Chaucer's translation of Boethius's "De consolatione philosphiæ"
Richard Morris


Þan seide I þus I confesse and am aknowe quod I. ne I ne se nat þat men may seyn as by ryȝt. þat shrewes ne ben nat chaunged in to beestes by þe qualite of hir soules. ¶ Al be it so þat þei kepen ȝitte þe forme of þe body of mankynde. but I nolde nat of shrewes of whiche þe þouȝt cruel woodeþ alwey in to destruccioun of good[e] men. þat it were leueful to hem to done þat. ¶ Certys quod she ne it nis nat leueful to hem as I shal wel shewen þe in couenable place. ¶ But naþeles yif so were þat þilke þat men wenen ben Page  124leueful for shrewes were bynomen hem. so þat þei ne myȝten nat anoyen or don harme to goode men. ¶ Certys a gret party of þe peyne to shrewes shulde ben allegged and releued. ¶ For al be it so þat þis ne seme nat credible þing perauenture to somme folk ȝit mot it nedes be þat shrewes ben more wrecches and vnsely. whan þei may don and performe þat þei coueiten [than yif they myhte nat complyssen þat they coueyten]. ¶ For yif so be þat it be wrecchednesse to wilne to don yuel.̉ þan is it more wrecchednesse to mowen don yuel. wiþ oute whiche moeuyng þe wrecched wille sholde languisshe wiþ oute effecte. ¶ þan syn þat eueryche of þise þinges haþ hys wrecchednesse. þat is to seyne wil to done yuel. and moeuynge to done yuel. it mot nedes be. þat þei (shrewes) ben constreyned by þre vnselynesses þat wolen and mowen and performen felonyes and shrewednesses. ¶ I accorde me quod I. but I desire gretely þat shrewes losten sone þilke vnselynesses. þat is to seyne þat shrewes were despoyled of moeuyng to don yuel. ¶ so shullen þei quod she. sonnere perauenture þen þou woldest [fol. 28] or sonnere þen þei hem self wenen to lakken mowynge to done yuel. ¶ For þere nis no þing so late in so short boundes of þis lijf þat is longe to abide. namelyche to a corage inmortel. Of whiche shrewes þe grete hope and þe heye compassyngus of shrewednesse is often destroyed by a sodeyne ende or þei ben war. and þat þing establiþ to shrewes þe ende of hir shrewednesse. ¶ For yif þat shrewednesse makiþe wrecches. þan mot he nedes be most wrecched þat lengest is a shrewe. þe whiche wicked shrewes wolde ydemen aldirmost vnsely and Page  125caytifs yif þat hir shrewednes ne were yfinissed. at þe leste weye by þe outerest[e] deeþ. for [yif] I haue concluded soþe of þe vnselynesse of shrewednesse. þan sheweþ it clerely þat þilke shrewednesse is wiþ outen ende þe whiche is certeyne to ben perdurable. ¶ Certys quod I þis [conclusion] is harde and wonderful to graunte. ¶ But I knowe wel þat it accordeþ moche to [the] þinges þat I haue graunted her byforne. ¶ þou hast quod she þe ryȝt estimacioun of þis. but who so euere wene þat it be an harde þing to acorde hym to a conclusioun. it is ryȝt þat he shewe þat somme of þe premisses ben fals. or ellys he mot shewe þat þe colasioun of preposiciouns nis nat spedful to a necessarie conclusioun. ¶ and yif it be nat so. but þat þe premisses ben ygranted þer nis nat whi he sholde blame þe argument. for þis þing þat I shal telle þe nowe ne shal not seme lasse wondirful. but of þe þinges þat ben taken al so it is necessarie as who so seiþ it folweþ of þat whiche þat is purposed byforn. what is þat quod I. ¶ certys quod she þat is þat þat þise wicked shrewes ben more blysful or ellys lasse wrecches. þat byen þe tourmentes þat þei han deserued. þan yif no peyne of Iustice ne chastied[e] hem. ne þis ne seye I nat now for þat any man myȝt[e] þenk[e] þat þe maneres of shrewes ben coriged and chastised by veniaunce. and þat þei ben brouȝt to þe ryȝt wey by þe drede of þe tourment. ne for þat þei ȝeuen to oþer folk ensample to fleyen from vices. ¶ But I vndirstonde ȝitte [in] an oþer manere þat shrewes ben more vnsely whan þei ne ben nat punissed al be it so þat þere ne ben had no resoun or lawe of correccioun. ne none ensample of lokynge. ¶ And what manere Page  126shal þat ben quod I. ouþer þan haþ ben told here byforn ¶ Haue we nat graunted þan quod she þat good[e] folk ben blysful. and shrewes ben wrecches. ȝis quod I. [thanne quod she] ȝif þat any good were added to þe wrecchenesse of any wyȝt. nis he nat more blisful þan he þat ne haþ no medelyng of goode in hys solitarie wrecchednesse. so semeþ it quod I. and what seyst þou þan quod she of þilke wrecche þat lakkeþ alle goodes. so þat no goode nis medeled in hys wrecchednesse. and ȝitte ouer alle hys wickednesse for whiche he is a wrecche þat þer be ȝitte anoþer yuel anexid and knyt to hym. shal not men demen hym more vnsely þan þilke wrecche of whiche þe vnselynesse is re[le]ued by þe participacioun of som goode. whi sholde he nat quod I. ¶ þan certys quod she han shrewes whan þei ben punissed somwhat of good anexid to hir wrecchednesse. þat is to seyne þe same peyne þat þei suffren whiche þat is good by þe resoun of Iustice. And whan þilke same shrewes ascapen wiþ outen tourment. þan han þei somwhat more of yuel ȝit ouer þe wickednesso þat þei han don. þat is to seye defaute of peyne. whiche defaute of peyne þou hast graunted is yuel. ¶ For þe desert of felonye I ne may nat denye it quod I. ¶ Moche more þan quod she ben shrewes vnsely whan þei ben wrongfully delyuered fro peyne. þan whan þei beþ punissed by ryȝtful vengeaunce. but þis is open þing and clere þat it is ryȝt þat shrewes ben punissed. and it is wickednesse and wrong þat þei escapin vnpunissed ¶who myȝt[e] denye [fol. 28b] þat quod I. but quod she may any man denye. þat al þat is ryȝt nis good. and also þe contrarie. þat alle þat is wrong nis Page  127wicked. certys quod I þise þinges ben clere ynouȝ. and þat we han concludid a litel here byforne. but I preye þe þat þou telle me yif þou accordest to leten no tourment to þe soules aftir þat þe body is dedid by þe deþe. þis [is] to seyn. vndirstondest þou ouȝt þat soules han any tourment after þe deþe of þe body. ¶ Certis quod she ȝe and þat ryȝt grete. of whiche soules quod she I trowe þat somme ben tourmentid by asprenesse of peyne. and somme soules I trowe be excercised by a purging mekenesse. but my conseil nys nat to determyne of þis peyne. but I haue trauayled and told it hider to. ¶ For þou sholdest knowe þat þe mowynge [.i. myght] of shrewes whiche mowynge þe semeþ to ben. vnworþi nis no mowynge. and eke of shrewes of whiche þou pleynedest þat þei ne were nat punissed. þat þou woldest seen þat þei ne weren neuer mo wiþ outen þe torment of hire wickednesse. and of þe licence of mowynge to done yuel. þat þou preidest þat it myȝt[e] sone ben endid. and þat þou woldest fayne lerne. þat it ne sholde nat longe endure. and þat shrewes ben more vnsely yif þei were of lenger duryng. and most vnsely yif þei weren perdurable. and after þis I haue shewed þe þat more vnsely ben shrewes whan þei escapen wiþ oute ryȝtful peyne. þan whan þei ben punissed by ryȝtful uengeaunce. and of þis sentence folweþ it þat þan ben shrewes constreyned atte laste wiþ most greuous tourment. whan men wene þat þei ne ben nat ypunissed. whan I considre þi resouns quod I. I. ne trowe nat þat men seyn any þing more verrely. and yif I tourne aȝeyn to þe studies of men. who is [he] to whom it sholde seme þat [he] ne sholde nat only leuen þise þinges. but eke gladly herkene hem. Certys quod Page  128she so it is. but men may nat. for þei han hire eyen so wont to derkenesse of erþely þinges. þat þei may nat liften hem vp to þe lyȝt of clere soþefastnes. ¶ But þei ben lyke to briddes of whiche þe nyȝt lyȝtneþ hyre lookyng. and þe day blyndeþ hem. for whan men loken nat þe ordre of þinges but hire lustes and talentȝ. þei wene þat oþir þe leue or þe mowynge to done wickednesse or ellys þe escaping wiþ oute peyne be weleful. but considere þe iugement of þe perdurable lawe. for if þou conferme þi corage to þe beste þinges. þou ne hast no nede to no iuge to ȝiuen þe pris or meede. for þou hast ioigned þi self to þe most excellent þing. and yif þou haue enclined þi studies to þe wicked þinges. ne seek no foreyn wrekere out of þi self. for þou þi self hast þrest þe in to wicked þinges. ryȝt as þou myȝtest loken by dyuerse tymes þe foule erþe and þe heuene. and þat alle oþer þinges stynten fro wiþ oute. so þat þou [nere neyther in heuene ne in erthe] ne say[e] no þing more. þan sholde it semen to þe as by only resoun of lokynge. þat þou were in þe sterres. and now in þe erþe. but þe poeple ne lokeþ nat on þise þinges. what þan shal we þan approchen vs to hem þat I haue shewed þat þei ben lyke to þe bestes. (q. d. non) ¶ And what wilt þou seyne of þis ¶ yif þat a man hadde al forlorn hys syȝt. and had[de] forȝeten þat he euer saw and wende þat no þing ne fayled[e] hym of perfeccioun of mankynde. now we þat myȝten sen þe same þing wolde we nat wene þat he were blynde (q. d. sic). ne also ne accordeþ nat þe poeple to þat I shal seyne. þe whiche þing is susteyned by a stronge foundement of resouns. þat is to seyn þat more vnsely ben þei Page  129þat don wrong to oþer folk. þen þei þat þe wrong suffren. ¶ I wolde heren þilke [fol. 29] same resouns quod I ¶ Deniest þou quod she þat alle shrewes ne ben worþi to han tourment. nay quod I. but quod she I am certeyne by many resouns þat shrewes ben vnsely. it accordeþ quod I. þan [ne] dowtest þou nat quod she þat þilke folk þat ben worþi of tourment þat þei ne ben wrecches. It accordeþ wel quod I. yif þou were þan quod she yset a Iuge or a knower of þinges. wheþer trowest þou þat men sholde tourment[e] hym þat haþ don þe wronge. or hym þat haþ suffred þe wronge. I ne doute nat quod I. þat I nolde don suffissaunt satisfaccioun to hym þat had[de] suffred þe wrong by þe sorwe of hym þat had[de] don þe wronge. ¶ þan semeþ it quod she þat þe doar of wrong is more wrecche þan he þat haþ suffred þe wrong. þat folweþ wel quod [I]. þan quod she by þise causes and by oþer causes þat ben enforced by þe same roate þat filþe or synne by þe propre nature of it makeþ men wrecches. and it sheweþ wel þat þe wrong þat men don nis nat þe wrecchenesse of hym þat receyueþ þe wrong. but þe wrecchednesse of hym þat doþ þe wronge ¶ but certys quod she þise oratours or aduocatȝ don al þe contrarie for þei enforcen hem to commoeue þe iuges to han pite of hem þat han suffred and resceyued þe þinges þat ben greuous and aspre. and ȝitte men sholden more ryȝtfully han pitee on hem þat don þe greuaunces and þe wronges. þe whiche shrewes it were a more couenable þing þat þe accusours or aduocatȝ not wroþe but pitous and debonaire ladden þe shrewes þat han don wrong to þe Iugement. ryȝt as men leden seke folk to þe leche. for þat þei sholden seken out þe maladies of synne by Page  130tourmentȝ. and by þis couenaunt eyþer þe entent of þe defendours or aduocatȝ sholde fayle and cesen in al. or ellys yif þe office of aduocatȝ wolde bettre profiten to men. it sholde be tourned in to þe habit of accusacioun. þat is [to] s[e]yn þei sholden accuse shrewes. and nat excuse hem. and eke þe shrewes hem self. ȝit it were leueful to hem to seen at any clifte þe vertue þat þei han forleten. and sawen þat þei sholde putten adoun þe filþes of hire vices by [the] tourmentȝ of peynes. þei ne auȝten nat ryȝt for þe recompensacioun forto geten hem bounte and prowesse whiche þat þei han lost demen ne holden þat þilke peynes weren tourmentes to hem. and eke þei wolden refuse þe attendaunce of hir aduocatȝ and taken hem self to hire iuges and to hir accusours. for whiche it bytideþ [þat] as to þe wise folk þer nis no place ylete to hate. þat is to seyn. þat hate ne haþ no place amonges wise men. ¶ For no wyȝt wolde haten gode men. but yif he were ouer moche a fole. ¶ and forto haten shrewes it nis no resoun. ¶ For ryȝt so as languissing is maladie of body. ryȝt so ben vices and synne maladies of corage. ¶ and so as we ne deme nat þat þei þat ben seek of hire body ben worþi to ben hated. but raþer worþi of pite. wel more worþi nat to ben hated. but forto ben had in pite ben þei of whiche þe þouȝtes ben constreined by felonous wickednesse. þat is more cruel þan any languissinge of body.