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