The Canterbury tales
Geoffrey Chaucer
F.N. Robinson

Part VI

Fro boloigne is this erl of panyk come,
Of which the fame up sprang to moore and lesse,
And to the peples eres, alle and some,
Was kouth eek that a newe markysesse
He with hym broghte, in swich pompe and richesse
That nevere was ther seyn with mannes ye
So noble array in al west lumbardye.
The markys, which that shoop and knew al this,
Er that this erl was come, sente his message
For thilke sely povre grisildis;
And she with humble herte and glad visage,
Nat with no swollen thoght in hire corage,
Cam at his heste, and on hire knees hire sette,
And reverently and wisely she hym grette.
Grisilde, quod he, my wyl is outrely,
This mayden, that shal wedded been to me,
Received be to-morwe as roially
As it possible is in myn hous to be,
And eek that every wight in his degree
Have his estaat, in sittyng and servyse
And heigh plesaunce, as I kan best devyse.
I have no wommen suffisaunt, certayn,
The chambres for t' arraye in ordinaunce
After my lust, and therfore wolde I fayn
That thyn were al swich manere governaunce.
Thou knowest eek of old al my plesaunce;
Thogh thyn array be badde and yvel biseye,
Do thou thy devoir at the leeste weye.
Nat oonly, lord, that I am glad, quod she,
To doon youre lust, but I desire also
Yow for to serve and plese in my degree Page  112
Withouten feyntyng, and shal everemo;
Ne nevere, for no wele ne no wo,
Ne shal the goost withinne myn herte stente
To love yow best with al my trewe entente.
And with that word she gan the hous to dighte,
And tables for to sette, and beddes make;
And peyned hire to doon al that she myghte,
Preyynge the chambereres, for goddes sake,
To hasten hem, and faste swepe and shake;
And she, the mooste servysable of alle,
Hath every chambre arrayed and his halle.
Abouten undren gan this erl alighte,
That with hym broghte thise noble children tweye,
For which the peple ran to seen the sighte
Of hire array, so richely biseye;
And thanne at erst amonges hem they seye
That walter was no fool, thogh that hym leste
To chaunge his wyf, for it was for the beste.
For she is fairer, as they deemen alle,
That is grisilde, and moore tendre of age,
And fairer fruyt bitwene hem sholde falle,
And moore plesant, for hire heigh lynage.
Hir brother eek so fair was of visage
That hem to seen the peple hath caught plesaunce,
Commendynge now the markys governaunce.
O stormy peple! unsad and evere untrewe!
Ay undiscreet and chaungynge as a fane!
Delitynge evere in rumbul that is newe,
For lyk the moone ay wexe ye and wane!
Ay ful of clappyng, deere ynogh a jane!
Youre doom is fals, youre constance preeveth;
A ful greet fool is he that on yow leeveth.
Thus seyden sadde folk in that citee,
Whan that the peple gazed up and doun;
For they were glad, right for the noveltee,
To han a newe lady of hir toun.
Namoore of this make I now mencioun,
But to grisilde agayn wol I me dresse,
And telle hir constance and hir bisynesse. --
Ful bisy was grisilde in every thyng
That to the feeste was apertinent.
Right noght was she abayst of hire clothyng,
Thogh it were rude and somdeel eek torent;
But with glad cheere to the yate is went
With oother folk, to greete the markysesse,
And after that dooth forth hire bisynesse.
With so glad chiere his gestes she receyveth,
And konnyngly, everich in his degree,
That no defaute no man aperceyveth,
But ay they wondren what she myghte bee
That in so povre array was for to see,
And koude swich honour and reverence,
And worthily they preisen hire prudence.
In al this meene while she ne stente
This mayde and eek hir brother to commende
With al hir herte, in ful benyngne entente,
So wel that no man koude hir pris amende.
But atte laste, whan that thise lordes wende
To sitten doun to mete, he gan to calle
Grisilde, as she was bisy in his halle.
Grisilde, quod he, as it were in his pley,
How liketh thee my wyf and hire beautee?
Right wel, quod she, my lord; for, in good fey,
A fairer saugh I nevere noon than she.
I prey to God yeve hire prosperitee;
And so hope I that he wol to yow sende
Plesance ynogh unto youre lyves ende.
O thyng biseke I yow, and warne also,
That ye ne prikke with no tormentynge
This tendre mayden, as ye han doon mo;
For she is fostred in hire norissynge
Moore tendrely, and, to my supposynge,
She koude nat adversitee endure
As koude a povre fostred creature.
And whan this walter saugh hire pacience,
Hir glade chiere, and no malice at al,
And he so ofte had doon to hire offence,
And she ay sad and constant as a wal,
Continuynge evere hire innocence overal,
This sturdy markys gan his herte dresse
To rewen upon hire wyfly stedfastnesse.
This is ynogh, grisilde myn, quod he;
Be now namoore agast ne yvele apayed.
I have thy feith and thy benyngnytee,
As wel as evere womman was, assayed,
In greet estaat, and povreliche arrayed.
Now knowe I, dere wyf, thy stedfastnesse, --
And hire in armes took and gan hire kesse.
And she for wonder took of it no keep;
She herde nat what thyng he to hire seyde; Page  113
She ferde as she had stert out of a sleep,
Til she out of hire mazednesse abreyde.
Grisilde, quod he, by god, that for us deyde,
Thou art my wyf, ne noon oother I have,
Ne nevere hadde, as God my soule save!
This is thy doghter, which thou hast supposed
To be my wyf; that oother feithfully
Shal be myn heir, as I have ay disposed;
Thou bare hym in thy body trewely.
At boloigne have I kept hem prively;
Taak hem agayn, for now maystow nat seye
That thou hast lorn noon of thy children tweye.
And folk that ootherweys han seyd of me,
I warne hem wel that I have doon this deede
For no malice, ne for no crueltee,
But for t' assaye in thee thy wommanheede,
And nat to sleen my children -- God forbeede! --
But for to kepe hem pryvely and stille,
Til I thy purpos knewe and al thy wille.
Whan she this herde, aswowne doun she falleth
For pitous joye, and after hire swownynge
She bothe hire yonge children to hire calleth,
And in hire armes, pitously wepynge,
Embraceth hem, and tendrely kissynge
Ful lyk a mooder, with hire salte teeres
She bathed bothe hire visage and hire heeres.
O which a pitous thyng it was to se
Hir swownyng, and hire humble voys to heere!
Grauntmercy, lord, God thanke it yow, quod she,
That ye han saved me my children deere!
Now rekke I nevere to been deed right heere;
Sith I stonde in youre love and in youre grace,
No fors of deeth, ne whan my spirit pace!
O tendre, o deere, o yonge children myne!
Youre woful mooder wende stedfastly
That crueel houndes or som foul vermyne
Hadde eten yow; but god, of his mercy,
And youre benyngne fader tendrely
Hath doon yow kept, -- and in that same stounde
Al sodeynly she swapte adoun to grounde,
And in hire swough so sadly holdeth she
Hire children two, whan she gan hem t' embrace,
That with greet sleighte and greet difficultee
The children from hire arm they gonne arace.
O many a teere on many a pitous face
Doun ran of hem that stooden hire bisyde;
Unnethe abouten hire myghte they abyde.
Walter hire gladeth, and hire sorwe slaketh;
She riseth up, abaysed, from hire traunce,
And every wight hire joye and feeste maketh
Til she hath caught agayn hire contenaunce.
Walter hire dooth so feithfully plesaunce
That it was deyntee for to seen the cheere
Bitwixe hem two, now they been met yfeere.
Thise ladyes, whan that they hir tyme say,
Han taken hire and into chambre gon,
And strepen hire out of hire rude array,
And in a clooth of gold that brighte shoon,
With a coroune of many a riche stoon
Upon hire heed, they into halle hire broghte,
And ther she was honured as hire oghte.
Thus hath this pitous day a blisful ende,
For every man and womman dooth his myght
This day in murthe and revel to dispende
Til on the welkne shoon the sterres lyght.
For moore solempne in every mannes syght
This feste was, and gretter of costage,
Than was the revel of hire mariage.
Ful many a yeer in heigh prosperitee
Lyven thise two in concord and in reste,
And richely his doghter maryed he
Unto a lord, oon of the worthieste
Of al ytaille; and thanne in pees and reste
His wyves fader in his court he kepeth,
Til that the soule out of his body crepeth.
His sone succedeth in his heritage
In reste and pees, after his fader day,
And fortunat was eek in mariage,
Al putte he nat his wyf in greet assay.
This world is nat so strong, it is no nay,
As it hath been in olde tymes yoore,
And herkneth what this auctour seith therfoore.
This storie is seyd, nat for that wyves sholde
Folwen grisilde as in humylitee,
For it were inportable, though they wolde;
But for that every wight, in his degree,
Sholde be constant in adversitee
As was grisilde; therfore petrak writeth
This storie, which with heigh stile he enditeth. Page  114
For, sith a womman was so pacient
Unto a mortal man, wel moore us oghte
Receyven al in gree that God us sent;
For greet skile is, he preeve that he wroghte.
But he ne tempteth no man that he boghte,
As seith seint jame, if ye his pistel rede;
He preeveth folk al day, it is no drede,
And suffreth us, as for oure excercise,
With sharpe scourges of adversitee
Ful ofte to be bete in sondry wise;
Nat for to knowe oure wyl, for certes he,
Er we were born, knew al oure freletee;
And for oure beste is al his governaunce.
Lat us thanne lyve in vertuous suffraunce.
But o work lordynges, herkneth er I go:
It were ful hard to fynde now-a-dayes
In al a toun grisildis thre or two;
For if that they were put to swiche assayes,
The gold of hem hath now so badde alayes
With bras, that thogh the coyne be fair at ye,
It wolde rather breste a-two than plye.
For which heere, for the wyves love of bathe --
Whos lyf and al hire secte God mayntene
In heigh maistrie, and elles were it scathe --
I wol with lusty herte, fressh and grene,
Seyn yow a song to glade yow, I wene;
And lat us stynte of ernestful matere.
Herkneth my song that seith in this manere: