They had a cook with them who stood alone For boiling chicken with a marrow-bone, Sharp flavouring powder and a spice for savour. He could distinguish London ale by flavour, And he could roast and boil and seethe and fry, Make good thick soup and bake a tasty pie... As for blancmange, he made it with the best.
The Cook's Tale
THE Cook of London, while the Reeve thus spake,
For joy he laugh'd and clapp'd him on the back:
'Aha!' quoth he, 'for Christes passion,
This Miller had a sharp conclusion,
Upon this argument of herbergage.* *lodging
Well saide Solomon in his language,
Bring thou not every man into thine house,
For harbouring by night is perilous.
*Well ought a man avised for to be* *a man should take good heed*
Whom that he brought into his privity.
I pray to God to give me sorrow and care
If ever, since I highte* Hodge of Ware, *was called
Heard I a miller better *set a-work*; *handled
He had a jape* of malice in the derk. *trick
But God forbid that we should stinte* here, *stop
And therefore if ye will vouchsafe to hear
A tale of me, that am a poore man,
I will you tell as well as e'er I can
A little jape that fell in our city.'
Our Host answer'd and said; 'I grant it thee.
Roger, tell on; and look that it be good,
For many a pasty hast thou letten blood,
And many a Jack of Dover<1> hast thou sold,
That had been twice hot and twice cold.
Of many a pilgrim hast thou Christe's curse,
For of thy parsley yet fare they the worse.
That they have eaten in thy stubble goose:
For in thy shop doth many a fly go loose.
Now tell on, gentle Roger, by thy name,
But yet I pray thee be not *wroth for game*; *angry with my jesting*
A man may say full sooth in game and play.'
'Thou sayst full sooth,' quoth Roger, 'by my fay;
But sooth play quad play,<2> as the Fleming saith,
And therefore, Harry Bailly, by thy faith,
Be thou not wroth, else we departe* here, *part company
Though that my tale be of an hostelere.* *innkeeper
But natheless, I will not tell it yet,
But ere we part, y-wis* thou shalt be quit.'<3> *assuredly
And therewithal he laugh'd and made cheer,<4>
And told his tale, as ye shall after hear.
A prentice whilom dwelt in our city,
And of a craft of victuallers was he:
Galliard* he was, as goldfinch in the shaw**, *lively **grove
Brown as a berry, a proper short fellaw:
With lockes black, combed full fetisly.* *daintily
And dance he could so well and jollily,
That he was called Perkin Revellour.
He was as full of love and paramour,
As is the honeycomb of honey sweet;
Well was the wenche that with him might meet.
At every bridal would he sing and hop;
He better lov'd the tavern than the shop.
For when there any riding was in Cheap,<1>
Out of the shoppe thither would he leap,
And, till that he had all the sight y-seen,
And danced well, he would not come again;
And gather'd him a meinie* of his sort, *company of fellows
To hop and sing, and make such disport:
And there they *sette steven* for to meet *made appointment*
To playen at the dice in such a street.
For in the towne was there no prentice
That fairer coulde cast a pair of dice
Than Perkin could; and thereto *he was free *he spent money liberally
Of his dispence, in place of privity.* where he would not be seen*
That found his master well in his chaffare,* *merchandise
For oftentime he found his box full bare.
For, soothely, a prentice revellour,
That haunteth dice, riot, and paramour,
His master shall it in his shop abie*, *suffer for
All* have he no part of the minstrelsy. *although
For theft and riot they be convertible,
All can they play on *gitern or ribible.* *guitar or rebeck*
Revel and truth, as in a low degree,
They be full wroth* all day, as men may see. *at variance
This jolly prentice with his master bode,
Till he was nigh out of his prenticehood,
All were he snubbed* both early and late, *rebuked
And sometimes led with revel to Newgate.
But at the last his master him bethought,
Upon a day when he his paper<2> sought,
Of a proverb, that saith this same word;
Better is rotten apple out of hoard,
Than that it should rot all the remenant:
So fares it by a riotous servant;
It is well lesse harm to let him pace*, *pass, go
Than he shend* all the servants in the place. *corrupt
Therefore his master gave him a quittance,
And bade him go, with sorrow and mischance.
And thus this jolly prentice had his leve*: *desire
Now let him riot all the night, or leave*. *refrain
And, for there is no thief without a louke,<3>
That helpeth him to wasten and to souk* *spend
Of that he bribe* can, or borrow may, *steal
Anon he sent his bed and his array
Unto a compere* of his owen sort, *comrade
That loved dice, and riot, and disport;
And had a wife, that held *for countenance* *for appearances*
A shop, and swived* for her sustenance. *prostituted herself
The Canterbury Tales; The Reves Tale
PROLOGUE TO THE REVES TALE
The prologe of the Reves Tale.
Whan folk hadde laughen at this nyce cas
Of Absolon and hende Nicholas,
Diverse folk diversely they seyde,
But for the moore part they loughe and pleyde,
Ne at this tale I saugh no man hym greve,
But it were oonly Osewold the Reve;
Bycause he was of carpenteres craft,
A litel ire is in his herte ylaft;
He gan to grucche, and blamed it a lite.
'So theek,' quod he, 'ful wel koude I you quite,
With bleryng of a proud milleres eye,
If that me liste speke of ribaudye.
But ik am oold, me list no pley for age,
Gras-tyme is doon, my fodder is now forage,
This white top writeth myne olde yeris,
Myn herte is also mowled as myne heris,
But if I fare as dooth an openers;
That ilke fruyt is ever leng the wers,
Til it be roten in mullok or in stree.
We olde men, I drede, so fare we,
Til we be roten kan we nat be rype.
We hoppen ay whil that the world wol pype,
For in oure wyl ther stiketh evere a nayl
To have an hoor heed and a grene tayl,
As hath a leek, for thogh oure myght be goon,
Oure wyl desireth folie evere in oon.
For whan we may nat doon, than wol we speke,
Yet in oure asshen olde is fyr yreke.
Foure gleedes han we whiche I shal devyse,
Avauntyng, liyng, anger, coveitise;
Thise foure sparkles longen unto eelde.
Oure olde lemes mowe wel been unweelde,
But wyl ne shal nat faillen, that is sooth.
And yet ik have alwey a coltes tooth,
As many a yeer as it is passed henne
Syn that my tappe of lif bigan to renne.
For sikerly whan I was bore, anon
Deeth drough the tappe of lyf, and leet it gon,
And ever sithe hath so the tappe yronne,
Til that almoost al empty is the tonne.
The streem of lyf now droppeth on the chymbe;
The sely tonge may wel rynge and chymbe
Of wrecchednesse that passed is ful yoore.
With olde folk, save dotage, is namoore.'
Whan that oure Hoost hadde herd this sermonyng,
He gan to speke as lordly as a kyng,
He seide, 'What amounteth al this wit?
What shul we speke alday of hooly writ?
The devel made a reve for to preche,
And of a soutere, shipman, or a leche.
Sey forth thy tale, and tarie nat the tyme.
Lo Depeford, and it is half-wey pryme;
Lo, Grenewych, ther many a shrewe is inne;
It were al tyme thy tale to bigynne.'
'Now sires,' quod this Osewold the Reve,
'I pray yow alle, that ye nat yow greve,
Thogh I answere, and somdeel sette his howve,
For leveful is with force force of-showve.
This dronke Millere hath ytoold us heer,
How that bigyled was a Carpenteer,
Peraventure in scorn, for I am oon;
And by youre leve I shal hym quite anoon.
Right in his cherles termes wol I speke,
I pray to God his nekke mote breke!
He kan wel in myn eye seen a stalke,
But in his owene he kan nat seen a balke.'
(Simkin, a rich thieving miller of Trumpington Mill, near
Cambridge, is well served by two Cambridge clerks of the
north country, who beguile his wife and daughter, recover
the stolen meal which he had hid, and leave him well beaten.)
THE PROLOGUE TO THE COKES TALE.
The prologe of the Cokes Tale.
The Cook of London, whil the Reve spak,
For joye him thoughte, he clawed him on the bak.
'Ha! ha!' quod he, 'for Criste passioun,
This miller hadde a sharp conclusioun
Upon his argument of herbergage.
Wel seyde Salomon in his langage,
`Ne brynge nat every man into thyn hous,'
For herberwynge by nyghte is perilous.
Wel oghte a man avysed for to be,
Whom that be broghte into his pryvetee.
I pray to God so yeve me sorwe and care,
If evere sitthe I highte Hogge of Ware,
Herde I a millere bettre yset awerk.
He hadde a jape of malice in the derk.
But God forbede that we stynte heere,
And therfore, if ye vouche-sauf to heere
A tale of me that am a povre man,
I wol yow telle, as wel as evere I kan,
A litel jape that fil in oure citee.'
Oure Hoost answerde and seide, 'I graunte it thee,
Now telle on, Roger, looke that it be good,
For many a pastee hastow laten blood,
And many a Jakke of Dovere hastow soold
That hath been twies hoot and twies cold.
Of many a pilgrim hastow Cristes curs,
For of thy percely yet they fare the wors,
That they han eten with thy stubbel-goos,
For in thy shoppe is many a flye loos.
Now telle on, gentil Roger, by thy name,
But yet I pray thee, be nat wroth for game,
A man may seye ful sooth in game and pley.'
'Thou seist ful sooth,' quod Roger, 'by my fey;
But `sooth pley quaad pley,' as the Flemyng seith.
And ther-fore, Herry Bailly, by thy feith,
Be thou nat wrooth, er we departen heer,
Though that my tale be of an hostileer.
But nathelees I wol nat telle it yit,
But er we parte, ywis, thou shalt be quit.'
And ther-with-al he lough and made cheere,
And seyde his tale, as ye shul after heere.
THE TALE (Unfinished).
(Perkin, a London apprentice, being dismissed by his
master, seeks his companions in dice, revel and disport.)
Canterbury Tales, The Knight's Tale, Book I [Excerpt]
In days of old there lived, of mighty fame,
A valiant Prince, and Theseus was his name;
A chief, who more in feats of arms excelled,
The rising nor the setting sun beheld.
Of Athens he was lord; much land he won,
And added foreign countries to his crown.
In Scythia with the warrior Queen he strove,
Whom first by force he conquered, then by love;
He brought in triumph back the beauteous dame,
With whom her sister, fair Emilia, came.
With honour to his home let Theseus ride,
With Love to friend, and Fortune for his guide,
And his victorious army at his side.
I pass their warlike pomp, their proud array,
Their shouts, their songs, their welcome on the way;
But, were it not too long, I would recite
The feats of Amazons, the fatal fight
Betwixt the hardy Queen and hero Knight;
The town besieged, and how much blood it cost
The female army, and the Athenian host;
The spousals of Hippolyta the Queen;
What tilts and turneys at the feast were seen;
The storm at their return, the ladies' fear:
But these and other things I must forbear.
The field is spacious I design to sow
With oxen far unfit to draw the plough:
The remnant of my tale is of a length
To tire your patience, and to waste my strength;
And trivial accidents shall be forborn,
That others may have time to take their turn,
As was at first enjoined us by mine host,
That he, whose tale is best and pleases most,
Should win his supper at our common cost.
And therefore where I left, I will pursue
This ancient story, whether false or true,
In hope it may be mended with a new.
The Prince I mentioned, full of high renown,
In this array drew near the Athenian town;
When, in his pomp and utmost of his pride
Marching, he chanced to cast his eye aside,
And saw a quire of mourning dames, who lay
By two and two across the common way:
At his approach they raised a rueful cry,
And beat their breasts, and held their hands on high,
Creeping and crying, till they seized at last
His courser's bridle and his feet embraced.
"Tell me,' said Theseus, "what and whence you are,
"And why this funeral pageant you prepare?
Is this the welcome of my worthy deeds,
To meet my triumph in ill-omened weeds?
Or envy you my praise, and would destroy
With grief my pleasures, and pollute my joy?
Or are you injured, and demand relief?
Name your request, and I will ease your grief."
The most in years of all the mourning train
Began; but swounded first away for pain;
Then scarce recovered spoke: "Nor envy we
"Thy great renown, nor grudge thy victory;
‘Tis thine, O King, the afflicted to redress,
And fame has filled the world with thy success:
We wretched women sue for that alone,
Which of thy goodness is refused to none;
Let fall some drops of pity on our grief,
If what we beg be just, and we deserve relief;
For none of us, who now thy grace implore,
But held the rank of sovereign queen before;
Till, thanks to giddy Chance, which never bears
That mortal bliss should last for length of years,
She cast us headlong from our high estate,
And here in hope of thy return we wait,
And long have waited in the temple nigh,
Built to the gracious goddess Clemency.
But reverence thou the power whose name it bears,
Relieve the oppressed, and wipe the widows' tears.
I, wretched I, have other fortune seen,
The wife of Capaneus, and once a Queen;
At Thebes he fell; cursed be the fatal day!
And all the rest thou seest in this array
To make their moan their lords in battle lost,
Before that town besieged by our confederate host.
But Creon, old and impious, who commands
The Theban city, and usurps the lands,
Denies the rites of funeral fires to those
Whose breathless bodies yet he calls his foes.
Unburned, unburied, on a heap they lie;
Such is their fate, and such his tyranny;
No friend has leave to bear away the dead,
But with their lifeless limbs his hounds are fed."
At this she shrieked aloud; the mournful train
Echoed her grief, and grovelling on the plain,
With groans, and hands upheld, to move his mind,
Besought his pity to their helpless kind.
The Prince was touched, his tears began to flow,
And, as his tender heart would break in two,
He sighed; and could not but their fate deplore,
So wretched now, so fortunate before.
Then lightly from his lofty steed he flew,
And raising one by one the suppliant crew,
To comfort each, full solemnly he swore,
That by the faith which knights to knighthood bore,
And whate'er else to chivalry belongs,
He would not cease, till he revenged their wrongs;
That Greece should see performed what he declared,
And cruel Creon find his just reward.
He said no more, but shunning all delay
Rode on, nor entered Athens on his way;
But left his sister and his queen behind,
And waved his royal banner in the wind,
Where in an argent field the God of War
Was drawn triumphant on his iron car.
Red was his sword, and shield, and whole attire,
And all the godhead seemed to glow with fire;
Even the ground glittered where the standard flew,
And the green grass was dyed to sanguine hue.
High on his pointed lance his pennon bore
His Cretan fight, the conquered Minotaur:
The soldiers shout around with generous rage,
And in that victory their own presage.
He praised their ardour, inly pleased to see
His host, the flower of Grecian chivalry.
All day he marched, and all the ensuing night,
And saw the city with returning light.
The process of the war I need not tell,
How Theseus conquered, and how Creon fell;
Or after, how by storm the walls were won,
Or how the victor sacked and burned the town;
How to the ladies he restored again
The bodies of their lords in battle slain;
And with what ancient rites they were interred;
All these to fitter time shall be deferred:
I spare the widows' tears, their woful cries,
And howling at their husbands' obsequies;
How Theseus at these funerals did assist,
And with what gifts the mourning dames dismissed.
Thus when the victor chief had Creon slain,
And conquered Thebes, he pitched upon the plain
His mighty camp, and when the day returned,
The country wasted and the hamlets burned,
And left the pillagers, to rapine bred,
Without control to strip and spoil the dead.
There, in a heap of slain, among the rest
Two youthful knights they found beneath a load oppressed
Of slaughtered foes, whom first to death they sent,
The trophies of their strength, a bloody monument.
Both fair, and both of royal blood they seemed,
Whom kinsmen to the crown the heralds deemed;
That day in equal arms they fought for fame;
Their swords, their shields, their surcoats were the same:
Close by each other laid they pressed the ground,
Their manly bosoms pierced with many a grisly wound;
Nor well alive nor wholly dead they were,
But some faint signs of feeble life appear;
The wandering breath was on the wing to part,
Weak was the pulse, and hardly heaved the heart.
These two were sisters' sons; and Arcite one,
Much famed in fields, with valiant Palamon.
From these their costly arms the spoilers rent,
And softly both conveyed to Theseus' tent:
Whom, known of Creon's line and cured with care,
He to his city sent as prisoners of the war;
Hopeless of ransom, and condemned to lie
In durance, doomed a lingering death to die.
Chaucer's Tale Of Sir Thopas
WHEN said was this miracle, every man
As sober* was, that wonder was to see, *serious
Till that our Host to japen* he began, *talk lightly
And then *at erst* he looked upon me, *for the first time*
And saide thus; 'What man art thou?' quoth he;
'Thou lookest as thou wouldest find an hare,
For ever on the ground I see thee stare.
'Approache near, and look up merrily.
Now ware you, Sirs, and let this man have place.
He in the waist is shapen as well as I; <2>
This were a puppet in an arm t'embrace
For any woman small and fair of face.
He seemeth elvish* by his countenance, *surly, morose
For unto no wight doth he dalliance.
'Say now somewhat, since other folk have said;
Tell us a tale of mirth, and that anon.'
'Hoste,' quoth I, 'be not evil apaid,* *dissatisfied
For other tale certes can* I none, *know
Eut of a rhyme I learned yore* agone.' *long
'Yea, that is good,' quoth he; 'now shall we hear
Some dainty thing, me thinketh by thy cheer.'
THE TALE <1>
The First Fit* *part
Listen, lordings, in good intent,
And I will tell you verrament* *truly
Of mirth and of solas,* *delight, solace
All of a knight was fair and gent,* *gentle
In battle and in tournament,
His name was Sir Thopas.
Y-born he was in far country,
In Flanders, all beyond the sea,
At Popering <2> in the place;
His father was a man full free,
And lord he was of that country,
As it was Godde's grace. <3>
Sir Thopas was a doughty swain,
White was his face as paindemain, <4>
His lippes red as rose.
His rode* is like scarlet in grain, *complexion
And I you tell in good certain
He had a seemly nose.
His hair, his beard, was like saffroun,
That to his girdle reach'd adown,
His shoes of cordewane:<5>
Of Bruges were his hosen brown;
His robe was of ciclatoun,<6>
That coste many a jane.<7>
He coulde hunt at the wild deer,
And ride on hawking *for rivere* *by the river*
With gray goshawk on hand: <8>
Thereto he was a good archere,
Of wrestling was there none his peer,
Where any ram <9> should stand.
Full many a maiden bright in bow'r
They mourned for him par amour,
When them were better sleep;
But he was chaste, and no lechour,
And sweet as is the bramble flow'r
That beareth the red heep.* *hip
And so it fell upon a day,
For sooth as I you telle may,
Sir Thopas would out ride;
He worth* upon his steede gray, *mounted
And in his hand a launcegay,* *spear <10>
A long sword by his side.
He pricked through a fair forest,
Wherein is many a wilde beast,
Yea, bothe buck and hare;
And as he pricked north and east,
I tell it you, him had almest *almost
Betid* a sorry care. *befallen
There sprange herbes great and small,
The liquorice and the setewall,* *valerian
And many a clove-gilofre, <12>
And nutemeg to put in ale,
Whether it be moist* or stale, *new
Or for to lay in coffer.
The birdes sang, it is no nay,
The sperhawk* and the popinjay,** *sparrowhawk **parrot <13>
That joy it was to hear;
The throstle-cock made eke his lay,
The woode-dove upon the spray
She sang full loud and clear.
Sir Thopas fell in love-longing
All when he heard the throstle sing,
And *prick'd as he were wood;* *rode as if he
His faire steed in his pricking were mad*
So sweated, that men might him wring,
His sides were all blood.
Sir Thopas eke so weary was
For pricking on the softe grass,
So fierce was his corage,* *inclination, spirit
That down he laid him in that place,
To make his steed some solace,
And gave him good forage.
'Ah, Saint Mary, ben'dicite,
What aileth thilke* love at me *this
To binde me so sore?
Me dreamed all this night, pardie,
An elf-queen shall my leman* be, *mistress
And sleep under my gore.* *shirt
An elf-queen will I love, y-wis,* *assuredly
For in this world no woman is
Worthy to be my make* *mate
All other women I forsake,
And to an elf-queen I me take
By dale and eke by down.' <14>
Into his saddle he clomb anon,
And pricked over stile and stone
An elf-queen for to spy,
Till he so long had ridden and gone,
That he found in a privy wonne* *haunt
The country of Faery,
For in that country was there none
That to him durste ride or gon,
Neither wife nor child.
Till that there came a great giaunt,
His name was Sir Oliphaunt,<15>
A perilous man of deed;
He saide, 'Child,* by Termagaunt, <16> *young man
*But if* thou prick out of mine haunt, *unless
Anon I slay thy steed
Here is the Queen of Faery,
With harp, and pipe, and symphony,
Dwelling in this place.'
The Child said, 'All so may I the,* *thrive
To-morrow will I meete thee,
When I have mine armor;
And yet I hope, *par ma fay,* *by my faith*
That thou shalt with this launcegay
Abyen* it full sore; *suffer for
Thy maw* *belly
Shall I pierce, if I may,
Ere it be fully prime of day,
For here thou shalt be slaw.'* *slain
Sir Thopas drew aback full fast;
This giant at him stones cast
Out of a fell staff sling:
But fair escaped Child Thopas,
And all it was through Godde's grace,
And through his fair bearing. <17>
Yet listen, lordings, to my tale,
Merrier than the nightingale,
For now I will you rown,* *whisper
How Sir Thopas, with sides smale,* *small <18>
Pricking over hill and dale,
Is come again to town.
His merry men commanded he
To make him both game and glee;
For needes must he fight
With a giant with heades three,
For paramour and jollity
Of one that shone full bright.
'*Do come,*' he saide, 'my minstrales *summon*
And gestours* for to telle tales. *story-tellers
Anon in mine arming,
Of romances that be royales, <19>
Of popes and of cardinales,
And eke of love-longing.'
They fetch'd him first the sweete wine,
And mead eke in a maseline,* *drinking-bowl
And royal spicery; of maple wood <20>
Of ginger-bread that was full fine,
And liquorice and eke cumin,
With sugar that is trie.* *refined
He didde,* next his white lere,** *put on **skin
Of cloth of lake* fine and clear, *fine linen
A breech and eke a shirt;
And next his shirt an haketon,* *cassock
And over that an habergeon,* *coat of mail
For piercing of his heart;
And over that a fine hauberk,* *plate-armour
Was all y-wrought of Jewes'* werk, *magicians'
Full strong it was of plate;
And over that his coat-armour,* *knight's surcoat
As white as is the lily flow'r, <21>
In which he would debate.* *fight
His shield was all of gold so red
And therein was a boare's head,
A charboucle* beside; *carbuncle <22>
And there he swore on ale and bread,
How that the giant should be dead,
Betide whatso betide.
His jambeaux* were of cuirbouly, <23> *boots
His sworde's sheath of ivory,
His helm of latoun* bright, *brass
His saddle was of rewel <24> bone,
His bridle as the sunne shone,
Or as the moonelight.
His speare was of fine cypress,
That bodeth war, and nothing peace;
The head full sharp y-ground.
His steede was all dapple gray,
It went an amble in the way
Full softely and round
Lo, Lordes mine, here is a fytt;
If ye will any more of it,
To tell it will I fand.* *try
The Second Fit
Now hold your mouth for charity,
Bothe knight and lady free,
And hearken to my spell;* *tale <25>
Of battle and of chivalry,
Of ladies' love and druerie,* *gallantry
Anon I will you tell.
Men speak of romances of price* * worth, esteem
Of Horn Child, and of Ipotis,
Of Bevis, and Sir Guy, <26>
Of Sir Libeux, <27> and Pleindamour,
But Sir Thopas, he bears the flow'r
Of royal chivalry.
His goode steed he all bestrode,
And forth upon his way he glode,* *shone
As sparkle out of brand;* *torch
Upon his crest he bare a tow'r,
And therein stick'd a lily flow'r; <28>
God shield his corse* from shand!** *body **harm
And, for he was a knight auntrous,* *adventurous
He woulde sleepen in none house,
But liggen* in his hood, *lie
His brighte helm was his wanger,* *pillow <29>
And by him baited* his destrer** *fed **horse <30>
Of herbes fine and good.
Himself drank water of the well,
As did the knight Sir Percivel, <31>
So worthy under weed;
Till on a day - . . .
The Miller's Tale
In Oxford there once lived a rich old lout
Who had some guest rooms that he rented out,
And carpentry was this old fellow's trade.
A poor young scholar boarded who had made
His studies in the liberal arts, but he
Had turned his fancy to astrology
And knew the way, by certain propositions,
To answer well when asked about conditions,
Such as when men would ask in certain hours
If they should be expecting drought or showers,
Or if they asked him what was to befall
Concerning such I can't recount it all.
This student's name was Nicholas the Handy.
He led a secret love life fine and dandy,
In private always, ever on the sly,
Though meek as any maiden to the eye.
With Nicholas there were no other boarders,
He lived alone, and had there in his quarters
Some fragrant herbs, arranged as best to suit,
And he himself was sweeter than the root
Of licorice or any herb at all.
His Almagest and books both great and small,
An astrolabe for plotting outer space,
And counters used in math were all in place
On shelves between the headposts of his bed.
His storage chest was draped with cloth of red,
And on its top there lay a psaltery
On which at night he'd play a melody,
So sweet a sound that all the chamber rang;
And Angelus ad virginem he sang,
And after that would follow 'The King's Note.'
Folks often praised him for his merry throat.
And this was how this sweet clerk's time was spent,
While friends provided money for his rent.
The carpenter had newly wed a wife,
One whom he loved more than his very life;
Her age was eighteen years. He jealously
Kept her as if inside a cage, for she
Was one both young and wild, and he had fears
Of being a cuckold, so advanced in years.
Not educated, he had never read
Cato: one like himself a man should wed,
He ought to marry mindful of his state,
For youth and age are often at debate.
But since he had been captured in the snare,
Like others folks he had his cross to bear.
And fair this young wife was! She had withal
A body like a weasel, slim and small.
She wore a belt with little stripes of silk;
An apron was as white as morning milk
Upon her loins, pleated daintily.
Her white smock, too, had fine embroidery;
The collar was embellished round about
With lovely coal-black silk inside and out,
And ribbons on the snowy cap she wore
Were of the same silk that her collar bore.
She wore a silken headband, broad and high.
And certainly she had a wanton eye;
Her brows were thinly plucked, and like a bow
Each one was arched, and black as any sloe.
Indeed she was a blissful sight to see,
Moreso than any pear tree that could be
And softer than the wool upon a wether.
Upon her belt was hung a purse of leather,
Silk-tasseled and with brassy spangles pearled.
And there's no man so wise in all this world,
Though you may go and search it every inch,
Could dream a doll so lovely, such a wench.
And brighter far did shine her lovely hue
Than gold coins in the Tower when they're new.
Her song was loud and lively as the call
Of any swallow perching on the wall.
She'd skip about and play some game or other
As any kid or calf behind its mother.
Her mouth was sweet as any mead whatever
Or as a hoard of apples on the heather.
Skittish she was, just like a jolly colt,
Tall as a mast, straight as an archer's bolt.
The brooch on her low collar was as large
As is the boss upon a shield or targe.
Her shoes, well laced, high up her legs would reach.
She really was a primrose, quite a peach,
One fit for any lord to lay in bed
Or any worthy working man to wed.
Now sir, and sir again, it came to pass
That one fine day this Handy Nicholas
With this young wife began to flirt and play,
Her husband off at Osney (anyway
These clerks are cunning when it comes to what
They want), and slyly caught her by the twat;
'Surely,' he said, 'if I don't have my will,
For secret love, dear, I'll have quite a spill.'
He held her hips as he went on to say,
'My darling, you must love me right away
Or I will die, God save me!' Like a colt
Inside a shoeing frame she tried to bolt,
She turned her face away defiantly.
'Upon my faith, you'll get no kiss from me!
Why, let me go,' she said, 'stop, Nicholas,
Or I will cry 'Out!', 'Help me!' and 'Alas!'
Unhand my body, show some courtesy!'
But then for mercy he made such a plea
And spoke so fairly, offering so fast
His all to her, that she agreed at last
To grant to him her love: she made her promise
To be at his commandment, by Saint Thomas
Of Kent, when she saw opportunity.
'My husband is so full of jealousy,
If you don't wait and privy be,' she said,
'I know right well that I'm as good as dead.
You must be secret, keep this matter quiet.'
'Nay,' Handy said, 'don't you be worried by it.
A clerk has for his time not much to show
If he can't fool a carpenter.' And so
The two were in accord and gave their word
To wait awhile as you've already heard.
When Nicholas got through with all of this
And felt her good below the waist, a kiss
He gave her sweetly, took his psaltery,
And played it hard, a lively melody.
Now to the parish church it came to pass
That in her Christian works and for the mass
This good wife went upon one holy day.
Her forehead shone as bright as day, the way
She'd scrubbed it so when washing after work.
Now in that church there was a parish clerk
Whose name was Absalon. His curly hair
Was shiny, bright as gold found anywhere,
And spread out like a broad fan on his head
With straight and even part. A healthy red
Was his complexion, eyes gray as a gander.
The tracery of Saint Paul's was no grander
Than his shoes' openwork, with fine red hose.
The lad was trimly dressed from head to toes;
He wore a sky-blue tunic that in places
Was tricked out with the loveliest of laces,
And over it his surplice was as bright
As any blossom seen, a purest white.
A merry child he was, as God may save.
He well could let your blood, and clip and shave,
And draw you up a deed and quittance too.
Some twenty different ways the fellow knew
To demonstrate the latest Oxford dance;
He'd kick his heels about and blithely prance
And play some merry tunes upon the fiddle.
Loud treble he was known to sing a little
And he could play as well on the guitar.
In Oxford there was not a single bar
That he did not go visit with his act
To tell the truth, a fart would make him squeamish,
And he was always proper in his English.
This Absalon so jolly, fond of play,
Went with a censer on that holy day
To cense the parish wives. And as he passed,
Many a longing look on them he cast-
Especially on this carpenter's wife.
Just looking at her made a merry life.
She was so neat and sweet, this wanton spouse,
That if he'd been a cat and she a mouse
At once he would have caught her. Absalon,
This parish clerk so jolly, full of fun,
Could not, for the love longing in his heart,
Take offerings from wives, he'd take no part,
For courtesy, he said, and never might.
The moon, when night had come, was full and bright
As Absalon took guitar under arm,
His thoughts upon whom he might wake and charm;
Thus amorous and jolly, off he strode
Until he reached the carpenter's abode
Soon after cockcrow. He then took his station
Beside a casement window, its location
Right in the old man's bedroom wall. And there
He daintily began to sing his air:
'Now, dearest lady, if your will it be,
It is my prayer that you will pity me.'
He sang and played the guitar right in tune.
The carpenter awoke and heard him croon
And said then to his wife, 'Why, Alison,
What's going on? Is that not Absalon
Who's chanting there below our bedroom wall?'
And she replied, 'Yes, John, no doubt at all,
As God knows, I can hear him tone for tone.'
Now shouldn't one leave well enough alone?
From day to day this jolly parish clerk
Wooed her till he was woebegone. He'd work
Upon it night and day and never rest;
He'd comb his spreading locks, he smartly dressed;
By go-betweens and proxies he would woo
And swore he'd be her servant ever true;
He warbled to her like a nightingale;
He sent her honeyed wine, some mead, spiced ale,
And cakes still piping hot. And since she knew
Of city ways, he offered money too;
For some folks can be won by such largess,
And some by blows, and some by kindliness.
To show her his abilities so varied,
He even went on stage, portraying Herod.
But what would this avail him with the lass?
For she so loved this Handy Nicholas
That Absalon could elsewhere toot his horn;
He had for all his labor only scorn.
And so she made poor Absalon an ape,
Made all his earnest efforts but a jape.
The proverb tells the truth, it's not a lie,
Here's how it goes: 'The one nearby and sly
Will always make the distant dear one hated.'
Though Absalon go mad, wrath unabated
Because he was so far out of her sight,
Nigh Nicholas was standing in his light.
Well may you fare, O Handy Nicholas,
For Absalon must wail and sing 'Alas'!
And so it was that on one Saturday
The carpenter to Osney made his way,
And Handy Nicholas and Alison
Were in accord on what was to be done,
That Nicholas should now devise a wile,
This simple jealous husband to beguile;
And if their little game turned out all right,
She then could sleep in Handy's arms all night,
As this was his desire and hers as well.
So right away- no further words to tell,
For Nicholas no longer meant to tarry-
He slyly to his room began to carry
Both food and drink to last a day or two.
He told her what to lead her husband through
If he should ask for Nicholas: she'd say
She didn't know his whereabouts, all day
Upon the lad she had not laid an eye;
She thought some malady he had was why,
For though her maid cried out, the lad to call,
He wouldn't answer any way at all.
So this went on for all that Saturday;
This Nicholas up in his chamber lay,
And ate and slept, or did what he thought best,
Till Sunday when the sun went to its rest.
This simple carpenter began to wonder
About him, if some ailment had him under.
'By dear Saint Thomas, I'm now full of dread
That things aren't right with Nicholas,' he said.
'O God forbid that suddenly he's died!
For sure a ticklish world's where we abide;
Today I saw 'em tote a corpse to kirk
Though Monday last I saw the man at work.
'Go up,' he told his knave at once. 'Go on,
Call at his door, knock on it with a stone,
See how it is, and tell me truthfully.'
The knave went up the stairway sturdily
And cried out at the chamber door; he stood
There pounding like a madman on the wood.
'What are you at, O Master Nicholay?
How can you sleep for all the livelong day?'
All was for naught, for he heard not a sound.
But then a hole low in the door he found
(The one through which the cat was wont to creep),
And through this hole he took a thorough peep
Until at last he had the lad in sight.
This clerk sat gaping upward as he might
If he were staring off at the new moon.
He went back down the stairs, and none too soon,
To tell his master how he'd seen the man.
To cross himself the carpenter began,
And said, 'Help us, I pray, Saint Frideswide!
A man knows little of what shall betide.
This man has fallen with his astromy
Into some madness or some malady.
I always figured it would end just so!
God's privacy's a thing men shouldn't know.
Yea, blessed always is the simple man
Who knows his creed and that is all he can!
So fared another clerk with astromy:
He walked out through the fields to try to see
The future in the stars, and got for it
A fall into a fertilizer pit, 3460
One he had not foreseen. Yet by Saint Thomas,
I pity Handy Nicholas. I promise,
He shall be scolded for such studying,
If that I may, by Jesus, heaven's King!
Get me a staff, and neath the door I'll pry
While you heave on it, Robin. By and by
He'll come out of his studying, I'll bet.'
Then at the chamber door he got all set.
His knave was very strong in any case
And by the hasp he heaved it from its place,
The door went falling in right to the floor.
Nicholas sat as stonily as before,
Continuing to gape into the air.
The carpenter assumed it was despair;
He took him by the shoulders mightily
And shook him hard, and cried reproachingly,
'What is it, Nicholay? Look down! Awake,
Think on Christ's passion! Here the sign I make
Now of the cross, from elf and evil sprite
To keep you.' He began then to recite
At once a night spell on the walls about
As well as on the threshold leading out:
'O Jesus and Saint Benedict, we pray
You'll bless this house from every demon's sway.
Night falls- White Paternoster, help defeat her!
Where have you gone, O sister of Saint Peter?'
And then at last this Handy Nicholas
Began to sorely sigh, and said, 'Alas!
Shall all the world so soon be swept away?'
The carpenter replied, 'What's that you say?
On God, like we hard workers do, now think.'
And Nicholas then said, 'I need a drink,
And afterwards we'll speak in privacy
Of certain things concerning you and me.
I'll surely tell no other what I've learned.'
The carpenter went down, then soon returned,
With a full quart of strong ale, up the stairs;
And when they both had finished up their shares,
Nick tightly shut the door. As to confide,
This carpenter he set down by his side.
He said, 'Now, John, my host both kind and dear,
Your word of honor you must give me here
That to no man this secret you'll disclose;
For it is Christ's own secret that I pose,
And if you tell it, sad will be your fate.
There's such a vengeance if you should relate
What I'm to say, you'll reap insanity.'
'By Christ's own holy blood, it shall not be,'
Old John replied, 'for I am not a blabber,
No, I must say, I'm not an idle gabber.
Say what you will, which I will never tell
To child nor wife, by him who harrowed hell!'
'Now, John,' said Nicholas, 'believe you me,
I found this out through my astrology
As I looked on the moon when it was bright.
This Monday at a quarter of the night
There shall come down so furious a rain
Not half its force did Noah's flood contain.
This world,' he said, 'in less than one small hour
Shall all be drowned, so hideous the shower.
Mankind shall thus be drowned and lose all life.'
The carpenter replied, 'Alas, my wife!
My Alison, alas! She too will drown?'
And in his sorrow nearly falling down,
He said, 'No remedy will make it pass?'
'Why, yes, by God,' said Handy Nicholas,
'If you'll work by sound learning and advice.
Don't work from your own head, that won't suffice.
As Solomon once said (and it is true),
'Work all by counsel and you'll never rue.' 3530
If you'll work by good counsel, I've no doubt
That mast and sail we then can do without,
For I will save your wife and you and me.
Have you not heard how Noah came to be
Saved by our Lord, who warned him beforehand
That water was to devastate the land?'
'Yes,' said the carpenter, 'quite long ago.'
'Have you not heard,' said Nicholas, 'also
Of Noah's troubles with his fellowship
Until he finally got his wife to ship?
There is no doubt, I daresay, as to whether
He would have given up his last black wether
That she might have a vessel to herself.
Do you know, then, what's best to do yourself?
Haste is required, and for a hasty thing
No time for preaching nor for tarrying.
'Be off at once and fetch into this inn
Three kneading troughs or tubs- we'll have one then
For each of us; but see that each is large,
So each of us may float as on a barge.
And have therein some victuals too, at best
Enough to last a day- fie on the rest!
The waters will subside and go away
At nine or so on the following day.
But Robin must not know of this, your knave,
And Jill your maid I also cannot save;
Don't ask me why, for though you ask of me
I will not tell a soul God's privity.
Suffice it, John, lest you go raving mad,
To have the same good grace that Noah had;
Your wife I'll surely save without a doubt.
Be on your way, get busy hereabout.
'But when you have, for her and you and me,
Secured these kneading tubs, then hang the three
Up in the roof- and hang them very high,
That our provision no man may espy.
And when you have accomplished what I've said,
And stored enough good fare to keep us fed,
An ax besides to whack the cord in two
When comes the rain, so we can ride it through;
And when you've knocked a hole up in the gable,
Toward the garden and above the stable,
That we may freely pass upon our way
Until the mighty shower's gone away,
Then merrily we'll float, I undertake,
Just as the white duck floats behind the drake.
'How, Alison! How, John!' I'll call to you.
'Be merry, for the flood will soon be through!'
And you will say, 'Hail, Master Nicholay!
Good morning, I can see you, it is day!'
And then we shall be lords, throughout this life,
Of all the world, like Noah and his wife.
'But of one thing you must be warned about:
Be well advised, on that night never doubt
That when each one of us has gone on board,
We must not speak a word. We can't afford
One call or cry but only silent prayer,
For it's God's own dear will that I declare.
'Your wife and you, therefore, hang far apart;
That twixt you two no sinful play may start
(And I refer to sight as well as deed)
This ordinance is said. God give you speed!
Tomorrow night when everyone's asleep,
Into our kneading tubs we then shall creep
And there we'll sit awaiting God's good grace.
Be on your way, I have no longer space
To sermonize on this, and so I'll cease.
It's said, 'But send the wise and hold your peace.'
Well, you are wise, so you I needn't teach.
Get going now and save us, I beseech.' 3600
This simple carpenter went on his way
With many an 'Alas' and 'Wellaway,'
And to his wife he told his privity.
Now she was well aware, much more than he,
Of what this cunning plan was to imply.
She acted, though, as if about to die;
'Alas! go now immediately,' she said,
'Help us escape or all of us are dead!
I am the truest of devoted wives,
So go, dear spouse, and help to save our lives.'
See what a great thing is emotion! Why,
Of what one may imagine one can die,
So deep is the impression it can make.
This silly carpenter began to shake;
He feared he was to witness verily
Old Noah's flood come rolling like the sea
To drown young Alison, his honey dear.
He weeps and wails, he looks so sad and drear
As many a sigh he heaves, a mournful sough.
He goes and gets a kneading trough somehow,
One tub and then another, which he then
Has privately transported to the inn;
In privacy he hangs them as instructed.
Three ladders with his own hands he constructed
By which they would go climbing rung by rung
Up to the rafters where the tubs were hung.
He put in each of them some cheese and bread
And good ale in a jug, to keep them fed
Sufficiently for what would be a day.
Before beginning, though, all this array
He had his knave and maid as well to go
Upon an errand to London. And so
Upon that Monday, as it drew to night,
He shut the door, lit not one candlelight,
Arranged all things to look as they should be,
And up into their tubs then climbed the three.
They sat the time a furlong takes to walk.
Said Nick, 'Now Paternoster, then no talk!'
And 'Mum,' said John, and 'Mum,' said Alison.
The carpenter's devotions were begun,
He stilly sat, prayed to the Holy Spirit,
And waited for the rain, intent to hear it.
But dead asleep from all his weariness
The carpenter soon fell- it was, I guess,
Around the curfew time. Yet even then
He sorely groaned, such pain his soul was in.
(He also snored, the way his noggin lay.)
Then down his ladder crept young Nicholay,
And Alison down hers as softly sped;
Without a single word they went to bed
Right where the carpenter was wont to be.
And there the revel and the melody!
For there lay Alison and Nicholas-
What mirth and pleasant business came to pass!-
Until the bell of Lauds began to ring
And friars in the chancel were to sing.
Now Absalon, the amorous parish clerk
(Still woebegone from being so lovestruck),
Upon that Monday was down Osney way
To join companions for some sport and play.
While there he chanced to ask a cloisterer
In private about John the carpenter.
They went outside the church, and to this clerk
The monk said, 'I've not seen him here at work
Since Saturday. I'd say, as best I have it,
He's been sent out for timber by the abbot.
For timber he will very often go
And stay out at the grange a day or so.
If not, he's surely at his house today.
Which place he's at I can't for certain say.'
This Absalon was thrilled, his heart was light.
'It's time,' he thought, 'to stay awake all night,
For I saw not one stirring of the man
About his door, not once since day began.
'As I may thrive, at crowing of the cock
Privately at his window I will knock,
The one so low there in his bedroom wall.
To Alison I'll speak and tell her all
About my longing. This time I won't miss
But at the least will get from her a kiss.
That will be, by my faith, some consolation;
My mouth has itched all day, a situation
That is a sign of kissing at the least.
And, too, last night I dreamt about a feast.
Therefore I'll go and sleep an hour or two,
Then I will stay up all the night and woo.'
At first cockcrow, at once from his repose
This jolly lover Absalon arose
And donned attire as smart as any viewed.
Some cardamon and licorice he chewed,
To scent his breath, before he combed his hair.
A true-love herb as well he chose to bear
Beneath his tongue, thereby to be exquisite.
Then to the old man's house he made his visit.
There quietly he stood beneath the casement
(It reached down to his breast, so low its placement):
He cleared his throat and spoke in softest voice:
'What are you doing, honeycomb, my choice
And fairest bird, my sweetest cinnamon?
Awake and speak to me, sweet Alison.
How little do you think upon my woe;
I sweat for your love everywhere I go.
No wonder that I sweat and slave for it:
I'm longing as the lamb longs for the tit.
Yes, darling, I have for you such a love
You've got me mourning like a turtledove,
My appetite's that of a maid,' he cried.
'Get from the window, jackass,' she replied.
'So help me God, there'll be no 'come and kiss me.'
I love another and, by Jesus, he
Is better far than you or I'm to blame.
Unless you want a stoning, in the name
Of twenty devils, let me sleep. Away!'
'Alas,' said Absalon, 'and welladay,
That my true love is ever so beset!
At least then kiss me, if that's all I get,
For Jesus' love and for the love of me.'
'Will you then go,' she said, 'and let me be?'
'Yes, darling, surely,' he was quick to say.
'Get ready, then,' she said, 'I'm on my way.'
To Nicholas she whispered, 'Shh, be still;
Of laughter you're about to get your fill.'
Now Absalon got down upon his knees
And said, 'I am a lord by all degrees,
For after this I hope there's more to follow.
Come, grace me, darling, my sweet little swallow!'
She opened up the window then with haste.
'Come on,' she said, 'be quick, no time to waste,
We don't want neighbors seeing you've come by.'
Absalon wiped his mouth till it was dry.
The night was dark as pitch, as black as coal,
And from the window she stuck out her hole;
And Absalon, not knowing north from south,
Then kissed her naked ass with eager mouth
Before he was aware of all of this.
Then back he started, something seemed amiss:
A woman has no beard, he knew as much,
Yet this was rough and hairy to the touch.
'O fie!' he said. 'Alas! what did I do?'
'Tee hee,' said she, and clapt the window to. 3740
Poor Absalon had reached a sorry pass.
'A beard, a beard!' laughed Handy Nicholas.
'God's body, this is really going swell.'
Poor Absalon heard all this very well,
In anger had to give his lip a bite,
And to himself he said, 'I'll set you right.'
Who's rubbing now, who's scrubbing now his lips
With dust, with sand, with straw, with cloth, with chips,
But Absalon, who's crying out 'Alas!
May Satan take my soul if I'd not pass
Up owning this whole town that I might be
Avenged for this despite they've done to me.
Alas,' he cried, 'I didn't turn aside!'
His hot love then was cold, indeed had died;
For from the time he kissed her naked ass
He didn't give one cress for any lass,
For he'd been cured of all his malady;
All lovers he denounced repeatedly
And wept just like a child who has been whipped.
Across the street a little ways he slipped
To see a blacksmith, Master Gervase, who
Was known for plow parts, shares and coulters too,
And at his forge was busy making more.
This Absalon knocked softly at his door
And said, 'Quick, Gervase, get this door undone.'
'Who's there?' he asked. 'It's me, it's Absalon.'
'Why, Absalon! By Christ's sweet tree, I say,
Why up so early? Benedicite!
What's ailing you? God knows, some merry girl
Is what brings you out prowling in a whirl,
And by Saint Neot you follow what I mean.'
But Absalon was caring not a bean
For all his play, he didn't speak or laugh,
For he had much more tow on his distaff
Than Gervase knew. He said, 'My friend so dear,
This red-hot coulter in the chimney here-
Lend it to me. There's something I must do
And then right soon I'll bring it back to you.'
'Why, surely,' Gervase said, 'if it were gold
Or a poke of nobles in a sum untold,
As I'm a smith, 'twould be yours every bit.
But what the devil will you do with it?'
'Let that,' said Absalon, 'be as it may.
I'll tell you all about it when it's day.'
He grabbed it by the handle, which was cool,
And quietly went out, and with the tool
He went again to the carpenter's wall.
He cleared his throat to give a little call
And knocked upon the window as before.
'Who's there?' he heard young Alison once more.
'Who's knocking there? It is a thief, I'll bet.'
'Why, no,' he said, 'God knows, my little pet,
It's Absalon. My darling little thing,
I've brought for you,' said he, 'a golden ring.
So help me God, my mother gave it to me.
It's well engraved, it is a fine thing truly.
I'll let you have it for another kiss.'
Now Nicholas was up to take a piss,
And thought he would improve upon the jape
And have him kiss his ass ere he escape.
He hastened to the window, turned around,
And stuck his bottom out without a sound,
Both buttocks and beyond, right to the thighs.
Then Absalon, who had to strain his eyes,
Said, 'Speak, sweet bird, I know not where thou art.'
And Nicholas at this let fly a fart
So great it sounded like a thunderclap-
It nearly blinded Absalon, poor chap.
But he was set with his hot iron to move,
And Nicholas was smote right in the groove.
Off came the skin a handbreadth wide and some,
The hot iron had so burnt him in his bum,
And from the smart he thought that he would die.
Just like a madman he began to cry,
'Help! Water, water! Help me, for God's sake!' 3815
The carpenter by then had stirred awake;
He heard mad cries of 'Water!' loud and clear,
And thought, 'Alas, the Flood of Noel's here!'
He sat right up without the least ado
And grabbed his ax and whacked the cord in two,
Then down went everything- no time for sale
Of any of his bread or any ale:
He hit the floor, and there unconscious lay.
Then Alison and Handy right away
Cried out 'Help!' and 'Disaster!' in the street.
The neighbors, high and low, ran there to meet,
They stood and stared at poor unconscious John
Who lay there on the floor so pale and wan,
For from the fall he had a broken arm.
But he himself was blamed for all his harm;
For when he spoke, each word was then denied
By Nicholas and Alison his bride.
They made the claim to all that he was mad:
Some ghastly fear of 'Noel's flood' he had,
A fantasy that had him so deranged
Three kneading tubs the old man had arranged
To buy and hang there in the roof above;
And then he had implored them, for God's love,
To sit up there and keep him company.
The people laughed at such a fantasy;
Up at the roof they all began to gape,
And turned the old man's harm into a jape.
No matter what the carpenter insisted,
It was for naught, his reasons were resisted.
With such great oaths the fellow was put down,
He was considered mad throughout the town;
Each learned man agreed with every other,
Saying, 'The man is mad, beloved brother,'
And everyone just laughed at all his strife.
So she was screwed, the carpenter's young wife,
Despite all jealous safeguards he could try;
And Absalon has kissed her nether eye,
And Nicholas is scalded in the rear.
This tale is done, God save all who are here!
The Nun's Priest's Tale
'Ho! ' quoth the Knight, 'good sir, no more of this;
That ye have said is right enough, y-wis,* *of a surety
And muche more; for little heaviness
Is right enough to muche folk, I guess.
I say for me, it is a great disease,* *source of distress, annoyance
Where as men have been in great wealth and ease,
To hearen of their sudden fall, alas!
And the contrary is joy and great solas,* *delight, comfort
As when a man hath been in poor estate,
And climbeth up, and waxeth fortunate,
And there abideth in prosperity;
Such thing is gladsome, as it thinketh me,
And of such thing were goodly for to tell.'
'Yea,' quoth our Hoste, 'by Saint Paule's bell.
Ye say right sooth; this monk hath clapped* loud; *talked
He spake how Fortune cover'd with a cloud
I wot not what, and als' of a tragedy
Right now ye heard: and pardie no remedy
It is for to bewaile, nor complain
That that is done, and also it is pain,
As ye have said, to hear of heaviness.
Sir Monk, no more of this, so God you bless;
Your tale annoyeth all this company;
Such talking is not worth a butterfly,
For therein is there no sport nor game;
Therefore, Sir Monke, Dan Piers by your name,
I pray you heart'ly, tell us somewhat else,
For sickerly, n'ere* clinking of your bells, *were it not for the
That on your bridle hang on every side,
By heaven's king, that for us alle died,
I should ere this have fallen down for sleep,
Although the slough had been never so deep;
Then had your tale been all told in vain.
For certainly, as these clerkes sayn,
Where as a man may have no audience,
Nought helpeth it to telle his sentence.
And well I wot the substance is in me,
If anything shall well reported be.
Sir, say somewhat of hunting, <1> I you pray.'
'Nay,' quoth the Monk, 'I have *no lust to play; * *no fondness for
Now let another tell, as I have told.' jesting*
Then spake our Host with rude speech and bold,
And said unto the Nunne's Priest anon,
'Come near, thou Priest, come hither, thou Sir John, <2>
Tell us such thing as may our heartes glade.* *gladden
Be blithe, although thou ride upon a jade.
What though thine horse be bothe foul and lean?
If he will serve thee, reck thou not a bean;
Look that thine heart be merry evermo'.'
'Yes, Host,' quoth he, 'so may I ride or go,
But* I be merry, y-wis I will be blamed.' *unless
And right anon his tale he hath attamed* *commenced <3>
And thus he said unto us every one,
This sweete priest, this goodly man, Sir John.
THE TALE. <1>
A poor widow, *somedeal y-stept* in age, *somewhat advanced*
Was whilom dwelling in a poor cottage,
Beside a grove, standing in a dale.
This widow, of which I telle you my tale,
Since thilke day that she was last a wife,
In patience led a full simple life,
For little was *her chattel and her rent.* *her goods and her income*
By husbandry* of such as God her sent, *thrifty management
She found* herself, and eke her daughters two. *maintained
Three large sowes had she, and no mo';
Three kine, and eke a sheep that highte Mall.
Full sooty was her bow'r,* and eke her hall, *chamber
In which she ate full many a slender meal.
Of poignant sauce knew she never a deal.* *whit
No dainty morsel passed through her throat;
Her diet was *accordant to her cote.* *in keeping with her cottage*
Repletion her made never sick;
Attemper* diet was all her physic, *moderate
And exercise, and *hearte's suffisance.* *contentment of heart*
The goute *let her nothing for to dance,* *did not prevent her
Nor apoplexy shente* not her head. from dancing* *hurt
No wine drank she, neither white nor red:
Her board was served most with white and black,
Milk and brown bread, in which she found no lack,
Seind* bacon, and sometimes an egg or tway; *singed
For she was as it were *a manner dey.* *kind of day labourer* <2>
A yard she had, enclosed all about
With stickes, and a drye ditch without,
In which she had a cock, hight Chanticleer;
In all the land of crowing *n'as his peer.* *was not his equal*
His voice was merrier than the merry orgon,* *organ <3>
On masse days that in the churches gon.
Well sickerer* was his crowing in his lodge, *more punctual*
Than is a clock, or an abbay horloge.* *clock <4>
By nature he knew each ascension
Of th' equinoctial in thilke town;
For when degrees fiftene were ascended,
Then crew he, that it might not be amended.
His comb was redder than the fine coral,
Embattell'd <5> as it were a castle wall.
His bill was black, and as the jet it shone;
Like azure were his legges and his tone; * *toes
His nailes whiter than the lily flow'r,
And like the burnish'd gold was his colour,
This gentle cock had in his governance
Sev'n hennes, for to do all his pleasance,
Which were his sisters and his paramours,
And wondrous like to him as of colours.
Of which the fairest-hued in the throat
Was called Damoselle Partelote,
Courteous she was, discreet, and debonair,
And companiable,* and bare herself so fair, *sociable
Since the day that she sev'n night was old,
That truely she had the heart in hold
Of Chanticleer, locked in every lith; * *limb
He lov'd her so, that well was him therewith,
But such a joy it was to hear them sing,
When that the brighte sunne gan to spring,
In sweet accord, *'My lefe is fare in land.'* <6> *my love is
For, at that time, as I have understand, gone abroad*
Beastes and birdes coulde speak and sing.
And so befell, that in a dawening,
As Chanticleer among his wives all
Sat on his perche, that was in the hall,
And next him sat this faire Partelote,
This Chanticleer gan groanen in his throat,
As man that in his dream is dretched* sore, *oppressed
And when that Partelote thus heard him roar,
She was aghast,* and saide, 'Hearte dear, *afraid
What aileth you to groan in this mannere?
Ye be a very sleeper, fy for shame! '
And he answer'd and saide thus; 'Madame,
I pray you that ye take it not agrief; * *amiss, in umbrage
By God, *me mette* I was in such mischief,** *I dreamed* **trouble
Right now, that yet mine heart is sore affright'.
Now God,' quoth he, 'my sweven* read aright *dream, vision.
And keep my body out of foul prisoun.
*Me mette,* how that I roamed up and down *I dreamed*
Within our yard, where as I saw a beast
Was like an hound, and would have *made arrest* *siezed*
Upon my body, and would have had me dead.
His colour was betwixt yellow and red;
And tipped was his tail, and both his ears,
With black, unlike the remnant of his hairs.
His snout was small, with glowing eyen tway;
Yet of his look almost for fear I dey; * *died
This caused me my groaning, doubteless.'
'Away,' <7> quoth she, 'fy on you, hearteless! * *coward
Alas! ' quoth she, 'for, by that God above!
Now have ye lost my heart and all my love;
I cannot love a coward, by my faith.
For certes, what so any woman saith,
We all desiren, if it mighte be,
To have husbandes hardy, wise, and free,
And secret,* and no niggard nor no fool, *discreet
Nor him that is aghast* of every tool,** *afraid **rag, trifle
Nor no avantour,* by that God above! *braggart
How durste ye for shame say to your love
That anything might make you afear'd?
Have ye no manne's heart, and have a beard?
Alas! and can ye be aghast of swevenes? * *dreams
Nothing but vanity, God wot, in sweven is,
Swevens *engender of repletions,* *are caused by over-eating*
And oft of fume,* and of complexions, *drunkenness
When humours be too abundant in a wight.
Certes this dream, which ye have mette tonight,
Cometh of the great supefluity
Of youre rede cholera,* pardie, *bile
Which causeth folk to dreaden in their dreams
Of arrows, and of fire with redde beams,
Of redde beastes, that they will them bite,
Of conteke,* and of whelpes great and lite; ** *contention **little
Right as the humour of melancholy
Causeth full many a man in sleep to cry,
For fear of bulles, or of beares blake,
Or elles that black devils will them take,
Of other humours could I tell also,
That worke many a man in sleep much woe;
That I will pass as lightly as I can.
Lo, Cato, which that was so wise a man,
Said he not thus, *'Ne do no force of* dreams,'<8> *attach no weight to*
Now, Sir,' quoth she, 'when we fly from these beams,
For Godde's love, as take some laxatife;
On peril of my soul, and of my life,
I counsel you the best, I will not lie,
That both of choler, and melancholy,
Ye purge you; and, for ye shall not tarry,
Though in this town is no apothecary,
I shall myself two herbes teache you,
That shall be for your health, and for your prow; * *profit
And in our yard the herbes shall I find,
The which have of their property by kind* *nature
To purge you beneath, and eke above.
Sire, forget not this for Godde's love;
Ye be full choleric of complexion;
Ware that the sun, in his ascension,
You finde not replete of humours hot;
And if it do, I dare well lay a groat,
That ye shall have a fever tertiane,
Or else an ague, that may be your bane,
A day or two ye shall have digestives
Of wormes, ere ye take your laxatives,
Of laurel, centaury, <9> and fumeterere, <10>
Or else of elder-berry, that groweth there,
Of catapuce, <11> or of the gaitre-berries, <12>
Or herb ivy growing in our yard, that merry is:
Pick them right as they grow, and eat them in,
Be merry, husband, for your father's kin;
Dreade no dream; I can say you no more.'
'Madame,' quoth he, 'grand mercy of your lore,
But natheless, as touching *Dan Catoun,* *Cato
That hath of wisdom such a great renown,
Though that he bade no dreames for to dread,
By God, men may in olde bookes read
Of many a man more of authority
Than ever Cato was, so may I the,* *thrive
That all the reverse say of his sentence,* *opinion
And have well founden by experience
That dreames be significations
As well of joy, as tribulations
That folk enduren in this life present.
There needeth make of this no argument;
The very preve* sheweth it indeed. *trial, experience
One of the greatest authors that men read <13>
Saith thus, that whilom two fellowes went
On pilgrimage in a full good intent;
And happen'd so, they came into a town
Where there was such a congregatioun
Of people, and eke so *strait of herbergage,* *without lodging*
That they found not as much as one cottage
In which they bothe might y-lodged be:
Wherefore they musten of necessity,
As for that night, departe company;
And each of them went to his hostelry,* *inn
And took his lodging as it woulde fall.
The one of them was lodged in a stall,
Far in a yard, with oxen of the plough;
That other man was lodged well enow,
As was his aventure, or his fortune,
That us governeth all, as in commune.
And so befell, that, long ere it were day,
This man mette* in his bed, there: as he lay, *dreamed
How that his fellow gan upon him call,
And said, 'Alas! for in an ox's stall
This night shall I be murder'd, where I lie
Now help me, deare brother, or I die;
In alle haste come to me,' he said.
This man out of his sleep for fear abraid; * *started
But when that he was wak'd out of his sleep,
He turned him, and *took of this no keep; * *paid this no attention*
He thought his dream was but a vanity.
Thus twies* in his sleeping dreamed he, *twice
And at the thirde time yet his fellaw again
Came, as he thought, and said, 'I am now slaw; * *slain
Behold my bloody woundes, deep and wide.
Arise up early, in the morning, tide,
And at the west gate of the town,' quoth he,
'A carte full of dung there shalt: thou see,
In which my body is hid privily.
Do thilke cart arroste* boldely. *stop
My gold caused my murder, sooth to sayn.'
And told him every point how he was slain,
With a full piteous face, and pale of hue.
'And, truste well, his dream he found full true;
For on the morrow, as soon as it was day,
To his fellowes inn he took his way;
And when that he came to this ox's stall,
After his fellow he began to call.
The hostelere answered him anon,
And saide, 'Sir, your fellow is y-gone,
As soon as day he went out of the town.'
This man gan fallen in suspicioun,
Rememb'ring on his dreames that he mette,* *dreamed
And forth he went, no longer would he let,* *delay
Unto the west gate of the town, and fand* *found
A dung cart, as it went for to dung land,
That was arrayed in the same wise
As ye have heard the deade man devise; * *describe
And with an hardy heart he gan to cry,
'Vengeance and justice of this felony:
My fellow murder'd in this same night
And in this cart he lies, gaping upright.
I cry out on the ministers,' quoth he.
'That shoulde keep and rule this city;
Harow! alas! here lies my fellow slain.'
What should I more unto this tale sayn?
The people out start, and cast the cart to ground
And in the middle of the dung they found
The deade man, that murder'd was all new.
O blissful God! that art so good and true,
Lo, how that thou bewray'st murder alway.
Murder will out, that see we day by day.
Murder is so wlatsom* and abominable *loathsome
To God, that is so just and reasonable,
That he will not suffer it heled* be; *concealed <14>
Though it abide a year, or two, or three,
Murder will out, this is my conclusioun,
And right anon, the ministers of the town
Have hent* the carter, and so sore him pined,** *seized **tortured
And eke the hostelere so sore engined,* *racked
That they beknew* their wickedness anon, *confessed
And were hanged by the necke bone.
'Here may ye see that dreames be to dread.
And certes in the same book I read,
Right in the nexte chapter after this
(I gabbe* not, so have I joy and bliss) , *talk idly
Two men that would, have passed over sea,
For certain cause, into a far country,
If that the wind not hadde been contrary,
That made them in a city for to tarry,
That stood full merry upon an haven side;
But on a day, against the even-tide,
The wind gan change, and blew right *as them lest.* *as they wished*
Jolly and glad they wente to their rest,
And caste* them full early for to sail. *resolved
But to the one man fell a great marvail
That one of them, in sleeping as he lay,
He mette* a wondrous dream, against the day: *dreamed
He thought a man stood by his bedde's side,
And him commanded that he should abide;
And said him thus; 'If thou to-morrow wend,
Thou shalt be drown'd; my tale is at an end.'
He woke, and told his follow what he mette,
And prayed him his voyage for to let; * *delay
As for that day, he pray'd him to abide.
His fellow, that lay by his bedde's side,
Gan for to laugh, and scorned him full fast.
'No dream,' quoth he,'may so my heart aghast,* *frighten
That I will lette* for to do my things.* *delay
I sette not a straw by thy dreamings,
For swevens* be but vanities and japes.** *dreams **jokes,deceits
Men dream all day of owles and of apes,
And eke of many a maze* therewithal; *wild imagining
Men dream of thing that never was, nor shall.
But since I see, that thou wilt here abide,
And thus forslothe* wilfully thy tide,** *idle away **time
God wot, *it rueth me; * and have good day.' *I am sorry for it*
And thus he took his leave, and went his way.
But, ere that he had half his course sail'd,
I know not why, nor what mischance it ail'd,
But casually* the ship's bottom rent, *by accident
And ship and man under the water went,
In sight of other shippes there beside
That with him sailed at the same tide.
'And therefore, faire Partelote so dear,
By such examples olde may'st thou lear,* *learn
That no man shoulde be too reckeless
Of dreames, for I say thee doubteless,
That many a dream full sore is for to dread.
Lo, in the life of Saint Kenelm <15> I read,
That was Kenulphus' son, the noble king
Of Mercenrike, <16> how Kenelm mette a thing.
A little ere he was murder'd on a day,
His murder in his vision he say.* *saw
His norice* him expounded every deal** *nurse **part
His sweven, and bade him to keep* him well *guard
For treason; but he was but seven years old,
And therefore *little tale hath he told* *he attached little
Of any dream, so holy was his heart. significance to*
By God, I hadde lever than my shirt
That ye had read his legend, as have I.
Dame Partelote, I say you truely,
Macrobius, that wrote the vision
In Afric' of the worthy Scipion, <17>
Affirmeth dreames, and saith that they be
'Warnings of thinges that men after see.
And furthermore, I pray you looke well
In the Old Testament, of Daniel,
If he held dreames any vanity.
Read eke of Joseph, and there shall ye see
Whether dreams be sometimes (I say not all)
Warnings of thinges that shall after fall.
Look of Egypt the king, Dan Pharaoh,
His baker and his buteler also,
Whether they felte none effect* in dreams. *significance
Whoso will seek the acts of sundry remes* *realms
May read of dreames many a wondrous thing.
Lo Croesus, which that was of Lydia king,
Mette he not that he sat upon a tree,
Which signified he shoulde hanged be? <18>
Lo here, Andromache, Hectore's wife, <19>
That day that Hector shoulde lose his life,
She dreamed on the same night beforn,
How that the life of Hector should be lorn,* *lost
If thilke day he went into battaile;
She warned him, but it might not avail;
He wente forth to fighte natheless,
And was y-slain anon of Achilles.
But thilke tale is all too long to tell;
And eke it is nigh day, I may not dwell.
Shortly I say, as for conclusion,
That I shall have of this avision
Adversity; and I say furthermore,
That I ne *tell of laxatives no store,* *hold laxatives
For they be venomous, I wot it well; of no value*
I them defy,* I love them never a del.** *distrust **whit
'But let us speak of mirth, and stint* all this; *cease
Madame Partelote, so have I bliss,
Of one thing God hath sent me large* grace; liberal
For when I see the beauty of your face,
Ye be so scarlet-hued about your eyen,
I maketh all my dreade for to dien,
For, all so sicker* as In principio,<20> *certain
Mulier est hominis confusio.<21>
Madam, the sentence* of of this Latin is, *meaning
Woman is manne's joy and manne's bliss.
For when I feel at night your softe side, -
Albeit that I may not on you ride,
For that our perch is made so narrow, Alas!
I am so full of joy and of solas,* *delight
That I defy both sweven and eke dream.'
And with that word he flew down from the beam,
For it was day, and eke his hennes all;
And with a chuck he gan them for to call,
For he had found a corn, lay in the yard.
Royal he was, he was no more afear'd;
He feather'd Partelote twenty time,
And as oft trode her, ere that it was prime.
He looked as it were a grim lion,
And on his toes he roamed up and down;
He deigned not to set his feet to ground;
He chucked, when he had a corn y-found,
And to him ranne then his wives all.
Thus royal, as a prince is in his hall,
Leave I this Chanticleer in his pasture;
And after will I tell his aventure.
When that the month in which the world began,
That highte March, when God first maked man,
Was complete, and y-passed were also,
Since March ended, thirty days and two,
Befell that Chanticleer in all his pride,
His seven wives walking him beside,
Cast up his eyen to the brighte sun,
That in the sign of Taurus had y-run
Twenty degrees and one, and somewhat more;
He knew by kind,* and by none other lore,** *nature **learning
That it was prime, and crew with blissful steven.* *voice
'The sun,' he said, 'is clomben up in heaven
Twenty degrees and one, and more y-wis.* *assuredly
Madame Partelote, my worlde's bliss,
Hearken these blissful birdes how they sing,
And see the freshe flowers how they spring;
Full is mine heart of revel and solace.'
But suddenly him fell a sorrowful case; * *casualty
For ever the latter end of joy is woe:
God wot that worldly joy is soon y-go:
And, if a rhetor* coulde fair indite, *orator
He in a chronicle might it safely write,
As for *a sov'reign notability* *a thing supremely notable*
Now every wise man, let him hearken me;
This story is all as true, I undertake,
As is the book of Launcelot du Lake,
That women hold in full great reverence.
Now will I turn again to my sentence.
A col-fox, <22> full of sly iniquity,
That in the grove had wonned* yeares three, *dwelt
By high imagination forecast,
The same night thorough the hedges brast* *burst
Into the yard, where Chanticleer the fair
Was wont, and eke his wives, to repair;
And in a bed of wortes* still he lay, *cabbages
Till it was passed undern <23> of the day,
Waiting his time on Chanticleer to fall:
As gladly do these homicides all,
That in awaite lie to murder men.
O false murd'rer! Rouking* in thy den! *crouching, lurking
O new Iscariot, new Ganilion! <24>
O false dissimuler, O Greek Sinon,<25>
That broughtest Troy all utterly to sorrow!
O Chanticleer! accursed be the morrow
That thou into thy yard flew from the beams; * *rafters
Thou wert full well y-warned by thy dreams
That thilke day was perilous to thee.
But what that God forewot* must needes be, *foreknows
After th' opinion of certain clerkes.
Witness on him that any perfect clerk is,
That in school is great altercation
In this matter, and great disputation,
And hath been of an hundred thousand men.
But I ne cannot *boult it to the bren,* *examine it thoroughly <26>*
As can the holy doctor Augustine,
Or Boece, or the bishop Bradwardine,<27>
Whether that Godde's worthy foreweeting* *foreknowledge
*Straineth me needly* for to do a thing *forces me*
(Needly call I simple necessity) ,
Or elles if free choice be granted me
To do that same thing, or do it not,
Though God forewot* it ere that it was wrought; *knew in advance
Or if *his weeting straineth never a deal,* *his knowing constrains
But by necessity conditionel. not at all*
I will not have to do of such mattere;
My tale is of a cock, as ye may hear,
That took his counsel of his wife, with sorrow,
To walken in the yard upon the morrow
That he had mette the dream, as I you told.
Womane's counsels be full often cold; * *mischievous, unwise
Womane's counsel brought us first to woe,
And made Adam from Paradise to go,
There as he was full merry and well at case.
But, for I n'ot* to whom I might displease *know not
If I counsel of women woulde blame,
Pass over, for I said it in my game.* *jest
Read authors, where they treat of such mattere
And what they say of women ye may hear.
These be the cocke's wordes, and not mine;
I can no harm of no woman divine.* *conjecture, imagine
Fair in the sand, to bathe* her merrily, *bask
Lies Partelote, and all her sisters by,
Against the sun, and Chanticleer so free
Sang merrier than the mermaid in the sea;
For Physiologus saith sickerly,* *certainly
How that they singe well and merrily. <28>
And so befell that, as he cast his eye
Among the wortes,* on a butterfly, *cabbages
He was ware of this fox that lay full low.
Nothing *ne list him thenne* for to crow, *he had no inclination*
But cried anon 'Cock! cock! ' and up he start,
As man that was affrayed in his heart.
For naturally a beast desireth flee
From his contrary,* if be may it see, *enemy
Though he *ne'er erst* had soon it with his eye *never before*
This Chanticleer, when he gan him espy,
He would have fled, but that the fox anon
Said, 'Gentle Sir, alas! why will ye gon?
Be ye afraid of me that am your friend?
Now, certes, I were worse than any fiend,
If I to you would harm or villainy.
I am not come your counsel to espy.
But truely the cause of my coming
Was only for to hearken how ye sing;
For truely ye have as merry a steven,* *voice
As any angel hath that is in heaven;
Therewith ye have of music more feeling,
Than had Boece, or any that can sing.
My lord your father (God his soule bless)
And eke your mother of her gentleness,
Have in mnine house been, to my great ease:* *satisfaction
And certes, Sir, full fain would I you please.
But, for men speak of singing, I will say,
So may I brooke* well mine eyen tway, *enjoy, possess, or use
Save you, I hearde never man so sing
As did your father in the morrowning.
Certes it was of heart all that he sung.
And, for to make his voice the more strong,
He would *so pain him,* that with both his eyen *make such an exertion*
He muste wink, so loud he woulde cryen,
And standen on his tiptoes therewithal,
And stretche forth his necke long and small.
And eke he was of such discretion,
That there was no man, in no region,
That him in song or wisdom mighte pass.
I have well read in Dan Burnel the Ass, <29>
Among his verse, how that there was a cock
That, for* a prieste's son gave him a knock *because
Upon his leg, while he was young and nice,* *foolish
He made him for to lose his benefice.
But certain there is no comparison
Betwixt the wisdom and discretion
Of youre father, and his subtilty.
Now singe, Sir, for sainte charity,
Let see, can ye your father counterfeit? '
This Chanticleer his wings began to beat,
As man that could not his treason espy,
So was he ravish'd with his flattery.
Alas! ye lordes, many a false flattour* *flatterer <30>
Is in your court, and many a losengeour, * *deceiver <31>
That please you well more, by my faith,
Than he that soothfastness* unto you saith. *truth
Read in Ecclesiast' of flattery;
Beware, ye lordes, of their treachery.
This Chanticleer stood high upon his toes,
Stretching his neck, and held his eyen close,
And gan to crowe loude for the nonce
And Dan Russel <32> the fox start up at once,
And *by the gorge hente* Chanticleer, *seized by the throat*
And on his back toward the wood him bare.
For yet was there no man that him pursu'd.
O destiny, that may'st not be eschew'd! * *escaped
Alas, that Chanticleer flew from the beams!
Alas, his wife raughte* nought of dreams! *regarded
And on a Friday fell all this mischance.
O Venus, that art goddess of pleasance,
Since that thy servant was this Chanticleer
And in thy service did all his powere,
More for delight, than the world to multiply,
Why wilt thou suffer him on thy day to die?
O Gaufrid, deare master sovereign, <33>
That, when thy worthy king Richard was slain
With shot, complainedest his death so sore,
Why n'had I now thy sentence and thy lore,
The Friday for to chiden, as did ye?
(For on a Friday, soothly, slain was he) ,
Then would I shew you how that I could plain* *lament
For Chanticleere's dread, and for his pain.
Certes such cry nor lamentation
Was ne'er of ladies made, when Ilion
Was won, and Pyrrhus with his straighte sword,
When he had hent* king Priam by the beard, *seized
And slain him (as saith us Eneidos*) ,<34> *The Aeneid
As maden all the hennes in the close,* *yard
When they had seen of Chanticleer the sight.
But sov'reignly* Dame Partelote shright,** *above all others
Full louder than did Hasdrubale's wife, **shrieked
When that her husband hadde lost his life,
And that the Romans had y-burnt Carthage;
She was so full of torment and of rage,
That wilfully into the fire she start,
And burnt herselfe with a steadfast heart.
O woeful hennes! right so cried ye,
As, when that Nero burned the city
Of Rome, cried the senatores' wives,
For that their husbands losten all their lives;
Withoute guilt this Nero hath them slain.
Now will I turn unto my tale again;
The sely* widow, and her daughters two, *simple, honest
Hearde these hennes cry and make woe,
And at the doors out started they anon,
And saw the fox toward the wood is gone,
And bare upon his back the cock away:
They cried, 'Out! harow! and well-away!
Aha! the fox! ' and after him they ran,
And eke with staves many another man
Ran Coll our dog, and Talbot, and Garland;
And Malkin, with her distaff in her hand
Ran cow and calf, and eke the very hogges
So fear'd they were for barking of the dogges,
And shouting of the men and women eke.
They ranne so, them thought their hearts would break.
They yelled as the fiendes do in hell;
The duckes cried as men would them quell; * *kill, destroy
The geese for feare flewen o'er the trees,
Out of the hive came the swarm of bees,
So hideous was the noise, ben'dicite!
Certes he, Jacke Straw,<35> and his meinie,* *followers
Ne made never shoutes half so shrill
When that they woulden any Fleming kill,
As thilke day was made upon the fox.
Of brass they broughte beames* and of box, *trumpets <36>
Of horn and bone, in which they blew and pooped,* **tooted
And therewithal they shrieked and they hooped;
It seemed as the heaven shoulde fall
Now, goode men, I pray you hearken all;
Lo, how Fortune turneth suddenly
The hope and pride eke of her enemy.
This cock, that lay upon the fox's back,
In all his dread unto the fox he spake,
And saide, 'Sir, if that I were as ye,
Yet would I say (as wisly* God help me) , *surely
'Turn ye again, ye proude churles all;
A very pestilence upon you fall.
Now am I come unto the woode's side,
Maugre your head, the cock shall here abide;
I will him eat, in faith, and that anon.''
The fox answer'd, 'In faith it shall be done:'
And, as he spake the word, all suddenly
The cock brake from his mouth deliverly,* *nimbly
And high upon a tree he flew anon.
And when the fox saw that the cock was gone,
'Alas! ' quoth he, 'O Chanticleer, alas!
I have,' quoth he, 'y-done to you trespass,* *offence
Inasmuch as I maked you afear'd,
When I you hent,* and brought out of your yard; *took
But, Sir, I did it in no wick' intent;
Come down, and I shall tell you what I meant.
I shall say sooth to you, God help me so.'
'Nay then,' quoth he, 'I shrew* us both the two, *curse
And first I shrew myself, both blood and bones,
If thou beguile me oftener than once.
Thou shalt no more through thy flattery
Do* me to sing and winke with mine eye; *cause
For he that winketh when he shoulde see,
All wilfully, God let him never the.'* *thrive
'Nay,' quoth the fox; 'but God give him mischance
That is so indiscreet of governance,
That jangleth* when that he should hold his peace.' *chatters
Lo, what it is for to be reckeless
And negligent, and trust on flattery.
But ye that holde this tale a folly,
As of a fox, or of a cock or hen,
Take the morality thereof, good men.
For Saint Paul saith, That all that written is,
*To our doctrine it written is y-wis.* <37> *is surely written for
Take the fruit, and let the chaff be still. our instruction*
Now goode God, if that it be thy will,
As saith my Lord, <38> so make us all good men;
And bring us all to thy high bliss. Amen.
The Squire's Tale
'HEY! Godde's mercy!' said our Hoste tho,* *then
'Now such a wife I pray God keep me fro'.
Lo, suche sleightes and subtilities
In women be; for aye as busy as bees
Are they us silly men for to deceive,
And from the soothe* will they ever weive,** *truth **swerve, depart
As this Merchante's tale it proveth well.
But natheless, as true as any steel,
I have a wife, though that she poore be;
But of her tongue a labbing* shrew is she; *chattering
And yet* she hath a heap of vices mo'. *moreover
Thereof *no force;* let all such thinges go. *no matter*
But wit* ye what? in counsel** be it said, *know **secret, confidence
Me rueth sore I am unto her tied;
For, an'* I shoulde reckon every vice *if
Which that she hath, y-wis* I were too nice;** *certainly **foolish
And cause why, it should reported be
And told her by some of this company
(By whom, it needeth not for to declare,
Since women connen utter such chaffare <1>),
And eke my wit sufficeth not thereto
To tellen all; wherefore my tale is do.* *done
Squier, come near, if it your wille be,
And say somewhat of love, for certes ye
*Conne thereon* as much as any man.' *know about it*
'Nay, Sir,' quoth he; 'but such thing as I can,
With hearty will, - for I will not rebel
Against your lust,* - a tale will I tell. *pleasure
Have me excused if I speak amiss;
My will is good; and lo, my tale is this.'
At Sarra, in the land of Tartary,
There dwelt a king that warrayed* Russie, <2> *made war on
Through which there died many a doughty man;
This noble king was called Cambuscan,<3>
Which in his time was of so great renown,
That there was nowhere in no regioun
So excellent a lord in alle thing:
Him lacked nought that longeth to a king,
As of the sect of which that he was born.
He kept his law to which he was y-sworn,
And thereto* he was hardy, wise, and rich, *moreover, besides
And piteous and just, always y-lich;* *alike, even-tempered
True of his word, benign and honourable;
*Of his corage as any centre stable;* *firm, immovable of spirit*
Young, fresh, and strong, in armes desirous
As any bachelor of all his house.
A fair person he was, and fortunate,
And kept alway so well his royal estate,
That there was nowhere such another man.
This noble king, this Tartar Cambuscan,
Hadde two sons by Elfeta his wife,
Of which the eldest highte Algarsife,
The other was y-called Camballo.
A daughter had this worthy king also,
That youngest was, and highte Canace:
But for to telle you all her beauty,
It lies not in my tongue, nor my conning;* *skill
I dare not undertake so high a thing:
Mine English eke is insufficient,
It muste be a rhetor* excellent, *orator
*That couth his colours longing for that art,* * see <4>*
If he should her describen any part;
I am none such, I must speak as I can.
And so befell, that when this Cambuscan
Had twenty winters borne his diadem,
As he was wont from year to year, I deem,
He let *the feast of his nativity* *his birthday party*
*Do crye,* throughout Sarra his city, *be proclaimed*
The last Idus of March, after the year.
Phoebus the sun full jolly was and clear,
For he was nigh his exaltation
In Marte's face, and in his mansion <5>
In Aries, the choleric hot sign:
Full lusty* was the weather and benign; *pleasant
For which the fowls against the sunne sheen,* *bright
What for the season and the younge green,
Full loude sange their affections:
Them seemed to have got protections
Against the sword of winter keen and cold.
This Cambuscan, of which I have you told,
In royal vesture, sat upon his dais,
With diadem, full high in his palace;
And held his feast so solemn and so rich,
That in this worlde was there none it lich.* *like
Of which if I should tell all the array,
Then would it occupy a summer's day;
And eke it needeth not for to devise* *describe
At every course the order of service.
I will not tellen of their strange sewes,* *dishes <6>
Nor of their swannes, nor their heronsews.* *young herons <7>
Eke in that land, as telle knightes old,
There is some meat that is full dainty hold,
That in this land men *reck of* it full small: *care for*
There is no man that may reporten all.
I will not tarry you, for it is prime,
And for it is no fruit, but loss of time;
Unto my purpose* I will have recourse. *story <8>
And so befell that, after the third course,
While that this king sat thus in his nobley,* *noble array
Hearing his ministreles their thinges play
Before him at his board deliciously,
In at the halle door all suddenly
There came a knight upon a steed of brass,
And in his hand a broad mirror of glass;
Upon his thumb he had of gold a ring,
And by his side a naked sword hanging:
And up he rode unto the highe board.
In all the hall was there not spoke a word,
For marvel of this knight; him to behold
Full busily they waited,* young and old. *watched
This strange knight, that came thus suddenly,
All armed, save his head, full richely,
Saluted king, and queen, and lordes all,
By order as they satten in the hall,
With so high reverence and observance,
As well in speech as in his countenance,
That Gawain <9> with his olde courtesy,
Though he were come again out of Faerie,
Him *coulde not amende with a word.* *could not better him
And after this, before the highe board, by one word*
He with a manly voice said his message,
After the form used in his language,
Withoute vice* of syllable or letter. *fault
And, for his tale shoulde seem the better,
Accordant to his worde's was his cheer,* *demeanour
As teacheth art of speech them that it lear.* *learn
Albeit that I cannot sound his style,
Nor cannot climb over so high a stile,
Yet say I this, as to *commune intent,* *general sense or meaning*
*Thus much amounteth* all that ever he meant, *this is the sum of*
If it so be that I have it in mind.
He said; 'The king of Araby and Ind,
My liege lord, on this solemne day
Saluteth you as he best can and may,
And sendeth you, in honour of your feast,
By me, that am all ready at your hest,* *command
This steed of brass, that easily and well
Can in the space of one day naturel
(This is to say, in four-and-twenty hours),
Whereso you list, in drought or else in show'rs,
Beare your body into every place
To which your hearte willeth for to pace,* *pass, go
Withoute wem* of you, through foul or fair. *hurt, injury
Or if you list to fly as high in air
As doth an eagle, when him list to soar,
This same steed shall bear you evermore
Withoute harm, till ye be where *you lest* *it pleases you*
(Though that ye sleepen on his back, or rest),
And turn again, with writhing* of a pin. *twisting
He that it wrought, he coude* many a gin;** *knew **contrivance <10>
He waited* in any a constellation, *observed
Ere he had done this operation,
And knew full many a seal <11> and many a bond
This mirror eke, that I have in mine hond,
Hath such a might, that men may in it see
When there shall fall any adversity
Unto your realm, or to yourself also,
And openly who is your friend or foe.
And over all this, if any lady bright
Hath set her heart on any manner wight,
If he be false, she shall his treason see,
His newe love, and all his subtlety,
So openly that there shall nothing hide.
Wherefore, against this lusty summer-tide,
This mirror, and this ring that ye may see,
He hath sent to my lady Canace,
Your excellente daughter that is here.
The virtue of this ring, if ye will hear,
Is this, that if her list it for to wear
Upon her thumb, or in her purse it bear,
There is no fowl that flyeth under heaven,
That she shall not well understand his steven,* *speech, sound
And know his meaning openly and plain,
And answer him in his language again:
And every grass that groweth upon root
She shall eke know, to whom it will do boot,* *remedy
All be his woundes ne'er so deep and wide.
This naked sword, that hangeth by my side,
Such virtue hath, that what man that it smite,
Throughout his armour it will carve and bite,
Were it as thick as is a branched oak:
And what man is y-wounded with the stroke
Shall ne'er be whole, till that you list, of grace,
To stroke him with the flat in thilke* place *the same
Where he is hurt; this is as much to sayn,
Ye muste with the flatte sword again
Stroke him upon the wound, and it will close.
This is the very sooth, withoute glose;* *deceit
It faileth not, while it is in your hold.'
And when this knight had thus his tale told,
He rode out of the hall, and down he light.
His steede, which that shone as sunne bright,
Stood in the court as still as any stone.
The knight is to his chamber led anon,
And is unarmed, and to meat y-set.* *seated
These presents be full richely y-fet,* - *fetched
This is to say, the sword and the mirrour, -
And borne anon into the highe tow'r,
With certain officers ordain'd therefor;
And unto Canace the ring is bore
Solemnely, where she sat at the table;
But sickerly, withouten any fable,
The horse of brass, that may not be remued.* *removed <12>
It stood as it were to the ground y-glued;
There may no man out of the place it drive
For no engine of windlass or polive; * *pulley
And cause why, for they *can not the craft;* *know not the cunning
And therefore in the place they have it laft, of the mechanism*
Till that the knight hath taught them the mannere
To voide* him, as ye shall after hear. *remove
Great was the press, that swarmed to and fro
To gauren* on this horse that stoode so: *gaze
For it so high was, and so broad and long,
So well proportioned for to be strong,
Right as it were a steed of Lombardy;
Therewith so horsely, and so quick of eye,
As it a gentle Poileis <13> courser were:
For certes, from his tail unto his ear
Nature nor art ne could him not amend
In no degree, as all the people wend.* *weened, thought
But evermore their moste wonder was
How that it coulde go, and was of brass;
It was of Faerie, as the people seem'd.
Diverse folk diversely they deem'd;
As many heads, as many wittes been.
They murmured, as doth a swarm of been,* *bees
And made skills* after their fantasies, *reasons
Rehearsing of the olde poetries,
And said that it was like the Pegasee,* *Pegasus
The horse that hadde winges for to flee;* *fly
Or else it was the Greeke's horse Sinon,<14>
That broughte Troye to destruction,
As men may in the olde gestes* read. *tales of adventures
Mine heart,' quoth one, 'is evermore in dread;
I trow some men of armes be therein,
That shape* them this city for to win: *design, prepare
It were right good that all such thing were know.'
Another rowned* to his fellow low, *whispered
And said, 'He lies; for it is rather like
An apparence made by some magic,
As jugglers playen at these feastes great.'
Of sundry doubts they jangle thus and treat.
As lewed* people deeme commonly *ignorant
Of thinges that be made more subtilly
Than they can in their lewdness comprehend;
They *deeme gladly to the badder end.* *are ready to think
And some of them wonder'd on the mirrour, the worst*
That borne was up into the master* tow'r, *chief <15>
How men might in it suche thinges see.
Another answer'd and said, it might well be
Naturally by compositions
Of angles, and of sly reflections;
And saide that in Rome was such a one.
They speak of Alhazen and Vitellon,<16>
And Aristotle, that wrote in their lives
Of quainte* mirrors, and of prospectives, *curious
As knowe they that have their bookes heard.
And other folk have wonder'd on the swerd,* *sword
That woulde pierce throughout every thing;
And fell in speech of Telephus the king,
And of Achilles for his quainte spear, <17>
For he could with it bothe heal and dere,* *wound
Right in such wise as men may with the swerd
Of which right now ye have yourselves heard.
They spake of sundry hard'ning of metal,
And spake of medicines therewithal,
And how, and when, it shoulde harden'd be,
Which is unknowen algate* unto me. *however
Then spake they of Canacee's ring,
And saiden all, that such a wondrous thing
Of craft of rings heard they never none,
Save that he, Moses, and King Solomon,
Hadden *a name of conning* in such art. *a reputation for
Thus said the people, and drew them apart. knowledge*
Put natheless some saide that it was
Wonder to maken of fern ashes glass,
And yet is glass nought like ashes of fern;
*But for* they have y-knowen it so ferne** *because **before <18>
Therefore ceaseth their jangling and their wonder.
As sore wonder some on cause of thunder,
On ebb and flood, on gossamer and mist,
And on all things, till that the cause is wist.* *known
Thus jangle they, and deemen and devise,
Till that the king gan from his board arise.
Phoebus had left the angle meridional,
And yet ascending was the beast royal,
The gentle Lion, with his Aldrian, <19>
When that this Tartar king, this Cambuscan,
Rose from the board, there as he sat full high
Before him went the loude minstrelsy,
Till he came to his chamber of parements,<20>
There as they sounded diverse instruments,
That it was like a heaven for to hear.
Now danced lusty Venus' children dear:
For in the Fish* their lady sat full *Pisces
And looked on them with a friendly eye. <21>
This noble king is set upon his throne;
This strange knight is fetched to him full sone,* *soon
And on the dance he goes with Canace.
Here is the revel and the jollity,
That is not able a dull man to devise:* *describe
He must have knowen love and his service,
And been a feastly* man, as fresh as May, *merry, gay
That shoulde you devise such array.
Who coulde telle you the form of dances
So uncouth,* and so freshe countenances** *unfamliar **gestures
Such subtle lookings and dissimulances,
For dread of jealous men's apperceivings?
No man but Launcelot,<22> and he is dead.
Therefore I pass o'er all this lustihead* *pleasantness
I say no more, but in this jolliness
I leave them, till to supper men them dress.
The steward bids the spices for to hie* *haste
And eke the wine, in all this melody;
The ushers and the squiers be y-gone,
The spices and the wine is come anon;
They eat and drink, and when this hath an end,
Unto the temple, as reason was, they wend;
The service done, they suppen all by day
What needeth you rehearse their array?
Each man wot well, that at a kinge's feast
Is plenty, to the most*, and to the least, *highest
And dainties more than be in my knowing.
At after supper went this noble king
To see the horse of brass, with all a rout
Of lordes and of ladies him about.
Such wond'ring was there on this horse of brass,
That, since the great siege of Troye was,
There as men wonder'd on a horse also,
Ne'er was there such a wond'ring as was tho.* *there
But finally the king asked the knight
The virtue of this courser, and the might,
And prayed him to tell his governance.* *mode of managing him
The horse anon began to trip and dance,
When that the knight laid hand upon his rein,
And saide, 'Sir, there is no more to sayn,
But when you list to riden anywhere,
Ye muste trill* a pin, stands in his ear, *turn <23>
Which I shall telle you betwixt us two;
Ye muste name him to what place also,
Or to what country that you list to ride.
And when ye come where you list abide,
Bid him descend, and trill another pin
(For therein lies th' effect of all the gin*), *contrivance <10>
And he will down descend and do your will,
And in that place he will abide still;
Though all the world had the contrary swore,
He shall not thence be throwen nor be bore.
Or, if you list to bid him thennes gon,
Trill this pin, and he will vanish anon
Out of the sight of every manner wight,
And come again, be it by day or night,
When that you list to clepe* him again *call
In such a guise, as I shall to you sayn
Betwixte you and me, and that full soon.
Ride <24> when you list, there is no more to do'n.'
Informed when the king was of the knight,
And had conceived in his wit aright
The manner and the form of all this thing,
Full glad and blithe, this noble doughty king
Repaired to his revel as beforn.
The bridle is into the tower borne,
And kept among his jewels lefe* and dear; *cherished
The horse vanish'd, I n'ot* in what mannere, *know not
Out of their sight; ye get no more of me:
But thus I leave in lust and jollity
This Cambuscan his lordes feastying,* *entertaining <25>
Until well nigh the day began to spring.
*Pars Secunda.* *Second Part*
The norice* of digestion, the sleep, *nurse
Gan on them wink, and bade them take keep,* *heed
That muche mirth and labour will have rest.
And with a gaping* mouth he all them kest,** *yawning **kissed
And said, that it was time to lie down,
For blood was in his dominatioun: <26>
'Cherish the blood, nature's friend,' quoth he.
They thanked him gaping, by two and three;
And every wight gan draw him to his rest;
As sleep them bade, they took it for the best.
Their dreames shall not now be told for me;
Full are their heades of fumosity,<27>
That caused dreams *of which there is no charge:* *of no significance*
They slepte; till that, it was *prime large,* *late morning*
The moste part, but* it was Canace; *except
She was full measurable,* as women be: *moderate
For of her father had she ta'en her leave
To go to rest, soon after it was eve;
Her liste not appalled* for to be; *to look pale
Nor on the morrow *unfeastly for to see;* *to look sad, depressed*
And slept her firste sleep; and then awoke.
For such a joy she in her hearte took
Both of her quainte a ring and her mirrour,.
That twenty times she changed her colour;
And in her sleep, right for th' impression
Of her mirror, she had a vision.
Wherefore, ere that the sunne gan up glide,
She call'd upon her mistress'* her beside, *governesses
And saide, that her liste for to rise.
These olde women, that be gladly wise
As are her mistresses answer'd anon,
And said; 'Madame, whither will ye gon
Thus early? for the folk be all in rest.'
'I will,' quoth she, 'arise; for me lest
No longer for to sleep, and walk about.'
Her mistresses call'd women a great rout,
And up they rose, well a ten or twelve;
Up rose freshe Canace herselve,
As ruddy and bright as is the yonnge sun
That in the Ram is four degrees y-run;
No higher was he, when she ready was;
And forth she walked easily a pace,
Array'd after the lusty* season swoot,** *pleasant **sweet
Lightely for to play, and walk on foot,
Nought but with five or six of her meinie;
And in a trench* forth in the park went she. *sunken path
The vapour, which up from the earthe glode,* *glided
Made the sun to seem ruddy and broad:
But, natheless, it was so fair a sight
That it made all their heartes for to light,* *be lightened, glad
What for the season and the morrowning,
And for the fowles that she hearde sing.
For right anon she wiste* what they meant *knew
Right by their song, and knew all their intent.
The knotte,* why that every tale is told, *nucleus, chief matter
If it be tarried* till the list* be cold *delayed **inclination
Of them that have it hearken'd *after yore,* *for a long time*
The savour passeth ever longer more;
For fulsomness of the prolixity:
And by that same reason thinketh me.
I shoulde unto the knotte condescend,
And maken of her walking soon an end.
Amid a tree fordry*, as white as chalk, *thoroughly dried up
There sat a falcon o'er her head full high,
That with a piteous voice so gan to cry;
That all the wood resounded of her cry,
And beat she had herself so piteously
With both her winges, till the redde blood
Ran endelong* the tree, there as she stood *from top to bottom
And ever-in-one* alway she cried and shright;** *incessantly **shrieked
And with her beak herselfe she so pight,* *wounded
That there is no tiger, nor cruel beast,
That dwelleth either in wood or in forest;
But would have wept, if that he weepe could,
For sorrow of her; she shriek'd alway so loud.
For there was never yet no man alive,
If that he could a falcon well descrive;* *describe
That heard of such another of fairness
As well of plumage, as of gentleness;
Of shape, of all that mighte reckon'd be.
A falcon peregrine seemed she,
Of fremde* land; and ever as she stood *foreign <28>
She swooned now and now for lack of blood;
Till well-nigh is she fallen from the tree.
This faire kinge's daughter Canace,
That on her finger bare the quainte ring,
Through which she understood well every thing
That any fowl may in his leden* sayn, **language <29>
And could him answer in his leden again;
Hath understoode what this falcon said,
And well-nigh for the ruth* almost she died;. *pity
And to the tree she went, full hastily,
And on this falcon looked piteously;
And held her lap abroad; for well she wist
The falcon muste falle from the twist* *twig, bough
When that she swooned next, for lack of blood.
A longe while to waite her she stood;
Till at the last she apake in this mannere
Unto the hawk, as ye shall after hear:
'What is the cause, if it be for to tell,
That ye be in this furial* pain of hell?' *raging, furious
Quoth Canace unto this hawk above;
'Is this for sorrow of of death; or loss of love?
For; as I trow,* these be the causes two; *believe
That cause most a gentle hearte woe:
Of other harm it needeth not to speak.
For ye yourself upon yourself awreak;* *inflict
Which proveth well, that either ire or dread* *fear
Must be occasion of your cruel deed,
Since that I see none other wight you chase:
For love of God, as *do yourselfe grace;* *have mercy on
Or what may be your help? for, west nor east, yourself*
I never saw ere now no bird nor beast
That fared with himself so piteously
Ye slay me with your sorrow verily;
I have of you so great compassioun.
For Godde's love come from the tree adown
And, as I am a kinge's daughter true,
If that I verily the causes knew
Of your disease,* if it lay in my might, *distress
I would amend it, ere that it were night,
So wisly help me the great God of kind.** *surely **nature
And herbes shall I right enoughe find,
To heale with your hurtes hastily.'
Then shriek'd this falcon yet more piteously
Than ever she did, and fell to ground anon,
And lay aswoon, as dead as lies a stone,
Till Canace had in her lap her take,
Unto that time she gan of swoon awake:
And, after that she out of swoon abraid,* *awoke
Right in her hawke's leden thus she said:
'That pity runneth soon in gentle heart
(Feeling his simil'tude in paines smart),
Is proved every day, as men may see,
As well *by work as by authority;* *by experience as by doctrine*
For gentle hearte kitheth* gentleness. *sheweth
I see well, that ye have on my distress
Compassion, my faire Canace,
Of very womanly benignity
That nature in your princples hath set.
But for no hope for to fare the bet,* *better
But for t' obey unto your hearte free,
And for to make others aware by me,
As by the whelp chastis'd* is the lion, *instructed, corrected
Right for that cause and that conclusion,
While that I have a leisure and a space,
Mine harm I will confessen ere I pace.'* *depart
And ever while the one her sorrow told,
The other wept, *as she to water wo'ld,* *as if she would dissolve
Till that the falcon bade her to be still, into water*
And with a sigh right thus she said *her till:* *to her*
'Where I was bred (alas that ilke* day!) *same
And foster'd in a rock of marble gray
So tenderly, that nothing ailed me,
I wiste* not what was adversity, *knew
Till I could flee* full high under the sky. *fly
Then dwell'd a tercelet <30> me faste by,
That seem'd a well of alle gentleness;
*All were he* full of treason and falseness, *although he was*
It was so wrapped *under humble cheer,* *under an aspect
And under hue of truth, in such mannere, of humility*
Under pleasance, and under busy pain,
That no wight weened that he coulde feign,
So deep in grain he dyed his colours.
Right as a serpent hides him under flow'rs,
Till he may see his time for to bite,
Right so this god of love's hypocrite
Did so his ceremonies and obeisances,
And kept in semblance all his observances,
That *sounden unto* gentleness of love. *are consonant to*
As on a tomb is all the fair above,
And under is the corpse, which that ye wet,
Such was this hypocrite, both cold and hot;
And in this wise he served his intent,
That, save the fiend, none wiste what he meant:
Till he so long had weeped and complain'd,
And many a year his service to me feign'd,
Till that mine heart, too piteous and too nice,* *foolish, simple
All innocent of his crowned malice,
*Forfeared of his death,* as thoughte me, *greatly afraid lest
Upon his oathes and his surety he should die*
Granted him love, on this conditioun,
That evermore mine honour and renown
Were saved, bothe *privy and apert;* *privately and in public*
This is to say, that, after his desert,
I gave him all my heart and all my thought
(God wot, and he, that *other wayes nought*), *in no other way*
And took his heart in change of mine for aye.
But sooth is said, gone since many a day,
A true wight and a thiefe *think not one.* *do not think alike*
And when he saw the thing so far y-gone,
That I had granted him fully my love,
In such a wise as I have said above,
And given him my true heart as free
As he swore that he gave his heart to me,
Anon this tiger, full of doubleness,
Fell on his knees with so great humbleness,
With so high reverence, as by his cheer,* *mien
So like a gentle lover in mannere,
So ravish'd, as it seemed, for the joy,
That never Jason, nor Paris of Troy, -
Jason? certes, nor ever other man,
Since Lamech <31> was, that alderfirst* began *first of all
To love two, as write folk beforn,
Nor ever since the firste man was born,
Coulde no man, by twenty thousand
Counterfeit the sophimes* of his art; *sophistries, beguilements
Where doubleness of feigning should approach,
Nor worthy were t'unbuckle his galoche,* *shoe <32>
Nor could so thank a wight, as he did me.
His manner was a heaven for to see
To any woman, were she ne'er so wise;
So painted he and kempt,* *at point devise,* *combed, studied
As well his wordes as his countenance. *with perfect precision*
And I so lov'd him for his obeisance,
And for the truth I deemed in his heart,
That, if so were that any thing him smart,* *pained
All were it ne'er so lite,* and I it wist, *little
Methought I felt death at my hearte twist.
And shortly, so farforth this thing is went,* *gone
That my will was his wille's instrument;
That is to say, my will obey'd his will
In alle thing, as far as reason fill,* *fell; allowed
Keeping the boundes of my worship ever;
And never had I thing *so lefe, or lever,* *so dear, or dearer*
As him, God wot, nor never shall no mo'.
'This lasted longer than a year or two,
That I supposed of him naught but good.
But finally, thus at the last it stood,
That fortune woulde that he muste twin* *depart, separate
Out of that place which that I was in.
Whe'er* me was woe, it is no question; *whether
I cannot make of it description.
For one thing dare I telle boldely,
I know what is the pain of death thereby;
Such harm I felt, for he might not byleve.* *stay <33>
So on a day of me he took his leave,
So sorrowful eke, that I ween'd verily,
That he had felt as muche harm as I,
When that I heard him speak, and saw his hue.
But natheless, I thought he was so true,
And eke that he repaire should again
Within a little while, sooth to sayn,
And reason would eke that he muste go
For his honour, as often happ'neth so,
That I made virtue of necessity,
And took it well, since that it muste be.
As I best might, I hid from him my sorrow,
And took him by the hand, Saint John to borrow,* *witness, pledge
And said him thus; 'Lo, I am youres all;
Be such as I have been to you, and shall.'
What he answer'd, it needs not to rehearse;
Who can say bet* than he, who can do worse? *better
When he had all well said, then had he done.
Therefore behoveth him a full long spoon,
That shall eat with a fiend; thus heard I say.
So at the last he muste forth his way,
And forth he flew, till he came where him lest.
When it came him to purpose for to rest,
I trow that he had thilke text in mind,
That alle thing repairing to his kind
Gladdeth himself; <34> thus say men, as I guess;
*Men love of [proper] kind newfangleness,* *see note <35>*
As birdes do, that men in cages feed.
For though thou night and day take of them heed,
And strew their cage fair and soft as silk,
And give them sugar, honey, bread, and milk,
Yet, *right anon as that his door is up,* *immediately on his
He with his feet will spurne down his cup, door being opened*
And to the wood he will, and wormes eat;
So newefangle be they of their meat,
And love novelties, of proper kind;
No gentleness of bloode may them bind.
So far'd this tercelet, alas the day!
Though he were gentle born, and fresh, and gay,
And goodly for to see, and humble, and free,
He saw upon a time a kite flee,* *fly
And suddenly he loved this kite so,
That all his love is clean from me y-go:
And hath his trothe falsed in this wise.
Thus hath the kite my love in her service,
And I am lorn* withoute remedy.' *lost, undone
And with that word this falcon gan to cry,
And swooned eft* in Canacee's barme** *again **lap
Great was the sorrow, for that hawke's harm,
That Canace and all her women made;
They wist not how they might the falcon glade.* *gladden
But Canace home bare her in her lap,
And softely in plasters gan her wrap,
There as she with her beak had hurt herselve.
Now cannot Canace but herbes delve
Out of the ground, and make salves new
Of herbes precious and fine of hue,
To heale with this hawk; from day to night
She did her business, and all her might.
And by her bedde's head she made a mew,* *bird cage
And cover'd it with velouettes* blue,<36> *velvets
In sign of truth that is in woman seen;
And all without the mew is painted green,
In which were painted all these false fowls,
As be these tidifes,* tercelets, and owls; *titmice
And pies, on them for to cry and chide,
Right for despite were painted them beside.
Thus leave I Canace her hawk keeping.
I will no more as now speak of her ring,
Till it come eft* to purpose for to sayn *again
How that this falcon got her love again
Repentant, as the story telleth us,
By mediation of Camballus,
The kinge's son of which that I you told.
But henceforth I will my process hold
To speak of aventures, and of battailes,
That yet was never heard so great marvailles.
First I will telle you of Cambuscan,
That in his time many a city wan;
And after will I speak of Algarsife,
How he won Theodora to his wife,
For whom full oft in great peril he was,
*N'had he* been holpen by the horse of brass. *had he not*
And after will I speak of Camballo, <37>
That fought in listes with the brethren two
For Canace, ere that he might her win;
And where I left I will again begin.
The Monk's Tale
WHEN ended was my tale of Melibee,
And of Prudence and her benignity,
Our Hoste said, 'As I am faithful man,
And by the precious corpus Madrian,<1>
I had lever* than a barrel of ale, *rather
That goode lefe* my wife had heard this tale; *dear
For she is no thing of such patience
As was this Meliboeus' wife Prudence.
By Godde's bones! when I beat my knaves
She bringeth me the greate clubbed staves,
And crieth, 'Slay the dogges every one,
And break of them both back and ev'ry bone.'
And if that any neighebour of mine
Will not in church unto my wife incline,
Or be so hardy to her to trespace,* *offend
When she comes home she rampeth* in my face, *springs
And crieth, 'False coward, wreak* thy wife *avenge
By corpus Domini, I will have thy knife,
And thou shalt have my distaff, and go spin.'
From day till night right thus she will begin.
'Alas! ' she saith, 'that ever I was shape* *destined
To wed a milksop, or a coward ape,
That will be overlad* with every wight! *imposed on
Thou darest not stand by thy wife's right.'
'This is my life, *but if* that I will fight; *unless
And out at door anon I must me dight,* *betake myself
Or elles I am lost, but if that I
Be, like a wilde lion, fool-hardy.
I wot well she will do* me slay some day *make
Some neighebour and thenne *go my way; * *take to flight*
For I am perilous with knife in hand,
Albeit that I dare not her withstand;
For she is big in armes, by my faith!
That shall he find, that her misdoth or saith. <2>
But let us pass away from this mattere.
My lord the Monk,' quoth he, 'be merry of cheer,
For ye shall tell a tale truely.
Lo, Rochester stands here faste by.
Ride forth, mine owen lord, break not our game.
But by my troth I cannot tell your name;
Whether shall I call you my lord Dan John,
Or Dan Thomas, or elles Dan Albon?
Of what house be ye, by your father's kin?
I vow to God, thou hast a full fair skin;
It is a gentle pasture where thou go'st;
Thou art not like a penant* or a ghost. *penitent
Upon my faith thou art some officer,
Some worthy sexton, or some cellarer.
For by my father's soul, *as to my dome,* *in my judgement*
Thou art a master when thou art at home;
No poore cloisterer, nor no novice,
But a governor, both wily and wise,
And therewithal, of brawnes* and of bones, *sinews
A right well-faring person for the nonce.
I pray to God give him confusion
That first thee brought into religion.
Thou would'st have been a treade-fowl* aright; *cock
Hadst thou as greate leave, as thou hast might,
To perform all thy lust in engendrure,* *generation, begettting
Thou hadst begotten many a creature.
Alas! why wearest thou so wide a cope? <3>
God give me sorrow, but, an* I were pope, *if
Not only thou, but every mighty man,
Though he were shorn full high upon his pan,* <4> *crown
Should have a wife; for all this world is lorn; * *undone, ruined
Religion hath ta'en up all the corn
Of treading, and we borel* men be shrimps: *lay
Of feeble trees there come wretched imps.* *shoots <5>
This maketh that our heires be so slender
And feeble, that they may not well engender.
This maketh that our wives will assay
Religious folk, for they may better pay
Of Venus' payementes than may we:
God wot, no lusheburghes <6> paye ye.
But be not wroth, my lord, though that I play;
Full oft in game a sooth have I heard say.'
This worthy Monk took all in patience,
And said, 'I will do all my diligence,
As far as *souneth unto honesty,* *agrees with good manners*
To telle you a tale, or two or three.
And if you list to hearken hitherward,
I will you say the life of Saint Edward;
Or elles first tragedies I will tell,
Of which I have an hundred in my cell.
Tragedy *is to say* a certain story, *means*
As olde bookes maken us memory,
Of him that stood in great prosperity,
And is y-fallen out of high degree
In misery, and endeth wretchedly.
And they be versified commonly
Of six feet, which men call hexametron;
In prose eke* be indited many a one, *also
And eke in metre, in many a sundry wise.
Lo, this declaring ought enough suffice.
Now hearken, if ye like for to hear.
But first I you beseech in this mattere,
Though I by order telle not these things,
Be it of popes, emperors, or kings,
*After their ages,* as men written find, *in chronological order*
But tell them some before and some behind,
As it now cometh to my remembrance,
Have me excused of mine ignorance.'
THE TALE. <1>
I will bewail, in manner of tragedy,
The harm of them that stood in high degree,
And felle so, that there was no remedy
To bring them out of their adversity.
For, certain, when that Fortune list to flee,
There may no man the course of her wheel hold:
Let no man trust in blind prosperity;
Beware by these examples true and old.
At LUCIFER, though he an angel were,
And not a man, at him I will begin.
For though Fortune may no angel dere,* *hurt
From high degree yet fell he for his sin
Down into hell, where as he yet is in.
O Lucifer! brightest of angels all,
Now art thou Satanas, that may'st not twin* *depart
Out of the misery in which thou art fall.
Lo ADAM, in the field of Damascene <2>
With Godde's owen finger wrought was he,
And not begotten of man's sperm unclean;
And welt* all Paradise saving one tree: *commanded
Had never worldly man so high degree
As Adam, till he for misgovernance* *misbehaviour
Was driven out of his prosperity
To labour, and to hell, and to mischance.
Lo SAMPSON, which that was annunciate
By the angel, long ere his nativity; <3>
And was to God Almighty consecrate,
And stood in nobless while that he might see;
Was never such another as was he,
To speak of strength, and thereto hardiness; * *courage
But to his wives told he his secre,
Through which he slew himself for wretchedness.
Sampson, this noble and mighty champion,
Withoute weapon, save his handes tway,
He slew and all to-rente* the lion, *tore to pieces
Toward his wedding walking by the way.
His false wife could him so please, and pray,
Till she his counsel knew; and she, untrue,
Unto his foes his counsel gan bewray,
And him forsook, and took another new.
Three hundred foxes Sampson took for ire,
And all their tailes he together band,
And set the foxes' tailes all on fire,
For he in every tail had knit a brand,
And they burnt all the combs of that lend,
And all their oliveres* and vines eke. *olive trees <4>
A thousand men he slew eke with his hand,
And had no weapon but an ass's cheek.
When they were slain, so thirsted him, that he
Was *well-nigh lorn,* for which he gan to pray *near to perishing*
That God would on his pain have some pity,
And send him drink, or elles must he die;
And of this ass's check, that was so dry,
Out of a wang-tooth* sprang anon a well, *cheek-tooth
Of which, he drank enough, shortly to say.
Thus help'd him God, as Judicum <5> can tell.
By very force, at Gaza, on a night,
Maugre* the Philistines of that city, *in spite of
The gates of the town he hath up plight,* *plucked, wrenched
And on his back y-carried them hath he
High on an hill, where as men might them see.
O noble mighty Sampson, lefe* and dear, *loved
Hadst thou not told to women thy secre,
In all this world there had not been thy peer.
This Sampson never cider drank nor wine,
Nor on his head came razor none nor shear,
By precept of the messenger divine;
For all his strengthes in his haires were;
And fully twenty winters, year by year,
He had of Israel the governance;
But soone shall he weepe many a tear,
For women shall him bringe to mischance.
Unto his leman* Dalila he told, *mistress
That in his haires all his strengthe lay;
And falsely to his foemen she him sold,
And sleeping in her barme* upon a day *lap
She made to clip or shear his hair away,
And made his foemen all his craft espien.
And when they founde him in this array,
They bound him fast, and put out both his eyen.
But, ere his hair was clipped or y-shave,
There was no bond with which men might him bind;
But now is he in prison in a cave,
Where as they made him at the querne* grind. *mill <6>
O noble Sampson, strongest of mankind!
O whilom judge in glory and richess!
Now may'st thou weepe with thine eyen blind,
Since thou from weal art fall'n to wretchedness.
Th'end of this caitiff* was as I shall say; *wretched man
His foemen made a feast upon a day,
And made him as their fool before them play;
And this was in a temple of great array.
But at the last he made a foul affray,
For he two pillars shook, and made them fall,
And down fell temple and all, and there it lay,
And slew himself and eke his foemen all;
This is to say, the princes every one;
And eke three thousand bodies were there slain
With falling of the great temple of stone.
Of Sampson now will I no more sayn;
Beware by this example old and plain,
That no man tell his counsel to his wife
Of such thing as he would *have secret fain,* *wish to be secret*
If that it touch his limbes or his life.
Of HERCULES the sov'reign conquerour
Singe his workes' land and high renown;
For in his time of strength he bare the flow'r.
He slew and reft the skin of the lion
He of the Centaurs laid the boast adown;
He Harpies <7> slew, the cruel birdes fell;
He golden apples reft from the dragon
He drew out Cerberus the hound of hell.
He slew the cruel tyrant Busirus. <8>
And made his horse to fret* him flesh and bone; *devour
He slew the fiery serpent venomous;
Of Achelous' two hornes brake he one.
And he slew Cacus in a cave of stone;
He slew the giant Antaeus the strong;
He slew the grisly boar, and that anon;
And bare the heav'n upon his necke long. <9>
Was never wight, since that the world began,
That slew so many monsters as did he;
Throughout the wide world his name ran,
What for his strength, and for his high bounte;
And every realme went he for to see;
He was so strong that no man might him let; * *withstand
At both the worlde's ends, as saith Trophee, <10>
Instead of boundes he a pillar set.
A leman had this noble champion,
That highte Dejanira, fresh as May;
And, as these clerkes make mention,
She hath him sent a shirte fresh and gay;
Alas! this shirt, alas and well-away!
Envenomed was subtilly withal,
That ere that he had worn it half a day,
It made his flesh all from his bones fall.
But natheless some clerkes her excuse
By one, that highte Nessus, that it maked;
Be as he may, I will not her accuse;
But on his back this shirt he wore all naked,
Till that his flesh was for the venom blaked.* *blackened
And when he saw none other remedy,
In hote coals he hath himselfe raked,
For with no venom deigned he to die.
Thus sterf* this worthy mighty Hercules. *died
Lo, who may trust on Fortune *any throw? * *for a moment*
For him that followeth all this world of pres,* *near <11>
Ere he be ware, is often laid full low;
Full wise is he that can himselfe know.
Beware, for when that Fortune list to glose
Then waiteth she her man to overthrow,
By such a way as he would least suppose.
The mighty throne, the precious treasor,
The glorious sceptre, and royal majesty,
That had the king NABUCHODONOSOR
With tongue unnethes* may described be. *scarcely
He twice won Jerusalem the city,
The vessels of the temple he with him lad; * *took away
At Babylone was his sov'reign see,* *seat
In which his glory and delight he had.
The fairest children of the blood royal
Of Israel he *did do geld* anon, *caused to be castrated*
And maked each of them to be his thrall.* *slave
Amonges others Daniel was one,
That was the wisest child of every one;
For he the dreames of the king expounded,
Where in Chaldaea clerkes was there none
That wiste to what fine* his dreames sounded. *end
This proude king let make a statue of gold
Sixty cubites long, and seven in bread',
To which image hathe young and old
Commanded he to lout,* and have in dread, *bow down to
Or in a furnace, full of flames red,
He should be burnt that woulde not obey:
But never would assente to that deed
Daniel, nor his younge fellows tway.
This king of kinges proud was and elate; * *lofty
He ween'd* that God, that sits in majesty, *thought
Mighte him not bereave of his estate;
But suddenly he lost his dignity,
And like a beast he seemed for to be,
And ate hay as an ox, and lay thereout
In rain, with wilde beastes walked he,
Till certain time was y-come about.
And like an eagle's feathers wax'd his hairs,
His nailes like a birde's clawes were,
Till God released him at certain years,
And gave him wit; and then with many a tear
He thanked God, and ever his life in fear
Was he to do amiss, or more trespace:
And till that time he laid was on his bier,
He knew that God was full of might and grace.
His sone, which that highte BALTHASAR,
That *held the regne* after his father's day, *possessed the kingdom*
He by his father coulde not beware,
For proud he was of heart and of array;
And eke an idolaster was he aye.
His high estate assured* him in pride; *confirmed
But Fortune cast him down, and there he lay,
And suddenly his regne gan divide.
A feast he made unto his lordes all
Upon a time, and made them blithe be,
And then his officeres gan he call;
'Go, bringe forth the vessels,' saide he,
'Which that my father in his prosperity
Out of the temple of Jerusalem reft,
And to our highe goddes thanks we
Of honour, that our elders* with us left.' *forefathers
His wife, his lordes, and his concubines
Aye dranke, while their appetites did last,
Out of these noble vessels sundry wines.
And on a wall this king his eyen cast,
And saw an hand, armless, that wrote full fast;
For fear of which he quaked, and sighed sore.
This hand, that Balthasar so sore aghast,* *dismayed
Wrote Mane, tekel, phares, and no more.
In all that land magician was there none
That could expounde what this letter meant.
But Daniel expounded it anon,
And said, 'O King, God to thy father lent
Glory and honour, regne, treasure, rent; * *revenue
And he was proud, and nothing God he drad; * *dreaded
And therefore God great wreche* upon him sent, *vengeance
And him bereft the regne that he had.
'He was cast out of manne's company;
With asses was his habitation
And ate hay, as a beast, in wet and dry,
Till that he knew by grace and by reason
That God of heaven hath domination
O'er every regne, and every creature;
And then had God of him compassion,
And him restor'd his regne and his figure.
'Eke thou, that art his son, art proud also,
And knowest all these thinges verily;
And art rebel to God, and art his foe.
Thou drankest of his vessels boldely;
Thy wife eke, and thy wenches, sinfully
Drank of the same vessels sundry wines,
And heried* false goddes cursedly; *praised
Therefore *to thee y-shapen full great pine is.* *great punishment is
prepared for thee*
'This hand was sent from God, that on the wall
Wrote Mane, tekel, phares, truste me;
Thy reign is done; thou weighest naught at all;
Divided is thy regne, and it shall be
To Medes and to Persians giv'n,' quoth he.
And thilke same night this king was slaw* *slain
And Darius occupied his degree,
Though he thereto had neither right nor law.
Lordings, example hereby may ye take,
How that in lordship is no sickerness; * *security
For when that Fortune will a man forsake,
She bears away his regne and his richess,
And eke his friendes bothe more and less,
For what man that hath friendes through fortune,
Mishap will make them enemies, I guess;
This proverb is full sooth, and full commune.
ZENOBIA, of Palmyrie the queen, <12>
As write Persians of her nobless,
So worthy was in armes, and so keen,
That no wight passed her in hardiness,
Nor in lineage, nor other gentleness.* *noble qualities
Of the king's blood of Perse* is she descended; *Persia
I say not that she hadde most fairness,
But of her shape she might not he amended.
From her childhood I finde that she fled
Office of woman, and to woods she went,
And many a wilde harte's blood she shed
With arrows broad that she against them sent;
She was so swift, that she anon them hent.* *caught
And when that she was older, she would kill
Lions, leopards, and beares all to-rent,* *torn to pieces
And in her armes wield them at her will.
She durst the wilde beastes' dennes seek,
And runnen in the mountains all the night,
And sleep under a bush; and she could eke
Wrestle by very force and very might
With any young man, were he ne'er so wight; * *active, nimble
There mighte nothing in her armes stond.
She kept her maidenhood from every wight,
To no man deigned she for to be bond.
But at the last her friendes have her married
To Odenate, <13> a prince of that country;
All were it so, that she them longe tarried.
And ye shall understande how that he
Hadde such fantasies as hadde she;
But natheless, when they were knit in fere,* *together
They liv'd in joy, and in felicity,
For each of them had other lefe* and dear. *loved
Save one thing, that she never would assent,
By no way, that he shoulde by her lie
But ones, for it was her plain intent
To have a child, the world to multiply;
And all so soon as that she might espy
That she was not with childe by that deed,
Then would she suffer him do his fantasy
Eftsoon,* and not but ones, *out of dread.* *again *without doubt*
And if she were with child at thilke* cast, *that
No more should he playe thilke game
Till fully forty dayes were past;
Then would she once suffer him do the same.
All* were this Odenatus wild or tame, *whether
He got no more of her; for thus she said,
It was to wives lechery and shame
In other case* if that men with them play'd. on other terms
Two sones, by this Odenate had she,
The which she kept in virtue and lettrure.* *learning
But now unto our tale turne we;
I say, so worshipful a creature,
And wise therewith, and large* with measure,** *bountiful **moderation
So penible* in the war, and courteous eke, *laborious
Nor more labour might in war endure,
Was none, though all this worlde men should seek.
Her rich array it mighte not be told,
As well in vessel as in her clothing:
She was all clad in pierrie* and in gold, *jewellery
And eke she *lefte not,* for no hunting, *did not neglect*
To have of sundry tongues full knowing,
When that she leisure had, and for t'intend* *apply
To learne bookes was all her liking,
How she in virtue might her life dispend.
And, shortly of this story for to treat,
So doughty was her husband and eke she,
That they conquered many regnes great
In th'Orient, with many a fair city
Appertinent unto the majesty
Of Rome, and with strong hande held them fast,
Nor ever might their foemen do* them flee, *make
Aye while that Odenatus' dayes last'.
Her battles, whoso list them for to read,
Against Sapor the king, <14> and other mo',
And how that all this process fell in deed,
Why she conquer'd, and what title thereto,
And after of her mischief* and her woe, *misfortune
How that she was besieged and y-take,
Let him unto my master Petrarch go,
That writes enough of this, I undertake.
When Odenate was dead, she mightily
The regne held, and with her proper hand
Against her foes she fought so cruelly,
That there n'as* king nor prince in all that land, *was not
That was not glad, if be that grace fand
That she would not upon his land warray; * *make war
With her they maden alliance by bond,
To be in peace, and let her ride and play.
The emperor of Rome, Claudius,
Nor, him before, the Roman Gallien,
Durste never be so courageous,
Nor no Armenian, nor Egyptien,
Nor Syrian, nor no Arabien,
Within the fielde durste with her fight,
Lest that she would them with her handes slen,* *slay
Or with her meinie* putte them to flight. *troops
In kinges' habit went her sones two,
As heires of their father's regnes all;
And Heremanno and Timolao
Their names were, as Persians them call
But aye Fortune hath in her honey gall;
This mighty queene may no while endure;
Fortune out of her regne made her fall
To wretchedness and to misadventure.
Aurelian, when that the governance
Of Rome came into his handes tway, <15>
He shope* upon this queen to do vengeance; *prepared
And with his legions he took his way
Toward Zenobie, and, shortly for to say,
He made her flee, and at the last her hent,* *took
And fetter'd her, and eke her children tway,
And won the land, and home to Rome he went.
Amonges other thinges that he wan,
Her car, that was with gold wrought and pierrie,* *jewels
This greate Roman, this Aurelian
Hath with him led, for that men should it see.
Before in his triumphe walked she
With gilte chains upon her neck hanging;
Crowned she was, as after* her degree, *according to
And full of pierrie her clothing.
Alas, Fortune! she that whilom was
Dreadful to kinges and to emperours,
Now galeth* all the people on her, alas! *yelleth
And she that *helmed was in starke stowres,* *wore a helmet in
And won by force townes strong and tow'rs, obstinate battles*
Shall on her head now wear a vitremite; <16>
And she that bare the sceptre full of flow'rs
Shall bear a distaff, *her cost for to quite.* * to make her living*
Although that NERO were so vicious
As any fiend that lies full low adown,
Yet he, as telleth us Suetonius,<17>
This wide world had in subjectioun,
Both East and West, South and Septentrioun.
Of rubies, sapphires, and of pearles white
Were all his clothes embroider'd up and down,
For he in gemmes greatly gan delight.
More delicate, more pompous of array,
More proud, was never emperor than he;
That *ilke cloth* that he had worn one day, *same robe*
After that time he would it never see;
Nettes of gold thread had he great plenty,
To fish in Tiber, when him list to play;
His lustes* were as law, in his degree, *pleasures
For Fortune as his friend would him obey.
He Rome burnt for his delicacy; * *pleasure
The senators he slew upon a day,
To heare how that men would weep and cry;
And slew his brother, and by his sister lay.
His mother made he in piteous array;
For he her wombe slitte, to behold
Where he conceived was; so well-away!
That he so little of his mother told.* *valued
No tear out of his eyen for that sight
Came; but he said, a fair woman was she.
Great wonder is, how that he could or might
Be doomesman* of her deade beauty: *judge
The wine to bringe him commanded he,
And drank anon; none other woe he made,
When might is joined unto cruelty,
Alas! too deepe will the venom wade.
In youth a master had this emperour,
To teache him lettrure* and courtesy; *literature, learning
For of morality he was the flow'r,
As in his time, *but if* bookes lie. *unless
And while this master had of him mast'ry,
He made him so conning and so souple,* *subtle
That longe time it was ere tyranny,
Or any vice, durst in him uncouple.* *be let loose
This Seneca, of which that I devise,* *tell
Because Nero had of him suche dread,
For he from vices would him aye chastise
Discreetly, as by word, and not by deed;
'Sir,' he would say, 'an emperor must need
Be virtuous, and hate tyranny.'
For which he made him in a bath to bleed
On both his armes, till he muste die.
This Nero had eke of a custumance* *habit
In youth against his master for to rise; * *stand in his presence
Which afterward he thought a great grievance;
Therefore he made him dien in this wise.
But natheless this Seneca the wise
Chose in a bath to die in this mannere,
Rather than have another tormentise; * *torture
And thus hath Nero slain his master dear.
Now fell it so, that Fortune list no longer
The highe pride of Nero to cherice; * *cherish
For though he were strong, yet was she stronger.
She thoughte thus; 'By God, I am too nice* *foolish
To set a man, that is full fill'd of vice,
In high degree, and emperor him call!
By God, out of his seat I will him trice! * *thrust <18>
When he least weeneth,* soonest shall he fall.' *expecteth
The people rose upon him on a night,
For his default; and when he it espied,
Out of his doors anon he hath him dight* *betaken himself
Alone, and where he ween'd t'have been allied,* *regarded with
He knocked fast, and aye the more he cried friendship
The faster shutte they their doores all;
Then wist he well he had himself misgied,* *misled
And went his way, no longer durst he call.
The people cried and rumbled up and down,
That with his eares heard he how they said;
'Where is this false tyrant, this Neroun? '
For fear almost out of his wit he braid,* *went
And to his goddes piteously he pray'd
For succour, but it mighte not betide
For dread of this he thoughte that died,
And ran into a garden him to hide.
And in this garden found he churles tway,
That satte by a fire great and red;
And to these churles two he gan to pray
To slay him, and to girdon* off his head, *strike
That to his body, when that he were dead,
Were no despite done for his defame.* *infamy
Himself he slew, *he coud no better rede; * *he knew no better
Of which Fortune laugh'd and hadde game. counsel*
Was never capitain under a king,
That regnes more put in subjectioun,
Nor stronger was in field of alle thing
As in his time, nor greater of renown,
Nor more pompous in high presumptioun,
Than HOLOFERNES, whom Fortune aye kiss'd
So lik'rously, and led him up and down,
Till that his head was off *ere that he wist.* *before he knew it*
Not only that this world had of him awe,
For losing of richess and liberty;
But he made every man *reny his law.* *renounce his religion <19>
Nabuchodonosor was God, said he;
None other Godde should honoured be.
Against his hest* there dare no wight trespace, *command
Save in Bethulia, a strong city,
Where Eliachim priest was of that place.
But take keep* of the death of Holofern; *notice
Amid his host he drunken lay at night
Within his tente, large as is a bern; * *barn
And yet, for all his pomp and all his might,
Judith, a woman, as he lay upright
Sleeping, his head off smote, and from his tent
Full privily she stole from every wight,
And with his head unto her town she went.
What needeth it of king ANTIOCHUS <20>
To tell his high and royal majesty,
His great pride, and his workes venomous?
For such another was there none as he;
Reade what that he was in Maccabee.
And read the proude wordes that he said,
And why he fell from his prosperity,
And in an hill how wretchedly he died.
Fortune him had enhanced so in pride,
That verily he ween'd he might attain
Unto the starres upon every side,
And in a balance weighen each mountain,
And all the floodes of the sea restrain.
And Godde's people had he most in hate
Them would he slay in torment and in pain,
Weening that God might not his pride abate.
And for that Nicanor and Timothee
With Jewes were vanquish'd mightily, <21>
Unto the Jewes such an hate had he,
That he bade *graith his car* full hastily, *prepare his chariot*
And swore and saide full dispiteously,
Unto Jerusalem he would eftsoon,* *immediately
To wreak his ire on it full cruelly
But of his purpose was he let* full soon. *prevented
God for his menace him so sore smote,
With invisible wound incurable,
That in his guttes carf* it so and bote,** *cut **gnawed
Till that his paines were importable; * *unendurable
And certainly the wreche* was reasonable, *vengeance
For many a manne's guttes did he pain;
But from his purpose, curs'd* and damnable, *impious
For all his smart he would him not restrain;
But bade anon apparaile* his host. *prepare
And suddenly, ere he was of it ware,
God daunted all his pride, and all his boast
For he so sore fell out of his chare,* *chariot
That it his limbes and his skin to-tare,
So that he neither mighte go nor ride
But in a chaire men about him bare,
Alle forbruised bothe back and side.
The wreche* of God him smote so cruelly, *vengeance
That through his body wicked wormes crept,
And therewithal he stank so horribly
That none of all his meinie* that him kept, *servants
Whether so that he woke or elles slept,
Ne mighte not of him the stink endure.
In this mischief he wailed and eke wept,
And knew God Lord of every creature.
To all his host, and to himself also,
Full wlatsem* was the stink of his carrain; ** *loathsome **body
No manne might him beare to and fro.
And in this stink, and this horrible pain,
He starf* full wretchedly in a mountain. *dies
Thus hath this robber, and this homicide,
That many a manne made to weep and plain,
Such guerdon* as belongeth unto pride. *reward
The story of ALEXANDER is so commune,
That ev'ry wight that hath discretion
Hath heard somewhat or all of his fortune.
This wide world, as in conclusion,
He won by strength; or, for his high renown,
They were glad for peace to him to send.
The pride and boast of man he laid adown,
Whereso he came, unto the worlde's end.
Comparison yet never might be maked
Between him and another conqueror;
For all this world for dread of him had quaked
He was of knighthood and of freedom flow'r:
Fortune him made the heir of her honour.
Save wine and women, nothing might assuage
His high intent in arms and labour,
So was he full of leonine courage.
What praise were it to him, though I you told
Of Darius, and a hundred thousand mo',
Of kinges, princes, dukes, and earles bold,
Which he conquer'd, and brought them into woe?
I say, as far as man may ride or go,
The world was his, why should I more devise? * *tell
For, though I wrote or told you evermo',
Of his knighthood it mighte not suffice.
Twelve years he reigned, as saith Maccabee
Philippe's son of Macedon he was,
That first was king in Greece the country.
O worthy gentle* Alexander, alas *noble
That ever should thee falle such a case!
Empoison'd of thine owen folk thou were;
Thy six <22> fortune hath turn'd into an ace,
And yet for thee she wepte never a tear.
Who shall me give teares to complain
The death of gentiless, and of franchise,* *generosity
That all this worlde had in his demaine,* *dominion
And yet he thought it mighte not suffice,
So full was his corage* of high emprise? *spirit
Alas! who shall me helpe to indite
False Fortune, and poison to despise?
The whiche two of all this woe I wite.* *blame
By wisdom, manhood, and by great labour,
From humbleness to royal majesty
Up rose he, JULIUS the Conquerour,
That won all th' Occident,* by land and sea, *West
By strength of hand or elles by treaty,
And unto Rome made them tributary;
And since* of Rome the emperor was he, *afterwards
Till that Fortune wax'd his adversary.
O mighty Caesar, that in Thessaly
Against POMPEIUS, father thine in law, <23>
That of th' Orient had all the chivalry,
As far as that the day begins to daw,
That through thy knighthood hast them take and slaw,* slain*
Save fewe folk that with Pompeius fled;
Through which thou put all th' Orient in awe; <24>
Thanke Fortune that so well thee sped.
But now a little while I will bewail
This Pompeius, this noble governor
Of Rome, which that fled at this battaile
I say, one of his men, a false traitor,
His head off smote, to winne him favor
Of Julius, and him the head he brought;
Alas! Pompey, of th' Orient conqueror,
That Fortune unto such a fine* thee brought! *end
To Rome again repaired Julius,
With his triumphe laureate full high;
But on a time Brutus and Cassius,
That ever had of his estate envy,
Full privily have made conspiracy
Against this Julius in subtle wise
And cast* the place in which he shoulde die, *arranged
With bodekins,* as I shall you devise.** *daggers **tell
This Julius to the Capitole went
Upon a day, as he was wont to gon;
And in the Capitol anon him hent* *seized
This false Brutus, and his other fone,* *foes
And sticked him with bodekins anon
With many a wound, and thus they let him lie.
But never groan'd he at no stroke but one,
Or else at two, *but if* the story lie. *unless
So manly was this Julius of heart,
And so well loved *estately honesty *dignified propriety*
That, though his deadly woundes sore smart,* *pained him
His mantle o'er his hippes caste he,
That ne man shoulde see his privity
And as he lay a-dying in a trance,
And wiste verily that dead was he,
Of honesty yet had he remembrance.
Lucan, to thee this story I recommend,
And to Sueton', and Valerie also,
That of this story write *word and end* *the whole* <25>
How that to these great conquerores two
Fortune was first a friend, and since* a foe. *afterwards
No manne trust upon her favour long,
But *have her in await for evermo'; * *ever be watchful against her*
Witness on all these conquerores strong.
The riche CROESUS, <26> whilom king of Lyde, -
Of which Croesus Cyrus him sore drad,* - *dreaded
Yet was he caught amiddes all his pride,
And to be burnt men to the fire him lad;
But such a rain down *from the welkin shad,* *poured from the sky*
That slew the fire, and made him to escape:
But to beware no grace yet he had,
Till fortune on the gallows made him gape.
When he escaped was, he could not stint* *refrain
For to begin a newe war again;
He weened well, for that Fortune him sent
Such hap, that he escaped through the rain,
That of his foes he mighte not be slain.
And eke a sweven* on a night he mette,** *dream **dreamed
Of which he was so proud, and eke so fain,* *glad
That he in vengeance all his hearte set.
Upon a tree he was set, as he thought,
Where Jupiter him wash'd, both back and side,
And Phoebus eke a fair towel him brought
To dry him with; and therefore wax'd his pride.
And to his daughter that stood him beside,
Which he knew in high science to abound,
He bade her tell him what it signified;
And she his dream began right thus expound.
'The tree,' quoth she, 'the gallows is to mean,
And Jupiter betokens snow and rain,
And Phoebus, with his towel clear and clean,
These be the sunne's streames* sooth to sayn; *rays
Thou shalt y-hangeth be, father, certain;
Rain shall thee wash, and sunne shall thee dry.'
Thus warned him full plat and eke full plain
His daughter, which that called was Phanie.
And hanged was Croesus the proude king;
His royal throne might him not avail.
Tragedy is none other manner thing,
Nor can in singing crien nor bewail,
But for that Fortune all day will assail
With unware stroke the regnes* that be proud:<27> *kingdoms
For when men truste her, then will she fail,
And cover her bright face with a cloud.
O noble, O worthy PEDRO, <28> glory OF SPAIN,
Whem Fortune held so high in majesty,
Well oughte men thy piteous death complain.
Out of thy land thy brother made thee flee,
And after, at a siege, by subtlety,
Thou wert betray'd, and led unto his tent,
Where as he with his owen hand slew thee,
Succeeding in thy regne* and in thy rent.** *kingdom *revenues
The field of snow, with th' eagle of black therein,
Caught with the lion, red-colour'd as the glede,* *burning coal
He brew'd this cursedness,* and all this sin; *wickedness, villainy
The wicked nest was worker of this deed;
Not Charles' Oliver, <29> that took aye heed
Of truth and honour, but of Armorike
Ganilien Oliver, corrupt for meed,* *reward, bribe
Broughte this worthy king in such a brike.* *breach, ruin
O worthy PETRO, King of CYPRE <30> also,
That Alexandre won by high mast'ry,
Full many a heathnen wroughtest thou full woe,
Of which thine owen lieges had envy;
And, for no thing but for thy chivalry,
They in thy bed have slain thee by the morrow;
Thus can Fortune her wheel govern and gie,* *guide
And out of joy bringe men into sorrow.
Of Milan greate BARNABO VISCOUNT,<30>
God of delight, and scourge of Lombardy,
Why should I not thine clomben* wert so high? *climbed
Thy brother's son, that was thy double ally,
For he thy nephew was and son-in-law,
Within his prison made thee to die,
But why, nor how, *n'ot I* that thou were slaw.* *I know not* *slain*
Of th' Earl HUGOLIN OF PISE the languour* *agony
There may no tongue telle for pity.
But little out of Pisa stands a tow'r,
In whiche tow'r in prison put was he,
Aud with him be his little children three;
The eldest scarcely five years was of age;
Alas! Fortune, it was great cruelty
Such birdes for to put in such a cage.
Damned was he to die in that prison;
For Roger, which that bishop was of Pise,
Had on him made a false suggestion,
Through which the people gan upon him rise,
And put him in prison, in such a wise
As ye have heard; and meat and drink he had
So small, that well unneth* it might suffice, *scarcely
And therewithal it was full poor and bad.
And on a day befell, that in that hour
When that his meate wont was to be brought,
The jailor shut the doores of the tow'r;
He heard it right well, but he spake nought.
And in his heart anon there fell a thought,
That they for hunger woulde *do him dien; * *cause him to die*
'Alas! ' quoth he, 'alas that I was wrought! '* *made, born
Therewith the teares fell from his eyen.
His youngest son, that three years was of age,
Unto him said, 'Father, why do ye weep?
When will the jailor bringen our pottage?
Is there no morsel bread that ye do keep?
I am so hungry, that I may not sleep.
Now woulde God that I might sleepen ever!
Then should not hunger in my wombe* creep; *stomach
There is no thing, save bread, that one were lever.'* *dearer
Thus day by day this child begun to cry,
Till in his father's barme* adown he lay, *lap
And saide, 'Farewell, father, I must die; '
And kiss'd his father, and died the same day.
And when the woeful father did it sey,* *see
For woe his armes two he gan to bite,
And said, 'Alas! Fortune, and well-away!
To thy false wheel my woe all may I wite.'* *blame
His children ween'd that it for hunger was
That he his armes gnaw'd, and not for woe,
And saide, 'Father, do not so, alas!
But rather eat the flesh upon us two.
Our flesh thou gave us, our flesh take us fro',
And eat enough; ' right thus they to him said.
And after that, within a day or two,
They laid them in his lap adown, and died.
Himself, despaired, eke for hunger starf.* *died
Thus ended is this Earl of Pise;
From high estate Fortune away him carf.* *cut off
Of this tragedy it ought enough suffice
Whoso will hear it *in a longer wise,* *at greater length*
Reade the greate poet of ltale,
That Dante hight, for he can it devise <32>
From point to point, not one word will he fail.
The Franklin's Tale
'IN faith, Squier, thou hast thee well acquit,
And gentilly; I praise well thy wit,'
Quoth the Franklin; 'considering thy youthe
So feelingly thou speak'st, Sir, I aloue* thee, *allow, approve
*As to my doom,* there is none that is here *so far as my judgment
Of eloquence that shall be thy peer, goes*
If that thou live; God give thee goode chance,
And in virtue send thee continuance,
For of thy speaking I have great dainty.* *value, esteem
I have a son, and, by the Trinity;
*It were me lever* than twenty pound worth land, *I would rather*
Though it right now were fallen in my hand,
He were a man of such discretion
As that ye be: fy on possession,
*But if* a man be virtuous withal. *unless
I have my sone snibbed* and yet shall, *rebuked; 'snubbed.'
For he to virtue *listeth not t'intend,* *does not wish to
But for to play at dice, and to dispend, apply himself*
And lose all that he hath, is his usage;
And he had lever talke with a page,
Than to commune with any gentle wight,
There he might learen gentilless aright.'
Straw for your gentillesse! ' quoth our Host.
'What? Frankelin, pardie, Sir, well thou wost* *knowest
That each of you must tellen at the least
A tale or two, or breake his behest.'* *promise
'That know I well, Sir,' quoth the Frankelin;
'I pray you have me not in disdain,
Though I to this man speak a word or two.'
'Tell on thy tale, withoute wordes mo'.'
'Gladly, Sir Host,' quoth he, 'I will obey
Unto your will; now hearken what I say;
I will you not contrary* in no wise, *disobey
As far as that my wittes may suffice.
I pray to God that it may please you,
Then wot I well that it is good enow.
'These olde gentle Bretons, in their days,
Of divers aventures made lays,<2>
Rhymeden in their firste Breton tongue;
Which layes with their instruments they sung,
Or elles reade them for their pleasance;
And one of them have I in remembrance,
Which I shall say with good will as I can.
But, Sirs, because I am a borel* man, *rude, unlearned
At my beginning first I you beseech
Have me excused of my rude speech.
I learned never rhetoric, certain;
Thing that I speak, it must be bare and plain.
I slept never on the mount of Parnasso,
Nor learned Marcus Tullius Cicero.
Coloures know I none, withoute dread,* *doubt
But such colours as growen in the mead,
Or elles such as men dye with or paint;
Colours of rhetoric be to me quaint; * *strange
My spirit feeleth not of such mattere.
But, if you list, my tale shall ye hear.'
In Armoric', that called is Bretagne,
There was a knight, that lov'd and *did his pain* *devoted himself,
To serve a lady in his beste wise; strove*
And many a labour, many a great emprise,* *enterprise
He for his lady wrought, ere she were won:
For she was one the fairest under sun,
And eke thereto come of so high kindred,
That *well unnethes durst this knight for dread,* *see note <1>*
Tell her his woe, his pain, and his distress
But, at the last, she for his worthiness,
And namely* for his meek obeisance, *especially
Hath such a pity caught of his penance,* *suffering, distress
That privily she fell of his accord
To take him for her husband and her lord
(Of such lordship as men have o'er their wives) :
And, for to lead the more in bliss their lives,
Of his free will he swore her as a knight,
That never in all his life he day nor night
Should take upon himself no mastery
Against her will, nor kithe* her jealousy, *show
But her obey, and follow her will in all,
As any lover to his lady shall;
Save that the name of sovereignety
That would he have, for shame of his degree.
She thanked him, and with full great humbless
She saide; 'Sir, since of your gentleness
Ye proffer me to have so large a reign,
*Ne woulde God never betwixt us twain,
As in my guilt, were either war or strife:* *see note <2>*
Sir, I will be your humble true wife,
Have here my troth, till that my hearte brest.'* *burst
Thus be they both in quiet and in rest.
For one thing, Sires, safely dare I say,
That friends ever each other must obey,
If they will longe hold in company.
Love will not be constrain'd by mastery.
When mast'ry comes, the god of love anon
Beateth <3> his wings, and, farewell, he is gone.
Love is a thing as any spirit free.
Women *of kind* desire liberty, *by nature*
And not to be constrained as a thrall,* *slave
And so do men, if soothly I say shall.
Look who that is most patient in love,
He *is at his advantage all above.* *enjoys the highest
Patience is a high virtue certain, advantages of all*
For it vanquisheth, as these clerkes sayn,
Thinges that rigour never should attain.
For every word men may not chide or plain.
Learne to suffer, or, so may I go,* *prosper
Ye shall it learn whether ye will or no.
For in this world certain no wight there is,
That he not doth or saith sometimes amiss.
Ire, or sickness, or constellation,* *the influence of
Wine, woe, or changing of complexion, the planets*
Causeth full oft to do amiss or speaken:
On every wrong a man may not be wreaken.* *revenged
After* the time must be temperance *according to
To every wight that *can of* governance. *is capable of*
And therefore hath this worthy wise knight
(To live in ease) sufferance her behight; * *promised
And she to him full wisly* gan to swear *surely
That never should there be default in her.
Here may men see a humble wife accord;
Thus hath she ta'en her servant and her lord,
Servant in love, and lord in marriage.
Then was he both in lordship and servage?
Servage? nay, but in lordship all above,
Since he had both his lady and his love:
His lady certes, and his wife also,
The which that law of love accordeth to.
And when he was in this prosperrity,
Home with his wife he went to his country,
Not far from Penmark,<4> where his dwelling was,
And there he liv'd in bliss and in solace.* *delight
Who coulde tell, but* he had wedded be, *unless
The joy, the ease, and the prosperity,
That is betwixt a husband and his wife?
A year and more lasted this blissful life,
Till that this knight, of whom I spake thus,
That of Cairrud <5> was call'd Arviragus,
Shope* him to go and dwell a year or twain *prepared, arranged
In Engleland, that call'd was eke Britain,
To seek in armes worship and honour
(For all his lust* he set in such labour) : *pleasure
And dwelled there two years; the book saith thus.
Now will I stint* of this Arviragus, *cease speaking
And speak I will of Dorigen his wife,
That lov'd her husband as her hearte's life.
For his absence weepeth she and siketh,* *sigheth
As do these noble wives when them liketh;
She mourneth, waketh, waileth, fasteth, plaineth;
Desire of his presence her so distraineth,
That all this wide world she set at nought.
Her friendes, which that knew her heavy thought,
Comforte her in all that ever they may;
They preache her, they tell her night and day,
That causeless she slays herself, alas!
And every comfort possible in this case
They do to her, with all their business,* *assiduity
And all to make her leave her heaviness.
By process, as ye knowen every one,
Men may so longe graven in a stone,
Till some figure therein imprinted be:
So long have they comforted her, till she
Received hath, by hope and by reason,
Th' imprinting of their consolation,
Through which her greate sorrow gan assuage;
She may not always duren in such rage.
And eke Arviragus, in all this care,
Hath sent his letters home of his welfare,
And that he will come hastily again,
Or elles had this sorrow her hearty-slain.
Her friendes saw her sorrow gin to slake,* *slacken, diminish
And prayed her on knees for Godde's sake
To come and roamen in their company,
Away to drive her darke fantasy;
And finally she granted that request,
For well she saw that it was for the best.
Now stood her castle faste by the sea,
And often with her friendes walked she,
Her to disport upon the bank on high,
There as many a ship and barge sigh,* *saw
Sailing their courses, where them list to go.
But then was that a parcel* of her woe, *part
For to herself full oft, 'Alas! ' said she,
Is there no ship, of so many as I see,
Will bringe home my lord? then were my heart
All warish'd* of this bitter paine's smart.' *cured <6>
Another time would she sit and think,
And cast her eyen downward from the brink;
But when she saw the grisly rockes blake,* *black
For very fear so would her hearte quake,
That on her feet she might her not sustene* *sustain
Then would she sit adown upon the green,
And piteously *into the sea behold,* *look out on the sea*
And say right thus, with *careful sikes* cold: *painful sighs*
'Eternal God! that through thy purveyance
Leadest this world by certain governance,
*In idle,* as men say, ye nothing make; *idly, in vain*
But, Lord, these grisly fiendly rockes blake,
That seem rather a foul confusion
Of work, than any fair creation
Of such a perfect wise God and stable,
Why have ye wrought this work unreasonable?
For by this work, north, south, or west, or east,
There is not foster'd man, nor bird, nor beast:
It doth no good, to my wit, but *annoyeth.* *works mischief* <7>
See ye not, Lord, how mankind it destroyeth?
A hundred thousand bodies of mankind
Have rockes slain, *all be they not in mind; * *though they are
Which mankind is so fair part of thy work, forgotten*
Thou madest it like to thine owen mark.* *image
Then seemed it ye had a great cherte* *love, affection
Toward mankind; but how then may it be
That ye such meanes make it to destroy?
Which meanes do no good, but ever annoy.
I wot well, clerkes will say as them lest,* *please
By arguments, that all is for the best,
Although I can the causes not y-know;
But thilke* God that made the wind to blow, *that
As keep my lord, this is my conclusion:
To clerks leave I all disputation:
But would to God that all these rockes blake
Were sunken into helle for his sake
These rockes slay mine hearte for the fear.'
Thus would she say, with many a piteous tear.
Her friendes saw that it was no disport
To roame by the sea, but discomfort,
And shope* them for to playe somewhere else. *arranged
They leade her by rivers and by wells,
And eke in other places delectables;
They dancen, and they play at chess and tables.* *backgammon
So on a day, right in the morning-tide,
Unto a garden that was there beside,
In which that they had made their ordinance* *provision, arrangement
Of victual, and of other purveyance,
They go and play them all the longe day:
And this was on the sixth morrow of May,
Which May had painted with his softe showers
This garden full of leaves and of flowers:
And craft of manne's hand so curiously
Arrayed had this garden truely,
That never was there garden of such price,* *value, praise
*But if* it were the very Paradise. *unless*
Th'odour of flowers, and the freshe sight,
Would have maked any hearte light
That e'er was born, *but if* too great sickness *unless*
Or too great sorrow held it in distress;
So full it was of beauty and pleasance.
And after dinner they began to dance
And sing also, save Dorigen alone
Who made alway her complaint and her moan,
For she saw not him on the dance go
That was her husband, and her love also;
But natheless she must a time abide
And with good hope let her sorrow slide.
Upon this dance, amonge other men,
Danced a squier before Dorigen
That fresher was, and jollier of array
*As to my doom,* than is the month of May. *in my judgment*
He sang and danced, passing any man,
That is or was since that the world began;
Therewith he was, if men should him descrive,
One of the *beste faring* men alive, *most accomplished*
Young, strong, and virtuous, and rich, and wise,
And well beloved, and holden in great price.* *esteem, value
And, shortly if the sooth I telle shall,
*Unweeting of* this Dorigen at all, *unknown to*
This lusty squier, servant to Venus,
Which that y-called was Aurelius,
Had lov'd her best of any creature
Two year and more, as was his aventure; * *fortune
But never durst he tell her his grievance;
Withoute cup he drank all his penance.
He was despaired, nothing durst he say,
Save in his songes somewhat would he wray* *betray
His woe, as in a general complaining;
He said, he lov'd, and was belov'd nothing.
Of suche matter made he many lays,
Songes, complaintes, roundels, virelays <8>
How that he durste not his sorrow tell,
But languished, as doth a Fury in hell;
And die he must, he said, as did Echo
For Narcissus, that durst not tell her woe.
In other manner than ye hear me say,
He durste not to her his woe bewray,
Save that paraventure sometimes at dances,
Where younge folke keep their observances,
It may well be he looked on her face
In such a wise, as man that asketh grace,
But nothing wiste she of his intent.
Nath'less it happen'd, ere they thennes* went, *thence (from the
Because that he was her neighebour, garden) *
And was a man of worship and honour,
And she had knowen him *of time yore,* *for a long time*
They fell in speech, and forth aye more and more
Unto his purpose drew Aurelius;
And when he saw his time, he saide thus:
Madam,' quoth he, 'by God that this world made,
So that I wist it might your hearte glade,* *gladden
I would, that day that your Arviragus
Went over sea, that I, Aurelius,
Had gone where I should never come again;
For well I wot my service is in vain.
My guerdon* is but bursting of mine heart. *reward
Madame, rue upon my paine's smart,
For with a word ye may me slay or save.
Here at your feet God would that I were grave.
I have now no leisure more to say:
Have mercy, sweet, or you will *do me dey.'* *cause me to die*
She gan to look upon Aurelius;
'Is this your will,' quoth she, 'and say ye thus?
Ne'er erst,'* quoth she, 'I wiste what ye meant: *before
But now, Aurelius, I know your intent.
By thilke* God that gave me soul and life, *that
Never shall I be an untrue wife
In word nor work, as far as I have wit;
I will be his to whom that I am knit;
Take this for final answer as of me.'
But after that *in play* thus saide she. *playfully, in jest*
'Aurelius,' quoth she, 'by high God above,
Yet will I grante you to be your love
(Since I you see so piteously complain) :
Looke, what day that endelong* Bretagne *from end to end of
Ye remove all the rockes, stone by stone,
That they not lette* ship nor boat to gon, *prevent
I say, when ye have made this coast so clean
Of rockes, that there is no stone seen,
Then will I love you best of any man;
Have here my troth, in all that ever I can;
For well I wot that it shall ne'er betide.
Let such folly out of your hearte glide.
What dainty* should a man have in his life *value, pleasure
For to go love another manne's wife,
That hath her body when that ever him liketh? '
Aurelius full often sore siketh; * *sigheth
Is there none other grace in you? ' quoth he,
'No, by that Lord,' quoth she, 'that maked me.
Woe was Aurelius when that he this heard,
And with a sorrowful heart he thus answer'd.
'Madame, quoth he, 'this were an impossible.
Then must I die of sudden death horrible.'
And with that word he turned him anon.
Then came her other friends many a one,
And in the alleys roamed up and down,
And nothing wist of this conclusion,
But suddenly began to revel new,
Till that the brighte sun had lost his hue,
For th' horizon had reft the sun his light
(This is as much to say as it was night) :
And home they go in mirth and in solace;
Save only wretch'd Aurelius, alas
He to his house is gone with sorrowful heart.
He said, he may not from his death astart.* *escape
Him seemed, that he felt his hearte cold.
Up to the heav'n his handes gan he hold,
And on his knees bare he set him down.
And in his raving said his orisoun.* *prayer
For very woe out of his wit he braid; * *wandered
He wist not what he spake, but thus he said;
With piteous heart his plaint hath he begun
Unto the gods, and first unto the Sun.
He said; 'Apollo God and governour
Of every plante, herbe, tree, and flower,
That giv'st, after thy declination,
To each of them his time and his season,
As thine herberow* changeth low and high; *dwelling, situation
Lord Phoebus: cast thy merciable eye
On wretched Aurelius, which that am but lorn.* *undone
Lo, lord, my lady hath my death y-sworn,
Withoute guilt, but* thy benignity *unless
Upon my deadly heart have some pity.
For well I wot, Lord Phoebus, if you lest,* *please
Ye may me helpe, save my lady, best.
Now vouchsafe, that I may you devise* *tell, explain
How that I may be holp,* and in what wise. *helped
Your blissful sister, Lucina the sheen, <9>
That of the sea is chief goddess and queen, -
Though Neptunus have deity in the sea,
Yet emperess above him is she; -
Ye know well, lord, that, right as her desire
Is to be quick'd* and lighted of your fire, *quickened
For which she followeth you full busily,
Right so the sea desireth naturally
To follow her, as she that is goddess
Both in the sea and rivers more and less.
Wherefore, Lord Phoebus, this is my request,
Do this miracle, or *do mine hearte brest; * *cause my heart
That flow, next at this opposition, to burst*
Which in the sign shall be of the Lion,
As praye her so great a flood to bring,
That five fathom at least it overspring
The highest rock in Armoric Bretagne,
And let this flood endure yeares twain:
Then certes to my lady may I say,
'Holde your hest,' the rockes be away.
Lord Phoebus, this miracle do for me,
Pray her she go no faster course than ye;
I say this, pray your sister that she go
No faster course than ye these yeares two:
Then shall she be even at full alway,
And spring-flood laste bothe night and day.
And *but she* vouchesafe in such mannere *if she do not*
To grante me my sov'reign lady dear,
Pray her to sink every rock adown
Into her owen darke regioun
Under the ground, where Pluto dwelleth in
Or nevermore shall I my lady win.
Thy temple in Delphos will I barefoot seek.
Lord Phoebus! see the teares on my cheek
And on my pain have some compassioun.'
And with that word in sorrow he fell down,
And longe time he lay forth in a trance.
His brother, which that knew of his penance,* *distress
Up caught him, and to bed he hath him brought,
Despaired in this torment and this thought
Let I this woeful creature lie;
Choose he for me whe'er* he will live or die. *whether
Arviragus with health and great honour
(As he that was of chivalry the flow'r)
Is come home, and other worthy men.
Oh, blissful art thou now, thou Dorigen!
Thou hast thy lusty husband in thine arms,
The freshe knight, the worthy man of arms,
That loveth thee as his own hearte's life:
*Nothing list him to be imaginatif* *he cared not to fancy*
If any wight had spoke, while he was out,
To her of love; he had of that no doubt; * *fear, suspicion
He not intended* to no such mattere, *occupied himself with
But danced, jousted, and made merry cheer.
And thus in joy and bliss I let them dwell,
And of the sick Aurelius will I tell
In languor and in torment furious
Two year and more lay wretch'd Aurelius,
Ere any foot on earth he mighte gon;
Nor comfort in this time had he none,
Save of his brother, which that was a clerk.* *scholar
He knew of all this woe and all this work;
For to none other creature certain
Of this matter he durst no worde sayn;
Under his breast he bare it more secree
Than e'er did Pamphilus for Galatee.<10>
His breast was whole withoute for to seen,
But in his heart aye was the arrow keen,
And well ye know that of a sursanure <11>
In surgery is perilous the cure,
But* men might touch the arrow or come thereby. *except
His brother wept and wailed privily,
Till at the last him fell in remembrance,
That while he was at Orleans <12> in France, -
As younge clerkes, that be likerous* - *eager
To readen artes that be curious,
Seeken in every *halk and every hern* *nook and corner* <13>
Particular sciences for to learn,-
He him remember'd, that upon a day
At Orleans in study a book he say* *saw
Of magic natural, which his fellaw,
That was that time a bachelor of law
All* were he there to learn another craft, *though
Had privily upon his desk y-laft;
Which book spake much of operations
Touching the eight and-twenty mansions
That longe to the Moon, and such folly
As in our dayes is not worth a fly;
For holy church's faith, in our believe,* *belief, creed
Us suff'reth none illusion to grieve.
And when this book was in his remembrance
Anon for joy his heart began to dance,
And to himself he saide privily;
'My brother shall be warish'd* hastily *cured
For I am sicker* that there be sciences, *certain
By which men make divers apparences,
Such as these subtle tregetoures play. *tricksters <14>
For oft at feaste's have I well heard say,
That tregetours, within a halle large,
Have made come in a water and a barge,
And in the halle rowen up and down.
Sometimes hath seemed come a grim lioun,
And sometimes flowers spring as in a mead;
Sometimes a vine, and grapes white and red;
Sometimes a castle all of lime and stone;
And, when them liked, voided* it anon: *vanished
Thus seemed it to every manne's sight.
Now then conclude I thus; if that I might
At Orleans some olde fellow find,
That hath these Moone's mansions in mind,
Or other magic natural above.
He should well make my brother have his love.
For with an appearance a clerk* may make, *learned man
To manne's sight, that all the rockes blake
Of Bretagne were voided* every one, *removed
And shippes by the brinke come and gon,
And in such form endure a day or two;
Then were my brother warish'd* of his woe, *cured
Then must she needes *holde her behest,* *keep her promise*
Or elles he shall shame her at the least.'
Why should I make a longer tale of this?
Unto his brother's bed he comen is,
And such comfort he gave him, for to gon
To Orleans, that he upstart anon,
And on his way forth-ward then is he fare,* *gone
In hope for to be lissed* of his care. *eased of <15>
When they were come almost to that city,
*But if it were* a two furlong or three, *all but*
A young clerk roaming by himself they met,
Which that in Latin *thriftily them gret.* *greeted them
And after that he said a wondrous thing; civilly*
I know,' quoth he, 'the cause of your coming; '
Aud ere they farther any foote went,
He told them all that was in their intent.
The Breton clerk him asked of fellaws
The which he hadde known in olde daws,* *days
And he answer'd him that they deade were,
For which he wept full often many a tear.
Down off his horse Aurelius light anon,
And forth with this magician is be gone
Home to his house, and made him well at ease;
Them lacked no vitail* that might them please. *victuals, food
So well-array'd a house as there was one,
Aurelius in his life saw never none.
He shewed him, ere they went to suppere,
Forestes, parkes, full of wilde deer.
There saw he hartes with their hornes high,
The greatest that were ever seen with eye.
He saw of them an hundred slain with hounds,
And some with arrows bleed of bitter wounds.
He saw, when voided* were the wilde deer, *passed away
These falconers upon a fair rivere,
That with their hawkes have the heron slain.
Then saw he knightes jousting in a plain.
And after this he did him such pleasance,
That he him shew'd his lady on a dance,
In which himselfe danced, as him thought.
And when this master, that this magic wrought,
Saw it was time, he clapp'd his handes two,
And farewell, all the revel is y-go.* *gone, removed
And yet remov'd they never out of the house,
While they saw all the sightes marvellous;
But in his study, where his bookes be,
They satte still, and no wight but they three.
To him this master called his squier,
And said him thus, 'May we go to supper?
Almost an hour it is, I undertake,
Since I you bade our supper for to make,
When that these worthy men wente with me
Into my study, where my bookes be.'
'Sir,' quoth this squier, 'when it liketh you.
It is all ready, though ye will right now.'
'Go we then sup,' quoth he, 'as for the best;
These amorous folk some time must have rest.'
At after supper fell they in treaty
What summe should this master's guerdon* be, *reward
To remove all the rockes of Bretagne,
And eke from Gironde <16> to the mouth of Seine.
He made it strange,* and swore, so God him save, *a matter of
Less than a thousand pound he would not have, difficulty*
*Nor gladly for that sum he would not gon.* *see note <17>*
Aurelius with blissful heart anon
Answered thus; 'Fie on a thousand pound!
This wide world, which that men say is round,
I would it give, if I were lord of it.
This bargain is full-driv'n, for we be knit; * *agreed
Ye shall be payed truly by my troth.
But looke, for no negligence or sloth,
Ye tarry us here no longer than to-morrow.'
'Nay,' quoth the clerk, *'have here my faith to borrow.'* *I pledge my
To bed is gone Aurelius when him lest, faith on it*
And well-nigh all that night he had his rest,
What for his labour, and his hope of bliss,
His woeful heart *of penance had a liss.* *had a respite
Upon the morrow, when that it was day,
Unto Bretagne they took the righte way,
Aurelius and this magician beside,
And be descended where they would abide:
And this was, as the bookes me remember,
The colde frosty season of December.
Phoebus wax'd old, and hued like latoun,* *brass
That in his hote declinatioun
Shone as the burned gold, with streames* bright; *beams
But now in Capricorn adown he light,
Where as he shone full pale, I dare well sayn.
The bitter frostes, with the sleet and rain,
Destroyed have the green in every yard. *courtyard, garden
Janus sits by the fire with double beard,
And drinketh of his bugle horn the wine:
Before him stands the brawn of tusked swine
And 'nowel'* crieth every lusty man *Noel <18>
Aurelius, in all that ev'r he can,
Did to his master cheer and reverence,
And prayed him to do his diligence
To bringe him out of his paines smart,
Or with a sword that he would slit his heart.
This subtle clerk such ruth* had on this man, *pity
That night and day he sped him, that he can,
To wait a time of his conclusion;
This is to say, to make illusion,
By such an appearance of jugglery
(I know no termes of astrology) ,
That she and every wight should ween and say,
That of Bretagne the rockes were away,
Or else they were sunken under ground.
So at the last he hath a time found
To make his japes* and his wretchedness *tricks
Of such a *superstitious cursedness.* *detestable villainy*
His tables Toletanes <19> forth he brought,
Full well corrected, that there lacked nought,
Neither his collect, nor his expanse years,
Neither his rootes, nor his other gears,
As be his centres, and his arguments,
And his proportional convenients
For his equations in everything.
And by his eighte spheres in his working,
He knew full well how far Alnath <20> was shove
From the head of that fix'd Aries above,
That in the ninthe sphere consider'd is.
Full subtilly he calcul'd all this.
When he had found his firste mansion,
He knew the remnant by proportion;
And knew the rising of his moone well,
And in whose face, and term, and every deal;
And knew full well the moone's mansion
Accordant to his operation;
And knew also his other observances,
For such illusions and such meschances,* *wicked devices
As heathen folk used in thilke days.
For which no longer made he delays;
But through his magic, for a day or tway, <21>
It seemed all the rockes were away.
Aurelius, which yet despaired is
Whe'er* he shall have his love, or fare amiss, *whether
Awaited night and day on this miracle:
And when he knew that there was none obstacle,
That voided* were these rockes every one, *removed
Down at his master's feet he fell anon,
And said; 'I, woeful wretch'd Aurelius,
Thank you, my Lord, and lady mine Venus,
That me have holpen from my cares cold.'
And to the temple his way forth hath he hold,
Where as he knew he should his lady see.
And when he saw his time, anon right he
With dreadful* heart and with full humble cheer** *fearful **mien
Saluteth hath his sovereign lady dear.
'My rightful Lady,' quoth this woeful man,
'Whom I most dread, and love as I best can,
And lothest were of all this world displease,
Were't not that I for you have such disease,* *distress, affliction
That I must die here at your foot anon,
Nought would I tell how me is woebegone.
But certes either must I die or plain; * *bewail
Ye slay me guilteless for very pain.
But of my death though that ye have no ruth,
Advise you, ere that ye break your truth:
Repente you, for thilke God above,
Ere ye me slay because that I you love.
For, Madame, well ye wot what ye have hight; * *promised
Not that I challenge anything of right
Of you, my sovereign lady, but of grace:
But in a garden yond', in such a place,
Ye wot right well what ye behighte* me, *promised
And in mine hand your trothe plighted ye,
To love me best; God wot ye saide so,
Albeit that I unworthy am thereto;
Madame, I speak it for th' honour of you,
More than to save my hearte's life right now;
I have done so as ye commanded me,
And if ye vouchesafe, ye may go see.
Do as you list, have your behest in mind,
For, quick or dead, right there ye shall me find;
In you hes all to *do me live or dey; * *cause me to
But well I wot the rockes be away.' live or die*
He took his leave, and she astonish'd stood;
In all her face was not one dropp of blood:
She never ween'd t'have come in such a trap.
'Alas! ' quoth she, 'that ever this should hap!
For ween'd I ne'er, by possibility,
That such a monster or marvail might be;
It is against the process of nature.'
And home she went a sorrowful creature;
For very fear unnethes* may she go. *scarcely
She weeped, wailed, all a day or two,
And swooned, that it ruthe was to see:
But why it was, to no wight tolde she,
For out of town was gone Arviragus.
But to herself she spake, and saide thus,
With face pale, and full sorrowful cheer,
In her complaint, as ye shall after hear.
'Alas! ' quoth she, 'on thee, Fortune, I plain,* *complain
That unware hast me wrapped in thy chain,
From which to scape, wot I no succour,
Save only death, or elles dishonour;
One of these two behoveth me to choose.
But natheless, yet had I lever* lose *sooner, rather
My life, than of my body have shame,
Or know myselfe false, or lose my name;
And with my death *I may be quit y-wis.* *I may certainly purchase
Hath there not many a noble wife, ere this, my exemption*
And many a maiden, slain herself, alas!
Rather than with her body do trespass?
Yes, certes; lo, these stories bear witness. <22>
When thirty tyrants full of cursedness* *wickedness
Had slain Phidon in Athens at the feast,
They commanded his daughters to arrest,
And bringe them before them, in despite,
All naked, to fulfil their foul delight;
And in their father's blood they made them dance
Upon the pavement, - God give them mischance.
For which these woeful maidens, full of dread,
Rather than they would lose their maidenhead,
They privily *be start* into a well, *suddenly leaped
And drowned themselves, as the bookes tell.
They of Messene let inquire and seek
Of Lacedaemon fifty maidens eke,
On which they woulde do their lechery:
But there was none of all that company
That was not slain, and with a glad intent
Chose rather for to die, than to assent
To be oppressed* of her maidenhead. *forcibly bereft
Why should I then to dien be in dread?
Lo, eke the tyrant Aristoclides,
That lov'd a maiden hight Stimphalides,
When that her father slain was on a night,
Unto Diana's temple went she right,
And hent* the image in her handes two, *caught, clasped
From which image she woulde never go;
No wight her handes might off it arace,* *pluck away by force
Till she was slain right in the selfe* place. *same
Now since that maidens hadde such despite
To be defouled with man's foul delight,
Well ought a wife rather herself to sle,* *slay
Than be defouled, as it thinketh me.
What shall I say of Hasdrubale's wife,
That at Carthage bereft herself of life?
For, when she saw the Romans win the town,
She took her children all, and skipt adown
Into the fire, and rather chose to die,
Than any Roman did her villainy.
Hath not Lucretia slain herself, alas!
At Rome, when that she oppressed* was *ravished
Of Tarquin? for her thought it was a shame
To live, when she hadde lost her name.
The seven maidens of Milesie also
Have slain themselves for very dread and woe,
Rather than folk of Gaul them should oppress.
More than a thousand stories, as I guess,
Could I now tell as touching this mattere.
When Abradate was slain, his wife so dear <23>
Herselfe slew, and let her blood to glide
In Abradate's woundes, deep and wide,
And said, 'My body at the leaste way
There shall no wight defoul, if that I may.'
Why should I more examples hereof sayn?
Since that so many have themselves slain,
Well rather than they would defouled be,
I will conclude that it is bet* for me *better
To slay myself, than be defouled thus.
I will be true unto Arviragus,
Or elles slay myself in some mannere,
As did Demotione's daughter dear,
Because she woulde not defouled be.
O Sedasus, it is full great pity
To reade how thy daughters died, alas!
That slew themselves *for suche manner cas.* *in circumstances of
As great a pity was it, or well more, the same kind*
The Theban maiden, that for Nicanor
Herselfe slew, right for such manner woe.
Another Theban maiden did right so;
For one of Macedon had her oppress'd,
She with her death her maidenhead redress'd.* *vindicated
What shall I say of Niceratus' wife,
That for such case bereft herself her life?
How true was eke to Alcibiades
His love, that for to dien rather chese,* *chose
Than for to suffer his body unburied be?
Lo, what a wife was Alceste? ' quoth she.
'What saith Homer of good Penelope?
All Greece knoweth of her chastity.
Pardie, of Laedamia is written thus,
That when at Troy was slain Protesilaus, <24>
No longer would she live after his day.
The same of noble Porcia tell I may;
Withoute Brutus coulde she not live,
To whom she did all whole her hearte give. <25>
The perfect wifehood of Artemisie <26>
Honoured is throughout all Barbarie.
O Teuta <27> queen, thy wifely chastity
To alle wives may a mirror be.' <28>
Thus plained Dorigen a day or tway,
Purposing ever that she woulde dey; * *die
But natheless upon the thirde night
Home came Arviragus, the worthy knight,
And asked her why that she wept so sore.
And she gan weepen ever longer more.
'Alas,' quoth she, 'that ever I was born!
Thus have I said,' quoth she; 'thus have I sworn. '
And told him all, as ye have heard before:
It needeth not rehearse it you no more.
This husband with glad cheer,* in friendly wise, *demeanour
Answer'd and said, as I shall you devise.* *relate
'Is there aught elles, Dorigen, but this? '
'Nay, nay,' quoth she, 'God help me so, *as wis* *assuredly*
This is too much, an* it were Godde's will.' *if
'Yea, wife,' quoth he, 'let sleepe what is still,
It may be well par'venture yet to-day.
Ye shall your trothe holde, by my fay.
For, God so wisly* have mercy on me, *certainly
*I had well lever sticked for to be,* *I had rather be slain*
For very love which I to you have,
But if ye should your trothe keep and save.
Truth is the highest thing that man may keep.'
But with that word he burst anon to weep,
And said; 'I you forbid, on pain of death,
That never, while you lasteth life or breath,
To no wight tell ye this misaventure;
As I may best, I will my woe endure,
Nor make no countenance of heaviness,
That folk of you may deeme harm, or guess.'
And forth he call'd a squier and a maid.
'Go forth anon with Dorigen,' he said,
'And bringe her to such a place anon.'
They take their leave, and on their way they gon:
But they not wiste why she thither went;
He would to no wight telle his intent.
This squier, which that hight Aurelius,
On Dorigen that was so amorous,
Of aventure happen'd her to meet
Amid the town, right in the quickest* street, *nearest
As she was bound* to go the way forthright *prepared, going <29>
Toward the garden, there as she had hight.* *promised
And he was to the garden-ward also;
For well he spied when she woulde go
Out of her house, to any manner place;
But thus they met, of aventure or grace,
And he saluted her with glad intent,
And asked of her whitherward she went.
And she answered, half as she were mad,
'Unto the garden, as my husband bade,
My trothe for to hold, alas! alas! '
Aurelius gan to wonder on this case,
And in his heart had great compassion
Of her, and of her lamentation,
And of Arviragus, the worthy knight,
That bade her hold all that she hadde hight;
So loth him was his wife should break her truth* *troth, pledged word
And in his heart he caught of it great ruth,* *pity
Considering the best on every side,
*That from his lust yet were him lever abide,* *see note <30>*
Than do so high a churlish wretchedness* *wickedness
Against franchise,* and alle gentleness; *generosity
For which in fewe words he saide thus;
'Madame, say to your lord Arviragus,
That since I see the greate gentleness
Of him, and eke I see well your distress,
That him were lever* have shame (and that were ruth) ** *rather **pity
Than ye to me should breake thus your truth,
I had well lever aye* to suffer woe, *forever
Than to depart* the love betwixt you two. *sunder, split up
I you release, Madame, into your hond,
Quit ev'ry surement* and ev'ry bond, *surety
That ye have made to me as herebeforn,
Since thilke time that ye were born.
Have here my truth, I shall you ne'er repreve* *reproach
*Of no behest; * and here I take my leave, *of no (breach of)
As of the truest and the beste wife promise*
That ever yet I knew in all my life.
But every wife beware of her behest;
On Dorigen remember at the least.
Thus can a squier do a gentle deed,
As well as can a knight, withoute drede.'* *doubt
She thanked him upon her knees bare,
And home unto her husband is she fare,* *gone
And told him all, as ye have hearde said;
And, truste me, he was so *well apaid,* *satisfied*
That it were impossible me to write.
Why should I longer of this case indite?
Arviragus and Dorigen his wife
In sov'reign blisse ledde forth their life;
Ne'er after was there anger them between;
He cherish'd her as though she were a queen,
And she was to him true for evermore;
Of these two folk ye get of me no more.
Aurelius, that his cost had *all forlorn,* *utterly lost*
Cursed the time that ever he was born.
'Alas! ' quoth he, 'alas that I behight* *promised
Of pured* gold a thousand pound of weight *refined
To this philosopher! how shall I do?
I see no more, but that I am fordo.* *ruined, undone
Mine heritage must I needes sell,
And be a beggar; here I will not dwell,
And shamen all my kindred in this place,
But* I of him may gette better grace. *unless
But natheless I will of him assay
At certain dayes year by year to pay,
And thank him of his greate courtesy.
My trothe will I keep, I will not he.'
With hearte sore he went unto his coffer,
And broughte gold unto this philosopher,
The value of five hundred pound, I guess,
And him beseeched, of his gentleness,
To grant him *dayes of* the remenant; *time to pay up*
And said; 'Master, I dare well make avaunt,
I failed never of my truth as yet.
For sickerly my debte shall be quit
Towardes you how so that e'er I fare
To go a-begging in my kirtle bare:
But would ye vouchesafe, upon surety,
Two year, or three, for to respite me,
Then were I well, for elles must I sell
Mine heritage; there is no more to tell.'
This philosopher soberly* answer'd, *gravely
And saide thus, when he these wordes heard;
'Have I not holden covenant to thee? '
'Yes, certes, well and truely,' quoth he.
'Hast thou not had thy lady as thee liked? '
'No, no,' quoth he, and sorrowfully siked.* *sighed
'What was the cause? tell me if thou can.'
Aurelius his tale anon began,
And told him all as ye have heard before,
It needeth not to you rehearse it more.
He said, 'Arviragus of gentleness
Had lever* die in sorrow and distress, *rather
Than that his wife were of her trothe false.'
The sorrow of Dorigen he told him als',* *also
How loth her was to be a wicked wife,
And that she lever had lost that day her life;
And that her troth she swore through innocence;
She ne'er erst* had heard speak of apparence** *before **see note <31>
That made me have of her so great pity,
And right as freely as he sent her to me,
As freely sent I her to him again:
This is all and some, there is no more to sayn.'
The philosopher answer'd; 'Leve* brother, *dear
Evereach of you did gently to the other;
Thou art a squier, and he is a knight,
But God forbidde, for his blissful might,
But if a clerk could do a gentle deed
As well as any of you, it is no drede* *doubt
Sir, I release thee thy thousand pound,
As thou right now were crept out of the ground,
Nor ever ere now haddest knowen me.
For, Sir, I will not take a penny of thee
For all my craft, nor naught for my travail; * *labour, pains
Thou hast y-payed well for my vitaille;
It is enough; and farewell, have good day.'
And took his horse, and forth he went his way.
Lordings, this question would I aske now,
Which was the moste free,* as thinketh you? *generous <32>
Now telle me, ere that ye farther wend.
I can* no more, my tale is at an end.
The Parson's Tale
By that the Manciple his tale had ended,
The sunne from the south line was descended
So lowe, that it was not to my sight
Degrees nine-and-twenty as in height.
Four of the clock it was then, as I guess,
For eleven foot, a little more or less,
My shadow was at thilke time, as there,
Of such feet as my lengthe parted were
In six feet equal of proportion.
Therewith the moone's exaltation,* *rising
*In meane* Libra, gan alway ascend, *in the middle of*
As we were ent'ring at a thorpe's* end. *village's
For which our Host, as he was wont to gie,* *govern
As in this case, our jolly company,
Said in this wise; 'Lordings every one,
Now lacketh us no more tales than one.
Fulfill'd is my sentence and my decree;
I trow that we have heard of each degree.* from each class or rank
Almost fulfilled is mine ordinance; in the company
I pray to God so give him right good chance
That telleth us this tale lustily.
Sir Priest,' quoth he, 'art thou a vicary?* *vicar
Or art thou a Parson? say sooth by thy fay.* *faith
Be what thou be, breake thou not our play;
For every man, save thou, hath told his tale.
Unbuckle, and shew us what is in thy mail.* *wallet
For truely me thinketh by thy cheer
Thou shouldest knit up well a great mattere.
Tell us a fable anon, for cocke's bones.'
This Parson him answered all at ones;
'Thou gettest fable none y-told for me,
For Paul, that writeth unto Timothy,
Reproveth them that *weive soothfastness,* *forsake truth*
And telle fables, and such wretchedness.
Why should I sowe draff* out of my fist, *chaff, refuse
When I may sowe wheat, if that me list?
For which I say, if that you list to hear
Morality and virtuous mattere,
And then that ye will give me audience,
I would full fain at Christe's reverence
Do you pleasance lawful, as I can.
But, truste well, I am a southern man,
I cannot gest,* rom, ram, ruf, <1> by my letter; *relate stories
And, God wot, rhyme hold I but little better.
And therefore if you list, I will not glose,* *mince matters
I will you tell a little tale in prose,
To knit up all this feast, and make an end.
And Jesus for his grace wit me send
To shewe you the way, in this voyage,
Of thilke perfect glorious pilgrimage, <2>
That hight Jerusalem celestial.
And if ye vouchesafe, anon I shall
Begin upon my tale, for which I pray
Tell your advice,* I can no better say. *opinion
But natheless this meditation
I put it aye under correction
Of clerkes,* for I am not textuel; *scholars
I take but the sentence,* trust me well. *meaning, sense
Therefore I make a protestation,
That I will stande to correction.'
Upon this word we have assented soon;
For, as us seemed, it was *for to do'n,* *a thing worth doing*
To enden in some virtuous sentence,* *discourse
And for to give him space and audience;
And bade our Host he shoulde to him say
That alle we to tell his tale him pray.
Our Hoste had. the wordes for us all:
'Sir Priest,' quoth he, 'now faire you befall;
Say what you list, and we shall gladly hear.'
And with that word he said in this mannere;
'Telle,' quoth he, 'your meditatioun,
But hasten you, the sunne will adown.
Be fructuous,* and that in little space; *fruitful; profitable
And to do well God sende you his grace
THE TALE. <1>
[The Parson begins his 'little treatise' -(which, if given at
length, would extend to about thirty of these pages, and which
cannot by any stretch of courtesy or fancy be said to merit the
title of a 'Tale') in these words: -]
Our sweet Lord God of Heaven, that no man will perish, but
will that we come all to the knowledge of him, and to the
blissful life that is perdurable [everlasting], admonishes us by
the prophet Jeremiah, that saith in this wise: 'Stand upon the
ways, and see and ask of old paths, that is to say, of old
sentences, which is the good way, and walk in that way, and ye
shall find refreshing for your souls,' <2> &c. Many be the
spiritual ways that lead folk to our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the
reign of glory; of which ways there is a full noble way, and full
convenable, which may not fail to man nor to woman, that
through sin hath misgone from the right way of Jerusalem
celestial; and this way is called penitence. Of which men should
gladly hearken and inquire with all their hearts, to wit what is
penitence, and whence it is called penitence, and in what
manner, and in how many manners, be the actions or workings
of penitence, and how many species there be of penitences, and
what things appertain and behove to penitence, and what things
[Penitence is described, on the authority of Saints Ambrose,
Isidore, and Gregory, as the bewailing of sin that has been
wrought, with the purpose never again to do that thing, or any
other thing which a man should bewail; for weeping and not
ceasing to do the sin will not avail - though it is to be hoped
that after every time that a man falls, be it ever so often, he may
find grace to arise through penitence. And repentant folk that
leave their sin ere sin leave them, are accounted by Holy Church
sure of their salvation, even though the repentance be at the last
hour. There are three actions of penitence; that a man be
baptized after he has sinned; that he do no deadly sin after
receiving baptism; and that he fall into no venial sins from day
to day. 'Thereof saith St Augustine, that penitence of good and
humble folk is the penitence of every day.' The species of
penitence are three: solemn, when a man is openly expelled
from Holy Church in Lent, or is compelled by Holy Church to
do open penance for an open sin openly talked of in the
country; common penance, enjoined by priests in certain cases,
as to go on pilgrimage naked or barefoot; and privy penance,
which men do daily for private sins, of which they confess
privately and receive private penance. To very perfect penitence
are behoveful and necessary three things: contrition of heart,
confession of mouth, and satisfaction; which are fruitful
penitence against delight in thinking, reckless speech, and
wicked sinful works.
Penitence may be likened to a tree, having its root in contrition,
biding itself in the heart as a tree-root does in the earth; out of
this root springs a stalk, that bears branches and leaves of
confession, and fruit of satisfaction. Of this root also springs a
seed of grace, which is mother of all security, and this seed is
eager and hot; and the grace of this seed springs of God,
through remembrance on the day of judgment and on the pains
of hell. The heat of this seed is the love of God, and the desire
of everlasting joy; and this heat draws the heart of man to God,
and makes him hate his sin. Penance is the tree of life to them
that receive it. In penance or contrition man shall understand
four things: what is contrition; what are the causes that move a
man to contrition; how he should be contrite; and what
contrition availeth to the soul. Contrition is the heavy and
grievous sorrow that a man receiveth in his heart for his sins,
with earnest purpose to confess and do penance, and never
more to sin. Six causes ought to move a man to contrition: 1.
He should remember him of his sins; 2. He should reflect that
sin putteth a man in great thraldom, and all the greater the
higher is the estate from which he falls; 3. He should dread the
day of doom and the horrible pains of hell; 4. The sorrowful
remembrance of the good deeds that man hath omitted to do
here on earth, and also the good that he hath lost, ought to
make him have contrition; 5. So also ought the remembrance of
the passion that our Lord Jesus Christ suffered for our sins; 6.
And so ought the hope of three things, that is to say,
forgiveness of sin, the gift of grace to do well, and the glory of
heaven with which God shall reward man for his good deeds. -
All these points the Parson illustrates and enforces at length;
waxing especially eloquent under the third head, and plainly
setting forth the sternly realistic notions regarding future
punishments that were entertained in the time of Chaucer:-] <3>
Certes, all the sorrow that a man might make from the
beginning of the world, is but a little thing, at retard of [in
comparison with] the sorrow of hell. The cause why that Job
calleth hell the land of darkness; <4> understand, that he calleth
it land or earth, for it is stable and never shall fail, and dark, for
he that is in hell hath default [is devoid] of light natural; for
certes the dark light, that shall come out of the fire that ever
shall burn, shall turn them all to pain that be in hell, for it
sheweth them the horrible devils that them torment. Covered
with the darkness of death; that is to say, that he that is in hell
shall have default of the sight of God; for certes the sight of
God is the life perdurable [everlasting]. The darkness of death,
be the sins that the wretched man hath done, which that disturb
[prevent] him to see the face of God, right as a dark cloud doth
between us and the sun. Land of misease, because there be three
manner of defaults against three things that folk of this world
have in this present life; that is to say, honours, delights, and
riches. Against honour have they in hell shame and confusion:
for well ye wot, that men call honour the reverence that man
doth to man; but in hell is no honour nor reverence; for certes
no more reverence shall be done there to a king than to a knave
[servant]. For which God saith by the prophet Jeremiah; 'The
folk that me despise shall be in despite.' Honour is also called
great lordship. There shall no wight serve other, but of harm
and torment. Honour is also called great dignity and highness;
but in hell shall they be all fortrodden [trampled under foot] of
devils. As God saith, 'The horrible devils shall go and come
upon the heads of damned folk;' and this is, forasmuch as the
higher that they were in this present life, the more shall they be
abated [abased] and defouled in hell. Against the riches of this
world shall they have misease [trouble, torment] of poverty, and
this poverty shall be in four things: in default [want] of treasure;
of which David saith, 'The rich folk that embraced and oned
[united] all their heart to treasure of this world, shall sleep in the
sleeping of death, and nothing shall they find in their hands of
all their treasure.' And moreover, the misease of hell shall be in
default of meat and drink. For God saith thus by Moses, 'They
shall be wasted with hunger, and the birds of hell shall devour
them with bitter death, and the gall of the dragon shall be their
drink, and the venom of the dragon their morsels.' And
furthermore, their misease shall be in default of clothing, for
they shall be naked in body, as of clothing, save the fire in
which they burn, and other filths; and naked shall they be in
soul, of all manner virtues, which that is the clothing of the soul.
Where be then the gay robes, and the soft sheets, and the fine
shirts? Lo, what saith of them the prophet Isaiah, that under
them shall be strewed moths, and their covertures shall be of
worms of hell. And furthermore, their misease shall be in default
of friends, for he is not poor that hath good friends: but there is
no friend; for neither God nor any good creature shall be friend
to them, and evereach of them shall hate other with deadly hate.
The Sons and the daughters shall rebel against father and
mother, and kindred against kindred, and chide and despise each
other, both day and night, as God saith by the prophet Micah.
And the loving children, that whom loved so fleshly each other,
would each of them eat the other if they might. For how should
they love together in the pains of hell, when they hated each
other in the prosperity of this life? For trust well, their fleshly
love was deadly hate; as saith the prophet David; 'Whoso
loveth wickedness, he hateth his own soul:' and whoso hateth
his own soul, certes he may love none other wight in no
manner: and therefore in hell is no solace nor no friendship, but
ever the more kindreds that be in hell, the more cursing, the
more chiding, and the more deadly hate there is among them.
And furtherover, they shall have default of all manner delights;
for certes delights be after the appetites of the five wits
[senses]; as sight, hearing, smelling, savouring [tasting], and
touching. But in hell their sight shall be full of darkness and of
smoke, and their eyes full of tears; and their hearing full of
waimenting [lamenting] and grinting [gnashing] of teeth, as
saith Jesus Christ; their nostrils shall be full of stinking; and, as
saith Isaiah the prophet, their savouring [tasting] shall be full of
bitter gall; and touching of all their body shall be covered with
fire that never shall quench, and with worms that never shall
die, as God saith by the mouth of Isaiah. And forasmuch as they
shall not ween that they may die for pain, and by death flee from
pain, that may they understand in the word of Job, that saith,
'There is the shadow of death.' Certes a shadow hath the
likeness of the thing of which it is shadowed, but the shadow is
not the same thing of which it is shadowed: right so fareth the
pain of hell; it is like death, for the horrible anguish; and why?
for it paineth them ever as though they should die anon; but
certes they shall not die. For, as saith Saint Gregory, 'To
wretched caitiffs shall be given death without death, and end
without end, and default without failing; for their death shall
always live, and their end shall evermore begin, and their default
shall never fail.' And therefore saith Saint John the Evangelist,
'They shall follow death, and they shall not find him, and they
shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.' And eke Job
saith, that in hell is no order of rule. And albeit that God hath
created all things in right order, and nothing without order, but
all things be ordered and numbered, yet nevertheless they that
be damned be not in order, nor hold no order. For the earth
shall bear them no fruit (for, as the prophet David saith, 'God
shall destroy the fruit of the earth, as for them'): nor water shall
give them no moisture, nor the air no refreshing, nor the fire no
light. For as saith Saint Basil, 'The burning of the fire of this
world shall God give in hell to them that be damned, but the
light and the clearness shall be given in heaven to his children;
right as the good man giveth flesh to his children, and bones to
his hounds.' And for they shall have no hope to escape, saith
Job at last, that there shall horror and grisly dread dwell without
end. Horror is always dread of harm that is to come, and this
dread shall ever dwell in the hearts of them that be damned.
And therefore have they lost all their hope for seven causes.
First, for God that is their judge shall be without mercy to them;
nor they may not please him; nor none of his hallows [saints];
nor they may give nothing for their ransom; nor they have no
voice to speak to him; nor they may not flee from pain; nor they
have no goodness in them that they may shew to deliver them
[Under the fourth head, of good works, the Parson says: -]
The courteous Lord Jesus Christ will that no good work be lost,
for in somewhat it shall avail. But forasmuch as the good works
that men do while they be in good life be all amortised [killed,
deadened] by sin following, and also since all the good works
that men do while they be in deadly sin be utterly dead, as for to
have the life perdurable [everlasting], well may that man that no
good works doth, sing that new French song, J'ai tout perdu -
mon temps et mon labour <5>. For certes, sin bereaveth a man
both the goodness of nature, and eke the goodness of grace.
For soothly the grace of the Holy Ghost fareth like fire, that
may not be idle; for fire faileth anon as it forleteth [leaveth] its
working, and right so grace faileth anon as it forleteth its
working. Then loseth the sinful man the goodness of glory, that
only is to good men that labour and work. Well may he be sorry
then, that oweth all his life to God, as long as he hath lived, and
also as long as he shall live, that no goodness hath to pay with
his debt to God, to whom he oweth all his life: for trust well he
shall give account, as saith Saint Bernard, of all the goods that
have been given him in his present life, and how he hath them
dispended, insomuch that there shall not perish an hair of his
head, nor a moment of an hour shall not perish of his time, that
he shall not give thereof a reckoning.
[Having treated of the causes, the Parson comes to the manner,
of contrition - which should be universal and total, not merely
of outward deeds of sin, but also of wicked delights and
thoughts and words; 'for certes Almighty God is all good, and
therefore either he forgiveth all, or else right naught.' Further,
contrition should be 'wonder sorrowful and anguishous,' and
also continual, with steadfast purpose of confession and
amendment. Lastly, of what contrition availeth, the Parson says,
that sometimes it delivereth man from sin; that without it neither
confession nor satisfaction is of any worth; that it 'destroyeth
the prison of hell, and maketh weak and feeble all the strengths
of the devils, and restoreth the gifts of the Holy Ghost and of all
good virtues, and cleanseth the soul of sin, and delivereth it
from the pain of hell, and from the company of the devil, and
from the servage [slavery] of sin, and restoreth it to all goods
spiritual, and to the company and communion of Holy Church.'
He who should set his intent to these things, would no longer be
inclined to sin, but would give his heart and body to the service
of Jesus Christ, and thereof do him homage. 'For, certes, our
Lord Jesus Christ hath spared us so benignly in our follies, that
if he had not pity on man's soul, a sorry song might we all sing.'
The Second Part of the Parson's Tale or Treatise opens with an
explanation of what is confession - which is termed 'the
second part of penitence, that is, sign of contrition;' whether it
ought needs be done or not; and what things be convenable to
true confession. Confession is true shewing of sins to the priest,
without excusing, hiding, or forwrapping [disguising] of
anything, and without vaunting of good works. 'Also, it is
necessary to understand whence that sins spring, and how they
increase, and which they be.' From Adam we took original sin;
'from him fleshly descended be we all, and engendered of vile
and corrupt matter;' and the penalty of Adam's transgression
dwelleth with us as to temptation, which penalty is called
concupiscence. 'This concupiscence, when it is wrongfully
disposed or ordained in a man, it maketh him covet, by covetise
of flesh, fleshly sin by sight of his eyes, as to earthly things, and
also covetise of highness by pride of heart.' The Parson
proceeds to shew how man is tempted in his flesh to sin; how,
after his natural concupiscence, comes suggestion of the devil,
that is to say the devil's bellows, with which he bloweth in man
the fire of con cupiscence; and how man then bethinketh him
whether he will do or no the thing to which he is tempted. If he
flame up into pleasure at the thought, and give way, then is he
all dead in soul; 'and thus is sin accomplished, by temptation, by
delight, and by consenting; and then is the sin actual.' Sin is
either venial, or deadly; deadly, when a man loves any creature
more than Jesus Christ our Creator, venial, if he love Jesus
Christ less than he ought. Venial sins diminish man's love to
God more and more, and may in this wise skip into deadly sin;
for many small make a great. 'And hearken this example: A
great wave of the sea cometh sometimes with so great a
violence, that it drencheth [causes to sink] the ship: and the
same harm do sometimes the small drops, of water that enter
through a little crevice in the thurrok [hold, bilge], and in the
bottom of the ship, if men be so negligent that they discharge
them not betimes. And therefore, although there be difference
betwixt these two causes of drenching, algates [in any case] the
ship is dreint [sunk]. Right so fareth it sometimes of deadly sin,'
and of venial sins when they multiply in a man so greatly as to
make him love worldly things more than God. The Parson then
enumerates specially a number of sins which many a man
peradventure deems no sins, and confesses them not, and yet
nevertheless they are truly sins: - ]
This is to say, at every time that a man eateth and drinketh more
than sufficeth to the sustenance of his body, in certain he doth
sin; eke when he speaketh more than it needeth, he doth sin; eke
when he heareth not benignly the complaint of the poor; eke
when he is in health of body, and will not fast when other folk
fast, without cause reasonable; eke when he sleepeth more than
needeth, or when he cometh by that occasion too late to church,
or to other works of charity; eke when he useth his wife without
sovereign desire of engendrure, to the honour of God, or for the
intent to yield his wife his debt of his body; eke when he will not
visit the sick, or the prisoner, if he may; eke if he love wife, or
child, or other worldly thing, more than reason requireth; eke if
he flatter or blandish more than he ought for any necessity; eke
if he minish or withdraw the alms of the poor; eke if he apparail
[prepare] his meat more deliciously than need is, or eat it too
hastily by likerousness [gluttony]; eke if he talk vanities in the
church, or at God's service, or that he be a talker of idle words
of folly or villainy, for he shall yield account of them at the day
of doom; eke when he behighteth [promiseth] or assureth to do
things that he may not perform; eke when that by lightness of
folly he missayeth or scorneth his neighbour; eke when he hath
any wicked suspicion of thing, that he wot of it no
soothfastness: these things, and more without number, be sins,
as saith Saint Augustine.
[No earthly man may eschew all venial sins; yet may he refrain
him, by the burning love that he hath to our Lord Jesus Christ,
and by prayer and confession, and other good works, so that it
shall but little grieve. 'Furthermore, men may also refrain and
put away venial sin, by receiving worthily the precious body of
Jesus Christ; by receiving eke of holy water; by alms-deed; by
general confession of Confiteor at mass, and at prime, and at
compline [evening service]; and by blessing of bishops and
priests, and by other good works.' The Parson then proceeds to
weightier matters:- ]
Now it is behovely [profitable, necessary] to tell which be
deadly sins, that is to say, chieftains of sins; forasmuch as all
they run in one leash, but in diverse manners. Now be they
called chieftains, forasmuch as they be chief, and of them spring
all other sins. The root of these sins, then, is pride, the general
root of all harms. For of this root spring certain branches: as ire,
envy, accidie <6> or sloth, avarice or covetousness (to common
understanding), gluttony, and lechery: and each of these sins
hath his branches and his twigs, as shall be declared in their
chapters following. And though so be, that no man can tell
utterly the number of the twigs, and of the harms that come of
pride, yet will I shew a part of them, as ye shall understand.
There is inobedience, vaunting, hypocrisy, despite, arrogance,
impudence, swelling of hearte, insolence, elation, impatience,
strife, contumacy, presumption, irreverence, pertinacity, vain-
glory and many another twig that I cannot tell nor declare. . . .]
And yet [moreover] there is a privy species of pride that waiteth
first to be saluted ere he will salute, all [although] be he less
worthy than that other is; and eke he waiteth [expecteth] or
desireth to sit or to go above him in the way, or kiss the pax,
<7> or be incensed, or go to offering before his neighbour, and
such semblable [like] things, against his duty peradventure, but
that he hath his heart and his intent in such a proud desire to be
magnified and honoured before the people. Now be there two
manner of prides; the one of them is within the heart of a man,
and the other is without. Of which soothly these foresaid things,
and more than I have said, appertain to pride that is within the
heart of a man and there be other species of pride that be
without: but nevertheless, the one of these species of pride is
sign of the other, right as the gay levesell [bush] at the tavern is
sign of the wine that is in the cellar. And this is in many things:
as in speech and countenance, and outrageous array of clothing;
for certes, if there had been no sin in clothing, Christ would not
so soon have noted and spoken of the clothing of that rich man
in the gospel. And Saint Gregory saith, that precious clothing is
culpable for the dearth [dearness] of it, and for its softness, and
for its strangeness and disguising, and for the superfluity or for
the inordinate scantness of it; alas! may not a man see in our
days the sinful costly array of clothing, and namely [specially] in
too much superfluity, or else in too disordinate scantness? As to
the first sin, in superfluity of clothing, which that maketh it so
dear, to the harm of the people, not only the cost of the
embroidering, the disguising, indenting or barring, ounding,
paling, <8> winding, or banding, and semblable [similar] waste
of cloth in vanity; but there is also the costly furring [lining or
edging with fur] in their gowns, so much punching of chisels to
make holes, so much dagging [cutting] of shears, with the
superfluity in length of the foresaid gowns, trailing in the dung
and in the mire, on horse and eke on foot, as well of man as of
woman, that all that trailing is verily (as in effect) wasted,
consumed, threadbare, and rotten with dung, rather than it is
given to the poor, to great damage of the foresaid poor folk,
and that in sundry wise: this is to say, the more that cloth is
wasted, the more must it cost to the poor people for the
scarceness; and furthermore, if so be that they would give such
punched and dagged clothing to the poor people, it is not
convenient to wear for their estate, nor sufficient to boot [help,
remedy] their necessity, to keep them from the distemperance
[inclemency] of the firmament. Upon the other side, to speak of
the horrible disordinate scantness of clothing, as be these cutted
slops or hanselines [breeches] , that through their shortness
cover not the shameful member of man, to wicked intent alas!
some of them shew the boss and the shape of the horrible
swollen members, that seem like to the malady of hernia, in the
wrapping of their hosen, and eke the buttocks of them, that fare
as it were the hinder part of a she-ape in the full of the moon.
And more over the wretched swollen members that they shew
through disguising, in departing [dividing] of their hosen in
white and red, seemeth that half their shameful privy members
were flain [flayed]. And if so be that they depart their hosen in
other colours, as is white and blue, or white and black, or black
and red, and so forth; then seemeth it, by variance of colour,
that the half part of their privy members be corrupt by the fire
of Saint Anthony, or by canker, or other such mischance. And
of the hinder part of their buttocks it is full horrible to see, for
certes, in that part of their body where they purge their stinking
ordure, that foul part shew they to the people proudly in despite
of honesty [decency], which honesty Jesus Christ and his friends
observed to shew in his life. Now as of the outrageous array of
women, God wot, that though the visages of some of them
seem full chaste and debonair [gentle], yet notify they, in their
array of attire, likerousness and pride. I say not that honesty
[reasonable and appropriate style] in clothing of man or woman
unconvenable but, certes, the superfluity or disordinate scarcity
of clothing is reprovable. Also the sin of their ornament, or of
apparel, as in things that appertain to riding, as in too many
delicate horses, that be holden for delight, that be so fair, fat,
and costly; and also in many a vicious knave, [servant] that is
sustained because of them; in curious harness, as in saddles,
cruppers, peytrels, [breast-plates] and bridles, covered with
precious cloth and rich bars and plates of gold and silver. For
which God saith by Zechariah the prophet, 'I will confound the
riders of such horses.' These folk take little regard of the riding
of God's Son of heaven, and of his harness, when he rode upon
an ass, and had no other harness but the poor clothes of his
disciples; nor we read not that ever he rode on any other beast.
I speak this for the sin of superfluity, and not for reasonable
honesty [seemliness], when reason it requireth. And moreover,
certes, pride is greatly notified in holding of great meinie
[retinue of servants], when they be of little profit or of right no
profit, and namely [especially] when that meinie is felonous
[violent ] and damageous [harmful] to the people by hardiness
[arrogance] of high lordship, or by way of office; for certes,
such lords sell then their lordship to the devil of hell, when they
sustain the wickedness of their meinie. Or else, when these folk
of low degree, as they that hold hostelries, sustain theft of their
hostellers, and that is in many manner of deceits: that manner of
folk be the flies that follow the honey, or else the hounds that
follow the carrion. Such foresaid folk strangle spiritually their
lordships; for which thus saith David the prophet, 'Wicked
death may come unto these lordships, and God give that they
may descend into hell adown; for in their houses is iniquity and
shrewedness, [impiety] and not God of heaven.' And certes, but
if [unless] they do amendment, right as God gave his benison
[blessing] to Laban by the service of Jacob, and to Pharaoh by
the service of Joseph; right so God will give his malison
[condemnation] to such lordships as sustain the wickedness of
their servants, but [unless] they come to amendment. Pride of
the table apaireth [worketh harm] eke full oft; for, certes, rich
men be called to feasts, and poor folk be put away and rebuked;
also in excess of divers meats and drinks, and namely [specially]
such manner bake-meats and dish-meats burning of wild fire,
and painted and castled with paper, and semblable [similar]
waste, so that it is abuse to think. And eke in too great
preciousness of vessel, [plate] and curiosity of minstrelsy, by
which a man is stirred more to the delights of luxury, if so be
that he set his heart the less upon our Lord Jesus Christ, certain
it is a sin; and certainly the delights might be so great in this
case, that a man might lightly [easily] fall by them into deadly
[The sins that arise of pride advisedly and habitually are deadly;
those that arise by frailty unadvised suddenly, and suddenly
withdraw again, though grievous, are not deadly. Pride itself
springs sometimes of the goods of nature, sometimes of the
goods of fortune, sometimes of the goods of grace; but the
Parson, enumerating and examining all these in turn, points out
how little security they possess and how little ground for pride
they furnish, and goes on to enforce the remedy against pride -
which is humility or meekness, a virtue through which a man
hath true knowledge of himself, and holdeth no high esteem of
himself in regard of his deserts, considering ever his frailty.]
Now be there three manners [kinds] of humility; as humility in
heart, and another in the mouth, and the third in works. The
humility in the heart is in four manners: the one is, when a man
holdeth himself as nought worth before God of heaven; the
second is, when he despiseth no other man; the third is, when he
recketh not though men hold him nought worth; the fourth is,
when he is not sorry of his humiliation. Also the humility of
mouth is in four things: in temperate speech; in humility of
speech; and when he confesseth with his own mouth that he is
such as he thinketh that he is in his heart; another is, when he
praiseth the bounte [goodness] of another man and nothing
thereof diminisheth. Humility eke in works is in four manners:
the first is, when he putteth other men before him; the second is,
to choose the lowest place of all; the third is, gladly to assent to
good counsel; the fourth is, to stand gladly by the award
[judgment] of his sovereign, or of him that is higher in degree:
certain this is a great work of humility.
[The Parson proceeds to treat of the other cardinal sins, and
their remedies: (2.) Envy, with its remedy, the love of God
principally and of our neighbours as ourselves: (3.) Anger, with
all its fruits in revenge, rancour, hate, discord, manslaughter,
blasphemy, swearing, falsehood, flattery, chiding and reproving,
scorning, treachery, sowing of strife, doubleness of tongue,
betraying of counsel to a man's disgrace, menacing, idle words,
jangling, japery or buffoonery, &c. - and its remedy in the
virtues called mansuetude, debonairte, or gentleness, and
patience or sufferance: (4.) Sloth, or 'Accidie,' which comes
after the sin of Anger, because Envy blinds the eyes of a man,
and Anger troubleth a man, and Sloth maketh him heavy,
thoughtful, and peevish. It is opposed to every estate of man -
as unfallen, and held to work in praising and adoring God; as
sinful, and held to labour in praying for deliverance from sin;
and as in the state of grace, and held to works of penitence. It
resembles the heavy and sluggish condition of those in hell; it
will suffer no hardness and no penance; it prevents any
beginning of good works; it causes despair of God's mercy,
which is the sin against the Holy Ghost; it induces somnolency
and neglect of communion in prayer with God; and it breeds
negligence or recklessness, that cares for nothing, and is the
nurse of all mischiefs, if ignorance is their mother. Against
Sloth, and these and other branches and fruits of it, the remedy
lies in the virtue of fortitude or strength, in its various species of
magnanimity or great courage; faith and hope in God and his
saints; surety or sickerness, when a man fears nothing that can
oppose the good works he has under taken; magnificence, when
he carries out great works of goodness begun; constancy or
stableness of heart; and other incentives to energy and laborious
service: (5.) Avarice, or Covetousness, which is the root of all
harms, since its votaries are idolaters, oppressors and enslavers
of men, deceivers of their equals in business, simoniacs,
gamblers, liars, thieves, false swearers, blasphemers, murderers,
and sacrilegious. Its remedy lies in compassion and pity largely
exercised, and in reasonable liberality - for those who spend on
'fool-largesse,' or ostentation of worldly estate and luxury,
shall receive the malison [condemnation] that Christ shall give
at the day of doom to them that shall be damned: (6.) Gluttony;
- of which the Parson treats so briefly that the chapter may be
given in full: - ]
After Avarice cometh Gluttony, which is express against the
commandment of God. Gluttony is unmeasurable appetite to eat
or to drink; or else to do in aught to the unmeasurable appetite
and disordered covetousness [craving] to eat or drink. This sin
corrupted all this world, as is well shewed in the sin of Adam
and of Eve. Look also what saith Saint Paul of gluttony:
'Many,' saith he, 'go, of which I have oft said to you, and now
I say it weeping, that they be enemies of the cross of Christ, of
which the end is death, and of which their womb [stomach] is
their God and their glory;' in confusion of them that so savour
[take delight in] earthly things. He that is usant [accustomed,
addicted] to this sin of gluttony, he may no sin withstand, he
must be in servage [bondage] of all vices, for it is the devil's
hoard, [lair, lurking-place] where he hideth him in and resteth.
This sin hath many species. The first is drunkenness, that is the
horrible sepulture of man's reason: and therefore when a man is
drunken, he hath lost his reason; and this is deadly sin. But
soothly, when that a man is not wont to strong drink, and
peradventure knoweth not the strength of the drink, or hath
feebleness in his head, or hath travailed [laboured], through
which he drinketh the more, all [although] be he suddenly
caught with drink, it is no deadly sin, but venial. The second
species of gluttony is, that the spirit of a man waxeth all
troubled for drunkenness, and bereaveth a man the discretion of
his wit. The third species of gluttony is, when a man devoureth
his meat, and hath no rightful manner of eating. The fourth is,
when, through the great abundance of his meat, the humours of
his body be distempered. The fifth is, forgetfulness by too much
drinking, for which a man sometimes forgetteth by the morrow
what be did at eve. In other manner be distinct the species of
gluttony, after Saint Gregory. The first is, for to eat or drink
before time. The second is, when a man getteth him too delicate
meat or drink. The third is, when men take too much over
measure [immoderately]. The fourth is curiosity [nicety] with
great intent [application, pains] to make and apparel [prepare]
his meat. The fifth is, for to eat too greedily. These be the five
fingers of the devil's hand, by which he draweth folk to the sin.
Against gluttony the remedy is abstinence, as saith Galen; but
that I hold not meritorious, if he do it only for the health of his
body. Saint Augustine will that abstinence be done for virtue,
and with patience. Abstinence, saith he, is little worth, but if
[unless] a man have good will thereto, and but it be enforced by
patience and by charity, and that men do it for God's sake, and
in hope to have the bliss in heaven. The fellows of abstinence be
temperance, that holdeth the mean in all things; also shame, that
escheweth all dishonesty [indecency, impropriety], sufficiency,
that seeketh no rich meats nor drinks, nor doth no force of [sets
no value on] no outrageous apparelling of meat; measure
[moderation] also, that restraineth by reason the unmeasurable
appetite of eating; soberness also, that restraineth the outrage of
drink; sparing also, that restraineth the delicate ease to sit long
at meat, wherefore some folk stand of their own will to eat,
because they will eat at less leisure.
[At great length the Parson then points out the many varieties of
the sin of (7.) Lechery, and its remedy in chastity and
continence, alike in marriage and in widowhood; also in the
abstaining from all such indulgences of eating, drinking, and
sleeping as inflame the passions, and from the company of all
who may tempt to the sin. Minute guidance is given as to the
duty of confessing fully and faithfully the circumstances that
attend and may aggravate this sin; and the Treatise then passes
to the consideration of the conditions that are essential to a true
and profitable confession of sin in general. First, it must be in
sorrowful bitterness of spirit; a condition that has five signs -
shamefastness, humility in heart and outward sign, weeping with
the bodily eyes or in the heart, disregard of the shame that
might curtail or garble confession, and obedience to the penance
enjoined. Secondly, true confession must be promptly made, for
dread of death, of increase of sinfulness, of forgetfulness of
what should be confessed, of Christ's refusal to hear if it be put
off to the last day of life; and this condition has four terms; that
confession be well pondered beforehand, that the man
confessing have comprehended in his mind the number and
greatness of his sins and how long he has lain in sin, that he be
contrite for and eschew his sins, and that he fear and flee the
occasions for that sin to which he is inclined. - What follows
under this head is of some interest for the light which it throws
on the rigorous government wielded by the Romish Church in
those days -]
Also thou shalt shrive thee of all thy sins to one man, and not a
parcel [portion] to one man, and a parcel to another; that is to
understand, in intent to depart [divide] thy confession for shame
or dread; for it is but strangling of thy soul. For certes Jesus
Christ is entirely all good, in him is none imperfection, and
therefore either he forgiveth all perfectly, or else never a deal
[not at all]. I say not that if thou be assigned to thy penitencer
<9> for a certain sin, that thou art bound to shew him all the
remnant of thy sins, of which thou hast been shriven of thy
curate, but if it like thee [unless thou be pleased] of thy
humility; this is no departing [division] of shrift. And I say not,
where I speak of division of confession, that if thou have license
to shrive thee to a discreet and an honest priest, and where thee
liketh, and by the license of thy curate, that thou mayest not
well shrive thee to him of all thy sins: but let no blot be behind,
let no sin be untold as far as thou hast remembrance. And when
thou shalt be shriven of thy curate, tell him eke all the sins that
thou hast done since thou wert last shriven. This is no wicked
intent of division of shrift. Also, very shrift [true confession]
asketh certain conditions. First, that thou shrive thee by thy
free will, not constrained, nor for shame of folk, nor for malady
[sickness], or such things: for it is reason, that he that
trespasseth by his free will, that by his free will he confess his
trespass; and that no other man tell his sin but himself; nor he
shall not nay nor deny his sin, nor wrath him against the priest
for admonishing him to leave his sin. The second condition is,
that thy shrift be lawful, that is to say, that thou that shrivest
thee, and eke the priest that heareth thy confession, be verily in
the faith of Holy Church, and that a man be not despaired of the
mercy of Jesus Christ, as Cain and Judas were. And eke a man
must accuse himself of his own trespass, and not another: but he
shall blame and wite [accuse] himself of his own malice and of
his sin, and none other: but nevertheless, if that another man be
occasion or else enticer of his sin, or the estate of the person be
such by which his sin is aggravated, or else that be may not
plainly shrive him but [unless] he tell the person with which he
hath sinned, then may he tell, so that his intent be not to
backbite the person, but only to declare his confession. Thou
shalt not eke make no leasings [falsehoods] in thy confession
for humility, peradventure, to say that thou hast committed and
done such sins of which that thou wert never guilty. For Saint
Augustine saith, 'If that thou, because of humility, makest a
leasing on thyself, though thou were not in sin before, yet art
thou then in sin through thy leasing.' Thou must also shew thy
sin by thine own proper mouth, but [unless] thou be dumb, and
not by letter; for thou that hast done the sin, thou shalt have the
shame of the confession. Thou shalt not paint thy confession
with fair and subtle words, to cover the more thy sin; for then
beguilest thou thyself, and not the priest; thou must tell it
plainly, be it never so foul nor so horrible. Thou shalt eke shrive
thee to a priest that is discreet to counsel thee; and eke thou
shalt not shrive thee for vain-glory, nor for hypocrisy, nor for
no cause but only for the doubt [fear] of Jesus' Christ and the
health of thy soul. Thou shalt not run to the priest all suddenly,
to tell him lightly thy sin, as who telleth a jape [jest] or a tale,
but advisedly and with good devotion; and generally shrive thee
oft; if thou oft fall, oft arise by confession. And though thou
shrive thee oftener than once of sin of which thou hast been
shriven, it is more merit; and, as saith Saint Augustine, thou
shalt have the more lightly [easily] release and grace of God,
both of sin and of pain. And certes, once a year at the least way,
it is lawful to be houseled, <10> for soothly once a year all
things in the earth renovelen [renew themselves].
[Here ends the Second Part of the Treatise; the Third Part,
which contains the practical application of the whole, follows
entire, along with the remarkable 'Prayer of Chaucer,' as it
stands in the Harleian Manuscript:-]
De Tertia Parte Poenitentiae. [Of the third part of penitence]
Now have I told you of very [true] confession, that is the
second part of penitence: The third part of penitence is
satisfaction, and that standeth generally in almsdeed and bodily
pain. Now be there three manner of almsdeed: contrition of
heart, where a man offereth himself to God; the second is, to
have pity of the default of his neighbour; the third is, in giving
of good counsel and comfort, ghostly and bodily, where men
have need, and namely [specially] sustenance of man's food.
And take keep [heed] that a man hath need of these things
generally; he hath need of food, of clothing, and of herberow
[lodging], he hath need of charitable counsel and visiting in
prison and malady, and sepulture of his dead body. And if thou
mayest not visit the needful with thy person, visit them by thy
message and by thy gifts. These be generally alms or works of
charity of them that have temporal riches or discretion in
counselling. Of these works shalt thou hear at the day of doom.
This alms shouldest thou do of thine own proper things, and
hastily [promptly], and privily [secretly] if thou mayest; but
nevertheless, if thou mayest not do it privily, thou shalt not
forbear to do alms, though men see it, so that it be not done for
thank of the world, but only for thank of Jesus Christ. For, as
witnesseth Saint Matthew, chap. v., 'A city may not be hid that
is set on a mountain, nor men light not a lantern and put it
under a bushel, but men set it on a candlestick, to light the men
in the house; right so shall your light lighten before men, that
they may see your good works, and glorify your Father that is
Now as to speak of bodily pain, it is in prayer, in wakings,
[watchings] in fastings, and in virtuous teachings. Of orisons ye
shall understand, that orisons or prayers is to say a piteous will
of heart, that redresseth it in God, and expresseth it by word
outward, to remove harms, and to have things spiritual and
durable, and sometimes temporal things. Of which orisons,
certes in the orison of the Pater noster hath our Lord Jesus
Christ enclosed most things. Certes, it is privileged of three
things in its dignity, for which it is more digne [worthy] than
any other prayer: for Jesus Christ himself made it: and it is
short, for [in order] it should be coude the more lightly, [be
more easily conned or learned] and to withhold [retain] it the
more easy in heart, and help himself the oftener with this orison;
and for a man should be the less weary to say it; and for a man
may not excuse him to learn it, it is so short and so easy: and
for it comprehendeth in itself all good prayers. The exposition
of this holy prayer, that is so excellent and so digne, I betake
[commit] to these masters of theology; save thus much will I
say, when thou prayest that God should forgive thee thy guilts,
as thou forgivest them that they guilt to thee, be full well ware
that thou be not out of charity. This holy orison aminisheth
[lesseneth] eke venial sin, and therefore it appertaineth specially
to penitence. This prayer must be truly said, and in very faith,
and that men pray to God ordinately, discreetly, and devoutly;
and always a man shall put his will to be subject to the will of
God. This orison must eke be said with great humbleness and
full pure, and honestly, and not to the annoyance of any man or
woman. It must eke be continued with the works of charity. It
availeth against the vices of the soul; for, assaith Saint Jerome,
by fasting be saved the vices of the flesh, and by prayer the
vices of the soul
After this thou shalt understand, that bodily pain stands in
waking [watching]. For Jesus Christ saith 'Wake and pray, that
ye enter not into temptation.' Ye shall understand also, that
fasting stands in three things: in forbearing of bodily meat and
drink, and in forbearing of worldly jollity, and in forbearing of
deadly sin; this is to say, that a man shall keep him from deadly
sin in all that he may. And thou shalt understand eke, that God
ordained fasting; and to fasting appertain four things: largeness
[generosity] to poor folk; gladness of heart spiritual; not to be
angry nor annoyed nor grudge [murmur] for he fasteth; and also
reasonable hour for to eat by measure; that is to say, a man
should not eat in untime [out of time], nor sit the longer at his
meal for [because] he fasteth. Then shalt thou understand, that
bodily pain standeth in discipline, or teaching, by word, or by
writing, or by ensample. Also in wearing of hairs [haircloth] or
of stamin [coarse hempen cloth], or of habergeons [mail-shirts]
<11> on their naked flesh for Christ's sake; but ware thee well
that such manner penance of thy flesh make not thine heart
bitter or angry, nor annoyed of thyself; for better is to cast away
thine hair than to cast away the sweetness of our Lord Jesus
Christ. And therefore saith Saint Paul, 'Clothe you, as they that
be chosen of God in heart, of misericorde [with compassion],
debonairte [gentleness], sufferance [patience], and such manner
of clothing,' of which Jesus Christ is more apaid [better
pleased] than of hairs or of hauberks. Then is discipline eke in
knocking of thy breast, in scourging with yards [rods], in
kneelings, in tribulations, in suffering patiently wrongs that be
done to him, and eke in patient sufferance of maladies, or losing
of worldly catel [chattels], or of wife, or of child, or of other
Then shalt thou understand which things disturb penance, and
this is in four things; that is dread, shame, hope, and wanhope,
that is, desperation. And for to speak first of dread, for which
he weeneth that he may suffer no penance, thereagainst is
remedy for to think that bodily penance is but short and little at
the regard of [in comparison with] the pain of hell, that is so
cruel and so long, that it lasteth without end. Now against the
shame that a man hath to shrive him, and namely [specially]
these hypocrites, that would be holden so perfect, that they
have no need to shrive them; against that shame should a man
think, that by way of reason he that hath not been ashamed to
do foul things, certes he ought not to be ashamed to do fair
things, and that is confession. A man should eke think, that God
seeth and knoweth all thy thoughts, and all thy works; to him
may nothing be hid nor covered. Men should eke remember
them of the shame that is to come at the day of doom, to them
that be not penitent and shriven in this present life; for all the
creatures in heaven, and in earth, and in hell, shall see apertly
[openly] all that he hideth in this world.
Now for to speak of them that be so negligent and slow to
shrive them; that stands in two manners. The one is, that he
hopeth to live long, and to purchase [acquire] much riches for
his delight, and then he will shrive him: and, as he sayeth, he
may, as him seemeth, timely enough come to shrift: another is,
the surquedrie [presumption <12>] that he hath in Christ's
mercy. Against the first vice, he shall think that our life is in no
sickerness, [security] and eke that all the riches in this world be
in adventure, and pass as a shadow on the wall; and, as saith St
Gregory, that it appertaineth to the great righteousness of God,
that never shall the pain stint [cease] of them, that never would
withdraw them from sin, their thanks [with their goodwill], but
aye continue in sin; for that perpetual will to do sin shall they
have perpetual pain. Wanhope [despair] is in two manners [of
two kinds]. The first wanhope is, in the mercy of God: the other
is, that they think they might not long persevere in goodness.
The first wanhope cometh of that he deemeth that he sinned so
highly and so oft, and so long hath lain in sin, that he shall not
be saved. Certes against that cursed wanhope should he think,
that the passion of Jesus Christ is more strong for to unbind,
than sin is strong for to bind. Against the second wanhope he
shall think, that as oft as he falleth, he may arise again by
penitence; and though he never so long hath lain in sin, the
mercy of Christ is always ready to receive him to mercy.
Against the wanhope that he thinketh he should not long
persevere in goodness, he shall think that the feebleness of the
devil may nothing do, but [unless] men will suffer him; and eke
he shall have strength of the help of God, and of all Holy
Church, and of the protection of angels, if him list.
Then shall men understand, what is the fruit of penance; and
after the word of Jesus Christ, it is the endless bliss of heaven,
where joy hath no contrariety of woe nor of penance nor
grievance; there all harms be passed of this present life; there as
is the sickerness [security] from the pain of hell; there as is the
blissful company, that rejoice them evermore each of the other's
joy; there as the body of man, that whilom was foul and dark, is
more clear than the sun; there as the body of man that whilom
was sick and frail, feeble and mortal, is immortal, and so strong
and so whole, that there may nothing apair [impair, injure] it;
there is neither hunger, nor thirst, nor cold, but every soul
replenished with the sight of the perfect knowing of God. This
blissful regne [kingdom] may men purchase by poverty spiritual,
and the glory by lowliness, the plenty of joy by hunger and
thirst, the rest by travail, and the life by death and mortification
of sin; to which life He us bring, that bought us with his
precious blood! Amen.
The Merchant's Tale
'Weeping and wailing, care and other sorrow,
I have enough, on even and on morrow,'
Quoth the Merchant, 'and so have other mo',
That wedded be; I trow* that it be so; *believe
For well I wot it fareth so by me.
I have a wife, the worste that may be,
For though the fiend to her y-coupled were,
She would him overmatch, I dare well swear.
Why should I you rehearse in special
Her high malice? she is *a shrew at all.* *thoroughly, in
There is a long and large difference everything wicked*
Betwixt Griselda's greate patience,
And of my wife the passing cruelty.
Were I unbounden, all so may I the,* *thrive
I woulde never eft* come in the snare. *again
We wedded men live in sorrow and care;
Assay it whoso will, and he shall find
That I say sooth, by Saint Thomas of Ind,<2>
As for the more part; I say not all, -
God shielde* that it shoulde so befall. *forbid
Ah! good Sir Host, I have y-wedded be
These moneths two, and more not, pardie;
And yet I trow* that he that all his life *believe
Wifeless hath been, though that men would him rive* *wound
Into the hearte, could in no mannere
Telle so much sorrow, as I you here
Could tellen of my wife's cursedness.'* *wickedness
'Now,' quoth our Host, 'Merchant, so God you bless,
Since ye so muche knowen of that art,
Full heartily I pray you tell us part.'
'Gladly,' quoth he; 'but of mine owen sore,
For sorry heart, I telle may no more.'
Whilom there was dwelling in Lombardy
A worthy knight, that born was at Pavie,
In which he liv'd in great prosperity;
And forty years a wifeless man was he,
And follow'd aye his bodily delight
On women, where as was his appetite,
As do these fooles that be seculeres.<2>
And, when that he was passed sixty years,
Were it for holiness, or for dotage,
I cannot say, but such a great corage* *inclination
Hadde this knight to be a wedded man,
That day and night he did all that he can
To espy where that he might wedded be;
Praying our Lord to grante him, that he
Mighte once knowen of that blissful life
That is betwixt a husband and his wife,
And for to live under that holy bond
With which God firste man and woman bond.
'None other life,' said he, 'is worth a bean;
For wedlock is so easy, and so clean,
That in this world it is a paradise.'
Thus said this olde knight, that was so wise.
And certainly, as sooth* as God is king, *true
To take a wife it is a glorious thing,
And namely* when a man is old and hoar, *especially
Then is a wife the fruit of his treasor;
Then should he take a young wife and a fair,
On which he might engender him an heir,
And lead his life in joy and in solace;* *mirth, delight
Whereas these bachelors singen 'Alas!'
When that they find any adversity
In love, which is but childish vanity.
And truely it sits* well to be so, *becomes, befits
That bachelors have often pain and woe:
On brittle ground they build, and brittleness
They finde when they *weene sickerness:* *think that there
They live but as a bird or as a beast, is security*
In liberty, and under no arrest;* *check, control
Whereas a wedded man in his estate
Liveth a life blissful and ordinate,
Under the yoke of marriage y-bound;
Well may his heart in joy and bliss abound.
For who can be so buxom* as a wife? *obedient
Who is so true, and eke so attentive
To keep* him, sick and whole, as is his make?** *care for **mate
For weal or woe she will him not forsake:
She is not weary him to love and serve,
Though that he lie bedrid until he sterve.* *die
And yet some clerkes say it is not so;
Of which he, Theophrast, is one of tho:* *those
*What force* though Theophrast list for to lie? *what matter*
'Take no wife,' quoth he, <3> 'for husbandry,* *thrift
As for to spare in household thy dispence;
A true servant doth more diligence
Thy good to keep, than doth thine owen wife,
For she will claim a half part all her life.
And if that thou be sick, so God me save,
Thy very friendes, or a true knave,* *servant
Will keep thee bet than she, that *waiteth aye *ahways waits to
After thy good,* and hath done many a day.' inherit your property*
This sentence, and a hundred times worse,
Writeth this man, there God his bones curse.
But take no keep* of all such vanity, *notice
Defy* Theophrast, and hearken to me. *distrust
A wife is Godde's gifte verily;
All other manner giftes hardily,* *truly
As handes, rentes, pasture, or commune,* *common land
Or mebles,* all be giftes of fortune, *furniture <4>
That passen as a shadow on the wall:
But dread* thou not, if plainly speak I shall, *doubt
A wife will last, and in thine house endure,
Well longer than thee list, paraventure.* *perhaps
Marriage is a full great sacrament;
He which that hath no wife, I hold him shent;* *ruined
He liveth helpless, and all desolate
(I speak of folk *in secular estate*): *who are not
And hearken why, I say not this for nought, - of the clergy*
That woman is for manne's help y-wrought.
The highe God, when he had Adam maked,
And saw him all alone belly naked,
God of his greate goodness saide then,
Let us now make a help unto this man
Like to himself; and then he made him Eve.
Here may ye see, and hereby may ye preve,* *prove
That a wife is man s help and his comfort,
His paradise terrestre and his disport.
So buxom* and so virtuous is she, *obedient, complying
They muste needes live in unity;
One flesh they be, and one blood, as I guess,
With but one heart in weal and in distress.
A wife? Ah! Saint Mary, ben'dicite,
How might a man have any adversity
That hath a wife? certes I cannot say
The bliss the which that is betwixt them tway,
There may no tongue it tell, or hearte think.
If he be poor, she helpeth him to swink;* *labour
She keeps his good, and wasteth never a deal;* *whit
All that her husband list, her liketh* well; *pleaseth
She saith not ones Nay, when he saith Yea;
'Do this,' saith he; 'All ready, Sir,' saith she.
O blissful order, wedlock precious!
Thou art so merry, and eke so virtuous,
And so commended and approved eke,
That every man that holds him worth a leek
Upon his bare knees ought all his life
To thank his God, that him hath sent a wife;
Or elles pray to God him for to send
A wife, to last unto his life's end.
For then his life is set in sickerness,* *security
He may not be deceived, as I guess,
So that he work after his wife's rede;* *counsel
Then may he boldely bear up his head,
They be so true, and therewithal so wise.
For which, if thou wilt worken as the wise,
Do alway so as women will thee rede. * *counsel
Lo how that Jacob, as these clerkes read,
By good counsel of his mother Rebecc'
Bounde the kiddes skin about his neck;
For which his father's benison* he wan. *benediction
Lo Judith, as the story telle can,
By good counsel she Godde's people kept,
And slew him, Holofernes, while he slept.
Lo Abigail, by good counsel, how she
Saved her husband Nabal, when that he
Should have been slain. And lo, Esther also
By counsel good deliver'd out of woe
The people of God, and made him, Mardoche,
Of Assuere enhanced* for to be. *advanced in dignity
There is nothing *in gree superlative* *of higher esteem*
(As saith Senec) above a humble wife.
Suffer thy wife's tongue, as Cato bit;* *bid
She shall command, and thou shalt suffer it,
And yet she will obey of courtesy.
A wife is keeper of thine husbandry:
Well may the sicke man bewail and weep,
There as there is no wife the house to keep.
I warne thee, if wisely thou wilt wirch,* *work
Love well thy wife, as Christ loveth his church:
Thou lov'st thyself, if thou lovest thy wife.
No man hateth his flesh, but in his life
He fost'reth it; and therefore bid I thee
Cherish thy wife, or thou shalt never the.* *thrive
Husband and wife, what *so men jape or play,* *although men joke
Of worldly folk holde the sicker* way; and jeer* *certain
They be so knit there may no harm betide,
And namely* upon the wife's side. * especially
For which this January, of whom I told,
Consider'd hath within his dayes old,
The lusty life, the virtuous quiet,
That is in marriage honey-sweet.
And for his friends upon a day he sent
To tell them the effect of his intent.
With face sad,* his tale he hath them told: *grave, earnest
He saide, 'Friendes, I am hoar and old,
And almost (God wot) on my pitte's* brink, *grave's
Upon my soule somewhat must I think.
I have my body foolishly dispended,
Blessed be God that it shall be amended;
For I will be certain a wedded man,
And that anon in all the haste I can,
Unto some maiden, fair and tender of age;
I pray you shape* for my marriage * arrange, contrive
All suddenly, for I will not abide:
And I will fond* to espy, on my side, *try
To whom I may be wedded hastily.
But forasmuch as ye be more than,
Ye shalle rather* such a thing espy
Than I, and where me best were to ally.
But one thing warn I you, my friendes dear,
I will none old wife have in no mannere:
She shall not passe sixteen year certain.
Old fish and younge flesh would I have fain.
Better,' quoth he, 'a pike than a pickerel,* *young pike
And better than old beef is tender veal.
I will no woman thirty year of age,
It is but beanestraw and great forage.
And eke these olde widows (God it wot)
They conne* so much craft on Wade's boat,<5> *know
*So muche brooke harm when that them lest,* *they can do so much
That with them should I never live in rest. harm when they wish*
For sundry schooles make subtle clerkes;
Woman of many schooles half a clerk is.
But certainly a young thing men may guy,* *guide
Right as men may warm wax with handes ply.* *bend,mould
Wherefore I say you plainly in a clause,
I will none old wife have, right for this cause.
For if so were I hadde such mischance,
That I in her could have no pleasance,
Then should I lead my life in avoutrie,* *adultery
And go straight to the devil when I die.
Nor children should I none upon her getten:
Yet *were me lever* houndes had me eaten *I would rather*
Than that mine heritage shoulde fall
In strange hands: and this I tell you all.
I doubte not I know the cause why
Men shoulde wed: and farthermore know I
There speaketh many a man of marriage
That knows no more of it than doth my page,
For what causes a man should take a wife.
If he ne may not live chaste his life,
Take him a wife with great devotion,
Because of lawful procreation
Of children, to th' honour of God above,
And not only for paramour or love;
And for they shoulde lechery eschew,
And yield their debte when that it is due:
Or for that each of them should help the other
In mischief,* as a sister shall the brother, *trouble
And live in chastity full holily.
But, Sires, by your leave, that am not I,
For, God be thanked, I dare make avaunt,* *boast
I feel my limbes stark* and suffisant *strong
To do all that a man belongeth to:
I wot myselfe best what I may do.
Though I be hoar, I fare as doth a tree,
That blossoms ere the fruit y-waxen* be; *grown
The blossomy tree is neither dry nor dead;
I feel me now here hoar but on my head.
Mine heart and all my limbes are as green
As laurel through the year is for to seen.* *see
And, since that ye have heard all mine intent,
I pray you to my will ye would assent.'
Diverse men diversely him told
Of marriage many examples old;
Some blamed it, some praised it, certain;
But at the haste, shortly for to sayn
(As all day* falleth altercation *constantly, every day
Betwixte friends in disputation),
There fell a strife betwixt his brethren two,
Of which that one was called Placebo,
Justinus soothly called was that other.
Placebo said; 'O January, brother,
Full little need have ye, my lord so dear,
Counsel to ask of any that is here:
But that ye be so full of sapience,
That you not liketh, for your high prudence,
To waive* from the word of Solomon. *depart, deviate
This word said he unto us every one;
Work alle thing by counsel, - thus said he, -
And thenne shalt thou not repente thee
But though that Solomon spake such a word,
Mine owen deare brother and my lord,
So wisly* God my soule bring at rest, *surely
I hold your owen counsel is the best.
For, brother mine, take of me this motive; * *advice, encouragement
I have now been a court-man all my life,
And, God it wot, though I unworthy be,
I have standen in full great degree
Aboute lordes of full high estate;
Yet had I ne'er with none of them debate;
I never them contraried truely.
I know well that my lord can* more than I; *knows
What that he saith I hold it firm and stable,
I say the same, or else a thing semblable.
A full great fool is any counsellor
That serveth any lord of high honour
That dare presume, or ones thinken it;
That his counsel should pass his lorde's wit.
Nay, lordes be no fooles by my fay.
Ye have yourselfe shewed here to day
So high sentence,* so holily and well *judgment, sentiment
That I consent, and confirm *every deal* *in every point*
Your wordes all, and your opinioun
By God, there is no man in all this town
Nor in Itale, could better have y-said.
Christ holds him of this counsel well apaid.* *satisfied
And truely it is a high courage
Of any man that stopen* is in age, *advanced <6>
To take a young wife, by my father's kin;
Your hearte hangeth on a jolly pin.
Do now in this matter right as you lest,
For finally I hold it for the best.'
Justinus, that aye stille sat and heard,
Right in this wise to Placebo answer'd.
'Now, brother mine, be patient I pray,
Since ye have said, and hearken what I say.
Senec, among his other wordes wise,
Saith, that a man ought him right well advise,* *consider
To whom he gives his hand or his chattel.
And since I ought advise me right well
To whom I give my good away from me,
Well more I ought advise me, pardie,
To whom I give my body: for alway
I warn you well it is no childe's play
To take a wife without advisement.
Men must inquire (this is mine assent)
Whe'er she be wise, or sober, or dronkelew,* *given to drink
Or proud, or any other ways a shrew,
A chidester,* or a waster of thy good, *a scold
Or rich or poor; or else a man is wood.* *mad
Albeit so, that no man finde shall
None in this world, that *trotteth whole in all,* *is sound in
No man, nor beast, such as men can devise,* every point* *describe
But nathehess it ought enough suffice
With any wife, if so were that she had
More goode thewes* than her vices bad: * qualities
And all this asketh leisure to inquere.
For, God it wot, I have wept many a tear
Full privily, since I have had a wife.
Praise whoso will a wedded manne's life,
Certes, I find in it but cost and care,
And observances of all blisses bare.
And yet, God wot, my neighebours about,
And namely* of women many a rout,** *especially **company
Say that I have the moste steadfast wife,
And eke the meekest one, that beareth life.
But I know best where wringeth* me my shoe, *pinches
Ye may for me right as you like do
Advise you, ye be a man of age,
How that ye enter into marriage;
And namely* with a young wife and a fair, * especially
By him that made water, fire, earth, air,
The youngest man that is in all this rout* *company
Is busy enough to bringen it about
To have his wife alone, truste me:
Ye shall not please her fully yeares three,
This is to say, to do her full pleasance.
A wife asketh full many an observance.
I pray you that ye be not *evil apaid.'* *displeased*
'Well,' quoth this January, 'and hast thou said?
Straw for thy Senec, and for thy proverbs,
I counte not a pannier full of herbs
Of schoole termes; wiser men than thou,
As thou hast heard, assented here right now
To my purpose: Placebo, what say ye?'
'I say it is a cursed* man,' quoth he, *ill-natured, wicked
'That letteth* matrimony, sickerly.' *hindereth
And with that word they rise up suddenly,
And be assented fully, that he should
Be wedded when him list, and where he would.
High fantasy and curious business
From day to day gan in the soul impress* *imprint themselves
Of January about his marriage
Many a fair shape, and many a fair visage
There passed through his hearte night by night.
As whoso took a mirror polish'd bright,
And set it in a common market-place,
Then should he see many a figure pace
By his mirror; and in the same wise
Gan January in his thought devise
Of maidens, which that dwelte him beside:
He wiste not where that he might abide.* *stay, fix his choice
For if that one had beauty in her face,
Another stood so in the people's grace
For her sadness* and her benignity, *sedateness
That of the people greatest voice had she:
And some were rich and had a badde name.
But natheless, betwixt earnest and game,
He at the last appointed him on one,
And let all others from his hearte gon,
And chose her of his own authority;
For love is blind all day, and may not see.
And when that he was into bed y-brought,
He pourtray'd in his heart and in his thought
Her freshe beauty, and her age tender,
Her middle small, her armes long and slender,
Her wise governance, her gentleness,
Her womanly bearing, and her sadness.* *sedateness
And when that he *on her was condescended,* *had selected her*
He thought his choice might not be amended;
For when that he himself concluded had,
He thought each other manne' s wit so bad,
That impossible it were to reply
Against his choice; this was his fantasy.
His friendes sent he to, at his instance,
And prayed them to do him that pleasance,
That hastily they would unto him come;
He would abridge their labour all and some:
Needed no more for them to go nor ride,<7>
*He was appointed where he would abide.* *he had definitively
Placebo came, and eke his friendes soon, made his choice*
And *alderfirst he bade them all a boon,* *first of all he asked
That none of them no arguments would make a favour of them*
Against the purpose that he had y-take:
Which purpose was pleasant to God, said he,
And very ground of his prosperity.
He said, there was a maiden in the town,
Which that of beauty hadde great renown;
All* were it so she were of small degree, *although
Sufficed him her youth and her beauty;
Which maid, he said, he would have to his wife,
To lead in ease and holiness his life;
And thanked God, that he might have her all,
That no wight with his blisse parte* shall; *have a share
And prayed them to labour in this need,
And shape that he faile not to speed:
For then, he said, his spirit was at ease.
'Then is,' quoth he, 'nothing may me displease,
Save one thing pricketh in my conscience,
The which I will rehearse in your presence.
I have,' quoth he, 'heard said, full yore* ago, *long
There may no man have perfect blisses two,
This is to say, on earth and eke in heaven.
For though he keep him from the sinne's seven,
And eke from every branch of thilke tree,<8>
Yet is there so perfect felicity,
And so great *ease and lust,* in marriage, *comfort and pleasure*
That ev'r I am aghast,* now in mine age *ashamed, afraid
That I shall head now so merry a life,
So delicate, withoute woe or strife,
That I shall have mine heav'n on earthe here.
For since that very heav'n is bought so dear,
With tribulation and great penance,
How should I then, living in such pleasance
As alle wedded men do with their wives,
Come to the bliss where Christ *etern on live is?* *lives eternally*
This is my dread;* and ye, my brethren tway, *doubt
Assoile* me this question, I you pray.' *resolve, answer
Justinus, which that hated his folly,
Answer'd anon right in his japery;* *mockery, jesting way
And, for he would his longe tale abridge,
He woulde no authority* allege, *written texts
But saide; 'Sir, so there be none obstacle
Other than this, God of his high miracle,
And of his mercy, may so for you wirch,* *work
That, ere ye have your rights of holy church,
Ye may repent of wedded manne's life,
In which ye say there is no woe nor strife:
And elles God forbid, *but if* he sent *unless
A wedded man his grace him to repent
Well often, rather than a single man.
And therefore, Sir, *the beste rede I can,* *this is the best counsel
Despair you not, but have in your memory, that I know*
Paraventure she may be your purgatory;
She may be Godde's means, and Godde's whip;
And then your soul shall up to heaven skip
Swifter than doth an arrow from a bow.
I hope to God hereafter ye shall know
That there is none so great felicity
In marriage, nor ever more shall be,
That you shall let* of your salvation; *hinder
So that ye use, as skill is and reason,
The lustes* of your wife attemperly,** *pleasures **moderately
And that ye please her not too amorously,
And that ye keep you eke from other sin.
My tale is done, for my wit is but thin.
Be not aghast* hereof, my brother dear, *aharmed, afraid
But let us waden out of this mattere,
The Wife of Bath, if ye have understand,
Of marriage, which ye have now in hand,
Declared hath full well in little space;
Fare ye now well, God have you in his grace.'
And with this word this Justin' and his brother
Have ta'en their leave, and each of them of other.
And when they saw that it must needes be,
They wroughte so, by sleight and wise treaty,
That she, this maiden, which that *Maius hight,* *was named May*
As hastily as ever that she might,
Shall wedded be unto this January.
I trow it were too longe you to tarry,
If I told you of every *script and band* *written bond*
By which she was feoffed in his hand;
Or for to reckon of her rich array
But finally y-comen is the day
That to the churche bothe be they went,
For to receive the holy sacrament,
Forth came the priest, with stole about his neck,
And bade her be like Sarah and Rebecc'
In wisdom and in truth of marriage;
And said his orisons, as is usage,
And crouched* them, and prayed God should them bless, *crossed
And made all sicker* enough with holiness. *certain
Thus be they wedded with solemnity;
And at the feaste sat both he and she,
With other worthy folk, upon the dais.
All full of joy and bliss is the palace,
And full of instruments, and of vitaille, * *victuals, food
The moste dainteous* of all Itale. *delicate
Before them stood such instruments of soun',
That Orpheus, nor of Thebes Amphioun,
Ne made never such a melody.
At every course came in loud minstrelsy,
That never Joab trumped for to hear,
Nor he, Theodomas, yet half so clear
At Thebes, when the city was in doubt.
Bacchus the wine them skinked* all about. *poured <9>
And Venus laughed upon every wight
(For January was become her knight,
And woulde both assaye his courage
In liberty, and eke in marriage),
And with her firebrand in her hand about
Danced before the bride and all the rout.
And certainly I dare right well say this,
Hymeneus, that god of wedding is,
Saw never his life so merry a wedded man.
Hold thou thy peace, thou poet Marcian,<10>
That writest us that ilke* wedding merry *same
Of her Philology and him Mercury,
And of the songes that the Muses sung;
Too small is both thy pen, and eke thy tongue
For to describen of this marriage.
When tender youth hath wedded stooping age,
There is such mirth that it may not be writ;
Assay it youreself, then may ye wit* *know
If that I lie or no in this mattere.
Maius, that sat with so benign a cheer,* *countenance
Her to behold it seemed faerie;
Queen Esther never look'd with such an eye
On Assuere, so meek a look had she;
I may you not devise all her beauty;
But thus much of her beauty tell I may,
That she was hike the bright morrow of May
Full filled of all beauty and pleasance.
This January is ravish'd in a trance,
At every time he looked in her face;
But in his heart he gan her to menace,
That he that night in armes would her strain
Harder than ever Paris did Helene.
But natheless yet had he great pity
That thilke night offende her must he,
And thought, 'Alas, O tender creature,
Now woulde God ye mighte well endure
All my courage, it is so sharp and keen;
I am aghast* ye shall it not sustene. *afraid
But God forbid that I did all my might.
Now woulde God that it were waxen night,
And that the night would lasten evermo'.
I would that all this people were y-go.'* *gone away
And finally he did all his labour,
As he best mighte, saving his honour,
To haste them from the meat in subtle wise.
The time came that reason was to rise;
And after that men dance, and drinke fast,
And spices all about the house they cast,
And full of joy and bliss is every man,
All but a squire, that highte Damian,
Who carv'd before the knight full many a day;
He was so ravish'd on his lady May,
That for the very pain he was nigh wood;* *mad
Almost he swelt* and swooned where he stood, *fainted
So sore had Venus hurt him with her brand,
As that she bare it dancing in her hand.
And to his bed he went him hastily;
No more of him as at this time speak I;
But there I let him weep enough and plain,* *bewail
Till freshe May will rue upon his pain.
O perilous fire, that in the bedstraw breedeth!
O foe familiar,* that his service bedeth!** *domestic <11> **offers
O servant traitor, O false homely hewe,* *servant <12>
Like to the adder in bosom shy untrue,
God shield us alle from your acquaintance!
O January, drunken in pleasance
Of marriage, see how thy Damian,
Thine owen squier and thy boren* man, *born <13>
Intendeth for to do thee villainy:* *dishonour, outrage
God grante thee thine *homehy foe* t' espy. *enemy in the household*
For in this world is no worse pestilence
Than homely foe, all day in thy presence.
Performed hath the sun his arc diurn,* *daily
No longer may the body of him sojourn
On the horizon, in that latitude:
Night with his mantle, that is dark and rude,
Gan overspread the hemisphere about:
For which departed is this *lusty rout* *pleasant company*
From January, with thank on every side.
Home to their houses lustily they ride,
Where as they do their thinges as them lest,
And when they see their time they go to rest.
Soon after that this hasty* January *eager
Will go to bed, he will no longer tarry.
He dranke hippocras, clarre, and vernage <14>
Of spices hot, to increase his courage;
And many a lectuary* had he full fine, *potion
Such as the cursed monk Dan Constantine<15>
Hath written in his book *de Coitu;* *of sexual intercourse*
To eat them all he would nothing eschew:
And to his privy friendes thus said he:
'For Godde's love, as soon as it may be,
Let *voiden all* this house in courteous wise.' *everyone leave*
And they have done right as he will devise.
Men drinken, and the travers* draw anon; *curtains
The bride is brought to bed as still as stone;
And when the bed was with the priest y-bless'd,
Out of the chamber every wight him dress'd,
And January hath fast in arms y-take
His freshe May, his paradise, his make.* *mate
He lulled her, he kissed her full oft;
With thicke bristles of his beard unsoft,
Like to the skin of houndfish,* sharp as brere** *dogfish **briar
(For he was shav'n all new in his mannere),
He rubbed her upon her tender face,
And saide thus; 'Alas! I must trespace
To you, my spouse, and you greatly offend,
Ere time come that I will down descend.
But natheless consider this,' quoth he,
'There is no workman, whatsoe'er he be,
That may both worke well and hastily:
This will be done at leisure perfectly.
It is *no force* how longe that we play; *no matter*
In true wedlock coupled be we tway;
And blessed be the yoke that we be in,
For in our actes may there be no sin.
A man may do no sinne with his wife,
Nor hurt himselfe with his owen knife;
For we have leave to play us by the law.'
Thus labour'd he, till that the day gan daw,
And then he took a sop in fine clarre,
And upright in his bedde then sat he.
And after that he sang full loud and clear,
And kiss'd his wife, and made wanton cheer.
He was all coltish, full of ragerie * *wantonness
And full of jargon as a flecked pie.<16>
The slacke skin about his necke shaked,
While that he sang, so chanted he and craked.* *quavered
But God wot what that May thought in her heart,
When she him saw up sitting in his shirt
In his night-cap, and with his necke lean:
She praised not his playing worth a bean.
Then said he thus; 'My reste will I take
Now day is come, I may no longer wake;
And down he laid his head and slept till prime.
And afterward, when that he saw his time,
Up rose January, but freshe May
Helde her chamber till the fourthe day,
As usage is of wives for the best.
For every labour some time must have rest,
Or elles longe may he not endure;
This is to say, no life of creature,
Be it of fish, or bird, or beast, or man.
Now will I speak of woeful Damian,
That languisheth for love, as ye shall hear;
Therefore I speak to him in this manneare.
I say. 'O silly Damian, alas!
Answer to this demand, as in this case,
How shalt thou to thy lady, freshe May,
Telle thy woe? She will alway say nay;
Eke if thou speak, she will thy woe bewray; * *betray
God be thine help, I can no better say.
This sicke Damian in Venus' fire
So burned that he died for desire;
For which he put his life *in aventure,* *at risk*
No longer might he in this wise endure;
But privily a penner* gan he borrow, *writing-case
And in a letter wrote he all his sorrow,
In manner of a complaint or a lay,
Unto his faire freshe lady May.
And in a purse of silk, hung on his shirt,
He hath it put, and laid it at his heart.
The moone, that at noon was thilke* day *that
That January had wedded freshe May,
In ten of Taure, was into Cancer glided;<17>
So long had Maius in her chamber abided,
As custom is unto these nobles all.
A bride shall not eaten in the ball
Till dayes four, or three days at the least,
Y-passed be; then let her go to feast.
The fourthe day complete from noon to noon,
When that the highe masse was y-done,
In halle sat this January, and May,
As fresh as is the brighte summer's day.
And so befell, how that this goode man
Remember'd him upon this Damian.
And saide; 'Saint Mary, how may this be,
That Damian attendeth not to me?
Is he aye sick? or how may this betide?'
His squiers, which that stoode there beside,
Excused him, because of his sickness,
Which letted* him to do his business: *hindered
None other cause mighte make him tarry.
'That me forthinketh,'* quoth this January *grieves, causes
'He is a gentle squier, by my truth; uneasiness
If that he died, it were great harm and ruth.
He is as wise, as discreet, and secre',* *secret, trusty
As any man I know of his degree,
And thereto manly and eke serviceble,
And for to be a thrifty man right able.
But after meat, as soon as ever I may
I will myself visit him, and eke May,
To do him all the comfort that I can.'
And for that word him blessed every man,
That of his bounty and his gentleness
He woulde so comforten in sickness
His squier, for it was a gentle deed.
'Dame,' quoth this January, 'take good heed,
At after meat, ye with your women all
(When that ye be in chamb'r out of this hall),
That all ye go to see this Damian:
Do him disport, he is a gentle man;
And telle him that I will him visite,
*Have I nothing but rested me a lite:* *when only I have rested
And speed you faste, for I will abide me a little*
Till that ye sleepe faste by my side.'
And with that word he gan unto him call
A squier, that was marshal of his hall,
And told him certain thinges that he wo'ld.
This freshe May hath straight her way y-hold,
With all her women, unto Damian.
Down by his beddes side sat she than,* *then
Comforting him as goodly as she may.
This Damian, when that his time he say,* *saw
In secret wise his purse, and eke his bill,
In which that he y-written had his will,
Hath put into her hand withoute more,
Save that he sighed wondrous deep and sore,
And softely to her right thus said he:
'Mercy, and that ye not discover me:
For I am dead if that this thing be kid.'* *discovered <18>
The purse hath she in her bosom hid,
And went her way; ye get no more of me;
But unto January come is she,
That on his bedde's side sat full soft.
He took her, and he kissed her full oft,
And laid him down to sleep, and that anon.
She feigned her as that she muste gon
There as ye know that every wight must need;
And when she of this bill had taken heed,
She rent it all to cloutes* at the last, *fragments
And in the privy softely it cast.
Who studieth* now but faire freshe May? *is thoughtful
Adown by olde January she lay,
That slepte, till the cough had him awaked:
Anon he pray'd her strippe her all naked,
He would of her, he said, have some pleasance;
And said her clothes did him incumbrance.
And she obey'd him, be her *lefe or loth.* *willing or unwilling*
But, lest that precious* folk be with me wroth, *over-nice <19>
How that he wrought I dare not to you tell,
Or whether she thought it paradise or hell;
But there I let them worken in their wise
Till evensong ring, and they must arise.
Were it by destiny, or aventure,* * chance
Were it by influence, or by nature,
Or constellation, that in such estate
The heaven stood at that time fortunate
As for to put a bill of Venus' works
(For alle thing hath time, as say these clerks),
To any woman for to get her love,
I cannot say; but greate God above,
That knoweth that none act is causeless,
*He deem* of all, for I will hold my peace. *let him judge*
But sooth is this, how that this freshe May
Hath taken such impression that day
Of pity on this sicke Damian,
That from her hearte she not drive can
The remembrance for *to do him ease.* *to satisfy
'Certain,' thought she, 'whom that this thing displease his desire*
I recke not, for here I him assure,
To love him best of any creature,
Though he no more haddee than his shirt.'
Lo, pity runneth soon in gentle heart.
Here may ye see, how excellent franchise* *generosity
In women is when they them *narrow advise.* *closely consider*
Some tyrant is, - as there be many a one, -
That hath a heart as hard as any stone,
Which would have let him sterven* in the place *die
Well rather than have granted him her grace;
And then rejoicen in her cruel pride.
And reckon not to be a homicide.
This gentle May, full filled of pity,
Right of her hand a letter maked she,
In which she granted him her very grace;
There lacked nought, but only day and place,
Where that she might unto his lust suffice:
For it shall be right as he will devise.
And when she saw her time upon a day
To visit this Damian went this May,
And subtilly this letter down she thrust
Under his pillow, read it if him lust.* *pleased
She took him by the hand, and hard him twist
So secretly, that no wight of it wist,
And bade him be all whole; and forth she went
To January, when he for her sent.
Up rose Damian the nexte morrow,
All passed was his sickness and his sorrow.
He combed him, he proined <20> him and picked,
He did all that unto his lady liked;
And eke to January he went as low
As ever did a dogge for the bow.<21>
He is so pleasant unto every man
(For craft is all, whoso that do it can),
Every wight is fain to speak him good;
And fully in his lady's grace he stood.
Thus leave I Damian about his need,
And in my tale forth I will proceed.
Some clerke* holde that felicity *writers, scholars
Stands in delight; and therefore certain he,
This noble January, with all his might
In honest wise as longeth* to a knight, *belongeth
Shope* him to live full deliciously: *prepared, arranged
His housing, his array, as honestly* *honourably, suitably
To his degree was maked as a king's.
Amonges other of his honest things
He had a garden walled all with stone;
So fair a garden wot I nowhere none.
For out of doubt I verily suppose
That he that wrote the Romance of the Rose <22>
Could not of it the beauty well devise;* *describe
Nor Priapus <23> mighte not well suffice,
Though he be god of gardens, for to tell
The beauty of the garden, and the well* *fountain
That stood under a laurel always green.
Full often time he, Pluto, and his queen
Proserpina, and all their faerie,
Disported them and made melody
About that well, and danced, as men told.
This noble knight, this January old
Such dainty* had in it to walk and play, *pleasure
That he would suffer no wight to bear the key,
Save he himself, for of the small wicket
He bare always of silver a cliket,* *key
With which, when that him list, he it unshet.* *opened
And when that he would pay his wife's debt,
In summer season, thither would he go,
And May his wife, and no wight but they two;
And thinges which that were not done in bed,
He in the garden them perform'd and sped.
And in this wise many a merry day
Lived this January and fresh May,
But worldly joy may not always endure
To January, nor to no creatucere.
O sudden hap! O thou fortune unstable!
Like to the scorpion so deceivable,* *deceitful
That fhatt'rest with thy head when thou wilt sting;
Thy tail is death, through thine envenoming.
O brittle joy! O sweete poison quaint!* *strange
O monster, that so subtilly canst paint
Thy giftes, under hue of steadfastness,
That thou deceivest bothe *more and less!* *great and small*
Why hast thou January thus deceiv'd,
That haddest him for thy full friend receiv'd?
And now thou hast bereft him both his eyen,
For sorrow of which desireth he to dien.
Alas! this noble January free,
Amid his lust* and his prosperity *pleasure
Is waxen blind, and that all suddenly.
He weeped and he wailed piteously;
And therewithal the fire of jealousy
(Lest that his wife should fall in some folly)
So burnt his hearte, that he woulde fain,
That some man bothe him and her had slain;
For neither after his death, nor in his life,
Ne would he that she were no love nor wife,
But ever live as widow in clothes black,
Sole as the turtle that hath lost her make.* *mate
But at the last, after a month or tway,
His sorrow gan assuage, soothe to say.
For, when he wist it might none other be,
He patiently took his adversity:
Save out of doubte he may not foregon
That he was jealous evermore-in-one:* *continually
Which jealousy was so outrageous,
That neither in hall, nor in none other house,
Nor in none other place never the mo'
He woulde suffer her to ride or go,
*But if* that he had hand on her alway. *unless
For which full often wepte freshe May,
That loved Damian so burningly
That she must either dien suddenly,
Or elles she must have him as her lest:* *pleased
She waited* when her hearte woulde brest.** *expected **burst
Upon that other side Damian
Becomen is the sorrowfullest man
That ever was; for neither night nor day
He mighte speak a word to freshe May,
As to his purpose, of no such mattere,
*But if* that January must it hear, *unless*
That had a hand upon her evermo'.
But natheless, by writing to and fro,
And privy signes, wist he what she meant,
And she knew eke the fine* of his intent. *end, aim
O January, what might it thee avail,
Though thou might see as far as shippes sail?
For as good is it blind deceiv'd to be,
As be deceived when a man may see.
Lo, Argus, which that had a hundred eyen, <24>
For all that ever he could pore or pryen,
Yet was he blent;* and, God wot, so be mo', *deceived
That *weene wisly* that it be not so: *think confidently*
Pass over is an ease, I say no more.
This freshe May, of which I spake yore,* *previously
In warm wax hath *imprinted the cliket* *taken an impression
That January bare of the small wicket of the key*
By which into his garden oft he went;
And Damian, that knew all her intent,
The cliket counterfeited privily;
There is no more to say, but hastily
Some wonder by this cliket shall betide,
Which ye shall hearen, if ye will abide.
O noble Ovid, sooth say'st thou, God wot,
What sleight is it, if love be long and hot,
That he'll not find it out in some mannere?
By Pyramus and Thisbe may men lear;* *learn
Though they were kept full long and strait o'er all,
They be accorded,* rowning** through a wall, *agreed **whispering
Where no wight could have found out such a sleight.
But now to purpose; ere that dayes eight
Were passed of the month of July, fill* *it befell
That January caught so great a will,
Through egging* of his wife, him for to play *inciting
In his garden, and no wight but they tway,
That in a morning to this May said he: <25>
'Rise up, my wife, my love, my lady free;
The turtle's voice is heard, mine owen sweet;
The winter is gone, with all his raines weet.* *wet
Come forth now with thine *eyen columbine* *eyes like the doves*
Well fairer be thy breasts than any wine.
The garden is enclosed all about;
Come forth, my white spouse; for, out of doubt,
Thou hast me wounded in mine heart, O wife:
No spot in thee was e'er in all thy life.
Come forth, and let us taken our disport;
I choose thee for my wife and my comfort.'
Such olde lewed* wordes used he. *foolish, ignorant
On Damian a signe made she,
That he should go before with his cliket.
This Damian then hath opened the wicket,
And in he start, and that in such mannere
That no wight might him either see or hear;
And still he sat under a bush. Anon
This January, as blind as is a stone,
With Maius in his hand, and no wight mo',
Into this freshe garden is y-go,
And clapped to the wicket suddenly.
'Now, wife,' quoth he, 'here is but thou and I;
Thou art the creature that I beste love:
For, by that Lord that sits in heav'n above,
Lever* I had to dien on a knife, *rather
Than thee offende, deare true wife.
For Godde's sake, think how I thee chees,* *chose
Not for no covetise* doubteless, * covetousness
But only for the love I had to thee.
And though that I be old, and may not see,
Be to me true, and I will tell you why.
Certes three thinges shall ye win thereby:
First, love of Christ, and to yourself honour,
And all mine heritage, town and tow'r.
I give it you, make charters as you lest;
This shall be done to-morrow ere sun rest,
So wisly* God my soule bring to bliss! *surely
I pray you, on this covenant me kiss.
And though that I be jealous, wite* me not; *blame
Ye be so deep imprinted in my thought,
That when that I consider your beauty,
And therewithal *th'unlikely eld* of me, *dissimilar age*
I may not, certes, though I shoulde die,
Forbear to be out of your company,
For very love; this is withoute doubt:
Now kiss me, wife, and let us roam about.'
This freshe May, when she these wordes heard,
Benignely to January answer'd;
But first and forward she began to weep:
'I have,' quoth she, 'a soule for to keep
As well as ye, and also mine honour,
And of my wifehood thilke* tender flow'r *that same
Which that I have assured in your hond,
When that the priest to you my body bond:
Wherefore I will answer in this mannere,
With leave of you mine owen lord so dear.
I pray to God, that never dawn the day
That I *no sterve,* as foul as woman may, *do not die*
If e'er I do unto my kin that shame,
Or elles I impaire so my name,
That I bee false; and if I do that lack,
Do strippe me, and put me in a sack,
And in the nexte river do me drench:* *drown
I am a gentle woman, and no wench.
Why speak ye thus? but men be e'er untrue,
And women have reproof of you aye new.
Ye know none other dalliance, I believe,
But speak to us of untrust and repreve.'* *reproof
And with that word she saw where Damian
Sat in the bush, and coughe she began;
And with her finger signe made she,
That Damian should climb upon a tree
That charged was with fruit; and up he went:
For verily he knew all her intent,
And every signe that she coulde make,
Better than January her own make.* *mate
For in a letter she had told him all
Of this matter, how that he worke shall.
And thus I leave him sitting in the perry,* *pear-tree
And January and May roaming full merry.
Bright was the day, and blue the firmament;
Phoebus of gold his streames down had sent
To gladden every flow'r with his warmness;
He was that time in Geminis, I guess,
But little from his declination
Of Cancer, Jove's exaltation.
And so befell, in that bright morning-tide,
That in the garden, on the farther side,
Pluto, that is the king of Faerie,
And many a lady in his company
Following his wife, the queen Proserpina, -
Which that he ravished out of Ethna,<26>
While that she gather'd flowers in the mead
(In Claudian ye may the story read,
How in his grisly chariot he her fet*), - *fetched
This king of Faerie adown him set
Upon a bank of turfes fresh and green,
And right anon thus said he to his queen.
'My wife,' quoth he, 'there may no wight say nay, -
Experience so proves it every day, -
The treason which that woman doth to man.
Ten hundred thousand stories tell I can
Notable of your untruth and brittleness * *inconstancy
O Solomon, richest of all richess,
Full fill'd of sapience and worldly glory,
Full worthy be thy wordes of memory
To every wight that wit and reason can. * *knows
Thus praised he yet the bounte* of man: *goodness
'Among a thousand men yet found I one,
But of all women found I never none.' <27>
Thus said this king, that knew your wickedness;
And Jesus, Filius Sirach, <28> as I guess,
He spake of you but seldom reverence.
A wilde fire and corrupt pestilence
So fall upon your bodies yet to-night!
Ne see ye not this honourable knight?
Because, alas! that he is blind and old,
His owen man shall make him cuckold.
Lo, where he sits, the lechour, in the tree.
Now will I granten, of my majesty,
Unto this olde blinde worthy knight,
That he shall have again his eyen sight,
When that his wife will do him villainy;
Then shall be knowen all her harlotry,
Both in reproof of her and other mo'.'
'Yea, Sir,' quoth Proserpine,' and will ye so?
Now by my mother Ceres' soul I swear
That I shall give her suffisant answer,
And alle women after, for her sake;
That though they be in any guilt y-take,
With face bold they shall themselves excuse,
And bear them down that woulde them accuse.
For lack of answer, none of them shall dien.
All* had ye seen a thing with both your eyen, *although
Yet shall *we visage it* so hardily, *confront it*
And weep, and swear, and chide subtilly,
That ye shall be as lewed* as be geese. *ignorant, confounded
What recketh me of your authorities?
I wot well that this Jew, this Solomon,
Found of us women fooles many one:
But though that he founde no good woman,
Yet there hath found many another man
Women full good, and true, and virtuous;
Witness on them that dwelt in Christes house;
With martyrdom they proved their constance.
The Roman gestes <29> make remembrance
Of many a very true wife also.
But, Sire, be not wroth, albeit so,
Though that he said he found no good woman,
I pray you take the sentence* of the man: *opinion, real meaning
He meant thus, that in *sovereign bounte* *perfect goodness
Is none but God, no, neither *he nor she.* *man nor woman*
Hey, for the very God that is but one,
Why make ye so much of Solomon?
What though he made a temple, Godde's house?
What though he were rich and glorious?
So made he eke a temple of false goddes;
How might he do a thing that more forbode* is? *forbidden
Pardie, as fair as ye his name emplaster,* *plaster over, 'whitewash'
He was a lechour, and an idolaster,* *idohater
And in his eld he very* God forsook. *the true
And if that God had not (as saith the book)
Spared him for his father's sake, he should
Have lost his regne* rather** than he would. *kingdom **sooner
I *sette not of* all the villainy *value not*
That he of women wrote, a butterfly.
I am a woman, needes must I speak,
Or elles swell until mine hearte break.
For since he said that we be jangleresses,* *chatterers
As ever may I brooke* whole my tresses, *preserve
I shall not spare for no courtesy
To speak him harm, that said us villainy.'
'Dame,' quoth this Pluto, 'be no longer wroth;
I give it up: but, since I swore mine oath
That I would grant to him his sight again,
My word shall stand, that warn I you certain:
I am a king; it sits* me not to lie.' *becomes, befits
'And I,' quoth she, 'am queen of Faerie.
Her answer she shall have, I undertake,
Let us no more wordes of it make.
Forsooth, I will no longer you contrary.'
Now let us turn again to January,
That in the garden with his faire May
Singeth well merrier than the popinjay:* *parrot
'You love I best, and shall, and other none.'
So long about the alleys is he gone,
Till he was come to *that ilke perry,* *the same pear-tree*
Where as this Damian satte full merry
On high, among the freshe leaves green.
This freshe May, that is so bright and sheen,
Gan for to sigh, and said, 'Alas my side!
Now, Sir,' quoth she, 'for aught that may betide,
I must have of the peares that I see,
Or I must die, so sore longeth me
To eaten of the smalle peares green;
Help, for her love that is of heaven queen!
I tell you well, a woman in my plight <30>
May have to fruit so great an appetite,
That she may dien, but* she of it have. ' *unless
'Alas!' quoth he, 'that I had here a knave* *servant
That coulde climb; alas! alas!' quoth he,
'For I am blind.' 'Yea, Sir, *no force,'* quoth she; *no matter*
'But would ye vouchesafe, for Godde's sake,
The perry in your armes for to take
(For well I wot that ye mistruste me),
Then would I climbe well enough,' quoth she,
'So I my foot might set upon your back.'
'Certes,' said he, 'therein shall be no lack,
Might I you helpe with mine hearte's blood.'
He stooped down, and on his back she stood,
And caught her by a twist,* and up she go'th. *twig, bough
(Ladies, I pray you that ye be not wroth,
I cannot glose,* I am a rude man): *mince matters
And suddenly anon this Damian
Gan pullen up the smock, and in he throng.* *rushed <31>
And when that Pluto saw this greate wrong,
To January he gave again his sight,
And made him see as well as ever he might.
And when he thus had caught his sight again,
Was never man of anything so fain:
But on his wife his thought was evermo'.
Up to the tree he cast his eyen two,
And saw how Damian his wife had dress'd,
In such mannere, it may not be express'd,
*But if* I woulde speak uncourteously. *unless*
And up he gave a roaring and a cry,
As doth the mother when the child shall die;
'Out! help! alas! harow!' he gan to cry;
'O stronge, lady, stowre! <32> what doest thou?'
And she answered: 'Sir, what aileth you?
Have patience and reason in your mind,
I have you help'd on both your eyen blind.
On peril of my soul, I shall not lien,
As me was taught to helpe with your eyen,
Was nothing better for to make you see,
Than struggle with a man upon a tree:
God wot, I did it in full good intent.'
'Struggle!' quoth he, 'yea, algate* in it went. *whatever way
God give you both one shame's death to dien!
He swived* thee; I saw it with mine eyen; *enjoyed carnally
And elles be I hanged by the halse.'* *neck
'Then is,' quoth she, 'my medicine all false;
For certainly, if that ye mighte see,
Ye would not say these wordes unto me.
Ye have some glimpsing,* and no perfect sight.' *glimmering
'I see,' quoth he, 'as well as ever I might,
(Thanked be God!) with both mine eyen two,
And by my faith me thought he did thee so.'
'Ye maze,* ye maze, goode Sir,' quoth she; *rave, are confused
'This thank have I for I have made you see:
Alas!' quoth she, 'that e'er I was so kind.'
'Now, Dame,' quoth he, 'let all pass out of mind;
Come down, my lefe,* and if I have missaid, *love
God help me so, as I am *evil apaid.* *dissatisfied*
But, by my father's soul, I ween'd have seen
How that this Damian had by thee lain,
And that thy smock had lain upon his breast.'
'Yea, Sir,' quoth she, 'ye may *ween as ye lest:* *think as you
But, Sir, a man that wakes out of his sleep, please*
He may not suddenly well take keep* *notice
Upon a thing, nor see it perfectly,
Till that he be adawed* verily. *awakened
Right so a man, that long hath blind y-be,
He may not suddenly so well y-see,
First when his sight is newe come again,
As he that hath a day or two y-seen.
Till that your sight establish'd be a while,
There may full many a sighte you beguile.
Beware, I pray you, for, by heaven's king,
Full many a man weeneth to see a thing,
And it is all another than it seemeth;
He which that misconceiveth oft misdeemeth.'
And with that word she leapt down from the tree.
This January, who is glad but he?
He kissed her, and clipped* her full oft, *embraced
And on her womb he stroked her full soft;
And to his palace home he hath her lad.* *led
Now, goode men, I pray you to be glad.
Thus endeth here my tale of January,
God bless us, and his mother, Sainte Mary.
The Court Of Love
With timorous heart, and trembling hand of dread,
Of cunning* naked, bare of eloquence, *skill
Unto the *flow'r of port in womanhead* *one who is the perfection
I write, as he that none intelligence of womanly behaviour*
Of metres hath, <1> nor flowers of sentence,
Save that me list my writing to convey,
In that I can, to please her high nobley.* *nobleness
The blossoms fresh of Tullius'* garden swoot** *Cicero **sweet
Present they not, my matter for to born:* <2> *burnish, polish
Poems of Virgil take here no root,
Nor craft of Galfrid <3> may not here sojourn;
Why *n'am I* cunning? O well may I mourn, *am I not*
For lack of science, that I cannot write
Unto the princess of my life aright!
No terms are dign* unto her excellence, *worthy
So is she sprung of noble stirp* and high; *stock <4>
A world of honour and of reverence
There is in her, this will I testify.
Calliope, <5> thou sister wise and sly,* *skilful
And thou, Minerva, guide me with thy grace,
That language rude my matter not deface!
Thy sugar droppes sweet of Helicon
Distil in me, thou gentle Muse, I pray;
And thee, Melpomene, <6> I call anon
Of ignorance the mist to chase away;
And give me grace so for to write and say,
That she, my lady, of her worthiness,
Accept *in gree* this little short treatess,* *with favour* *treatise
That is entitled thus, The Court of Love.
And ye that be metricians,* me excuse, *skilled versifiers
I you beseech, for Venus' sake above;
For what I mean in this ye need not muse:
And if so be my lady it refuse
For lack of ornate speech, I would be woe
That I presume to her to write so.
But my intent, and all my busy cure,* *care
Is for to write this treatise, as I can,
Unto my lady, stable, true, and sure,
Faithful and kind, since first that she began
Me to accept in service as her man;
To her be all the pleasure of this book,
That, when *her like,* she may it read and look. *it pleases her*
When [he] was young, at eighteen year of age,
Lusty and light, desirous of pleasance,
Approaching* full sad and ripe corage,<7> *gradually attaining
Then -- says the poet -- did Love urge him to do
him obeisance, and to go "the Court of Love to
see, a lite [little] beside the Mount of Citharee."
<8> Mercury bade him, on pain of death, to
appear; and he went by strange and far countries
in search of the Court. Seeing at last a crowd of
people, "as bees," making their way thither, the
poet asked whither they went; and "one that
answer'd like a maid" said that they were bound to
the Court of Love, at Citheron, where "the King
of Love, and all his noble rout [company],
"Dwelleth within a castle royally."
So them apace I journey'd forth among,
And as he said, so found I there truly;
For I beheld the town -- so high and strong,
And high pinnacles, large of height and long,
With plate of gold bespread on ev'ry side,
And precious stones, the stone work for to hide.
No sapphire of Ind, no ruby rich of price,
There lacked then, nor emerald so green,
Balais, Turkeis, <9> nor thing, *to my devise,* *in my judgement*
That may the castle make for to sheen;* *be beautiful
All was as bright as stars in winter be'n;
And Phoebus shone, to make his peace again,
For trespass* done to high estates twain, -- *offence
When he had found Venus in the arms of Mars, and hastened to
tell Vulcan of his wife's infidelity <10>. Now he was shining
brightly on the castle, "in sign he looked after Love's grace;" for
there is no god in Heaven or in Hell "but he hath been right
subject unto Love." Continuing his description of the castle,
Philogenet says that he saw never any so large and high; within
and without, it was painted "with many a thousand daisies, red
as rose," and white also, in signification of whom, he knew not;
unless it was the flower of Alcestis <11>, who, under Venus,
was queen of the place, as Admetus was king;
To whom obey'd the ladies good nineteen <12>,
With many a thousand other, bright of face.
And young men fele* came forth with lusty pace, *many <13>
And aged eke, their homage to dispose;
But what they were, I could not well disclose.
Yet nere* and nere* forth in I gan me dress, *nearer
Into a hall of noble apparail,* *furnishings
With arras <14> spread, and cloth of gold, I guess,
And other silk *of easier avail;* *less difficult, costly, to attain*
Under the *cloth of their estate,* sans fail, *state canopy*
The King and Queen there sat, as I beheld;
It passed joy of *Elysee the feld.* *The Elysian Fields*
There saintes* have their coming and resort, *martyrs for love
To see the King so royally beseen,* *adorned
In purple clad, and eke the Queen *in sort;* *suitably*
And on their heades saw I crownes twain,
With stones frett,* so that it was no pain, *adorned
Withoute meat or drink, to stand and see
The Kinge's honour and the royalty.
To treat of state affairs, Danger <15> stood by the
King, and Disdain by the Queen; who cast her eyes
haughtily about, sending forth beams that seemed
"shapen like a dart, sharp and piercing, and small and
straight of line;" while her hair shone as gold so fine,
"dishevel, crisp, down hanging at her back a yard in
length." <16> Amazed and dazzled by her beauty,
Philogenet stood perplexed, till he spied a Maid,
Philobone -- a chamberwoman of the Queen's -- who
asked how and on what errand he came thither.
Learning that he had been summoned by Mercury, she
told him that he ought to have come of his free will,
and that he "will be shent [rebuked, disgraced]"
because he did not.
"For ye that reign in youth and lustiness,
Pamper'd with ease, and jealous in your age,
Your duty is, as far as I can guess,
To Love's Court to dresse* your voyage, *direct, address
As soon as Nature maketh you so sage
That ye may know a woman from a swan, <17>
Or when your foot is growen half a span.
"But since that ye, by wilful negligence,
This eighteen year have kept yourself at large,
The greater is your trespass and offence,
And in your neck you must bear all the charge:
For better were ye be withoute barge* *boat
Amid the sea in tempest and in rain,
Than bide here, receiving woe and pain
"That ordained is for such as them absent
From Love's Court by yeares long and fele.* many
I lay* my life ye shall full soon repent; *wager
For Love will rive your colour, lust, and heal:* *health
Eke ye must bait* on many a heavy meal: *feed
*No force,* y-wis; I stirr'd you long agone *no matter*
To draw to Court," quoth little Philobone.
"Ye shall well see how rough and angry face
The King of Love will show, when ye him see;
By mine advice kneel down and ask him grace,
Eschewing* peril and adversity; *avoiding
For well I wot it will none other be;
Comfort is none, nor counsel to your ease;
Why will ye then the King of Love displease?"
Thereupon Philogenet professed humble repentance,
and willingness to bear all hardship and chastisement
for his past offence.
These wordes said, she caught me by the lap,* *edge of the garment
And led me forth into a temple round,
Both large and wide; and, as my blessed hap
And good. adventure was, right soon I found
A tabernacle <18> raised from the ground,
Where Venus sat, and Cupid by her side;
Yet half for dread I gan my visage hide.
And eft* again I looked and beheld, *afterwards
Seeing *full sundry people* in the place, *people of many sorts*
And *mister folk,* and some that might not weld *craftsmen <19>*
Their limbes well, -- me thought a wonder case. *use
The temple shone with windows all of glass,
Bright as the day, with many a fair image;
And there I saw the fresh queen of Carthage,
Dido, that brent* her beauty for the love *burnt
Of false Aeneas; and the waimenting* *lamenting
Of her, Annelide, true as turtle dove
To Arcite false; <20> and there was in painting
Of many a Prince, and many a doughty King,
Whose martyrdom was show'd about the walls;
And how that fele* for love had suffer'd falls.** *many **calamities
Philogenet was astonished at the crowd of people that
he saw, doing sacrifice to the god and goddess.
Philobone informed him that they came from other
courts; those who knelt in blue wore the colour in
sign of their changeless truth <21>; those in black,
who uttered cries of grief, were the sick and dying of
love. The priests, nuns, hermits, and friars, and all that
sat in white, in russet and in green, "wailed of their
woe;" and for all people, of every degree, the Court
was open and free. While he walked about with
Philobone, a messenger from the King entered, and
summoned all the new-come folk to the royal
presence. Trembling and pale, Philogenet approached
the throne of Admetus, and was sternly asked why he
came so late to Court. He pleaded that a hundred
times he had been at the gate, but had been prevented
from entering by failure to see any of his
acquaintances, and by shamefacedness. The King
pardoned him, on condition that thenceforth he should
serve Love; and the poet took oath to do so, "though
Death therefor me thirle [pierce] with his spear."
When the King had seen all the new-comers, he
commanded an officer to take their oaths of
allegiance, and show them the Statutes of the Court,
which must be observed till death.
And, for that I was letter'd, there I read
The statutes whole of Love's Court and hail:
The first statute that on the book was spread,
Was, To be true in thought and deedes all
Unto the King of Love, the lord royal;
And, to the Queen, as faithful and as kind
As I could think with hearte, will, and mind.
The second statute, Secretly to keep
Counsel* of love, not blowing** ev'rywhere *secrets **talking
All that I know, and let it sink and fleet;* *float
It may not sound in ev'ry wighte's ear:
Exiling slander ay for dread and fear,
And to my lady, which I love and serve,
Be true and kind, her grace for to deserve.
The third statute was clearly writ also,
Withoute change to live and die the same,
None other love to take, for weal nor woe,
For blind delight, for earnest nor for game:
Without repent, for laughing or for grame,* *vexation, sorrow
To bide still in full perseverance:
All this was whole the Kinge's ordinance.
The fourth statute, To *purchase ever to her,* *promote her cause*
And stirre folk to love, and bete* fire *kindle
On Venus' altar, here about and there,
And preach to them of love and hot desire,
And tell how love will quite* well their hire: *reward
This must be kept; and loth me to displease:
If love be wroth, pass; for thereby is ease.
The fifth statute, Not to be dangerous,* *fastidious, angry
If that a thought would reave* me of my sleep: *deprive
Nor of a sight to be over squaimous;* *desirous
And so verily this statute was to keep,
To turn and wallow in my bed and weep,
When that my lady, of her cruelty,
Would from her heart exilen all pity.
The sixth statute, It was for me to use
Alone to wander, void of company,
And on my lady's beauty for to muse,
And thinken it *no force* to live or die; *matter of indifference*
And eft again to think* the remedy, *think upon
How to her grace I might anon attain,
And tell my woe unto my sovereign.
The sev'nth statute was, To be patient,
Whether my lady joyful were or wroth;
For wordes glad or heavy, diligent,
Whether that she me helde *lefe or loth:* *in love or loathing*
And hereupon I put was to mine oath,
Her for to serve, and lowly to obey,
And show my cheer,* yea, twenty times a day. *countenance
The eighth statute, to my rememberance,
Was, For to speak and pray my lady dear,
With hourly labour and great entendance,* *attention
Me for to love with all her heart entere,* *entire
And me desire and make me joyful cheer,
Right as she is, surmounting every fair;
Of beauty well,* and gentle debonair. *the fountain
The ninth statute, with letters writ of gold,
This was the sentence, How that I and all
Should ever dread to be too overbold
Her to displease; and truly so I shall;
But be content for all thing that may fall,
And meekly take her chastisement and yerd,* *rod, rule
And to offend her ever be afear'd.
The tenth statute was, Equally* to discern *justly
Between the lady and thine ability,
And think thyself art never like to earn,
By right, her mercy nor her equity,
But of her grace and womanly pity:
For, though thyself be noble in thy strene,* *strain, descent
A thousand fold more noble is thy Queen.
Thy life's lady and thy sovereign,
That hath thine heart all whole in governance,
Thou may'st no wise it take to disdain,
To put thee humbly at her ordinance,
And give her free the rein of her pleasance;
For liberty is thing that women look,* *look for, desire
And truly else *the matter is a crook.* *things go wrong*
Th' eleventh statute, Thy signes for to know
With eye and finger, and with smiles soft,
And low to couch, and alway for to show,
For dread of spies, for to winken oft:
And secretly to bring a sigh aloft,
But still beware of over much resort;
For that peradventure spoileth all thy sport.
The twelfth statute remember to observe:
For all the pain thou hast for love and woe,
All is too lite* her mercy to deserve, *little
Thou muste think, where'er thou ride or go;
And mortal woundes suffer thou also,
All for her sake, and think it well beset* *spent
Upon thy love, for it may not be bet.* *better (spent)
The thirteenth statute, Whilom is to think
What thing may best thy lady like and please,
And in thine hearte's bottom let it sink:
Some thing devise, and take for it thine ease,
And send it her, that may her heart appease:
Some heart, or ring, or letter, or device,
Or precious stone; but spare not for no price.
The fourteenth statute eke thou shalt assay
Firmly to keep, the most part of thy life:
Wish that thy lady in thine armes lay,
And nightly dream, thou hast thy nighte's wife
Sweetly in armes, straining her as blife:* *eagerly <22>
And, when thou seest it is but fantasy,
See that thou sing not over merrily;
For too much joy hath oft a woeful end.
It *longeth eke this statute for to hold,* *it belongs to the proper
To deem thy lady evermore thy friend, observance of this statute*
And think thyself in no wise a cuckold.
In ev'ry thing she doth but as she sho'ld:
Construe the best, believe no tales new,
For many a lie is told, that seems full true.
But think that she, so bounteous and fair,
Could not be false: imagine this algate;* *at all events
And think that wicked tongues would her apair,* *defame
Sland'ring her name and *worshipful estate,* *honourable fame*
And lovers true to setten at debate:
And though thou seest a fault right at thine eye,
Excuse it blife, and glose* it prettily. *gloss it over
The fifteenth statute, Use to swear and stare,
And counterfeit a leasing* hardily,** *falsehood **boldly
To save thy lady's honour ev'rywhere,
And put thyself for her to fight boldly;
Say she is good, virtuous, and ghostly,* *spiritual, pure
Clear of intent, and heart, and thought, and will;
And argue not for reason nor for skill
Against thy lady's pleasure nor intent,
For love will not be counterpled* indeed: *met with counterpleas
Say as she saith, then shalt thou not be shent;* *disgraced
"The crow is white;" "Yea truly, so I rede:"* *judge
And aye what thing that she will thee forbid,
Eschew all that, and give her sov'reignty,
Her appetite to follow in all degree.
The sixteenth statute, keep it if thou may: <23>
Sev'n times at night thy lady for to please,
And sev'n at midnight, sev'n at morrow day,
And drink a caudle early for thine ease.
Do this, and keep thine head from all disease,
And win the garland here of lovers all,
That ever came in Court, or ever shall.
Full few, think I, this statute hold and keep;
But truly this my reason *gives me feel,* *enables me to perceive*
That some lovers should rather fall asleep,
Than take on hand to please so oft and weel.* *well
There lay none oath to this statute adele,* *annexed
But keep who might *as gave him his corage:* *as his heart
Now get this garland, folk of lusty age! inspired him*
Now win who may, ye lusty folk of youth,
This garland fresh, of flowers red and white,
Purple and blue, and colours full uncouth,* *strange
And I shall crown him king of all delight!
In all the Court there was not, to my sight,
A lover true, that he was not adread,
When he express* had heard the statute read. *plainly
The sev'nteenth statute, When age approacheth on,
And lust is laid, and all the fire is queint,* *quenched
As freshly then thou shalt begin to fon,* *behave fondly
And doat in love, and all her image paint
In thy remembrance, till thou gin to faint,
As in the first season thine heart began:
And her desire, though thou nor may nor can
Perform thy living actual and lust;
Register this in thine rememberance:
Eke when thou may'st not keep thy thing from rust,
Yet speak and talk of pleasant dalliance;
For that shall make thine heart rejoice and dance;
And when thou may'st no more the game assay,
The statute bids thee pray for them that may.
The eighteenth statute, wholly to commend,
To please thy lady, is, That thou eschew
With sluttishness thyself for to offend;
Be jolly, fresh, and feat,* with thinges new, *dainty <24>
Courtly with manner, this is all thy due,
Gentle of port, and loving cleanliness;
This is the thing that liketh thy mistress.
And not to wander like a dulled ass,
Ragged and torn, disguised in array,
Ribald in speech, or out of measure pass,
Thy bound exceeding; think on this alway:
For women be of tender heartes ay,
And lightly set their pleasure in a place;
When they misthink,* they lightly let it pace. *think wrongly
The nineteenth statute, Meat and drink forget:
Each other day see that thou fast for love,
For in the Court they live withoute meat,
Save such as comes from Venus all above;
They take no heed, *in pain of great reprove,* *on pain of great
Of meat and drink, for that is all in vain, reproach*
Only they live by sight of their sov'reign.
The twentieth statute, last of ev'ry one,
Enrol it in thy hearte's privity;
To wring and wail, to turn, and sigh, and groan,
When that thy lady absent is from thee;
And eke renew the wordes all that she
Between you twain hath said, and all the cheer
That thee hath made thy life's lady dear.
And see thy heart in quiet nor in rest
Sojourn, till time thou see thy lady eft,* *again
But whe'er* she won** by south, or east, or west, *whether **dwell
With all thy force now see it be not left
Be diligent, *till time* thy life be reft, *until the time that*
In that thou may'st, thy lady for to see;
This statute was of old antiquity.
The officer, called Rigour -- who is incorruptible by
partiality, favour, prayer, or gold -- made them swear
to keep the statutes; and, after taking the oath,
Philogenet turned over other leaves of the book,
containing the statutes of women. But Rigour sternly
bade him forbear; for no man might know the statutes
that belong to women.
"In secret wise they kepte be full close;
They sound* each one to liberty, my friend; *tend, accord
Pleasant they be, and to their own purpose;
There wot* no wight of them, but God and fiend, *knows
Nor aught shall wit, unto the worlde's end.
The queen hath giv'n me charge, in pain to die,
Never to read nor see them with mine eye.
"For men shall not so near of counsel be'n
With womanhead, nor knowen of their guise,
Nor what they think, nor of their wit th'engine;* *craft
*I me report to* Solomon the wise, <25> *I refer for proof to*
And mighty Samson, which beguiled thrice
With Delilah was; he wot that, in a throw,
There may no man statute of women know.
"For it peradventure may right so befall,
That they be bound by nature to deceive,
And spin, and weep, and sugar strew on gall, <26>
The heart of man to ravish and to reave,
And whet their tongue as sharp as sword or gleve:* *glaive, sword
It may betide this is their ordinance,
So must they lowly do their observance,
"And keep the statute given them *of kind,* *by nature*
Of such as Love hath giv'n them in their life.
Men may not wit why turneth every wind,
Nor waxe wise, nor be inquisitife
To know secret of maid, widow, or wife;
For they their statutes have to them reserved,
And never man to know them hath deserved."
Rigour then sent them forth to pay court to Venus,
and pray her to teach them how they might serve and
please their dames, or to provide with ladies those
whose hearts were yet vacant. Before Venus knelt a
thousand sad petitioners, entreating her to punish "the
false untrue," that had broken their vows, "barren of
ruth, untrue of what they said, now that their lust and
pleasure is allay'd." But the mourners were in a
Yet eft again, a thousand million,
Rejoicing, love, leading their life in bliss:
They said: "Venus, redress* of all division, *healer
Goddess eternal, thy name heried* is! *glorified
By love's bond is knit all thing, y-wis,* *assuredly
Beast unto beast, the earth to water wan,* *pale
Bird unto bird, and woman unto man; <27>
"This is the life of joy that we be in,
Resembling life of heav'nly paradise;
Love is exiler ay of vice and sin;
Love maketh heartes lusty to devise;
Honour and grace have they in ev'ry wise,
That be to love's law obedient;
Love maketh folk benign and diligent;
"Aye stirring them to dreade vice and shame:
In their degree it makes them honourable;
And sweet it is of love to bear the name,
So that his love be faithful, true, and stable:
Love pruneth him to seemen amiable;
Love hath no fault where it is exercis'd,
But sole* with them that have all love despis'd:" *only
And they conclude with grateful honours to the goddess
-- rejoicing hat they are hers in heart, and all inflamed
with her grace and heavenly fear. Philogenet now
entreats the goddess to remove his grief; for he also
loves, and hotly, only he does not know where --
"Save only this, by God and by my troth;
Troubled I was with slumber, sleep, and sloth
This other night, and in a vision
I saw a woman roamen up and down,
"Of *mean stature,* and seemly to behold, *middling height*
Lusty and fresh, demure of countenance,
Young and well shap'd, with haire sheen* as gold, *shining
With eyne as crystal, farced* with pleasance; *crammed
And she gan stir mine heart a lite* to dance; *little
But suddenly she vanish gan right there:
Thus I may say, I love, and wot* not where." *know
If he could only know this lady, he would serve and obey her
with all benignity; but if his destiny were otherwise, he would
gladly love and serve his lady, whosoever she might be. He
called on Venus for help to possess his queen and heart's life,
and vowed daily war with Diana: "that goddess chaste I keepen
[care] in no wise to serve; a fig for all her chastity!" Then he
rose and went his way, passing by a rich and beautiful shrine,
which, Philobone informed him, was the sepulchre of Pity. "A
tender creature," she said,
"Is shrined there, and Pity is her name.
She saw an eagle wreak* him on a fly, *avenge
And pluck his wing, and eke him, *in his game;* *for sport*
And tender heart of that hath made her die:
Eke she would weep, and mourn right piteously,
To see a lover suffer great distress.
In all the Court was none, as I do guess,
"That could a lover half so well avail,* *help
Nor of his woe the torment or the rage
Aslake;* for he was sure, withoute fail, *assuage
That of his grief she could the heat assuage.
Instead of Pity, speedeth hot Courage
The matters all of Court, now she is dead;
*I me report in this to womanhead.* *for evidence I refer to the
behaviour of women themselves.*
"For wail, and weep, and cry, and speak, and pray, --
Women would not have pity on thy plaint;
Nor by that means to ease thine heart convey,
But thee receive for their own talent:* *inclination
And say that Pity caus'd thee, in consent
Of ruth,* to take thy service and thy pain, *compassion
In that thou may'st, to please thy sovereign."
Philobone now promised to lead Philogenet to "the fairest lady
under sun that is," the "mirror of joy and bliss," whose name is
Rosial, and "whose heart as yet is given to no wight;"
suggesting that, as he also was "with love but light advanc'd,"
he might set this lady in the place of her of whom he had
dreamed. Entering a chamber gay, "there was Rosial, womanly
to see;" and the subtle-piercing beams of her eyes wounded
Philogenet to the heart. When he could speak, he threw himself
on his knees, beseeching her to cool his fervent woe:
For there I took full purpose in my mind,
Unto her grace my painful heart to bind.
For, if I shall all fully her descrive,* *describe
Her head was round, by compass of nature;
Her hair as gold, she passed all alive,
And lily forehead had this creature,
With lively *browes flaw,* of colour pure, *yellow eyebrows <28>
Between the which was mean disseverance
From ev'ry brow, to show a due distance.
Her nose directed straight, even as line,
With form and shape thereto convenient,
In which the *goddes' milk-white path* doth shine; *the galaxy*
And eke her eyne be bright and orient
As is the smaragd,* unto my judgment, *emerald
Or yet these starres heav'nly, small, and bright;
Her visage is of lovely red and white.
Her mouth is short, and shut in little space,
Flaming somedeal,* not over red I mean, *somewhat
With pregnant lips, and thick to kiss, percase* *as it chanced
(For lippes thin, not fat, but ever lean,
They serve of naught, they be not worth a bean;
For if the bass* be full, there is delight; *kiss <29>
Maximian <30> truly thus doth he write).
But to my purpose: I say, white as snow
Be all her teeth, and in order they stand
Of one stature; and eke her breath, I trow,
Surmounteth all odours that e'er I fand* *found
In sweetness; and her body, face, and hand
Be sharply slender, so that, from the head
Unto the foot, all is but womanhead.* *womanly perfection
I hold my peace of other thinges hid:
Here shall my soul, and not my tongue, bewray;
But how she was array'd, if ye me bid,
That shall I well discover you and say:
A bend* of gold and silk, full fresh and gay, *band
With hair *in tress, y-broidered* full well, *plaited in tresses*
Right smoothly kempt,* and shining every deal. *combed
About her neck a flow'r of fresh device
With rubies set, that lusty were to see'n;
And she in gown was, light and summer-wise,
Shapen full well, the colour was of green,
With *aureate seint* about her sides clean, *golden cincture*
With divers stones, precious and rich:
Thus was she ray'd,* yet saw I ne'er her lich,** *arrayed **like
If Jove had but seen this lady, Calisto and Alcmena had never
lain in his arms, nor had he loved the fair Europa, nor Danae,
nor Antiope; "for all their beauty stood in Rosial; she seemed
like a thing celestial." By and by, Philogenet presented to her his
petition for love, which she heard with some haughtiness; she
was not, she said, well acquainted with him, she did not know
where he dwelt, nor his name and condition. He informed her
that "in art of love he writes," and makes songs that may be
sung in honour of the King and Queen of Love. As for his name
"My name? alas, my heart, why mak'st thou strange?* *why so cold
Philogenet I call'd am far and near, or distant?*
Of Cambridge clerk, that never think to change
From you, that with your heav'nly streames* clear *beams, glances
Ravish my heart; and ghost, and all in fere:* *all together
Since at the first I writ my bill* for grace, *petition
Me thinks I see some mercy in your face;"
And again he humbly pressed his suit. But the lady disdained the
idea that, "for a word of sugar'd eloquence," she should have
compassion in so little space; "there come but few who speede
here so soon." If, as he says, the beams of her eyes pierce and
fret him, then let him withdraw from her presence:
"Hurt not yourself, through folly, with a look;
I would be sorry so to make you sick!
A woman should beware eke whom she took:
Ye be a clerk: go searche well my book,
If any women be so light* to win: *easy
Nay, bide a while, though ye were *all my kin."* *my only kindred*
He might sue and serve, and wax pale, and green, and dead,
without murmuring in any wise; but whereas he desired her
hastily to lean to love, he was unwise, and must cease that
language. For some had been at Court for twenty years, and
might not obtain their mistresses' favour; therefore she
marvelled that he was so bold as to treat of love with her.
Philogenet, on this, broke into pitiful lamentation; bewailing the
hour in which he was born, and assuring the unyielding lady that
the frosty grave and cold must be his bed, unless she relented.
With that I fell in swoon, and dead as stone,
With colour slain,* and wan as ashes pale; *deathlike
And by the hand she caught me up anon:
"Arise," quoth she; "what? have ye drunken dwale?* *sleeping potion <31>
Why sleepe ye? It is no nightertale."* *night-time
"Now mercy! sweet," quoth I, y-wis afraid;
"What thing," quoth she, "hath made you so dismay'd?"
She said that by his hue she knew well that he was a lover; and
if he were secret, courteous, and kind, he might know how all
this could be allayed. She would amend all that she had missaid,
and set his heart at ease; but he must faithfully keep the statutes,
"and break them not for sloth nor ignorance." The lover
requests, however, that the sixteenth may be released or
modified, for it "doth him great grievance;" and she complies.
And softly then her colour gan appear,
As rose so red, throughout her visage all;
Wherefore methinks it is according* her *appropriate to
That she of right be called Rosial.
Thus have I won, with wordes great and small,
Some goodly word of her that I love best,
And trust she shall yet set mine heart in rest.
Rosial now told Philobone to conduct Philogenet all over the
Court, and show him what lovers and what officers dwelt there;
for he was yet a stranger.
And, stalking soft with easy pace, I saw
About the king standen all environ,* *around <32>
Attendance, Diligence, and their fellaw
Furtherer, Esperance,* and many one; *Hope
Dread-to-offend there stood, and not alone;
For there was eke the cruel adversair,
The lover's foe, that called is Despair;
Which unto me spake angrily and fell,* *cruelly
And said, my lady me deceive shall:
"Trow'st thou," quoth she, "that all that she did tell
Is true? Nay, nay, but under honey gall.
Thy birth and hers they be no thing egal:* *equal
Cast off thine heart, <33> for all her wordes white,
For in good faith she loves thee but a lite.* *little
"And eke remember, thine ability
May not compare with her, this well thou wot."
Yea, then came Hope and said, "My friend, let be!
Believe him not: Despair he gins to doat."
"Alas," quoth I, "here is both cold and hot:
The one me biddeth love, the other nay;
Thus wot I not what me is best to say.
"But well wot I, my lady granted me
Truly to be my wounde's remedy;
Her gentleness* may not infected be *noble nature
With doubleness,* this trust I till I die." *duplicity
So cast I t' avoid Despair's company,
And take Hope to counsel and to friend.
"Yea, keep that well," quoth Philobone, "in mind."
And there beside, within a bay window,
Stood one in green, full large of breadth and length,
His beard as black as feathers of the crow;
His name was Lust, of wondrous might and strength;
And with Delight to argue there he think'th,
For this was alway his opinion,
That love was sin: and so he hath begun
To reason fast, and *ledge authority:* *allege authorities
"Nay," quoth Delight, "love is a virtue clear,
And from the soul his progress holdeth he:
Blind appetite of lust doth often steer,* *stir (the heart)
And that is sin; for reason lacketh there:
For thou dost think thy neighbour's wife to win;
Yet think it well that love may not be sin;
"For God, and saint, they love right verily,
Void of all sin and vice: this know I weel,* *well
Affection of flesh is sin truly;
But very* love is virtue, as I feel; *true
For very love may frail desire akele:* *cool
For very love is love withoute sin."
"Now stint,"* quoth Lust, "thou speak'st not worth a pin." *cease
And there I left them in their arguing,
Roaming farther into the castle wide,
And in a corner Liar stood talking
Of leasings* fast, with Flattery there beside; *falsehoods
He said that women *ware attire of pride, *wore
And men were found of nature variant,
And could be false and *showe beau semblant.* *put on plausible
appearances to deceive*
Then Flattery bespake and said, y-wis:
"See, so she goes on pattens fair and feat;* *pretty, neat
It doth right well: what pretty man is this
That roameth here? now truly drink nor meat
Need I not have, my heart for joy doth beat
Him to behold, so is he goodly fresh:
It seems for love his heart is tender and nesh."* *soft <34>
This is the Court of lusty folk and glad,
And well becomes their habit and array:
O why be some so sorry and so sad,
Complaining thus in black and white and gray?
Friars they be, and monkes, in good fay:
Alas, for ruth! great dole* it is to see, *sorrow
To see them thus bewail and sorry be.
See how they cry and ring their handes white,
For they so soon* went to religion!, *young
And eke the nuns with veil and wimple plight,* *plaited
Their thought is, they be in confusion:
"Alas," they say, "we feign perfection, <35>
In clothes wide, and lack our liberty;
But all the sin must on our friendes be. <36>
"For, Venus wot, we would as fain* as ye, *gladly
That be attired here and *well beseen,* *gaily clothed*
Desire man, and love in our degree,'
Firm and faithful, right as would the Queen:
Our friendes wick', in tender youth and green,
Against our will made us religious;
That is the cause we mourn and waile thus."
Then said the monks and friars *in the tide,* *at the same time*
"Well may we curse our abbeys and our place,
Our statutes sharp to sing in copes wide, <37>
Chastely to keep us out of love's grace,
And never to feel comfort nor solace;* *delight
Yet suffer we the heat of love's fire,
And after some other haply we desire.
"O Fortune cursed, why now and wherefore
Hast thou," they said, "bereft us liberty,
Since Nature gave us instrument in store,
And appetite to love and lovers be?
Why must we suffer such adversity,
Dian' to serve, and Venus to refuse?
Full *often sithe* these matters do us muse. *many a time*
"We serve and honour, sore against our will,
Of chastity the goddess and the queen;
*Us liefer were* with Venus bide still, *we would rather*
And have regard for love, and subject be'n
Unto these women courtly, fresh, and sheen.* *bright, beautiful
Fortune, we curse thy wheel of variance!
Where we were well, thou reavest* our pleasance." *takest away
Thus leave I them, with voice of plaint and care,
In raging woe crying full piteously;
And as I went, full naked and full bare
Some I beheld, looking dispiteously,
On Poverty that deadly cast their eye;
And "Well-away!" they cried, and were not fain,
For they might not their glad desire attain.
For lack of riches worldly and of good,
They ban and curse, and weep, and say, "Alas!
That povert' hath us hent,* that whilom stood *seized
At hearte's ease, and free and in good case!
But now we dare not show ourselves in place,
Nor us embold* to dwell in company, *make bold, venture
Where as our heart would love right faithfully."
And yet againward shrieked ev'ry nun,
The pang of love so strained them to cry:
"Now woe the time," quoth they, "that we be boun'!* *bound
This hateful order nice* will do us die! *into which we foolishly
We sigh and sob, and bleeden inwardly, entered
Fretting ourselves with thought and hard complaint,
That nigh for love we waxe wood* and faint." *mad
And as I stood beholding here and there,
I was ware of a sort* full languishing, *a class of people
Savage and wild of looking and of cheer,
Their mantles and their clothes aye tearing;
And oft they were of Nature complaining,
For they their members lacked, foot and hand,
With visage wry, and blind, I understand.
They lacked shape and beauty to prefer
Themselves in love: and said that God and Kind* *Nature
Had forged* them to worshippe the sterre,** *fashioned **star
Venus the bright, and leften all behind
His other workes clean and out of mind:
"For other have their full shape and beauty,
And we," quoth they, "be in deformity."
And nigh to them there was a company,
That have the Sisters warray'd and missaid,
I mean the three of fatal destiny, <38>
That be our workers: suddenly abraid,* *aroused
Out gan they cry as they had been afraid;
"We curse," quoth they, "that ever hath Nature
Y-formed us this woeful life t'endure."
And there eke was Contrite, and gan repent,
Confessing whole the wound that Cythere <39>
Had with the dart of hot desire him sent,
And how that he to love must subject be:
Then held he all his scornes vanity,
And said that lovers held a blissful life,
Young men and old, and widow, maid, and wife.
"Bereave me, Goddess!" quoth he, "of thy might,
My scornes all and scoffes, that I have
No power for to mocken any wight
That in thy service dwell: for I did rave;
This know I well right now, so God me save,
And I shall be the chief post* of thy faith, *prop, pillar
And love uphold, the reverse whoso saith."
Dissemble stood not far from him in truth,
With party* mantle, party hood and hose; *parti-coloured
And said he had upon his lady ruth,* *pity
And thus he wound him in, and gan to glose,
Of his intent full double, I suppose:
In all the world he said he lov'd her weel;
But ay me thought he lov'd her *ne'er a deal.* *never a jot*
Eke Shamefastness was there, as I took heed,
That blushed red, and durst not be y-know
She lover was, for thereof had she dread;
She stood and hung her visage down alow;
But such a sight it was to see, I trow,
As of these roses ruddy on their stalk:
There could no wight her spy to speak or talk
In love's art, so gan she to abash,
Nor durst not utter all her privity:
Many a stripe and many a grievous lash
She gave to them that woulde lovers be,
And hinder'd sore the simple commonalty,
That in no wise durst grace and mercy crave,
For *were not she,* they need but ask and have; *but for her*
Where if they now approache for to speak,
Then Shamefastness *returneth them* again: *turns them back*
They think, "If we our secret counsel break,
Our ladies will have scorn us certain,
And peradventure thinke great disdain:"
Thus Shamefastness may bringen in Despair;
When she is dead the other will be heir.
"Come forth Avaunter! now I ring thy bell!" <40>
I spied him soon; to God I make avow,* *confession
He looked black as fiendes do in Hell:
"The first," quoth he, "that ever I did wow,* *woo
*Within a word she came,* I wot not how, *she was won with
So that in armes was my lady free, a single word*
And so have been a thousand more than she.
"In England, Britain,* Spain, and Picardy, *Brittany
Artois, and France, and up in high Holland,
In Burgoyne,* Naples, and in Italy, *Burgundy
Navarre, and Greece, and up in heathen land,
Was never woman yet that would withstand
To be at my commandment when I wo'ld:
I lacked neither silver coin nor gold.
"And there I met with this estate and that;
And her I broach'd, and her, and her, I trow:
Lo! there goes one of mine; and, wot ye what?
Yon fresh attired have I laid full low;
And such one yonder eke right well I know;
I kept the statute <41> when we lay y-fere:* *together
And yet* yon same hath made me right good cheer." *also
Thus hath Avaunter blowen ev'rywhere
All that he knows, and more a thousand fold;
His ancestry of kin was to Lier,* *Liar
For first he maketh promise for to hold
His lady's counsel, and it not unfold; --
Wherefore, the secret when he doth unshit,* *disclose
Then lieth he, that all the world may wit.* *know
For falsing so his promise and behest,* *trust
I wonder sore he hath such fantasy;
He lacketh wit, I trow, or is a beast,
That can no bet* himself with reason guy** *better **guide
By mine advice, Love shall be contrary
To his avail,* and him eke dishonour, *advantage
So that in Court he shall no more sojour.* *sojourn, remain
"Take heed," quoth she, this little Philobone,
"Where Envy rocketh in the corner yond,* *yonder
And sitteth dark; and ye shall see anon
His lean body, fading both face and hand;
Himself he fretteth,* as I understand devoureth
(Witness of Ovid Metamorphoseos); <42>
The lover's foe he is, I will not glose.* *gloss over
"For where a lover thinketh *him promote,* *to promote himself*
Envy will grudge, repining at his weal;
It swelleth sore about his hearte's root,
That in no wise he cannot live in heal;* *health
And if the faithful to his lady steal,
Envy will noise and ring it round about,
And say much worse than done is, out of doubt."
And Privy Thought, rejoicing of himself, --
Stood not far thence in habit marvellous;
"Yon is," thought I, "some spirit or some elf,
His subtile image is so curious:
How is," quoth I, "that he is shaded thus
With yonder cloth, I n'ot* of what color?" *know not
And near I went and gan *to lear and pore,* *to ascertain and
And frained* him a question full hard. *asked
"What is," quoth I, "the thing thou lovest best?
Or what is boot* unto thy paines hard? *remedy
Me thinks thou livest here in great unrest,
Thou wand'rest aye from south to east and west,
And east to north; as far as I can see,
There is no place in Court may holde thee.
"Whom followest thou? where is thy heart y-set?
But *my demand assoil,* I thee require." *answer my question*
"Me thought," quoth he, "no creature may let* *hinder
Me to be here, and where as I desire;
For where as absence hath out the fire,
My merry thought it kindleth yet again,
That bodily, me thinks, with *my sov'reign* *my lady*
"I stand, and speak, and laugh, and kiss, and halse;* *embrace
So that my thought comforteth me full oft:
I think, God wot, though all the world be false,
I will be true; I think also how soft
My lady is in speech, and this on loft
Bringeth my heart with joy and great gladness;
This privy thought allays my heaviness.
"And what I think, or where, to be, no man
In all this Earth can tell, y-wis, but I:
And eke there is no swallow swift, nor swan
So wight* of wing, nor half so yern** can fly; *nimble **eagerly
For I can be, and that right suddenly,
In Heav'n, in Hell, in Paradise, and here,
And with my lady, when I will desire.
"I am of counsel far and wide, I wot,
With lord and lady, and their privity
I wot it all; but, be it cold or hot,
They shall not speak without licence of me.
I mean, in such as seasonable* be, *prudent
Tho* first the thing is thought within the heart, *when
Ere any word out from the mouth astart."* *escape
And with the word Thought bade farewell and yede:* *went away
Eke forth went I to see the Courte's guise,
And at the door came in, so God me speed,
Two courtiers of age and of assise* *size
Like high, and broad, and, as I me advise,
The Golden Love and Leaden Love <43> they hight:* *were called
The one was sad, the other glad and light.
At this point there is a hiatus in the poem, which abruptly ceases
to narrate the tour of Philogenet and Philobone round the
Court, and introduces us again to Rosial, who is speaking thus
to her lover, apparently in continuation of a confession of love:
"Yes! draw your heart, with all your force and might,
To lustiness, and be as ye have said."
She admits that she would have given him no drop of favour,
but that she saw him "wax so dead of countenance;" then Pity
"out of her shrine arose from death to life," whisperingly
entreating that she would do him some pleasance. Philogenet
protests his gratitude to Pity, his faithfulness to Rosial; and the
lady, thanking him heartily, bids him abide with her till the
season of May, when the King of Love and all his company will
hold his feast fully royally and well. "And there I bode till that
the season fell."
On May Day, when the lark began to rise,
To matins went the lusty nightingale,
Within a temple shapen hawthorn-wise;
He might not sleep in all the nightertale,* *night-time
But "Domine" <44> gan he cry and gale,* *call out
"My lippes open, Lord of Love, I cry,
And let my mouth thy praising now bewry."* *show forth
The eagle sang "Venite," <45> bodies all,
And let us joy to love that is our health."
And to the desk anon they gan to fall,
And who came late he pressed in by stealth
Then said the falcon, "Our own heartes' wealth,
'Domine Dominus noster,' <46> I wot,
Ye be the God that do* us burn thus hot." *make
"Coeli enarrant," <47> said the popinjay,* *parrot
"Your might is told in Heav'n and firmament."
And then came in the goldfinch fresh and gay,
And said this psalm with heartly glad intent,
"Domini est terra;" <48> this Latin intent,* *means
The God of Love hath earth in governance:
And then the wren began to skip and dance.
"Jube Domine; <49> O Lord of Love, I pray
Command me well this lesson for to read;
This legend is of all that woulde dey* *die
Martyrs for love; God yet their soules speed!
And to thee, Venus, sing we, *out of dread,* *without doubt*
By influence of all thy virtue great,
Beseeching thee to keep us in our heat."
The second lesson robin redbreast sang,
"Hail to the God and Goddess of our lay!"* *law, religion
And to the lectern amorously he sprang:
"Hail now," quoth be, "O fresh season of May,
*Our moneth glad that singen on the spray!* *glad month for us that
Hail to the flowers, red, and white, and blue, sing upon the bough*
Which by their virtue maken our lust new!"
The third lesson the turtle-dove took up,
And thereat laugh'd the mavis* in a scorn: *blackbird
He said, "O God, as might I dine or sup,
This foolish dove will give us all a horn!
There be right here a thousand better born,
To read this lesson, which as well as he,
And eke as hot, can love in all degree."
The turtle-dove said, "Welcome, welcome May,
Gladsome and light to lovers that be true!
I thank thee, Lord of Love, that doth purvey
For me to read this lesson all *of due;* *in due form*
For, in good sooth, *of corage* I pursue *with all my heart*
To serve my make* till death us must depart:" *mate
And then "Tu autem" <50> sang he all apart.
"Te Deum amoris" <51> sang the throstel* cock: *thrush
Tubal <52> himself, the first musician,
With key of harmony could not unlock
So sweet a tune as that the throstel can:
"The Lord of Love we praise," quoth he than,* *then
And so do all the fowles great and lite;* *little
"Honour we May, in false lovers' despite."
"Dominus regnavit," <53> said the peacock there,
"The Lord of Love, that mighty prince, y-wis,
He is received here and ev'rywhere:
Now Jubilate <54> sing:" "What meaneth this?"
Said then the linnet; "welcome, Lord of bliss!"
Out start the owl with "Benedicite," <55>
"What meaneth all this merry fare?"* quoth he. *doing, fuss
"Laudate," <56> sang the lark with voice full shrill;
And eke the kite "O admirabile;" <57>
This quire* will through mine eares pierce and thrill; *choir
But what? welcome this May season," quoth he;
"And honour to the Lord of Love must be,
That hath this feast so solemn and so high:"
"Amen," said all; and so said eke the pie.* *magpie
And forth the cuckoo gan proceed anon,
With "Benedictus" <58> thanking God in haste,
That in this May would visit them each one,
And gladden them all while the feast shall last:
And therewithal a-laughter* out he brast;"** *in laughter **burst
"I thanke God that I should end the song,
And all the service which hath been so long."
Thus sang they all the service of the feast,
And that was done right early, to my doom;* *judgment
And forth went all the Court, both *most and least,* *great and small
To fetch the flowers fresh, and branch and bloom;
And namely* hawthorn brought both page and groom, *especially
With freshe garlands party* blue and white, <59> *parti-coloured
And then rejoiced in their great delight.
Eke each at other threw the flowers bright,
The primerose, the violet, and the gold;
So then, as I beheld the royal sight,
My lady gan me suddenly behold,
And with a true love, plighted many a fold,
She smote me through the very heart *as blive;* *straightway*
And Venus yet I thank I am alive.
Explicit* *The End
Notes to The Court of Love
1. So the Man of Law, in the prologue to his Tale, is made to
say that Chaucer "can but lewedly (ignorantly or imperfectly) on
metres and on rhyming craftily." But the humility of those
apologies is not justified by the care and finish of his earlier
2. Born: burnish, polish: the poet means, that his verses do not
display the eloquence or brilliancy of Cicero in setting forth his
3. Galfrid: Geoffrey de Vinsauf to whose treatise on poetical
composition a less flattering allusion is made in The Nun's
Priest's Tale. See note 33 to that Tale.
4. Stirp: race, stock; Latin, "stirps."
5. Calliope is the epic muse -- "sister" to the other eight.
6. Melpomene was the tragic muse.
7. The same is said of Griselda, in The Clerk's Tale; though she
was of tender years, "yet in the breast of her virginity there was
inclos'd a sad and ripe corage"
8. The confusion which Chaucer makes between Cithaeron and
Cythera, has already been remarked. See note 41 to the
9. Balais: Bastard rubies; said to be so called from Balassa, the
Asian country where they were found. Turkeis: turquoise
10. Spenser, in his description of the House of Busirane, speaks
of the sad distress into which Phoebus was plunged by Cupid, in
revenge for the betrayal of "his mother's wantonness, when she
with Mars was meint [mingled] in joyfulness"
11. Alcestis, daughter of Pelias, was won to wife by Admetus,
King of Pherae, who complied with her father's demand that he
should come to claim her in a chariot drawn by lions and boars.
By the aid of Apollo -- who tended the flocks of Admetus
during his banishment from heaven -- the suitor fulfilled the
condition; and Apollo further induced the Moirae or Fates to
grant that Admetus should never die, if his father, mother, or
wife would die for him. Alcestis devoted herself in his stead;
and, since each had made great efforts or sacrifices for love, the
pair are fitly placed as king and queen in the Court of Love.
12. In the prologue to the "Legend of Good Women," Chaucer
says that behind the God of Love, upon the green, he "saw
coming in ladies nineteen;" but the stories of only nine good
women are there told. In the prologue to The Man of Law's
Tale, sixteen ladies are named as having their stories written in
the "Saints' Legend of Cupid" -- now known as the "Legend of
Good Women" -- (see note 5 to the Prologue to the Man of
Law's Tale); and in the "Retractation," at the end of the Parson's
Tale, the "Book of the Twenty-five Ladies" is enumerated
among the works of which the poet repents -- but there "xxv" is
supposed to have been by some copyist written for "xix."
13. fele: many; German, "viele."
14. Arras: tapestry of silk, made at Arras, in France.
15. Danger, in the Provencal Courts of Love, was the
allegorical personification of the husband; and Disdain suitably
represents the lover's corresponding difficulty from the side of
16. In The Knight's Tale, Emily's yellow hair is braided in a
tress, or plait, that hung a yard long behind her back; so that,
both as regards colour and fashion, a singular resemblance
seems to have existed between the female taste of 1369 and that
17. In an old monkish story -- reproduced by Boccaccio, and
from him by La Fontaine in the Tale called "Les Oies de Frere
Philippe" -- a young man is brought up without sight or
knowledge of women, and, when he sees them on a visit to the
city, he is told that they are geese.
18. Tabernacle: A shrine or canopy of stone, supported by
19. Mister folk: handicraftsmen, or tradesmen, who have
20. The loves "Of Queen Annelida and False Arcite" formed the
subject of a short unfinished poem by Chaucer, which was
afterwards worked up into The Knight's Tale.
21. Blue was the colour of truth. See note 36 to the Squire's
22. Blife: quickly, eagerly; for "blive" or "belive."
23. It will be seen afterwards that Philogenet does not relish it,
and pleads for its relaxation.
24. Feat: dainty, neat, handsome; the same as "fetis," oftener
used in Chaucer; the adverb "featly" is still used, as applied to
25. Solomon was beguiled by his heathenish wives to forsake
the worship of the true God; Samson fell a victim to the wiles of
26. Compare the speech of Proserpine to Pluto, in The
27. See note 91 to the Knight's Tale for a parallel.
28. Flaw: yellow; Latin, "flavus," French, "fauve."
29. Bass: kiss; French, "baiser;" and hence the more vulgar
30. Maximian: Cornelius Maximianus Gallus flourished in the
time of the Emperor Anastasius; in one of his elegies, he
professed a preference for flaming and somewhat swelling lips,
which, when he tasted them, would give him full kisses.
31. Dwale: sleeping potion, narcotic. See note 19 to the Reeve's
32. Environ: around; French, "a l'environ."
33. Cast off thine heart: i.e. from confidence in her.
34. Nesh: soft, delicate; Anglo-Saxon, "nese."
35. Perfection: Perfectly holy life, in the performance of vows
of poverty, chastity, obedience, and other modes of mortifying
36. All the sin must on our friendes be: who made us take the
vows before they knew our own dispositions, or ability, to keep
37. Cope: The large vestment worn in singing the service in the
choir. In Chaucer's time it seems to have been a distinctively
clerical piece of dress; so, in the prologue to The Monk's Tale,
the Host, lamenting that so stalwart a man as the Monk should
have gone into religion, exclaims, "Alas! why wearest thou so
wide a cope?"
38. The three of fatal destiny: The three Fates.
39. Cythere: Cytherea -- Venus, so called from the name of
the island, Cythera, into which her worship was first introduced
40. Avaunter: Boaster; Philobone calls him out.
41. The statute: i.e. the 16th.
42. "Metamorphoses" Lib. ii. 768 et seqq., where a general
description of Envy is given.
43. Golden Love and Leaden Love represent successful and
unsuccessful love; the first kindled by Cupid's golden darts, the
second by his leaden arrows.
44. "Domine, labia mea aperies -- et os meam annunciabit
laudem tuam" ("Lord, open my lips -- and my mouth will
announce your praise") Psalms li. 15, was the verse with which
Matins began. The stanzas which follow contain a paraphrase of
the matins for Trinity Sunday, allegorically setting forth the
doctrine that love is the all-controlling influence in the
government of the
45. "Venite, exultemus," ("Come, let us rejoice") are the first
words of Psalm xcv. called the "Invitatory."
46. "Domine Dominus noster:" The opening words of Psalm
viii.; "O Lord our Lord."
47. "Coeli enarrant:" Psalm xix. 1; "The heavens declare (thy
48. "Domini est terra": Psalm xxiv. I; "The earth is the Lord's
and the fulness thereof." The first "nocturn" is now over, and
the lessons from Scripture follow.
49. "Jube, Domine:" "Command, O Lord;" from Matthew xiv.
28, where Peter, seeing Christ walking on the water, says
"Lord, if it be thou, bid me come to thee on the water."
50: "Tu autem:" the formula recited by the reader at the end of
each lesson; "Tu autem, Domine, miserere nobis." ("But do
thou, O Lord, have pity on us!")
51. "Te Deum Amoris:" "Thee, God of Love (we praise)."
52. Not Tubal, who was the worker in metals; but Jubal, his
brother, "who was the father of all such as handle the harp and
organ" (Genesis iv. 21).
53. "Dominus regnavit:" Psalm xciii. 1, "The Lord reigneth."
With this began the "Laudes," or morning service of praise.
54. "Jubilate:" Psalm c. 1, "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord."
55. "Benedicite:" "Bless ye the Lord;" the opening of the Song
of the Three Children
56. "Laudate:" Psalm cxlvii.; "Praise ye the Lord."
57. "O admirabile:" Psalm viii 1; "O Lord our God, how
excellent is thy name."
58. "Benedictus": The first word of the Song of Zacharias
(Luke i. 68); "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel"
59. In The Knight's Tale we have exemplifications of the
custom of gathering and wearing flowers and branches on May
Day; where Emily, "doing observance to May," goes into the
garden at sunrise and gathers flowers, "party white and red, to
make a sotel garland for her head"; and again, where Arcite
rides to the fields "to make him a garland of the greves; were it
of woodbine, or of hawthorn leaves"