The Canterbury tales
Geoffrey Chaucer
F.N. Robinson

Group 3

The Wife of Bath's Prologue

Experience, though noon auctoritee
     1
Were in this world, is right ynogh for me
     2
To speke of wo that is in mariage;
     3
For, lordynges, sith I twelve yeer was of age,
     4
Thonked be God that is eterne on lyve,
     5
Housbondes at chirche dore I have had fyve, --
     6
If I so ofte myghte have ywedded bee, --
     7
And alle were worthy men in hir degree.
     8
But me was toold, certeyn, nat longe agoon is,
     9
That sith that crist ne wente nevere but onis
     10
To weddyng, in the cane of galilee,
     11
That by the same ensample taughte he me
     12
That I ne sholde wedded be but ones.
     13
Herkne eek, lo, which a sharp word for the nones,
     14
Biside a welle, jhesus, God and man,
     15
Spak in repreeve of the samaritan:
     16
Thou hast yhad fyve housbondes, -- quod he,
     17
-- And that ilke man that now hath thee
     18
Is noght thyn housbonde, -- thus seyde he certeyn.
     19
What that he mente therby, I kan nat seyn;
     20
But that I axe, why that the fifthe man
     21
Was noon housbonde to the samaritan?
     22
How manye myghte she have in mariage?
     23
Yet herde I nevere tellen in myn age
     24
Upon this nombre diffinicioun.
     25
Men may devyne and glosen, up and doun,
     26
But wel I woot, expres, withoute lye,
     27
God bad us for to wexe and multiplye;
     28
That gentil text kan I wel understonde.
     29
Eek wel I woot, he seyde myn housbonde
     30
Sholde lete fader and mooder, and take to me.
     31
But of no nombre mencion made he,
     32
Of bigamye, or of octogamye;
     33
Why sholde men thanne speke of it vileynye?
     34
Lo, heere the wise kyng, daun salomon;
     35
I trowe he hadde wyves mo than oon.
     36
As wolde God it were leveful unto me
     37
To be refresshed half so ofte as he!
     38
Which yifte of God hadde he for alle his wyvys!
     39
No man hath swich that in this world alyve is.
     40
God woot, this noble kyng, as to my wit,
     41
The firste nyght had many a myrie fit
     42
With ech of hem, so wel was hym on lyve.
     43
Yblessed be God that I have wedded fyve!
     44
Welcome the sixte, whan that evere he shal.
     45
For sothe, I wol nat kepe me chaast in al.
     46
Whan myn housbonde is fro the world ygon,
     47
Som cristen man shal wedde me anon,
     48
For thanne, th' apostle seith that I am free
     49
To wedde, a goddes half, where it liketh me.
     50
He seith that to be wedded is no synne;
     51
Bet is to be wedded than to brynne
     52
What rekketh me, thogh folk seye vileynye
     53
Of shrewed lameth and his bigamye?
     54
I woot wel abraham was an hooly man,
     55
And jacob eek, as ferforth as I kan;
     56
And ech of hem hadde wyves mo than two,
     57
And many another holy man also.
     58
Wher can ye seye, in any manere age,
     59
That hye God defended mariage
     60
By expres word? I pray yow, telleth me.
     61
Or where comanded he virginitee?
     62
I woot as wel as ye, it is no drede,
     63
Th' apostel, whan he speketh of maydenhede,
     64
He seyde that precept therof hadde he noon.
     65
Men may conseille a womman to been oon,
     66
But conseillyng is no comandement.
     67
He putte it in oure owene juggement;
     68
For hadde God comanded maydenhede,
     69
Thanne hadde he dampned weddyng with the dede.
     70
And certes, if ther were no seed ysowe,
     71
Virginitee, thanne wherof sholde it growe?
     72
Poul dorste nat comanden, atte leeste,
     73
A thyng of which his maister yaf noon heeste.
     74
The dart is set up for birginitee:
     75
Cacche whoso may, who renneth best lat see.
     76
But this word is nat taken of every wight,
     77
But ther as God lust gyve it of his myght.
     78
I woot wel that th' apostel was a mayde; Page  77
     79
But nathelees, thogh that he wroot and sayde
     80
He wolde that every wight were swich as he,
     81
Al nys but conseil to virginitee.
     82
And for to been a wyf he yaf me leve
     83
Of indulgence; so nys it no repreve
     84
To wedde me, if that my make dye,
     85
Withouten excepcion of bigamye.
     86
Al were it good no womman for to touche, --
     87
He mente as in his bed or in his couche;
     88
For peril is bothe fyr and tow t' assemble:
     89
Ye knowe what this ensample may resemble.
     90
This is al and som, he heeld virginitee
     91
Moore parfit than weddyng in freletee.
     92
Freletee clepe I, but if that he and she
     93
Wolde leden al hir lyf in chastitee.
     94
I graunte it wel, I have noon envie,
     95
Thogh maydenhede preferre bigamye.
     96
It liketh hem to be clene, body and goost;
     97
Of myn estaat I nyl nat make no boost.
     98
For wel ye knowe, a lord in his houshold,
     99
He nath nat every vessel al of gold;
     100
Somme been of tree, and doon hir lord servyse.
     101
God clepeth folk to hym in sondry wyse,
     102
And everich hath of God a propre yifte,
     103
Som this, som that, as hym liketh shifte.
     104
Virginitee is greet perfeccion,
     105
And continence eek with devocion,
     106
But crist, that of perfeccion is welle,
     107
Bad nat every wight he sholde go selle
     108
Al that he hadde, and gyve it to the poore
     109
And in swich wise folwe hym and his foore.
     110
He spak to hem that wolde lyve parfitly;
     111
And lordynges, by youre leve, that am nat I.
     112
I wol bistowe the flour of al myn age
     113
In the actes and in fruyt of mariage.
     114
Telle me also, to what conclusion
     115
Were membres maad of generacion,
     116
And of so parfit wys a wight ywroght?
     117
Trusteth right wel, they were nat maad for noght.
     118
Glose whoso wole, and seye bothe up and doun,
     119
That they were maked for purgacioun
     120
Of uryne, and oure bothe thynges smale
     121
Were eek to knowe a femele from a male,
     122
And for noon oother cause, -- say ye no?
     123
The experience woot wel it is noght so.
     124
So that the clerkes be nat with me wrothe,
     125
I sey this, that they maked ben for bothe,
     126
This is to seye, for office, and for ese
     127
Of engendrure, ther we nat God displese.
     128
Why sholde men elles in hir bookes sette
     129
That man shal yelde to his wyf hire dette?
     130
Now wherwith sholde he make his paiement,
     131
If he ne used his sely instrument?
     132
Thanne were they maad upon a creature
     133
To purge uryne, and eek for engendrure.
     134
But I seye noght that every wight is holde,
     135
That hath swich harneys as I to yow tolde,
     136
To goon and usen hem in engendrure.
     137
Thanne sholde men take of chastitee no cure.
     138
Crist was a mayde, and shapen as a man,
     139
And many a seint, sith that the world bigan;
     140
Yet lyved they evere in parfit chastitee.
     141
I nyl envye no virginitee.
     142
Lat hem be breed of pured whete-seed,
     143
And lat us wyves hoten barly-breed;
     144
And yet with barly-breed, mark telle kan,
     145
Oure lord jhesu refresshed many a man.
     146
In swich estaat as God hath cleped us
     147
I wol persevere; I nam nat precius.
     148
In wyfhod I wol use myn instrument
     149
As frely as my makere hath it sent.
     150
If I be daungerous, God yeve me sorwe!
     151
Myn housbonde shal it have bothe eve and morwe,
     152
Whan that hym list come forth and paye his dette.
     153
An housbonde I wol have, I wol nat lette,
     154
Which shal be bothe my dettour and my thral,
     155
And have his tribulacion withal
     156
Upon his flessh, whil that I am his wyf.
     157
I have the power durynge al my lyf
     158
Upon his propre body, and noght he.
     159
Right thus the apostel tolde it unto me;
     160
And bad oure housbondes for to love us weel.
     161
Al this sentence me liketh every deel --
     162
Up stirte the pardoner, and that anon:
     163
Now, dame, quod he, by God and by seint john!
     164
Ye been a noble prechour in this cas.
     165
I was aboute to wedde a wyf; allas!
     166
What sholde I bye it on my flessh so deere?
     167
Yet hadde I levere wedde no wyf to-yeere!
     168
Abyde! quod she, my tale is nat bigonne.
     169
Nay, thou shalt drynken of another tonne,
     170
Er that I go, shal savoure wors than ale.
     171
And whan that I have toold thee forth my tale
     172
Of tribulacion in mariage,
     173
Of which I am expert in al myn age,
     174
This is to seyn, myself have been the whippe, --
     175
Than maystow chese wheither thou wolt sippe
     176
Of thilke tonne that I shal abroche.
     177
Be war of it, er thou to ny approche;
     178
For I shal telle ensamples mo than ten.
     179
--Whoso that nyl be war by othere men,
     180
By hym shul othere men corrected be. --
     181
The same wordes writeth ptholomee;
     182
Rede in his almageste, and take it there. Page  78
     183
Dame, I wolde praye yow, if youre wyl it were,
     184
Seyde this pardoner, as ye bigan,
     185
Telle forth youre tale, spareth for no man,
     186
And teche us yonge men of youre praktike.
     187
Gladly, quod she, sith it may yow like;
     188
But that I praye to al this compaignye,
     189
If that I speke after my fantasye,
     190
As taketh not agrief of that I seye;
     191
For myn entente is nat but for to pleye.
     192
Now, sire, now wol I telle forth my tale. --
     193
As evere moote I drynken wyn or ale,
     194
I shal seye sooth, tho housbondes that I hadde,
     195
As thre of hem were goode, and two were badde.
     196
The thre were goode men, and riche, and olde;
     197
Unnethe myghte they the statut holde
     198
In which that they were bounden unto me.
     199
Ye woot wel what I meene of this, pardee!
     200
As help me god, I laughe whan I thynke
     201
How pitously a-nyght I made hem swynke!
     202
And, by my fey, I tolde of it no stoor.
     203
They had me yeven hir lond and hir tresoor;
     204
Me neded nat do lenger diligence
     205
To wynne hir love, or doon hem reverence.
     206
They loved me so wel, by God above,
     207
That I ne tolde no deyntee of hir love!
     208
A wys womman wol bisye hire evere in oon
     209
To gete hire love, ye, ther as she hath noon.
     210
But sith I hadde hem hoolly in myn hond,
     211
And sith they hadde me yeven al hir lond,
     212
What sholde I taken keep hem for to plese,
     213
But it were for my profit and myn ese?
     214
I sette hem so a-werke, by my fey,
     215
That many a nyght they songen -- weilawey! --
     216
The bacon was nat fet for hem, I trowe,
     217
That som men han in essex at dunmowe.
     218
I governed hem so wel, after my lawe,
     219
That ech of hem ful blisful was and fawe
     220
To brynge me gaye thynges fro the fayre.
     221
They were ful glad whan I spak to hem faire;
     222
For, God it woot, I chidde hem spitously.
     223
Now herkneth hou I baar me proprely,
     224
Ye wise wyves, that kan understonde.
     225
Thus shulde ye speke and bere hem wrong on honde;
     226
For half so boldely kan ther no man
     227
Swere and lyen, as a womman kan.
     228
I sey nat this by wyves that been wyse,
     229
But if it be whan they hem mysavyse.
     230
A wys wyf shal, it that she kan hir good,
     231
Bere hym on honde that the cow is wood,
     232
And take witnesse of hir owene mayde
     233
Of hir assemt; but herkneth how I sayde:
     234
Sire olde kaynard, is this thyn array?
     235
Why is my neighbores wyf so gay?
     236
She is honoured over al ther she gooth;
     237
I sitte at hoom I have no thrifty clooth.
     238
What dostow at my neighebores hous?
     239
Is she so fair? artow so amorous?
     240
What rowne ye with oure mayde? benedicite!
     241
Sire olde lecchour, lat thy japes be!
     242
And if I have a gossib or a freend,
     243
Withouten gilt, thou chidest as a feend,
     244
If that I walke or pleye unto his hous!
     245
Thou comest hoom as dronken as a mous,
     246
And prechest on thy bench, with yvel preef!
     247
Thou seist to me it is a greet meschief
     248
To wedde a povre womman, for costage;
     249
And if that she be riche, of heigh parage,
     250
Thanne seistow that it is a tormentrie
     251
To soffre hire pride and hire malencolie.
     252
And if that she be fair, thou verray knave,
     253
Thou seyst that every holour wol hire have;
     254
She may no while in chastitee abyde,
     255
That is assailled upon ech a syde.
     256
Thou seyst som folk desiren us for richesse,
     257
Somme for oure shap, and somme for oure fairnesse,
     258
And som for she kan outher synge or daunce,
     259
And som for gentillesse and daliaunce;
     260
Som for hir handes and hir armes smale:
     261
Thus goth al to the devel, by thy tale.
     262
Thou seyst men may nat kepe a castel wal,
     263
It may so longe assailled been over al.
     264
And if that she be foul, thou seist that she
     265
Coveiteth every man that she may se,
     266
For as a spaynel she wol on hym lepe,
     267
Til that she fynde som man hire to chepe.
     268
Ne noon so grey goos gooth ther in the lake
     269
As, seistow, wol been withoute make.
     270
And seyst it is an hard thyng for to welde
     271
A thyng that no man wole, his thankes, helde.
     272
Thus seistow, lorel, whan thow goost to bedde;
     273
And that no wys man nedeth for to wedde,
     274
Ne no man that entendeth unto hevene.
     275
With wilde thonder-dynt and firy levene
     276
Moote thy welked nekke be tobroke!
     277
Thow seyst that droppyng houses, and eek smoke,
     278
And chidyng wyves maken men to flee
     279
Out of his owene hous; a! benedicitee!
     280
What eyleth swich an old man for to chide?
     281
Thow seyst we wyves wol oure vices hide
     282
Til we be fast, and thanne we wol hem shewe, --
     283
Wel may that be a proverbe of a shrewe!
     284
Thou seist that oxen, asses, hors, and houndes, Page  79
     285
They been assayed at diverse stoundes;
     286
Bacyns, lavours, er that men hem bye,
     287
Spoones and stooles, and al swich housbondrye,
     288
And so been pottes, clothes, and array;
     289
But folk of wyves maken noon assay,
     290
Til they be wedded; olde dotard shrewe!
     291
And thanne, seistow, we wol oure vices shewe.
     292
Thou seist also that it displeseth me
     293
But if that thou wolt preyse my beautee,
     294
And but thou poure alwey upon my face,
     295
And clepe me faire dame in every place.
     296
And but thou make a feeste on thilke day
     297
That I was born, and make me fressh and gay;
     298
And but thou do to my norice honour,
     299
And to my chamberere withinne my bour,
     300
And to my fadres folk and his allyes, --
     301
Thus seistow, olde barel-ful of lyes!
     302
And yet of oure apprentice janekyn,
     303
For his crispe heer, shynynge as gold so fyn,
     304
And for he squiereth me bothe up and doun,
     305
Yet hastow caught a fals suspecioun.
     306
I wol hym noght, thogh thou were deed tomorwe!
     307
But tel me this: why hydestow, with sorwe,
     308
They keyes of thy cheste awey fro me?
     309
It is my good as wel as thyn, pardee!
     310
What, wenestow make an ydiot of oure dame?
     311
Now by that lord that called is seint jame,
     312
Thou shalt nat bothe, thogh that thou were wood,
     313
Be maister of my body and of my good;
     314
That oon thou shalt forgo, maugree thyne yen.
     315
What helpith it of me to enquere or spyen?
     316
I trowe thou woldest loke me in thy chiste?
     317
Thou sholdest seye, wyf, go wher thee liste;
     318
Taak youre disport, I wol nat leve no talys.
     319
I knowe yow for a trewe wyf, dame alys.
     320
We love no man that taketh kep or charge
     321
Wher that we goon; we wol ben at oure large.
     322
Of alle men yblessed moot he be,
     323
The wise astrologien, daun ptholome,
     324
That seith this proverbe in his almageste --
     325
Of alle men his wysdom is the hyeste
     326
That rekketh nevere who hath the world in honde.
     327
By this proverbe thou shalt understonde,
     328
Have thou ynogh, what thar thee recche or care
     329
How myrily that othere folkes fare?
     330
For, certeyn, olde dotard, by youre leve,
     331
Ye shul have queynte right ynogh at eve.
     332
He is to greet a nygard that wolde werne
     333
A man to light a candle at his lanterne;
     334
He shal have never the lasse light, pardee.
     335
Have thou ynogh, thee thar nat pleyne thee.
     336
Thou seyst also, that if we make us gay
     337
With clothyng, and with precious array,
     338
That it is peril of oure chastitee;
     339
And yet, with sorwe! thou most enforce thee,
     340
And seye thise wordes in the apostles name:
     341
in habit maad with chastitee and shame
     342
Ye wommen shul apparaille yow, quod he,
     343
And noght in tressed heer and gay perree,
     344
As perles, ne with gold, ne clothes riche.
     345
After thy text, ne after thy rubriche,
     346
I wol nat wirche as muchel as a gnat.
     347
Thou seydest this, that I was lyk a cat;
     348
For whoso wolde senge a cattes skyn,
     349
Thanne wolde the cat wel dwellen in his in;
     350
And if the cattes skyn be slyk and gay,
     351
She wol nat dwelle in house half a day,
     352
But forth she wole, er any day be dawed,
     353
To shewe hir skyn, and goon a-caterwawed.
     354
This is to seye, if I be gay, sire shrewe,
     355
I wol renne out, my borel for to shewe.
     356
Sire olde fool, what helpeth thee to spyen?
     357
Thogh thou preye argus with his hundred yen
     358
To be my warde-cors, as he kan best,
     359
In feith, he shal nat kepe me but me lest;
     360
Yet koude I make his berd, so moot I thee!
     361
Thou seydest eek that ther been thynges thre,
     362
The whiche thynges troublen al this erthe,
     363
And that no wight may endure the ferthe.
     364
O leeve sire shrewe, jhesu shorte thy lyf!
     365
Yet prechestow and seyst and hateful wyf
     366
Yrekened is for oon of thise meschances.
     367
Been ther none othere maner resemblances
     368
That ye may likne youre parables to,
     369
But if a sely wyf be oon of tho?
     370
Thou liknest eek wommenes love to helle,
     371
To bareyne lond, ther water may nat dwelle.
     372
Thou liknest it also to wilde fyr;
     373
The moore it brenneth, the moore it hath desir
     374
To consume every thyng that brent wole be.
     375
Thou seyest, right as wormes shende a tree,
     376
Right so a wyf destroyeth hire housbonde;
     377
This knowe they that been to wyves bonde. --
     378
Lordynges, right thus, as ye have understonde,
     379
Baar I stifly myne olde housbondes on honde
     380
That thus they seyden in hir dronkenesse;
     381
And al was fals, but that I took witnesse
     382
On janekyn, and on my nece also.
     383
O lord! the peyne I dide hem and the wo,
     384
Ful giltelees, by goddes sweete pyne!
     385
For as an hors I koude byte and whyne.
     386
I koude pleyne, and yit was in the gilt,
     387
Or elles often tyme hadde I been spilt. Page  80
     388
Whose that first to mille comth, first grynt;
     389
I pleyned first, so was oure werre ystynt.
     390
They were ful glade to excuse hem blyve
     391
Of thyng of which they nevere agilte hir lyve.
     392
Of wenches wolde I beren hem on honde,
     393
Whan that for syk unnethes myghte they stonde.
     394
Yet tikled I his herte, for that he
     395
Wende that I hadde of hym so greet chiertee!
     396
I swoor that al my walkynge out by nyghte
     397
Was for t' espye wenches that he dighte;
     398
Under that colour hadde I many a myrthe.
     399
For al swich wit is yeven us in oure byrthe;
     400
Deceite, wepyng, spynnyng God hath yive
     401
To wommen kyndely, whil that they may lyve.
     402
And thus of o thyng I avaunte me,
     403
Atte ende I hadde the bettre in ech degree,
     404
By sleighte, or force, or by som maner thyng,
     405
As by continueel murmur or grucchyng.
     406
Namely abedde hadden they meschaunce:
     407
Ther wolde I chide, and do hem no plesaunce;
     408
I wolde no lenger in the bed abyde,
     409
If that I felte his arm over my syde,
     410
Til he had maad his raunson unto me;
     411
Thanne wolde I suffre hym do his necetee.
     412
And therfore every man this tale I telle,
     413
Wynne whose may, for al is for to selle;
     414
With empty hand men may none haukes lure.
     415
For wynnyng wolde I al his lust endure,
     416
And make me feyned appetit;
     417
And yet in bacon hadde I nevere delit;
     418
That made me that evere I wolde hem chide.
     419
For thogh the pope hadde seten hem biside,
     420
I wolde nat spare hem at hir owene bord;
     421
For, by my trouthe, I quitte hem word for word.
     422
As helpe me verray God omnipotent,
     423
Though I right now sholde make my testament,
     424
I ne owe hem nat a word that it nys quit.
     425
I broghte it so aboute by my wit
     426
That they moste yeve it up, as for the beste,
     427
Or elles hadde we nevere been in reste.
     428
For thogh he looked as a wood leon,
     429
Yet sholde he faille of his conclusion.
     430
Thanne wolde I seye, -- goode lief, taak keep
     431
How mekely looketh wilkyn, oure sheep!
     432
Com neer, my spouse, lat me ba thy cheke!
     433
Ye sholde been al pacient and meke,
     434
And han a sweete spiced conscience,
     435
Sith ye so preche of jobes pacience.
     436
Suffreth alwey, syn ye so wel kan preche;
     437
And but ye do, certein we shal yow teche
     438
That it is fair to have a wyf in pees.
     439
Oon of us two moste bowen, doutelees;
     440
And sith a man is moore resonable
     441
Than womman is, ye moste been suffrable.
     442
What eyleth yow to grucche thus and grone?
     443
Is it for ye wolde have my queynte allone?
     444
Wy, taak it al! lo, have it every deel!
     445
Peter! I shrewe yow, but ye love it weel;
     446
For if I wolde selle my bele chose,
     447
I koude walke as fressh as is a rose;
     448
But I wol kepe it for youre owene tooth.
     449
Ye be to blame, by god! I sey yow sooth. --
     450
Swiche manere wordes hadde we on honde.
     451
Now wol I speken of my fourthe housbonde.
     452
My fourthe housbonde was a revelour;
     453
This is to seyn, he hadde a paramour;
     454
And I was yong and ful of ragerye,
     455
Stibourn and strong, and joly as a pye.
     456
How koude I daunce to an harpe smale,
     457
And synge, ywis, as any nyghtyngale,
     458
Whan I had dronke a draughte of sweete wyn!
     459
Metellius, the foule cherl, the swyn,
     460
That with a staf birafte his wyf hir lyf,
     461
For she drank wyn, thogh I hadde been his wyf,
     462
He sholde nat han daunted me from drynke!
     463
And after wyn on venus moste I thynke,
     464
For al so siker as cold engendreth hayl,
     465
A likerous mouth moste han a likerous tayl.
     466
In wommen vinolent is no defence, --
     467
This knowen lecchours by experience.
     468
But, lord crist! whan that it remembreth me
     469
Upon my yowthe, and on my jolitee,
     470
It tikleth me aboute myn herte roote.
     471
Unto this day it dooth myn herte boote
     472
That I have had my world as in my tyme.
     473
But age, allas! that al wole envenyme,
     474
Hath me biraft my beautee and my pith.
     475
Lat go, farewel! the devel go therwith!
     476
The flour is goon, ther is namoore to telle;
     477
The bren, as I best kan, now moste I selle;
     478
But yet to be right myrie wol I fonde.
     479
Now wol I tellen of my fourthe housbonde.
     480
I seye, I hadde in herte greet despit
     481
That he of any oother had delit.
     482
But he was quit, by God and by seint joce!
     483
I made hym of the same wode a croce;
     484
Nat of my body, in no foul manere,
     485
But certeinly, I made folk swich cheere
     486
That in his owene grece I made hym frye
     487
For angre, and for verray jalousye.
     488
By god! in erthe I was his purgatorie,
     489
For which I hope his soule be in glorie.
     490
For, God it woot, he sat ful ofte and song,
     491
Whan that his shoo ful bitterly hym wrong.
     492
Ther was no wight, save God and he, that wiste, Page  81
     493
In many wise, how soore I hym twiste.
     494
He deyde whan I cam fro jerusalem,
     495
And lith ygrave under the roode beem,
     496
Al is his tombe noght so curyus
     497
As was the sepulcre of hym daryus,
     498
Which that appeles wroghte subtilly;
     499
It nys but wast to burye hym preciously.
     500
Lat hym fare wel, God yeve his soul reste!
     501
He is now in his grave and in his cheste.
     502
Now of my fifthe housbonde wol I telle.
     503
God lete his soule nevere come in helle!
     504
And yet was he to me the mooste shrewe;
     505
That feele I on my ribbes al by rewe,
     506
And evere shal unto myn endyng day.
     507
But in oure bed he was so fressh and gay,
     508
And therwithal so wel koude he me glose,
     509
Whan that he wolde han my bele chose,
     510
That thogh he hadde me bete on every bon,
     511
He koude wynne agayn my love anon.
     512
I trowe I loved hym best, for that he
     513
Was of his love daungerous to me.
     514
We wommen han if that I shal nat lye,
     515
In this matere a queynte fantasye;
     516
Wayte what thyng we may nat lightly have,
     517
Therafter wol we crie al day and crave.
     518
Forbede us thyng, and that desiren we;
     519
Preesse on us faste, and thanne wol we fle.
     520
With daunger oute we al oure chaffare;
     521
Greet prees at market maketh deere ware,
     522
And to greet cheep is holde at litel prys:
     523
This knoweth every womman that is wys.
     524
My fifthe housbonde, God his soule blesse!
     525
Which that I took for love, and no richesse,
     526
He som tyme was a clerk of oxenford,
     527
And hadde left scole, and wente at hom to bord
     528
With my gossib, dwellynge in oure toun;
     529
God have hir soule! hir name was alisoun.
     530
She knew myn herte, and eek my privetee,
     531
Bet than oure parisshe preest, so moot I thee!
     532
To hire biwreyed I my conseil al.
     533
For hadde myn housbonde pissed on a wal,
     534
Or doon a thyng that sholde han cost his lyf,
     535
To hire, and to another worthy wyf,
     536
And to my nece, which that I loved weel,
     537
I wolde han toold his conseil every deel.
     538
And so I dide ful often, God it woot,
     539
That made his face often reed and hoot
     540
For verray shame, and blamed hymself for he
     541
Had toold to me so greet a pryvetee.
     542
And so bifel that ones in a lente --
     543
So often tymes I to my gossyb wente,
     544
For evere yet I loved to be gay,
     545
And for to walke in march, averill, and may,
     546
Fro hous to hous, to heere sondry talys --
     547
That jankyn clerk, and my gossyb dame alys,
     548
And I myself, into the feeldes wente.
     549
Myn housbonde was at londoun al that lente;
     550
I hadde the bettre leyser for to pleye,
     551
And for to se, and eek for to be seye
     552
Of lusty folk. What wiste I wher my grace
     553
Was shapen for to be, or in what place?
     554
Therfore I made my visitaciouns
     555
To vigilies and to processiouns,
     556
To prechyng eek, and to thise pilgrimages,
     557
To pleyes of myracles, and to mariages,
     558
And wered upon my gaye scarlet gytes.
     559
Thise wormes, ne thise motthes, ne thise mytes,
     560
Upon my peril, frete hem never a deel;
     561
And wostow why? for they were used weel.
     562
Now wol I tellen forth what happed me.
     563
I seye that in the feeldes walked we,
     564
Til trewely we hadde swich daliance,
     565
This clerk and I, that of my purveiance
     566
I spak to hym and seyde hym how that he,
     567
If I were wydwe, sholde wedde me.
     568
For certeinly, I sey for no bobance,
     569
Yet was I nevere withouten purveiance
     570
Of mariage, n' of othere thynges eek.
     571
I holde a mouses herte nat worth a leek
     572
That hath but oon hole for to sterte to,
     573
And if that faille, thanne is al ydo.
     574
I bar hym on honde he hadde enchanted me, --
     575
My dame taughte me that soutiltee.
     576
And eek I seyde I mette of hym al nyght,
     577
He wolde han slayn me as I lay upright,
     578
And al my bed was ful of verray blood;
     579
But yet I hope that he shal do me good,
     580
For blood bitokeneth gold, as me was taught.
     581
And al was fals; I dremed of it right naught,
     582
But as I folwed ay my dames loore,
     583
As wel of this as of othere thynges moore.
     584
But now, sire, lat me se, what I shal seyn?
     585
A ha! by god, I have my tale ageyn.
     586
Whan that my fourthe housbonde was on beere,
     587
I weep algate, and made sory cheere,
     588
As wyves mooten, for it is usage,
     589
And with my coverchief covered my visage,
     590
But for that I was purveyed of a make,
     591
I wepte but smal, and that I undertake.
     592
To chirche was myn housbonde born a-morwe
     593
With neighebores, that for hym maden sorwe;
     594
And jankyn, oure clerk, was oon of tho.
     595
As help me god! whan that I saugh hym go
     596
After the beere, me thoughte he hadde a paire
     597
Of legges and of feet so clene and faire Page  82
     598
That al myn herte I yaf unto his hoold.
     599
He was, I trowe, a twenty wynter oold,
     600
And I was fourty, if I shal seye sooth;
     601
But yet I hadde alwey a coltes tooth.
     602
Gat-tothed I was, and that bicam me weel;
     603
I hadde the prente of seinte venus seel.
     604
As help me god! I was a lusty oon,
     605
And faire, and riche, and yong, and wel bigon;
     606
And trewely, as myne housbondes tolde me,
     607
I hadde the beste quoniam myghte be.
     608
For certes, I am al venerien
     609
In feelynge, and myn herte is marcien.
     610
Venus me yaf my lust, my likerousnesse,
     611
And mars yaf me my sturdy hardynesse;
     612
Myn ascendent was taur, and mars therinne.
     613
Allas! allas! that evere love was synne!
     614
I folwed ay myn inclinacioun
     615
By vertu of my constellacioun;
     616
That made me I koude noght withdrawe
     617
My chambre of venus from a good felawe.
     618
Yet have I martes mark upon my face,
     619
And also in another privee place.
     620
For God so wys be my savacioun,
     621
I ne loved nevere by no discrecioun,
     622
But evere folwede myn appetit,
     623
Al were he short, or long, or blak, or whit;
     624
I took no kep, so that he liked me,
     625
How poore he was, ne eek of what degree.
     626
What sholde I seye? but, at the monthes ende,
     627
This joly clerk, jankyn, that was so hende,
     628
Hath wedded me with greet solempnytee;
     629
And to hym yaf I al the lond and fee
     630
That evere was me yeven therbifoore.
     631
But afterward repented me ful soore;
     632
He nolde suffre nothyng of my list.
     633
By god! he smoot me ones on the lyst,
     634
For that I rente out of his book a leef,
     635
That of the strook myn ere wax al deef.
     636
Stibourn I was as is a leonesse,
     637
And of my tonge verray jangleresse,
     638
And walke I wolde, as I had doon biforn,
     639
From hous to hous, although he had it sworn;
     640
For which he often tymes wolde preche,
     641
And me of olde romayn geestes teche;
     642
How he symplicius gallus lefte his wyf,
     643
And hire forsook for terme of al his lyf,
     644
Noght but for open-heveded he hir say
     645
Lookynge out at his dore upon a day.
     646
Another romayn tolde he me by name,
     647
That, for his wyf was at a someres game
     648
Withouten his wityng, he forsook hire eke.
     649
And thanne wolde he upon his bible seke
     650
That ilke proverbe of ecclesiaste
     651
Where he comandeth, and forbedeth faste,
     652
Man shal nat suffre his wyf go roule aboute.
     653
Thanne wolde he seye right thus, withouten doute:
     654
-whoso that buyldeth his hous al of salwes,
     655
And priketh his blynde hors over the falwes,
     656
And suffreth his wyf to go seken halwes,
     657
Is worthy to been hanged on the galwes! --
     658
But al for noght, I sette noght an hawe
     659
Of his proverbes n' of his olde sawe,
     660
Ne I wolde nat of hym corrected be.
     661
I hate hym that my vices telleth me,
     662
And so doo mo, God woot, of us than I.
     663
This made hym with me wood al outrely;
     664
I nolde noght forbere hym in no cas.
     665
Now wol I seye yow sooth, by seint thomas,
     666
Why that I rente out of his book a leef,
     667
For which he smoot me so that I was deef.
     668
He hadde a book that gladly, nyght and day,
     669
For his desport he wolde rede alway;
     670
He cleped it valerie and theofraste,
     671
At which book he lough alwey ful faste.
     672
And eek ther was somtyme a clerk at rome,
     673
A cardinal, that highte seint jerome,
     674
That made a book agayn jovinian;
     675
In which book eek ther was tertulan,
     676
Crisippus, trotula, and helowys,
     677
That was abbesse nat fer fro parys;
     678
And eek the parables of salomon,
     679
Ovides art, and bookes many on,
     680
And alle thise were bounden in o volume.
     681
And every nyght and day was his custume,
     682
Whan he hadde leyser and vacacioun
     683
From oother worldly occupacioun,
     684
To reden on this book of wikked wyves.
     685
He knew of hem mo legendes and lyves
     686
Than been of goode wyves in the bible.
     687
For trusteth wel, it is an impossible
     688
That any clerk wol speke good of wyves,
     689
But if it be of hooly seintes lyves,
     690
Ne of noon oother womman never the mo.
     691
Who peyntede the leon, tel me who?
     692
By god! if wommen hadde writen stories,
     693
As clerkes han withinne hire oratories,
     694
They wolde han writen of men moore wikkednesse
     695
Than al the mark of adam may redresse.
     696
The children of mercurie and of venus
     697
Been in hir wirkyng ful contrarius;
     698
Mercurie loveth wysdam and science,
     699
And venus loveth ryot and dispence.
     700
And, for hire diverse disposicioun,
     701
Ech falleth in otheres exaltacioun.
     702
And thus, God woot, mercurie is desolat Page  83
     703
In pisces, wher venus is exaltat;
     704
And venus falleth ther mercurie is reysed.
     705
Therfore no womman of no clerk is preysed.
     706
The clerk, whan he is oold, and may noght do
     707
Of venus werkes worth his olde sho,
     708
Thanne sit he doun, and writ in his dotage
     709
That wommen kan nat kepe hir mariage!
     710
But now to purpos, why I tolde thee
     711
That I was beten for a book, pardee!
     712
Upon a nyght jankyn, that was oure sire,
     713
Redde on his book, as he sat by the fire,
     714
Of eva first, that for hir wikkednesse
     715
Was al mankynde broght to wrecchednesse,
     716
For which that jhesu crist hymself was slayn,
     717
That boghte us with his herte blood agayn.
     718
Lo, heere expres of womman may ye fynde,
     719
That womman was the los of al mankynde.
     720
The redde he me how sampson loste his heres:
     721
Slepynge, his lemman kitte it with hir sheres;
     722
Thurgh which treson loste he bothe his yen.
     723
Tho redde he me, if that I shal nat lyen,
     724
Of hercules and of his dianyre,
     725
That caused hym to sette hymself afyre.
     726
No thyng forgat he the care and the wo
     727
That socrates hadde with his wyves two;
     728
How xantippa caste pisse upon his heed.
     729
This sely man sat stille as he were deed;
     730
He wiped his heed, namoore dorste he seyn,
     731
But -- er that thonder stynte, comth a reyn! --
     732
Of phasipha, that was the queen of crete,
     733
For shrewednesse, hym thoughte the tale swete;
     734
Fy! spek namoore -- it is a grisly thyng --
     735
Of hire horrible lust and hir likyng.
     736
Of clitermystra, for hire lecherye,
     737
That falsly made hire housbonde for to dye,
     738
He redde it with ful good devocioun.
     739
He tolde me eek for what occasioun
     740
Amphiorax at thebes loste his lyf.
     741
Myn housbonde hadde a legende of his wyf,
     742
Eriphilem, that for an ouche of gold
     743
Hath prively unto the grekes told
     744
Wher that hir housbonde hidde hym in a place,
     745
For which he hadde at thebes sory grace.
     746
Of lyvia tolde he me, and of lucye:
     747
They bothe made hir housbondes for to dye;
     748
That oon for love, that oother was for hate.
     749
Lyvia hir housbonde, on an even late,
     750
Empoysoned hath, for that she was his fo;
     751
Lucia, likerous, loved hire housbonde so
     752
That, for he sholde alwey upon hire thynke,
     753
She yaf hym swich a manere love-drynke
     754
That he was deed er it were by the morwe;
     755
And thus algates housbondes han sorwe.
     756
Thanne tolde he me how oon latumyus
     757
Compleyned unto his felawe arrius
     758
That in his gardyn growed swich a tree
     759
On which he seyde how that his wyves thre
     760
Hanged hemself for herte despitus.
     761
-- O leeve brother, -- quod this arrius,
     762
-- Yif me a plante of thilke blissed tree,
     763
And in my gardyn planted shal it bee. --
     764
Of latter date, of wyves hath he red
     765
That somme han slayn hir housbondes in hir bed,
     766
And lete hir lecchour dighte hire al the nyght,
     767
Whan that the corps lay in the floor upright.
     768
And somme han dryve nayles in hir brayn,
     769
Whil that they slepte, and thus they had hem slayn.
     770
Somme han hem yeve poysoun in hire drynke.
     771
He spak moore harm than herte may bithynke;
     772
And therwithal he knew of mo proverbes
     773
Than in this world ther growen gras or herbes.
     774
-- Bet is, -- quod he, -- thyn habitacioun
     775
Be with a leon or foul dragoun,
     776
Than with a womman usynge for to chyde --
     777
-- Bet is, -- quod he, -- hye in the roof abyde,
     778
Than with an angry wyf doun in the hous;
     779
They been so wikked and contrarious,
     780
They haten that hir housbondes loven ay. --
     781
He seyde, -- a womman cast hir shame away,
     782
Whan she cast of hir smok; -- and forthermo,
     783
-- A fair womman, but she be chaast also,
     784
Is lyk a gold ryng in a sowes nose. --
     785
Who wolde wene, or who wolde suppose,
     786
The wo that in myn herte was, and pyne?
     787
And whan I saugh he wolde nevere fyne
     788
To reden on this cursed book al nyght,
     789
Al sodeynly thre leves have I plyght
     790
Out of his book, right as he radde, and eke
     791
I with my fest so took hym on the cheke
     792
That in oure fyr he fil bakward adoun.
     793
And he up stirte as dooth a wood leoun,
     794
And with his fest he smoot me on the heed,
     795
That in the floor I lay as I were deed.
     796
And whan he saugh how stille that I lay,
     797
He was agast, and wolde han fled his way,
     798
Til atte laste out of my swogh I breyde.
     799
-- O! hastow slayn me, false theef? -- I seyde,
     800
-- And for my land thus hastow mordred me?
     801
Er I be deed, yet wol I kisse thee. --
     802
And neer he cam and kneled faire adoun,
     803
And seyde, -- deere suster alisoun,
     804
As help me god! I shal thee nevere smyte.
     805
That I have doon, it is thyself to wyte.
     806
Foryeve it me, and that I thee biseke! -- Page  84
     807
And yet eftsoones I hitte hym on the cheke,
     808
And seyde, -- theef, thus muchel am I wreke;
     809
Now wol I dye, I may no lenger speke. --
     810
But atte laste, with muchel care and wo,
     811
We fille acorded by us selven two.
     812
He yaf me al the bridel in myn hond,
     813
To han the governance of hous and lond,
     814
And of his tonge, and of his hond also;
     815
And made hym brenne his book anon right tho.
     816
And whan that I hadde geten unto me,
     817
By maistrie, al the soveraynette,
     818
And that he seyde, -- myn owene trewe wyf,
     819
Do as thee lust the terme of al thy lyf;
     820
Keep thyn honour, and keep eek myn estaat --
     821
After that day we hadden never debaat.
     822
God helpe me so, I was to hym as kynde
     823
As any wyf from denmark unto ynde,
     824
And also trewe, and so was he to me.
     825
I prey to god, that sit in magestee,
     826
So blesse his soule for his mercy deere.
     827
Now wol I seye my tale, if ye wol heere.
     828
The frere lough, whan he hadde herd al this;
     829
Now dame, quod he, so have I joye or blis,
     830
This is a long preable of a tale!
     831
And whan the somonour herde the frere gale,
     832
Lo, quod the somonour, goddes armes two!
     833
A frere wol entremette hym everemo.
     834
Lo, goode men, a flye and eek a frere
     835
Wol falle in every dyssh and eek mateere.
     836
What spwkestow of preambulacioun?
     837
What! amble, or trotte, or pees, or go sit doun!
     838
Thou lettest oure disport in this manere.
     839
Ye, woltow so, sire somonour? quod the frere;
     840
Now, by my feith, I shal, er that I go,
     841
Telle of a somonour swich a tale or two,
     842
That alle the folk shal laughen in this place.
     843
Now elles, frere, I bishrewe thy face,
     844
Quod this somonour, and I bishrewe me,
     845
But if I telle tales two or thre
     846
Of freres, er I come to sidyngborne,
     847
That I shal make thyn herte for to morne,
     848
For wel I woot thy pacience is gon.
     849
Oure hooste cride pees! and that anon!
     850
And seyde, lat the womman telle hire tale.
     851
Ye fare as folk that dronken ben of ale.
     852
Do, dame, telle forth youre tale, and that is best.
     853
Al redy, sire, quod she, right as yow lest,
     854
If I have licence of this worthy frere.
     855
Yis, dame, quod he, tel forth, and I wol heere.
     856

The Wife of Bath's Tale

In th' olde dayes of the kyng arthour,
     857
Of which that britons speken greet honour,
     858
Al was this land fulfild of fayerye.
     859
The elf-queene, with hir joly compaignye,
     860
Daunced ful ofte in many a grene mede.
     861
This was the olde opinion, as I rede;
     862
I speke of manye hundred yeres ago.
     863
But now kan no man se none elves mo,
     864
For now the grete charitee and prayers
     865
Of lymytours and othere hooly freres,
     866
That serchen every lond and every streem,
     867
As thikke as motes in the sonne-beem,
     868
Blessynge halles, chambres, kichenes, boures,
     869
Citees, burghes, castels, hye toures,
     870
Thropes, bernes, shipnes, dayeryes --
     871
This maketh that ther ben no fayeryes.
     872
For ther as wont to walken was an elf,
     873
Ther walketh now the lymytour hymself
     874
In undermeles and in morwenynges,
     875
And seyth his matyns and his hooly thynges
     876
As he gooth in his lymytacioun.
     877
Wommen may go now saufly up and doun.
     878
In every bussh or under every tree
     879
Ther is noon oother incubus but he,
     880
And he ne wol doon hem but dishonour.
     881
And so bifel it that this kyng arthour
     882
Hadde in his hous a lusty bacheler,
     883
That on a day cam ridynge fro ryver; Page  85
     884
And happed that, allone as he was born,
     885
He saugh a mayde walkynge hym biforn,
     886
Of which mayde anon, maugree hir heed,
     887
By verray force, he rafte hire maydenhed;
     888
For which oppressioun was swich clamour
     889
And swich pursute unto the kyng arthour,
     890
That dampned was this knyght for to be deed,
     891
By cours of lawe, and sholde han lost his heed --
     892
Paraventure swich was the statut tho --
     893
But that the queene and othere ladyes mo
     894
So longe preyeden the kyng of grace,
     895
Til he his lyf hym graunted in the place,
     896
And yaf hym to the queene, al at hir wille,
     897
To chese wheither she wolde hym save or spille.
     898
The queene thanketh the kyng with al hir myght,
     899
And after this thus spak she to the knyght,
     900
Whan that she saugh hir tyme, upon a day:
     901
Thou standest yet, quod she, in swich array
     902
That of thy lyf yet hastow no suretee.
     903
I grante thee lyf, if thou kanst tellen me
     904
What thyng is it that wommen moost desiren.
     905
Be war, and keep thy nekke-boon from iren!
     906
And if thou kanst nat tellen it anon,
     907
Yet wol I yeve thee leve for to gon
     908
A twelf-month and a day, to seche and leere
     909
An answere suffisant in this mateere;
     910
And suretee wol I han, er that thou pace,
     911
Thy body for to yelden in this place.
     912
Wo was this knyght, and sorwefully he siketh;
     913
But what! he may nat do al as hym liketh.
     914
And at the laste he chees hym for to wende,
     915
And come agayn, right at the yeres ende,
     916
With swich answere as God wolde hym purveye;
     917
And taketh his leve, and wendeth froth his weye.
     918
He seketh every hous and and every place
     919
Where as he hopeth for to fynde grace,
     920
To lerne what thyng wommen loven moost;
     921
But he ne koude arryven in no coost
     922
Wher as he myghte fynde in this mateere
     923
Two creatures accordynge in-feere.
     924
Somme seyde wommen loven best richesse,
     925
Somme seyde honour, somme seyde jolynesse,
     926
Somme riche array, somme seyden lust abedde,
     927
And oftetyme to be wydwe and wedde.
     928
Somme seyde that oure hertes been moost esed
     929
Whan that we ben yflatered and yplesed.
     930
He gooth ful ny the sothe, I wol nat lye.
     931
A man shal wynne us best with flaterye;
     932
And with attendance, and with bisynesse,
     933
Been we ylymed, bothe moore and lesse.
     934
And somme seyen that we loven best
     935
For to be free, and do right as us lest,
     936
And that no man repreve us of oure vice,
     937
But seye that we be wise, and no thyng nyce.
     938
For trewely ther is noon of us alle,
     939
If any wight wol clawe us on the galle,
     940
That we nel kike, for he seith us sooth.
     941
Assay, and he shal fynde it that so dooth;
     942
For, be we never so vicious withinne,
     943
We wol been holden wise and clene of synne.
     944
And somme seyn that greet delit han we
     945
For to been holden stable, and eek secree,
     946
And in o purpos stedefastly to dwelle,
     947
And nat biwreye thyng that men us telle.
     948
But that tale is nat worth a rake-stele.
     949
Pardee, we wommen konne no thyng hele;
     950
Witnesse on myda, -- wol ye heere the tale?
     951
Ovyde, amonges othere thynges smale,
     952
Seyde myda hadde, under his longe heres,
     953
Growynge upon his heed two asses eres,
     954
The whiche vice he hydde, as he best myghte,
     955
Ful subtilly from every mannes sighte,
     956
That, save his wyf, ther wiste of it namo.
     957
He loved hire moost, and trusted hire also;
     958
He preyede hire that to no creature
     959
She sholde tellen of his disfigure.
     960
She swoor him, nay, for al this world to wynne,
     961
She nolde do that vileynye or synne,
     962
To make hir housbonde han so foul a name.
     963
She nolde nat telle it for hir owene shame.
     964
But nathelees, hir thoughte that she dyde,
     965
That she so longe sholde a conseil hyde;
     966
Hir thoughte it swal so soore aboute hir herte
     967
That nedely som word hire moste asterte;
     968
And sith she dorste telle it to no man,
     969
Doun to a mareys faste by she ran
     970
Til she cam there, hir herte was a-fyre --
     971
And as a bitore bombleth in the myre,
     972
She leyde hir mouth unto the water doun:
     973
Biwreye me nat, thou water, with thy soun,
     974
Quod she; -- to thee I telle it and namo;
     975
Myn housbonde hath longe asses erys two!
     976
Now is myn herte al hool, now is it oute.
     977
I myghte no lenger kepe it, out of doute.
     978
Heere may ye se, thogh we a tyme abyde,
     979
Yet out it moot; we kan no conseil hyde.
     980
The remenant of the tale if ye wol heere,
     981
Redeth ovyde, and ther ye may it leere.
     982
This knyght, of which my tale is specially,
     983
Than that he saugh he myghte nat come therby, Page  86
     984
This is to seye, what wommen love moost,
     985
Withinne his brest ful sorweful was the goost.
     986
But hoom he gooth, he myghte nat sojourne;
     987
The day was come that homward moste he tourne.
     988
And in his wey it happed hym to ryde,
     989
In al this care, under a forest syde,
     990
Wher as he saugh upon a daunce go
     991
Of ladyes foure and twenty, and yet mo;
     992
Toward the whiche daunce he drow ful yerne,
     993
In hope that som wysdom sholde he lerne.
     994
But certeinly, er he cam fully there,
     995
Vanysshed was this daunce, he nyste where.
     996
No creature saugh he that bar lyf,
     997
Save on the grene he saugh sittynge a wyf --
     998
A fouler wight ther may no man devyse.
     999
Agayn the knyght this olde wyf gan ryse,
     1000
And seyde, sire knyght, heer forth ne lith no wey.
     1001
Tel me what that ye seken, by youre fey!
     1002
Paraventure it may the bettre be;
     1003
Thise olde folk kan muchel thyng, quod she.
     1004
My leeve mooder, quod this knyght, certeyn
     1005
I nam but deed, but if that I kan seyn
     1006
What thyng it is that wommen moost desire.
     1007
Koude ye me wisse, I wolde wel quite youre hire.
     1008
Plight me thy trouthe heere in myn hand, quod she,
     1009
The nexte thyng that I requere thee,
     1010
Thou shalt it do, if it lye in thy myght,
     1011
And I wol telle it yow er it be nyght.
     1012
Have heer my trouthe, quod the knyght, I grante.
     1013
Thanne, quod she, I dar me wel avante
     1014
Thy lyf is sauf; for I wol stonde therby,
     1015
Upon my lyf, the queene wol seye as I.
     1016
Lat se which is the proudeste of hem alle,
     1017
That wereth on a coverchief or a calle,
     1018
That day seye nay of that I shal thee teche.
     1019
Lat us go forth, withouten lenger speche.
     1020
Tho rowned she a pistel in his ere,
     1021
And bad hym to be glad, and have no fere.
     1022
Whan they be comen to the court, this knyght
     1023
Seyde he had holde his day, as he hadde hight,
     1024
And redy was his answere, as he sayde.
     1025
Ful many a noble wyf, and many a mayde,
     1026
And many a wydwe, for that they been wise,
     1027
The queene hirself sittynge as a justise,
     1028
Assembled been, his answere for to heere;
     1029
And afterward this knyght was bode appeere.
     1030
To every wight comanded was silence,
     1031
And that the knyght sholde telle in audience
     1032
What thyng that worldly wommen loven best.
     1033
This knyght ne stood nat stille as doth a best,
     1034
But to his questioun anon answerde
     1035
With manly voys, that al the court it herde:
     1036
My lige lady, generally, quod he,
     1037
Wommen desiren to have sovereynetee
     1038
As wel over his housbond as hir love,
     1039
And for to been in maistrie hym above.
     1040
This is youre mooste desir, thogh ye me kille.
     1041
Dooth as yow list; I am heer at youre wille.
     1042
In al the court ne was ther wyf, ne mayde,
     1043
Ne wydwe, that contraried that he sayde,
     1044
But seyden he was worthy han his lyf.
     1045
And with that word up stirte the olde wyf,
     1046
Which that the knyght saugh sittynge on the grene:
     1047
Mercy, quod she, my sovereyn lady queene!
     1048
Er that youre court departe, do me right.
     1049
I taughte this answere unto the knyght;
     1050
For which he plighte me his trouthe there,
     1051
The firste thyng that I wolde hym requere,
     1052
He wolde it do, if it lay in his myghte.
     1053
Bifore the court thanne preye I thee, sir knyght,
     1054
Quod she, that thou me take unto thy wyf;
     1055
For wel thou woost that I have kept thy lyf.
     1056
If I seye fals, sey nay, upon thy fey!
     1057
This knyght answerde, allas! and weylawey!
     1058
I woot right wel that swich was my biheste.
     1059
For goddes love, as chees a newe requeste!
     1060
Taak al my good, and lat my body go.
     1061
Nay, thanne, quod she, I shrewe us bothe two!
     1062
For thogh that I be foul, and oold, and poore,
     1063
I nolde for al the metal, ne for oore,
     1064
That under erthe is grave, or lith above,
     1065
But if thy wyf I were, and eek thy love.
     1066
My love? quod he, nay, my dampnacioun!
     1067
Allas! that any of my nacioun
     1068
Sholde evere so foule disparaged be!
     1069
But al for noght; the ende is this, that he
     1070
Constreyned was, he nedes moste hire wedde;
     1071
And taketh his olde wyf, and gooth to bedde.
     1072
Now wolden som men seye, paraventure,
     1073
That for my necligence I do no cure
     1074
To tellen yow the joye and al th' array
     1075
That at the feeste was that ilke day.
     1076
To which thyng shortly answeren I shal:
     1077
I seye ther nas no joye ne feeste at al;
     1078
Ther nas but hevynesse and muche sorwe. Page  87
     1079
For prively he wedded hire on the morwe,
     1080
And al day after hidde hym as an owle,
     1081
So wo was hym, his wyf looked so foule.
     1082
Greet was the wo the knyght hadde in his thoght,
     1083
Whan he was with his wyf abedde ybroght;
     1084
He walweth and he turneth to and fro.
     1085
His olde wyf lay smylynge everemo,
     1086
And seyde, o deere housbonde, benedicitee!
     1087
Fareth every knyght thys with his wyf as ye?
     1088
Is this the lawe of kyng arthures hous?
     1089
Is every knyght of his so dangerous?
     1090
I am youre owene love and eek youre wyf;
     1091
I am she which that saved hath youre lyf,
     1092
And, certes, yet ne dide I yow nevere unright;
     1093
Why fare ye thus with me this firste nyght?
     1094
Ye faren lyk a man had lost his wit.
     1095
What is my gilt? for goddes love, tel me it,
     1096
And it shal been amende, if I may.
     1097
Amended? quod this knyght, allas! nay, nay!
     1098
It wol nat been amended nevere mo.
     1099
Thou art so loothly, and so oold also,
     1100
And therto comen of so lough a kynde,
     1101
That litel wonder is thogh I walwe and wynde.
     1102
So wolde God myn herte wolde breste!
     1103
Is this, quod she, the cause of youre unreste?
     1104
Ye, certeinly, quod he, no wonder is.
     1105
Now, sire, quod she, I koude amende al this,
     1106
If that me liste, er it were dayes thre,
     1107
So wel ye myghte bere yow unto me.
     1108
But, for ye speken of swich gentillesse
     1109
As is descended out of old richesse,
     1110
That therfore sholden ye be gentil men,
     1111
Swich arrogance is nat worth an hen.
     1112
Looke who that is moost vertuous alway,
     1113
Pryvee and apert, and moost entendeth ay
     1114
To do the gentil dedes that he kan;
     1115
Taak hym for the grettest gentil man.
     1116
Crist wole we clayme of hym oure gentillesse,
     1117
Nat of oure eldres for hire old richesse.
     1118
For thogh they yeve us al hir heritage,
     1119
For which we clayme to been of heigh parage,
     1120
Yet may they nat biquethe, for no thyng,
     1121
To noon of us hir vertuous lyvyng,
     1122
That made hem gentil men ycalled be,
     1123
And bad us folwen hem in swich degree.
     1124
Wel kan the wise poete of florence,
     1125
That highte dant, speken in this sentence.
     1126
Lo, in swich maner rym is dantes tale:
     1127
-- Ful selde up riseth by his brances smale
     1128
Prowesse of man, for god, of his goodnesse,
     1129
Wole that of hym we clayme oure gentillesse; --
     1130
For of oure eldres may we no thyng clayme
     1131
But temporel thyng, that man may hurte and mayme.
     1132
Eek every wight woot this as wel as I,
     1133
If gentillesse were planted natureelly
     1134
Unto a certeyn lynage doun the lyne,
     1135
Pryvee and apert, thanne wolde they nevere fyne
     1136
To doon of gentillesse the faire office;
     1137
They myghte do no vileynye or vice.
     1138
Taak fyr, and ber it in the derkeste hous
     1139
Bitwix this and the mount of kaukasous,
     1140
And lat men shette the dores and go thenne;
     1141
Yet wole the fyr as faire lye and brenne
     1142
As twenty thousand men myghte it biholde;
     1143
His office natureel ay wol it holde,
     1144
Up peril of my lyf, til that it dye.
     1145
Heere may ye se wel how that genterye
     1146
Is nat annexed to possessioun,
     1147
Sith folk ne doon hir operacioun
     1148
Alwey, as dooth the fyr, lo, in his kynde.
     1149
For, God it woot, men may wel often fynde
     1150
A lordes sone do shame and vileynye;
     1151
And he that wole han pris of his gentrye,
     1152
For he was boren of a gentil hous,
     1153
And hadde his eldres noble and vertuous,
     1154
And nel hymselven do no gentil dedis,
     1155
Ne folwen his gentil auncestre that deed is,
     1156
He nys nat gentil, be he duc or erl;
     1157
For vileyns synful dedes make a cherl.
     1158
For gentillesse nys but renomee
     1159
Of thyne auncestres, for hire heigh bountee,
     1160
Which is a strange thyng to thy persone.
     1161
Thy gentillesse cometh fro God allone.
     1162
Thanne comth oure verray gentillesse of grace;
     1163
It was no thyng biquethe us with oure place.
     1164
Thenketh how noble, as seith valerius,
     1165
Was thilke tullius hostillius,
     1166
That out of poverte roos to heigh noblesse.
     1167
Reedeth senek, and redeth eek boece;
     1168
Ther shul ye seen expres that it no drede is
     1169
That he is gentil that dooth gentil dedis.
     1170
And therfore, leeve housbonde, thus conclude:
     1171
Al were it that myne auncestres were rude,
     1172
Yet may the hye god, and so hope I,
     1173
Grante me grace to lyven vertuously.
     1174
Thanne am I gentil, whan that I bigynne
     1175
To lyven vertuously and weyve synne.
     1176
And ther as ye of poverte me repreeve,
     1177
The hye god, on whom that we bileeve,
     1178
In wilful poverte chees to lyve his lyf. Page  88
     1179
And certes every man, mayden, or wyf,
     1180
May understonde that jhesus, hevene kyng,
     1181
Ne wolde nat chese a vicious lyvyng.
     1182
Glad poverte is an honest thyng, certeyn;
     1183
This wole senec and othere clerkes seyn.
     1184
Whoso that halt hym payd of his poverte,
     1185
I holde hym riche, al hadde he nat a sherte.
     1186
He that coveiteth is a povre wight,
     1187
For he wolde han that is nat in his myght;
     1188
But he that noght hath, ne coveiteth have,
     1189
Is riche, although ye holde hym but a knave.
     1190
Verray poverte, it syngeth proprely;
     1191
Juvenal seith of poverte myrily:
     1192
-- The povre man, whan he goth by the weye,
     1193
Bifore the theves he may synge and pleye.
     1194
Poverte is hateful good and, as I gesse,
     1195
A ful greet bryngere out of bisynesse;
     1196
A greet amendere eek of sapience
     1197
To hym that taketh it in pacience.
     1198
Poverte is this, although it seme alenge,
     1199
Possessioun that no wight wol chalenge.
     1200
Poverte ful ofte, whan a man is lowe,
     1201
Maketh his God and eek hymself to knowe.
     1202
Poverte a spectacle is, as thynketh me,
     1203
Thurgh which he may his verray freendes see.
     1204
And therfore, sire, syn that I noght yow greve,
     1205
Of my poverte namoore ye me repreve.
     1206
No, sire, of elde ye repreve me;
     1207
And certes, sire, thogh noon auctoritee
     1208
Were in no book, ye gentils of honour
     1209
Seyn that men sholde an oold wight doon favour,
     1210
And clepe hym fader, for youre gentillesse;
     1211
And auctours shal I fynde, as I gesse.
     1212
Now ther ye seye that I am foul and old,
     1213
Than drede you noght to been a cokewold;
     1214
For filthe and eelde, also moot I thee,
     1215
Been grete wardeyns upon chastitee.
     1216
But nathelees, syn I knowe youre delit,
     1217
I shal fulfille youre worldly appetit.
     1218
Chese now, quod she, oon of thise thynges tweye:
     1219
To han me foul and old til that I deye,
     1220
And be to yow a trewe, humble wyf,
     1221
And nevere yow displese in al my lyf;
     1222
Or elles ye wol han me yong and fair,
     1223
And take youre aventure of the repair
     1224
That shal be to youre hous by cause of me,
     1225
Or in som oother place, may wel be.
     1226
Now chese yourselven, wheither that yow liketh.
     1227
This knyght avyseth hym and sore siketh,
     1228
But atte laste he seyde in this manere:
     1229
My lady and my love, and wyf so deere,
     1230
I put me in youre wise governance;
     1231
Cheseth youreself which may be moost plesance,
     1232
And moost honour to yow and me also.
     1233
I do no fors the wheither of the two;
     1234
For as yow liketh, it suffiseth me.
     1235
Thanne have I gete of yow maistrie, quod she,
     1236
Syn I may chese and governe as me lest?
     1237
Ye, certes, wyf, quod he, I holde it best.
     1238
Kys me, quod she, we be no lenger wrothe;
     1239
For, by my trouthe, I wol be to yow bothe,
     1240
This is to seyn, ye, bothe fair and good.
     1241
I prey to God that I moote sterven wood,
     1242
But I to yow be also good and trewe
     1243
As evere was wyf, syn that the world was newe.
     1244
And but I be to-morn as fair to seene
     1245
As any lady, emperice, or queene,
     1246
That is bitwixe the est and eke the west,
     1247
Dooth with my lyf and deth right as yow lest.
     1248
Cast up the curtyn, looke how that it is.
     1249
And whan the knyght saugh verraily al this,
     1250
That she so fair was, and so yong therto,
     1251
For joye he hente hire in his armes two,
     1252
His herte bathed in a bath of blisse.
     1253
A thousand tyme a-rewe he gan hire kisse,
     1254
And she obeyed hym in every thyng
     1255
That myghte doon hym plesance or likyng.
     1256
And thys they lyve unto hir lyves ende
     1257
In parfit joye; and jhesu crist us sende
     1258
Housbondes meeke, yonge, and fressh abedde,
     1259
And grace t' overbyde hem that we wedde;
     1260
And eek I praye jhesu shorte hir lyves
     1261
That wol nat be governed by hir wyves;
     1262
And olde and angry nygardes of dispence,
     1263
God sende hem soone verray pestilence!
     1264
Page  89

The Friar's Prologue

This worthy lymytour, this noble frere,
     1265
He made alwey a maner louryng chiere
     1266
Upon the somonour, but for honestee
     1267
No vileyns word as yet to hym spak he.
     1268
But atte laste he seyde unto the wyf,
     1269
Dame, quod he, God yeve yow right good lyf!
     1270
Ye han heer touched, also moot I thee,
     1271
In scole-matere greet difficultee.
     1272
Ye han seyd muche thyng right wel, I seye;
     1273
But, dame, heere as we ryde by the weye,
     1274
Us nedeth nat to speken but of game,
     1275
And lete auctoritees, on goddes name,
     1276
To prechyng and to scole eek of clergye.
     1277
But if it lyke to this compaignye,
     1278
I wol yow of a somonour telle a game.
     1279
Pardee, ye may wel knowe by the name
     1280
That of a somonour may no good be sayd;
     1281
I praye that noon of you be yvele apayd.
     1282
A somonour is a rennere up and doun
     1283
With mandementz for fornicacioun,
     1284
And is ybet at every townes ende.
     1285
Oure hoost tho spak, a! sire, ye sholde be hende
     1286
And curteys, as a man of youre estaat;
     1287
In compaignye we wol have no debaat.
     1288
Telleth youre tale, and lat the somonour be.
     1289
Nay, quod the somonour, lat hym seye to me
     1290
What so hym list; whan it comth to me lot,
     1291
By god! I shal hym quiten every grot.
     1292
I shal hym tellen which a greet honour
     1293
It is to be a flaterynge lymytour;
     1294
And eek of many another manere cryme
     1295
Which nedeth nat rehercen at this tyme;
     1296
And his office I shal hym telle, ywis.
     1297
Oure hoost answerde, pees, namoore of this!
     1298
And after this he seyde unto the frere,
     1299
Tel forth youre tale, my leeve maister deere.
     1300

The Friar's Tale

Whilom ther was dwellynge in my contree
     1301
And erchedeken, a man of heigh degree,
     1302
That boldely dide execucioun
     1303
In punysshynge of fornicacioun,
     1304
Of wicchecraft, and eek of bawderye,
     1305
Of difamacioun, and avowtrye,
     1306
Of chirche reves, and of testamentz,
     1307
Of contractes and of lakke of sacramentz,
     1308
Of usure, and of symonye also.
     1309
But certes, lecchours dide he grettest wo;
     1310
They sholde syngen if that they were hent;
     1311
And smale tytheres weren foule yshent,
     1312
If any persoun wolde upon hem pleyne.
     1313
Ther myghte asterte hym no pecunyal peyne.
     1314
For smale tithes and for smal offrynge
     1315
He made the peple pitously to synge.
     1316
For er the bisshop caughte hem with his hook,
     1317
They weren in the erchedeknes book.
     1318
Thanne hadde he, thurgh his jurisdiccioun,
     1319
Power to doon on hem correccioun.
     1320
He hadde a somonour redy to his hond;
     1321
A slyer boye nas noon in engelond;
     1322
For subtilly he hadde his espiaille,
     1323
That taughte hym wel wher that hym myghte availle.
     1324
He koude spare of lecchours oon or two,
     1325
To techen hym to foure and twenty mo.
     1326
For thogh this somonour wood were as an hare,
     1327
To telle his harlotrye I wol nat spare;
     1328
For we been out of his correccioun.
     1329
They han of us no jurisdiccioun,
     1330
Ne nevere shullen, terme of alle hir lyves. --
     1331
Peter! so been the wommen of the styves,
     1332
Quod the somonour, yput out of oure cure!
     1333
Pees! with myschance and with mysaventure! Page  90
     1334
Thys seyde oure hoost, and lat hym telle his tale.
     1335
Now telleth forth, thogh that the somonour gale;
     1336
Ne spareth nat, myn owene maister deere. --
     1337
This false theef, this somonour, quod the frere,
     1338
Hadde alwey bawdes redy to his hond,
     1339
As any hauk to lure in engelond,
     1340
That tolde hym al the secree that they knewe;
     1341
For hire acqueyntace was nat come of newe.
     1342
They weren his approwours prively.
     1343
He took hymself a greet profit therby;
     1344
His maister knew nat alwey what he wan.
     1345
Withouten mandement a lewed man
     1346
He koude somne, on peyne of cristes curs,
     1347
And they were glade for to fille his purs,
     1348
And make hym grete feestes atte nale.
     1349
And right as judas hadde purses smale,
     1350
And was a theef, right swich a theef was he;
     1351
His maister hadde but half his duetee.
     1352
He was, if I shal yeven hym his laude,
     1353
A theef, and eek a somnour, and baude.
     1354
He hadde eek wenches at his retenue,
     1355
That, wheither that sir robert or sir huwe,
     1356
Or jakke, or rauf, or whoso that it were
     1357
That lay by hem, they tolde it in his ere.
     1358
Thus was the wenche and he of oon assent;
     1359
And he wolde fecche a feyned mandement,
     1360
And somne hem to chapitre bothe two,
     1361
And pile the man, and lete the wenche go.
     1362
Thanne wolde he seye, freend, I shal for thy sake
     1363
Do striken hire out of oure lettres blake;
     1364
Thee thar namoore as in this cas travaille.
     1365
I am thy freend, ther I thee may availle.
     1366
Certeyn he knew of briberyes mo
     1367
Than possible is to telle in yeres two.
     1368
For in this world nys dogge for the bowe
     1369
That kan an hurt deer from an hool yknowe
     1370
Bet than this somnour knew a sly lecchour,
     1371
Or an avowtier, or a paramour.
     1372
And for that was the fruyt of al his rente,
     1373
Therfore on it he sette al his entente.
     1374
And so bifel that ones on a day
     1375
This somnour, evere waityng on his pray,
     1376
Rood for to somne an old wydwe, a ribibe,
     1377
Feynynge a cause, for he wolde brybe.
     1378
And happed that he saugh bifore hym ryde
     1379
A gay yeman, under a forest syde,
     1380
A bowe he bar, and arwes brighte and kene;
     1381
He hadde upon a courtepy of grene,
     1382
An hat upon his heed with frenges blake.
     1383
Sire, quod this somnour, hayl, and wel atake!
     1384
Welcome, quod he, and every good felawe!
     1385
Wher rydestow, under this grene-wode shawe?
     1386
Seyde this yeman, wiltow fer to day?
     1387
This somnour hym answerde and seyde, nay;
     1388
Heere faste by, quod he, is myn entente
     1389
To ryden, for to reysen up a rente
     1390
That longeth to my lordes duetee.
     1391
Artow thanne a bailly? ye, quod he.
     1392
He dorste nat, for verray filthe and shame
     1393
Seye that he was a somonour, for the name.
     1394
Depardieux, quod this yeman, deere broother,
     1395
Thou art a bailly, and I am another.
     1396
I am unknowen as in this contree;
     1397
Of thyn aqueyntance I wolde praye thee,
     1398
And eek of bretherhede, if that yow leste.
     1399
I have gold and silver in my cheste;
     1400
If that thee happe to comen in oure shire,
     1401
Al shal be thyn, right as thou wolt desire.
     1402
Grantmercy, quod this somonour, by my feith!
     1403
Everych on ootheres hand his trouthe leith,
     1404
For to be sworne bretheren til they deye.
     1405
In daliance they ryden forth and pleye.
     1406
This somonour, which that was as ful of jangles,
     1407
As ful of venym been thise waryangles,
     1408
And evere enqueryng upon every thyng,
     1409
Brother, quod he, where is now youre dwellyng
     1410
Another day if that I sholde yow seche?
     1411
This yeman hym answerde in softe speche,
     1412
Brother, quod he, fer in the north contree,
     1413
Where-as I hope som tyme I shal thee see.
     1414
Er we departe, I shal thee so wel wisse
     1415
That of myn hous ne shaltow nevere mysse.
     1416
Now, brother, quod this somonour, I yow preye,
     1417
Teche me, whil that we ryden by the weye,
     1418
Syn that ye been a baillif as am I,
     1419
Som subtiltee, and tel me feithfully
     1420
In myn office how that I may moost wynne;
     1421
And spareth nat for conscience ne synne,
     1422
But as my brother tel me, how do ye.
     1423
Now, by my trouthe, brother deere, seyde he,
     1424
As I shal tellen thee a feithful tale,
     1425
My wages been ful streite and ful smale.
     1426
My lord is hard to me and daungerous,
     1427
And myn office is ful laborous,
     1428
And therfore by extorcions I lyve.
     1429
For sothe, I take al that men wol me yive. Page  91
     1430
Algate,by gleyghte or by violence,
     1431
Fro yeer to yeer I wynne al my dispence.
     1432
I kan no bettre telle, feithfully.
     1433
Now certes, quod this somonour, so fare I.
     1434
I spare nat to taken, God it woot,
     1435
But if it be to hevy or to hoot.
     1436
What I may gete in conseil prively,
     1437
No maner conscience of that have I.
     1438
Nere myn extorcioun, I myghte nat lyven,
     1439
Ne of swiche japes wol I nat be shryven.
     1440
Stomak ne conscience ne knowe I noon;
     1441
I shrewe thise shrifte-fadres everychoon.
     1442
Wel be we met, by God and by seint jame!
     1443
But, leeve brother, tel me thanne thy name,
     1444
Quod this somonour. In this meene while
     1445
This yeman gan a litel for to smyle.
     1446
Brother, quod he, wiltow that I thee telle?
     1447
I am a feend; my dwellyng is in helle,
     1448
And heere I ryde aboute my purchasyng,
     1449
To wite wher men wol yeve me any thyng.
     1450
My purchas is th' effect of al my rente.
     1451
Looke how thou rydest for the same entente,
     1452
To wynne good, thou rekkest nevere how;
     1453
Right so fare I, for ryde wolde I now
     1454
Unto the worldes ende for a preye.
     1455
Al! quod this somonour, benedicite! sey ye?
     1456
I wende ye were a yeman trewely.
     1457
Ye han a mannes shap as wel as I;
     1458
Han ye a figure thanne determinat
     1459
In helle, ther ye been in youre estat?
     1460
Nay, certeinly, quod he, ther have we noon;
     1461
But whan us liketh, we kan take us oon,
     1462
Or elles make yow seme we been shape
     1463
Somtyme lyk a man, or lyk an ape,
     1464
Or lyk an angel kan I ryde or go.
     1465
It is no wonder thyng thogh it be so;
     1466
A lowsy jogelour kan deceyve thee,
     1467
And pardee, yet kan I moore craft than he.
     1468
Why, quod this somonour, ryde ye thanne or goon
     1469
In sondry shap, and nat alwey in oon?
     1470
For we, quod he, wol us swiche formes make
     1471
As moost able is oure preyes for to take.
     1472
What maketh yow to han al this labour?
     1473
Ful many a cause, leeve sire somonour,
     1474
Seyde this feend, but alle thyng hath tyme.
     1475
The day is short, and it is passed pryme,
     1476
And yet ne wan I nothyng in this day.
     1477
I wol entende to wynnyng, if I may,
     1478
And nat entende oure wittes to declare.
     1479
For, brother myn, thy wit is al to bare
     1480
To understonde, althogh I tolde hem thee.
     1481
But, for thou axest why labouren we --
     1482
For somtyme we been goddes instrumentz,
     1483
And meenes to doon his comandementz,
     1484
Whan that hym list, upon his creatures,
     1485
In divers art and in diverse figures.
     1486
Withouten hym we have no myght, certayn,
     1487
If that hym list stonden ther-agayn.
     1488
And somtyme, at oure prayere, han we leve
     1489
Oonly the body and nat the soule greve;
     1490
Witnesse on job, whom that we diden wo.
     1491
And somtyme han we myght of bothe two,
     1492
This is to seyn, of soule and body eke.
     1493
And somtyme be we suffred for to seke
     1494
Upon a man, and doon his soule unreste,
     1495
And nat his body, and al is for the beste.
     1496
Whan he withstandeth oure temptacioun,
     1497
It is a cause of his savacioun,
     1498
Al be it that it was nat oure entente
     1499
He sholde be sauf, but that we wolde hym hente.
     1500
And somtyme be we servant unto man,
     1501
As to the erchebisshop seint dunstan,
     1502
And to the apostles servent eek was I.
     1503
Yet tel me, quod the somonour, feithfully,
     1504
Make ye yow newe bodies thus alway
     1505
Of elementz? the feend answerde, nay.
     1506
Somtyme we feyne, and somtyme we aryse
     1507
With dede bodyes, in ful sondry wyse,
     1508
And speke as renably and faire and wel
     1509
As to the phitonissa dide samuel.
     1510
(and yet wol som men seye it was nat he;
     1511
I do no fors of youre dyvynytee.)
     1512
But o thyng warne I thee, I wol nat jape, --
     1513
Thou wolt algates wite how we been shape;
     1514
Thou shalt herafterward, my brother deere,
     1515
Come there thee nedeth nat of me to leere.
     1516
For thou shalt, by thyn owene experience,
     1517
Konne in a chayer rede of this sentence
     1518
Bet than virgile, while he was on lyve,
     1519
Or dant also. Now lat us ryde blyve,
     1520
For I wole holde compaignye with thee
     1521
Til it be so that thou forsake me.
     1522
Nay, quod this somonour, that shal nat bityde!
     1523
I am a yeman, knowen is ful wyde;
     1524
My trouthe wol I holde, as in this cas.
     1525
For though thou were the devel sathanas,
     1526
My trouthe wol I holde to my brother,
     1527
As I am sworn, and ech of us til oother,
     1528
For to be trewe brother in this cas;
     1529
And bothe we goon abouten oure purchas. Page  92
     1530
Taak thou thy part, what that men wol thee yive,
     1531
And I shal myn; thus may we bothe lyve.
     1532
And if that any of us have moore than oother,
     1533
Lat hym be trewe, and parte it with his brother.
     1534
I graunte, quod the devel, by my fey.
     1535
And with that word they ryden forth hir wey.
     1536
And right at the entryng of the townes ende,
     1537
To which this somonour shoop hym for to wende,
     1538
They saugh a cart that charged was with hey,
     1539
Which that a cartere droof forth in his wey.
     1540
Deep was the wey, for which the carte stood.
     1541
The cartere smoot, and cryde as he were wood,
     1542
Hayt, brok! hayt, scot! what spare ye for the stones?
     1543
The feend, quod he, yow fecche, body and bones,
     1544
As ferforthly as evere were ye foled,
     1545
So muche wo as I have with yow tholed!
     1546
The devel have al, bothe hors and cart and hey!
     1547
This somonour seyde, heere shal we have a pley.
     1548
And neer the feend he drough, as noght ne were,
     1549
Ful prively, and rowned in his ere:
     1550
Herkne, my brother, herkne, by thy feith!
     1551
Herestow nat how that the cartere seith?
     1552
Hent it anon, for he hath yeve it thee,
     1553
Bothe hey and cart, and eek his caples thre.
     1554
Nay, quod the devel, God woot, never a deel!
     1555
It is nat his entente, trust me weel.
     1556
Axe hym thyself, it thou nat trowest me;
     1557
Or elles stynt a while, and thou shalt see.
     1558
This cartere thakketh his hors upon the croupe,
     1559
And they bigonne to drawen and to stoupe.
     1560
Heyt! now, quod he, ther jhesu crist yow blesse,
     1561
And al his handwerk, bothe moore and lesse!
     1562
That was wel twight, myn owene lyard boy.
     1563
I pray God save thee, and seinte loy!
     1564
Now is my cart out of the slow, pardee!
     1565
Lo, brother, quod the feend, what tolde I thee?
     1566
Heere may ye se, myn owene deere brother,
     1567
The carl spak oo thing, but he thoghte another.
     1568
Lat us go forth abouten oure viage;
     1569
Heere wynne I nothyng upon cariage.
     1570
Whan that they coomen somwhat out of towne,
     1571
This somonour to his brother gan to rowne:
     1572
Brother, quod he, heere woneth an old rebekke,
     1573
That hadde almoost as lief to lese hire nekke
     1574
As for to yeve a peny of hir good.
     1575
I wole han twelf pens, though that she be wood,
     1576
Or I wol sompne hire unto oure office;
     1577
And yet, God woot, of hire knowe I no vice.
     1578
But for thou kanst nat, as in this contree,
     1579
Wynne thy cost, taak heer ensample of me.
     1580
This somonour clappeth at the wydwes gate.
     1581
Com out, quod he, thou olde virytrate!
     1582
I trowe thou hast som frere or preest with thee.
     1583
Who clappeth? seyde this wyf, benedicitee!
     1584
God save you, sire, what is youre sweete wille?
     1585
I have, quod he, of somonce here a bille;
     1586
Up peyne of cursyng, looke that thou be
     1587
To-morn bifore the erchedeknes knee,
     1588
T' answere to the court of certeyn thynges.
     1589
Now, lord, quod she, crist jhesu, kyng of kynges,
     1590
So wisly helpe me, as I ne may.
     1591
I have been syk, and that ful many a day.
     1592
I may nat go so fer, quod she, ne ryde,
     1593
But I be deed, so priketh it in my syde.
     1594
May I nat axe a libel, sire somonour,
     1595
And answere there by my procuratour
     1596
To swich thyng as men wole opposen me?
     1597
Yis, quod this somonour, pay anon, lat se,
     1598
Twelf pens to me, and I wol thee acquite.
     1599
I shal no profit han therby but lite;
     1600
My maister hath the profit, and nat I.
     1601
Com of, and lat me ryden hastily;
     1602
Yif me twelf pens, I may no lenger tarye.
     1603
Twelf pens! quod she, now, lady seinte marie
     1604
So wisly help me out of care and synne,
     1605
This wyde world thogh that I sholde wynne,
     1606
Ne have I nat twelf pens withinne myn hoold.
     1607
Ye knowen wel that I am povre and oold;
     1608
Kithe youre almesse on me povre wrecche.
     1609
Nay thanne, quod he, the foule feend me fecche
     1610
If I th' excuse, though thou shul be spilt!
     1611
allas! quod she, God woot, I have no gilt.
     1612
Pay me, quod he, or by the swete seinte anne,
     1613
As I wol bere awey thy newe panne
     1614
For dette which thou owest me of old. Page  93
     1615
Whan that thou madest thyn housbonde cokewold,
     1616
I payde at hoom for thy correccioun.
     1617
Thou lixt! quod she, by my savacioun,
     1618
Ne was I nevere er now, wydwe ne wyf,
     1619
Somoned unto youre court in al my lyf;
     1620
Ne nevere I nas but of my body trewe!
     1621
Unto the devel blak and rough of hewe
     1622
Yeve I thy body and my panne also!
     1623
And whan the devel herde hire cursen so
     1624
Upon hir knees, he seyde in this manere,
     1625
Now, mabely, myn owene mooder deere,
     1626
Is this youre wyl in ernest that ye seye?
     1627
The devel, quod she, so fecche hym er he deye,
     1628
And panne and al, but he wol hym repente!
     1629
Nay, olde stot, that is nat myn entente,
     1630
Quod this somonour, for to repente me
     1631
For any thyng that I have had of thee.
     1632
I wolde I hadde thy smok and every clooth!
     1633
Now, brother, quod the devel, be nat wrooth;
     1634
Thy body and this panne been myne by right.
     1635
Thow shalt with me to helle yet to-nyght,
     1636
Where thou shalt knowen of oure privetee
     1637
Moore than a maister of dyvynytee.
     1638
And with that word this foule feend hym hente;
     1639
Body and soule he with the devel wente
     1640
Where as that somonours han hir heritage.
     1641
And god, that maked after his ymage
     1642
Mankynde, save and gyde us, alle and some,
     1643
And leve thise somonours goode men bicome!
     1644
Lordynges, I koude han toold yow, quod this frere,
     1645
Hadde I had leyser for this somonour heere,
     1646
After the text of crist, poul, and john,
     1647
And of oure othere doctours many oon,
     1648
Swiche peynes that youre hertes myghte agryse,
     1649
Al be it so no tonge may it devyse,
     1650
Thogh that I myghte a thousand wynter telle
     1651
The peynes of thilke cursed hous of helle.
     1652
But for to kepe us fro that cursed place,
     1653
Waketh, and preyeth jhesu for his grace
     1654
So kepe us from the temptour sathanas.
     1655
Herketh this word! beth war, as in this cas:
     1656
The leoun sit in his awayt alway
     1657
To sle the innocent, if that he may.
     1658
Disposeth ay youre hertes to withstonde
     1659
The feend, that yow wolde make thral and bonde.
     1660
He may nat tempte yow over youre myght,
     1661
For crist wol be youre champion and knyght.
     1662
And prayeth that thise somonours hem repente
     1663
Of hir mysdedes, er that the feend hem hente!
     1664

The Summoner's Prologue

This somonour in his styropes hye stood;
     1665
Upon this frere his herte was so wood
     1666
That lyk an aspen leef he quook for ire.
     1667
Lordynges, quod he, but o thyng I desire;
     1668
I yow biseke that, of youre curteisye,
     1669
Syn ye han herd this false frere lye,
     1670
As suffreth me I may my tale telle.
     1671
This frere bosteth that he knoweth helle,
     1672
And God it woot, that it is litel wonder;
     1673
Freres and feendes been but lyte asonder.
     1674
For, pardee, ye han ofte tyme herd telle
     1675
How that a frere ravyshed was to helle
     1676
In spirit ones by a visioun;
     1677
And as an angel ladde hym up and doun,
     1678
To shewen hym the peynes that the were,
     1679
In al the place saugh he nat a frere;
     1680
Of oother folk he saugh ynowe in wo.
     1681
Unto this angel spak the frere tho:
     1682
Now, sire, quod he, han freres swich a grace
     1683
That noon of hem shal come to this place?
     1684
Yis, quod this aungel, many a millioun!
     1685
And unto sathanas he ladde hym doun.
     1686
-- And now hath sathanas, -- seith he, -- a tayl
     1687
Brodder than of a carryk is the sayl.
     1688
Hold up thy tayl, thou sathanas! -- quod he;
     1689
-- shewe forth thyn ers, and lat the frere se
     1690
Where is the nest of freres in this place! --
     1691
And er that half a furlong wey of space,
     1692
Right so as bees out swarmen from an hyve,
     1693
Out of the develes ers ther gonne dryve Page  94
     1694
Twenty thousand freres on a route,
     1695
And thurghout helle swarmed al aboute,
     1696
And comen agayn as faste as they may gon,
     1697
And in his ers they crepten everychon.
     1698
He clapte his tayl agayn and lay ful stille.
     1699
This frere, whan he looked hadde his fille
     1700
Upon the tormentz of this sory place,
     1701
His spirit God restored, of his grace,
     1702
Unto his body agayn, and he awook.
     1703
But natheles, for fere yet he quook,
     1704
So was the develes ers ay in his mynde,
     1705
That is his heritage of verray kynde.
     1706
God save yow alle, save this cursed frere!
     1707
My prologe wol I ende in this manere.
     1708

The Summoner's Tale

Lordynges, ther is in yorkshire, as I gesse,
     1709
A mersshy contree called holdernesse,
     1710
In which ther wente a lymytour aboute,
     1711
To preche, and eek to begge, it so no doute.
     1712
And so bifel that on a day this frere
     1713
Hadde preched at a chirche in his manere,
     1714
And specially, aboven every thyng,
     1715
Excited he the peple in his prechyng
     1716
To trentals, and to yeve, for goddes sake,
     1717
Wherwith men myghte hooly houses make,
     1718
Ther as divine servyce is honoured,
     1719
Nat ther as it is wasted and devoured,
     1720
Ne ther it nedeth nat for to be yive,
     1721
As to possessioners, that mowen lyve,
     1722
Thanked be god, in wele and habundaunce.
     1723
Trentals, seyde he, deliveren fro penaunce
     1724
Hir freendes soules, as wel olde as yonge, --
     1725
Ye, whan that they been hastily ysonge,
     1726
Nat for to holde a preest holy and gay --
     1727
He syngeth nat but o masse in a day.
     1728
Delivereth out, quod he, anon the soules!
     1729
Ful hard it is with flesshhook or with oules
     1730
To been yclawed, or to brenne or bake.
     1731
Now spede yow hastily, for cristes sake!
     1732
And whan this frere had seyd al his entente,
     1733
With qui cum patre forth his wey he wente.
     1734
Whan folk in chirche had yeve him what hem leste,
     1735
He wente his wey, no lenger wolde he reste,
     1736
With scrippe and tipped staf, ytukked hye,
     1737
In every hous he gan to poure and prye,
     1738
And beggeth mele and chese, or elles corn.
     1739
His felawe hadde a staf tipped with horn,
     1740
A peyre of tables al of yvory,
     1741
And a poyntel polysshed fetisly,
     1742
And wrooth the names alwey, as he stood,
     1743
Of alle folk that yaf hym any good,
     1744
Ascaunces that he wolde for hem preye.
     1745
Yif us a busshel whete, malt, or reye,
     1746
A goddes kechyl, or a trype of chese,
     1747
Or elles what yow lyst, we may nat cheese;
     1748
A goddes halfpeny, or a masse peny,
     1749
Or yif us of youre brawn, if ye have eny;
     1750
A dagon of youre blanket, leeve dame,
     1751
Oure suster deere, -- lo! heere I write youre name, --
     1752
Bacon or beef, or swich thyng as ye fynde.
     1753
A sturdy harlot wente ay hem bihynde,
     1754
That was hir hostes man, and bar a sak,
     1755
And what men yaf hem, leyde it on his bak.
     1756
And whan that he was out at dore, anon
     1757
He planed awey the names everichon
     1758
That he biforn had writen in his tables;
     1759
He served hem with nyfles and with fables.
     1760
Nay, ther thou lixt, thou somonour! quod the frere.
     1761
Pees, quod oure hoost, for cristes mooder deere!
     1762
Tel forth thy tale, and spare it nat at al.
     1763
So thryve I, quod this somonour, so I shal!
     1764
So longe he wente, hous by hous, til he
     1765
Cam til an hous ther he was wont to be
     1766
Refresshed moore than in an hundred placis.
     1767
Syk lay the goode man whos that the place is;
     1768
Bedrede upon a couche lowe he lay.
     1769
Deus hic! quod he, o thomas, freend, good day!
     1770
Seyde this frere, curteisly and softe.
     1771
Thomas, quod he, God yelde yow! ful ofte
     1772
Have I upon this bench faren ful weel;
     1773
Heere have I eten many a myrie meel.
     1774
And fro the bench he droof awey the cat,
     1775
And leyde adoun his potente and his hat,
     1776
And eek his scrippe, and sette hym softe adoun.
     1777
His felawe was go walked into toun Page  95
     1778
Forth with his knave, into that hostelrye
     1779
Where as he shoop hym thilke nyght to lye.
     1780
O deere maister, quod this sike man,
     1781
How han ye fare sith that march bigan?
     1782
I saugh yow noght this fourtenyght or moore.
     1783
God woot, quod he, laboured have I ful soore,
     1784
And specially, for thy savacion
     1785
Have I seyd many a precious orison,
     1786
And for oure othere freendes, God hem blesse!
     1787
I have to day been at youre chirche at messe,
     1788
And seyd a sermon after my symple wit,
     1789
Nat al after the text of hooly writ;
     1790
For it is hard to yow, as I suppose,
     1791
And therfore wol I teche yow al the glose.
     1792
Glosynge is a glorious thyng, certeyn,
     1793
For lettre sleeth, so as we clerkes seyn.
     1794
There have I taught hem to be charitable,
     1795
And spende hir good ther it is resonable;
     1796
And there I saugh oure dame, -- a! where is she?
     1797
Yond in the yerd I trowe that she be,
     1798
Seyde this man,and she wol come anon.
     1799
Ey, maister, welcome be ye, by seint john!
     1800
Seyde this wyf, how fare ye, hertely?
     1801
The frere ariseth up ful curteisly,
     1802
And hire embraceth in his armes narwe,
     1803
And kiste hire sweete, and chirketh as a sparwe
     1804
With his lyppes: dame, quod he, right weel,
     1805
As he that is youre servent every deel,
     1806
Thanked be god, that yow yaf soule and lyf!
     1807
Yet saugh I nat this day so fair a wyf
     1808
In al the chirche, God so save me!
     1809
Ye, God amende defautes, sire, quod she.
     1810
Algates, welcome be ye, by my fey!
     1811
Graunt mercy, dame, this have I founde alwey.
     1812
But of youre grete goodnesse, by youre leve,
     1813
I wolde prey yow that ye nat yow greve,
     1814
I wole with thomas speke a litel throwe.
     1815
Thise curatz been ful necligent and slowe
     1816
To grope tendrely a conscience
     1817
In shrift; in prechyng is my diligence,
     1818
And studie in petres wordes and in poules.
     1819
I walke, and fisshe cristen mennes soules,
     1820
To yelden jhesu crist his propre rente;
     1821
To sprede his word is set al myn entente.
     1822
Now, by youre leve, o deere sire, she,
     1823
Chideth him weel, for seinte trinitee!
     1824
He is as angry as a pissemyre,
     1825
Though that he have al that he kan desire,
     1826
Though I hym wrye a-nyght and make hym warm,
     1827
And over hym leye my leg outher myn arm,
     1828
He groneth lyk oure boor, lith in oure sty.
     1829
Oother desport right noon of hym have I;
     1830
I may nat plese hym in no maner cas.
     1831
O thomas, je vous dy, thomas! thomas!
     1832
This maketh the feend; this moste ben amended.
     1833
Ire is a thyng that hye God defended,
     1834
And therof wol I speke a word or two.
     1835
Now, maister, quod the wyf, er that I go,
     1836
What wol ye dyne? I wol go theraboute.
     1837
Now dame, quod he, now je vous dy sanz doute,
     1838
Have I nat of a capon but the lyvere,
     1839
And of youre softe breed nat but a shyvere,
     1840
And after that a rosted pigges heed --
     1841
But that I nolde no beest for me were deed --
     1842
Thanne hadde I with yow hoomly suffisaunce.
     1843
I am a man of litel sustenaunce;
     1844
My spirit hath his fostryng in the bible.
     1845
The body is ay so redy and penyble
     1846
To wake, that my stomak is destroyed.
     1847
I prey yow, dame, ye be nat anoyed,
     1848
Though I so freendly yow my conseil shewe.
     1849
By god! I wolde nat telle it but a fewe.
     1850
Now, sire, quod she, but o word er I go.
     1851
My child is deed withinne thise wykes two,
     1852
Soone after that ye wente out of this toun.
     1853
His deeth saugh I by revelacioun,
     1854
Seide this frere, at hoom in oure dortour.
     1855
I dar wel seyn that, er that half an hour
     1856
After his deeth, I saugh hym born to blisse
     1857
In myn avision, so God me wisse!
     1858
So didde oure sexteyn and oure fermerer,
     1859
That han been trewe freres fifty yeer;
     1860
They may now -- God be thanked of his loone! --
     1861
Maken hir jubilee and walke allone.
     1862
And up I roos, and al oure covent eke,
     1863
With many a teere trillyng on my cheke,
     1864
Withouten noyse or claterynge of belles;
     1865
Te deum was oure song, and nothyng elles,
     1866
Save that to crist I seyde an orison,
     1867
Thankynge hym of his revelacion.
     1868
For, sire and dame, trusteth me right weel,
     1869
Oure orisons been moore effectueel,
     1870
And moore we seen of cristes secree thynges,
     1871
Than burel folk, although they weren kynges.
     1872
We lyve in poverte and in abstinence,
     1873
And burell folk in richesse and despence
     1874
Of mete and drynke, and in hir foul delit.
     1875
We han this worldes lust al in despit.
     1876
Lazar and dives lyveden diversly,
     1877
And divers gerdon hadden they therby. Page  96
     1878
Whoso wol preye, he moot faste and be clene,
     1879
And fatte his soule, and make his body lene.
     1880
We fare as seith th' apostle; clooth and foode
     1881
Suffisen us, though they be nat ful goode.
     1882
The clennesse and the fastynge of us freres
     1883
Maketh that crist accepteth oure preyeres.
     1884
Lo, moyses fourty dayes and fourty nyght
     1885
Fasted, er that the heighe God of myght
     1886
Spak with hym in the mountayne of synay.
     1887
With empty wombe, fastynge many a day,
     1888
Receyved he the lawe that was writen
     1889
With goddes fynger; and elye, wel ye witen,
     1890
In mount oreb, er he hadde any speche
     1891
With hye god, that is oure lyves leche,
     1892
He fasted longe, and was in contemplaunce.
     1893
Aaron, that hadde the temple in governaunce,
     1894
And eek the othere preestes everichon,
     1895
Into the temple whan they sholde gon
     1896
To preye for the peple, and do servyse,
     1897
They nolden drynken in no maner wyse
     1898
No drynke which that myghte hem dronke make,
     1899
But there in abstinence preye and wake,
     1900
Lest that they deyden. Taak heede what I seye!
     1901
But they be sobre that for the peple preye,
     1902
War that I seye -- namoore, for it suffiseth.
     1903
Oure lord jhesu, as hooly writ devyseth,
     1904
Yaf us ensample of fastynge and preyeres.
     1905
Therfore we mendynantz, we sely freres,
     1906
Been wedded to poverte and continence,
     1907
To charite, humblesse, and abstinence,
     1908
To persecucioun for rightwisnesse,
     1909
To wepynge, misericorde, and clennesse.
     1910
And therfore may ye se that oure preyeres --
     1911
I speke of us, we mendynantz, we freres --
     1912
Been to the hye God moore acceptable
     1913
Than youres, with youre feestes at the table.
     1914
Fro paradys first, if I shal nat lye,
     1915
Was man out chaced for his glotonye;
     1916
And chaast was man in paradys, certeyn.
     1917
But herkne now, thomas, what I shal seyn.
     1918
I ne have no text of it, as I suppose,
     1919
But I shal fynde it in a maner glose,
     1920
That specially oure sweete lord jhesus
     1921
Spak this by freres, whan he seyde thus:
     1922
-- Blessed be they that povere in spirit been. --
     1923
And so forth al the gospel may ye seen,
     1924
Wher it be likker oure professioun,
     1925
Or hirs that swymmen in possessioun.
     1926
Fy on hire pompe and on hire glotonye!
     1927
And for hir lewednesse I hem diffye.
     1928
My thynketh they been lyk jovinyan,
     1929
Fat as a whale, and walkynge as a swan,
     1930
Al vinolent as botel in the spence.
     1931
Hir preyere is of ful greet reverence,
     1932
Whan they for soules seye the psalm of davit;
     1933
Lo, -- buf! -- they seye, -- cor meum eructavit! --
     1934
Who folweth cristes gospel and his foore,
     1935
But we that humble been, and chaast, and poore,
     1936
Werkeris of goddes word, nat auditours?
     1937
Therfore, right as an hauk up at a sours
     1938
Up springeth into th' eir, right so prayeres
     1939
Of charitable and chaste bisy freres
     1940
Maken hir sours to goddes eres two.
     1941
Thomas! thomas! so moote I ryde or go,
     1942
And by that lord that clepid is seint yve,
     1943
Nere thou oure brother, sholdestou nat thryve.
     1944
In our chapitre prayer we day and nyght
     1945
To crist, that he thee sende heele and myght
     1946
Thy body for to weelden hastily.
     1947
God woot, quod he, nothyng therof feele i!
     1948
As help me crist, as I in fewe yeres,
     1949
Have spent upon diverse manere freres
     1950
Ful many a pound; yet fare I never the bet.
     1951
Certeyn, my good have I almoost biset.
     1952
Farwel, my gold, for it is al ago!
     1953
The frere answerde, o thomas, dostow so?
     1954
What nedeth yow diverse freres seche?
     1955
What nedeth hym that hath a parfit leche
     1956
To sechen othere leches in the toun?
     1957
Youre inconstance is youre confusioun.
     1958
Holde ye thanne me, or elles oure covent,
     1959
To praye for yow been insufficient?
     1960
Thomas, that jape nys nat worth a myte.
     1961
Youre maladye is for we han to lyte.
     1962
A! yif that covent half a quarter otes!
     1963
A! yif that covent foure and twenty grotes!
     1964
A! yif that frere a peny, and lat hym go!
     1965
Nay, nay, thomas, it may no thyng be so!
     1966
What is a ferthyng worth parted in twelve?
     1967
Lo, ech thyng that is oned in himselve
     1968
Is moore strong than whan it is toscatered.
     1969
Thomas, of me thou shalt nat been yflatered;
     1970
Thou woldest han oure labour al for noght.
     1971
The hye god, that al this world hath wroght,
     1972
Seith that the werkman worthy is his hyre.
     1973
Thomas, noght of youre tresor I desire
     1974
As for myself, but that al oure covent
     1975
To preye for yow is ay so diligent,
     1976
And for to buylden cristes owene chirche.
     1977
Thomas, if ye wol lernen for to wirche,
     1978
Of buyldynge up of chirches may ye fynde, Page  97
     1979
If it be good, in thomas lyf of inde.
     1980
Ye lye heere ful of anger and of ire,
     1981
With which the devel set youre herte afyre,
     1982
And chiden heere the sely innocent,
     1983
Youre wyf, that is so meke and pacient.
     1984
And therfore, thomas, trowe me if thee leste,
     1985
Ne stryve nat with thy wyf, as for thy beste;
     1986
And ber this word awey now, by thy feith,
     1987
Touchynge swich thyng, lo, what the wise seith:
     1988
-- Withinne thyn hous ne be thou no leon;
     1989
To thy subgitz do noon oppression,
     1990
Ne make thyne aqueyntances nat to flee. --
     1991
And, thomas, yet eft-soones I charge thee,
     1992
Be war from hire that in thy bosom slepeth;
     1993
War fro the serpent that so slily crepeth
     1994
Under the gras, and styngeth subtilly.
     1995
Be war, my sone, and herkne paciently,
     1996
That twenty thousand men han lost hir lyves
     1997
For stryvyng with hir lemmans and hir wyves.
     1998
Now sith ye han so hooly and meke a wyf,
     1999
What nedeth yow, thomas, to maken stryf?
     2000
Ther nys, ywys, no serpent so cruel,
     2001
Whan man tret on his tayl, ne half so fel,
     2002
As womman is, whan she hath caught an ire;
     2003
Vengeance is thanne al that they desire.
     2004
Ire is a synne, oon of the grete of sevene,
     2005
Abhomynable unto the God of hevene;
     2006
And to hymself it is destruccion.
     2007
This every lewed viker or person
     2008
Kan seye, how ire engendreth homycide.
     2009
Ire is, in sooth, executour of pryde.
     2010
I koude of ire seye so muche sorwe,
     2011
My tale sholde laste til to-morwe.
     2012
And therfore preye I god, bothe day and nyght,
     2013
An irous man, God sende hym litel myght!
     2014
It is greet harm and certes greet pitee
     2015
To sette an irous man in heigh degree.
     2016
Whilom ther was an irous potestat,
     2017
As seith senek, that, durynge his estaat,
     2018
Upon a day out ryden knyghtes two,
     2019
And as fortune wolde that it were so,
     2020
That oon of hem cam hoom, that oother noght.
     2021
Anon the knyght bifore the juge is broght,
     2022
That seyde thus, -- thou hast thy felawe slayn,
     2023
For which I deme thee to the deeth, certayn. --
     2024
And to another knyght comanded he,
     2025
-- Go lede hym to the deeth, I charge thee, --
     2026
And happed, as they wente by the weye
     2027
Toward the place ther he sholde deye,
     2028
The knyght cam which men wenden had be deed.
     2029
Thanne thoughte they it were the beste reed
     2030
To lede hem bothe to the juge agayn.
     2031
They seiden, -lord, the knyght ne hath nat slayn
     2032
His felawe; heere he standeth hool alyve. --
     2033
-- Ye shul be deed, -- quod he, -- so moot I thryve!
     2034
That is to seyn, bothe oon, and two, and thre! --
     2035
And to the firste knyght right thus spak he,
     2036
-- I dampned thee; thou most algate be deed.
     2037
And thou also most nedes lese thyn heed,
     2038
For thou art cause why thy felawe deyth. --
     2039
And to the thridde knyght right thus he seith,
     2040
-- Thou hast nat doon that I comanded thee. --
     2041
And thus he dide doon sleen hem alle thre.
     2042
Irous cambises was eek dronkelewe,
     2043
And ay delited hym to been a shrewe.
     2044
And so bifel, a lord of his meynee,
     2045
That loved vertuous moralitee,
     2046
Seyde on a day bitwix hem two right thus:
     2047
-- A lord is lost, if he be vicius;
     2048
And dronkenesse is eek a foul record
     2049
Of any man, and namely in a lord.
     2050
Ther is ful many an eye and many an ere
     2051
Awaityng on a lord, and he noot where.
     2052
For goddes love, drynk moore attemprely!
     2053
Wyn maketh man to lesen wrecchedly
     2054
His mynde and eek his lymes everichon. --
     2055
-- The revers shaltou se, -- quod he, -- anon,
     2056
And preve it by thyn owene experience,
     2057
That wyn ne dooth to folk no swich offence.
     2058
Ther is no wyn bireveth me my myght
     2059
Of hand ne foot, ne of myne eyen sight. --
     2060
And for despit he drank ful muchel moore,
     2061
An hondred part, than he hadde don bifoore;
     2062
And right anon this irous, cursed wrecche
     2063
Leet this knyghtes sone bifore hym fecche,
     2064
Comandynge hym he sholde bifore hym stonde.
     2065
And sodeynly he took his bowe in honde,
     2066
And up the streng he pulled to his ere,
     2067
And with an arwe he slow the child right there.
     2068
-- Now wheither have I a siker hand or noon? --
     2069
Quod he; -- is al my myght and mynde agon?
     2070
Hath wyn bireved me myn eyen sight? --
     2071
What sholde I telle th' answere of the knyght?
     2072
His sone was slayn, ther is namoore to seye.
     2073
Beth war, therfore, with lordes how ye pleye.
     2074
Syngeth placebo, and -- I shal, if I kan, --
     2075
But if it be unto a povre man.
     2076
To a povre man men sholde his vices telle,
     2077
But nat to a lord, thogh he sholde go to helle.
     2078
Lo irous cirus, thilke percien,
     2079
How he destroyed the ryver of gysen,
     2080
For that an hors of his was dreynt therinne,
     2081
Whan that he wente babiloigne to wynne.
     2082
He made that the ryver was so smal
     2083
That wommen myghte wade it over al.
     2084
Lo, what seyde he that so wel teche kan? Page  98
     2085
-- Ne be no felawe to an irous man,
     2086
Ne with no wood man walke by the weye,
     2087
Lest thee repente; -- I wol no ferther seye.
     2088
Now, thomas, leeve brother, lef thyn ire;
     2089
Thou shalt me fynde as just as is a squyre.
     2090
Hoold nat the develes knyf ay at thyn herte --
     2091
Thyn angre dooth thee al to soore smerte --
     2092
But shewe to me al thy confessioun.
     2093
nay, quod the sike man, by seint symoun!
     2094
I have be shryven this day at my curat.
     2095
I have hym toold hoolly al myn estat;
     2096
Nedeth namoore to speken of it, seith he,
     2097
But if me list, of myn humylitee.
     2098
Yif me thanne of thy gold, to make oure cloystre,
     2099
Quod he, for many a muscle and many an oystre,
     2100
Whan othere men han ben ful wel at eyse,
     2101
Hath been oure foode, our cloystre for to reyse.
     2102
And yet, God woot, unnethe the fundement
     2103
Parfourned is, ne of our pavement
     2104
Nys nat a tyle yet withinne oure wones.
     2105
By god! we owen fourty pound for stones.
     2106
Now help, thomas, for hym that harwed helle!
     2107
For elles moste we oure bookes selle.
     2108
And if yow lakke oure predicacioun,
     2109
Thanne goth the world al to destruccioun.
     2110
For whoso wolde us fro this world bireve,
     2111
So God me save, thomas, by youre leve,
     2112
He wolde bireve out of this world the sonne.
     2113
For who kan teche and werchen as we konne?
     2114
And that is nat of litel tyme, quod he,
     2115
But syn elye was, or elise,
     2116
Han freres been, that funde I of record,
     2117
In charitee, ythanked be oure lord!
     2118
Now thomas, help, for seinte charitee!
     2119
And doun anon he sette hym on his knee.
     2120
This sike man wax wel ny wood for ire;
     2121
He wolde that the frere had been on-fire,
     2122
With his false dissymulacioun.
     2123
Swich thyng as is in my possessioun,
     2124
Quod he, that may I yeve yow, and noon oother.
     2125
Ye sey me thus, how that I am youre brother?
     2126
Ye, certes, quod the frere, trusteth weel.
     2127
I took oure dame oure lettre with oure seel.
     2128
Now wel, quod he, and somwhat shal I yive
     2129
Unto youre hooly covent whil I lyve;
     2130
And in thyn hand thou shalt it have anon,
     2131
On this condicion, and oother noon,
     2132
That thou departe it so, my deere brother,
     2133
That every frere have also muche as oother.
     2134
This shaltou swere on thy professioun,
     2135
Withouten fraude or cavillacioun.
     2136
I swere it, quod this frere, by my feith!
     2137
And therwithal his hand in his he leith,
     2138
Lo, heer my feith; in me shal be no lak.
     2139
Now thanne, put in thyn hand doun by my bak,
     2140
Seyde this man, and grope wel bihynde.
     2141
Bynethe my buttok there shaltow fynde
     2142
A thyng that I have hyd in pryvetee.
     2143
A! thoghte this frere, that shal go with me!
     2144
And doun his hand he launcheth to the clifte,
     2145
In hope for to fynde there a yifte.
     2146
And whan this sike man felte this frere
     2147
Aboute his tuwel grope there and heere,
     2148
Amydde his hand he leet the frere a fart,
     2149
Ther nys no capul, drawynge in a cart,
     2150
That myghte have lete a fart of swich a soun.
     2151
The frere up stirte as dooth a wood leoun, --
     2152
A! false cherl, quod he, for goddes bones!
     2153
This hastow for despit doon for the nones.
     2154
Thou shalt abye this fart, if that I may!
     2155
His meynee, whiche that herden this affray,
     2156
Cam lepynge in and chaced out the frere;
     2157
And forth he gooth, with a ful angry cheere,
     2158
And fette his felawe, ther as lay his stoor.
     2159
He looked as it were a wilde boor;
     2160
He grynte with his teeth, so was he wrooth.
     2161
A sturdy paas doun to the court he gooth,
     2162
Wher as ther woned a man of greet honour,
     2163
To whom that he was alwey confessour.
     2164
This worthy man was lord of that village.
     2165
This frere cam as he were in a rage,
     2166
Where as this lord sat etyng at his bord;
     2167
Unnethes myghte the frere speke a word,
     2168
Til atte laste he seyde, God yow see!
     2169
This lord gan looke, and seide, benedicitee!
     2170
What, frere john, what maner world is this?
     2171
I se wel that som thyng ther is amys;
     2172
Ye looken as the wode were ful of thevys.
     2173
Sit doun anon, and tel me what youre grief is,
     2174
And it shal been amended, if I may.
     2175
I have, quod he, had a despit this day,
     2176
God yelde yow, adoun in youre village,
     2177
That in this world is noon so povre a page
     2178
That he nolde have abhomynacioun
     2179
Of that I have receyved in youre toun.
     2180
And yet ne greveth me nothyng so soore,
     2181
As that this olde cherl with lokkes hoore
     2182
Blasphemed hath oure hooly covent eke.
     2183
Now, maister, quod this lord, I yow biseke, -- Page  99
     2184
No maister, sire, quod he, but servitour,
     2185
Thogh I have had in scole that honour.
     2186
God liketh nat that -- raby -- men us calle,
     2187
Neither in market ne in youre large halle.
     2188
No fors, quod he, but tel me al youre grief.
     2189
Sire, quod this frere, and odious meschief
     2190
This day bityd is to myn ordre and me,
     2191
And so, per consequens, to ech degree
     2192
Of hooly chirche, God amende it soone!
     2193
Sire, quod the lord, ye woot what is to doone.
     2194
Distempre yow noght, ye be my confessour;
     2195
Ye been the salt of the erthe and the savour.
     2196
For goddes love, youre pacience ye holde!
     2197
Tel me youre grief; and anon hym tolde,
     2198
As ye han herd biforn, ye woot wel what.
     2199
The lady of the hous ay stille sat
     2200
Til she had herd what the frere sayde.
     2201
Ey, goddes mooder, quod she, blisful mayde!
     2202
Is ther oght elles? telle me feithfully.
     2203
Madame, quod he, how thynke ye herby?
     2204
How that me thynketh? quod she, so God me speede,
     2205
I seye, a cherl hath doon a cherles dede.
     2206
What shold I seye? God lat hym nevere thee!
     2207
His sike heed is ful of vanytee;
     2208
I holde hym in a manere frenesye.
     2209
Madame, quod he, by god, I shal nat lye
     2210
But in on oother wyse may be wreke,
     2211
I shal disclaundre hym over al ther I speke,
     2212
This false blasphemour, that charged me
     2213
To parte that wol nat departed be,
     2214
To every man yliche, with meschaunce!
     2215
The lord sat stille as he were in a traunce,
     2216
And in his herte he rolled up and doun,
     2217
How hadde this cherl ymaginacioun
     2218
To shewe swich a probleme to the frere?
     2219
Nevere erst er now herde I of swich mateere.
     2220
I trowe the devel putte it in his mynde.
     2221
In ars-metrike shal ther no man fynde,
     2222
Biforn this day, of swich a question.
     2223
Who sholde make a demonstracion
     2224
That every man sholde have yliche his part
     2225
As of the soun or savour of a fart?
     2226
O nyce, proude cherl, I shrewe his face!
     2227
Lo, sires, quod the lord, with harde grace!
     2228
Who evere herde of swich a thyng er now?
     2229
To every man ylike, tel me how?
     2230
It is an inpossible, it may nat be.
     2231
Ey, nyce cherl, God lete him nevere thee!
     2232
The rumblynge of a fart, and every soun,
     2233
Nis but of eir reverberacioun,
     2234
And evere it wasteth litel and litel awey.
     2235
Ther is no man kan deemen, by my fey,
     2236
If that it were departed equally.
     2237
What, lo, my cherl, lo, yet how shrewedly
     2238
Unto my confessour to-day he spak!
     2239
I holde hym certeyn a demonyak!
     2240
Now ete youre mete, and lat the cherl go pleye;
     2241
Lat hym go honge hymself a devel weye!
     2242
Now stood the lordes squier at the bord,
     2243
That karf his mete, and herde word by word
     2244
Of alle thynges whiche I have yow sayd.
     2245
My lord, quod he, be ye nat yvele apayd,
     2246
I koude telle, for a gowne-clooth,
     2247
To yow, sire frere, so ye be nat wrooth,
     2248
How that this fart sholde evene deled be
     2249
Among youre covent, if it lyked me.
     2250
Tel, quod the lord, and thou shalt have anon
     2251
A gowne-clooth, by God and by seint john!
     2252
My lord, quod he, whan that the weder is fair,
     2253
Withouten wynd or perturbynge of air,
     2254
Lat brynge a cartwheel heere into this halle;
     2255
But looke that it have his spokes alle, --
     2256
Twelve spokes hath a cartwheel comunly.
     2257
And bryng me thanne twelve freres, woot ye why?
     2258
For thrittene is a covent, as I gesse.
     2259
Youre confessour heere, for his worthynesse,
     2260
Shal parfoune up the nombre of his covent,
     2261
Thanne shal they knele doun, by oon assent,
     2262
And to every spokes ende, in this manere,
     2263
Ful sadly leye his nose shal a frere.
     2264
Youre noble confessour -- there God hym save! --
     2265
Shal holde his nose upright under the nave.
     2266
Thanne shal this cherl, with bely stif and toght
     2267
As any tabour, hyder been ybroght;
     2268
And sette hym on the wheel right of this cart.
     2269
Upon the nave, and make hym lete a fart.
     2270
And ye shul seen, up peril of my lyf,
     2271
By preeve which that is demonstratif,
     2272
That equally the soun of it wol wende,
     2273
And eke the stynk, unto the spokes ende.
     2274
Save that this worthy man, youre confessour,
     2275
By cause he is a man of greet honour,
     2276
Shal have the firste fruyt, as resoun is. Page  100
     2277
The noble usage of freres yet is this,
     2278
The worthy men of hem shul first be served;
     2279
And certeinly he hath it well disserved.
     2280
He hath to-day taught us so muche good
     2281
With prechyng in the pulpit the he stood,
     2282
That I may vouche sauf, I sey for me,
     2283
He hadde the firste smel of fartes thre;
     2284
And so wolde al his covent hardily,
     2285
He bereth hym so faire and hoolily.
     2286
The lord, the lady, and ech man, save the frere,
     2287
Seyde that jankyn spak, in this matere,
     2288
As wel as euclide dide or ptholomee.
     2289
Touchynge the cherl, they seyde, subtiltee
     2290
And heigh wit made hym speken as he spak;
     2291
He nys no fool, ne no demonyak.
     2292
And jankyn hath ywonne a newe gowne. --
     2293
My tale is doon; we been almost at towne.
     2294