The Canterbury tales
Geoffrey Chaucer
F.N. Robinson

Group 3

The Wife of Bath's Prologue

Experience, though noon auctoritee
Were in this world, is right ynogh for me
To speke of wo that is in mariage;
For, lordynges, sith I twelve yeer was of age,
Thonked be God that is eterne on lyve,
Housbondes at chirche dore I have had fyve, --
If I so ofte myghte have ywedded bee, --
And alle were worthy men in hir degree.
But me was toold, certeyn, nat longe agoon is,
That sith that crist ne wente nevere but onis
To weddyng, in the cane of galilee,
That by the same ensample taughte he me
That I ne sholde wedded be but ones.
Herkne eek, lo, which a sharp word for the nones,
Biside a welle, jhesus, God and man,
Spak in repreeve of the samaritan:
Thou hast yhad fyve housbondes, -- quod he,
-- And that ilke man that now hath thee
Is noght thyn housbonde, -- thus seyde he certeyn.
What that he mente therby, I kan nat seyn;
But that I axe, why that the fifthe man
Was noon housbonde to the samaritan?
How manye myghte she have in mariage?
Yet herde I nevere tellen in myn age
Upon this nombre diffinicioun.
Men may devyne and glosen, up and doun,
But wel I woot, expres, withoute lye,
God bad us for to wexe and multiplye;
That gentil text kan I wel understonde.
Eek wel I woot, he seyde myn housbonde
Sholde lete fader and mooder, and take to me.
But of no nombre mencion made he,
Of bigamye, or of octogamye;
Why sholde men thanne speke of it vileynye?
Lo, heere the wise kyng, daun salomon;
I trowe he hadde wyves mo than oon.
As wolde God it were leveful unto me
To be refresshed half so ofte as he!
Which yifte of God hadde he for alle his wyvys!
No man hath swich that in this world alyve is.
God woot, this noble kyng, as to my wit,
The firste nyght had many a myrie fit
With ech of hem, so wel was hym on lyve.
Yblessed be God that I have wedded fyve!
Welcome the sixte, whan that evere he shal.
For sothe, I wol nat kepe me chaast in al.
Whan myn housbonde is fro the world ygon,
Som cristen man shal wedde me anon,
For thanne, th' apostle seith that I am free
To wedde, a goddes half, where it liketh me.
He seith that to be wedded is no synne;
Bet is to be wedded than to brynne
What rekketh me, thogh folk seye vileynye
Of shrewed lameth and his bigamye?
I woot wel abraham was an hooly man,
And jacob eek, as ferforth as I kan;
And ech of hem hadde wyves mo than two,
And many another holy man also.
Wher can ye seye, in any manere age,
That hye God defended mariage
By expres word? I pray yow, telleth me.
Or where comanded he virginitee?
I woot as wel as ye, it is no drede,
Th' apostel, whan he speketh of maydenhede,
He seyde that precept therof hadde he noon.
Men may conseille a womman to been oon,
But conseillyng is no comandement.
He putte it in oure owene juggement;
For hadde God comanded maydenhede,
Thanne hadde he dampned weddyng with the dede.
And certes, if ther were no seed ysowe,
Virginitee, thanne wherof sholde it growe?
Poul dorste nat comanden, atte leeste,
A thyng of which his maister yaf noon heeste.
The dart is set up for birginitee:
Cacche whoso may, who renneth best lat see.
But this word is nat taken of every wight,
But ther as God lust gyve it of his myght.
I woot wel that th' apostel was a mayde; Page  77
But nathelees, thogh that he wroot and sayde
He wolde that every wight were swich as he,
Al nys but conseil to virginitee.
And for to been a wyf he yaf me leve
Of indulgence; so nys it no repreve
To wedde me, if that my make dye,
Withouten excepcion of bigamye.
Al were it good no womman for to touche, --
He mente as in his bed or in his couche;
For peril is bothe fyr and tow t' assemble:
Ye knowe what this ensample may resemble.
This is al and som, he heeld virginitee
Moore parfit than weddyng in freletee.
Freletee clepe I, but if that he and she
Wolde leden al hir lyf in chastitee.
I graunte it wel, I have noon envie,
Thogh maydenhede preferre bigamye.
It liketh hem to be clene, body and goost;
Of myn estaat I nyl nat make no boost.
For wel ye knowe, a lord in his houshold,
He nath nat every vessel al of gold;
Somme been of tree, and doon hir lord servyse.
God clepeth folk to hym in sondry wyse,
And everich hath of God a propre yifte,
Som this, som that, as hym liketh shifte.
Virginitee is greet perfeccion,
And continence eek with devocion,
But crist, that of perfeccion is welle,
Bad nat every wight he sholde go selle
Al that he hadde, and gyve it to the poore
And in swich wise folwe hym and his foore.
He spak to hem that wolde lyve parfitly;
And lordynges, by youre leve, that am nat I.
I wol bistowe the flour of al myn age
In the actes and in fruyt of mariage.
Telle me also, to what conclusion
Were membres maad of generacion,
And of so parfit wys a wight ywroght?
Trusteth right wel, they were nat maad for noght.
Glose whoso wole, and seye bothe up and doun,
That they were maked for purgacioun
Of uryne, and oure bothe thynges smale
Were eek to knowe a femele from a male,
And for noon oother cause, -- say ye no?
The experience woot wel it is noght so.
So that the clerkes be nat with me wrothe,
I sey this, that they maked ben for bothe,
This is to seye, for office, and for ese
Of engendrure, ther we nat God displese.
Why sholde men elles in hir bookes sette
That man shal yelde to his wyf hire dette?
Now wherwith sholde he make his paiement,
If he ne used his sely instrument?
Thanne were they maad upon a creature
To purge uryne, and eek for engendrure.
But I seye noght that every wight is holde,
That hath swich harneys as I to yow tolde,
To goon and usen hem in engendrure.
Thanne sholde men take of chastitee no cure.
Crist was a mayde, and shapen as a man,
And many a seint, sith that the world bigan;
Yet lyved they evere in parfit chastitee.
I nyl envye no virginitee.
Lat hem be breed of pured whete-seed,
And lat us wyves hoten barly-breed;
And yet with barly-breed, mark telle kan,
Oure lord jhesu refresshed many a man.
In swich estaat as God hath cleped us
I wol persevere; I nam nat precius.
In wyfhod I wol use myn instrument
As frely as my makere hath it sent.
If I be daungerous, God yeve me sorwe!
Myn housbonde shal it have bothe eve and morwe,
Whan that hym list come forth and paye his dette.
An housbonde I wol have, I wol nat lette,
Which shal be bothe my dettour and my thral,
And have his tribulacion withal
Upon his flessh, whil that I am his wyf.
I have the power durynge al my lyf
Upon his propre body, and noght he.
Right thus the apostel tolde it unto me;
And bad oure housbondes for to love us weel.
Al this sentence me liketh every deel --
Up stirte the pardoner, and that anon:
Now, dame, quod he, by God and by seint john!
Ye been a noble prechour in this cas.
I was aboute to wedde a wyf; allas!
What sholde I bye it on my flessh so deere?
Yet hadde I levere wedde no wyf to-yeere!
Abyde! quod she, my tale is nat bigonne.
Nay, thou shalt drynken of another tonne,
Er that I go, shal savoure wors than ale.
And whan that I have toold thee forth my tale
Of tribulacion in mariage,
Of which I am expert in al myn age,
This is to seyn, myself have been the whippe, --
Than maystow chese wheither thou wolt sippe
Of thilke tonne that I shal abroche.
Be war of it, er thou to ny approche;
For I shal telle ensamples mo than ten.
--Whoso that nyl be war by othere men,
By hym shul othere men corrected be. --
The same wordes writeth ptholomee;
Rede in his almageste, and take it there. Page  78
Dame, I wolde praye yow, if youre wyl it were,
Seyde this pardoner, as ye bigan,
Telle forth youre tale, spareth for no man,
And teche us yonge men of youre praktike.
Gladly, quod she, sith it may yow like;
But that I praye to al this compaignye,
If that I speke after my fantasye,
As taketh not agrief of that I seye;
For myn entente is nat but for to pleye.
Now, sire, now wol I telle forth my tale. --
As evere moote I drynken wyn or ale,
I shal seye sooth, tho housbondes that I hadde,
As thre of hem were goode, and two were badde.
The thre were goode men, and riche, and olde;
Unnethe myghte they the statut holde
In which that they were bounden unto me.
Ye woot wel what I meene of this, pardee!
As help me god, I laughe whan I thynke
How pitously a-nyght I made hem swynke!
And, by my fey, I tolde of it no stoor.
They had me yeven hir lond and hir tresoor;
Me neded nat do lenger diligence
To wynne hir love, or doon hem reverence.
They loved me so wel, by God above,
That I ne tolde no deyntee of hir love!
A wys womman wol bisye hire evere in oon
To gete hire love, ye, ther as she hath noon.
But sith I hadde hem hoolly in myn hond,
And sith they hadde me yeven al hir lond,
What sholde I taken keep hem for to plese,
But it were for my profit and myn ese?
I sette hem so a-werke, by my fey,
That many a nyght they songen -- weilawey! --
The bacon was nat fet for hem, I trowe,
That som men han in essex at dunmowe.
I governed hem so wel, after my lawe,
That ech of hem ful blisful was and fawe
To brynge me gaye thynges fro the fayre.
They were ful glad whan I spak to hem faire;
For, God it woot, I chidde hem spitously.
Now herkneth hou I baar me proprely,
Ye wise wyves, that kan understonde.
Thus shulde ye speke and bere hem wrong on honde;
For half so boldely kan ther no man
Swere and lyen, as a womman kan.
I sey nat this by wyves that been wyse,
But if it be whan they hem mysavyse.
A wys wyf shal, it that she kan hir good,
Bere hym on honde that the cow is wood,
And take witnesse of hir owene mayde
Of hir assemt; but herkneth how I sayde:
Sire olde kaynard, is this thyn array?
Why is my neighbores wyf so gay?
She is honoured over al ther she gooth;
I sitte at hoom I have no thrifty clooth.
What dostow at my neighebores hous?
Is she so fair? artow so amorous?
What rowne ye with oure mayde? benedicite!
Sire olde lecchour, lat thy japes be!
And if I have a gossib or a freend,
Withouten gilt, thou chidest as a feend,
If that I walke or pleye unto his hous!
Thou comest hoom as dronken as a mous,
And prechest on thy bench, with yvel preef!
Thou seist to me it is a greet meschief
To wedde a povre womman, for costage;
And if that she be riche, of heigh parage,
Thanne seistow that it is a tormentrie
To soffre hire pride and hire malencolie.
And if that she be fair, thou verray knave,
Thou seyst that every holour wol hire have;
She may no while in chastitee abyde,
That is assailled upon ech a syde.
Thou seyst som folk desiren us for richesse,
Somme for oure shap, and somme for oure fairnesse,
And som for she kan outher synge or daunce,
And som for gentillesse and daliaunce;
Som for hir handes and hir armes smale:
Thus goth al to the devel, by thy tale.
Thou seyst men may nat kepe a castel wal,
It may so longe assailled been over al.
And if that she be foul, thou seist that she
Coveiteth every man that she may se,
For as a spaynel she wol on hym lepe,
Til that she fynde som man hire to chepe.
Ne noon so grey goos gooth ther in the lake
As, seistow, wol been withoute make.
And seyst it is an hard thyng for to welde
A thyng that no man wole, his thankes, helde.
Thus seistow, lorel, whan thow goost to bedde;
And that no wys man nedeth for to wedde,
Ne no man that entendeth unto hevene.
With wilde thonder-dynt and firy levene
Moote thy welked nekke be tobroke!
Thow seyst that droppyng houses, and eek smoke,
And chidyng wyves maken men to flee
Out of his owene hous; a! benedicitee!
What eyleth swich an old man for to chide?
Thow seyst we wyves wol oure vices hide
Til we be fast, and thanne we wol hem shewe, --
Wel may that be a proverbe of a shrewe!
Thou seist that oxen, asses, hors, and houndes, Page  79
They been assayed at diverse stoundes;
Bacyns, lavours, er that men hem bye,
Spoones and stooles, and al swich housbondrye,
And so been pottes, clothes, and array;
But folk of wyves maken noon assay,
Til they be wedded; olde dotard shrewe!
And thanne, seistow, we wol oure vices shewe.
Thou seist also that it displeseth me
But if that thou wolt preyse my beautee,
And but thou poure alwey upon my face,
And clepe me faire dame in every place.
And but thou make a feeste on thilke day
That I was born, and make me fressh and gay;
And but thou do to my norice honour,
And to my chamberere withinne my bour,
And to my fadres folk and his allyes, --
Thus seistow, olde barel-ful of lyes!
And yet of oure apprentice janekyn,
For his crispe heer, shynynge as gold so fyn,
And for he squiereth me bothe up and doun,
Yet hastow caught a fals suspecioun.
I wol hym noght, thogh thou were deed tomorwe!
But tel me this: why hydestow, with sorwe,
They keyes of thy cheste awey fro me?
It is my good as wel as thyn, pardee!
What, wenestow make an ydiot of oure dame?
Now by that lord that called is seint jame,
Thou shalt nat bothe, thogh that thou were wood,
Be maister of my body and of my good;
That oon thou shalt forgo, maugree thyne yen.
What helpith it of me to enquere or spyen?
I trowe thou woldest loke me in thy chiste?
Thou sholdest seye, wyf, go wher thee liste;
Taak youre disport, I wol nat leve no talys.
I knowe yow for a trewe wyf, dame alys.
We love no man that taketh kep or charge
Wher that we goon; we wol ben at oure large.
Of alle men yblessed moot he be,
The wise astrologien, daun ptholome,
That seith this proverbe in his almageste --
Of alle men his wysdom is the hyeste
That rekketh nevere who hath the world in honde.
By this proverbe thou shalt understonde,
Have thou ynogh, what thar thee recche or care
How myrily that othere folkes fare?
For, certeyn, olde dotard, by youre leve,
Ye shul have queynte right ynogh at eve.
He is to greet a nygard that wolde werne
A man to light a candle at his lanterne;
He shal have never the lasse light, pardee.
Have thou ynogh, thee thar nat pleyne thee.
Thou seyst also, that if we make us gay
With clothyng, and with precious array,
That it is peril of oure chastitee;
And yet, with sorwe! thou most enforce thee,
And seye thise wordes in the apostles name:
in habit maad with chastitee and shame
Ye wommen shul apparaille yow, quod he,
And noght in tressed heer and gay perree,
As perles, ne with gold, ne clothes riche.
After thy text, ne after thy rubriche,
I wol nat wirche as muchel as a gnat.
Thou seydest this, that I was lyk a cat;
For whoso wolde senge a cattes skyn,
Thanne wolde the cat wel dwellen in his in;
And if the cattes skyn be slyk and gay,
She wol nat dwelle in house half a day,
But forth she wole, er any day be dawed,
To shewe hir skyn, and goon a-caterwawed.
This is to seye, if I be gay, sire shrewe,
I wol renne out, my borel for to shewe.
Sire olde fool, what helpeth thee to spyen?
Thogh thou preye argus with his hundred yen
To be my warde-cors, as he kan best,
In feith, he shal nat kepe me but me lest;
Yet koude I make his berd, so moot I thee!
Thou seydest eek that ther been thynges thre,
The whiche thynges troublen al this erthe,
And that no wight may endure the ferthe.
O leeve sire shrewe, jhesu shorte thy lyf!
Yet prechestow and seyst and hateful wyf
Yrekened is for oon of thise meschances.
Been ther none othere maner resemblances
That ye may likne youre parables to,
But if a sely wyf be oon of tho?
Thou liknest eek wommenes love to helle,
To bareyne lond, ther water may nat dwelle.
Thou liknest it also to wilde fyr;
The moore it brenneth, the moore it hath desir
To consume every thyng that brent wole be.
Thou seyest, right as wormes shende a tree,
Right so a wyf destroyeth hire housbonde;
This knowe they that been to wyves bonde. --
Lordynges, right thus, as ye have understonde,
Baar I stifly myne olde housbondes on honde
That thus they seyden in hir dronkenesse;
And al was fals, but that I took witnesse
On janekyn, and on my nece also.
O lord! the peyne I dide hem and the wo,
Ful giltelees, by goddes sweete pyne!
For as an hors I koude byte and whyne.
I koude pleyne, and yit was in the gilt,
Or elles often tyme hadde I been spilt. Page  80
Whose that first to mille comth, first grynt;
I pleyned first, so was oure werre ystynt.
They were ful glade to excuse hem blyve
Of thyng of which they nevere agilte hir lyve.
Of wenches wolde I beren hem on honde,
Whan that for syk unnethes myghte they stonde.
Yet tikled I his herte, for that he
Wende that I hadde of hym so greet chiertee!
I swoor that al my walkynge out by nyghte
Was for t' espye wenches that he dighte;
Under that colour hadde I many a myrthe.
For al swich wit is yeven us in oure byrthe;
Deceite, wepyng, spynnyng God hath yive
To wommen kyndely, whil that they may lyve.
And thus of o thyng I avaunte me,
Atte ende I hadde the bettre in ech degree,
By sleighte, or force, or by som maner thyng,
As by continueel murmur or grucchyng.
Namely abedde hadden they meschaunce:
Ther wolde I chide, and do hem no plesaunce;
I wolde no lenger in the bed abyde,
If that I felte his arm over my syde,
Til he had maad his raunson unto me;
Thanne wolde I suffre hym do his necetee.
And therfore every man this tale I telle,
Wynne whose may, for al is for to selle;
With empty hand men may none haukes lure.
For wynnyng wolde I al his lust endure,
And make me feyned appetit;
And yet in bacon hadde I nevere delit;
That made me that evere I wolde hem chide.
For thogh the pope hadde seten hem biside,
I wolde nat spare hem at hir owene bord;
For, by my trouthe, I quitte hem word for word.
As helpe me verray God omnipotent,
Though I right now sholde make my testament,
I ne owe hem nat a word that it nys quit.
I broghte it so aboute by my wit
That they moste yeve it up, as for the beste,
Or elles hadde we nevere been in reste.
For thogh he looked as a wood leon,
Yet sholde he faille of his conclusion.
Thanne wolde I seye, -- goode lief, taak keep
How mekely looketh wilkyn, oure sheep!
Com neer, my spouse, lat me ba thy cheke!
Ye sholde been al pacient and meke,
And han a sweete spiced conscience,
Sith ye so preche of jobes pacience.
Suffreth alwey, syn ye so wel kan preche;
And but ye do, certein we shal yow teche
That it is fair to have a wyf in pees.
Oon of us two moste bowen, doutelees;
And sith a man is moore resonable
Than womman is, ye moste been suffrable.
What eyleth yow to grucche thus and grone?
Is it for ye wolde have my queynte allone?
Wy, taak it al! lo, have it every deel!
Peter! I shrewe yow, but ye love it weel;
For if I wolde selle my bele chose,
I koude walke as fressh as is a rose;
But I wol kepe it for youre owene tooth.
Ye be to blame, by god! I sey yow sooth. --
Swiche manere wordes hadde we on honde.
Now wol I speken of my fourthe housbonde.
My fourthe housbonde was a revelour;
This is to seyn, he hadde a paramour;
And I was yong and ful of ragerye,
Stibourn and strong, and joly as a pye.
How koude I daunce to an harpe smale,
And synge, ywis, as any nyghtyngale,
Whan I had dronke a draughte of sweete wyn!
Metellius, the foule cherl, the swyn,
That with a staf birafte his wyf hir lyf,
For she drank wyn, thogh I hadde been his wyf,
He sholde nat han daunted me from drynke!
And after wyn on venus moste I thynke,
For al so siker as cold engendreth hayl,
A likerous mouth moste han a likerous tayl.
In wommen vinolent is no defence, --
This knowen lecchours by experience.
But, lord crist! whan that it remembreth me
Upon my yowthe, and on my jolitee,
It tikleth me aboute myn herte roote.
Unto this day it dooth myn herte boote
That I have had my world as in my tyme.
But age, allas! that al wole envenyme,
Hath me biraft my beautee and my pith.
Lat go, farewel! the devel go therwith!
The flour is goon, ther is namoore to telle;
The bren, as I best kan, now moste I selle;
But yet to be right myrie wol I fonde.
Now wol I tellen of my fourthe housbonde.
I seye, I hadde in herte greet despit
That he of any oother had delit.
But he was quit, by God and by seint joce!
I made hym of the same wode a croce;
Nat of my body, in no foul manere,
But certeinly, I made folk swich cheere
That in his owene grece I made hym frye
For angre, and for verray jalousye.
By god! in erthe I was his purgatorie,
For which I hope his soule be in glorie.
For, God it woot, he sat ful ofte and song,
Whan that his shoo ful bitterly hym wrong.
Ther was no wight, save God and he, that wiste, Page  81
In many wise, how soore I hym twiste.
He deyde whan I cam fro jerusalem,
And lith ygrave under the roode beem,
Al is his tombe noght so curyus
As was the sepulcre of hym daryus,
Which that appeles wroghte subtilly;
It nys but wast to burye hym preciously.
Lat hym fare wel, God yeve his soul reste!
He is now in his grave and in his cheste.
Now of my fifthe housbonde wol I telle.
God lete his soule nevere come in helle!
And yet was he to me the mooste shrewe;
That feele I on my ribbes al by rewe,
And evere shal unto myn endyng day.
But in oure bed he was so fressh and gay,
And therwithal so wel koude he me glose,
Whan that he wolde han my bele chose,
That thogh he hadde me bete on every bon,
He koude wynne agayn my love anon.
I trowe I loved hym best, for that he
Was of his love daungerous to me.
We wommen han if that I shal nat lye,
In this matere a queynte fantasye;
Wayte what thyng we may nat lightly have,
Therafter wol we crie al day and crave.
Forbede us thyng, and that desiren we;
Preesse on us faste, and thanne wol we fle.
With daunger oute we al oure chaffare;
Greet prees at market maketh deere ware,
And to greet cheep is holde at litel prys:
This knoweth every womman that is wys.
My fifthe housbonde, God his soule blesse!
Which that I took for love, and no richesse,
He som tyme was a clerk of oxenford,
And hadde left scole, and wente at hom to bord
With my gossib, dwellynge in oure toun;
God have hir soule! hir name was alisoun.
She knew myn herte, and eek my privetee,
Bet than oure parisshe preest, so moot I thee!
To hire biwreyed I my conseil al.
For hadde myn housbonde pissed on a wal,
Or doon a thyng that sholde han cost his lyf,
To hire, and to another worthy wyf,
And to my nece, which that I loved weel,
I wolde han toold his conseil every deel.
And so I dide ful often, God it woot,
That made his face often reed and hoot
For verray shame, and blamed hymself for he
Had toold to me so greet a pryvetee.
And so bifel that ones in a lente --
So often tymes I to my gossyb wente,
For evere yet I loved to be gay,
And for to walke in march, averill, and may,
Fro hous to hous, to heere sondry talys --
That jankyn clerk, and my gossyb dame alys,
And I myself, into the feeldes wente.
Myn housbonde was at londoun al that lente;
I hadde the bettre leyser for to pleye,
And for to se, and eek for to be seye
Of lusty folk. What wiste I wher my grace
Was shapen for to be, or in what place?
Therfore I made my visitaciouns
To vigilies and to processiouns,
To prechyng eek, and to thise pilgrimages,
To pleyes of myracles, and to mariages,
And wered upon my gaye scarlet gytes.
Thise wormes, ne thise motthes, ne thise mytes,
Upon my peril, frete hem never a deel;
And wostow why? for they were used weel.
Now wol I tellen forth what happed me.
I seye that in the feeldes walked we,
Til trewely we hadde swich daliance,
This clerk and I, that of my purveiance
I spak to hym and seyde hym how that he,
If I were wydwe, sholde wedde me.
For certeinly, I sey for no bobance,
Yet was I nevere withouten purveiance
Of mariage, n' of othere thynges eek.
I holde a mouses herte nat worth a leek
That hath but oon hole for to sterte to,
And if that faille, thanne is al ydo.
I bar hym on honde he hadde enchanted me, --
My dame taughte me that soutiltee.
And eek I seyde I mette of hym al nyght,
He wolde han slayn me as I lay upright,
And al my bed was ful of verray blood;
But yet I hope that he shal do me good,
For blood bitokeneth gold, as me was taught.
And al was fals; I dremed of it right naught,
But as I folwed ay my dames loore,
As wel of this as of othere thynges moore.
But now, sire, lat me se, what I shal seyn?
A ha! by god, I have my tale ageyn.
Whan that my fourthe housbonde was on beere,
I weep algate, and made sory cheere,
As wyves mooten, for it is usage,
And with my coverchief covered my visage,
But for that I was purveyed of a make,
I wepte but smal, and that I undertake.
To chirche was myn housbonde born a-morwe
With neighebores, that for hym maden sorwe;
And jankyn, oure clerk, was oon of tho.
As help me god! whan that I saugh hym go
After the beere, me thoughte he hadde a paire
Of legges and of feet so clene and faire Page  82
That al myn herte I yaf unto his hoold.
He was, I trowe, a twenty wynter oold,
And I was fourty, if I shal seye sooth;
But yet I hadde alwey a coltes tooth.
Gat-tothed I was, and that bicam me weel;
I hadde the prente of seinte venus seel.
As help me god! I was a lusty oon,
And faire, and riche, and yong, and wel bigon;
And trewely, as myne housbondes tolde me,
I hadde the beste quoniam myghte be.
For certes, I am al venerien
In feelynge, and myn herte is marcien.
Venus me yaf my lust, my likerousnesse,
And mars yaf me my sturdy hardynesse;
Myn ascendent was taur, and mars therinne.
Allas! allas! that evere love was synne!
I folwed ay myn inclinacioun
By vertu of my constellacioun;
That made me I koude noght withdrawe
My chambre of venus from a good felawe.
Yet have I martes mark upon my face,
And also in another privee place.
For God so wys be my savacioun,
I ne loved nevere by no discrecioun,
But evere folwede myn appetit,
Al were he short, or long, or blak, or whit;
I took no kep, so that he liked me,
How poore he was, ne eek of what degree.
What sholde I seye? but, at the monthes ende,
This joly clerk, jankyn, that was so hende,
Hath wedded me with greet solempnytee;
And to hym yaf I al the lond and fee
That evere was me yeven therbifoore.
But afterward repented me ful soore;
He nolde suffre nothyng of my list.
By god! he smoot me ones on the lyst,
For that I rente out of his book a leef,
That of the strook myn ere wax al deef.
Stibourn I was as is a leonesse,
And of my tonge verray jangleresse,
And walke I wolde, as I had doon biforn,
From hous to hous, although he had it sworn;
For which he often tymes wolde preche,
And me of olde romayn geestes teche;
How he symplicius gallus lefte his wyf,
And hire forsook for terme of al his lyf,
Noght but for open-heveded he hir say
Lookynge out at his dore upon a day.
Another romayn tolde he me by name,
That, for his wyf was at a someres game
Withouten his wityng, he forsook hire eke.
And thanne wolde he upon his bible seke
That ilke proverbe of ecclesiaste
Where he comandeth, and forbedeth faste,
Man shal nat suffre his wyf go roule aboute.
Thanne wolde he seye right thus, withouten doute:
-whoso that buyldeth his hous al of salwes,
And priketh his blynde hors over the falwes,
And suffreth his wyf to go seken halwes,
Is worthy to been hanged on the galwes! --
But al for noght, I sette noght an hawe
Of his proverbes n' of his olde sawe,
Ne I wolde nat of hym corrected be.
I hate hym that my vices telleth me,
And so doo mo, God woot, of us than I.
This made hym with me wood al outrely;
I nolde noght forbere hym in no cas.
Now wol I seye yow sooth, by seint thomas,
Why that I rente out of his book a leef,
For which he smoot me so that I was deef.
He hadde a book that gladly, nyght and day,
For his desport he wolde rede alway;
He cleped it valerie and theofraste,
At which book he lough alwey ful faste.
And eek ther was somtyme a clerk at rome,
A cardinal, that highte seint jerome,
That made a book agayn jovinian;
In which book eek ther was tertulan,
Crisippus, trotula, and helowys,
That was abbesse nat fer fro parys;
And eek the parables of salomon,
Ovides art, and bookes many on,
And alle thise were bounden in o volume.
And every nyght and day was his custume,
Whan he hadde leyser and vacacioun
From oother worldly occupacioun,
To reden on this book of wikked wyves.
He knew of hem mo legendes and lyves
Than been of goode wyves in the bible.
For trusteth wel, it is an impossible
That any clerk wol speke good of wyves,
But if it be of hooly seintes lyves,
Ne of noon oother womman never the mo.
Who peyntede the leon, tel me who?
By god! if wommen hadde writen stories,
As clerkes han withinne hire oratories,
They wolde han writen of men moore wikkednesse
Than al the mark of adam may redresse.
The children of mercurie and of venus
Been in hir wirkyng ful contrarius;
Mercurie loveth wysdam and science,
And venus loveth ryot and dispence.
And, for hire diverse disposicioun,
Ech falleth in otheres exaltacioun.
And thus, God woot, mercurie is desolat Page  83
In pisces, wher venus is exaltat;
And venus falleth ther mercurie is reysed.
Therfore no womman of no clerk is preysed.
The clerk, whan he is oold, and may noght do
Of venus werkes worth his olde sho,
Thanne sit he doun, and writ in his dotage
That wommen kan nat kepe hir mariage!
But now to purpos, why I tolde thee
That I was beten for a book, pardee!
Upon a nyght jankyn, that was oure sire,
Redde on his book, as he sat by the fire,
Of eva first, that for hir wikkednesse
Was al mankynde broght to wrecchednesse,
For which that jhesu crist hymself was slayn,
That boghte us with his herte blood agayn.
Lo, heere expres of womman may ye fynde,
That womman was the los of al mankynde.
The redde he me how sampson loste his heres:
Slepynge, his lemman kitte it with hir sheres;
Thurgh which treson loste he bothe his yen.
Tho redde he me, if that I shal nat lyen,
Of hercules and of his dianyre,
That caused hym to sette hymself afyre.
No thyng forgat he the care and the wo
That socrates hadde with his wyves two;
How xantippa caste pisse upon his heed.
This sely man sat stille as he were deed;
He wiped his heed, namoore dorste he seyn,
But -- er that thonder stynte, comth a reyn! --
Of phasipha, that was the queen of crete,
For shrewednesse, hym thoughte the tale swete;
Fy! spek namoore -- it is a grisly thyng --
Of hire horrible lust and hir likyng.
Of clitermystra, for hire lecherye,
That falsly made hire housbonde for to dye,
He redde it with ful good devocioun.
He tolde me eek for what occasioun
Amphiorax at thebes loste his lyf.
Myn housbonde hadde a legende of his wyf,
Eriphilem, that for an ouche of gold
Hath prively unto the grekes told
Wher that hir housbonde hidde hym in a place,
For which he hadde at thebes sory grace.
Of lyvia tolde he me, and of lucye:
They bothe made hir housbondes for to dye;
That oon for love, that oother was for hate.
Lyvia hir housbonde, on an even late,
Empoysoned hath, for that she was his fo;
Lucia, likerous, loved hire housbonde so
That, for he sholde alwey upon hire thynke,
She yaf hym swich a manere love-drynke
That he was deed er it were by the morwe;
And thus algates housbondes han sorwe.
Thanne tolde he me how oon latumyus
Compleyned unto his felawe arrius
That in his gardyn growed swich a tree
On which he seyde how that his wyves thre
Hanged hemself for herte despitus.
-- O leeve brother, -- quod this arrius,
-- Yif me a plante of thilke blissed tree,
And in my gardyn planted shal it bee. --
Of latter date, of wyves hath he red
That somme han slayn hir housbondes in hir bed,
And lete hir lecchour dighte hire al the nyght,
Whan that the corps lay in the floor upright.
And somme han dryve nayles in hir brayn,
Whil that they slepte, and thus they had hem slayn.
Somme han hem yeve poysoun in hire drynke.
He spak moore harm than herte may bithynke;
And therwithal he knew of mo proverbes
Than in this world ther growen gras or herbes.
-- Bet is, -- quod he, -- thyn habitacioun
Be with a leon or foul dragoun,
Than with a womman usynge for to chyde --
-- Bet is, -- quod he, -- hye in the roof abyde,
Than with an angry wyf doun in the hous;
They been so wikked and contrarious,
They haten that hir housbondes loven ay. --
He seyde, -- a womman cast hir shame away,
Whan she cast of hir smok; -- and forthermo,
-- A fair womman, but she be chaast also,
Is lyk a gold ryng in a sowes nose. --
Who wolde wene, or who wolde suppose,
The wo that in myn herte was, and pyne?
And whan I saugh he wolde nevere fyne
To reden on this cursed book al nyght,
Al sodeynly thre leves have I plyght
Out of his book, right as he radde, and eke
I with my fest so took hym on the cheke
That in oure fyr he fil bakward adoun.
And he up stirte as dooth a wood leoun,
And with his fest he smoot me on the heed,
That in the floor I lay as I were deed.
And whan he saugh how stille that I lay,
He was agast, and wolde han fled his way,
Til atte laste out of my swogh I breyde.
-- O! hastow slayn me, false theef? -- I seyde,
-- And for my land thus hastow mordred me?
Er I be deed, yet wol I kisse thee. --
And neer he cam and kneled faire adoun,
And seyde, -- deere suster alisoun,
As help me god! I shal thee nevere smyte.
That I have doon, it is thyself to wyte.
Foryeve it me, and that I thee biseke! -- Page  84
And yet eftsoones I hitte hym on the cheke,
And seyde, -- theef, thus muchel am I wreke;
Now wol I dye, I may no lenger speke. --
But atte laste, with muchel care and wo,
We fille acorded by us selven two.
He yaf me al the bridel in myn hond,
To han the governance of hous and lond,
And of his tonge, and of his hond also;
And made hym brenne his book anon right tho.
And whan that I hadde geten unto me,
By maistrie, al the soveraynette,
And that he seyde, -- myn owene trewe wyf,
Do as thee lust the terme of al thy lyf;
Keep thyn honour, and keep eek myn estaat --
After that day we hadden never debaat.
God helpe me so, I was to hym as kynde
As any wyf from denmark unto ynde,
And also trewe, and so was he to me.
I prey to god, that sit in magestee,
So blesse his soule for his mercy deere.
Now wol I seye my tale, if ye wol heere.
The frere lough, whan he hadde herd al this;
Now dame, quod he, so have I joye or blis,
This is a long preable of a tale!
And whan the somonour herde the frere gale,
Lo, quod the somonour, goddes armes two!
A frere wol entremette hym everemo.
Lo, goode men, a flye and eek a frere
Wol falle in every dyssh and eek mateere.
What spwkestow of preambulacioun?
What! amble, or trotte, or pees, or go sit doun!
Thou lettest oure disport in this manere.
Ye, woltow so, sire somonour? quod the frere;
Now, by my feith, I shal, er that I go,
Telle of a somonour swich a tale or two,
That alle the folk shal laughen in this place.
Now elles, frere, I bishrewe thy face,
Quod this somonour, and I bishrewe me,
But if I telle tales two or thre
Of freres, er I come to sidyngborne,
That I shal make thyn herte for to morne,
For wel I woot thy pacience is gon.
Oure hooste cride pees! and that anon!
And seyde, lat the womman telle hire tale.
Ye fare as folk that dronken ben of ale.
Do, dame, telle forth youre tale, and that is best.
Al redy, sire, quod she, right as yow lest,
If I have licence of this worthy frere.
Yis, dame, quod he, tel forth, and I wol heere.

The Wife of Bath's Tale

In th' olde dayes of the kyng arthour,
Of which that britons speken greet honour,
Al was this land fulfild of fayerye.
The elf-queene, with hir joly compaignye,
Daunced ful ofte in many a grene mede.
This was the olde opinion, as I rede;
I speke of manye hundred yeres ago.
But now kan no man se none elves mo,
For now the grete charitee and prayers
Of lymytours and othere hooly freres,
That serchen every lond and every streem,
As thikke as motes in the sonne-beem,
Blessynge halles, chambres, kichenes, boures,
Citees, burghes, castels, hye toures,
Thropes, bernes, shipnes, dayeryes --
This maketh that ther ben no fayeryes.
For ther as wont to walken was an elf,
Ther walketh now the lymytour hymself
In undermeles and in morwenynges,
And seyth his matyns and his hooly thynges
As he gooth in his lymytacioun.
Wommen may go now saufly up and doun.
In every bussh or under every tree
Ther is noon oother incubus but he,
And he ne wol doon hem but dishonour.
And so bifel it that this kyng arthour
Hadde in his hous a lusty bacheler,
That on a day cam ridynge fro ryver; Page  85
And happed that, allone as he was born,
He saugh a mayde walkynge hym biforn,
Of which mayde anon, maugree hir heed,
By verray force, he rafte hire maydenhed;
For which oppressioun was swich clamour
And swich pursute unto the kyng arthour,
That dampned was this knyght for to be deed,
By cours of lawe, and sholde han lost his heed --
Paraventure swich was the statut tho --
But that the queene and othere ladyes mo
So longe preyeden the kyng of grace,
Til he his lyf hym graunted in the place,
And yaf hym to the queene, al at hir wille,
To chese wheither she wolde hym save or spille.
The queene thanketh the kyng with al hir myght,
And after this thus spak she to the knyght,
Whan that she saugh hir tyme, upon a day:
Thou standest yet, quod she, in swich array
That of thy lyf yet hastow no suretee.
I grante thee lyf, if thou kanst tellen me
What thyng is it that wommen moost desiren.
Be war, and keep thy nekke-boon from iren!
And if thou kanst nat tellen it anon,
Yet wol I yeve thee leve for to gon
A twelf-month and a day, to seche and leere
An answere suffisant in this mateere;
And suretee wol I han, er that thou pace,
Thy body for to yelden in this place.
Wo was this knyght, and sorwefully he siketh;
But what! he may nat do al as hym liketh.
And at the laste he chees hym for to wende,
And come agayn, right at the yeres ende,
With swich answere as God wolde hym purveye;
And taketh his leve, and wendeth froth his weye.
He seketh every hous and and every place
Where as he hopeth for to fynde grace,
To lerne what thyng wommen loven moost;
But he ne koude arryven in no coost
Wher as he myghte fynde in this mateere
Two creatures accordynge in-feere.
Somme seyde wommen loven best richesse,
Somme seyde honour, somme seyde jolynesse,
Somme riche array, somme seyden lust abedde,
And oftetyme to be wydwe and wedde.
Somme seyde that oure hertes been moost esed
Whan that we ben yflatered and yplesed.
He gooth ful ny the sothe, I wol nat lye.
A man shal wynne us best with flaterye;
And with attendance, and with bisynesse,
Been we ylymed, bothe moore and lesse.
And somme seyen that we loven best
For to be free, and do right as us lest,
And that no man repreve us of oure vice,
But seye that we be wise, and no thyng nyce.
For trewely ther is noon of us alle,
If any wight wol clawe us on the galle,
That we nel kike, for he seith us sooth.
Assay, and he shal fynde it that so dooth;
For, be we never so vicious withinne,
We wol been holden wise and clene of synne.
And somme seyn that greet delit han we
For to been holden stable, and eek secree,
And in o purpos stedefastly to dwelle,
And nat biwreye thyng that men us telle.
But that tale is nat worth a rake-stele.
Pardee, we wommen konne no thyng hele;
Witnesse on myda, -- wol ye heere the tale?
Ovyde, amonges othere thynges smale,
Seyde myda hadde, under his longe heres,
Growynge upon his heed two asses eres,
The whiche vice he hydde, as he best myghte,
Ful subtilly from every mannes sighte,
That, save his wyf, ther wiste of it namo.
He loved hire moost, and trusted hire also;
He preyede hire that to no creature
She sholde tellen of his disfigure.
She swoor him, nay, for al this world to wynne,
She nolde do that vileynye or synne,
To make hir housbonde han so foul a name.
She nolde nat telle it for hir owene shame.
But nathelees, hir thoughte that she dyde,
That she so longe sholde a conseil hyde;
Hir thoughte it swal so soore aboute hir herte
That nedely som word hire moste asterte;
And sith she dorste telle it to no man,
Doun to a mareys faste by she ran
Til she cam there, hir herte was a-fyre --
And as a bitore bombleth in the myre,
She leyde hir mouth unto the water doun:
Biwreye me nat, thou water, with thy soun,
Quod she; -- to thee I telle it and namo;
Myn housbonde hath longe asses erys two!
Now is myn herte al hool, now is it oute.
I myghte no lenger kepe it, out of doute.
Heere may ye se, thogh we a tyme abyde,
Yet out it moot; we kan no conseil hyde.
The remenant of the tale if ye wol heere,
Redeth ovyde, and ther ye may it leere.
This knyght, of which my tale is specially,
Than that he saugh he myghte nat come therby, Page  86
This is to seye, what wommen love moost,
Withinne his brest ful sorweful was the goost.
But hoom he gooth, he myghte nat sojourne;
The day was come that homward moste he tourne.
And in his wey it happed hym to ryde,
In al this care, under a forest syde,
Wher as he saugh upon a daunce go
Of ladyes foure and twenty, and yet mo;
Toward the whiche daunce he drow ful yerne,
In hope that som wysdom sholde he lerne.
But certeinly, er he cam fully there,
Vanysshed was this daunce, he nyste where.
No creature saugh he that bar lyf,
Save on the grene he saugh sittynge a wyf --
A fouler wight ther may no man devyse.
Agayn the knyght this olde wyf gan ryse,
And seyde, sire knyght, heer forth ne lith no wey.
Tel me what that ye seken, by youre fey!
Paraventure it may the bettre be;
Thise olde folk kan muchel thyng, quod she.
My leeve mooder, quod this knyght, certeyn
I nam but deed, but if that I kan seyn
What thyng it is that wommen moost desire.
Koude ye me wisse, I wolde wel quite youre hire.
Plight me thy trouthe heere in myn hand, quod she,
The nexte thyng that I requere thee,
Thou shalt it do, if it lye in thy myght,
And I wol telle it yow er it be nyght.
Have heer my trouthe, quod the knyght, I grante.
Thanne, quod she, I dar me wel avante
Thy lyf is sauf; for I wol stonde therby,
Upon my lyf, the queene wol seye as I.
Lat se which is the proudeste of hem alle,
That wereth on a coverchief or a calle,
That day seye nay of that I shal thee teche.
Lat us go forth, withouten lenger speche.
Tho rowned she a pistel in his ere,
And bad hym to be glad, and have no fere.
Whan they be comen to the court, this knyght
Seyde he had holde his day, as he hadde hight,
And redy was his answere, as he sayde.
Ful many a noble wyf, and many a mayde,
And many a wydwe, for that they been wise,
The queene hirself sittynge as a justise,
Assembled been, his answere for to heere;
And afterward this knyght was bode appeere.
To every wight comanded was silence,
And that the knyght sholde telle in audience
What thyng that worldly wommen loven best.
This knyght ne stood nat stille as doth a best,
But to his questioun anon answerde
With manly voys, that al the court it herde:
My lige lady, generally, quod he,
Wommen desiren to have sovereynetee
As wel over his housbond as hir love,
And for to been in maistrie hym above.
This is youre mooste desir, thogh ye me kille.
Dooth as yow list; I am heer at youre wille.
In al the court ne was ther wyf, ne mayde,
Ne wydwe, that contraried that he sayde,
But seyden he was worthy han his lyf.
And with that word up stirte the olde wyf,
Which that the knyght saugh sittynge on the grene:
Mercy, quod she, my sovereyn lady queene!
Er that youre court departe, do me right.
I taughte this answere unto the knyght;
For which he plighte me his trouthe there,
The firste thyng that I wolde hym requere,
He wolde it do, if it lay in his myghte.
Bifore the court thanne preye I thee, sir knyght,
Quod she, that thou me take unto thy wyf;
For wel thou woost that I have kept thy lyf.
If I seye fals, sey nay, upon thy fey!
This knyght answerde, allas! and weylawey!
I woot right wel that swich was my biheste.
For goddes love, as chees a newe requeste!
Taak al my good, and lat my body go.
Nay, thanne, quod she, I shrewe us bothe two!
For thogh that I be foul, and oold, and poore,
I nolde for al the metal, ne for oore,
That under erthe is grave, or lith above,
But if thy wyf I were, and eek thy love.
My love? quod he, nay, my dampnacioun!
Allas! that any of my nacioun
Sholde evere so foule disparaged be!
But al for noght; the ende is this, that he
Constreyned was, he nedes moste hire wedde;
And taketh his olde wyf, and gooth to bedde.
Now wolden som men seye, paraventure,
That for my necligence I do no cure
To tellen yow the joye and al th' array
That at the feeste was that ilke day.
To which thyng shortly answeren I shal:
I seye ther nas no joye ne feeste at al;
Ther nas but hevynesse and muche sorwe. Page  87
For prively he wedded hire on the morwe,
And al day after hidde hym as an owle,
So wo was hym, his wyf looked so foule.
Greet was the wo the knyght hadde in his thoght,
Whan he was with his wyf abedde ybroght;
He walweth and he turneth to and fro.
His olde wyf lay smylynge everemo,
And seyde, o deere housbonde, benedicitee!
Fareth every knyght thys with his wyf as ye?
Is this the lawe of kyng arthures hous?
Is every knyght of his so dangerous?
I am youre owene love and eek youre wyf;
I am she which that saved hath youre lyf,
And, certes, yet ne dide I yow nevere unright;
Why fare ye thus with me this firste nyght?
Ye faren lyk a man had lost his wit.
What is my gilt? for goddes love, tel me it,
And it shal been amende, if I may.
Amended? quod this knyght, allas! nay, nay!
It wol nat been amended nevere mo.
Thou art so loothly, and so oold also,
And therto comen of so lough a kynde,
That litel wonder is thogh I walwe and wynde.
So wolde God myn herte wolde breste!
Is this, quod she, the cause of youre unreste?
Ye, certeinly, quod he, no wonder is.
Now, sire, quod she, I koude amende al this,
If that me liste, er it were dayes thre,
So wel ye myghte bere yow unto me.
But, for ye speken of swich gentillesse
As is descended out of old richesse,
That therfore sholden ye be gentil men,
Swich arrogance is nat worth an hen.
Looke who that is moost vertuous alway,
Pryvee and apert, and moost entendeth ay
To do the gentil dedes that he kan;
Taak hym for the grettest gentil man.
Crist wole we clayme of hym oure gentillesse,
Nat of oure eldres for hire old richesse.
For thogh they yeve us al hir heritage,
For which we clayme to been of heigh parage,
Yet may they nat biquethe, for no thyng,
To noon of us hir vertuous lyvyng,
That made hem gentil men ycalled be,
And bad us folwen hem in swich degree.
Wel kan the wise poete of florence,
That highte dant, speken in this sentence.
Lo, in swich maner rym is dantes tale:
-- Ful selde up riseth by his brances smale
Prowesse of man, for god, of his goodnesse,
Wole that of hym we clayme oure gentillesse; --
For of oure eldres may we no thyng clayme
But temporel thyng, that man may hurte and mayme.
Eek every wight woot this as wel as I,
If gentillesse were planted natureelly
Unto a certeyn lynage doun the lyne,
Pryvee and apert, thanne wolde they nevere fyne
To doon of gentillesse the faire office;
They myghte do no vileynye or vice.
Taak fyr, and ber it in the derkeste hous
Bitwix this and the mount of kaukasous,
And lat men shette the dores and go thenne;
Yet wole the fyr as faire lye and brenne
As twenty thousand men myghte it biholde;
His office natureel ay wol it holde,
Up peril of my lyf, til that it dye.
Heere may ye se wel how that genterye
Is nat annexed to possessioun,
Sith folk ne doon hir operacioun
Alwey, as dooth the fyr, lo, in his kynde.
For, God it woot, men may wel often fynde
A lordes sone do shame and vileynye;
And he that wole han pris of his gentrye,
For he was boren of a gentil hous,
And hadde his eldres noble and vertuous,
And nel hymselven do no gentil dedis,
Ne folwen his gentil auncestre that deed is,
He nys nat gentil, be he duc or erl;
For vileyns synful dedes make a cherl.
For gentillesse nys but renomee
Of thyne auncestres, for hire heigh bountee,
Which is a strange thyng to thy persone.
Thy gentillesse cometh fro God allone.
Thanne comth oure verray gentillesse of grace;
It was no thyng biquethe us with oure place.
Thenketh how noble, as seith valerius,
Was thilke tullius hostillius,
That out of poverte roos to heigh noblesse.
Reedeth senek, and redeth eek boece;
Ther shul ye seen expres that it no drede is
That he is gentil that dooth gentil dedis.
And therfore, leeve housbonde, thus conclude:
Al were it that myne auncestres were rude,
Yet may the hye god, and so hope I,
Grante me grace to lyven vertuously.
Thanne am I gentil, whan that I bigynne
To lyven vertuously and weyve synne.
And ther as ye of poverte me repreeve,
The hye god, on whom that we bileeve,
In wilful poverte chees to lyve his lyf. Page  88
And certes every man, mayden, or wyf,
May understonde that jhesus, hevene kyng,
Ne wolde nat chese a vicious lyvyng.
Glad poverte is an honest thyng, certeyn;
This wole senec and othere clerkes seyn.
Whoso that halt hym payd of his poverte,
I holde hym riche, al hadde he nat a sherte.
He that coveiteth is a povre wight,
For he wolde han that is nat in his myght;
But he that noght hath, ne coveiteth have,
Is riche, although ye holde hym but a knave.
Verray poverte, it syngeth proprely;
Juvenal seith of poverte myrily:
-- The povre man, whan he goth by the weye,
Bifore the theves he may synge and pleye.
Poverte is hateful good and, as I gesse,
A ful greet bryngere out of bisynesse;
A greet amendere eek of sapience
To hym that taketh it in pacience.
Poverte is this, although it seme alenge,
Possessioun that no wight wol chalenge.
Poverte ful ofte, whan a man is lowe,
Maketh his God and eek hymself to knowe.
Poverte a spectacle is, as thynketh me,
Thurgh which he may his verray freendes see.
And therfore, sire, syn that I noght yow greve,
Of my poverte namoore ye me repreve.
No, sire, of elde ye repreve me;
And certes, sire, thogh noon auctoritee
Were in no book, ye gentils of honour
Seyn that men sholde an oold wight doon favour,
And clepe hym fader, for youre gentillesse;
And auctours shal I fynde, as I gesse.
Now ther ye seye that I am foul and old,
Than drede you noght to been a cokewold;
For filthe and eelde, also moot I thee,
Been grete wardeyns upon chastitee.
But nathelees, syn I knowe youre delit,
I shal fulfille youre worldly appetit.
Chese now, quod she, oon of thise thynges tweye:
To han me foul and old til that I deye,
And be to yow a trewe, humble wyf,
And nevere yow displese in al my lyf;
Or elles ye wol han me yong and fair,
And take youre aventure of the repair
That shal be to youre hous by cause of me,
Or in som oother place, may wel be.
Now chese yourselven, wheither that yow liketh.
This knyght avyseth hym and sore siketh,
But atte laste he seyde in this manere:
My lady and my love, and wyf so deere,
I put me in youre wise governance;
Cheseth youreself which may be moost plesance,
And moost honour to yow and me also.
I do no fors the wheither of the two;
For as yow liketh, it suffiseth me.
Thanne have I gete of yow maistrie, quod she,
Syn I may chese and governe as me lest?
Ye, certes, wyf, quod he, I holde it best.
Kys me, quod she, we be no lenger wrothe;
For, by my trouthe, I wol be to yow bothe,
This is to seyn, ye, bothe fair and good.
I prey to God that I moote sterven wood,
But I to yow be also good and trewe
As evere was wyf, syn that the world was newe.
And but I be to-morn as fair to seene
As any lady, emperice, or queene,
That is bitwixe the est and eke the west,
Dooth with my lyf and deth right as yow lest.
Cast up the curtyn, looke how that it is.
And whan the knyght saugh verraily al this,
That she so fair was, and so yong therto,
For joye he hente hire in his armes two,
His herte bathed in a bath of blisse.
A thousand tyme a-rewe he gan hire kisse,
And she obeyed hym in every thyng
That myghte doon hym plesance or likyng.
And thys they lyve unto hir lyves ende
In parfit joye; and jhesu crist us sende
Housbondes meeke, yonge, and fressh abedde,
And grace t' overbyde hem that we wedde;
And eek I praye jhesu shorte hir lyves
That wol nat be governed by hir wyves;
And olde and angry nygardes of dispence,
God sende hem soone verray pestilence!
Page  89

The Friar's Prologue

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

The Friar's Tale

Whilom ther was dwellynge in my contree
And erchedeken, a man of heigh degree,
That boldely dide execucioun
In punysshynge of fornicacioun,
Of wicchecraft, and eek of bawderye,
Of difamacioun, and avowtrye,
Of chirche reves, and of testamentz,
Of contractes and of lakke of sacramentz,
Of usure, and of symonye also.
But certes, lecchours dide he grettest wo;
They sholde syngen if that they were hent;
And smale tytheres weren foule yshent,
If any persoun wolde upon hem pleyne.
Ther myghte asterte hym no pecunyal peyne.
For smale tithes and for smal offrynge
He made the peple pitously to synge.
For er the bisshop caughte hem with his hook,
They weren in the erchedeknes book.
Thanne hadde he, thurgh his jurisdiccioun,
Power to doon on hem correccioun.
He hadde a somonour redy to his hond;
A slyer boye nas noon in engelond;
For subtilly he hadde his espiaille,
That taughte hym wel wher that hym myghte availle.
He koude spare of lecchours oon or two,
To techen hym to foure and twenty mo.
For thogh this somonour wood were as an hare,
To telle his harlotrye I wol nat spare;
For we been out of his correccioun.
They han of us no jurisdiccioun,
Ne nevere shullen, terme of alle hir lyves. --
Peter! so been the wommen of the styves,
Quod the somonour, yput out of oure cure!
Pees! with myschance and with mysaventure! Page  90
Thys seyde oure hoost, and lat hym telle his tale.
Now telleth forth, thogh that the somonour gale;
Ne spareth nat, myn owene maister deere. --
This false theef, this somonour, quod the frere,
Hadde alwey bawdes redy to his hond,
As any hauk to lure in engelond,
That tolde hym al the secree that they knewe;
For hire acqueyntace was nat come of newe.
They weren his approwours prively.
He took hymself a greet profit therby;
His maister knew nat alwey what he wan.
Withouten mandement a lewed man
He koude somne, on peyne of cristes curs,
And they were glade for to fille his purs,
And make hym grete feestes atte nale.
And right as judas hadde purses smale,
And was a theef, right swich a theef was he;
His maister hadde but half his duetee.
He was, if I shal yeven hym his laude,
A theef, and eek a somnour, and baude.
He hadde eek wenches at his retenue,
That, wheither that sir robert or sir huwe,
Or jakke, or rauf, or whoso that it were
That lay by hem, they tolde it in his ere.
Thus was the wenche and he of oon assent;
And he wolde fecche a feyned mandement,
And somne hem to chapitre bothe two,
And pile the man, and lete the wenche go.
Thanne wolde he seye, freend, I shal for thy sake
Do striken hire out of oure lettres blake;
Thee thar namoore as in this cas travaille.
I am thy freend, ther I thee may availle.
Certeyn he knew of briberyes mo
Than possible is to telle in yeres two.
For in this world nys dogge for the bowe
That kan an hurt deer from an hool yknowe
Bet than this somnour knew a sly lecchour,
Or an avowtier, or a paramour.
And for that was the fruyt of al his rente,
Therfore on it he sette al his entente.
And so bifel that ones on a day
This somnour, evere waityng on his pray,
Rood for to somne an old wydwe, a ribibe,
Feynynge a cause, for he wolde brybe.
And happed that he saugh bifore hym ryde
A gay yeman, under a forest syde,
A bowe he bar, and arwes brighte and kene;
He hadde upon a courtepy of grene,
An hat upon his heed with frenges blake.
Sire, quod this somnour, hayl, and wel atake!
Welcome, quod he, and every good felawe!
Wher rydestow, under this grene-wode shawe?
Seyde this yeman, wiltow fer to day?
This somnour hym answerde and seyde, nay;
Heere faste by, quod he, is myn entente
To ryden, for to reysen up a rente
That longeth to my lordes duetee.
Artow thanne a bailly? ye, quod he.
He dorste nat, for verray filthe and shame
Seye that he was a somonour, for the name.
Depardieux, quod this yeman, deere broother,
Thou art a bailly, and I am another.
I am unknowen as in this contree;
Of thyn aqueyntance I wolde praye thee,
And eek of bretherhede, if that yow leste.
I have gold and silver in my cheste;
If that thee happe to comen in oure shire,
Al shal be thyn, right as thou wolt desire.
Grantmercy, quod this somonour, by my feith!
Everych on ootheres hand his trouthe leith,
For to be sworne bretheren til they deye.
In daliance they ryden forth and pleye.
This somonour, which that was as ful of jangles,
As ful of venym been thise waryangles,
And evere enqueryng upon every thyng,
Brother, quod he, where is now youre dwellyng
Another day if that I sholde yow seche?
This yeman hym answerde in softe speche,
Brother, quod he, fer in the north contree,
Where-as I hope som tyme I shal thee see.
Er we departe, I shal thee so wel wisse
That of myn hous ne shaltow nevere mysse.
Now, brother, quod this somonour, I yow preye,
Teche me, whil that we ryden by the weye,
Syn that ye been a baillif as am I,
Som subtiltee, and tel me feithfully
In myn office how that I may moost wynne;
And spareth nat for conscience ne synne,
But as my brother tel me, how do ye.
Now, by my trouthe, brother deere, seyde he,
As I shal tellen thee a feithful tale,
My wages been ful streite and ful smale.
My lord is hard to me and daungerous,
And myn office is ful laborous,
And therfore by extorcions I lyve.
For sothe, I take al that men wol me yive. Page  91
Algate,by gleyghte or by violence,
Fro yeer to yeer I wynne al my dispence.
I kan no bettre telle, feithfully.
Now certes, quod this somonour, so fare I.
I spare nat to taken, God it woot,
But if it be to hevy or to hoot.
What I may gete in conseil prively,
No maner conscience of that have I.
Nere myn extorcioun, I myghte nat lyven,
Ne of swiche japes wol I nat be shryven.
Stomak ne conscience ne knowe I noon;
I shrewe thise shrifte-fadres everychoon.
Wel be we met, by God and by seint jame!
But, leeve brother, tel me thanne thy name,
Quod this somonour. In this meene while
This yeman gan a litel for to smyle.
Brother, quod he, wiltow that I thee telle?
I am a feend; my dwellyng is in helle,
And heere I ryde aboute my purchasyng,
To wite wher men wol yeve me any thyng.
My purchas is th' effect of al my rente.
Looke how thou rydest for the same entente,
To wynne good, thou rekkest nevere how;
Right so fare I, for ryde wolde I now
Unto the worldes ende for a preye.
Al! quod this somonour, benedicite! sey ye?
I wende ye were a yeman trewely.
Ye han a mannes shap as wel as I;
Han ye a figure thanne determinat
In helle, ther ye been in youre estat?
Nay, certeinly, quod he, ther have we noon;
But whan us liketh, we kan take us oon,
Or elles make yow seme we been shape
Somtyme lyk a man, or lyk an ape,
Or lyk an angel kan I ryde or go.
It is no wonder thyng thogh it be so;
A lowsy jogelour kan deceyve thee,
And pardee, yet kan I moore craft than he.
Why, quod this somonour, ryde ye thanne or goon
In sondry shap, and nat alwey in oon?
For we, quod he, wol us swiche formes make
As moost able is oure preyes for to take.
What maketh yow to han al this labour?
Ful many a cause, leeve sire somonour,
Seyde this feend, but alle thyng hath tyme.
The day is short, and it is passed pryme,
And yet ne wan I nothyng in this day.
I wol entende to wynnyng, if I may,
And nat entende oure wittes to declare.
For, brother myn, thy wit is al to bare
To understonde, althogh I tolde hem thee.
But, for thou axest why labouren we --
For somtyme we been goddes instrumentz,
And meenes to doon his comandementz,
Whan that hym list, upon his creatures,
In divers art and in diverse figures.
Withouten hym we have no myght, certayn,
If that hym list stonden ther-agayn.
And somtyme, at oure prayere, han we leve
Oonly the body and nat the soule greve;
Witnesse on job, whom that we diden wo.
And somtyme han we myght of bothe two,
This is to seyn, of soule and body eke.
And somtyme be we suffred for to seke
Upon a man, and doon his soule unreste,
And nat his body, and al is for the beste.
Whan he withstandeth oure temptacioun,
It is a cause of his savacioun,
Al be it that it was nat oure entente
He sholde be sauf, but that we wolde hym hente.
And somtyme be we servant unto man,
As to the erchebisshop seint dunstan,
And to the apostles servent eek was I.
Yet tel me, quod the somonour, feithfully,
Make ye yow newe bodies thus alway
Of elementz? the feend answerde, nay.
Somtyme we feyne, and somtyme we aryse
With dede bodyes, in ful sondry wyse,
And speke as renably and faire and wel
As to the phitonissa dide samuel.
(and yet wol som men seye it was nat he;
I do no fors of youre dyvynytee.)
But o thyng warne I thee, I wol nat jape, --
Thou wolt algates wite how we been shape;
Thou shalt herafterward, my brother deere,
Come there thee nedeth nat of me to leere.
For thou shalt, by thyn owene experience,
Konne in a chayer rede of this sentence
Bet than virgile, while he was on lyve,
Or dant also. Now lat us ryde blyve,
For I wole holde compaignye with thee
Til it be so that thou forsake me.
Nay, quod this somonour, that shal nat bityde!
I am a yeman, knowen is ful wyde;
My trouthe wol I holde, as in this cas.
For though thou were the devel sathanas,
My trouthe wol I holde to my brother,
As I am sworn, and ech of us til oother,
For to be trewe brother in this cas;
And bothe we goon abouten oure purchas. Page  92
Taak thou thy part, what that men wol thee yive,
And I shal myn; thus may we bothe lyve.
And if that any of us have moore than oother,
Lat hym be trewe, and parte it with his brother.
I graunte, quod the devel, by my fey.
And with that word they ryden forth hir wey.
And right at the entryng of the townes ende,
To which this somonour shoop hym for to wende,
They saugh a cart that charged was with hey,
Which that a cartere droof forth in his wey.
Deep was the wey, for which the carte stood.
The cartere smoot, and cryde as he were wood,
Hayt, brok! hayt, scot! what spare ye for the stones?
The feend, quod he, yow fecche, body and bones,
As ferforthly as evere were ye foled,
So muche wo as I have with yow tholed!
The devel have al, bothe hors and cart and hey!
This somonour seyde, heere shal we have a pley.
And neer the feend he drough, as noght ne were,
Ful prively, and rowned in his ere:
Herkne, my brother, herkne, by thy feith!
Herestow nat how that the cartere seith?
Hent it anon, for he hath yeve it thee,
Bothe hey and cart, and eek his caples thre.
Nay, quod the devel, God woot, never a deel!
It is nat his entente, trust me weel.
Axe hym thyself, it thou nat trowest me;
Or elles stynt a while, and thou shalt see.
This cartere thakketh his hors upon the croupe,
And they bigonne to drawen and to stoupe.
Heyt! now, quod he, ther jhesu crist yow blesse,
And al his handwerk, bothe moore and lesse!
That was wel twight, myn owene lyard boy.
I pray God save thee, and seinte loy!
Now is my cart out of the slow, pardee!
Lo, brother, quod the feend, what tolde I thee?
Heere may ye se, myn owene deere brother,
The carl spak oo thing, but he thoghte another.
Lat us go forth abouten oure viage;
Heere wynne I nothyng upon cariage.
Whan that they coomen somwhat out of towne,
This somonour to his brother gan to rowne:
Brother, quod he, heere woneth an old rebekke,
That hadde almoost as lief to lese hire nekke
As for to yeve a peny of hir good.
I wole han twelf pens, though that she be wood,
Or I wol sompne hire unto oure office;
And yet, God woot, of hire knowe I no vice.
But for thou kanst nat, as in this contree,
Wynne thy cost, taak heer ensample of me.
This somonour clappeth at the wydwes gate.
Com out, quod he, thou olde virytrate!
I trowe thou hast som frere or preest with thee.
Who clappeth? seyde this wyf, benedicitee!
God save you, sire, what is youre sweete wille?
I have, quod he, of somonce here a bille;
Up peyne of cursyng, looke that thou be
To-morn bifore the erchedeknes knee,
T' answere to the court of certeyn thynges.
Now, lord, quod she, crist jhesu, kyng of kynges,
So wisly helpe me, as I ne may.
I have been syk, and that ful many a day.
I may nat go so fer, quod she, ne ryde,
But I be deed, so priketh it in my syde.
May I nat axe a libel, sire somonour,
And answere there by my procuratour
To swich thyng as men wole opposen me?
Yis, quod this somonour, pay anon, lat se,
Twelf pens to me, and I wol thee acquite.
I shal no profit han therby but lite;
My maister hath the profit, and nat I.
Com of, and lat me ryden hastily;
Yif me twelf pens, I may no lenger tarye.
Twelf pens! quod she, now, lady seinte marie
So wisly help me out of care and synne,
This wyde world thogh that I sholde wynne,
Ne have I nat twelf pens withinne myn hoold.
Ye knowen wel that I am povre and oold;
Kithe youre almesse on me povre wrecche.
Nay thanne, quod he, the foule feend me fecche
If I th' excuse, though thou shul be spilt!
allas! quod she, God woot, I have no gilt.
Pay me, quod he, or by the swete seinte anne,
As I wol bere awey thy newe panne
For dette which thou owest me of old. Page  93
Whan that thou madest thyn housbonde cokewold,
I payde at hoom for thy correccioun.
Thou lixt! quod she, by my savacioun,
Ne was I nevere er now, wydwe ne wyf,
Somoned unto youre court in al my lyf;
Ne nevere I nas but of my body trewe!
Unto the devel blak and rough of hewe
Yeve I thy body and my panne also!
And whan the devel herde hire cursen so
Upon hir knees, he seyde in this manere,
Now, mabely, myn owene mooder deere,
Is this youre wyl in ernest that ye seye?
The devel, quod she, so fecche hym er he deye,
And panne and al, but he wol hym repente!
Nay, olde stot, that is nat myn entente,
Quod this somonour, for to repente me
For any thyng that I have had of thee.
I wolde I hadde thy smok and every clooth!
Now, brother, quod the devel, be nat wrooth;
Thy body and this panne been myne by right.
Thow shalt with me to helle yet to-nyght,
Where thou shalt knowen of oure privetee
Moore than a maister of dyvynytee.
And with that word this foule feend hym hente;
Body and soule he with the devel wente
Where as that somonours han hir heritage.
And god, that maked after his ymage
Mankynde, save and gyde us, alle and some,
And leve thise somonours goode men bicome!
Lordynges, I koude han toold yow, quod this frere,
Hadde I had leyser for this somonour heere,
After the text of crist, poul, and john,
And of oure othere doctours many oon,
Swiche peynes that youre hertes myghte agryse,
Al be it so no tonge may it devyse,
Thogh that I myghte a thousand wynter telle
The peynes of thilke cursed hous of helle.
But for to kepe us fro that cursed place,
Waketh, and preyeth jhesu for his grace
So kepe us from the temptour sathanas.
Herketh this word! beth war, as in this cas:
The leoun sit in his awayt alway
To sle the innocent, if that he may.
Disposeth ay youre hertes to withstonde
The feend, that yow wolde make thral and bonde.
He may nat tempte yow over youre myght,
For crist wol be youre champion and knyght.
And prayeth that thise somonours hem repente
Of hir mysdedes, er that the feend hem hente!

The Summoner's Prologue

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

The Summoner's Tale

Lordynges, ther is in yorkshire, as I gesse,
A mersshy contree called holdernesse,
In which ther wente a lymytour aboute,
To preche, and eek to begge, it so no doute.
And so bifel that on a day this frere
Hadde preched at a chirche in his manere,
And specially, aboven every thyng,
Excited he the peple in his prechyng
To trentals, and to yeve, for goddes sake,
Wherwith men myghte hooly houses make,
Ther as divine servyce is honoured,
Nat ther as it is wasted and devoured,
Ne ther it nedeth nat for to be yive,
As to possessioners, that mowen lyve,
Thanked be god, in wele and habundaunce.
Trentals, seyde he, deliveren fro penaunce
Hir freendes soules, as wel olde as yonge, --
Ye, whan that they been hastily ysonge,
Nat for to holde a preest holy and gay --
He syngeth nat but o masse in a day.
Delivereth out, quod he, anon the soules!
Ful hard it is with flesshhook or with oules
To been yclawed, or to brenne or bake.
Now spede yow hastily, for cristes sake!
And whan this frere had seyd al his entente,
With qui cum patre forth his wey he wente.
Whan folk in chirche had yeve him what hem leste,
He wente his wey, no lenger wolde he reste,
With scrippe and tipped staf, ytukked hye,
In every hous he gan to poure and prye,
And beggeth mele and chese, or elles corn.
His felawe hadde a staf tipped with horn,
A peyre of tables al of yvory,
And a poyntel polysshed fetisly,
And wrooth the names alwey, as he stood,
Of alle folk that yaf hym any good,
Ascaunces that he wolde for hem preye.
Yif us a busshel whete, malt, or reye,
A goddes kechyl, or a trype of chese,
Or elles what yow lyst, we may nat cheese;
A goddes halfpeny, or a masse peny,
Or yif us of youre brawn, if ye have eny;
A dagon of youre blanket, leeve dame,
Oure suster deere, -- lo! heere I write youre name, --
Bacon or beef, or swich thyng as ye fynde.
A sturdy harlot wente ay hem bihynde,
That was hir hostes man, and bar a sak,
And what men yaf hem, leyde it on his bak.
And whan that he was out at dore, anon
He planed awey the names everichon
That he biforn had writen in his tables;
He served hem with nyfles and with fables.
Nay, ther thou lixt, thou somonour! quod the frere.
Pees, quod oure hoost, for cristes mooder deere!
Tel forth thy tale, and spare it nat at al.
So thryve I, quod this somonour, so I shal!
So longe he wente, hous by hous, til he
Cam til an hous ther he was wont to be
Refresshed moore than in an hundred placis.
Syk lay the goode man whos that the place is;
Bedrede upon a couche lowe he lay.
Deus hic! quod he, o thomas, freend, good day!
Seyde this frere, curteisly and softe.
Thomas, quod he, God yelde yow! ful ofte
Have I upon this bench faren ful weel;
Heere have I eten many a myrie meel.
And fro the bench he droof awey the cat,
And leyde adoun his potente and his hat,
And eek his scrippe, and sette hym softe adoun.
His felawe was go walked into toun Page  95
Forth with his knave, into that hostelrye
Where as he shoop hym thilke nyght to lye.
O deere maister, quod this sike man,
How han ye fare sith that march bigan?
I saugh yow noght this fourtenyght or moore.
God woot, quod he, laboured have I ful soore,
And specially, for thy savacion
Have I seyd many a precious orison,
And for oure othere freendes, God hem blesse!
I have to day been at youre chirche at messe,
And seyd a sermon after my symple wit,
Nat al after the text of hooly writ;
For it is hard to yow, as I suppose,
And therfore wol I teche yow al the glose.
Glosynge is a glorious thyng, certeyn,
For lettre sleeth, so as we clerkes seyn.
There have I taught hem to be charitable,
And spende hir good ther it is resonable;
And there I saugh oure dame, -- a! where is she?
Yond in the yerd I trowe that she be,
Seyde this man,and she wol come anon.
Ey, maister, welcome be ye, by seint john!
Seyde this wyf, how fare ye, hertely?
The frere ariseth up ful curteisly,
And hire embraceth in his armes narwe,
And kiste hire sweete, and chirketh as a sparwe
With his lyppes: dame, quod he, right weel,
As he that is youre servent every deel,
Thanked be god, that yow yaf soule and lyf!
Yet saugh I nat this day so fair a wyf
In al the chirche, God so save me!
Ye, God amende defautes, sire, quod she.
Algates, welcome be ye, by my fey!
Graunt mercy, dame, this have I founde alwey.
But of youre grete goodnesse, by youre leve,
I wolde prey yow that ye nat yow greve,
I wole with thomas speke a litel throwe.
Thise curatz been ful necligent and slowe
To grope tendrely a conscience
In shrift; in prechyng is my diligence,
And studie in petres wordes and in poules.
I walke, and fisshe cristen mennes soules,
To yelden jhesu crist his propre rente;
To sprede his word is set al myn entente.
Now, by youre leve, o deere sire, she,
Chideth him weel, for seinte trinitee!
He is as angry as a pissemyre,
Though that he have al that he kan desire,
Though I hym wrye a-nyght and make hym warm,
And over hym leye my leg outher myn arm,
He groneth lyk oure boor, lith in oure sty.
Oother desport right noon of hym have I;
I may nat plese hym in no maner cas.
O thomas, je vous dy, thomas! thomas!
This maketh the feend; this moste ben amended.
Ire is a thyng that hye God defended,
And therof wol I speke a word or two.
Now, maister, quod the wyf, er that I go,
What wol ye dyne? I wol go theraboute.
Now dame, quod he, now je vous dy sanz doute,
Have I nat of a capon but the lyvere,
And of youre softe breed nat but a shyvere,
And after that a rosted pigges heed --
But that I nolde no beest for me were deed --
Thanne hadde I with yow hoomly suffisaunce.
I am a man of litel sustenaunce;
My spirit hath his fostryng in the bible.
The body is ay so redy and penyble
To wake, that my stomak is destroyed.
I prey yow, dame, ye be nat anoyed,
Though I so freendly yow my conseil shewe.
By god! I wolde nat telle it but a fewe.
Now, sire, quod she, but o word er I go.
My child is deed withinne thise wykes two,
Soone after that ye wente out of this toun.
His deeth saugh I by revelacioun,
Seide this frere, at hoom in oure dortour.
I dar wel seyn that, er that half an hour
After his deeth, I saugh hym born to blisse
In myn avision, so God me wisse!
So didde oure sexteyn and oure fermerer,
That han been trewe freres fifty yeer;
They may now -- God be thanked of his loone! --
Maken hir jubilee and walke allone.
And up I roos, and al oure covent eke,
With many a teere trillyng on my cheke,
Withouten noyse or claterynge of belles;
Te deum was oure song, and nothyng elles,
Save that to crist I seyde an orison,
Thankynge hym of his revelacion.
For, sire and dame, trusteth me right weel,
Oure orisons been moore effectueel,
And moore we seen of cristes secree thynges,
Than burel folk, although they weren kynges.
We lyve in poverte and in abstinence,
And burell folk in richesse and despence
Of mete and drynke, and in hir foul delit.
We han this worldes lust al in despit.
Lazar and dives lyveden diversly,
And divers gerdon hadden they therby. Page  96
Whoso wol preye, he moot faste and be clene,
And fatte his soule, and make his body lene.
We fare as seith th' apostle; clooth and foode
Suffisen us, though they be nat ful goode.
The clennesse and the fastynge of us freres
Maketh that crist accepteth oure preyeres.
Lo, moyses fourty dayes and fourty nyght
Fasted, er that the heighe God of myght
Spak with hym in the mountayne of synay.
With empty wombe, fastynge many a day,
Receyved he the lawe that was writen
With goddes fynger; and elye, wel ye witen,
In mount oreb, er he hadde any speche
With hye god, that is oure lyves leche,
He fasted longe, and was in contemplaunce.
Aaron, that hadde the temple in governaunce,
And eek the othere preestes everichon,
Into the temple whan they sholde gon
To preye for the peple, and do servyse,
They nolden drynken in no maner wyse
No drynke which that myghte hem dronke make,
But there in abstinence preye and wake,
Lest that they deyden. Taak heede what I seye!
But they be sobre that for the peple preye,
War that I seye -- namoore, for it suffiseth.
Oure lord jhesu, as hooly writ devyseth,
Yaf us ensample of fastynge and preyeres.
Therfore we mendynantz, we sely freres,
Been wedded to poverte and continence,
To charite, humblesse, and abstinence,
To persecucioun for rightwisnesse,
To wepynge, misericorde, and clennesse.
And therfore may ye se that oure preyeres --
I speke of us, we mendynantz, we freres --
Been to the hye God moore acceptable
Than youres, with youre feestes at the table.
Fro paradys first, if I shal nat lye,
Was man out chaced for his glotonye;
And chaast was man in paradys, certeyn.
But herkne now, thomas, what I shal seyn.
I ne have no text of it, as I suppose,
But I shal fynde it in a maner glose,
That specially oure sweete lord jhesus
Spak this by freres, whan he seyde thus:
-- Blessed be they that povere in spirit been. --
And so forth al the gospel may ye seen,
Wher it be likker oure professioun,
Or hirs that swymmen in possessioun.
Fy on hire pompe and on hire glotonye!
And for hir lewednesse I hem diffye.
My thynketh they been lyk jovinyan,
Fat as a whale, and walkynge as a swan,
Al vinolent as botel in the spence.
Hir preyere is of ful greet reverence,
Whan they for soules seye the psalm of davit;
Lo, -- buf! -- they seye, -- cor meum eructavit! --
Who folweth cristes gospel and his foore,
But we that humble been, and chaast, and poore,
Werkeris of goddes word, nat auditours?
Therfore, right as an hauk up at a sours
Up springeth into th' eir, right so prayeres
Of charitable and chaste bisy freres
Maken hir sours to goddes eres two.
Thomas! thomas! so moote I ryde or go,
And by that lord that clepid is seint yve,
Nere thou oure brother, sholdestou nat thryve.
In our chapitre prayer we day and nyght
To crist, that he thee sende heele and myght
Thy body for to weelden hastily.
God woot, quod he, nothyng therof feele i!
As help me crist, as I in fewe yeres,
Have spent upon diverse manere freres
Ful many a pound; yet fare I never the bet.
Certeyn, my good have I almoost biset.
Farwel, my gold, for it is al ago!
The frere answerde, o thomas, dostow so?
What nedeth yow diverse freres seche?
What nedeth hym that hath a parfit leche
To sechen othere leches in the toun?
Youre inconstance is youre confusioun.
Holde ye thanne me, or elles oure covent,
To praye for yow been insufficient?
Thomas, that jape nys nat worth a myte.
Youre maladye is for we han to lyte.
A! yif that covent half a quarter otes!
A! yif that covent foure and twenty grotes!
A! yif that frere a peny, and lat hym go!
Nay, nay, thomas, it may no thyng be so!
What is a ferthyng worth parted in twelve?
Lo, ech thyng that is oned in himselve
Is moore strong than whan it is toscatered.
Thomas, of me thou shalt nat been yflatered;
Thou woldest han oure labour al for noght.
The hye god, that al this world hath wroght,
Seith that the werkman worthy is his hyre.
Thomas, noght of youre tresor I desire
As for myself, but that al oure covent
To preye for yow is ay so diligent,
And for to buylden cristes owene chirche.
Thomas, if ye wol lernen for to wirche,
Of buyldynge up of chirches may ye fynde, Page  97
If it be good, in thomas lyf of inde.
Ye lye heere ful of anger and of ire,
With which the devel set youre herte afyre,
And chiden heere the sely innocent,
Youre wyf, that is so meke and pacient.
And therfore, thomas, trowe me if thee leste,
Ne stryve nat with thy wyf, as for thy beste;
And ber this word awey now, by thy feith,
Touchynge swich thyng, lo, what the wise seith:
-- Withinne thyn hous ne be thou no leon;
To thy subgitz do noon oppression,
Ne make thyne aqueyntances nat to flee. --
And, thomas, yet eft-soones I charge thee,
Be war from hire that in thy bosom slepeth;
War fro the serpent that so slily crepeth
Under the gras, and styngeth subtilly.
Be war, my sone, and herkne paciently,
That twenty thousand men han lost hir lyves
For stryvyng with hir lemmans and hir wyves.
Now sith ye han so hooly and meke a wyf,
What nedeth yow, thomas, to maken stryf?
Ther nys, ywys, no serpent so cruel,
Whan man tret on his tayl, ne half so fel,
As womman is, whan she hath caught an ire;
Vengeance is thanne al that they desire.
Ire is a synne, oon of the grete of sevene,
Abhomynable unto the God of hevene;
And to hymself it is destruccion.
This every lewed viker or person
Kan seye, how ire engendreth homycide.
Ire is, in sooth, executour of pryde.
I koude of ire seye so muche sorwe,
My tale sholde laste til to-morwe.
And therfore preye I god, bothe day and nyght,
An irous man, God sende hym litel myght!
It is greet harm and certes greet pitee
To sette an irous man in heigh degree.
Whilom ther was an irous potestat,
As seith senek, that, durynge his estaat,
Upon a day out ryden knyghtes two,
And as fortune wolde that it were so,
That oon of hem cam hoom, that oother noght.
Anon the knyght bifore the juge is broght,
That seyde thus, -- thou hast thy felawe slayn,
For which I deme thee to the deeth, certayn. --
And to another knyght comanded he,
-- Go lede hym to the deeth, I charge thee, --
And happed, as they wente by the weye
Toward the place ther he sholde deye,
The knyght cam which men wenden had be deed.
Thanne thoughte they it were the beste reed
To lede hem bothe to the juge agayn.
They seiden, -lord, the knyght ne hath nat slayn
His felawe; heere he standeth hool alyve. --
-- Ye shul be deed, -- quod he, -- so moot I thryve!
That is to seyn, bothe oon, and two, and thre! --
And to the firste knyght right thus spak he,
-- I dampned thee; thou most algate be deed.
And thou also most nedes lese thyn heed,
For thou art cause why thy felawe deyth. --
And to the thridde knyght right thus he seith,
-- Thou hast nat doon that I comanded thee. --
And thus he dide doon sleen hem alle thre.
Irous cambises was eek dronkelewe,
And ay delited hym to been a shrewe.
And so bifel, a lord of his meynee,
That loved vertuous moralitee,
Seyde on a day bitwix hem two right thus:
-- A lord is lost, if he be vicius;
And dronkenesse is eek a foul record
Of any man, and namely in a lord.
Ther is ful many an eye and many an ere
Awaityng on a lord, and he noot where.
For goddes love, drynk moore attemprely!
Wyn maketh man to lesen wrecchedly
His mynde and eek his lymes everichon. --
-- The revers shaltou se, -- quod he, -- anon,
And preve it by thyn owene experience,
That wyn ne dooth to folk no swich offence.
Ther is no wyn bireveth me my myght
Of hand ne foot, ne of myne eyen sight. --
And for despit he drank ful muchel moore,
An hondred part, than he hadde don bifoore;
And right anon this irous, cursed wrecche
Leet this knyghtes sone bifore hym fecche,
Comandynge hym he sholde bifore hym stonde.
And sodeynly he took his bowe in honde,
And up the streng he pulled to his ere,
And with an arwe he slow the child right there.
-- Now wheither have I a siker hand or noon? --
Quod he; -- is al my myght and mynde agon?
Hath wyn bireved me myn eyen sight? --
What sholde I telle th' answere of the knyght?
His sone was slayn, ther is namoore to seye.
Beth war, therfore, with lordes how ye pleye.
Syngeth placebo, and -- I shal, if I kan, --
But if it be unto a povre man.
To a povre man men sholde his vices telle,
But nat to a lord, thogh he sholde go to helle.
Lo irous cirus, thilke percien,
How he destroyed the ryver of gysen,
For that an hors of his was dreynt therinne,
Whan that he wente babiloigne to wynne.
He made that the ryver was so smal
That wommen myghte wade it over al.
Lo, what seyde he that so wel teche kan? Page  98
-- Ne be no felawe to an irous man,
Ne with no wood man walke by the weye,
Lest thee repente; -- I wol no ferther seye.
Now, thomas, leeve brother, lef thyn ire;
Thou shalt me fynde as just as is a squyre.
Hoold nat the develes knyf ay at thyn herte --
Thyn angre dooth thee al to soore smerte --
But shewe to me al thy confessioun.
nay, quod the sike man, by seint symoun!
I have be shryven this day at my curat.
I have hym toold hoolly al myn estat;
Nedeth namoore to speken of it, seith he,
But if me list, of myn humylitee.
Yif me thanne of thy gold, to make oure cloystre,
Quod he, for many a muscle and many an oystre,
Whan othere men han ben ful wel at eyse,
Hath been oure foode, our cloystre for to reyse.
And yet, God woot, unnethe the fundement
Parfourned is, ne of our pavement
Nys nat a tyle yet withinne oure wones.
By god! we owen fourty pound for stones.
Now help, thomas, for hym that harwed helle!
For elles moste we oure bookes selle.
And if yow lakke oure predicacioun,
Thanne goth the world al to destruccioun.
For whoso wolde us fro this world bireve,
So God me save, thomas, by youre leve,
He wolde bireve out of this world the sonne.
For who kan teche and werchen as we konne?
And that is nat of litel tyme, quod he,
But syn elye was, or elise,
Han freres been, that funde I of record,
In charitee, ythanked be oure lord!
Now thomas, help, for seinte charitee!
And doun anon he sette hym on his knee.
This sike man wax wel ny wood for ire;
He wolde that the frere had been on-fire,
With his false dissymulacioun.
Swich thyng as is in my possessioun,
Quod he, that may I yeve yow, and noon oother.
Ye sey me thus, how that I am youre brother?
Ye, certes, quod the frere, trusteth weel.
I took oure dame oure lettre with oure seel.
Now wel, quod he, and somwhat shal I yive
Unto youre hooly covent whil I lyve;
And in thyn hand thou shalt it have anon,
On this condicion, and oother noon,
That thou departe it so, my deere brother,
That every frere have also muche as oother.
This shaltou swere on thy professioun,
Withouten fraude or cavillacioun.
I swere it, quod this frere, by my feith!
And therwithal his hand in his he leith,
Lo, heer my feith; in me shal be no lak.
Now thanne, put in thyn hand doun by my bak,
Seyde this man, and grope wel bihynde.
Bynethe my buttok there shaltow fynde
A thyng that I have hyd in pryvetee.
A! thoghte this frere, that shal go with me!
And doun his hand he launcheth to the clifte,
In hope for to fynde there a yifte.
And whan this sike man felte this frere
Aboute his tuwel grope there and heere,
Amydde his hand he leet the frere a fart,
Ther nys no capul, drawynge in a cart,
That myghte have lete a fart of swich a soun.
The frere up stirte as dooth a wood leoun, --
A! false cherl, quod he, for goddes bones!
This hastow for despit doon for the nones.
Thou shalt abye this fart, if that I may!
His meynee, whiche that herden this affray,
Cam lepynge in and chaced out the frere;
And forth he gooth, with a ful angry cheere,
And fette his felawe, ther as lay his stoor.
He looked as it were a wilde boor;
He grynte with his teeth, so was he wrooth.
A sturdy paas doun to the court he gooth,
Wher as ther woned a man of greet honour,
To whom that he was alwey confessour.
This worthy man was lord of that village.
This frere cam as he were in a rage,
Where as this lord sat etyng at his bord;
Unnethes myghte the frere speke a word,
Til atte laste he seyde, God yow see!
This lord gan looke, and seide, benedicitee!
What, frere john, what maner world is this?
I se wel that som thyng ther is amys;
Ye looken as the wode were ful of thevys.
Sit doun anon, and tel me what youre grief is,
And it shal been amended, if I may.
I have, quod he, had a despit this day,
God yelde yow, adoun in youre village,
That in this world is noon so povre a page
That he nolde have abhomynacioun
Of that I have receyved in youre toun.
And yet ne greveth me nothyng so soore,
As that this olde cherl with lokkes hoore
Blasphemed hath oure hooly covent eke.
Now, maister, quod this lord, I yow biseke, -- Page  99
No maister, sire, quod he, but servitour,
Thogh I have had in scole that honour.
God liketh nat that -- raby -- men us calle,
Neither in market ne in youre large halle.
No fors, quod he, but tel me al youre grief.
Sire, quod this frere, and odious meschief
This day bityd is to myn ordre and me,
And so, per consequens, to ech degree
Of hooly chirche, God amende it soone!
Sire, quod the lord, ye woot what is to doone.
Distempre yow noght, ye be my confessour;
Ye been the salt of the erthe and the savour.
For goddes love, youre pacience ye holde!
Tel me youre grief; and anon hym tolde,
As ye han herd biforn, ye woot wel what.
The lady of the hous ay stille sat
Til she had herd what the frere sayde.
Ey, goddes mooder, quod she, blisful mayde!
Is ther oght elles? telle me feithfully.
Madame, quod he, how thynke ye herby?
How that me thynketh? quod she, so God me speede,
I seye, a cherl hath doon a cherles dede.
What shold I seye? God lat hym nevere thee!
His sike heed is ful of vanytee;
I holde hym in a manere frenesye.
Madame, quod he, by god, I shal nat lye
But in on oother wyse may be wreke,
I shal disclaundre hym over al ther I speke,
This false blasphemour, that charged me
To parte that wol nat departed be,
To every man yliche, with meschaunce!
The lord sat stille as he were in a traunce,
And in his herte he rolled up and doun,
How hadde this cherl ymaginacioun
To shewe swich a probleme to the frere?
Nevere erst er now herde I of swich mateere.
I trowe the devel putte it in his mynde.
In ars-metrike shal ther no man fynde,
Biforn this day, of swich a question.
Who sholde make a demonstracion
That every man sholde have yliche his part
As of the soun or savour of a fart?
O nyce, proude cherl, I shrewe his face!
Lo, sires, quod the lord, with harde grace!
Who evere herde of swich a thyng er now?
To every man ylike, tel me how?
It is an inpossible, it may nat be.
Ey, nyce cherl, God lete him nevere thee!
The rumblynge of a fart, and every soun,
Nis but of eir reverberacioun,
And evere it wasteth litel and litel awey.
Ther is no man kan deemen, by my fey,
If that it were departed equally.
What, lo, my cherl, lo, yet how shrewedly
Unto my confessour to-day he spak!
I holde hym certeyn a demonyak!
Now ete youre mete, and lat the cherl go pleye;
Lat hym go honge hymself a devel weye!
Now stood the lordes squier at the bord,
That karf his mete, and herde word by word
Of alle thynges whiche I have yow sayd.
My lord, quod he, be ye nat yvele apayd,
I koude telle, for a gowne-clooth,
To yow, sire frere, so ye be nat wrooth,
How that this fart sholde evene deled be
Among youre covent, if it lyked me.
Tel, quod the lord, and thou shalt have anon
A gowne-clooth, by God and by seint john!
My lord, quod he, whan that the weder is fair,
Withouten wynd or perturbynge of air,
Lat brynge a cartwheel heere into this halle;
But looke that it have his spokes alle, --
Twelve spokes hath a cartwheel comunly.
And bryng me thanne twelve freres, woot ye why?
For thrittene is a covent, as I gesse.
Youre confessour heere, for his worthynesse,
Shal parfoune up the nombre of his covent,
Thanne shal they knele doun, by oon assent,
And to every spokes ende, in this manere,
Ful sadly leye his nose shal a frere.
Youre noble confessour -- there God hym save! --
Shal holde his nose upright under the nave.
Thanne shal this cherl, with bely stif and toght
As any tabour, hyder been ybroght;
And sette hym on the wheel right of this cart.
Upon the nave, and make hym lete a fart.
And ye shul seen, up peril of my lyf,
By preeve which that is demonstratif,
That equally the soun of it wol wende,
And eke the stynk, unto the spokes ende.
Save that this worthy man, youre confessour,
By cause he is a man of greet honour,
Shal have the firste fruyt, as resoun is. Page  100
The noble usage of freres yet is this,
The worthy men of hem shul first be served;
And certeinly he hath it well disserved.
He hath to-day taught us so muche good
With prechyng in the pulpit the he stood,
That I may vouche sauf, I sey for me,
He hadde the firste smel of fartes thre;
And so wolde al his covent hardily,
He bereth hym so faire and hoolily.
The lord, the lady, and ech man, save the frere,
Seyde that jankyn spak, in this matere,
As wel as euclide dide or ptholomee.
Touchynge the cherl, they seyde, subtiltee
And heigh wit made hym speken as he spak;
He nys no fool, ne no demonyak.
And jankyn hath ywonne a newe gowne. --
My tale is doon; we been almost at towne.