The Canterbury tales
Geoffrey Chaucer
F.N. Robinson

The Shipman's Tale

a merchant whilom dwelled at seint-denys,
     1
That riche was, for which men helde hym wys.
     2
A wyf he hadde of excellent beautee;
     3
And compaignable and revelous was she,
     4
Which is a thyng that causeth more dispence
     5
Than worth is al the chiere and reverence
     6
That men hem doon at festes and at daunces.
     7
Swiche salutaciouns and contenances
     8
Passen as dooth a shadwe upon the wal;
     9
But wo is hym that payen moot for al!
     10
The sely housbonde, algate he moot paye,
     11
He moot us clothe, and he moot us arraye,
     12
Al for his owene worshipe richely,
     13
In which array we daunce jolily.
     14
And if that he noght may, par aventure,
     15
Or ellis list no swich dispence endure,
     16
But thynketh it is wasted and ylost,
     17
Thanne moot another payen for oure cost,
     18
Or lene us gold, and that is perilous.
     19
this noble marchaunt heeld a worthy hous,
     20
For which ne hadde alday so greet repair
     21
For his largesse, and for his wyf was fair,
     22
That wonder is; but herkneth to my tale.
     23
Amonges alle his gestes, grete and smale,
     24
Ther was a monk, a fair man and a boold --
     25
I trowe a thritty wynter he was oold --
     26
That evere in oon was drawynge to that place.
     27
This yonge monk, that was so fair of face,
     28
Aqueynted was so with the goode man,
     29
Sith that hir firste knoweliche bigan,
     30
That in his hous as famulier was he
     31
As it is possible any freend to be.
     32
and for as muchel as this goode man,
     33
And eek this monk, of which that I began,
     34
Were bothe two yborn in o village,
     35
The monk hym claymeth as for cosynage;
     36
And he agayn, he seith nat ones nay,
     37
But was as glad therof as fowel of day;
     38
For to his herte it was a greet plesaunce.
     39
Thus been they knyt with eterne alliaunce,
     40
And ech of hem gan oother for t'assure
     41
Of bretherhede, whil that hir lyf may dure.
     42
Free was daun john, and namely of dispence,
     43
As in that hous, and ful of diligence
     44
To doon plesaunce, and also greet costage.
     45
He noght forgat to yeve the leeste page
     46
In al that hous; but after hir degree,
     47
He yaf the lord, and sitthe al his meynee,
     48
Whan that he cam, som manere honest thyng;
     49
For which they were as glad of his comyng
     50
As fowel is fayn whan that the sonne up riseth.
     51
Na moore of this as now, for it suffiseth.
     52
But so bifel, this marchant on a day
     53
Shoop hym to make redy his array
     54
Toward the toun of brugges for to fare,
     55
To byen there a porcioun of ware;
     56
For which he hath to parys sent anon
     57
A messager, and preyed hat daun john
     58
That he sholde come to seint-denys to pleye
     59
With hym and with his wyf a day or tweye,
     60
Er he to brugges wente, in alle wise.
     61
This noble monk, of which I yow devyse,
     62
Hath of his abbot, as hym list, licence,
     63
By cause he was a man of heigh prudence,
     64
And eek an officer, out for to ryde,
     65
To seen hir graunges and hire bernes wyde,
     66
And unto seint-denys he comth anon.
     67
Who was so welcome as my lord daun john,
     68
Oure deere cosyn, ful of curteisye?
     69
With hym broghte he a jubbe of malvesye,
     70
And eek another, ful of fyn vernage,
     71
And volatyl, as ay was his usage.
     72
And thus I lete hem ete and drynke and pleye,
     73
This marchant and this monk, a day or tweye.
     74
The thridde day, this marchant up ariseth,
     75
And on his nedes sadly hym avyseth,
     76
And up into his countour-hous gooth he
     77
To rekene with hymself, as wel may be,
     78
Of thilke yeer how that it with hym stood, Page  157
     79
And how that he despended hadde his good,
     80
And if that he encressed were or noon.
     81
His bookes and his bagges many oon
     82
He leith biforn hym on his countyng-bord.
     83
Ful riche was his tresor and his hord,
     84
For which ful faste his countour-dore he shette;
     85
And eek he nolde that no man sholde hym lette
     86
Of his acountes, for the meene tyme;
     87
And thus he sit til it was passed pryme.
     88
Daun john was rysen in the morwe also,
     89
And in the gardyn walketh to and fro,
     90
And hath his thynges seyd ful curteisly.
     91
This goode wyf cam walkynge pryvely
     92
Into the gardyn, there he walketh softe,
     93
And hym saleweth, as she hath doon ofte.
     94
A mayde child cam in hire compaignye,
     95
Which as hir list she may governe and gye,
     96
For yet under the yerde was the mayde.
     97
O deere cosyn myn, daun john, she sayde,
     98
What eyleth yow so rathe for to ryse?
     99
Nece, quod he, it oghte ynough suffise
     100
Fyve houres for to slepe upon a nyght,
     101
But it were for an old appalled wight,
     102
As been thise wedded men, that lye and dare
     103
As in a fourme sit a wery hare,
     104
Were al forstraught with houndes grete and smale.
     105
But deere nece, why be ye so pale?
     106
I trowe, certes, that oure goode man
     107
Hath yow laboured sith the nyght bigan,
     108
That yow were nede to resten hastily.
     109
And with that word he lough ful murily,
     110
And of his owene thought he was reed.
     111
This faire wyf gan for to shake hir heed
     112
And seyde thus, ye, God woot al, quod she.
     113
Nay, cosyn myn, it stant nat so with me;
     114
For, by that God that yaf me soule and lyf,
     115
In al the reawme of france is ther no wyf
     116
That lasse lust hath to that sory pley.
     117
For I may synge -- allas and weylawey
     118
That I was born, -- but to no wight, quod she,
     119
Dar I nat telle how that it stant with me.
     120
Wherfore I thynke out of this land to wende,
     121
Or elles of myself to make an ende,
     122
So ful am I of drede and eek of care.
     123
This monk bigan upon this wyf to stare,
     124
And seyde, allas, my nece, God forbede
     125
That ye, for any sorwe or any drede,
     126
Fordo youreself; but telleth me youre grief.
     127
Paraventure I may, in youre meschief,
     128
Conseille or helpe; and therfore telleth me
     129
Al youre anoy, for it shal been secree.
     130
For on my porthors here I make an ooth
     131
That nevere in my lyf, for lief ne looth,
     132
Ne shal I of no conseil yow biwreye.
     133
The same agayn to yow, quod she, I seye.
     134
By God and by this porthors I yow swere,
     135
Though men me wolde al into pieces tere,
     136
Ne shal I nevere, for to goon to helle,
     137
Biwreye a word of thyng that ye me telle,
     138
Nat for no cosynage ne alliance,
     139
But verraily, for love and affiance.
     140
Thus been they sworn, and heerupon they kiste,
     141
And ech of hem tolde oother what hem liste.
     142
Cosyn, quod she, if that I hadde a space,
     143
As I have noon, and namely in this place,
     144
Thanne wolde I telle a legende of my lyf,
     145
What I have suffred with I was a wyf
     146
With myn housbonde, al be he youre cosyn.
     147
Nay, quod this monk, by God and seint martyn,
     148
He is na moore cosyn unto me
     149
Than is this leef that hangeth on the tree!
     150
I clepe hym so, by seint denys of fraunce,
     151
To have the moore cause of aqueyntaunce
     152
Of yow, which I have loved specially
     153
Aboven alle wommen, sikerly.
     154
This swere I yow on my professioun.
     155
Telleth youre grief, lest that he come adoun;
     156
And hasteth yow, and gooth youre wey anon.
     157
My deere love, quod she, o my daun john,
     158
Ful lief were me this conseil for to hyde,
     159
But out it moot, I may namoore abyde.
     160
Myn housbonde is to me the worste man
     161
That evere was sith that the world bigan.
     162
But sith I am a wyf, it sit nat me
     163
To tellen no wight of oure privetee,
     164
Neither abedde, ne in noon oother place;
     165
God shilde I sholde it tellen, for his grace!
     166
A wyf ne shal nat seyn of hir housbonde
     167
But al honour, as I kan understonde;
     168
Save unto yow thus muche I tellen shal:
     169
As helpe me god, he is noght worth at al
     170
In no degree the value of a flye.
     171
But yet me greveth moost his nygardye.
     172
And wel ye woot that wommen naturelly
     173
Desiren thynges sixe as wel as I:
     174
They wolde that hir housbondes sholde be
     175
Hardy, and wise, and riche, and therto free,
     176
And buxom unto his wyf, and fressh abedde.
     177
But by that ilke lord that for us bledde,
     178
For his honour, myself for to arraye, Page  158
     179
A sonday next I moste nedes paye
     180
An hundred frankes, or ellis I am lorn.
     181
Yet were me levere that I were unborn
     182
Than me were doon a sclaundre or vileynye;
     183
And if myn housbonde eek it myghte espye,
     184
I nere but lost; and therfore I yow preye,
     185
Lene me this somme, or ellis moot I deye.
     186
Daun john, I seye, lene me thise hundred frankes.
     187
Pardee, I wol nat faille yow my thankes,
     188
If that yow list to doon that I yow praye.
     189
For at a certeyn day I wol yow paye,
     190
And doon to yow what plesance and service
     191
That I may doon, right as yow list devise.
     192
And but I do, God take on me vengeance
     193
As foul as evere hadde genylon of france.
     194
This gentil monk answerde in this manere:
     195
Now trewely, myn owene lady deere,
     196
I have, quod he, on yow so greet a routhe
     197
That I yow swere, and plighte yow my trouthe,
     198
That whan youre housbonde is to flaundres fare,
     199
I wol delyvere yow out of this care;
     200
For I wol brynge yow an hundred frankes.
     201
And with that word he caughte hire by the flankes,
     202
And hire embraceth harde, and kiste hire ofte.
     203
Gooth now youre wey, quod he, al stille and softe,
     204
And lat us dyne as soone as that ye may;
     205
For by my chilyndre it is pryme of day.
     206
Gooth now, and beeth as trewe as I shal be.
     207
Now elles God forbede, sire, quod she;
     208
And forth she gooth as jolif as a pye,
     209
And bad the cookes that they sholde hem hye,
     210
So that men myghte dyne, and that anon.
     211
Up to hir housbonde is this wyf ygon,
     212
And knokketh at his countour boldely.
     213
Quy la? quod he. Peter! it am I,
     214
Quod she; what, sire, how longe wol ye faste?
     215
How longe tyme wol ye rekene and caste
     216
Youre sommes, and youre bookes, and youre thynges?
     217
The devel have part on alle swiche rekenynges!
     218
Ye have ynough, pardee, of goddes sonde;
     219
Com doun to-day, and lat youre bagges stonde.
     220
Ne be ye nat ashamed that daun john
     221
Shal fasting al this day alenge goon?
     222
What! lat us heere a messe, and go we dyne.
     223
Wyf, quod this man, litel kanstow devyne
     224
The curious bisynesse that we have.
     225
For of us chapmen, also God me save,
     226
And by that lord that clepid is seint yve,
     227
Scarsly amonges twelve tweye shul thryve
     228
Continuelly, lastynge unto oure age.
     229
We may wel make chiere and good visage,
     230
And dryve forth the world as it may be,
     231
And kepen oure estaat in pryvetee,
     232
Til we be deed, or elles that we pleye
     233
A pilgrymage, or goon out of the weye.
     234
And therfore have I greet necessitee
     235
Upon this queynte world t' avyse me;
     236
For everemoore we moote stonde in drede
     237
Of hap and fortune in oure chapmanhede.
     238
To flaundres wol I go to-morwe at day,
     239
And come agayn, as soone as evere I may.
     240
For which, my deere wyf, I thee diseke,
     241
As be to every wight buxom and meke,
     242
And for to kepe oure good be curious,
     243
And honestly governe wel oure hous.
     244
Thou hast ynough, in every maner wise,
     245
That to a thrifty houshold may suffise.
     246
Thee lakketh noon array ne no vitaille;
     247
Of silver in thy purs shaltow nat faille.
     248
And with that word his countour-dore he shette,
     249
And doun he gooth, no lenger wolde he lette.
     250
But hastily a messe was ther seyd,
     251
And spedily the tables were yleyd,
     252
And to the dyner faste they hem spedde,
     253
And richely this monk the chapman fedde.
     254
At after-dyner daun john sobrely
     255
This chapman took apart, and prively
     256
He seyde hym thus: cosyn, it standeth so,
     257
That wel I se to brugges wol ye go.
     258
Go and seint austyn spede yow and gyde!
     259
I prey yow, cosyn, wisely that ye ryde.
     260
Governeth yow also of youre diete
     261
Atemprely, and namely in this hete.
     262
Bitwix us two nedeth no strange fare;
     263
Farewel, cosyn; God shilde yow fro care!
     264
And if that any thyng by day or nyght,
     265
If it lye in my power and my myght,
     266
That ye me wol comande in any wyse,
     267
It shal be doon, right as ye wol devyse.
     268
O thyng, er that ye goon, if it may be,
     269
I wolde prey yow; for to lene me
     270
An hundred frankes, for a wyke or tweye,
     271
For certein beestes that I moste beye,
     272
To stoore with a place that is oures.
     273
God helpe me so, I wolde it were youres!
     274
I shal nat faille surely of my day,
     275
Nat for a thousand frankes, a mile way.
     276
But lat this thyng be secree, I yow preye, Page  159
     277
For yet to-nyght thise beestes moot I beye.
     278
And fare now wel, myn owene cosyn deere;
     279
Graunt mercy of youre cost and of youre cheere.
     280
This noble marchant gentilly anon
     281
Answerde and seyde, o cosyn myn, daun john,
     282
Now sikerly this is a smal requeste.
     283
My gold is youres, whan that it yow leste,
     284
And nat oonly my gold, but my chaffare.
     285
Take what yow list, God shilde that ye spare.
     286
But o thyng is, ye knowe it wel ynogh,
     287
Of chapmen, that hir moneie is hir plogh.
     288
We may creaunce whil we have a name;
     289
But goldlees for to be, it is no game.
     290
Paye it agayn whan it lith in youre ese;
     291
After my myght ful fayn wolde I yow plese.
     292
Thise hundred frankes he fette forth anon,
     293
And prively he took hem to daun john.
     294
No wight in al this world wiste of this loone,
     295
Savynge this marchant and daun john allone.
     296
They drynke, and speke, and rome a while and pleye,
     297
Til that daun john rideth to his abbeye.
     298
The morwe cam, and forth this marchant rideth
     299
To flaundres-ward; his prentys wel hym gydeth,
     300
Til he came into brugges murily.
     301
Now gooth this marchant faste and bisily
     302
Aboute his nede, and byeth and creaunceth.
     303
He neither pleyeth at the dees ne daunceth,
     304
But as a marchaunt, shortly for to telle,
     305
He let him lyf, and there I lete hym dwelle.
     306
The sonday next the marchant was agon,
     307
To seint-denys ycomen is daun john,
     308
With crowne and berd al fressh and newe yshave.
     309
In al the hous ther nas so litel a knave,
     310
Ne no wight elles, that he nas ful fayn
     311
For that my lord daun john was come agayn.
     312
And shortly to the point right for to gon,
     313
This faire wyf acorded with daun john
     314
That for thise hundred frankes he sholde al nyght
     315
Have hire in his armes bolt upright;
     316
And this acord parfourned was in dede.
     317
In myrthe al nyght a bisy lyf they lede
     318
Til it was day, that daun john wente his way,
     319
And bad the meynee farewel, have good day!
     320
For noon of hem, ne no wight in the toun,
     321
Hath of daun john right no suspecioun.
     322
And forth he rydeth hoom to his abbeye,
     323
Or where hym list; namoore of hym I seye.
     324
This marchant, whan that ended was the faire,
     325
To seint-denys he gan for to repaire,
     326
And with his wyf he maketh feeste and cheere,
     327
And telleth hire that chaffare is so deere
     328
That nedes moste he make a chevyssaunce;
     329
For he was bounden in a reconyssaunce
     330
To paye twenty thousand sheeld anon.
     331
For which this marchant is to parys gon
     332
To borwe of certeine freendes that he hadde
     333
A certeyn frankes; and somme with him he ladde.
     334
And whan that he was come into the toun,
     335
For greet chiertee and greet affeccioun,
     336
Unto daun john he gooth first, hym to pleye;
     337
Nat for to axe or borwe of hym moneye,
     338
But for to wite and seen of his welfare,
     339
And for to tellen hym of his chaffare,
     340
As freendes doon whan they been met yfeere.
     341
Daun john hym maketh feeste and murye cheere,
     342
And he hym tolde agayn, ful specially,
     343
How he hadde wel yboght and graciously,
     344
Thanked be god, al hool his marchandise;
     345
Save that he moste, in alle maner wise,
     346
Maken a chevyssaunce, as for his beste,
     347
And thanne he sholde been in joye and reste.
     348
Daun john answerde, certes, I am fayn
     349
That ye in heele ar comen hom agayn.
     350
And if that I were riche, as have I blisse,
     351
Of twenty thousand sheeld sholde ye nat mysse,
     352
For ye so kyndely this oother day
     353
Lente me gold; and as I kan and may,
     354
I thanke yow, by God and by seint jame!
     355
But nathelees, I took unto oure dame,
     356
Youre wyf, at hom, the same gold ageyn
     357
Upon youre bench; she woot it wel, certeyn,
     358
By certeyn tokenes that I kan hire telle.
     359
Now, by youre leve, I may no lenger dwelle;
     360
Oure abbot wole out of this toun anon,
     361
And in his compaignye moot I goon.
     362
Grete wel oure dame, myn owene nece sweete,
     363
And fare wel, deere cosyn, til we meete!
     364
This marchant, which that was ful war and wys,
     365
Creanced hath, and payd eek in parys
     366
To certeyn lumbardes, redy in hir hond,
     367
The somme of gold, and gat of hem his bond;
     368
And hoom he gooth, murie as a papejay,
     369
For wel he knew he stood in swich array
     370
That nedes moste he wynne in that viage Page  160
     371
A thousand frankes aboven al his costage.
     372
His wyf ful redy mette hym atte gate,
     373
As she was wont of oold usage algate,
     374
And al that nyght in myrthe they bisette;
     375
For he was riche and cleerly out of dette.
     376
Whan it was day, this marchant gan embrace
     377
His wyf al newe, and kiste hire on hir face,
     378
And up he gooth and maketh it ful tough.
     379
Namoore, quod she, by god, ye have ynough!
     380
And wantownly agayn with hym she pleyde,
     381
Til atte laste thus this marchant seyde:
     382
By go, quod he, I am a litel wrooth
     383
With yow, my wyf, although it be me looth.
     384
And woot ye why? by god, as that I gesse
     385
That ye han maad a manere straungenesse
     386
Bitwixen me and my cosyn daun john.
     387
Ye sholde han warned me, er I had gon,
     388
That he yow hadde an hundred frankes payed
     389
By redy token; and heeld hym yvele apayed,
     390
For that I to hym spak of chevyssaunce;
     391
Me semed so, as by his contenaunce.
     392
But nathelees, by god, oure hevene kyng,
     393
I thoughte nat to axen hym no thyng.
     394
I prey thee, wyf, ne do namoore so;
     395
Telle me alwey, er that I fro thee go,
     396
If any dettour hath in myn absence
     397
Ypayed thee, lest thurgh thy necligence
     398
I myghte hym axe a thing that he hath payed.
     399
This wyf was nat afered nor affrayed,
     400
But boldely she seyde, and that anon;
     401
Marie, I deffie the false monk, daun john!
     402
I kepe nat of his tokenes never a deel;
     403
He took me certeyn gold, that woot I weel, --
     404
What! yvel thedam on his monkes snowte!
     405
For, God it woot, I wende, withouten doute,
     406
That he hadde yeve it me bycause of yow,
     407
To doon therwith myn honour and my prow,
     408
For cosynage, and eek for beele cheere
     409
That he hath had ful ofte tymes heere.
     410
But sith I se I stonde in this disjoynt,
     411
I wol answere yow shortly to the poynt.
     412
Ye han mo slakkere dettours than am i!
     413
For I wol paye yow wel and redily
     414
Fro day to day, and if so be I faille,
     415
I am youre wyf; score it upon my taille,
     416
And I shal paye as soone as ever I may.
     417
For by my trouthe, I have on myn array,
     418
And nat on wast, bistowed every deel;
     419
And for I have bistowed it so weel
     420
For youre honour, for goddes sake, I seye,
     421
As be nat wrooth, but lat us laughe and pleye.
     422
Ye shal my joly body have to wedde;
     423
By god, I wol nat paye yow but abedde!
     424
Forgyve it me, myn owene spouse deere;
     425
Turne hiderward, and maketh bettre cheere.
     426
This marchant saugh ther was no remedie,
     427
And for to chide it nere but folie,
     428
Sith that the thyng may nat amended be.
     429
Now wyf, he seyde, and I foryeve it thee;
     430
But, by thy lyf, ne be namoore so large.
     431
Keep bet my good, this yeve I thee in charge.
     432
Thus endeth now my tale, and God us sende
     433
Taillynge ynough unto oure lyves ende. Amen
     434