The Canterbury tales
Geoffrey Chaucer
F.N. Robinson

The Manciple's Tale

Whan phebus dwelled heere in this erthe adoun,
     105
As olde bookes maken mencioun,
     106
He was the mooste lusty bachlier
     107
In al this world, and eek the beste archer.
     108
He slow phitoun, the serpent, as he lay
     109
Slepynge agayn the soone upon a day;
     110
And many another noble worthy dede
     111
He with his bowe wroghte, as men may rede.
     112
Pleyen he koude on every mynstralcie,
     113
And syngen, that it was a melodie
     114
To heeren of his cleere voys the soun.
     115
Certes the kyng of thebes, amphioun,
     116
That with his syngyng walled that citee,
     117
Koude nevere syngen half so wel as hee.
     118
Therto he was the semelieste man
     119
That is or was, sith that the world bigan.
     120
What nedeth is his fetures to discryve?
     121
For in this world was noon so faire on-lyve.
     122
He was therwith fulfild of gentillesse,
     123
Of honour, and of parfit worthynesse.
     124
This phebus, that was flour of bachilrie,
     125
As wel in fredom as in chivalrie,
     126
For his desport, in signe eek of victorie
     127
Of phitoun, so as telleth us the storie,
     128
Was wont to beren in his hand a bowe.
     129
Now hadde this phebus in his hous a crowe
     130
Which in a cage he fostred many a day,
     131
And taughte it speken, as men teche a jay.
     132
Whit was this crowe as in a snow-whit swan,
     133
And countrefete the speche of every man
     134
He koude, whan he sholde telle a tale.
     135
Therwith in al this world no nyghtygale
     136
Ne koude, by an hondred thousand deel,
     137
Syngen so wonder myrily and weel.
     138
Now hadde this phebus in his hous a wyf
     139
Which that he lovede moore than his lyf,
     140
And nyght and day dide evere his diligence
     141
Hir for to plese, and doon hire reverence,
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Save oonly, if the sothe that I shal sayn.
     143
Jalous he was, and wolde have kept hire fayn.
     144
For hym were looth byjaped for to be,
     145
And so is every wight in swich degree;
     146
But al in ydel, for it availleth noght.
     147
A good wyf, that is clene of werk and thought,
     148
Sholde nat been kept in noon awayt, certayn;
     149
And trewely, the labour is in vayn
     150
To kepe a shrewe, for it wol nat bee.
     151
This holde I for a verray nycetee,
     152
To spille labour for to kepe wyves:
     153
Thus writen olde clerkes in hir lyves.
     154
But now to purpos, as I first bigan:
     155
This worthy phebus dooth al that he kan
     156
To plesen hire, wenynge for swich plesaunce,
     157
And for his manhede and his governaunce,
     158
That no man sholde han put hym from hir grace.
     159
But God it woot, ther may no man embrace
     160
As to destreyne a thyng which that nature
     161
Hath natureelly set in a creature.
     162
Taak any bryd, and put it in a cage,
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And do al thyn entente and thy corage
     164
To fostre it tendrely with mete and drynke
     165
Of alle deyntees that thou kanst bithynke,
     166
And keep it al so clenly as thou may,
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Although his cage of gold be never so gay, Page  226
     168
Yet hath this brid, by twenty thousand foold,
     169
Levere in a forest, that is rude and coold,
     170
Goon ete wormes and swich wrecchednesse.
     171
For evere this brid wol doon his bisynesse
     172
To escape out of his cage, yif he may.
     173
His libertee this brid desireth ay.
     174
Lat take a cat and fostre hym wel with milk
     175
And tendre flessh, and make his couche of silk,
     176
And lat hym seen a mous go by the wal,
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Anon he weyveth milk and flessh and al,
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And every deyntee that is in that hous,
     179
Swich appetit hath he to ete a mous.
     180
Lo heere hath lust his dominacioun,
     181
And appetit fleemeth discrecioun,
     182
A she-wolf hath also a vileyns knyde.
     183
The lewedeste wolf that she may fynde,
     184
Or leest of reputacoun, wol she take,
     185
In tyme whan hir lust to han a make.
     186
Alle thise ensamples speke I by thise men
     187
That been untrewe, and nothyng by wommen.
     188
For men han evere a likerous appetit
     189
On lower thyng to parfourne hire delit
     190
Than on hire wyves, be they never so faire,
     191
Ne never so trewe, ne so debonaire.
     192
Flessh is so newefangel, with meschaunce,
     193
That we ne konne in nothyng han plesaunce
     194
That sowneth into vertu any while.
     195
This phebus, which that thoghte upon no gile,
     196
Deceyved was, for al his jolitee.
     197
For under hym another hadde shee,
     198
A man of litel reputacioun,
     199
Nat worth to phebus in comparisoun.
     200
The moore harm is, it happeth ofte so,
     201
Of which ther cometh muchel harm and wo.
     202
And so bifel, whan phebus was absent,
     203
His wyf anon hath for hir lemman sent.
     204
Hir lemman? certes, this is a knavyssh speche!
     205
Foryeveth it me, and that I yow biseche.
     206
The wise plato seith, as ye may rede,
     207
The word moot nede accorde with the dede.
     208
If men shal telle proprely a thyng.
     209
The word moot cosyn be to the werkyng.
     210
I am a boystous man, right thus seye I,
     211
Ther nys no difference, trewely,
     212
Bitwixe a wyf that is of heigh degree,
     213
If of hir body dishonest she bee,
     214
And a povre wenche, oother than this --
     215
If it so be they werke bothe amys --
     216
But that the gentile, in estaat above,
     217
She shal be cleped his lady, as in love;
     218
And for that oother is a povre womman,
     219
She shal be cleped his wenche or his lemman,
     220
And, God it woot, myn owene deere brother.
     221
Men leyn that oon as lowe as lith that oother.
     222
Right so bitwixe a titleees tiraunt
     223
And an outlawe, or a theef erraunt,
     224
The same I seye, ther is no difference.
     225
To alisaundre was toold this sentence,
     226
That, for the tirant is of gretter myght,
     227
By force of meynee, for to sleen dounright,
     228
And brennen hous and hoom, and make al playn,
     229
Lo, therfore is he cleped a capitayn;
     230
And for the outlawe hath but smal meynee,
     231
And may nat doon so greet an harm as he,
     232
Ne brynge a contree to so greet mescheef,
     233
Men clepen hym an outlawe or a theef.
     234
But, for I am a man noght textueel,
     235
I wold noght telle of textes never a deel;
     236
I wol go to my tale, as I bigan.
     237
Whan phebus wyf had sent for hir lemman,
     238
Anon they wroghten al hir lust volage.
     239
The white crowe, that heeng ay in the cage.
     240
Biheeld hire werk, and seyde never a word.
     241
And whan that hoom was come phebus, the lord,
     242
This crowe sang cokkow! cokkow! cokkow!
     243
What bryd! quod phebus, what song dyngestow?
     244
Ne were thow wont so myrily to synge
     245
That to myn herte it was a rejoysynge
     246
To heere thy voys? allas! what song is this?
     247
By god! quod he, I synge nat amys.
     248
Phebus, quod he, for al thy worthynesse,
     249
For al thy beautee and thy gentilesse,
     250
For al thy song and al thy mynstralcye,
     251
For al thy waityng, blered is thyn ye
     252
With oon of litel reputacioun,
     253
Noght worth to thee, as in comparisoun,
     254
The montance of a gnat, so moote I thryve!
     255
For on thy bed thy wyf I saugh hym swyve.
     256
What wol ye moore? the crowe anon hym tolde,
     257
By sadde tokenes and by wordes bolde,
     258
How that his wyf had doon hire lecherye,
     259
Hym to greet sham and to greet vileynye;
     260
And tolde hym ofte he saugh it with his yen.
     261
His phebus gan aweyward for to wryen,
     262
And thoughte his sorweful herte brast atwo.
     263
His bowe he bente, and sette therinne a flo,
     264
And in his ire his wyf thanne hath he slayn.
     265
This is th' effect, ther is namoore to sayn;
     266
For sorwe of which he brak his mynstralcie,
     267
Bothe harpe, and lute, and gyterne, and sautrie;
     268
And eek he brak his arwes and his bowe,
     269
And after that thus spak he to the crowe; Page  227
     270
Traitour, quod he, with tonge of scorpioun,
     271
Thou hast me broght to my confusioun;
     272
Allas, that I was wroght! why nere I deed?
     273
O deere wyf! o gemme of lustiheed!
     274
That were to me so sad and eek so trewe,
     275
Now listow deed, with face pale of hewe,
     276
Ful gilteless, that dorste I swere, ywys!
     277
O rakel hand, to doon so foule amys!
     278
O trouble wit, o ire recchelees,
     279
That unavysed smyteth gilteles!
     280
O wantrust, ful of fals suspecion,
     281
Where was thy wit and thy discrecion?
     282
O every man, be war of rakelinesse!
     283
Ne trowe no thyng withouten strong witnesse.
     284
Smyt nat to soone, er that ye witen why,
     285
And beeth avysed wel and sobrely
     286
Er ye doon any execucion
     287
Upon youre ire for suspecion.
     288
Allas! a thousand folk hath rakel ire
     289
Fully fordoon, and broght hem in the mire.
     290
Allas! for sorwe I wol myselven slee!
     291
And to crowe, o false theef! seyde he,
     292
I wol thee quite anon thy false tale.
     293
Thou songe whilom lyk a nyghtyngale;
     294
Now shaltow, false theef, thy song forgon,
     295
And eek thy white fetheres everichon,
     296
Ne nevere in al thy life ne shaltou speke.
     297
Thus shal men on a traytour been awreke;
     298
Thou and thyn ofspryng evere shul be blake,
     299
Ne nevere sweete noyse shul ye make,
     300
But evere crie agayn tempest and rayn,
     301
In tokenynge that thurgh thee my wyf is slayn.
     302
And to the crowe he stirte, and that anon,
     303
And pulled his white fetheres everychon,
     304
And made hym blak, and refte hym al his song,
     305
And eek his speche, and out at dore hym slong
     306
Unto the devel, which I hym bitake;
     307
And for this caas been alle crowes blake.
     308
Lordynges, by this ensamble I yow preye,
     309
Beth war, and taketh kep what that ye seye:
     310
Ne telleth nevere no man in youre lyf
     311
How that another man hath dight his wyf;
     312
He wol yow haten mortally, certeyn.
     313
Daun salomon, as wise clerkes seyn,
     314
Techeth a man to kepen his tonge weel.
     315
, but as I seyde, I am noght textueel.
     316
But nathelees, thus taughte me my dame:
     317
My sone, thenk on the crowe, a goodes name!
     318
My sone, keep wel thy tonge, and keep thy freend.
     319
A wikked tonge is worse than a feend;
     320
My sone, from a feend men may hem blesse.
     321
My sone, God of his endelees goodnesse
     322
Walled a tonge with teeth and lippes eke,
     323
For man sholde hym avyse what he speeke.
     324
My sone, ful ofte, for to muche speche
     325
Hath many a man been spilt, as clerkes teche;
     326
But for litel speche avysely
     327
Is no man shent, to speke generally.
     328
My sone, thy tonge sholdestow restreyne
     329
At alle tymes, but whan thou doost thy peyne
     330
To speke of god, in honour and preyere.
     331
The firste vertu, sone, if thou wolt leere,
     332
Is to restreyne and kepe wel thy tonge;
     333
Thus lerne children whan that they been yonge.
     334
My sone, of muchel spekyng yvele avysed,
     335
Ther lasse spekyng hadde ynough suffised,
     336
Comth muchel harm; thus was me toold and taught.
     337
In muchel speche synne wanteth naught.
     338
Wostow wherof a rakel tonge serveth?
     339
Right as a swerd forkutteth and forkerveth
     340
An arm a-two, my deere done, right so
     341
A tonge kutteth freendshipe al a-two.
     342
A jangler is to God abhomynable.
     343
Reed salomon, so wys and honurable;
     344
Reed david in his psalmes, reed senekke.
     345
My sone, spek nat, but with thyn heed thou bekke.
     346
Dissimule as thou were deef, if that thou heere
     347
A janglere speke of perilous mateere.
     348
The flemyng seith, and lerne it if thee leste,
     349
That litel janglyng causeth muchel reste.
     350
My sone, if thou no wikked word hast seyd,
     351
Thee thar nat drede for to be biwreyd;
     352
But he that hath mysseyd, I dar wel sayn,
     353
He may by no wey clepe his word agayn.
     354
Thyng that is seyd is seyd, and forth it gooth,
     355
Though hym repente, or be hym nevere so looth.
     356
He is his thral to whom that he hath sayd
     357
A tale of which he is now yvele apayd.
     358
My sone, be war, and be noon auctour newe
     359
Of tidynges, wheither they been false or trewe.
     360
Whereso thou come, amonges hye or lowe,
     361
Kepe wel thy tonge, and thenk upon the crowe.
     362