily flow’r; <28>
God shield his corse* from shand!** *body **harm

And, for he was a knight auntrous,* *adventurous
He woulde sleepen in none house,
But liggen* in his hood, *lie
His brighte helm was his wanger,* *pillow <29>
And by him baited* his destrer** *fed **horse <30>
Of herbes fine and good.

Himself drank water of the well,
As did the knight Sir Percivel, <31>
So worthy under weed;
Till on a day – . . .

Notes to Chaucer’s Tale of Sir Thopas

1. “The Rhyme of Sir Thopas,” as it is generally called, is introduced by Chaucer as a satire on the dull, pompous, and prolix metrical romances then in vogue. It is full of phrases taken from the popular rhymesters in the vein which he holds up to ridicule; if, indeed — though of that there is no evidence — it be not actually part of an old romance which Chaucer selected and reproduced to point his assault on the prevailing taste in literature. Transcriber’s note: The Tale is full of incongruities of every kind, which Purves does not refer to; I point some of them out in the notes which follow – marked TN.

2. Poppering, or Poppeling, a parish in the marches of Calais of which the famous antiquary Leland was once Rector. TN: The inhabitants of Popering had a reputation for stupidity.

3. TN: The lord of Popering was the abbot of the local monastery – who could, of course, have no legitimate children.

4. Paindemain: Either “pain de matin,” morning bread, or “pain de Maine,” because it was made best in that province; a kind of fine white bread.

5. Cordewane: Cordovan; fine Spanish leather, so called from the name of the city where it was prepared

6. Ciclatoun: A rich Oriental stuff of silk and gold, of which was made the circular robe of state called a “ciclaton,” from the Latin, “cyclas.” The word is French.

7. Jane: a Genoese coin, of small value; in our old statutes called “gallihalpens,” or galley half-pence.

8. TN: In Mediaeval falconry the goshawk was not regarded as a fit bird for a knight. It was the yeoman’s bird.

9. A ram was the usual prize of wrestling contests. TN: Wrestling and archery were sports of the common people, not knightly accomplishments.

10. Launcegay: spear; “azagay” is the name of a Moorish weapon, and the identity of termination is singular.

12. Clove-gilofre: clove-gilliflower; “Caryophyllus hortensis.”

13. TN: The sparrowhawk and parrot can only squawk unpleasantly.

14. TN: The sudden and pointless changes in the stanza form are of course part of Chaucer’s parody.

15. Sir Oliphaunt: literally, “Sir Elephant;” Sir John Mandeville calls those animals “Olyfauntes.”

16. Termagaunt: A pagan or Saracen deity, otherwise named Tervagan, and often mentioned in Middle Age literature. His name has passed into our language, to denote a ranter or blusterer, as be was represented to be.

17. TN: His “fair bearing” would not have been much defence against a sling-stone.

18. TN: “Sides small”: a conventional description for a woman, not a man.

19. Romances that be royal: so called because they related to Charlemagne and his family.

20. TN: A knight would be expected to have a gold or silver drinking vessel.

21. TN: The coat-armour or coat of arms should have had his heraldic emblems on it, not been pure white

22. Charboucle: Carbuncle; French, “escarboucle;” a heraldic device resembling a jewel.

23. Cuirbouly: “Cuir boulli,” French, boiled or prepared leather; also used to cover shields, &c.

24. Rewel bone: No satisfactory explanation has been furnished of this word, used to describe some material from which rich saddles were made. TN: The OED defines it as narwhal ivory.

25. Spell: Tale, discourse, from Anglo-Saxon, “spellian,” to declare, tell a story.

26. Sir Bevis of Hampton, and Sir Guy of Warwick, two knights of great renown.

27. Libeux: One of Arthur’s knights, called “Ly beau desconus,” “the fair unknown.”

28. TN: The crest was a small emblem worn on top of a knight’s helmet. A tower with a lily stuck in it would have been unwieldy and absurd.

29. Wanger: pillow; from Anglo-Saxon, “wangere,” because the “wanges;” or cheeks, rested on it.

30. Destrer: “destrier,” French, a war-horse; in Latin, “dextrarius,” as if led by the right hand.

31. Sir Percival de Galois, whose adventures were written in more than 60,000 verses by Chretien de Troyes, one of the oldest and best French romancers, in 1191.

CHAUCER’S TALE OF MELIBOEUS.

THE PROLOGUE.

“No more of this, for Godde’s dignity!”
Quoth oure Hoste; “for thou makest me
So weary of thy very lewedness,* *stupidity, ignorance <1>
That, all so wisly* God my soule bless, *surely
Mine eares ache for thy drafty* speech. *worthless <2>
Now such a rhyme the devil I beteche:* *commend to
This may well be rhyme doggerel,” quoth he.
“Why so?” quoth I; “why wilt thou lette* me *prevent
More of my tale than any other man,
Since that it is the best rhyme that I can?”* *know
“By God!” quoth he, “for, plainly at one word,
Thy drafty rhyming is not worth a tord:
Thou dost naught elles but dispendest* time. *wastest
Sir, at one word, thou shalt no longer rhyme.
Let see whether thou canst tellen aught *in gest,* *by way of
Or tell in prose somewhat, at the least, narrative*
In which there be some mirth or some doctrine.”
“Gladly,” quoth I, “by Godde’s sweete pine,* *suffering
I will you tell a little thing in prose,
That oughte like* you, as I suppose, *please
Or else certes ye be too dangerous.* *fastidious
It is a moral tale virtuous,
*All be it* told sometimes in sundry wise *although it be*
By sundry folk, as I shall you devise.
As thus, ye wot that ev’ry Evangelist,
That telleth us the pain* of Jesus Christ, *passion
He saith not all thing as his fellow doth;
But natheless their sentence is all soth,* *true
And all accorden as in their sentence,* *meaning
All be there in their telling difference;
For some of them say more, and some say less,
When they his piteous passion express;
I mean of Mark and Matthew, Luke and John;
But doubteless their sentence is all one.
Therefore, lordinges all, I you beseech,
If that ye think I vary in my speech,
As thus, though that I telle somedeal more
Of proverbes, than ye have heard before
Comprehended in this little treatise here,
*T’enforce with* the effect of my mattere, *with which to
And though I not the same wordes say enforce*
As ye have heard, yet to you all I pray
Blame me not; for as in my sentence
Shall ye nowhere finde no difference
From the sentence of thilke* treatise lite,** *this **little
After the which this merry tale I write.
And therefore hearken to what I shall say,
And let me tellen all my tale, I pray.”

Notes to the Prologue to Chaucer’s Tale of Meliboeus.

1. Chaucer crowns the satire on the romanticists by making the very landlord of the Tabard cry out in indignant disgust against the stuff which he had heard recited — the good Host ascribing to sheer ignorance the string of pompous platitudes and prosaic details which Chaucer had uttered.

2. Drafty: worthless, vile; no better than draff or dregs; from the Anglo-Saxon, “drifan” to drive away, expel.

THE TALE.<1>

A young man called Meliboeus, mighty and rich, begat upon his wife, that called was Prudence, a daughter which that called was Sophia. Upon a day befell, that he for his disport went into the fields him to play. His wife and eke his daughter hath he left within his house, of which the doors were fast shut. Three of his old foes have it espied, and set ladders to the walls of his house, and by the windows be entered, and beaten his wife, and wounded his daughter with five mortal wounds, in five sundry places; that is to say, in her feet, in her hands, in her ears, in her nose, and in her mouth; and left her for dead, and went away. When Meliboeus returned was into his house, and saw all this mischief, he, like a man mad, rending his clothes, gan weep and cry. Prudence his wife, as farforth as she durst, besought him of his weeping for to stint: but not forthy [notwithstanding] he gan to weep and cry ever longer the more.

This noble wife Prudence remembered her upon the sentence of Ovid, in his book that called is the “Remedy of Love,” <2> where he saith: He is a fool that disturbeth the mother to weep in the death of her child, till she have wept her fill, as for a certain time; and then shall a man do his diligence with amiable words her to recomfort and pray her of her weeping for to stint [cease]. For which reason this noble wife Prudence suffered her husband for to weep and cry, as for a certain space; and when she saw her time, she said to him in this wise: “Alas! my lord,” quoth she, “why make ye yourself for to be like a fool? For sooth it appertaineth not to a wise man to make such a sorrow. Your daughter, with the grace of God, shall warish [be cured] and escape. And all [although] were it so that she right now were dead, ye ought not for her death yourself to destroy. Seneca saith, ‘The wise man shall not take too great discomfort for the death of his children, but certes he should suffer it in patience, as well as he abideth the death of his own proper person.'”

Meliboeus answered anon and said: “What man,” quoth he, “should of his weeping stint, that hath so great a cause to weep? Jesus Christ, our Lord, himself wept for the death of Lazarus his friend.” Prudence answered, “Certes, well I wot, attempered [moderate] weeping is nothing defended [forbidden] to him that sorrowful is, among folk in sorrow but it is rather granted him to weep. The Apostle Paul unto the Romans writeth, ‘Man shall rejoice with them that make joy, and weep with such folk as weep.’ But though temperate weeping be granted, outrageous weeping certes is defended. Measure of weeping should be conserved, after the lore [doctrine] that teacheth us Seneca. ‘When that thy friend is dead,’ quoth he, ‘let not thine eyes too moist be of tears, nor too much dry: although the tears come to thine eyes, let them not fall. And when thou hast forgone [lost] thy friend, do diligence to get again another friend: and this is more wisdom than to weep for thy friend which that thou hast lorn [lost] for therein is no boot [advantage]. And therefore if ye govern you by sapience, put away sorrow out of your heart. Remember you that Jesus Sirach saith, ‘A man that is joyous and glad in heart, it him conserveth flourishing in his age: but soothly a sorrowful heart maketh his bones dry.’ He said eke thus, ‘that sorrow in heart slayth full many a man.’ Solomon saith ‘that right as moths in the sheep’s fleece annoy [do injury] to the clothes, and the small worms to the tree, right so annoyeth sorrow to the heart of man.’ Wherefore us ought as well in the death of our children, as in the loss of our goods temporal, have patience. Remember you upon the patient Job, when he had lost his children and his temporal substance, and in his body endured and received full many a grievous tribulation, yet said he thus: ‘Our Lord hath given it to me, our Lord hath bereft it me; right as our Lord would, right so be it done; blessed be the name of our Lord.”‘

To these foresaid things answered Meliboeus unto his wife Prudence: “All thy words,” quoth he, “be true, and thereto [also] profitable, but truly mine heart is troubled with this sorrow so grievously, that I know not what to do.” “Let call,” quoth Prudence, “thy true friends all, and thy lineage, which be wise, and tell to them your case, and hearken what they say in counselling, and govern you after their sentence [opinion]. Solomon saith, ‘Work all things by counsel, and thou shall never repent.'” Then, by counsel of his wife Prudence, this Meliboeus let call [sent for] a great congregation of folk, as surgeons, physicians, old folk and young, and some of his old enemies reconciled (as by their semblance) to his love and to his grace; and therewithal there come some of his neighbours, that did him reverence more for dread than for love, as happeneth oft. There come also full many subtle flatterers, and wise advocates learned in the law. And when these folk together assembled were, this Meliboeus in sorrowful wise showed them his case, and by the manner of his speech it seemed that in heart he bare a cruel ire, ready to do vengeance upon his foes, and suddenly desired that the war should begin, but nevertheless yet asked he their counsel in this matter. A surgeon, by licence and assent of such as were wise, up rose, and to Meliboeus said as ye may hear. “Sir,” quoth he, “as to us surgeons appertaineth, that we do to every wight the best that we can, where as we be withholden, [employed] and to our patient that we do no damage; wherefore it happeneth many a time and oft, that when two men have wounded each other, one same surgeon healeth them both; wherefore unto our art it is not pertinent to nurse war, nor parties to support [take sides]. But certes, as to the warishing [healing] of your daughter, albeit so that perilously she be wounded, we shall do so attentive business from day to night, that, with the grace of God, she shall be whole and sound, as soon as is possible.” Almost right in the same wise the physicians answered, save that they said a few words more: that right as maladies be cured by their contraries, right so shall man warish war (by peace). His neighbours full of envy, his feigned friends that seemed reconciled, and his flatterers, made semblance of weeping, and impaired and agregged [aggravated] much of this matter, in praising greatly Meliboeus of might, of power, of riches, and of friends, despising the power of his adversaries: and said utterly, that he anon should wreak him on his foes, and begin war.

Up rose then an advocate that was wise, by leave and by counsel of other that were wise, and said, “Lordings, the need [business] for which we be assembled in this place, is a full heavy thing, and an high matter, because of the wrong and of the wickedness that hath been done, and eke by reason of the great damages that in time coming be possible to fall for the same cause, and eke by reason of the great riches and power of the parties both; for which reasons, it were a full great peril to err in this matter. Wherefore, Meliboeus, this is our sentence [opinion]; we counsel you, above all things, that right anon thou do thy diligence in keeping of thy body, in such a wise that thou want no espy nor watch thy body to save. And after that, we counsel that in thine house thou set sufficient garrison, so that they may as well thy body as thy house defend. But, certes, to move war or suddenly to do vengeance, we may not deem [judge] in so little time that it were profitable. Wherefore we ask leisure and space to have deliberation in this case to deem; for the common proverb saith thus; ‘He that soon deemeth soon shall repent.’ And eke men say, that that judge is wise, that soon understandeth a matter, and judgeth by leisure. For albeit so that all tarrying be annoying, algates [nevertheless] it is no reproof [subject for reproach] in giving of judgement, nor in vengeance taking, when it is sufficient and, reasonable. And that shewed our Lord Jesus Christ by example; for when that the woman that was taken in adultery was brought in his presence to know what should be done with her person, albeit that he wist well himself what he would answer, yet would he not answer suddenly, but he would have deliberation, and in the ground he wrote twice. And by these causes we ask deliberation and we shall then by the grace of God counsel the thing that shall be profitable.”

Up started then the young folk anon at once, and the most part of that company have scorned these old wise men and begun to make noise and said, “Right as while that iron is hot men should smite, right so men should wreak their wrongs while that they be fresh and new:” and with loud voice they cried. “War! War!” Up rose then one of these old wise, and with his hand made countenance [a sign, gesture] that men should hold them still, and give him audience. “Lordings,” quoth he, “there is full many a man that crieth, ‘War! war!’ that wot full little what war amounteth. War at his beginning hath so great an entering and so large, that every wight may enter when him liketh, and lightly [easily] find war: but certes what end shall fall thereof it is not light to know. For soothly when war is once begun, there is full many a child unborn of his mother, that shall sterve [die] young by cause of that war, or else live in sorrow and die in wretchedness; and therefore, ere that any war be begun, men must have great counsel and great deliberation.” And when this old man weened [thought, intended] to enforce his tale by reasons, well-nigh all at once began they to rise for to break his tale, and bid him full oft his words abridge. For soothly he that preacheth to them that list not hear his words, his sermon them annoyeth. For Jesus Sirach saith, that music in weeping is a noyous [troublesome] thing. This is to say, as much availeth to speak before folk to whom his speech annoyeth, as to sing before him that weepeth. And when this wise man saw that him wanted audience, all shamefast he sat him down again. For Solomon saith, ‘Where as thou mayest have no audience, enforce thee not to speak.’ “I see well,” quoth this wise man, “that the common proverb is sooth, that good counsel wanteth, when it is most need.” Yet [besides, further] had this Meliboeus in his council many folk, that privily in his ear counselled him certain thing, and counselled him the contrary in general audience. When Meliboeus had heard that the greatest part of his council were accorded [in agreement] that he should make war, anon he consented to their counselling, and fully affirmed their sentence [opinion, judgement].

(Dame Prudence, seeing her husband’s resolution thus taken, in full humble wise, when she saw her time, begins to counsel him against war, by a warning against haste in requital of either good or evil. Meliboeus tells her that he will not work by her counsel, because he should be held a fool if he rejected for her advice the opinion of so many wise men; because all women are bad; because it would seem that he had given her the mastery over him; and because she could not keep his secret, if he resolved to follow her advice. To these reasons Prudence answers that it is no folly to change counsel when things, or men’s judgements of them, change — especially to alter a resolution taken on the impulse of a great multitude of folk, where every man crieth and clattereth what him liketh; that if all women had been wicked, Jesus Christ would never have descended to be born of a woman, nor have showed himself first to a woman after his resurrection and that when Solomon said he had found no good woman, he meant that God alone was supremely good; <3> that her husband would not seem to give her the mastery by following her counsel, for he had his own free choice in following or rejecting it; and that he knew well and had often tested her great silence, patience, and secrecy. And whereas he had quoted a saying, that in wicked counsel women vanquish men, she reminds him that she would counsel him against doing a wickedness on which he had set his mind, and cites instances to show that many women have been and yet are full good, and their counsel wholesome and profitable. Lastly, she quotes the words of God himself, when he was about to make woman as an help meet for man; and promises that, if her husband will trust her counsel, she will restore to him his daughter whole and sound, and make him have honour in this case. Meliboeus answers that because of his wife’s sweet words, and also because he has proved and assayed her great wisdom and her great truth, he will govern him by her counsel in all things. Thus encouraged, Prudence enters on a long discourse, full of learned citations, regarding the manner in which counsellors should be chosen and consulted, and the times and reasons for changing a counsel. First, God must be besought for guidance. Then a man must well examine his own thoughts, of such things as he holds to be best for his own profit; driving out of his heart anger, covetousness, and hastiness, which perturb and pervert the judgement. Then he must keep his counsel secret, unless confiding it to another shall be more profitable; but, in so confiding it, he shall say nothing to bias the mind of the counsellor toward flattery or subserviency. After that he should consider his friends and his enemies, choosing of the former such as be most faithful and wise, and eldest and most approved in counselling; and even of these only a few. Then he must eschew the counselling of fools, of flatterers, of his old enemies that be reconciled, of servants who bear him great reverence and fear, of folk that be drunken and can hide no counsel, of such as counsel one thing privily and the contrary openly; and of young folk, for their counselling is not ripe. Then, in examining his counsel, he must truly tell his tale; he must consider whether the thing he proposes to do be reasonable, within his power, and acceptable to the more part and the better part of his counsellors; he must look at the things that may follow from that counselling, choosing the best and waiving all besides; he must consider the root whence the matter of his counsel is engendered, what fruits it may bear, and from what causes they be sprung. And having thus examined his counsel and approved it by many wise folk and old, he shall consider if he may perform it and make of it a good end; if he be in doubt, he shall choose rather to suffer than to begin; but otherwise he shall prosecute his resolution steadfastly till the enterprise be at an end. As to changing his counsel, a man may do so without reproach, if the cause cease, or when a new case betides, or if he find that by error or otherwise harm or damage may result, or if his counsel be dishonest or come of dishonest cause, or if it be impossible or may not properly be kept; and he must take it for a general rule, that every counsel which is affirmed so strongly, that it may not be changed for any condition that may betide, that counsel is wicked. Meliboeus, admitting that his wife had spoken well and suitably as to counsellors and counsel in general, prays her to tell him in especial what she thinks of the counsellors whom they have chosen in their present need. Prudence replies that his counsel in this case could not properly be called a counselling, but a movement of folly; and points out that he has erred in sundry wise against the rules which he had just laid down. Granting that he has erred, Meliboeus says that he is all ready to change his counsel right as she will devise; for, as the proverb runs, to do sin is human, but to persevere long in sin is work of the Devil. Prudence then minutely recites, analyses, and criticises the counsel given to her husband in the assembly of his friends. She commends the advice of the physicians and surgeons, and urges that they should be well rewarded for their noble speech and their services in healing Sophia; and she asks Meliboeus how he understands their proposition that one contrary must be cured by another contrary. Meliboeus answers, that he should do vengeance on his enemies, who had done him wrong. Prudence, however, insists that vengeance is not the contrary of vengeance, nor wrong of wrong, but the like; and that wickedness should be healed by goodness, discord by accord, war by peace. She proceeds to deal with the counsel of the lawyers and wise folk that advised Meliboeus to take prudent measures for the security of his body and of his house. First, she would have her husband pray for the protection and aid of Christ; then commit the keeping of his person to his true friends; then suspect and avoid all strange folk, and liars, and such people as she had already warned him against; then beware of presuming on his strength, or the weakness of his adversary, and neglecting to guard his person — for every wise man dreadeth his enemy; then he should evermore be on the watch against ambush and all espial, even in what seems a place of safety; though he should not be so cowardly, as to fear where is no cause for dread; yet he should dread to be poisoned, and therefore shun scorners, and fly their words as venom. As to the fortification of his house, she points out that towers and great edifices are costly and laborious, yet useless unless defended by true friends that be old and wise; and the greatest and strongest garrison that a rich man may have, as well to keep his person as his goods, is, that he be beloved by his subjects and by his neighbours. Warmly approving the counsel that in all this business Meliboeus should proceed with great diligence and deliberation, Prudence goes on to examine the advice given by his neighbours that do him reverence without love, his old enemies reconciled, his flatterers that counselled him certain things privily and openly counselled him the contrary, and the young folk that counselled him to avenge himself and make war at once. She reminds him that he stands alone against three powerful enemies, whose kindred are numerous and close, while his are fewer and remote in relationship; that only the judge who has jurisdiction in a case may take sudden vengeance on any man; that her husband’s power does not accord with his desire; and that, if he did take vengeance, it would only breed fresh wrongs and contests. As to the causes of the wrong done to him, she holds that God, the causer of all things, has permitted him to suffer because he has drunk so much honey <4> of sweet temporal riches, and delights, and honours of this world, that he is drunken, and has forgotten Jesus Christ his Saviour; the three enemies of mankind, the flesh, the fiend, and the world, have entered his heart by the windows of his body, and wounded his soul in five places — that is to say, the deadly sins that have entered into his heart by the five senses; and in the same manner Christ has suffered his three enemies to enter his house by the windows, and wound his daughter in the five places before specified. Meliboeus demurs, that if his wife’s objections prevailed, vengeance would never be taken, and thence great mischiefs would arise; but Prudence replies that the taking of vengeance lies with the judges, to whom the private individual must have recourse. Meliboeus declares that such vengeance does not please him, and that, as Fortune has nourished and helped him from his childhood, he will now assay her, trusting, with God’s help, that she will aid him to avenge his shame. Prudence warns him against trusting to Fortune, all the less because she has hitherto favoured him, for just on that account she is the more likely to fail him; and she calls on him to leave his vengeance with the Sovereign Judge, that avengeth all villainies and wrongs. Meliboeus argues that if he refrains from taking vengeance he will invite his enemies to do him further wrong, and he will be put and held over low; but Prudence contends that such a result can be brought about only by the neglect of the judges, not by the patience of the individual. Supposing that he had leave to avenge himself, she repeats that he is not strong enough, and quotes the common saw, that it is madness for a man to strive with a stronger than himself, peril to strive with one of equal strength, and folly to strive with a weaker. But, considering his own defaults and demerits, — remembering the patience of Christ and the undeserved tribulations of the saints, the brevity of this life with all its trouble and sorrow, the discredit thrown on the wisdom and training of a man who cannot bear wrong with patience — he should refrain wholly from taking vengeance. Meliboeus submits that he is not at all a perfect man, and his heart will never be at peace until he is avenged; and that as his enemies disregarded the peril when they attacked him, so he might, without reproach, incur some peril in attacking them in return, even though he did a great excess in avenging one wrong by another. Prudence strongly deprecates all outrage or excess; but Meliboeus insists that he cannot see that it might greatly harm him though he took a vengeance, for he is richer and mightier than his enemies, and all things obey money. Prudence thereupon launches into a long dissertation on the advantages of riches, the evils of poverty, the means by which wealth should be gathered, and the manner in which it should be used; and concludes by counselling her husband not to move war and battle through trust in his riches, for they suffice not to maintain war, the battle is not always to the strong or the numerous, and the perils of conflict are many. Meliboeus then curtly asks her for her counsel how he shall do in this need; and she answers that certainly she counsels him to agree with his adversaries and have peace with them. Meliboeus on this cries out that plainly she loves not his honour or his worship, in counselling him to go and humble himself before his enemies, crying mercy to them that, having done him so grievous wrong, ask him not to be reconciled. Then Prudence, making semblance of wrath, retorts that she loves his honour and profit as she loves her own, and ever has done; she cites the Scriptures in support of her counsel to seek peace; and says she will leave him to his own courses, for she knows well he is so stubborn, that he will do nothing for her. Meliboeus then relents; admits that he is angry and cannot judge aright; and puts himself wholly in her hands, promising to do just as she desires, and admitting that he is the more held to love and praise her, if she reproves him of his folly)

Then Dame Prudence discovered all her counsel and her will unto him, and said: “I counsel you,” quoth she, “above all things, that ye make peace between God and you, and be reconciled unto Him and to his grace; for, as I have said to you herebefore, God hath suffered you to have this tribulation and disease [distress, trouble] for your sins; and if ye do as I say you, God will send your adversaries unto you, and make them fall at your feet, ready to do your will and your commandment. For Solomon saith, ‘When the condition of man is pleasant and liking to God, he changeth the hearts of the man’s adversaries, and constraineth them to beseech him of peace of grace.’ And I pray you let me speak with your adversaries in privy place, for they shall not know it is by your will or your assent; and then, when I know their will and their intent, I may counsel you the more surely.” ‘”Dame,” quoth Meliboeus, ‘”do your will and your liking, for I put me wholly in your disposition and ordinance.”

Then Dame Prudence, when she saw the goodwill of her husband, deliberated and took advice in herself, thinking how she might bring this need [affair, emergency] unto a good end. And when she saw her time, she sent for these adversaries to come into her into a privy place, and showed wisely into them the great goods that come of peace, and the great harms and perils that be in war; and said to them, in goodly manner, how that they ought have great repentance of the injuries and wrongs that they had done to Meliboeus her Lord, and unto her and her daughter. And when they heard the goodly words of Dame Prudence, then they were surprised and ravished, and had so great joy of her, that wonder was to tell. “Ah lady!” quoth they, “ye have showed unto us the blessing of sweetness, after the saying of David the prophet; for the reconciling which we be not worthy to have in no manner, but we ought require it with great contrition and humility, ye of your great goodness have presented unto us. Now see we well, that the science and conning [knowledge] of Solomon is full true; for he saith, that sweet words multiply and increase friends, and make shrews [the ill-natured or angry] to be debonair [gentle, courteous] and meek. Certes we put our deed, and all our matter and cause, all wholly in your goodwill, and be ready to obey unto the speech and commandment of my lord Meliboeus. And therefore, dear and benign lady, we pray you and beseech you as meekly as we can and may, that it like unto your great goodness to fulfil in deed your goodly words. For we consider and acknowledge that we have offended and grieved my lord Meliboeus out of measure, so far forth that we be not of power to make him amends; and therefore we oblige and bind us and our friends to do all his will and his commandment. But peradventure he hath such heaviness and such wrath to usward, [towards us] because of our offence, that he will enjoin us such a pain [penalty] as we may not bear nor sustain; and therefore, noble lady, we beseech to your womanly pity to take such advisement [consideration] in this need, that we, nor our friends, be not disinherited and destroyed through our folly.”

“Certes,” quoth Prudence, “it is an hard thing, and right perilous, that a man put him all utterly in the arbitration and judgement and in the might and power of his enemy. For Solomon saith, ‘Believe me, and give credence to that that I shall say: to thy son, to thy wife, to thy friend, nor to thy brother, give thou never might nor mastery over thy body, while thou livest.’ Now, since he defendeth [forbiddeth] that a man should not give to his brother, nor to his friend, the might of his body, by a stronger reason he defendeth and forbiddeth a man to give himself to his enemy. And nevertheless, I counsel you that ye mistrust not my lord: for I wot well and know verily, that he is debonair and meek, large, courteous and nothing desirous nor envious of good nor riches: for there is nothing in this world that he desireth save only worship and honour. Furthermore I know well, and am right sure, that he shall nothing do in this need without counsel of me; and I shall so work in this case, that by the grace of our Lord God ye shall be reconciled unto us.”

Then said they with one voice, “”Worshipful lady, we put us and our goods all fully in your will and disposition, and be ready to come, what day that it like unto your nobleness to limit us or assign us, for to make our obligation and bond, as strong as it liketh unto your goodness, that we may fulfil the will of you and of my lord Meliboeus.”

When Dame Prudence had heard the answer of these men, she bade them go again privily, and she returned to her lord Meliboeus, and told him how she found his adversaries full repentant, acknowledging full lowly their sins and trespasses, and how they were ready to suffer all pain, requiring and praying him of mercy and pity. Then said Meliboeus, “He is well worthy to have pardon and forgiveness of his sin, that excuseth not his sin, but acknowledgeth, and repenteth him, asking indulgence. For Seneca saith, ‘There is the remission and forgiveness, where the confession is; for confession is neighbour to innocence.’ And therefore I assent and confirm me to have peace, but it is good that we do naught without the assent and will of our friends.” Then was Prudence right glad and joyful, and said, “Certes, Sir, ye be well and goodly advised; for right as by the counsel, assent, and help of your friends ye have been stirred to avenge you and make war, right so without their counsel shall ye not accord you, nor have peace with your adversaries. For the law saith, ‘There is nothing so good by way of kind, [nature] as a thing to be unbound by him that it was bound.'”

And then Dame Prudence, without delay or tarrying, sent anon her messengers for their kin and for their old friends, which were true and wise; and told them by order, in the presence of Meliboeus, all this matter, as it is above expressed and declared; and prayed them that they would give their advice and counsel what were best to do in this need. And when Meliboeus’ friends had taken their advice and deliberation of the foresaid matter, and had examined it by great business and great diligence, they gave full counsel for to have peace and rest, and that Meliboeus should with good heart receive his adversaries to forgiveness and mercy. And when Dame Prudence had heard the assent of her lord Meliboeus, and the counsel of his friends, accord with her will and her intention, she was wondrous glad in her heart, and said: “There is an old proverb that saith, ‘The goodness that thou mayest do this day, do it, and abide not nor delay it not till to-morrow:’ and therefore I counsel you that ye send your messengers, such as be discreet and wise, unto your adversaries, telling them on your behalf, that if they will treat of peace and of accord, that they shape [prepare] them, without delay or tarrying, to come unto us.” Which thing performed was indeed. And when these trespassers and repenting folk of their follies, that is to say, the adversaries of Meliboeus, had heard what these messengers said unto them, they were right glad and joyful, and answered full meekly and benignly, yielding graces and thanks to their lord Meliboeus, and to all his company; and shaped them without delay to go with the messengers, and obey to the commandment of their lord Meliboeus. And right anon they took their way to the court of Meliboeus, and took with them some of their true friends, to make faith for them, and for to be their borrows [sureties].

And when they were come to the presence of Meliboeus, he said to them these words; “It stands thus,” quoth Meliboeus, “and sooth it is, that ye causeless, and without skill and reason, have done great injuries and wrongs to me, and to my wife Prudence, and to my daughter also; for ye have entered into my house by violence, and have done such outrage, that all men know well that ye have deserved the death: and therefore will I know and weet of you, whether ye will put the punishing and chastising, and the vengeance of this outrage, in the will of me and of my wife, or ye will not?” Then the wisest of them three answered for them all, and said; “Sir,” quoth he, “we know well, that we be I unworthy to come to the court of so great a lord and so worthy as ye be, for we have so greatly mistaken us, and have offended and aguilt [incurred guilt] in such wise against your high lordship, that truly we have deserved the death. But yet for the great goodness and debonairte [courtesy, gentleness] that all the world witnesseth of your person, we submit us to the excellence and benignity of your gracious lordship, and be ready to obey to all your commandments, beseeching you, that of your merciable [merciful] pity ye will consider our great repentance and low submission, and grant us forgiveness of our outrageous trespass and offence; for well we know, that your liberal grace and mercy stretch them farther into goodness, than do our outrageous guilt and trespass into wickedness; albeit that cursedly [wickedly] and damnably we have aguilt [incurred guilt] against your high lordship.” Then Meliboeus took them up from the ground full benignly, and received their obligations and their bonds, by their oaths upon their pledges and borrows, [sureties] and assigned them a certain day to return unto his court for to receive and accept sentence and judgement, that Meliboeus would command to be done on them, by the causes aforesaid; which things ordained, every man returned home to his house.

And when that Dame Prudence saw her time she freined [inquired] and asked her lord Meliboeus, what vengeance he thought to take of his adversaries. To which Meliboeus answered, and said; “Certes,” quoth he, “I think and purpose me fully to disinherit them of all that ever they have, and for to put them in exile for evermore.” “Certes,” quoth Dame Prudence, “this were a cruel sentence, and much against reason. For ye be rich enough, and have no need of other men’s goods; and ye might lightly [easily] in this wise get you a covetous name, which is a vicious thing, and ought to be eschewed of every good man: for, after the saying of the Apostle, covetousness is root of all harms. And therefore it were better for you to lose much good of your own, than for to take of their good in this manner. For better it is to lose good with worship [honour], than to win good with villainy and shame. And every man ought to do his diligence and his business to get him a good name. And yet [further] shall he not only busy him in keeping his good name, but he shall also enforce him alway to do some thing by which he may renew his good name; for it is written, that the old good los [reputation <5>] of a man is soon gone and passed, when it is not renewed. And as touching that ye say, that ye will exile your adversaries, that thinketh ye much against reason, and out of measure, [moderation] considered the power that they have given you upon themselves. And it is written, that he is worthy to lose his privilege, that misuseth the might and the power that is given him. And I set case [if I assume] ye might enjoin them that pain by right and by law (which I trow ye may not do), I say, ye might not put it to execution peradventure, and then it were like to return to the war, as it was before. And therefore if ye will that men do you obeisance, ye must deem [decide] more courteously, that is to say, ye must give more easy sentences and judgements. For it is written, ‘He that most courteously commandeth, to him men most obey.’ And therefore I pray you, that in this necessity and in this need ye cast you [endeavour, devise a way] to overcome your heart. For Seneca saith, that he that overcometh his heart, overcometh twice. And Tullius saith, ‘There is nothing so commendable in a great lord, as when he is debonair and meek, and appeaseth him lightly [easily].’ And I pray you, that ye will now forbear to do vengeance, in such a manner, that your good name may be kept and conserved, and that men may have cause and matter to praise you of pity and of mercy; and that ye have no cause to repent you of thing that ye do. For Seneca saith, ‘He overcometh in an evil manner, that repenteth him of his victory.’ Wherefore I pray you let mercy be in your heart, to the effect and intent that God Almighty have mercy upon you in his last judgement; for Saint James saith in his Epistle, ‘Judgement without mercy shall be done to him, that hath no mercy of another wight.'”

When Meliboeus had heard the great skills [arguments, reasons] and reasons of Dame Prudence, and her wise information and teaching, his heart gan incline to the will of his wife, considering her true intent, he conformed him anon and assented fully to work after her counsel, and thanked God, of whom proceedeth all goodness and all virtue, that him sent a wife of so great discretion. And when the day came that his adversaries should appear in his presence, he spake to them full goodly, and said in this wise; “Albeit so, that of your pride and high presumption and folly, an of your negligence and unconning, [ignorance] ye have misborne [misbehaved] you, and trespassed [done injury] unto me, yet forasmuch as I see and behold your great humility, and that ye be sorry and repentant of your guilts, it constraineth me to do you grace and mercy. Wherefore I receive you into my grace, and forgive you utterly all the offences, injuries, and wrongs, that ye have done against me and mine, to this effect and to this end, that God of his endless mercy will at the time of our dying forgive us our guilts, that we have trespassed to him in this wretched world; for doubtless, if we be sorry and repentant of the sins and guilts which we have trespassed in the sight of our Lord God, he is so free and so merciable [merciful], that he will forgive us our guilts, and bring us to the bliss that never hath end.” Amen.

Notes to Chaucer’s Tale of Meliboeus.

1. The Tale of Meliboeus is literally translated from a French story, or rather “treatise,” in prose, entitled “Le Livre de Melibee et de Dame Prudence,” of which two manuscripts, both dating from the fifteenth century, are preserved in the British Museum. Tyrwhitt, justly enough, says of it that it is indeed, as Chaucer called it in the prologue, “‘a moral tale virtuous,’ and was probably much esteemed in its time; but, in this age of levity, I doubt some readers will be apt to regret that he did not rather give us the remainder of Sir Thopas.” It has been remarked that in the earlier portion of the Tale, as it left the hand of the poet, a number of blank verses were intermixed; though this peculiarity of style, noticeable in any case only in the first 150 or 200 lines, has necessarily all but disappeared by the changes of spelling made in the modern editions. The Editor’s purpose being to present to the public not “The Canterbury Tales” merely, but “The Poems of Chaucer,” so far as may be consistent with the limits of this volume, he has condensed the long reasonings and learned quotations of Dame Prudence into a mere outline, connecting those portions of the Tale wherein lies so much of story as it actually possesses, and the general reader will probably not regret the sacrifice, made in the view of retaining so far as possible the completeness of the Tales, while lessening the intrusion of prose into a volume or poems. The good wife of Meliboeus literally overflows with quotations from David, Solomon, Jesus the Son of Sirach, the Apostles, Ovid, Cicero, Seneca, Cassiodorus, Cato, Petrus Alphonsus — the converted Spanish Jew, of the twelfth century, who wrote the “Disciplina Clericalis” — and other authorities; and in some passages, especially where husband and wife debate the merits or demerits of women, and where Prudence dilates on the evils of poverty, Chaucer only reproduces much that had been said already in the Tales that preceded — such as the Merchant’s and the Man of Law’s.

2. The lines which follow are a close translation of the original
Latin, which reads:
“Quis matrem, nisi mentis inops, in funere nati
Flere vetet? non hoc illa monenda loco.
Cum dederit lacrymas, animumque expleverit aegrum,
Ille dolor verbis emoderandus erit.”
Ovid, “Remedia Amoris,” 127-131.

3. See the conversation between Pluto and Proserpine, in the Merchant’s Tale.

4. “Thy name,” she says, “is Meliboeus; that is to say, a man that drinketh honey.”

5. Los: reputation; from the past participle of the Anglo-Saxon, “hlisan” to celebrate. Compare Latin, “laus.”

THE MONK’S TALE.

THE PROLOGUE

WHEN ended was my tale of Melibee,
And of Prudence and her benignity,
Our Hoste said, “As I am faithful man,
And by the precious corpus Madrian,<1>
I had lever* than a barrel of ale, *rather
That goode lefe* my wife had heard this tale; *dear
For she is no thing of such patience
As was this Meliboeus’ wife Prudence.
By Godde’s bones! when I beat my knaves
She bringeth me the greate clubbed staves,
And crieth, ‘Slay the dogges every one,
And break of them both back and ev’ry bone.’
And if that any neighebour of mine
Will not in church unto my wife incline,
Or be so hardy to her to trespace,* *offend
When she comes home she rampeth* in my face, *springs
And crieth, ‘False coward, wreak* thy wife *avenge
By corpus Domini, I will have thy knife,
And thou shalt have my distaff, and go spin.’
From day till night right thus she will begin.
‘Alas!’ she saith, ‘that ever I was shape* *destined
To wed a milksop, or a coward ape,
That will be overlad* with every wight! *imposed on
Thou darest not stand by thy wife’s right.’

“This is my life, *but if* that I will fight; *unless
And out at door anon I must me dight,* *betake myself
Or elles I am lost, but if that I
Be, like a wilde lion, fool-hardy.
I wot well she will do* me slay some day *make
Some neighebour and thenne *go my way;* *take to flight*
For I am perilous with knife in hand,
Albeit that I dare not her withstand;
For she is big in armes, by my faith!
That shall he find, that her misdoth or saith. <2>
But let us pass away from this mattere.
My lord the Monk,” quoth he, “be merry of cheer,
For ye shall tell a tale truely.
Lo, Rochester stands here faste by.
Ride forth, mine owen lord, break not our game.
But by my troth I cannot tell your name;
Whether shall I call you my lord Dan John,
Or Dan Thomas, or elles Dan Albon?
Of what house be ye, by your father’s kin?
I vow to God, thou hast a full fair skin;
It is a gentle pasture where thou go’st;
Thou art not like a penant* or a ghost. *penitent
Upon my faith thou art some officer,
Some worthy sexton, or some cellarer.
For by my father’s soul, *as to my dome,* *in my judgement*
Thou art a master when thou art at home;
No poore cloisterer, nor no novice,
But a governor, both wily and wise,
And therewithal, of brawnes* and of bones, *sinews
A right well-faring person for the nonce.
I pray to God give him confusion
That first thee brought into religion.
Thou would’st have been a treade-fowl* aright; *cock
Hadst thou as greate leave, as thou hast might,
To perform all thy lust in engendrure,* *generation, begettting
Thou hadst begotten many a creature.
Alas! why wearest thou so wide a cope? <3>
God give me sorrow, but, an* I were pope, *if
Not only thou, but every mighty man,
Though he were shorn full high upon his pan,* <4> *crown
Should have a wife; for all this world is lorn;* *undone, ruined
Religion hath ta’en up all the corn
Of treading, and we borel* men be shrimps: *lay
Of feeble trees there come wretched imps.* *shoots <5>
This maketh that our heires be so slender
And feeble, that they may not well engender.
This maketh that our wives will assay
Religious folk, for they may better pay
Of Venus’ payementes than may we:
God wot, no lusheburghes <6> paye ye.
But be not wroth, my lord, though that I play;
Full oft in game a sooth have I heard say.”

This worthy Monk took all in patience,
And said, “I will do all my diligence,
As far as *souneth unto honesty,* *agrees with good manners*
To telle you a tale, or two or three.
And if you list to hearken hitherward,
I will you say the life of Saint Edward;
Or elles first tragedies I will tell,
Of which I have an hundred in my cell.
Tragedy *is to say* a certain story, *means*
As olde bookes maken us memory,
Of him that stood in great prosperity,
And is y-fallen out of high degree
In misery, and endeth wretchedly.
And they be versified commonly
Of six feet, which men call hexametron;
In prose eke* be indited many a one, *also
And eke in metre, in many a sundry wise.
Lo, this declaring ought enough suffice.
Now hearken, if ye like for to hear.
But first I you beseech in this mattere,
Though I by order telle not these things,
Be it of popes, emperors, or kings,
*After their ages,* as men written find, *in chronological order*
But tell them some before and some behind,
As it now cometh to my remembrance,
Have me excused of mine ignorance.”

Notes to the Prologue to The Monk’s Tale

1. The Corpus Madrian: the body of St. Maternus, of Treves.

2. That her misdoth or saith: that does or says any thing to offend her.

3. Cope: An ecclesiastcal vestment covering all the body like a cloak.

4. Though he were shorn full high upon his pan: though he were tonsured, as the clergy are.

5. Imps: shoots, branches; from Anglo-Saxon, “impian,” German, “impfen,” to implant, ingraft. The word is now used in a very restricted sense, to signify the progeny, children, of the devil.

6. Lusheburghes: base or counterfeit coins; so called because struck at Luxemburg. A great importation of them took place during the reigns of the earlier Edwards, and they caused much annoyance and complaint, till in 1351 it was declared treason to bring them into the country.

THE TALE. <1>

I will bewail, in manner of tragedy,
The harm of them that stood in high degree,
And felle so, that there was no remedy
To bring them out of their adversity.
For, certain, when that Fortune list to flee,
There may no man the course of her wheel hold:
Let no man trust in blind prosperity;
Beware by these examples true and old.

At LUCIFER, though he an angel were,
And not a man, at him I will begin.
For though Fortune may no angel dere,* *hurt
From high degree yet fell he for his sin
Down into hell, where as he yet is in.
O Lucifer! brightest of angels all,
Now art thou Satanas, that may’st not twin* *depart
Out of the misery in which thou art fall.

Lo ADAM, in the field of Damascene <2>
With Godde’s owen finger wrought was he,
And not begotten of man’s sperm unclean;
And welt* all Paradise saving one tree: *commanded
Had never worldly man so high degree
As Adam, till he for misgovernance* *misbehaviour
Was driven out of his prosperity
To labour, and to hell, and to mischance.

Lo SAMPSON, which that was annunciate
By the angel, long ere his nativity; <3>
And was to God Almighty consecrate,
And stood in nobless while that he might see;
Was never such another as was he,
To speak of strength, and thereto hardiness;* *courage
But to his wives told he his secre,
Through which he slew himself for wretchedness.

Sampson, this noble and mighty champion,
Withoute weapon, save his handes tway,
He slew and all to-rente* the lion, *tore to pieces
Toward his wedding walking by the way.
His false wife could him so please, and pray,
Till she his counsel knew; and she, untrue,
Unto his foes his counsel gan bewray,
And him forsook, and took another new.

Three hundred foxes Sampson took for ire,
And all their tailes he together band,
And set the foxes’ tailes all on fire,
For he in every tail had knit a brand,
And they burnt all the combs of that lend,
And all their oliveres* and vines eke. *olive trees <4>
A thousand men he slew eke with his hand,
And had no weapon but an ass’s cheek.

When they were slain, so thirsted him, that he
Was *well-nigh lorn,* for which he gan to pray *near to perishing*
That God would on his pain have some pity,
And send him drink, or elles must he die;
And of this ass’s check, that was so dry,
Out of a wang-tooth* sprang anon a well, *cheek-tooth
Of which, he drank enough, shortly to say.
Thus help’d him God, as Judicum <5> can tell.

By very force, at Gaza, on a night,
Maugre* the Philistines of that city, *in spite of
The gates of the town he hath up plight,* *plucked, wrenched
And on his back y-carried them hath he
High on an hill, where as men might them see.
O noble mighty Sampson, lefe* and dear, *loved
Hadst thou not told to women thy secre,
In all this world there had not been thy peer.

This Sampson never cider drank nor wine,
Nor on his head came razor none nor shear,
By precept of the messenger divine;
For all his strengthes in his haires were;
And fully twenty winters, year by year,
He had of Israel the governance;
But soone shall he weepe many a tear,
For women shall him bringe to mischance.

Unto his leman* Dalila he told, *mistress
That in his haires all his strengthe lay;
And falsely to his foemen she him sold,
And sleeping in her barme* upon a day *lap
She made to clip or shear his hair away,
And made his foemen all his craft espien.
And when they founde him in this array,
They bound him fast, and put out both his eyen.

But, ere his hair was clipped or y-shave,
There was no bond with which men might him bind;
But now is he in prison in a cave,
Where as they made him at the querne* grind. *mill <6>
O noble Sampson, strongest of mankind!
O whilom judge in glory and richess!
Now may’st thou weepe with thine eyen blind,
Since thou from weal art fall’n to wretchedness.

Th’end of this caitiff* was as I shall say; *wretched man
His foemen made a feast upon a day,
And made him as their fool before them play;
And this was in a temple of great array.
But at the last he made a foul affray,
For he two pillars shook, and made them fall,
And down fell temple and all, and there it lay,
And slew himself and eke his foemen all;

This is to say, the princes every one;
And eke three thousand bodies were there slain
With falling of the great temple of stone.
Of Sampson now will I no more sayn;
Beware by this example old and plain,
That no man tell his counsel to his wife
Of such thing as he would *have secret fain,* *wish to be secret*
If that it touch his limbes or his life.

Of HERCULES the sov’reign conquerour
Singe his workes’ land and high renown;
For in his time of strength he bare the flow’r.
He slew and reft the skin of the lion
He of the Centaurs laid the boast adown;
He Harpies <7> slew, the cruel birdes fell;
He golden apples reft from the dragon
He drew out Cerberus the hound of hell.

He slew the cruel tyrant Busirus. <8>
And made his horse to fret* him flesh and bone; *devour
He slew the fiery serpent venomous;
Of Achelous’ two hornes brake he one.
And he slew Cacus in a cave of stone;
He slew the giant Antaeus the strong;
He slew the grisly boar, and that anon;
And bare the heav’n upon his necke long. <9>

Was never wight, since that the world began,
That slew so many monsters as did he;
Throughout the wide world his name ran,
What for his strength, and for his high bounte;
And every realme went he for to see;
He was so strong that no man might him let;* *withstand
At both the worlde’s ends, as saith Trophee, <10>
Instead of boundes he a pillar set.

A leman had this noble champion,
That highte Dejanira, fresh as May;
And, as these clerkes make mention,
She hath him sent a shirte fresh and gay;
Alas! this shirt, alas and well-away!
Envenomed was subtilly withal,
That ere that he had worn it half a day,
It made his flesh all from his bones fall.

But natheless some clerkes her excuse
By one, that highte Nessus, that it maked;
Be as he may, I will not her accuse;
But on his back this shirt he wore all naked,
Till that his flesh was for the venom blaked.* *blackened
And when he saw none other remedy,
In hote coals he hath himselfe raked,
For with no venom deigned he to die.

Thus sterf* this worthy mighty Hercules. *died
Lo, who may trust on Fortune *any throw?* *for a moment*
For him that followeth all this world of pres,* *near <11>
Ere he be ware, is often laid full low;
Full wise is he that can himselfe know.
Beware, for when that Fortune list to glose
Then waiteth she her man to overthrow,
By such a way as he would least suppose.

The mighty throne, the precious treasor,
The glorious sceptre, and royal majesty,
That had the king NABUCHODONOSOR
With tongue unnethes* may described be. *scarcely
He twice won Jerusalem the city,
The vessels of the temple he with him lad;* *took away
At Babylone was his sov’reign see,* *seat
In which his glory and delight he had.

The fairest children of the blood royal
Of Israel he *did do geld* anon, *caused to be castrated*
And maked each of them to be his thrall.* *slave
Amonges others Daniel was one,
That was the wisest child of every one;
For he the dreames of the king expounded,
Where in Chaldaea clerkes was there none
That wiste to what fine* his dreames sounded. *end

This proude king let make a statue of gold
Sixty cubites long, and seven in bread’,
To which image hathe young and old
Commanded he to lout,* and have in dread, *bow down to
Or in a furnace, full of flames red,
He should be burnt that woulde not obey:
But never would assente to that deed
Daniel, nor his younge fellows tway.

This king of kinges proud was and elate;* *lofty
He ween’d* that God, that sits in majesty, *thought
Mighte him not bereave of his estate;
But suddenly he lost his dignity,
And like a beast he seemed for to be,
And ate hay as an ox, and lay thereout
In rain, with wilde beastes walked he,
Till certain time was y-come about.

And like an eagle’s feathers wax’d his hairs,
His nailes like a birde’s clawes were,
Till God released him at certain years,
And gave him wit; and then with many a tear
He thanked God, and ever his life in fear
Was he to do amiss, or more trespace:
And till that time he laid was on his bier,
He knew that God was full of might and grace.

His sone, which that highte BALTHASAR,
That *held the regne* after his father’s day, *possessed the kingdom*
He by his father coulde not beware,
For proud he was of heart and of array;
And eke an idolaster was he aye.
His high estate assured* him in pride; *confirmed
But Fortune cast him down, and there he lay,
And suddenly his regne gan divide.

A feast he made unto his lordes all
Upon a time, and made them blithe be,
And then his officeres gan he call;
“Go, bringe forth the vessels,” saide he,
“Which that my father in his prosperity
Out of the temple of Jerusalem reft,
And to our highe goddes thanks we
Of honour, that our elders* with us left.” *forefathers

His wife, his lordes, and his concubines
Aye dranke, while their appetites did last,
Out of these noble vessels sundry wines.
And on a wall this king his eyen cast,
And saw an hand, armless, that wrote full fast;
For fear of which he quaked, and sighed sore.
This hand, that Balthasar so sore aghast,* *dismayed
Wrote Mane, tekel, phares, and no more.

In all that land magician was there none
That could expounde what this letter meant.
But Daniel expounded it anon,
And said, “O King, God to thy father lent
Glory and honour, regne, treasure, rent;* *revenue
And he was proud, and nothing God he drad;* *dreaded
And therefore God great wreche* upon him sent, *vengeance
And him bereft the regne that he had.

“He was cast out of manne’s company;
With asses was his habitation
And ate hay, as a beast, in wet and dry,
Till that he knew by grace and by reason
That God of heaven hath domination
O’er every regne, and every creature;
And then had God of him compassion,
And him restor’d his regne and his figure.

“Eke thou, that art his son, art proud also,
And knowest all these thinges verily;
And art rebel to God, and art his foe.
Thou drankest of his vessels boldely;
Thy wife eke, and thy wenches, sinfully
Drank of the same vessels sundry wines,
And heried* false goddes cursedly; *praised
Therefore *to thee y-shapen full great pine is.* *great punishment is
prepared for thee*
“This hand was sent from God, that on the wall
Wrote Mane, tekel, phares, truste me;
Thy reign is done; thou weighest naught at all;
Divided is thy regne, and it shall be
To Medes and to Persians giv’n,” quoth he.
And thilke same night this king was slaw* *slain
And Darius occupied his degree,
Though he thereto had neither right nor law.

Lordings, example hereby may ye take,
How that in lordship is no sickerness;* *security
For when that Fortune will a man forsake,
She bears away his regne and his richess,
And eke his friendes bothe more and less,
For what man that hath friendes through fortune,
Mishap will make them enemies, I guess;
This proverb is full sooth, and full commune.

ZENOBIA, of Palmyrie the queen, <12>
As write Persians of her nobless,
So worthy was in armes, and so keen,
That no wight passed her in hardiness,
Nor in lineage, nor other gentleness.* *noble qualities
Of the king’s blood of Perse* is she descended; *Persia
I say not that she hadde most fairness,
But of her shape she might not he amended.

From her childhood I finde that she fled
Office of woman, and to woods she went,
And many a wilde harte’s blood she shed
With arrows broad that she against them sent;
She was so swift, that she anon them hent.* *caught
And when that she was older, she would kill
Lions, leopards, and beares all to-rent,* *torn to pieces
And in her armes wield them at her will.

She durst the wilde beastes’ dennes seek,
And runnen in the mountains all the night,
And sleep under a bush; and she could eke
Wrestle by very force and very might
With any young man, were he ne’er so wight;* *active, nimble
There mighte nothing in her armes stond.
She kept her maidenhood from every wight,
To no man deigned she for to be bond.

But at the last her friendes have her married
To Odenate, <13> a prince of that country;
All were it so, that she them longe tarried.
And ye shall understande how that he
Hadde such fantasies as hadde she;
But natheless, when they were knit in fere,* *together
They liv’d in joy, and in felicity,
For each of them had other lefe* and dear. *loved

Save one thing, that she never would assent,
By no way, that he shoulde by her lie
But ones, for it was her plain intent
To have a child, the world to multiply;
And all so soon as that she might espy
That she was not with childe by that deed,
Then would she suffer him do his fantasy
Eftsoon,* and not but ones, *out of dread.* *again *without doubt*

And if she were with child at thilke* cast, *that
No more should he playe thilke game
Till fully forty dayes were past;
Then would she once suffer him do the same.
All* were this Odenatus wild or tame, *whether
He got no more of her; for thus she said,
It was to wives lechery and shame
In other case* if that men with them play’d. on other terms

Two sones, by this Odenate had she,
The which she kept in virtue and lettrure.* *learning
But now unto our tale turne we;
I say, so worshipful a creature,
And wise therewith, and large* with measure,** *bountiful **moderation
So penible* in the war, and courteous eke, *laborious
Nor more labour might in war endure,
Was none, though all this worlde men should seek.

Her rich array it mighte not be told,
As well in vessel as in her clothing:
She was all clad in pierrie* and in gold, *jewellery
And eke she *lefte not,* for no hunting, *did not neglect*
To have of sundry tongues full knowing,
When that she leisure had, and for t’intend* *apply
To learne bookes was all her liking,
How she in virtue might her life dispend.

And, shortly of this story for to treat,
So doughty was her husband and eke she,
That they conquered many regnes great
In th’Orient, with many a fair city
Appertinent unto the majesty
Of Rome, and with strong hande held them fast,
Nor ever might their foemen do* them flee, *make
Aye while that Odenatus’ dayes last’.

Her battles, whoso list them for to read,
Against Sapor the king, <14> and other mo’,
And how that all this process fell in deed,
Why she conquer’d, and what title thereto,
And after of her mischief* and her woe, *misfortune
How that she was besieged and y-take,
Let him unto my master Petrarch go,
That writes enough of this, I undertake.

When Odenate was dead, she mightily
The regne held, and with her proper hand
Against her foes she fought so cruelly,
That there n’as* king nor prince in all that land, *was not
That was not glad, if be that grace fand
That she would not upon his land warray;* *make war
With her they maden alliance by bond,
To be in peace, and let her ride and play.

The emperor of Rome, Claudius,
Nor, him before, the Roman Gallien,
Durste never be so courageous,
Nor no Armenian, nor Egyptien,
Nor Syrian, nor no Arabien,
Within the fielde durste with her fight,
Lest that she would them with her handes slen,* *slay
Or with her meinie* putte them to flight. *troops

In kinges’ habit went her sones two,
As heires of their father’s regnes all;
And Heremanno and Timolao
Their names were, as Persians them call
But aye Fortune hath in her honey gall;
This mighty queene may no while endure;
Fortune out of her regne made her fall
To wretchedness and to misadventure.

Aurelian, when that the governance
Of Rome came into his handes tway, <15>
He shope* upon this queen to do vengeance; *prepared
And with his legions he took his way
Toward Zenobie, and, shortly for to say,
He made her flee, and at the last her hent,* *took
And fetter’d her, and eke her children tway,
And won the land, and home to Rome he went.

Amonges other thinges that he wan,
Her car, that was with gold wrought and pierrie,* *jewels
This greate Roman, this Aurelian
Hath with him led, for that men should it see.
Before in his triumphe walked she
With gilte chains upon her neck hanging;
Crowned she was, as after* her degree, *according to
And full of pierrie her clothing.

Alas, Fortune! she that whilom was
Dreadful to kinges and to emperours,
Now galeth* all the people on her, alas! *yelleth
And she that *helmed was in starke stowres,* *wore a helmet in
And won by force townes strong and tow’rs, obstinate battles*
Shall on her head now wear a vitremite; <16>
And she that bare the sceptre full of flow’rs
Shall bear a distaff, *her cost for to quite.* * to make her living*

Although that NERO were so vicious
As any fiend that lies full low adown,
Yet he, as telleth us Suetonius,<17>
This wide world had in subjectioun,
Both East and West, South and Septentrioun.
Of rubies, sapphires, and of pearles white
Were all his clothes embroider’d up and down,
For he in gemmes greatly gan delight.

More delicate, more pompous of array,
More proud, was never emperor than he;
That *ilke cloth* that he had worn one day, *same robe*
After that time he would it never see;
Nettes of gold thread had he great plenty,
To fish in Tiber, when him list to play;
His lustes* were as law, in his degree, *pleasures
For Fortune as his friend would him obey.

He Rome burnt for his delicacy;* *pleasure
The senators he slew upon a day,
To heare how that men would weep and cry;
And slew his brother, and by his sister lay.
His mother made he in piteous array;
For he her wombe slitte, to behold
Where he conceived was; so well-away!
That he so little of his mother told.* *valued

No tear out of his eyen for that sight
Came; but he said, a fair woman was she.
Great wonder is, how that he could or might
Be doomesman* of her deade beauty: *judge
The wine to bringe him commanded he,
And drank anon; none other woe he made,
When might is joined unto cruelty,
Alas! too deepe will the venom wade.

In youth a master had this emperour,
To teache him lettrure* and courtesy; *literature, learning
For of morality he was the flow’r,
As in his time, *but if* bookes lie. *unless
And while this master had of him mast’ry,
He made him so conning and so souple,* *subtle
That longe time it was ere tyranny,
Or any vice, durst in him uncouple.* *be let loose

This Seneca, of which that I devise,* *tell
Because Nero had of him suche dread,
For he from vices would him aye chastise
Discreetly, as by word, and not by deed;
“Sir,” he would say, “an emperor must need
Be virtuous, and hate tyranny.”
For which he made him in a bath to bleed
On both his armes, till he muste die.

This Nero had eke of a custumance* *habit
In youth against his master for to rise;* *stand in his presence
Which afterward he thought a great grievance;
Therefore he made him dien in this wise.
But natheless this Seneca the wise
Chose in a bath to die in this mannere,
Rather than have another tormentise;* *torture
And thus hath Nero slain his master dear.

Now fell it so, that Fortune list no longer
The highe pride of Nero to cherice;* *cherish
For though he were strong, yet was she stronger.
She thoughte thus; “By God, I am too nice* *foolish
To set a man, that is full fill’d of vice,
In high degree, and emperor him call!
By God, out of his seat I will him trice!* *thrust <18>
When he least weeneth,* soonest shall he fall.” *expecteth

The people rose upon him on a night,
For his default; and when he it espied,
Out of his doors anon he hath him dight* *betaken himself
Alone, and where he ween’d t’have been allied,* *regarded with
He knocked fast, and aye the more he cried friendship
The faster shutte they their doores all;
Then wist he well he had himself misgied,* *misled
And went his way, no longer durst he call.

The people cried and rumbled up and down,
That with his eares heard he how they said;
“Where is this false tyrant, this Neroun?”
For fear almost out of his wit he braid,* *went
And to his goddes piteously he pray’d
For succour, but it mighte not betide
For dread of this he thoughte that died,
And ran into a garden him to hide.

And in this garden found he churles tway,
That satte by a fire great and red;
And to these churles two he gan to pray
To slay him, and to girdon* off his head, *strike
That to his body, when that he were dead,
Were no despite done for his defame.* *infamy
Himself he slew, *he coud no better rede;* *he knew no better
Of which Fortune laugh’d and hadde game. counsel*

Was never capitain under a king,
That regnes more put in subjectioun,
Nor stronger was in field of alle thing
As in his time, nor greater of renown,
Nor more pompous in high presumptioun,
Than HOLOFERNES, whom Fortune aye kiss’d
So lik’rously, and led him up and down,
Till that his head was off *ere that he wist.* *before he knew it*

Not only that this world had of him awe,
For losing of richess and liberty;
But he made every man *reny his law.* *renounce his religion <19>
Nabuchodonosor was God, said he;
None other Godde should honoured be.
Against his hest* there dare no wight trespace, *command
Save in Bethulia, a strong city,
Where Eliachim priest was of that place.

But take keep* of the death of Holofern; *notice
Amid his host he drunken lay at night
Within his tente, large as is a bern;* *barn
And yet, for all his pomp and all his might,
Judith, a woman, as he lay upright
Sleeping, his head off smote, and from his tent
Full privily she stole from every wight,
And with his head unto her town she went.

What needeth it of king ANTIOCHUS <20>
To tell his high and royal majesty,
His great pride, and his workes venomous?
For such another was there none as he;
Reade what that he was in Maccabee.
And read the proude wordes that he said,
And why he fell from his prosperity,
And in an hill how wretchedly he died.

Fortune him had enhanced so in pride,
That verily he ween’d he might attain
Unto the starres upon every side,
And in a balance weighen each mountain,
And all the floodes of the sea restrain.
And Godde’s people had he most in hate
Them would he slay in torment and in pain,
Weening that God might not his pride abate.

And for that Nicanor and Timothee
With Jewes were vanquish’d mightily, <21>
Unto the Jewes such an hate had he,
That he bade *graith his car* full hastily, *prepare his chariot*
And swore and saide full dispiteously,
Unto Jerusalem he would eftsoon,* *immediately
To wreak his ire on it full cruelly
But of his purpose was he let* full soon. *prevented

God for his menace him so sore smote,
With invisible wound incurable,
That in his guttes carf* it so and bote,** *cut **gnawed
Till that his paines were importable;* *unendurable
And certainly the wreche* was reasonable, *vengeance
For many a manne’s guttes did he pain;
But from his purpose, curs’d* and damnable, *impious
For all his smart he would him not restrain;
But bade anon apparaile* his host. *prepare

And suddenly, ere he was of it ware,
God daunted all his pride, and all his boast
For he so sore fell out of his chare,* *chariot
That it his limbes and his skin to-tare,
So that he neither mighte go nor ride
But in a chaire men about him bare,
Alle forbruised bothe back and side.

The wreche* of God him smote so cruelly, *vengeance
That through his body wicked wormes crept,
And therewithal he stank so horribly
That none of all his meinie* that him kept, *servants
Whether so that he woke or elles slept,
Ne mighte not of him the stink endure.
In this mischief he wailed and eke wept,
And knew God Lord of every creature.

To all his host, and to himself also,
Full wlatsem* was the stink of his carrain;** *loathsome **body
No manne might him beare to and fro.
And in this stink, and this horrible pain,
He starf* full wretchedly in a mountain. *dies
Thus hath this robber, and this homicide,
That many a manne made to weep and plain,
Such guerdon* as belongeth unto pride. *reward

The story of ALEXANDER is so commune,
That ev’ry wight that hath discretion
Hath heard somewhat or all of his fortune.
This wide world, as in conclusion,
He won by strength; or, for his high renown,
They were glad for peace to him to send.
The pride and boast of man he laid adown,
Whereso he came, unto the worlde’s end.

Comparison yet never might be maked
Between him and another conqueror;
For all this world for dread of him had quaked
He was of knighthood and of freedom flow’r:
Fortune him made the heir of her honour.
Save wine and women, nothing might assuage
His high intent in arms and labour,
So was he full of leonine courage.

What praise were it to him, though I you told
Of Darius, and a hundred thousand mo’,
Of kinges, princes, dukes, and earles bold,
Which he conquer’d, and brought them into woe?
I say, as far as man may ride or go,
The world was his, why should I more devise?* *tell
For, though I wrote or told you evermo’,
Of his knighthood it mighte not suffice.

Twelve years he reigned, as saith Maccabee
Philippe’s son of Macedon he was,
That first was king in Greece the country.
O worthy gentle* Alexander, alas *noble
That ever should thee falle such a case!
Empoison’d of thine owen folk thou were;
Thy six <22> fortune hath turn’d into an ace,
And yet for thee she wepte never a tear.

Who shall me give teares to complain
The death of gentiless, and of franchise,* *generosity
That all this worlde had in his demaine,* *dominion
And yet he thought it mighte not suffice,
So full was his corage* of high emprise? *spirit
Alas! who shall me helpe to indite
False Fortune, and poison to despise?
The whiche two of all this woe I wite.* *blame

By wisdom, manhood, and by great labour,
From humbleness to royal majesty
Up rose he, JULIUS the Conquerour,
That won all th’ Occident,* by land and sea, *West
By strength of hand or elles by treaty,
And unto Rome made them tributary;
And since* of Rome the emperor was he, *afterwards
Till that Fortune wax’d his adversary.

O mighty Caesar, that in Thessaly
Against POMPEIUS, father thine in law, <23>
That of th’ Orient had all the chivalry,
As far as that the day begins to daw,
That through thy knighthood hast them take and slaw,* slain*
Save fewe folk that with Pompeius fled;
Through which thou put all th’ Orient in awe; <24>
Thanke Fortune that so well thee sped.

But now a little while I will bewail
This Pompeius, this noble governor
Of Rome, which that fled at this battaile
I say, one of his men, a false traitor,
His head off smote, to winne him favor
Of Julius, and him the head he brought;
Alas! Pompey, of th’ Orient conqueror,
That Fortune unto such a fine* thee brought! *end

To Rome again repaired Julius,
With his triumphe laureate full high;
But on a time Brutus and Cassius,
That ever had of his estate envy,
Full privily have made conspiracy
Against this Julius in subtle wise
And cast* the place in which he shoulde die, *arranged
With bodekins,* as I shall you devise.** *daggers **tell

This Julius to the Capitole went
Upon a day, as he was wont to gon;
And in the Capitol anon him hent* *seized
This false Brutus, and his other fone,* *foes
And sticked him with bodekins anon
With many a wound, and thus they let him lie.
But never groan’d he at no stroke but one,
Or else at two, *but if* the story lie. *unless

So manly was this Julius of heart,
And so well loved *estately honesty *dignified propriety*
That, though his deadly woundes sore smart,* *pained him
His mantle o’er his hippes caste he,
That ne man shoulde see his privity
And as he lay a-dying in a trance,
And wiste verily that dead was he,
Of honesty yet had he remembrance.

Lucan, to thee this story I recommend,
And to Sueton’, and Valerie also,
That of this story write *word and end* *the whole* <25>
How that to these great conquerores two
Fortune was first a friend, and since* a foe. *afterwards
No manne trust upon her favour long,
But *have her in await for evermo’;* *ever be watchful against her*
Witness on all these conquerores strong.

The riche CROESUS, <26> whilom king of Lyde, —
Of which Croesus Cyrus him sore drad,* — *dreaded
Yet was he caught amiddes all his pride,
And to be burnt men to the fire him lad;
But such a rain down *from the welkin shad,* *poured from the sky*
That slew the fire, and made him to escape:
But to beware no grace yet he had,
Till fortune on the gallows made him gape.

When he escaped was, he could not stint* *refrain
For to begin a newe war again;
He weened well, for that Fortune him sent
Such hap, that he escaped through the rain,
That of his foes he mighte not be slain.
And eke a sweven* on a night he mette,** *dream **dreamed
Of which he was so proud, and eke so fain,* *glad
That he in vengeance all his hearte set.

Upon a tree he was set, as he thought,
Where Jupiter him wash’d, both back and side,
And Phoebus eke a fair towel him brought
To dry him with; and therefore wax’d his pride.
And to his daughter that stood him beside,
Which he knew in high science to abound,
He bade her tell him what it signified;
And she his dream began right thus expound.

“The tree,” quoth she, “the gallows is to mean,
And Jupiter betokens snow and rain,
And Phoebus, with his towel clear and clean,
These be the sunne’s streames* sooth to sayn; *rays
Thou shalt y-hangeth be, father, certain;
Rain shall thee wash, and sunne shall thee dry.”
Thus warned him full plat and eke full plain
His daughter, which that called was Phanie.

And hanged was Croesus the proude king;
His royal throne might him not avail.
Tragedy is none other manner thing,
Nor can in singing crien nor bewail,
But for that Fortune all day will assail
With unware stroke the regnes* that be proud:<27> *kingdoms
For when men truste her, then will she fail,
And cover her bright face with a cloud.

O noble, O worthy PEDRO, <28> glory OF SPAIN,
Whem Fortune held so high in majesty,
Well oughte men thy piteous death complain.
Out of thy land thy brother made thee flee,
And after, at a siege, by subtlety,
Thou wert betray’d, and led unto his tent,
Where as he with his owen hand slew thee,
Succeeding in thy regne* and in thy rent.** *kingdom *revenues

The field of snow, with th’ eagle of black therein,
Caught with the lion, red-colour’d as the glede,* *burning coal
He brew’d this cursedness,* and all this sin; *wickedness, villainy
The wicked nest was worker of this deed;
Not Charles’ Oliver, <29> that took aye heed
Of truth and honour, but of Armorike
Ganilien Oliver, corrupt for meed,* *reward, bribe
Broughte this worthy king in such a brike.* *breach, ruin

O worthy PETRO, King of CYPRE <30> also,
That Alexandre won by high mast’ry,
Full many a heathnen wroughtest thou full woe,
Of which thine owen lieges had envy;
And, for no thing but for thy chivalry,
They in thy bed have slain thee by the morrow;
Thus can Fortune her wheel govern and gie,* *guide
And out of joy bringe men into sorrow.

Of Milan greate BARNABO VISCOUNT,<30>
God of delight, and scourge of Lombardy,
Why should I not thine clomben* wert so high? *climbed
Thy brother’s son, that was thy double ally,
For he thy nephew was and son-in-law,
Within his prison made thee to die,
But why, nor how, *n’ot I* that thou were slaw.* *I know not* *slain*

Of th’ Earl HUGOLIN OF PISE the languour* *agony
There may no tongue telle for pity.
But little out of Pisa stands a tow’r,
In whiche tow’r in prison put was he,
Aud with him be his little children three;
The eldest scarcely five years was of age;
Alas! Fortune, it was great cruelty
Such birdes for to put in such a cage.

Damned was he to die in that prison;
For Roger, which that bishop was of Pise,
Had on him made a false suggestion,
Through which the people gan upon him rise,
And put him in prison, in such a wise
As ye have heard; and meat and drink he had
So small, that well unneth* it might suffice, *scarcely
And therewithal it was full poor and bad.

And on a day befell, that in that hour
When that his meate wont was to be brought,
The jailor shut the doores of the tow’r;
He heard it right well, but he spake nought.
And in his heart anon there fell a thought,
That they for hunger woulde *do him dien;* *cause him to die*
“Alas!” quoth he, “alas that I was wrought!”* *made, born
Therewith the teares fell from his eyen.

His youngest son, that three years was of age,
Unto him said, “Father, why do ye weep?
When will the jailor bringen our pottage?
Is there no morsel bread that ye do keep?
I am so hungry, that I may not sleep.
Now woulde God that I might sleepen ever!
Then should not hunger in my wombe* creep; *stomach
There is no thing, save bread, that one were lever.”* *dearer

Thus day by day this child begun to cry,
Till in his father’s barme* adown he lay, *lap
And saide, “Farewell, father, I must die;”
And kiss’d his father, and died the same day.
And when the woeful father did it sey,* *see
For woe his armes two he gan to bite,
And said, “Alas! Fortune, and well-away!
To thy false wheel my woe all may I wite.”* *blame

His children ween’d that it for hunger was
That he his armes gnaw’d, and not for woe,
And saide, “Father, do not so, alas!
But rather eat the flesh upon us two.
Our flesh thou gave us, our flesh take us fro’,
And eat enough;” right thus they to him said.
And after that, within a day or two,
They laid them in his lap adown, and died.

Himself, despaired, eke for hunger starf.* *died
Thus ended is this Earl of Pise;
From high estate Fortune away him carf.* *cut off
Of this tragedy it ought enough suffice
Whoso will hear it *in a longer wise,* *at greater length*
Reade the greate poet of ltale,
That Dante hight, for he can it devise <32>
From point to point, not one word will he fail.

Notes to the Monk’s Tale

1. The Monk’s Tale is founded in its main features on Bocccacio’s work, “De Casibus Virorum Illustrium;” (“Stories of Illustrious Men”) but Chaucer has taken the separate stories of which it is composed from different authors, and dealt with them after his own fashion.

2. Boccaccio opens his book with Adam, whose story is told at much greater length than here. Lydgate, in his translation from Boccaccio, speaks of Adam and Eve as made “of slime of the erth in Damascene the felde.”

3. Judges xiii. 3. Boccaccio also tells the story of Samson; but Chaucer seems, by his quotation a few lines below, to have taken his version direct from the sacred book.

4. Oliveres: olive trees; French, “oliviers.”

5. “Liber Judicum,” the Book of Judges; chap. xv.

6. Querne: mill; from Anglo-Saxon, “cyrran,” to turn, “cweorn,” a mill,

7.Harpies: the Stymphalian Birds, which fed on human flesh.

8. Busiris, king of Egypt, was wont to sacrifice all foreigners coming to his dominions. Hercules was seized, bound, and led to the altar by his orders, but the hero broke his bonds and slew the tyrant.

9. The feats of Hercules here recorded are not all these known as the “twelve labours;” for instance, the cleansing of the Augean stables, and the capture of Hippolyte’s girdle are not in this list — other and less famous deeds of the hero taking their place. For this, however, we must accuse not Chaucer, but Boethius, whom he has almost literally translated, though with some change of order.

10. Trophee: One of the manuscripts has a marginal reference to “Tropheus vates Chaldaeorum” (“Tropheus the prophet of the Chaldees”); but it is not known what author Chaucer meant — unless the reference is to a passage in the “Filostrato” of Boccaccio, on which Chaucer founded his “Troilus and Cressida,” and which Lydgate mentions, under the name of “Trophe,” as having been translated by Chaucer.

11. Pres: near; French, “pres;” the meaning seems to be, this nearer, lower world.

12 Chaucer has taken the story of Zenobia from Boccaccio’s work “De Claris Mulieribus.” (“Of Illustrious Women”)

13. Odenatus, who, for his services to the Romans, received from Gallienus the title of “Augustus;” he was assassinated in A.D. 266 — not, it was believed, without the connivance of Zenobia, who succeeded him on the throne.

14. Sapor was king of Persia, who made the Emperor Valerian prisoner, conquered Syria, and was pressing triumphantly westward when he was met and defeated by Odenatus and Zenobia.

15. Aurelain became Emperor in A.D. 270.

16. Vitremite: The signification of this word, which is spelled in several ways, is not known. Skinner’s explanation, “another attire,” founded on the spelling “autremite,” is obviously insufficient.

17. Great part of this “tragedy” of Nero is really borrowed, however, from the “Romance of the Rose.”

18. Trice: thrust; from Anglo-Saxon, “thriccan.”

19. So, in the Man of Law’s Tale, the Sultaness promises her son that she will “reny her lay.”

20. As the “tragedy” of Holofernes is founded on the book of Judith, so is that of Antiochus on the Second Book of the Maccabees, chap. ix.

21. By the insurgents under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus; 2 Macc. chap. viii.

22. Six: the highest cast on a dicing-cube; here representing the highest favour of fortune.

23. Pompey had married his daughter Julia to Caesar; but she died six years before Pompey’s final overthrow.

24. At the battle of Pharsalia, B.C. 48.

25. Word and end: apparently a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon phrase, “ord and end,” meaning the whole, the beginning and the end.

26. At the opening of the story of Croesus, Chaucer has copied from his own translation of Boethius; but the story is mainly taken from the “Romance of the Rose”

27. “This reflection,” says Tyrwhttt, “seems to have been suggested by one which follows soon after the mention of Croesus in the passage just cited from Boethius. ‘What other thing bewail the cryings of tragedies but only the deeds of fortune, that with an awkward stroke, overturneth the realms of great nobley?'” — in some manuscripts the four “tragedies” that follow are placed between those of Zenobia and Nero; but although the general reflection with which the “tragedy” of Croesus closes might most appropriately wind up the whole series, the general chronological arrangement which is observed in the other cases recommends the order followed in the text. Besides, since, like several other Tales, the Monk’s tragedies were cut short by the impatience of the auditors, it is more natural that the Tale should close abruptly, than by such a rhetorical finish as these lines afford.

28. Pedro the Cruel, King of Aragon, against whom his brother Henry rebelled. He was by false pretences inveigled into his brother’s tent, and treacherously slain. Mr Wright has remarked that “the cause of Pedro, though he was no better than a cruel and reckless tyrant, was popular in England from the very circumstance that Prince Edward (the Black Prince) had embarked in it.”

29. Not the Oliver of Charlemagne — but a traitorous Oliver of Armorica, corrupted by a bribe. Ganilion was the betrayer of the Christian army at Roncevalles (see note 9 to the Shipman’s Tale); and his name appears to have been for a long time used in France to denote a traitor. Duguesclin, who betrayed Pedro into his brother’s tent, seems to be intended by the term “Ganilion Oliver,” but if so, Chaucer has mistaken his name, which was Bertrand — perhaps confounding him, as Tyrwhttt suggests, with Oliver du Clisson, another illustrious Breton of those times, who was also Constable of France, after Duguesclin. The arms of the latter are supposed to be described a little above

30. Pierre de Lusignan, King of Cyprus, who captured Alexandria in 1363 (see note 6 to the Prologue to the Tales). He was assassinated in 1369.

31. Bernabo Visconti, Duke of Milan, was deposed and imprisoned by his nephew, and died a captive in 1385. His death is the latest historical fact mentioned in the Tales; and thus it throws the date of their composition to about the sixtieth year of Chaucer’s age.

32. The story of Ugolino is told in the 33rd Canto of the “Inferno.”

THE NUN’S PRIEST’S TALE.

THE PROLOGUE.

“Ho!” quoth the Knight, “good sir, no more of this;
That ye have said is right enough, y-wis,* *of a surety
And muche more; for little heaviness
Is right enough to muche folk, I guess.
I say for me, it is a great disease,* *source of distress, annoyance
Where as men have been in great wealth and ease,
To hearen of their sudden fall, alas!
And the contrary is joy and great solas,* *delight, comfort
As when a man hath been in poor estate,
And climbeth up, and waxeth fortunate,
And there abideth in prosperity;
Such thing is gladsome, as it thinketh me,
And of such thing were goodly for to tell.”

“Yea,” quoth our Hoste, “by Saint Paule’s bell.
Ye say right sooth; this monk hath clapped* loud; *talked
He spake how Fortune cover’d with a cloud
I wot not what, and als’ of a tragedy
Right now ye heard: and pardie no remedy
It is for to bewaile, nor complain
That that is done, and also it is pain,
As ye have said, to hear of heaviness.
Sir Monk, no more of this, so God you bless;
Your tale annoyeth all this company;
Such talking is not worth a butterfly,
For therein is there no sport nor game;
Therefore, Sir Monke, Dan Piers by your name,
I pray you heart’ly, tell us somewhat else,
For sickerly, n’ere* clinking of your bells, *were it not for the
That on your bridle hang on every side,
By heaven’s king, that for us alle died,
I should ere this have fallen down for sleep,
Although the slough had been never so deep;
Then had your tale been all told in vain.
For certainly, as these clerkes sayn,
Where as a man may have no audience,
Nought helpeth it to telle his sentence.
And well I wot the substance is in me,
If anything shall well reported be.
Sir, say somewhat of hunting, <1> I you pray.”

“Nay,” quoth the Monk, “I have *no lust to play;* *no fondness for
Now let another tell, as I have told.” jesting*
Then spake our Host with rude speech and bold,
And said unto the Nunne’s Priest anon,
“Come near, thou Priest, come hither, thou Sir John, <2>
Tell us such thing as may our heartes glade.* *gladden
Be blithe, although thou ride upon a jade.
What though thine horse be bothe foul and lean?
If he will serve thee, reck thou not a bean;
Look that thine heart be merry evermo’.”

“Yes, Host,” quoth he, “so may I ride or go,
But* I be merry, y-wis I will be blamed.” *unless
And right anon his tale he hath attamed* *commenced <3>
And thus he said unto us every one,
This sweete priest, this goodly man, Sir John.

Notes to the Prologue to the Nun’s Priest’s Tale

1. The request is justified by the description of Monk in the Prologue as “an out-rider, that loved venery.”

2. On this Tyrwhitt remarks; “I know not how it has happened, that in the principal modern languages, John, or its equivalent, is a name of contempt or at least of slight. So the Italians use ‘Gianni,’ from whence ‘Zani;’ the Spaniards ‘Juan,’ as ‘Bobo Juan,’ a foolish John; the French ‘Jean,’ with various additions; and in English, when we call a man ‘a John,’ we do not mean it as a title of honour.” The title of “Sir” was usually given by courtesy to priests.

3. Attamed: commenced, broached. Compare French, “entamer”, to cut the first piece off a joint; thence to begin.

THE TALE. <1>

A poor widow, *somedeal y-stept* in age, *somewhat advanced*
Was whilom dwelling in a poor cottage,
Beside a grove, standing in a dale.
This widow, of which I telle you my tale,
Since thilke day that she was last a wife,
In patience led a full simple life,
For little was *her chattel and her rent.* *her goods and her income*
By husbandry* of such as God her sent, *thrifty management
She found* herself, and eke her daughters two. *maintained
Three large sowes had she, and no mo’;
Three kine, and eke a sheep that highte Mall.
Full sooty was her bow’r,* and eke her hall, *chamber
In which she ate full many a slender meal.
Of poignant sauce knew she never a deal.* *whit
No dainty morsel passed through her throat;
Her diet was *accordant to her cote.* *in keeping with her cottage*
Repletion her made never sick;
Attemper* diet was all her physic, *moderate
And exercise, and *hearte’s suffisance.* *contentment of heart*
The goute *let her nothing for to dance,* *did not prevent her
Nor apoplexy shente* not her head. from dancing* *hurt
No wine drank she, neither white nor red:
Her board was served most with white and black,
Milk and brown bread, in which she found no lack,
Seind* bacon, and sometimes an egg or tway; *singed
For she was as it were *a manner dey.* *kind of day labourer* <2>
A yard she had, enclosed all about
With stickes, and a drye ditch without,
In which she had a cock, hight Chanticleer;
In all the land of crowing *n’as his peer.* *was not his equal*
His voice was merrier than the merry orgon,* *organ <3>
On masse days that in the churches gon.
Well sickerer* was his crowing in his lodge, *more punctual*
Than is a clock, or an abbay horloge.* *clock <4>
By nature he knew each ascension
Of th’ equinoctial in thilke town;
For when degrees fiftene were ascended,
Then crew he, that it might not be amended.
His comb was redder than the fine coral,
Embattell’d <5> as it were a castle wall.
His bill was black, and as the jet it shone;
Like azure were his legges and his tone;* *toes
His nailes whiter than the lily flow’r,
And like the burnish’d gold was his colour,
This gentle cock had in his governance
Sev’n hennes, for to do all his pleasance,
Which were his sisters and his paramours,
And wondrous like to him as of colours.
Of which the fairest-hued in the throat
Was called Damoselle Partelote,
Courteous she was, discreet, and debonair,
And companiable,* and bare herself so fair, *sociable
Since the day that she sev’n night was old,
That truely she had the heart in hold
Of Chanticleer, locked in every lith;* *limb
He lov’d her so, that well was him therewith,
But such a joy it was to hear them sing,
When that the brighte sunne gan to spring,
In sweet accord, *”My lefe is fare in land.”* <6> *my love is
For, at that time, as I have understand, gone abroad*
Beastes and birdes coulde speak and sing.

And so befell, that in a dawening,
As Chanticleer among his wives all
Sat on his perche, that was in the hall,
And next him sat this faire Partelote,
This Chanticleer gan groanen in his throat,
As man that in his dream is dretched* sore, *oppressed
And when that Partelote thus heard him roar,
She was aghast,* and saide, “Hearte dear, *afraid
What aileth you to groan in this mannere?
Ye be a very sleeper, fy for shame!”
And he answer’d and saide thus; “Madame,
I pray you that ye take it not agrief;* *amiss, in umbrage
By God, *me mette* I was in such mischief,** *I dreamed* **trouble
Right now, that yet mine heart is sore affright’.
Now God,” quoth he, “my sweven* read aright *dream, vision.
And keep my body out of foul prisoun.
*Me mette,* how that I roamed up and down *I dreamed*
Within our yard, where as I saw a beast
Was like an hound, and would have *made arrest* *siezed*
Upon my body, and would have had me dead.
His colour was betwixt yellow and red;
And tipped was his tail, and both his ears,
With black, unlike the remnant of his hairs.
His snout was small, with glowing eyen tway;
Yet of his look almost for fear I dey;* *died
This caused me my groaning, doubteless.”

“Away,” <7> quoth she, “fy on you, hearteless!* *coward
Alas!” quoth she, “for, by that God above!
Now have ye lost my heart and all my love;
I cannot love a coward, by my faith.
For certes, what so any woman saith,
We all desiren, if it mighte be,
To have husbandes hardy, wise, and free,
And secret,* and no niggard nor no fool, *discreet
Nor him that is aghast* of every tool,** *afraid **rag, trifle
Nor no avantour,* by that God above! *braggart
How durste ye for shame say to your love
That anything might make you afear’d?
Have ye no manne’s heart, and have a beard?
Alas! and can ye be aghast of swevenes?* *dreams
Nothing but vanity, God wot, in sweven is,
Swevens *engender of repletions,* *are caused by over-eating*
And oft of fume,* and of complexions, *drunkenness
When humours be too abundant in a wight.
Certes this dream, which ye have mette tonight,
Cometh of the great supefluity
Of youre rede cholera,* pardie, *bile
Which causeth folk to dreaden in their dreams
Of arrows, and of fire with redde beams,
Of redde beastes, that they will them bite,
Of conteke,* and of whelpes great and lite;** *contention **little
Right as the humour of melancholy
Causeth full many a man in sleep to cry,
For fear of bulles, or of beares blake,
Or elles that black devils will them take,
Of other humours could I tell also,
That worke many a man in sleep much woe;
That I will pass as lightly as I can.
Lo, Cato, which that was so wise a man,
Said he not thus, *’Ne do no force of* dreams,'<8> *attach no weight to*
Now, Sir,” quoth she, “when we fly from these beams,
For Godde’s love, as take some laxatife;
On peril of my soul, and of my life,
I counsel you the best, I will not lie,
That both of choler, and melancholy,
Ye purge you; and, for ye shall not tarry,
Though in this town is no apothecary,
I shall myself two herbes teache you,
That shall be for your health, and for your prow;* *profit
And in our yard the herbes shall I find,
The which have of their property by kind* *nature
To purge you beneath, and eke above.
Sire, forget not this for Godde’s love;
Ye be full choleric of complexion;
Ware that the sun, in his ascension,
You finde not replete of humours hot;
And if it do, I dare well lay a groat,
That ye shall have a fever tertiane,
Or else an ague, that may be your bane,
A day or two ye shall have digestives
Of wormes, ere ye take your laxatives,
Of laurel, centaury, <9> and fumeterere, <10>
Or else of elder-berry, that groweth there,
Of catapuce, <11> or of the gaitre-berries, <12>
Or herb ivy growing in our yard, that merry is:
Pick them right as they grow, and eat them in,
Be merry, husband, for your father’s kin;
Dreade no dream; I can say you no more.”

“Madame,” quoth he, “grand mercy of your lore,
But natheless, as touching *Dan Catoun,* *Cato
That hath of wisdom such a great renown,
Though that he bade no dreames for to dread,
By God, men may in olde bookes read
Of many a man more of authority
Than ever Cato was, so may I the,* *thrive
That all the reverse say of his sentence,* *opinion
And have well founden by experience
That dreames be significations
As well of joy, as tribulations
That folk enduren in this life present.
There needeth make of this no argument;
The very preve* sheweth it indeed. *trial, experience
One of the greatest authors that men read <13>
Saith thus, that whilom two fellowes went
On pilgrimage in a full good intent;
And happen’d so, they came into a town
Where there was such a congregatioun
Of people, and eke so *strait of herbergage,* *without lodging*
That they found not as much as one cottage
In which they bothe might y-lodged be:
Wherefore they musten of necessity,
As for that night, departe company;
And each of them went to his hostelry,* *inn
And took his lodging as it woulde fall.
The one of them was lodged in a stall,
Far in a yard, with oxen of the plough;
That other man was lodged well enow,
As was his aventure, or his fortune,
That us governeth all, as in commune.
And so befell, that, long ere it were day,
This man mette* in his bed, there: as he lay, *dreamed
How that his fellow gan upon him call,
And said, ‘Alas! for in an ox’s stall
This night shall I be murder’d, where I lie
Now help me, deare brother, or I die;
In alle haste come to me,’ he said.
This man out of his sleep for fear abraid;* *started
But when that he was wak’d out of his sleep,
He turned him, and *took of this no keep;* *paid this no attention*
He thought his dream was but a vanity.
Thus twies* in his sleeping dreamed he, *twice
And at the thirde time yet his fellaw again
Came, as he thought, and said, ‘I am now slaw;* *slain
Behold my bloody woundes, deep and wide.
Arise up early, in the morning, tide,
And at the west gate of the town,’ quoth he,
‘A carte full of dung there shalt: thou see,
In which my body is hid privily.
Do thilke cart arroste* boldely. *stop
My gold caused my murder, sooth to sayn.’
And told him every point how he was slain,
With a full piteous face, and pale of hue.

“And, truste well, his dream he found full true;
For on the morrow, as soon as it was day,
To his fellowes inn he took his way;
And when that he came to this ox’s stall,
After his fellow he began to call.
The hostelere answered him anon,
And saide, ‘Sir, your fellow is y-gone,
As soon as day he went out of the town.’
This man gan fallen in suspicioun,
Rememb’ring on his dreames that he mette,* *dreamed
And forth he went, no longer would he let,* *delay
Unto the west gate of the town, and fand* *found
A dung cart, as it went for to dung land,
That was arrayed in the same wise
As ye have heard the deade man devise;* *describe
And with an hardy heart he gan to cry,
‘Vengeance and justice of this felony:
My fellow murder’d in this same night
And in this cart he lies, gaping upright.
I cry out on the ministers,’ quoth he.
‘That shoulde keep and rule this city;
Harow! alas! here lies my fellow slain.’
What should I more unto this tale sayn?
The people out start, and cast the cart to ground
And in the middle of the dung they found
The deade man, that murder’d was all new.
O blissful God! that art so good and true,
Lo, how that thou bewray’st murder alway.
Murder will out, that see we day by day.
Murder is so wlatsom* and abominable *loathsome
To God, that is so just and reasonable,
That he will not suffer it heled* be; *concealed <14>
Though it abide a year, or two, or three,
Murder will out, this is my conclusioun,
And right anon, the ministers of the town
Have hent* the carter, and so sore him pined,** *seized **tortured
And eke the hostelere so sore engined,* *racked
That they beknew* their wickedness anon, *confessed
And were hanged by the necke bone.

“Here may ye see that dreames be to dread.
And certes in the same book I read,
Right in the nexte chapter after this
(I gabbe* not, so have I joy and bliss), *talk idly
Two men that would, have passed over sea,
For certain cause, into a far country,
If that the wind not hadde been contrary,
That made them in a city for to tarry,
That stood full merry upon an haven side;
But on a day, against the even-tide,
The wind gan change, and blew right *as them lest.* *as they wished*
Jolly and glad they wente to their rest,
And caste* them full early for to sail. *resolved
But to the one man fell a great marvail
That one of them, in sleeping as he lay,
He mette* a wondrous dream, against the day: *dreamed
He thought a man stood by his bedde’s side,
And him commanded that he should abide;
And said him thus; ‘If thou to-morrow wend,
Thou shalt be drown’d; my tale is at an end.’
He woke, and told his follow what he mette,
And prayed him his voyage for to let;* *delay
As for that day, he pray’d him to abide.
His fellow, that lay by his bedde’s side,
Gan for to laugh, and scorned him full fast.
‘No dream,’ quoth he,’may so my heart aghast,* *frighten
That I will lette* for to do my things.* *delay
I sette not a straw by thy dreamings,
For swevens* be but vanities and japes.** *dreams **jokes,deceits
Men dream all day of owles and of apes,
And eke of many a maze* therewithal; *wild imagining
Men dream of thing that never was, nor shall.
But since I see, that thou wilt here abide,
And thus forslothe* wilfully thy tide,** *idle away **time
God wot, *it rueth me;* and have good day.’ *I am sorry for it*
And thus he took his leave, and went his way.
But, ere that he had half his course sail’d,
I know not why, nor what mischance it ail’d,
But casually* the ship’s bottom rent, *by accident
And ship and man under the water went,
In sight of other shippes there beside
That with him sailed at the same tide.

“And therefore, faire Partelote so dear,
By such examples olde may’st thou lear,* *learn
That no man shoulde be too reckeless
Of dreames, for I say thee doubteless,
That many a dream full sore is for to dread.
Lo, in the life of Saint Kenelm <15> I read,
That was Kenulphus’ son, the noble king
Of Mercenrike, <16> how Kenelm mette a thing.
A little ere he was murder’d on a day,
His murder in his vision he say.* *saw
His norice* him expounded every deal** *nurse **part
His sweven, and bade him to keep* him well *guard
For treason; but he was but seven years old,
And therefore *little tale hath he told* *he attached little
Of any dream, so holy was his heart. significance to*
By God, I hadde lever than my shirt
That ye had read his legend, as have I.
Dame Partelote, I say you truely,
Macrobius, that wrote the vision
In Afric’ of the worthy Scipion, <17>
Affirmeth dreames, and saith that they be
‘Warnings of thinges that men after see.
And furthermore, I pray you looke well
In the Old Testament, of Daniel,
If he held dreames any vanity.
Read eke of Joseph, and there shall ye see
Whether dreams be sometimes (I say not all)
Warnings of thinges that shall after fall.
Look of Egypt the king, Dan Pharaoh,
His baker and his buteler also,
Whether they felte none effect* in dreams. *significance
Whoso will seek the acts of sundry remes* *realms
May read of dreames many a wondrous thing.
Lo Croesus, which that was of Lydia king,
Mette he not that he sat upon a tree,
Which signified he shoulde hanged be? <18>
Lo here, Andromache, Hectore’s wife, <19>
That day that Hector shoulde lose his life,
She dreamed on the same night beforn,
How that the life of Hector should be lorn,* *lost
If thilke day he went into battaile;
She warned him, but it might not avail;
He wente forth to fighte natheless,
And was y-slain anon of Achilles.
But thilke tale is all too long to tell;
And eke it is nigh day, I may not dwell.
Shortly I say, as for conclusion,
That I shall have of this avision
Adversity; and I say furthermore,
That I ne *tell of laxatives no store,* *hold laxatives
For they be venomous, I wot it well; of no value*
I them defy,* I love them never a del.** *distrust **whit

“But let us speak of mirth, and stint* all this; *cease
Madame Partelote, so have I bliss,
Of one thing God hath sent me large* grace; liberal
For when I see the beauty of your face,
Ye be so scarlet-hued about your eyen,
I maketh all my dreade for to dien,
For, all so sicker* as In principio,<20> *certain
Mulier est hominis confusio.<21>
Madam, the sentence* of of this Latin is, *meaning
Woman is manne’s joy and manne’s bliss.
For when I feel at night your softe side, —
Albeit that I may not on you ride,
For that our perch is made so narrow, Alas!
I am so full of joy and of solas,* *delight
That I defy both sweven and eke dream.”
And with that word he flew down from the beam,
For it was day, and eke his hennes all;
And with a chuck he gan them for to call,
For he had found a corn, lay in the yard.
Royal he was, he was no more afear’d;
He feather’d Partelote twenty time,
And as oft trode her, ere that it was prime.
He looked as it were a grim lion,
And on his toes he roamed up and down;
He deigned not to set his feet to ground;
He chucked, when he had a corn y-found,
And to him ranne then his wives all.
Thus royal, as a prince is in his hall,
Leave I this Chanticleer in his pasture;
And after will I tell his aventure.

When that the month in which the world began,
That highte March, when God first maked man,
Was complete, and y-passed were also,
Since March ended, thirty days and two,
Befell that Chanticleer in all his pride,
His seven wives walking him beside,
Cast up his eyen to the brighte sun,
That in the sign of Taurus had y-run
Twenty degrees and one, and somewhat more;
He knew by kind,* and by none other lore,** *nature **learning
That it was prime, and crew with blissful steven.* *voice
“The sun,” he said, “is clomben up in heaven
Twenty degrees and one, and more y-wis.* *assuredly
Madame Partelote, my worlde’s bliss,
Hearken these blissful birdes how they sing,
And see the freshe flowers how they spring;
Full is mine heart of revel and solace.”
But suddenly him fell a sorrowful case;* *casualty
For ever the latter end of joy is woe:
God wot that worldly joy is soon y-go:
And, if a rhetor* coulde fair indite, *orator
He in a chronicle might it safely write,
As for *a sov’reign notability* *a thing supremely notable*
Now every wise man, let him hearken me;
This story is all as true, I undertake,
As is the book of Launcelot du Lake,
That women hold in full great reverence.
Now will I turn again to my sentence.

A col-fox, <22> full of sly iniquity,
That in the grove had wonned* yeares three, *dwelt
By high imagination forecast,
The same night thorough the hedges brast* *burst
Into the yard, where Chanticleer the fair
Was wont, and eke his wives, to repair;
And in a bed of wortes* still he lay, *cabbages
Till it was passed undern <23> of the day,
Waiting his time on Chanticleer to fall:
As gladly do these homicides all,
That in awaite lie to murder men.
O false murd’rer! Rouking* in thy den! *crouching, lurking
O new Iscariot, new Ganilion! <24>
O false dissimuler, O Greek Sinon,<25>
That broughtest Troy all utterly to sorrow!
O Chanticleer! accursed be the morrow
That thou into thy yard flew from the beams;* *rafters
Thou wert full well y-warned by thy dreams
That thilke day was perilous to thee.
But what that God forewot* must needes be, *foreknows
After th’ opinion of certain clerkes.
Witness on him that any perfect clerk is,
That in school is great altercation
In this matter, and great disputation,
And hath been of an hundred thousand men.
But I ne cannot *boult it to the bren,* *examine it thoroughly <26>*
As can the holy doctor Augustine,
Or Boece, or the bishop Bradwardine,<27>
Whether that Godde’s worthy foreweeting* *foreknowledge
*Straineth me needly* for to do a thing *forces me*
(Needly call I simple necessity),
Or elles if free choice be granted me
To do that same thing, or do it not,
Though God forewot* it ere that it was wrought; *knew in advance
Or if *his weeting straineth never a deal,* *his knowing constrains
But by necessity conditionel. not at all*
I will not have to do of such mattere;
My tale is of a cock, as ye may hear,
That took his counsel of his wife, with sorrow,
To walken in the yard upon the morrow
That he had mette the dream, as I you told.
Womane’s counsels be full often cold;* *mischievous, unwise
Womane’s counsel brought us first to woe,
And made Adam from Paradise to go,
There as he was full merry and well at case.
But, for I n’ot* to whom I might displease *know not
If I counsel of women woulde blame,
Pass over, for I said it in my game.* *jest
Read authors, where they treat of such mattere
And what they say of women ye may hear.
These be the cocke’s wordes, and not mine;
I can no harm of no woman divine.* *conjecture, imagine
Fair in the sand, to bathe* her merrily, *bask
Lies Partelote, and all her sisters by,
Against the sun, and Chanticleer so free
Sang merrier than the mermaid in the sea;
For Physiologus saith sickerly,* *certainly
How that they singe well and merrily. <28>
And so befell that, as he cast his eye
Among the wortes,* on a butterfly, *cabbages
He was ware of this fox that lay full low.
Nothing *ne list him thenne* for to crow, *he had no inclination*
But cried anon “Cock! cock!” and up he start,
As man that was affrayed in his heart.
For naturally a beast desireth flee
From his contrary,* if be may it see, *enemy
Though he *ne’er erst* had soon it with his eye *never before*
This Chanticleer, when he gan him espy,
He would have fled, but that the fox anon
Said, “Gentle Sir, alas! why will ye gon?
Be ye afraid of me that am your friend?
Now, certes, I were worse than any fiend,
If I to you would harm or villainy.
I am not come your counsel to espy.
But truely the cause of my coming
Was only for to hearken how ye sing;
For truely ye have as merry a steven,* *voice
As any angel hath that is in heaven;
Therewith ye have of music more feeling,
Than had Boece, or any that can sing.
My lord your father (God his soule bless)
And eke your mother of her gentleness,
Have in mnine house been, to my great ease:* *satisfaction
And certes, Sir, full fain would I you please.
But, for men speak of singing, I will say,
So may I brooke* well mine eyen tway, *enjoy, possess, or use
Save you, I hearde never man so sing
As did your father in the morrowning.
Certes it was of heart all that he sung.
And, for to make his voice the more strong,
He would *so pain him,* that with both his eyen *make such an exertion*
He muste wink, so loud he woulde cryen,
And standen on his tiptoes therewithal,
And stretche forth his necke long and small.
And eke he was of such discretion,
That there was no man, in no region,
That him in song or wisdom mighte pass.
I have well read in Dan Burnel the Ass, <29>
Among his verse, how that there was a cock
That, for* a prieste’s son gave him a knock *because
Upon his leg, while he was young and nice,* *foolish
He made him for to lose his benefice.
But certain there is no comparison
Betwixt the wisdom and discretion
Of youre father, and his subtilty.
Now singe, Sir, for sainte charity,
Let see, can ye your father counterfeit?”

This Chanticleer his wings began to beat,
As man that could not his treason espy,
So was he ravish’d with his flattery.
Alas! ye lordes, many a false flattour* *flatterer <30>
Is in your court, and many a losengeour, * *deceiver <31>
That please you well more, by my faith,
Than he that soothfastness* unto you saith. *truth
Read in Ecclesiast’ of flattery;
Beware, ye lordes, of their treachery.
This Chanticleer stood high upon his toes,
Stretching his neck, and held his eyen close,
And gan to crowe loude for the nonce
And Dan Russel <32> the fox start up at once,
And *by the gorge hente* Chanticleer, *seized by the throat*
And on his back toward the wood him bare.
For yet was there no man that him pursu’d.
O destiny, that may’st not be eschew’d!* *escaped
Alas, that Chanticleer flew from the beams!
Alas, his wife raughte* nought of dreams! *regarded
And on a Friday fell all this mischance.
O Venus, that art goddess of pleasance,
Since that thy servant was this Chanticleer
And in thy service did all his powere,
More for delight, than the world to multiply,
Why wilt thou suffer him on thy day to die?
O Gaufrid, deare master sovereign, <33>
That, when thy worthy king Richard was slain
With shot, complainedest his death so sore,
Why n’had I now thy sentence and thy lore,
The Friday for to chiden, as did ye?
(For on a Friday, soothly, slain was he),
Then would I shew you how that I could plain* *lament
For Chanticleere’s dread, and for his pain.

Certes such cry nor lamentation
Was ne’er of ladies made, when Ilion
Was won, and Pyrrhus with his straighte sword,
When he had hent* king Priam by the beard, *seized
And slain him (as saith us Eneidos*),<34> *The Aeneid
As maden all the hennes in the close,* *yard
When they had seen of Chanticleer the sight.
But sov’reignly* Dame Partelote shright,** *above all others
Full louder than did Hasdrubale’s wife, **shrieked
When that her husband hadde lost his life,
And that the Romans had y-burnt Carthage;
She was so full of torment and of rage,
That wilfully into the fire she start,
And burnt herselfe with a steadfast heart.
O woeful hennes! right so cried ye,
As, when that Nero burned the city
Of Rome, cried the senatores’ wives,
For that their husbands losten all their lives;
Withoute guilt this Nero hath them slain.
Now will I turn unto my tale again;

The sely* widow, and her daughters two, *simple, honest
Hearde these hennes cry and make woe,
And at the doors out started they anon,
And saw the fox toward the wood is gone,
And bare upon his back the cock away:
They cried, “Out! harow! and well-away!
Aha! the fox!” and after him they ran,
And eke with staves many another man
Ran Coll our dog, and Talbot, and Garland;
And Malkin, with her distaff in her hand
Ran cow and calf, and eke the very hogges
So fear’d they were for barking of the dogges,
And shouting of the men and women eke.
They ranne so, them thought their hearts would break.
They yelled as the fiendes do in hell;
The duckes cried as men would them quell;* *kill, destroy
The geese for feare flewen o’er the trees,
Out of the hive came the swarm of bees,
So hideous was the noise, ben’dicite!
Certes he, Jacke Straw,<35> and his meinie,* *followers
Ne made never shoutes half so shrill
When that they woulden any Fleming kill,
As thilke day was made upon the fox.
Of brass they broughte beames* and of box, *trumpets <36>
Of horn and bone, in which they blew and pooped,* **tooted
And therewithal they shrieked and they hooped;
It seemed as the heaven shoulde fall

Now, goode men, I pray you hearken all;
Lo, how Fortune turneth suddenly
The hope and pride eke of her enemy.
This cock, that lay upon the fox’s back,
In all his dread unto the fox he spake,
And saide, “Sir, if that I were as ye,
Yet would I say (as wisly* God help me), *surely
‘Turn ye again, ye proude churles all;
A very pestilence upon you fall.
Now am I come unto the woode’s side,
Maugre your head, the cock shall here abide;
I will him eat, in faith, and that anon.'”
The fox answer’d, “In faith it shall be done:”
And, as he spake the word, all suddenly
The cock brake from his mouth deliverly,* *nimbly
And high upon a tree he flew anon.
And when the fox saw that the cock was gone,
“Alas!” quoth he, “O Chanticleer, alas!
I have,” quoth he, “y-done to you trespass,* *offence
Inasmuch as I maked you afear’d,
When I you hent,* and brought out of your yard; *took
But, Sir, I did it in no wick’ intent;
Come down, and I shall tell you what I meant.
I shall say sooth to you, God help me so.”
“Nay then,” quoth he, “I shrew* us both the two, *curse
And first I shrew myself, both blood and bones,
If thou beguile me oftener than once.
Thou shalt no more through thy flattery
Do* me to sing and winke with mine eye; *cause
For he that winketh when he shoulde see,
All wilfully, God let him never the.”* *thrive
“Nay,” quoth the fox; “but God give him mischance
That is so indiscreet of governance,
That jangleth* when that he should hold his peace.” *chatters

Lo, what it is for to be reckeless
And negligent, and trust on flattery.
But ye that holde this tale a folly,
As of a fox, or of a cock or hen,
Take the morality thereof, good men.
For Saint Paul saith, That all that written is,
*To our doctrine it written is y-wis.* <37> *is surely written for
Take the fruit, and let the chaff be still. our instruction*

Now goode God, if that it be thy will,
As saith my Lord, <38> so make us all good men;
And bring us all to thy high bliss. Amen.

Notes to the Nun’s Priest’s Tale

1. The Tale of the Nun’s Priest is founded on the fifth chapter of an old French metrical “Romance of Renard;” the same story forming one of the fables of Marie, the translator of the Breton Lays. (See note 2 to the Prologue to the Franklin’s Tale.) Although Dryden was in error when he ascribed the Tale to Chaucer’s own invention, still the materials on which he had to operate were out of cornparison more trivial than the result.

2. Tyrwhitt quotes two statutes of Edward III, in which “deys” are included among the servants employed in agricultural pursuits; the name seems to have originally meant a servant who gave his labour by the day, but afterwards to have been appropriated exclusively to one who superintended or worked in a dairy.

3. Orgon: here licentiously used for the plural, “organs” or “orgons,” corresponding to the plural verb “gon” in the next line.

4. Horloge: French, “clock.”

5. Embattell’d: indented on the upper edge like the battlements of a castle.

6. My lefe is fare in land: This seems to have been the refrain of some old song, and its precise meaning is uncertain. It corresponds in cadence with the morning salutation of the cock; and may be taken as a greeting to the sun, which is beloved of Chanticleer, and has just come upon the earth — or in the sense of a more local boast, as vaunting the fairness of his favourite hen above all others in the country round.

Transcriber’s note: Later commentators explain “fare in land” as “gone abroad” and have identified the song:

My lefe is fare in lond
Alas! Why is she so?
And I am so sore bound
I may not come her to.
She hath my heart in hold
Where ever she ride or go
With true love a thousand-fold.

(Printed in The Athenaeum, 1896, Vol II, p. 566).

7. “Avoi!” is the word here rendered “away!” It was frequently used in the French fabliaux, and the Italians employ the word “via!” in the same sense.

8. “Ne do no force of dreams:” “Somnia ne cares;” — Cato “De Moribus,” 1 ii, dist. 32

9. Centaury: the herb so called because by its virtue the centaur Chiron was healed when the poisoned arrow of Hercules had accidentally wounded his foot.

10. Fumetere: the herb “fumitory.”

11. Catapuce: spurge; a plant of purgative qualities. To its name in the text correspond the Italian “catapuzza,” and French “catapuce” — words the origin of which is connected with the effects of the plant.

12. Gaitre-berries: dog-wood berries.

13. One of the greatest authors that men read: Cicero, who in his book “De Divinatione” tells this and the following story, though in contrary order and with many differences.

14. Haled or hylled; from Anglo-Saxon “helan” hid, concealed

15. Kenelm succeeded his father as king of the Saxon realm of Mercia in 811, at the age of seven years; but he was slain by his ambitious aunt Quendrada. The place of his burial was miraculously discovered, and he was subsequently elevated to the rank of a saint and martyr. His life is in the English “Golden Legend.”

16. Mercenrike: the kingdom of Mercia; Anglo-Saxon, Myrcnarice. Compare the second member of the compound in the German, “Frankreich,” France; “Oesterreich,” Austria.

17. Cicero (“De Republica,” lib. vi.) wrote the Dream of Scipio, in which the Younger relates the appearance of the Elder Africanus, and the counsels and exhortations which the shade addressed to the sleeper. Macrobius wrote an elaborate “Commentary on the Dream of Scipio,” — a philosophical treatise much studied and relished during the Middle Ages.

18. See the Monk’s Tale for this story.

19. Andromache’s dream will not be found in Homer; It is related in the book of the fictitious Dares Phrygius, the most popular authority during the Middle Ages for the history of the Trojan War.

20. In principio: In the beginning; the first words of Genesis and of the Gospel of John.

21. Mulier est hominis confusio: This line is taken from the same fabulous conference between the Emperor Adrian and the philosopher Secundus, whence Chaucer derived some of the arguments in praise of poverty employed in the Wife of Bath’s Tale proper. See note 14 to the Wife of Bath’s tale. The passage transferred to the text is the commencement of a description of woman. “Quid est mulier? hominis confusio,” &c. (“What is Woman? A union with man”, &c.)

22. Col-fox: a blackish fox, so called because of its likeness to coal, according to Skinner; though more probably the prefix has a reproachful meaning, and is in some way connected with the word “cold” as, some forty lines below, it is applied to the prejudicial counsel of women, and as frequently it is used to describe “sighs” and other tokens of grief, and “cares” or “anxieties.”

23. Undern: In this case, the meaning of “evening” or “afternoon” can hardly be applied to the word, which must be taken to signify some early hour of the forenoon. See also note 4 to the Wife of Bath’s tale and note 5 to the Clerk’s Tale.

24. Ganilion: a traitor. See note 9 to the Shipman’s Tale and note 28 to the Monk’s Tale.

25. Greek Sinon: The inventor of the Trojan Horse. See note 14 to the Squire’s Tale

26. Boult it from the bren: Examine the matter thoroughly; a metaphor taken from the sifting of meal, to divide the fine flour from the bran.

27. Thomas Bradwardine, Archbishop of Canterbury in the thirteenth century, who wrote a book, “De Causa Dei,” in controversy with Pelagius; and also numerous other treatises, among them some on predestination.

28. In a popular mediaveal Latin treatise by one Theobaldus, entitled “Physiologus de Naturis XII. Animalium” (“A description of the nature of twelve animals”), sirens or mermaids are described as skilled in song, and drawing unwary mariners to destruction by the sweetness of their voices.

29. “Nigellus Wireker,” says Urry’s Glossary, “a monk and precentor of Canterbury, wrote a Latin poem intituled ‘Speculum Speculorum,’ (‘The mirror of mirrors’) dedicated to William Longchamp, Bishop of Ely, and Lord Chancellor; wherein, under the fable of an Ass (which he calls ‘Burnellus’) that desired a longer tail, is represented the folly of such as are not content with their own condition. There is introduced a tale of a cock, who having his leg broke by a priest’s son (called Gundulfus) watched an opportunity to be revenged; which at last presented itself on this occasion: A day was appointed for Gundulfus’s being admitted into holy orders at a place remote from his father’s habitation; he therefore orders the servants to call him at first cock-crowing, which the cock overhearing did not crow at all that morning. So Gundulfus overslept himself, and was thereby disappointed of his ordination, the office being quite finished before he came to the place.” Wireker’s satire was among the most celebrated and popular Latin poems of the Middle Ages. The Ass was probably as Tyrwhitt suggests, called “Burnel” or “Brunel,” from his brown colour; as, a little below, a reddish fox is called “Russel.”

30. Flattour: flatterer; French, “flatteur.”

31. Losengeour: deceiver, cozener; the word had analogues in the French “losengier,” and the Spanish “lisongero.” It is probably connected with “leasing,” falsehood; which has been derived from Anglo-Saxon “hlisan,” to celebrate — as if it meant the spreading of a false renown

32. Dan Russel: Master Russet; a name given to the fox, from his reddish colour.

33. Geoffrey de Vinsauf was the author of a well-known mediaeval treatise on composition in various poetical styles of which he gave examples. Chaucer’s irony is therefore directed against some grandiose and affected lines on the death of Richard I., intended to illustrate the pathetic style, in which Friday is addressed as “O Veneris lachrymosa dies” (“O tearful day of Venus”).

34. “Priamum altaria ad ipsa trementem Traxit, et in multo lapsantem sanguine nati Implicuitque comam laeva, dextraque coruscum Extulit, ac lateri capulo tenus abdidit ensem. Haec finis Priami fatorum.” (“He dragged Priam trembling to his own altar, slipping on the blood of his child; He took his hair in his left hand, and with the right drew the flashing sword, and hid it to the hilt [in his body]. Thus an end was made of Priam”) — Virgil, Aeneid. ii. 550.

35. Jack Straw: The leader of a Kentish rising, in the reign of Richard II, in 1381, by which the Flemish merchants in London were great sufferers.

36. Beams: trumpets; Anglo-Saxon, “bema.”

37. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” — 2 Tim. iii. 16.

THE EPILOGUE <1>

“Sir Nunne’s Priest,” our hoste said anon,
“Y-blessed be thy breech, and every stone;
This was a merry tale of Chanticleer.
But by my truth, if thou wert seculere,* *a layman
Thou wouldest be a treadefowl* aright; *cock
For if thou have courage as thou hast might,
Thee were need of hennes, as I ween,
Yea more than seven times seventeen.
See, whate brawnes* hath this gentle priest, *muscles, sinews
So great a neck, and such a large breast
He looketh as a sperhawk with his eyen
Him needeth not his colour for to dyen
With Brazil, nor with grain of Portugale.
But, Sir, faire fall you for your tale’.”
And, after that, he with full merry cheer
Said to another, as ye shall hear.

Notes to the Epilogue to the Nun’s Priest’s Tale

1. The sixteen lines appended to the Tale of the Nun’s Priest seem, as Tyrwhitt observes, to commence the prologue to the succeeding Tale — but the difficulty is to determine which that Tale should be. In earlier editions, the lines formed the opening of the prologue to the Manciple’s Tale; but most of the manuscripts acknowledge themselves defective in this part, and give the Nun’s Tale after that of the Nun’s Priest. In the Harleian manuscript, followed by Mr Wright, the second Nun’s Tale, and the Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale, are placed after the Franklin’s tale; and the sixteen lines above are not found — the Manciple’s prologue coming immediately after the “Amen” of the Nun’s Priest. In two manuscripts, the last line of the sixteen runs thus: “Said unto the Nun as ye shall hear;” and six lines more evidently forged, are given to introduce the Nun’s Tale. All this confusion and doubt only strengthen the certainty, and deepen the regret, that “The Canterbury Tales” were left at Chaucer’s, death not merely very imperfect as a whole, but destitute of many finishing touches that would have made them complete so far as the conception had actually been carried into performance.

THE SECOND NUN’S TALE <1>

The minister and norice* unto vices, *nurse
Which that men call in English idleness,
The porter at the gate is of delices;* *delights
T’eschew, and by her contrar’ her oppress, —
That is to say, by lawful business,* — *occupation, activity
Well oughte we to *do our all intent* *apply ourselves*
Lest that the fiend through idleness us hent.* *seize

For he, that with his thousand cordes sly
Continually us waiteth to beclap,* *entangle, bind
When he may man in idleness espy,
He can so lightly catch him in his trap,
Till that a man be hent* right by the lappe,** *seize **hem
He is not ware the fiend hath him in hand;
Well ought we work, and idleness withstand.

And though men dreaded never for to die,
Yet see men well by reason, doubteless,
That idleness is root of sluggardy,
Of which there cometh never good increase;
And see that sloth them holdeth in a leas,* *leash <2>
Only to sleep, and for to eat and drink,
And to devouren all that others swink.* *labour

And, for to put us from such idleness,
That cause is of so great confusion,
I have here done my faithful business,
After the Legend, in translation
Right of thy glorious life and passion, —
Thou with thy garland wrought of rose and lily,
Thee mean I, maid and martyr, Saint Cecilie.

And thou, thou art the flow’r of virgins all,
Of whom that Bernard list so well to write, <3>
To thee at my beginning first I call;
Thou comfort of us wretches, do me indite
Thy maiden’s death, that won through her merite
Th’ eternal life, and o’er the fiend victory,
As man may after readen in her story.

Thou maid and mother, daughter of thy Son,
Thou well of mercy, sinful soules’ cure,
In whom that God of bounte chose to won;* *dwell
Thou humble and high o’er every creature,
Thou nobilest, *so far forth our nature,* *as far as our nature admits*
That no disdain the Maker had of kind,* *nature
His Son in blood and flesh to clothe and wind.* *wrap

Within the cloister of thy blissful sides
Took manne’s shape th’ eternal love and peace,
That of *the trine compass* Lord and guide is *the trinity*
Whom earth, and sea, and heav’n, *out of release,* *unceasingly
*Aye hery;* and thou, Virgin wemmeless,* *forever praise* *immaculate
Bare of thy body, and dweltest maiden pure,
The Creator of every creature.

Assembled is in thee magnificence <4>
With mercy, goodness, and with such pity,
That thou, that art the sun of excellence,
Not only helpest them that pray to thee,
But oftentime, of thy benignity,
Full freely, ere that men thine help beseech,
Thou go’st before, and art their lives’ leech.* *healer, saviour.

Now help, thou meek and blissful faire maid,
Me, flemed* wretch, in this desert of gall; *banished, outcast
Think on the woman Cananee that said
That whelpes eat some of the crumbes all
That from their Lorde’s table be y-fall;<5>
And though that I, unworthy son of Eve,<6>
Be sinful, yet accepte my believe.* *faith

And, for that faith is dead withoute werkes,
For to worke give me wit and space,
That I be *quit from thennes that most derk is;* *freed from the most
O thou, that art so fair and full of grace, dark place (Hell)*
Be thou mine advocate in that high place,
Where as withouten end is sung Osanne,
Thou Christe’s mother, daughter dear of Anne.

And of thy light my soul in prison light,
That troubled is by the contagion
Of my body, and also by the weight
Of earthly lust and false affection;
O hav’n of refuge, O salvation
Of them that be in sorrow and distress,
Now help, for to my work I will me dress.

Yet pray I you, that reade what I write, <6>
Forgive me that I do no diligence
This ilke* story subtilly t’ indite. *same
For both have I the wordes and sentence
Of him that at the sainte’s reverence
The story wrote, and follow her legend;
And pray you that you will my work amend.

First will I you the name of Saint Cecilie
Expound, as men may in her story see.
It is to say in English, Heaven’s lily,<7>
For pure chasteness of virginity;
Or, for she whiteness had of honesty,* *purity
And green of conscience, and of good fame
The sweete savour, Lilie was her name.

Or Cecilie is to say, the way of blind;<7>
For she example was by good teaching;
Or else Cecilie, as I written find,
Is joined by a manner conjoining
Of heaven and Lia, <7> and herein figuring
The heaven is set for thought of holiness,
And Lia for her lasting business.

Cecilie may eke be said in this mannere,
Wanting of blindness, for her greate light
Of sapience, and for her thewes* clear. *qualities
Or elles, lo, this maiden’s name bright
Of heaven and Leos <7> comes, for which by right
Men might her well the heaven of people call,
Example of good and wise workes all;

For Leos people in English is to say;
And right as men may in the heaven see
The sun and moon, and starres every way,
Right so men ghostly,* in this maiden free, *spiritually
Sawen of faith the magnanimity,
And eke the clearness whole of sapience,
And sundry workes bright of excellence.

And right so as these philosophers write,
That heav’n is swift and round, and eke burning,
Right so was faire Cecilie the white
Full swift and busy in every good working,
And round and whole in good persevering, <8>
And burning ever in charity full bright;
Now have I you declared *what she hight.* *why she had her name*

This maiden bright Cecile, as her life saith,
Was come of Romans, and of noble kind,
And from her cradle foster’d in the faith
Of Christ, and bare his Gospel in her mind:
She never ceased, as I written find,
Of her prayere, and God to love and dread,
Beseeching him to keep her maidenhead.

And when this maiden should unto a man
Y-wedded be, that was full young of age,
Which that y-called was Valerian,
And come was the day of marriage,
She, full devout and humble in her corage,* *heart
Under her robe of gold, that sat full fair,
Had next her flesh y-clad her in an hair.* *garment of hair-cloth

And while the organs made melody,
To God alone thus in her heart sang she;
“O Lord, my soul and eke my body gie* *guide
Unwemmed,* lest that I confounded be.” *unblemished
And, for his love that died upon the tree,
Every second or third day she fast’,
Aye bidding* in her orisons full fast. *praying

The night came, and to bedde must she gon
With her husband, as it is the mannere;
And privily she said to him anon;
“O sweet and well-beloved spouse dear,
There is a counsel,* an’** ye will it hear, *secret **if
Which that right fain I would unto you say,
So that ye swear ye will it not bewray.”* *betray

Valerian gan fast unto her swear
That for no case nor thing that mighte be,
He never should to none bewrayen her;
And then at erst* thus to him saide she; *for the first time
“I have an angel which that loveth me,
That with great love, whether I wake or sleep,
Is ready aye my body for to keep;

“And if that he may feelen, *out of dread,* *without doubt*
That ye me touch or love in villainy,
He right anon will slay you with the deed,
And in your youthe thus ye shoulde die.
And if that ye in cleane love me gie,”* *guide
He will you love as me, for your cleanness,
And shew to you his joy and his brightness.”

Valerian, corrected as God wo’ld,
Answer’d again, “If I shall truste thee,
Let me that angel see, and him behold;
And if that it a very angel be,
Then will I do as thou hast prayed me;
And if thou love another man, forsooth
Right with this sword then will I slay you both.”

Cecile answer’d anon right in this wise;
“If that you list, the angel shall ye see,
So that ye trow* Of Christ, and you baptise; *know
Go forth to Via Appia,” quoth she,
That from this towne stands but miles three,
And to the poore folkes that there dwell
Say them right thus, as that I shall you tell,

“Tell them, that I, Cecile, you to them sent
To shewe you the good Urban the old,
For secret needes,* and for good intent; *business
And when that ye Saint Urban have behold,
Tell him the wordes which I to you told
And when that he hath purged you from sin,
Then shall ye see that angel ere ye twin* *depart

Valerian is to the place gone;
And, right as he was taught by her learning
He found this holy old Urban anon
Among the saintes’ burials louting;* *lying concealed <9>
And he anon, withoute tarrying,
Did his message, and when that he it told,
Urban for joy his handes gan uphold.

The teares from his eyen let he fall;
“Almighty Lord, O Jesus Christ,”
Quoth he, “Sower of chaste counsel, herd* of us all; *shepherd
The fruit of thilke* seed of chastity *that
That thou hast sown in Cecile, take to thee
Lo, like a busy bee, withoute guile,
Thee serveth aye thine owen thrall* Cicile, *servant

“For thilke spouse, that she took *but now,* *lately*
Full like a fierce lion, she sendeth here,
As meek as e’er was any lamb to owe.”
And with that word anon there gan appear
An old man, clad in white clothes clear,
That had a book with letters of gold in hand,
And gan before Valerian to stand.

Valerian, as dead, fell down for dread,
When he him saw; and he up hent* him tho,** *took **there
And on his book right thus he gan to read;
“One Lord, one faith, one God withoute mo’,
One Christendom, one Father of all also,
Aboven all, and over all everywhere.”
These wordes all with gold y-written were.

When this was read, then said this olde man,
“Believ’st thou this or no? say yea or nay.”
“I believe all this,” quoth Valerian,
“For soother* thing than this, I dare well say, *truer
Under the Heaven no wight thinke may.”
Then vanish’d the old man, he wist not where
And Pope Urban him christened right there.

Valerian went home, and found Cecilie
Within his chamber with an angel stand;
This angel had of roses and of lily
Corones* two, the which he bare in hand, *crowns
And first to Cecile, as I understand,
He gave the one, and after gan he take
The other to Valerian her make.* *mate, husband

“With body clean, and with unwemmed* thought, *unspotted, blameless
Keep aye well these corones two,” quoth he;
“From Paradise to you I have them brought,
Nor ever more shall they rotten be,
Nor lose their sweet savour, truste me,
Nor ever wight shall see them with his eye,
But he be chaste, and hate villainy.

“And thou, Valerian, for thou so soon
Assented hast to good counsel, also
Say what thee list,* and thou shalt have thy boon.”** *wish **desire
“I have a brother,” quoth Valerian tho,* *then
“That in this world I love no man so;
I pray you that my brother may have grace
To know the truth, as I do in this place.”

The angel said, “God liketh thy request,
And bothe, with the palm of martyrdom,
Ye shalle come unto this blissful rest.”
And, with that word, Tiburce his brother came.
And when that he the savour undernome* *perceived
Which that the roses and the lilies cast,
Within his heart he gan to wonder fast;

And said; “I wonder, this time of the year,
Whence that sweete savour cometh so
Of rose and lilies, that I smelle here;
For though I had them in mine handes two,
The savour might in me no deeper go;
The sweete smell, that in my heart I find,
Hath changed me all in another kind.”

Valerian said, “Two crownes here have we,
Snow-white and rose-red, that shine clear,
Which that thine eyen have no might to see;
And, as thou smellest them through my prayere,
So shalt thou see them, leve* brother dear, *beloved
If it so be thou wilt withoute sloth
Believe aright, and know the very troth. “

Tiburce answered, “Say’st thou this to me
In soothness, or in dreame hear I this?”
“In dreames,” quoth Valorian, “have we be
Unto this time, brother mine, y-wis
But now *at erst* in truth our dwelling is.” *for the first time*
How know’st thou this,” quoth Tiburce; “in what wise?”
Quoth Valerian, “That shall I thee devise* *describe

“The angel of God hath me the truth y-taught,
Which thou shalt see, if that thou wilt reny* *renounce
The idols, and be clean, and elles nought.”
[And of the miracle of these crownes tway
Saint Ambrose in his preface list to say;
Solemnely this noble doctor dear
Commendeth it, and saith in this mannere

“The palm of martyrdom for to receive,
Saint Cecilie, full filled of God’s gift,
The world and eke her chamber gan to weive;* *forsake
Witness Tiburce’s and Cecilie’s shrift,* *confession
To which God of his bounty woulde shift
Corones two, of flowers well smelling,
And made his angel them the crownes bring.

“The maid hath brought these men to bliss above;
The world hath wist what it is worth, certain,
Devotion of chastity to love.”] <10>
Then showed him Cecilie all open and plain,
That idols all are but a thing in vain,
For they be dumb, and thereto* they be deave;** *therefore **deaf
And charged him his idols for to leave.

“Whoso that troweth* not this, a beast he is,” *believeth
Quoth this Tiburce, “if that I shall not lie.”
And she gan kiss his breast when she heard this,
And was full glad he could the truth espy:
“This day I take thee for mine ally.”* *chosen friend
Saide this blissful faire maiden dear;
And after that she said as ye may hear.

“Lo, right so as the love of Christ,” quoth she,
“Made me thy brother’s wife, right in that wise
Anon for mine ally here take I thee,
Since that thou wilt thine idoles despise.
Go with thy brother now and thee baptise,
And make thee clean, so that thou may’st behold
The angel’s face, of which thy brother told.”

Tiburce answer’d, and saide, “Brother dear,
First tell me whither I shall, and to what man?”
“To whom?” quoth he, “come forth with goode cheer,
I will thee lead unto the Pope Urban.”
“To Urban? brother mine Valerian,”
Quoth then Tiburce; “wilt thou me thither lead?
Me thinketh that it were a wondrous deed.

“Meanest thou not that Urban,” quoth he tho,* *then
“That is so often damned to be dead,
And wons* in halkes** always to and fro, *dwells **corners
And dare not ones putte forth his head?
Men should him brennen* in a fire so red, *burn
If he were found, or if men might him spy:
And us also, to bear him company.

“And while we seeke that Divinity
That is y-hid in heaven privily,
Algate* burnt in this world should we be.” *nevertheless
To whom Cecilie answer’d boldely;
“Men mighte dreade well and skilfully* *reasonably
This life to lose, mine owen deare brother,
If this were living only, and none other.

“But there is better life in other place,
That never shall be loste, dread thee nought;
Which Godde’s Son us tolde through his grace
That Father’s Son which alle thinges wrought;
And all that wrought is with a skilful* thought, *reasonable
The Ghost,* that from the Father gan proceed, *Holy Spirit
Hath souled* them, withouten any drede.** *endowed them with a soul
**doubt
By word and by miracle, high God’s Son,
When he was in this world, declared here.
That there is other life where men may won.”* *dwell
To whom answer’d Tiburce, “O sister dear,
Saidest thou not right now in this mannere,
There was but one God, Lord in soothfastness,* *truth
And now of three how may’st thou bear witness?”

“That shall I tell,” quoth she, “ere that I go.
Right as a man hath sapiences* three, *mental faculties
Memory, engine,* and intellect also, *wit <11>
So in one being of divinity
Three persones there maye right well be.”
Then gan she him full busily to preach
Of Christe’s coming, and his paines teach,

And many pointes of his passion;
How Godde’s Son in this world was withhold* *employed
To do mankinde plein* remission, *full
That was y-bound in sin and cares cold.* *wretched <12>
All this thing she unto Tiburce told,
And after that Tiburce, in good intent,
With Valerian to Pope Urban he went.

That thanked God, and with glad heart and light
He christen’d him, and made him in that place
Perfect in his learning, and Godde’s knight.
And after this Tiburce got such grace,
That every day he saw in time and space
Th’ angel of God, and every manner boon* *request, favour
That be God asked, it was sped* full anon. *granted, successful

It were full hard by order for to sayn
How many wonders Jesus for them wrought,
But at the last, to telle short and plain,
The sergeants of the town of Rome them sought,
And them before Almach the Prefect brought,
Which them apposed,* and knew all their intent, *questioned
And to th’image of Jupiter them sent.

And said, “Whoso will not do sacrifice,
Swap* off his head, this is my sentence here.” *strike
Anon these martyrs, *that I you devise,* *of whom I tell you*
One Maximus, that was an officere
Of the prefect’s, and his corniculere <13>
Them hent,* and when he forth the saintes lad,** *seized **led
Himself he wept for pity that he had.

When Maximus had heard the saintes lore,* *doctrine, teaching
He got him of the tormentores* leave, *torturers
And led them to his house withoute more;
And with their preaching, ere that it were eve,
They gonnen* from the tormentors to reave,** *began **wrest, root out
And from Maxim’, and from his folk each one,
The false faith, to trow* in God alone. *believe

Cecilia came, when it was waxen night,
With priestes, that them christen’d *all in fere;* *in a company*
And afterward, when day was waxen light,
Cecile them said with a full steadfast cheer,* *mien
“Now, Christe’s owen knightes lefe* and dear, *beloved
Cast all away the workes of darkness,
And arme you in armour of brightness.

Ye have forsooth y-done a great battaile,
Your course is done, your faith have ye conserved; <14>
O to the crown of life that may not fail;
The rightful Judge, which that ye have served
Shall give it you, as ye have it deserved.”
And when this thing was said, as I devise,* relate
Men led them forth to do the sacrifice.

But when they were unto the place brought
To telle shortly the conclusion,
They would incense nor sacrifice right nought
But on their knees they sette them adown,
With humble heart and sad* devotion, *steadfast
And loste both their heades in the place;
Their soules wente to the King of grace.

This Maximus, that saw this thing betide,
With piteous teares told it anon right,
That he their soules saw to heaven glide
With angels, full of clearness and of light
Andt with his word converted many a wight.
For which Almachius *did him to-beat* *see note <15>*
With whip of lead, till he his life gan lete.* *quit

Cecile him took, and buried him anon
By Tiburce and Valerian softely,
Within their burying-place, under the stone.
And after this Almachius hastily
Bade his ministers fetchen openly
Cecile, so that she might in his presence
Do sacrifice, and Jupiter incense.* *burn incense to

But they, converted at her wise lore,* *teaching
Wepte full sore, and gave full credence
Unto her word, and cried more and more;
“Christ, Godde’s Son, withoute difference,
Is very God, this is all our sentence,* *opinion
That hath so good a servant him to serve
Thus with one voice we trowe,* though we sterve.** *believe **die

Almachius, that heard of this doing,
Bade fetch Cecilie, that he might her see;
And alderfirst,* lo, this was his asking; *first of all
“What manner woman arte thou?” quoth he,
“I am a gentle woman born,” quoth she.
“I aske thee,” quoth he,”though it thee grieve,
Of thy religion and of thy believe.”

“Ye have begun your question foolishly,”
Quoth she, “that wouldest two answers conclude
In one demand? ye aske lewedly.”* *ignorantly
Almach answer’d to that similitude,
“Of whence comes thine answering so rude?”
“Of whence?” quoth she, when that she was freined,* *asked
“Of conscience, and of good faith unfeigned.”

Almachius saide; “Takest thou no heed
Of my power?” and she him answer’d this;
“Your might,” quoth she, “full little is to dread;
For every mortal manne’s power is
But like a bladder full of wind, y-wis;* *certainly
For with a needle’s point, when it is blow’,
May all the boast of it be laid full low.”

“Full wrongfully begunnest thou,” quoth he,
“And yet in wrong is thy perseverance.
Know’st thou not how our mighty princes free
Have thus commanded and made ordinance,
That every Christian wight shall have penance,* *punishment
But if that he his Christendom withsay,* *deny
And go all quit, if he will it renay?”* *renounce

“Your princes erren, as your nobley* doth,” *nobility
Quoth then Cecile, “and with a *wood sentence* *mad judgment*
Ye make us guilty, and it is not sooth:* *true
For ye that knowe well our innocence,
Forasmuch as we do aye reverence
To Christ, and for we bear a Christian name,
Ye put on us a crime and eke a blame.

“But we that knowe thilke name so
For virtuous, we may it not withsay.”
Almach answered, “Choose one of these two,
Do sacrifice, or Christendom renay,
That thou may’st now escape by that way.”
At which the holy blissful faire maid
Gan for to laugh, and to the judge said;

“O judge, *confused in thy nicety,* *confounded in thy folly*
Wouldest thou that I reny innocence?
To make me a wicked wight,” quoth she,
“Lo, he dissimuleth* here in audience; *dissembles
He stareth and woodeth* in his advertence.”** *grows furious **thought
To whom Almachius said, “Unsely* wretch, *unhappy
Knowest thou not how far my might may stretch?

“Have not our mighty princes to me given
Yea bothe power and eke authority
To make folk to dien or to liven?
Why speakest thou so proudly then to me?”
“I speake not but steadfastly,” quoth she,
Not proudly, for I say, as for my side,
We hate deadly* thilke vice of pride. *mortally

“And, if thou dreade not a sooth* to hear, *truth
Then will I shew all openly by right,
That thou hast made a full great leasing* here. *falsehood
Thou say’st thy princes have thee given might
Both for to slay and for to quick* a wight, — *give life to
Thou that may’st not but only life bereave;
Thou hast none other power nor no leave.

“But thou may’st say, thy princes have thee maked
Minister of death; for if thou speak of mo’,
Thou liest; for thy power is full naked.”
“Do away thy boldness,” said Almachius tho,* *then
“And sacrifice to our gods, ere thou go.
I recke not what wrong that thou me proffer,
For I can suffer it as a philosopher.

“But those wronges may I not endure,
That thou speak’st of our goddes here,” quoth he.
Cecile answer’d, “O nice* creature, *foolish
Thou saidest no word, since thou spake to me,
That I knew not therewith thy nicety,* *folly
And that thou wert in *every manner wise* *every sort of way*
A lewed* officer, a vain justice. *ignorant

“There lacketh nothing to thine outward eyen
That thou art blind; for thing that we see all
That it is stone, that men may well espyen,
That ilke* stone a god thou wilt it call. *very, selfsame
I rede* thee let thine hand upon it fall, *advise
And taste* it well, and stone thou shalt it find; *examine, test
Since that thou see’st not with thine eyen blind.

“It is a shame that the people shall
So scorne thee, and laugh at thy folly;
For commonly men *wot it well over all,* *know it everywhere*
That mighty God is in his heaven high;
And these images, well may’st thou espy,
To thee nor to themselves may not profite,
For in effect they be not worth a mite.”

These wordes and such others saide she,
And he wax’d wroth, and bade men should her lead
Home to her house; “And in her house,” quoth he,
“Burn her right in a bath, with flames red.”
And as he bade, right so was done the deed;
For in a bath they gan her faste shetten,* *shut, confine
And night and day great fire they under betten.* *kindled, applied

The longe night, and eke a day also,
For all the fire, and eke the bathe’s heat,
She sat all cold, and felt of it no woe,
It made her not one droppe for to sweat;
But in that bath her life she must lete.* *leave
For he, Almachius, with full wick’ intent,
To slay her in the bath his sonde* sent. *message, order

Three strokes in the neck he smote her tho,* *there
The tormentor,* but for no manner chance *executioner
He might not smite her faire neck in two:
And, for there was that time an ordinance
That no man should do man such penance,* *severity, torture
The fourthe stroke to smite, soft or sore,
This tormentor he durste do no more;

But half dead, with her necke carven* there *gashed
He let her lie, and on his way is went.
The Christian folk, which that about her were,
With sheetes have the blood full fair y-hent; *taken up
Three dayes lived she in this torment,
And never ceased them the faith to teach,
That she had foster’d them, she gan to preach.

And them she gave her mebles* and her thing, *goods
And to the Pope Urban betook* them tho;** *commended **then
And said, “I aske this of heaven’s king,
To have respite three dayes and no mo’,
To recommend to you, ere that I go,
These soules, lo; and that *I might do wirch* *cause to be made*
Here of mine house perpetually a church.”

Saint Urban, with his deacons, privily
The body fetch’d, and buried it by night
Among his other saintes honestly;
Her house the church of Saint Cecilie hight;* *is called
Saint Urban hallow’d it, as he well might;
In which unto this day, in noble wise,
Men do to Christ and to his saint service.

Notes to the Nun’s Priest’s Tale

1. This Tale was originally composed by Chaucer as a separate work, and as such it is mentioned in the “Legend of Good Women” under the title of “The Life of Saint Cecile”. Tyrwhitt quotes the line in which the author calls himself an “unworthy son of Eve,” and that in which he says, “Yet pray I you, that reade what I write”, as internal evidence that the insertion of the poem in the Canterbury Tales was the result of an afterthought; while the whole tenor of the introduction confirms the belief that Chaucer composed it as a writer or translator — not, dramatically, as a speaker. The story is almost literally translated from the Life of St Cecilia in the “Legenda Aurea.”

2. Leas: leash, snare; the same as “las,” oftener used by Chaucer.

3. The nativity and assumption of the Virgin Mary formed the themes of some of St Bernard’s most eloquent sermons.

4. Compare with this stanza the fourth stanza of the Prioress’s Tale, the substance of which is the same.

5. “But he answered and said, it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” — Matthew xv. 26, 27.

6. See note 1.

7. These are Latin puns: Heaven’s lily – “Coeli lilium”; The way of blind – “Caeci via”; Heaven and Lia – from “Coeli”, heaven, and “Ligo,” to bind; Heaven and Leos – from Coeli and “Laos,” (Ionian Greek) or “Leos” (Attic Greek), the people. Such punning derivations of proper names were very much in favour in the Middle Ages. The explanations of St Cecilia’s name are literally taken from the prologue to the Latin legend.

8. This passage suggests Horace’s description of the wise man, who, among other things, is “in se ipse totus, teres, atque rotundus.” (“complete in himself, polished and rounded”) — Satires, 2, vii. 80.

9. Louting: lingering, or lying concealed; the Latin original has “Inter sepulchra martyrum latiantem” (“hiding among the tombs of martyrs”)

10. The fourteen lines within brackets are supposed to have been originally an interpolation in the Latin legend, from which they are literally translated. They awkwardly interrupt the flow of the narration.

11. Engine: wit; the devising or constructive faculty; Latin, “ingenium.”

12. Cold: wretched, distressful; see note 22 to the Nun’s Priest’s Tale.

13. Corniculere: The secretary or registrar who was charged with publishing the acts, decrees and orders of the prefect.

14. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness” — 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8.

15. Did him to-beat: Caused him to be cruelly or fatally beaten; the force of the “to” is intensive.

THE CANON’S YEOMAN’S TALE. <1>

THE PROLOGUE.

WHEN ended was the life of Saint Cecile,
Ere we had ridden fully five mile, <2>
At Boughton-under-Blee us gan o’ertake
A man, that clothed was in clothes black,
And underneath he wore a white surplice.
His hackenay,* which was all pomely-gris,** *nag **dapple-gray
So sweated, that it wonder was to see;
It seem’d as he had pricked* miles three. *spurred
The horse eke that his yeoman rode upon
So sweated, that unnethes* might he gon.** *hardly **go
About the peytrel <3> stood the foam full high;
He was of foam, as *flecked as a pie.* *spotted like a magpie*
A maile twyfold <4> on his crupper lay;
It seemed that he carried little array;
All light for summer rode this worthy man.
And in my heart to wonder I began
What that he was, till that I understood
How that his cloak was sewed to his hood;
For which, when I had long advised* me, *considered
I deemed him some Canon for to be.
His hat hung at his back down by a lace,* *cord
For he had ridden more than trot or pace;
He hadde pricked like as he were wood.* *mad
A clote-leaf* he had laid under his hood, * burdock-leaf
For sweat, and for to keep his head from heat.
But it was joye for to see him sweat;
His forehead dropped as a stillatory* *still
Were full of plantain or of paritory.* *wallflower
And when that he was come, he gan to cry,
“God save,” quoth he, “this jolly company.
Fast have I pricked,” quoth he, “for your sake,
Because that I would you overtake,
To riden in this merry company.”
His Yeoman was eke full of courtesy,
And saide, “Sirs, now in the morning tide
Out of your hostelry I saw you ride,
And warned here my lord and sovereign,
Which that to ride with you is full fain,
For his disport; he loveth dalliance.”
“Friend, for thy warning God give thee good chance,”* *fortune
Said oure Host; “certain it woulde seem
Thy lord were wise, and so I may well deem;
He is full jocund also, dare I lay;
Can he aught tell a merry tale or tway,
With which he gladden may this company?”
“Who, Sir? my lord? Yea, Sir, withoute lie,
He can* of mirth and eke of jollity *knows
*Not but* enough; also, Sir, truste me, *not less than*
An* ye him knew all so well as do I, *if
Ye would wonder how well and craftily
He coulde work, and that in sundry wise.
He hath take on him many a great emprise,* *task, undertaking
Which were full hard for any that is here
To bring about, but* they of him it lear.** *unless **learn
As homely as he rides amonges you,
If ye him knew, it would be for your prow:* *advantage
Ye woulde not forego his acquaintance
For muche good, I dare lay in balance
All that I have in my possession.
He is a man of high discretion.
I warn you well, he is a passing* man.” *surpassing, extraordinary
Well,” quoth our Host, “I pray thee tell me than,
Is he a clerk,* or no? Tell what he is.” *scholar, priest
“Nay, he is greater than a clerk, y-wis,”* *certainly
Saide this Yeoman; “and, in wordes few,
Host, of his craft somewhat I will you shew,
I say, my lord can* such a subtlety *knows
(But all his craft ye may not weet* of me, *learn
And somewhat help I yet to his working),
That all the ground on which we be riding
Till that we come to Canterbury town,
He could all cleane turnen up so down,
And pave it all of silver and of gold.”
And when this Yeoman had this tale told
Unto our Host, he said; “Ben’dicite!
This thing is wonder marvellous to me,
Since that thy lord is of so high prudence,
Because of which men should him reverence,
That of his worship* recketh he so lite;** *honour **little
His *overest slop* it is not worth a mite *upper garment*
As in effect to him, so may I go;
It is all baudy* and to-tore also. *slovenly
Why is thy lord so sluttish, I thee pray,
And is of power better clothes to bey,* *buy
If that his deed accordeth with thy speech?
Telle me that, and that I thee beseech.”

“Why?” quoth this Yeoman, “whereto ask ye me?
God help me so, for he shall never the* *thrive
(But I will not avowe* that I say, *admit
And therefore keep it secret, I you pray);
He is too wise, in faith, as I believe.
Thing that is overdone, it will not preve* *stand the test
Aright, as clerkes say; it is a vice;
Wherefore in that I hold him *lewd and nice.”* *ignorant and foolish*
For when a man hath over great a wit,
Full oft him happens to misusen it;
So doth my lord, and that me grieveth sore.
God it amend; I can say now no more.”

“Thereof *no force,* good Yeoman, “quoth our Host; *no matter*
“Since of the conning* of thy lord, thou know’st, *knowledge
Tell how he doth, I pray thee heartily,
Since that be is so crafty and so sly.* *wise
Where dwelle ye, if it to telle be?”
“In the suburbes of a town,” quoth he,
“Lurking in hernes* and in lanes blind, *corners
Where as these robbers and these thieves by kind* *nature
Holde their privy fearful residence,
As they that dare not show their presence,
So fare we, if I shall say the soothe.”* *truth
“Yet,” quoth our Hoste, “let me talke to thee;
Why art thou so discolour’d of thy face?”
“Peter!” quoth he, “God give it harde grace,
I am so us’d the hote fire to blow,
That it hath changed my colour, I trow;
I am not wont in no mirror to pry,
But swinke* sore, and learn to multiply. <5> *labour
We blunder* ever, and poren** in the fire, *toil **peer
And, for all that, we fail of our desire
For ever we lack our conclusion
To muche folk we do illusion,
And borrow gold, be it a pound or two,
Or ten or twelve, or many summes mo’,
And make them weenen,* at the leaste way, *fancy
That of a pounde we can make tway.
Yet is it false; and aye we have good hope
It for to do, and after it we grope:* *search, strive
But that science is so far us beforn,
That we may not, although we had it sworn,
It overtake, it slides away so fast;
It will us make beggars at the last.”
While this Yeoman was thus in his talking,
This Canon drew him near, and heard all thing
Which this Yeoman spake, for suspicion
Of menne’s speech ever had this Canon:
For Cato saith, that he that guilty is, <6>
Deemeth all things be spoken of him y-wis;* *surely
Because of that he gan so nigh to draw
To his Yeoman, that he heard all his saw;
And thus he said unto his Yeoman tho* *then
“Hold thou thy peace,and speak no wordes mo’:
For if thou do, thou shalt *it dear abie.* *pay dearly for it*
Thou slanderest me here in this company
And eke discoverest that thou shouldest hide.”
“Yea,” quoth our Host, “tell on, whatso betide;
Of all his threatening reck not a mite.”
“In faith,” quoth he, “no more do I but lite.”* *little
And when this Canon saw it would not be
But his Yeoman would tell his privity,* *secrets
He fled away for very sorrow and shame.

“Ah!” quoth the Yeoman, “here shall rise a game;* *some diversion
All that I can anon I will you tell,
Since he is gone; the foule fiend him quell!* *destroy
For ne’er hereafter will I with him meet,
For penny nor for pound, I you behete.* *promise
He that me broughte first unto that game,
Ere that he die, sorrow have he and shame.
For it is earnest* to me, by my faith; *a serious matter
That feel I well, what so any man saith;
And yet for all my smart, and all my grief,
For all my sorrow, labour, and mischief,* *trouble
I coulde never leave it in no wise.
Now would to God my witte might suffice
To tellen all that longeth to that art!
But natheless yet will I telle part;
Since that my lord is gone, I will not spare;
Such thing as that I know, I will declare.”

Notes to the Prologue to the Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale

1. “The introduction,” says Tyrwhitt, “of the Canon’s Yeoman to tell a Tale at a time when so many of the original characters remain to be called upon, appears a little extraordinary. It should seem that some sudden resentment had determined Chaucer to interrupt the regular course of his work, in order to insert a satire against the alchemists. That their pretended science was much cultivated about this time, and produced its usual evils, may fairly be inferred from the Act, which was passed soon after, 5 H. IV. c. iv., to make it felony ‘to multiply gold or silver, or to use the art of multiplication.'” Tyrwhitt finds in the prologue some colour for the hypothesis that this Tale was intended by Chaucer to begin the return journey from Canterbury; but against this must be set the fact that the Yeoman himself expressly speaks of the distance to Canterbury yet to be ridden.

2. Fully five mile: From some place which the loss of the Second Nun’s Prologue does not enable us to identify.

3. Peytrel: the breast-plate of a horse’s harness; French, “poitrail.”

4. A maile twyfold: a double valise; a wallet hanging across the crupper on either side of the horse.

5. Multiply: transmute metals, in the attempt to multiply gold and silver by alchemy.

6. “Conscius ipse sibi de se putat omnia dici” (“The conspirator believes that everything spoken refers to himself”) — “De Moribus,” I. i. dist. 17.

THE TALE. <1>

With this Canon I dwelt have seven year,
And of his science am I ne’er the near* *nearer
All that I had I have lost thereby,
And, God wot, so have many more than I.
Where I was wont to be right fresh and gay
Of clothing, and of other good array
Now may I wear an hose upon mine head;
And where my colour was both fresh and red,
Now is it wan, and of a leaden hue
(Whoso it useth, sore shall he it rue);
And of my swink* yet bleared is mine eye; *labour
Lo what advantage is to multiply!
That sliding* science hath me made so bare, *slippery, deceptive
That I have no good,* where that ever I fare; *property
And yet I am indebted so thereby
Of gold, that I have borrow’d truely,
That, while I live, I shall it quite* never; *repay
Let every man beware by me for ever.
What manner man that casteth* him thereto, *betaketh
If he continue, I hold *his thrift y-do;* *prosperity at an end*
So help me God, thereby shall he not win,
But empty his purse, and make his wittes thin.
And when he, through his madness and folly,
Hath lost his owen good through jupartie,* *hazard <2>
Then he exciteth other men thereto,
To lose their good as he himself hath do’.
For unto shrewes* joy it is and ease *wicked folk
To have their fellows in pain and disease.* *trouble
Thus was I ones learned of a clerk;
Of that no charge;* I will speak of our work. *matter

When we be there as we shall exercise
Our elvish* craft, we seeme wonder wise, *fantastic, wicked
Our termes be so *clergial and quaint.* *learned and strange
I blow the fire till that mine hearte faint.
Why should I tellen each proportion
Of thinges, whiche that we work upon,
As on five or six ounces, may well be,
Of silver, or some other quantity?
And busy me to telle you the names,
As orpiment, burnt bones, iron squames,* *scales <3>
That into powder grounden be full small?
And in an earthen pot how put is all,
And, salt y-put in, and also peppere,
Before these powders that I speak of here,
And well y-cover’d with a lamp of glass?
And of much other thing which that there was?
And of the pots and glasses engluting,* *sealing up
That of the air might passen out no thing?
And of the easy* fire, and smart** also, *slow **quick
Which that was made? and of the care and woe
That we had in our matters subliming,
And in amalgaming, and calcining
Of quicksilver, called mercury crude?
For all our sleightes we can not conclude.
Our orpiment, and sublim’d mercury,
Our ground litharge* eke on the porphyry, *white lead
Of each of these of ounces a certain,* *certain proportion
Not helpeth us, our labour is in vain.
Nor neither our spirits’ ascensioun,
Nor our matters that lie all fix’d adown,
May in our working nothing us avail;
For lost is all our labour and travail,
And all the cost, a twenty devil way,
Is lost also, which we upon it lay.

There is also full many another thing
That is unto our craft appertaining,
Though I by order them not rehearse can,
Because that I am a lewed* man; *unlearned
Yet will I tell them as they come to mind,
Although I cannot set them in their kind,
As sal-armoniac, verdigris, borace;
And sundry vessels made of earth and glass; <4>
Our urinales, and our descensories,
Phials, and croslets, and sublimatories,
Cucurbites, and alembikes eke,
And other suche, *dear enough a leek,* *worth less than a leek*
It needeth not for to rehearse them all.
Waters rubifying, and bulles’ gall,
Arsenic, sal-armoniac, and brimstone,
And herbes could I tell eke many a one,
As egremoine,* valerian, and lunary,** *agrimony **moon-wort
And other such, if that me list to tarry;
Our lampes burning bothe night and day,
To bring about our craft if that we may;
Our furnace eke of calcination,
And of waters albification,
Unslaked lime, chalk, and *glair of an ey,* *egg-white
Powders diverse, ashes, dung, piss, and clay,
Seared pokettes,<5> saltpetre, and vitriol;
And divers fires made of wood and coal;
Sal-tartar, alkali, salt preparate,
And combust matters, and coagulate;
Clay made with horse and manne’s hair, and oil
Of tartar, alum, glass, barm, wort, argoil,* *potter’s clay<6>
Rosalgar,* and other matters imbibing; *flowers of antimony
And eke of our matters encorporing,* *incorporating
And of our silver citrination, <7>
Our cementing, and fermentation,
Our ingots,* tests, and many thinges mo’. *moulds <8>
I will you tell, as was me taught also,
The foure spirits, and the bodies seven,
By order, as oft I heard my lord them neven.* *name
The first spirit Quicksilver called is;
The second Orpiment; the third, y-wis,
Sal-Armoniac, and the fourth Brimstone.
The bodies sev’n eke, lo them here anon.
Sol gold is, and Luna silver we threpe* *name <9>
Mars iron, Mercury quicksilver we clepe;* *call
Saturnus lead, and Jupiter is tin,
And Venus copper, by my father’s kin.

This cursed craft whoso will exercise,
He shall no good have that him may suffice;
For all the good he spendeth thereabout,
He lose shall, thereof have I no doubt.
Whoso that list to utter* his folly, *display
Let him come forth and learn to multiply:
And every man that hath aught in his coffer,
Let him appear, and wax a philosopher;
Ascaunce* that craft is so light to lear.** *as if **learn
Nay, nay, God wot, all be he monk or frere,
Priest or canon, or any other wight;
Though he sit at his book both day and night;
In learning of this *elvish nice* lore, * fantastic, foolish
All is in vain; and pardie muche more,
Is to learn a lew’d* man this subtlety; *ignorant
Fie! speak not thereof, for it will not be.
And *conne he letterure,* or conne he none, *if he knows learning*
As in effect, he shall it find all one;
For bothe two, by my salvation,
Concluden in multiplication* *transmutation by alchemy
Alike well, when they have all y-do;
This is to say, they faile bothe two.
Yet forgot I to make rehearsale
Of waters corrosive, and of limaile,* *metal filings
And of bodies’ mollification,
And also of their induration,
Oiles, ablutions, metal fusible,
To tellen all, would passen any Bible
That owhere* is; wherefore, as for the best, *anywhere
Of all these names now will I me rest;
For, as I trow, I have you told enough
To raise a fiend, all look he ne’er so rough.

Ah! nay, let be; the philosopher’s stone,
Elixir call’d, we seeke fast each one;
For had we him, then were we sicker* enow; *secure
But unto God of heaven I make avow,* *confession
For all our craft, when we have all y-do,
And all our sleight, he will not come us to.
He hath y-made us spende muche good,
For sorrow of which almost we waxed wood,* *mad
But that good hope creeped in our heart,
Supposing ever, though we sore smart,
To be relieved by him afterward.
Such supposing and hope is sharp and hard.
I warn you well it is to seeken ever.
That future temps* hath made men dissever,** *time **part from
In trust thereof, from all that ever they had,
Yet of that art they cannot waxe sad,* *repentant
For unto them it is a bitter sweet;
So seemeth it; for had they but a sheet
Which that they mighte wrap them in at night,
And a bratt* to walk in by dayelight, *cloak<10>
They would them sell, and spend it on this craft;
They cannot stint,* until no thing be laft. *cease
And evermore, wherever that they gon,
Men may them knowe by smell of brimstone;
For all the world they stinken as a goat;
Their savour is so rammish and so hot,
That though a man a mile from them be,
The savour will infect him, truste me.
Lo, thus by smelling and threadbare array,
If that men list, this folk they knowe may.
And if a man will ask them privily,
Why they be clothed so unthriftily,* *shabbily
They right anon will rownen* in his ear, *whisper
And sayen, if that they espied were,
Men would them slay, because of their science:
Lo, thus these folk betrayen innocence!

Pass over this; I go my tale unto.
Ere that the pot be on the fire y-do* *placed
Of metals, with a certain quantity
My lord them tempers,* and no man but he *adjusts the proportions
(Now he is gone, I dare say boldely);
For as men say, he can do craftily,
Algate* I wot well he hath such a name, *although
And yet full oft he runneth into blame;
And know ye how? full oft it happ’neth so,
The pot to-breaks, and farewell! all is go’.* *gone
These metals be of so great violence,
Our walles may not make them resistence,
*But if* they were wrought of lime and stone; *unless*
They pierce so, that through the wall they gon;
And some of them sink down into the ground
(Thus have we lost by times many a pound),
And some are scatter’d all the floor about;
Some leap into the roof withoute doubt.
Though that the fiend not in our sight him show,
I trowe that he be with us, that shrew;* *impious wretch
In helle, where that he is lord and sire,
Is there no more woe, rancour, nor ire.
When that our pot is broke, as I have said,
Every man chides, and holds him *evil apaid.* *dissatisfied*
Some said it was *long on* the fire-making; *because of <11>*
Some saide nay, it was on the blowing
(Then was I fear’d, for that was mine office);
“Straw!” quoth the third, “ye be *lewed and **nice, *ignorant **foolish
It was not temper’d* as it ought to be.” *mixed in due proportions
“Nay,” quoth the fourthe, “stint* and hearken me; *stop
Because our fire was not y-made of beech,
That is the cause, and other none, *so the’ch.* *so may I thrive*
I cannot tell whereon it was along,
But well I wot great strife is us among.”
“What?” quoth my lord, “there is no more to do’n,
Of these perils I will beware eftsoon.* *another time
I am right sicker* that the pot was crazed.** *sure **cracked
Be as be may, be ye no thing amazed.* *confounded
As usage is, let sweep the floor as swithe;* *quickly
Pluck up your heartes and be glad and blithe.”

The mullok* on a heap y-sweeped was, *rubbish
And on the floor y-cast a canevas,
And all this mullok in a sieve y-throw,
And sifted, and y-picked many a throw.* *time
“Pardie,” quoth one, “somewhat of our metal
Yet is there here, though that we have not all.
And though this thing *mishapped hath as now,* *has gone amiss
Another time it may be well enow. at present*
We muste *put our good in adventure; * *risk our property*
A merchant, pardie, may not aye endure,
Truste me well, in his prosperity:
Sometimes his good is drenched* in the sea, *drowned, sunk
And sometimes comes it safe unto the land.”
“Peace,” quoth my lord; “the next time I will fand* *endeavour
To bring our craft *all in another plight,* *to a different conclusion*
And but I do, Sirs, let me have the wite;* *blame
There was default in somewhat, well I wot.”
Another said, the fire was over hot.
But be it hot or cold, I dare say this,
That we concluden evermore amiss;
We fail alway of that which we would have;
And in our madness evermore we rave.
And when we be together every one,
Every man seemeth a Solomon.
But all thing, which that shineth as the gold,
It is not gold, as I have heard it told;
Nor every apple that is fair at eye,
It is not good, what so men clap* or cry. *assert
Right so, lo, fareth it amonges us.
He that the wisest seemeth, by Jesus,
Is most fool, when it cometh to the prefe;* *proof, test
And he that seemeth truest, is a thief.
That shall ye know, ere that I from you wend;
By that I of my tale have made an end.

There was a canon of religioun
Amonges us, would infect* all a town, *deceive
Though it as great were as was Nineveh,
Rome, Alisandre,* Troy, or other three. *Alexandria
His sleightes* and his infinite falseness *cunning tricks
There coulde no man writen, as I guess,
Though that he mighte live a thousand year;
In all this world of falseness n’is* his peer. *there is not
For in his termes he will him so wind,
And speak his wordes in so sly a kind,
When he commune shall with any wight,
That he will make him doat* anon aright, *become foolishly
But it a fiende be, as himself is. fond of him*
Full many a man hath he beguil’d ere this,
And will, if that he may live any while;
And yet men go and ride many a mile
Him for to seek, and have his acquaintance,
Not knowing of his false governance.* *deceitful conduct
And if you list to give me audience,
I will it telle here in your presence.
But, worshipful canons religious,
Ne deeme not that I slander your house,
Although that my tale of a canon be.
Of every order some shrew is, pardie;
And God forbid that all a company
Should rue a singular* manne’s folly. *individual
To slander you is no thing mine intent;
But to correct that is amiss I meant.
This tale was not only told for you,
But eke for other more; ye wot well how
That amonges Christe’s apostles twelve
There was no traitor but Judas himselve;
Then why should all the remenant have blame,
That guiltless were? By you I say the same.
Save only this, if ye will hearken me,
If any Judas in your convent be,
Remove him betimes, I you rede,* *counsel
If shame or loss may causen any dread.
And be no thing displeased, I you pray;
But in this case hearken what I say.

In London was a priest, an annualere, <12>
That therein dwelled hadde many a year,
Which was so pleasant and so serviceable
Unto the wife, where as he was at table,
That she would suffer him no thing to pay
For board nor clothing, went he ne’er so gay;
And spending silver had he right enow;
Thereof no force;* will proceed as now, *no matter
And telle forth my tale of the canon,
That brought this prieste to confusion.
This false canon came upon a day
Unto the prieste’s chamber, where he lay,
Beseeching him to lend him a certain
Of gold, and he would quit it him again.
“Lend me a mark,” quoth he, “but dayes three,
And at my day I will it quite thee.
And if it so be that thou find me false,
Another day hang me up by the halse.”* *neck
This priest him took a mark, and that as swithe,* *quickly
And this canon him thanked often sithe,* *times
And took his leave, and wente forth his way;
And at the thirde day brought his money;
And to the priest he took his gold again,
Whereof this priest was wondrous glad and fain.* *pleased
“Certes,” quoth he, *”nothing annoyeth me* *I am not unwiling*
To lend a man a noble, or two, or three,
Or what thing were in my possession,
When he so true is of condition,
That in no wise he breake will his day;
To such a man I never can say nay.”
“What,” quoth this canon, “should I be untrue?
Nay, that were *thing y-fallen all of new!* *a new thing to happen*
Truth is a thing that I will ever keep,
Unto the day in which that I shall creep
Into my grave; and elles God forbid;
Believe this as sicker* as your creed. *sure
God thank I, and in good time be it said,
That there was never man yet *evil apaid* *displeased, dissatisfied*
For gold nor silver that he to me lent,
Nor ever falsehood in mine heart I meant.
And Sir,” quoth he, “now of my privity,
Since ye so goodly have been unto me,
And kithed* to me so great gentleness, *shown
Somewhat, to quite with your kindeness,
I will you shew, and if you list to lear,* *learn
I will you teache plainly the mannere
How I can worken in philosophy.
Take good heed, ye shall well see *at eye* *with your own eye*
That I will do a mas’try ere I go.”
“Yea,” quoth the priest; “yea, Sir, and will ye so?
Mary! thereof I pray you heartily.”
“At your commandement, Sir, truely,”
Quoth the canon, “and elles God forbid.”
Lo, how this thiefe could his service bede!* *offer

Full sooth it is that such proffer’d service
Stinketh, as witnesse *these olde wise;* *those wise folk of old*
And that full soon I will it verify
In this canon, root of all treachery,
That evermore delight had and gladness
(Such fiendly thoughtes *in his heart impress*) *press into his heart*
How Christe’s people he may to mischief bring.
God keep us from his false dissimuling!
What wiste this priest with whom that he dealt?
Nor of his harm coming he nothing felt.
O sely* priest, O sely innocent! *simple
With covetise anon thou shalt be blent;* *blinded; beguiled
O graceless, full blind is thy conceit!
For nothing art thou ware of the deceit
Which that this fox y-shapen* hath to thee; *contrived
His wily wrenches* thou not mayest flee. *snares
Wherefore, to go to the conclusioun
That referreth to thy confusion,
Unhappy man, anon I will me hie* *hasten
To telle thine unwit* and thy folly, *stupidity
And eke the falseness of that other wretch,
As farforth as that my conning* will stretch. *knowledge
This canon was my lord, ye woulde ween;* *imagine
Sir Host, in faith, and by the heaven’s queen,
It was another canon, and not he,
That can* an hundred fold more subtlety. *knows
He hath betrayed folkes many a time;
Of his falseness it doleth* me to rhyme. *paineth
And ever, when I speak of his falsehead,
For shame of him my cheekes waxe red;
Algates* they beginne for to glow, *at least
For redness have I none, right well I know,
In my visage; for fumes diverse
Of metals, which ye have me heard rehearse,
Consumed have and wasted my redness.
Now take heed of this canon’s cursedness.* *villainy

“Sir,” quoth he to the priest, “let your man gon
For quicksilver, that we it had anon;
And let him bringen ounces two or three;
And when he comes, as faste shall ye see
A wondrous thing, which ye saw ne’er ere this.”
“Sir,” quoth the priest, “it shall be done, y-wis.”* *certainly
He bade his servant fetche him this thing,
And he all ready was at his bidding,
And went him forth, and came anon again
With this quicksilver, shortly for to sayn;
And took these ounces three to the canoun;
And he them laide well and fair adown,
And bade the servant coales for to bring,
That he anon might go to his working.
The coales right anon weren y-fet,* *fetched
And this canon y-took a crosselet* *crucible
Out of his bosom, and shew’d to the priest.
“This instrument,” quoth he, “which that thou seest,
Take in thine hand, and put thyself therein
Of this quicksilver an ounce, and here begin,
In the name of Christ, to wax a philosopher.
There be full few, which that I woulde proffer
To shewe them thus much of my science;
For here shall ye see by experience
That this quicksilver I will mortify,<13>
Right in your sight anon withoute lie,
And make it as good silver, and as fine,
As there is any in your purse, or mine,
Or elleswhere; and make it malleable,
And elles holde me false and unable
Amonge folk for ever to appear.
I have a powder here that cost me dear,
Shall make all good, for it is cause of all
My conning,* which that I you shewe shall. *knowledge
Voide* your man, and let him be thereout; *send away
And shut the doore, while we be about
Our privity, that no man us espy,
While that we work in this phiosophy.”
All, as he bade, fulfilled was in deed.
This ilke servant right anon out yede,* *went
And his master y-shut the door anon,
And to their labour speedily they gon.

This priest, at this cursed canon’s biddIng,
Upon the fire anon he set this thing,
And blew the fire, and busied him full fast.
And this canon into the croslet cast
A powder, I know not whereof it was
Y-made, either of chalk, either of glass,
Or somewhat elles, was not worth a fly,
To blinden* with this priest; and bade him hie** *deceive **make haste
The coales for to couchen* all above lay in order
The croslet; “for, in token I thee love,”
Quoth this canon, “thine owen handes two
Shall work all thing that here shall be do’.”
*”Grand mercy,”* quoth the priest, and was full glad, *great thanks*
And couch’d the coales as the canon bade.
And while he busy was, this fiendly wretch,
This false canon (the foule fiend him fetch),
Out of his bosom took a beechen coal,
In which full subtifly was made a hole,
And therein put was of silver limaile* *filings
An ounce, and stopped was withoute fail
The hole with wax, to keep the limaile in.
And understande, that this false gin* *contrivance
Was not made there, but it was made before;
And other thinges I shall tell you more,
Hereafterward, which that he with him brought;
Ere he came there, him to beguile he thought,
And so he did, ere that they *went atwin;* *separated*
Till he had turned him, could he not blin.* *cease <14>
It doleth* me, when that I of him speak; *paineth
On his falsehood fain would I me awreak,* *revenge myself
If I wist how, but he is here and there;
He is so variant,* he abides nowhere. *changeable

But take heed, Sirs, now for Godde’s love.
He took his coal, of which I spake above,
And in his hand he bare it privily,
And while the prieste couched busily
The coales, as I tolde you ere this,
This canon saide, “Friend, ye do amiss;
This is not couched as it ought to be,
But soon I shall amenden it,” quoth he.
“Now let me meddle therewith but a while,
For of you have I pity, by Saint Gile.
Ye be right hot, I see well how ye sweat;
Have here a cloth, and wipe away the wet.”
And while that the prieste wip’d his face,
This canon took his coal, — *with sorry grace,* — *evil fortune
And layed it above on the midward attend him!*
Of the croslet, and blew well afterward,
Till that the coals beganne fast to brenn.* *burn
“Now give us drinke,” quoth this canon then,
“And swithe* all shall be well, I undertake. *quickly
Sitte we down, and let us merry make.”
And whenne that this canon’s beechen coal
Was burnt, all the limaile out of the hole
Into the crosselet anon fell down;
And so it muste needes, by reasoun,
Since it above so *even couched* was; *exactly laid*
But thereof wist the priest no thing, alas!
He deemed all the coals alike good,
For of the sleight he nothing understood.

And when this alchemister saw his time,
“Rise up, Sir Priest,” quoth he, “and stand by me;
And, for I wot well ingot* have ye none; *mould
Go, walke forth, and bring me a chalk stone;
For I will make it of the same shape
That is an ingot, if I may have hap.
Bring eke with you a bowl, or else a pan,
Full of water, and ye shall well see than* *then
How that our business shall *hap and preve* *succeed*
And yet, for ye shall have no misbelieve* *mistrust
Nor wrong conceit of me, in your absence,
I wille not be out of your presence,
But go with you, and come with you again.”
The chamber-doore, shortly for to sayn,
They opened and shut, and went their way,
And forth with them they carried the key;
And came again without any delay.
Why should I tarry all the longe day?
He took the chalk, and shap’d it in the wise
Of an ingot, as I shall you devise;* *describe
I say, he took out of his owen sleeve
A teine* of silver (evil may he cheve!**) *little piece **prosper
Which that ne was but a just ounce of weight.
And take heed now of his cursed sleight;
He shap’d his ingot, in length and in brede* *breadth
Of this teine, withouten any drede,* *doubt
So slily, that the priest it not espied;
And in his sleeve again he gan it hide;
And from the fire he took up his mattere,
And in th’ ingot put it with merry cheer;
And in the water-vessel he it cast,
When that him list, and bade the priest as fast
Look what there is; “Put in thine hand and grope;
There shalt thou finde silver, as I hope.”
What, devil of helle! should it elles be?
Shaving of silver, silver is, pardie.
He put his hand in, and took up a teine
Of silver fine; and glad in every vein
Was this priest, when he saw that it was so.
“Godde’s blessing, and his mother’s also,
And alle hallows,* have ye, Sir Canon!” *saints
Saide this priest, “and I their malison* *curse
But, an’* ye vouchesafe to teache me *if
This noble craft and this subtility,
I will be yours in all that ever I may.”
Quoth the canon, “Yet will I make assay
The second time, that ye may take heed,
And be expert of this, and, in your need,
Another day assay in mine absence
This discipline, and this crafty science.
Let take another ounce,” quoth he tho,* *then
“Of quicksilver, withoute wordes mo’,
And do therewith as ye have done ere this
With that other, which that now silver is. “

The priest him busied, all that e’er he can,
To do as this canon, this cursed man,
Commanded him, and fast he blew the fire
For to come to th’ effect of his desire.
And this canon right in the meanewhile
All ready was this priest eft* to beguile, *again
and, for a countenance,* in his hande bare *stratagem
An hollow sticke (take keep* and beware); *heed
Of silver limaile put was, as before
Was in his coal, and stopped with wax well
For to keep in his limaile every deal.* *particle
And while this priest was in his business,
This canon with his sticke gan him dress* *apply
To him anon, and his powder cast in,
As he did erst (the devil out of his skin
Him turn, I pray to God, for his falsehead,
For he was ever false in thought and deed),
And with his stick, above the crosselet,
That was ordained* with that false get,** *provided **contrivance
He stirr’d the coales, till relente gan
The wax against the fire, as every man,
But he a fool be, knows well it must need.
And all that in the sticke was out yede,* *went
And in the croslet hastily* it fell. *quickly
Now, goode Sirs, what will ye bet* than well? *better
When that this priest was thus beguil’d again,
Supposing naught but truthe, sooth to sayn,
He was so glad, that I can not express
In no mannere his mirth and his gladness;
And to the canon he proffer’d eftsoon* *forthwith; again
Body and good. “Yea,” quoth the canon soon,
“Though poor I be, crafty* thou shalt me find; *skilful
I warn thee well, yet is there more behind.
Is any copper here within?” said he.
“Yea, Sir,” the prieste said, “I trow there be.”
“Elles go buy us some, and that as swithe.* *swiftly
Now, goode Sir, go forth thy way and hie* thee.” *hasten
He went his way, and with the copper came,
And this canon it in his handes name,* *took <15>
And of that copper weighed out an ounce.
Too simple is my tongue to pronounce,
As minister of my wit, the doubleness
Of this canon, root of all cursedness.
He friendly seem’d to them that knew him not;
But he was fiendly, both in work and thought.
It wearieth me to tell of his falseness;
And natheless yet will I it express,
To that intent men may beware thereby,
And for none other cause truely.
He put this copper in the crosselet,
And on the fire as swithe* he hath it set, *swiftly
And cast in powder, and made the priest to blow,
And in his working for to stoope low,
As he did erst,* and all was but a jape;** *before **trick
Right as him list the priest *he made his ape.* *befooled him*
And afterward in the ingot he it cast,
And in the pan he put it at the last
Of water, and in he put his own hand;
And in his sleeve, as ye beforehand
Hearde me tell, he had a silver teine;* *small piece
He silly took it out, this cursed heine* *wretch
(Unweeting* this priest of his false craft), *unsuspecting
And in the panne’s bottom he it laft* *left
And in the water rumbleth to and fro,
And wondrous privily took up also
The copper teine (not knowing thilke priest),
And hid it, and him hente* by the breast, *took
And to him spake, and thus said in his game;
“Stoop now adown; by God, ye be to blame;
Helpe me now, as I did you whilere;* *before
Put in your hand, and looke what is there.”

This priest took up this silver teine anon;
And thenne said the canon, “Let us gon,
With these three teines which that we have wrought,
To some goldsmith, and *weet if they be aught:* *find out if they are
For, by my faith, I would not for my hood worth anything*
*But if* they were silver fine and good, *unless
And that as swithe* well proved shall it be.” *quickly
Unto the goldsmith with these teines three
They went anon, and put them in assay* *proof
To fire and hammer; might no man say nay,
But that they weren as they ought to be.
This sotted* priest, who gladder was than he? *stupid, besotted
Was never bird gladder against the day;
Nor nightingale in the season of May
Was never none, that better list to sing;
Nor lady lustier in carolling,
Or for to speak of love and womanhead;
Nor knight in arms to do a hardy deed,
To standen in grace of his lady dear,
Than had this priest this crafte for to lear;
And to the canon thus he spake and said;
“For love of God, that for us alle died,
And as I may deserve it unto you,
What shall this receipt coste? tell me now.”
“By our Lady,” quoth this canon, “it is dear.
I warn you well, that, save I and a frere,
In Engleland there can no man it make.”
*”No force,”* quoth he; “now, Sir, for Godde’s sake, *no matter
What shall I pay? telle me, I you pray.”
“Y-wis,”* quoth he, “it is full dear, I say. *certainly
Sir, at one word, if that you list it have,
Ye shall pay forty pound, so God me save;
And n’ere* the friendship that ye did ere this *were it not for
To me, ye shoulde paye more, y-wis.”
This priest the sum of forty pound anon
Of nobles fet,* and took them every one *fetched
To this canon, for this ilke receipt.
All his working was but fraud and deceit.
“Sir Priest,” he said, “I keep* to have no los** *care **praise <16>
Of my craft, for I would it were kept close;
And as ye love me, keep it secre:
For if men knewen all my subtlety,
By God, they woulde have so great envy
To me, because of my philosophy,
I should be dead, there were no other way.”
“God it forbid,” quoth the priest, “what ye say.
Yet had I lever* spenden all the good *rather
Which that I have (and elles were I wood*), *mad
Than that ye shoulde fall in such mischief.”
“For your good will, Sir, have ye right good prefe,”* *results of your
Quoth the canon; “and farewell, grand mercy.” *experiments*
He went his way, and never the priest him sey * *saw
After that day; and when that this priest should
Maken assay, at such time as he would,
Of this receipt, farewell! it would not be.
Lo, thus bejaped* and beguil’d was he; *tricked
Thus made he his introduction
To bringe folk to their destruction.

Consider, Sirs, how that in each estate
Betwixte men and gold there is debate,
So farforth that *unnethes is there none.* *scarcely is there any*
This multiplying blint* so many a one, *blinds, deceive
That in good faith I trowe that it be
The cause greatest of such scarcity.
These philosophers speak so mistily
In this craft, that men cannot come thereby,
For any wit that men have how-a-days.
They may well chatter, as do these jays,
And in their termes set their *lust and pain,* *pleasure and exertion*
But to their purpose shall they ne’er attain.
A man may lightly* learn, if he have aught, *easily
To multiply, and bring his good to naught.
Lo, such a lucre* is in this lusty** game; *profit **pleasant
A manne’s mirth it will turn all to grame,* *sorrow <17>
And empty also great and heavy purses,
And make folke for to purchase curses
Of them that have thereto their good y-lent.
Oh, fy for shame! they that have been brent,* *burnt
Alas! can they not flee the fire’s heat?
Ye that it use, I rede* that ye it lete,** *advise **leave
Lest ye lose all; for better than never is late;
Never to thrive, were too long a date.
Though ye prowl aye, ye shall it never find;
Ye be as bold as is Bayard the blind,
That blunders forth, and *peril casteth none;* *perceives no danger*
He is as bold to run against a stone,
As for to go beside it in the way:
So fare ye that multiply, I say.
If that your eyen cannot see aright,
Look that your minde lacke not his sight.
For though you look never so broad, and stare,
Ye shall not win a mite on that chaffare,* *traffic, commerce
But wasten all that ye may *rape and renn.* *get by hook or crook*
Withdraw the fire, lest it too faste brenn;* *burn
Meddle no more with that art, I mean;
For if ye do, your thrift* is gone full clean. *prosperity
And right as swithe* I will you telle here *quickly
What philosophers say in this mattere.

Lo, thus saith Arnold of the newe town, <18>
As his Rosary maketh mentioun,
He saith right thus, withouten any lie;
“There may no man mercury mortify,<13>
But* it be with his brother’s knowledging.” *except
Lo, how that he, which firste said this thing,
Of philosophers father was, Hermes;<19>
He saith, how that the dragon doubteless
He dieth not, but if that he be slain
With his brother. And this is for to sayn,
By the dragon, Mercury, and none other,
He understood, and Brimstone by his brother,
That out of Sol and Luna were y-draw.* *drawn, derived
“And therefore,” said he, “take heed to my saw. *saying
Let no man busy him this art to seech,* *study, explore
*But if* that he th’intention and speech *unless
Of philosophers understande can;
And if he do, he is a lewed* man. *ignorant, foolish
For this science and this conning,”* quoth he, *knowledge
“Is of the secret of secrets <20> pardie.”
Also there was a disciple of Plato,
That on a time said his master to,
As his book, Senior, <21> will bear witness,
And this was his demand in soothfastness:
“Tell me the name of thilke* privy** stone.” *that **secret
And Plato answer’d unto him anon;
“Take the stone that Titanos men name.”
“Which is that?” quoth he. “Magnesia is the same,”
Saide Plato. “Yea, Sir, and is it thus?
This is ignotum per ignotius. <22>
What is Magnesia, good Sir, I pray?”
“It is a water that is made, I say,
Of th’ elementes foure,” quoth Plato.
“Tell me the roote, good Sir,” quoth he tho,* *then
“Of that water, if that it be your will.”
“Nay, nay,” quoth Plato, “certain that I n’ill.* *will not
The philosophers sworn were every one,
That they should not discover it to none,
Nor in no book it write in no mannere;
For unto God it is so lefe* and dear, *precious
That he will not that it discover’d be,
But where it liketh to his deity
Man for to inspire, and eke for to defend’* *protect
Whom that he liketh; lo, this is the end.”

Then thus conclude I, since that God of heaven
Will not that these philosophers neven* *name
How that a man shall come unto this stone,
I rede* as for the best to let it gon. *counsel
For whoso maketh God his adversary,
As for to work any thing in contrary
Of his will, certes never shall he thrive,
Though that he multiply term of his live. <23>
And there a point;* for ended is my tale. *end
God send ev’ry good man *boot of his bale.* *remedy for his sorrow*

Note to the Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale

1. The Tale of the Canon’s Yeoman, like those of the Wife of Bath and the Pardoner, is made up of two parts; a long general introduction, and the story proper. In the case of the Wife of Bath, the interruptions of other pilgrims, and the autobiographical nature of the discourse, recommend the separation of the prologue from the Tale proper; but in the other cases the introductory or merely connecting matter ceases wholly where the opening of “The Tale” has been marked in the text.

2. Jupartie: Jeopardy, hazard. In Froissart’s French, “a jeu partie” is used to signify a game or contest in which the chances were exactly equal for both sides.

3. Squames: Scales; Latin, “squamae.”

4. Descensories: vessels for distillation “per descensum;” they were placed under the fire, and the spirit to be extracted was thrown downwards. Croslets: crucibles; French, “creuset.”. Cucurbites: retorts; distilling-vessels; so called from their likeness in shape to a gourd — Latin, “cucurbita.” Alembikes:stills, limbecs.

5. Seared pokettes: the meaning of this phrase is obscure; but if we take the reading “cered poketts,” from the Harleian manuscript, we are led to the supposition that it signifies receptacles — bags or pokes — prepared with wax for some process. Latin, “cera,” wax.

6. Argoil: potter’s clay, used for luting or closing vessels in the laboratories of the alchemists; Latin, “argilla;” French, “argile.”

7. Citrination: turning to a citrine colour, or yellow, by chemical action; that was the colour which proved the philosopher’s stone.

8. Ingots: not, as in its modern meaning, the masses of metal shaped by pouring into moulds; but the moulds themslves into which the fused metal was poured. Compare Dutch, “ingieten,” part. “inghehoten,” to infuse; German, “eingiessen,” part. “eingegossen,” to pour in.

9. Threpe: name; from Anglo-Saxon, “threapian.”

10. Bratt: coarse cloak; Anglo-Saxon, “bratt.” The word is still used in Lincolnshire, and some parts of the north, to signify a coarse kind of apron.

11. Long on: in consequence of; the modern vulgar phrase “all along of,” or “all along on,” best conveys the force of the words in the text.

12. Annualere: a priest employed in singing “annuals” or anniversary masses for the dead, without any cure of souls; the office was such as, in the Prologue to the Tales, Chaucer praises the Parson for not seeking: Nor “ran unto London, unto Saint Poul’s, to seeke him a chantery for souls.”

13. Mortify: a chemical phrase, signifying the dissolution of quicksilver in acid.

14. Blin: cease; from Anglo-Saxon, “blinnan,” to desist.

15. Name: took; from Anglo-Saxon, “niman,” to take. Compare German, “nehmen,” “nahm.”

16. Los: praise, reputataion. See note 5 to Chaucer’s tale of Meliboeus.

17. Grame: sorrow; Anglo-Saxon, “gram;” German, “Gram.”

18. Arnaldus Villanovanus, or Arnold de Villeneuve, was a distinguished French chemist and physician of the fourteenth century; his “Rosarium Philosophorum” was a favourite text-book with the alchemists of the generations that succeeded.

19. Hermes Trismegistus, counsellor of Osiris, King of Egypt, was credited with the invention of writing and hieroglyphics, the drawing up of the laws of the Egyptians, and the origination of many sciences and arts. The Alexandrian school ascribed to him the mystic learning which it amplified; and the scholars of the Middle Ages regarded with enthusiasm and reverence the works attributed to him — notably a treatise on the philosopher’s stone.

20. Secret of secrets: “Secreta Secretorum;” a treatise, very popular in the Middle Ages, supposed to contain the sum of Aristotle’s instructions to Alexander. Lydgate translated about half of the work, when his labour was interrupted by his death about 1460; and from the same treatise had been taken most of the seventh book of Gower’s “Confessio Amantis.”

21. Tyrwhitt says that this book was printed in the “Theatrum Chemicum,” under the title, “Senioris Zadith fi. Hamuelis tabula chymica” (“The chemical tables of Senior Zadith, son of Hamuel”); and the story here told of Plato and his disciple was there related of Solomon, but with some variations.

22. Ignotum per ignotius: To explain the unknown by the more unknown.

23. Though he multiply term of his live: Though he pursue the alchemist’s art all his days.

THE MANCIPLE’S TALE.

THE PROLOGUE.

WEET* ye not where there stands a little town, *know
Which that y-called is Bob-up-and-down, <1>
Under the Blee, in Canterbury way?
There gan our Hoste for to jape and play,
And saide, “Sirs, what? Dun is in the mire.<2>
Is there no man, for prayer nor for hire,
That will awaken our fellow behind?
A thief him might full* rob and bind *easily
See how he nappeth, see, for cocke’s bones,
As he would falle from his horse at ones.
Is that a Cook of London, with mischance? <3>
Do* him come forth, he knoweth his penance; *make
For he shall tell a tale, by my fay,* *faith
Although it be not worth a bottle hay.

Awake, thou Cook,” quoth he; “God give thee sorrow
What aileth thee to sleepe *by the morrow?* *in the day time*
Hast thou had fleas all night, or art drunk?
Or had thou with some quean* all night y-swunk,** *whore **laboured
So that thou mayest not hold up thine head?”
The Cook, that was full pale and nothing red,
Said to Host, “So God my soule bless,
As there is fall’n on me such heaviness,
I know not why, that me were lever* sleep, *rather
Than the best gallon wine that is in Cheap.”
“Well,” quoth the Manciple, “if it may do ease
To thee, Sir Cook, and to no wight displease
Which that here rideth in this company,
And that our Host will of his courtesy,
I will as now excuse thee of thy tale;
For in good faith thy visage is full pale:
Thine eyen daze,* soothly as me thinketh, *are dim
And well I wot, thy breath full soure stinketh,
That sheweth well thou art not well disposed;
Of me certain thou shalt not be y-glosed.* *flattered
See how he yawneth, lo, this drunken wight,
As though he would us swallow anon right.
Hold close thy mouth, man, by thy father’s kin;
The devil of helle set his foot therein!
Thy cursed breath infecte will us all:
Fy! stinking swine, fy! foul may thee befall.
Ah! take heed, Sirs, of this lusty man.
Now, sweete Sir, will ye joust at the fan?<4>
Thereto, me thinketh, ye be well y-shape.
I trow that ye have drunken wine of ape,<5>
And that is when men playe with a straw.”

And with this speech the Cook waxed all wraw,* *wrathful
And on the Manciple he gan nod fast
For lack of speech; and down his horse him cast,
Where as he lay, till that men him up took.
This was a fair chevachie* of a cook: *cavalry expedition
Alas! that he had held him by his ladle!
And ere that he again were in the saddle
There was great shoving bothe to and fro
To lift him up, and muche care and woe,
So unwieldy was this silly paled ghost.
And to the Manciple then spake our Host:
“Because that drink hath domination
Upon this man, by my salvation
I trow he lewedly* will tell his tale. *stupidly
For were it wine, or old or moisty* ale, *new
That he hath drunk, he speaketh in his nose,
And sneezeth fast, and eke he hath the pose <6>
He also hath to do more than enough
To keep him on his capel* out of the slough; *horse
And if he fall from off his capel eftsoon,* *again
Then shall we alle have enough to do’n
In lifting up his heavy drunken corse.
Tell on thy tale, of him *make I no force.* *I take no account*
But yet, Manciple, in faith thou art too nice* *foolish
Thus openly to reprove him of his vice;
Another day he will paraventure
Reclaime thee, and bring thee to the lure; <7>
I mean, he speake will of smalle things,
As for to *pinchen at* thy reckonings, *pick flaws in*
That were not honest, if it came to prefe.”* *test, proof
Quoth the Manciple, “That were a great mischief;
So might he lightly bring me in the snare.
Yet had I lever* paye for the mare *rather
Which he rides on, than he should with me strive.
I will not wrathe him, so may I thrive)
That that I spake, I said it in my bourde.* *jest
And weet ye what? I have here in my gourd
A draught of wine, yea, of a ripe grape,
And right anon ye shall see a good jape.* *trick
This Cook shall drink thereof, if that I may;
On pain of my life he will not say nay.”
And certainly, to tellen as it was,
Of this vessel the cook drank fast (alas!
What needed it? he drank enough beforn),
And when he hadde *pouped in his horn,* *belched*
To the Manciple he took the gourd again.
And of that drink the Cook was wondrous fain,
And thanked him in such wise as he could.

Then gan our Host to laughe wondrous loud,
And said, “I see well it is necessary
Where that we go good drink with us to carry;
For that will turne rancour and disease* *trouble, annoyance
T’accord and love, and many a wrong appease.
O Bacchus, Bacchus, blessed be thy name,
That so canst turnen earnest into game!
Worship and thank be to thy deity.
Of that mattere ye get no more of me.
Tell on thy tale, Manciple, I thee pray.”
“Well, Sir,” quoth he, “now hearken what I say.”

Notes to the Prologue to the Manciple’s Tale

1. Bob-up-and-down: Mr Wright supposes this to be the village of Harbledown, near Canterbury, which is situated on a hill, and near which there are many ups and downs in the road. Like Boughton, where the Canon and his Yeoman overtook the pilgrims, it stood on the skirts of the Kentish forest of Blean or Blee.

2. Dun is in the mire: a proverbial saying. “Dun” is a name for an ass, derived from his colour.

3. The mention of the Cook here, with no hint that he had already told a story, confirms the indication given by the imperfect condition of his Tale, that Chaucer intended to suppress the Tale altogether, and make him tell a story in some other place.

4. The quintain; called “fan” or “vane,” because it turned round like a weather-cock.

5. Referring to the classification of wine, according to its effects on a man, given in the old “Calendrier des Bergiers,” The man of choleric temperament has “wine of lion;” the sanguine, “wine of ape;” the phlegmatic, “wine of sheep;” the melancholic, “wine of sow.” There is a Rabbinical tradition that, when Noah was planting vines, Satan slaughtered beside them the four animals named; hence the effect of wine in making those who drink it display in turn the characteristics of all the four.

6. The pose: a defluxion or rheum which stops the nose and obstructs the voice.

7. Bring thee to his lure: A phrase in hawking — to recall a hawk to the fist; the meaning here is, that the Cook may one day bring the Manciple to account, or pay him off, for the rebuke of his drunkenness.

THE TALE. <1>

When Phoebus dwelled here in earth adown,
As olde bookes make mentioun,
He was the moste lusty* bacheler *pleasant
Of all this world, and eke* the best archer. *also
He slew Python the serpent, as he lay
Sleeping against the sun upon a day;
And many another noble worthy deed
He with his bow wrought, as men maye read.
Playen he could on every minstrelsy,
And singe, that it was a melody
To hearen of his cleare voice the soun’.
Certes the king of Thebes, Amphioun,
That with his singing walled the city,
Could never singe half so well as he.
Thereto he was the seemlieste man
That is, or was since that the world began;
What needeth it his features to descrive?
For in this world is none so fair alive.
He was therewith full fill’d of gentleness,
Of honour, and of perfect worthiness.

This Phoebus, that was flower of bach’lery,
As well in freedom* as in chivalry, *generosity
For his disport, in sign eke of victory
Of Python, so as telleth us the story,
Was wont to bearen in his hand a bow.
Now had this Phoebus in his house a crow,
Which in a cage he foster’d many a day,
And taught it speaken, as men teach a jay.
White was this crow, as is a snow-white swan,
And counterfeit the speech of every man
He coulde, when he shoulde tell a tale.
Therewith in all this world no nightingale
Ne coulde by an hundred thousand deal* *part
Singe so wondrous merrily and well.
Now had this Phoebus in his house a wife;
Which that he loved more than his life.
And night and day did ever his diligence
Her for to please, and do her reverence:
Save only, if that I the sooth shall sayn,
Jealous he was, and would have kept her fain.
For him were loth y-japed* for to be; *tricked, deceived
And so is every wight in such degree;
But all for nought, for it availeth nought.
A good wife, that is clean of work and thought,
Should not be kept in none await* certain: *observation
And truely the labour is in vain
To keep a shrewe,* for it will not be. *ill-disposed woman
This hold I for a very nicety,* *sheer folly
To spille* labour for to keepe wives; *lose

Thus writen olde clerkes in their lives.
But now to purpose, as I first began.
This worthy Phoebus did all that he can
To please her, weening, through such pleasance,
And for his manhood and his governance,
That no man should have put him from her grace;
But, God it wot, there may no man embrace
As to distrain* a thing, which that nature *succeed in constraining
Hath naturally set in a creature.
Take any bird, and put it in a cage,
And do all thine intent, and thy corage,* *what thy heart prompts
To foster it tenderly with meat and drink
Of alle dainties that thou canst bethink,
And keep it all so cleanly as thou may;
Although the cage of gold be never so gay,
Yet had this bird, by twenty thousand fold,
Lever* in a forest, both wild and cold, *rather
Go eate wormes, and such wretchedness.
For ever this bird will do his business
T’escape out of his cage when that he may:
His liberty the bird desireth aye. <2>
Let take a cat, and foster her with milk
And tender flesh, and make her couch of silk,
And let her see a mouse go by the wall,
Anon she weiveth* milk, and flesh, and all, *forsaketh
And every dainty that is in that house,
Such appetite hath she to eat the mouse.
Lo, here hath kind* her domination, *nature
And appetite flemeth* discretion. *drives out
A she-wolf hath also a villain’s kind
The lewedeste wolf that she may find,
Or least of reputation, will she take
In time when *her lust* to have a make.* *she desires *mate
All these examples speak I by* these men *with reference to
That be untrue, and nothing by women.
For men have ever a lik’rous appetite
On lower things to perform their delight
Than on their wives, be they never so fair,
Never so true, nor so debonair.* *gentle, mild
Flesh is so newefangled, *with mischance,* *ill luck to it*
That we can in no thinge have pleasance
That *souneth unto* virtue any while. *accords with

This Phoebus, which that thought upon no guile,
Deceived was for all his jollity;
For under him another hadde she,
A man of little reputation,
Nought worth to Phoebus in comparison.
The more harm is; it happens often so,
Of which there cometh muche harm and woe.
And so befell, when Phoebus was absent,
His wife anon hath for her leman* sent. *unlawful lover
Her leman! certes that is a knavish speech.
Forgive it me, and that I you beseech.
The wise Plato saith, as ye may read,
The word must needs accorde with the deed;
If men shall telle properly a thing,
The word must cousin be to the working.
I am a boistous* man, right thus I say. *rough-spoken, downright
There is no difference truely
Betwixt a wife that is of high degree
(If of her body dishonest she be),
And any poore wench, other than this
(If it so be they worke both amiss),
But, for* the gentle is in estate above, *because
She shall be call’d his lady and his love;
And, for that other is a poor woman,
She shall be call’d his wench and his leman:
And God it wot, mine owen deare brother,
Men lay the one as low as lies the other.
Right so betwixt a *titleless tyrant* *usurper*
And an outlaw, or else a thief errant, *wandering
The same I say, there is no difference
(To Alexander told was this sentence),
But, for the tyrant is of greater might
By force of meinie* for to slay downright, *followers
And burn both house and home, and make all plain,* *level
Lo, therefore is he call’d a capitain;
And, for the outlaw hath but small meinie,
And may not do so great an harm as he,
Nor bring a country to so great mischief,
Men calle him an outlaw or a thief.
But, for I am a man not textuel, *learned in texts
I will not tell of texts never a deal;* *whit
I will go to my tale, as I began.

When Phoebus’ wife had sent for her leman,
Anon they wroughten all their *lust volage.* *light or rash pleasure*
This white crow, that hung aye in the cage,
Beheld their work, and said never a word;
And when that home was come Phoebus the lord,
This crowe sung, “Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo!”
“What? bird,” quoth Phoebus, “what song sing’st thou now?
Wert thou not wont so merrily to sing,
That to my heart it was a rejoicing
To hear thy voice? alas! what song is this?”
“By God,” quoth he, “I singe not amiss.
Phoebus,” quoth he, “for all thy worthiness,
For all thy beauty, and all thy gentleness,
For all thy song, and all thy minstrelsy,
*For all thy waiting, bleared is thine eye* *despite all thy watching,
With one of little reputation, thou art befooled*
Not worth to thee, as in comparison,
The mountance* of a gnat, so may I thrive; *value
For on thy bed thy wife I saw him swive.”
What will ye more? the crow anon him told,
By sade* tokens, and by wordes bold, *grave, trustworthy
How that his wife had done her lechery,
To his great shame and his great villainy;
And told him oft, he saw it with his eyen.
This Phoebus gan awayward for to wrien;* *turn aside
Him thought his woeful hearte burst in two.
His bow he bent, and set therein a flo,* *arrow
And in his ire he hath his wife slain;
This is th’ effect, there is no more to sayn.
For sorrow of which he brake his minstrelsy,
Both harp and lute, gitern* and psaltery; *guitar
And eke he brake his arrows and his bow;
And after that thus spake he to the crow.

“Traitor,” quoth he, “with tongue of scorpion,
Thou hast me brought to my confusion;
Alas that I was wrought!* why n’ere** I dead? *made **was not
O deare wife, O gem of lustihead,* *pleasantness
That wert to me so sad,* and eke so true, *steadfast
Now liest thou dead, with face pale of hue,
Full guilteless, that durst I swear y-wis!* *certainly
O rakel* hand, to do so foul amiss *rash, hasty
O troubled wit, O ire reckeless,
That unadvised smit’st the guilteless!
O wantrust,* full of false suspicion! *distrust <3>
Where was thy wit and thy discretion?
O! every man beware of rakelness,* *rashness
Nor trow* no thing withoute strong witness. *believe
Smite not too soon, ere that ye weete* why, *know
And *be advised* well and sickerly** *consider* *surely
Ere ye *do any execution *take any action
Upon your ire* for suspicion. upon your anger*
Alas! a thousand folk hath rakel ire
Foully fordone, and brought them in the mire.
Alas! for sorrow I will myself slee* *slay
And to the crow, “O false thief,” said he,
“I will thee quite anon thy false tale.
Thou sung whilom* like any nightingale, *once on a time
Now shalt thou, false thief, thy song foregon,* *lose
And eke thy white feathers every one,
Nor ever in all thy life shalt thou speak;
Thus shall men on a traitor be awreak. *revenged
Thou and thine offspring ever shall be blake,* *black
Nor ever sweete noise shall ye make,
But ever cry against* tempest and rain, *before, in warning of
In token that through thee my wife is slain.”
And to the crow he start,* and that anon, *sprang
And pull’d his white feathers every one,
And made him black, and reft him all his song,
And eke his speech, and out at door him flung
Unto the devil, *which I him betake;* *to whom I commend him*
And for this cause be all crowes blake.
Lordings, by this ensample, I you pray,
Beware, and take keep* what that ye say; *heed
Nor telle never man in all your life
How that another man hath dight his wife;
He will you hate mortally certain.
Dan Solomon, as wise clerkes sayn,
Teacheth a man to keep his tongue well;
But, as I said, I am not textuel.
But natheless thus taughte me my dame;
“My son, think on the crow, in Godde’s name.
My son, keep well thy tongue, and keep thy friend;
A wicked tongue is worse than is a fiend:
My sone, from a fiend men may them bless.* *defend by crossing
My son, God of his endeless goodness themselves
Walled a tongue with teeth, and lippes eke,
For* man should him advise,** what he speak. *because **consider
My son, full often for too muche speech
Hath many a man been spilt,* as clerkes teach; *destroyed
But for a little speech advisedly
Is no man shent,* to speak generally. *ruined
My son, thy tongue shouldest thou restrain
At alle time, *but when thou dost thy pain* *except when you do
To speak of God in honour and prayere. your best effort*
The firste virtue, son, if thou wilt lear,* *learn
Is to restrain and keepe well thy tongue;<4>
Thus learne children, when that they be young.
My son, of muche speaking evil advis’d,
Where lesse speaking had enough suffic’d,
Cometh much harm; thus was me told and taught;
In muche speeche sinne wanteth not.
Wost* thou whereof a rakel** tongue serveth? *knowest **hasty
Right as a sword forcutteth and forcarveth
An arm in two, my deare son, right so
A tongue cutteth friendship all in two.
A jangler* is to God abominable. *prating man
Read Solomon, so wise and honourable;
Read David in his Psalms, and read Senec’.
My son, speak not, but with thine head thou beck,* *beckon, nod
Dissimule as thou wert deaf, if that thou hear
A jangler speak of perilous mattere.
The Fleming saith, and learn *if that thee lest,* **if it please thee*
That little jangling causeth muche rest.
My son, if thou no wicked word hast said,
*Thee thar not dreade for to be bewray’d;* *thou hast no need to
But he that hath missaid, I dare well sayn, fear to be betrayed*
He may by no way call his word again.
Thing that is said is said, and forth it go’th, <5>
Though him repent, or be he ne’er so loth;
He is his thrall,* to whom that he hath said *slave
A tale, *of which he is now evil apaid.* *which he now regrets*
My son, beware, and be no author new
Of tidings, whether they be false or true; <6>
Whereso thou come, amonges high or low,
Keep well thy tongue, and think upon the crow.”

Notes to the Manciple’s Tale

1. “The fable of ‘The Crow,’ says Tyrwhitt, “which is the subject of the Manciple’s Tale, has been related by so many authors, from Ovid down to Gower, that it is impossible to say whom Chaucer principally followed. His skill in new dressing an old story was never, perhaps, more successfully exerted.”

2. See the parallel to this passage in the Squire’s Tale, and note 34 to that tale.

3. Wantrust: distrust — want of trust; so “wanhope,” despair – – want of hope.

4. This is quoted in the French “Romance of the Rose,” from Cato “De Moribus,” 1. i., dist. 3: “Virtutem primam esse puta compescere linguam.” (“The first virtue is to be able to control the tongue”)

5. “Semel emissum volat irrevocabile verbum.” (“A word once uttered flies away and cannot be called back”) — Horace, Epist. 1., 18, 71.

6. This caution is also from Cato “De Moribus,” 1. i., dist. 12: “Rumoris fuge ne incipias novus auctor haberi.” (“Do not pass on rumours or be the author of new ones”)

THE PARSON’S TALE.

THE PROLOGUE.

By that the Manciple his tale had ended,
The sunne from the south line was descended
So lowe, that it was not to my sight
Degrees nine-and-twenty as in height.
Four of the clock it was then, as I guess,
For eleven foot, a little more or less,
My shadow was at thilke time, as there,
Of such feet as my lengthe parted were
In six feet equal of proportion.
Therewith the moone’s exaltation,* *rising
*In meane* Libra, gan alway ascend, *in the middle of*
As we were ent’ring at a thorpe’s* end. *village’s
For which our Host, as he was wont to gie,* *govern
As in this case, our jolly company,
Said in this wise; “Lordings every one,
Now lacketh us no more tales than one.
Fulfill’d is my sentence and my decree;
I trow that we have heard of each degree.* from each class or rank
Almost fulfilled is mine ordinance; in the company
I pray to God so give him right good chance
That telleth us this tale lustily.
Sir Priest,” quoth he, “art thou a vicary?* *vicar
Or art thou a Parson? say sooth by thy fay.* *faith
Be what thou be, breake thou not our play;
For every man, save thou, hath told his tale.
Unbuckle, and shew us what is in thy mail.* *wallet
For truely me thinketh by thy cheer
Thou shouldest knit up well a great mattere.
Tell us a fable anon, for cocke’s bones.”

This Parson him answered all at ones;
“Thou gettest fable none y-told for me,
For Paul, that writeth unto Timothy,
Reproveth them that *weive soothfastness,* *forsake truth*
And telle fables, and such wretchedness.
Why should I sowe draff* out of my fist, *chaff, refuse
When I may sowe wheat, if that me list?
For which I say, if that you list to hear
Morality and virtuous mattere,
And then that ye will give me audience,
I would full fain at Christe’s reverence
Do you pleasance lawful, as I can.
But, truste well, I am a southern man,
I cannot gest,* rom, ram, ruf, <1> by my letter; *relate stories
And, God wot, rhyme hold I but little better.
And therefore if you list, I will not glose,* *mince matters
I will you tell a little tale in prose,
To knit up all this feast, and make an end.
And Jesus for his grace wit me send
To shewe you the way, in this voyage,
Of thilke perfect glorious pilgrimage, <2>
That hight Jerusalem celestial.
And if ye vouchesafe, anon I shall
Begin upon my tale, for which I pray
Tell your advice,* I can no better say. *opinion
But natheless this meditation
I put it aye under correction
Of clerkes,* for I am not textuel; *scholars
I take but the sentence,* trust me well. *meaning, sense
Therefore I make a protestation,
That I will stande to correction.”
Upon this word we have assented soon;
For, as us seemed, it was *for to do’n,* *a thing worth doing*
To enden in some virtuous sentence,* *discourse
And for to give him space and audience;
And bade our Host he shoulde to him say
That alle we to tell his tale him pray.
Our Hoste had. the wordes for us all:
“Sir Priest,” quoth he, “now faire you befall;
Say what you list, and we shall gladly hear.”
And with that word he said in this mannere;
“Telle,” quoth he, “your meditatioun,
But hasten you, the sunne will adown.
Be fructuous,* and that in little space; *fruitful; profitable
And to do well God sende you his grace.”

Notes to the Prologue to the Parson’s Tale

1. Rom, ram, ruf: a contemptuous reference to the alliterative poetry which was at that time very popular, in preference even, it would seem, to rhyme, in the northern parts of the country, where the language was much more barbarous and unpolished than in the south.

2. Perfect glorious pilgrimage: the word is used here to signify the shrine, or destination, to which pilgrimage is made.

THE TALE. <1>

[The Parson begins his “little treatise” -(which, if given at length, would extend to about thirty of these pages, and which cannot by any stretch of courtesy or fancy be said to merit the title of a “Tale”) in these words: —]

Our sweet Lord God of Heaven, that no man will perish, but will that we come all to the knowledge of him, and to the blissful life that is perdurable [everlasting], admonishes us by the prophet Jeremiah, that saith in this wise: “Stand upon the ways, and see and ask of old paths, that is to say, of old sentences, which is the good way, and walk in that way, and ye shall find refreshing for your souls,” <2> &c. Many be the spiritual ways that lead folk to our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the reign of glory; of which ways there is a full noble way, and full convenable, which may not fail to man nor to woman, that through sin hath misgone from the right way of Jerusalem celestial; and this way is called penitence. Of which men should gladly hearken and inquire with all their hearts, to wit what is penitence, and whence it is called penitence, and in what manner, and in how many manners, be the actions or workings of penitence, and how many species there be of penitences, and what things appertain and behove to penitence, and what things disturb penitence.

[Penitence is described, on the authority of Saints Ambrose, Isidore, and Gregory, as the bewailing of sin that has been wrought, with the purpose never again to do that thing, or any other thing which a man should bewail; for weeping and not ceasing to do the sin will not avail — though it is to be hoped that after every time that a man falls, be it ever so often, he may find grace to arise through penitence. And repentant folk that leave their sin ere sin leave them, are accounted by Holy Church sure of their salvation, even though the repentance be at the last hour. There are three actions of penitence; that a man be baptized after he has sinned; that he do no deadly sin after receiving baptism; and that he fall into no venial sins from day to day. “Thereof saith St Augustine, that penitence of good and humble folk is the penitence of every day.” The species of penitence are three: solemn, when a man is openly expelled from Holy Church in Lent, or is compelled by Holy Church to do open penance for an open sin openly talked of in the country; common penance, enjoined by priests in certain cases, as to go on pilgrimage naked or barefoot; and privy penance, which men do daily for private sins, of which they confess privately and receive private penance. To very perfect penitence are behoveful and necessary three things: contrition of heart, confession of mouth, and satisfaction; which are fruitful penitence against delight in thinking, reckless speech, and wicked sinful works.

Penitence may be likened to a tree, having its root in contrition, biding itself in the heart as a tree-root does in the earth; out of this root springs a stalk, that bears branches and leaves of confession, and fruit of satisfaction. Of this root also springs a seed of grace, which is mother of all security, and this seed is eager and hot; and the grace of this seed springs of God, through remembrance on the day of judgment and on the pains of hell. The heat of this seed is the love of God, and the desire of everlasting joy; and this heat draws the heart of man to God, and makes him hate his sin. Penance is the tree of life to them that receive it. In penance or contrition man shall understand four things: what is contrition; what are the causes that move a man to contrition; how he should be contrite; and what contrition availeth to the soul. Contrition is the heavy and grievous sorrow that a man receiveth in his heart for his sins, with earnest purpose to confess and do penance, and never more to sin. Six causes ought to move a man to contrition: 1. He should remember him of his sins; 2. He should reflect that sin putteth a man in great thraldom, and all the greater the higher is the estate from which he falls; 3. He should dread the day of doom and the horrible pains of hell; 4. The sorrowful remembrance of the good deeds that man hath omitted to do here on earth, and also the good that he hath lost, ought to make him have contrition; 5. So also ought the remembrance of the passion that our Lord Jesus Christ suffered for our sins; 6. And so ought the hope of three things, that is to say, forgiveness of sin, the gift of grace to do well, and the glory of heaven with which God shall reward man for his good deeds. — All these points the Parson illustrates and enforces at length; waxing especially eloquent under the third head, and plainly setting forth the sternly realistic notions regarding future punishments that were entertained in the time of Chaucer:-] <3>

Certes, all the sorrow that a man might make from the beginning of the world, is but a little thing, at retard of [in comparison with] the sorrow of hell. The cause why that Job calleth hell the land of darkness; <4> understand, that he calleth it land or earth, for it is stable and never shall fail, and dark, for he that is in hell hath default [is devoid] of light natural; for certes the dark light, that shall come out of the fire that ever shall burn, shall turn them all to pain that be in hell, for it sheweth them the horrible devils that them torment. Covered with the darkness of death; that is to say, that he that is in hell shall have default of the sight of God; for certes the sight of God is the life perdurable [everlasting]. The darkness of death, be the sins that the wretched man hath done, which that disturb [prevent] him to see the face of God, right as a dark cloud doth between us and the sun. Land of misease, because there be three manner of defaults against three things that folk of this world have in this present life; that is to say, honours, delights, and riches. Against honour have they in hell shame and confusion: for well ye wot, that men call honour the reverence that man doth to man; but in hell is no honour nor reverence; for certes no more reverence shall be done there to a king than to a knave [servant]. For which God saith by the prophet Jeremiah; “The folk that me despise shall be in despite.” Honour is also called great lordship. There shall no wight serve other, but of harm and torment. Honour is also called great dignity and highness; but in hell shall they be all fortrodden [trampled under foot] of devils. As God saith, “The horrible devils shall go and come upon the heads of damned folk;” and this is, forasmuch as the higher that they were in this present life, the more shall they be abated [abased] and defouled in hell. Against the riches of this world shall they have misease [trouble, torment] of poverty, and this poverty shall be in four things: in default [want] of treasure; of which David saith, “The rich folk that embraced and oned [united] all their heart to treasure of this world, shall sleep in the sleeping of death, and nothing shall they find in their hands of all their treasure.” And moreover, the misease of hell shall be in default of meat and drink. For God saith thus by Moses, “They shall be wasted with hunger, and the birds of hell shall devour them with bitter death, and the gall of the dragon shall be their drink, and the venom of the dragon their morsels.” And furthermore, their misease shall be in default of clothing, for they shall be naked in body, as of clothing, save the fire in which they burn, and other filths; and naked shall they be in soul, of all manner virtues, which that is the clothing of the soul. Where be then the gay robes, and the soft sheets, and the fine shirts? Lo, what saith of them the prophet Isaiah, that under them shall be strewed moths, and their covertures shall be of worms of hell. And furthermore, their misease shall be in default of friends, for he is not poor that hath good friends: but there is no friend; for neither God nor any good creature shall be friend to them, and evereach of them shall hate other with deadly hate. The Sons and the daughters shall rebel against father and mother, and kindred against kindred, and chide and despise each other, both day and night, as God saith by the prophet Micah. And the loving children, that whom loved so fleshly each other, would each of them eat the other if they might. For how should they love together in the pains of hell, when they hated each other in the prosperity of this life? For trust well, their fleshly love was deadly hate; as saith the prophet David; “Whoso loveth wickedness, he hateth his own soul:” and whoso hateth his own soul, certes he may love none other wight in no manner: and therefore in hell is no solace nor no friendship, but ever the more kindreds that be in hell, the more cursing, the more chiding, and the more deadly hate there is among them. And furtherover, they shall have default of all manner delights; for certes delights be after the appetites of the five wits [senses]; as sight, hearing, smelling, savouring [tasting], and touching. But in hell their sight shall be full of darkness and of smoke, and their eyes full of tears; and their hearing full of waimenting [lamenting] and grinting [gnashing] of teeth, as saith Jesus Christ; their nostrils shall be full of stinking; and, as saith Isaiah the prophet, their savouring [tasting] shall be full of bitter gall; and touching of all their body shall be covered with fire that never shall quench, and with worms that never shall die, as God saith by the mouth of Isaiah. And forasmuch as they shall not ween that they may die for pain, and by death flee from pain, that may they understand in the word of Job, that saith, “There is the shadow of death.” Certes a shadow hath the likeness of the thing of which it is shadowed, but the shadow is not the same thing of which it is shadowed: right so fareth the pain of hell; it is like death, for the horrible anguish; and why? for it paineth them ever as though they should die anon; but certes they shall not die. For, as saith Saint Gregory, “To wretched caitiffs shall be given death without death, and end without end, and default without failing; for their death shall always live, and their end shall evermore begin, and their default shall never fail.” And therefore saith Saint John the Evangelist, “They shall follow death, and they shall not find him, and they shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.” And eke Job saith, that in hell is no order of rule. And albeit that God hath created all things in right order, and nothing without order, but all things be ordered and numbered, yet nevertheless they that be damned be not in order, nor hold no order. For the earth shall bear them no fruit (for, as the prophet David saith, “God shall destroy the fruit of the earth, as for them”); nor water shall give them no moisture, nor the air no refreshing, nor the fire no light. For as saith Saint Basil, “The burning of the fire of this world shall God give in hell to them that be damned, but the light and the clearness shall be given in heaven to his children; right as the good man giveth flesh to his children, and bones to his hounds.” And for they shall have no hope to escape, saith Job at last, that there shall horror and grisly dread dwell without end. Horror is always dread of harm that is to come, and this dread shall ever dwell in the hearts of them that be damned. And therefore have they lost all their hope for seven causes. First, for God that is their judge shall be without mercy to them; nor they may not please him; nor none of his hallows [saints]; nor they may give nothing for their ransom; nor they have no voice to speak to him; nor they may not flee from pain; nor they have no goodness in them that they may shew to deliver them from pain.

[Under the fourth head, of good works, the Parson says: —]

The courteous Lord Jesus Christ will that no good work be lost, for in somewhat it shall avail. But forasmuch as the good works that men do while they be in good life be all amortised [killed, deadened] by sin following, and also since all the good works that men do while they be in deadly sin be utterly dead, as for to have the life perdurable [everlasting], well may that man that no good works doth, sing that new French song, J’ai tout perdu — mon temps et mon labour <5>. For certes, sin bereaveth a man both the goodness of nature, and eke the goodness of grace. For soothly the grace of the Holy Ghost fareth like fire, that may not be idle; for fire faileth anon as it forleteth [leaveth] its working, and right so grace faileth anon as it forleteth its working. Then loseth the sinful man the goodness of glory, that only is to good men that labour and work. Well may he be sorry then, that oweth all his life to God, as long as he hath lived, and also as long as he shall live, that no goodness hath to pay with his debt to God, to whom he oweth all his life: for trust well he shall give account, as saith Saint Bernard, of all the goods that have been given him in his present life, and how he hath them dispended, insomuch that there shall not perish an hair of his head, nor a moment of an hour shall not perish of his time, that he shall not give thereof a reckoning.

[Having treated of the causes, the Parson comes to the manner, of contrition — which should be universal and total, not merely of outward deeds of sin, but also of wicked delights and thoughts and words; “for certes Almighty God is all good, and therefore either he forgiveth all, or else right naught.” Further, contrition should be “wonder sorrowful and anguishous,” and also continual, with steadfast purpose of confession and amendment. Lastly, of what contrition availeth, the Parson says, that sometimes it delivereth man from sin; that without it neither confession nor satisfaction is of any worth; that it “destroyeth the prison of hell, and maketh weak and feeble all the strengths of the devils, and restoreth the gifts of the Holy Ghost and of all good virtues, and cleanseth the soul of sin, and delivereth it from the pain of hell, and from the company of the devil, and from the servage [slavery] of sin, and restoreth it to all goods spiritual, and to the company and communion of Holy Church.” He who should set his intent to these things, would no longer be inclined to sin, but would give his heart and body to the service of Jesus Christ, and thereof do him homage. “For, certes, our Lord Jesus Christ hath spared us so benignly in our follies, that if he had not pity on man’s soul, a sorry song might we all sing.”

The Second Part of the Parson’s Tale or Treatise opens with an explanation of what is confession — which is termed “the second part of penitence, that is, sign of contrition;” whether it ought needs be done or not; and what things be convenable to true confession. Confession is true shewing of sins to the priest, without excusing, hiding, or forwrapping [disguising] of anything, and without vaunting of good works. “Also, it is necessary to understand whence that sins spring, and how they increase, and which they be.” From Adam we took original sin; “from him fleshly descended be we all, and engendered of vile and corrupt matter;” and the penalty of Adam’s transgression dwelleth with us as to temptation, which penalty is called concupiscence. “This concupiscence, when it is wrongfully disposed or ordained in a man, it maketh him covet, by covetise of flesh, fleshly sin by sight of his eyes, as to earthly things, and also covetise of highness by pride of heart.” The Parson proceeds to shew how man is tempted in his flesh to sin; how, after his natural concupiscence, comes suggestion of the devil, that is to say the devil’s bellows, with which he bloweth in man the fire of con cupiscence; and how man then bethinketh him whether he will do or no the thing to which he is tempted. If he flame up into pleasure at the thought, and give way, then is he all dead in soul; “and thus is sin accomplished, by temptation, by delight, and by consenting; and then is the sin actual.” Sin is either venial, or deadly; deadly, when a man loves any creature more than Jesus Christ our Creator, venial, if he love Jesus Christ less than he ought. Venial sins diminish man’s love to God more and more, and may in this wise skip into deadly sin; for many small make a great. “And hearken this example: A great wave of the sea cometh sometimes with so great a violence, that it drencheth [causes to sink] the ship: and the same harm do sometimes the small drops, of water that enter through a little crevice in the thurrok [hold, bilge], and in the bottom of the ship, if men be so negligent that they discharge them not betimes. And therefore, although there be difference betwixt these two causes of drenching, algates [in any case] the ship is dreint [sunk]. Right so fareth it sometimes of deadly sin,” and of venial sins when they multiply in a man so greatly as to make him love worldly things more than God. The Parson then enumerates specially a number of sins which many a man peradventure deems no sins, and confesses them not, and yet nevertheless they are truly sins: — ]

This is to say, at every time that a man eateth and drinketh more than sufficeth to the sustenance of his body, in certain he doth sin; eke when he speaketh more than it needeth, he doth sin; eke when he heareth not benignly the complaint of the poor; eke when he is in health of body, and will not fast when other folk fast, without cause reasonable; eke when he sleepeth more than needeth, or when he cometh by that occasion too late to church, or to other works of charity; eke when he useth his wife without sovereign desire of engendrure, to the honour of God, or for the intent to yield his wife his debt of his body; eke when he will not visit the sick, or the prisoner, if he may; eke if he love wife, or child, or other worldly thing, more than reason requireth; eke if he flatter or blandish more than he ought for any necessity; eke if he minish or withdraw the alms of the poor; eke if he apparail [prepare] his meat more deliciously than need is, or eat it too hastily by likerousness [gluttony]; eke if he talk vanities in the church, or at God’s service, or that he be a talker of idle words of folly or villainy, for he shall yield account of them at the day of doom; eke when he behighteth [promiseth] or assureth to do things that he may not perform; eke when that by lightness of folly he missayeth or scorneth his neighbour; eke when he hath any wicked suspicion of thing, that he wot of it no soothfastness: these things, and more without number, be sins, as saith Saint Augustine.

[No earthly man may eschew all venial sins; yet may he refrain him, by the burning love that he hath to our Lord Jesus Christ, and by prayer and confession, and other good works, so that it shall but little grieve. “Furthermore, men may also refrain and put away venial sin, by receiving worthily the precious body of Jesus Christ; by receiving eke of holy water; by alms-deed; by general confession of Confiteor at mass, and at prime, and at compline [evening service]; and by blessing of bishops and priests, and by other good works.” The Parson then proceeds to weightier matters:— ]

Now it is behovely [profitable, necessary] to tell which be deadly sins, that is to say, chieftains of sins; forasmuch as all they run in one leash, but in diverse manners. Now be they called chieftains, forasmuch as they be chief, and of them spring all other sins. The root of these sins, then, is pride, the general root of all harms. For of this root spring certain branches: as ire, envy, accidie <6> or sloth, avarice or covetousness (to common understanding), gluttony, and lechery: and each of these sins hath his branches and his twigs, as shall be declared in their chapters following. And though so be, that no man can tell utterly the number of the twigs, and of the harms that come of pride, yet will I shew a part of them, as ye shall understand. There is inobedience, vaunting, hypocrisy, despite, arrogance, impudence, swelling of hearte, insolence, elation, impatience, strife, contumacy, presumption, irreverence, pertinacity, vain- glory and many another twig that I cannot tell nor declare. . . .]

And yet [moreover] there is a privy species of pride that waiteth first to be saluted ere he will salute, all [although] be he less worthy than that other is; and eke he waiteth [expecteth] or desireth to sit or to go above him in the way, or kiss the pax, <7> or be incensed, or go to offering before his neighbour, and such semblable [like] things, against his duty peradventure, but that he hath his heart and his intent in such a proud desire to be magnified and honoured before the people. Now be there two manner of prides; the one of them is within the heart of a man, and the other is without. Of which soothly these foresaid things, and more than I have said, appertain to pride that is within the heart of a man and there be other species of pride that be without: but nevertheless, the one of these species of pride is sign of the other, right as the gay levesell [bush] at the tavern is sign of the wine that is in the cellar. And this is in many things: as in speech and countenance, and outrageous array of clothing; for certes, if there had been no sin in clothing, Christ would not so soon have noted and spoken of the clothing of that rich man in the gospel. And Saint Gregory saith, that precious clothing is culpable for the dearth [dearness] of it, and for its softness, and for its strangeness and disguising, and for the superfluity or for the inordinate scantness of it; alas! may not a man see in our days the sinful costly array of clothing, and namely [specially] in too much superfluity, or else in too disordinate scantness? As to the first sin, in superfluity of clothing, which that maketh it so dear, to the harm of the people, not only the cost of the embroidering, the disguising, indenting or barring, ounding, paling, <8> winding, or banding, and semblable [similar] waste of cloth in vanity; but there is also the costly furring [lining or edging with fur] in their gowns, so much punching of chisels to make holes, so much dagging [cutting] of shears, with the superfluity in length of the foresaid gowns, trailing in the dung and in the mire, on horse and eke on foot, as well of man as of woman, that all that trailing is verily (as in effect) wasted, consumed, threadbare, and rotten with dung, rather than it is given to the poor, to great damage of the foresaid poor folk, and that in sundry wise: this is to say, the more that cloth is wasted, the more must it cost to the poor people for the scarceness; and furthermore, if so be that they would give such punched and dagged clothing to the poor people, it is not convenient to wear for their estate, nor sufficient to boot [help, remedy] their necessity, to keep them from the distemperance [inclemency] of the firmament. Upon the other side, to speak of the horrible disordinate scantness of clothing, as be these cutted slops or hanselines [breeches] , that through their shortness cover not the shameful member of man, to wicked intent alas! some of them shew the boss and the shape of the horrible swollen members, that seem like to the malady of hernia, in the wrapping of their hosen, and eke the buttocks of them, that fare as it were the hinder part of a she-ape in the full of the moon. And more over the wretched swollen members that they shew through disguising, in departing [dividing] of their hosen in white and red, seemeth that half their shameful privy members were flain [flayed]. And if so be that they depart their hosen in other colours, as is white and blue, or white and black, or black and red, and so forth; then seemeth it, by variance of colour, that the half part of their privy members be corrupt by the fire of Saint Anthony, or by canker, or other such mischance. And of the hinder part of their buttocks it is full horrible to see, for certes, in that part of their body where they purge their stinking ordure, that foul part shew they to the people proudly in despite of honesty [decency], which honesty Jesus Christ and his friends observed to shew in his life. Now as of the outrageous array of women, God wot, that though the visages of some of them seem full chaste and debonair [gentle], yet notify they, in their array of attire, likerousness and pride. I say not that honesty [reasonable and appropriate style] in clothing of man or woman unconvenable but, certes, the superfluity or disordinate scarcity of clothing is reprovable. Also the sin of their ornament, or of apparel, as in things that appertain to riding, as in too many delicate horses, that be holden for delight, that be so fair, fat, and costly; and also in many a vicious knave, [servant] that is sustained because of them; in curious harness, as in saddles, cruppers, peytrels, [breast-plates] and bridles, covered with precious cloth and rich bars and plates of gold and silver. For which God saith by Zechariah the prophet, “I will confound the riders of such horses.” These folk take little regard of the riding of God’s Son of heaven, and of his harness, when he rode upon an ass, and had no other harness but the poor clothes of his disciples; nor we read not that ever he rode on any other beast. I speak this for the sin of superfluity, and not for reasonable honesty [seemliness], when reason it requireth. And moreover, certes, pride is greatly notified in holding of great meinie [retinue of servants], when they be of little profit or of right no profit, and namely [especially] when that meinie is felonous [violent ] and damageous [harmful] to the people by hardiness [arrogance] of high lordship, or by way of office; for certes, such lords sell then their lordship to the devil of hell, when they sustain the wickedness of their meinie. Or else, when these folk of low degree, as they that hold hostelries, sustain theft of their hostellers, and that is in many manner of deceits: that manner of folk be the flies that follow the honey, or else the hounds that follow the carrion. Such foresaid folk strangle spiritually their lordships; for which thus saith David the prophet, “Wicked death may come unto these lordships, and God give that they may descend into hell adown; for in their houses is iniquity and shrewedness, [impiety] and not God of heaven.” And certes, but if [unless] they do amendment, right as God gave his benison [blessing] to Laban by the service of Jacob, and to Pharaoh by the service of Joseph; right so God will give his malison [condemnation] to such lordships as sustain the wickedness of their servants, but [unless] they come to amendment. Pride of the table apaireth [worketh harm] eke full oft; for, certes, rich men be called to feasts, and poor folk be put away and rebuked; also in excess of divers meats and drinks, and namely [specially] such manner bake-meats and dish-meats burning of wild fire, and painted and castled with paper, and semblable [similar] waste, so that it is abuse to think. And eke in too great preciousness of vessel, [plate] and curiosity of minstrelsy, by which a man is stirred more to the delights of luxury, if so be that he set his heart the less upon our Lord Jesus Christ, certain it is a sin; and certainly the delights might be so great in this case, that a man might lightly [easily] fall by them into deadly sin.

[The sins that arise of pride advisedly and habitually are deadly; those that arise by frailty unadvised suddenly, and suddenly withdraw again, though grievous, are not deadly. Pride itself springs sometimes of the goods of nature, sometimes of the goods of fortune, sometimes of the goods of grace; but the Parson, enumerating and examining all these in turn, points out how little security they possess and how little ground for pride they furnish, and goes on to enforce the remedy against pride — which is humility or meekness, a virtue through which a man hath true knowledge of himself, and holdeth no high esteem of himself in regard of his deserts, considering ever his frailty.]

Now be there three manners [kinds] of humility; as humility in heart, and another in the mouth, and the third in works. The humility in the heart is in four manners: the one is, when a man holdeth himself as nought worth before God of heaven; the second is, when he despiseth no other man; the third is, when he recketh not though men hold him nought worth; the fourth is, when he is not sorry of his humiliation. Also the humility of mouth is in four things: in temperate speech; in humility of speech; and when he confesseth with his own mouth that he is such as he thinketh that he is in his heart; another is, when he praiseth the bounte [goodness] of another man and nothing thereof diminisheth. Humility eke in works is in four manners: the first is, when he putteth other men before him; the second is, to choose the lowest place of all; the third is, gladly to assent to good counsel; the fourth is, to stand gladly by the award [judgment] of his sovereign, or of him that is higher in degree: certain this is a great work of humility.

[The Parson proceeds to treat of the other cardinal sins, and their remedies: (2.) Envy, with its remedy, the love of God principally and of our neighbours as ourselves: (3.) Anger, with all its fruits in revenge, rancour, hate, discord, manslaughter, blasphemy, swearing, falsehood, flattery, chiding and reproving, scorning, treachery, sowing of strife, doubleness of tongue, betraying of counsel to a man’s disgrace, menacing, idle words, jangling, japery or buffoonery, &c. — and its remedy in the virtues called mansuetude, debonairte, or gentleness, and patience or sufferance: (4.) Sloth, or “Accidie,” which comes after the sin of Anger, because Envy blinds the eyes of a man, and Anger troubleth a man, and Sloth maketh him heavy, thoughtful, and peevish. It is opposed to every estate of man — as unfallen, and held to work in praising and adoring God; as sinful, and held to labour in praying for deliverance from sin; and as in the state of grace, and held to works of penitence. It resembles the heavy and sluggish condition of those in hell; it will suffer no hardness and no penance; it prevents any beginning of good works; it causes despair of God’s mercy, which is the sin against the Holy Ghost; it induces somnolency and neglect of communion in prayer with God; and it breeds negligence or recklessness, that cares for nothing, and is the nurse of all mischiefs, if ignorance is their mother. Against Sloth, and these and other branches and fruits of it, the remedy lies in the virtue of fortitude or strength, in its various species of magnanimity or great courage; faith and hope in God and his saints; surety or sickerness, when a man fears nothing that can oppose the good works he has under taken; magnificence, when he carries out great works of goodness begun; constancy or stableness of heart; and other incentives to energy and laborious service: (5.) Avarice, or Covetousness, which is the root of all harms, since its votaries are idolaters, oppressors and enslavers of men, deceivers of their equals in business, simoniacs, gamblers, liars, thieves, false swearers, blasphemers, murderers, and sacrilegious. Its remedy lies in compassion and pity largely exercised, and in reasonable liberality — for those who spend on “fool-largesse,” or ostentation of worldly estate and luxury, shall receive the malison [condemnation] that Christ shall give at the day of doom to them that shall be damned: (6.) Gluttony; — of which the Parson treats so briefly that the chapter may be given in full: — ]

After Avarice cometh Gluttony, which is express against the commandment of God. Gluttony is unmeasurable appetite to eat or to drink; or else to do in aught to the unmeasurable appetite and disordered covetousness [craving] to eat or drink. This sin corrupted all this world, as is well shewed in the sin of Adam and of Eve. Look also what saith Saint Paul of gluttony: “Many,” saith he, “go, of which I have oft said to you, and now I say it weeping, that they be enemies of the cross of Christ, of which the end is death, and of which their womb [stomach] is their God and their glory;” in confusion of them that so savour [take delight in] earthly things. He that is usant [accustomed, addicted] to this sin of gluttony, he may no sin withstand, he must be in servage [bondage] of all vices, for it is the devil’s hoard, [lair, lurking-place] where he hideth him in and resteth. This sin hath many species. The first is drunkenness, that is the horrible sepulture of man’s reason: and therefore when a man is drunken, he hath lost his reason; and this is deadly sin. But soothly, when that a man is not wont to strong drink, and peradventure knoweth not the strength of the drink, or hath feebleness in his head, or hath travailed [laboured], through which he drinketh the more, all [although] be he suddenly caught with drink, it is no deadly sin, but venial. The second species of gluttony is, that the spirit of a man waxeth all troubled for drunkenness, and bereaveth a man the discretion of his wit. The third species of gluttony is, when a man devoureth his meat, and hath no rightful manner of eating. The fourth is, when, through the great abundance of his meat, the humours of his body be distempered. The fifth is, forgetfulness by too much drinking, for which a man sometimes forgetteth by the morrow what be did at eve. In other manner be distinct the species of gluttony, after Saint Gregory. The first is, for to eat or drink before time. The second is, when a man getteth him too delicate meat or drink. The third is, when men take too much over measure [immoderately]. The fourth is curiosity [nicety] with great intent [application, pains] to make and apparel [prepare] his meat. The fifth is, for to eat too greedily. These be the five fingers of the devil’s hand, by which he draweth folk to the sin.

Against gluttony the remedy is abstinence, as saith Galen; but that I hold not meritorious, if he do it only for the health of his body. Saint Augustine will that abstinence be done for virtue, and with patience. Abstinence, saith he, is little worth, but if [unless] a man have good will thereto, and but it be enforced by patience and by charity, and that men do it for God’s sake, and in hope to have the bliss in heaven. The fellows of abstinence be temperance, that holdeth the mean in all things; also shame, that escheweth all dishonesty [indecency, impropriety], sufficiency, that seeketh no rich meats nor drinks, nor doth no force of [sets no value on] no outrageous apparelling of meat; measure [moderation] also, that restraineth by reason the unmeasurable appetite of eating; soberness also, that restraineth the outrage of drink; sparing also, that restraineth the delicate ease to sit long at meat, wherefore some folk stand of their own will to eat, because they will eat at less leisure.

[At great length the Parson then points out the many varieties of the sin of (7.) Lechery, and its remedy in chastity and continence, alike in marriage and in widowhood; also in the abstaining from all such indulgences of eating, drinking, and sleeping as inflame the passions, and from the company of all who may tempt to the sin. Minute guidance is given as to the duty of confessing fully and faithfully the circumstances that attend and may aggravate this sin; and the Treatise then passes to the consideration of the conditions that are essential to a true and profitable confession of sin in general. First, it must be in sorrowful bitterness of spirit; a condition that has five signs — shamefastness, humility in heart and outward sign, weeping with the bodily eyes or in the heart, disregard of the shame that might curtail or garble confession, and obedience to the penance enjoined. Secondly, true confession must be promptly made, for dread of death, of increase of sinfulness, of forgetfulness of what should be confessed, of Christ’s refusal to hear if it be put off to the last day of life; and this condition has four terms; that confession be well pondered beforehand, that the man confessing have comprehended in his mind the number and greatness of his sins and how long he has lain in sin, that he be contrite for and eschew his sins, and that he fear and flee the occasions for that sin to which he is inclined. — What follows under this head is of some interest for the light which it throws on the rigorous government wielded by the Romish Church in those days —]

Also thou shalt shrive thee of all thy sins to one man, and not a parcel [portion] to one man, and a parcel to another; that is to understand, in intent to depart [divide] thy confession for shame or dread; for it is but strangling of thy soul. For certes Jesus Christ is entirely all good, in him is none imperfection, and therefore either he forgiveth all perfectly, or else never a deal [not at all]. I say not that if thou be assigned to thy penitencer <9> for a certain sin, that thou art bound to shew him all the remnant of thy sins, of which thou hast been shriven of thy curate, but if it like thee [unless thou be pleased] of thy humility; this is no departing [division] of shrift. And I say not, where I speak of division of confession, that if thou have license to shrive thee to a discreet and an honest priest, and where thee liketh, and by the license of thy curate, that thou mayest not well shrive thee to him of all thy sins: but let no blot be behind, let no sin be untold as far as thou hast remembrance. And when thou shalt be shriven of thy curate, tell him eke all the sins that thou hast done since thou wert last shriven. This is no wicked intent of division of shrift. Also, very shrift [true confession] asketh certain conditions. First, that thou shrive thee by thy free will, not constrained, nor for shame of folk, nor for malady [sickness], or such things: for it is reason, that he that trespasseth by his free will, that by his free will he confess his trespass; and that no other man tell his sin but himself; nor he shall not nay nor deny his sin, nor wrath him against the priest for admonishing him to leave his sin. The second condition is, that thy shrift be lawful, that is to say, that thou that shrivest thee, and eke the priest that heareth thy confession, be verily in the faith of Holy Church, and that a man be not despaired of the mercy of Jesus Christ, as Cain and Judas were. And eke a man must accuse himself of his own trespass, and not another: but he shall blame and wite [accuse] himself of his own malice and of his sin, and none other: but nevertheless, if that another man be occasion or else enticer of his sin, or the estate of the person be such by which his sin is aggravated, or else that be may not plainly shrive him but [unless] he tell the person with which he hath sinned, then may he tell, so that his intent be not to backbite the person, but only to declare his confession. Thou shalt not eke make no leasings [falsehoods] in thy confession for humility, peradventure, to say that thou hast committed and done such sins of which that thou wert never guilty. For Saint Augustine saith, “If that thou, because of humility, makest a leasing on thyself, though thou were not in sin before, yet art thou then in sin through thy leasing.” Thou must also shew thy sin by thine own proper mouth, but [unless] thou be dumb, and not by letter; for thou that hast done the sin, thou shalt have the shame of the confession. Thou shalt not paint thy confession with fair and subtle words, to cover the more thy sin; for then beguilest thou thyself, and not the priest; thou must tell it plainly, be it never so foul nor so horrible. Thou shalt eke shrive thee to a priest that is discreet to counsel thee; and eke thou shalt not shrive thee for vain-glory, nor for hypocrisy, nor for no cause but only for the doubt [fear] of Jesus’ Christ and the health of thy soul. Thou shalt not run to the priest all suddenly, to tell him lightly thy sin, as who telleth a jape [jest] or a tale, but advisedly and with good devotion; and generally shrive thee oft; if thou oft fall, oft arise by confession. And though thou shrive thee oftener than once of sin of which thou hast been shriven, it is more merit; and, as saith Saint Augustine, thou shalt have the more lightly [easily] release and grace of God, both of sin and of pain. And certes, once a year at the least way, it is lawful to be houseled, <10> for soothly once a year all things in the earth renovelen [renew themselves].

[Here ends the Second Part of the Treatise; the Third Part, which contains the practical application of the whole, follows entire, along with the remarkable “Prayer of Chaucer,” as it stands in the Harleian Manuscript:—]

De Tertia Parte Poenitentiae. [Of the third part of penitence]

Now have I told you of very [true] confession, that is the second part of penitence: The third part of penitence is satisfaction, and that standeth generally in almsdeed and bodily pain. Now be there three manner of almsdeed: contrition of heart, where a man offereth himself to God; the second is, to have pity of the default of his neighbour; the third is, in giving of good counsel and comfort, ghostly and bodily, where men have need, and namely [specially] sustenance of man’s food. And take keep [heed] that a man hath need of these things generally; he hath need of food, of clothing, and of herberow [lodging], he hath need of charitable counsel and visiting in prison and malady, and sepulture of his dead body. And if thou mayest not visit the needful with thy person, visit them by thy message and by thy gifts. These be generally alms or works of charity of them that have temporal riches or discretion in counselling. Of these works shalt thou hear at the day of doom. This alms shouldest thou do of thine own proper things, and hastily [promptly], and privily [secretly] if thou mayest; but nevertheless, if thou mayest not do it privily, thou shalt not forbear to do alms, though men see it, so that it be not done for thank of the world, but only for thank of Jesus Christ. For, as witnesseth Saint Matthew, chap. v., “A city may not be hid that is set on a mountain, nor men light not a lantern and put it under a bushel, but men set it on a candlestick, to light the men in the house; right so shall your light lighten before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father that is in heaven.”

Now as to speak of bodily pain, it is in prayer, in wakings, [watchings] in fastings, and in virtuous teachings. Of orisons ye shall understand, that orisons or prayers is to say a piteous will of heart, that redresseth it in God, and expresseth it by word outward, to remove harms, and to have things spiritual and durable, and sometimes temporal things. Of which orisons, certes in the orison of the Pater noster hath our Lord Jesus Christ enclosed most things. Certes, it is privileged of three things in its dignity, for which it is more digne [worthy] than any other prayer: for Jesus Christ himself made it: and it is short, for [in order] it should be coude the more lightly, [be more easily conned or learned] and to withhold [retain] it the more easy in heart, and help himself the oftener with this orison; and for a man should be the less weary to say it; and for a man may not excuse him to learn it, it is so short and so easy: and for it comprehendeth in itself all good prayers. The exposition of this holy prayer, that is so excellent and so digne, I betake [commit] to these masters of theology; save thus much will I say, when thou prayest that God should forgive thee thy guilts, as thou forgivest them that they guilt to thee, be full well ware that thou be not out of charity. This holy orison aminisheth [lesseneth] eke venial sin, and therefore it appertaineth specially to penitence. This prayer must be truly said, and in very faith, and that men pray to God ordinately, discreetly, and devoutly; and always a man shall put his will to be subject to the will of God. This orison must eke be said with great humbleness and full pure, and honestly, and not to the annoyance of any man or woman. It must eke be continued with the works of charity. It availeth against the vices of the soul; for, assaith Saint Jerome, by fasting be saved the vices of the flesh, and by prayer the vices of the soul

After this thou shalt understand, that bodily pain stands in waking [watching]. For Jesus Christ saith “Wake and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.” Ye shall understand also, that fasting stands in three things: in forbearing of bodily meat and drink, and in forbearing of worldly jollity, and in forbearing of deadly sin; this is to say, that a man shall keep him from deadly sin in all that he may. And thou shalt understand eke, that God ordained fasting; and to fasting appertain four things: largeness [generosity] to poor folk; gladness of heart spiritual; not to be angry nor annoyed nor grudge [murmur] for he fasteth; and also reasonable hour for to eat by measure; that is to say, a man should not eat in untime [out of time], nor sit the longer at his meal for [because] he fasteth. Then shalt thou understand, that bodily pain standeth in discipline, or teaching, by word, or by writing, or by ensample. Also in wearing of hairs [haircloth] or of stamin [coarse hempen cloth], or of habergeons [mail-shirts] <11> on their naked flesh for Christ’s sake; but ware thee well that such manner penance of thy flesh make not thine heart bitter or angry, nor annoyed of thyself; for better is to cast away thine hair than to cast away the sweetness of our Lord Jesus Christ. And therefore saith Saint Paul, “Clothe you, as they that be chosen of God in heart, of misericorde [with compassion], debonairte [gentleness], sufferance [patience], and such manner of clothing,” of which Jesus Christ is more apaid [better pleased] than of hairs or of hauberks. Then is discipline eke in knocking of thy breast, in scourging with yards [rods], in kneelings, in tribulations, in suffering patiently wrongs that be done to him, and eke in patient sufferance of maladies, or losing of worldly catel [chattels], or of wife, or of child, or of other friends.

Then shalt thou understand which things disturb penance, and this is in four things; that is dread, shame, hope, and wanhope, that is, desperation. And for to speak first of dread, for which he weeneth that he may suffer no penance, thereagainst is remedy for to think that bodily penance is but short and little at the regard of [in comparison with] the pain of hell, that is so cruel and so long, that it lasteth without end. Now against the shame that a man hath to shrive him, and namely [specially] these hypocrites, that would be holden so perfect, that they have no need to shrive them; against that shame should a man think, that by way of reason he that hath not been ashamed to do foul things, certes he ought not to be ashamed to do fair things, and that is confession. A man should eke think, that God seeth and knoweth all thy thoughts, and all thy works; to him may nothing be hid nor covered. Men should eke remember them of the shame that is to come at the day of doom, to them that be not penitent and shriven in this present life; for all the creatures in heaven, and in earth, and in hell, shall see apertly [openly] all that he hideth in this world.

Now for to speak of them that be so negligent and slow to shrive them; that stands in two manners. The one is, that he hopeth to live long, and to purchase [acquire] much riches for his delight, and then he will shrive him: and, as he sayeth, he may, as him seemeth, timely enough come to shrift: another is, the surquedrie [presumption <12>] that he hath in Christ’s mercy. Against the first vice, he shall think that our life is in no sickerness, [security] and eke that all the riches in this world be in adventure, and pass as a shadow on the wall; and, as saith St Gregory, that it appertaineth to the great righteousness of God, that never shall the pain stint [cease] of them, that never would withdraw them from sin, their thanks [with their goodwill], but aye continue in sin; for that perpetual will to do sin shall they have perpetual pain. Wanhope [despair] is in two manners [of two kinds]. The first wanhope is, in the mercy of God: the other is, that they think they might not long persevere in goodness. The first wanhope cometh of that he deemeth that he sinned so highly and so oft, and so long hath lain in sin, that he shall not be saved. Certes against that cursed wanhope should he think, that the passion of Jesus Christ is more strong for to unbind, than sin is strong for to bind. Against the second wanhope he shall think, that as oft as he falleth, he may arise again by penitence; and though he never so long hath lain in sin, the mercy of Christ is always ready to receive him to mercy. Against the wanhope that he thinketh he should not long persevere in goodness, he shall think that the feebleness of the devil may nothing do, but [unless] men will suffer him; and eke he shall have strength of the help of God, and of all Holy Church, and of the protection of angels, if him list.

Then shall men understand, what is the fruit of penance; and after the word of Jesus Christ, it is the endless bliss of heaven, where joy hath no contrariety of woe nor of penance nor grievance; there all harms be passed of this present life; there as is the sickerness [security] from the pain of hell; there as is the blissful company, that rejoice them evermore each of the other’s joy; there as the body of man, that whilom was foul and dark, is more clear than the sun; there as the body of man that whilom was sick and frail, feeble and mortal, is immortal, and so strong and so whole, that there may nothing apair [impair, injure] it; there is neither hunger, nor thirst, nor cold, but every soul replenished with the sight of the perfect knowing of God. This blissful regne [kingdom] may men purchase by poverty spiritual, and the glory by lowliness, the plenty of joy by hunger and thirst, the rest by travail, and the life by death and mortification of sin; to which life He us bring, that bought us with his precious blood! Amen.

Notes to the Parson’s Tale

1. The Parson’s Tale is believed to be a translation, more or less free, from some treatise on penitence that was in favour about Chaucer’s time. Tyrwhitt says: “I cannot recommend it as a very entertaining or edifying performance at this day; but the reader will please to remember, in excuse both of Chaucer and of his editor, that, considering The Canterbury Tales as a great picture of life and manners, the piece would not have been complete if it had not included the religion of the time.” The Editor of the present volume has followed the same plan adopted with regard to Chaucer’s Tale of Meliboeus, and mainly for the same reasons. (See note 1 to that Tale). An outline of the Parson’s ponderous sermon — for such it is — has been drawn; while those passages have been given in full which more directly illustrate the social and the religious life of the time — such as the picture of hell, the vehement and rather coarse, but, in an antiquarian sense, most curious and valuable attack on the fashionable garb of the day, the catalogue of venial sins, the description of gluttony and its remedy, &c. The brief third or concluding part, which contains the application of the whole, and the “Retractation” or “Prayer” that closes the Tale and the entire “magnum opus” of Chaucer, have been given in full.

2. Jeremiah vi. 16.

3. See Note 3 to the Sompnour’s Tale.

4. Just before, the Parson had cited the words of Job to God (Job x. 20-22), “Suffer, Lord, that I may a while bewail and weep, ere I go without returning to the dark land, covered with the darkness of death; to the land of misease and of darkness, where as is the shadow of death; where as is no order nor ordinance, but grisly dread that ever shall last.”

5. “I have lost everything – my time and my work.”

6. Accidie: neglectfulness or indifference; from the Greek, akedeia.

7. The pax: an image which was presented to the people to be kissed, at that part of the mass where the priest said, “Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum.” (“May the peace of the Lord be always with you”) The ceremony took the place, for greater convenience, of the “kiss of peace,” which clergy and people, at this passage, used to bestow upon each other.

8. Three ways of ornamenting clothes with lace, &c.; in barring it was laid on crossways, in ounding it was waved, in paling it was laid on lengthways.

9. Penitencer: a priest who enjoined penance in extraordinary cases.

10. To be houseled: to receive the holy sacrament; from Anglo- Saxon, “husel;” Latin, “hostia,” or “hostiola,” the host.

11. It was a frequent penance among the chivalric orders to wear mail shirts next the skin.

12. Surquedrie: presumption; from old French, “surcuider,” to think arrogantly, be full of conceit.

*PRECES DE CHAUCERES* <1> *Prayer of Chaucer*

Now pray I to you all that hear this little treatise or read it, that if there be anything in it that likes them, that thereof they thank our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom proceedeth all wit and all goodness; and if there be anything that displeaseth them, I pray them also that they arette [impute] it to the default of mine unconning [unskilfulness], and not to my will, that would fain have said better if I had had conning; for the book saith, all that is written for our doctrine is written. Wherefore I beseech you meekly for the mercy of God that ye pray for me, that God have mercy on me and forgive me my guilts, and namely [specially] my translations and of inditing in worldly vanities, which I revoke in my Retractions, as is the Book of Troilus, the Book also of Fame, the Book of Twenty-five Ladies, the Book of the Duchess, the Book of Saint Valentine’s Day and of the Parliament of Birds, the Tales of Canter bury, all those that sounen unto sin, [are sinful, tend towards sin] the Book of the Lion, and many other books, if they were in my mind or remembrance, and many a song and many a lecherous lay, of the which Christ for his great mercy forgive me the sins. But of the translation of Boece de Consolatione, and other books of consolation and of legend of lives of saints, and homilies, and moralities, and devotion, that thank I our Lord Jesus Christ, and his mother, and all the saints in heaven, beseeching them that they from henceforth unto my life’s end send me grace to bewail my guilts, and to study to the salvation of my soul, and grant me grace and space of very repentance, penitence, confession, and satisfaction, to do in this present life, through the benign grace of Him that is King of kings and Priest of all priests, that bought us with his precious blood of his heart, so that I may be one of them at the day of doom that shall be saved: Qui cum Patre et Spiritu Sancto vivis et regnas Deus per omnia secula. Amen. <2>

Notes to the Prayer of Chaucer

1. The genuineness and real significance of this “Prayer of Chaucer,” usually called his “Retractation,” have been warmly disputed. On the one hand, it has been declared that the monks forged the retractation. and procured its insertion among the works of the man who had done so much to expose their abuses and ignorance, and to weaken their hold on popular credulity: on the other hand, Chaucer himself at the close of his life, is said to have greatly lamented the ribaldry and the attacks on the clergy which marked especially “The Canterbury Tales,” and to have drawn up a formal retractation of which the “Prayer” is either a copy or an abridgment. The beginning and end of the “Prayer,” as Tyrwhitt points out, are in tone and terms quite appropriate in the mouth of the Parson, while they carry on the subject of which he has been treating; and, despite the fact that Mr Wright holds the contrary opinion, Tyrwhitt seems to be justified in setting down the “Retractation” as interpolated into the close of the Parson’s Tale. Of the circumstances under which the interpolation was made, or the causes by which it was dictated, little or nothing can now be confidently affirmed; but the agreement of the manuscripts and the early editions in giving it, render it impossible to discard it peremptorily as a declaration of prudish or of interested regret, with which Chaucer himself had nothing whatever to do.

2. “[You] Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest God for ever and ever. Amen.”

THE END OF THE CANTERBURY TALES

THE COURT OF LOVE.

“The Court Of Love” was probably Chaucer’s first poem of any consequence. It is believed to have been written at the age, and under the circumstances, of which it contains express mention; that is, when the poet was eighteen years old, and resided as a student at Cambridge, — about the year 1346. The composition is marked by an elegance, care, and finish very different from the bold freedom which in so great measure distinguishes the Canterbury Tales; and the fact is easily explained when we remember that, in the earlier poem, Chaucer followed a beaten path, in which he had many predecessors and competitors, all seeking to sound the praises of love with the grace, the ingenuity, and studious devotion, appropriate to the theme. The story of the poem is exceedingly simple. Under the name of Philogenet, a clerk or scholar of Cambridge, the poet relates that, summoned by Mercury to the Court of Love, he journeys to the splendid castle where the King and Queen of Love, Admetus and Alcestis, keep their state. Discovering among the courtiers a friend named Philobone, a chamberwoman to the Queen, Philogenet is led by her into a circular temple, where, in a tabernacle, sits Venus, with Cupid by her side. While he is surveying the motley crowd of suitors to the goddess, Philogenet is summoned back into the King’s presence, chidden for his tardiness in coming to Court, and commanded to swear observance to the twenty Statutes of Love — which are recited at length. Philogenet then makes his prayers and vows to Venus, desiring that he may have for his love a lady whom he has seen in a dream; and Philobone introduces him to the lady herself, named Rosial, to whom he does suit and service of love. At first the lady is obdurate to his entreaties; but, Philogenet having proved the sincerity of his passion by a fainting fit, Rosial relents, promises her favour, and orders Philobone to conduct him round the Court. The courtiers are then minutely described; but the description is broken off abruptly, and we are introduced to Rosial in the midst of a confession of her love. Finally she commands Philogenet to abide with her until the First of May, when the King of Love will hold high festival; he obeys; and the poem closes with the May Day festival service, celebrated by a choir of birds, who sing an ingenious, but what must have seemed in those days a more than slightly profane, paraphrase or parody of the matins for Trinity Sunday, to the praise of Cupid. From this outline, it will be seen at once that Chaucer’s “Court of Love” is in important particulars different from the institutions which, in the two centuries preceding his own, had so much occupied the attention of poets and gallants, and so powerfully controlled the social life of the noble and refined classes. It is a regal, not a legal, Court which the poet pictures to us; we are not introduced to a regularly constituted and authoritative tribunal in which nice questions of conduct in the relations of lovers are discussed and decided — but to the central and sovereign seat of Love’s authority, where the statutes are moulded, and the decrees are issued, upon which the inferior and special tribunals we have mentioned frame their proceedings. The “Courts of Love,” in Chaucer’s time, had lost none of the prestige and influence which had been conferred upon them by the patronage and participation of Kings, Queens, Emperors, and Popes. But the institution, in its legal or judicial character, was peculiar to France; and although the whole spirit of Chaucer’s poem, especially as regards the esteem and reverence in which women were held, is that which animated the French Courts, his treatment of the subject is broader and more general, consequently more fitted to enlist the interest of English readers. (Transcriber’s note: Modern scholars believe that Chaucer was not the author of this poem)

The poem consists of 206 stanzas of seven lines each; of which, in this edition, eighty-three are represented by a prose abridgement.

With timorous heart, and trembling hand of dread,
Of cunning* naked, bare of eloquence, *skill
Unto the *flow’r of port in womanhead* *one who is the perfection
I write, as he that none intelligence of womanly behaviour*
Of metres hath, <1> nor flowers of sentence,
Save that me list my writing to convey,
In that I can, to please her high nobley.* *nobleness

The blossoms fresh of Tullius’* garden swoot** *Cicero **sweet
Present they not, my matter for to born:* <2> *burnish, polish
Poems of Virgil take here no root,
Nor craft of Galfrid <3> may not here sojourn;
Why *n’am I* cunning? O well may I mourn, *am I not*
For lack of science, that I cannot write
Unto the princess of my life aright!

No terms are dign* unto her excellence, *worthy
So is she sprung of noble stirp* and high; *stock <4>
A world of honour and of reverence
There is in her, this will I testify.
Calliope, <5> thou sister wise and sly,* *skilful
And thou, Minerva, guide me with thy grace,
That language rude my matter not deface!

Thy sugar droppes sweet of Helicon
Distil in me, thou gentle Muse, I pray;
And thee, Melpomene, <6> I call anon
Of ignorance the mist to chase away;
And give me grace so for to write and say,
That she, my lady, of her worthiness,
Accept *in gree* this little short treatess,* *with favour* *treatise

That is entitled thus, The Court of Love.
And ye that be metricians,* me excuse, *skilled versifiers
I you beseech, for Venus’ sake above;
For what I mean in this ye need not muse:
And if so be my lady it refuse
For lack of ornate speech, I would be woe
That I presume to her to write so.

But my intent, and all my busy cure,* *care
Is for to write this treatise, as I can,
Unto my lady, stable, true, and sure,
Faithful and kind, since first that she began
Me to accept in service as her man;
To her be all the pleasure of this book,
That, when *her like,* she may it read and look. *it pleases her*

When [he] was young, at eighteen year of age,
Lusty and light, desirous of pleasance,
Approaching* full sad and ripe corage,<7> *gradually attaining

Then — says the poet — did Love urge him to do him obeisance, and to go “the Court of Love to see, a lite [little] beside the Mount of Citharee.” <8> Mercury bade him, on pain of death, to appear; and he went by strange and far countries in search of the Court. Seeing at last a crowd of people, “as bees,” making their way thither, the poet asked whither they went; and “one that answer’d like a maid” said that they were bound to the Court of Love, at Citheron, where “the King of Love, and all his noble rout [company],

“Dwelleth within a castle royally.”
So them apace I journey’d forth among,
And as he said, so found I there truly;
For I beheld the town — so high and strong,
And high pinnacles, large of height and long,
With plate of gold bespread on ev’ry side,
And precious stones, the stone work for to hide.

No sapphire of Ind, no ruby rich of price,
There lacked then, nor emerald so green,
Balais, Turkeis, <9> nor thing, *to my devise,* *in my judgement*
That may the castle make for to sheen;* *be beautiful
All was as bright as stars in winter be’n;
And Phoebus shone, to make his peace again,
For trespass* done to high estates twain, — *offence

When he had found Venus in the arms of Mars, and hastened to tell Vulcan of his wife’s infidelity <10>. Now he was shining brightly on the castle, “in sign he looked after Love’s grace;” for there is no god in Heaven or in Hell “but he hath been right subject unto Love.” Continuing his description of the castle, Philogenet says that he saw never any so large and high; within and without, it was painted “with many a thousand daisies, red as rose,” and white also, in signification of whom, he knew not; unless it was the flower of Alcestis <11>, who, under Venus, was queen of the place, as Admetus was king;

To whom obey’d the ladies good nineteen <12>,
With many a thousand other, bright of face.
And young men fele* came forth with lusty pace, *many <13>
And aged eke, their homage to dispose;
But what they were, I could not well disclose.

Yet nere* and nere* forth in I gan me dress, *nearer
Into a hall of noble apparail,* *furnishings
With arras <14> spread, and cloth of gold, I guess,
And other silk *of easier avail;* *less difficult, costly, to attain*
Under the *cloth of their estate,* sans fail, *state canopy*
The King and Queen there sat, as I beheld;
It passed joy of *Elysee the feld.* *The Elysian Fields*

There saintes* have their coming and resort, *martyrs for love
To see the King so royally beseen,* *adorned
In purple clad, and eke the Queen *in sort;* *suitably*
And on their heades saw I crownes twain,
With stones frett,* so that it was no pain, *adorned
Withoute meat or drink, to stand and see
The Kinge’s honour and the royalty.

To treat of state affairs, Danger <15> stood by the King, and Disdain by the Queen; who cast her eyes haughtily about, sending forth beams that seemed “shapen like a dart, sharp and piercing, and small and straight of line;” while her hair shone as gold so fine, “dishevel, crisp, down hanging at her back a yard in length.” <16> Amazed and dazzled by her beauty, Philogenet stood perplexed, till he spied a Maid, Philobone — a chamberwoman of the Queen’s — who asked how and on what errand he came thither. Learning that he had been summoned by Mercury, she told him that he ought to have come of his free will, and that he “will be shent [rebuked, disgraced]” because he did not.

“For ye that reign in youth and lustiness,
Pamper’d with ease, and jealous in your age,
Your duty is, as far as I can guess,
To Love’s Court to dresse* your voyage, *direct, address
As soon as Nature maketh you so sage
That ye may know a woman from a swan, <17>
Or when your foot is growen half a span.

“But since that ye, by wilful negligence,
This eighteen year have kept yourself at large,
The greater is your trespass and offence,
And in your neck you must bear all the charge:
For better were ye be withoute barge* *boat
Amid the sea in tempest and in rain,
Than bide here, receiving woe and pain

“That ordained is for such as them absent
From Love’s Court by yeares long and fele.* many
I lay* my life ye shall full soon repent; *wager
For Love will rive your colour, lust, and heal:* *health
Eke ye must bait* on many a heavy meal: *feed
*No force,* y-wis; I stirr’d you long agone *no matter*
To draw to Court,” quoth little Philobone.

“Ye shall well see how rough and angry face
The King of Love will show, when ye him see;
By mine advice kneel down and ask him grace,
Eschewing* peril and adversity; *avoiding
For well I wot it will none other be;
Comfort is none, nor counsel to your ease;
Why will ye then the King of Love displease?”

Thereupon Philogenet professed humble repentance, and willingness to bear all hardship and chastisement for his past offence.

These wordes said, she caught me by the lap,* *edge of the garment
And led me forth into a temple round,
Both large and wide; and, as my blessed hap
And good. adventure was, right soon I found
A tabernacle <18> raised from the ground,
Where Venus sat, and Cupid by her side;
Yet half for dread I gan my visage hide.

And eft* again I looked and beheld, *afterwards
Seeing *full sundry people* in the place, *people of many sorts*
And *mister folk,* and some that might not weld *craftsmen <19>*
Their limbes well, — me thought a wonder case. *use
The temple shone with windows all of glass,
Bright as the day, with many a fair image;
And there I saw the fresh queen of Carthage,

Dido, that brent* her beauty for the love *burnt
Of false Aeneas; and the waimenting* *lamenting
Of her, Annelide, true as turtle dove
To Arcite false; <20> and there was in painting
Of many a Prince, and many a doughty King,
Whose martyrdom was show’d about the walls;
And how that fele* for love had suffer’d falls.** *many **calamities

Philogenet was astonished at the crowd of people that he saw, doing sacrifice to the god and goddess. Philobone informed him that they came from other courts; those who knelt in blue wore the colour in sign of their changeless truth <21>; those in black, who uttered cries of grief, were the sick and dying of love. The priests, nuns, hermits, and friars, and all that sat in white, in russet and in green, “wailed of their woe;” and for all people, of every degree, the Court was open and free. While he walked about with Philobone, a messenger from the King entered, and summoned all the new-come folk to the royal presence. Trembling and pale, Philogenet approached the throne of Admetus, and was sternly asked why he came so late to Court. He pleaded that a hundred times he had been at the gate, but had been prevented from entering by failure to see any of his acquaintances, and by shamefacedness. The King pardoned him, on condition that thenceforth he should serve Love; and the poet took oath to do so, “though Death therefor me thirle [pierce] with his spear.” When the King had seen all the new-comers, he commanded an officer to take their oaths of allegiance, and show them the Statutes of the Court, which must be observed till death.

And, for that I was letter’d, there I read
The statutes whole of Love’s Court and hail:
The first statute that on the book was spread,
Was, To be true in thought and deedes all
Unto the King of Love, the lord royal;
And, to the Queen, as faithful and as kind
As I could think with hearte, will, and mind.

The second statute, Secretly to keep
Counsel* of love, not blowing** ev’rywhere *secrets **talking
All that I know, and let it sink and fleet;* *float
It may not sound in ev’ry wighte’s ear:
Exiling slander ay for dread and fear,
And to my lady, which I love and serve,
Be true and kind, her grace for to deserve.

The third statute was clearly writ also,
Withoute change to live and die the same,
None other love to take, for weal nor woe,
For blind delight, for earnest nor for game:
Without repent, for laughing or for grame,* *vexation, sorrow
To bide still in full perseverance:
All this was whole the Kinge’s ordinance.

The fourth statute, To *purchase ever to her,* *promote her cause*
And stirre folk to love, and bete* fire *kindle
On Venus’ altar, here about and there,
And preach to them of love and hot desire,
And tell how love will quite* well their hire: *reward
This must be kept; and loth me to displease:
If love be wroth, pass; for thereby is ease.

The fifth statute, Not to be dangerous,* *fastidious, angry
If that a thought would reave* me of my sleep: *deprive
Nor of a sight to be over squaimous;* *desirous
And so verily this statute was to keep,
To turn and wallow in my bed and weep,
When that my lady, of her cruelty,
Would from her heart exilen all pity.

The sixth statute, It was for me to use
Alone to wander, void of company,
And on my lady’s beauty for to muse,
And thinken it *no force* to live or die; *matter of indifference*
And eft again to think* the remedy, *think upon
How to her grace I might anon attain,
And tell my woe unto my sovereign.

The sev’nth statute was, To be patient,
Whether my lady joyful were or wroth;
For wordes glad or heavy, diligent,
Whether that she me helde *lefe or loth:* *in love or loathing*
And hereupon I put was to mine oath,
Her for to serve, and lowly to obey,
And show my cheer,* yea, twenty times a day. *countenance

The eighth statute, to my rememberance,
Was, For to speak and pray my lady dear,
With hourly labour and great entendance,* *attention
Me for to love with all her heart entere,* *entire
And me desire and make me joyful cheer,
Right as she is, surmounting every fair;
Of beauty well,* and gentle debonair. *the fountain

The ninth statute, with letters writ of gold,
This was the sentence, How that I and all
Should ever dread to be too overbold
Her to displease; and truly so I shall;
But be content for all thing that may fall,
And meekly take her chastisement and yerd,* *rod, rule
And to offend her ever be afear’d.

The tenth statute was, Equally* to discern *justly
Between the lady and thine ability,
And think thyself art never like to earn,
By right, her mercy nor her equity,
But of her grace and womanly pity:
For, though thyself be noble in thy strene,* *strain, descent
A thousand fold more noble is thy Queen.

Thy life’s lady and thy sovereign,
That hath thine heart all whole in governance,
Thou may’st no wise it take to disdain,
To put thee humbly at her ordinance,
And give her free the rein of her pleasance;
For liberty is thing that women look,* *look for, desire
And truly else *the matter is a crook.* *things go wrong*

Th’ eleventh statute, Thy signes for to know
With eye and finger, and with smiles soft,
And low to couch, and alway for to show,
For dread of spies, for to winken oft:
And secretly to bring a sigh aloft,
But still beware of over much resort;
For that peradventure spoileth all thy sport.

The twelfth statute remember to observe:
For all the pain thou hast for love and woe,
All is too lite* her mercy to deserve, *little
Thou muste think, where’er thou ride or go;
And mortal woundes suffer thou also,
All for her sake, and think it well beset* *spent
Upon thy love, for it may not be bet.* *better (spent)

The thirteenth statute, Whilom is to think
What thing may best thy lady like and please,
And in thine hearte’s bottom let it sink:
Some thing devise, and take for it thine ease,
And send it her, that may her heart appease:
Some heart, or ring, or letter, or device,
Or precious stone; but spare not for no price.

The fourteenth statute eke thou shalt assay
Firmly to keep, the most part of thy life:
Wish that thy lady in thine armes lay,
And nightly dream, thou hast thy nighte’s wife
Sweetly in armes, straining her as blife:* *eagerly <22>
And, when thou seest it is but fantasy,
See that thou sing not over merrily;

For too much joy hath oft a woeful end.
It *longeth eke this statute for to hold,* *it belongs to the proper
To deem thy lady evermore thy friend, observance of this statute*
And think thyself in no wise a cuckold.
In ev’ry thing she doth but as she sho’ld:
Construe the best, believe no tales new,
For many a lie is told, that seems full true.

But think that she, so bounteous and fair,
Could not be false: imagine this algate;* *at all events
And think that wicked tongues would her apair,* *defame
Sland’ring her name and *worshipful estate,* *honourable fame*
And lovers true to setten at debate:
And though thou seest a fault right at thine eye,
Excuse it blife, and glose* it prettily. *gloss it over

The fifteenth statute, Use to swear and stare,
And counterfeit a leasing* hardily,** *falsehood **boldly
To save thy lady’s honour ev’rywhere,
And put thyself for her to fight boldly;
Say she is good, virtuous, and ghostly,* *spiritual, pure
Clear of intent, and heart, and thought, and will;
And argue not for reason nor for skill

Against thy lady’s pleasure nor intent,
For love will not be counterpled* indeed: *met with counterpleas
Say as she saith, then shalt thou not be shent;* *disgraced
“The crow is white;” “Yea truly, so I rede:”* *judge
And aye what thing that she will thee forbid,
Eschew all that, and give her sov’reignty,
Her appetite to follow in all degree.

The sixteenth statute, keep it if thou may: <23>
Sev’n times at night thy lady for to please,
And sev’n at midnight, sev’n at morrow day,
And drink a caudle early for thine ease.
Do this, and keep thine head from all disease,
And win the garland here of lovers all,
That ever came in Court, or ever shall.

Full few, think I, this statute hold and keep;
But truly this my reason *gives me feel,* *enables me to perceive*
That some lovers should rather fall asleep,
Than take on hand to please so oft and weel.* *well
There lay none oath to this statute adele,* *annexed
But keep who might *as gave him his corage:* *as his heart
Now get this garland, folk of lusty age! inspired him*

Now win who may, ye lusty folk of youth,
This garland fresh, of flowers red and white,
Purple and blue, and colours full uncouth,* *strange
And I shall crown him king of all delight!
In all the Court there was not, to my sight,
A lover true, that he was not adread,
When he express* had heard the statute read. *plainly

The sev’nteenth statute, When age approacheth on,
And lust is laid, and all the fire is queint,* *quenched
As freshly then thou shalt begin to fon,* *behave fondly
And doat in love, and all her image paint
In thy remembrance, till thou gin to faint,
As in the first season thine heart began:
And her desire, though thou nor may nor can

Perform thy living actual and lust;
Register this in thine rememberance:
Eke when thou may’st not keep thy thing from rust,
Yet speak and talk of pleasant dalliance;
For that shall make thine heart rejoice and dance;
And when thou may’st no more the game assay,
The statute bids thee pray for them that may.

The eighteenth statute, wholly to commend,
To please thy lady, is, That thou eschew
With sluttishness thyself for to offend;
Be jolly, fresh, and feat,* with thinges new, *dainty <24>
Courtly with manner, this is all thy due,
Gentle of port, and loving cleanliness;
This is the thing that liketh thy mistress.

And not to wander like a dulled ass,
Ragged and torn, disguised in array,
Ribald in speech, or out of measure pass,
Thy bound exceeding; think on this alway:
For women be of tender heartes ay,
And lightly set their pleasure in a place;
When they misthink,* they lightly let it pace. *think wrongly

The nineteenth statute, Meat and drink forget:
Each other day see that thou fast for love,
For in the Court they live withoute meat,
Save such as comes from Venus all above;
They take no heed, *in pain of great reprove,* *on pain of great
Of meat and drink, for that is all in vain, reproach*
Only they live by sight of their sov’reign.

The twentieth statute, last of ev’ry one,
Enrol it in thy hearte’s privity;
To wring and wail, to turn, and sigh, and groan,
When that thy lady absent is from thee;
And eke renew the wordes all that she
Between you twain hath said, and all the cheer
That thee hath made thy life’s lady dear.

And see thy heart in quiet nor in rest
Sojourn, till time thou see thy lady eft,* *again
But whe’er* she won** by south, or east, or west, *whether **dwell
With all thy force now see it be not left
Be diligent, *till time* thy life be reft, *until the time that*
In that thou may’st, thy lady for to see;
This statute was of old antiquity.

The officer, called Rigour — who is incorruptible by partiality, favour, prayer, or gold — made them swear to keep the statutes; and, after taking the oath, Philogenet turned over other leaves of the book, containing the statutes of women. But Rigour sternly bade him forbear; for no man might know the statutes that belong to women.

“In secret wise they kepte be full close;
They sound* each one to liberty, my friend; *tend, accord
Pleasant they be, and to their own purpose;
There wot* no wight of them, but God and fiend, *knows
Nor aught shall wit, unto the worlde’s end.
The queen hath giv’n me charge, in pain to die,
Never to read nor see them with mine eye.

“For men shall not so near of counsel be’n
With womanhead, nor knowen of their guise,
Nor what they think, nor of their wit th’engine;* *craft
*I me report to* Solomon the wise, <25> *I refer for proof to*
And mighty Samson, which beguiled thrice
With Delilah was; he wot that, in a throw,
There may no man statute of women know.

“For it peradventure may right so befall,
That they be bound by nature to deceive,
And spin, and weep, and sugar strew on gall, <26>
The heart of man to ravish and to reave,
And whet their tongue as sharp as sword or gleve:* *glaive, sword
It may betide this is their ordinance,
So must they lowly do their observance,

“And keep the statute given them *of kind,* *by nature*
Of such as Love hath giv’n them in their life.
Men may not wit why turneth every wind,
Nor waxe wise, nor be inquisitife
To know secret of maid, widow, or wife;
For they their statutes have to them reserved,
And never man to know them hath deserved.”

Rigour then sent them forth to pay court to Venus, and pray her to teach them how they might serve and please their dames, or to provide with ladies those whose hearts were yet vacant. Before Venus knelt a thousand sad petitioners, entreating her to punish “the false untrue,” that had broken their vows, “barren of ruth, untrue of what they said, now that their lust and pleasure is allay’d.” But the mourners were in a minority;

Yet eft again, a thousand million,
Rejoicing, love, leading their life in bliss:
They said: “Venus, redress* of all division, *healer
Goddess eternal, thy name heried* is! *glorified
By love’s bond is knit all thing, y-wis,* *assuredly
Beast unto beast, the earth to water wan,* *pale
Bird unto bird, and woman unto man; <27>

“This is the life of joy that we be in,
Resembling life of heav’nly paradise;
Love is exiler ay of vice and sin;
Love maketh heartes lusty to devise;
Honour and grace have they in ev’ry wise,
That be to love’s law obedient;
Love maketh folk benign and diligent;

“Aye stirring them to dreade vice and shame:
In their degree it makes them honourable;
And sweet it is of love to bear the name,
So that his love be faithful, true, and stable:
Love pruneth him to seemen amiable;
Love hath no fault where it is exercis’d,
But sole* with them that have all love despis’d:” *only

And they conclude with grateful honours to the goddess — rejoicing hat they are hers in heart, and all inflamed with her grace and heavenly fear. Philogenet now entreats the goddess to remove his grief; for he also loves, and hotly, only he does not know where —

“Save only this, by God and by my troth;
Troubled I was with slumber, sleep, and sloth
This other night, and in a vision
I saw a woman roamen up and down,

“Of *mean stature,* and seemly to behold, *middling height*
Lusty and fresh, demure of countenance,
Young and well shap’d, with haire sheen* as gold, *shining
With eyne as crystal, farced* with pleasance; *crammed
And she gan stir mine heart a lite* to dance; *little
But suddenly she vanish gan right there:
Thus I may say, I love, and wot* not where.” *know

If he could only know this lady, he would serve and obey her with all benignity; but if his destiny were otherwise, he would gladly love and serve his lady, whosoever she might be. He called on Venus for help to possess his queen and heart’s life, and vowed daily war with Diana: “that goddess chaste I keepen [care] in no wise to serve; a fig for all her chastity!” Then he rose and went his way, passing by a rich and beautiful shrine, which, Philobone informed him, was the sepulchre of Pity. “A tender creature,” she said,

“Is shrined there, and Pity is her name.
She saw an eagle wreak* him on a fly, *avenge
And pluck his wing, and eke him, *in his game;* *for sport*
And tender heart of that hath made her die:
Eke she would weep, and mourn right piteously,
To see a lover suffer great distress.
In all the Court was none, as I do guess,

“That could a lover half so well avail,* *help
Nor of his woe the torment or the rage
Aslake;* for he was sure, withoute fail, *assuage
That of his grief she could the heat assuage.
Instead of Pity, speedeth hot Courage
The matters all of Court, now she is dead;
*I me report in this to womanhead.* *for evidence I refer to the
behaviour of women themselves.*

“For wail, and weep, and cry, and speak, and pray, —
Women would not have pity on thy plaint;
Nor by that means to ease thine heart convey,
But thee receive for their own talent:* *inclination
And say that Pity caus’d thee, in consent
Of ruth,* to take thy service and thy pain, *compassion
In that thou may’st, to please thy sovereign.”

Philobone now promised to lead Philogenet to “the fairest lady under sun that is,” the “mirror of joy and bliss,” whose name is Rosial, and “whose heart as yet is given to no wight;” suggesting that, as he also was “with love but light advanc’d,” he might set this lady in the place of her of whom he had dreamed. Entering a chamber gay, “there was Rosial, womanly to see;” and the subtle-piercing beams of her eyes wounded Philogenet to the heart. When he could speak, he threw himself on his knees, beseeching her to cool his fervent woe:

For there I took full purpose in my mind,
Unto her grace my painful heart to bind.

For, if I shall all fully her descrive,* *describe
Her head was round, by compass of nature;
Her hair as gold, she passed all alive,
And lily forehead had this creature,
With lively *browes flaw,* of colour pure, *yellow eyebrows <28>
Between the which was mean disseverance
From ev’ry brow, to show a due distance.

Her nose directed straight, even as line,
With form and shape thereto convenient,
In which the *goddes’ milk-white path* doth shine; *the galaxy*
And eke her eyne be bright and orient
As is the smaragd,* unto my judgment, *emerald
Or yet these starres heav’nly, small, and bright;
Her visage is of lovely red and white.

Her mouth is short, and shut in little space,
Flaming somedeal,* not over red I mean, *somewhat
With pregnant lips, and thick to kiss, percase* *as it chanced
(For lippes thin, not fat, but ever lean,
They serve of naught, they be not worth a bean;
For if the bass* be full, there is delight; *kiss <29>
Maximian <30> truly thus doth he write).

But to my purpose: I say, white as snow
Be all her teeth, and in order they stand
Of one stature; and eke her breath, I trow,
Surmounteth all odours that e’er I fand* *found
In sweetness; and her body, face, and hand
Be sharply slender, so that, from the head
Unto the foot, all is but womanhead.* *womanly perfection

I hold my peace of other thinges hid:
Here shall my soul, and not my tongue, bewray;
But how she was array’d, if ye me bid,
That shall I well discover you and say:
A bend* of gold and silk, full fresh and gay, *band
With hair *in tress, y-broidered* full well, *plaited in tresses*
Right smoothly kempt,* and shining every deal. *combed

About her neck a flow’r of fresh device
With rubies set, that lusty were to see’n;
And she in gown was, light and summer-wise,
Shapen full well, the colour was of green,
With *aureate seint* about her sides clean, *golden cincture*
With divers stones, precious and rich:
Thus was she ray’d,* yet saw I ne’er her lich,** *arrayed **like

If Jove had but seen this lady, Calisto and Alcmena had never lain in his arms, nor had he loved the fair Europa, nor Danae, nor Antiope; “for all their beauty stood in Rosial; she seemed like a thing celestial.” By and by, Philogenet presented to her his petition for love, which she heard with some haughtiness; she was not, she said, well acquainted with him, she did not know where he dwelt, nor his name and condition. He informed her that “in art of love he writes,” and makes songs that may be sung in honour of the King and Queen of Love. As for his name —

“My name? alas, my heart, why mak’st thou strange?* *why so cold
Philogenet I call’d am far and near, or distant?*
Of Cambridge clerk, that never think to change
From you, that with your heav’nly streames* clear *beams, glances
Ravish my heart; and ghost, and all in fere:* *all together
Since at the first I writ my bill* for grace, *petition
Me thinks I see some mercy in your face;”

And again he humbly pressed his suit. But the lady disdained the idea that, “for a word of sugar’d eloquence,” she should have compassion in so little space; “there come but few who speede here so soon.” If, as he says, the beams of her eyes pierce and fret him, then let him withdraw from her presence:

“Hurt not yourself, through folly, with a look;
I would be sorry so to make you sick!
A woman should beware eke whom she took:
Ye be a clerk: go searche well my book,
If any women be so light* to win: *easy
Nay, bide a while, though ye were *all my kin.”* *my only kindred*

He might sue and serve, and wax pale, and green, and dead, without murmuring in any wise; but whereas he desired her hastily to lean to love, he was unwise, and must cease that language. For some had been at Court for twenty years, and might not obtain their mistresses’ favour; therefore she marvelled that he was so bold as to treat of love with her. Philogenet, on this, broke into pitiful lamentation; bewailing the hour in which he was born, and assuring the unyielding lady that the frosty grave and cold must be his bed, unless she relented.

With that I fell in swoon, and dead as stone,
With colour slain,* and wan as ashes pale; *deathlike
And by the hand she caught me up anon:
“Arise,” quoth she; “what? have ye drunken dwale?* *sleeping potion <31>
Why sleepe ye? It is no nightertale.”* *night-time
“Now mercy! sweet,” quoth I, y-wis afraid;
“What thing,” quoth she, “hath made you so dismay’d?”

She said that by his hue she knew well that he was a lover; and if he were secret, courteous, and kind, he might know how all this could be allayed. She would amend all that she had missaid, and set his heart at ease; but he must faithfully keep the statutes, “and break them not for sloth nor ignorance.” The lover requests, however, that the sixteenth may be released or modified, for it “doth him great grievance;” and she complies.

And softly then her colour gan appear,
As rose so red, throughout her visage all;
Wherefore methinks it is according* her *appropriate to
That she of right be called Rosial.
Thus have I won, with wordes great and small,
Some goodly word of her that I love best,
And trust she shall yet set mine heart in rest.

Rosial now told Philobone to conduct Philogenet all over the Court, and show him what lovers and what officers dwelt there; for he was yet a stranger.

And, stalking soft with easy pace, I saw
About the king standen all environ,* *around <32>
Attendance, Diligence, and their fellaw
Furtherer, Esperance,* and many one; *Hope
Dread-to-offend there stood, and not alone;
For there was eke the cruel adversair,
The lover’s foe, that called is Despair;

Which unto me spake angrily and fell,* *cruelly
And said, my lady me deceive shall:
“Trow’st thou,” quoth she, “that all that she did tell
Is true? Nay, nay, but under honey gall.
Thy birth and hers they be no thing egal:* *equal
Cast off thine heart, <33> for all her wordes white,
For in good faith she loves thee but a lite.* *little

“And eke remember, thine ability
May not compare with her, this well thou wot.”
Yea, then came Hope and said, “My friend, let be!
Believe him not: Despair he gins to doat.”
“Alas,” quoth I, “here is both cold and hot:
The one me biddeth love, the other nay;
Thus wot I not what me is best to say.

“But well wot I, my lady granted me
Truly to be my wounde’s remedy;
Her gentleness* may not infected be *noble nature
With doubleness,* this trust I till I die.” *duplicity
So cast I t’ avoid Despair’s company,
And take Hope to counsel and to friend.
“Yea, keep that well,” quoth Philobone, “in mind.”

And there beside, within a bay window,
Stood one in green, full large of breadth and length,
His beard as black as feathers of the crow;
His name was Lust, of wondrous might and strength;
And with Delight to argue there he think’th,
For this was alway his opinion,
That love was sin: and so he hath begun

To reason fast, and *ledge authority:* *allege authorities
“Nay,” quoth Delight, “love is a virtue clear,
And from the soul his progress holdeth he:
Blind appetite of lust doth often steer,* *stir (the heart)
And that is sin; for reason lacketh there:
For thou dost think thy neighbour’s wife to win;
Yet think it well that love may not be sin;

“For God, and saint, they love right verily,
Void of all sin and vice: this know I weel,* *well
Affection of flesh is sin truly;
But very* love is virtue, as I feel; *true
For very love may frail desire akele:* *cool
For very love is love withoute sin.”
“Now stint,”* quoth Lust, “thou speak’st not worth a pin.” *cease

And there I left them in their arguing,
Roaming farther into the castle wide,
And in a corner Liar stood talking
Of leasings* fast, with Flattery there beside; *falsehoods
He said that women *ware attire of pride, *wore
And men were found of nature variant,
And could be false and *showe beau semblant.* *put on plausible
appearances to deceive*
Then Flattery bespake and said, y-wis:
“See, so she goes on pattens fair and feat;* *pretty, neat
It doth right well: what pretty man is this
That roameth here? now truly drink nor meat
Need I not have, my heart for joy doth beat
Him to behold, so is he goodly fresh:
It seems for love his heart is tender and nesh.”* *soft <34>

This is the Court of lusty folk and glad,
And well becomes their habit and array:
O why be some so sorry and so sad,
Complaining thus in black and white and gray?
Friars they be, and monkes, in good fay:
Alas, for ruth! great dole* it is to see, *sorrow
To see them thus bewail and sorry be.

See how they cry and ring their handes white,
For they so soon* went to religion!, *young
And eke the nuns with veil and wimple plight,* *plaited
Their thought is, they be in confusion:
“Alas,” they say, “we feign perfection, <35>
In clothes wide, and lack our liberty;
But all the sin must on our friendes be. <36>

“For, Venus wot, we would as fain* as ye, *gladly
That be attired here and *well beseen,* *gaily clothed*
Desire man, and love in our degree,’
Firm and faithful, right as would the Queen:
Our friendes wick’, in tender youth and green,
Against our will made us religious;
That is the cause we mourn and waile thus.”

Then said the monks and friars *in the tide,* *at the same time*
“Well may we curse our abbeys and our place,
Our statutes sharp to sing in copes wide, <37>
Chastely to keep us out of love’s grace,
And never to feel comfort nor solace;* *delight
Yet suffer we the heat of love’s fire,
And after some other haply we desire.

“O Fortune cursed, why now and wherefore
Hast thou,” they said, “bereft us liberty,
Since Nature gave us instrument in store,
And appetite to love and lovers be?
Why must we suffer such adversity,
Dian’ to serve, and Venus to refuse?
Full *often sithe* these matters do us muse. *many a time*

“We serve and honour, sore against our will,
Of chastity the goddess and the queen;
*Us liefer were* with Venus bide still, *we would rather*
And have regard for love, and subject be’n
Unto these women courtly, fresh, and sheen.* *bright, beautiful
Fortune, we curse thy wheel of variance!
Where we were well, thou reavest* our pleasance.” *takest away

Thus leave I them, with voice of plaint and care,
In raging woe crying full piteously;
And as I went, full naked and full bare
Some I beheld, looking dispiteously,
On Poverty that deadly cast their eye;
And “Well-away!” they cried, and were not fain,
For they might not their glad desire attain.

For lack of riches worldly and of good,
They ban and curse, and weep, and say, “Alas!
That povert’ hath us hent,* that whilom stood *seized
At hearte’s ease, and free and in good case!
But now we dare not show ourselves in place,
Nor us embold* to dwell in company, *make bold, venture
Where as our heart would love right faithfully.”

And yet againward shrieked ev’ry nun,
The pang of love so strained them to cry:
“Now woe the time,” quoth they, “that we be boun’!* *bound
This hateful order nice* will do us die! *into which we foolishly
We sigh and sob, and bleeden inwardly, entered
Fretting ourselves with thought and hard complaint,
That nigh for love we waxe wood* and faint.” *mad

And as I stood beholding here and there,
I was ware of a sort* full languishing, *a class of people
Savage and wild of looking and of cheer,
Their mantles and their clothes aye tearing;
And oft they were of Nature complaining,
For they their members lacked, foot and hand,
With visage wry, and blind, I understand.

They lacked shape and beauty to prefer
Themselves in love: and said that God and Kind* *Nature
Had forged* them to worshippe the sterre,** *fashioned **star
Venus the bright, and leften all behind
His other workes clean and out of mind:
“For other have their full shape and beauty,
And we,” quoth they, “be in deformity.”

And nigh to them there was a company,
That have the Sisters warray’d and missaid,
I mean the three of fatal destiny, <38>
That be our workers: suddenly abraid,* *aroused
Out gan they cry as they had been afraid;
“We curse,” quoth they, “that ever hath Nature
Y-formed us this woeful life t’endure.”

And there eke was Contrite, and gan repent,
Confessing whole the wound that Cythere <39>
Had with the dart of hot desire him sent,
And how that he to love must subject be:
Then held he all his scornes vanity,
And said that lovers held a blissful life,
Young men and old, and widow, maid, and wife.

“Bereave me, Goddess!” quoth he, “of thy might,
My scornes all and scoffes, that I have
No power for to mocken any wight
That in thy service dwell: for I did rave;
This know I well right now, so God me save,
And I shall be the chief post* of thy faith, *prop, pillar
And love uphold, the reverse whoso saith.”

Dissemble stood not far from him in truth,
With party* mantle, party hood and hose; *parti-coloured
And said he had upon his lady ruth,* *pity
And thus he wound him in, and gan to glose,
Of his intent full double, I suppose:
In all the world he said he lov’d her weel;
But ay me thought he lov’d her *ne’er a deal.* *never a jot*

Eke Shamefastness was there, as I took heed,
That blushed red, and durst not be y-know
She lover was, for thereof had she dread;
She stood and hung her visage down alow;
But such a sight it was to see, I trow,
As of these roses ruddy on their stalk:
There could no wight her spy to speak or talk

In love’s art, so gan she to abash,
Nor durst not utter all her privity:
Many a stripe and many a grievous lash
She gave to them that woulde lovers be,
And hinder’d sore the simple commonalty,
That in no wise durst grace and mercy crave,
For *were not she,* they need but ask and have; *but for her*

Where if they now approache for to speak,
Then Shamefastness *returneth them* again: *turns them back*
They think, “If we our secret counsel break,
Our ladies will have scorn us certain,
And peradventure thinke great disdain:”
Thus Shamefastness may bringen in Despair;
When she is dead the other will be heir.

 “Come forth Avaunter! now I ring thy bell!” <40>
I spied him soon; to God I make avow,* *confession
He looked black as fiendes do in Hell:
“The first,” quoth he, “that ever I did wow,* *woo
*Within a word she came,* I wot not how, *she was won with
So that in armes was my lady free, a single word*
And so have been a thousand more than she.

“In England, Britain,* Spain, and Picardy, *Brittany
Artois, and France, and up in high Holland,
In Burgoyne,* Naples, and in Italy, *Burgundy
Navarre, and Greece, and up in heathen land,
Was never woman yet that would withstand
To be at my commandment when I wo’ld:
I lacked neither silver coin nor gold.

“And there I met with this estate and that;
And her I broach’d, and her, and her, I trow:
Lo! there goes one of mine; and, wot ye what?
Yon fresh attired have I laid full low;
And such one yonder eke right well I know;
I kept the statute <41> when we lay y-fere:* *together
And yet* yon same hath made me right good cheer.” *also

Thus hath Avaunter blowen ev’rywhere
All that he knows, and more a thousand fold;
His ancestry of kin was to Lier,* *Liar
For first he maketh promise for to hold
His lady’s counsel, and it not unfold; —
Wherefore, the secret when he doth unshit,* *disclose
Then lieth he, that all the world may wit.* *know

For falsing so his promise and behest,* *trust
I wonder sore he hath such fantasy;
He lacketh wit, I trow, or is a beast,
That can no bet* himself with reason guy** *better **guide
By mine advice, Love shall be contrary
To his avail,* and him eke dishonour, *advantage
So that in Court he shall no more sojour.* *sojourn, remain

“Take heed,” quoth she, this little Philobone,
“Where Envy rocketh in the corner yond,* *yonder
And sitteth dark; and ye shall see anon
His lean body, fading both face and hand;
Himself he fretteth,* as I understand devoureth
(Witness of Ovid Metamorphoseos); <42>
The lover’s foe he is, I will not glose.* *gloss over

“For where a lover thinketh *him promote,* *to promote himself*
Envy will grudge, repining at his weal;
It swelleth sore about his hearte’s root,
That in no wise he cannot live in heal;* *health
And if the faithful to his lady steal,
Envy will noise and ring it round about,
And say much worse than done is, out of doubt.”

And Privy Thought, rejoicing of himself, —
Stood not far thence in habit marvellous;
“Yon is,” thought I, “some spirit or some elf,
His subtile image is so curious:
How is,” quoth I, “that he is shaded thus
With yonder cloth, I n’ot* of what color?” *know not
And near I went and gan *to lear and pore,* *to ascertain and
gaze curiously*
And frained* him a question full hard. *asked
“What is,” quoth I, “the thing thou lovest best?
Or what is boot* unto thy paines hard? *remedy
Me thinks thou livest here in great unrest,
Thou wand’rest aye from south to east and west,
And east to north; as far as I can see,
There is no place in Court may holde thee.

“Whom followest thou? where is thy heart y-set?
But *my demand assoil,* I thee require.” *answer my question*
“Me thought,” quoth he, “no creature may let* *hinder
Me to be here, and where as I desire;
For where as absence hath out the fire,
My merry thought it kindleth yet again,
That bodily, me thinks, with *my sov’reign* *my lady*

“I stand, and speak, and laugh, and kiss, and halse;* *embrace
So that my thought comforteth me full oft:
I think, God wot, though all the world be false,
I will be true; I think also how soft
My lady is in speech, and this on loft
Bringeth my heart with joy and great gladness;
This privy thought allays my heaviness.

“And what I think, or where, to be, no man
In all this Earth can tell, y-wis, but I:
And eke there is no swallow swift, nor swan
So wight* of wing, nor half so yern** can fly; *nimble **eagerly
For I can be, and that right suddenly,
In Heav’n, in Hell, in Paradise, and here,
And with my lady, when I will desire.

“I am of counsel far and wide, I wot,
With lord and lady, and their privity
I wot it all; but, be it cold or hot,
They shall not speak without licence of me.
I mean, in such as seasonable* be, *prudent
Tho* first the thing is thought within the heart, *when
Ere any word out from the mouth astart.”* *escape

And with the word Thought bade farewell and yede:* *went away
Eke forth went I to see the Courte’s guise,
And at the door came in, so God me speed,
Two courtiers of age and of assise* *size
Like high, and broad, and, as I me advise,
The Golden Love and Leaden Love <43> they hight:* *were called
The one was sad, the other glad and light.

At this point there is a hiatus in the poem, which abruptly ceases to narrate the tour of Philogenet and Philobone round the Court, and introduces us again to Rosial, who is speaking thus to her lover, apparently in continuation of a confession of love:

“Yes! draw your heart, with all your force and might,
To lustiness, and be as ye have said.”

She admits that she would have given him no drop of favour, but that she saw him “wax so dead of countenance;” then Pity “out of her shrine arose from death to life,” whisperingly entreating that she would do him some pleasance. Philogenet protests his gratitude to Pity, his faithfulness to Rosial; and the lady, thanking him heartily, bids him abide with her till the season of May, when the King of Love and all his company will hold his feast fully royally and well. “And there I bode till that the season fell.”

On May Day, when the lark began to rise,
To matins went the lusty nightingale,
Within a temple shapen hawthorn-wise;
He might not sleep in all the nightertale,* *night-time
But “Domine” <44> gan he cry and gale,* *call out
“My lippes open, Lord of Love, I cry,
And let my mouth thy praising now bewry.”* *show forth

The eagle sang “Venite,” <45> bodies all,
And let us joy to love that is our health.”
And to the desk anon they gan to fall,
And who came late he pressed in by stealth
Then said the falcon, “Our own heartes’ wealth,
‘Domine Dominus noster,’ <46> I wot,
Ye be the God that do* us burn thus hot.” *make

“Coeli enarrant,” <47> said the popinjay,* *parrot
“Your might is told in Heav’n and firmament.”
And then came in the goldfinch fresh and gay,
And said this psalm with heartly glad intent,
“Domini est terra;” <48> this Latin intent,* *means
The God of Love hath earth in governance:
And then the wren began to skip and dance.

“Jube Domine; <49> O Lord of Love, I pray
Command me well this lesson for to read;
This legend is of all that woulde dey* *die
Martyrs for love; God yet their soules speed!
And to thee, Venus, sing we, *out of dread,* *without doubt*
By influence of all thy virtue great,
Beseeching thee to keep us in our heat.”

The second lesson robin redbreast sang,
“Hail to the God and Goddess of our lay!”* *law, religion
And to the lectern amorously he sprang:
“Hail now,” quoth be, “O fresh season of May,
*Our moneth glad that singen on the spray!* *glad month for us that
Hail to the flowers, red, and white, and blue, sing upon the bough*
Which by their virtue maken our lust new!”

The third lesson the turtle-dove took up,
And thereat laugh’d the mavis* in a scorn: *blackbird
He said, “O God, as might I dine or sup,
This foolish dove will give us all a horn!
There be right here a thousand better born,
To read this lesson, which as well as he,
And eke as hot, can love in all degree.”

The turtle-dove said, “Welcome, welcome May,
Gladsome and light to lovers that be true!
I thank thee, Lord of Love, that doth purvey
For me to read this lesson all *of due;* *in due form*
For, in good sooth, *of corage* I pursue *with all my heart*
To serve my make* till death us must depart:” *mate
And then “Tu autem” <50> sang he all apart.

“Te Deum amoris” <51> sang the throstel* cock: *thrush
Tubal <52> himself, the first musician,
With key of harmony could not unlock
So sweet a tune as that the throstel can:
“The Lord of Love we praise,” quoth he than,* *then
And so do all the fowles great and lite;* *little
“Honour we May, in false lovers’ despite.”

“Dominus regnavit,” <53> said the peacock there,
“The Lord of Love, that mighty prince, y-wis,
He is received here and ev’rywhere:
Now Jubilate <54> sing:” “What meaneth this?”
Said then the linnet; “welcome, Lord of bliss!”
Out start the owl with “Benedicite,” <55>
“What meaneth all this merry fare?”* quoth he. *doing, fuss

“Laudate,” <56> sang the lark with voice full shrill;
And eke the kite “O admirabile;” <57>
This quire* will through mine eares pierce and thrill; *choir
But what? welcome this May season,” quoth he;
“And honour to the Lord of Love must be,
That hath this feast so solemn and so high:”
“Amen,” said all; and so said eke the pie.* *magpie

And forth the cuckoo gan proceed anon,
With “Benedictus” <58> thanking God in haste,
That in this May would visit them each one,
And gladden them all while the feast shall last:
And therewithal a-laughter* out he brast;”** *in laughter **burst
“I thanke God that I should end the song,
And all the service which hath been so long.”

Thus sang they all the service of the feast,
And that was done right early, to my doom;* *judgment
And forth went all the Court, both *most and least,* *great and small
To fetch the flowers fresh, and branch and bloom;
And namely* hawthorn brought both page and groom, *especially
With freshe garlands party* blue and white, <59> *parti-coloured
And then rejoiced in their great delight.

Eke each at other threw the flowers bright,
The primerose, the violet, and the gold;
So then, as I beheld the royal sight,
My lady gan me suddenly behold,
And with a true love, plighted many a fold,
She smote me through the very heart *as blive;* *straightway*
And Venus yet I thank I am alive.

Explicit* *The End

Notes to The Court of Love

1. So the Man of Law, in the prologue to his Tale, is made to say that Chaucer “can but lewedly (ignorantly or imperfectly) on metres and on rhyming craftily.” But the humility of those apologies is not justified by the care and finish of his earlier poems.

2. Born: burnish, polish: the poet means, that his verses do not display the eloquence or brilliancy of Cicero in setting forth his subject-matter.

3. Galfrid: Geoffrey de Vinsauf to whose treatise on poetical composition a less flattering allusion is made in The Nun’s Priest’s Tale. See note 33 to that Tale.

4. Stirp: race, stock; Latin, “stirps.”

5. Calliope is the epic muse — “sister” to the other eight.

6. Melpomene was the tragic muse.

7. The same is said of Griselda, in The Clerk’s Tale; though she was of tender years, “yet in the breast of her virginity there was inclos’d a sad and ripe corage”

8. The confusion which Chaucer makes between Cithaeron and Cythera, has already been remarked. See note 41 to the Knight’s Tale.

9. Balais: Bastard rubies; said to be so called from Balassa, the Asian country where they were found. Turkeis: turquoise stones.

10. Spenser, in his description of the House of Busirane, speaks of the sad distress into which Phoebus was plunged by Cupid, in revenge for the betrayal of “his mother’s wantonness, when she with Mars was meint [mingled] in joyfulness”

11. Alcestis, daughter of Pelias, was won to wife by Admetus, King of Pherae, who complied with her father’s demand that he should come to claim her in a chariot drawn by lions and boars. By the aid of Apollo — who tended the flocks of Admetus during his banishment from heaven — the suitor fulfilled the condition; and Apollo further induced the Moirae or Fates to grant that Admetus should never die, if his father, mother, or wife would die for him. Alcestis devoted herself in his stead; and, since each had made great efforts or sacrifices for love, the pair are fitly placed as king and queen in the Court of Love.

12. In the prologue to the “Legend of Good Women,” Chaucer says that behind the God of Love, upon the green, he “saw coming in ladies nineteen;” but the stories of only nine good women are there told. In the prologue to The Man of Law’s Tale, sixteen ladies are named as having their stories written in the “Saints’ Legend of Cupid” — now known as the “Legend of Good Women” — (see note 5 to the Prologue to the Man of Law’s Tale); and in the “Retractation,” at the end of the Parson’s Tale, the “Book of the Twenty-five Ladies” is enumerated among the works of which the poet repents — but there “xxv” is supposed to have been by some copyist written for “xix.”

13. fele: many; German, “viele.”

14. Arras: tapestry of silk, made at Arras, in France.

15. Danger, in the Provencal Courts of Love, was the allegorical personification of the husband; and Disdain suitably represents the lover’s corresponding difficulty from the side of the lady.

16. In The Knight’s Tale, Emily’s yellow hair is braided in a tress, or plait, that hung a yard long behind her back; so that, both as regards colour and fashion, a singular resemblance seems to have existed between the female taste of 1369 and that of 1869.

17. In an old monkish story — reproduced by Boccaccio, and from him by La Fontaine in the Tale called “Les Oies de Frere Philippe” — a young man is brought up without sight or knowledge of women, and, when he sees them on a visit to the city, he is told that they are geese.

18. Tabernacle: A shrine or canopy of stone, supported by pillars.

19. Mister folk: handicraftsmen, or tradesmen, who have learned “mysteries.”

20. The loves “Of Queen Annelida and False Arcite” formed the subject of a short unfinished poem by Chaucer, which was afterwards worked up into The Knight’s Tale.

21. Blue was the colour of truth. See note 36 to the Squire’s Tale.

22. Blife: quickly, eagerly; for “blive” or “belive.”

23. It will be seen afterwards that Philogenet does not relish it, and pleads for its relaxation.

24. Feat: dainty, neat, handsome; the same as “fetis,” oftener used in Chaucer; the adverb “featly” is still used, as applied to dancing, &c.

25. Solomon was beguiled by his heathenish wives to forsake the worship of the true God; Samson fell a victim to the wiles of Delilah.

26. Compare the speech of Proserpine to Pluto, in The Merchant’s Tale.

27. See note 91 to the Knight’s Tale for a parallel.

28. Flaw: yellow; Latin, “flavus,” French, “fauve.”

29. Bass: kiss; French, “baiser;” and hence the more vulgar “buss.”

30. Maximian: Cornelius Maximianus Gallus flourished in the time of the Emperor Anastasius; in one of his elegies, he professed a preference for flaming and somewhat swelling lips, which, when he tasted them, would give him full kisses.

31. Dwale: sleeping potion, narcotic. See note 19 to the Reeve’s Tale.

32. Environ: around; French, “a l’environ.”

33. Cast off thine heart: i.e. from confidence in her.

34. Nesh: soft, delicate; Anglo-Saxon, “nese.”

35. Perfection: Perfectly holy life, in the performance of vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and other modes of mortifying the flesh.

36. All the sin must on our friendes be: who made us take the vows before they knew our own dispositions, or ability, to keep them.

37. Cope: The large vestment worn in singing the service in the choir. In Chaucer’s time it seems to have been a distinctively clerical piece of dress; so, in the prologue to The Monk’s Tale, the Host, lamenting that so stalwart a man as the Monk should have gone into religion, exclaims, “Alas! why wearest thou so wide a cope?”

38. The three of fatal destiny: The three Fates.

39. Cythere: Cytherea — Venus, so called from the name of the island, Cythera, into which her worship was first introduced from Phoenicia.

40. Avaunter: Boaster; Philobone calls him out.

41. The statute: i.e. the 16th.

42. “Metamorphoses” Lib. ii. 768 et seqq., where a general description of Envy is given.

43. Golden Love and Leaden Love represent successful and unsuccessful love; the first kindled by Cupid’s golden darts, the second by his leaden arrows.

44. “Domine, labia mea aperies — et os meam annunciabit laudem tuam” (“Lord, open my lips — and my mouth will announce your praise”) Psalms li. 15, was the verse with which Matins began. The stanzas which follow contain a paraphrase of the matins for Trinity Sunday, allegorically setting forth the doctrine that love is the all-controlling influence in the government of the universe.

45. “Venite, exultemus,” (“Come, let us rejoice”) are the first words of Psalm xcv. called the “Invitatory.”

46. “Domine Dominus noster:” The opening words of Psalm viii.; “O Lord our Lord.”

47. “Coeli enarrant:” Psalm xix. 1; “The heavens declare (thy glory).”

48. “Domini est terra”: Psalm xxiv. I; “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof.” The first “nocturn” is now over, and the lessons from Scripture follow.

49. “Jube, Domine:” “Command, O Lord;” from Matthew xiv. 28, where Peter, seeing Christ walking on the water, says “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come to thee on the water.”

50: “Tu autem:” the formula recited by the reader at the end of each lesson; “Tu autem, Domine, miserere nobis.” (“But do thou, O Lord, have pity on us!”)

51. “Te Deum Amoris:” “Thee, God of Love (we praise).”

52. Not Tubal, who was the worker in metals; but Jubal, his brother, “who was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ” (Genesis iv. 21).

53. “Dominus regnavit:” Psalm xciii. 1, “The Lord reigneth.” With this began the “Laudes,” or morning service of praise.

54. “Jubilate:” Psalm c. 1, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”

55. “Benedicite:” “Bless ye the Lord;” the opening of the Song of the Three Children

56. “Laudate:” Psalm cxlvii.; “Praise ye the Lord.”

57. “O admirabile:” Psalm viii 1; “O Lord our God, how excellent is thy name.”

58. “Benedictus”: The first word of the Song of Zacharias (Luke i. 68); “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel”

59. In The Knight’s Tale we have exemplifications of the custom of gathering and wearing flowers and branches on May Day; where Emily, “doing observance to May,” goes into the garden at sunrise and gathers flowers, “party white and red, to make a sotel garland for her head”; and again, where Arcite rides to the fields “to make him a garland of the greves; were it of woodbine, or of hawthorn leaves”

THE CUCKOO AND THE NIGHTINGALE.

[THE noble vindication of true love, as an exalting, purifying, and honour-conferring power, which Chaucer has made in “The Court of Love,” is repeated in “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale.” At the same time, the close of the poem leads up to “The Assembly of Fowls;” for, on the appeal of the Nightingale, the dispute between her and the Cuckoo, on the merits and blessings of love, is referred to a parliament of birds, to be held on the morrow after Saint Valentine’s Day. True, the assembly of the feathered tribes described by Chaucer, though held on Saint Valentine’s Day, and engaged in the discussion of a controversy regarding love, is not occupied with the particular cause which in the present poem the Nightingale appeals to the parliament. But “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale” none the less serves as a link between the two poems; indicating as it does the nature of those controversies, in matters subject to the supreme control of the King and Queen of Love, which in the subsequent poem we find the courtiers, under the guise of birds, debating in full conclave and under legal forms. Exceedingly simple in conception, and written in a metre full of musical irregularity and forcible freedom, “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale” yields in vividness, delicacy, and grace to none of Chaucer’s minor poems. We are told that the poet, on the third night of May, is sleepless, and rises early in the morning, to try if he may hear the Nightingale sing. Wandering by a brook-side, he sits down on the flowery lawn, and ere long, lulled by the sweet melody of many birds and the well-according music of the stream, he falls into a kind of doze — “not all asleep, nor fully waking.” Then (an evil omen) he hears the Cuckoo sing before the Nightingale; but soon he hears the Nightingale request the Cuckoo to remove far away, and leave the place to birds that can sing. The Cuckoo enters into a defence of her song, which becomes a railing accusation against Love and a recital of the miseries which Love’s servants endure; the Nightingale vindicates Love in a lofty and tender strain, but is at last overcome with sorrow by the bitter words of the Cuckoo, and calls on the God of Love for help. On this the poet starts up, and, snatching a stone from the brook, throws it at the Cuckoo, who flies away full fast. The grateful Nightingale promises that, for this service, she will be her champion’s singer all that May; she warns him against believing the Cuckoo, the foe of Love; and then, having sung him one of her new songs, she flies away to all the other birds that are in that dale, assembles them, and demands that they should do her right upon the Cuckoo. By one assent it is agreed that a parliament shall be held, “the morrow after Saint Valentine’s Day,” under a maple before the window of Queen Philippa at Woodstock, when judgment shall be passed upon the Cuckoo; then the Nightingale flies into a hawthorn, and sings a lay of love so loud that the poet awakes. The five-line stanza, of which the first, second, and fifth lines agree in one rhyme, the third and fourth in another, is peculiar to this poem; and while the prevailing measure is the decasyllabic line used in the “Canterbury Tales,” many of the lines have one or two syllables less. The poem is given here without abridgement.] (Transcriber’s note: Modern scholars believe that Chaucer was not the author of this poem)

THE God of Love, ah! benedicite,
How mighty and how great a lord is he! <1>
For he can make of lowe heartes high,
And of high low, and like for to die,
And harde heartes he can make free.

He can make, within a little stound,* *moment
Of sicke folke whole, and fresh, and sound,
And of the whole he can make sick;
He can bind, and unbinden eke,
What he will have bounden or unbound.

To tell his might my wit may not suffice;
For he can make of wise folk full nice,* — *foolish
For he may do all that he will devise, —
And lither* folke to destroye vice, *idle, vicious
And proude heartes he can make agrise.* *tremble

Shortly, all that ever he will he may;
Against him dare no wight say nay;
For he can glad and grieve *whom him liketh.* *whom he pleases*
And who that he will, he laugheth or siketh,* *sigheth
And most his might he sheddeth ever in May.

For every true gentle hearte free,
That with him is, or thinketh for to be,
Against May now shall have some stirring,* *impulse
Either to joy, or else to some mourning,
In no season so much, as thinketh me.

For when that they may hear the birdes sing,
And see the flowers and the leaves spring,
That bringeth into hearte’s remembrance
A manner ease, *medled with grievance,* *mingled with sorrow*
And lusty thoughtes full of great longing.

And of that longing cometh heaviness,
And thereof groweth greate sickeness,
And <2> for the lack of that that they desire:
And thus in May be heartes set on fire,
So that they brennen* forth in great distress. *burn

I speake this of feeling truely;
If I be old and unlusty,
Yet I have felt the sickness thorough May
*Both hot and cold, an access ev’ry day,* *every day a hot and a
How sore, y-wis, there wot no wight but I. cold fit*

I am so shaken with the fevers white,
Of all this May sleep I but lite;* *little
And also it is not like* unto me *pleasing
That any hearte shoulde sleepy be,
In whom that Love his fiery dart will smite,

But as I lay this other night waking,
I thought how lovers had a tokening,* *significance
And among them it was a common tale,
That it were good to hear the nightingale
Rather than the lewd cuckoo sing.

And then I thought, anon* it was day, *whenever
I would go somewhere to assay
If that I might a nightingale hear;
For yet had I none heard of all that year,
And it was then the thirde night of May.

And anon as I the day espied,
No longer would I in my bed abide;
But to a wood that was fast by,
I went forth alone boldely,
And held the way down by a brooke’s side,

Till I came to a laund* of white and green, *lawn
So fair a one had I never in been;
The ground was green, *y-powder’d with daisy,* *strewn with daisies*
The flowers and the *greves like high,* *bushes of the same height*
All green and white; was nothing elles seen.

There sat I down among the faire flow’rs,
And saw the birdes trip out of their bow’rs,
There as they rested them alle the night;
They were so joyful of the daye’s light,
They began of May for to do honours.

They coud* that service all by rote; *knew
There was many a lovely note!
Some sange loud as they had plain’d,
And some in other manner voice feign’d,
And some all out with the full throat.

They proined* them, and made them right gay, *preened their feathers
And danc’d and leapt upon the spray;
And evermore two and two in fere,* *together
Right so as they had chosen them to-year* *this year
In Feverere* upon Saint Valentine’s Day. *February

And the river that I sat upon,* *beside
It made such a noise as it ran,
Accordant* with the birde’s harmony, *keeping time with
Me thought it was the beste melody
That might be heard of any man.

And for delight, I wote never how,
I fell in such a slumber and a swow, — *swoon
Not all asleep, nor fully waking, —
And in that swow me thought I hearde sing
The sorry bird, the lewd cuckow;

And that was on a tree right faste by.
But who was then *evil apaid* but I? *dissatisfied
“Now God,” quoth I, “that died on the crois,* *cross
Give sorrow on thee, and on thy lewed voice!
Full little joy have I now of thy cry.”

And as I with the cuckoo thus gan chide,
I heard, in the next bush beside,
A nightingale so lustily sing,
That her clear voice she made ring
Through all the greenwood wide.

“Ah, good Nightingale,” quoth I then,
“A little hast thou been too long hen;* *hence, absent
For here hath been the lewd cuckow,
And sung songs rather* than hast thou: *sooner
I pray to God that evil fire her bren!”* *burn

But now I will you tell a wondrous thing:
As long as I lay in that swooning,
Me thought I wist what the birds meant,
And what they said, and what was their intent
And of their speech I hadde good knowing.

There heard I the nightingale say:
“Now, good Cuckoo, go somewhere away,
And let us that can singe dwelle here;
For ev’ry wight escheweth* thee to hear, *shuns
Thy songes be so elenge,* in good fay.”** *strange **faith

“What,” quoth she, “what may thee all now
It thinketh me, I sing as well as thou,
For my song is both true and plain,
Although I cannot crakel* so in vain, *sing tremulously
As thou dost in thy throat, I wot ne’er how.

“And ev’ry wight may understande me,
But, Nightingale, so may they not do thee,
For thou hast many a nice quaint* cry; *foolish
I have thee heard say, ‘ocy, ocy;’ <3>
How might I know what that should be?”

“Ah fool,” quoth she, “wost thou not what it is?
When that I say, ‘ocy, ocy,’ y-wis,
Then mean I that I woulde wonder fain
That all they were shamefully slain, *die
That meanen aught againe love amiss.

“And also I would that all those were dead,
That thinke not in love their life to lead,
For who so will the god of Love not serve,
I dare well say he is worthy to sterve,* *die
And for that skill,* ‘ocy, ocy,’ I grede.”** *reason **cry

“Ey!” quoth the cuckoo, “this is a quaint* law, *strange
That every wight shall love or be to-draw!* *torn to pieces
But I forsake alle such company;
For mine intent is not for to die,
Nor ever, while I live, *on Love’s yoke to draw.* *to put on love’s
yoke*
“For lovers be the folk that be alive,
That most disease have, and most unthrive,* *misfortune
And most endure sorrow, woe, and care,
And leaste feelen of welfare:
What needeth it against the truth to strive?”

“What?” quoth she, “thou art all out of thy mind!
How mightest thou in thy churlishness find
To speak of Love’s servants in this wise?
For in this world is none so good service
To ev’ry wight that gentle is of kind;

“For thereof truly cometh all gladness,
All honour and all gentleness,
Worship, ease, and all hearte’s lust,* *pleasure
Perfect joy, and full assured trust,
Jollity, pleasance, and freshness,

“Lowlihead, largess, and courtesy,
Seemelihead, and true company,
Dread of shame for to do amiss;
For he that truly Love’s servant is,
Were lother* to be shamed than to die. *more reluctant

“And that this is sooth that I say,
In that belief I will live and dey;
And, Cuckoo, so I rede* that thou, do y-wis.” *counsel
“Then,” quoth he, “let me never have bliss,
If ever I to that counsail obey!

“Nightingale, thou speakest wondrous fair,
But, for all that, is the sooth contrair;
For love is in young folk but rage,
And in old folk a great dotage;
Who most it useth, moste shall enpair.* *suffer harm

“For thereof come disease and heaviness,
Sorrow and care, and many a great sickness,
Despite, debate, anger, envy,
Depraving,* shame, untrust, and jealousy, *loss of fame or character
Pride, mischief, povert’, and woodness.* *madness

“Loving is an office of despair,
And one thing is therein that is not fair;
For who that gets of love a little bliss,
*But if he be away therewith, y-wis,
He may full soon of age have his hair.* *see note <5>*

“And, Nightingale, therefore hold thee nigh;
For, ‘lieve me well, for all thy quainte cry,
If thou be far or longe from thy make,* *mate
Thou shalt be as other that be forsake,
And then thou shalt hoten* as do I.” *be called

“Fie,” quoth she, “on thy name and on thee!
The god of Love let thee never the!* *thrive
For thou art worse a thousand fold than wood,* *mad
For many one is full worthy and full good,
That had been naught, ne hadde Love y-be.

“For evermore Love his servants amendeth,
And from all evile taches* them defendeth, *blemishes
And maketh them to burn right in a fire,
In truth and in worshipful* desire, *honourable
And, when him liketh, joy enough them sendeth.”

“Thou Nightingale,” he said, “be still!
For Love hath no reason but his will;
For ofttime untrue folk he easeth,
And true folk so bitterly displeaseth,
That for default of grace* he lets them spill.”** *favour **be ruined

Then took I of the nightingale keep,
How she cast a sigh out of her deep,
And said, “Alas, that ever I was bore!
I can for teen* not say one worde more;” *vexation, grief
And right with that word she burst out to weep.

“Alas!” quoth she, “my hearte will to-break
To heare thus this lewd bird speak
Of Love, and of his worshipful service.
Now, God of Love, thou help me in some wise,
That I may on this cuckoo be awreak!”* *revenged

Methought then I start up anon,
And to the brook I ran and got a stone,
And at the cuckoo heartly cast;
And for dread he flew away full fast,
And glad was I when he was gone.

And evermore the cuckoo, as he flay,* *flew
He saide, “Farewell, farewell, popinjay,”
As though he had scorned, thought me;
But ay I hunted him from the tree,
Until he was far out of sight away.

And then came the nightingale to me,
And said, “Friend, forsooth I thank thee
That thou hast lik’d me to rescow;* *rescue
And one avow to Love make I now,
That all this May I will thy singer be.”

I thanked her, and was right *well apaid:* *satisfied
“Yea,” quoth she, “and be thou not dismay’d,
Though thou have heard the cuckoo *erst than* me; <6> *before
For, if I live, it shall amended be
The next May, if I be not afraid.

“And one thing I will rede* thee also,
Believe thou not the cuckoo, the love’s foe,
For all that he hath said is strong leasing.”* *falsehood
“Nay,” quoth I, “thereto shall nothing me bring
For love, and it hath done me much woe.”

“Yea? Use,” quoth she, “this medicine,
Every day this May ere thou dine:
Go look upon the fresh daisy,
And, though thou be for woe in point to die,
That shall full greatly less thee of thy pine.* *sorrow

“And look alway that thou be good and true,
And I will sing one of my songes new
For love of thee, as loud as I may cry:”
And then she began this song full high:
“I shrew* all them that be of love untrue.” *curse

And when she had sung it to the end,
“Now farewell,” quoth she, “for I must wend,* *go
And, God of Love, that can right well and may,
As much joy sende thee this day,
As any lover yet he ever send!”

Thus took the nightingale her leave of me.
I pray to God alway with her be,
And joy of love he send her evermore,
And shield us from the cuckoo and his lore;
For there is not so false a bird as he.

Forth she flew, the gentle nightingale,
To all the birdes that were in that dale,
And got them all into a place in fere,* *together
And besought them that they would hear
Her disease,* and thus began her tale. *distress, grievance

“Ye witte* well, it is not for to hide, *know
How the cuckoo and I fast have chide,* *quarrelled
Ever since that it was daylight;
I pray you all that ye do me right
On that foul false unkind bride.”* *bird

Then spake one bird for all, by one assent:
“This matter asketh good advisement;
For we be fewe birdes here in fere,
And sooth it is, the cuckoo is not here,
And therefore we will have a parlement.

“And thereat shall the eagle be our lord,
And other peers that been *of record,* *of established authority*
And the cuckoo shall be *after sent;* *summoned
There shall be given the judgment,
Or else we shall finally *make accord.* *be reconciled*

“And this shall be, withoute nay,* *contradiction
The morrow after Saint Valentine’s Day,
Under a maple that is fair and green,
Before the chamber window of the Queen, <7>
At Woodstock upon the green lay.”* *lawn

She thanked them, and then her leave took,
And into a hawthorn by that brook,
And there she sat and sang upon that tree,
*”Term of life love hath withhold me;”* *love hath me in her
So loude, that I with that song awoke. service all my life*

Explicit.* *The End

The Author to His Book.

O LEWD book! with thy foul rudeness,
Since thou hast neither beauty nor eloquence,
Who hath thee caus’d or giv’n the hardiness
For to appear in my lady’s presence?
I am full sicker* thou know’st her benevolence, *certain
Full agreeable to all her abying,* *merit
For of all good she is the best living.

Alas! that thou ne haddest worthiness,
To show to her some pleasant sentence,
Since that she hath, thorough her gentleness,
Accepted thee servant to her dign reverence!
O! me repenteth that I n’had science,
And leisure als’, t’make thee more flourishing,
For of all good she is the best living.

Beseech her meekly with all lowliness,
Though I be ferre* from her in absence, *far
To think on my truth to her and steadfastness,
And to abridge of my sorrows the violence,
Which caused is whereof knoweth your sapience;* *wisdom
She like among to notify me her liking,
For of all good she is the best living.

Explicit.

L’Envoy; To the Author’s Lady.

Aurore of gladness, day of lustiness,
Lucern* at night with heav’nly influence *lamp
Illumin’d, root of beauty and goodness,
Suspires* which I effund** in silence! *sighs **pour forth
Of grace I beseech, allege* let your writing *declare
Now of all good, since ye be best living.

Explicit.

Notes to the Cuckoo and the Nightingale

1. These two lines occur also in The Knight’s Tale; they commence the speech of Theseus on the love follies of Palamon and Arcite, whom the Duke has just found fighting in the forest.

2. A stronger reading is “all.”

3. “Ocy, ocy,” is supposed to come from the Latin “occidere,” to kill; or rather the old French, “occire,” “occis,” denoting the doom which the nightingale imprecates or supplicates on all who do offence to Love.

4. Grede: cry; Italian, “grido.”

5.”But if he be away therewith, y-wis, He may full soon of age have his hair”: Unless he be always fortunate in love pursuits, he may full soon have gray hair, through his anxieties.

6. It was of evil omen to hear the cuckoo before the nightingale or any other bird.

7. The Queen: Philippa of Hainault, wife of Edward III.

The Canterbury Tales and Other Poems by Geoffrey Chaucer Part III
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