19+ Best Geoffrey Chaucer Poems You Need To Read

Geoffrey Chaucer was an English poet and author. Widely seen as the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages, he is best known for The Canterbury Tales.

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Famous Geoffrey Chaucer Poems

The Complaint Unto Pity

Part 28

PROLOGUE TO THE CHANOUNS YEMANNES TALE

The prologe of the Chanouns yemannes tale.

Whan ended was the lyf of seinte Cecile,
Er we hadde riden fully fyve mile,
At Boghtoun under Blee us gan atake
A man, that clothed was in clothes blake,
And undernethe he wered a whyt surplys.

His hakeney, which that was al pomely grys,
So swatte, that it wonder was to see,
It wemed as he had priked miles thre.
The hors eek that his yeman rood upon
So swatte, that unnethe myghte it gon.

Aboute the peytrel stood the foom ful hye,
He was of fome al flekked as a pye.
A male tweyfoold upon his croper lay,
It semed that he caried lite array.
Al light for somer rood this worthy man,

And in myn herte wondren I bigan
What that he was, til that I understood
How that his cloke was sowed to his hood;
For which, whan I hadde longe avysed me,
I demed hym som Chanoun for to be.

His hat heeng at his bak doun by a laas,
For he hadde riden moore than trot or paas;
He hadde ay priked lik as he were wood.
A clote-leef he hadde under his hood
For swoot, and for to kepe his heed from heete.

But it was joye for to seen hym swete!
His forheed dropped as a stillatorie
Were ful of plantayne and of paritorie.
And whan that he was come, he gan to crye,
‘God save,’ quod he, ‘this joly compaignye!

Faste have I priked,’ quod he, ‘for youre sake,
By cause that I wolde yow atake,
To riden in this myrie compaignye.’
His Yeman eek was ful of curteisye,
And seyde, ‘Sires, now in the morwe tyde

Out of youre hostelrie I saugh yow ryde,
And warned heer my lord and my soverayn
Which that to ryden with yow is ful fayn
For his desport; he loveth daliaunce.’
‘Freend, for thy warnyng God yeve thee good chaunce,’

Thanne seyde oure Hoost, ‘for certein, it wolde seme
Thy lord were wys, and so I may wel deme.
He is ful jocunde also, dar I leye.
Can he oght telle a myrie tale or tweye
With which he glade may this compaignye?’

‘Who, sire, my lord? ye, ye, with-outen lye!
He kan of murthe and eek of jolitee
Nat but ynough, also, sire, trusteth me.
And ye hym knewen as wel as do I,
Ye wolde wondre how wel and craftily

He koude werke, and that in sondry wise.
He hath take on hym many a greet emprise,
Which were ful hard for any that is heere
To brynge aboute, but they of hym it leere.
As hoomly as he rit amonges yow,

If ye hym knewe, it wolde be for youre prow,
Ye wolde nat forgoon his aqueyntaunce
For muchel good, I dar leye in balaunce
Al that I have in my possessioun.
He is a man of heigh discrecioun,

I warne yow wel, he is a passyng man.’
‘Wel,’ quod oure Hoost, ‘I pray thee, tel em than,
Is he a clerk, or noon? telle what he is?’
‘Nay, he is gretter than a clerk, ywis,’
Seyde this Yeman, ‘and in wordes fewe,

Hoost, of his craft somwhat I wol yow shewe.
I seye my lord kan swich subtilitee-
But al his craft ye may nat wite for me,
And somwhat helpe I yet to his wirkyng-
That al this ground on which we been rydyng

Til that we come to Caunterbury toun,
He koude al clene turne it up so doun
And pave ti al of silver and of gold.’
And whan this Yeman hadde this tale ytold
Unto oure Hoost, he seyde, ‘Benedicitee,

This thyng is wonder merveillous to me,
Syn that thy lord is of so heigh prudence,
By cause of which men sholde hym reverence,
That of his worship rekketh he so lite.
His overslope nys nat worth a myte

As in effect to hym, so moot I go.
It is al baudy and to-tore also,
Why is thy lord so sluttissh, I the preye,
And is of power bettre clooth to beye,
If that his dede accorde with thy speche?

Telle me that, and that I thee biseche.’
‘Why,’ quod this Yeman, ‘wherto axe ye me?
God help me so, for he shal nevere thee!
But I wol nat avowe that I seye,
And therfore keepe it secree, I yow preye;

He is to wys, in feith, as I bileeve!
That that is overdoon, it wol nat preeve
Aright; as clerkes seyn, it is a vice.
Wherfore in that I holde hym lewed and nyce;
For whan a man hath over-greet a wit,

Ful oft hym happeth to mysusen it.
So dooth my lord, and that me greveth soore.
God it amende, I kan sey yow namoore.’
‘Therof no fors, good Yeman,’ quod oure Hoost,
‘Syn of the konnyng of thy lord thow woost,

Telle how he dooth, I pray thee hertely,
Syn that he is so crafty and so sly.
Wher dwelle ye, if it to telle be?’
‘In the suburbes of a toun,’ quod he,
‘Lurkynge in hernes and in lanes blynde,

Where as thise robbours and thise theves by kynde
Holden hir pryvee fereful residence,
As they that dar nat shewen hir presence.
So faren we if I shal seye the sothe.’
‘Now,’ quod oure Hoost, ‘yit lat me talke to the,

Why artow so discoloured of thy face?’
‘Peter,’ quod he, ‘God yeve it harde grace,
I am so used in the fyr to blowe,
That it hath chaunged my colour, I trowe.
I am nat wont in no mirrour to prie,

But swynke soore, and lerne multiplie.
We blondren evere, and pouren in the fir,
And, for al that, we faille of oure desir.
For evere we lakke of oure conclusioun;
To muchel folk we doon illusioun,

And borwe gold, be it a pound or two,
Or ten, or twelve, or manye sommes mo,
And make hem wenen at the leeste weye
That of a pound we koude make tweye.
Yet is it fals, but ay we han good hope

It for to doon, and after it we grope.
But that science is so fer us biforn,
We mowen nat, although we hadden sworn,
It over-take, it slit awey so faste.
It wole us maken beggars atte laste.’

Whil this yeman was thus in his talkyng,
This Chanoun drough hym neer, and herde al thyng
Which this Yeman spak, for suspecioun
Of mennes speche evere hadde this Chanoun.
For Catoun seith, that he that gilty is

Demeth alle thyng be spoke of hym, ywis.
That was the cause he gan so ny hym drawe
To his yeman, to herknen al his sawe.
And thus he seyde unto his yeman tho,
‘Hoold thou thy pees, and spek no wordes mo,

For it thou do, thou shalt it deere abye.
Thou sclaundrest me heere in this compaignye,
And eek discoverest that thou sholdest hyde.’
‘Ye,’ quod oure Hoost, ‘telle on, what so bityde,
Of al his thretyng rekke nat a myte.’

‘In feith,’ quod he, ‘namoore I do but lyte.’
And whan this Chanoun saugh it wolde nat bee,
But his Yeman wolde telle his pryvetee,
He fledde awey for verray sorwe and shame.
‘A!’ quod the Yeman, ‘heere shal arise game.

Al that I kan, anon now wol I telle,
Syn he is goon, the foule feend hym quelle!
For nevere heer after wol I with hym meete,
For peny ne for pound, I yow biheete.
He that me broghte first unto that game,

Er that he dye, sorwe have he and shame.
For it is ernest to me, by my feith,
That feele I wel, what so any man seith.
And yet, for al my smert and al my grief,
For al my sorwe, labour, and meschief,

I koude never leve it in no wise.
Now wolde God, my wit myghte suffise
To tellen al that longeth to that art,
And nathelees yow wol I tellen part.
Syn that my lord is goon, I wol nat spare,
Swich thyng as that I knowe, I wol declare.

Heere endeth the prologe of the Chanouns yemannes tale.

(After a lengthy account of the practice of alchemy by
his master, the yeoman tells how a priest is beguiled of
his money by a certain canon through trickery of a hollow
rod.)

The Merchant’s Tale

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.’

THE TALE.

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.

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

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.

The Complaint Unto Pity

Pite, that I have sought so yore agoo
With herte soore and ful of besy peyne,
That in this world was never wight so woo
Withoute deth– and yf I shal not feyne,
My purpos was to Pite to compleyne
Upon the crueltee and tirannye
Of Love, that for my trouthe doth me dye.

And when that I, be lengthe of certeyne yeres,
Had evere in oon a tyme sought to speke,
To Pitee ran I al bespreynt with teres
To prayen hir on Cruelte me awreke.
But er I myghte with any word outbreke
Or tellen any of my peynes smerte,
I fond hir ded, and buried in an herte.

Adoun I fel when that I saugh the herse,
Ded as a ston while that the swogh me laste;
But up I roos with colour ful dyverse
And pitously on hir myn eyen I caste,
And ner the corps I gan to presen faste,
And for the soule I shop me for to preye.
I was but lorn, ther was no more to seye.

Thus am I slayn sith that Pite is ded.
Allas, that day, that ever hyt shulde falle.
What maner man dar now hold up his hed?
To whom shal any sorwful herte calle?
Now Cruelte hath cast to slee us alle,
In ydel hope, folk redeless of peyne,
Syth she is ded, to whom shul we compleyne?

But yet encreseth me this wonder newe,
That no wight woot that she is ded, but I–
So many men as in her tyme hir knewe–
And yet she dyed not so sodeynly,
For I have sought hir ever ful besely
Sith first I hadde wit or mannes mynde,
But she was ded er that I koude hir fynde.

Aboute hir herse there stoden lustely,
Withouten any woo as thoughte me,
Bounte parfyt, wel armed and richely,
And fresshe Beaute, Lust, and Jolyte,
Assured Maner, Youthe, and Honeste,
Wisdom, Estaat, Drede, and Governaunce,
Confedred both by honde and alliaunce.

A compleynt had I, writen in myn hond,
For to have put to Pite as a bille;
But when I al this companye ther fond,
That rather wolden al my cause spille
Then do me help, I held my pleynte stille,
For to that folk, withouten any fayle,
Withoute Pitee ther may no bille availe.

Then leve I al these vertues, sauf Pite,
Kepynge the corps as ye have herd me seyn,
Confedered alle by bond of Cruelte[Riv., p. 641]
And ben assented when I shal be sleyn.
And I have put my complaynt up ageyn,
For to my foes my bille I dar not shewe,
Th’effect of which seith thus, in wordes fewe:

(The Bill of Complaint)

Humblest of herte, highest of reverence,
Benygne flour, coroune of vertues alle,
Sheweth unto youre rial excellence
Youre servaunt, yf I durste me so calle,
Hys mortal harm in which he is yfalle,
And noght al oonly for his evel fare,
But for your renoun, as he shal declare.

Hit stondeth thus: your contraire, Crueltee,
Allyed is ayenst your regalye
Under colour of womanly Beaute–
For men shulde not, lo, knowe hir tirannye–
With Bounte, Gentilesse, and Curtesye,
And hath depryved yow now of your place
That hyghte ‘Beaute apertenant to Grace.’

For kyndely by youre herytage ryght
Ye ben annexed ever unto Bounte;
And verrayly ye oughte do youre myght
To helpe Trouthe in his adversyte.
Ye be also the corowne of Beaute,
And certes yf ye wanten in these tweyne,
The world is lore; ther is no more to seyne.

Eke what availeth Maner and Gentilesse
Withoute yow, benygne creature?
Shal Cruelte be your governeresse?
Allas, what herte may hyt longe endure?
Wherfore, but ye the rather take cure
To breke that perilouse alliaunce,
Ye sleen hem that ben in your obeisaunce.

And further over yf ye suffre this,
Youre renoun ys fordoo than in a throwe;
Ther shal no man wite well what Pite is.
Allas, that your renoun is falle so lowe!
Ye be than fro youre heritage ythrowe
By Cruelte that occupieth youre place,
And we despeyred that seken to your grace.

Have mercy on me, thow Herenus quene,
That yow have sought so tendirly and yore;
Let som strem of youre lyght on me be sene
That love and drede yow ever lenger the more;
For sothly for to seyne I bere the soore,
And though I be not konnynge for to pleyne,
For Goddis love have mercy on my peyne.

My peyne is this, that what so I desire
That have I not, ne nothing lyk therto;
And ever setteth Desir myn hert on fire.
Eke on that other syde where so I goo,
What maner thing that may encrese my woo,
That have I redy, unsoght, everywhere;
Me lakketh but my deth and than my here.

What nedeth to shewe parcel of my peyne?
Syth every woo that herte may bethynke
I suffre and yet I dar not to yow pleyne;
For wel I wot although I wake or wynke,
Ye rekke not whether I flete or synke.
But natheles yet my trouthe I shal sustene
Unto my deth, and that shal wel be sene.

This is to seyne I wol be youres evere,
Though ye me slee by Crueltee your foo,
Algate my spirit shal never dissevere
Fro youre servise for any peyne or woo.
Sith ye be ded– allas that hyt is soo–
Thus for your deth I may wel wepe and pleyne
With herte sore and ful of besy peyne.

The Canterbury Tales; The Persouns Tale

Part 30

PROLOGUE TO THE PERSOUNS TALE

Heere folweth the Prologe of the Persouns tale.

By that the Maunciple hadde his tale al ended,
The sonne fro the south lyne was descended
So lowe, that he nas nat to my sighte
Degrees nyne and twenty as in highte.
Ten of the clokke it was tho, as I gesse,

For ellevene foot, or litel moore or lesse,
My shadwe was at thilke tyme as there,
Of swiche feet as my lengthe parted were
In sixe feet equal of proporcioun.
Therwith the moones exaltacioun,

I meene Libra, alwey gan ascende,
As we were entryng at a thropes ende.
For which our Hoost, as he was wont to gye,
As in this caas, oure joly compaignye,
Seyde in this wise, ‘Lordynges everichoon,

Now lakketh us no tales mo than oon,
Fulfilled is my sentence and my decree;
I trowe that we han herd of ech degree.
Almoost fulfild is al myn ordinaunce,
I pray to God, so yeve hym right good chaunce

That telleth this tale to us lustily!
‘Sire preest,’ quod he, ‘artow a vicary,
Or arte a person? sey sooth by thy fey.
Be what thou be, ne breke thou nat oure pley;
For every man save thou hath toold his tale.

Unbokele and shewe us what is in thy male,
For trewely, me thynketh by thy cheere
Thou sholdest knytte up wel a greet mateere.
Telle us a fable anon, for Cokkes bones.’
This Persoun him answerede, al atones,

‘Thou getest fable noon ytoold for me,
For Paul, that writeth unto Thymothee,
Repreveth hem that weyveth soothfastnesse,
And tellen fables, and swich wrecchednesse.
Why sholde I sowen draf out of my fest

Whan I may sowen whete, if that me lest?
For which I seye, if that yow list to heere,
Moralitee and vertuous mateere;
And thanne that ye wol yeve me audience,
I wol ful fayn, at Cristes reverence,

Do yow plesaunce leefful, as I kan.
But trusteth wel I am a southren man,
I kan nat geeste Rum, Ram, Ruf by lettre,
Ne, God woot, rym holde I but litel bettre,
And therfore if yow list, I wol nat glose,

I wol yow telle a myrie tale in prose
To knytte up al this feeste, and make an ende,
And Jesu, for his grace, wit me sende
To shewe yow the wey, in this viage,
Of thilke parfit glorious pilgrymage

That highte Jerusalem celestial.
And if ye vouchesauf, anon I shal
Bigynne upon my tale, for which I preye,
Telle youre avys, I kan no bettre seye.
But nathelees, this meditacioun

I putte it ay under correccioun
Of clerkes, for I am nat textueel;
I take but sentence, trusteth weel.
Therfore I make a protestacioun
That I wol stonde to correccioun.’

Upon this word we han assented soone;
For, as us semed, it was for to doone
To enden in som vertuous sentence,
And for to yeve hym space and audience;
Adn bede oure Hoost he sholde to hym seye

That alle we to telle his tale hym preye.
Oure Hoost hadde the wordes for us alle:
‘Sire preest,’ quod he, ‘now faire yow bifalle,
Sey what yow list, and we wol gladly heere.’
And with that word he seyde in this manere,

‘Telleth,’ quod he, ‘youre meditacioun;
But hasteth yow, the sonne wole adoun.
Beth fructuous, and that in litel space,
And to do wel God sende yow his grace.’

The Canterbury Tales; The Maunciples Tale

PROLOGUE TO THE MAUNCIPLES TALE

Heere folweth the Prologe of the Maunciples tale.

Woot ye nat where ther stant a litel toun,
Which that ycleped is Bobbe-up-and-doun
Under the Blee, in Caunterbury weye?
Ther gan oure Hooste for to jape and pleye,
And seyde, ‘Sires, what, Dun is in the Myre!

Is ther no man for preyere ne for hyre,
That wole awake oure felawe al bihynde?
A theef myghte hym ful lightly robbe and bynde.
See how he nappeth, see how for Cokkes bones,
That he wol falle fro his hors atones.

Is that a Cook of London, with meschaunce?
Do hym com forth, he knoweth his penaunce,
For he shal telle a tale, by my fey,
Although it be nat worth a botel hey.
Awake, thou Cook,’ quod he, ‘God yeve thee sorwe,

What eyleth thee, to slepe by the morwe?
Hastow had fleen al nyght, or artow dronke?
Or hastow with som quene al nyght yswonke
So that thow mayst nat holden up thyn heed?’
This Cook that was ful pale, and no thyng reed,

Seyde to oure Hoost, ‘So God my soule blesse,
As ther is falle on me swich hevynesse,
Noot I nat why, that me were levere slepe
Than the beste galon wyn in Chepe.’
‘Wel,’ quod the Maunciple, ‘if it may doon ese

To thee, Sire Cook, and to no wight displese
Which that heere rideth in this compaignye,
And that oure Hoost wole of his curteisye,
I wol as now excuse thee of thy tale,
For, in good feith, thy visage is ful pale.

Thyne eyen daswen eek, as that me thynketh,
And wel I woot, thy breeth ful soure stynketh.
That sheweth wel thou art nat wel disposed,
Of me, certeyn, thou shalt nat been yglosed.
See how he ganeth, lo, this dronken wight!

As though he wolde swolwe us anonright.
Hoold cloos thy mouth, man, by thy fader kyn,
The devel of helle sette his foot therin.
Thy cursed breeth infecte wole us alle,
Fy, stynkyng swyn! fy, foule moothe thou falle!

A, taketh heede, sires, of this lusty man!
Now, sweete sire, wol ye justen atte fan?
Therto me thynketh ye been wel yshape,
I trowe that ye dronken han wyn-ape,
And that is, whan men pleyen with a straw.’

And with this speche the Cook wax wrooth and wraw,
And on the Manciple he gan nodde faste,
For lakke of speche, and doun the hors hym caste,
Where as he lay til that men up hym took;
This was a fair chyvachee of a Cook!

Allas, he nadde holde hym by his ladel!
And er that he agayn were in his sadel
Ther was greet showvyng bothe to and fro,
To lifte hym up, and muchel care and wo,
So unweeldy was this sory palled goost.

And to the Manciple thanne spak oure hoost,
‘By cause drynke hath dominacioun,
Upon this man, by my savacioun,
I trowe he lewedly wolde telle his tale.
For were it wyn, or oold or moysty ale,

That he hath dronke, he speketh in his nose,
And fneseth faste, and eek he hath the pose.
He hath also to do moore than ynough
To kepen hym and his capul out of slough,
And if he falle from his capul eftsoone,

Thanne shal we alle have ynogh to doone
In liftyng up his hevy dronken cors.
Telle on thy tale, of hym make I no fors;
But yet, Manciple, in feith thou art to nyce,
Thus openly repreve hym of his vice.

Another day he wole peraventure
Reclayme thee and brynge thee to lure.
I meene he speke wole of smale thynges,
As for to pynchen at thy rekenynges,
That were nat honeste, if it cam to preef.’

‘No,’ quod the Manciple, ‘that were a greet mescheef,
So myghte he lightly brynge me in the snare;
Yet hadde I levere payen for the mare,
Which that he rit on, than he sholde with me stryve
I wol nat wratthen hym, al so moot I thryve;

That that I speke, I seyde it in my bourde.
And wite ye what, I have heer in a gourde
A draghte of wyn, ye, of a ripe grape,
And right anon ye shul seen a good jape.
This Cook shal drynke therof if that I may,

Up peyne of deeth, he wol nat seye me nat.’
And certeynly, to tellen as it was,
Of this vessel the Cook drank faste; allas,
What neded hym? he drank ynough biforn!
And whan he hadde pouped in this horn,

To the Manciple he took the gourde agayn,
And of that drynke the Cook was wonder fayn,
And thanked hym in swich wise as he koude.
Thanne gan oure Hoost to laughen wonder loude,
And seyde, ‘I se wel it is necessarie

Where that we goon, that drynke we with us carie.
For that wol turne rancour and disese
Tacord and love and many a wrong apese.
O thou Bacus, yblessed be thy name,
That so kanst turnen ernest into game!

Worship and thank be to thy deitee!
Of that mateere ye gete namoore of me,
Telle on thy tale, Manciple, I thee preye.’
‘Wel, sire,’ quod he, ‘now herkneth what I seye.’

THE MAUNCIPLES TALE

Heere bigynneth the Maunciples tale of the Crowe.

Whan Phebus dwelled heere in this world adoun,
As olde bookes maken mencioun,
He was the mooste lusty bachiler
In al this world, and eek the beste archer.
He slow Phitoun the serpent, as he lay

Slepynge agayn the sonne upon a day;
And many another noble worthy dede
He with his bowe wroghte, as men may rede.
Pleyen he koude on every mynstralcie,
And syngen, that it was a melodie

To heeren of his cleere voys the soun.
Certes, the kyng of Thebes, Amphioun,
That with his syngyng walled that citee,
Koude nevere syngen half so wel as hee.
Therto he was the semelieste man,

That is or was sith that the world bigan.
What nedeth it hise fetures to discryve?
For in this world was noon so fair on lyve.
He was therwith fulfild of gentillesse,
Of honour, and of parfit worthynesse.

This Phebus that was flour of bachilrie,
As wel in fredom as in chivalrie,
For his desport, in signe eek of victorie
Of Phitoun, so as telleth us the storie,
Was wont to beren in his hand a bowe.

Now hadde this Phebus in his hous a crowe,
Which in a cage he fostred many a day,
And taughte it speken as men teche a jay.
Whit was this crowe, as is a snow-whit swan,
And countrefete the speche of every man

He koude, whan he sholde telle a tale.
Therwith in al this world no nyghtngale
Ne koude, by an hondred thousand deel,
Syngen so wonder myrily and weel.
Now hadde this Phebus in his hous a wyf

Which that he lovede moore than his lyf;
And nyght and day dide evere his diligence
Hir for to plese and doon hire reverence.
Save oonly, if the sothe that I shal sayn,
Jalous he was, and wolde have kept hire fayn,

For hym were looth byjaped for to be-
And so is every wight in swich degree;
But al in ydel, for it availleth noght.
A good wyf that is clene of werk and thoght
Sholde nat been kept in noon awayt, certayn.

And trewely the labour is in vayn
To kepe a shrewe, for it wol nat bee.
This holde I for a verray nycetee,
To spille labour for to kepe wyves,
Thus writen olde clerkes in hir lyves.

But now to purpos, as I first bigan:
This worthy Phebus dooth al that he kan
To plesen hir, wenynge that swich plesaunce,
And for his manhede and his governaunce,
That no man sholde han put hym from hire grace.

But God it woot, ther may no man embrace
As to destreyne a thyng, which that nature
Hath natureelly set in a creature.
Taak any bryd, and put it in a cage,
And do al thyn entente and thy corage

To fostre it tendrely with mete and drynke,
Of alle deyntees that thou kanst bithynke;
And keepe it al so clenly as thou may,
Al though his cage of gold be nevere so gay,
Yet hath this bryd, by twenty thousand foold,

Levere in a forest that is rude and coold
Goon ete wormes, and swich wrecchednesse;
For evere this bryd wol doon his bisynesse
To escape out of his cage, whan he may.
His libertee this bryd desireth ay.

Lat take a cat, and fostre hym wel with milk,
And tendre flessh, and make his couche of silk,
And lat hym seen a mous go by the wal,
Anon he weyveth milk and flessh and al,
And every deyntee that is in that hous,

Swich appetit he hath to ete a mous.
Lo, heere hath lust his dominacioun,
And appetit fleemeth discrecioun.
A she wolf hath also a vileyns kynde,
The lewedeste wolf that she may fynde,

Or leest of reputacioun wol she take,
In tyme whan hir lust to han a make.
Alle thise ensamples speke I by thise men,
That been untrewe, and no thyng by wommen,
For men han evere a likerous appetit

On lower thyng to parfourne hire delit,
Than on hire wyves, be they nevere so faire,
Ne nevere so trewe, ne so debonaire.
Flessh is so newefangel, with meschaunce,
That we ne konne in no thyng han plesaunce

That sowneth into vertu any while.
This Phebus, which that thoghte upon no gile,
Deceyved was, for al his jolitee;
For under hym another hadde shee,
A man of litel reputacioun,

Nat worth to Phebus in comparisoun.
The moore harm is, it happeth ofte so,
Of which ther cometh muchel harm and wo.
And so bifel, whan Phebus was absent,
His wyf anon hath for hir lemman sent;

Hir lemman? certes, this is a knavyssh speche,
Foryeveth it me, and that I yow biseche.
The wise Plato seith, as ye may rede,
‘The word moot nede accorde with the dede.’
If men shal telle proprely a thyng,

The word moot cosyn be to the werkyng.
I am a boystous man, right thus seye I.
Ther nys no difference trewely
Bitwixe a wyf that is of heigh degree-
If of hire body dishoneste she bee-

And a povre wenche, oother than this,
If it so be they werke bothe amys,
But that the gentile in hire estaat above,
She shal be cleped his lady as in love,
And for that oother is a povre womman,

She shal be cleped his wenche, or his lemman;
And God it woot, myn owene deere brother,
Men leyn that oon as lowe as lith that oother.
Right so bitwixe a titlelees tiraunt
And an outlawe, or a theef erraunt,

The same I seye, ther is no difference.
To Alisaundre was toold this sentence,
That for the tiraunt is of gretter myght,
By force of meynee for to sleen dounright,
And brennen hous and hoom, and make al playn,

Lo, therfore is he cleped a capitayn!
And for the outlawe hath but smal meynee,
And may nat doon so greet an harm as he,
Ne brynge a contree to so greet mescheef,
Men clepen hym an outlawe or a theef.

But for I am a man noght textueel,
I wol noght telle of textes nevere a deel;
I wol go to my tale as I bigan.
Whan Phebus wyf had sente for hir lemman,
Anon they wroghten al hir lust volage.

The white crowe that heeng ay in the cage
Biheeld hire werk, and seyde nevere a word,
And whan that hoom was com Phebus the lord,
This crowe sang, ‘Cokkow! Cokkow! Cokkow!’
‘What bryd!’ quod Phebus, ‘what song syngestow?

Ne were thow wont so myrily to synge
That to myn herte it was a rejoysynge
To heere thy voys? allas, what song is this?’
‘By God,’ quod he, ‘I synge nat amys.
Phebus,’ quod he, ‘for al thy worthynesse,

For al thy beautee and thy gentillesse,
For al thy song and al thy mynstralcye,
For al thy waityng, blered is thyn eye
With oon of litel reputacioun
Noght worth to thee, as in comparisoun

The montance of a gnat, so moote I thryve,
For on thy bed thy wyf I saugh hym swyve.’
What wol ye moore? the crowe anon hym tolde,
By sadde tokenes and by wordes bolde,
How that his wyf han doon hire lecherye,

Hym to greet shame and to greet vileynye,
And tolde hym ofte, he asugh it with hise eyen.
This Phebus gan aweyward for to wryen,
And thoughte his sorweful herte brast atwo,
His bowe he bente and sette ther inne a flo,

And in his ire his wyf thanne hath he slayn.
This is theffect, ther is namoore to sayn,
For sorwe of which he brak his mynstralcie,
Bothe harpe, and lute, and gyterne, and sautrie,
And eek he brak hise arwes and his bowe,

And after that thus spak he to the crowe.
‘Traitour,’ quod he, ‘with tonge of scorpioun,
Thou hast me broght to my confusioun,
Allas, that I was wroght! why nere I deed?
O deere wyf, O gemme of lustiheed,

That were to me so sad and eek so trewe,
Now listow deed with face pale of hewe,
Ful giltelees, that dorste I swere, ywys.
O rakel hand, to doon so foule amys!
O trouble wit, O ire recchelees!

That unavysed smyteth gilteles.
O wantrust, ful of fals suspecioun,
Where was thy wit and thy discrecioun?
O, every man, be war of rakelnesse,
Ne trowe no thyng withouten strong witnesse.

Smyt nat to soone, er that ye witen why,
And beeth avysed wel and sobrely,
Er ye doon any execucioun
Upon youre ire for suspecioun.
Allas, a thousand folk hath rakel ire

Fully fordoon, and broght hem in the mire!
Allas, for sorwe I wol myselven slee!’
And to the crowe, ‘O false theef,’ seyde he,
‘I wol thee quite anon thy false tale;
Thou songe whilom lyk a nyghtngale,

Now shaltow, false theef, thy song forgon,
And eek thy white fetheres everichon.
Ne nevere in al thy lyf ne shaltou speke,
Thus shal men on a traytour been awreke.
Thou and thyn ofspryng evere shul be blake,

Ne nevere sweete noyse shul ye make,
But evere crie agayn tempest and rayn,
In tokenynge that thurgh thee my wyf is slayn.’
And to the crowe he stirte, and that anon,
And pulled hise white fetheres everychon,

And made hym blak, and refte hym al his song,
And eek his speche, and out at dore hym slong,
Unto the devel-which I hym bitake!-
And for this caas been alle Crowes blake.
Lordynges, by this ensample I yow preye,

Beth war and taketh kepe what I seye:
Ne telleth nevere no man in youre lyf
How that another man hath dight his wyf;
He wol yow haten mortally, certeyn.
Daun Salomon, as wise clerkes seyn,

Techeth a man to kepen his tonge weel.
But as I seyde, I am noght textueel;
But nathelees, thus taughte me my dame;
‘My sone, thenk on the crowe, on Goddes name.
My sone, keepe wel thy tonge and keepe thy freend,

A wikked tonge is worse than a feend.
My sone, from a feend men may hem blesse.
My sone, God of his endelees goodnesse
Walled a tonge with teeth and lippes eke,
For man sholde hym avyse what he speeke.

My sone, ful ofte for to muche speche
Hath many a man been spilt, as clerkes teche.
But for litel speche, avysely,
Is no man shent, to speke generally.
My sone, thy tonge sholdestow restreyne

At alle tymes, but whan thou doost thy peyne
To speke of God in honour and in preyere;
The firste vertu sone, if thou wolt leere,
Is to restreyne and kepe wel thy tonge.
Thus lerne children, whan that they been yonge,

My sone, of muchel spekyng yvele avysed,
Ther lasse spekyng hadde ynough suffised,
Comth muchel harm-thus was me toold and taught.-
In muchel speche synne wanteth naught.
Wostow wherof a rakel tonge serveth?

Right as a swerd forkutteth and forkerveth
An arme atwo, my deere sone, right so
A tonge kutteth freendshipe al atwo.
A jangler is to God abhomynable;
Reed Salomon, so wys and honurable,

Reed David in hise psalmes, reed Senekke!
My sone, spek nat, but with thyn heed thou bekke;
Dissimule as thou were deef, it that thou heere
A jangler speke of perilous mateere.
The Flemyng seith, and lerne it if thee leste,

That litel janglyng causeth muchel reste.
My sone, if thou no wikked word hast seyd,
Thee thar nat drede for to be biwreyd;
But he that hath mysseyd, I dar wel sayn,
He may by no wey clepe his word agayn.

Thyng that is seyd is seyd, and forth it gooth;
Though hym repente, or be hym leef or looth,
He is his thral to whom that he hath sayd
A tale, of which he is now yvele apayd.
My sone, be war, and be noon auctour newe

Of tidynyges, wheither they been false or trewe,
Wherso thou com, amonges hye or lowe,
Kepe wel thy tonge, and thenk upon the Crowe.’

Heere is ended the Maunciples tale of the Crowe.

The Second Nun’s Tale

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.

A Complaint To His Lady

In the long night, when every creature should
naturally take some rest, or else his life cannot long
hold out, then it falls most into my woeful thoughts
how I have dropped so far behind that except death
nothing can comfort me, so do I despair of all
happiness. This thought remains with me until
morning, and forth from morning until eve. I need
borrow no grief; I have both leisure and leave to
mourn. There is no creature who will take my woe or
forbid me to weep enough and wail my fill; the sore
spark of pain destroys me.
This love has so placed me that he will never fulfill
my desire; for neither pity, mercy, nor grace can I
find. Yet even for fear of death can I not root out love
from my sorrowful heart. The more I love, the more
my lady pains me; through which I see, without
remedy, that I may in no way escape death.
Now in truth I will rehearse her name. She is called
Goodness-set-in-womanhood, Staidness-in-youth,
and Beauty-without-pride, and Pleasure-under-
control-and-fear. Her surname is Fair-ruthless,
Wisdom-knit-to-fortune. Because I love her she slays
me guiltless. Her I love best, and shall as long as I
live, better an hundred thousand times than myself,
better than all the riches and created beings of this world.
Now has not Love bestowed me well, to love where I
shall never have part or lot! Alas, so is Fortune’s
wheel turned for me, so am I slain with Love’s fiery
arrow! I can only love her best, my sweet foe. Love
has taught me no more of his art than ever to serve,
and cease for no sorrow.
Within my true, care-worn heart there is so much
woe, and so little joy as well, that woe is me that ever
I was born. For all that I desire I lack, and all that
ever I would not have, that, in truth, I ever find ready
to my hand. And of all this I know not to whom to
complain, for she who might bring me out of this
cares not whether I weep or sing, so little pities she
my pain. Alas! In sleeping-time I wake; when I
should dance I tremble with fear.
This heavy life I lead for your sake, though you pay
no heed thereto, my heart’s lady, all my life’s queen!
For truly I dare say it, as I see it: I seems to methat
your sweet heart of steel is now whetted against me
too keenly. My dear heart, foe best-beloved, why will
you do me all this sorrow? What have I done or said
to grieve you, except that I serve and love you and
nobody else, and as long as I live will ever?
Therefore, sweet, be not displeased. You are so good
and fair, it would be a very great wonder if you did
not have suitors of all kinds, both good and bad; and
the least worthy of all, I am he.
Nevertheless, my own sweet lady, though I be
unskillful and unfit ever to serve your highness, even
as best I knew how, yet this I swear, there is nobody
more glad than I to do your pleasure or to cure
whatever I know to distress you. And had I as much
power as will, then should you feel whether it were
so or not; for in this world is no living being who
would more gladly fulfill your heart’s desire. For I
both love and fear you so sorely, and ever must and
have done right long, that none is better loved, and
never shall be. And yet I would only beg you to
believe me well, and be not angry, and let me
continue to serve you. Lo, this is all! For I am not so
bold or mad as to desire that you should love me; for
alas! Well I know that may not be; I have so little
worth, and you so much. For you are one of the most
excellent of the living, and I the most unlikely to
prosper. Yet, for all this, know you right well you
shall not so drive me from your service that I shall
not ever serve you faithfully, with all my five wits,
whatever woe I feel. For I am so set upon you that
though you never pity me, I must love you and ever
be as true as any man living can be.
The more I love you, goodly and noble one, the less I
find you love me. Alas! When will that obduracy
soften? Where now is all your womanly pity, your
noble gentleness, your graciousness? Will you spend
nothing of it on me? And as wholly as I am your,
sweet, and as great will I have to serve you, if thus
you let me die, you have gained but little from it. For
I believe I have given no cause. And this I beseech
you heartily, that if ever you find, so long as you live,
a servant more true to you than I, then leave me and
boldly slay me, and I will forgive you all my death.
And if you find no truer man, why will you allow me
to perish thus, and for no type of guilt except my
good desire? As good then be untrue as true.
But to your will I submit my life and death, and with
a fully obedient heart I pray, do with me as is your
pleasure. Much rather had I please you and die than
to think or say anything to offend you at any time.
Therefore, pity my bitter pains, sweet, and of your
grace grant me some drop; for else neither hope nor
happiness may remain with me, nor linger in my
troubled, careworn heart.

The Canterbury Tales; The Milleres Tale

PROLOGUE TO THE MILLERES TALE

Heere folwen the wordes bitwene the Hoost and the Millere

Whan that the Knyght had thus his tale ytoold,
In al the route ne was ther yong ne oold

That he ne seyde it was a noble storie,
And worthy for to drawen to memorie;
And namely the gentils everichon.
Oure Hooste lough, and swoor, ‘So moot I gon,
This gooth aright, unbokeled is the male,

Lat se now who shal telle another tale,
For trewely the game is wel bigonne.
Now telleth on, sir Monk, if that ye konne
Somwhat to quite with the Knyghtes tale.’
The Miller that for-dronken was al pale,

So that unnethe upon his hors he sat,
He nolde avalen neither hood ne hat,
Ne abyde no man for his curteisie,
But in Pilates voys he gan to crie,
And swoor by armes and by blood and bones,

‘I kan a noble tale for the nones,
With which I wol now quite the Knyghtes tale.’
Oure Hooste saugh that he was dronke of ale,
And seyde, ‘Abyd, Robyn, my leeve brother,
Som bettre man shal telle us first another,

Abyd, and lat us werken thriftily.’
‘By Goddes soule,’ quod he, ‘that wol nat I,
For I wol speke, or elles go my wey.’
Oure Hoost answerde, ‘Tel on, a devele wey!
Thou art a fool, thy wit is overcome!

‘Now herkneth,’ quod the Miller, ‘alle and some,
But first I make a protestacioun
That I am dronke, I knowe it by my soun;
And therfore, if that I mysspeke or seye,
Wyte it the ale of Southwerk I you preye.

For I wol telle a legende and a lyf
Bothe of a carpenter and of his wyf,
How that a clerk hath set the wrightes cappe.’
The Rev answerde and seyde, ‘Stynt thy clappe,
Lat be thy lewed dronken harlotrye,

It is a synne and eek a greet folye
To apeyren any man or hym defame,
And eek to bryngen wyves in swich fame;
Thou mayst ynogh of othere thynges seyn.’
This dronke Miller spak ful soone ageyn,

And seyde, ‘Leve brother Osewold,
Who hath no wyf, he is no cokewold.
But I sey nat therfore that thou art oon,
Ther been ful goode wyves many oon,
And evere a thousand goode ayeyns oon badde;

That knowestow wel thyself, but if thou madde.
Why artow angry with my tale now?
I have a wyf, pardee, as wel as thow,
Yet nolde I for the oxen in my plogh
Take upon me moore than ynogh,

As demen of myself that I were oon;
I wol bileve wel, that I am noon.
An housbonde shal nat been inquisityf
Of Goddes pryvetee, nor of his wyf.
So he may fynde Goddes foysoun there,

Of the remenant nedeth nat enquere.’
What sholde I moore seyn, but this Miller
He nolde his wordes for no man forbere,
But tolde his cherles tale in his manere;
Me thynketh that I shal reherce it heere.

And therfore every gentil wight I preye,
For Goddes love, demeth nat that I seye
Of yvel entente, but that I moot reherce
Hir tales alle, be they bettre or werse,
Or elles falsen som of my mateere.

And therfore who-so list it nat yheere,
Turne over the leef, and chese another tale;
For he shal fynde ynowe, grete and smale,
Of storial thyng that toucheth gentillesse,
And eek moralitee, and hoolynesse.

Blameth nat me if that ye chese amys;
The Miller is a cherl, ye knowe wel this,
So was the Reve, and othere manye mo,
And harlotrie they tolden bothe two.
Avyseth yow, and put me out of blame,

And eek men shal nat maken ernest of game.

THE TALE

(One John, a rich and credulous carpenter of Oxford, is
beguiled by his wife Alison, through Nicholas, a poor
scholar boarding with them. Absolon, the parish clerk, is
slighted by Alison; but wreaks vengeance on Nicholas.)

The Cook’s Tale

THE Cook of London, while the Reeve thus spake,
For joy he laugh’d and clapp’d him on the back:
‘Aha!’ quoth he, ‘for Christes passion,
This Miller had a sharp conclusion,
Upon this argument of herbergage.* *lodging
Well saide Solomon in his language,
Bring thou not every man into thine house,
For harbouring by night is perilous.
*Well ought a man avised for to be* a man should take good heed
Whom that he brought into his privity.
I pray to God to give me sorrow and care
If ever, since I highte* Hodge of Ware, *was called
Heard I a miller better *set a-work*; *handled
He had a jape* of malice in the derk. trick But God forbid that we should stinte here, *stop
And therefore if ye will vouchsafe to hear
A tale of me, that am a poore man,
I will you tell as well as e’er I can
A little jape that fell in our city.’

Our Host answer’d and said; ‘I grant it thee.
Roger, tell on; and look that it be good,
For many a pasty hast thou letten blood,
And many a Jack of Dover<1> hast thou sold,
That had been twice hot and twice cold.
Of many a pilgrim hast thou Christe’s curse,
For of thy parsley yet fare they the worse.
That they have eaten in thy stubble goose:
For in thy shop doth many a fly go loose.
Now tell on, gentle Roger, by thy name,
But yet I pray thee be not wroth for game; angry with my jesting
A man may say full sooth in game and play.’
‘Thou sayst full sooth,’ quoth Roger, ‘by my fay;
But sooth play quad play,<2> as the Fleming saith,
And therefore, Harry Bailly, by thy faith,
Be thou not wroth, else we departe* here, part company Though that my tale be of an hostelere. innkeeper But natheless, I will not tell it yet, But ere we part, y-wis thou shalt be quit.'<3> *assuredly
And therewithal he laugh’d and made cheer,<4>
And told his tale, as ye shall after hear.

THE TALE.

A prentice whilom dwelt in our city,
And of a craft of victuallers was he:
Galliard* he was, as goldfinch in the shaw**, *lively *grove Brown as a berry, a proper short fellaw: With lockes black, combed full fetisly. daintily And dance he could so well and jollily, That he was called Perkin Revellour. He was as full of love and paramour, As is the honeycomb of honey sweet; Well was the wenche that with him might meet. At every bridal would he sing and hop; He better lov’d the tavern than the shop. For when there any riding was in Cheap,<1> Out of the shoppe thither would he leap, And, till that he had all the sight y-seen, And danced well, he would not come again; And gather’d him a meinie of his sort, *company of fellows
To hop and sing, and make such disport:
And there they *sette steven* for to meet made appointment
To playen at the dice in such a street.
For in the towne was there no prentice
That fairer coulde cast a pair of dice
Than Perkin could; and thereto *he was free *he spent money liberally
Of his dispence, in place of privity.* where he would not be seen*
That found his master well in his chaffare,* merchandise For oftentime he found his box full bare. For, soothely, a prentice revellour, That haunteth dice, riot, and paramour, His master shall it in his shop abie, suffer for All have he no part of the minstrelsy. *although
For theft and riot they be convertible,
All can they play on *gitern or ribible.* guitar or rebeck
Revel and truth, as in a low degree,
They be full wroth* all day, as men may see. *at variance

This jolly prentice with his master bode,
Till he was nigh out of his prenticehood,
All were he snubbed* both early and late, rebuked And sometimes led with revel to Newgate. But at the last his master him bethought, Upon a day when he his paper<2> sought, Of a proverb, that saith this same word; Better is rotten apple out of hoard, Than that it should rot all the remenant: So fares it by a riotous servant; It is well lesse harm to let him pace, pass, go Than he shend all the servants in the place. corrupt Therefore his master gave him a quittance, And bade him go, with sorrow and mischance. And thus this jolly prentice had his leve: desire Now let him riot all the night, or leave. refrain And, for there is no thief without a louke,<3> That helpeth him to wasten and to souk spend Of that he bribe can, or borrow may, steal Anon he sent his bed and his array Unto a compere of his owen sort, *comrade
That loved dice, and riot, and disport;
And had a wife, that held *for countenance* for appearances
A shop, and swived* for her sustenance. *prostituted herself

The Miller’s Tale

In Oxford there once lived a rich old lout
Who had some guest rooms that he rented out,
And carpentry was this old fellow’s trade.
A poor young scholar boarded who had made
His studies in the liberal arts, but he
Had turned his fancy to astrology
And knew the way, by certain propositions,
To answer well when asked about conditions,
Such as when men would ask in certain hours
If they should be expecting drought or showers,
Or if they asked him what was to befall
Concerning such I can’t recount it all.
This student’s name was Nicholas the Handy.
He led a secret love life fine and dandy,
In private always, ever on the sly,
Though meek as any maiden to the eye.
With Nicholas there were no other boarders,
He lived alone, and had there in his quarters
Some fragrant herbs, arranged as best to suit,
And he himself was sweeter than the root
Of licorice or any herb at all.
His Almagest and books both great and small,
An astrolabe for plotting outer space,
And counters used in math were all in place
On shelves between the headposts of his bed.
His storage chest was draped with cloth of red,
And on its top there lay a psaltery
On which at night he’d play a melody,
So sweet a sound that all the chamber rang;
And Angelus ad virginem he sang,
And after that would follow ‘The King’s Note.’
Folks often praised him for his merry throat.
And this was how this sweet clerk’s time was spent,
While friends provided money for his rent.
The carpenter had newly wed a wife,
One whom he loved more than his very life;
Her age was eighteen years. He jealously
Kept her as if inside a cage, for she
Was one both young and wild, and he had fears
Of being a cuckold, so advanced in years.
Not educated, he had never read
Cato: one like himself a man should wed,
He ought to marry mindful of his state,
For youth and age are often at debate.
But since he had been captured in the snare,
Like others folks he had his cross to bear.
And fair this young wife was! She had withal
A body like a weasel, slim and small.
She wore a belt with little stripes of silk;
An apron was as white as morning milk
Upon her loins, pleated daintily.
Her white smock, too, had fine embroidery;
The collar was embellished round about
With lovely coal-black silk inside and out,
And ribbons on the snowy cap she wore
Were of the same silk that her collar bore.
She wore a silken headband, broad and high.
And certainly she had a wanton eye;
Her brows were thinly plucked, and like a bow
Each one was arched, and black as any sloe.
Indeed she was a blissful sight to see,
Moreso than any pear tree that could be
And softer than the wool upon a wether.
Upon her belt was hung a purse of leather,
Silk-tasseled and with brassy spangles pearled.
And there’s no man so wise in all this world,
Though you may go and search it every inch,
Could dream a doll so lovely, such a wench.
And brighter far did shine her lovely hue
Than gold coins in the Tower when they’re new.
Her song was loud and lively as the call
Of any swallow perching on the wall.
She’d skip about and play some game or other
As any kid or calf behind its mother.
Her mouth was sweet as any mead whatever
Or as a hoard of apples on the heather.
Skittish she was, just like a jolly colt,
Tall as a mast, straight as an archer’s bolt.
The brooch on her low collar was as large
As is the boss upon a shield or targe.
Her shoes, well laced, high up her legs would reach.
She really was a primrose, quite a peach,
One fit for any lord to lay in bed
Or any worthy working man to wed.
Now sir, and sir again, it came to pass
That one fine day this Handy Nicholas
With this young wife began to flirt and play,
Her husband off at Osney (anyway
These clerks are cunning when it comes to what
They want), and slyly caught her by the twat;
‘Surely,’ he said, ‘if I don’t have my will,
For secret love, dear, I’ll have quite a spill.’
He held her hips as he went on to say,
‘My darling, you must love me right away
Or I will die, God save me!’ Like a colt
Inside a shoeing frame she tried to bolt,
She turned her face away defiantly.
‘Upon my faith, you’ll get no kiss from me!
Why, let me go,’ she said, ‘stop, Nicholas,
Or I will cry ‘Out!’, ‘Help me!’ and ‘Alas!’
Unhand my body, show some courtesy!’
But then for mercy he made such a plea
And spoke so fairly, offering so fast
His all to her, that she agreed at last
To grant to him her love: she made her promise
To be at his commandment, by Saint Thomas
Of Kent, when she saw opportunity.
‘My husband is so full of jealousy,
If you don’t wait and privy be,’ she said,
‘I know right well that I’m as good as dead.
You must be secret, keep this matter quiet.’
‘Nay,’ Handy said, ‘don’t you be worried by it.
A clerk has for his time not much to show
If he can’t fool a carpenter.’ And so
The two were in accord and gave their word
To wait awhile as you’ve already heard.
When Nicholas got through with all of this
And felt her good below the waist, a kiss
He gave her sweetly, took his psaltery,
And played it hard, a lively melody.
Now to the parish church it came to pass
That in her Christian works and for the mass
This good wife went upon one holy day.
Her forehead shone as bright as day, the way
She’d scrubbed it so when washing after work.
Now in that church there was a parish clerk
Whose name was Absalon. His curly hair
Was shiny, bright as gold found anywhere,
And spread out like a broad fan on his head
With straight and even part. A healthy red
Was his complexion, eyes gray as a gander.
The tracery of Saint Paul’s was no grander
Than his shoes’ openwork, with fine red hose.
The lad was trimly dressed from head to toes;
He wore a sky-blue tunic that in places
Was tricked out with the loveliest of laces,
And over it his surplice was as bright
As any blossom seen, a purest white.
A merry child he was, as God may save.
He well could let your blood, and clip and shave,
And draw you up a deed and quittance too.
Some twenty different ways the fellow knew
To demonstrate the latest Oxford dance;
He’d kick his heels about and blithely prance
And play some merry tunes upon the fiddle.
Loud treble he was known to sing a little
And he could play as well on the guitar.
In Oxford there was not a single bar
That he did not go visit with his act
To tell the truth, a fart would make him squeamish,
And he was always proper in his English.
This Absalon so jolly, fond of play,
Went with a censer on that holy day
To cense the parish wives. And as he passed,
Many a longing look on them he cast-
Especially on this carpenter’s wife.
Just looking at her made a merry life.
She was so neat and sweet, this wanton spouse,
That if he’d been a cat and she a mouse
At once he would have caught her. Absalon,
This parish clerk so jolly, full of fun,
Could not, for the love longing in his heart,
Take offerings from wives, he’d take no part,
For courtesy, he said, and never might.
The moon, when night had come, was full and bright
As Absalon took guitar under arm,
His thoughts upon whom he might wake and charm;
Thus amorous and jolly, off he strode
Until he reached the carpenter’s abode
Soon after cockcrow. He then took his station
Beside a casement window, its location
Right in the old man’s bedroom wall. And there
He daintily began to sing his air:
‘Now, dearest lady, if your will it be,
It is my prayer that you will pity me.’
He sang and played the guitar right in tune.
The carpenter awoke and heard him croon
And said then to his wife, ‘Why, Alison,
What’s going on? Is that not Absalon
Who’s chanting there below our bedroom wall?’
And she replied, ‘Yes, John, no doubt at all,
As God knows, I can hear him tone for tone.’
Now shouldn’t one leave well enough alone?
From day to day this jolly parish clerk
Wooed her till he was woebegone. He’d work
Upon it night and day and never rest;
He’d comb his spreading locks, he smartly dressed;
By go-betweens and proxies he would woo
And swore he’d be her servant ever true;
He warbled to her like a nightingale;
He sent her honeyed wine, some mead, spiced ale,
And cakes still piping hot. And since she knew
Of city ways, he offered money too;
For some folks can be won by such largess,
And some by blows, and some by kindliness.
To show her his abilities so varied,
He even went on stage, portraying Herod.
But what would this avail him with the lass?
For she so loved this Handy Nicholas
That Absalon could elsewhere toot his horn;
He had for all his labor only scorn.
And so she made poor Absalon an ape,
Made all his earnest efforts but a jape.
The proverb tells the truth, it’s not a lie,
Here’s how it goes: ‘The one nearby and sly
Will always make the distant dear one hated.’
Though Absalon go mad, wrath unabated
Because he was so far out of her sight,
Nigh Nicholas was standing in his light.
Well may you fare, O Handy Nicholas,
For Absalon must wail and sing ‘Alas’!
And so it was that on one Saturday
The carpenter to Osney made his way,
And Handy Nicholas and Alison
Were in accord on what was to be done,
That Nicholas should now devise a wile,
This simple jealous husband to beguile;
And if their little game turned out all right,
She then could sleep in Handy’s arms all night,
As this was his desire and hers as well.
So right away- no further words to tell,
For Nicholas no longer meant to tarry-
He slyly to his room began to carry
Both food and drink to last a day or two.
He told her what to lead her husband through
If he should ask for Nicholas: she’d say
She didn’t know his whereabouts, all day
Upon the lad she had not laid an eye;
She thought some malady he had was why,
For though her maid cried out, the lad to call,
He wouldn’t answer any way at all.
So this went on for all that Saturday;
This Nicholas up in his chamber lay,
And ate and slept, or did what he thought best,
Till Sunday when the sun went to its rest.
This simple carpenter began to wonder
About him, if some ailment had him under.
‘By dear Saint Thomas, I’m now full of dread
That things aren’t right with Nicholas,’ he said.
‘O God forbid that suddenly he’s died!
For sure a ticklish world’s where we abide;
Today I saw ’em tote a corpse to kirk
Though Monday last I saw the man at work.
‘Go up,’ he told his knave at once. ‘Go on,
Call at his door, knock on it with a stone,
See how it is, and tell me truthfully.’
The knave went up the stairway sturdily
And cried out at the chamber door; he stood
There pounding like a madman on the wood.
‘What are you at, O Master Nicholay?
How can you sleep for all the livelong day?’
All was for naught, for he heard not a sound.
But then a hole low in the door he found
(The one through which the cat was wont to creep),
And through this hole he took a thorough peep
Until at last he had the lad in sight.
This clerk sat gaping upward as he might
If he were staring off at the new moon.
He went back down the stairs, and none too soon,
To tell his master how he’d seen the man.
To cross himself the carpenter began,
And said, ‘Help us, I pray, Saint Frideswide!
A man knows little of what shall betide.
This man has fallen with his astromy
Into some madness or some malady.
I always figured it would end just so!
God’s privacy’s a thing men shouldn’t know.
Yea, blessed always is the simple man
Who knows his creed and that is all he can!
So fared another clerk with astromy:
He walked out through the fields to try to see
The future in the stars, and got for it
A fall into a fertilizer pit, 3460
One he had not foreseen. Yet by Saint Thomas,
I pity Handy Nicholas. I promise,
He shall be scolded for such studying,
If that I may, by Jesus, heaven’s King!
Get me a staff, and neath the door I’ll pry
While you heave on it, Robin. By and by
He’ll come out of his studying, I’ll bet.’
Then at the chamber door he got all set.
His knave was very strong in any case
And by the hasp he heaved it from its place,
The door went falling in right to the floor.
Nicholas sat as stonily as before,
Continuing to gape into the air.
The carpenter assumed it was despair;
He took him by the shoulders mightily
And shook him hard, and cried reproachingly,
‘What is it, Nicholay? Look down! Awake,
Think on Christ’s passion! Here the sign I make
Now of the cross, from elf and evil sprite
To keep you.’ He began then to recite
At once a night spell on the walls about
As well as on the threshold leading out:
‘O Jesus and Saint Benedict, we pray
You’ll bless this house from every demon’s sway.
Night falls- White Paternoster, help defeat her!
Where have you gone, O sister of Saint Peter?’
And then at last this Handy Nicholas
Began to sorely sigh, and said, ‘Alas!
Shall all the world so soon be swept away?’
The carpenter replied, ‘What’s that you say?
On God, like we hard workers do, now think.’
And Nicholas then said, ‘I need a drink,
And afterwards we’ll speak in privacy
Of certain things concerning you and me.
I’ll surely tell no other what I’ve learned.’
The carpenter went down, then soon returned,
With a full quart of strong ale, up the stairs;
And when they both had finished up their shares,
Nick tightly shut the door. As to confide,
This carpenter he set down by his side.
He said, ‘Now, John, my host both kind and dear,
Your word of honor you must give me here
That to no man this secret you’ll disclose;
For it is Christ’s own secret that I pose,
And if you tell it, sad will be your fate.
There’s such a vengeance if you should relate
What I’m to say, you’ll reap insanity.’
‘By Christ’s own holy blood, it shall not be,’
Old John replied, ‘for I am not a blabber,
No, I must say, I’m not an idle gabber.
Say what you will, which I will never tell
To child nor wife, by him who harrowed hell!’
‘Now, John,’ said Nicholas, ‘believe you me,
I found this out through my astrology
As I looked on the moon when it was bright.
This Monday at a quarter of the night
There shall come down so furious a rain
Not half its force did Noah’s flood contain.
This world,’ he said, ‘in less than one small hour
Shall all be drowned, so hideous the shower.
Mankind shall thus be drowned and lose all life.’
The carpenter replied, ‘Alas, my wife!
My Alison, alas! She too will drown?’
And in his sorrow nearly falling down,
He said, ‘No remedy will make it pass?’
‘Why, yes, by God,’ said Handy Nicholas,
‘If you’ll work by sound learning and advice.
Don’t work from your own head, that won’t suffice.
As Solomon once said (and it is true),
‘Work all by counsel and you’ll never rue.’ 3530
If you’ll work by good counsel, I’ve no doubt
That mast and sail we then can do without,
For I will save your wife and you and me.
Have you not heard how Noah came to be
Saved by our Lord, who warned him beforehand
That water was to devastate the land?’
‘Yes,’ said the carpenter, ‘quite long ago.’
‘Have you not heard,’ said Nicholas, ‘also
Of Noah’s troubles with his fellowship
Until he finally got his wife to ship?
There is no doubt, I daresay, as to whether
He would have given up his last black wether
That she might have a vessel to herself.
Do you know, then, what’s best to do yourself?
Haste is required, and for a hasty thing
No time for preaching nor for tarrying.
‘Be off at once and fetch into this inn
Three kneading troughs or tubs- we’ll have one then
For each of us; but see that each is large,
So each of us may float as on a barge.
And have therein some victuals too, at best
Enough to last a day- fie on the rest!
The waters will subside and go away
At nine or so on the following day.
But Robin must not know of this, your knave,
And Jill your maid I also cannot save;
Don’t ask me why, for though you ask of me
I will not tell a soul God’s privity.
Suffice it, John, lest you go raving mad,
To have the same good grace that Noah had;
Your wife I’ll surely save without a doubt.
Be on your way, get busy hereabout.
‘But when you have, for her and you and me,
Secured these kneading tubs, then hang the three
Up in the roof- and hang them very high,
That our provision no man may espy.
And when you have accomplished what I’ve said,
And stored enough good fare to keep us fed,
An ax besides to whack the cord in two
When comes the rain, so we can ride it through;
And when you’ve knocked a hole up in the gable,
Toward the garden and above the stable,
That we may freely pass upon our way
Until the mighty shower’s gone away,
Then merrily we’ll float, I undertake,
Just as the white duck floats behind the drake.
‘How, Alison! How, John!’ I’ll call to you.
‘Be merry, for the flood will soon be through!’
And you will say, ‘Hail, Master Nicholay!
Good morning, I can see you, it is day!’
And then we shall be lords, throughout this life,
Of all the world, like Noah and his wife.
‘But of one thing you must be warned about:
Be well advised, on that night never doubt
That when each one of us has gone on board,
We must not speak a word. We can’t afford
One call or cry but only silent prayer,
For it’s God’s own dear will that I declare.
‘Your wife and you, therefore, hang far apart;
That twixt you two no sinful play may start
(And I refer to sight as well as deed)
This ordinance is said. God give you speed!
Tomorrow night when everyone’s asleep,
Into our kneading tubs we then shall creep
And there we’ll sit awaiting God’s good grace.
Be on your way, I have no longer space
To sermonize on this, and so I’ll cease.
It’s said, ‘But send the wise and hold your peace.’
Well, you are wise, so you I needn’t teach.
Get going now and save us, I beseech.’ 3600
This simple carpenter went on his way
With many an ‘Alas’ and ‘Wellaway,’
And to his wife he told his privity.
Now she was well aware, much more than he,
Of what this cunning plan was to imply.
She acted, though, as if about to die;
‘Alas! go now immediately,’ she said,
‘Help us escape or all of us are dead!
I am the truest of devoted wives,
So go, dear spouse, and help to save our lives.’
See what a great thing is emotion! Why,
Of what one may imagine one can die,
So deep is the impression it can make.
This silly carpenter began to shake;
He feared he was to witness verily
Old Noah’s flood come rolling like the sea
To drown young Alison, his honey dear.
He weeps and wails, he looks so sad and drear
As many a sigh he heaves, a mournful sough.
He goes and gets a kneading trough somehow,
One tub and then another, which he then
Has privately transported to the inn;
In privacy he hangs them as instructed.
Three ladders with his own hands he constructed
By which they would go climbing rung by rung
Up to the rafters where the tubs were hung.
He put in each of them some cheese and bread
And good ale in a jug, to keep them fed
Sufficiently for what would be a day.
Before beginning, though, all this array
He had his knave and maid as well to go
Upon an errand to London. And so
Upon that Monday, as it drew to night,
He shut the door, lit not one candlelight,
Arranged all things to look as they should be,
And up into their tubs then climbed the three.
They sat the time a furlong takes to walk.
Said Nick, ‘Now Paternoster, then no talk!’
And ‘Mum,’ said John, and ‘Mum,’ said Alison.
The carpenter’s devotions were begun,
He stilly sat, prayed to the Holy Spirit,
And waited for the rain, intent to hear it.
But dead asleep from all his weariness
The carpenter soon fell- it was, I guess,
Around the curfew time. Yet even then
He sorely groaned, such pain his soul was in.
(He also snored, the way his noggin lay.)
Then down his ladder crept young Nicholay,
And Alison down hers as softly sped;
Without a single word they went to bed
Right where the carpenter was wont to be.
And there the revel and the melody!
For there lay Alison and Nicholas-
What mirth and pleasant business came to pass!-
Until the bell of Lauds began to ring
And friars in the chancel were to sing.
Now Absalon, the amorous parish clerk
(Still woebegone from being so lovestruck),
Upon that Monday was down Osney way
To join companions for some sport and play.
While there he chanced to ask a cloisterer
In private about John the carpenter.
They went outside the church, and to this clerk
The monk said, ‘I’ve not seen him here at work
Since Saturday. I’d say, as best I have it,
He’s been sent out for timber by the abbot.
For timber he will very often go
And stay out at the grange a day or so.
If not, he’s surely at his house today.
Which place he’s at I can’t for certain say.’
This Absalon was thrilled, his heart was light.
‘It’s time,’ he thought, ‘to stay awake all night,
For I saw not one stirring of the man
About his door, not once since day began.
‘As I may thrive, at crowing of the cock
Privately at his window I will knock,
The one so low there in his bedroom wall.
To Alison I’ll speak and tell her all
About my longing. This time I won’t miss
But at the least will get from her a kiss.
That will be, by my faith, some consolation;
My mouth has itched all day, a situation
That is a sign of kissing at the least.
And, too, last night I dreamt about a feast.
Therefore I’ll go and sleep an hour or two,
Then I will stay up all the night and woo.’
At first cockcrow, at once from his repose
This jolly lover Absalon arose
And donned attire as smart as any viewed.
Some cardamon and licorice he chewed,
To scent his breath, before he combed his hair.
A true-love herb as well he chose to bear
Beneath his tongue, thereby to be exquisite.
Then to the old man’s house he made his visit.
There quietly he stood beneath the casement
(It reached down to his breast, so low its placement):
He cleared his throat and spoke in softest voice:
‘What are you doing, honeycomb, my choice
And fairest bird, my sweetest cinnamon?
Awake and speak to me, sweet Alison.
How little do you think upon my woe;
I sweat for your love everywhere I go.
No wonder that I sweat and slave for it:
I’m longing as the lamb longs for the tit.
Yes, darling, I have for you such a love
You’ve got me mourning like a turtledove,
My appetite’s that of a maid,’ he cried.
‘Get from the window, jackass,’ she replied.
‘So help me God, there’ll be no ‘come and kiss me.’
I love another and, by Jesus, he
Is better far than you or I’m to blame.
Unless you want a stoning, in the name
Of twenty devils, let me sleep. Away!’
‘Alas,’ said Absalon, ‘and welladay,
That my true love is ever so beset!
At least then kiss me, if that’s all I get,
For Jesus’ love and for the love of me.’
‘Will you then go,’ she said, ‘and let me be?’
‘Yes, darling, surely,’ he was quick to say.
‘Get ready, then,’ she said, ‘I’m on my way.’
To Nicholas she whispered, ‘Shh, be still;
Of laughter you’re about to get your fill.’
Now Absalon got down upon his knees
And said, ‘I am a lord by all degrees,
For after this I hope there’s more to follow.
Come, grace me, darling, my sweet little swallow!’
She opened up the window then with haste.
‘Come on,’ she said, ‘be quick, no time to waste,
We don’t want neighbors seeing you’ve come by.’
Absalon wiped his mouth till it was dry.
The night was dark as pitch, as black as coal,
And from the window she stuck out her hole;
And Absalon, not knowing north from south,
Then kissed her naked ass with eager mouth
Before he was aware of all of this.
Then back he started, something seemed amiss:
A woman has no beard, he knew as much,
Yet this was rough and hairy to the touch.
‘O fie!’ he said. ‘Alas! what did I do?’
‘Tee hee,’ said she, and clapt the window to. 3740
Poor Absalon had reached a sorry pass.
‘A beard, a beard!’ laughed Handy Nicholas.
‘God’s body, this is really going swell.’
Poor Absalon heard all this very well,
In anger had to give his lip a bite,
And to himself he said, ‘I’ll set you right.’
Who’s rubbing now, who’s scrubbing now his lips
With dust, with sand, with straw, with cloth, with chips,
But Absalon, who’s crying out ‘Alas!
May Satan take my soul if I’d not pass
Up owning this whole town that I might be
Avenged for this despite they’ve done to me.
Alas,’ he cried, ‘I didn’t turn aside!’
His hot love then was cold, indeed had died;
For from the time he kissed her naked ass
He didn’t give one cress for any lass,
For he’d been cured of all his malady;
All lovers he denounced repeatedly
And wept just like a child who has been whipped.
Across the street a little ways he slipped
To see a blacksmith, Master Gervase, who
Was known for plow parts, shares and coulters too,
And at his forge was busy making more.
This Absalon knocked softly at his door
And said, ‘Quick, Gervase, get this door undone.’
‘Who’s there?’ he asked. ‘It’s me, it’s Absalon.’
‘Why, Absalon! By Christ’s sweet tree, I say,
Why up so early? Benedicite!
What’s ailing you? God knows, some merry girl
Is what brings you out prowling in a whirl,
And by Saint Neot you follow what I mean.’
But Absalon was caring not a bean
For all his play, he didn’t speak or laugh,
For he had much more tow on his distaff
Than Gervase knew. He said, ‘My friend so dear,
This red-hot coulter in the chimney here-
Lend it to me. There’s something I must do
And then right soon I’ll bring it back to you.’
‘Why, surely,’ Gervase said, ‘if it were gold
Or a poke of nobles in a sum untold,
As I’m a smith, ‘twould be yours every bit.
But what the devil will you do with it?’
‘Let that,’ said Absalon, ‘be as it may.
I’ll tell you all about it when it’s day.’
He grabbed it by the handle, which was cool,
And quietly went out, and with the tool
He went again to the carpenter’s wall.
He cleared his throat to give a little call
And knocked upon the window as before.
‘Who’s there?’ he heard young Alison once more.
‘Who’s knocking there? It is a thief, I’ll bet.’
‘Why, no,’ he said, ‘God knows, my little pet,
It’s Absalon. My darling little thing,
I’ve brought for you,’ said he, ‘a golden ring.
So help me God, my mother gave it to me.
It’s well engraved, it is a fine thing truly.
I’ll let you have it for another kiss.’
Now Nicholas was up to take a piss,
And thought he would improve upon the jape
And have him kiss his ass ere he escape.
He hastened to the window, turned around,
And stuck his bottom out without a sound,
Both buttocks and beyond, right to the thighs.
Then Absalon, who had to strain his eyes,
Said, ‘Speak, sweet bird, I know not where thou art.’
And Nicholas at this let fly a fart
So great it sounded like a thunderclap-
It nearly blinded Absalon, poor chap.
But he was set with his hot iron to move,
And Nicholas was smote right in the groove.
Off came the skin a handbreadth wide and some,
The hot iron had so burnt him in his bum,
And from the smart he thought that he would die.
Just like a madman he began to cry,
‘Help! Water, water! Help me, for God’s sake!’ 3815
The carpenter by then had stirred awake;
He heard mad cries of ‘Water!’ loud and clear,
And thought, ‘Alas, the Flood of Noel’s here!’
He sat right up without the least ado
And grabbed his ax and whacked the cord in two,
Then down went everything- no time for sale
Of any of his bread or any ale:
He hit the floor, and there unconscious lay.
Then Alison and Handy right away
Cried out ‘Help!’ and ‘Disaster!’ in the street.
The neighbors, high and low, ran there to meet,
They stood and stared at poor unconscious John
Who lay there on the floor so pale and wan,
For from the fall he had a broken arm.
But he himself was blamed for all his harm;
For when he spoke, each word was then denied
By Nicholas and Alison his bride.
They made the claim to all that he was mad:
Some ghastly fear of ‘Noel’s flood’ he had,
A fantasy that had him so deranged
Three kneading tubs the old man had arranged
To buy and hang there in the roof above;
And then he had implored them, for God’s love,
To sit up there and keep him company.
The people laughed at such a fantasy;
Up at the roof they all began to gape,
And turned the old man’s harm into a jape.
No matter what the carpenter insisted,
It was for naught, his reasons were resisted.
With such great oaths the fellow was put down,
He was considered mad throughout the town;
Each learned man agreed with every other,
Saying, ‘The man is mad, beloved brother,’
And everyone just laughed at all his strife.
So she was screwed, the carpenter’s young wife,
Despite all jealous safeguards he could try;
And Absalon has kissed her nether eye,
And Nicholas is scalded in the rear.
This tale is done, God save all who are here!

To Rosemounde

A Balade.

Ma dame, ye ben of al beaute shryne
As fer as cercled is the mapamonde;
For as the cristall glorious ye shyne,
And lyke ruby ben your chekys rounde.
Therwyth ye ben so mery and so iocunde
That at a reuell whan that I se you dance,
It is an oynement vnto my wounde,
Thoght ye to me ne do no daliance.

For thogh I wepe of teres ful a tyne,
Yet may that wo myn herte nat confounde;
Your semy voys that ye so small out twyne
Makyth my thoght in ioy and blys habounde.
So curtaysly I go, wyth loue bounde,
That to my self I sey, in my penaunce,
Suffyseth me to loue you, Rosemounde,
Thogh ye to me ne do no daliaunce.

Nas neuer pyk walwed in galauntyne
As I in loue am walwed and iwounde;
For whych ful ofte I of my self deuyne
That I am trew Tristam the secunde.
My loue may not refreyde nor affounde;
I brenne ay in an amorouse plesaunce.
Do what you lyst, I wyl your thral be founde,
Thogh ye to me ne do no daliance.

The Canterbury Tales;The Knyghtes Tale

THE KNYGHTES TALE.

Iamque domos patrias Scithice post aspera gentis prelia
laurigero &c. Thebaid, xii, 519.

Heere bigynneth the knyghtes tale.

Whilom, as olde stories tellen us,
Ther was a duc that highte Theseus;
Of Atthenes he was lord and governour,
That gretter was ther noon under the sonne.
Ful many a riche contree hadde he wonne,
What with his wysdom and his chivalrie;

He conquered al the regne of Femenye,
That whilom was ycleped Scithia,
And weddede the queene Ypolita,
And broghte hir hoom with hym in his contree,
With muchel glorie and greet solempnytee,

And eek hir yonge suster Emelye.
And thus with victorie and with melodye
Lete I this noble duk to Atthenes ryde,
And al his hoost, in armes hym bisyde.
And certes, if it nere to long to heere,

I wolde have toold yow fully the manere
How wonnen was the regne of Femenye
By Theseus, and by his chivalrye,
And of the grete bataille for the nones
Bitwixen Atthenes and Amazones,

And how asseged was Ypolita
The faire hardy queene of Scithia,
And of the feste that was at hir weddynge,
And of the tempest at hir hoom-comynge;
But al the thyng I moot as now forbere,

I have, God woot, a large feeld to ere,
And wayke been the oxen in my plough,
The remenant of the tale is long ynough.
I wol nat letten eek noon of this route,
Lat every felawe telle his tale aboute,

And lat se now who shal the soper wynne;-
And ther I lefte, I wol ayeyn bigynne.
This duc of whom I make mencioun,
Whan he was come almoost unto the toun,
In al his wele and in his mooste pride,

He was war, as he caste his eye aside,
Where that ther kneled in the hye weye
A compaignye of ladyes, tweye and tweye,
Ech after oother, clad in clothes blake;
But swich a cry and swich a wo they make,

That in this world nys creature lyvynge
That herde swich another waymentynge!
And of this cry they nolde nevere stenten,
Til they the reynes of his brydel henten.
‘What folk been ye, that at myn hom-comynge

Perturben so my feste with criynge?’
Quod Theseus, ‘hav ye so greet envye
Of myn honour, that thus compleyne and crye?
Or who hath yow mysboden or offended?
And telleth me if it may been amended,

And why that ye been clothed thus in blak?’
The eldeste lady of hem alle spak-
Whan she hadde swowned with a deedly cheere,
That it was routhe for to seen and heere-
And seyde, ‘Lord, to whom Fortune hath yeven

Victorie, and as a conqueror to lyven,
Nat greveth us youre glorie and youre honour,
But we biseken mercy and socour.
Have mercy on oure wo and oure distresse,
Som drope of pitee thurgh thy gentillesse

Upon us wrecched wommen lat thou falle;
For certes, lord, ther is noon of us alle
That she ne hath been a duchesse or a queene.
Now be we caytyves, as it is wel seene-
Thanked be Fortune, and hir false wheel,

That noon estat assureth to be weel.
And certes, lord, to abyden youre presence,
Heere in the temple of the goddesse Clemence
We han ben waitynge al this fourtenyght;
Now help us, lord, sith it is in thy myght!

I wrecche, which that wepe and waille thus,
Was whilom wyf to kyng Cappaneus,
That starf at Thebes, cursed be that day!
And alle we that been in this array
And maken al this lamentacioun,

We losten alle oure housbondes at that toun,
Whil that the seege theraboute lay.
And yet now the olde Creon, weylaway!
That lord is now of Thebes the Citee,
Fulfild of ire and of iniquitee,

He, for despit and for his tirannye,
To do the dede bodyes vileynye,
Of alle oure lordes, whiche that been slawe,
He hath alle the bodyes on an heep ydrawe,
And wol nat suffren hem, by noon assent,

Neither to been yburyed nor ybrent,
But maketh houndes ete hem in despit.’
And with that word, withouten moore respit,
They fillen gruf, and criden pitously,
‘Have on us wrecched wommen som mercy

And lat oure sorwe synken in thyn herte.’
This gentil duk doun from his courser sterte
With herte pitous, whan he herde hem speke;
Hym thoughte that his herte wolde breke,
Whan he saugh hem so pitous and so maat,

That whilom weren of so greet estaat.
And in his armes he hem alle up hente,
And hem conforteth in ful good entente,
And swoor his ooth, as he was trewe knyght,
He solde doon so ferforthyl his myght

Upon the tiraunt Creon hem to wreke,
That all the peple of Grece sholde speke
How Creon was of Theseus yserved,
As he that hadde his deeth ful wel deserved.
And right anoon, withouten moore abood,

His baner he desplayeth, and forth rood
To Thebesward, and al his hoost biside,
No neer Atthenes wolde he go ne ride,
Ne take his ese fully half a day,
But onward on his wey that nyght he lay-

And sente anon Ypolita the queene,
And Emelye, hir yonge suster sheene,
Unto the toun of Atthenes to dwelle-
And forth he rit; ther is namoore to telle.
The rede statue of Mars, with spere and targe,

So shyneth, in his white baner large,
That alle the feeldes gliteren up and doun,
And by his baner gorn is his penoun
Of gold ful riche, in which ther was ybete
The Mynotaur which that he slough in Crete.

Thus rit this duc, thus rit this conquerour,
And in his hoost of chivalrie the flour,
Til that he cam to Thebes, and alighte
Faire in a feeld, ther as he thoughte fighte.
But shortly for to speken of this thyng,

With Creon, which that was of Thebes kyng,
He faught, and slough hym manly as a knyght
In pleyn bataille, and putte the folk to flyght,
And by assaut he wan the citee after,
And rente adoun bothe wall, and sparre, and rafter.

And to the ladyes he sestored agayn
The bones of hir housbondes that weren slayn,
To doon obsequies as was tho the gyse.
But it were al to longe for to devyse
The grete clamour and the waymentynge

That the ladyes made at the brennynge
Of the bodies, and the grete honour
That Theseus, the noble conquerour,
Dooth to the ladyes, whan they from hym wente;
But shortly for to telle is myn entente.

Whan that his worthy duc, this Theseus,
Hath Creon slayn, and wonne Thebes thus,
Stille in that feeld he took al nyght his reste
And dide with al the contree as hym leste.
To ransake in the taas of bodyes dede,

Hem for to strepe of harneys and of wede,
The pilours diden bisynesse and cure,
After the bataille and disconfiture;
And so bifel, that in the taas they founde
Thurgh-girt with many a grevous blody wounde,

Two yonge knyghtes liggynge by and by,
Bothe in oon armes wroght ful richely,
Of whiche two Arcita highte that oon,
And that oother knyght highte Palamon.
Nat fully quyke, ne fully dede they were,

But by here cote-armures, and by hir gere,
The heraudes knewe hem best, in special,
As they that weren of the blood roial
Of Thebes, and of sustren two yborn.
Out of the taas the pilours han hem torn,

And had hem caried softe unto the tente
Of Theseus, and he ful soone hem sente
To Atthenes to dwellen in prisoun
Perpetuelly, he nolde no raunsoun.
And whan this worthy due hath thus ydon,

He took his hoost, and hoom he rood anon,
With laurer crowned, as a conquerour,
And ther he lyveth in joye and in honour

Terme of his lyve, what nedeth wordes mo?
And in a tour, in angwissh and in wo,

Dwellen this Palamon and eek Arcite
For evermoore, ther may no gold hem quite.
This passeth yeer by yeer, and day by day,
Till it fil ones, in a morwe of May,
That Emelye, that fairer was to sene

Than is the lylie upon his stalke grene,
And fressher than the May with floures newe-
For with the rose colour stroof hir hewe,
I noot which was the fairer of hem two-
Er it were day, as was hir wone to do,

She was arisen, and al redy dight-
For May wole have no slogardrie a-nyght;
The sesoun priketh every gentil herte,
And maketh hym out of his slepe to sterte,
And seith, `arys and do thyn observaunce,’

This maked Emelye have remembraunce
To doon honour to May, and for to ryse.
Yclothed was she fressh, for to devyse,
Hir yelow heer was broyded in a tresse,
Bihynde hir bak, a yerde long, I gesse,

And in the gardyn, at the sonne upriste,
She walketh up and doun, and as hir liste
She gadereth floures, party white and rede,
To make a subtil gerland for hir hede,
And as an aungel hevenysshly she soong.

The grete tour, that was so thikke and stroong,
Which of the castel was the chief dongeoun,
Ther as the knyghtes weren in prisoun,
Of whiche I tolde yow, and tellen shal,
Was evene joynant to the gardyn wal

Ther as this Emelye hadde hir pleyynge.
Bright was the sonne, and cleer that morwenynge,
And Palamoun, this woful prisoner,
As was his wone, by leve of his gayler,
Was risen, and romed in a chambre on heigh,

In which he al the noble citee seigh,
And eek the gardyn, ful of braunches grene,
Ther as this fresshe Emelye the shene
Was in hire walk, and romed up and doun.
This sorweful prisoner, this Palamoun,

Goth in the chambre romynge to and fro,
And to hym-self compleynynge of his wo.
That he was born, ful ofte he seyde, `allas!’
And so bifel, by aventure or cas,
That thurgh a wyndow, thikke of many a barre

Of iren greet, and square as any sparre,
He cast his eye upon Emelya,

And therwithal he bleynte, and cryede ‘A!’
As though he stongen were unto the herte.
And with that cry Arcite anon upsterte

And seyde, ‘Cosyn myn, what eyleth thee,
That art so pale and deedly on to see?
Why cridestow? who hath thee doon offence?
For Goddess love, taak al in pacience
Oure prisoun, for it may noon oother be;

Fortune hath yeven us this adversitee.
Som wikke aspect or disposicioun
Of Saturne by sum constellacioun
Hath yeven us this, al though we hadde it sworn.
So stood the hevene, whan that we were born.

We moste endure it, this the short and playn.’
This Palamon answerde and seyde agayn,
‘Cosyn, for sothe, of this opinioun
Thow hast a veyn ymaginacioun.
This prison caused me nat for to crye,

But I was hurt right now thurgh-out myn eye
Into myn herte, that wol my bane be.
The fairnesse of that lady, that I see
Yond in the gardyn romen to and fro,
Is cause of al my criyng and my wo.

I noot wher she be womman or goddesse,
But Venus is it, soothly as I gesse.’
And therwithal, on knees doun he fil,
And seyde, ‘Venus, if it be thy wil,
Yow in this gardyn thus to transfigure

Bifore me, sorweful wrecche creature,
Out of this prisoun helpe that we may scapen!
And if so be my destynee be shapen
By eterne word to dyen in prisoun,
Of oure lynage have som compassioun,

That is so lowe ybroght by tirannye.’
And with that word Arcite gan espye
Wher-as this lady romed to and fro,
And with that sighte hir beautee hurte hym so,
That if that Palamon was wounded sore,

Arcite is hurt as moche as he, or moore.
And with a sigh he seyde pitously,
‘The fresshe beautee sleeth me sodeynly
Of hir, that rometh in the yonder place!
And but I have hir mercy and hir grace

That I may seen hir atte leeste weye,
I nam but deed, ther is namoore to seye.’
This Palamon, whan he tho wordes herde,
Dispitously he looked and answerde,
‘Wheither seistow this in ernest or in pley?’

‘Nay,’ quod Arcite, ‘in ernest by my fey,
God helpe me so, me list ful yvele pleye.’
This Palamon gan knytte his browes tweye;
‘It nere,’ quod he, ‘to thee no greet honour
For to be fals, ne for to be traitour

To me, that am thy cosyn and thy brother,
Ysworn ful depe, and ech of us til oother,
That nevere for to dyen in the peyne,
Til that the deeth departe shal us tweyne,
Neither of us in love to hyndre other,

Ne in noon oother cas, my leeve brother,
But that thou sholdest trewely forthren me
In every cas, as I shal forthren thee.
This was thyn ooth, and myn also certeyn,
I woot right wel thou darst it nat withseyn.

Thus artow of my conseil, out of doute;
And now thou woldest falsly been aboute
To love my lady, whom I love and serve
And evere shal, til that myn herte sterve.
Nay, certes, false Arcite, thow shalt nat so!

I loved hir first, and tolde thee my wo
As to my conseil, and to my brother sworn,
To forthre me as I have toold biforn,
For which thou art ybounden as a knyght
To helpen me, if it lay in thy myght,

Or elles artow fals, I dar wel seyn.’
This Arcite ful proudly spak ageyn,
‘Thow shalt,’ quod he, ‘be rather fals than I.
But thou art fals, I telle thee outrely,
For paramour I loved hir first er thow.

What, wiltow seyn thou wistest nat yet now
Wheither she be a womman or goddesse?
Thyn is affeccioun of hoolynesse,
And myn is love as to a creature;
For which I tolde thee myn aventure

As to my cosyn and my brother sworn.
I pose, that thow lovedest hir biforn;
Wostow nat wel the olde clerkes sawe
That `who shal yeve a lovere any lawe?’
Love is a gretter lawe, by my pan,

Than may be yeve of any erthely man.
And therfore positif lawe and swich decree
Is broken al day for love in ech degree.
A man moot nedes love, maugree his heed,
He may nat fleen it, thogh he sholde be deed,

Al be she mayde, or wydwe, or elles wyf.
And eek it is nat likly, al thy lyf,
To stonden in hir grace, namoore shal I,
For wel thou woost thyselven, verraily,
That thou and I be dampned to prisoun

Perpetuelly, us gayneth no faunsoun.
We stryven as dide the houndes for the boon,
They foughte al day, and yet hir part was noon.
Ther cam a kyte, whil they weren so wrothe,
And baar awey the boon bitwixe hem bothe.

And therfore at the kynges court, my brother,
Ech man for hymself, ther is noon oother.
Love if thee list, for I love, and ay shal;
And soothly, leeve brother, this is al.
Heere in this prisoun moote we endure,

And everich of us take his aventure.’
Greet was the strif and long bitwix hem tweye,
If that I hadde leyser for to seye-
But to theffect; it happed on a day,
To telle it yow as shortly as I may,

A worthy duc, that highte Perotheus,
That felawe was unto duc Theseus
Syn thilke day that they were children lite,
Was come to Atthenes his felawe to visite,
And for to pleye as he was wont to do-

For in this world he loved no man so,
And he loved hym als tendrely agayn.
So wel they lovede, as olde bookes sayn,
That whan that oon was deed, soothly to telle,
His felawe wente and soughte hym doun in helle.

But of that storie list me nat to write;
Duc Perotheus loved wel Arcite,
And hadde hym knowe at Thebes yeer by yere,
And finally, at requeste and preyere
Of Perotheus, withouten any raunsoun

Duc Theseus hym leet out of prisoun
Frely to goon, wher that hym liste overal,
In swich a gyse as I you tellen shal.
This was the forward, pleynly for tendite,
Bitwixen Theseus and hym Arcite,

That if so were that Arcite were yfounde
Evere in his lif, by day or nyght or stounde,
In any contree of this Theseus,
And he were caught, it was acorded thus,
That with a swerd he sholde lese his heed;

Ther nas noon oother remedie ne reed,
But taketh his leve and homward he him spedde;
Lat hym be war, his nekke lith to wedde!
How greet a sorwe suffreth now Arcite!
The deeth he feeleth thurgh his herte smyte,

He wepeth, wayleth, crieth pitously,
To sleen hymself he waiteth prively.
He seyde, ‘Allas, that day that he was born!
Now is my prisoun worse than biforn;
Now is me shape eternally to dwelle

Nat in purgatorie but in helle.
Allas, that evere knew I Perotheus!
For elles hadde I dwelled with Theseus,
Yfetered in his prisoun evermo;
Thanne hadde I been in blisse, and nat in wo.

Oonly the sighte of hire whom that I serve,
Though that I nevere hir grace may deserve,
Wolde han suffised right ynough for me.
O deere cosyn Palamon,’ quod he,
‘Thyn is the victorie of this aventure.

Ful blisfully in prison maistow dure.-
In prisoun? certes, nay, but in Paradys!
Wel hath Fortune yturned thee the dys,
That hast the sighte of hir, and I thabsence;
For possible is, syn thou hast hir presence,

And art a knyght, a worthy and an able,
That by som cas, syn Fortune is chaungeable,
Thow maist to thy desir som tyme atteyne.
But I, that am exiled and bareyne
Of alle grace, and in so greet dispeir

That ther nys erthe, water, fir, ne eir,
Ne creature, that of hem maked is,
That may me heelp, or doon confort in this,
Wel oughte I sterve in wanhope and distresse,
Farwel, my lif, my lust, and my galdnesse!

Allas, why pleynen folk so in commune
On purveyaunce of God or of Fortune,
That yeveth hem ful ofte in many a gyse
Wel bettre than they kan hem-self devyse?
Som man desireth for to han richesse,

That cause is of his moerdre of greet siknesse.
And som man wolde out of his prisoun fayn,
That in his hous is of his meynee slayn.
Infinite harmes been in thai mateere,
We witen nat what thing we preyen here.

We faren as he that dronke is as a mous;
A dronke man woot wel he hath an hous,
But he noot which the righte wey is thider,
And to a dronke man the wey is slider.
And certes, in this world so faren we;

We seken faste after felicitee,
But we goon wrong ful often trewely.
Thus may we seyen alle, and namely I,
That wende and hadde a greet opinioun
That if I myghte escapen from prisoun,

Thanne hadde I been in joye and perfit heele,
Ther now I am exiled fro my wele.
Syn that I may nat seen you, Emelye,
I nam but deed, ther nys no remedye.’
Upon that oother syde, Palamon,

Whan that he wiste Arcite was agon,
Swich sorwe he maketh, that the grete tour
Resouneth of his youlyng and clamour.
The pure fettres on his shynes grete
Weren of his bittre salte teeres wete.

‘Allas,’ quod he, ‘Arcite, cosyn myn!
Of al oure strif, God woot, the fruyt is thyn.
Thow walkest now in Thebes at thy large,
And of my wo thow yevest litel charge.
Thou mayst, syn thou hast wysdom and manhede,

Assemblen alle the folk of oure kynrede,
And make a werre so sharp on this citee,
That by som aventure, or som tretee,
Thow mayst have hir to lady and to wyf,
For whom that I moste nedes lese my lyf.

For as by wey of possibilitee,
Sith thou art at thy large of prisoun free,
And art a lord, greet is thyn avauntage
Moore than is myn, that sterve here in a cage.
For I moot wepe and wayle, whil I lyve,

With al the wo that prison may me yeve,
And eek with peyne that love me yeveth also,
That doubleth al my torment and my wo.’
Therwith the fyr of jalousie up-sterte
Withinne his brest, and hente him by the herte

So woodly, that he lyk was to biholde
The boxtree, or the asshen dede and colde.
Thanne seyde he, ‘O cruel goddes, that governe
This world with byndyng of youre word eterne,
And writen in the table of atthamaunt

Youre parlement and youre eterne graunt,
What is mankynde moore unto you holde
Than is the sheep that rouketh in the folde?
For slayn is man right as another beeste,
And dwelleth eek in prison and arreeste,

And hath siknesse, and greet adversitee,
And ofte tymes giltelees, pardee!
What governance is in this prescience
That giltelees tormenteth innocence?
And yet encresseth this al my penaunce,

That man is bounden to his observaunce,
For Goddes sake, to letten of his wille,
Ther as a beest may al his lust fulfille.
And whan a beest is deed, he hath no peyne,
But man after his deeth moot wepe and pleyne,

Though in this world he have care and wo.
Withouten doute it may stonden so.
The answere of this lete I to dyvynys,
But well I woot, that in this world greet pyne ys.
Allas, I se a serpent or a theef,

That many a trewe man hath doon mescheef,
Goon at his large, and where hym list may turne!
But I moot been in prisoun thurgh Saturne,
And eek thurgh Juno, jalous and eek wood,
That hath destroyed wel ny al the blood

Of Thebes, with hise waste walles wyde.
And Venus sleeth me on that oother syde
For jalousie and fere of hym Arcite.’
Now wol I stynte of Palamon a lite,
And lete hym in his prisoun stille dwelle,

And of Arcita forth I wol yow telle.
The somer passeth, and the nyghtes longe
Encressen double wise the peynes stronge
Bothe of the lovere and the prisoner;
I noot which hath the wofuller mester.

For shortly for to seyn, this Palamoun
Perpetuelly is dampned to prisoun
In cheynes and in fettres to been deed,
And Arcite is exiled upon his heed
For evere mo as out of that contree,

Ne nevere mo he shal his lady see.
Yow loveres axe I now this questioun,
Who hath the worse, Arcite or Palamoun?
That oon may seen his lady day by day,
But in prison he moot dwelle alway;

That oother wher hym list may ride or go,
But seen his lady shal he nevere mo.
Now demeth as yow liste ye that kan,
For I wol telle forth, as I bigan.

Explicit prima pars.

Sequitur pars secunda.

Whan that Arcite to Thebes comen was,
Ful ofte a day he swelte and seyde `allas,’
For seen his lady shal he nevere mo;
And shortly to concluden al his wo,
So muche sorwe hadde nevere creature,
That is, or shal whil that the world may dure.

His sleep, his mete, his drynke is hym biraft,
That lene he wex and drye as is a shaft.
Hise eyen holwe and grisly to biholde,
His hewe falow and pale as asshen colde;
And solitarie he was and evere allone

And waillynge al the nyght, makynge his mone.
And if he herde song or instrument,
Thanne wolde he wepe, he myghte nat be stent.
So feble eek were hise spiritz, and so lowe,
And chaunged so, that no man koude knowe

His speche nor his voys, though men it herde.
And in his geere for al the world he ferde
Nat oonly lik the loveris maladye
Of Hereos, but rather lyk manye
Engendred of humour malencolik

Biforen in his celle fantastik,
And shortly turned was al up-so-doun
Bothe habit and eek disposicioun
Of hym, this woful lovere daun Arcite.
What sholde I al day of his wo endite?

Whan he endured hadde a yeer or two
This crueel torment, and this peyne and woo,
At Thebes in his contree, as I seyde,
Upon a nyght in sleep as he hym leyde,
Hym thoughte how that the wynged god Mercurie

Biforn hym stood, and bad hym to be murie.
His slepy yerde in hond he bar uprighte,
An hat he werede upon hise heris brighte.
Arrayed was this god, as he took keep,
As he was whan that Argus took his sleep;

And seyde hym thus, ‘To Atthenes shaltou wende,
Ther is thee shapen of thy wo an ende.’
And with that word Arcite wook and sterte.
‘Now trewely, how soore that me smerte,’
Quod he, ‘to Atthenes right now wol I fare,

Ne for the drede of deeth shal I nat spare
To se my lady that I love and serve,
In hir presence I recche nat to sterve.’
And with that word he caughte a greet mirour,
And saugh that chaunged was al his colour,

And saugh his visage al in another kynde.
And right anon it ran hym in his mynde,
That sith his face was so disfigured
Of maladye, the which he hadde endured,
He myghte wel, if that he bar hym lowe,

Lyve in Atthenes, everemoore unknowe,
And seen his lady wel ny day by day.
And right anon he chaunged his array,
And cladde hym as a povre laborer,
And al allone, save oonly a squier

That knew his privetee and al his cas,
Which was disgised povrely, as he was,
To Atthenes is he goon, the nexte way.
And to the court he wente, upon a day,
And at the gate he profreth his servyse,

To drugge and drawe, what so men wol devyse.
And shortly of this matere for to seyn,
He fil in office with a chamberleyn,
The which that dwellynge was with Emelye,
For he was wys and koude soone espye

Of every servant which that serveth here.
Wel koude he hewen wode, and water bere,
For he was yong and myghty for the nones,
And therto he was strong and big of bones
To doon that any wight kan hym devyse.

A yeer or two he was in this servyse
Page of the chambre of Emelye the brighte;
And Philostrate he seyde that he highte.
But half so wel biloved a man as he
Ne was ther nevere in court, of his degree;

He was so gentil of condicioun
That thurghout al the court was his renoun.
They seyden, that it were a charitee,
That Theseus wolde enhaunsen his degree,
And putten hym in worshipful servyse

Ther as he myghte his vertu exercise.
And thus withinne a while his name is spronge
Bothe of hise dedes and his goode tonge,
That Theseus hath taken hym so neer
That of his chambre he made hym a Squier,

And gaf hym gold to mayntene his degree.
And eek men broghte hym out of his contree
From yeer to yeer, ful pryvely, his rente.
But honestly and slyly he it spente,
That no man wondred how that he it hadde.

And thre yeer in this wise his lif he ladde,

And bar hym so in pees, and eek ibn werre,
Ther was no man that Theseus hath derre.
And in this blisse lete I now Arcite,
And speke I wole of Palamon a lite.

In derknesse and horrible and strong prisoun
Thise seven yeer hath seten Palamoun,
Forpyned, what for wo and for distresse.
Who feeleth double soor and hevynesse
But Palamon, that love destreyneth so,

That wood out of his wit he goth for wo?
And eek therto he is a prisoner,
Perpetuelly, noght oonly for a yer.
Who koude ryme in Englyssh proprely
His martirdom? Forsothe it am nat I,

Therfore I passe as lightly as I may.
It fel that in the seventhe yer, in May,
The thridde nyght, as olde bookes seyn,
That al this storie tellen moore pleyn,
Were it by aventure or destynee-

As, whan a thyng is shapen, it shal be-
That soone after the mydnyght, Palamoun
By helpyng of a freend, brak his prisoun
And fleeth the citee faste as he may go;
For he hade yeve his gayler drynke so

Of a clarree maad of a certeyn wyn,
With nercotikes and opie of Thebes fyn,
That al that nyght, thogh that men wolde him shake,
The gayler sleep, he myghte nat awake.
And thus he fleeth as faste as evere he may;

The nyght was short and faste by the day,
That nedes-cost he moot hymselven hyde;
And til a grove, faste ther bisyde,
With dredeful foot thanne stalketh Palamoun.
For shortly this was his opinioun,

That in that grove he wolde hym hyde al day,
And in the nyght thanne wolde he take his way
To Thebesward, his freendes for to preye
On Theseus to helpe hym to werreye;
And shortly, outher he wolde lese his lif,

Or wynnen Emelye unto his wyf;
This is theffect and his entente pleyn.
Now wol I turne to Arcite ageyn,
That litel wiste how ny that was his care
Til that Fortune had broght him in the snare.

The bisy larke, messager of day,
Salueth in hir song the morwe gray,
And firy Phebus riseth up so brighte
That al the orient laugheth of the lighte,
And with hise stremes dryeth in the greves

The silver dropes hangynge on the leves;
And Arcita, that is in the court roial
With Theseus, his squier principal,
Is risen, and looketh on the myrie day.
And for to doon his observaunce ot May,

Remembrynge on the poynt of his desir
He on a courser startlynge as the fir
Is riden into the feeldes, hym to pleye,
Out of the court, were it a myle or tweye.
And to the grove of which that I yow tolde

By aventure his wey he gan to holde,
To maken hym a gerland of the greves,
Were it of wodebynde or hawethorn-leves.
And loude he song ayeyn the sonne shene,
‘May, with alle thy floures and thy grene,

Welcome be thou, faire fresshe May,
In hope that I som grene gete may.’
And from his courser, with a lusty herte,
Into a grove ful hastily he sterte,
And in a path he rometh up and doun

Ther as by aventure this Palamoun
Was in a bussh, that no man myghte hym se;
For soore afered of his deeth was he.
No thyng ne knew he that it was Arcite,
God woot, he wolde have trowed it ful lite!

But sooth is seyd, gon sithen many yeres,
That feeld hath eyen and the wode hath eres.
It is ful fair a man to bere hym evene,
For al day meeteth men at unset stevene.
Ful litel woot Arcite of his felawe,

That was so ny to herknen al his sawe,
For in the bussh he sitteth now ful stille.
Whan that Arcite hadde romed al his fille
And songen al the roundel lustily,
Into a studie he fil al sodeynly,

As doon thise loveres in hir queynte geres,
Now in the croppe, now doun in the breres,
Now up, now doun as boket in a welle.
Right as the Friday, soothly for to telle,
Now it shyneth, now it reyneth faste,

Right so kan geery Venus overcaste
The hertes of hir folk; right as hir day
Is gereful, right so chaungeth she array.
Selde is the Friday al the wowke ylike.
Whan that Arcite had songe, he gan to sike,

And sette hym doun withouten any moore;
‘Allas,’ quod he, ‘that day that I was bore!
How longe, Juno, thurgh thy crueltee
Woltow werreyen Thebes the Citee?
Allas, ybroght is to confusioun

The blood roial of Cadme and Amphioun!
Of Cadmus, which that was the firste man
That Thebes bulte, or first the toun bigan,
And of the citee first was crouned kyng,
Of his lynage am I, and his ofspryng,

By verray ligne, as of the stok roial,
And now I am so caytyf and so thral
That he that is my mortal enemy
I serve hym as his squier povrely.
And yet dooth Juno me wel moore shame,

For I dar noght biknowe myn owene name,
But theras I was wont to highte Arcite,
Now highte I Philostrate, noght worth a myte.
Allas, thou felle Mars! allas, Juno!
Thus hath youre ire oure kynrede al fordo,

Save oonly me, and wrecched Palamoun
That Theseus martireth in prisoun.
And over al this, to sleen me outrely,
Love hath his firy dart so brennyngly
Ystiked thurgh my trewe careful herte,

That shapen was my deeth erst than my sherte.
Ye sleen me with youre eyen, Emelye,
Ye been the cause wherfore that I dye.
Of al the remenant of myn oother care
Ne sette I nat the montance of a tare,

So that I koude doon aught to youre plesaunce.’
And with that word he fil doun in a traunce
A longe tyme, and after he upsterte.
This Palamoun, that thoughte that thurgh his herte
He felte a coold swerd sodeynliche glyde,

For ire he quook, no lenger wolde he byde.
And whan that he had herd Arcites tale,
As he were wood, with face deed and pale,
He stirte hym up out of the buskes thikke,
And seide, ‘Arcite, false traytour wikke!

Now artow hent that lovest my lady so,
For whom that I have al this peyne and wo,
And art my blood, and to my conseil sworn,
As I ful ofte have seyd thee heer-biforn,
And hast byjaped heere duc Theseus,

And falsly chaunged hast thy name thus.
I wol be deed, or elles thou shalt dye;
Thou shalt nat love my lady Emelye,
But I wol love hire oonly, and namo,
For I am Palamon, thy mortal foo!

And though that I no wepene have in this place,
But out of prison am astert by grace,
I drede noght that outher thow shalt dye,
Or thow ne shalt nat loven Emelye.
Chees which thou wolt, for thou shalt nat asterte!’

This Arcite, with ful despitous herte,
Whan he hym knew, and hadde his tale herd,
As fiers as leoun pulled out his swerd,
And seyde thus: ‘By God that sit above,
Nere it that thou art sik and wood for love,

And eek that thow no wepne hast in this place,
Thou sholdest nevere out of this grove pace,
That thou ne sholdest dyen of myn hond.
For I defye the seurete and the bond
Which that thou seist that I have maad to thee.

What, verray fool, thynk wel that love is free!
And I wol love hir, maugree al thy myght!
But for as muche thou art a worthy knyght,
And wilnest to darreyne hire by bataille,
Have heer my trouthe; tomorwe I wol nat faille

Withoute wityng of any oother wight
That heere I wol be founden as a knyght,
And bryngen harneys right ynough for thee,
And chese the beste, and leve the worste for me.
And mete and drynke this nyght wol I brynge

Ynough for thee, and clothes for thy beddynge;
And if so be that thou my lady wynne,
And sle me in this wode ther I am inne,
Thow mayst wel have thy lady as for me.’
This Palamon answerde, ‘I graunte it thee.’

And thus they been departed til amorwe,
Whan ech of hem had leyd his feith to borwe.
O Cupide, out of alle charitee!
O regne, that wolt no felawe have with thee!
Ful sooth is seyd that love ne lordshipe

Wol noght, hir thankes, have no felaweshipe.
Wel fynden that Arcite and Palamoun:
Arcite is riden anon unto the toun,
And on the morwe, er it were dayes light,
Ful prively two harneys hath he dight,

Bothe suffisaunt and mete to darreyne
The bataille in the feeld bitwix hem tweyne.
And on his hors, allone as he was born,
He carieth al this harneys hym biforn,
And in the grove, at tyme and place yset,

This Arcite and this Palamon ben met.
Tho chaungen gan the colour in hir face
Right as the hunters in the regne of Trace,
That stondeth at the gappe with a spere,
Whan hunted is the leoun and the bere,

And hereth hym come russhyng in the greves,
And breketh bothe bowes and the leves,
And thynketh, ‘Heere cometh my mortal enemy,
Withoute faille he moot be deed or I,
For outher I moot sleen hym at the gappe,

Or he moot sleen me, if that me myshappe’-
So ferden they in chaungyng of hir hewe,
As fer as everich of hem oother knewe.
Ther nas no good day ne no saluyng,
But streight withouten word or rehersyng

Everich of hem heelp for to armen oother,
As freendly as he were his owene brother.
And after that with sharpe speres stronge
They foynen ech at oother wonder longe.
Thou myghtest wene that this Palamoun

In his fightyng were a wood leoun,
And as a crueel tigre was Arcite.
As wilde bores gonne they to smyte,
That frothen white as foom for ire wood.
Up to the ancle foghte they in hir blood;

And in this wise I lete hem fightyng dwelle,
And forth I wole of Theseus yow telle.
The destinee, ministre general,
That executeth in the world overal
The purveiaunce that God hath seyn biforn,

So strong it is, that though the world had sworn
The contrarie of a thyng, by ye or nay,
Yet somtyme it shal fallen on a day
That falleth nat eft withinne a thousand yeere.
For certeinly, oure appetites heere,

Be it of werre, or pees, or hate, or love,
Al is this reuled by the sighte above.
This mene I now by myghty Theseus,
That for to hunten is so desirus
And namely at the grete hert in May,

That in his bed ther daweth hym no day
That he nys clad, and redy for to ryde
With hunte and horn, and houndes hym bisyde.
For in his huntyng hath he swich delit
That it is al his joye and appetit

To been hymself the grete hertes bane-
For after Mars he serveth now Dyane.
Cleer was the day, as I have toold er this,
And Theseus, with alle joye and blis,
With his Ypolita, the faire quene,

And Emelye, clothed al in grene,
On huntyng be they riden roially,
And to the grove, that stood ful faste by,
In which ther was an hert, as men hym tolde,
Duc Theseus the streighte wey hath holde,

And to the launde he rideth hym ful right,
For thider was the hert wont have his flight,
And over a brook, and so forth in his weye.
This duc wol han a cours at hym, or tweye,
With houndes swiche as that hym list comaunde.

And whan this duc was come unto the launde,
Under the sonne he looketh, and anon
He was war of Arcite and Palamon,
That foughten breme, as it were bores two;
The brighte swerdes wenten to and fro

So hidously, that with the leeste strook
It semed as it wolde felle an ook;
But what they were, nothyng he ne woot.
This duc his courser with his spores smoot,
And at a stert he was bitwix hem two,

And pulled out a swerd, and cride, ‘Hoo!
Namoore, up peyne of lesynge of youre heed!
By myghty Mars, he shal anon be deed
That smyteth any strook, that I may seen!
But telleth me what myster men ye been,

That been so hardy for to fighten heere
Withouten juge or oother officere,
As it were in a lystes roially?’
This Palamon answerde hastily,
And seyde, ‘Sire, what nedeth wordes mo?

We have the deeth disserved, bothe two.
Two woful wrecches been we, two caytyves,
That been encombred of oure owene lyves,
And as thou art a fightful lord and juge,
Ne yeve us neither mercy ne refuge,

But sle me first for seinte charitee;
But sle my felawe eek as wel as me-
Or sle hym first, for, though thow knowest it lite,
This is thy mortal foo, this is Arcite,
That fro thy lond is banysshed on his heed,

For which he hath deserved to be deed.
For this is he, that cam unto thy gate,
And seyde that he highe Philostrate.
Thus hath he japed thee ful many a yer,
And thou hast maked hym thy chief Squier,

And this is he that loveth Emelye.
For sith the day is come that I shal dye,
I make pleynly my confessioun
That I am thilke woful Palamoun,
That hath thy prisoun broken wikkedly.

I am thy mortal foo, and it am I
That loveth so hoote Emelye the grighte,
That I wol dye present in hir sighte;
Wherfore I axe deeth and my juwise-
But sle my felawe in the same wise

For bothe han we deserved to be slayn.’
This worthy duc answered anon agayn,
And seyde, ‘This is a short conclusioun,
Youre owene mouth, by your confessioun,
Hath dampned yow, and I wol it recorde.

It nedeth noght to pyne yow with the corde,
Ye shal be deed, by myghty Mars the rede!’
The queene anon, for verray wommanhede,
Gan for to wepe, and so dide Emelye,
And alle the ladyes in the compaignye.

Greet pitee was it, as it thoughte hem alle,
That evere swich a chaunce sholde falle.
For gentilmen they were of greet estaat,
And no thyng but for love was this debaat,
And saugh hir blody woundes wyde and soore,

And alle crieden, both lasse and moore,
‘Have mercy, lord, upon us wommen alle!’
And on hir bare knees adoun they falle,
And wolde have kist his feet ther as he stood;
Til at the laste aslaked was his mood,

For pitee renneth soone in gentil herte.
And though he first for ire quook and sterte,
He hath considered shortly in a clause
The trespas of hem bothe, and eek the cause,
And although that his ire hir gilt accused,

Yet in his resoun he hem bothe excused.
As thus, he thoghte wel, that every man
Wol helpe hym-self in love, if that he kan,
And eek delivere hym-self out of prisoun;
And eek his herte hadde compassioun

Of wommen, for they wepen evere in oon.
And in his gentil herte he thoughte anon,
And softe unto hym-self he seyde, ‘Fy
Upon a lord that wol have no mercy,
But been a leoun, bothe in word and dede,

To hem that been in repentaunce and drede,
As wel as to a proud despitous man,
That wol maynteyne that he first bigan!
That lord hath litel of discrecioun
That in swich cas kan no divisioun,

But weyeth pride and humblesse after oon.’
And shortly, whan his ire is thus agoon,
He gan to looken up with eyen lighte,
And spak thise same wordes al on highte:
‘The God of love, A! benedicite!

How myghty and how greet a lord is he!
Ayeyns his myght ther gayneth none obstacles,
He may be cleped a god for hise myracles,
For he kan maken at his owene gyse
Of everich herte as that hym list divyse.

Lo heere, this Arcite and this Palamoun

That quitly weren out of my prisoun,
And myghte han lyved in Thebes roially,
And witen I am hir mortal enemy,
And that hir deth lith in my myght also;

And yet hath love, maugree hir eyen two,
Ybroght hem hyder bothe for to dye!
Now looketh, is nat that an heigh folye?
Who may been a fole, but if he love?
Bihoold, for Goddes sake that sit above,

Se how they blede? Be they noght wel arrayed?
Thus hath hir lord, the God of Love, ypayed
Hir wages and hir fees for hir servyse!
And yet they wenen for to been ful wyse,
That serven love, for aught that may bifalle!

But this is yet the beste game of alle,
That she, for whom they han this jolitee,
Kan hem therfore as muche thank, as me!
She woot namoore of al this hoote fare,
By God, than woot a cokkow or an hare!

But all moot ben assayed, hoot and coold;
A man moot ben a fool, or yong or oold;
I woot it by myself ful yore agon,
For in my tyme a servant was I oon.
And therfore, syn I knowe of loves peyne,

And woot how soore it kan a man distreyne,
As he that hath ben caught ofte in his laas,
I yow foryeve al hoolly this trespaas,
At requeste of the queene that kneleth heere,
And eek of Emelye, my suster deere.

And ye shul bothe anon unto me swere,
That nevere mo ye shal my contree dere,
Ne make werre upon me, nyght ne day,
But been my freendes in al that ye may,
I yow foryeve this trespas, every deel.’

And they hym sworen his axyng, faire and weel,
And hym of lordship and of mercy preyde,
And he hem graunteth grace, and thus he seyde:
‘To speke of roial lynage and richesse,
Though that she were a queene or a princesse,

Ech of you bothe is worthy doutelees
To wedden whan tyme is, but nathelees
I speke as for my suster Emelye,
For whom ye have this strif and jalousye:
Ye woot yourself, she may nat wedden two

Atones, though ye fighten everemo!
That oon of you, al be hym looth or lief,
He moot go pipen in an yvy-leef-
This is to seyn, she may nat now han bothe,
Al be ye never so jalouse, ne so wrothe.

And forthy, I yow putte in this degree;
That ech of yow shal have his destynee
As hym is shape, and herkneth in what wyse;
Lo, heere your ende of that I shal devyse.
My wyl is this, for plat conclusioun,

Withouten any repplicacioun,
If that you liketh, take it for the beste,
That everich of you shal goon where hym leste,
Frely, withouten raunson, or daunger,
And this day fifty wykes fer ne ner,

Everich of you shal brynge an hundred knyghtes
Armed for lystes up at alle rightes,
Al redy to darreyne hire by bataille.
And this bihote I yow withouten faille,
Upon my trouthe, and as I am a knyght,

That wheither of yow bothe that hath myght,
This is to seyn, that wheither he, or thow
May with his hundred, as I spak of now,
Sleen his contrarie, or out of lystes dryve,
Thanne shal I yeve Emelya to wyve,

To whom that Fortune yeveth so fair a grace.
Tho lystes shal I maken in this place,
And God so wisly on my soule rewe,
As I shal evene juge been, and trewe.
Ye shul noon oother ende with me maken,

That oon of yow ne shal be deed or taken.
And if yow thynketh this is weel ysayd,
Seyeth youre avys and holdeth you apayd;
This is youre ende and youre conclusioun.’
Who looketh lightly now but Palamoun?

Who spryngeth up for joye but Arcite?
Who kouthe tellen, or who kouthe endite
The joye that is maked in the place,
Whan Theseus hath doon so fair a grace?
But doun on knees wente every maner wight,

And thonken hym with al hir herte and myght,
And namely the Thebans, often sithe.
And thus with good hope and with herte blithe
They taken hir leve, and homward gonne they ride
To Thebes with hise olde walles wyde.

Explicit secunda pars

Sequitur pars tercia

I trowe men wolde deme it necligence,
If I foryete to tellen the dispence
Of Theseus, that gooth so bisily
To maken up the lystes roially;
That swich a noble theatre as it was,

I dar wel seyen, in this world ther nas.
The circuit a myle was aboute,
Walled of stoon, and dyched al withoute.
Round was the shap, in manere of compas,
Ful of degrees the heighte os sixty pas,

That whan a man was set on o degree,
He lette nat his felawe for to see.
Estward ther stood a gate of marbul whit,
Westward, right swich another in the opposit;
And shortly to concluden, swich a place

Was noon in erthe, as in so litel space.
For in the lond ther was no crafty man
That geometrie or ars-metrik kan,
Ne portreitour, ne kervere of ymages,
That Theseus ne yaf him mete and wages

The theatre for to maken and devyse.
And for to doon his ryte and sacrifise
He estward hath upon the gate above,
In worship of Venus, goddesse of love,
Doon make an auter and an oratorie.

And on the gate westward, in memorie
Of Mars, he maked hath right swich another,
That coste largely of gold a fother.
And northward, in a touret on the wal
Of alabastre whit, and reed coral,

An oratorie, riche for to see,
In worship of Dyane, of chastitee,
Hath Theseus doon wroght in noble wyse.
But yet hadde I foryeten to devyse
The noble kervyng and the portreitures,

The shap, the contenaunce, and the figures,
That weren in thise oratories thre.
First in the temple of Venus maystow se
Wroght on the wal, ful pitous to biholde,
The broken slepes and the sikes colde,

The sacred teeris and the waymentynge,
The firy strokes, and the desirynge
That loves servauntz in this lyf enduren;
The othes that her covenantz assuren;
Plesaunce and Hope, Desir, Foolhardynesse,

Beautee and Youthe, Bauderie, Richesse,
Charmes and Force, Lesynges, Flaterye,
Despense, Bisynesse, and Jalousye,
That wered of yelewe gooldes a gerland,
And a cokkow sittynge on hir hand;

Festes, instrumentz, caroles, daunces,
Lust and array, and alle the circumstaunces
Of love, whiche that I rekned, and rekne shal,
By ordre weren peynted on the wal,
And mo than I kan make of mencioun;

For soothly, al the mount of Citheroun,
Ther Venus hath hir principal dwellynge,
Was shewed on the wal in portreyynge,
With al the gardyn and the lustynesse.
Nat was foryeten the Porter Ydelnesse,

Ne Narcisus the faire, of yore agon,
Ne yet the folye of kyng Salamon,
And eek the grete strengthe of Ercules,
Thenchauntementz of Medea and Circes,
Ne of Turnus, with the hardy fiers corage,

The riche Cresus, kaytyf in servage;
Thus may ye seen, that wysdom ne richesse,
Beautee ne sleighte, strengthe, hardynesse,
Ne may with Venus holde champartie,
For as hir list, the world than may she gye.

Lo, alle thise folk so caught were in hir las,
Til they for wo ful ofte seyde `allas!’
Suffiseth heere ensamples oon or two-
And, though, I koude rekene a thousand mo.
The statue of Venus, glorious for to se,

Was naked, fletynge in the large see,
And fro the navele doun al covered was
With wawes grene, and brighte as any glas.
A citole in hir right hand hadde she,
And on hir heed, ful semely for to se,

A rose gerland, fressh and wel smellynge;
Above hir heed hir dowves flikerynge.
Biforn hir stood hir sone, Cupido,
Upon his shuldres wynges hadde he two,
And blynd he was, as it was often seene.

A bowe he bar, and arwes brighte and kene.
Why sholde I noght as wel eek telle yow al
The portreiture, that was upon the wal
Withinne the temple of myghty Mars the rede?
Al peynted was the wal in lengthe and brede

Lyk to the estres of the grisly place
That highte the grete temple of Mars in Trace,
In thilke colde frosty regioun
Ther as Mars hath his sovereyn mansioun.
First on the wal was peynted a forest

In which ther dwelleth neither man ne best,
With knotty knarry bareyne trees olde,
Of stubbes sharpe and hidouse to biholde,
In which ther ran a rumbel and a swough
As though a storm sholde bresten every bough.

And dounward from an hille, under a bente,
Ther stood the temple of Mars Armypotente,
Wroght al of burned steel, of which the entree
Was long and streit, and gastly for to see,
And therout came a rage and suche a veze,

That it made al the gate for to rese.
The northren lyght in at the dores shoon,
For wyndowe on the wal ne was ther noon,
Thurgh which men myghten any light discerne.
The dore was al of adamant eterne,

Yclenched overthwart and endelong
With iren tough, and for to make it strong
Every pyler, the temple to sustene,
Was tonne-greet of iren bright and shene.
Ther saugh I first the dirke ymaginyng

Of felonye, and al the compassyng,
The crueel ire, reed as any gleede,
The pykepurs, and eek the pale drede,
The smyler with the knyfe under the cloke,
The shepne brennynge with the blake smoke,

The tresoun of the mordrynge in the bedde,
The open werre, with woundes al bibledde,
Contek, with blody knyf and sharp manace,
Al ful of chirkyng was that sory place.
The sleer of hymself yet saugh I ther,

His herte-blood hath bathed al his heer;
The nayl ydryven in the shode a nyght,
The colde deeth, with mouth gapyng upright.
Amyddes of the temple sat Meschaunce,
With Disconfort and Sory Contenaunce.

Yet saugh I Woodnesse laughynge in his rage,
Armed Compleint, Outhees, and fiers Outrage;
The careyne in the busk with throte ycorve,
A thousand slayn, and nat of qualm ystorve,
The tiraunt with the pray by force yraft,

The toun destroyed, ther was nothyng laft.
Yet saugh I brent the shippes hoppesteres,
The hunte strangled with the wilde beres,
The sowe freten the child right in the cradel,
The cook yscalded, for al his longe ladel.

Noght was foryeten by the infortune of Marte,
The cartere over-ryden with his carte,
Under the wheel ful lowe he lay adoun.
Ther were also, of Martes divisioun,
The barbour, and the bocher, and the smyth

That forgeth sharpe swerdes on his styth.
And al above, depeynted in a tour,
Saugh I Conquest sittynge in greet honour,
With the sharpe swerd over his heed
Hangynge by a soutil twyned threed.

Depeynted was the slaughtre of Julius,
Of grete Nero, and of Antonius;
Al be that thilke tyme they were unborn,
Yet was hir deth depeynted therbiforn
By manasynge of Mars, right by figure;

So was it shewed in that portreiture,
As is depeynted in the sterres above
Who shal be slayn or elles deed for love.
Suggiseth oon ensample in stories olde,
I may nat rekene hem alle though I wolde.

The statue of Mars upon a carte stood
Armed, and looked grym as he were wood,
And over his heed ther shynen two figures
Of sterres, that been cleped in scriptures
That oon Puella, that oother Rubeus.

This god of armes was arrayed thus:
A wolf ther stood biforn hym at his feet,
With eyen rede, and of a man he eet.
With soutil pencel was depeynt this storie,
In redoutynge of Mars and of his glorie.

Now to the temple of Dyane the chaste
As shortly as I kan I wol me haste,
To telle yow al the descripsioun.
Depeynted been the walles up and doun
Of huntyng and of shamefast chastitee.

Ther saugh I, how woful Calistopee
Whan that Diane agreved was with here,
Was turned from a womman til a bere,
And after was she maad the loode-sterre;-
Thus was it peynted, I kan sey yow no ferre-

Hir sone is eek a sterre, as men may see.
Ther saugh I Dane, yturned til a tree,
I mene nat the goddesse Diane,
But Penneus doughter which that highte Dane.
Ther saugh I Attheon an hert ymaked,

For vengeaunce that he saugh Diane al naked.
I saugh how that hise houndes have hym caught
And freeten hym, for that they knewe hym naught.
Yet peynted was a litel forthermoor
How Atthalante hunted the wilde boor,

And Meleagree, and many another mo,
For which Dyane wroghte hym care and wo.
Ther saugh I many another wonder storie,
The whiche me list nat drawen to memorie.
This goddesse on an hert ful hye seet,

With smale houndes al aboute hir feet;
And undernethe hir feet she hadde a moone,
Wexynge it was, and sholde wanye soone.
In gaude grene hir statue clothed was,
With bowe in honde, and arwes in a cas.

Hir eyen caste she ful lowe adoun,
Ther Pluto hath his derke regioun.
A womman travaillynge was hir biforn;
But for hir child so longe was unborn
Ful pitously Lucyna gan she calle,

And seyde, ‘Help, for thou mayst best of alle!’
Wel koude he peynten lyfly, that it wroghte,
With many a floryn he the hewes boghte.
Now been thise listes maad, and Theseus,
That at his grete cost arrayed thus

The temples, and the theatre every deel,
Whan it was doon, hym lyked wonder weel.-
But stynte I wole of Theseus a lite,
And speke of Palamon and of Arcite.
The day approcheth of hir retournynge,

That everich sholde an hundred knyghtes brynge
The bataille to darreyne, as I yow tolde.
And til Atthenes, hir covenantz for to holde,
Hath everich of hem broght an hundred knyghtes,
Wel armed for the werre at alle rightes.

And sikerly, ther trowed many a man,
That nevere sithen that the world bigan,
As for to speke of knyghthod of hir hond,
As fer as God hath maked see or lond,
Nas of so fewe so noble a compaignye.

For every wight that lovede chivalrye,
And wolde, his thankes, han a passant name,
Hath preyed that he myghte been of that game;
And wel was hym that therto chosen was.
For if ther fille tomorwe swich a cas

Ye knowen wel, that every lusty knyght
That loveth paramours, and hath his myght,
Were it in Engelond or elles where,
They wolde, hir thankes, wilnen to be there,
To fighte for a lady, benedicitee!

It were a lusty sighte for to see.
And right so ferden they with Palamon,
With hym ther wenten knyghtes many on.
Som wol ben armed in an haubergeoun,
In a bristplate, and in a light gypoun,

And somme woln have a paire plates large,
And somme woln have a Pruce sheeld, or a targe,
Somme woln ben armed on hir legges weel,
And have an ax, and somme a mace of steel.
Ther is no newe gyse, that it nas old;

Armed were they, as I have yow told,
Everych after his opinioun.
Ther maistow seen comyng with Palamoun
Lygurge hym-self, the grete kyng of Trace.
Blak was his berd, and manly was his face,

The cercles of hise eyen in his heed,
They gloweden bitwyxen yelow and reed,
And lik a griff on looked he aboute,
With kempe heeris on hise browes stoute,
Hise lymes grete, hise brawnes harde and stronge,

Hise shuldres brode, hise armes rounde and longe;
And as the gyse was in his contree,
Ful hye upon a chaar of gold stood he,
With foure white boles in the trays.
In stede of cote-armure, over his harnays

With nayles yelewe and brighte as any gold
He hadde a beres skyn, colblak, for-old;
His longe heer was kembd bihynde his bak,
As any ravenes fethere it shoon for-blak.
A wrethe of gold arm-greet, of huge wighte,

Upon his heed, set ful of stones brighte,
Of fyne rubyes and of dyamauntz.
Aboute his chaar ther wenten white alauntz,
Twenty and mo, as grete as any steer,
To hunten at the leoun or the deer,

And folwed hym, with mosel faste ybounde,
Colored of gold, and tourettes fyled rounde.
An hundred lordes hadde he in his route,
Armed ful wel, with hertes stierne and stoute.
With Arcita, in stories as men fynde,

The grete Emetreus, the kyng of Inde,
Upon a steede bay, trapped in steel,
Covered in clooth of gold dyapred weel,
Cam ridynge lyk the god of armes, Mars.
His cote-armure was of clooth of Tars,

Couched with perles white and rounde and grete.
His sadel was of brend gold newe ybete;
A mantelet upon his shuldre hangynge
Bret-ful of rubyes rede, as fyr sparklynge.
His crispe heer lyk rynges was yronne,

And that was yelow, and glytered as the sonne.
His nose was heigh, hise eyen bright citryn,
Hise lippes rounde, his colour was sangwyn;
A fewe frakenes in his face yspreynd,
Bitwixen yelow and somdel blak ymeynd,

And as a leoun he his looking caste.
Of fyve and twenty yeer his age I caste;
His berd was wel bigonne for to sprynge,
His voys was as a trompe thonderynge.
Upon his heed he wered of laurer grene

A gerland, fressh and lusty for to sene.
Upon his hand he bar for his deduyt
An egle tame, as any lilye whyt.
An hundred lordes hadde he with hym there,
Al armed, save hir heddes, in al hir gere,

Ful richely in alle maner thynges.
For trusteth wel, that dukes, erles, kynges,
Were gadered in this noble compaignye,
For love, and for encrees of chivalrye.
Aboute this kyng ther ran on every part

Ful many a tame leoun and leopard,
And in this wise thise lordes alle and some
Been on the sonday to the citee come,
Aboute pryme, and in the toun alight.
This Theseus, this duc, this worthy knyght,

Whan he had broght hem into his citee,
And inned hem, everich in his degree,
He festeth hem, and dooth so greet labour
To esen hem and doon hem al honour,
That yet men weneth that no maner wit

Of noon estaat ne koude amenden it.
The mynstralcye, the service at the feeste,
The grete yiftes to the mooste and leeste,
The riche array of Theseus paleys,
Ne who sat first ne last upon the deys,

What ladyes fairest been, or best daunsynge,
Or which of hem kan dauncen best and synge,
Ne who moost felyngly speketh of love,
What haukes sitten on the perche above,
What houndes liggen in the floor adoun-

Of al this make I now no mencioun;
But, al theffect, that thynketh me the beste,
Now cometh the point, and herkneth if yow leste.
The sonday nyght, er day bigan to sprynge,
Whan Palamon the lsrke herde synge,

Al though it nere nat day by houres two,
Yet song the larke, and Palamon also.
With hooly herte and with an heigh corage
He roos, to wenden on his pilgrymage,
Unto the blisful Citherea benigne,

I mene Venus, honurable and digne.
And in hir houre he walketh forth a pas
Unto the lystes, ther hire temple was,
And doun he kneleth, with ful humble cheer,
And herte soor, and seyde in this manere.

‘Faireste of faire, O lady myn, Venus,
Doughter to Jove, and spouse of Vulcanus,
Thow glader of the Mount of Citheron,
For thilke love thow haddest to Adoon,
Have pitee of my bittre teeris smerte,

And taak myn humble preyere at thyn herte.
Allas, I ne have no langage to telle
Theffectes, ne the tormentz of myn helle!
Myn herte may myne harmes nat biwreye,
I am so confus that I kan noght seye.

But mercy, lady bright! that knowest weele
My thought, and seest what harmes that I feele.
Considere al this, and rewe upon my soore,
As wisly, as I shal for everemoore,
Emforth my myght, thy trewe servant be,

And holden werre alwey with chastitee.
That make I myn avow, so ye me helpe.
I kepe noght of armes for to yelpe,
Ne I ne axe nat tomorwe to have victorie,
Ne renoun in this cas, ne veyne glorie

Of pris of armes blowen up and doun,
But I wolde have fully possessioun
Of Emelye, and dye in thy servyse.
Fynd thow the manere how, and in what wyse-
I recche nat, but it may bettre be

To have victorie of hem, or they of me-
So that I have my lady in myne armes.
For though so be, that Mars is god of armes,
Youre vertu is so greet in hevene above
That if yow list, I shal wel have my love.

Thy temple wol I worshipe everemo,
And on thyn auter, where I ride or go,
I wol doon sacrifice and fires beete.
And if ye wol nat so, my lady sweete,
Thanne preye I thee, tomorwe with a spere

That Arcita me thurgh the herte bere.
Thanne rekke I noght, whan I have lost my lyf,
Though that Arcita wynne hir to his wyf.
This is theffect and ende of my preyere,
Yif me my love, thow blisful lady deere!’

Whan the orison was doon of Palamon,
His sacrifice he dide, and that anon,
Ful pitously with alle circumstaunce;
Al telle I noght as now his observaunce.
But atte laste, the statue of Venus shook,

And made a signe wherby that he took
That his preyere accepted was that day.
For thogh the signe shewed a delay,
Yet wiste he wel that graunted was his boone,
And with glad herte he wente hym hoom ful soone.

The thridde houre inequal, that Palamon
Bigan to Venus temple for to gon,
Up roos the sonne, and up roos Emelye,
And to the temple of Dyane gan hye.
Hir maydens that she thider with hir ladde,

Ful redily with hem the fyr they ladde,
Thencens, the clothes, and the remenant al
That to the sacrifice longen shal.
The hornes fulle of meeth, as was the gyse,
Ther lakked noght to doon hir sacrifise,

Smokynge the temple, ful of clothes faire.
This Emelye, with herte debonaire,
Hir body wessh with water of a welle-
But how she dide hir ryte I dar nat telle,
But it be any thing in general;

And yet it were a game to heeren al,
To hym that meneth wel it were no charge,
But it is good a man been at his large.-
Hir brighte heer was kempt untressed al,
A coroune of a grene ook cerial

Upon hir heed was set, ful fair and meete.
Two fyres on the suter gan she beete,
And dide hir thynges as men may biholde
In Stace of Thebes, and thise bookes olde.
Whan kyndled was the fyr, with pitous cheere

Unto Dyane she spak as ye may heere.
‘O chaste goddesse of the wodes grene,
To whom bothe hevene and erthe and see is sene,
Queene of the regne of Pluto derk and lowe,
Goddesse of maydens, that myn herte hast knowe

Ful many a yeer, and woost what I desire,
As keep me fro thy vengeaunce and thyn ire,
That Attheon aboughte cruelly.
Chaste goddesse, wel wostow that I
Desire to ben a mayden al my lyf,

Ne nevere wol I be no love ne wyf.
I am, thow woost, yet of thy compaignye,
A mayde, and love huntynge and venerye,
And for to walken in the wodes wilde,
And noght to ben a wyf, and be with childe.

Noght wol I knowe the compaignye of man;
Now helpe me, lady, sith ye may and kan,
For tho thre formes that thou hast in thee.
And Palamon, that hath swich love to me,
And eek Arcite, that loveth me so sore,

This grace I preye thee, withoute moore,
As sende love and pees bitwixe hem two,
And fro me turne awey hir hertes so,
That al hir hoote love and hir desir,
And al hir bisy torment and hir fir,

Be queynt, or turned in another place.
And if so be thou wolt do me no grace,
And if my destynee be shapen so
That I shal nedes have oon of hem two,
As sende me hym that moost desireth me.

Bihoold, goddesse, of clene chastitee,
The bittre teeris that on my chekes falle.
Syn thou art mayde and kepere of us alle,
My maydenhede thou kepe and wel conserve,
And whil I lyve a mayde, I wol thee serve.’

The fires brenne upon the auter cleere,
Whil Emelye was thus in hir preyere;
But sodeynly she saugh a sighte queynte,
For right anon oon of the fyres queynte,
And quyked agayn, and after that anon

That oother fyr was queynt and al agon.
And as it queynte, it made a whistelynge
As doon thise wete brondes in hir brennynge;
And at the brondes ende out ran anon
As it were blody dropes many oon;

For which so soore agast was Emelye
That she was wel ny mad, and gan to crye;
For she ne wiste what it signyfied.
But oonly for the feere thus hath she cried,
And weep that it was pitee for to heere;

And therwithal Dyane gan appeere,
With bowe in honde, right as an hunteresse,
And seyde, ‘Doghter, stynt thyn hevynesse.
Among the goddes hye it is affermed,
And by eterne word writen and confermed,

Thou shalt ben wedded unto oon of tho
That han for thee so muchel care and wo.
But unto which of hem I may nat telle,
Farwel, for I ne may no lenger dwelle.
The fires whiche that on myn auter brenne

Shule thee declaren, er that thou go henne,
Thyn aventure of love, as in this cas.’
And with that word, the arwes in the caas
Of the goddesse clateren faste and rynge,
And forth she wente, and made a vanysshynge,

For which this Emelye astoned was,
And seyde, ‘What amounteth this, allas!
I putte me in thy proteccioun,
Dyane, and in thy disposicioun!’
And hoom she goth anon the nexte weye.

This is theffect, ther is namoore to seye.
The nexte houre of Mars folwynge this
Arcite unto the temple walked is
Of fierse Mars, to doon his sacrifise
With alle the rytes of his payen wyse.

With pitous herte and heigh devocioun
Right thus to Mars he seyde his orisoun.
‘O stronge god, that in the regnes colde
Of Trace honoured art and lord yholde,
And hast in every regne and every lond

Of armes al the brydel in thyn hond,
And hem fortunest as thee lyst devyse,
Accepte of me my pitous sacrifise.
If so be that my youthe may deserve,
And that my myght be worthy for to serve

Thy godhede, that I may been oon of thyne,
Thanne preye I thee to rewe upon my pyne.
For thilke peyne, and thilke hoote fir,
In which thou whilom brendest for desir
Whan that thow usedest the greet beautee

Of faire yonge fresshe Venus free,
And haddest hir in armes at thy wille-
Al though thee ones on a tyme mysfille
Whan Vulcanus hadde caught thee in his las,
And foond thee liggynge by his wyf, allas!-

For thilke sorwe that was in thyn herte
Have routhe as wel, upon my peynes smerte!
I am yong and unkonnynge as thow woost,
And, as I trowe, with love offended moost
That evere was any lyves creature;

For she that dooth me al this wo endure,
Ne reccheth nevere wher I synke or fleete.
And wel I woot, er she me mercy heete,
I moot with strengthe wynne hir in the place.
And wel I woot, withouten help or grace

Of thee, ne may my strengthe noght availle.
Thanne help me, lord, tomorwe in my bataille
For thilke fyr that whilom brente thee,
As wel as thilke fyr now brenneth me!
And do that I tomorwe have victorie,

Myn be the travaille and thyn be the glorie.
Thy sovereyn temple wol I moost honouren
Of any place, and alwey moost labouren
In thy plesaunce, and in thy craftes stronge,
And in thy temple I wol my baner honge,

And alle the armes of my compaignye;
And evere-mo, unto that day I dye,
Eterne fir I wol biforn thee fynde.
And eek to this avow I wol me bynde;
My beerd, myn heer, that hongeth long adoun,

That nevere yet ne felte offensioun
Of rasour, nor of shere, I wol thee yeve,
And ben thy trewe servant whil I lyve.
Now lord, have routhe upon my sorwes soore;
Yif me the victorie, I aske thee namoore!’

The preyere stynt of Arcita the stronge;
The rynges on the temple dore that honge,
And eek the dores clatereden ful faste,
Of which Arcita somwhat hym agaste.
The fyres brenden upon the auter brighte,

That it gan al the temple for to lighte,
And sweete smel the ground anon upyaf,
And Arcita anon his hand uphaf,
And moore encens into the fyr he caste,
With othere rytes mo, and atte laste

The statue of Mars bigan his hauberk rynge,
And with that soun he herde a murmurynge,
Ful lowe and dym, and seyde thus, `Victorie!’
For which he yaf to Mars honour and glorie;
And thus with joye and hope wel to fare,

Arcite anon unto his in is fare,
As fayn as fowel is of the brighte sonne.
And right anon swich strif ther is bigonne
For thilke grauntyng in the hevene above
Bitwixe Venus, the Goddesse of Love,

And Mars the stierne God armypotente,
That Jupiter was bisy it to stente;
Til that the pale Saturnus the colde,
That knew so manye of aventures olde,
Foond in his olde experience an art

That he ful soone hath plesed every part.
As sooth is seyd, elde hath greet avantage;
In elde is bothe wysdom and usage;
Men may the olde atrenne, and noght atrede.
Saturne anon, to stynten strif and drede,

Al be it that it is agayn his kynde,
Of al this strif he gan remedie fynde.
‘My deere doghter Venus,’ quod Saturne,
‘My cours, that hath so wyde for to turne,
Hath moore power than woot any man.

Myn is the drenchyng in the see so wan,
Myn is the prison in the derke cote,
Myn is the stranglyng and hangyng by the throte,
The murmure, and the cherles rebellyng,
The groynynge, and the pryvee empoysonyng.

I do vengeance and pleyn correccioun,
Whil I dwelle in the signe of the leoun.
Myn is the ruyne of the hye halles,
The fallynge of the toures and of the walles
Upon the mynour, or the carpenter.

I slow Sampsoun shakynge the piler,
And myne be the maladyes colde,
The derke tresons, and the castes olde;
My lookyng is the fader of pestilence.
Now weep namoore, I shal doon diligence

That Palamon, that is thyn owene knyght,
Shal have his lady, as thou hast him hight.
Though Mars shal helpe his knyght, yet nathelees
Bitwixe yow ther moot be somtyme pees,
Al be ye noght of o compleccioun-

That causeth al day swich divisioun.
I am thyn aiel, redy at thy wille,
Weep now namoore, I wol thy lust fulfille.’
Now wol I stynten of the goddes above,
Of Mars and of Venus, goddesse of Love,

And telle yow, as pleynly as I kan,
The grete effect for which that I bygan.

Explicit tercia pars.

Sequitur pars quarta.

Greet was the feeste in Atthenes that day,
And eek the lusty seson of that May
Made every wight to been in such plesaunce

That al that Monday justen they and daunce,
And spenten it in Venus heigh servyse.
And by the cause that they sholde ryse
Eerly for to seen the grete fight,
Unto hir rest wenten they at nyght.

And on the morwe, whan that day gan sprynge,
Of hors and harneys, noyse and claterynge
Ther was in hostelryes al aboute.
And to the paleys rood ther many a route
Of lordes, upon steedes and palfreys.

Ther maystow seen divisynge of harneys
So unkouth and so riche, and wroght so weel,
Of goldsmythrye, of browdynge, and of steel;
The sheeldes brighte, testeres, and trappures;
Gold-hewen helmes, hauberkes, cote-armures;

Lordes in parementz on hir courseres,
Knyghtes of retenue and eek squieres,
Nailynge the speres, and helmes bokelynge,
Giggynge of sheeldes, with layneres lacynge.
There as nede is, they weren nothyng ydel.

The fomy steedes on the golden brydel
Gnawynge, and faste the armurers also
With fyle and hamer prikynge to and fro;
Yemen on foote and communes many oon,
With shorte staves thikke as they may goon,

Pypes, trompes, nakerers, clariounes,
That in the bataille blowen blody sounes;
The paleys ful of peples up and doun,
Heere thre, ther ten, holdynge hir questioun,
Dyvynynge of thise Thebane knyghtes two.

Somme seyden thus, somme seyde it shal be so,
Somme helden with hym with the blake berd,
Somme with the balled, somme with the thikke-herd,
Somme seyde he looked grymme, and he wolde fighte,
He hath a sparth of twenty pound of wighte,

Thus was the halle ful of divynynge
Longe after that the sonne gan to sprynge.
The grete Theseus, that of his sleep awaked
With mynstralcie and noyse that was maked,
Heeld yet the chambre of his paleys riche,

Til that the Thebane knyghtes, bothe yliche
Honured, were into the paleys fet.
Due Theseus was at a wyndow set,
Arrayed, right as he were a god in trone.
The peple preesseth thiderward ful soone,

Hym for to seen and doon heigh reverence.
And eek to herkne his heste and his sentence.
An heraud on a scaffold made an ‘Oo!’
Til al the noyse of peple was ydo,
And whan he saugh the peple of noyse al stille,

Tho shewed he the myghty dukes wille.
‘The lord hath of his heigh discrecioun
Considered, that it were destruccioun
To gentil blood, to fighten in the gyse
Of mortal bataille, now in this emprise;

Wherfore, to shapen that they shal nat dye,
He wolde his firste purpos modifye.
No man therfore, up peyne of los of lyf,
No maner shot, ne polax, ne short knyf
Into the lystes sende, ne thider brynge.

Ne short swerd for to stoke, with poynt bitynge,
No man ne drawe, ne bere by his syde;
Ne no man shal unto his felawe ryde
But o cours, with a sharpe ygrounde spere.
Foyne if hym list on foote, hym-self to were;

And he that is at meschief shal be take,
And noght slayn, but be broght unto the stake
That shal ben ordeyned on either syde,
But thider he shal by force, and there abyde.
And if so be the chevetayn be take

On outher syde, or elles sleen his make,
No lenger shal the turneiynge laste.
God spede you, gooth forth, and ley on faste!
With long swerd and with maces fight youre fille;
Gooth now youre wey, this is the lordes wille.’

The voys of peple touchede the hevene,
So loude cride they with murie stevene,
‘God save swich a lord, that is so good
He wilneth no destruccion of blood.’
Up goon the trompes and the melodye,

And to the lystes rit the compaignye,
By ordinance, thurgh-out the citee large
Hanged with clooth of gold, and nat with sarge.
Ful lik a lord this noble duc gan ryde,
Thise two Thebanes upon either syde,

And after rood the queene and Emelye,
And after that another compaignye,
Of oon and oother, after hir degre;
And thus they passen thurgh-out the citee
And to the lystes come they by tyme.

It nas nat of the day yet fully pryme
Whan set was Theseus ful riche and hye,
Ypolita the queene, and Emelye,
And othere ladys in degrees aboute.
Unto the seettes preesseth al the route,

And westward thurgh the gates under Marte,
Arcite, and eek the hondred of his parte,
With baner reed is entred right anon.
And in that selve moment Palamon
Is under Venus estward in the place,

With baner whyt, and hardy chiere and face.
In al the world to seken up and doun
So evene withouten variacioun
Ther nere swiche compaignyes tweye!
For ther was noon so wys, that koude seye

That any hadde of oother avauntage,
Of worthynesse ne of estaat ne age,
So evene were they chosen, for to gesse.
And in two renges faire they hem dresse,
Whan that hir names rad were everichon,

That in hir nombre gyle were ther noon.
Tho were the gates shet and cried was loude,
‘Do now youre devoir, yonge knyghtes proude!’
The heraudes lefte hir prikyng up and doun;
Now ryngen trompes loude and clarioun.

Ther is namoore to seyn, but west and est
In goon the speres ful sadly in arrest,
In gooth the sharpe spore into the syde.
Ther seen men who kan juste, and who kan ryde,
Ther shyveren shaftes upon sheeldes thikke;

He feeleth thurgh the herte-spoon the prikke.
Up spryngen speres twenty foot on highte;
Out gooth the swerdes as the silver brighte.
The helmes they tohewen and toshrede,
Out brest the blood, with stierne stremes rede,

With myghty maces the bones they tobreste.
He thurgh the thikkeste of the throng gan threste;
Ther stomblen steedes stronge, and doun gooth al;
He rolleth under foot as dooth a bal,
He foyneth on his feet with his tronchoun,

And he hym hurtleth with his hors adoun.
He thurgh the body is hurt and sithen ytake,
Maugree his heed, and broght unto the stake,
As forward was, right there he moste abyde;
Another lad is on that oother syde.

And som tyme dooth hem Theseus to reste,
Hem to refresshe, and drynken if hem leste.
Ful ofte a day han thise Thebanes two
Togydre ymet, and wroght his felawe wo.
Unhorsed hath ech oother of hem tweye,

Ther nas no tygre in the vlae of Galgopheye
Whan that hir whelp is stole, whan it is lite,
So crueel on the hunte, as is Arcite
For jelous herte upon this Palamoun;
Ne in Belmarye ther nys so fel leoun

That hunted is, or for his hunger wood,
Ne of his praye desireth so the blood,
As Palamoun to sleen his foo Arcite.
The jelous strokes on hir helmes byte,
Out renneth blood on bothe hir sydes rede.

Som tyme an ende ther is of every dede;
For er the sonne unto the reste wente,
The stronge kyng Emetreus gan hente
This Palamon, as he faught with Arcite,
And made his swerd depe in his flessh to byte.

And by the force of twenty is he take
Unyolden, and ydrawe unto the stake.
And in the rescous of this Palamoun
The stronge kyng Lygurge is born adoun,
And kyng Emetreus, for al his strengthe,

Is born out of his sadel a swerdes lengthe,
So hitte him Palamoun er he were take;
But al for noght, he was broght to the stake.
His hardy herte myghte hym helpe naught,
He moste abyde, whan that he was caught,

By force, and eek by composicioun.
Who sorweth now but woful Palamoun,
That moot namoore goon agayn to fighte?
And whan that Theseus hadde seyn this sighte
Unto the folk that foghten thus echon

He cryde, ‘Hoo! namoore, for it is doon.
I wol be trewe juge, and no partie;
Arcite of Thebes shal have Emelie,
That by his fortune hath hir faire ywonne!’
Anon ther is a noyse of peple bigonne

For joye of this so loude and heighe withalle
It semed that the lystes sholde falle.
What kan now faire Venus doon above?
What seith she now, what dooth this queene of Love,
But wepeth so, for wantynge of hir wille,

Til that hir teeres in the lystes fille.
She seyde, ‘I am ashamed, doutelees.’
Saturnus seyde, ‘Doghter, hoold thy pees,
Mars hath his wille, his knyght hath al his boone,
And, by myn heed, thow shalt been esed soone.’

The trompes with the loude mynstralcie,
The heraudes that ful loude yolle and crie,
Been in hir wele for joye of Daun Arcite.
But herkneth me, and stynteth now a lite,
Which a myracle ther bifel anon.

This fierse Arcite hath of his helm ydon,
And on a courser for to shewe his face
He priketh endelong the large place,
Lokynge upward upon this Emelye,
And she agayn hym caste a freendlich eye,

(For wommen, as to speken in commune,
They folwen al the favour of Fortune)
And she was al his chiere, as in his herte.
Out of the ground a furie infernal sterte,
From Pluto sent, at requeste of Saturne,

For which his hors for fere gan to turne,
And leep aside and foundred as he leep.
And er that Arcite may taken keep,
He pighte hym on the pomel of his heed,
That in the place he lay as he were deed,

His brest tobrosten with his sadel-bowe.
As blak he lay as any cole or crowe,
So was the blood yronnen in his face.
Anon he was yborn out of the place,
With herte soor, to Theseus paleys.

Tho was he korven out of his harneys,
And in a bed ybrought ful faire and blyve,
For he was yet in memorie and alyve,
And alwey criynge after Emelye.
Duc Theseus, with al hes compaignye,

Is comen hoom to Atthenes his citee,
With alle blisse and greet solempnitee;
Al be it that this aventure was falle,
He nolde noght disconforten hem alle.
Men seyde eek that Arcite shal nat dye,

He shal been heeled of his maladye.
And of another thyng they weren as fayn,
That of hem alle was ther noon yslayn,
Al were they soore yhurt, and namely oon,
That with a spere was thirled his brest-boon.

To othere woundes, and to broken armes,
Somme hadden salves, and somme hadden charmes,
Fermacies of herbes and eek save
They dronken, for they wolde hir lymes have.
For which this noble duc as he wel kan,

Conforteth and honoureth every man,
And made revel al the longe nyght
Unto the straunge lordes, as was right.
Ne ther was holden no disconfitynge
But as a justes or a tourneiynge,

For soothly ther was no disconfiture-
For fallyng nys nat but an aventure-
Ne to be lad by force unto the stake
Unyolden, and with twenty knyghtes take,
O persone allone, withouten mo,

And haryed forth by arme, foot, and too,
And eke his steede dryven forth with staves,
With footmen, bothe yemen and eek knaves,
It nas aretted hym no vileynye,
Ther may no man clepen it cowardye.

For which anon duc Theseus leet crye,
To stynten alle rancour and envye,
The gree, as wel of o syde as of oother,
And eyther syde ylik as ootheres brother,
And yaf hem yiftes after hir degree,

And fully heeld a feeste dayes three,
And convoyed the kynges worthily
Out of his toun a journee, largely;
And hoom wente every man, the righte way,
Ther was namoore but `fare-wel, have good day.’

Of this bataille I wol namoore endite,
But speke of Palamoun and of Arcite.
Swelleth the brest of Arcite, and the soore
Encreesseth at his herte moore and moore.
The clothered blood for any lechecraft

Corrupteth, and is in his bouk ylaft,
That neither veyne-blood, ne ventusynge,
Ne drynke of herbes may ben his helpynge.
The vertu expulsif, or animal,
Fro thilke vertu cleped natural

Ne may the venym voyden, ne expelle.
The pipes of his longes gonne to swelle,
And every lacerte in his brest adoun
Is shent with venym and corrupcioun.
Hym gayneth neither for to gete his lif

Vomyt upward, ne dounward laxatif;
Al is tobrosten thilke regioun,
Nature hath now no dominacioun.
And certeinly, ther Nature wol nat wirche,
Fare-wel phisik, go ber the man to chirche!

This al and som, that Arcita moot dye;
For which he sendeth after Emelye
And Palamon, that was his cosyn deere.
Thanne seyde he thus, as ye shal after heere:
‘Naught may the woful spirit in myn herte

Declare o point of alle my sorwes smerte
To yow, my lady, that I love moost.
But I biquethe the servyce of my goost
To yow aboven every creature.
Syn that my lyf may no lenger dure,

Allas, the wo! allas, the peynes stronge
That I for yow have suffred, and so longe!
Allas, the deeth! allas, myn Emelye!
Allas, departynge of our compaignye!
Allas, myn hertes queene! allas, my wyf!

Myn hertes lady, endere of my lyf!
What is this world? what asketh men to have?
Now with his love, now in his colde grave,
Allone, withouten any compaignye.
Fare-wel, my swete foo, myn Emelye,

And softe taak me in youre armes tweye,
For love of God, and herkneth what I seye.
‘I have heer with my cosyn Palamon
Had strif and rancour many a day agon,
For love of yow, and for my jalousye.

And Juppiter so wys my soule gye
To speken of a servaunt proprely,
With alle circumstances trewely,
That is to seyn, trouthe, honour, and knyghthede,
Wysdom, humblesse, estaat, and heigh kynrede,

Fredom, and al that longeth to that art,
So Juppiter have of my soule part
As in this world right now ne knowe I non
So worthy to ben loved, as Palamon
That serveth yow, and wol doon al his lyf;

And if that evere ye shul ben a wyf,
Foryet nat Palamon, the gentil man.’
And with that word his speche faille gan,
And from his herte up to his brest was come
The coold of deeth, that hadde hym overcome.

And yet moreover in hise armes two
The vital strengthe is lost and al ago.
Oonly the intellect, withouten moore,
That dwelled in his herte syk and soore
Gan faillen, when the herte felte deeth.

Dusked hise eyen two, and failled breeth,
But on his lady yet caste he his eye.
His laste word was ‘mercy, Emelye!’
His spirit chaunged hous, and wente ther
As I cam nevere, I kan nat tellen wher,

Therfore I stynte; I nam no divinistre,
Of soules fynde I nat in this registre,
Ne me ne list thilke opinions to telle
Of hem, though that they writen wher they dwelle.
Arcite is coold, ther Mars his soule gye:

Now wol I speken forthe of Emelye.
Shrighte Emelye, and howleth Palamon,
And Theseus his suster took anon
Swownynge, and baar hir fro the corps away.
What helpeth it to tarien forth the day

To tellen how she weep bothe eve and morwe?
For in swich cas wommen have swich sorwe
Whan that hir housbond is from hem ago,
That for the moore part they sorwen so,
Or ellis fallen in swich maladye,

That at the laste certeinly they dye.
Infinite been the sorwes and the teeres
Of olde folk, and eek of tendre yeeres
In al the toun, for deeth of this Theban.
For hym ther wepeth bothe child and man;

So greet a wepyng was ther noon, certayn,
Whan Ector was ybroght al fressh yslayn
To Troye, allas, the pitee that was ther!
Cracchynge of chekes, rentynge eek of heer;
‘Why soldestow be deed,’ thise wommen crye,

‘And haddest gold ynough, and Emelye?’
No man myghte gladen Theseus,
Savynge his olde fader, Egeus,
That knew this worldes transmutacioun,
As he hadde seyn it chaungen up and doun,

Joye after wo, and wo after gladnesse,
And shewed hem ensamples and liknesse.
‘Right as ther dyed nevere man,’ quod he,
‘That he ne lyvede in erthe in som degree,
Right so ther lyvede never man,’ he seyde,

‘In al this world that somtyme he ne deyde.
This world nys but a thurghfare ful of wo,
And we been pilgrymes passynge to and fro.
Deeth is an ende of every worldes soore.’
And over al this yet seyde he muchel moore,

To this effect ful wisely to enhorte
The peple, that they sholde hem reconforte.
Duc Theseus, with al his bisy cure,
Caste now, wher that the sepulture
Of goode Arcite may best ymaked be,

And eek moost honurable in his degree.
And at the laste he took conclusioun
That ther as first Arcite and Palamoun
Hadden for love the bataille hem bitwene,
That in that selve grove swoote and grene

Ther as he hadde hise amorouse desires,
His compleynte, and for love hise hoote fires
He wolde make a fyr, in which the office
Funeral he myghte al accomplice;
And leet comande anon to hakke and hewe

The okes olde, and leye hem on a rewe
In colpons, wel arrayed for to brenne.
Hise officers with swifte feet they renne
And ryden anon at his comandement;
And after this Theseus hath ysent

After a beere, and it al over-spradde
With clooth of gold, the richeste that he hadde.
And of the same suyte he cladde Arcite,
Upon his hondes hadde he gloves white,
EEk on his heed a coroune of laurer grene,

And in his hond a swerd ful bright and kene.
He leyde hym bare the visage on the beere,
Ther-with he weep that pitee was to heere.
And for the peple sholde seen hym alle,
Whan it was day, he broghte hym to the halle,

That roreth of the criyng and the soun.
Tho cam this woful Theban, Palamoun,
With flotery berd and rugged asshy heeres,
In clothes blake, ydropped al with teeres,
And passynge othere of wepynge Emelye,

The rewefulleste of al the compaignye.
In as muche as the servyce sholde be
The moore noble and riche in his degree,
Duc Theseus leet forth thre steedes brynge
That trapped were in steel al gliterynge,

And covered with the armes of daun Arcite.
Upon thise steedes that weren grete and white
Ther sitten folk, of whiche oon baar his sheeld,
Another his spere up in his hondes heeld,
The thridde baar with hym his bowe Turkeys,

Of brend gold was the caas, and eek the harneys;
And riden forth a paas, with sorweful cheere,
Toward the grove, as ye shul after heere.
The nobleste of the Grekes that ther were
Upon hir shuldres caryeden the beere,

With slakke paas, and eyen rede and wete,
Thurghout the citee by the maister-strete,
That sprad was al with blak, and wonder hye
Right of the same is the strete ywrye.
Upon the right hond wente olde Egeus,

And on that oother syde duc Theseus,
With vessel in hir hand of gold ful fyn,
Al ful of hony, milk, and blood, and wyn.
Eek Palamon, with ful greet compaignye,
And after that cam woful Emelye,

With fyr in honde, as was that tyme the gyse,
To do the office of funeral servyse.
Heigh labour, and ful greet apparaillynge,
Was at the service and the fyr makynge,
That with his grene top the heven raughte,

And twenty fadme of brede the armes straughte;
This is to seyn, the bowes weren so brode.
Of stree first ther was leyd ful many a lode,
But how the fyr was maked upon highte,
Ne eek the names that the trees highte,

As, ook, firre, birch, aspe, alder, holm, popeler,
Wylugh, elm, plane, assh, box, chasteyn, lynde, laurer,
Mapul, thorn, bech, hasel, ew, whippeltre,
How they weren fild shal nat be toold for me,
Ne how the goddes ronnen up and doun

Disherited of hir habitacioun,
In whiche they woneden in reste and pees,
Nymphes, Fawnes, and Amadrides;
Ne how the beestes and the briddes alle
Fledden for fere, whan the wode was falle;

Ne how the ground agast was of the light,
That was nat wont to seen the sonne bright;
Ne how the fyr was couched first with stree,
And thanne with drye stokkes clovena thre,
And thanne with grene wode and spicerye,

And thanne with clooth of gold and with perrye,
And gerlandes hangynge with ful many a flour,
The mirre, thencens, with al so greet odour;
Ne how Arcite lay among al this,
Ne what richesse aboute his body is,

Ne how that Emelye, as was the gyse,
Putte in the fyr of funeral servyse;
Ne how she swowned whan men made the fyr,
Ne what she spak, ne what was hir desir,
Ne what jeweles men in the fyr caste,

Whan that the fyr was greet and brente faste;
Ne how somme caste hir sheeld, and somme hir spere,
And of hire vestimentz whiche that they were,
And coppes full of wyn, and milk, and blood,
Into the fyr, that brente as it were wood,

Ne how the Grekes, with an huge route,
Thryes riden al the place aboute,
Upon the left hand with a loud shoutynge,
And thries with hir speres claterynge,
And thries how the ladyes gonne crye,

And how that lad was homward Emelye;
Ne how Arcite is brent to asshen colde,
Ne how that lychewake was yholde
Al thilke nyght, ne how the Grekes pleye
The wakepleyes ne kepe I nat to seye,

Who wrastleth best naked, with oille enoynt,
Ne who that baar hym best in no disjoynt;
I wol nat tellen eek, how that they goon
Hoom til Atthenes, whan the pley is doon;
But shortly to the point thanne wol I wende,

And maken of my longe tale an ende.
By processe, and by lengthe of certeyn yeres,
Al stynted is the moornynge and the teres
Of Grekes, by oon general assent.
Thanne semed me ther was a parlement

At Atthenes, upon certein pointz and caas,
Among the whiche pointz yspoken was
To have with certein contrees alliaunce,
And have fully of Thebans obeisaunce,
For which this noble Theseus anon

Leet senden after gentil Palamon,
Unwist of hym what was the cause and why.
But in hise blake clothes sorwefully
He cam at his comandement in hye;
Tho sente Theseus for Emelye.

Whan they were set, and hust was al the place,
And Theseus abiden hadde a space
Er any word cam fram his wise brest,
Hise eyen sette he ther as was his lest,
And with a sad visage he siked stille,

And after that right thus he seyde his wille.
‘The firste moevere of the cause above
Whan he first made the faire cheyne of love,
Greet was theffect, and heigh was his entente;
Wel wiste he, why, and what therof he mente,

For with that faire cheyne of love he bond
The fyr, the eyr, the water, and the lond,
In certeyn boundes that they may nat flee.
That same prince and that same moevere,’ quod he,
‘Hath stablissed in this wrecched world adoun

Certeyne dayes and duracioun
To al that is engendred in this place,
Over the whiche day they may nat pace;
Al mowe they yet tho dayes wel abregge,
Ther nedeth noght noon auctoritee allegge,

For it is preeved by experience-
But that me list declaren my sentence.
Thanne may men by this ordre wel discerne
That thilke moevere stable is and eterne.
Wel may men knowe, but it be a fool,

That every part deryveth from his hool;
For nature hath nat taken his bigynnyng
Of no partie nor cantel of a thyng,
But of a thyng that parfit is and stable,
Descendynge so til it be corrumpable;

And therfore, of his wise purveiaunce,
He hath so wel biset his ordinaunce,
That speces of thynges and progressiouns
Shullen enduren by successiouns,
And nat eterne, withouten any lye.

This maystow understonde and seen at eye.
Lo the ook, that hath so long a norisshynge
From tyme that it first bigynneth sprynge,
And hath so long a lif, as we may see,
Yet at the laste wasted is the tree.

Considereth eek, how that the harde stoon
Under oure feet, on which we trede and goon,
Yit wasteth it, as it lyth by the weye.
The brode ryver somtyme wexeth dreye,
The grete toures se we wane and wende,

Thanne may ye se that al this thyng hath ende.
Of man and womman seen we wel also,
That nedeth, in oon of thise termes two,
This is to seyn, in youthe or elles age,
He moot be deed, the kyng as shal a page.

Som in his bed, som in the depe see,
Som in the large feeld, as men may se;
Ther helpeth noght, al goth that ilke weye,
Thanne may I seyn that al this thyng moot deye.
What maketh this, but Juppiter the kyng,

That is prince and cause of alle thyng
Convertyng al unto his propre welle
From which it is deryved, sooth to telle,
And heer agayns no creature on lyve
Of no degree availleth for to stryve.

Thanne is it wysdom, as it thynketh me,
To maken vertu of necessitee,
And take it weel, that we may nat eschue;
And namely, that to us alle is due.
And who so gruccheth ought, he dooth folye,

And rebel is to hym that al may gye.
And certeinly, a man hath moost honour
To dyen in his excellence and flour,
Whan he is siker of his goode name,
Thanne hath he doon his freend ne hym no shame.

And galdder oghte his freend been of his deeth,
Whan with honour upyolden in his breeth,
Than whan his name apalled is for age;
For al forgeten is his vassellage.
Thanne is it best as for a worthy fame,

To dyen whan that he is best of name.
The contrarie of al this is wilfulnesse:
Why grucchen heere his cosyn and his wyf
That goode Arcite, of chivalrie flour,
Departed is with duetee and honour

Out of this foule prisoun of this lyf?
Why grucchen heere his cosyn and his wyf
Of his welfare, that loved hem so weel?
Kan he hem thank? Nay, God woot never a deel!
That bothe his soule and eek hemself offende,

And yet they mowe hir lustes nat amende.
What may I concluden of this longe serye,
But after wo I rede us to be merye,
And thanken Juppiter of al his grace?
And er that we departen from this place

I rede that we make, of sorwes two,
O parfit joye lastyng everemo.
And looketh now, wher moost sorwe is her inne,
Ther wol we first amenden and bigynne.
‘Suster,’ quod he, ‘this is my fulle assent,

With all thavys heere of my parlement,
That gentil Palamon thyn owene kynght,
That serveth yow with wille, herte, and myght,
And evere hath doon, syn that ye first hym knewe,
That ye shul of your grace upon hym rewe,

And taken hym for housbonde and for lord.
Lene me youre hond, for this is oure accord.
Lat se now of youre wommanly pitee;
He is a kynges brother sone, pardee,
And though he were a povre bacheler,

Syn he hath served yow so many a yeer,
And had for yow so greet adversitee,
It moste been considered, leeveth me,
For gentil mercy oghte to passen right.’
Thanne seyde he thus to Palamon ful right:

‘I trowe ther nedeth litel sermonyng
To make yow assente to this thyng.
Com neer, and taak youre lady by the hond.’
Bitwixen hem was maad anon the bond
That highte matrimoigne, or mariage,

By al the conseil and the baronage.
And thus with alle blisse and melodye
Hath Palamon ywedded Emelye;
And God, that al this wyde world hath wroght,
Sende hym his love that hath it deere aboght!

For now is Palamon in alle wele,
Lyvynge in blisse, in richesse, and in heele,
And Emelye hym loveth so tendrely,
And he hir serveth al so gentilly,
That nevere was ther no word hem bitwene,

Of jalousie, or any oother teene.
Thus endeth Palamon and Emelye,
And God save al this faire compaignye!-Amen-

Heere is ended the knyghtes tale.

The Canterbury Tales; The Wyves Tale Of Bathe

Part 19

PROLOGUE OF THE WYVES TALE OF BATH

The Prologe of the Wyves tale of Bathe.

Experience, though noon auctoritee
Were in this world, were right ynogh to me
To speke of wo that is in mariage;
For, lordynges, sith I twelf yeer was of age,
Thonked be God, that is eterne on lyve,

Housbondes at chirche-dore I have had fyve-
For I so ofte have ywedded bee-
And alle were worthy men in hir degree.
But me was toold, certeyn, nat longe agoon is,
That sith that Crist ne wente nevere but onis

To weddyng in the Cane of Galilee,
That by the same ensample, taughte he me,
That I ne sholde wedded be but ones.
Herkne eek, lo, which a sharpe word for the nones,
Biside a welle Jesus, God and Man,

Spak in repreeve of the Samaritan.
‘Thou hast yhad fyve housbondes,’ quod he,
‘And thilke man the which that hath now thee
Is noght thyn housbonde;’ thus seyde he, certeyn.
What that he mente ther by, I kan nat seyn;

But that I axe, why that the fifthe man
Was noon housbonde to the Samaritan?
How manye myghte she have in mariage?
Yet herde I nevere tellen in myn age
Upon this nombre diffinicioun.

Men may devyne, and glosen up and doun,
But wel I woot expres withoute lye,
God bad us for to wexe and multiplye;
That gentil text kan I wel understonde.
Eek wel I woot, he seyde, myn housbonde

Sholde lete fader and mooder, and take me;
But of no nombre mencioun made he,
Of bigamye, or of octogamye;
Why sholde men speke of it vileynye?
Lo, heere the wise kyng, daun Salomon;

I trowe he hadde wyves mo than oon-
As, wolde God, it leveful were to me
To be refresshed half so ofte as he-
Which yifte of God hadde he, for alle hise wyvys?
No man hath swich that in this world alyve is.

God woot, this noble kyng, as to my wit,
The firste nyght had many a myrie fit
With ech of hem, so wel was hym on lyve!
Blessed be God, that I have wedded fyve;
Welcome the sixte, whan that evere he shal.

For sothe I wol nat kepe me chaast in al;
Whan myn housbonde is fro the world ygon
Som cristen man shal wedde me anon.
For thanne thapostle seith that I am free,
To wedde a Goddes half where it liketh me.

He seith, that to be wedded is no synne,
Bet is to be wedded than to brynne.
What rekketh me, thogh folk seye vileynye
Of shrewed Lameth and of bigamye?
I woot wel Abraham was an hooly man,

And Jacob eek, as ferforth as I kan,
And ech of hem hadde wyves mo than two,
And many another holy man also.
Whanne saugh ye evere in any manere age
That hye God defended mariage

By expres word? I pray you, telleth me,
Or where comanded he virginitee?
I woot as wel as ye it is no drede,
Thapostel, whan he speketh of maydenhede;
He seyde, that precept therof hadde he noon.

Men may conseille a womman to been oon,
But conseillyng is no comandement;
He putte it in oure owene juggement.
For hadde God comanded maydenhede,
Thanne hadde he dampned weddyng with the dede;

And certein, if ther were no seed ysowe,
Virginitee, wherof thanne sholde it growe?
Poul dorste nat comanden, atte leeste,
A thyng of which his maister yaf noon heeste.
The dart is set up of virginitee;

Cacche who so may, who renneth best lat see.
But this word is nat taken of every wight,
But ther as God lust gyve it of his myght.
I woot wel, the apostel was a mayde;
But nathelees, thogh that he wroot and sayde

He wolde that every wight were swich as he,
Al nys but conseil to virginitee;
And for to been a wyf, he yaf me leve
Of indulgence, so it is no repreve
To wedde me, if that my make dye,

Withouten excepcioun of bigamye.
‘Al were it good no womman for to touche,’
He mente, as in his bed or in his couche;
For peril is bothe fyr and tow tassemble;
Ye knowe what this ensample may resemble.

This is al and som, he heeld virginitee
Moore parfit than weddyng in freletee.
Freletee clepe I, but if that he and she
Wolde leden al hir lyf in chastitee.
I graunte it wel, I have noon envie,

Thogh maydenhede preferre bigamye;
Hem liketh to be clene, body and goost.
Of myn estaat I nyl nat make no boost,
For wel ye knowe, a lord in his houshold,
He nath nat every vessel al of gold;

Somme been of tree, and doon hir lord servyse.
God clepeth folk to hym in sondry wyse,
And everich hath of God a propre yifte,
Som this, som that, as hym liketh shifte.
Virginitee is greet perfeccioun,

And continence eek with devocioun.
But Crist, that of perfeccioun is welle,
Bad nat every wight he sholde go selle
Al that he hadde, and gyve it to the poore,
And in swich wise folwe hym and his foore.

He spak to hem that wolde lyve parfitly,
And lordynges, by youre leve, that am nat I.
I wol bistowe the flour of myn age
In the actes and in fruyt of mariage.
An housbonde I wol have, I nyl nat lette,

Which shal be bothe my dettour and my thral,
And have his tribulacioun withal
Upon his flessh whil that I am his wyf.
I have the power durynge al my lyf
Upon his propre body, and noght he.

Right thus the Apostel tolde it unto me,
And bad oure housbondes for to love us weel.
Al this sentence me liketh every deel,-
Up stirte the Pardoner, and that anon,
‘Now, dame,’ quod he, ‘by God and by Seint John,

Ye been a noble prechour in this cas.
I was aboute to wedde a wyf, allas!
What sholde I bye it on my flessh so deere?
Yet hadde I levere wedde no wyf to-yeere!’
‘Abyde,’ quod she, ‘my tale in nat bigonne.

Nay, thou shalt drynken of another tonne,
Er that I go, shal savoure wors than ale.
And whan that I have toold thee forth my tale
Of tribulacioun in mariage,
Of which I am expert in al myn age,

(This to seyn, myself have been the whippe),
Than maystow chese wheither thou wolt sippe
Of thilke tonne that I shal abroche,
For I shal telle ensamples mo than ten.
Whoso that nyl be war by othere men,

By hym shul othere men corrected be.
The same wordes writeth Ptholomee;
Rede it in his Almageste, and take it there.’
‘Dame, I wolde praye yow, if youre wyl it were,’
Seyde this Pardoner, ‘as ye bigan,

Telle forth youre tale, spareth for no man,
And teche us yonge men of your praktike.’
‘Gladly,’ quod she, ‘sith it may yow like.
But yet I praye to al this compaignye,
If that I speke after my fantasye,

As taketh not agrief of that I seye,
For myn entente nis but for to pleye.’
-Now sire, now wol I telle forth my tale,
As evere moote I drynken wyn or ale,
I shal seye sooth, tho housbondes that I hadde,

As thre of hem were goode, and two were badde.
The thre men were goode, and riche, and olde;
Unnethe myghte they the statut holde
In which that they were bounden unto me-
Ye woot wel what I meene of this, pradee!

As help me God, I laughe whan I thynke
How pitously anyght I made hem swynke.
And by my fey, I tolde of it no stoor,
They had me yeven hir gold and hir tresoor;
Me neded nat do lenger diligence

To wynne hir love, or doon hem reverence,
They loved me so wel, by God above,
That I ne tolde no deyntee of hir love.
A wys womman wol sette hire evere in oon
To gete hire love, ther as she hath noon.

But sith I hadde hem hoolly in myn hond,
And sith they hadde me yeven all hir lond,
What sholde I taken heede hem for to plese,
But it were for my profit and myn ese?
I sette hem so a-werke, by my fey,

That many a nyght they songen weilawey.
The bacoun was nat fet for hem, I trowe,
That som men han in Essex at Dunmowe.
I governed hem so wel after my lawe,
That ech of hem ful blisful was, and fawe

To brynge me gaye thynges fro the fayre.
They were ful glad whan I spak to hem faire,
For God it woot, I chidde hem spitously.
Now herkneth hou I baar me proprely,
Ye wise wyves, that kan understonde.

Thus shul ye speke and bere hem wrong on honde;
For half so boldely kan ther no man
Swere and lyen, as a womman kan.
I sey nat this by wyves that been wyse,
But if it be whan they hem mysavyse.

A wys wyf, it that she kan hir good,
Shal beren hym on hond the cow is wood,
And take witnesse of hir owene mayde,
Of hir assent; but herkneth how I sayde.
‘Sir olde kaynard, is this thyn array?

Why is my neighebores wyf so gay?
She is honoured overal ther she gooth;
I sitte at hoom, I have no thrifty clooth.
What dostow at my neighebores hous?
Is she so fair? artow so amorous?

What rowne ye with oure mayde? benedicite,
Sir olde lecchour, lat thy japes be!
And if I have a gossib or a freend
Withouten gilt, thou chidest as a feend
If that I walke or pleye unto his hous.

Thou comest hoom as dronken as a mous
And prechest on thy bench, with yvel preef!
Thou seist to me, it is a greet meschief
To wedde a povre womman, for costage,
And if she be riche and of heigh parage,

Thanne seistow it is a tormentrie
To soffren hir pride and hir malencolie.
And if she be fair, thou verray knave,
Thou seyst that every holour wol hir have;
She may no while in chastitee abyde

That is assailled upon ech a syde.
Thou seyst, som folk desiren us for richesse,
Somme for oure shape, and somme for oure fairnesse,
And som for she kan outher synge or daunce,
And som for gentillesse and daliaunce,

Som for hir handes and hir armes smale;
Thur goth al to the devel by thy tale.
Thou seyst, men may nat kepe a castel wal,
It may so longe assailled been overal.
And if that she be foul, thou seist that she

Coveiteth every man that she may se;
For as a spaynel she wol on hym lepe
Til that she fynde som man hir to chepe;
Ne noon so grey goos gooth ther in the lake
As, seistow, wol been withoute make;

And seyst, it is an hard thyng for to welde
A thyng that no man wole, his thankes, helde.
Thus seistow, lorel, whan thow goost to bedde,
And that no wys man nedeth for to wedde,
Ne no man that entendeth unto hevene-

With wilde thonderdynt and firy levene
Moote thy welked nekke be to-broke!
Thow seyst that droppyng houses, and eek smoke,
And chidyng wyves maken men to flee
Out of hir owene hous, a benedicitee!

What eyleth swich an old man for to chide?
Thow seyst, we wyves wol oure vices hide
Til we be fast, and thanne we wol hem shewe.
Wel may that be a proverbe of a shrewe!
Thou seist, that oxen, asses, hors, and houndes,

They been assayd at diverse stoundes;
Bacyns, lavours, er that men hem bye,
Spoones and stooles, and al swich housbondrye,
And so been pottes, clothes, and array;
But folk of wyves maken noon assay

Til they be wedded, olde dotard shrewe!
Thanne, seistow, we wol oure vices shewe.
Thou seist also, that it displeseth me
But if that thou wolt preyse my beautee,
And but thou poure alwey upon my face,

And clepe me `faire dame’ in every place,
And but thou make a feeste on thilke day
That I was born, and make me fressh and gay,
And but thou do to my norice honour,
And to my chamberere withinne my bour,

And to my fadres folk and hise allyes-
Thus seistow, olde barel ful of lyes!
And yet of oure apprentice Janekyn,
For his crisp heer, shynynge as gold so fyn,
And for he squiereth me bothe up and doun,

Yet hastow caught a fals suspecioun.
I wol hym noght, thogh thou were deed tomorwe.
But tel me this, why hydestow, with sorwe,
The keyes of my cheste awey fro me?
It is my good as wel as thyn, pardee;

What wenestow make an ydiot of oure dame?
Now, by that lord that called is seint Jame,
Thou shalt nat bothe, thogh that thou were wood,
Be maister of my body and of my good;
That oon thou shalt forgo, maugree thyne eyen.

What nedeth thee of me to enquere or spyen?
I trowe thou woldest loke me in thy chiste.
Thou sholdest seye, `Wyf, go wher thee liste,
Taak youre disport, I wol not leve no talys,
I knowe yow for a trewe wyf, dame Alys.’

We love no man that taketh kepe or charge
Wher that we goon, we wol ben at our large.
Of alle men yblessed moot he be,
The wise astrologien, Daun Ptholome,
That seith this proverbe in his Almageste:

`Of alle men his wysdom is the hyeste,
That rekketh nevere who hath the world in honde.’
By this proverbe thou shalt understonde,
Have thou ynogh, what thar thee recche or care
How myrily that othere folkes fare?

He is to greet a nygard, that wolde werne
A man to lighte his candle at his lanterne;
He shal have never the lasse light, pardee,
Have thou ynogh, thee thar nat pleyne thee.
Thou seyst also, that if we make us gay

With clothyng and with precious array,
That it is peril of oure chastitee;
And yet, with sorwe, thou most enforce thee,
And seye thise wordes in the apostles name,
`In habit, maad with chastitee and shame,

Ye wommen shul apparaille yow,’ quod he,
`And noght in tressed heer and gay perree,
As perles, ne with gold, ne clothes riche.’
After thy text, ne after thy rubriche
I wol nat wirche, as muchel as a gnat!

Thou seydest this, that I was lyk a cat;
For whoso wolde senge a cattes skyn,
Thanne wolde the cat wel dwellen in his in.
And if the cattes skyn be slyk and gay,
She wol nat dwelle in house half a day,

But forth she wole, er any day be dawed,
To shewe hir skyn, and goon a caterwawed.
This is to seye, if I be gay, sire shrewe,
I wol renne out, my borel for to shewe.
Sire olde fool, what eyleth thee to spyen,

Thogh thou preye Argus, with hise hundred eyen,
To be my wardecors, as he kan best,
In feith he shal nat kepe me but me lest;
Yet koude I make his berd, so moot I thee.
Thou seydest eek, that ther been thynges thre,

The whiche thynges troublen al this erthe,
And that no wight ne may endure the ferthe.
O leeve sire shrewe, Jesu shorte thy lyf!
Yet prechestow, and seyst, an hateful wyf
Yrekened is for oon of thise meschances.

Been ther none othere maner resemblances
That ye may likne youre parables to,
But if a sely wyf be oon of tho?
Thou likenest wommenes love to helle,
To bareyne lond, ther water may nat dwelle.

Thou liknest it also to wilde fyr;
The moore it brenneth, the moore it hath desir
To consume every thyng that brent wole be.
Thou seyst, right as wormes shendeth a tree,
Right so a wyf destroyeth hir housbond.

This knowe they, that been to wyves bonde.’
Lordynges, right thus, as ye have understonde,
Baar I stifly myne olde housbondes on honde,
That thus they seyden in hir dronkenesse,
And al was fals, but that I took witnesse

On Janekyn and on my nece also.
O lord, the pyne I dide hem, and the wo
Ful giltelees, by Goddes sweete pyne!
For as an hors I koude byte and whyne,
I koude pleyne, thogh I were in the gilt,

Or elles often tyme hadde I been spilt.
Who so that first to mille comth first grynt;
I pleyned first, so was oure werre ystynt.
They were ful glad to excuse hem ful blyve
Of thyng of which they nevere agilte hir lyve.

Of wenches wolde I beren hym on honde,
Whan that for syk unnethes myghte he stonde,
Yet tikled it his herte, for that he
Wende that I hadde of hym so greet chiertee.
I swoor that al my walkynge out by nyghte

Was for tespye wenches that he dighte.
Under that colour hadde I many a myrthe;
For al swich thyng was yeven us in oure byrthe,
Deceite, wepyng, spynnyng, God hath yeve
To wommen kyndely whil they may lyve.

And thus of o thyng I avaunte me,
Atte ende I hadde the bettre in ech degree,
By sleighte, or force, or by som maner thyng,
As by continueel murmure or grucchyng.
Namely a bedde hadden they meschaunce;

Ther wolde I chide and do hem no plesaunce,
I wolde no lenger in the bed abyde,
If that I felte his arm over my syde
Til he had maad his raunsoun unto me;
Thanne wolde I suffre hym do his nycetee.

And therfore every man this tale I telle,
Wynne who so may, for al is for to selle.
With empty hand men may none haukes lure,-
For wynnyng wolde I al his lust endure
And make me a feyned appetit;

And yet in bacoun hadde I nevere delit;
That made me that evere I wolde hem chide.
For thogh the pope hadde seten hem biside,
I wolde nat spare hem at hir owene bord,
For by my trouthe I quitte hem word for word.

As help me verray God omnipotent,
Though I right now sholde make my testament,
I ne owe hem nat a word, that it nys quit.
I broghte it so aboute by my wit,
That they moste yeve it up as for the beste,

Or elles hadde we nevere been in reste.
For thogh he looked as a wood leoun,
Yet sholde he faille of his conclusioun.
Thanne wolde I seye, ‘Goode lief, taak keepe,
How mekely looketh Wilkyn oure sheepe!

Com neer, my spouse, lat me ba thy cheke,
Ye sholde been al pacient and meke,
And han a sweete spiced conscience,
Sith ye so preche of Jobes pacience.
Suffreth alwey, syn ye so wel kan preche,

And but ye do, certein we shal yow teche
That it is fair to have a wyf in pees.
Oon of us two moste bowen, doutelees,
And sith a man is moore resonable,
Than womman is, ye moste been suffrable.’

Swiche maneer wordes hadde we on honde.
Now wol I speken of my fourthe housbonde.
My fourthe housbonde was a revelour,
This is to seyn, he hadde a paramour,
And I was yong and ful of ragerye,

Stibourne and strong, and joly as a pye.
Wel koude I daunce to an harpe smale,
And synge, ywis, as any nyghtyngale,
Whan I had dronke a draughte of sweete wyn.
Metellius, the foule cherl, the swyn,

That with a staf birafte his wyf hire lyf,
For she drank wyn, thogh I hadde been his wyf,
He sholde nat han daunted me fro drynke.
And after wyn on Venus moste I thynke,
For al so siker as cold engendreth hayl,

A likerous mouth moste han a likerous tayl.
In wommen vinolent is no defence,
This knowen lecchours by experience.
But, Lord Crist! whan that it remembreth me
Upon my yowthe and on my jolitee,

It tikleth me aboute myn herte-roote.
Unto this day it dooth myn herte boote
That I have had my world, as in my tyme.
But age, allas, that al wole envenyme,
Hath me biraft my beautee and my pith!

Lat go, fare-wel, the devel go therwith!
The flour is goon, ther is namoore to telle,
The bren as I best kan, now moste I selle;
But yet to be right myrie wol I fonde.
Now wol I tellen of my fourthe housbonde.

I seye, I hadde in herte greet despit
That he of any oother had delit;
But he was quit, by God and by Seint Joce!
I made hym of the same wode a croce;
Nat of my body in no foul manere,

But certeinly, I made folk swich cheere
That in his owene grece I made hym frye
For angre and for verray jalousye.
By God, in erthe I was his purgatorie,
For which I hope his soule be in glorie,

For God it woot, he sat ful ofte and song
Whan that his shoo ful bitterly hym wrong!
Ther was no wight save God and he, that wiste
In many wise how soore I hym twiste.
He deyde whan I cam fro Jerusalem,

And lith ygrave under the roode-beem,
Al is his tombe noght so curyus
As was the sepulcre of hym Daryus,
Which that Appelles wroghte subtilly.
It nys but wast to burye hym preciously,

Lat hym fare-wel, God yeve his soule reste,
He is now in his grave, and in his cheste.
Now of my fifthe housbonde wol I telle.
God lete his soule nevere come in helle!
And yet was he to me the mooste shrewe;

That feele I on my ribbes al by rewe,
And evere shal, unto myn endyng day.
But in oure bed he was ful fressh and gay,
And therwithal so wel koude he me glose
Whan that he solde han my bele chose,

That thogh he hadde me bet on every bon
He koude wynne agayn my love anon.
I trowe I loved hym beste, for that he
Was of his love daungerous to me.
We wommen han, if that I shal nat lye,

In this matere a queynte fantasye;
Wayte what tthyng we may nat lightly have,
Ther-after wol we crie al day and crave.
Forbede us thyng, and that desiren we;
Preesse on us faste, and thanne wol we fle;

With daunger oute we al oure chaffare.
Greet prees at market maketh deere ware,
And to greet cheep is holde at litel prys;
This knoweth every womman that is wys.
My fifthe housbonde, God his soule blesse,

Which that I took for love and no richesse,
He somtyme was a clerk of Oxenford,
And hadde left scole, and wente at hom to bord
With my gossib, dwellynge in oure toun,
God have hir soule! hir name was Alisoun.

She knew myn herte and eek my privetee
Bet than oure parisshe preest, as moot I thee.
To hir biwreyed I my conseil al,
For hadde myn housbonde pissed on a wal,
Or doon a thyng that sholde han cost his lyf,

To hir, and to another worthy wyf,
And to my nece, which that I loved weel,
I wolde han toold his conseil every deel.
And so I dide ful often, God it woot!
That made his face ful often reed and hoot

For verray shame, and blamed hym-self, for he
Had toold to me so greet a pryvetee.
And so bifel that ones, in a Lente-
So often tymes I to my gossyb wente,
For evere yet I loved to be gay,

And for to walke in March, Averill, and May,
Fro hous to hous to heere sondry talys-
That Jankyn Clerk and my gossyb, dame Alys,
And I myself into the feeldes wente.
Myn housbonde was at London al that Lente;

I hadde the bettre leyser for to pleye,
And for to se, and eek for to be seye
Of lusty folk; what wiste I, wher my grace
Was shapen for to be, or in what place?
Therfore I made my visitaciouns

To vigilies and to processiouns,
To prechyng eek, and to thise pilgrimages,
To pleyes of myracles, and to mariages;
And wered upon my gaye scarlet gytes.
Thise wormes ne thise motthes, ne thise mytes,

Upon my peril, frete hem never a deel-
And wostow why? for they were used weel!
Now wol I tellen forth what happed me.
I seye, that in the feeldes walked we,
Til trewely we hadde swich daliance,

This clerk and I, that of my purveiance
I spak to hym, and seyde hym, how that he,
If I were wydwe, sholde wedde me.
For certeinly, I sey for no bobance,
Yet was I nevere withouten purveiance

Of mariage, nof othere thynges eek.
I holde a mouses herte nat worth a leek
That hath but oon hole for to sterte to,
And if that faille, thanne is al ydo.
I bar hym on honde, he hadde enchanted me-

My dame taughte me that soutiltee.
And eek I seyde, I mette of hym al nyght,
He wolde han slayn me as I lay upright,
And al my bed was ful of verray blood;
But yet I hope that he shal do me good,

For blood bitokeneth gold, as me was taught-
And al was fals, I dremed of it right naught,
But as I folwed ay my dames loore
As wel of this, as of othere thynges moore.
But now sir, lat me se, what I shal seyn?

A ha, by God! I have my tale ageyn.
Whan that my fourthe housbonde was on beere,
I weep algate, and made sory cheere,
As wyves mooten-for it is usage-
And with my coverchief covered my visage;

But for that I was purveyed of a make,
I wepte but smal, and that I undertake.
To chirche was myn housbonde born amorwe
With neighebores that for hym maden sorwe;
And Janekyn oure clerk was oon of tho.

As help me God, whan that I saugh hym go
After the beere, me thoughte he hadde a paire
Of legges and of feet so clene and faire,
That al myn herte I yaf unto his hoold.
He was, I trowe, a twenty wynter oold,

And I was fourty, if I shal seye sooth,
But yet I hadde alwey a coltes tooth.
Gat-tothed I was, and that bicam me weel,
I hadde the prente of Seinte Venus seel.
As help me God, I was a lusty oon,

And faire, and riche, and yong, and wel bigon,
And trewely, as myne housbondes tolde me,
I hadde the beste quonyam myghte be.
For certes, I am al Venerien
In feelynge, and myn herte is Marcien.

Venus me yaf my lust, my likerousnesse,
And Mars yaf me my sturdy hardynesse.
Myn ascendent was Taur, and Mars therinne,
Allas, allas, that evere love was synne!
I folwed ay myn inclinacioun

By vertu of my constellacioun;
That made me I koude noght withdrawe
My chambre of Venus from a good felawe.
Yet have I Martes mark upon my face,
And also in another privee place.

For God so wys be my savacioun,
I ne loved nevere by no discrecioun,
But evere folwede myn appetit,
Al were he short, or long, or blak, or whit.
I took no kepe, so that he liked me,

How poore he was, ne eek of what degree.
What sholde I seye, but at the monthes ende
This joly clerk Jankyn, that was so hende,
Hath wedded me with greet solempnytee,
And to hym yaf I al the lond and fee

That evere was me yeven therbifoore;
But afterward repented me ful soore,
He nolde suffre nothyng of my list.
By God, he smoot me ones on the lyst
For that I rente out of his book a leef,

That of the strook myn ere wax al deef.
Stibourne I was as is a leonesse,
And of my tonge a verray jangleresse,
And walke I wolde, as I had doon biforn,
From hous to hous, although he had it sworn,

For which he often-tymes wolde preche,
And me of olde Romayn geestes teche,
How he Symplicius Gallus lefte his wyf,
And hir forsook for terme of al his lyf,
Noght but for open-heveded he hir say,

Lookynge out at his dore, upon a day.
Another Romayn tolde he me by name,
That for his wyf was at a someres game
Withoute his wityng, he forsook hir eke.
And thanne wolde he upon his Bible seke

That like proverbe of Ecclesiaste,
Where he comandeth, and forbedeth faste,
Man shal nat suffre his wyf go roule aboute,
Thanne wolde he seye right thus, withouten doute:
‘Who so that buyldeth his hous al of salwes,

And priketh his blynde hors over the falwes,
And suffreth his wyf to go seken halwes,
Is worthy to been hanged on the galwes!’
But al for noght, I sette noght an hawe
Of his proverbes, nof his olde lawe,

Ne I wolde nat of hym corrected be.
I hate hym that my vices telleth me;
And so doo mo, God woot, of us than I!
This made hym with me wood al outrely,
I nolde noght forbere hym in no cas.

Now wol I seye yow sooth, by seint Thomas,
Why that I rente out of his book a leef,
For which he smoot me so that I was deef.
He hadde a book that gladly, nyght and day,
For his desport he wolde rede alway.

He cleped it `Valerie and Theofraste,’
At whiche book he lough alwey ful faste.
And eek ther was som tyme a clerk at Rome,
A cardinal that highte Seint Jerome,
That made a book agayn Jovinian,

In whiche book eek ther was Tertulan,
Crisippus, Trotula, and Helowys,
That was abbesse nat fer fro Parys,
And eek the Parables of Salomon,
Ovides Art, and bookes many on,

And alle thise were bounden in o volume,
And every nyght and day was his custume
Whan he hadde leyser and vacacioun
From oother worldly occupacioun
To reden on this book of wikked wyves.

He knew of hem mo legendes and lyves
Than been of goode wyves in the Bible.
For trusteth wel, it is an inpossible
That any clerk wol speke good of wyves,
But if it be of hooly seintes lyves,

Ne noon oother womman never the mo.
Who peyntede the leoun, tel me, who?
By God, if wommen hadde writen stories,
As clerkes han withinne hire oratories,
They wolde han writen of men moore wikkednesse

Than all the mark of Adam may redresse.
The children of Mercurie and Venus
Been in hir wirkyng ful contrarius,
Mercurie loveth wysdam and science,
And Venus loveth ryot and dispence.

And for hire diverse disposicioun
Ech falleth in otheres exaltacioun,
And thus, God woot, Mercurie is desolat
In Pisces, wher Venus is exaltat;
And Venus falleth ther Mercurie is reysed.

Therfore no womman of no clerk is preysed.
The clerk, whan he is oold and may noght do
Of Venus werkes worth his olde sho,
Thanne sit he doun, and writ in his dotage
That wommen kan nat kepe hir mariage.

But now to purpos, why I tolde thee
That I was beten for a book, pardee.
Upon a nyght Jankyn, that was oure sire,
Redde on his book as he sat by the fire
Of Eva first, that for hir wikkednesse

Was al mankynde broght to wrecchednesse,
For which that Jesu Crist hymself was slayn,
That boghte us with his herte-blood agayn.
Lo, heere expres of womman may ye fynde,
That womman was the los of al mankynde.

Tho redde he me how Sampson loste hise heres,
Slepynge, his lemman kitte it with hir sheres,
Thurgh whiche tresoun loste he bothe hise eyen.
Tho redde he me, if that I shal nat lyen,
Of Hercules and of his Dianyre,

That caused hym to sette hymself afyre.
No thyng forgat he the penaunce and wo
That Socrates hadde with hise wyves two,
How Xantippa caste pisse up-on his heed.
This sely man sat stille as he were deed;

He wiped his heed, namoore dorste he seyn
But, ‘er that thonder stynte, comth a reyn.’
Of Phasifpha, that was the queene of Crete,
For shrewednesse hym thoughte the tale swete-
Fy, speke namoore! it is a grisly thyng

Of hir horrible lust and hir likyng.
Of Clitermystra for hire lecherye,
That falsly made hir housbonde for to dye,
He redde it with ful good devocioun.
He tolde me eek for what occasioun

Amphiorax at Thebes loste his lyf.
Myn housbonde hadde a legende of his wyf
Eriphilem, that for an ouche of gold
Hath prively unto the Grekes told
Wher that hir housbonde hidde hym in a place,

For which he hadde at Thebes sory grace.
Of Lyma tolde he me, and of Lucye,
They bothe made hir housbondes for to dye,
That oon for love, that oother was for hate.
Lyma hir housbonde, on an even late,

Empoysoned hath, for that she was his fo.
Lucia likerous loved hir housbonde so,
That for he sholde alwey upon hire thynke,
She yaf hym swich a manere love-drynke
That he was deed, er it were by the morwe.

And thus algates housbondes han sorw.
Thanne tolde he me, how that Latumyus
Compleyned unto his felawe Arrius,
That in his gardyn growed swich a tree,
On which he seyde how that hise wyves thre

Hanged hemself, for herte despitus.
‘O leeve brother,’ quod this Arrius,
‘Yif me a plante of thilke blissed tree,
And in my gardyn planted it shal bee.’
Of latter date of wyves hath he red,

That somme han slayn hir housbondes in hir bed,
And lete hir lecchour dighte hir al the nyght,
Whan that the corps lay in the floor upright.
And somme han dryve nayles in hir brayn
Whil that they slepte, and thus they han hem slayn.

Somme han hem yeve poysoun in hir drynke.
He spak moore harm than herte may bithynke,
And therwithal he knew of mo proverbes
Than in this world ther growen gras or herbes.
‘Bet is,’ quod he, ‘Thyn habitacioun

Be with a leoun, or a foul dragoun,
Than with a womman usynge for to chyde.’
‘Bet is,’ quod he, ‘hye in the roof abyde
Than with an angry wyf doun in the hous,
They been so wikked and contrarious.

They haten that hir housbondes loveth ay.’
He seyde, ‘a womman cast hir shame away
Whan she cast of hir smok,’ and forther mo,
‘A fair womman, but she be chaast also,
Is lyk a goldryng in a sowes nose.’

Who wolde leeve, or who wolde suppose
The wo that in myn herte was, and pyne?
And whan I saugh he wolde nevere fyne
To reden on this cursed book al nyght,
Al sodeynly thre leves have I plyght

Out of his book, right as he radde, and eke
I with my fest so took hym on the cheke,
That in oure fyr he ril bakward adoun.
And he up-stirte as dootha wood leoun,
And with his fest he smoot me on the heed

That in the floor I lay, as I were deed.
And whan he saugh how stille that I lay,
He was agast, and wolde han fled his way,
Til atte laste out of my swogh I breyde.
‘O, hastow slayn me, false theef,’ I seyde,

‘And for my land thus hastow mordred me?
Er I be deed, yet wol I kisse thee.’
And neer he cam and kneled faire adoun,
And seyde, ‘deere suster Alisoun,
As help me God, I shal thee nevere smyte.

That I have doon, it is thyself to wyte,
Foryeve it me, and that I thee biseke.’
And yet eftsoones I hitte hym on the cheke,
And seyde, ‘theef, thus muchel am I wreke;
Now wol I dye, I may no lenger speke.’

But atte laste, with muchel care and wo,
We fille acorded by us selven two.
He yaf me al the bridel in myn hond,
To han the governance of hous and lond,
And of his tonge, and of his hond also,

And made hym brenne his book anon right tho.
And whan that I hadde geten unto me
By maistrie, al the soveraynetee,
And that he seyde, ‘myn owene trewe wyf,
Do as thee lust the terme of al thy lyf,

Keepe thyn honour, and keep eek myn estaat,’
After that day we hadden never debaat.
God help me so, I was to hym as kynde
As any wyf from Denmark unto Ynde,
And also trewe, and so was he to me.

I prey to God, that sit in magestee,
So blesse his soule for his mercy deere.
Now wol I seye my tale, if ye wol heere.

Biholde the wordes bitwene the Somonour and the Frere.

The Frere lough whan he hadde herd al this.-
‘Now dame,’ quod he, ‘so have I joye or blis,
This is a long preamble of a tale.’
And whan the Somonour herde the Frere gale,
‘Lo,’ quod the Somonour, ‘Goddes armes two,

A frere wol entremette hym evere-mo.
Lo goode men, a flye and eek a frere
Wol falle in every dyssh and eek mateere.
What spekestow of preambulacioun?
What, amble, or trotte, or pees, or go sit doun,

Thou lettest oure disport in this manere.’
‘Ye, woltow so, sire Somonour?’ quod the frere,
‘Now by my feith, I shal er that I go
Telle of a Somonour swich a tale or two
That alle the folk shal laughen in this place.’

‘Now elles, frere, I bishrewe thy face,’
Quod this Somonour, ‘and I bishrewe me,
But if I telle tales two or thre
Of freres, er I come to Sidyngborne,
That I shal make thyn herte for to morne,

For wel I woot thy pacience in gon.’
Oure Hooste cride, ‘Pees, and that anon!’
And seyde, ‘lat the womman telle hire tale,
Ye fare as folk that dronken were of ale.
Do, dame, telle forth youre tale, and that is best.’

‘Al redy, sire,’ quod she, ‘right as yow lest,
If I have licence of this worthy frere.’
‘Yis, dame,’ quod he, ‘tel forth, and I wol heere.’

Heere endeth the Wyf of Bathe hir Prologe.

Part 20

THE TALE OF THE WYF OF BATH

Here bigynneth the Tale of the Wyf of Bathe.

In tholde dayes of the Kyng Arthour,
Of which that Britons speken greet honour,
All was this land fulfild of Fayerye.
The elf-queene, with hir joly compaignye,
Daunced ful ofte in many a grene mede;

This was the olde opinion, as I rede.
I speke of manye hundred yeres ago;
But now kan no man se none elves mo,
For now the grete charitee and prayeres
Of lymytours, and othere hooly freres,

That serchen every lond and every streem
As thikke as motes in the sonne-beem,
Blessynge halles, chambres, kichenes, boures,
Citees, burghes, castels, hye toures,
Thropes, bernes, shipnes, dayeryes,

This maketh that ther been no Fayeryes.
For ther as wont to walken was an elf,
Ther walketh now the lymytour hymself
In undermeles and in morwenynges,
And seyth his matyns and his hooly thynges

As he gooth in his lymytacioun.
Wommen may go saufly up and doun;
In every bussh or under every tree
Ther is noon oother incubus but he,
And he ne wol doon hem but dishonour.

And so bifel it that this kyng Arthour
Hadde in his hous a lusty bachelor,
That on a day cam ridynge fro ryver;
And happed that, allone as she was born,
He saugh a mayde walkynge hym biforn,

Of whiche mayde anon, maugree hir heed,
By verray force he rafte hir maydenhed;
For which oppressioun was swich clamour
And swich pursute unto the kyng Arthour,
That dampned was this knyght for to be deed

By cours of lawe, and sholde han lost his heed,
Paraventure, swich was the statut tho,
But that the queene and othere ladyes mo
So longe preyeden the kyng of grace,
Til he his lyf hym graunted in the place,

And yaf hym to the queene al at hir wille,
To chese, wheither she wolde hym save or spille.
The queene thanketh the kyng with al hir myght,
And after this thus spak she to the knyght,
Whan that she saugh hir tyme, upon a day,

‘Thou standest yet,’ quod she, ‘in swich array
That of thy lyf yet hastow no suretee.
I grante thee lyf, if thou kanst tellen me
What thyng is it that wommen moost desiren.
Be war and keep thy nekke-boon from iren,

And if thou kanst nat tellen it anon,
Yet shal I yeve thee leve for to gon
A twelf-month and a day to seche and leere
An answere suffisant in this mateere;
And suretee wol I han, er that thou pace,

Thy body for to yelden in this place.’
Wo was this knyght, and sorwefully he siketh,
But what! he may nat do al as hym liketh;
And at the laste he chees hym for to wende,
And come agayn right at the yeres ende,

With swich answere as God wolde hym purveye;
And taketh his leve, and wendeth forth his weye.
He seketh every hous and every place,
Where as he hopeth for to fynde grace
To lerne what thyng wommen loven moost;

But he ne koude arryven in no coost
Wher as he myghte fynde in this mateere
Two creatures accordynge in feere.
Somme seyde, wommen loven best richesse,
Somme seyde honour, somme seyde jolynesse,

Somme riche array, somme seyden lust abedde,
And oftetyme to be wydwe and wedde.
Somme seyde, that oure hertes been moost esed
Whan that we been yflatered and yplesed-
He gooth ful ny the sothe, I wol nat lye,

A man shal wynne us best with flaterye;
And with attendance and with bisynesse
Been we ylymed, bothe moore and lesse.-
And somme seyn, how that we loven best
For to be free, and do right as us lest,

And that no man repreve us of oure vice,
But seye that we be wise, and nothyng nyce.
For trewely, ther is noon of us alle,
If any wight wol clawe us on the galle,
That we nel kike; for he seith us sooth;

Assay, and he shal fynde it that so dooth.
For be we never so vicious withinne,
We sol been holden wise, and clene of synne.
And somme seyn, that greet delit han we
For to been holden stable and eke secree,

And in o purpos stedefastly to dwelle,
And nat biwerye thyng that men us telle.
But that tale is nat worth a rake-stele,
Pardee, we wommen konne no thyng hele.
Witnesse on Myda-wol ye heere the tale?

Ovyde, amonges othere thynges smale,
Seyde, Myda hadde under his longe heres
Growynge upon his heed two asses eres,
The whiche vice he hydde, as he best myghte,
Ful subtilly from every mannes sighte;

That, save his wyf, ther wiste of it namo,
He loved hir moost and trusted hir also.
He preyede hir, that to no creature
She sholde tellen of his disfigure.
She swoor him nay, for al this world to wynne,

She nolde do that vileynye or synne,
To make hir housbonde han so foul a name,
She nolde nat telle it for hir owene shame!

But nathelees, hir thoughte that she dyde,
That she so longe sholde a conseil hyde,

Hir thoughte it swal so soore aboute hir herte
That nedely som word hir moste asterte.
And sith she dorste telle it to no man,
Doun to a mareys faste by she ran,
Til she came there, hir herte was afyre,

And as a bitore bombleth in the myre,
She leyde hir mouth unto the water doun;-
‘Biwreye me nat, thou water, with thy soun,’
Quod she, ‘to thee I telle it and namo,
Myn housbonde hath longe asses erys two!

Now is myn herte al hool, now is it oute,
I myghte no lenger kepe it, out of doute.’
Heere may ye se, thogh we a tyme abyde,
Yet out it moot, we kan no conseil hyde.-
The remenant of the tale, if ye wol heere,

Redeth Ovyde, and ther ye may it leere.-
This knyght, of which my tale is specially,
Whan that he saugh he myghte nat come therby,
This is to seye, what wommen love moost,
Withinne his brest ful sorweful was the goost.

But hoom he gooth, he myghte nat sojourne;
The day was come that homward moste he tourne,
And in his wey it happed hym to ryde
In al this care under a forest syde,
Wher as he saugh upon a daunce go

Of ladyes foure and twenty, and yet mo;
Toward the whiche daunce he drow ful yerne,
In hope that som wysdom sholde he lerne.
But certeinly, er he came fully there,
Vanysshed was this daunce, he nyste where;

No creature saugh he that bar lyf,
Save on the grene he saugh sittynge a wyf,
A fouler wight ther may no man devyse.
Agayn the knyght this olde wyf gan ryse,
And seyde, ‘Sire knyght, heer-forth ne lith no wey;

Tel me what that ye seken, by your fey.
Paraventure it may the bettre be,
Thise olde folk kan muchel thyng,’ quod she.
‘My leeve mooder,’ quod this knyght, ‘certeyn,
I nam but deed, but if that I kan seyn

What thyng it is, that wommen moost desire.
Koude ye me wisse, I wolde wel quite youre hire.’
‘Plight me thy trouthe, heere in myn hand,’ quod she,
‘The nexte thyng that I requere thee,
Thou shalt it do, if it lye in thy myght,

And I wol telle it yow, er it be nyght.’
‘Have heer my trouthe,’ quod the knyght, ‘I grante.’
‘Thanne,’ quod she, ‘I dar me wel avante,
Thy lyf is sauf, for I wol stonde therby
Upon my lyf, the queene wol seye as I.

Lat se which is the proudeste of hem alle,
That wereth on a coverchief or a calle,
That dar seye nay of that I shal thee teche.
Lat us go forth withouten lenger speche.’
Tho rowned she a pistel in his ere,

And bad hym to be glad and have no fere.
Whan they be comen to the court, this knyght
Seyde he had holde his day, as he hadde hight,
And redy was his answere, as he sayde.
Ful many a noble wyf, and many a mayde,

And many a wydwe, for that they been wise,
The wueene hirself sittynge as a justise,
Assembled been, his answere for to heere;
And afterward this knyght was bode appeere.
To every wight comanded was silence,

And that the knyght sholde telle in audience
What thyng that worldly wommen loven best.
This knyght ne stood nat stille, as doth a best,
But ot his questioun anon answerde
With manly voys, that al the court it herde:

‘My lige lady, generally,’ quod he,
‘Wommen desiren to have sovereynetee
As wel over hir housbond as hir love,
And for to been in maistrie hym above.
This is youre mooste desir, thogh ye me kille,

Dooth as yow list, I am heer at youre wille.’
In al the court ne was ther wyf ne mayde
Ne wydwe that contraried that he sayde,
But seyden he was worthy han his lyf.
And with that word up stirte the olde wyf,

Which that the knyght saugh sittynge in the grene.
‘Mercy,’ quod she, ‘my sovereyn lady queene,
Er that youre court departe, do me right.
I taughte this answere unto the knyght,
For which he plighte me his trouthe there,

The firste thyng I wolde of hym requere,
He wolde it do, if it lay in his myght.
Bifor the court thanne preye I thee, sir knyght,’
Quod she, ‘that thou me take unto thy wyf,
For wel thou woost that I have kept thy lyf.

If I seye fals, sey nay, upon thy fey!’
This knyght answerde, ‘Allas and weylawey!
I woot right wel that swich was my biheste!
For Goddes love, as chees a newe requeste,
Taak al my good, and lat my body go!’

‘Nay, thanne,’ quod she, ‘I shrewe us bothe two,
For thogh that I be foul, and oold, and poore,
I nolde for al the metal, ne for oore,
That under erthe is grave, or lith above,
But if thy wyf I were, and eek thy love.’

‘My love?’ quod he, ‘nay, my dampnacioun!
Allas, that any of my nacioun
Sholde evere so foule disparaged be!’
But al for noght, the ende is this, that he
Constreyned was, he nedes moste hir wedde,

And taketh his olde wyf, and gooth to bedde.
Now wolden som men seye, paraventure,
That for my necligence I do no cure
To tellen yow the joye and al tharray,
That at the feeste was that ilke day;

To whiche thyng shortly answere I shal.
I seye, ther nas no joye ne feeste at al,
Ther nas but hevynesse and muche sorwe,
For prively he wedde hir on a morwe,
And al day after hidde hym as an owle,

So wo was hym, his wyf looked so foule.
Greet was the wo the knyght hadde in his thoght,
Whan he was with his wyf abedde ybroght,
He walweth and he turneth to and fro.
His olde wyf lay smylynge everemo,

And seyde, ‘O deere housbonde, benedicitee,
Fareth every knyght thus with his wyf, as ye?
Is this the lawe of Kyng Arthures hous?
Is every knyght of his so dangerous?
I am youre owene love, and eek your wyf;

I am she which that saved hath youre lyf.
And certes, yet dide I yow nevere unright;
Why fare ye thus with me this firste nyght?
Ye faren lyk a man had lost his wit.
What is my gilt? for Goddes love, tel it,

And it shal been amended, if I may.’
‘Amended,’ quod this knyght, ‘allas! nay! nay!
It wol nat been amended nevere mo;
Thou art so loothly and so oold also
And therto comen of so lough a kynde,

That litel wonder is thogh I walwe and wynde.
So wolde God, myn herte wolde breste!’
‘Is this,’ quod she, ‘the cause of youre unreste?’
‘Ye certeinly,’ quod he, ‘no wonder is!’
‘Now, sire,’ quod she, ‘I koude amende al this,

If that me liste, er it were dayes thre,
So wel ye myghte bere yow unto me.
But for ye speken of swich gentillesse
As is descended out of old richesse,
That therfore sholden ye be gentil men,

Swich arrogance nis nat worth an hen.
Looke who that is moost vertuous alway,
Pryvee and apert, and moost entendeth ay
To do the gentil dedes that he kan,
Taak hym for the grettest gentil-man.

Crist wole, we clayme of hym oure gentillesse,
Nat of oure eldres for hire old richesse.
For thogh they yeve us al hir heritage,
For which we clayme to been of heigh parage,
Yet may they nat biquethe for no thyng

To noon of us hir vertuous lyvyng,
That made hem gentil men ycalled be,
And bad us folwen hem in swich degree.
Wel kan the wise poete of Florence,
That highte Dant, speken in this sentence.

Lo in swich maner rym is Dantes tale:
`Ful selde upriseth by his branches smale
Prowesse of man, for God of his goodnesse
Wole, that of hym we clayme oure gentillesse.’
For of oure eldres may we no thyng clayme

But temporel thyng, that man may hurte and mayme.
Eek every wight woot this as wel as I,
If gentillesse were planted natureelly
Unto a certeyn lynage doun the lyne,
Pryvee nor apert, thanne wolde they nevere fyne

To doon of gentillesse the faire office,
They myghte do no vileynye or vice.
Taak fyr, and ber it in the derkeste hous
Bitwix this and the mount of Kaukasous,
And lat men shette the dores and go thenne,

Yet wole the fyr as faire lye and brenne
As twenty thousand men myghte it biholde;
His office natureel ay wol it holde,
Up peril of my lyf, til that it dye.
Heere may ye se wel, how that genterye

Is nat annexed to possessioun,
Sith folk ne doon hir operacioun
Alwey, as dooth the fyr, lo, in his kynde.
For God it woot, men may wel often fynde
A lordes sone do shame and vileynye,

And he that wole han pris of his gentrye,
For he was boren of a gentil hous,
And hadde hise eldres noble and vertuous,
And nel hym-selven do no gentil dedis,
Ne folwen his gentil auncestre that deed is,

He nys nat gentil, be he duc or erl;
For vileyns synful dedes make a cherl.
For gentillesse nys but renomee
Of thyne auncestres for hire heigh bountee,
Which is a strange thyng to thy persone.

Thy gentillesse cometh fro God allone,
Thanne comth oure verray gentillesse of grace,
It was no thyng biquethe us with oure place.
Thenketh hou noble, as seith Valerius,
Was thilke Tullius Hostillius,

That out of poverte roos to heigh noblesse.
Reedeth Senek, and redeth eek Boece,
Ther shul ye seen expres that it no drede is,
That he is gentil that dooth gentil dedis.
And therfore, leeve housbonde, I thus conclude,

Al were it that myne auncestres weren rude,
Yet may the hye God-and so hope I,-
Grante me grace to lyven vertuously.
Thanne am I gentil whan that I bigynne
To lyven vertuously, and weyve synne.

And ther as ye of poverte me repreeve,
The hye God, on whom that we bileeve
In wilful poverte chees to lyve his lyf.
And certes every man, mayden or wyf,
May understonde that Jesus, hevene kyng,

Ne wolde nat chesen vicious lyvyng.
Glad poverte is an honeste thyng, certeyn,
This wole Senec and othere clerkes seyn.
Who so that halt hym payd of his poverte,
I holde hym riche, al hadde he nat a sherte;

He that coveiteth is a povre wight,
For he wolde han that is nat in his myght,
But he that noght hath, ne coveiteth have,
Is riche, although ye holde hym but a knave.
Verray poverte, it syngeth proprely.

Juvenal seith of poverte myrily,
`The povre man, whan he goth by the weye,
Bifore the theves he may synge and pleye.’
Poverte is hateful good, and, as I gesse,
A ful greet bryngere out of bisynesse;

A greet amender eek of sapience
To hym that taketh it in pacience.
Poverte is this, although it seme elenge;
Possessioun, that no wight wol chalenge.
Poverte ful ofte, whan a man is lowe,

Maketh his God and eek hymself to knowe;
Poverte a spectacle is, as thynketh me,
Thurgh which he may hise verray freendes see.
And therfore, sire, syn that I noght yow greve,
Of my poverte namoore ye me repreve.

Now sire, of elde ye repreve me,
And certes, sire, thogh noon auctoritee
Were in no book, ye gentils of honour
Seyn, that men sholde an oold wight doon favour,
And clepe hym fader for youre gentillesse,

And auctours shal I fynden, as I gesse.
Now, ther ye seye that I am foul and old,
Than drede you noght to been a cokewold;
For filthe and eelde, al so moot I thee,
Been grete wardeyns upon chastitee;

But nathelees, syn I knowe youre delit,
I shal fulfille youre worldly appetit.’
‘Chese now,’ quod she, ‘oon of thise thynges tweye:
To han me foul and old til that I deye,
And be to yow a trewe humble wyf,

And nevere yow displese in al my lyf;
Or elles ye wol han me yong and fair,
And take youre aventure of the repair
That shal be to youre hous, by cause of me,
Or in som oother place may wel be.

Now chese yourselven wheither that yow liketh.’
This knyght avyseth hym and sore siketh,
But atte laste, he seyde in this manere:
‘My lady and my love, and wyf so deere,
I put me in youre wise governance.

Cheseth yourself, which may be moost plesance
And moost honour to yow and me also.
I do no fors the wheither of the two,
For, as yow liketh, it suffiseth me.’
‘Thanne have I gete of yow maistrie,’ quod she,

‘Syn I may chese and governe as me lest?’
‘Ye, certes, wyf,’ quod he, ‘I holde it best.’
‘Kys me,’ quod she, ‘we be no lenger wrothe,
For, by my trouthe, I wol be to yow bothe!
This is to seyn, ye, bothe fair and good.

I prey to God that I moote sterven wood
But I to yow be al so good and trewe
As evere was wyf, syn that the world was newe.
And but I be tomorn as fair to seene
As any lady, emperice or queene,

That is bitwixe the est and eke the west,
Dooth with my lyf and deth right as yow lest.
Cast up the curtyn, looke how that it is.’
And whan the knyght saugh verraily al this,
That she so fair was, and so yong therto,

For joye he hente hire in hise armes two.
His herte bathed in a bath of blisse,
A thousand tyme arewe he gan hir kisse,
And she obeyed hym in every thyng
That myghte doon hym plesance or likyng.

And thus they lyve unto hir lyves ende
In parfit joye;-and Jesu Crist us sende
Housbondes meeke, yonge, fressh abedde,
And grace toverbyde hem that we wedde.
And eek I praye Jesu shorte hir lyves,

That nat wol be governed by hir wyves;
And olde and angry nygardes of dispence,
God sende hem soone verray pestilence!

Heere endeth the Wyves tale of Bathe.

Canterbury Tales, The Knight’s Tale, Book I [Excerpt]

In days of old there lived, of mighty fame,
A valiant Prince, and Theseus was his name;
A chief, who more in feats of arms excelled,
The rising nor the setting sun beheld.
Of Athens he was lord; much land he won,
And added foreign countries to his crown.
In Scythia with the warrior Queen he strove,
Whom first by force he conquered, then by love;
He brought in triumph back the beauteous dame,
With whom her sister, fair Emilia, came.
With honour to his home let Theseus ride,
With Love to friend, and Fortune for his guide,
And his victorious army at his side.
I pass their warlike pomp, their proud array,
Their shouts, their songs, their welcome on the way;
But, were it not too long, I would recite
The feats of Amazons, the fatal fight
Betwixt the hardy Queen and hero Knight;
The town besieged, and how much blood it cost
The female army, and the Athenian host;
The spousals of Hippolyta the Queen;
What tilts and turneys at the feast were seen;
The storm at their return, the ladies’ fear:
But these and other things I must forbear.

The field is spacious I design to sow
With oxen far unfit to draw the plough:
The remnant of my tale is of a length
To tire your patience, and to waste my strength;
And trivial accidents shall be forborn,
That others may have time to take their turn,
As was at first enjoined us by mine host,
That he, whose tale is best and pleases most,
Should win his supper at our common cost.
And therefore where I left, I will pursue
This ancient story, whether false or true,
In hope it may be mended with a new.
The Prince I mentioned, full of high renown,
In this array drew near the Athenian town;
When, in his pomp and utmost of his pride
Marching, he chanced to cast his eye aside,
And saw a quire of mourning dames, who lay
By two and two across the common way:
At his approach they raised a rueful cry,
And beat their breasts, and held their hands on high,
Creeping and crying, till they seized at last
His courser’s bridle and his feet embraced.
“Tell me,’ said Theseus, “what and whence you are,
“And why this funeral pageant you prepare?
Is this the welcome of my worthy deeds,
To meet my triumph in ill-omened weeds?
Or envy you my praise, and would destroy
With grief my pleasures, and pollute my joy?
Or are you injured, and demand relief?
Name your request, and I will ease your grief.”
The most in years of all the mourning train
Began; but swounded first away for pain;
Then scarce recovered spoke: “Nor envy we
“Thy great renown, nor grudge thy victory;
‘Tis thine, O King, the afflicted to redress,
And fame has filled the world with thy success:
We wretched women sue for that alone,
Which of thy goodness is refused to none;
Let fall some drops of pity on our grief,
If what we beg be just, and we deserve relief;
For none of us, who now thy grace implore,
But held the rank of sovereign queen before;
Till, thanks to giddy Chance, which never bears
That mortal bliss should last for length of years,
She cast us headlong from our high estate,
And here in hope of thy return we wait,
And long have waited in the temple nigh,
Built to the gracious goddess Clemency.
But reverence thou the power whose name it bears,
Relieve the oppressed, and wipe the widows’ tears.
I, wretched I, have other fortune seen,
The wife of Capaneus, and once a Queen;
At Thebes he fell; cursed be the fatal day!
And all the rest thou seest in this array
To make their moan their lords in battle lost,
Before that town besieged by our confederate host.
But Creon, old and impious, who commands
The Theban city, and usurps the lands,
Denies the rites of funeral fires to those
Whose breathless bodies yet he calls his foes.
Unburned, unburied, on a heap they lie;
Such is their fate, and such his tyranny;
No friend has leave to bear away the dead,
But with their lifeless limbs his hounds are fed.”
At this she shrieked aloud; the mournful train
Echoed her grief, and grovelling on the plain,
With groans, and hands upheld, to move his mind,
Besought his pity to their helpless kind.

The Prince was touched, his tears began to flow,
And, as his tender heart would break in two,
He sighed; and could not but their fate deplore,
So wretched now, so fortunate before.
Then lightly from his lofty steed he flew,
And raising one by one the suppliant crew,
To comfort each, full solemnly he swore,
That by the faith which knights to knighthood bore,
And whate’er else to chivalry belongs,
He would not cease, till he revenged their wrongs;
That Greece should see performed what he declared,
And cruel Creon find his just reward.
He said no more, but shunning all delay
Rode on, nor entered Athens on his way;
But left his sister and his queen behind,
And waved his royal banner in the wind,
Where in an argent field the God of War
Was drawn triumphant on his iron car.
Red was his sword, and shield, and whole attire,
And all the godhead seemed to glow with fire;
Even the ground glittered where the standard flew,
And the green grass was dyed to sanguine hue.
High on his pointed lance his pennon bore
His Cretan fight, the conquered Minotaur:
The soldiers shout around with generous rage,
And in that victory their own presage.
He praised their ardour, inly pleased to see
His host, the flower of Grecian chivalry.
All day he marched, and all the ensuing night,
And saw the city with returning light.
The process of the war I need not tell,
How Theseus conquered, and how Creon fell;
Or after, how by storm the walls were won,
Or how the victor sacked and burned the town;
How to the ladies he restored again
The bodies of their lords in battle slain;
And with what ancient rites they were interred;
All these to fitter time shall be deferred:
I spare the widows’ tears, their woful cries,
And howling at their husbands’ obsequies;
How Theseus at these funerals did assist,
And with what gifts the mourning dames dismissed.

Thus when the victor chief had Creon slain,
And conquered Thebes, he pitched upon the plain
His mighty camp, and when the day returned,
The country wasted and the hamlets burned,
And left the pillagers, to rapine bred,
Without control to strip and spoil the dead.

There, in a heap of slain, among the rest
Two youthful knights they found beneath a load oppressed
Of slaughtered foes, whom first to death they sent,
The trophies of their strength, a bloody monument.
Both fair, and both of royal blood they seemed,
Whom kinsmen to the crown the heralds deemed;
That day in equal arms they fought for fame;
Their swords, their shields, their surcoats were the same:
Close by each other laid they pressed the ground,
Their manly bosoms pierced with many a grisly wound;
Nor well alive nor wholly dead they were,
But some faint signs of feeble life appear;
The wandering breath was on the wing to part,
Weak was the pulse, and hardly heaved the heart.
These two were sisters’ sons; and Arcite one,
Much famed in fields, with valiant Palamon.
From these their costly arms the spoilers rent,
And softly both conveyed to Theseus’ tent:
Whom, known of Creon’s line and cured with care,
He to his city sent as prisoners of the war;
Hopeless of ransom, and condemned to lie
In durance, doomed a lingering death to die.

The Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale

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.’

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.*

The Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale

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.’

The Canterbury Tales; The Reves Tale

PROLOGUE TO THE REVES TALE

The prologe of the Reves Tale.

Whan folk hadde laughen at this nyce cas
Of Absolon and hende Nicholas,
Diverse folk diversely they seyde,
But for the moore part they loughe and pleyde,
Ne at this tale I saugh no man hym greve,

But it were oonly Osewold the Reve;
Bycause he was of carpenteres craft,
A litel ire is in his herte ylaft;
He gan to grucche, and blamed it a lite.
‘So theek,’ quod he, ‘ful wel koude I you quite,

With bleryng of a proud milleres eye,
If that me liste speke of ribaudye.
But ik am oold, me list no pley for age,
Gras-tyme is doon, my fodder is now forage,
This white top writeth myne olde yeris,

Myn herte is also mowled as myne heris,
But if I fare as dooth an openers;
That ilke fruyt is ever leng the wers,
Til it be roten in mullok or in stree.
We olde men, I drede, so fare we,

Til we be roten kan we nat be rype.
We hoppen ay whil that the world wol pype,
For in oure wyl ther stiketh evere a nayl
To have an hoor heed and a grene tayl,
As hath a leek, for thogh oure myght be goon,

Oure wyl desireth folie evere in oon.
For whan we may nat doon, than wol we speke,
Yet in oure asshen olde is fyr yreke.
Foure gleedes han we whiche I shal devyse,
Avauntyng, liyng, anger, coveitise;

Thise foure sparkles longen unto eelde.
Oure olde lemes mowe wel been unweelde,
But wyl ne shal nat faillen, that is sooth.
And yet ik have alwey a coltes tooth,
As many a yeer as it is passed henne

Syn that my tappe of lif bigan to renne.
For sikerly whan I was bore, anon
Deeth drough the tappe of lyf, and leet it gon,
And ever sithe hath so the tappe yronne,
Til that almoost al empty is the tonne.

The streem of lyf now droppeth on the chymbe;
The sely tonge may wel rynge and chymbe
Of wrecchednesse that passed is ful yoore.
With olde folk, save dotage, is namoore.’
Whan that oure Hoost hadde herd this sermonyng,

He gan to speke as lordly as a kyng,
He seide, ‘What amounteth al this wit?
What shul we speke alday of hooly writ?
The devel made a reve for to preche,
And of a soutere, shipman, or a leche.

Sey forth thy tale, and tarie nat the tyme.
Lo Depeford, and it is half-wey pryme;
Lo, Grenewych, ther many a shrewe is inne;
It were al tyme thy tale to bigynne.’
‘Now sires,’ quod this Osewold the Reve,

‘I pray yow alle, that ye nat yow greve,
Thogh I answere, and somdeel sette his howve,
For leveful is with force force of-showve.
This dronke Millere hath ytoold us heer,
How that bigyled was a Carpenteer,

Peraventure in scorn, for I am oon;
And by youre leve I shal hym quite anoon.
Right in his cherles termes wol I speke,
I pray to God his nekke mote breke!
He kan wel in myn eye seen a stalke,

But in his owene he kan nat seen a balke.’

(Simkin, a rich thieving miller of Trumpington Mill, near
Cambridge, is well served by two Cambridge clerks of the
north country, who beguile his wife and daughter, recover
the stolen meal which he had hid, and leave him well beaten.)

Part 5

THE PROLOGUE TO THE COKES TALE.

The prologe of the Cokes Tale.

The Cook of London, whil the Reve spak,
For joye him thoughte, he clawed him on the bak.
‘Ha! ha!’ quod he, ‘for Criste passioun,
This miller hadde a sharp conclusioun
Upon his argument of herbergage.

Wel seyde Salomon in his langage,
`Ne brynge nat every man into thyn hous,’
For herberwynge by nyghte is perilous.
Wel oghte a man avysed for to be,
Whom that be broghte into his pryvetee.

I pray to God so yeve me sorwe and care,
If evere sitthe I highte Hogge of Ware,
Herde I a millere bettre yset awerk.
He hadde a jape of malice in the derk.
But God forbede that we stynte heere,

And therfore, if ye vouche-sauf to heere
A tale of me that am a povre man,
I wol yow telle, as wel as evere I kan,
A litel jape that fil in oure citee.’
Oure Hoost answerde and seide, ‘I graunte it thee,

Now telle on, Roger, looke that it be good,
For many a pastee hastow laten blood,
And many a Jakke of Dovere hastow soold
That hath been twies hoot and twies cold.
Of many a pilgrim hastow Cristes curs,

For of thy percely yet they fare the wors,
That they han eten with thy stubbel-goos,
For in thy shoppe is many a flye loos.
Now telle on, gentil Roger, by thy name,
But yet I pray thee, be nat wroth for game,

A man may seye ful sooth in game and pley.’
‘Thou seist ful sooth,’ quod Roger, ‘by my fey;
But `sooth pley quaad pley,’ as the Flemyng seith.
And ther-fore, Herry Bailly, by thy feith,
Be thou nat wrooth, er we departen heer,

Though that my tale be of an hostileer.
But nathelees I wol nat telle it yit,
But er we parte, ywis, thou shalt be quit.’
And ther-with-al he lough and made cheere,
And seyde his tale, as ye shul after heere.

THE TALE (Unfinished).

(Perkin, a London apprentice, being dismissed by his
master, seeks his companions in dice, revel and disport.)

The Canterbury Tales; The Phisiciens Tale

Part 16

THE PHISICIENS TALE

Heere folweth the Phisiciens tale.

Ther was, as telleth Titus Livius,
A knyght that called was Virginius,
Fulfild of honour and of worthynesse,
And strong of freendes, and of greet richesse.
This knyght a doghter hadde by his wyf,

No children hadde he mo in al his lyf.
Fair was this mayde in excellent beautee
Aboven every wight that man may see.
For Nature hath with sovereyn diligence
Yformed hir in so greet excellence,

As though she wolde seyn, ‘Lo, I, Nature,
Thus kan I forme and peynte a creature
Whan that me list; who kan me countrefete?
Pigmalion noght, though he ay forge and bete,
Or grave, or peynte, for I dar wel seyn

Apelles, Zanzis sholde werche in veyn
Outher to grave or peynte, or forge, or bete,
If they presumed me to countrefete.
For He that is the former principal
Hath maked me his vicaire general

To forme and peynten erthely creaturis
Right as me list, and ech thyng in my cure is
Under the Moone, that may wane and waxe,
And for my werk right nothyng wol I axe.
My lord and I been ful of oon accord;

I made hir to the worship of my lord,
So do I alle myne othere creatures,
What colour that they han, or what figures.’
Thus semeth me that Nature wolde seye.
This mayde of age twelf yeer was and tweye,

Is which that Nature hadde swich delit.
For right as she kan peynte a lilie whit,
And reed a rose, right with swich peynture
She peynted hath this noble creature,
Er she were born, upon hir lymes fre,

Where as by right swiche colours sholde be.
And Phebus dyed hath hir treses grete,
Lyk to the stremes of his burned heete;
And if that excellent was hir beautee,
A thousand foold moore vertuous was she.

In hire ne lakked no condicioun
That is to preyse, as by discrecioun;
As wel in goost as body chast was she,
For which she floured in virginitee
With alle humylitee and abstinence,

With alle attemperaunce and pacience,
With mesure eek of beryng and array.
Discreet she was in answeryng alway,
Though she were wise Pallas, dar I seyn,
Hir facound eek ful wommanly and pleyn,

No countrefeted termes hadde she
To seme wys, but after hir degree
She spak, and alle hir wordes, moore and lesse,
Sownynge in vertu and in gentillesse.
Shamefast she was in maydens shamefastnesse,

Constant in herte, and evere in bisynesse
To dryve hir out of ydel slogardye.
Bacus hadde of hire mouth right no maistrie;
For wyn and youthe dooth Venus encresse,
As man in fyr wol casten oille or greesse.

And of hir owene vertu unconstreyned,
She hath ful ofte tyme syk hir feyned,
For that she wolde fleen the compaignye
Wher likly was to treten of folye,
As is at feestes, revels, and at daunces

That been occasions of daliaunces.
Swich thynges maken children for to be
To soone rype and boold, as men may se,
Which is ful perilous, and hath been yoore;
For al to soone may they lerne loore

Of booldnesse, whan she woxen is a wyf.
And ye maistresses, in youre olde lyf,
That lordes doghtres han in governaunce,
Ne taketh of my wordes no displesaunce;
Thenketh that ye been set in governynges

Of lordes doghtres, oonly for two thynges;
Outher for ye han kept youre honestee,
Or elles ye han falle in freletee,
And knowen wel ynough the olde daunce,
And han forsaken fully swich meschaunce

For everemo; therfore for Cristes sake,
To teche hem vertu looke that ye ne slake.
A theef of venysoun, that hath forlaft
His likerousnesse, and al his olde craft,
Kan kepe a forest best of any man.

Now kepeth wel, for if ye wole, ye kan.
Looke wel that ye unto no vice assente,
Lest ye be dampned for your wikke entente.
For who so dooth, a traitour is, certeyn;
And taketh kepe of that that I shal seyn,

Of alle tresons, sovereyn pestilence
Is whan a wight bitrayseth innocence.
Ye fadres and ye moodres, eek also,
Though ye han children, be it oon or two,
Youre is the charge of al hir surveiaunce

Whil that they been under youre governaunce.
Beth war, if by ensample of youre lyvynge,
Or by youre necligence in chastisynge,
That they perisse, for I dar wel seye,
If that they doon ye shul it deere abeye;

Under a shepherde softe and necligent
The wolf hath many a sheep and lamb to-rent.
Suffyseth oon ensample now as here,
For I moot turne agayn to my mateere.
This mayde, of which I wol this tale expresse,

So kepte hirself, hir neded no maistresse.
For in hir lyvyng maydens myghten rede,
As in a book, every good word or dede
That longeth to a mayden vertuous,
She was so prudent and so bountevous.

For which the fame out-sprong on every syde
Bothe of hir beautee and hir bountee wyde,
That thurgh that land they preised hire echone
That loved vertu; save encye allone,
That sory is of oother mennes wele,

And glad is of his sorwe and his unheele-
The doctour maketh this descripcioun.
This mayde upon a day wente in the toun
Toward a temple, with hir mooder deere,
As is of yonge maydens the namere.

Now was ther thanne a justice in that toun,
That governour was of that regioun,

And so bifel this juge hise eyen caste
Upon this mayde, avysynge hym ful faste
As she cam forby, ther as this juge stood.

Anon his herte chaunged and his mood,
So was he caught with beautee of this mayde,
And to hymself ful pryvely he sayde,
‘This mayde shal be myn, for any man.’
Anon the feend into his herte ran,

And taughte hym sodeynly, that he by slyghte
The mayden to his purpos wynne myghte.
For certes, by no force, ne by no meede,
Hym thoughte he was nat able for to speede;
For she was strong of freends, and eek she

Confermed was in swich soverayn bountee,
That wel he wiste he myghte hir nevere wynne,
As for to maken hir with hir body synne.
For which, by greet deliberacioun,
He sente after a cherl, was in the toun,

Which that he knew for subtil and for boold.
This Juge unto this cherl his tale hath toold
In secree wise, and made hym to ensure
He sholde telle it to no creature,
And if he dide, he sholde lese his heed.

Whan that assented was this cursed reed,
Glad was this juge, and maked him greet cheere,
And yaf hym yiftes preciouse and deere.
Whan shapen was al hir conspiracie
Fro point to point, how that his lecherie

Parfourned sholde been ful subtilly,
(As ye shul heere it after openly)
Hoom gooth the cherl, that highte Claudius.
This false juge, that highte Apius,
So was his name-for this is no fable,

But knowen for historial thyng notable;
The sentence of it sooth is out of doute-
This false juge gooth now faste aboute
To hasten his delit al that he may.
And so bifel soone after on a day,

This false juge, as telleth us the storie,
As he was wont, sat in his consistorie,
And yaf his doomes upon sondry cas.
This false cherl cam forth a ful greet pas
And seyde, ‘Lord, if that it be youre wille,

As dooth me right upon this pitous bille
In which I pleyne upon Virginius;
And if that he wol seyn it is nat thus,
I wol it preeve, and fynde good witnesse
That sooth is, that my bille wol expresse.’

The juge answerde, ‘Of this in his absence,
I may nat yeve diffynytyve sentence.
Lat do hym calle, and I wol gladly heere.
Thou shalt have al right and no wrong heere.’
Virginius cam to wite the juges wille,

And right anon was rad this cursed bille.
The sentence of it was, as ye shul heere:
‘To yow, my lord, Sire Apius so deere,
Sheweth youre povre servant Claudius,
How that a knyght called Virginius

Agayns the lawe, agayn al equitee,
Holdeth expres agayn the wyl of me
My servant, which that is my thral by right,
Which fro myn hous was stole upon a nyght,
Whil that she was ful yong; this wol I preeve

By witnesse, lord, so that it nat yow greeve.
She nys his doghter, nat what so he seye.
Wherfore to yow, my lord the Juge, I preye
Yeld me my thral, if that it be youre wille.’
Lo, this was al the sentence of his bille.

Virginius gan upon the cherl biholde,
But hastily, er he his tale tolde,
And wolde have preeved it as sholde a knyght,
And eek by witnessyng of many a wight,
That it was fals, that seyde his adversarie,

This cursed juge wolde no thyng tarie,
Ne heere a word moore of Virginius,
But yaf his juggement and seyde thus:
‘I deeme anon this cherl his servant have,
Thou shalt no lenger in thyn hous hir save.

Go, bryng hir forth, and put hir in our warde.
The cherl shal have his thral, this I awarde.’
And whan this worthy knyght Virginius,
Thurgh sentence of this justice Apius,
Moste by force his deere doghter yeven

Unto the juge in lecherie to lyven,
He gooth hym hoom, and sette him in his halle,
And leet anon his deere doghter calle,
And with a face deed as asshen colde,
Upon hir humble face he gan biholde

With fadres pitee stikynge thurgh his herte,
Al wolde he from his purpos nat converte.
‘Doghter,’ quod he, ‘Virginia, by thy name,
Ther been two weyes, outher deeth or shame
That thou most suffre, allas, that I was bore!

For nevere thou deservedest wherfore
To dyen with a swerd, or with a knyf.
O deere doghter, ender of my lyf,
Which I have fostred up with swich plesaunce,
That thou were nevere out of my remembraunce.

O doghter, which that art my laste wo,
And in my lyf my laste joye also,
O gemme of chastitee, in pacience
Take thou thy deeth, for this is my sentence,
For love and nat for hate, thou most be deed;

My pitous hand moot smyten of thyn heed.
Allas, that evere Apius the say!
Thus hath he falsly jugged the to day.’
And tolde hir al the cas, as ye bifore
Han herd, nat nedeth for to telle it moore.

‘O mercy, deere fader,’ quod this mayde,
And with that word she bothe hir armes layde
About his nekke, as she was wont to do.
The teeris bruste out of hir eyen two,
And seyde, ‘Goode fader, shal I dye?

Is ther no grace? is ther no remedye?’
‘No certes, deere doghter myn,’ quod he.
‘Thanne yif me leyser, fader myn,’ quod she,
‘My deeth for to compleyne a litel space,
For, pardee, Jepte yaf his doghter grace

For to compleyne, er he hir slow, allas!
And God it woot, no thyng was hir trespas
But for she ran hir fader for to see
To welcome hym with greet solempnitee.’
And with that word she fil aswowne anon;

And after whan hir swownyng is agon
She riseth up and to hir fader sayde,
‘Blissed be God that I shal dye a mayde;
Yif me my deeth, er that I have a shame.
Dooth with youre child youre wyl, a Goddes name.’

And with that word she preyed hym ful ofte
That with his swerd he wolde smyte softe,
And with that word aswowne doun she fil.
Hir fader with ful sorweful herte and wil
Hir heed of smoot, and by the top it hente,

And to the juge he gan it to presente
As he sat yet in doom, in consistorie.
And whan the juge it saugh, as seith the storie,
He bad to take hym and anhange hym faste.
But right anon a thousand peple in thraste

To save the knyght for routhe and for pitee;
For knowen was the false iniquitee.
The peple anon hath suspect of this thyng,
By manere of the cherles chalangyng,
That it was by the assent of Apius-

They wisten wel that he was lecherus;
For which unto this Apius they gon
And caste hym in a prisoun right anon,
Ther as he slow hymself, and Claudius
That servant was unto this Apius,

Was demed for to hange upon a tree,
But that Virginius, of his pitee,
So preyde for hym, that he was exiled;
And elles, certes, he had been bigyled.
The remenant were anhanged, moore and lesse,

That were consentant of this cursednesse.
Heere men may seen, how synne hath his merite.
Beth war, for no man woot whom God wol smyte
In no degree, ne in which manere wyse
The worm of conscience may agryse

Of wikked lyf, though it so pryvee be
That no man woot therof but God and he.
For be he lewed man, or ellis lered,
He noot how soone that he shal been afered.
Therfore I rede yow this conseil take,
Forsaketh synne, er synne yow forsake.

Heere endeth the Phisiciens tale.

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