The Canterbury tales
Geoffrey Chaucer
F.N. Robinson

The Physician's Tale

ther was, as telleth titus livius,
     1
A knyght that called was virginius,
     2
Fulfild of honour and of worthynesse,
     3
And strong of freendes, and of greet richesse.
     4
this knyght a doghter hadde by his wyf;
     5
No children hadde he mo in al his lyf.
     6
Fair was this mayde in excellent beautee
     7
Aboven every wight that man may see;
     8
For nature hath with sovereyn diligence
     9
Yformed hire in so greet excellence,
     10
As though she wolde seyn, lo! I, nature,
     11
Thus kan I forme and peynte a creature,
     12
Whan that me list; who kan me countrefete?
     13
Pigmalion noght, though he ay forge and bete,
     14
Or grave, or peynte; for I dar wel seyn,
     15
Apelles, zanzis, sholde werche in veyn
     16
Outher to grave, or peynte, or forge, or bete,
     17
If they presumed me to countrefete.
     18
For he that is the formere principal
     19
Hath maked me his vicaire general,
     20
To forme and peynten erthely creaturis
     21
Right as me list, and ech thyng in my cure is
     22
Under the moone, that may wane and waxe;
     23
And for my werk right no thyng wol I axe;
     24
My lord and I been ful of oon accord.
     25
I made hire to the worshipe of my lord;
     26
So do I alle myne othere creatures,
     27
What colour that they han, or what figures.
     28
Thus semeth me that nature wolde seye.
     29
this mayde of age twelve yeer was and tweye,
     30
In which that nature hadde swich delit.
     31
For right as she kan peynte a lilie whit,
     32
And reed a rose, right with swich peynture
     33
She peynted hath this noble creature,
     34
Er she were born, upon hir lymes fre,
     35
Where as by right swiche colours sholde be;
     36
And phebus dyed hath hire tresses grete
     37
Lyk to the stremes of his burned heete.
     38
And if that excellent was hire beautee,
     39
A thousand foold moore vertuous was she.
     40
In hire ne lakked no condicioun
     41
That is to preyse, as by discrecioun.
     42
As wel in goost as body chast was she;
     43
For which she floured in virginitee
     44
With alle humylitee and abstinence,
     45
With alle attemperaunce and pacience,
     46
With mesure eek of beryng and array.
     47
Discreet she was in answeryng alway;
     48
Though she were wis as pallas, dar I seyn,
     49
Hir facound eek ful wommanly and pleyn,
     50
No countrefeted termes hadde she
     51
To seme wys; but after hir degree
     52
She spak, and alle hire wordes, moore and lesse,
     53
Sownynge in vertu and in gentillesse.
     54
Shamefast she was in maydens shamefastnesse,
     55
Constant in herte, and evere in bisynesse
     56
To dryve hire out of ydel slogardye.
     57
Bacus hadde of hir mouth right no maistrie;
     58
For wyn and youthe dooth venus encresse,
     59
As men in fyr wol casten oille or greesse.
     60
And of hire owene vertu, unconstreyned,
     61
She hath ful ofte tyme syk hire feyned,
     62
For that she wolde fleen the compaignye
     63
Where likly was to treten of folye,
     64
As is at feestes, revels, and at daunces,
     65
That been occasions of daliaunces.
     66
Swich thynges maken children for to be
     67
To soone rype and boold, as men may se,
     68
Which is ful perilous, and hath been yoore.
     69
For al to soone may she lerne loore
     70
Of booldnesse, whan she woxen is a wyf.
     71
and ye maistresses, in youre olde lyf,
     72
That lordes doghtres han in governaunce,
     73
Ne taketh of my wordes no displesaunce.
     74
Thenketh that ye been set in governynges
     75
Of lordes doghtres, oonly for two thynges --
     76
Outher for ye han kept youre honestee,
     77
Of elles ye han falle in freletee,
     78
And knowen wel ynough the olde daunce,
     79
And han forsaken fully swich meschaunce
     80
For everemo; therfore, for cristes sake,
     81
To teche hem vertu looke that ye ne slake.
     82
a theef of venysoun, that hath forlaft
     83
His likerousnesse and al his olde craft,
     84
Kan kepe a forest best of any man.
     85
Now kepeth wel, for if ye wole, ye kan.
     86
Looke wel that ye unto no vice assente,
     87
Lest ye be dampned for youre wikke entente; Page  146
     88
For whoso dooth, a traitour is, certeyn.
     89
And taketh kep of that that I shal seyn --
     90
Of alle tresons sovereyn pestilence
     91
Is whan a wight bitrayseth innocence.
     92
ye fadres and ye moodres eek also,
     93
Though ye han children, be it oon or mo,
     94
Youre is the charge of al hir surveiaunce,
     95
Whil that they been under youre governaunce.
     96
Beth war, that by ensample of youre lyvynge,
     97
Or by youre necligence in chastisynge,
     98
That they ne perisse; for I dar wel seye,
     99
If that they doon, ye shul it deere abeye.
     100
Under a shepherde softe and necligent
     101
The wolf hath many a sheep and lamb torent.
     102
Suffiseth oon ensample now as heere,
     103
For I moot turne agayn to my matere.
     104
this mayde, of which I wol this tale expresse,
     105
So kepte hirself hir neded no maistresse;
     106
For in hir lyvyng maydens myghten rede,
     107
As in a book, every good word or dede
     108
That longeth to a mayden vertuous,
     109
She was so prudent and so bountevous.
     110
For which the fame out sprong on every syde,
     111
Bothe of hir beautee and hir bountee wyde,
     112
That thurgh that land they preised hire echone
     113
That loved vertu, save envye allone,
     114
That sory is of oother mennes wele,
     115
And glad is of his sorwe and his unheele.
     116
(the doctour maketh this descripcioun).
     117
this mayde upon a day wente in the toun
     118
Toward a temple, with hire mooder deere,
     119
As is of yonge maydens the manere.
     120
Now was ther thanne a justice in that toun,
     121
That governour was of that regioun.
     122
And so bifel this juge his eyen caste
     123
Upon this mayde, avysynge hym ful faste,
     124
As she cam forby ther as this juge stood.
     125
Anon his herte chaunged and his mood,
     126
So was he caught with beautee of this mayde,
     127
And to hymself ful pryvely he sayde,
     128
This mayde shal be myn, for any man!
     129
anon the feend into his herte ran,
     130
And taughte hym sodeynly that he by slyghte
     131
The mayden to his purpos wynne myghte.
     132
For certes, by no force ne by no meede,
     133
Hym thoughte, he was nat able for to speede;
     134
For she was strong of freendes, and eek she
     135
Confermed was in swich soverayn bountee,
     136
That wel he wiste he myghte hire nevere wynne
     137
As for to make hire with hir body synne.
     138
For which, by greet deliberacioun,
     139
He sente after a cherl, was in the toun,
     140
Which that he knew for subtil and for boold.
     141
This juge unto this cherl his tale hath toold
     142
In secree wise, and made hym to ensure
     143
He sholde telle it to no creature,
     144
And if he dide, he sholde lese his heed.
     145
Whan that assented was this cursed reed,
     146
Glad was this juge, and maked him greet cheere,
     147
And yaf hym yiftes preciouse and deere.
     148
whan shapen was al hire conspiracie
     149
Fro point to point, how that his lecherie
     150
Parfouned sholde been ful subtilly,
     151
As ye shul heere it after openly,
     152
Hoom gooth the cherl, that highte claudius.
     153
This false juge, that highte apius,
     154
(so was his name, for this is no fable,
     155
But knowen for historial thyng notable;
     156
The sentence of it sooth is, out of doute),
     157
This false juge gooth now faste aboute
     158
To hasten his delit al that he may.
     159
And so bifel soone after, on a day,
     160
This false juge, as telleth us the storie,
     161
As he was wont, sat in his consistorie,
     162
And yaf his doomes upon sondry cas.
     163
This false cherl cam forth a ful greet pas,
     164
And seyde, lord, if that it be youre wille,
     165
As dooth me right upon this pitous bille,
     166
In which I pleyne upon virginius;
     167
And if that he wol seyn it is nat thus,
     168
I wol it preeve, and fynde good witnesse,
     169
That sooth is that my bille wol expresse.
     170
the juge answerde, of this, in his absence,
     171
I may nat yeve diffynytyf sentence.
     172
Lat do hym calle, and I wol gladly heere;
     173
Thou shalt have al right, and no wrong heere.
     174
virginius cam to wite the juges wille,
     175
And right anon was rad this cursed bille;
     176
The sentence of it was as ye shul heere --
     177
to yow, my lord, sire apius so deere,
     178
Sheweth youre povre servant claudius
     179
How that a knyght, called virginius,
     180
Agayns the lawe, agayn al equitee,
     181
Holdeth, expres agayn the wyl of me,
     182
My servant, which that is my thral by right,
     183
Which fro myn hous was stole upon a nyght,
     184
Whil that she was ful yong; this wol I preeve
     185
By witnesse, lord, so that it nat yow greeve.
     186
She nys his doghter nat, what so he seye.
     187
Wherfore to yow, my lord the juge, I preye,
     188
Yeld me my thral, if that it be youre wille.
     189
Lo, this was al the sentence of his bille.
     190
virginius gan upon the cherl biholde,
     191
But hastily, er he his tale tolde,
     192
And wolde have preeved it as sholde a knyght,
     193
And eek by witnessyng of many a wight, Page  147
     194
That al was fals that seyde his adversarie,
     195
This cursed juge wolde no thyng tarie,
     196
Ne heere a word moore of virginius,
     197
But yaf his juggement, and seyde thus --
     198
I deeme anon this cherl his servant have;
     199
Thou shalt no lenger in thyn hous hir save.
     200
Go bryng hire forth, and put hire in oure warde.
     201
The cherl shal have his thral, this I awarde.
     202
and whan this worthy knyght virginius,
     203
Thurgh sentence of this justice apius,
     204
Moste by force his deere doghter yiven
     205
Unto the juge, in lecherie to lyven,
     206
He gooth hym hoom, and sette him in his halle,
     207
And leet anon his deere doghter calle,
     208
And with a face deed as asshen colde
     209
Upon hir humble face he gan biholde,
     210
With fadres pitee stikynge thurgh his herte,
     211
Al wolde he from his purpos nat converte.
     212
doghter, quod he, virginia, by thy name,
     213
Ther been two weyes, outher deeth or shame,
     214
That thou most suffre; allas, that I was bore!
     215
For nevere thou deservedest wherfore
     216
To dyen with a swerd or with a knyf.
     217
O deere doghter, endere of my lyf,
     218
Which I have fostred up with swich plesaunce
     219
That thou were nevere out of my remembraunce!
     220
O doghter, which that art my laste wo,
     221
And in my lyf my laste joye also,
     222
O gemme of chastitee, in pacience
     223
Take thou thy deeth, for this is my sentence.
     224
For love, and nat for hate, thou most be deed;
     225
My pitous hand moot smyten of thyn heed.
     226
Allas, that evere apius the say!
     227
Thus hath he falsly jugged the to-day --
     228
And tolde hire al the cas, as ye bifore
     229
Han herd; nat nedeth for to telle it moore.
     230
o mercy, deere fader! quod this mayde,
     231
And with that word she bothe hir armes layde
     232
Aboute his nekke, as she was wont to do.
     233
The teeris bruste out of hir eyen two,
     234
And seyde, goode fader, shal I dye?
     235
Is ther no grace, is ther no remedye?
     236
no, certes, deere doghter myn, quod he.
     237
thanne yif me leyser, fader myn, quod she,
     238
My deeth for to compleyne a litel space;
     239
For, pardee, jepte yaf his doghter grace
     240
For to compleyne, er he hir slow, allas!
     241
And, God it woot, no thyng was hir trespas,
     242
But for she ran hir fader first to see,
     243
To welcome hym with greet solempnitee.
     244
And with that word she fil aswowne anon,
     245
And after, whan hir swownyng is agon,
     246
She riseth up, and to hir fader sayde,
     247
Blissed be god, that I shal dye a mayde!
     248
Yif me my deeth, er that I have a shame;
     249
Dooth with youre child youre wyl, a goddes name!
     250
and with that word she preyed hym ful ofte
     251
That with his swerd he sholde smyte softe;
     252
And with that word aswowne doun she fil.
     253
Hir fader, with ful sorweful herte and wil,
     254
Hir heed of smoot, and by the top it hente,
     255
And to the juge he gan it to presente,
     256
As he sat yet in doom in consistorie.
     257
And whan the juge it saugh, as seith the storie,
     258
He bad to take hym and anhange hym faste;
     259
But right anon a thousand peple in thraste,
     260
To save the knyght, for routhe and for pitee,
     261
For knowen was the false iniquitee.
     262
The peple anon had suspect in this thyng,
     263
By manere of the cherles chalangyng,
     264
That it was by the assent of apius;
     265
They wisten wel that he was lecherus.
     266
For which unto this apius they gon,
     267
And caste hym in prisoun right anon,
     268
Ther as he slow hymself; and claudius,
     269
That servant was unto this apius,
     270
Was demed for to hange upon a tree,
     271
But that virginius, of his pitee,
     272
So preyde for hym that he was exiled;
     273
And elles, certes, he had been bigyled.
     274
The remenant were anhanged, moore and lesse,
     275
That were consentant of this cursednesse,
     276
heere may men seen how synne hath his merite.
     277
Beth war, for no man woot whom God wol smyte
     278
In no degree, ne in which manere wyse
     279
The worm of conscience may agryse
     280
Of wikked lyf, though it so pryvee be
     281
That no man woot therof but God and he.
     282
For be he lewed man, or ellis lered,
     283
He noot how soone that he shal been afered.
     284
Therfore I rede yow this conseil take --
     285
Forsaketh synne, er synne yow forsake.
     286