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The Canterbury Tales

Geoffrey Chaucer

Written 1387-1400

Edited for Popular Perusal by D. Laing Purves

This is the Bookwise complete ebook of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, available to read online as an alternative to epub, mobi, kindle, pdf or text only versions. For information about the status of this work, see Copyright Notice.


Preface

Preface

THE object of this volume is to place before the general reader our two early poetic masterpieces – The Canterbury Tales and The Faerie Queen; to do so in a way that will render their “popular perusal” easy in a time of little leisure and unbounded temptations to intellectual languor; and, on the same conditions, to present a liberal and fairly representative selection from the less important and familiar poems of Chaucer and Spenser. There is, it may be said at the outset, peculiar advantage and propriety in placing the two poets side by side in the manner now attempted for the first time. Although two centuries divide them, yet Spenser is the direct and really the immediate successor to the poetical inheritance of Chaucer. Those two hundred years, eventful as they were, produced no poet at all worthy to take up the mantle that fell from Chaucer’s shoulders; and Spenser does not need his affected archaisms, nor his frequent and reverent appeals to “Dan Geffrey,” to vindicate for himself a place very close to his great predecessor in the literary history of England. If Chaucer is the “Well of English undefiled,” Spenser is the broad and stately river that yet holds the tenure of its very life from the fountain far away in other and ruder scenes.

The Canterbury Tales, so far as they are in verse, have been printed without any abridgement or designed change in the sense. But the two Tales in prose – Chaucer’s Tale of Meliboeus, and the Parson’s long Sermon on Penitence – have been contracted, so as to exclude thirty pages of unattractive prose, and to admit the same amount of interesting and characteristic poetry. The gaps thus made in the prose Tales, however, are supplied by careful outlines of the omitted matter, so that the reader need be at no loss to comprehend the whole scope and sequence of the original. With The Faerie Queen a bolder course has been pursued. The great obstacle to the popularity of Spencer’s splendid work has lain less in its language than in its length. If we add together the three great poems of antiquity – the twenty-four books of the Iliad, the twenty-four books of the Odyssey, and the twelve books of the Aeneid – we get at the dimensions of only one-half of The Faerie Queen. The six books, and the fragment of a seventh, which alone exist of the author’s contemplated twelve, number about 35,000 verses; the sixty books of Homer and Virgil number no more than 37,000. The mere bulk of the poem, then, has opposed a formidable barrier to its popularity; to say nothing of the distracting effect produced by the numberless episodes, the tedious narrations, and the constant repetitions, which have largely swelled that bulk. In this volume the poem is compressed into two-thirds of its original space, through the expedient of representing the less interesting and more mechanical passages by a condensed prose outline, in which it has been sought as far as possible to preserve the very words of the poet. While deprecating a too critical judgement on the bare and constrained precis standing in such trying juxtaposition, it is hoped that the labour bestowed in saving the reader the trouble of wading through much that is not essential for the enjoyment of Spencer’s marvellous allegory, will not be unappreciated.

As regards the manner in which the text of the two great works, especially of The Canterbury Tales, is presented, the Editor is aware that some whose judgement is weighty will differ from him. This volume has been prepared “for popular perusal;” and its very raison d’etre would have failed, if the ancient orthography had been retained. It has often been affirmed by editors of Chaucer in the old forms of the language, that a little trouble at first would render the antiquated spelling and obsolete inflections a continual source, not of difficulty, but of actual delight, for the reader coming to the study of Chaucer without any preliminary acquaintance with the English of his day – or of his copyists’ days. Despite this complacent assurance, the obvious fact is, that Chaucer in the old forms has not become popular, in the true sense of the word; he is not “understanded of the vulgar.” In this volume, therefore, the text of Chaucer has been presented in nineteenth-century garb. But there has been not the slightest attempt to “modernise” Chaucer, in the wider meaning of the phrase; to replace his words by words which he did not use; or, following the example of some operators, to translate him into English of the modern spirit as well as the modern forms. So far from that, in every case where the old spelling or form seemed essential to metre, to rhyme, or meaning, no change has been attempted. But, wherever its preservation was not essential, the spelling of the monkish transcribers – for the most ardent purist must now despair of getting at the spelling of Chaucer himself – has been discarded for that of the reader’s own day. It is a poor compliment to the Father of English Poetry, to say that by such treatment the bouquet and individuality of his works must be lost. If his masterpiece is valuable for one thing more than any other, it is the vivid distinctness with which English men and women of the fourteenth century are there painted, for the study of all the centuries to follow. But we wantonly balk the artist’s own purpose, and discredit his labour, when we keep before his picture the screen of dust and cobwebs which, for the English people in these days, the crude forms of the infant language have practically become. Shakespeare has not suffered by similar changes; Spencer has not suffered; it would be surprising if Chaucer should suffer, when the loss of popular comprehension and favour in his case are necessarily all the greater for his remoteness from our day. In a much smaller degree – since previous labours in the same direction had left far less to do – the same work has been performed for the spelling of Spenser; and the whole endeavour in this department of the Editor’s task has been, to present a text plain and easily intelligible to the modern reader, without any injustice to the old poet. It would be presumptuous to believe that in every case both ends have been achieved together; but the laudatores temporis acti - the students who may differ most from the plan pursued in this volume – will best appreciate the difficulty of the enterprise, and most leniently regard any failure in the details of its accomplishment.

With all the works of Chaucer, outside The Canterbury Tales, it would have been absolutely impossible to deal within the scope of this volume. But nearly one hundred pages, have been devoted to his minor poems; and, by dint of careful selection and judicious abridgement – a connecting outline of the story in all such cases being given – the Editor ventures to hope that he has presented fair and acceptable specimens of Chaucer’s workmanship in all styles. The preparation of this part of the volume has been a laborious task; no similar attempt on the same scale has been made; and, while here also the truth of the text in matters essential has been in nowise sacrificed to mere ease of perusal, the general reader will find opened up for him a new view of Chaucer and his works. Before a perusal of these hundred pages, will melt away for ever the lingering tradition or prejudice that Chaucer was only, or characteristically, a coarse buffoon, who pandered to a base and licentious appetite by painting and exaggerating the lowest vices of his time. In these selections – made without a thought of taking only what is to the poet’s credit from a wide range of poems in which hardly a word is to his discredit – we behold Chaucer as he was; a courtier, a gallant, pure-hearted gentleman, a scholar, a philosopher, a poet of gay and vivid fancy, playing around themes of chivalric convention, of deep human interest, or broad-sighted satire. In The Canterbury Tales, we see, not Chaucer, but Chaucer’s times and neighbours; the artist has lost himself in his work. To show him honestly and without disguise, as he lived his own life and sung his own songs at the brilliant Court of Edward III, is to do his memory a moral justice far more material than any wrong that can ever come out of spelling. As to the minor poems of Spenser, which follow The Faerie Queen, the choice has been governed by the desire to give at once the most interesting, and the most characteristic of the poet’s several styles; and, save in the case of the Sonnets, the poems so selected are given entire. It is manifest that the endeavours to adapt this volume for popular use, have been already noticed, would imperfectly succeed without the aid of notes and glossary, to explain allusions that have become obsolete, or antiquated words which it was necessary to retain. An endeavour has been made to render each page self- explanatory, by placing on it all the glossarial and illustrative notes required for its elucidation, or – to avoid repetitions that would have occupied space – the references to the spot where information may be found. The great advantage of such a plan to the reader, is the measure of its difficulty for the editor. It permits much more flexibility in the choice of glossarial explanations or equivalents; it saves the distracting and time- consuming reference to the end or the beginning of the book; but, at the same time, it largely enhances the liability to error. The Editor is conscious that in the 12,000 or 13,000 notes, as well as in the innumerable minute points of spelling, accentuation, and rhythm, he must now and again be found tripping; he can only ask any reader who may detect all that he could himself point out as being amiss, to set off against inevitable mistakes and misjudgements, the conscientious labour bestowed on the book, and the broad consideration of its fitness for the object contemplated.

From books the Editor has derived valuable help; as from Mr Cowden Clarke’s revised modern text of The Canterbury Tales, published in Mr Nimmo’s Library Edition of the English Poets; from Mr Wright’s scholarly edition of the same work; from the indispensable Tyrwhitt; from Mr Bell’s edition of Chaucer’s Poem; from Professor Craik’s “Spenser and his Poetry,” published twenty-five years ago by Charles Knight; and from many others. In the abridgement of the Faerie Queen, the plan may at first sight seem to be modelled on the lines of Mr Craik’s painstaking condensation; but the coincidences are either inevitable or involuntary. Many of the notes, especially of those explaining classical references and those attached to the minor poems of Chaucer, have been prepared specially for this edition. The Editor leaves his task with the hope that his attempt to remove artificial obstacles to the popularity of England’s earliest poets, will not altogether miscarry.

D. LAING PURVES.

Life of Geoffrey Chaucer

Life of Geoffrey Chaucer

NOT in point of genius only, but even in point of time, Chaucer may claim the proud designation of “first” English poet. He wrote “The Court of Love” in 1345, and “The Romaunt of the Rose,” if not also “Troilus and Cressida,” probably within the next decade: the dates usually assigned to the poems of Laurence Minot extend from 1335 to 1355, while “The Vision of Piers Plowman” mentions events that occurred in 1360 and 1362 – before which date Chaucer had certainly written “The Assembly of Fowls” and his “Dream.” But, though they were his contemporaries, neither Minot nor Langland (if Langland was the author of the Vision) at all approached Chaucer in the finish, the force, or the universal interest of their works and the poems of earlier writer; as Layamon and the author of the “Ormulum,” are less English than Anglo-Saxon or Anglo- Norman. Those poems reflected the perplexed struggle for supremacy between the two grand elements of our language, which marked the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; a struggle intimately associated with the political relations between the conquering Normans and the subjugated Anglo-Saxons. Chaucer found two branches of the language; that spoken by the people, Teutonic in its genius and its forms; that spoken by the learned and the noble, based on the French Yet each branch had begun to borrow of the other – just as nobles and people had been taught to recognise that each needed the other in the wars and the social tasks of the time; and Chaucer, a scholar, a courtier, a man conversant with all orders of society, but accustomed to speak, think, and write in the words of the highest, by his comprehensive genius cast into the simmering mould a magical amalgamant which made the two half-hostile elements unite and interpenetrate each other. Before Chaucer wrote, there were two tongues in England, keeping alive the feuds and resentments of cruel centuries; when he laid down his pen, there was practically but one speech – there was, and ever since has been, but one people.

Geoffrey Chaucer, according to the most trustworthy traditions- for authentic testimonies on the subject are wanting – was born in 1328; and London is generally believed to have been his birth-place. It is true that Leland, the biographer of England’s first great poet who lived nearest to his time, not merely speaks of Chaucer as having been born many years later than the date now assigned, but mentions Berkshire or Oxfordshire as the scene of his birth. So great uncertainty have some felt on the latter score, that elaborate parallels have been drawn between Chaucer, and Homer – for whose birthplace several cities contended, and whose descent was traced to the demigods. Leland may seem to have had fair opportunities of getting at the truth about Chaucer’s birth – for Henry VIII had him, at the suppression of the monasteries throughout England, to search for records of public interest the archives of the religious houses. But it may be questioned whether he was likely to find many authentic particulars regarding the personal history of the poet in the quarters which he explored; and Leland’s testimony seems to be set aside by Chaucer’s own evidence as to his birthplace, and by the contemporary references which make him out an aged man for years preceding the accepted date of his death. In one of his prose works, “The Testament of Love,” the poet speaks of himself in terms that strongly confirm the claim of London to the honour of giving him birth; for he there mentions “the city of London, that is to me so dear and sweet, in which I was forth growen; and more kindly love,” says he, “have I to that place than to any other in earth; as every kindly creature hath full appetite to that place of his kindly engendrure, and to will rest and peace in that place to abide.” This tolerably direct evidence is supported – so far as it can be at such an interval of time – by the learned Camden; in his Annals of Queen Elizabeth, he describes Spencer, who was certainly born in London, as being a fellow-citizen of Chaucer’s – “Edmundus Spenserus, patria Londinensis, Musis adeo arridentibus natus, ut omnes Anglicos superioris aevi poetas, ne Chaucero quidem concive excepto, superaret.” pre1 The records of the time notice more than one person of the name of Chaucer, who held honourable positions about the Court; and though we cannot distinctly trace the poet’s relationship with any of these namesakes or antecessors, we find excellent ground for belief that his family or friends stood well at Court, in the ease with which Chaucer made his way there, and in his subsequent career.

Like his great successor, Spencer, it was the fortune of Chaucer to live under a splendid, chivalrous, and high-spirited reign. 1328 was the second year of Edward III; and, what with Scotch wars, French expeditions, and the strenuous and costly struggle to hold England in a worthy place among the States of Europe, there was sufficient bustle, bold achievement, and high ambition in the period to inspire a poet who was prepared to catch the spirit of the day. It was an age of elaborate courtesy, of high- paced gallantry, of courageous venture, of noble disdain for mean tranquillity; and Chaucer, on the whole a man of peaceful avocations, was penetrated to the depth of his consciousness with the lofty and lovely civil side of that brilliant and restless military period. No record of his youthful years, however, remains to us; if we believe that at the age of eighteen he was a student of Cambridge, it is only on the strength of a reference in his “Court of Love”, where the narrator is made to say that his name is Philogenet, “of Cambridge clerk;” while he had already told us that when he was stirred to seek the Court of Cupid he was “at eighteen year of age.” According to Leland, however, he was educated at Oxford, proceeding thence to France and the Netherlands, to finish his studies; but there remains no certain evidence of his having belonged to either University. At the same time, it is not doubted that his family was of good condition; and, whether or not we accept the assertion that his father held the rank of knighthood – rejecting the hypotheses that make him a merchant, or a vintner “at the corner of Kirton Lane” – it is plain, from Chaucer’s whole career, that he had introductions to public life, and recommendations to courtly favour, wholly independent of his genius. We have the clearest testimony that his mental training was of wide range and thorough excellence, altogether rare for a mere courtier in those days: his poems attest his intimate acquaintance with the divinity, the philosophy, and the scholarship of his time, and show him to have had the sciences, as then developed and taught, “at his fingers’ ends.” Another proof of Chaucer’s good birth and fortune would he found in the statement that, after his University career was completed, he entered the Inner Temple - - the expenses of which could be borne only by men of noble and opulent families; but although there is a story that he was once fined two shillings for thrashing a Franciscan friar in Fleet Street, we have no direct authority for believing that the poet devoted himself to the uncongenial study of the law. No special display of knowledge on that subject appears in his works; yet in the sketch of the Manciple, in the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, may be found indications of his familiarity with the internal economy of the Inns of Court; while numerous legal phrases and references hint that his comprehensive information was not at fault on legal matters. Leland says that he quitted the University “a ready logician, a smooth rhetorician, a pleasant poet, a grave philosopher, an ingenious mathematician, and a holy divine;” and by all accounts, when Geoffrey Chaucer comes before us authentically for the first time, at the age of thirty-one, he was possessed of knowledge and accomplishments far beyond the common standard of his day.

Chaucer at this period possessed also other qualities fitted to recommend him to favour in a Court like that of Edward III. Urry describes him, on the authority of a portrait, as being then “of a fair beautiful complexion, his lips red and full, his size of a just medium, and his port and air graceful and majestic. So,” continues the ardent biographer, – “so that every ornament that could claim the approbation of the great and fair, his abilities to record the valour of the one, and celebrate the beauty of the other, and his wit and gentle behaviour to converse with both, conspired to make him a complete courtier.” If we believe that his “Court of Love” had received such publicity as the literary media of the time allowed in the somewhat narrow and select literary world – not to speak of “Troilus and Cressida,” which, as Lydgate mentions it first among Chaucer’s works, some have supposed to be a youthful production – we find a third and not less powerful recommendation to the favour of the great co- operating with his learning and his gallant bearing. Elsewhere pre2 reasons have been shown for doubt whether “Troilus and Cressida” should not be assigned to a later period of Chaucer’s life; but very little is positively known about the dates and sequence of his various works. In the year 1386, being called as witness with regard to a contest on a point of heraldry between Lord Scrope and Sir Robert Grosvenor, Chaucer deposed that he entered on his military career in 1359. In that year Edward III invaded France, for the third time, in pursuit of his claim to the French crown; and we may fancy that, in describing the embarkation of the knights in “Chaucer’s Dream”, the poet gained some of the vividness and stir of his picture from his recollections of the embarkation of the splendid and well- appointed royal host at Sandwich, on board the eleven hundred transports provided for the enterprise. In this expedition the laurels of Poitiers were flung on the ground; after vainly attempting Rheims and Paris, Edward was constrained, by cruel weather and lack of provisions, to retreat toward his ships; the fury of the elements made the retreat more disastrous than an overthrow in pitched battle; horses and men perished by thousands, or fell into the hands of the pursuing French. Chaucer, who had been made prisoner at the siege of Retters, was among the captives in the possession of France when the treaty of Bretigny – the “great peace” – was concluded, in May, 1360. Returning to England, as we may suppose, at the peace, the poet, ere long, fell into another and a pleasanter captivity; for his marriage is generally believed to have taken place shortly after his release from foreign durance. He had already gained the personal friendship and favour of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the King’s son; the Duke, while Earl of Richmond, had courted, and won to wife after a certain delay, Blanche, daughter and co-heiress of Henry Duke of Lancaster; and Chaucer is by some believed to have written “The Assembly of Fowls” to celebrate the wooing, as he wrote “Chaucer’s Dream” to celebrate the wedding, of his patron. The marriage took place in 1359, the year of Chaucer’s expedition to France; and as, in “The Assembly of Fowls,” the formel or female eagle, who is supposed to represent the Lady Blanche, begs that her choice of a mate may be deferred for a year, 1358 and 1359 have been assigned as the respective dates of the two poems already mentioned. In the “Dream,” Chaucer prominently introduces his own lady-love, to whom, after the happy union of his patron with the Lady Blanche, he is wedded amid great rejoicing; and various expressions in the same poem show that not only was the poet high in favour with the illustrious pair, but that his future wife had also peculiar claims on their regard. She was the younger daughter of Sir Payne Roet, a native of Hainault, who had, like many of his countrymen, been attracted to England by the example and patronage of Queen Philippa. The favourite attendant on the Lady Blanche was her elder sister Katherine: subsequently married to Sir Hugh Swynford, a gentleman of Lincolnshire; and destined, after the death of Blanche, to be in succession governess of her children, mistress of John of Gaunt, and lawfully-wedded Duchess of Lancaster. It is quite sufficient proof that Chaucer’s position at Court was of no mean consequence, to find that his wife, the sister of the future Duchess of Lancaster, was one of the royal maids of honour, and even, as Sir Harris Nicolas conjectures, a god-daughter of the Queen – for her name also was Philippa.

Between 1359, when the poet himself testifies that he was made prisoner while bearing arms in France, and September 1366, when Queen Philippa granted to her former maid of honour, by the name of Philippa Chaucer, a yearly pension of ten marks, or L6, 13s. 4d., we have no authentic mention of Chaucer, express or indirect. It is plain from this grant that the poet’s marriage with Sir Payne Roet’s daughter was not celebrated later than 1366; the probability is, that it closely followed his return from the wars. In 1367, Edward III. settled upon Chaucer a life- pension of twenty marks, “for the good service which our beloved Valet – ‘dilectus Valettus noster’ – Geoffrey Chaucer has rendered, and will render in time to come.” Camden explains ‘Valettus hospitii’ to signify a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber; Selden says that the designation was bestowed “upon young heirs designed to he knighted, or young gentlemen of great descent and quality.” Whatever the strict meaning of the word, it is plain that the poet’s position was honourable and near to the King’s person, and also that his worldly circumstances were easy, if not affluent – for it need not be said that twenty marks in those days represented twelve or twenty times the sum in these. It is believed that he found powerful patronage, not merely from the Duke of Lancaster and his wife, but from Margaret Countess of Pembroke, the King’s daughter. To her Chaucer is supposed to have addressed the “Goodly Ballad”, in which the lady is celebrated under the image of the daisy; her he is by some understood to have represented under the title of Queen Alcestis, in the “Court of Love” and the Prologue to “The Legend of Good Women;” and in her praise we may read his charming descriptions and eulogies of the daisy – French, “Marguerite,” the name of his Royal patroness. To this period of Chaucer’s career we may probably attribute the elegant and courtly, if somewhat conventional, poems of “The Flower and the Leaf,” “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale,” &c. “The Lady Margaret,” says Urry, “. . . would frequently compliment him upon his poems. But this is not to be meant of his Canterbury Tales, they being written in the latter part of his life, when the courtier and the fine gentleman gave way to solid sense and plain descriptions. In his love-pieces he was obliged to have the strictest regard to modesty and decency; the ladies at that time insisting so much upon the nicest punctilios of honour, that it was highly criminal to depreciate their sex, or do anything that might offend virtue.” Chaucer, in their estimation, had sinned against the dignity and honour of womankind by his translation of the French “Roman de la Rose,” and by his “Troilus and Cressida” – assuming it to have been among his less mature works; and to atone for those offences the Lady Margaret (though other and older accounts say that it was the first Queen of Richard II., Anne of Bohemia), prescribed to him the task of writing “The Legend of Good Women” (see introductory note to that poem). About this period, too, we may place the composition of Chaucer’s A. B. C., or The Prayer of Our Lady, made at the request of the Duchess Blanche, a lady of great devoutness in her private life. She died in 1369; and Chaucer, as he had allegorised her wooing, celebrated her marriage, and aided her devotions, now lamented her death, in a poem entitled “The Book of the Duchess; or, the Death of Blanche.pre3

In 1370, Chaucer was employed on the King’s service abroad; and in November 1372, by the title of “Scutifer noster” – our Esquire or Shield-bearer – he was associated with “Jacobus Pronan,” and “Johannes de Mari civis Januensis,” in a royal commission, bestowing full powers to treat with the Duke of Genoa, his Council, and State. The object of the embassy was to negotiate upon the choice of an English port at which the Genoese might form a commercial establishment; and Chaucer, having quitted England in December, visited Genoa and Florence, and returned to England before the end of November 1373 – for on that day he drew his pension from the Exchequer in person. The most interesting point connected with this Italian mission is the question, whether Chaucer visited Petrarch at Padua. That he did, is unhesitatingly affirmed by the old biographers; but the authentic notices of Chaucer during the years 1372-1373, as shown by the researches of Sir Harris Nicolas, are confined to the facts already stated; and we are left to answer the question by the probabilities of the case, and by the aid of what faint light the poet himself affords. We can scarcely fancy that Chaucer, visiting Italy for the first time, in a capacity which opened for him easy access to the great and the famous, did not embrace the chance of meeting a poet whose works he evidently knew in their native tongue, and highly esteemed. With Mr Wright, we are strongly disinclined to believe “that Chaucer did not profit by the opportunity . . . of improving his acquaintance with the poetry, if not the poets, of the country he thus visited, whose influence was now being felt on the literature of most countries of Western Europe.” That Chaucer was familiar with the Italian language appears not merely from his repeated selection as Envoy to Italian States, but by many passages in his poetry, from “The Assembly of Fowls” to “The Canterbury Tales.” In the opening of the first poem there is a striking parallel to Dante’s inscription on the gate of Hell. The first Song of Troilus, in “Troilus and Cressida”, is a nearly literal translation of Petrarch’s 88th Sonnet. In the Prologue to “The Legend of Good Women”, there is a reference to Dante which can hardly have reached the poet at second- hand. And in Chaucer’s great work – as in The Wife of Bath’s Tale, and The Monk’s Tale – direct reference by name is made to Dante, “the wise poet of Florence,” “the great poet of Italy,” as the source whence the author has quoted. When we consider the poet’s high place in literature and at Court, which could not fail to make him free of the hospitalities of the brilliant little Lombard States; his familiarity with the tongue and the works of Italy’s greatest bards, dead and living; the reverential regard which he paid to the memory of great poets, of which we have examples in “The House of Fame,” and at the close of “Troilus and Cressida” pre4; along with his own testimony in the Prologue to The Clerk’s Tale, we cannot fail to construe that testimony as a declaration that the Tale was actually told to Chaucer by the lips of Petrarch, in 1373, the very year in which Petrarch translated it into Latin, from Boccaccio’s “Decameron.”pre5

Mr Bell notes the objection to this interpretation, that the words are put into the mouth, not of the poet, but of the Clerk; and meets it by the counter- objection, that the Clerk, being a purely imaginary personage, could not have learned the story at Padua from Petrarch – and therefore that Chaucer must have departed from the dramatic assumption maintained in the rest of the dialogue. Instances could be adduced from Chaucer’s writings to show that such a sudden “departure from the dramatic assumption” would not be unexampled: witness the “aside” in The Wife of Bath’s Prologue, where, after the jolly Dame has asserted that “half so boldly there can no man swear and lie as a woman can”, the poet hastens to interpose, in his own person, these two lines:

“I say not this by wives that be wise, But if it be when they them misadvise.”

And again, in the Prologue to the “Legend of Good Women,” from a description of the daisy –

“She is the clearness and the very light, That in this darke world me guides and leads,”

the poet, in the very next lines, slides into an address to his lady:

“The heart within my sorrowful heart you dreads And loves so sore, that ye be, verily, The mistress of my wit, and nothing I,” &c.

When, therefore, the Clerk of Oxford is made to say that he will tell a tale –

“The which that I Learn’d at Padova of a worthy clerk, As proved by his wordes and his werk. He is now dead, and nailed in his chest, I pray to God to give his soul good rest. Francis Petrarc’, the laureate poete, Highte this clerk, whose rhetoric so sweet Illumin’d all Itaile of poetry. . . . But forth to tellen of this worthy man, That taughte me this tale, as I began.” . . .

we may without violent effort believe that Chaucer speaks in his own person, though dramatically the words are on the Clerk’s lips. And the belief is not impaired by the sorrowful way in which the Clerk lingers on Petrarch’s death – which would be less intelligible if the fictitious narrator had only read the story in the Latin translation, than if we suppose the news of Petrarch’s death at Arqua in July 1374 to have closely followed Chaucer to England, and to have cruelly and irresistibly mingled itself with our poet’s personal recollections of his great Italian contemporary. Nor must we regard as without significance the manner in which the Clerk is made to distinguish between the “body” of Petrarch’s tale, and the fashion in which it was set forth in writing, with a proem that seemed “a thing impertinent”, save that the poet had chosen in that way to “convey his matter” – told, or “taught,” so much more directly and simply by word of mouth. It is impossible to pronounce positively on the subject; the question whether Chaucer saw Petrarch in 1373 must remain a moot-point, so long as we have only our present information; but fancy loves to dwell on the thought of the two poets conversing under the vines at Arqua; and we find in the history and the writings of Chaucer nothing to contradict, a good deal to countenance, the belief that such a meeting occurred.

Though we have no express record, we have indirect testimony, that Chaucer’s Genoese mission was discharged satisfactorily; for on the 23d of April 1374, Edward III grants at Windsor to the poet, by the title of “our beloved squire” – dilecto Armigero nostro – unum pycher. vini, “one pitcher of wine” daily, to be “perceived” in the port of London; a grant which, on the analogy of more modern usage, might he held equivalent to Chaucer’s appointment as Poet Laureate. When we find that soon afterwards the grant was commuted for a money payment of twenty marks per annum, we need not conclude that Chaucer’s circumstances were poor; for it may be easily supposed that the daily “perception” of such an article of income was attended with considerable prosaic inconvenience. A permanent provision for Chaucer was made on the 8th of June 1374, when he was appointed Controller of the Customs in the Port of London, for the lucrative imports of wools, skins or “wool-fells,” and tanned hides – on condition that he should fulfil the duties of that office in person and not by deputy, and should write out the accounts with his own hand. We have what seems evidence of Chaucer’s compliance with these terms in “The House of Fame”, where, in the mouth of the eagle, the poet describes himself, when he has finished his labour and made his reckonings, as not seeking rest and news in social intercourse, but going home to his own house, and there, “all so dumb as any stone,” sitting “at another book,” until his look is dazed; and again, in the record that in 1376 he received a grant of L731, 4s. 6d., the amount of a fine levied on one John Kent, whom Chaucer’s vigilance had frustrated in the attempt to ship a quantity of wool for Dordrecht without paying the duty. The seemingly derogatory condition, that the Controller should write out the accounts or rolls (“rotulos”) of his office with his own hand, appears to have been designed, or treated, as merely formal; no records in Chaucer’s handwriting are known to exist – which could hardly be the case if, for the twelve years of his Controllership (1374-1386), he had duly complied with the condition; and during that period he was more than once employed abroad, so that the condition was evidently regarded as a formality even by those who had imposed it. Also in 1374, the Duke of Lancaster, whose ambitious views may well have made him anxious to retain the adhesion of a man so capable and accomplished as Chaucer, changed into a joint life-annuity remaining to the survivor, and charged on the revenues of the Savoy, a pension of L10 which two years before he settled on the poet’s wife – whose sister was then the governess of the Duke’s two daughters, Philippa and Elizabeth, and the Duke’s own mistress. Another proof of Chaucer’s personal reputation and high Court favour at this time, is his selection (1375) as ward to the son of Sir Edmond Staplegate of Bilsynton, in Kent; a charge on the surrender of which the guardian received no less a sum than L104.

We find Chaucer in 1376 again employed on a foreign mission. In 1377, the last year of Edward III., he was sent to Flanders with Sir Thomas Percy, afterwards Earl of Worcester, for the purpose of obtaining a prolongation of the truce; and in January 13738, he was associated with Sir Guichard d’Angle and other Commissioners, to pursue certain negotiations for a marriage between Princess Mary of France and the young King Richard II., which had been set on foot before the death of Edward III. The negotiation, however, proved fruitless; and in May 1378, Chaucer was selected to accompany Sir John Berkeley on a mission to the Court of Bernardo Visconti, Duke of Milan, with the view, it is supposed, of concerting military plans against the outbreak of war with France. The new King, meantime, had shown that he was not insensible to Chaucer’s merit – or to the influence of his tutor and the poet’s patron, the Duke of Lancaster; for Richard II. confirmed to Chaucer his pension of twenty marks, along with an equal annual sum, for which the daily pitcher of wine granted in 1374 had been commuted. Before his departure for Lombardy, Chaucer – still holding his post in the Customs – selected two representatives or trustees, to protect his estate against legal proceedings in his absence, or to sue in his name defaulters and offenders against the imposts which he was charged to enforce. One of these trustees was called Richard Forrester; the other was John Gower, the poet, the most famous English contemporary of Chaucer, with whom he had for many years been on terms of admiring friendship – although, from the strictures passed on certain productions of Gower’s in the Prologue to The Man of Law’s Tale,pre6 it has been supposed that in the later years of Chaucer’s life the friendship suffered some diminution. To the “moral Gower” and “the philosophical Strode,” Chaucer “directed” or dedicated his “Troilus and Cressida;” pre7 while, in the “Confessio Amantis,” Gower introduces a handsome compliment to his greater contemporary, as the “disciple and the poet” of Venus, with whose glad songs and ditties, made in her praise during the flowers of his youth, the land was filled everywhere. Gower, however – a monk and a Conservative – held to the party of the Duke of Gloucester, the rival of the Wycliffite and innovating Duke of Lancaster, who was Chaucer’s patron, and whose cause was not a little aided by Chaucer’s strictures on the clergy; and thus it is not impossible that political differences may have weakened the old bonds of personal friendship and poetic esteem. Returning from Lombardy early in 1379, Chaucer seems to have been again sent abroad; for the records exhibit no trace of him between May and December of that year. Whether by proxy or in person, however, he received his pensions regularly until 1382, when his income was increased by his appointment to the post of Controller of Petty Customs in the port of London. In November 1384, he obtained a month’s leave of absence on account of his private affairs, and a deputy was appointed to fill his place; and in February of the next year he was permitted to appoint a permanent deputy – thus at length gaining relief from that close attention to business which probably curtailed the poetic fruits of the poet’s most powerful years. pre8

Chaucer is next found occupying a post which has not often been held by men gifted with his peculiar genius – that of a county member. The contest between the Dukes of Gloucester and Lancaster, and their adherents, for the control of the Government, was coming to a crisis; and when the recluse and studious Chaucer was induced to offer himself to the electors of Kent as one of the knights of their shire – where presumably he held property – we may suppose that it was with the view of supporting his patron’s cause in the impending conflict. The Parliament in which the poet sat assembled at Westminster on the 1st of October, and was dissolved on the 1st of November, 1386. Lancaster was fighting and intriguing abroad, absorbed in the affairs of his Castilian succession; Gloucester and his friends at home had everything their own way; the Earl of Suffolk was dismissed from the woolsack, and impeached by the Commons; and although Richard at first stood out courageously for the friends of his uncle Lancaster, he was constrained, by the refusal of supplies, to consent to the proceedings of Gloucester. A commission was wrung from him, under protest, appointing Gloucester, Arundel, and twelve other Peers and prelates, a permanent council to inquire into the condition of all the public departments, the courts of law, and the royal household, with absolute powers of redress and dismissal. We need not ascribe to Chaucer’s Parliamentary exertions in his patron’s behalf, nor to any malpractices in his official conduct, the fact that he was among the earliest victims of the commission.pre9 In December 1386, he was dismissed from both his offices in the port of London; but he retained his pensions, and drew them regularly twice a year at the Exchequer until 1388. In 1387, Chaucer’s political reverses were aggravated by a severe domestic calamity: his wife died, and with her died the pension which had been settled on her by Queen Philippa in 1366, and confirmed to her at Richard’s accession in 1377. The change made in Chaucer’s pecuniary position, by the loss of his offices and his wife’s pension, must have been very great. It would appear that during his prosperous times he had lived in a style quite equal to his income, and had no ample resources against a season of reverse; for, on the 1st of May 1388, less than a year and a half after being dismissed from the Customs, he was constrained to assign his pensions, by surrender in Chancery, to one John Scalby. In May 1389, Richard II., now of age, abruptly resumed the reins of government, which, for more than two years, had been ably but cruelly managed by Gloucester. The friends of Lancaster were once more supreme in the royal councils, and Chaucer speedily profited by the change. On the 12th of July he was appointed Clerk of the King’s Works at the Palace of Westminster, the Tower, the royal manors of Kennington, Eltham, Clarendon, Sheen, Byfleet, Childern Langley, and Feckenham, the castle of Berkhamstead, the royal lodge of Hathenburgh in the New Forest, the lodges in the parks of Clarendon, Childern Langley, and Feckenham, and the mews for the King’s falcons at Charing Cross; he received a salary of two shillings per day, and was allowed to perform the duties by deputy. For some reason unknown, Chaucer held this lucrative office pre10 little more than two years, quitting it before the 16th of September 1391, at which date it had passed into the hands of one John Gedney. The next two years and a half are a blank, so far as authentic records are concerned; Chaucer is supposed to have passed them in retirement, probably devoting them principally to the composition of The Canterbury Tales. In February 1394, the King conferred upon him a grant of L20 a year for life; but he seems to have had no other source of income, and to have become embarrassed by debt, for frequent memoranda of small advances on his pension show that his circumstances were, in comparison, greatly reduced. Things appear to have grown worse and worse with the poet; for in May 1398 he was compelled to obtain from the King letters of protection against arrest, extending over a term of two years. Not for the first time, it is true – for similar documents had been issued at the beginning of Richard’s reign; but at that time Chaucer’s missions abroad, and his responsible duties in the port of London, may have furnished reasons for securing him against annoyance or frivolous prosecution, which were wholly wanting at the later date. In 1398, fortune began again to smile upon him; he received a royal grant of a tun of wine annually, the value being about L4. Next year, Richard II having been deposed by the son of John of Gaunt pre11 – Henry of Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster – the new King, four days after hits accession, bestowed on Chaucer a grant of forty marks (L26, 13s. 4d.) per annum, in addition to the pension of L20 conferred by Richard II. in 1394. But the poet, now seventy-one years of age, and probably broken down by the reverses of the past few years, was not destined long to enjoy his renewed prosperity. On Christmas Eve of 1399, he entered on the possession of a house in the garden of the Chapel of the Blessed Mary of Westminster – near to the present site of Henry VII.’s Chapel – having obtained a lease from Robert Hermodesworth, a monk of the adjacent convent, for fifty-three years, at the annual rent of four marks (L2, 13s. 4d.) Until the 1st of March 1400, Chaucer drew his pensions in person; then they were received for him by another hand; and on the 25th of October, in the same year, he died, at the age of seventy-two. The only lights thrown by his poems on his closing days are furnished in the little ballad called “Good Counsel of Chaucer,” – which, though said to have been written when “upon his death-bed lying in his great anguish, “breathes the very spirit of courage, resignation, and philosophic calm; and by the “Retractation” at the end of The Canterbury Tales, which, if it was not foisted in by monkish transcribers, may be supposed the effect of Chaucer’s regrets and self-reproaches on that solemn review of his life-work which the close approach of death compelled. The poet was buried in Westminster Abbey; pre12 and not many years after his death a slab was placed on a pillar near his grave, bearing the lines, taken from an epitaph or eulogy made by Stephanus Surigonus of Milan, at the request of Caxton:

“Galfridus Chaucer, vates, et fama poesis Maternae, hoc sacra sum tumulatus humo.” pre13

About 1555, Mr Nicholas Brigham, a gentleman of Oxford who greatly admired the genius of Chaucer, erected the present tomb, as near to the spot where the poet lay, “before the chapel of St Benet,” as was then possible by reason of the “cancelli,”

pre14 which the Duke of Buckingham subsequently obtained leave to remove, that room might be made for the tomb of Dryden. On the structure of Mr Brigham, besides a full-length representation of Chaucer, taken from a portrait drawn by his “scholar” Thomas Occleve, was – or is, though now almost illegible – the following inscription:–

M. S. QUI FUIT ANGLORUM VATES TER MAXIMUS OLIM, GALFRIDUS CHAUCER CONDITUR HOC TUMULO; ANNUM SI QUAERAS DOMINI, SI TEMPORA VITAE, ECCE NOTAE SUBSUNT, QUE TIBI CUNCTA NOTANT. 25 OCTOBRIS 1400. AERUMNARUM REQUIES MORS. N. BRIGHAM HOS FECIT MUSARUM NOMINE SUMPTUS 1556. pre15

Concerning his personal appearance and habits, Chaucer has not been reticent in his poetry. Urry sums up the traits of his aspect and character fairly thus: “He was of a middle stature, the latter part of his life inclinable to be fat and corpulent, as appears by the Host’s bantering him in the journey to Canterbury, and comparing shapes with him.pre16 His face was fleshy, his features just and regular, his complexion fair, and somewhat pale, his hair of a dusky yellow, short and thin; the hair of his beard in two forked tufts, of a wheat colour; his forehead broad and smooth; his eyes inclining usually to the ground, which is intimated by the Host’s words; his whole face full of liveliness, a calm, easy sweetness, and a studious Venerable aspect. . . . As to his temper, he had a mixture of the gay, the modest, and the grave. The sprightliness of his humour was more distinguished by his writings than by his appearance; which gave occasion to Margaret Countess of Pembroke often to rally him upon his silent modesty in company, telling him, that his absence was more agreeable to her than his conversation, since the first was productive of agreeable pieces of wit in his writings, pre17 but the latter was filled with a modest deference, and a too distant respect. We see nothing merry or jocose in his behaviour with his pilgrims, but a silent attention to their mirth, rather than any mixture of his own. . . When disengaged from public affairs, his time was entirely spent in study and reading; so agreeable to him was this exercise, that he says he preferred it to all other sports and diversions.pre18 He lived within himself, neither desirous to hear nor busy to concern himself with the affairs of his neighbours. His course of living was temperate and regular; he went to rest with the sun, and rose before it; and by that means enjoyed the pleasures of the better part of the day, his morning walk and fresh contemplations. This gave him the advantage of describing the morning in so lively a manner as he does everywhere in his works. The springing sun glows warm in his lines, and the fragrant air blows cool in his descriptions; we smell the sweets of the bloomy haws, and hear the music of the feathered choir, whenever we take a forest walk with him. The hour of the day is not easier to be discovered from the reflection of the sun in Titian’s paintings, than in Chaucer’s morning landscapes. . . . His reading was deep and extensive, his judgement sound and discerning. . . In one word, he was a great scholar, a pleasant wit, a candid critic, a sociable companion, a steadfast friend, a grave philosopher, a temperate economist, and a pious Christian.”

Chaucer’s most important poems are “Troilus and Cressida,” “The Romaunt of the Rose,” and “The Canterbury Tales.” Of the first, containing 8246 lines, an abridgement, with a prose connecting outline of the story, is given in this volume. With the second, consisting of 7699 octosyllabic verses, like those in which “The House of Fame” is written, it was found impossible to deal in the present edition. The poem is a curtailed translation from the French “Roman de la Rose” – commenced by Guillaume de Lorris, who died in 1260, after contributing 4070 verses, and completed, in the last quarter of the thirteenth century, by Jean de Meun, who added some 18,000 verses. It is a satirical allegory, in which the vices of courts, the corruptions of the clergy, the disorders and inequalities of society in general, are unsparingly attacked, and the most revolutionary doctrines are advanced; and though, in making his translation, Chaucer softened or eliminated much of the satire of the poem, still it remained, in his verse, a caustic exposure of the abuses of the time, especially those which discredited the Church.

The Canterbury Tales are presented in this edition with as near an approach to completeness as regard for the popular character of the volume permitted. The 17,385 verses, of which the poetical Tales consist, have been given without abridgement or purgation – save in a single couplet; but, the main purpose of the volume being to make the general reader acquainted with the “poems” of Chaucer and Spenser, the Editor has ventured to contract the two prose Tales – Chaucer’s Tale of Meliboeus, and the Parson’s Sermon or Treatise on Penitence – so as to save about thirty pages for the introduction of Chaucer’s minor pieces. At the same time, by giving prose outlines of the omitted parts, it has been sought to guard the reader against the fear that he was losing anything essential, or even valuable. It is almost needless to describe the plot, or point out the literary place, of the Canterbury Tales. Perhaps in the entire range of ancient and modern literature there is no work that so clearly and freshly paints for future times the picture of the past; certainly no Englishman has ever approached Chaucer in the power of fixing for ever the fleeting traits of his own time. The plan of the poem had been adopted before Chaucer chose it; notably in the “Decameron” of Boccaccio – although, there, the circumstances under which the tales were told, with the terror of the plague hanging over the merry company, lend a grim grotesqueness to the narrative, unless we can look at it abstracted from its setting. Chaucer, on the other hand, strikes a perpetual key-note of gaiety whenever he mentions the word “pilgrimage;” and at every stage of the connecting story we bless the happy thought which gives us incessant incident, movement, variety, and unclouded but never monotonous joyousness.

The poet, the evening before he starts on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St Thomas at Canterbury, lies at the Tabard Inn, in Southwark, curious to know in what companionship he is destined to fare forward on the morrow. Chance sends him “nine and twenty in a company,” representing all orders of English society, lay and clerical, from the Knight and the Abbot down to the Ploughman and the Sompnour. The jolly Host of the Tabard, after supper, when tongues are loosened and hearts are opened, declares that “not this year” has he seen such a company at once under his roof-tree, and proposes that, when they set out next morning, he should ride with them and make them sport. All agree, and Harry Bailly unfolds his scheme: each pilgrim, including the poet, shall tell two tales on the road to Canterbury, and two on the way back to London; and he whom the general voice pronounces to have told the best tale, shall be treated to a supper at the common cost – and, of course, to mine Host’s profit – when the cavalcade returns from the saint’s shrine to the Southwark hostelry. All joyously assent; and early on the morrow, in the gay spring sunshine, they ride forth, listening to the heroic tale of the brave and gentle Knight, who has been gracefully chosen by the Host to lead the spirited competition of story-telling.

To describe thus the nature of the plan, and to say that when Chaucer conceived, or at least began to execute it, he was between sixty and seventy years of age, is to proclaim that The Canterbury Tales could never be more than a fragment. Thirty pilgrims, each telling two tales on the way out, and two more on the way back – that makes 120 tales; to say nothing of the prologue, the description of the journey, the occurrences at Canterbury, “and all the remnant of their pilgrimage,” which Chaucer also undertook. No more than twenty-three of the 120 stories are told in the work as it comes down to us; that is, only twenty-three of the thirty pilgrims tell the first of the two stories on the road to Canterbury; while of the stories on the return journey we have not one, and nothing is said about the doings of the pilgrims at Canterbury – which would, if treated like the scene at the Tabard, have given us a still livelier “picture of the period.” But the plan was too large; and although the poet had some reserves, in stories which he had already composed in an independent form, death cut short his labour ere he could even complete the arrangement and connection of more than a very few of the Tales. Incomplete as it is, however, the magnum opus of Chaucer was in his own time received with immense favour; manuscript copies are numerous even now – no slight proof of its popularity; and when the invention of printing was introduced into England by William Caxton, The Canterbury Tales issued from his press in the year after the first English- printed book, “The Game of the Chesse,” had been struck off. Innumerable editions have since been published; and it may fairly be affirmed, that few books have been so much in favour with the reading public of every generation as this book, which the lapse of every generation has been rendering more unreadable.

Apart from “The Romaunt of the Rose,” no really important poetical work of Chaucer’s is omitted from or unrepresented in the present edition. Of “The Legend of Good Women,” the Prologue only is given – but it is the most genuinely Chaucerian part of the poem. Of “The Court of Love,” three-fourths are here presented; of “The Assembly of Fowls,” “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale,” “The Flower and the Leaf,” all; of “Chaucer’s Dream,” one-fourth; of “The House of Fame,” two-thirds; and of the minor poems such a selection as may give an idea of Chaucer’s power in the “occasional” department of verse. Necessarily, no space whatever could be given to Chaucer’s prose works – his translation of Boethius’ Treatise on the Consolation of Philosophy; his Treatise on the Astrolabe, written for the use of his son Lewis; and his “Testament of Love,” composed in his later years, and reflecting the troubles that then beset the poet. If, after studying in a simplified form the salient works of England’s first great bard, the reader is tempted to regret that he was not introduced to a wider acquaintance with the author, the purpose of the Editor will have been more than attained.

The plan of the volume does not demand an elaborate examination into the state of our language when Chaucer wrote, or the nice questions of grammatical and metrical structure which conspire with the obsolete orthography to make his poems a sealed book for the masses. The most important element in the proper reading of Chaucer’s verses – whether written in the decasyllabic or heroic metre, which he introduced into our literature, or in the octosyllabic measure used with such animated effect in “The House of Fame,” “Chaucer’s Dream,” &c. – is the sounding of the terminal “e” where it is now silent. That letter is still valid in French poetry; and Chaucer’s lines can be scanned only by reading them as we would read Racine’s or Moliere’s. The terminal “e” played an important part in grammar; in many cases it was the sign of the infinitive – the “n” being dropped from the end; at other times it pointed the distinction between singular and plural, between adjective and adverb. The pages that follow, however, being prepared from the modern English point of view, necessarily no account is taken of those distinctions; and the now silent “e” has been retained in the text of Chaucer only when required by the modern spelling, or by the exigencies of metre.

Before a word beginning with a vowel, or with the letter “h,” the final “e” was almost without exception mute; and in such cases, in the plural forms and infinitives of verbs, the terminal “n” is generally retained for the sake of euphony. No reader who is acquainted with the French language will find it hard to fall into Chaucer’s accentuation; while, for such as are not, a simple perusal of the text according to the rules of modern verse, should remove every difficulty.


Notes to Life of Geoffrey Chaucer

pre1

“Edmund Spenser, a native of London, was born with a Muse of such power, that he was superior to all English poets of preceding ages, not excepting his fellow-citizen Chaucer.”

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pre2

See introduction to “The Legend of Good Women”.

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pre3

Called in the editions before 1597 “The Dream of Chaucer”. The poem, which is not included in the present edition, does indeed, like many of Chaucer’s smaller works, tell the story of a dream, in which a knight, representing John of Gaunt, is found by the poet mourning the loss of his lady; but the true “Dream of Chaucer,” in which he celebrates the marriage of his patron, was published for the first time by Speght in 1597. John of Gaunt, in the end of 1371, married his second wife, Constance, daughter to Pedro the Cruel of Spain; so that “The Book of the Duchess” must have been written between 1369 and 1371.

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pre4

Where he bids his “little book”

“Subject be unto all poesy, And kiss the steps, where as thou seest space, Of Virgil, Ovid, Homer, Lucan, Stace.”

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pre5

See note 1 to The Tale in The Clerk’s Tale.

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pre6

See note 1 to The Man of Law’s Tale.

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pre7

“Written,” says Mr Wright, “in the sixteenth year of the reign of Richard II. (1392-1393);” a powerful confirmation of the opinion that this poem was really produced in Chaucer’s mature age. See the introductory notes to it and to the Legend of Good Women.

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pre8

The old biographers of Chaucer, founding on what they took to be autobiographic allusions in “The Testament of Love,” assign to him between 1354 and 1389 a very different history from that here given on the strength of authentic records explored and quoted by Sir H. Nicolas. Chaucer is made to espouse the cause of John of Northampton, the Wycliffite Lord Mayor of London, whose re-election in 1384 was so vehemently opposed by the clergy, and who was imprisoned in the sequel of the grave disorders that arose. The poet, it is said, fled to the Continent, taking with him a large sum of money, which he spent in supporting companions in exile; then, returning by stealth to England in quest of funds, he was detected and sent to the Tower, where he languished for three years, being released only on the humiliating condition of informing against his associates in the plot. The public records show, however, that, all the time of his alleged exile and captivity, he was quietly living in London, regularly drawing his pensions in person, sitting in Parliament, and discharging his duties in the Customs until his dismissal in 1386. It need not be said, further, that although Chaucer freely handled the errors, the ignorance, and vices of the clergy, he did so rather as a man of sense and of conscience, than as a Wycliffite – and there is no evidence that he espoused the opinions of the zealous Reformer, far less played the part of an extreme and self- regardless partisan of his old friend and college-companion.

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pre9

“The Commissioners appear to have commenced their labours with examining the accounts of the officers employed in the collection of the revenue; and the sequel affords a strong presumption that the royal administration under Lancaster and his friends had been foully calumniated. We hear not of any frauds discovered, or of defaulters punished, or of grievances redressed.” Such is the testimony of Lingard (chap. iv., 1386), all the more valuable for his aversion from the Wycliffite leanings of John of Gaunt. Chaucer’s department in the London Customs was in those days one of the most important and lucrative in the kingdom; and if mercenary abuse of his post could have been proved, we may be sure that his and his patron’s enemies would not have been content with simple dismissal, but would have heavily amerced or imprisoned him.

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pre10

The salary was L36, 10s. per annum; the salary of the Chief Judges was L40, of the Puisne Judges about L27. Probably the Judges – certainly the Clerk of the Works – had fees or perquisites besides the stated payment.

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pre11

Chaucer’s patron had died earlier in 1399, during the exile of his son (then Duke of Hereford) in France. The Duchess Constance had died in 1394; and the Duke had made reparation to Katherine Swynford – who had already borne him four children – by marrying her in 1396, with the approval of Richard II., who legitimated the children, and made the eldest son of the poet’s sister-in-law Earl of Somerset. From this long- illicit union sprang the house of Beaufort – that being the surname of the Duke’s children by Katherine, after the name of the castle in Anjou (Belfort, or Beaufort) where they were born.

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pre12

Of Chaucer’s two sons by Philippa Roet, his only wife, the younger, Lewis, for whom he wrote the Treatise on the Astrolabe, died young. The elder, Thomas, married Maud, the second daughter and co-heiress of Sir John Burghersh, brother of the Bishop of Lincoln, the Chancellor and Treasurer of England. By this marriage Thomas Chaucer acquired great estates in Oxfordshire and elsewhere; and he figured prominently in the second rank of courtiers for many years. He was Chief Butler to Richard II.; under Henry IV. he was Constable of Wallingford Castle, Steward of the Honours of Wallingford and St Valery, and of the Chiltern Hundreds; and the queen of Henry IV. granted him the farm of several of her manors, a grant subsequently confirmed to him for life by the King, after the Queen’s death. He sat in Parliament repeatedly for Oxfordshire, was Speaker in 1414, and in the same year went to France as commissioner to negotiate the marriage of Henry V. with the Princess Katherine. He held, before he died in 1434, various other posts of trust and distinction; but he left no heirs-male. His only child, Alice Chaucer, married twice; first Sir John Philip; and afterwards the Duke of Suffolk – attainted and beheaded in 1450. She had three children by the Duke; and her eldest son married the Princess Elizabeth, sister of Edward IV. The eldest son of this marriage, created Earl of Lincoln, was declared by Richard III heir-apparent to the throne, in case the Prince of Wales should die without issue; but the death of Lincoln himself, at the battle of Stoke in 1487, destroyed all prospect that the poet’s descendants might succeed to the crown of England; and his family is now believed to be extinct.

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pre13

“Geoffrey Chaucer, bard, and famous mother of poetry, is buried in this sacred ground.”

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pre14

Railings.

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pre15

Translation of the epitaph: This tomb was built for Geoffrey Chaucer, who in his time was the greatest poet of the English. If you ask the year of his death, behold the words beneath, which tell you all. Death gave him rest from his toil, 25th of October 1400. N Brigham bore the cost of these words in the name of the Muses. 1556.

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pre16

See the Prologue to Chaucer’s Tale of Sir Thopas.

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pre17

See the “Goodly Ballad of Chaucer,” seventh stanza.

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pre18

See the opening of the Prologue to “The Legend of Good Women,” and the poet’s account of his habits in “The House of Fame”.

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The Canterbury Tales


The Prologue

WHEN that Aprilis, with his showers swootsweet, The drought of March hath pierced to the root, And bathed every vein in such licour, Of which virtue engender’d is the flower; When Zephyrus eke with his swoote breath Inspired hath in every holtgrove, forest and heath The tender croppestwigs, boughs and the younge sun Hath in the Ram a1 his halfe course y-run, And smalle fowles make melody, That sleepen all the night with open eye, (So pricketh them nature in their corageshearts, inclinations); Then longe folk to go on pilgrimages, And palmers a2 for to seeke strange strands, To ferne hallows couthdistant saints knowna3 in sundry lands; And specially, from every shire’s end Of Engleland, to Canterbury they wend, The holy blissful Martyr for to seek, That them hath holpenhelped, when that they were sick.

Befell that, in that season on a day, In Southwark at the Tabard a4 as I lay, Ready to wenden on my pilgrimage To Canterbury with devout corage, At night was come into that hostelry Well nine and twenty in a company Of sundry folk, by aventure y-fall In fellowshipi.e. who had by chance fallen into company, and pilgrims were they all, a5 That toward Canterbury woulde ride. The chamber, and the stables were wide, And well we weren eased at the best.we were well provided with the best And shortly, when the sunne was to rest, So had I spoken with them every one, That I was of their fellowship anon, And made forwordpromise early for to rise, To take our way there as I you devisedescribe, relate.

But natheless, while I have time and space, Ere that I farther in this tale pace, Me thinketh it accordant to reason, To tell you alle the condition Of each of them, so as it seemed me, And which they weren, and of what degree; And eke in what array that they were in: And at a Knight then will I first begin.

A KNIGHT there was, and that a worthy man, That from the time that he first began To riden out, he loved chivalry, Truth and honour, freedom and courtesy. Full worthy was he in his Lorde’s war, And thereto had he ridden, no man farrefarther, As well in Christendom as in Heatheness, And ever honour’d for his worthiness At Alisandre a6 he was when it was won. Full often time he had the board begun Above alle nations in Prusse.a7 In Lettowe had he reysed,journeyed and in Russe, No Christian man so oft of his degree. In Grenade at the siege eke had he be Of Algesir, and ridden in Belmarie. a8 At Leyes was he, and at Satalie, When they were won; and in the Greate Sea At many a noble army had he be. At mortal battles had he been fifteen, And foughten for our faith at Tramissene. In listes thries, and aye slain his foe. This ilkesame worthy knight had been alsoa9 Some time with the lord of Palatie, Against another heathen in Turkie: And evermore he had a sovereign priceHe was held in very high esteem.. And though that he was worthy he was wise, And of his port as meek as is a maid. He never yet no villainy ne said In all his life, unto no manner wight. He was a very perfect gentle knight. But for to telle you of his array, His horse was good, but yet he was not gay. Of fustian he weared a giponshort doublet, Alle besmotter’d with his habergeon,soiled by his coat of mail. For he was late y-come from his voyage, And wente for to do his pilgrimage.

With him there was his son, a younge SQUIRE, A lover, and a lusty bacheler, With lockes crullecurled as they were laid in press. Of twenty year of age he was I guess. Of his stature he was of even length, And wonderly deliverwonderfully nimble, and great of strength. And he had been some time in chevachiecavalry raids, In Flanders, in Artois, and Picardie, And borne him well, as of so little spacein such a short time, In hope to standen in his lady’s grace. Embroider’d was he, as it were a mead All full of freshe flowers, white and red. Singing he was, or fluting all the day; He was as fresh as is the month of May. Short was his gown, with sleeves long and wide. Well could he sit on horse, and faire ride. He coulde songes make, and well indite, Joust, and eke dance, and well pourtray and write. So hot he loved, that by nightertalenight-time He slept no more than doth the nightingale. Courteous he was, lowly, and serviceable, And carv’d before his father at the table.a10

A YEOMAN had he, and servants no mo’ At that time, for him list ride soit pleased him so to ride And he was clad in coat and hood of green. A sheaf of peacock arrowsa11 bright and keen Under his belt he bare full thriftily. Well could he dress his tackle yeomanly: His arrows drooped not with feathers low; And in his hand he bare a mighty bow. A nut-head a12 had he, with a brown visiage: Of wood-craft coudknew he well all the usage: Upon his arm he bare a gay bracersmall shield, And by his side a sword and a buckler, And on that other side a gay daggere, Harnessed well, and sharp as point of spear: A Christopher on his breast of silver sheen. An horn he bare, the baldric was of green: A forester was he soothlycertainly as I guess.

There was also a Nun, a PRIORESS, That of her smiling was full simple and coy; Her greatest oathe was but by Saint Loy; And she was clepedcalled Madame Eglentine. Full well she sang the service divine, Entuned in her nose full seemly; And French she spake full fair and fetislyproperly After the school of Stratford atte Bow, For French of Paris was to her unknow. At meate was she well y-taught withal; She let no morsel from her lippes fall, Nor wet her fingers in her sauce deep. Well could she carry a morsel, and well keep, That no droppe ne fell upon her breast. In courtesy was set full much her lestpleasure. Her over-lippe wiped she so clean, That in her cup there was no farthingspeck seen Of grease, when she drunken had her draught; Full seemely after her meat she raughtreached out her hand: And sickerly she was of great disportsurely she was of a lively disposition, And full pleasant, and amiable of port, And pained her to counterfeite cheer Of courti.e. took pains to assume a courtly disposition, and be estately of mannere, And to be holden digneworthy of reverence. But for to speaken of her conscience, She was so charitable and so pitous,full of pity She woulde weep if that she saw a mouse Caught in a trap, if it were dead or bled. Of smalle houndes had she, that she fed With roasted flesh, and milk, and wastel bread.finest white bread But sore she wept if one of them were dead, Or if men smote it with a yardestaff smart: And all was conscience and tender heart. Full seemly her wimple y-pinched was; Her nose tretis;well-formed her eyen gray as glass;a13 Her mouth full small, and thereto soft and red; But sickerly she had a fair forehead. It was almost a spanne broad I trow; For hardily she was not undergrowcertainly she was not small. Full fetisneat was her cloak, as I was ware. Of small coral about her arm she bare A pair of beades, gauded all with green; And thereon hung a brooch of gold full sheen, On which was first y-written a crown’d A, And after, Amor vincit omnia.love conquers all Another Nun also with her had she, That was her chapelleine, and PRIESTES three.

A MONK there was, a fair for the mast’ryabove all othersa14, An out-rider, that loved veneryhunting; A manly man, to be an abbot able. Full many a dainty horse had he in stable: And when he rode, men might his bridle hear Jingeling a15 in a whistling wind as clear, And eke as loud, as doth the chapel bell, There as this lord was keeper of the cell. The rule of Saint Maur and of Saint Benet, a16 Because that it was old and somedeal strait This ilkesame monk let olde thinges pace, And held after the newe world the trace. He gave not of the text a pulled hen,he cared nothing for the text That saith, that hunters be not holy men: Ne that a monk, when he is cloisterless; Is like to a fish that is waterless; This is to say, a monk out of his cloister. This ilke text held he not worth an oyster; And I say his opinion was good. Why should he study, and make himselfe woodmada17 Upon a book in cloister always pore, Or swinkentoil with his handes, and labour, As Austin bid? how shall the world be served? Let Austin have his swink to him reserved. Therefore he was a prickasourhard rider aright: Greyhounds he had as swift as fowl of flight; Of prickingriding and of hunting for the hare Was all his lust,pleasure for no cost would he spare. I saw his sleeves purfil’d at the hand With grisi.e. worked at the end with a fur called “gris”, and that the finest of the land. And for to fasten his hood under his chin, He had of gold y-wrought a curious pin; A love-knot in the greater end there was. His head was bald, and shone as any glass, And eke his face, as it had been anoint; He was a lord full fat and in good point; His eyen steep,deep-set and rolling in his head, That steamed as a furnace of a lead. His bootes supple, his horse in great estate, Now certainly he was a fair prelate; He was not pale as a forpinedwasted ghost; A fat swan lov’d he best of any roast. His palfrey was as brown as is a berry.

A FRIAR there was, a wanton and a merry, A limitour a18, a full solemne man. In all the orders four is none that canknows So much of dalliance and fair language. He had y-made full many a marriage Of younge women, at his owen cost. Unto his order he was a noble post; Full well belov’d, and familiar was he With franklins over alleverywhere in his country, And eke with worthy women of the town: For he had power of confession, As said himselfe, more than a curate, For of his order he was licentiate. Full sweetely heard he confession, And pleasant was his absolution. He was an easy man to give penance, There as he wist to have a good pittance:where he know he would get good payment For unto a poor order for to give Is signe that a man is well y-shrive. For if he gave, he durste make avantdared to boast, He wisteknew that the man was repentant. For many a man so hard is of his heart, He may not weep although him sore smart. Therefore instead of weeping and prayeres, Men must give silver to the poore freres. His tippet was aye farsedstuffed full of knives And pinnes, for to give to faire wives; And certainly he had a merry note: Well could he sing and playen on a rotefrom memory; Of yeddingssongs he bare utterly the prize. His neck was white as is the fleur-de-lis. Thereto he strong was as a champion, And knew well the taverns in every town. And every hosteler and gay tapstere, Better than a lazarleper or a beggere, For unto such a worthy man as he Accordeth not, as by his faculty, To have with such lazars acquaintance. It is not honest, it may not advance, As for to deale with no such pourailleoffal, refuse, But all with rich, and sellers of vitaillevictuals. And ov’r all there asin every place where& profit should arise, Courteous he was, and lowly of service; There n’as no man nowhere so virtuous. He was the beste beggar in all his house: And gave a certain farme for the grant, a19 None of his bretheren came in his haunt. For though a widow hadde but one shoe, So pleasant was his In Principio,a20 Yet would he have a farthing ere he went; His purchase was well better than his rent. And rage he could and play as any whelp, In lovedays a21; there could he muchelgreatly help. For there was he not like a cloisterer, With threadbare cope as is a poor scholer; But he was like a master or a pope. Of double worsted was his semicopeshort cloak, That rounded was as a bell out of press. Somewhat he lisped for his wantonness, To make his English sweet upon his tongue; And in his harping, when that he had sung, His eyeneyes twinkled in his head aright, As do the starres in a frosty night. This worthy limitour a18 was call’d Huberd.

A MERCHANT was there with a forked beard, In motley, and high on his horse he sat, Upon his head a Flandrish beaver hat. His bootes clasped fair and fetislyneatly. His reasons aye spake he full solemnly, Sounding alway th’ increase of his winning. He would the sea were kept a22 for any thing Betwixte Middleburg and Orewella23 Well could he in exchange shieldescrown coins sella24 This worthy man full well his wit besetemployed; There wisteknew no wightman that he was in debt, So estately was he of governanceso well he managed With his bargains, and with his chevisancebusiness contract. For sooth he was a worthy man withal, But sooth to say, I n’otknow not how men him call.

A CLERK there was of OxenfordOxford also, That unto logic hadde long y-godevoted himself. As leane was his horse as is a rake, And he was not right fat, I undertake; But looked hollowthin, and thereto soberlypoorly. Full threadbare was his overest courtepyuppermost short cloak, For he had gotten him yet no benefice, Ne was not worldly, to have an office. For him was leverrather have at his bed’s head Twenty bookes, clothed in black or red, Of Aristotle, and his philosophy, Than robes rich, or fiddle, or psalt’ry. But all be that he was a philosopher, Yet hadde he but little gold in coffer, But all that he might of his friendes hentobtain, On bookes and on learning he it spent, And busily gan for the soules pray Of them that gave him a25 wherewith to scholaystudy Of study took he moste care and heed. Not one word spake he more than was need; And that was said in form and reverence, And short and quick, and full of high sentence. Sounding in moral virtue was his speech, And gladly would he learn, and gladly teach.

A SERGEANT OF THE LAW, wary and wise, That often had y-been at the Parvis, a26 There was also, full rich of excellence. Discreet he was, and of great reverence: He seemed such, his wordes were so wise, Justice he was full often in assize, By patent, and by pleinfull commission; For his science, and for his high renown, Of fees and robes had he many one. So great a purchaser was nowhere none. All was fee simple to him, in effect His purchasing might not be in suspectsuspicion Nowhere so busy a man as he there was And yet he seemed busier than he was In termes had he case’ and doomesjudgements all That from the time of King Will. were fall. Thereto he could indite, and make a thing There coulde no wight pinch atfind fault with his writing. And every statute coudknew he plain by rote He rode but homely in a medleymulticoloured coat, Girt with a seintsash of silk, with barres small; Of his array tell I no longer tale.

A FRANKELINRich landowner was in this company; White was his beard, as is the daisy. Of his complexion he was sanguine. Well lov’d he in the morn a sop in wine. To liven in delight was ever his wonwont, For he was Epicurus’ owen son, That held opinion, that pleinfull delight Was verily felicity perfite. An householder, and that a great, was he; Saint Juliana27 he was in his country. His bread, his ale, was alway after onepressed on one; A better envinedstored with wine man was nowhere none; Withoute bake-meat never was his house, Of fish and flesh, and that so plenteous, It snowed in his house of meat and drink, Of alle dainties that men coulde think. After the sundry seasons of the year, So changed he his meat and his soupere. Full many a fat partridge had he in mewcage,a28 And many a bream, and many a lucepike in stewfish-ponda29 Woe was his cook, but ifunless his sauce were Poignant and sharp, and ready all his gear. His table dormantfixed in his hall alway Stood ready cover’d all the longe day. At sessions there was he lord and sire. Full often time he was knight of the shireMember of Parliament An anlacedagger, and a gipcierepurse all of silk, Hung at his girdle, white as morning milk. A sheriff had he been, and a countoura30 Was nowhere such a worthy vavasoura31.

An HABERDASHER, and a CARPENTER, A WEBBEweaver, a DYER, and a TAPISERtapestry-maker, Were with us eke, cloth’d in one livery, Of a solemn and great fraternity. Full fresh and new their gear y-pickedspruce was. Their knives were y-chapedmounted not with brass, But all with silver wrought full clean and well, Their girdles and their pouches every dealin every part. Well seemed each of them a fair burgess, To sitten in a guild-hall, on the dais. a32 Evereach, for the wisdom that he canknew, Was shapelyfitted for to be an alderman. For chattels hadde they enough and rent, And eke their wives would it well assent: And elles certain they had been to blame. It is full fair to be y-clep’d madame, And for to go to vigils all before, And have a mantle royally y-bore.a33

A COOK they hadde with them for the nonesoccasion, To boil the chickens and the marrow bones, And powder merchant tart and galingale. Well could he know a draught of London ale. He could roast, and stew, and broil, and fry, Make mortrewes, and well bake a pie. But great harm was it, as it thoughte me, That, on his shin a mormalulcer hadde he. For blanc manger, that made he with the best a34

A SHIPMAN was there, wonned far by Westwho dwelt far to the West: For ought I wot, be was of Dartemouth. He rode upon a rouncyhack, as he couth, All in a gown of faldingcoarse cloth to the knee. A dagger hanging by a lace had he About his neck under his arm adown; The hot summer had made his hue all brown; And certainly he was a good fellaw. Full many a draught of wine he had y-draw From Bourdeaux-ward, while that the chapmen sleep; Of nice conscience took he no keep. If that he fought, and had the higher hand, By water he sent them home to every land.he drowned his prisoners But of his craft to reckon well his tides, His streames and his strandes him besides, His herberowharbourage, his moon, and lodemanagepilotagea35, There was none such, from Hull unto Carthage Hardy he was, and wise, I undertake: With many a tempest had his beard been shake. He knew well all the havens, as they were, From Scotland to the Cape of Finisterre, And every creek in Bretagne and in Spain: His barge y-cleped was the Magdelain.

With us there was a DOCTOR OF PHYSIC; In all this worlde was there none him like To speak of physic, and of surgery: For he was grounded in astronomy. He kept his patient a full great deal In houres by his magic natural. Well could he fortunemake fortunate the ascendent Of his images for his patient,. He knew the cause of every malady, Were it of cold, or hot, or moist, or dry, And where engender’d, and of what humour. He was a very perfect practisour The cause y-know,known and of his harm the root, Anon he gave to the sick man his bootremedy Full ready had he his apothecaries, To send his drugges and his lectuaries For each of them made other for to win Their friendship was not newe to begin Well knew he the old Esculapius, And Dioscorides, and eke Rufus; Old Hippocras, Hali, and Gallien; Serapion, Rasis, and Avicen; Averrois, Damascene, and Constantin; Bernard, and Gatisden, and Gilbertin. a36 Of his diet measurable was he, For it was of no superfluity, But of great nourishing, and digestible. His study was but little on the Bible. In sanguinered and in perseblue he clad was all Lined with taffeta, and with sendallfine silk. And yet he was but easy of dispensehe spent very little: He kept that he won in the pestilencethe money he made during the plague. For gold in physic is a cordial; Therefore he loved gold in special.

A good WIFE was there OF beside BATH, But she was somedeal deaf, and that was scathdamage; pity. Of cloth-making she hadde such an hauntskill, She passed them of Ypres, and of Gaunt. a37 In all the parish wife was there none, That to the off’ringthe offering at mass before her should gon, And if there did, certain so wroth was she, That she was out of alle charity Her coverchiefshead-dresses were full fine of ground I durste swear, they weighede ten pound a38 That on the Sunday were upon her head. Her hosen weren of fine scarlet red, Full strait y-tied, and shoes full moistfresh and newa39 Bold was her face, and fair and red of hue. She was a worthy woman all her live, Husbands at the church door had she had five, Withouten other company in youth; But thereof needeth not to speak as nouthnow. And thrice had she been at Jerusalem; She hadde passed many a strange stream At Rome she had been, and at Bologne, In Galice at Saint James, a40 and at Cologne; She coudeknew much of wand’rng by the Way. Gat-toothedBuck-toothed was she, soothly for to say.a41 Upon an ambler easily she sat, Y-wimpled well, and on her head an hat As broad as is a buckler or a targe. A foot-mantle about her hippes large, And on her feet a pair of spurres sharp. In fellowship well could she laugh and carpjest, talk Of remedies of love she knew perchance For of that art she coudknew the olde dance.

A good man there was of religion, That was a poore PARSON of a town: But rich he was of holy thought and werkwork. He was also a learned man, a clerk, That Christe’s gospel truly woulde preach. His parishensparishioners devoutly would he teach. Benign he was, and wonder diligent, And in adversity full patient: And such he was y-proved often sithesoftentimes. Full loth were him to curse for his tithes, But rather would he given out of doubt, Unto his poore parishens about, Of his off’ring, and eke of his substance. He could in little thing have suffisancehe was satisfied with very little. Wide was his parish, and houses far asunder, But he ne left not, for no rain nor thunder, In sickness and in mischief to visit The farthest in his parish, much and litgreat and small, Upon his feet, and in his hand a staff. This noble ensample to his sheep he gafgave, That first he wrought, and afterward he taught. Out of the gospel he the wordes caught, And this figure he added yet thereto, That if gold ruste, what should iron do? For if a priest be foul, on whom we trust, No wonder is a lewedunlearned man to rust: And shame it is, if that a priest take keep, To see a shitten shepherd and clean sheep: Well ought a priest ensample for to give, By his own cleanness, how his sheep should live. He sette not his benefice to hire, And left his sheep eucumber’d in the mire, And ran unto London, unto Saint Paul’s, To seeke him a chanterya42 for souls, Or with a brotherhood to be withold:detained But dwelt at home, and kepte well his fold, So that the wolf ne made it not miscarry. He was a shepherd, and no mercenary. And though he holy were, and virtuous, He was to sinful men not dispitoussevere Nor of his speeche dangerous nor digndisdainful But in his teaching discreet and benign. To drawen folk to heaven, with fairness, By good ensample, was his business: But it werebut if it were any person obstinate, What so he were of high or low estate, Him would he snibbereprove sharply for the nonesnonce, occasion. A better priest I trow that nowhere none is. He waited after no pomp nor reverence, Nor maked him a spiced conscienceartificial conscience, But Christe’s lore, and his apostles’ twelve, He taught, and first he follow’d it himselve.

With him there was a PLOUGHMAN, was his brother, That had y-laid of dung full many a fotherton. A true swinkerhard worker and a good was he, Living in peace and perfect charity. God loved he beste with all his heart At alle times, were it gain or smartpain, loss, And then his neighebour right as himselve. He woulde thresh, and thereto dikedig ditches, and delve, For Christe’s sake, for every poore wight, Withouten hire, if it lay in his might. His tithes payed he full fair and well, Both of his proper swinkhis own labour, and his chattelgoods In a tabardsleeveless jerkin he rode upon a mare.

There was also a Reeve, and a Millere, A Sompnour, and a Pardoner also, A Manciple, and myself, there were no mo’.

The MILLER was a stout carle for the nones, Full big he was of brawn, and eke of bones; That proved well, for ov’r all wherewheresoever he came, At wrestling he would bear away the ram.a43 He was short-shouldered, broad, a thicke gnarrstump of wood, There was no door, that he n’oldcould not heave off bar, Or break it at a running with his head. His beard as any sow or fox was red, And thereto broad, as though it were a spade. Upon the cophead right of his nose he hada44 A wart, and thereon stood a tuft of hairs Red as the bristles of a sowe’s ears. His nose-thirlesnostrils blacke were and wide.a45 A sword and buckler bare he by his side. His mouth as wide was as a furnace. He was a jangler, and a goliardaisbuffoon,a46 And that was most of sin and harlotries. Well could he steale corn, and tolle thrice And yet he had a thumb of gold, pardie.a47 A white coat and a blue hood weared he A baggepipe well could he blow and soun’, And therewithal he brought us out of town.

A gentle MANCIPLE a48 was there of a temple, Of which achatoursbuyers mighte take ensample For to be wise in buying of vitaillevictuals. For whether that he paid, or took by taileon credit, Algatealways he waited so in his achatepurchase, That he was aye before in good estate. Now is not that of God a full fair grace That such a lewedunlearned mannes wit shall pacesurpass The wisdom of an heap of learned men? Of masters had he more than thries ten, That were of law expert and curious: Of which there was a dozen in that house, Worthy to be stewards of rent and land Of any lord that is in Engleland, To make him live by his proper good, In honour debtless, but if he were woodunless he were mad, Or live as scarcely as him list desire; And able for to helpen all a shire In any case that mighte fall or hap; And yet this Manciple set their aller capoutwitted them all

The REEVE a49 was a slender choleric man His beard was shav’d as nigh as ever he can. His hair was by his eares round y-shorn; His top was docked like a priest beforn Full longe were his legges, and full lean Y-like a staff, there was no calf y-seen Well could he keep a garner and a binstoreplaces for grain There was no auditor could on him win Well wist he by the drought, and by the rain, The yielding of his seed and of his grain His lorde’s sheep, his neatcattle, and his dairy His swine, his horse, his store, and his poultry, Were wholly in this Reeve’s governing, And by his cov’nant gave he reckoning, Since that his lord was twenty year of age; There could no man bring him in arrearage There was no bailiff, herd, nor other hineservant That he ne knew his sleight and his covinetricks and cheating They were adradin dread of him, as of the death His wonningabode was full fair upon an heath With greene trees y-shadow’d was his place. He coulde better than his lord purchase Full rich he was y-stored privily His lord well could he please subtilly, To give and lend him of his owen good, And have a thank, and yetalso a coat and hood. In youth he learned had a good misteretrade He was a well good wright, a carpentere This Reeve sate upon a right good stotsteed, That was all pomelydappled gray, and hightecalled Scot. A long surcoat of persesky-blue upon he had, And by his side he bare a rusty blade. Of Norfolk was this Reeve, of which I tell, Beside a town men clepencall Baldeswell, Tucked he was, as is a friar, about, And ever rode the hinderest of the routhindmost of the group.

A SOMPNOURsummoner was there with us in that place,a50 That had a fire-red cherubinnes face, For sauseflemered or pimply he was, with eyen narrow. As hot he was and lecherous as a sparrow, With scalled browes black, and pilledscanty beard: Of his visage children were sore afeard. There n’as quicksilver, litharge, nor brimstone, Boras, ceruse, nor oil of tartar none, Nor ointement that woulde cleanse or bite, That him might helpen of his whelkespustules white, Nor of the knobbesbuttons sitting on his cheeks. Well lov’d he garlic, onions, and leeks, And for to drink strong wine as red as blood. Then would he speak, and cry as he were wood; And when that he well drunken had the wine, Then would he speake no word but Latin. A fewe termes knew he, two or three, That he had learned out of some decree; No wonder is, he heard it all the day. And eke ye knowen well, how that a jay Can clepencall “Wat,” as well as can the Pope. But whoso would in other thing him gropesearch, Then had he spent all his philosophy, Aye, Questio quid juris,a51 would he cry.

He was a gentle harlota52 and a kind; A better fellow should a man not find. He woulde suffer, for a quart of wine, A good fellow to have his concubine A twelvemonth, and excuse him at the full. Full privily a finch eke could he pull“fleece” a man. And if he found owhereanywhere a good fellaw, He woulde teache him to have none awe In such a case of the archdeacon’s curse; But ifunless a manne’s soul were in his purse; For in his purse he should y-punished be. “Purse is the archedeacon’s hell,” said he. But well I wot, he lied right indeed: Of cursing ought each guilty man to dread, For curse will slay right as assoilingabsolving saveth; And also ‘ware him of a significavita53. In danger had he at his owen guise The younge girles of the diocese, a54 And knew their counsel, and was of their redecounsel. A garland had he set upon his head, As great as it were for an alestakeThe post of an alehouse sign: A buckler had he made him of a cake.

With him there rode a gentle PARDONERE a55 Of Ronceval, his friend and his compere, That straight was comen from the court of Rome. Full loud he sang, “Come hither, love, to me” This Sompnour bare to him a stiff burdounsang the bass, Was never trump of half so great a soun’. This Pardoner had hair as yellow as wax, But smooth it hung, as doth a strikestrip of flax: By ounces hung his lockes that he had, And therewith he his shoulders oversprad. Full thin it lay, by culponslocks, shreds one and one, But hood for jollity, he weared none, For it was trussed up in his wallet. Him thought he rode all of the newe getlatest fashiona56, Dishevel, save his cap, he rode all bare. Such glaring eyen had he, as an hare. A vernicleimage of Christ had he sew’d upon his cap.a57 His wallet lay before him in his lap, Bretfulbrimful of pardon come from Rome all hot. A voice he had as small as hath a goat. No beard had he, nor ever one should have. As smooth it was as it were new y-shave; I trow he were a gelding or a mare. But of his craft, from Berwick unto Ware, Ne was there such another pardonere. For in his mailbaga58 he had a pillowberepillowcase, Which, as he saide, was our Lady’s veil: He said, he had a gobbetpiece of the sail That Sainte Peter had, when that he went Upon the sea, till Jesus Christ him henttook hold of. He had a cross of latouncopper full of stones, And in a glass he hadde pigge’s bones. But with these relics, whenne that he fond A poore parson dwelling upon lond, Upon a day he got him more money Than that the parson got in moneths tway; And thus with feigned flattering and japesjests, He made the parson and the people his apes. But truely to tellen at the last, He was in church a noble ecclesiast. Well could he read a lesson or a story, But alderbestbest of all he sang an offertory: For well he wiste, when that song was sung, He muste preach, and well afilepolish his tongue, To winne silver, as he right well could: Therefore he sang full merrily and loud.

Now have I told you shortly in a clause Th’ estate, th’ array, the number, and eke the cause Why that assembled was this company In Southwark at this gentle hostelry, That highte the Tabard, fast by the Bell.a59 But now is time to you for to tell How that we baren us that ilke nightwhat we did that same night, When we were in that hostelry alight. And after will I tell of our voyage, And all the remnant of our pilgrimage. But first I pray you of your courtesy, That ye arette it not my villainycount it not rudeness in me, Though that I plainly speak in this mattere. To tellen you their wordes and their cheer; Not though I speak their wordes properly. For this ye knowen all so well as I, Whoso shall tell a tale after a man, He must rehearse, as nigh as ever he can, Every word, if it be in his charge, All speak helet him speak ne’er so rudely and so large; Or elles he must tell his tale untrue, Or feigne things, or finde wordes new. He may not spare, although he were his brother; He must as well say one word as another. Christ spake Himself full broad in Holy Writ, And well ye wot no villainy is it. Eke Plato saith, whoso that can him read, The wordes must be cousin to the deed. Also I pray you to forgive it me, All have Ialthough I have not set folk in their degree, Here in this tale, as that they shoulden stand: My wit is short, ye may well understand.

Great cheere made our Host us every one, And to the supper set he us anon: And served us with victual of the best. Strong was the wine, and well to drink us lestpleased. A seemly man Our Hoste was withal For to have been a marshal in an hall. A large man he was with eyen steepdeep-set., A fairer burgess is there none in Cheapa60: Bold of his speech, and wise and well y-taught, And of manhoode lacked him right naught. Eke thereto was he right a merry man, And after supper playen he began, And spake of mirth amonges other things, When that we hadde made our reckonings; And saide thus; “Now, lordinges, truly Ye be to me welcome right heartily: For by my troth, if that I shall not lie, I saw not this year such a company At once in this herberowinn, am is now.a61 Fain would I do you mirth, an I wistif I knew how. And of a mirth I am right now bethought. To do you easepleasure, and it shall coste nought. Ye go to Canterbury; God you speed, The blissful Martyr quite you your meedgrant you what you deserve; And well I wot, as ye go by the way, Ye shapen youintend to to talken and to play: For truely comfort nor mirth is none To ride by the way as dumb as stone: And therefore would I make you disport, As I said erst, and do you some comfort. And if you liketh all by one assent Now for to standen at my judgement, And for to worken as I shall you say To-morrow, when ye riden on the way, Now by my father’s soule that is dead, But ye be merry, smiteth offunless you are merry, smite off my head mine head. Hold up your hands withoute more speech.

Our counsel was not longe for to seechseek: Us thought it was not worth to make it wisediscuss it at length, And granted him withoute more aviseconsideration, And bade him say his verdict, as him lest. Lordings (quoth he), now hearken for the best; But take it not, I pray you, in disdain; This is the point, to speak it platflat and plain. That each of you, to shorten with your way In this voyage, shall tellen tales tway, To Canterbury-ward, I mean it so, And homeward he shall tellen other two, Of aventures that whilom have befall. And which of you that bear’th him best of all, That is to say, that telleth in this case Tales of best sentence and most solace, Shall have a supper at your aller costat the cost of you all Here in this place, sitting by this post, When that ye come again from Canterbury. And for to make you the more merry, I will myselfe gladly with you ride, Right at mine owen cost, and be your guide. And whoso will my judgement withsay, Shall pay for all we spenden by the way. And if ye vouchesafe that it be so, Tell me anon withoute wordes mo’more, And I will early shape me therefore.”

This thing was granted, and our oath we swore With full glad heart, and prayed him also, That he would vouchesafe for to do so, And that he woulde be our governour, And of our tales judge and reportour, And set a supper at a certain price; And we will ruled be at his device, In high and low: and thus by one assent, We be accorded to his judgement. And thereupon the wine was fetfetched. anon. We drunken, and to reste went each one, Withouten any longer tarrying A-morrow, when the day began to spring, Up rose our host, and was our aller cockthe cock to wake us all, And gather’d us together in a flock, And forth we ridden all a little space, Unto the watering of Saint Thomasa62: And there our host began his horse arrest, And saide; “Lordes, hearken if you lest. Ye weet your forword,know your promise and I it record. If even-song and morning-song accord, Let see now who shall telle the first tale. As ever may I drinke wine or ale, Whoso is rebel to my judgement, Shall pay for all that by the way is spent. Now draw ye cutslots, ere that ye farther twingo. He which that hath the shortest shall begin.”

“Sir Knight (quoth he), my master and my lord, Now draw the cut, for that is mine accord. Come near (quoth he), my Lady Prioress, And ye, Sir Clerk, let be your shamefastness, Nor study not: lay hand to, every man.” Anon to drawen every wight began, And shortly for to tellen as it was, Were it by a venture, or sortlot, or caschance, The sooth is this, the cut fell to the Knight, Of which full blithe and glad was every wight; And tell he must his tale as was reason, By forword, and by composition, As ye have heard; what needeth wordes mo’? And when this good man saw that it was so, As he that wise was and obedient To keep his forword by his free assent, He said; “Sithensince I shall begin this game, Why, welcome be the cut in Godde’s name. Now let us ride, and hearken what I say.” And with that word we ridden forth our way; And he began with right a merry cheer His tale anon, and said as ye shall hear.


Notes to the Prologue

Notes to the Prologue

a1

Tyrwhitt points out that “the Bull” should be read here, not “the Ram,” which would place the time of the pilgrimage in the end of March; whereas, in the Prologue to the Man of Law’s Tale, the date is given as the “eight and twenty day of April, that is messenger to May.”

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a2

Dante, in the “Vita Nuova,” distinguishes three classes of pilgrims: palmieri - palmers who go beyond sea to the East, and often bring back staves of palm-wood; peregrini, who go the shrine of St Jago in Galicia; Romei, who go to Rome.

Sir Walter Scott, however, says that palmers were in the habit of passing from shrine to shrine, living on charity – pilgrims on the other hand, made the journey to any shrine only once, immediately returning to their ordinary avocations. Chaucer uses “palmer” of all pilgrims.

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a3

“Hallows” survives, in the meaning here given, in All Hallows – All-Saints – day. “Couth,” past participle of “conne” to know, exists in “uncouth.”

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a4

The Tabard – the sign of the inn – was a sleeveless coat, worn by heralds. The name of the inn was, some three centuries after Chaucer, changed to the Talbot.

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a5

In y-fall,” “y” is a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon “ge” prefixed to participles of verbs. It is used by Chaucer merely to help the metre In German, “y-fall,” or y-falle,” would be “gefallen”, “y-run,” or “y-ronne”, would be “geronnen.”

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a6

Alisandre: Alexandria, in Egypt, captured by Pierre de Lusignan, king of Cyprus, in 1365 but abandoned immediately afterwards. Thirteen years before, the same Prince had taken Satalie, the ancient Attalia, in Anatolia, and in 1367 he won Layas, in Armenia, both places named just below.

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a7

The knight had been placed at the head of the table, above knights of all nations, in Prussia, whither warriors from all countries were wont to repair, to aid the Teutonic Order in their continual conflicts with their heathen neighbours in “Lettowe” or Lithuania (German. “Litthauen”), Russia, &c.

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a8

Algesiras was taken from the Moorish king of Grenada, in 1344: the Earls of Derby and Salisbury took part in the siege. Belmarie is supposed to have been a Moorish state in Africa; but “Palmyrie” has been suggested as the correct reading. The Great Sea, or the Greek sea, is the Eastern Mediterranean. Tramissene, or Tremessen, is enumerated by Froissart among the Moorish kingdoms in Africa. Palatie, or Palathia, in Anatolia, was a fief held by the Christian knights after the Turkish conquests – the holders paying tribute to the infidel. Our knight had fought with one of those lords against a heathen neighbour.

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a9

Ilke: same; compare the Scottish phrase “of that ilk,” – that is, of the estate which bears the same name as its owner’s title.

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a10

It was the custom for squires of the highest degree to carve at their fathers’ tables.

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a11

Peacock Arrows: Large arrows, with peacocks’ feathers.

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a12

A nut-head: With nut-brown hair; or, round like a nut, the hair being cut short.

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a13

Grey eyes appear to have been a mark of female beauty in Chaucer’s time.

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a14

“for the mastery” was applied to medicines in the sense of “sovereign” as we now apply it to a remedy.

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a15

It was fashionable to hang bells on horses’ bridles.

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a16

St. Benedict was the first founder of a spiritual order in the Roman church. Maurus, abbot of Fulda from 822 to 842, did much to re-establish the discipline of the Benedictines on a true Christian basis.

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a17

Wood: Mad, Scottish “wud”. Felix says to Paul, “Too much learning hath made thee mad”.

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a18

Limitour: A friar with licence or privilege to beg, or exercise other functions, within a certain district: as, “the limitour of Holderness”.

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a19

Farme: rent; that is, he paid a premium for his licence to beg.

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a20

In principio: the first words of Genesis and John, employed in some part of the mass.

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a21

Lovedays: meetings appointed for friendly settlement of differences; the business was often followed by sports and feasting.

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a22

He would the sea were kept for any thing: he would for anything that the sea were guarded. “The old subsidy of tonnage and poundage,” says Tyrwhitt, “was given to the king ‘pour la saufgarde et custodie del mer.’ – for the safeguard and keeping of the sea” (12 E. IV. C.3).

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a23

Middleburg, at the mouth of the Scheldt, in Holland; Orwell, a seaport in Essex.

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a24

Shields: Crowns, so called from the shields stamped on them; French, “ecu;” Italian, “scudo.”

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a25

Poor scholars at the universities used then to go about begging for money to maintain them and their studies.

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a26

Parvis: The portico of St. Paul’s, which lawyers frequented to meet their clients.

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a27

St Julian: The patron saint of hospitality, celebrated for supplying his votaries with good lodging and good cheer.

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a28

Mew: cage. The place behind Whitehall, where the king’s hawks were caged was called the Mews.

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a29

Many a luce in stew: many a pike in his fish-pond; in those Catholic days, when much fish was eaten, no gentleman’s mansion was complete without a “stew”.

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a30

Countour: Probably a steward or accountant in the county court.

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a31

Vavasour: A landholder of consequence; holding of a duke, marquis, or earl, and ranking below a baron.

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a32

On the dais: On the raised platform at the end of the hall, where sat at meat or in judgement those high in authority, rank or honour; in our days the worthy craftsmen might have been described as “good platform men”.

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a33

To take precedence over all in going to the evening service of the Church, or to festival meetings, to which it was the fashion to carry rich cloaks or mantles against the home- coming.

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a34

The things the cook could make: “marchand tart”, some now unknown ingredient used in cookery; “galingale,” sweet or long rooted cyprus; “mortrewes”, a rich soup made by stamping flesh in a mortar; “Blanc manger”, not what is now called blancmange; one part of it was the brawn of a capon.

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a35

Lodemanage: pilotage, from Anglo-Saxon “ladman,” a leader, guide, or pilot; hence “lodestar,” “lodestone.”

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a36

The authors mentioned here were the chief medical text- books of the middle ages. The names of Galen and Hippocrates were then usually spelt “Gallien” and “Hypocras” or “Ypocras”.

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a37

The west of England, especially around Bath, was the seat of the cloth-manufacture, as were Ypres and Ghent (Gaunt) in Flanders.

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a38

Chaucer here satirises the fashion of the time, which piled bulky and heavy waddings on ladies’ heads.

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a39

Moist; here used in the sense of “new”, as in Latin, “mustum” signifies new wine; and elsewhere Chaucer speaks of “moisty ale”, as opposed to “old”.

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a40

In Galice at Saint James: at the shrine of St Jago of Compostella in Spain.

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a41

Gat-toothed: Buck-toothed; goat-toothed, to signify her wantonness; or gap-toothed – with gaps between her teeth.

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a42

An endowment to sing masses for the soul of the donor.

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a43

A ram was the usual prize at wrestling matches.

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a44

Cop: Head; German, “Kopf”.

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a45

Nose-thirles: nostrils; from the Anglo-Saxon, “thirlian,” to pierce; hence the word “drill,” to bore.

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a46

Goliardais: a babbler and a buffoon; Golias was the founder of a jovial sect called by his name.

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a47

The proverb says that every honest miller has a thumb of gold; probably Chaucer means that this one was as honest as his brethren.

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a48

A Manciple – Latin, “manceps,” a purchaser or contractor - - was an officer charged with the purchase of victuals for inns of court or colleges.

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a49

Reeve: A land-steward; still called “grieve” – Anglo-Saxon, “gerefa” in some parts of Scotland.

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a50

Sompnour: summoner; an apparitor, who cited delinquents to appear in ecclesiastical courts.

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a51

Questio quid juris: “I ask which law (applies)”; a cant law- Latin phrase.

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a52

Harlot: a low, ribald fellow; the word was used of both sexes; it comes from the Anglo-Saxon verb to hire.

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a53

Significavit: an ecclesiastical writ.

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a54

Within his jurisdiction he had at his own pleasure the young people (of both sexes) in the diocese.

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a55

Pardoner: a seller of pardons or indulgences.

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a56

Newe get: new gait, or fashion; “gait” is still used in this sense in some parts of the country.

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a57

Vernicle: an image of Christ; so called from St Veronica, who gave the Saviour a napkin to wipe the sweat from His face as He bore the Cross, and received it back with an impression of His countenance upon it.

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a58

Mail: packet, baggage; French, “malle,” a trunk.

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a59

The Bell: apparently another Southwark tavern; Stowe mentions a “Bull” as being near the Tabard.

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a60

Cheap: Cheapside, then inhabited by the richest and most prosperous citizens of London.

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a61

Herberow: Lodging, inn; French, “Herberge.”

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a62

The watering of Saint Thomas: At the second milestone on the old Canterbury road.

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The Knight’s Taleb1

WHILOMformerly, as olde stories tellen us, There was a duke that hightewas called Theseus.b2 Of Athens he was lord and governor, And in his time such a conqueror That greater was there none under the sun. Full many a riche country had he won. What with his wisdom and his chivalry, He conquer’d all the regne of Feminie,b3 That whilom was y-cleped Scythia; And weddede the Queen Hippolyta And brought her home with him to his country With muchelgreat glory and great solemnity, And eke her younge sister Emily, And thus with vict’ry and with melody Let I this worthy Duke to Athens ride, And all his host, in armes him beside.

And certes, if it n’erewere not too long to hear, I would have told you fully the mannere, How wonnenwon was the regne of Feminie, b4 By Theseus, and by his chivalry; And of the greate battle for the nonce Betwixt Athenes and the Amazons; And how assieged was Hippolyta, The faire hardy queen of Scythia; And of the feast that was at her wedding And of the tempest at her homecoming. But all these things I must as now forbear. I have, God wot, a large field to ear; And weake be the oxen in my plough; The remnant of my tale is long enow. I will not letten eke none of this routhinder any of this company. Let every fellow tell his tale about, And let see now who shall the supper win. There as I leftwhere I left off, I will again begin.

This Duke, of whom I make mentioun, When he was come almost unto the town, In all his weal, and in his moste pride, He was ware, as he cast his eye aside, Where that there kneeled in the highe way A company of ladies, tway and tway, Each after other, clad in clothes black: But such a cry and such a woe they make, That in this world n’is creature living, That hearde such another waimentinglamentingb6 And of this crying would they never stentendesist, Till they the reines of his bridle hentenseize. “What folk be ye that at mine homecoming Perturben so my feaste with crying?” Quoth Theseus; “Have ye so great envy Of mine honour, that thus complain and cry? Or who hath you misbodenwronged, or offended? Do telle me, if it may be amended; And why that ye be clad thus all in black?”

The oldest lady of them all then spake, When she had swooned, with a deadly cheercountenance, That it was ruthepity for to see or hear. She saide; “Lord, to whom fortune hath given Vict’ry, and as a conqueror to liven, Nought grieveth us your glory and your honour; But we beseechen mercy and succour. Have mercy on our woe and our distress; Some drop of pity, through thy gentleness, Upon us wretched women let now fall. For certes, lord, there is none of us all That hath not been a duchess or a queen; Now be we caitivescaptives, as it is well seen: Thanked be Fortune, and her false wheel, That none estate ensureth to be weleassures no continuance of prosperous estate. And certes, lord, t’abiden your presence Here in this temple of the goddess Clemence We have been waiting all this fortenight: Now help us, lord, since it lies in thy might.

“I, wretched wight, that weep and waile thus, Was whilom wife to king Capaneus, That starfdied at Thebes, cursed be that day:b7 And alle we that be in this array, And maken all this lamentatioun, We losten all our husbands at that town, While that the siege thereabouten lay. And yet the olde Creon, wellaway! That lord is now of Thebes the city, Fulfilled of ire and of iniquity, He for despite, and for his tyranny, To do the deade bodies villainyinsult, Of all our lorde’s, which that been y-slawslain, Hath all the bodies on an heap y-draw, And will not suffer them by none assent Neither to be y-buried, nor y-brentburnt, But maketh houndes eat them in despite.” And with that word, withoute more respite They fallen groff,grovelling and cryden piteously; “Have on us wretched women some mercy, And let our sorrow sinken in thine heart.”

This gentle Duke down from his courser start With hearte piteous, when he heard them speak. Him thoughte that his heart would all to-break, When he saw them so piteous and so mateabased That whilom weren of so great estate. And in his armes he them all up hentraised, took, And them comforted in full good intent, And swore his oath, as he was true knight, He woulde do so farforthly his mightas far as his power went Upon the tyrant Creon them to wreakavenge, That all the people of Greece shoulde speak, How Creon was of Theseus y-served, As he that had his death full well deserved. And right anon withoute more abodedelay His banner he display’d, and forth he rode To Thebes-ward, and all his, host beside: No nernearer Athenes would he go nor ride, Nor take his ease fully half a day, But onward on his way that night he lay: And sent anon Hippolyta the queen, And Emily her younge sister sheenbright, lovely Unto the town of Athens for to dwell: And forth he ritrode; there is no more to tell.

The red statue of Mars with spear and targeshield So shineth in his white banner large That all the fieldes glitter up and down: And by his banner borne is his pennon Of gold full rich, in which there was y-beatstamped The Minotaurb8 which that he slew in Crete Thus rit this Duke, thus rit this conqueror And in his host of chivalry the flower, Till that he came to Thebes, and alight Fair in a field, there as he thought to fight. But shortly for to speaken of this thing, With Creon, which that was of Thebes king, He fought, and slew him manly as a knight In plain bataille, and put his folk to flight: And by assault he won the city after, And rent adown both wall, and spar, and rafter; And to the ladies he restored again The bodies of their husbands that were slain, To do obsequies, as was then the guisecustom.

But it were all too long for to devisedescribe The greate clamour, and the waimentinglamenting, Which that the ladies made at the brenningburning Of the bodies, and the great honour That Theseus the noble conqueror Did to the ladies, when they from him went: But shortly for to tell is mine intent. When that this worthy Duke, this Theseus, Had Creon slain, and wonnen Thebes thus, Still in the field he took all night his rest, And did with all the country as him lestpleased. To ransack in the tasheap of bodies dead, Them for to strip of armourharness and of clothesweed, The pillerspillagers did their business and cure,b9 After the battle and discomfiture. And so befell, that in the tas they found, Through girt with many a grievous bloody wound, Two younge knightes ligging by and bylying side by side Both in one armesthe same armour, wrought full richely: Of whiche two, Arcita hight that one, And he that other highte Palamon. Not fully quickalive, nor fully dead they were, But by their coat-armour, and by their gear, The heralds knew them well in special, As those that weren of the blood royal Of Thebes, and of sistren two y-bornborn of two sisters. Out of the tas the pillers have them torn, And have them carried soft unto the tent Of Theseus, and he full soon them sent To Athens, for to dwellen in prison Perpetually, he n’olde no ransonwould take no ransom. And when this worthy Duke had thus y-done, He took his host, and home he rit anon With laurel crowned as a conquerour; And there he lived in joy and in honour Term of his life; what needeth wordes mo’? And in a tower, in anguish and in woe, Dwellen this Palamon, and eke Arcite, For evermore, there may no gold them quiteset free

Thus passed year by year, and day by day, Till it fell ones in a morn of May That Emily, that fairer was to seen Than is the lily upon his stalke green, And fresher than the May with flowers new (For with the rose colour strove her hue; I n’otknow not which was the finer of them two), Ere it was day, as she was wont to do, She was arisen, and all ready dightdressed, For May will have no sluggardy a-night; The season pricketh every gentle heart, And maketh him out of his sleep to start, And saith, “Arise, and do thine observance.”

This maketh Emily have remembrance To do honour to May, and for to rise. Y-clothed was she fresh for to devise; Her yellow hair was braided in a tress, Behind her back, a yarde long I guess. And in the garden at the sun upristsunrise She walketh up and down where as her list. She gathereth flowers, partymingled white and red, To make a sotelsubtle, well-arranged garland for her head, And as an angel heavenly she sung. The greate tower, that was so thick and strong, Which of the castle was the chief dungeonb10 (Where as these knightes weren in prison, Of which I tolde you, and telle shall), Was even joinantadjoining to the garden wall, There as this Emily had her playing.

Bright was the sun, and clear that morrowning, And Palamon, this woful prisoner, As was his wont, by leave of his gaoler, Was ris’n, and roamed in a chamber on high, In which he all the noble city sighsaw, And eke the garden, full of branches green, There as this fresh Emelia the sheen Was in her walk, and roamed up and down. This sorrowful prisoner, this Palamon Went in his chamber roaming to and fro, And to himself complaining of his woe: That he was born, full oft he said, Alas! And so befell, by aventure or caschance, That through a window thick of many a bar Of iron great, and square as any spar, He cast his eyes upon Emelia, And therewithal he blentstarted aside and cried, Ah! As though he stungen were unto the heart. And with that cry Arcite anon up start, And saide, “Cousin mine, what aileth thee, That art so pale and deadly for to see? Why cried’st thou? who hath thee done offence? For Godde’s love, take all in patience Our prisonimprisonment, for it may none other be. Fortune hath giv’n us this adversity’. Some wick’wicked aspect or disposition Of Saturnb11, by some constellation, Hath giv’n us this, although we had it sworn, So stood the heaven when that we were born, We must endure; this is the short and plain.

This Palamon answer’d, and said again: “Cousin, forsooth of this opinion Thou hast a vain imagination. This prison caused me not for to cry; But I was hurt right now thorough mine eye Into mine heart; that will my banedestruction be. The fairness of the lady that I see Yond in the garden roaming to and fro, Is cause of all my crying and my woe. I n’ot wherknow not whether she be woman or goddess, But Venus is it, soothlytruly as I guess, And therewithal on knees adown he fill, And saide: “Venus, if it be your will You in this garden thus to transfigure Before me sorrowful wretched creature, Out of this prison help that we may scape. And if so be our destiny be shape By etern word to dien in prison, Of our lineage have some compassion, That is so low y-brought by tyranny.”

And with that word Arcita gan espybegan to look forth Where as this lady roamed to and fro And with that sight her beauty hurt him so, That if that Palamon was wounded sore, Arcite is hurt as much as he, or more. And with a sigh he saide piteously: “The freshe beauty slay’th me suddenly Of her that roameth yonder in the place. And butunless I have her mercy and her grace, That I may see her at the leaste way, I am but dead; there is no more to say.” This Palamon, when he these wordes heard, Dispiteouslyangrily he looked, and answer’d: “Whether say’st thou this in earnest or in play?” “Nay,” quoth Arcite, “in earnest, by my fayfaith. God help me so, me lust full ill to playI am in no humour for jesting.” This Palamon gan knit his browes tway. “It were,” quoth he, “to thee no great honour For to be false, nor for to be traitour To me, that am thy cousin and thy brother Y-sworn full deep, and each of us to other, That never for to dien in the pain b12, Till that the death departen shall us twain, Neither of us in love to hinder other, Nor in none other case, my levedear brother; But that thou shouldest truly farther me In every case, as I should farther thee. This was thine oath, and mine also certain; I wot it well, thou dar’st it not withsayndeny, Thus art thou of my counsel out of doubt, And now thou wouldest falsely be about To love my lady, whom I love and serve, And ever shall, until mine hearte stervedie Now certes, false Arcite, thou shalt not so I lov’d her first, and tolde thee my woe As to my counsel, and my brother sworn To farther me, as I have told beforn. For which thou art y-bounden as a knight To helpe me, if it lie in thy might, Or elles art thou false, I dare well sayn,”

This Arcita full proudly spake again: “Thou shalt,” quoth he, “be rathersooner false than I, And thou art false, I tell thee utterly; For par amour I lov’d her first ere thou. What wilt thou say? thou wist it not right noweven now thou knowest not Whether she be a woman or goddess. Thine is affection of holiness, And mine is love, as to a creature: For which I tolde thee mine aventure As to my cousin, and my brother sworn I posesuppose, that thou loved’st her beforn: Wostknow’st thou not well the olde clerke’s sawb13, That who shall give a lover any law? Love is a greater lawe, by my pan, Than may be giv’n to any earthly man: Therefore positive law, and such decree, Is broke alway for love in each degree A man must needes love, maugre his head. He may not flee it, though he should be dead, All be shewhether she be maid, or widow, or else wife. And eke it is not likely all thy life To standen in her grace, no more than I For well thou wost thyselfe verily, That thou and I be damned to prison Perpetual, us gaineth no ranson. We strive, as did the houndes for the bone; They fought all day, and yet their part was none. There came a kite, while that they were so wroth, And bare away the bone betwixt them both. And therefore at the kinge’s court, my brother, Each man for himselfe, there is no other. Love if thee list; for I love and aye shall And soothly, leve brother, this is all. Here in this prison musten we endure, And each of us take his Aventure.”

Great was the strife and long between these tway, If that I hadde leisure for to say; But to the effect: it happen’d on a day (To tell it you as shortly as I may), A worthy duke that hight Perithousb14 That fellow was to the Duke Theseus Since thilkethat day that they were children litelittle Was come to Athens, his fellow to visite, And for to play, as he was wont to do; For in this world he loved no man so; And he lov’d him as tenderly again. So well they lov’d, as olde bookes sayn, That when that one was dead, soothly to sayn, His fellow went and sought him down in hell: But of that story list me not to write. Duke Perithous loved well Arcite, And had him known at Thebes year by year: And finally at request and prayere Of Perithous, withoute ranson Duke Theseus him let out of prison, Freely to go, where him list over all, In such a guise, as I you tellen shall This was the forwordpromise, plainly to indite, Betwixte Theseus and him Arcite: That if so were, that Arcite were y-found Ever in his life, by day or night, one stoundb15 In any country of this Theseus, And he were caught, it was accorded thus, That with a sword he shoulde lose his head; There was none other remedy nor redecounsel. But took his leave, and homeward he him sped; Let him beware, his necke lieth to wedin pledge.

How great a sorrow suff’reth now Arcite! The death he feeleth through his hearte smite; He weepeth, waileth, crieth piteously; To slay himself he waiteth privily. He said; “Alas the day that I was born! Now is my prison worse than beforn: Now is me shapeit is fixed for me eternally to dwell Not in purgatory, but right in hell. Alas! that ever I knew Perithous. For elles had I dwelt with Theseus Y-fettered in his prison evermo’. Then had I been in bliss, and not in woe. Only the sight of her, whom that I serve, Though that I never may her grace deserve, Would have sufficed right enough for me. O deare cousin Palamon,” quoth he, “Thine is the vict’ry of this aventure, Full blissfully in prison to endure: In prison? nay certes, in paradise. Well hath fortune y-turned thee the dice, That hast the sight of her, and I th’ absence. For possible is, since thou hast her presence, And art a knight, a worthy and an able, That by some caschance, since fortune is changeable, Thou may’st to thy desire sometime attain. But I that am exiled, and barren Of alle grace, and in so great despair, That there n’is earthe, water, fire, nor air, Nor creature, that of them maked is, That may me helpe nor comfort in this, Well ought I sterve in wanhopedie in despair and distress. Farewell my life, my lustpleasure, and my gladness. Alas, why plainen men so in commune Of purveyance of Godi.e. why do men so often complain of God’s providence?, or of Fortune, That giveth them full oft in many a guise Well better than they can themselves devise? Some man desireth for to have richess, That cause is of his murder or great sickness. And some man would out of his prison fain, That in his house is of his meinieservants slain.b16 Infinite harmes be in this mattere. We wot never what thing we pray for here. We fare as he that drunk is as a mouse. A drunken man wot well he hath an house, But he wot not which is the right way thither, And to a drunken man the way is slitherslippery. And certes in this world so fare we. We seeke fast after felicity, But we go wrong full often truely. Thus we may sayen all, and namelyespecially I, That ween’dthought, and had a great opinion, That if I might escape from prison Then had I been in joy and perfect heal, Where now I am exiled from my weal. Since that I may not see you, Emily, I am but dead; there is no remedy.”

Upon that other side, Palamon, When that he wist Arcita was agone, Much sorrow maketh, that the greate tower Resounded of his yelling and clamour The purevery fetters on his shinnes greatb17 Were of his bitter salte teares wet.

“Alas!” quoth he, “Arcita, cousin mine, Of all our strife, God wot, the fruit is thine. Thou walkest now in Thebes at thy large, And of my woe thou givest little chargetakest little heed. Thou mayst, since thou hast wisdom and manheadmanhood, courage, Assemble all the folk of our kindred, And make a war so sharp on this country That by some aventure, or some treaty, Thou mayst have her to lady and to wife, For whom that I must needes lose my life. For as by way of possibility, Since thou art at thy large, of prison free, And art a lord, great is thine avantage, More than is mine, that sterve here in a cage. For I must weep and wail, while that I live, With all the woe that prison may me give, And eke with pain that love me gives also, That doubles all my torment and my woe.”

Therewith the fire of jealousy upstart Within his breast, and hentseized him by the heart So woodlymadly, that he like was to behold The box-tree, or the ashes dead and cold. Then said; “O cruel goddess, that govern This world with binding of your word eterneternal And writen in the table of adamant Your parlementconsultation and your eternal grant, What is mankind more unto you y-holdby you esteemed Than is the sheep, that roukethlie huddled together in the fold! For slain is man, right as another beast; And dwelleth eke in prison and arrest, And hath sickness, and great adversity, And oftentimes guilteless, pardieby God What governance is in your prescience, That guilteless tormenteth innocence? And yet increaseth this all my penance, That man is bounden to his observance For Godde’s sake to letten of his willrestrain his desire, Whereas a beast may all his lust fulfil. And when a beast is dead, he hath no pain; But man after his death must weep and plain, Though in this worlde he have care and woe: Withoute doubt it maye standen so. “The answer of this leave I to divines, But well I wot, that in this world great pinepain, trouble is; Alas! I see a serpent or a thief That many a true man hath done mischief, Go at his large, and where him list may turn. But I must be in prison through Saturn, And eke through Juno, jealous and eke woodmad, That hath well nigh destroyed all the blood Of Thebes, with his waste walles wide. And Venus slay’th me on that other side For jealousy, and fear of him, Arcite.”

Now will I stentpause of Palamon a litelittle, And let him in his prison stille dwell, And of Arcita forth I will you tell. The summer passeth, and the nightes long Increase double-wise the paines strong Both of the lover and the prisonere. I n’otknow not which hath the wofuller misterecondition. For, shortly for to say, this Palamon Perpetually is damned to prison, In chaines and in fetters to be dead; And Arcite is exiled on his headon peril of his head For evermore as out of that country, Nor never more he shall his lady see. You lovers ask I now this question,b18 Who lieth the worse, Arcite or Palamon? The one may see his lady day by day, But in prison he dwelle must alway. The other where him list may ride or go, But see his lady shall he never mo’. Now deem all as you liste, ye that can, For I will tell you forth as I began.

When that Arcite to Thebes comen was, Full oft a day he sweltfainted, and said, “Alas!” For see this lady he shall never mo’. And shortly to concluden all his woe, So much sorrow had never creature That is or shall be while the world may dure. His sleep, his meat, his drink is him byrafttaken away from him, That lean he wexbecame, and dry as any shaft. His eyen hollow, grisly to behold, His hue sallow, and pale as ashes cold, And solitary he was, ever alone, And wailing all the night, making his moan. And if he hearde song or instrument, Then would he weepen, he might not be stentstopped. So feeble were his spirits, and so low, And changed so, that no man coulde know His speech, neither his voice, though men it heard. And in his gearbehaviour for all the world he far’db19 Not only like the lovers’ malady Of Eros, but rather y-like maniemadness Engender’d of humours melancholic, Before his head in his cell fantastic.b20 And shortly turned was all upside down, Both habit and eke dispositioun, Of him, this woful lover DanLord Arcite.b21 Why should I all day of his woe indite? When he endured had a year or two This cruel torment, and this pain and woe, At Thebes, in his country, as I said, Upon a night in sleep as he him laid, Him thought how that the winged god Mercury Before him stood, and bade him to be merry. His sleepy yardrod in hand he bare upright;b22 A hat he wore upon his haires bright. Arrayed was this god (as he took keepnotice) As he was when that Argusb23 took his sleep; And said him thus: “To Athens shalt thou wendgo; There is thee shapenfixed, prepared of thy woe an end.” And with that word Arcite woke and start. “Now truely how sore that e’er me smart,” Quoth he, “to Athens right now will I fare. Nor for no dread of death shall I not spare To see my lady that I love and serve; In her presence I recke not to sterve.do not care if I die And with that word he caught a great mirror, And saw that changed was all his colour, And saw his visage all in other kind. And right anon it ran him ill his mind, That since his face was so disfigur’d Of malady the which he had endur’d, He mighte well, if that he bare him low,lived in lowly fashion Live in Athenes evermore unknow, And see his lady wellnigh day by day. And right anon he changed his array, And clad him as a poore labourer. And all alone, save only a squier, That knew his privitysecrets and all his casfortune, Which was disguised poorly as he was, To Athens is he gone the nextenearest way.b24 And to the court he went upon a day, And at the gate he proffer’d his service, To drudge and draw, what so men would deviseorder. And, shortly of this matter for to sayn, He fell in office with a chamberlain, The which that dwelling was with Emily. For he was wise, and coulde soon espy Of every servant which that served her. Well could he hewe wood, and water bear, For he was young and mighty for the nonesoccasion, And thereto he was strong and big of bones To do that any wight can him devise.

A year or two he was in this service, Page of the chamber of Emily the bright; And Philostrate he saide that he hight. But half so well belov’d a man as he Ne was there never in court of his degree. He was so gentle of conditioun, That throughout all the court was his renown. They saide that it were a charity That Theseus would enhance his degreeelevate him in rank, And put him in some worshipful service, There as he might his virtue exercise. And thus within a while his name sprung Both of his deedes, and of his good tongue, That Theseus hath taken him so near, That of his chamber he hath made him squire, And gave him gold to maintain his degree; And eke men brought him out of his country From year to year full privily his rent. But honestly and slylydiscreetly, prudently he it spent, That no man wonder’d how that he it had. And three year in this wise his life be ladled, And bare him so in peace and eke in werrewar, There was no man that Theseus had so derredear. And in this blisse leave I now Arcite, And speak I will of Palamon a litelittle.

In darkness horrible, and strong prison, This seven year hath sitten Palamon, Forpinedpined, wasted away, what for love, and for distress. Who feeleth double sorrow and heaviness But Palamon? that love distrainethafflicts so, That woodmad out of his wits he went for woe, And eke thereto he is a prisonere Perpetual, not only for a year. Who coulde rhyme in English properly His martyrdom? forsoothtruly, it is not I; Therefore I pass as lightly as I may. It fell that in the seventh year, in May The thirde night (as olde bookes sayn, That all this story tellen more plain), Were it by a venture or destiny (As when a thing is shapensettled, decreed it shall be), That soon after the midnight, Palamon By helping of a friend brake his prison, And fled the city fast as he might go, For he had given drink his gaoler so Of a clary b25, made of a certain wine, With narcotise and opienarcotics and opium of Thebes fine, That all the night, though that men would him shake, The gaoler slept, he mighte not awake: And thus he fled as fast as ever he may. The night was short, and faste by the dayclose at hand was the day during which he must cast about, or contrive, to conceal himself. That needes cast he must himself to hide. And to a grove faste there beside With dreadful foot then stalked Palamon. For shortly this was his opinion, That in the grove he would him hide all day, And in the night then would he take his way To Thebes-ward, his friendes for to pray On Theseus to help him to warraymake war.b26 And shortly either he would lose his life, Or winnen Emily unto his wife. This is th’ effect, and his intention plain.

Now will I turn to Arcita again, That little wist how nighe was his care, Till that Fortune had brought him in the snare. The busy lark, the messenger of day, Saluteth in her song the morning gray; And fiery Phoebus riseth up so bright, That all the orient laugheth at the sight, And with his streamesrays drieth in the grevesgroves The silver droppes, hanging on the leaves; And Arcite, that is in the court royal With Theseus, his squier principal, Is ris’n, and looketh on the merry day. And for to do his observance to May, Remembering the pointobject of his desire, He on his courser, starting as the fire, Is ridden to the fieldes him to play, Out of the court, were it a mile or tway. And to the grove, of which I have you told, By a venture his way began to hold, To make him a garland of the grevesgroves, Were it of woodbine, or of hawthorn leaves, And loud he sang against the sun so sheenshining bright. “O May, with all thy flowers and thy green, Right welcome be thou, faire freshe May, I hope that I some green here getten may.” And from his courserhorse, with a lusty heart, Into the grove full hastily he start, And in a path he roamed up and down, There as by aventure this Palamon Was in a bush, that no man might him see, For sore afeard of his death was he. Nothing ne knew he that it was Arcite; God wot he would have trowed it full litefull little believed it. But sooth is said, gone since full many years, The field hath eyeneyes, and the wood hath ears, It is full fair a man to bear him evento be on his guard, For all day meeten men at unset stevenb27. Full little wot Arcite of his fellaw, That was so nigh to hearken of his sawsaying, speech, For in the bush he sitteth now full still. When that Arcite had roamed all his fill, And sungen all the roundelsang the roundelayb28 lustily, Into a study he fell suddenly, As do those lovers in their quainte gearsodd fashions, Now in the croptree-top, and now down in the breresbriars,b29 Now up, now down, as bucket in a well. Right as the Friday, soothly for to tell, Now shineth it, and now it raineth fast, Right so can gearychangeful Venus overcast The heartes of her folk, right as her day Is gearfulchangeful, right so changeth she array. Seldom is Friday all the weeke like. When Arcite had y-sung, he gan to sikesigh, And sat him down withouten any more: “Alas!” quoth he, “the day that I was bore! How longe, Juno, through thy cruelty Wilt thou warrayentorment Thebes the city? Alas! y-brought is to confusion The blood royal of Cadm’ and Amphion: Of Cadmus, which that was the firste man, That Thebes built, or first the town began, And of the city first was crowned king. Of his lineage am I, and his offspring By very line, as of the stock royal; And now I am so caitiff and so thrallwretched and enslaved, That he that is my mortal enemy, I serve him as his squier poorely. And yet doth Juno me well more shame, For I dare not beknowacknowledge mine owen name,b30 But there as I was wont to hight Arcite, Now hight I Philostrate, not worth a mite. Alas! thou fell Mars, and alas! Juno, Thus hath your ire our lineage all fordoundone, ruined Save only me, and wretched Palamon, That Theseus martyreth in prison. And over all this, to slay me utterly, Love hath his fiery dart so brenninglyburningly Y-sticked through my true careful heart, That shapen was my death erst than my shert. b31 Ye slay me with your eyen, Emily; Ye be the cause wherefore that I die. Of all the remnant of mine other care Ne set I not the mountance of a tarevalue of a straw, So that I could do aught to your pleasance.”

And with that word he fell down in a trance A longe time; and afterward upstart This Palamon, that thought thorough his heart He felt a cold sword suddenly to glide: For ire he quokequaked, no longer would he hide. And when that he had heard Arcite’s tale, As he were woodmad, with face dead and pale, He start him up out of the bushes thick, And said: “False Arcita, false traitor wick’wicked, Now art thou hentcaught, that lov’st my lady so, For whom that I have all this pain and woe, And art my blood, and to my counsel sworn, As I full oft have told thee herebeforn, And hast bejapeddeceived, imposed upon here Duke Theseus, And falsely changed hast thy name thus; I will be dead, or elles thou shalt die. Thou shalt not love my lady Emily, But I will love her only and no mo’; For I am Palamon thy mortal foe. And though I have no weapon in this place, But out of prison am astartescaped by grace, I dreadedoubt not that either thou shalt die, Or else thou shalt not loven Emily. Choose which thou wilt, for thou shalt not astart.”

This Arcite then, with full dispiteouswrathful heart, When he him knew, and had his tale heard, As fierce as lion pulled out a swerd, And saide thus; “By God that sitt’th above, N’ere itwere it not that thou art sick, and wood for love, And eke that thou no weap’n hast in this place, Thou should’st never out of this grove pace, That thou ne shouldest dien of mine hand. For I defy the surety and the band, Which that thou sayest I have made to thee. What? very fool, think well that love is free; And I will love her maugredespite all thy might. But, for thou art a worthy gentle knight, And wilnest to darraine her by bataillewill reclaim her by combat, Have here my troth, to-morrow I will not fail, Without weetingknowledge of any other wight, That here I will be founden as a knight, And bringe harnessarmour and arms right enough for thee; And choose the best, and leave the worst for me. And meat and drinke this night will I bring Enough for thee, and clothes for thy bedding. And if so be that thou my lady win, And slay me in this wood that I am in, Thou may’st well have thy lady as for me.” This Palamon answer’d, “I grant it thee.” And thus they be departed till the morrow, When each of them hath laid his faith to borrowpledged his faith.

O Cupid, out of alle charity! O Regnequeen that wilt no fellow have with thee!b32 Full sooth is said, that love nor lordeship Will not, his thanksthanks to him, have any fellowship. Well finden that Arcite and Palamon. Arcite is ridd anon unto the town, And on the morrow, ere it were daylight, Full privily two harness hath he dightprepared, Both suffisant and meete to darrainecontest The battle in the field betwixt them twain. And on his horse, alone as he was born, He carrieth all this harness him beforn; And in the grove, at time and place y-set, This Arcite and this Palamon be met. Then change gan the colour of their face; Right as the hunter in the regnekingdom of Thrace That standeth at a gappe with a spear When hunted is the lion or the bear, And heareth him come rushing in the grevesgroves, And breaking both the boughes and the leaves, Thinketh, “Here comes my mortal enemy, Withoute fail, he must be dead or I; For either I must slay him at the gap; Or he must slay me, if that me mishap:” So fared they, in changing of their hue As far as either of them other knewWhen they recognised each other afar off. There was no good day, and no saluting, But straight, withoute wordes rehearsing, Evereach of them holp to arm the other, As friendly, as he were his owen brother. And after that, with sharpe speares strong They foinedthrust each at other wonder long. Thou mightest weenethink, that this Palamon In fighting were as a woodmad lion, And as a cruel tiger was Arcite: As wilde boars gan they together smite, That froth as white as foam, for ire woodmad with anger. Up to the ancle fought they in their blood. And in this wise I let them fighting dwell, And forth I will of Theseus you tell.

The Destiny, minister general, That executeth in the world o’er all The purveyanceforeordination, that God hath seen beforn; So strong it is, that though the world had sworn The contrary of a thing by yea or nay, Yet some time it shall fallen on a day That falleth not eftagain in a thousand year. For certainly our appetites here, Be it of war, or peace, or hate, or love, All is this ruled by the sighteye, intelligence, power above. This mean I now by mighty Theseus, That for to hunten is so desirous – And namelyespecially the greate hart in May – That in his bed there dawneth him no day That he n’is clad, and ready for to ride With hunt and horn, and houndes him beside. For in his hunting hath he such delight, That it is all his joy and appetite To be himself the greate harte’s banedestruction For after Mars he serveth now Diane. Clear was the day, as I have told ere this, And Theseus, with alle joy and bliss, With his Hippolyta, the faire queen, And Emily, y-clothed all in green, On hunting be they ridden royally. And to the grove, that stood there faste by, In which there was an hart, as men him told, Duke Theseus the straighte way doth hold, And to the laundplain he rideth him full right,b33 There was the hart y-wont to have his flight, And over a brook, and so forth on his way. This Duke will have a course at him or tway With houndes, such as him lustpleased to command. And when this Duke was come to the laund, Under the sun he looked, and anon He was ware of Arcite and Palamon, That foughte bremefiercely, as it were bulles two. The brighte swordes wente to and fro So hideously, that with the leaste stroke It seemed that it woulde fell an oak, But what they were, nothing yet he woteknew. This Duke his courser with his spurres smote, And at a startsuddenly he was betwixt them two, And pulled out a sword and cried, “Ho! No more, on pain of losing of your head. By mighty Mars, he shall anon be dead That smiteth any stroke, that I may see! But tell to me what mistermanner, kind men ye be,b34 That be so hardy for to fighte here Withoute judge or other officer, As though it were in listes royally. b35 This Palamon answered hastily, And saide: “Sir, what needeth wordes mo’? We have the death deserved bothe two, Two woful wretches be we, and caitives, That be accumberedburdened of our own lives, And as thou art a rightful lord and judge, So give us neither mercy nor refuge. And slay me first, for sainte charity, But slay my fellow eke as well as me. Or slay him first; for, though thou know it litelittle, This is thy mortal foe, this is Arcite That from thy land is banisht on his head, For which he hath deserved to be dead. For this is he that came unto thy gate And saide, that he highte Philostrate. Thus hath he japeddeceived thee full many year, And thou hast made of him thy chief esquier; And this is he, that loveth Emily. For since the day is come that I shall die I make pleinlyfully, unreservedly my confession, That I am thilkethat same woful Palamon,b36 That hath thy prison broken wickedly. I am thy mortal foe, and it am I That so hot loveth Emily the bright, That I would die here present in her sight. Therefore I aske death and my jewisejudgement. But slay my fellow eke in the same wise, For both we have deserved to be slain.”

This worthy Duke answer’d anon again, And said, “This is a short conclusion. Your own mouth, by your own confession Hath damned you, and I will it record; It needeth not to pain you with the cord; Ye shall be dead, by mighty Mars the Red.b37

The queen anon for very womanhead Began to weep, and so did Emily, And all the ladies in the company. Great pity was it as it thought them all, That ever such a chance should befall, For gentle men they were, of great estate, And nothing but for love was this debate They saw their bloody woundes wide and sore, And cried all at once, both less and more, “Have mercy, Lord, upon us women all.” And on their bare knees adown they fall And would have kissed his feet there as he stood, Till at the last aslaked was his moodhis anger was appeased (For pity runneth soon in gentle heart); And though at first for ire he quoke and start He hath consider’d shortly in a clause The trespass of them both, and eke the cause: And although that his ire their guilt accused Yet in his reason he them both excused; As thus; he thoughte well that every man Will help himself in love if that he can, And eke deliver himself out of prison. Of women, for they wepten ever-in-one:continually And eke his hearte had compassion And in his gentle heart he thought anon, And soft unto himself he saide: “Fie Upon a lord that will have no mercy, But be a lion both in word and deed, To them that be in repentance and dread, As well as-to a proud dispiteousunpitying man That will maintaine what he first began. That lord hath little of discretion, That in such case can no divisioncan make no distinction: But weigheth pride and humbless after onealike.” And shortly, when his ire is thus agone, He gan to look on them with eyen lightgentle, lenient, And spake these same wordes all on height.aloud

“The god of love, ah! benedicitebless ye him, How mighty and how great a lord is he! Against his might there gaineavail, conquer none obstacles, He may be called a god for his miracles For he can maken at his owen guise Of every heart, as that him list devise. Lo here this Arcite, and this Palamon, That quietly were out of my prison, And might have lived in Thebes royally, And weetknew I am their mortal enemy, And that their death li’th in my might also, And yet hath love, maugre their eyen twoin spite of their eyes, Y-brought them hither bothe for to die. Now look ye, is not this an high folly? Who may not be a fool, if but he love? Behold, for Godde’s sake that sits above, See how they bleed! be they not well array’d? Thus hath their lord, the god of love, them paid Their wages and their fees for their service; And yet they weene for to be full wise, That serve love, for aught that may befall. But this is yet the beste gamejoke of all, That she, for whom they have this jealousy, Can them therefor as muchel thank as me. She wot no more of all this hote farehot behaviour, By God, than wot a cuckoo or an hare. But all must be assayed hot or cold; A man must be a fool, or young or old; I wot it by myself full yore agonelong years ago: For in my time a servant was I one. And therefore since I know of love’s pain, And wot how sore it can a man distraindistress, As he that oft hath been caught in his lastsnare,b38 I you forgive wholly this trespass, At request of the queen that kneeleth here, And eke of Emily, my sister dear. And ye shall both anon unto me swear, That never more ye shall my country dereinjure Nor make war upon me night nor day, But be my friends in alle that ye may. I you forgive this trespass every dealcompletely. And they him sware his askingwhat he asked fair and well, And him of lordship and of mercy pray’d, And he them granted grace, and thus he said:

“To speak of royal lineage and richess, Though that she were a queen or a princess, Each of you both is worthy doubteless To wedde when time is; but natheless I speak as for my sister Emily, For whom ye have this strife and jealousy, Ye wotknow yourselves, she may not wed the two At once, although ye fight for evermo: But one of you, all be him loth or lief,whether or not he wishes He must go pipe into an ivy leaf“go whistle”: This is to say, she may not have you both, All be ye never so jealous, nor so wroth. And therefore I you put in this degree, That each of you shall have his destiny As him is shapeas is decreed for him; and hearken in what wise Lo hear your end of that I shall devise. My will is this, for plain conclusion Withouten any replicationreply, If that you liketh, take it for the best, That evereach of you shall go where him lesthe pleases, Freely without ransom or danger; And this day fifty weekes, farre ne nerreneither more nor less, Evereach of you shall bring an hundred knights, Armed for listes up at alle rights All ready to darrainecontend for her by bataille, And this behetepromise I you withoute fail Upon my troth, and as I am a knight, That whether of you bothe that hath might, That is to say, that whether he or thou May with his hundred, as I spake of now, Slay his contrary, or out of listes drive, Him shall I given Emily to wive, To whom that fortune gives so fair a grace. The listes shall I make here in this place. And God so wisly on my soule ruemay God as surely have mercy on my soul, As I shall even judge be and true. Ye shall none other ende with me maken Than one of you shalle be dead or taken. And if you thinketh this is well y-said, Say your adviceopinion, and hold yourselves apaidsatisfied. This is your end, and your conclusion.” Who looketh lightly now but Palamon? Who springeth up for joye but Arcite? Who could it tell, or who could it indite, The joye that is maked in the place When Theseus hath done so fair a grace? But down on knees went every manner wightkind of person, And thanked him with all their heartes’ might, And namelyespecially these Thebans ofte sitheoftentimes. And thus with good hope and with hearte blithe They take their leave, and homeward gan they ride To Thebes-ward, with his old walles wide.

I trow men woulde deem it negligence, If I forgot to telle the dispenceexpenditure Of Theseus, that went so busily To maken up the listes royally, That such a noble theatre as it was, I dare well say, in all this world there n’aswas not. The circuit a mile was about, Walled of stone, and ditched all without. Round was the shape, in manner of compass, Full of degrees, the height of sixty pasb39 That when a man was set on one degree He lettedhindered not his fellow for to see. Eastward there stood a gate of marble white, Westward right such another opposite. And, shortly to conclude, such a place Was never on earth made in so little space, For in the land there was no craftes-man, That geometry or arsmetrikearithmetic canknew, Nor pourtrayorportrait painter, nor carver of images, That Theseus ne gave him meat and wages The theatre to make and to devise. And for to do his rite and sacrifice He eastward hath upon the gate above, In worship of Venus, goddess of love, Done makecaused to be made an altar and an oratory; And westward, in the mind and in memory Of Mars, he maked hath right such another, That coste largely of gold a fothera great amount. And northward, in a turret on the wall, Of alabaster white and red coral An oratory riche for to see, In worship of Diane of chastity, Hath Theseus done work in noble wise. But yet had I forgotten to devisedescribe The noble carving, and the portraitures, The shape, the countenance of the figures That weren in there oratories three.

First in the temple of Venus may’st thou see Wrought on the wall, full piteous to behold, The broken sleepes, and the sikessighes cold, The sacred teares, and the waimentingslamentings, The fiery strokes of the desirings, That Love’s servants in this life endure; The oathes, that their covenants assure. Pleasance and Hope, Desire, Foolhardiness, Beauty and Youth, and Bawdry and Richess, Charms and Sorc’ry, Leasingsfalsehoods and Flattery, Dispence, Business, and Jealousy, That wore of yellow goldessunflowers a garland,b40 And had a cuckoo sitting on her hand, Feasts, instruments, and caroles and dances, Lust and array, and all the circumstances Of Love, which I reckon’d and reckon shall In order, were painted on the wall, And more than I can make of mention. For soothly all the mount of Citheron,b41 Where Venus hath her principal dwelling, Was showed on the wall in pourtraying, With all the garden, and the lustinesspleasantness. Nor was forgot the porter Idleness, Nor Narcissus the fair of yore agoneolden times, Nor yet the folly of King Solomon, Nor yet the greate strength of Hercules, Th’ enchantments of Medea and Circes, Nor of Turnus the hardy fierce courage, The rich Croesus caitif in servage.abased into slavery b42 Thus may ye see, that wisdom nor richess, Beauty, nor sleight, nor strength, nor hardiness Ne may with Venus holde champartiedivided possession,b43 For as her liste the world may she gieguide. Lo, all these folk so caught were in her lassnare Till they for woe full often said, Alas! Suffice these ensamples one or two, Although I could reckon a thousand mo’.

The statue of Venus, glorious to see Was naked floating in the large sea, And from the navel down all cover’d was With waves green, and bright as any glass. A citole b44 in her right hand hadde she, And on her head, full seemly for to see, A rose garland fresh, and well smelling, Above her head her doves flickering Before her stood her sone Cupido, Upon his shoulders winges had he two; And blind he was, as it is often seen; A bow he bare, and arrows bright and keen.

Why should I not as well eke tell you all The portraiture, that was upon the wall Within the temple of mighty Mars the Red? All painted was the wall in length and bredebreadth Like to the estresinterior chambers of the grisly place That hight the great temple of Mars in Thrace, In thilkethat cold and frosty region, There as Mars hath his sovereign mansion. In which there dwelled neither man nor beast, With knotty gnarrygnarled barren trees old Of stubbes sharp and hideous to behold; In which there ran a rumble and a soughgroaning noise, As though a storm should bursten every bough: And downward from an hill under a bentslope There stood the temple of Mars Armipotent, Wrought all of burnish’d steel, of which th’ entry Was long and strait, and ghastly for to see. And thereout came a rage and such a visesuch a furious voice, That it made all the gates for to rise. The northern light in at the doore shone, For window on the walle was there none Through which men mighten any light discern. The doors were all of adamant etern, Y-clenched overthwart and ende-longcrossways and lengthways With iron tough, and, for to make it strong, Every pillar the temple to sustain Was tunne-greatthick as a tun (barrel), of iron bright and sheen. There saw I first the dark imagining Of felony, and all the compassing; The cruel ire, as red as any gledelive coal, The picke-purseb45, and eke the pale dread; The smiler with the knife under the cloak, The shepenstable burning with the blacke smokeb46 The treason of the murd’ring in the bed, The open war, with woundes all be-bled; Contekecontention, discord with bloody knife, and sharp menace. All full of chirkingcreaking, jarring noise was that sorry place. The slayer of himself eke saw I there, His hearte-blood had bathed all his hair: The nail y-driven in the shodehair of the head at night,b47 The colde death, with mouth gaping upright. Amiddes of the temple sat Mischance, With discomfort and sorry countenance; Eke saw I WoodnessMadness laughing in his rage, Armed Complaint, OutheesOutcry, and fierce Outrage; The carraincorpse in the bush, with throat y-corveslashed, A thousand slain, and not of qualm y-storvedead of sickness; The tyrant, with the prey by force y-reft; The town destroy’d, that there was nothing left. Yet saw I brentburnt the shippes hoppesteres, b48 The hunter strangled with the wilde bears: The sow fretingdevouring the child right in the cradle;b49 The cook scalded, for all his longe ladle. Nor was forgot, by th’infortune of Martthrough the misfortune of war The carter overridden with his cart; Under the wheel full low he lay adown. There were also of Mars’ division, The armourer, the bowyermaker of bows, and the smith, That forgeth sharp swordes on his stithanvil. And all above depainted in a tower Saw I Conquest, sitting in great honour, With thilkethat sharpe sword over his head Hanging by a subtle y-twined thread. Painted the slaughter was of Juliusb50, Of cruel Nero, and Antonius: Although at that time they were yet unborn, Yet was their death depainted there beforn, By menacing of Mars, right by figure, So was it showed in that portraiture, As is depainted in the stars above, Who shall be slain, or elles dead for love. Sufficeth one ensample in stories old, I may not reckon them all, though I wo’ld.

The statue of Mars upon a cartechariot stood Armed, and looked grim as he were woodmad, And over his head there shone two figures Of starres, that be cleped in scriptures, That one Puella, that other Rubeus. b51 This god of armes was arrayed thus: A wolf there stood before him at his feet With eyen red, and of a man he eat: With subtle pencil painted was this story, In redoutingreverance, fear of Mars and of his glory.

Now to the temple of Dian the chaste As shortly as I can I will me haste, To telle you all the descriptioun. Depainted be the walles up and down Of hunting and of shamefast chastity. There saw I how woful Calistope,b52 When that Dian aggrieved was with her, Was turned from a woman to a bear, And after was she made the lodestarpole star: Thus was it painted, I can say no farfarther; Her son is eke a star as men may see. There saw I Dane b53 turn’d into a tree, I meane not the goddess Diane, But Peneus’ daughter, which that hight Dane. There saw I Actaeon an hart y-makedmade, For vengeance that he saw Dian all naked: I saw how that his houndes have him caught, And fretendevour him, for that they knew him not. Yet painted was, a little farthermore How Atalanta hunted the wild boar; And Meleager, and many other mo’, For which Diana wrought them care and woe. There saw I many another wondrous story, The which me list not drawen to memory. This goddess on an hart full high was setseated, With smalle houndes all about her feet, And underneath her feet she had a moon, Waxing it was, and shoulde wane soon. In gaudy green her statue clothed was, With bow in hand, and arrows in a casequiver. Her eyen caste she full low adown, Where Pluto hath his darke regioun. A woman travailing was her beforn, But, for her child so longe was unborn, Full piteously Lucina b54 gan she call, And saide; “Help, for thou may’st best of all.” Well could he painte lifelike that it wrought; With many a florin he the hues had bought. Now be these listes made, and Theseus, That at his greate cost arrayed thus The temples, and the theatre every dealpart,b55 When it was done, him liked wonder well.

But stintcease speaking I will of Theseus a litelittle, And speak of Palamon and of Arcite. The day approacheth of their returning, That evereach an hundred knights should bring, The battle to darrainecontest as I you told; And to Athens, their covenant to hold, Hath ev’reach of them brought an hundred knights, Well-armed for the war at alle rights. And sickerlysurelyb56 there trowedbelieved many a man, That never, sithensince that the world began, For to speaken of knighthood of their hand, As far as God hath maked sea and land, Was, of so few, so noble a company. For every wight that loved chivalry, And would, his thankes, have a passant namethanks to his own efforts, have a surpassing name, Had prayed, that he might be of that game, And well was him, that thereto chosen was. For if there fell to-morrow such a case, Ye knowe well, that every lusty knight, That loveth par amour, and hath his might Were it in Engleland, or elleswhere, They would, their thankes, willen to be there, T’ fight for a lady; Benedicite, It were a lustypleasing sighte for to see. And right so fared they with Palamon; With him there wente knightes many one. Some will be armed in an habergeon, And in a breast-plate, and in a giponshort doublet.; And some will have a pair of platesback and front armour large; And some will have a PrussePrussian shield, or targe; Some will be armed on their legges weel; Some have an axe, and some a mace of steel. There is no newe guisefashion, but it was old. Armed they weren, as I have you told, Evereach after his opinion. There may’st thou see coming with Palamon Licurgus himself, the great king of Thrace: Black was his beard, and manly was his face. The circles of his eyen in his head They glowed betwixte yellow and red, And like a griffin looked he about, With kempedb57 haires on his browes stout; His limbs were great, his brawns were hard and strong, His shoulders broad, his armes round and long. And as the guisefashion was in his country, Full high upon a car of gold stood he, With foure white bulles in the trace. Instead of coat-armour on his harness, With yellow nails, and bright as any gold, He had a beare’s skin, coal-black for oldage. His long hair was y-kempt behind his back, As any raven’s feather it shone for black. A wreath of gold arm-greatthick as a man’s arm, of huge weight, Upon his head sate, full of stones bright, Of fine rubies and clear diamants. About his car there wente white alaunsgreyhounds,b58 Twenty and more, as great as any steer, To hunt the lion or the wilde bear, And follow’d him, with muzzle fast y-bound, Collars of gold, and torettesrings filed round. An hundred lordes had he in his routretinue Armed full well, with heartes stern and stout.

With Arcita, in stories as men find, The great Emetrius the king of Ind, Upon a steede baybay horse trapped in steel, Cover’d with cloth of gold diapreddecorated well, Came riding like the god of armes, Mars. His coat-armour was of a cloth of Tarsa kind of silk, Couchedtrimmed with pearls white and round and great His saddle was of burnish’d gold new beat; A mantelet on his shoulders hanging, Bretfulbrimful of rubies red, as fire sparkling. His crispe hair like ringes was y-run, And that was yellow, glittering as the sun. His nose was high, his eyen bright citrinepale yellow, His lips were round, his colour was sanguine, A fewe fracknesfreckles in his face y-sprentsprinkled, Betwixte yellow and black somedeal y-mentmixedb59 And as a lion he his looking castcast about his eyes Of five and twenty year his age I castreckon His beard was well begunnen for to spring; His voice was as a trumpet thundering. Upon his head he wore of laurel green A garland fresh and lusty to be seen; Upon his hand he bare, for his delight, An eagle tame, as any lily white. An hundred lordes had he with him there, All armed, save their heads, in all their gear, Full richely in alle manner things. For trust ye well, that earles, dukes, and kings Were gather’d in this noble company, For love, and for increase of chivalry. About this king there ran on every part Full many a tame lion and leopart. And in this wise these lordes all and someall and sundry Be on the Sunday to the city come Aboute primeb60, and in the town alight.

This Theseus, this Duke, this worthy knight When he had brought them into his city, And innedlodged them, ev’reach at his degree, He feasteth them, and doth so great labour To easen themmake them comfortable, and do them all honour, That yet men weenethink that no mannes wit Of none estate could amendenimprove it. The minstrelsy, the service at the feast, The greate giftes to the most and least, The rich array of Theseus’ palace, Nor who sate first or last upon the dais.b61 What ladies fairest be, or best dancing Or which of them can carol best or sing, Or who most feelingly speaketh of love; What hawkes sitten on the perch above, What houndes liggenlie on the floor adown, Of all this now make I no mentioun But of th’effect; that thinketh me the best Now comes the point, and hearken if you lest.please

The Sunday night, ere day began to spring, When Palamon the larke hearde sing, Although it were not day by houres two, Yet sang the lark, and Palamon right thothen With holy heart, and with an high courage, Arose, to wendengo on his pilgrimage Unto the blissful Cithera benign, I meane Venus, honourable and digneworthy. And in her hour b62 he walketh forth a pace Unto the listes, where her temple was, And down he kneeleth, and with humble cheerdemeanour And hearte sore, he said as ye shall hear.

“Fairest of fair, O lady mine Venus, Daughter to Jove, and spouse of Vulcanus, Thou gladder of the mount of Citheron!b41 For thilke love thou haddest to Adon b63 Have pity on my bitter teares smart, And take mine humble prayer to thine heart. Alas! I have no language to tell Th’effecte, nor the torment of mine hell; Mine hearte may mine harmes not betray; I am so confused, that I cannot say. But mercy, lady bright, that knowest well My thought, and seest what harm that I feel. Consider all this, and rue upontake pity on my sore, As wislytruly as I shall for evermore Enforce my might, thy true servant to be, And holde war alway with chastity: That make I mine avowvow, promise, so ye me help. I keepe not of armes for to yelp,boast Nor ask I not to-morrow to have victory, Nor renown in this case, nor vaine glory Of prize of armespraise for valour, blowing up and down, But I would have fully possessioun Of Emily, and die in her service; Find thou the manner how, and in what wise. I recke not butdo not know whether it may better be To have vict’ry of them, or they of me, So that I have my lady in mine arms. For though so be that Mars is god of arms, Your virtue is so great in heaven above, That, if you list, I shall well have my love. Thy temple will I worship evermo’, And on thine altar, where I ride or go, I will do sacrifice, and fires betemake, kindle. And if ye will not so, my lady sweet, Then pray I you, to-morrow with a spear That Arcita me through the hearte bear Then reck I not, when I have lost my life, Though that Arcita win her to his wife. This is th’ effect and end of my prayere, – Give me my love, thou blissful lady dear.” When th’ orison was done of Palamon, His sacrifice he did, and that anon, Full piteously, with alle circumstances, All tell I not as nowalthough I tell not now his observances. But at the last the statue of Venus shook, And made a signe, whereby that he took That his prayer accepted was that day. For though the signe shewed a delay, Yet wist he well that granted was his boon; And with glad heart he went him home full soon.

The third hour unequal b64 that Palamon Began to Venus’ temple for to gon, Up rose the sun, and up rose Emily, And to the temple of Dian gan hie. Her maidens, that she thither with her ladled, Th’ incense, the clothes, and the remnant all That to the sacrifice belonge shall, The hornes full of mead, as was the guise; There lacked nought to do her sacrifice. Smokingdraping the temple full of clothes fair, b65 This Emily with hearte debonnairgentle Her body wash’d with water of a well. But how she did her rite I dare not tell; Butunless it be any thing in general; And yet it were a gamepleasure to hearen all To him that meaneth well it were no charge: But it is good a man to be at largedo as he will. Her bright hair combed was, untressed all. A coronet of green oak cerriall b66 Upon her head was set full fair and meet. Two fires on the altar gan she bete, And did her thinges, as men may behold In Stace of Thebes b67, and these bookes old. When kindled was the fire, with piteous cheer Unto Dian she spake as ye may hear.

“O chaste goddess of the woodes green, To whom both heav’n and earth and sea is seen, Queen of the realm of Pluto dark and low, Goddess of maidens, that mine heart hast know Full many a year, and wostknowest what I desire, To keep me from the vengeance of thine ire, That Actaeon aboughteearned; suffered from cruelly: Chaste goddess, well wottest thou that I Desire to be a maiden all my life, Nor never will I be no love nor wife. I am, thou wostknowest, yet of thy company, A maid, and love hunting and veneryfield sports, And for to walken in the woodes wild, And not to be a wife, and be with child. Nought will I know the company of man. Now help me, lady, since ye may and can, For those three formes b68 that thou hast in thee. And Palamon, that hath such love to me, And eke Arcite, that loveth me so sore, This grace I pray thee withoute more, As sende love and peace betwixt them two: And from me turn away their heartes so, That all their hote love, and their desire, And all their busy torment, and their fire, Be queintquenched, or turn’d into another place. And if so be thou wilt do me no grace, Or if my destiny be shapen so That I shall needes have one of them two, So send me him that most desireth me. Behold, goddess of cleane chastity, The bitter tears that on my cheekes fall. Since thou art maid, and keeper of us all, My maidenhead thou keep and well conserve, And, while I live, a maid I will thee serve.

The fires burn upon the altar clear, While Emily was thus in her prayere: But suddenly she saw a sighte quaintstrange. For right anon one of the fire’s queint And quick’di.e. went out and revived again, and after that anon That other fire was queint, and all agone: And as it queint, it made a whisteling, As doth a brande wet in its burning. And at the brandes end outran anon As it were bloody droppes many one: For which so sore aghast was Emily, That she was well-nigh mad, and gan to cry, For she ne wiste what it signified; But onely for feare thus she cried, And wept, that it was pity for to hear. And therewithal Diana gan appear With bow in hand, right as an hunteress, And saide; “Daughter, stintcease thine heaviness. Among the goddes high it is affirm’d, And by eternal word writ and confirm’d, Thou shalt be wedded unto one of thothose That have for thee so muche care and woe: But unto which of them I may not tell. Farewell, for here I may no longer dwell. The fires which that on mine altar brennburn, Shall thee declaren, ere that thou go hennehence, Thine aventure of love, as in this case.” And with that word, the arrows in the casequiver Of the goddess did clatter fast and ring, And forth she went, and made a vanishing, For which this Emily astonied was, And saide; “What amounteth this, alas! I put me under thy protection, Diane, and in thy disposition.” And home she went anon the nextenearest way. This is th’ effect, there is no more to say.

The nexte hour of Mars following this Arcite to the temple walked is Of fierce Mars, to do his sacrifice With all the rites of his pagan guise. With piteouspious heart and high devotion Right thus to Mars he said his orison “O stronge god, that in the regnesrealms old Of Thrace honoured art, and lord y-holdheld And hast in every regne, and every land Of armes all the bridle in thine hand, And them fortunest as thee list devisesend them fortune as you please, Accept of me my piteous sacrifice. If so be that my youthe may deserve, And that my might be worthy for to serve Thy godhead, that I may be one of thine, Then pray I thee to rue upon my pinepity my anguish, For thilkethat pain, and thilke hote fire, In which thou whilom burned’st for desire Whenne that thou usedestenjoyed the beauty Of faire young Venus, fresh and free, And haddest her in armes at thy will: And though thee ones on a time misfillwere unlucky, When Vulcanus had caught thee in his lasnet,b69 And found thee ligginglying by his wife, alas! For thilke sorrow that was in thine heart, Have ruthpity as well upon my paine’s smart. I am young and unconningignorant, simple, as thou know’st, And, as I trowbelieve, with love offended most That e’er was any living creature: For she, that dothcauses me all this woe endure, Ne recketh ne’er whether I sink or fleetswim And well I wot, ere she me mercy hetepromise, vouchsafe, I must with strengthe win her in the place: And well I wot, withoute help or grace Of thee, ne may my strengthe not avail: Then help me, lord, to-morr’w in my bataille, For thilke fire that whilom burned thee, As well as this fire that now burneth me; And docause that I to-morr’w may have victory. Mine be the travail, all thine be the glory. Thy sovereign temple will I most honour Of any place, and alway most labour In thy pleasance and in thy craftes strong. And in thy temple I will my banner honghang, And all the armes of my company, And evermore, until that day I die, Eternal fire I will before thee find And eke to this my vow I will me bind: My beard, my hair that hangeth long adown, That never yet hath felt offensionindignity Of razor nor of shears, I will thee give, And be thy true servant while I live. Now, lord, have ruth upon my sorrows sore, Give me the victory, I ask no more.”

The prayer stintended of Arcita the strong, The ringes on the temple door that hong, And eke the doores, clattered full fast, Of which Arcita somewhat was aghast. The fires burn’d upon the altar bright, That it gan all the temple for to light; A sweete smell anon the ground up gafgave, And Arcita anon his hand up haflifted, And more incense into the fire he cast, With other rites more and at the last The statue of Mars began his hauberk ring; And with that sound he heard a murmuring Full low and dim, that saide thus, “Victory.” For which he gave to Mars honour and glory. And thus with joy, and hope well to fare, Arcite anon unto his inn doth fare. As fainglad as fowl is of the brighte sun.

And right anon such strife there is begun For thilkethat granting, in the heav’n above, Betwixte Venus the goddess of love, And Mars the sterne god armipotent, That Jupiter was busy it to stentstop: Till that the pale Saturnus the cold,b70 That knew so many of adventures old, Found in his old experience such an art, That he full soon hath pleased every part. As sooth is said, eldage hath great advantage, In eld is bothe wisdom and usageexperience: Men may the old out-run, but not out-redeoutwit. Saturn anon, to stint the strife and drede, Albeit that it is against his kind,nature Of all this strife gan a remedy find. “My deare daughter Venus,” quoth Saturn, “My courseorbit, that hath so wide for to turn,b71 Hath more power than wot any man. Mine is the drowning in the sea so wan; Mine is the prison in the darke cotecell, Mine the strangling and hanging by the throat, The murmur, and the churlish rebelling, The groyningdiscontent, and the privy poisoning. I do vengeance and pleinfull correction, I dwell in the sign of the lion. Mine is the ruin of the highe halls, The falling of the towers and the walls Upon the miner or the carpenter: I slew Samson in shaking the pillar: Mine also be the maladies cold, The darke treasons, and the castesplots old: My looking is the father of pestilence. Now weep no more, I shall do diligence That Palamon, that is thine owen knight, Shall have his lady, as thou hast him hightpromised. Though Mars shall help his knight, yet natheless Betwixte you there must sometime be peace: All be ye not of one complexion, That each day causeth such division, I am thine ayelgrandfather, ready at thy will;b72 Weep now no more, I shall thy lustpleasure fulfil.” Now will I stentencease speaking of the gods above, Of Mars, and of Venus, goddess of love, And telle you as plainly as I can The great effect, for which that I began.

Great was the feast in Athens thilkethat day; And eke the lusty season of that May Made every wight to be in such pleasance, That all that Monday jousten they and dance, And spenden it in Venus’ high service. But by the cause that they shoulde rise Early a-morrow for to see that fight, Unto their reste wente they at night. And on the morrow, when the day gan spring, Of horse and harnessarmour noise and clattering There was in the hostelries all about: And to the palace rode there many a routtrain, retinue Of lordes, upon steedes and palfreys. There mayst thou see devisingdecoration of harness So uncouthunkown, rare and so rich, and wrought so weel Of goldsmithry, of broudingembroidery, and of steel; The shieldes bright, the testershelmets, and trappurestrappingsb73] Gold-hewen helmets, hauberks, coat-armures; Lordes in parements; on their coursers, Knightes of retinue, and eke squiers, Nailing the spears, and helmes buckeling, Gnidingpolishing of shieldes, with lainerslanyards lacing;b75 There as need is, they were nothing idle: The foamy steeds upon the golden bridle Gnawing, and fast the armourers also With file and hammer pricking to and fro; Yeomen on foot, and knavesservants many one With shorte staves, thickclose as they may gonwalk; Pipes, trumpets, nakeresdrums, and clariouns,b76 That in the battle blowe bloody souns; The palace full of people up and down, There three, there ten, holding their questiounconversation, Diviningconjecturing of these Theban knightes two. Some saiden thus, some said it shall he so; Some helden with him with the blacke beard, Some with the bald, some with the thick-hair’d; Some said he looked grim, and woulde fight: He had a sparthdouble-headed axe of twenty pound of weight. Thus was the halle full of diviningconjecturing Long after that the sunne gan up spring. The great Theseus that of his sleep is waked With minstrelsy, and noise that was maked, Held yet the chamber of his palace rich, Till that the Theban knightes both y-lichalike Honoured were, and to the palace fetfetched. Duke Theseus is at a window set, Array’d right as he were a god in throne: The people presseth thitherward full soon Him for to see, and do him reverence, And eke to hearken his hestcommand and his sentencespeech. An herald on a scaffold made an O, b77 Till the noise of the people was y-dodone: And when he saw the people of noise all still, Thus shewed he the mighty Duke’s will. “The lord hath of his high discretion Considered that it were destruction To gentle blood, to fighten in the guise Of mortal battle now in this emprise: Wherefore to shapearrange, contrive that they shall not die, He will his firste purpose modify. No man therefore, on pain of loss of life, No mannerkind of shot, nor poleaxe, nor short knife Into the lists shall send, or thither bring. Nor short sword for to stick with point biting No man shall draw, nor bear it by his side. And no man shall unto his fellow ride But one course, with a sharp y-grounden spear: Foin if him list on foot, himself to wear.He who wishes can fence on foot to defend himself, and he that is in peril shall be taken And he that is at mischief shall be take, And not slain, but be brought unto the stake, That shall be ordained on either side; Thither he shall by force, and there abide. And if so fallshould happen the chiefetain be take On either side, or elles slay his makeequal, match, No longer then the tourneying shall last. God speede you; go forth and lay on fast. With long sword and with mace fight your fill. Go now your way; this is the lordes will. The voice of the people touched the heaven, So loude cried they with merry stevensound: God save such a lord that is so good, He willeth no destruction of blood.

Up go the trumpets and the melody, And to the listes rode the company By ordinancein orderly array, throughout the city large, Hanged with cloth of gold, and not with sargeserge.b78 Full like a lord this noble Duke gan ride, And these two Thebans upon either side:

And after rode the queen and Emily, And after them another company Of one and other, after their degree. And thus they passed thorough that city And to the listes came they by time: It was not of the day yet fully primebetween 6 & 9 a.m.. When set was Theseus full rich and high, Hippolyta the queen and Emily, And other ladies in their degrees about, Unto the seates presseth all the rout. And westward, through the gates under Mart, Arcite, and eke the hundred of his part, With banner red, is enter’d right anon; And in the selveself-same moment Palamon Is, under Venus, eastward in the place, With banner white, and hardy cheerexpression and face In all the world, to seeken up and down So evenequal without variatioun There were such companies never tway. For there was none so wise that coulde say That any had of other avantage Of worthiness, nor of estate, nor age, So even were they chosen for to guess. And in two ranges faire they them dressthey arranged themselves in two rows. When that their names read were every one, That in their number guilefraud were there none, Then were the gates shut, and cried was loud; “Do now your devoir, younge knights proud The heralds left their prickingspurring their horses up and down Now ring the trumpet loud and clarioun. There is no more to say, but east and west In go the speares sadlysteadily in the rest; In go the sharpe spurs into the side. There see me who can joust, and who can ride. There shiver shaftes upon shieldes thick; He feeleth through the hearte-spoonb79 the prick. Up spring the speares twenty foot on height; Out go the swordes as the silver bright. The helmes they to-hewen, and to-shredstrike in pieces;b80 Out burst the blood, with sterne streames red. With mighty maces the bones they to-brestburst. He b81 through the thickest of the throng gan threstthrust. There stumble steedes strong, and down go all. He rolleth under foot as doth a ball. He foinethforces himself on his foe with a trunchoun, And he him hurtleth with his horse adown. He through the body hurt is, and sith takeafterwards captured, Maugre his head, and brought unto the stake, As forwordcovenant was, right there he must abide. Another led is on that other side. And sometime dothcaused them Theseus to rest, Them to refresh, and drinken if them lestpleased. Full oft a day have thilkethese Thebans two Together met and wrought each other woe: Unhorsed hath each other of them twaytwice There is no tiger in the vale of Galaphay, b82 When that her whelp is stole, when it is litelittle So cruel on the hunter, as Arcite For jealous heart upon this Palamon: Nor in Belmarie b83 there is no fell lion, That hunted is, or for his hunger woodmad Or for his prey desireth so the blood, As Palamon to slay his foe Arcite. The jealous strokes upon their helmets bite; Out runneth blood on both their sides red, Sometime an end there is of every deed For ere the sun unto the reste went, The stronge king Emetrius gan hentsieze, assail This Palamon, as he fought with Arcite, And made his sword deep in his flesh to bite, And by the force of twenty is he take, Unyielding, and is drawn unto the stake. And in the rescue of this Palamon The stronge king Licurgus is borne down: And king Emetrius, for all his strength Is borne out of his saddle a sword’s length, So hit him Palamon ere he were take: But all for nought; he was brought to the stake: His hardy hearte might him helpe naught, He must abide when that he was caught, By force, and eke by compositionthe bargain. Who sorroweth now but woful Palamon That must no more go again to fight? And when that Theseus had seen that sight Unto the folk that foughte thus each one, He cried, Ho! no more, for it is done! I will be true judge, and not party. Arcite of Thebes shall have Emily, That by his fortune hath her fairly won.” Anon there is a noise of people gone, For joy of this, so loud and high withal, It seemed that the listes shoulde fall.

What can now faire Venus do above? What saith she now? what doth this queen of love? But weepeth so, for wanting of her will, Till that her teares in the listes fillfall She said: “I am ashamed doubteless.” Saturnus saide: “Daughter, hold thy peace. Mars hath his will, his knight hath all his boon, And by mine head thou shalt be eased soon.” The trumpeters with the loud minstrelsy, The heralds, that full loude yell and cry, Be in their joy for weal of DanLord Arcite. But hearken me, and stinte noise a lite, What a miracle there befell anon This fierce Arcite hath off his helm y-done, And on a courser for to shew his face He pricketh endelongrides from end to end the large place, Looking upward upon this Emily; And she again him cast a friendly eye (For women, as to speaken in communegenerally, They follow all the favour of fortune), And was all his in cheercountenance, as his in heart. Out of the ground a fire infernal start, From Pluto sent, at request of Saturn For which his horse for fear began to turn, And leap aside, and founderstumble as he leap And ere that Arcite may take any keepcare, He pightpitched him on the pummeltop of his head. That in the place he lay as he were dead. His breast to-bursten with his saddle-bow. As black he lay as any coal or crow, So was the blood y-run into his face. Anon he was y-borne out of the place With hearte sore, to Theseus’ palace. Then was he carvencut out of his harness. And in a bed y-brought full fair and blivequickly For he was yet in mem’ry and alive, And always crying after Emily.

Duke Theseus, with all his company, Is come home to Athens his city, With alle bliss and great solemnity. Albeit that this aventure was fallbefallen, He woulde not discomfortediscourage them all Then said eke, that Arcite should not die, He should be healed of his malady. And of another thing they were as fainglad. That of them alle was there no one slain, Allalthough were they sorely hurt, and namelyespecially one, That with a spear was thirledpierced his breast-bone. To other woundes, and to broken arms, Some hadden salves, and some hadden charms: And pharmacies of herbs, and eke savesage, Salvia officinalis They dranken, for they would their lives have. For which this noble Duke, as he well can, Comforteth and honoureth every man, And made revel all the longe night, Unto the strange lordes, as was right. Nor there was holden no discomforting, But as at jousts or at a tourneying; For soothly there was no discomfiture, For falling is not but an aventurechance, accident. Nor to be led by force unto a stake Unyielding, and with twenty knights y-take One person all alone, withouten mo’, And harrieddragged, hurried forth by armes, foot, and toe, And eke his steede driven forth with staves, With footmen, bothe yeomen and eke knavesservants, It was aretted him no villainy:counted no disgrace to him There may no man clepen it cowardycall it cowardice. For which anon Duke Theseus let crycaused to be proclaimed, – To stentenstop alle rancour and envy, – The greeprize, merit as well on one side as the other, And either side alike as other’s brother: And gave them giftes after their degree, And held a feaste fully dayes three: And conveyed the kinges worthily Out of his town a journeeday’s journey largely And home went every man the righte way, There was no more but “Farewell, Have good day.” Of this bataille I will no more indite But speak of Palamon and of Arcite.

Swelleth the breast of Arcite and the sore Increaseth at his hearte more and more. The clotted blood, for any leache-craftsurgical skill Corrupteth and is in his bouk y-laftleft in his body That neither veine blood nor ventousingblood-letting or cupping, Nor drink of herbes may be his helping. The virtue expulsive or animal, From thilke virtue called natural, Nor may the venom voide, nor expel The pipes of his lungs began to swell And every lacertsinew, muscle in his breast adown Is shentdestroyed with venom and corruption. Him gainethavaileth neither, for to get his life, Vomit upward, nor downward laxative; All is to-bursten thilke region; Nature hath now no domination. And certainly where nature will not wirch,work Farewell physic: go bear the man to chirch.church This all and some is, Arcite must die. For which he sendeth after Emily, And Palamon, that was his cousin dear, Then said he thus, as ye shall after hear.

“Nought may the woful spirit in mine heart Declare one point of all my sorrows’ smart To you, my lady, that I love the most: But I bequeath the service of my ghost To you aboven every creature, Since that my life ne may no longer dure. Alas the woe! alas, the paines strong That I for you have suffered and so long! Alas the death, alas, mine Emily! Alas departingthe severance of our company! Alas, mine hearte’s queen! alas, my wife! Mine hearte’s lady, ender of my life! What is this world? what aske men to have? Now with his love, now in his colde grave Al one, withouten any company. Farewell, my sweet, farewell, mine Emily, And softly take me in your armes tway, For love of God, and hearken what I say. I have here with my cousin Palamon Had strife and rancour many a day agone, For love of you, and for my jealousy. And Jupiter so wis my soule giesurely guides my soul, To speaken of a servant properly, With alle circumstances truely, That is to say, truth, honour, and knighthead, Wisdom, humblesshumility, estate, and high kindred, Freedom, and all that longeth to that art, So Jupiter have of my soul part, As in this world right now I know not one, So worthy to be lov’d as Palamon, That serveth you, and will do all his life. And if that you shall ever be a wife, Forget not Palamon, the gentle man.”

And with that word his speech to fail began. For from his feet up to his breast was come The cold of death, that had him overnomeovercome. And yet moreover in his armes two The vital strength is lost, and all agogone. Only the intellect, withoute more, That dwelled in his hearte sick and sore, Gan faile, when the hearte felte death; Duskedgrew dim his eyen two, and fail’d his breath. But on his lady yet he cast his eye; His laste word was; “Mercy, Emily!” His spirit changed house, and wente there, As I came never I cannot telle where.b84 Therefore I stentrefrain, I am no divinisterdiviner; Of soules find I nought in this register. Ne me list not th’ opinions to tell Of them, though that they writen where they dwell; Arcite is cold, there Mars his soule gie.guide Now will I speake forth of Emily.

Shriek’d Emily, and howled Palamon, And Theseus his sister took anon Swooning, and bare her from the corpse away. What helpeth it to tarry forth the day, To telle how she wept both eve and morrow? For in such cases women have such sorrow, When that their husbands be from them y-gogone, That for the more part they sorrow so, Or elles fall into such malady, That at the laste certainly they die. Infinite be the sorrows and the tears Of olde folk, and folk of tender years, In all the town, for death of this Theban: For him there weepeth bothe child and man. So great a weeping was there none certain, When Hector was y-brought, all fresh y-slain, To Troy: alas! the pity that was there, Scratching of cheeks, and rending eke of hair. “Why wouldest thou be dead?” these women cry, “And haddest gold enough, and Emily.” No manner man might gladden Theseus, Saving his olde father Egeus, That knew this worlde’s transmutatioun, As he had seen it changen up and down, Joy after woe, and woe after gladness; And shewed him example and likeness. “Right as there died never man,” quoth he, “That he ne liv’d in earth in some degreerank, condition, Right so there lived never man,” he said, “In all this world, that sometime be not died. This world is but a throughfare full of woe, And we be pilgrims, passing to and fro: Death is an end of every worldly sore.” And over all this said he yet much more To this effect, full wisely to exhort The people, that they should them recomfort. Duke Theseus, with all his busy curecare, Casteth aboutdeliberates, where that the sepulture Of good Arcite may best y-maked be, And eke most honourable in his degree. And at the last he took conclusion, That there as first Arcite and Palamon Hadde for love the battle them between, That in that selveself-same grove, sweet and green, There as he had his amorous desires, His complaint, and for love his hote fires, He woulde make a firefuneral pyre, in which th’ office Of funeral he might all accomplice; And let anon commandimmediately gave orders to hack and hew The oakes old, and lay them on a rewin a row In culponslogs, well arrayed for to brenneburn. His officers with swifte feet they rennerun And ride anon at his commandement. And after this, Duke Theseus hath sent After a bier, and it all oversprad With cloth of gold, the richest that he had; And of the same suit he clad Arcite. Upon his handes were his gloves white, Eke on his head a crown of laurel green, And in his hand a sword full bright and keen. He laid him bare the visagewith face uncovered on the bier, Therewith he wept, that pity was to hear. And, for the people shoulde see him all, When it was day he brought them to the hall, That roareth of the crying and the soun’. Then came this woful Theban, Palamon, With sluttery beard, and ruggy ashy hairs,b85 In clothes black, y-dropped all with tears, And (passing over weeping Emily) The ruefullest of all the company. And inasmuch asin order that the service should be The more noble and rich in its degree, Duke Theseus let forth three steedes bring, That trapped were in steel all glittering. And covered with the arms of Dan Arcite. Upon these steedes, that were great and white, There satte folk, of whom one bare his shield, Another his spear in his handes held; The thirde bare with him his bow TurkeisTurkish., Of brentburnished gold was the casequiver and the harness: And ride forth a paceat a foot pace with sorrowful cheerexpression Toward the grove, as ye shall after hear.

The noblest of the Greekes that there were Upon their shoulders carried the bier, With slacke pace, and eyen red and wet, Throughout the city, by the mastermain street,b86 That spread was all with black, and wondrous high Right of the same is all the street y-wrie.coveredb87 Upon the right hand went old Egeus, And on the other side Duke Theseus, With vessels in their hand of gold full fine, All full of honey, milk, and blood, and wine; Eke Palamon, with a great company; And after that came woful Emily, With fire in hand, as was that time the guisecustom, To do th’ office of funeral service.

High labour, and full great apparelingpreparation Was at the service, and the pyre-making, That with its greene top the heaven raughtreached, And twenty fathom broad its armes straughtstretched: This is to say, the boughes were so broad. Of straw first there was laid many a load. But how the pyre was maked up on height, And eke the names how the trees hightwere called, As oak, fir, birch, aspaspen, alder, holm, poplere, Willow, elm, plane, ash, box, chestnut, lindlinden, lime, laurere, Maple, thorn, beech, hazel, yew, whipul tree, How they were fell’d, shall not be told for me; Nor how the goddesthe forest deities rannen up and down Disinherited of their habitatioun, In which they wonneddwelt had in rest and peace, Nymphes, Faunes, and Hamadryades; Nor how the beastes and the birdes all Fledden for feare, when the wood gan fall; Nor how the ground aghastterrified was of the light, That was not wont to see the sunne bright; Nor how the fire was couchedlaid first with strestraw, And then with dry stickes cloven in three, And then with greene wood and spiceryspices, And then with cloth of gold and with pierrieprecious stones, And garlands hanging with full many a flower, The myrrh, the incense with so sweet odour; Nor how Arcita lay among all this, Nor what richess about his body is; Nor how that Emily, as was the guisecustom, Put in the fireappplied the torch of funeral serviceb88; Nor how she swooned when she made the fire, Nor what she spake, nor what was her desire; Nor what jewels men in the fire then cast When that the fire was great and burned fast;

Nor how some cast their shield, and some their spear, And of their vestiments, which that they wear, And cuppes full of wine, and milk, and blood, Into the fire, that burnt as it were woodmad; Nor how the Greekes with a huge routprocession Three times riden all the fire about b89 Upon the left hand, with a loud shouting, And thries with their speares clattering; And thries how the ladies gan to cry; Nor how that led was homeward Emily; Nor how Arcite is burnt to ashes cold; Nor how the lyke-wakewake was y-holdb90 All thilkethat night, nor how the Greekes play The wake-playsfuneral games, ne keepcare I not to say: Who wrestled best naked, with oil anoint, Nor who that bare him best in no disjointin any contest. I will not tell eke how they all are gone Home to Athenes when the play is done; But shortly to the point now will I wendcome, And maken of my longe tale an end.

By process and by length of certain years All stintedended is the mourning and the tears Of Greekes, by one general assent. Then seemed me there was a parlement At Athens, upon certain points and cascases: Amonge the which points y-spoken was To have with certain countries alliance, And have of Thebans full obeisance. For which this noble Theseus anon Letcaused send after the gentle Palamon, Unwistunknown of him what was the cause and why: But in his blacke clothes sorrowfully He came at his commandment on hiein haste; Then sente Theseus for Emily. When they were setseated, and hush’d was all the place And Theseus abidedwaited had a space Ere any word came from his wise breast His eyen set he there as was his lesthe cast his eyes wherever he pleased, And with a sad visage he sighed still, And after that right thus he said his will. “The firste mover of the cause above When he first made the faire chain of love, Great was th’ effect, and high was his intent; Well wist he why, and what thereof he meant: For with that faire chain of love he bondbound The fire, the air, the water, and the lond In certain bondes, that they may not flee:b91 That same prince and mover eke,” quoth he, “Hath stablish’d, in this wretched world adown, Certain of dayes and duration To all that are engender’d in this place, Over the whiche day they may not pacepass, All may they yet their dayes well abridge. There needeth no authority to allege For it is proved by experience; But that me list declare my sentenceopinion. Then may men by this order well discern, That thilkethe same mover stable is and etern. Well may men know, but that it be a fool, That every part deriveth from its whole. For nature hath not ta’en its beginning Of no partie nor cantlepart or piece of a thing, But of a thing that perfect is and stable, Descending so, till it be corruptable. And therefore of His wise purveyanceprovidence He hath so well beset his ordinance, That species of things and progressions Shallen endure by successions, And not etern, withouten any lie: This mayst thou understand and see at eye. Lo th’ oak, that hath so long a nourishing From the time that it ‘ginneth first to spring, And hath so long a life, as ye may see, Yet at the last y-wasted is the tree. Consider eke, how that the harde stone Under our feet, on which we tread and gonwalk, Yet wasteth, as it lieth by the way. The broade river some time waxeth dreydry. The greate townes see we wane and wendgo, disappear. Then may ye see that all things have an end. Of man and woman see we well also, – That needes in one of the termes two, – That is to say, in youth or else in age,- He must be dead, the king as shall a page; Some in his bed, some in the deepe sea, Some in the large field, as ye may see: There helpeth nought, all go that ilkesame way: Then may I say that alle thing must die. What maketh this but Jupiter the king? The which is prince, and cause of alle thing, Converting all unto his proper will, From which it is derived, sooth to tell And hereagainst no creature alive, Of no degree, availeth for to strive. Then is it wisdom, as it thinketh me, To make a virtue of necessity, And take it well, that we may not eschewescape, And namely what to us all is due. And whoso grudgethmurmurs at ought, he doth folly, And rebel is to him that all may giedirect, guide. And certainly a man hath most honour To dien in his excellence and flower, When he is sickercertain of his goode name. Then hath he done his friend, nor himhimself, no shame And gladder ought his friend be of his death, When with honour is yielded up his breath, Than when his name appalled is for agedecayed by old age; For all forgotten is his vassalagevalour, service. Then is it best, as for a worthy fame, To dien when a man is best of name. The contrary of all this is wilfulness. Why grudge we, why have we heaviness, That good Arcite, of chivalry the flower, Departed is, with duty and honour, Out of this foule prison of this life? Why grudge here his cousin and his wife Of his welfare, that loved him so well? Can he them thank? nay, God wot, neverdealnot a jot, – That both his soul and eke themselves offendhurt, And yet they may their lustesdesires not amendcontrol. What may I conclude of this longe seriestring of remarks, But after sorrow I redecounsel us to be merry, And thanke Jupiter for all his grace? And ere that we departe from this place, I rede that we make of sorrows two One perfect joye lasting evermo’: And look now where most sorrow is herein, There will I first amenden and begin. “Sister,” quoth he, “this is my full assent, With all th’ advice here of my parlement, That gentle Palamon, your owen knight, That serveth you with will, and heart, and might, And ever hath, since first time ye him knew, That ye shall of your grace upon him ruetake pity, And take him for your husband and your lord: Lend me your hand, for this is our accord. Let seemake display now of your womanly pity. He is a kinge’s brother’s son, pardieby God. And though he were a poore bachelere, Since he hath served you so many a year, And had for you so great adversity, It muste be considered, ‘lieveth mebelieve me. For gentle mercy oweth to passen rightought to be rightly directed.” Then said he thus to Palamon the knight; “I trow there needeth little sermoning To make you assente to this thing. Come near, and take your lady by the hand.” Betwixte them was made anon the band, That hight matrimony or marriage, By all the counsel of the baronage. And thus with alle bliss and melody Hath Palamon y-wedded Emily. And God, that all this wide world hath wrought, Send him his love, that hath it dearly bought. For now is Palamon in all his weal, Living in bliss, in riches, and in healhealth. And Emily him loves so tenderly, And he her serveth all so gentilly, That never was there worde them between Of jealousy, nor of none other teencause of anger. Thus endeth Palamon and Emily And God save all this faire company.


Notes to The Knight’s Tale.

Notes to The Knight’s Tale.

b1

For the plan and principal incidents of the “Knight’s Tale,” Chaucer was indebted to Boccaccio, who had himself borrowed from some prior poet, chronicler, or romancer. Boccaccio speaks of the story as “very ancient;” and, though that may not be proof of its antiquity, it certainly shows that he took it from an earlier writer. The “Tale” is more or less a paraphrase of Boccaccio’s “Theseida;” but in some points the copy has a distinct dramatic superiority over the original. The “Theseida” contained ten thousand lines; Chaucer has condensed it into less than one-fourth of the number. The “Knight’s Tale” is supposed to have been at first composed as a separate work; it is undetermined whether Chaucer took it direct from the Italian of Boccaccio, or from a French translation.

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b2

Highte: was called; from the Anglo-Saxon “hatan”, to bid or call; German, “Heissen”, “heisst”.

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b3

Feminie: The “Royaume des Femmes” – kingdom of the Amazons. Gower, in the “Confessio Amantis,” styles Penthesilea the “Queen of Feminie.”

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b4

Wonnen: Won, conquered; German “gewonnen.”

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b5

Ear: To plough; Latin, “arare.” “I have abundant matter for discourse.” The first, and half of the second, of Boccaccio’s twelve books are disposed of in the few lines foregoing.

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b6

Waimenting: bewailing; German, “wehklagen”

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b7

Starf: died; German, “sterben,” “starb”.

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b8

The Minotaur: The monster, half-man and half-bull, which yearly devoured a tribute of fourteen Athenian youths and maidens, until it was slain by Theseus.

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b9

Pillers: pillagers, strippers; French, “pilleurs.”

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b10

The donjon was originally the central tower or “keep” of feudal castles; it was employed to detain prisoners of importance. Hence the modern meaning of the word dungeon.

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b11

Saturn, in the old astrology, was a most unpropitious star to be born under.

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b12

To die in the pain was a proverbial expression in the French, used as an alternative to enforce a resolution or a promise. Edward III., according to Froissart, declared that he would either succeed in the war against France or die in the pain – “Ou il mourroit en la peine.” It was the fashion in those times to swear oaths of friendship and brotherhood; and hence, though the fashion has long died out, we still speak of “sworn friends.”

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b13

The saying of the old scholar Boethius, in his treatise “De Consolatione Philosophiae”, which Chaucer translated, and from which he has freely borrowed in his poetry. The words are “Quis legem det amantibus? Major lex amor est sibi.” (“Who can give law to lovers? Love is a law unto himself, and greater”)

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b14

“Perithous” and “Theseus” must, for the metre, be pronounced as words of four and three syllables respectively – the vowels at the end not being diphthongated, but enunciated separately, as if the words were printed Pe-ri-tho-us, The-se-us. The same rule applies in such words as “creature” and “conscience,” which are trisyllables.

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b15

Stound: moment, short space of time; from Anglo-Saxon, “stund;” akin to which is German, “Stunde,” an hour.

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b16

Meinie: servants, or menials, &c., dwelling together in a house; from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning a crowd. Compare German, “Menge,” multitude.

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b17

The pure fetters: the very fetters. The Greeks used “katharos”, the Romans “purus,” in the same sense.

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b18

In the medieval courts of Love, to which allusion is probably made forty lines before, in the word “parlement,” or “parliament,” questions like that here proposed were seriously discussed.

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b19

Gear: behaviour, fashion, dress; but, by another reading, the word is “gyre,” and means fit, trance – from the Latin, “gyro,” I turn round.

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b20

Before his head in his cell fantastic: in front of his head in his cell of fantasy. “The division of the brain into cells, according to the different sensitive faculties,” says Mr Wright, “is very ancient, and is found depicted in mediaeval manuscripts.” In a manuscript in the Harleian Library, it is stated, “Certum est in prora cerebri esse fantasiam, in medio rationem discretionis, in puppi memoriam” (it is certain that in the front of the brain is imagination, in the middle reason, in the back memory) – a classification not materially differing from that of modern phrenologists.

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b21

Dan: Lord; Latin, “Dominus;” Spanish, “Don.”

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b22

The “caduceus.”

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b23

Argus was employed by Juno to watch Io with his hundred eyes but he was sent to sleep by the flute of Mercury, who then cut off his head.

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b24

Next: nearest; German, “naechste”.

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b25

Clary: hippocras, wine made with spices.

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b26

Warray: make war; French “guerroyer”, to molest; hence, perhaps, “to worry.”

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b27

All day meeten men at unset steven: every day men meet at unexpected time. “To set a steven,” is to fix a time, make an appointment.

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b28

Roundelay: song coming round again to the words with which it opened.

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b29

Now in the crop and now down in the breres: Now in the tree-top, now down in the briars. “Crop and root,” top and bottom, is used to express the perfection or totality of anything.

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b30

Beknow: avow, acknowledge: German, “bekennen.”

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b31

Shapen was my death erst than my shert: My death was decreed before my shirt ws shaped – that is, before any clothes were made for me, before my birth.

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b32

Regne: Queen; French, “Reine;” Venus is meant. The common reading, however, is “regne,” reign or power.

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b33

Launde: plain. Compare modern English, “lawn,” and French, “Landes” – flat, bare marshy tracts in the south of France.

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b34

Mister: manner, kind; German “muster,” sample, model.

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b35

In listes: in the lists, prepared for such single combats between champion and accuser, &c.

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b36

Thilke: that, contracted from “the ilke,” the same.

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b37

Mars the Red: referring to the ruddy colour of the planet, to which was doubtless due the transference to it of the name of the God of War. In his “Republic,” enumerating the seven planets, Cicero speaks of the propitious and beneficent light of Jupiter: “Tum (fulgor) rutilis horribilisque terris, quem Martium dicitis” – “Then the red glow, horrible to the nations, which you say to be that of Mars.” Boccaccio opens the “Theseida” by an invocation to “rubicondo Marte.”

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b38

Last: lace, leash, noose, snare: from Latin, “laceus.”

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b39

“Round was the shape, in manner of compass, Full of degrees, the height of sixty pas”

The building was a circle of steps or benches, as in the ancient amphitheatre. Either the building was sixty paces high; or, more probably, there were sixty of the steps or benches.

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b40

Yellow goldes: The sunflower, turnsol, or girasol, which turns with and seems to watch the sun, as a jealous lover his mistress.

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b41

Citheron: The Isle of Venus, Cythera, in the Aegean Sea; now called Cerigo: not, as Chaucer’s form of the word might imply, Mount Cithaeron, in the south-west of Boetia, which was appropriated to other deities than Venus – to Jupiter, to Bacchus, and the Muses.

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b42

It need not be said that Chaucer pays slight heed to chronology in this passage, where the deeds of Turnus, the glory of King Solomon, and the fate of Croesus are made memories of the far past in the time of fabulous Theseus, the Minotaur-slayer.

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b43

Champartie: divided power or possession; an old law-term, signifying the maintenance of a person in a law suit on the condition of receiving part of the property in dispute, if recovered.

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b44

Citole: a kind of dulcimer.

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b45

The picke-purse: The plunderers that followed armies, and gave to war a horror all their own.

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b46

Shepen: stable; Anglo-Saxon, “scypen;” the word “sheppon” still survives in provincial parlance.

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b47

This line, perhaps, refers to the deed of Jael.

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b48

The shippes hoppesteres: The meaning is dubious. We may understand “the dancing ships,” “the ships that hop” on the waves; “steres” being taken as the feminine adjectival termination: or we may, perhaps, read, with one of the manuscripts, “the ships upon the steres” – that is, even as they are being steered, or on the open sea – a more picturesque notion.

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b49

Freting: devouring; the Germans use “Fressen” to mean eating by animals, “essen” by men.

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b50

Julius: i.e. Julius Caesar

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b51

Puella and Rubeus were two figures in geomancy, representing two constellations-the one signifying Mars retrograde, the other Mars direct.

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b52

Calistope: or Callisto, daughter of Lycaon, seduced by Jupiter, turned into a bear by Diana, and placed afterwards, with her son, as the Great Bear among the stars.

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b53

Dane: Daphne, daughter of the river-god Peneus, in Thessaly; she was beloved by Apollo, but to avoid his pursuit, she was, at her own prayer, changed into a laurel-tree.

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b54

As the goddess of Light, or the goddess who brings to light, Diana – as well as Juno – was invoked by women in childbirth: so Horace, Odes iii. 22, says:–

“Montium custos nemorumque, Virgo, Quae laborantes utero puellas Ter vocata audis adimisque leto, Diva triformis.”

(“Virgin custodian of hills and groves, three-formed goddess who hears and saves from death young women who call upon her thrice when in childbirth”)

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b55

Every deal: in every part; “deal” corresponds to the German “Theil” a portion.

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b56

Sikerly: surely; German, “sicher;” Scotch, “sikkar,” certain. When Robert Bruce had escaped from England to assume the Scottish crown, he stabbed Comyn before the altar at Dumfries; and, emerging from the church, was asked by his friend Kirkpatrick if he had slain the traitor. “I doubt it,” said Bruce. “Doubt,” cried Kirkpatrick. “I’ll mak sikkar;” and he rushed into the church, and despatched Comyn with repeated thrusts of his dagger.

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b57

Kemped: combed; the word survives in “unkempt.”

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b58

Alauns: greyhounds, mastiffs; from the Spanish word “Alano,” signifying a mastiff.

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b59

Y-ment: mixed; German, “mengen,” to mix.

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b60

Prime: The time of early prayers, between six and nine in the morning.

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b61

On the dais: see note 32 to the Prologue.

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b62

In her hour: in the hour of the day (two hours before daybreak) which after the astrological system that divided the twenty-four among the seven ruling planets, was under the influence of Venus.

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b63

Adon: Adonis, a beautiful youth beloved of Venus, whose death by the tusk of a boar she deeply mourned.

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b64

The third hour unequal: In the third planetary hour; Palamon had gone forth in the hour of Venus, two hours before daybreak; the hour of Mercury intervened; the third hour was that of Luna, or Diana. “Unequal” refers to the astrological division of day and night, whatever their duration, into twelve parts, which of necessity varied in length with the season.

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b65

Smoking: draping; hence the word “smock;” “smokless,” in Chaucer, means naked.

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b66

Cerrial: of the species of oak which Pliny, in his “Natural History,” calls “cerrus.”

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b67

Stace of Thebes: Statius, the Roman who embodied in the twelve books of his “Thebaid” the ancient legends connected with the war of the seven against Thebes.

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b68

Diana was Luna in heaven, Diana on earth, and Hecate in hell; hence the direction of the eyes of her statue to “Pluto’s dark region.” Her statue was set up where three ways met, so that with a different face she looked down each of the three; from which she was called Trivia. See the quotation from Horace, note 54.

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b69

Las: net; the invisible toils in which Hephaestus caught Ares and the faithless Aphrodite, and exposed them to the “inextinguishable laughter” of Olympus.

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b70

Saturnus the cold: Here, as in “Mars the Red” we have the person of the deity endowed with the supposed quality of the planet called after his name.

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b71

The astrologers ascribed great power to Saturn, and predicted “much debate” under his ascendancy; hence it was “against his kind” to compose the heavenly strife.

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b72

Ayel: grandfather; French “Aieul”.

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b73

Testers: Helmets; from the French “teste”, “tete”, head.

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b74

Parements: ornamental garb, French “parer” to deck.

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b75

Gniding: Rubbing, polishing; Anglo-Saxon “gnidan”, to rub.

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b76

Nakeres: Drums, used in the cavalry; Boccaccio’s word is “nachere”.

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b77

Made an O: Ho! Ho! to command attention; like “oyez”, the call for silence in law-courts or before proclamations.

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b78

Sarge: serge, a coarse woollen cloth

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b79

Heart-spoon: The concave part of the breast, where the lower ribs join the cartilago ensiformis.

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b80

To-hewen and to-shred: “to” before a verb implies extraordinary violence in the action denoted.

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b81

He through the thickest of the throng etc.. “He” in this passage refers impersonally to any of the combatants.

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b82

Galaphay: Galapha, in Mauritania.

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b83

Belmarie is supposed to have been a Moorish state in Africa; but “Palmyrie” has been suggested as the correct reading.

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b84

As I came never I cannot telle where: Where it went I cannot tell you, as I was not there. Tyrwhitt thinks that Chaucer is sneering at Boccacio’s pompous account of the passage of Arcite’s soul to heaven. Up to this point, the description of the death-scene is taken literally from the “Theseida.”

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b85

With sluttery beard, and ruggy ashy hairs: With neglected beard, and rough hair strewn with ashes. “Flotery” is the general reading; but “sluttery” seems to be more in keeping with the picture of abandonment to grief.

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b86

Master street: main street; so Froissart speaks of “le souverain carrefour.”

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b87

Y-wrie: covered, hid; Anglo-Saxon, “wrigan,” to veil.

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b88

Emily applied the funeral torch. The “guise” was, among the ancients, for the nearest relative of the deceased to do this, with averted face.

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b89

It was the custom for soldiers to march thrice around the funeral pile of an emperor or general; “on the left hand” is added, in reference to the belief that the left hand was propitious – the Roman augur turning his face southward, and so placing on his left hand the east, whence good omens came. With the Greeks, however, their augurs facing the north, it was just the contrary. The confusion, frequent in classical writers, is complicated here by the fact that Chaucer’s description of the funeral of Arcite is taken from Statius’ “Thebaid” – from a Roman’s account of a Greek solemnity.

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b90

Lyke-wake: watching by the remains of the dead; from Anglo-Saxon, “lice,” a corpse; German, “Leichnam.”

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b91

Chaucer here borrows from Boethius, who says:

verse

“Hanc rerum seriem ligat,

Terras ac pelagus regens,

Et coelo imperitans, amor.”

(Love ties these things together:

the earth, and the ruling sea,

and the imperial heavens)

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The Miller’s Tale


The Prologue

When that the Knight had thus his tale told In all the rout was neither young nor old, That he not said it was a noble story, And worthy to be drawen to memoryrecorded; And namely the gentlesespecially the gentlefolk every one. Our Host then laugh’d and swore, “So may I gon,prosper This goes aright; unbuckled is the mail;the budget is opened Let see now who shall tell another tale: For truely this game is well begun. Now telleth ye, Sir Monk, if that ye conneknow, Somewhat, to quitenmatch with the Knighte’s tale.” The Miller that fordrunken was all pale, So that unnetheswith difficulty upon his horse he sat, He would avalenuncover neither hood nor hat, Nor abidegive way to no man for his courtesy, But in Pilate’s voicec1 he gan to cry, And swore by armes, and by blood, and bones, “I can a noble tale for the nonesoccasion, With which I will now quitematch the Knighte’s tale.” Our Host saw well how drunk he was of ale, And said; “Robin, abide, my levedear brother, Some better man shall tell us first another: Abide, and let us worke thriftily.” By Godde’s soul,” quoth he, “that will not I, For I will speak, or elles go my way!” Our Host answer’d; “Tell on a devil waydevil take you!; Thou art a fool; thy wit is overcome.” “Now hearken,” quoth the Miller, “all and some: But first I make a protestatioun. That I am drunk, I know it by my soun’: And therefore if that I misspeak or say, Wite itblame it on the ale of Southwark, I you pray:c2 For I will tell a legend and a life Both of a carpenter and of his wife, How that a clerk hath set the wrighte’s capfooled the carpenter.” The Reeve answer’d and saide, “Stint thy claphold your tongue, Let be thy lewed drunken harlotry. It is a sin, and eke a great folly To apeireninjure any man, or him defame, And eke to bringe wives in evil name. Thou may’st enough of other thinges sayn.” This drunken Miller spake full soon again, And saide, “Leve brother Osewold, Who hath no wife, he is no cuckold. But I say not therefore that thou art one; There be full goode wives many one. Why art thou angry with my tale now? I have a wife, pardie, as well as thou, Yet n’old II would not, for the oxen in my plough, Taken upon me more than enough, To deemenjudge of myself that I am one; I will believe well that I am none. An husband should not be inquisitive Of Godde’s privity, nor of his wife. So he may finde Godde’s foisontreasure there, Of the remnant needeth not to enquere.”

What should I more say, but that this Millere He would his wordes for no man forbear, But told his churlishboorish, rude tale in his mannere; Me thinketh, that I shall rehearse it here. And therefore every gentle wight I pray, For Godde’s love to deem not that I say Of evil intent, but that I must rehearse Their tales all, be they better or worse, Or elles falsenfalsify some of my mattere. And therefore whoso list it not to hear, Turn o’er the leaf, and choose another tale; For he shall find enough, both great and smale, Of storialhistorical, true thing that toucheth gentiless, And eke morality and holiness. Blame not me, if that ye choose amiss. The Miller is a churl, ye know well this, So was the Reeve, with many other mo’, And harlotryribald tales they tolde bothe two. Avise yoube warned now, and put me out of blame; And eke men should not make earnest of gamejest, fun.


Notes to the Prologue to the Miller’s Tale

Notes to the Prologue to the Miller’s Tale

c1

Pilate, an unpopular personage in the mystery-plays of the middle ages, was probably represented as having a gruff, harsh voice.

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c2

Wite: blame; in Scotland, “to bear the wyte,” is to bear the blame.

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The Tale

Whilom there was dwelling in Oxenford A riche gnofmiser, that guestes held to boardtook in boarders, And of his craft he was a carpenter. With him there was dwelling a poor scholer, Had learned art, but all his fantasy Was turned for to learn astrology. He coudeknew a certain of conclusions To deemedetermine by interrogations, If that men asked him in certain hours, When that men should have drought or elles show’rs: Or if men asked him what shoulde fall Of everything, I may not reckon all.

This clerk was called Hendygentle, handsome Nicholas; Of dernesecret, earnest love he knew and of solace; And therewith he was sly and full privy, And like a maiden meek for to see. A chamber had he in that hostelry Alone, withouten any company, Full fetisly y-dightneatly decorated with herbes swootsweet, And he himself was sweet as is the root Of liquorice, or any setewallvalerian. His Almagest,d1 and bookes great and small, His astrolabe,d2 belonging to his art, His augrim stones,d3 layed fair apart On shelves couchedlaid, set at his bedde’s head, His press y-cover’d with a faldingcoarse cloth red. And all above there lay a gay psalt’ry On which he made at nightes melody, So sweetely, that all the chamber rang: And Angelus ad virginemd4 he sang. And after that he sung the kinge’s note; Full often blessed was his merry throat. And thus this sweete clerk his time spent After his friendes finding and his rent.Attending to his friends, and providing for the cost of his lodging This carpenter had wedded new a wife, Which that he loved more than his life: Of eighteen year, I guess, she was of age. Jealous he was, and held her narr’w in cage, For she was wild and young, and he was old, And deemed himself belikeperhaps a cuckold. He knew not Cato,d5 for his wit was rude, That bade a man wed his similitude. Men shoulde wedden after their estate, For youth and eldage are often at debate. But since that he was fallen in the snare, He must endure (as other folk) his care. Fair was this younge wife, and therewithal As any weasel her body gentslim, neat and small. A seintgirdle she weared, barred all of silk, A barm-clothd6 eke as white as morning milk Upon her lendesloins, full of many a goreplait. White was her smockrobe or gown, and broider’d all before, And eke behind, on her collar about Of coal-black silk, within and eke without. The tapes of her white voluperehead-kerchiefd7 Were of the same suit of her collere; Her fillet broad of silk, and set full high: And sickerlycertainly she had a likerouslascivious eye. Full small y-pulled were her browes two, And they were bentarched, and black as any sloe. She was well more blissful on to seepleasant to look upon Than is the newe perjeneteyoung pear-tree tree; And softer than the wool is of a wether. And by her girdle hung a purse of leather, Tassel’d with silk, and pearled with latounset with brass pearls. In all this world to seeken up and down There is no man so wise, that coude thenchefancy, think of So gay a popelotpuppet, or such a wench.d8 Full brighter was the shining of her hue, Than in the Tower the noblea gold coin forged new.d9 But of her song, it was as loud and yernlively,d10 As any swallow chittering on a bernbarn. Theretoalso she coulde skip, and make a gameromp As any kid or calf following his dame. Her mouth was sweet as braket,d11 or as methemead Or hoard of apples, laid in hay or heath. Wincingskittish she was as is a jolly colt, Long as a mast, and upright as a bolt. A brooch she bare upon her low collere, As broad as is the boss of a bucklere. Her shoon were laced on her legges high; She was a primerole,primrose a piggesnie d12, For any lord t’ have ligginglying in his bed, Or yet for any good yeoman to wed.

Now, sir, and eftagain sir, so befell the case, That on a day this Hendy Nicholas Fell with this younge wife to ragetoy, play the rogue and play, While that her husband was at Oseney,d13 As clerkes be full subtle and full quaint. And privily he caught her by the queint,cunt And said; “Y-wis,assuredly but if I have my will, For derne love of thee, leman, I spill.”for earnest love of thee my mistress, I perish And helde her fast by the haunche bones, And saide “Leman, love me well at once, Or I will dien, all so God me save.” And she sprang as a colt doth in the traved14: And with her head she writhed fast away, And said; “I will not kiss thee, by my fayfaith. Why let be,” quoth she, “let be, Nicholas, Or I will cry out harow and alas!d15 Do away your handes, for your courtesy.” This Nicholas gan mercy for to cry, And spake so fair, and proffer’d him so fast, That she her love him granted at the last, And swore her oath by Saint Thomas of Kent, That she would be at his commandement, When that she may her leisure well espy. “My husband is so full of jealousy, That butunless ye waite well, and be privy, I wot right well I am but dead,” quoth she. “Ye muste be full dernesecret as in this case.” “Nay, thereof care thee nought,” quoth Nicholas: “A clerk had litherly beset his whileill spent his time, But ifunless he could a carpenter beguile.” And thus they were accorded and y-sworn To wait a time, as I have said beforn. When Nicholas had done thus every dealwhit, And thwacked her about the lendesloins well, He kiss’d her sweet, and taketh his psalt’ry And playeth fast, and maketh melody. Then fell it thus, that to the parish church, Of Christe’s owen workes for to wirchwork, This good wife went upon a holy day; Her forehead shone as bright as any day, So was it washen, when she left her werk.

Now was there of that church a parish clerk, The which that was y-cleped Absolon. Curl’d was his hair, and as the gold it shone, And struttedstretched as a fanne large and broad; Full straight and even lay his jolly shodehead of hair. His rodecomplexion was red, his eyen grey as goose, With Paule’s windows carven on his shoes d16 In hosen red he went full fetislydaintily, neatly. Y-clad he was full small and properly, All in a kirtlegirdle of a light wagetsky blue; Full fair and thicke be the pointes set, And thereupon he had a gay surplice, As white as is the blossom on the risetwig.d17 A merry child he was, so God me save; Well could he letten blood, and clip, and shave, And make a charter of land, and a quittance. In twenty manners could he trip and dance, After the school of Oxenforde thothen,d18 And with his legges caste to and fro; And playen songes on a small ribiblefiddle; Thereto he sung sometimes a loud quinibletreble And as well could he play on a gitern.guitar In all the town was brewhouse nor tavern, That he not visited with his solasmirth, sport, There as that any garnard tapsterelicentious barmaid was. But sooth to say he was somedeal squaimoussqueamish Of farting, and of speeche dangerous. This Absolon, that jolly was and gay, Went with a censer on the holy day, Censingburning incense for the wives of the parish fast; And many a lovely look he on them cast, And namelyespecially on this carpenter’s wife: To look on her him thought a merry life. She was so proper, and sweet, and likerous. I dare well say, if she had been a mouse, And he a cat, he would her hent anonhave soon caught her. This parish clerk, this jolly Absolon, Hath in his hearte such a love-longing! That of no wife took he none offering; For courtesy he said he woulde none. The moon at night full clear and brighte shone, And Absolon his gitern hath y-taken, For paramours he thoughte for to waken, And forth he went, jolifjoyous and amorous, Till he came to the carpentere’s house, A little after the cock had y-crow, And dressed himstationed himself. under a shot window d19, That was upon the carpentere’s wall. He singeth in his voice gentle and small; “Now, dear lady, if thy will be, I pray that ye will ruetake pity on me;” Full well accordant to his giterning. This carpenter awoke, and heard him sing, And spake unto his wife, and said anon, What Alison, hear’st thou not Absolon, That chanteth thus under our bowerchamber wall?” And she answer’d her husband therewithal; “Yes, God wot, John, I hear him every deal.” This passeth forth; what will ye betbetter than well?

From day to day this jolly Absolon So wooeth her, that him is woebegone. He waketh all the night, and all the day, To comb his lockes broad, and make him gay. He wooeth her by means and by brocageby presents and by agents, And swore he woulde be her owen page. He singeth brokkingquavering as a nightingale. He sent her piment d20, mead, and spiced ale, And waferscakes piping hot out of the gledecoals: And, for she was of town, he proffer’d meed.d21 For some folk will be wonnen for richess, And some for strokes, and some with gentiless. Sometimes, to show his lightness and mast’ry, He playeth Herod d22 on a scaffold high. But what availeth him as in this case? So loveth she the Hendy Nicholas, That Absolon may blow the bucke’s horn“go whistle”: He had for all his labour but a scorn. And thus she maketh Absolon her ape, And all his earnest turneth to a japejest. Full sooth is this proverb, it is no lie; Men say right thus alway; the nighe sly Maketh oft time the far lief to be loth. d23 For though that Absolon be woodmad or wroth Because that he far was from her sight, This nigh Nicholas stood still in his light. Now bear thee well, thou Hendy Nicholas, For Absolon may wail and sing “Alas!”

And so befell, that on a Saturday This carpenter was gone to Oseney, And Hendy Nicholas and Alison Accorded were to this conclusion, That Nicholas shall shape him a wiledevise a stratagem The silly jealous husband to beguile; And if so were the game went aright, She shoulde sleepen in his arms all night; For this was her desire and his also. And right anon, withoute wordes mo’, This Nicholas no longer would he tarry, But doth full soft unto his chamber carry Both meat and drinke for a day or tway. And to her husband bade her for to say, If that he asked after Nicholas, She shoulde say, “She wistknew not where he was; Of all the day she saw him not with eye; She trowedbelieved he was in some malady, For no cry that her maiden could him call He would answer, for nought that might befall.” Thus passed forth all thilkethat Saturday, That Nicholas still in his chamber lay, And ate, and slept, and didde what him list Till Sunday, thatwhen the sunne went to rest. This silly carpenter had great marvaillwondered greatly Of Nicholas, or what thing might him ail, And said; “I am adradafraid, in dread, by Saint Thomas! It standeth not aright with Nicholas: God shieldeheaven forbid! that he died suddenly. This world is now full fickle sickerlycertainly. I saw to-day a corpse y-borne to chirch, That now on Monday last I saw him wirchwork. “Go up,” quod he unto his knaveservant., “anon; Clepecall at his door, or knocke with a stone: Look how it is, and tell me boldely.” This knave went him up full sturdily, And, at the chamber door while that he stood, He cried and knocked as that he were wood:mad “What how? what do ye, Master Nicholay? How may ye sleepen all the longe day?” But all for nought, he hearde not a word. An hole he found full low upon the board, Where as the cat was wont in for to creep, And at that hole he looked in full deep, And at the last he had of him a sight. This Nicholas sat ever gaping upright, As he had kykedlooked on the newe moon.d24 Adown he went, and told his master soon, In what array he saw this ilkesame man.

This carpenter to blissen himbless, cross himself began, And said: “Now help us, Sainte Frideswide.d25 A man wotknows little what shall him betide. This man is fall’n with his astronomy Into some woodnessmadness or some agony. I thought aye well how that it shoulde be. Men should know nought of Godde’s privitysecrets. Yea, blessed be alway a lewedunlearned man, That nought but only his believe canknows no more than his “credo.”. So far’d another clerk with astronomy: He walked in the fieldes for to pry Uponi.e. keep watch on the starres, what there should befall, Till he was in a marle pit y-fall.d26 He saw not that. But yet, by Saint Thomas! Me rueth sore ofI am very sorry for Hendy Nicholas: He shall be rated ofchidden for his studying, If that I may, by Jesus, heaven’s king! Get me a staff, that I may undersporelever up While that thou, Robin, heavest off the door: He shall out of his studying, as I guess.” And to the chamber door he gan him dressapply himself. His knave was a strong carl for the nonce, And by the hasp he heav’d it off at once; Into the floor the door fell down anon. This Nicholas sat aye as still as stone, And ever he gap’d upward into the air. The carpenter ween’dthought he were in despair, And hentcaught him by the shoulders mightily, And shook him hard, and cried spitously;angrily “What, Nicholas? what how, man? look adown: Awake, and think on Christe’s passioun. I crouche theed27 from elves, and from wightswitches. Therewith the night-spell said he anon rightsproperly, On the four halvescorners of the house about, And on the threshold of the door without. “Lord Jesus Christ, and Sainte Benedight, Blesse this house from every wicked wight, From the night mare, the white Pater-noster; Where wonnestdwellest thou now, Sainte Peter’s sister?” And at the last this Hendy Nicholas Gan for to sigh full sore, and said; “Alas! Shall all time world be lost eftsoonesforthwith now?” This carpenter answer’d; “What sayest thou? What? think on God, as we do, men that swink.labour This Nicholas answer’d; “Fetch me a drink; And after will I speak in privity Of certain thing that toucheth thee and me: I will tell it no other man certain.”

This carpenter went down, and came again, And brought of mighty ale a large quart; And when that each of them had drunk his part, This Nicholas his chamber door fast shetshut, And down the carpenter by him he set, And saide; “John, mine host full liefloved and dear, Thou shalt upon thy truthe swear me here, That to no wight thou shalt my counsel wraybetray: For it is Christes counsel that I say, And if thou tell it man, thou art forlore:d28 For this vengeance thou shalt have therefor, That if thou wrayebetray me, thou shalt be woodmad.” “Nay, Christ forbid it for his holy blood!” Quoth then this silly man; “I am no blab,talker Nor, though I say it, am I lief to gabfond of speech. Say what thou wilt, I shall it never tell To child or wife, by him that harried Hell.” d29

“Now, John,” quoth Nicholas, “I will not lie, I have y-found in my astrology, As I have looked in the moone bright, That now on Monday next, at quarter night, Shall fall a rain, and that so wild and woodmad, That never half so great was Noe’s flood. This world,” he said, “in less than half an hour Shall all be dreintdrowned, so hideous is the shower: Thus shall mankinde drenchdrown, and lose their life.” This carpenter answer’d; “Alas, my wife! And shall she drench? alas, mine Alisoun!” For sorrow of this he fell almost adown, And said; “Is there no remedy in this case?” “Why, yes, for God,” quoth Hendy Nicholas; “If thou wilt worken after lore and redelearning and advice; Thou may’st not worken after thine own head. For thus saith Solomon, that was full true: Work all by counsel, and thou shalt not ruerepent. And if thou worke wilt by good counseil, I undertake, withoute mast or sail, Yet shall I save her, and thee, and me. Hast thou not heard how saved was Noe, When that our Lord had warned him beforn, That all the world with water should be lornshould perish?” “Yes,” quoth this carpenter,” full yore agolong since.” “Hast thou not heard,” quoth Nicholas, “also The sorrow of Noe, with his fellowship, That he had ere he got his wife to ship?d30 Him had been lever, I dare well undertake, At thilke time, than all his wethers black, That she had had a ship herself alone.d31 And therefore know’st thou what is best to be done? This asketh haste, and of an hasty thing Men may not preach or make tarrying. Anon go get us fast into this innhouse A kneading trough, or else a kemelinbrewing-tub, For each of us; but look that they be large, In whiche we may swimfloat as in a barge: And have therein vitaille suffisant But for one day; fie on the remenant; The water shall aslakeslacken, abate and go away Aboute primeearly morning upon the nexte day. But Robin may not know of this, thy knaveservant, Nor eke thy maiden Gill I may not save: Ask me not why: for though thou aske me I will not telle Godde’s privity. Sufficeth thee, but if thy wit be madunless thou be out of thy wits, To have as great a grace as Noe had; Thy wife shall I well saven out of doubt. Go now thy way, and speed thee hereabout. But when thou hast for her, and thee, and me, Y-gotten us these kneading tubbes three, Then shalt thou hang them in the roof full high, So that no man our purveyanceforesight, providence espy: And when thou hast done thus as I have said, And hast our vitaille fair in them y-laid, And eke an axe to smite the cord in two When that the water comes, that we may go, And break an hole on high upon the gable Into the garden-ward, over the stable, That we may freely passe forth our way, When that the greate shower is gone away. Then shalt thou swim as merry, I undertake, As doth the white duck after her drake: Then will I clepe,call ‘How, Alison? How, John? Be merry: for the flood will pass anon.’ And thou wilt say, ‘Hail, Master Nicholay, Good-morrow, I see thee well, for it is day.’ And then shall we be lordes all our life Of all the world, as Noe and his wife. But of one thing I warne thee full right, Be well advised, on that ilkesame night, When we be enter’d into shippe’s board, That none of us not speak a single word, Nor clepe nor cry, but be in his prayere, For that is Godde’s owen hestecommand dear. Thy wife and thou must hangen far atweenasunder, For that betwixte you shall be no sin, No more in looking than there shall in deed. This ordinance is said: go, God thee speed To-morrow night, when men be all asleep, Into our kneading tubbes will we creep, And sitte there, abiding Godde’s grace. Go now thy way, I have no longer space To make of this no longer sermoning: Men say thus: Send the wise, and say nothing: Thou art so wise, it needeth thee nought teach. Go, save our lives, and that I thee beseech.”

This silly carpenter went forth his way, Full oft he said, “Alas! and Well-a-day!,’ And to his wife he told his privity, And she was ware, and better knew than he What all this quainte cast was for to saystrange contrivance meant. But natheless she fear’d as she would dey, And said: “Alas! go forth thy way anon. Help us to scape, or we be dead each one. I am thy true and very wedded wife; Go, deare spouse, and help to save our life.” Lo, what a great thing is affection! Men may die of imagination, So deeply may impression be take. This silly carpenter begins to quake: He thinketh verily that he may see This newe flood come weltering as the sea To drenchendrown Alison, his honey dear. He weepeth, waileth, maketh sorry cheerdismal countenance; He sigheth, with full many a sorry sough.groan He go’th, and getteth him a kneading trough, And after that a tub, and a kemelin, And privily he sent them to his inn: And hung them in the roof full privily. With his own hand then made he ladders three, To climbe by the ranges and the stalksthe rungs and the uprights Unto the tubbes hanging in the balksbeams; And victualed them, kemelin, trough, and tub, With bread and cheese, and good ale in a jubjug, Sufficing right enough as for a day. But ere that he had made all this array, He sent his knaveservant, and eke his wenchmaid also, Upon his needbusiness to London for to go. And on the Monday, when it drew to night, He shut his door withoute candle light, And dressedprepared every thing as it should be. And shortly up they climbed all the three. They satte stille well a furlong waythe time it would take to walk a furlong. “Now, Pater noster, clum,”d32 said Nicholay, And “clum,” quoth John; and “clum,” said Alison: This carpenter said his devotion, And still he sat and bidded his prayere, Awaking on the rain, if he it hear. The deade sleep, for weary business, Fell on this carpenter, right as I guess, About the curfew-time,d33 or little more, For travail of his ghostanguish of spirit he groaned sore, And eft he routed, for his head mislay.and then he snored, for his head lay awry Adown the ladder stalked Nicholay; And Alison full soft adown she sped. Withoute wordes more they went to bed, There aswhere the carpenter was wont to lie: There was the revel, and the melody. And thus lay Alison and Nicholas, In business of mirth and in solace, Until the bell of laudesmorning service, at 3.a.m. gan to ring, And friars in the chancel went to sing.

This parish clerk, this amorous Absolon, That is for love alway so woebegone, Upon the Monday was at Oseney With company, him to disport and play; And asked upon casoccasion a cloisterermonk Full privily after John the carpenter; And he drew him apart out of the church, And said, “I n’ot;know not I saw him not here wirchwork Since Saturday; I trow that he be went For timber, where our abbot hath him sent. And dwellen at the Grange a day or two: For he is wont for timber for to go, Or else he is at his own house certain. Where that he be, I cannot soothly sayn.say certainly This Absolon full jolly was and light, And thought, “Now is the time to wake all night, For sickerlycertainly I saw him not stirring About his door, since day began to spring. So may I thrive, but I shall at cock crow Full privily go knock at his window, That stands full low upon his bowerchamber wall: To Alison then will I tellen all My love-longing; for I shall not miss That at the leaste way I shall her kiss. Some manner comfort shall I have, parfayby my faith, My mouth hath itched all this livelong day: That is a sign of kissing at the least. All night I mettedreamt eke I was at a feast. Therefore I will go sleep an hour or tway, And all the night then will I wake and play.” When that the first cock crowed had, anon Up rose this jolly lover Absolon, And him arrayed gay, at point devise.with exact care But first he chewed grainsd34 and liquorice, To smelle sweet, ere he had combed his hair. Under his tongue a true love d35 he bare, For thereby thought he to be gracious.

Then came he to the carpentere’s house, And still he stood under the shot window; Unto his breast it raughtreached, it was so low; And soft he coughed with a semisoun’.low tone “What do ye, honeycomb, sweet Alisoun? My faire bird, my sweet cinamomecinnamon, sweet spice, Awaken, lemanmistress mine, and speak to me. Full little thinke ye upon my woe, That for your love I sweat there aswherever I go. No wonder is that I do sweltfaint and sweat. I mourn as doth a lamb after the teat Y-wiscertainly, leman, I have such love-longing, That like a turtleturtle-dove true is my mourning. I may not eat, no more than a maid.” “Go from the window, thou jack fool,” she said: “As help me God, it will not be, ‘come bakiss me.’ I love another, else I were to blame”, Well better than thee, by Jesus, Absolon. Go forth thy way, or I will cast a stone; And let me sleep; a twenty devil waytwenty devils take ye!. “Alas!” quoth Absolon, “and well away! That true love ever was so ill beset: Then kiss me, since that it may be no betbetter, For Jesus’ love, and for the love of me.” “Wilt thou then go thy way therewith?” , quoth she. “Yea, certes, leman,” quoth this Absolon. “Then make thee ready,” quoth she, “I come anon.” And unto Nicholas she said [full stillin a low voice: “Now peace, and thou shalt laugh anon thy fill.”]d36 This Absolon down set him on his knees, And said; “I am a lord at all degrees: For after this I hope there cometh more; Leman, thy grace, and, sweete bird, thine ore.favour The window she undid, and that in haste. “Have done,” quoth she, “come off, and speed thee fast, Lest that our neighebours should thee espy.” Then Absolon gan wipe his mouth full dry. Dark was the night as pitch or as the coal, And at the window she put out her hole, And Absolon him fell ne bet ne werse, But with his mouth he kiss’d her naked erse Full savourly. When he was ware of this, Aback he start, and thought it was amiss; For well he wist a woman hath no beard. He felt a thing all rough, and long y-hair’d, And saide; “Fy, alas! what have I do?” “Te he!” quoth she, and clapt the window to; And Absolon went forth at sorry pace. “A beard, a beard,” said Hendy Nicholas; “By God’s corpus, this game went fair and well.” This silly Absolon heard every dealword, And on his lip he gan for anger bite; And to himself he said, “I shall thee quiterequite, be even with. Who rubbeth now, who frottethrubs now his lips With dust, with sand, with straw, with cloth, with chips, But Absolon? that saith full oft, “Alas! My soul betake I unto Sathanas, But me were leverrather than all this town,” quoth he I this despite awrokenrevenged for to be. Alas! alas! that I have been y-blentdeceived.” His hote love is cold, and all y-quent.quenched For from that time that he had kiss’d her erse, Of paramours he sette not a kers,cared not a rush For he was healed of his malady; Full often paramours he gan defy, And weep as doth a child that hath been beat. A softe pace he went over the street Unto a smith, men callen Danmaster Gerveis, That in his forge smithed plough-harness; He sharped share and culter busily. This Absolon knocked all easily, And said; “Undo, Gerveis, and that anon.” “What, who art thou?” “It is I, Absolon.” “What? Absolon, what? Christe’s sweete treecross, Why rise so rathearly? hey! Benedicite, What aileth you? some gay girl,d37 God it wote, Hath brought you thus upon the viretote:d38 By Saint Neot, ye wot well what I mean.” This Absolon he raughterecked, cared not a bean Of all his play; no word again he gafspoke, For he had more tow on his distaffd39 Than Gerveis knew, and saide; “Friend so dear, That hote culter in the chimney here Lend it to me, I have therewith to dondo: I will it bring again to thee full soon.” Gerveis answered; “Certes, were it gold, Or in a pokepurse nobles all untold, Thou shouldst it have, as I am a true smith. Hey! Christe’s foot, what will ye do therewith?” “Thereof,” quoth Absolon, “be as be may; I shall well tell it thee another day:” And caught the culter by the colde stelehandle. Full soft out at the door he gan to steal, And went unto the carpentere’s wall He coughed first, and knocked therewithal Upon the window, light as he did erebefore.d40 This Alison answered; “Who is there That knocketh so? I warrant him a thief.” “Nay, nay,” quoth he, “God wot, my sweete lefelove, I am thine Absolon, my own darling. Of gold,” quoth he, “I have thee brought a ring, My mother gave it me, so God me save! Full fine it is, and thereto well y-graveengraved: This will I give to thee, if thou me kiss.” Now Nicholas was risen up to piss, And thought he would amenden all the japeimprove the joke; He shoulde kiss his erse ere that he scape: And up the window did he hastily, And out his erse he put full privily Over the buttock, to the haunche bone. And therewith spake this clerk, this Absolon, “Speak, sweete bird, I know not where thou art.” This Nicholas anon let fly a fart, As great as it had been a thunder dentpeal, clap; That with the stroke he was well nigh y-blentblinded; But he was ready with his iron hot, And Nicholas amid the erse he smote. Off went the skin an handbreadth all about. The hote culter burned so his toutbreech, That for the smart he weenedthought he would die; As he were woodmad, for woe he gan to cry, “Help! water, water, help for Godde’s heart!”

This carpenter out of his slumber start, And heard one cry “Water,” as he were woodmad, And thought, “Alas! now cometh Noe’s flood.” He sat him up withoute wordes mo’ And with his axe he smote the cord in two; And down went all; he found neither to sell Nor bread nor ale, till he came to the sellthreshold,d41 Upon the floor, and there in swoon he lay. Up started Alison and Nicholay, And cried out an “harow!” d42 in the street. The neighbours alle, bothe small and great In ranne, for to gaurenstare on this man, That yet in swoone lay, both pale and wan: For with the fall he broken had his arm. But stand he must unto his owen harm, For when he spake, he was anon borne down With Hendy Nicholas and Alisoun. They told to every man that he was woodmad; He was aghasteafraid so of Noe’s flood, Through phantasy, that of his vanity He had y-bought him kneading-tubbes three, And had them hanged in the roof above; And that he prayed them for Godde’s love To sitten in the roof for company. The folk gan laughen at his phantasy. Into the roof they kykenpeep, look. and they gape, And turned all his harm into a japejest. For whatsoe’er this carpenter answer’d, It was for nought, no man his reason heard. With oathes great he was so sworn adown, That he was holden wood in all the town. For every clerk anon right held with other; They said, “The man was wood, my levedear brother;” And every wight gan laughen at his strife. Thus swivedenjoyed was the carpentere’s wife, For all his keepingcare and his jealousy; And Absolon hath kiss’d her nether eye; And Nicholas is scalded in the tout. This tale is done, and God save all the routcompany.


Notes to the Miller’s Tale

Notes to the Miller’s Tale

d1

Almagest: The book of Ptolemy the astronomer, which formed the canon of astrological science in the middle ages.

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d2

Astrolabe: “Astrelagour,” “astrelabore”; a mathematical instrument for taking the altitude of the sun or stars.

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d3

“Augrim” is a corruption of algorithm, the Arabian term for numeration; “augrim stones,” therefore were probably marked with numerals, and used as counters.

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d4

Angelus ad virginem: The Angel’s salutation to Mary; Luke i. 28. It was the “Ave Maria” of the Catholic Church service.

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d5

Cato: Though Chaucer may have referred to the famous Censor, more probably the reference is merely to the “Moral Distichs,” which go under his name, though written after his time; and in a supplement to which the quoted passage may be found.

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d6

Barm-cloth: apron; from Anglo-Saxon “barme,” bosom or lap.

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d7

Volupere: Head-gear, kerchief; from French, “envelopper,” to wrap up.

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d8

Popelet: Puppet; but chiefly; young wench.

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d9

Noble: nobles were gold coins of especial purity and brightness; “Ex auro nobilissimi, unde nobilis vocatus,” (made from the noblest (purest) gold, and therefore called nobles) says Vossius.

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d10

Yern: Shrill, lively; German, “gern,” willingly, cheerfully.

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d11

Braket: bragget, a sweet drink made of honey, spices, &c. In some parts of the country, a drink made from honeycomb, after the honey is extracted, is still called “bragwort.”

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d12

Piggesnie: a fond term, like “my duck;” from Anglo-Saxon, “piga,” a young maid; but Tyrwhitt associates it with the Latin, “ocellus,” little eye, a fondling term, and suggests that the “pigs- eye,” which is very small, was applied in the same sense. Davenport and Butler both use the word pigsnie, the first for “darling,” the second literally for “eye;” and Bishop Gardner, “On True Obedience,” in his address to the reader, says: “How softly she was wont to chirpe him under the chin, and kiss him; how prettily she could talk to him (how doth my sweet heart, what saith now pig’s-eye).”

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d13

Oseney: A once well-known abbey near Oxford.

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d14

Trave: travis; a frame in which unruly horses were shod.

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d15

Harow and Alas: Haro! was an old Norman cry for redress or aid. The “Clameur de Haro” was lately raised, under peculiar circumstances, as the prelude to a legal protest, in Jersey.

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d16

His shoes were ornamented like the windows of St. Paul’s, especially like the old rose-window.

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d17

Rise: Twig, bush; German, “Reis,” a twig; “Reisig,” a copse.

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d18

Chaucer satirises the dancing of Oxford as he did the French of Stratford at Bow.

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d19

Shot window: A projecting or bow window, whence it was possible shoot at any one approaching the door.

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d20

Piment: A drink made with wine, honey, and spices.

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d21

Because she was town-bred, he offered wealth, or money reward, for her love.

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d22

Parish-clerks, like Absolon, had leading parts in the mysteries or religious plays; Herod was one of these parts, which may have been an object of competition among the amateurs of the period.

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d23

“The nighe sly maketh oft time the far lief to be loth”: a proverb; the cunning one near at hand oft makes the loving one afar off to be odious.

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d24

Kyked: Looked; “keek” is still used in some parts in the sense of “peep.”

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d25

Saint Frideswide was the patroness of a considerable priory at Oxford, and held there in high repute.

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d26

Plato, in his “Theatetus,” tells this story of Thales; but it has since appeared in many other forms.

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d27

Crouche: protect by signing the sign of the cross.

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d28

Forlore: lost; german, “verloren.”

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d29

Him that harried Hell: Christ who wasted or subdued hell: in the middle ages, some very active exploits against the prince of darkness and his powers were ascribed by the monkish tale- tellers to the saviour after he had “descended into hell.”

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d30

According to the old mysteries, Noah’s wife refused to come into the ark, and bade her husband row forth and get him a new wife, because he was leaving her gossips in the town to drown. Shem and his brothers got her shipped by main force; and Noah, coming forward to welcome her, was greeted with a box on the ear.

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d31

“Him had been lever, I dare well undertake, At thilke time, than all his wethers black, That she had had a ship herself alone.”

i.e. “At that time he would have given all his black wethers, if she had had an ark to herself.”

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d32

“Clum,” like “mum,” a note of silence; but otherwise explained as the humming sound made in repeating prayers; from the Anglo-Saxon, “clumian,” to mutter, speak in an under- tone, keep silence.

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d33

Curfew-time: Eight in the evening, when, by the law of William the Conqueror, all people were, on ringing of a bell, to extinguish fire and candle, and go to rest; hence the word curfew, from French, “couvre-feu,” cover-fire.

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d34

Absolon chewed grains: these were grains of Paris, or Paradise; a favourite spice.

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d35

Under his tongue a true love he bare: some sweet herb; another reading, however, is “a true love-knot,” which may have been of the nature of a charm.

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d36

The two lines within brackets are not in most of the editions: they are taken from Urry; whether he supplied them or not, they serve the purpose of a necessary explanation.

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d37

Gay girl: As applied to a young woman of light manners, this euphemistic phrase has enjoyed a wonderful vitality.

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d38

Viretote: Urry reads “meritote,” and explains it from Spelman as a game in which children made themselves giddy by whirling on ropes. In French, “virer” means to turn; and the explanation may, therefore, suit either reading. In modern slang parlance, Gerveis would probably have said, “on the rampage,” or “on the swing” – not very far from Spelman’s rendering.

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d39

He had more tow on his distaff: a proverbial saying: he was playing a deeper game, had more serious business on hand.

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d40

Ere: before; German, “eher.”

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d41

Sell: sill of the door, threshold; French, “seuil,” Latin, “solum,” the ground.

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d42

Harow and Alas: Haro! was an old Norman cry for redress or aid. The “Clameur de Haro” was lately raised, under peculiar circumstances, as the prelude to a legal protest, in Jersey.

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The Reeve’s Tale


The Prologue

WHEN folk had laughed all at this nice case Of Absolon and Hendy Nicholas, Diverse folk diversely they said, But for the more part they laugh’d and play’d;were diverted And at this tale I saw no man him grieve, But it were only Osewold the Reeve. Because he was of carpenteres craft, A little ire is in his hearte laftleft; He gan to grudgemurmur and blamed it a litelittle. Quoth he, “full well could I him quite “So thethrive I,”match With blearingdimming of a proude miller’s eye,e1 If that me list to speak of ribaldry. But I am old; me list not play for age; e2 Grass time is done, my fodder is now forage. This white tophead writeth mine olde years; Mine heart is also mouldedgrown mouldy as mine hairs; And I do fare as doth an open-ersemedlar;e3 That ilkesame fruit is ever longer werse, Till it be rotten in mullok or in streon the ground or in straw. We olde men, I dread, so fare we; Till we be rotten, can we not be ripe; We hopdance away, while that the world will pipe; For in our will there sticketh aye a nail, To have an hoary head and a green tail, As hath a leek; for though our might be gone, Our will desireth folly ever-in-onecontinually: For when we may not do, then will we speak, Yet in our ashes cold does fire reek.e4 Four gledescoals have we, which I shall devisedescribe, Vaunting, and lying, anger, covetisecovetousness. These foure sparks belongen unto eld. Our olde limbes well may be unweldunwieldy, But will shall never fail us, that is sooth. And yet have I alway a coltes tooth,e5 As many a year as it is passed and gone Since that my tap of life began to run; For sickerlycertainly, when I was born, anon Death drew the tap of life, and let it gon: And ever since hath so the tap y-run, Till that almost all empty is the tun. The stream of life now droppeth on the chimb.e6 The silly tongue well may ring and chime Of wretchedness, that passed is full yorelong: With olde folk, save dotage, is no more. e7

When that our Host had heard this sermoning, He gan to speak as lordly as a king, And said; “To what amounteth all this wit? What? shall we speak all day of holy writ? The devil made a Reeve for to preach, As of a soutercobblere8 a shipman, or a leachsurgeon.e9 Say forth thy tale, and tarry not the time: Lo here is Deptford, and ‘tis half past prime:e10 Lo Greenwich, where many a shrew is in. It were high time thy tale to begin.”

“Now, sirs,” quoth then this Osewold the Reeve, I pray you all that none of you do grieve, Though I answer, and somewhat set his hovehood,e11 For lawful is force off with force to shove.to repel force by force This drunken miller hath y-told us here How that beguiled was a carpentere, Paraventureperhaps in scorn, for I am one: And, by your leave, I shall him quite anon. Right in his churlish termes will I speak, I pray to God his necke might to-break. He can well in mine eye see a stalk, But in his own he cannot see a balk.”e12


Notes to the Prologue to the Reeves Tale.

Notes to the Prologue to the Reeves Tale.

e1

“With blearing of a proude miller’s eye”: dimming his eye; playing off a joke on him.

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e2

“Me list not play for age”: age takes away my zest for drollery.

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e3

The medlar, the fruit of the mespilus tree, is only edible when rotten.

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e4

Yet in our ashes cold does fire reek: “ev’n in our ashes live their wonted fires.”

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e5

A colt’s tooth; a wanton humour, a relish for pleasure.

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e6

Chimb: The rim of a barrel where the staves project beyond the head.

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e7

With olde folk, save dotage, is no more: Dotage is all that is left them; that is, they can only dwell fondly, dote, on the past.

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e8

Souter: cobbler; Scottice, “sutor;”‘ from Latin, “suere,” to sew.

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e9

“Ex sutore medicus” (a surgeon from a cobbler) and “ex sutore nauclerus” (a seaman or pilot from a cobbler) were both proverbial expressions in the Middle Ages.

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e10

Half past prime: half-way between prime and tierce; about half-past seven in the morning.

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e11

Set his hove; like “set their caps;” as in the description of the Manciple in the Prologue, who “set their aller cap”. “Hove” or “houfe,” means “hood;” and the phrase signifies to be even with, outwit.

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e12

The illustration of the mote and the beam, from Matthew.

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The Talef1

At Trompington, not far from Cantebrig,Cambridge There goes a brook, and over that a brig, Upon the whiche brook there stands a mill: And this is very soothcomplete truth that I you tell. A miller was there dwelling many a day, As any peacock he was proud and gay: Pipen he could, and fish, and nettes beteprepare, And turne cups, and wrestle well, and sheteshoot. Aye by his belt he bare a long pavadeponiard, And of his sword full trenchant was the blade. A jolly popperdagger bare he in his pouch; There was no man for peril durst him touch. A Sheffield whittlesmall knife bare he in his hose. Round was his face, and camuseflat was his nose.f2 As pilledpeeled, bald. as an ape’s was his skull. He was a market-beterbrawler at the full. There durste no wight hand upon him leggelay, That he ne swore anon he should abeggesuffer the penalty.

A thief he was, for sooth, of corn and meal, And that a sly, and used well to steal. His name was hoten deinous Simekincalled “Disdainful Simkin” A wife he hadde, come of noble kin: The parson of the town her father was. With her he gave full many a pan of brass, For that Simkin should in his blood ally. She was y-foster’d in a nunnery: For Simkin woulde no wife, as he said, But she were well y-nourish’d, and a maid, To saven his estate and yeomanry: And she was proud, and pert as is a piemagpie. A full fair sight it was to see them two; On holy days before her would he go With his tippethood y-bound about his head; And she came after in a gitegown of red,f3 And Simkin hadde hosen of the same. There durste no wight call her aught but Dame: None was so hardy, walking by that way, That with her either durste rage or playuse freedom, But ifunless he would be slain by Simekin With pavade, or with knife, or bodekin. For jealous folk be per’lous evermo’: Algateunless they would their wives wende soso behave. And eke for she was somewhat smutterlichdirty, She was as dignnasty as water in a ditch, And all so full of hokerill-nature, and bismareabusive speech. Her thoughte that a lady should her sparenot judge her hardly, What for her kindred, and her nortelrienurturing, education That she had learned in the nunnery.

One daughter hadde they betwixt them two Of twenty year, withouten any mo, Saving a child that was of half year age, In cradle it lay, and was a proper page.boy This wenche thick and well y-growen was, With camuseflat nose, and eyen gray as glass; With buttocks broad, and breastes round and high; But right fair was her hair, I will not lie. The parson of the town, for she was fair, In purpose was to make of her his heir Both of his chattels and his messuage, And strange he made ithe made it a matter of difficulty of her marriage. His purpose was for to bestow her high Into some worthy blood of ancestry. For holy Church’s good may be dispendedspent On holy Church’s blood that is descended. Therefore he would his holy blood honour Though that he holy Churche should devour.

Great sokentoll taken for grinding hath this miller, out of doubt, With wheat and malt, of all the land about; And namelyespecially there was a great college Men call the Soler Hall at Cantebrege,f4 There was their wheat and eke their malt y-ground. And on a day it happed in a stoundsuddenly, Sick lay the manciplesteward of a malady,f5 Men weened wislythought certainly that he shoulde die. For which this miller stole both meal and corn An hundred times more than beforn. For theretofore he stole but courteously, But now he was a thief outrageously. For which the warden chid and made farefuss, But thereof set the miller not a tarehe cared not a rush; He crack’d his boast,talked big and swore it was not so.

Then were there younge poore scholars two, That dwelled in the hall of which I say; Testiff6 they were, and lusty for to play; And only for their mirth and revelry Upon the warden busily they cry, To give them leave for but a little stoundshort time, To go to mill, and see their corn y-ground: And hardilyboldly they durste lay their neck, The miller should not steal them half a peck Of corn by sleight, nor them by force bereavetake away And at the last the warden give them leave: John hight the one, and Alein hight the other, Of one town were they born, that highte Strother,f7 Far in the North, I cannot tell you where. This Alein he made ready all his gear, And on a horse the sack he cast anon: Forth went Alein the clerk, and also John, With good sword and with buckler by their side. John knew the way, him needed not no guide, And at the mill the sack adown he lay’th.

Alein spake first; “All hail, Simon, in faith, How fares thy faire daughter, and thy wife.” “Alein, welcome,” quoth Simkin, “by my life, And John also: how now, what do ye here?” “By God, Simon,” quoth John, “need has no peerequal. Him serve himself behoves that has no swainservant, Or else he is a fool, as clerkes sayn. Our manciple I hopeexpect he will be dead, So workes aye the wangescheek-teeth in his head:f8 And therefore is I come, and eke Alein, To grind our corn and carry it home again: I pray you speed us hence as well ye may.” “It shall be done,” quoth Simkin, “by my fay. What will ye do while that it is in hand?” “By God, right by the hopper will I stand,” Quoth John, “and see how that the corn goes in. Yet saw I never, by my father’s kin, How that the hopper wagges to and fro.” Alein answered, “John, and wilt thou so? Then will I be beneathe, by my crown, And see how that the meale falls adown Into the trough, that shall be my disportamusement: For, John, in faith I may be of your sort; I is as ill a miller as is ye.”

This miller smiled at their nicetysimplicity, And thought, “All this is done but for a wile. They weenenthink that no man may them beguile, But by my thrift yet shall I blear their eye,f9 For all the sleight in their philosophy. The more quainte knackesodd little tricks that they make, The more will I steal when that I take. Instead of flour yet will I give them brenbran. The greatest clerks are not the wisest men, As whilom to the wolf thus spake the mare: f10 Of all their art ne count I not a tare.” Out at the door he went full privily, When that he saw his time, softely. He looked up and down, until he found The clerkes’ horse, there as he stood y-bound Behind the mill, under a levesell:f11 And to the horse he went him fair and well, And stripped off the bridle right anon. And when the horse was loose, he gan to gon Toward the fen, where wilde mares run, Forth, with “Wehee!” through thick and eke through thin. This miller went again, no word he said, But did his notebusiness, and with these clerkes play’d,f12 Till that their corn was fair and well y-ground. And when the meal was sacked and y-bound, Then John went out, and found his horse away, And gan to cry, “Harow, and well-away! Our horse is lost: Alein, for Godde’s bones, Step on thy feet; come off, man, all at once: Alas! our warden has his palfrey lorn.lost This Alein all forgot, both meal and corn; All was out of his mind his husbandrycareful watch over the corn. “What, which way is he gone?” he gan to cry. The wife came leaping inward at a rennerun, She said; “Alas! your horse went to the fen With wilde mares, as fast as he could go. Unthankill luck, a curse come on his hand that bound him so And his that better should have knit the rein.” “Alas!” quoth John, “Alein, for Christes pain Lay down thy sword, and I shall mine also. I is full wightswift, God wateknows, as is a roe. By Godde’s soul he shall not scape us batheboth.f13 Why n’ had thou put the capelhorsef14 in the lathebarn? Ill hail, Alein, by God thou is a fonne.fool These silly clerkes have full fast y-run Toward the fen, both Alein and eke John; And when the miller saw that they were gone, He half a bushel of their flour did take, And bade his wife go knead it in a cake. He said; I trow, the clerkes were afeard, Yet can a miller make a clerkes beard,cheat a scholar f15 For all his art: yea, let them go their way! Lo where they go! yea, let the children play: They get him not so lightly, by my crown.” These silly clerkes runnen up and down With “Keep, keep; stand, stand; jossaturn, warderere. Go whistle thou, and I shall keepcatch him here.” But shortly, till that it was very night They coulde not, though they did all their might, Their capel catch, he ran alway so fast: Till in a ditch they caught him at the last.

Weary and wet, as beastes in the rain, Comes silly John, and with him comes Alein. “Alas,” quoth John, “the day that I was born! Now are we driv’n till hethingmockery and till scorn. Our corn is stol’n, men will us fonnesfools call, Both the warden, and eke our fellows all, And namelyespecially the miller, well-away!” Thus plained John, as he went by the way Toward the mill, and Bayardthe bay horse in his hand. The miller sitting by the fire he fandfound. For it was night, and forthergo their way might they not, But for the love of God they him besought Of herberowlodging and ease, for their penny. The miller said again,” If there be any, Such as it is, yet shall ye have your part. Mine house is strait, but ye have learned art; Ye can by arguments maken a place A mile broad, of twenty foot of space. Let see now if this place may suffice, Or make it room with speech, as is your guise.fashion “Now, Simon,” said this John, “by Saint Cuthberd Aye is thou merry, and that is fair answer’d. I have heard say, man shall take of two things, Such as he findes, or such as he brings. But specially I pray thee, hoste dear, Gar f16 us have meat and drink, and make us cheer, And we shall pay thee truly at the full: With empty hand men may not hawkes tullallure. Lo here our silver ready for to spend.”

This miller to the town his daughter send For ale and bread, and roasted them a goose, And bound their horse, he should no more go loose: And them in his own chamber made a bed. With sheetes and with chalonsf17 fair y-spread, Not from his owen bed ten foot or twelve: His daughter had a bed all by herselve, Right in the same chamber by and byside by side: It might no better be, and cause why, There was no roomer herberowroomier lodging in the place. They suppen, and they speaken of solace, And drinken ever strong ale at the best. Aboute midnight went they all to rest. Well had this miller varnished his head; Full pale he was, fordrunken, and nought redwithout his wits. He yoxedhiccuped, and he spake thorough the nose, As he were in the quakkegrunting, or in the posecatarrh. To bed he went, and with him went his wife, As any jay she light was and jolife,jolly So was her jolly whistle well y-wet. The cradle at her beddes feet was set, To rock, and eke to give the child to suck. And when that drunken was all in the crockf18 To bedde went the daughter right anon, To bedde went Alein, and also John. There was no more; needed them no dwale.f19 This miller had, so wislycertainly bibbed ale, That as a horse he snorted in his sleep, Nor of his tail behind he took no keepheed. His wife bare him a burdounbass, a full strong;f20 Men might their routingsnoring hearen a furlong.

The wenche routed eke for company. Alein the clerk, that heard this melody, He poked John, and saide: “Sleepest thou? Heardest thou ever such a song ere now? Lo what a complinef21 is y-mellamong them all. A wilde fire upon their bodies fall, Who hearken’d ever such a ferlystrange thing?f22 Yea, they shall have the flow’r of ill ending! This longe night there tides mecomes to me no rest. But yet no forcematter, all shall be for the best. For, John,” said he, “as ever may I thrive, If that I may, yon wenche will I swiveenjoy carnally. Some easementsatisfaction has law y-shapenprovided us For, John, there is a law that sayeth thus, That if a man in one point be aggriev’d, That in another he shall be relievd. Our corn is stol’n, soothly it is no nay, And we have had an evil fit to-day. And since I shall have none amendement Against my loss, I will have easement: By Godde’s soul, it shall none, other be.” This John answer’d; Alein, avise theehave a care: The miller is a perilous man,” he said, “And if that he out of his sleep abraidawaked, He mighte do us both a villainymischief.” Alein answer’d; “I count him not a fly. And up he rose, and by the wench he crept. This wenche lay upright, and fast she slept, Till he so nigh was, ere she might espy, That it had been too late for to cry: And, shortly for to say, they were at one. Now play, Alein, for I will speak of John.

This John lay still a furlong way f23 or two, And to himself he made ruthwail and woe. “Alas!” quoth he, “this is a wicked japetrick; Now may I say, that I is but an ape. Yet has my fellow somewhat for his harm; He has the miller’s daughter in his arm: He auntredadventured him, and hath his needes sped, And I lie as a draff-sack in my bed; And when this jape is told another day, I shall be held a daffecoward or a cockenay f24 I will arise, and auntreattempt it, by my fay: Unhardy is unsely, f25 as men say.” And up he rose, and softely he went Unto the cradle, and in his hand it henttook, And bare it soft unto his beddes feet. Soon after this the wife her routing letestopped snoring, And gan awake, and went her out to piss And came again and gan the cradle miss And groped here and there, but she found none. “Alas!” quoth she, “I had almost misgone I had almost gone to the clerkes’ bed. Ey! Benedicite, then had I foul y-sped.” And forth she went, till she the cradle fand. She groped alway farther with her hand And found the bed, and thoughte not but goodhad no suspicion Because that the cradle by it stood, And wist not where she was, for it was derk; But fair and well she crept in by the clerk, And lay full still, and would have caught a sleep. Within a while this John the Clerk up leap And on this goode wife laid on full sore; So merry a fit had she not had full yorefor a long time. He pricked hard and deep, as he were mad.

This jolly life have these two clerkes had, Till that the thirde cock began to sing. Alein wax’d weary in the morrowing, For he had swonkenlaboured all the longe night, And saide; “Farewell, Malkin, my sweet wight. The day is come, I may no longer bide, But evermore, where so I go or ride, I is thine owen clerk, so have I hele.health “Now, deare lemansweetheart,” quoth she, “go, fare wele: But ere thou go, one thing I will thee tell. When that thou wendest homeward by the mill, Right at the entry of the door behind Thou shalt a cake of half a bushel find, That was y-maked of thine owen meal, Which that I help’d my father for to steal. And goode leman, God thee save and keep.” And with that word she gan almost to weep. Alein uprose and thought, “Ere the day daw I will go creepen in by my fellaw:” And found the cradle with his hand anon. “By God!” thought he, “all wrong I have misgone: My head is totty of my swinkgiddy from my labour to-night, That maketh me that I go not aright. I wot well by the cradle I have misgo’; Here lie the miller and his wife also.” And forth he went a twenty devil way Unto the bed, there as the miller lay. He ween’dthought t’ have creeped by his fellow John, And by the miller in he crept anon, And caught him by the neck, and gan him shake, And said; “Thou John, thou swines-head, awake For Christes soul, and hear a noble game! For by that lord that called is Saint Jame, As I have thries in this shorte night Swived the miller’s daughter bolt-upright, While thou hast as a coward lain aghastafraid.” “Thou false harlot,” quoth the miller, “hast? Ah, false traitor, false clerk,” quoth he, “Thou shalt be dead, by Godde’s dignity, Who durste be so bold to disparagedisgrace My daughter, that is come of such lineage?” And by the throate-ballAdam’s apple he caught Alein, And he him hentseized dispiteouslyangrily again, And on the nose he smote him with his fist; Down ran the bloody stream upon his breast: And in the floor with nose and mouth all broke They wallow, as do two pigs in a poke. And up they go, and down again anon, Till that the miller spurnedstumbled on a stone, And down he backward fell upon his wife, That wiste nothing of this nice strife: For she was fall’n asleep a little wightwhile With John the clerk, that waked had all night: And with the fall out of her sleep she braidwoke. “Help, holy cross of Bromeholm,” f26 she said; “In manus tuas! f27 Lord, to thee I call. Awake, Simon, the fiend is on me fall; Mine heart is broken; help; I am but dead: There li’th one on my womb and on mine head. Help, Simkin, for these false clerks do fight” This John start up as fast as e’er he might, And groped by the walles to and fro To find a staff; and she start up also, And knew the estresapartment better than this John, And by the wall she took a staff anon: And saw a little shimmering of a light, For at an hole in shone the moone bright, And by that light she saw them both the two, But sickerlycertainly she wist not who was who, But as she saw a white thing in her eye. And when she gan this white thing espy, She ween’dsupposed the clerk had wear’d a voluperenight-cap; And with the staff she drew aye nere and nerenearer, And ween’d to have hit this Alein at the full, And smote the miller on the pilledbald skull; That down he went, and cried,” Harow! I die.” These clerkes beat him well, and let him lie, And greithenmake ready, dress them, and take their horse anon, And eke their meal, and on their way they gon: And at the mill door eke they took their cake Of half a bushel flour, full well y-bake.

Thus is the proude miller well y-beat, And hath y-lost the grinding of the wheat; And payed for the supper every dealevery bit Of Alein and of John, that beat him well; His wife is swived, and his daughter alsalso; Lo, such it is a miller to be false. And therefore this proverb is said full sooth, Him thar not winnen wellhe deserves not to gain that evil do’th, A guiler shall himself beguiled be:” And God that sitteth high in majesty Save all this Company, both great and smale. Thus have I quitmade myself quits with the Miller in my tale.


Notes to the Reeve’s Tale

Notes to the Reeve’s Tale

f1

The incidents of this tale were much relished in the Middle Ages, and are found under various forms. Boccaccio has told them in the ninth day of his “Decameron”.

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f2

Camuse: flat; French “camuse”, snub-nosed.

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f3

Gite: gown or coat; French “jupe.”

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f4

Soler Hall: the hall or college at Cambridge with the gallery or upper storey; supposed to have been Clare Hall. (Transcribers note: later commentators identify it with King’s Hall, now merged with Trinity College)

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f5

Manciple: steward; provisioner of the hall. See also note 47 to the prologue to the Tales.

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f6

Testif: headstrong, wild-brained; French, “entete.”

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f7

Strother: Tyrwhitt points to Anstruther, in Fife: Mr Wright to the Vale of Langstroth, in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Chaucer has given the scholars a dialect that may have belonged to either district, although it more immediately suggests the more northern of the two. (Transcribers note: later commentators have identified it with a now vanished village near Kirknewton in Northumberland. There was a well-known Alein of Strother in Chaucer’s lifetime.)

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f8

Wanges: grinders, cheek-teeth; Anglo-Saxon, “Wang,” the cheek; German, “Wange.”

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f9

See note 1 to the Prologue to the Reeves Tale

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f10

In the “Cento Novelle Antiche,” the story is told of a mule, which pretends that his name is written on the bottom of his hind foot. The wolf attempts to read it, the mule kills him with a kick in the forehead; and the fox, looking on, remarks that “every man of letters is not wise.” A similar story is told in “Reynard the Fox.”

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f11

Levesell: an arbour; Anglo-Saxon, “lefe-setl,” leafy seat.

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f12

Noth: business; German, “Noth,” necessity.

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f13

Bathe: both; Scottice, “baith.”

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f14

Capel: horse; Gaelic, “capall;” French, “cheval;” Italian, “cavallo,” from Latin, “caballus.”

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f15

Make a clerkes beard: cheat a scholar; French, “faire la barbe;” and Boccaccio uses the proverb in the same sense.

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f16

“Gar” is Scotch for “cause;” some editions read, however, “get us some”.

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f17

Chalons: blankets, coverlets, made at Chalons in France.

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f18

Crock: pitcher, cruse; Anglo-Saxon, “crocca;” German, “krug;” hence “crockery.”

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f19

Dwale: night-shade, Solanum somniferum, given to cause sleep.

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f20

Burdoun: bass; “burden” of a song. It originally means the drone of a bagpipe; French, “bourdon.”

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f21

Compline: even-song in the church service; chorus.

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f22

Ferly: strange. In Scotland, a “ferlie” is an unwonted or remarkable sight.

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f23

A furlong way: As long as it might take to walk a furlong.

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f24

Cockenay: a term of contempt, probably borrowed from the kitchen; a cook, in base Latin, being termed “coquinarius.” compare French “coquin,” rascal.

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f25

Unhardy is unsely: the cowardly is unlucky; “nothing venture, nothing have;” German, “unselig,” unhappy.

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f26

Holy cross of Bromeholm: A common adjuration at that time; the cross or rood of the priory of Bromholm, in Norfolk, was said to contain part of the real cross and therefore held in high esteem.

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f27

In manus tuas: Latin, “in your hands”.

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The Cook’s Tale


The Prologue

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 bea 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 hightewas called Hodge of Ware, Heard I a miller better set a-workhandled; He had a japetrick of malice in the derk. But God forbid that we should stintestop here, 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 Doverg1 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 gameangry 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,g2 as the Fleming saith, And therefore, Harry Bailly, by thy faith, Be thou not wroth, else we departepart company here, Though that my tale be of an hostelere.innkeeper But natheless, I will not tell it yet, But ere we part, y-wisassuredly thou shalt be quit.”g3 And therewithal he laugh’d and made cheer,g4 And told his tale, as ye shall after hear.


Notes to the Prologue to the Cook’s Tale

Notes to the Prologue to the Cook’s Tale

g1

Jack of Dover: an article of cookery. (Transcriber’s note: suggested by some commentators to be a kind of pie, and by others to be a fish)

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g2

Sooth play quad play: true jest is no jest.

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g3

It may be remembered that each pilgrim was bound to tell two stories; one on the way to Canterbury, the other returning.

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g4

Made cheer: French, “fit bonne mine;” put on a pleasant countenance.

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The Tale

A prentice whilom dwelt in our city, And of a craft of victuallers was he: Galliardlively he was, as goldfinch in the shawgrove, 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,h1 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 meiniecompany of fellows of his sort, To hop and sing, and make such disport: And there they sette stevenmade appointment for to meet 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 Of his dispence, in place of privity.i.e. he spent money liberally 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 abiesuffer for, Allalthough have he no part of the minstrelsy. 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 wrothat variance all day, as men may see.

This jolly prentice with his master bode, Till he was nigh out of his prenticehood, All were he snubbedrebuked both early and late, And sometimes led with revel to Newgate. But at the last his master him bethought, Upon a day when he his paperh2 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 pacepass, go, Than he shendcorrupt all the servants in the place. Therefore his master gave him a quittance, And bade him go, with sorrow and mischance. And thus this jolly prentice had his levedesire: Now let him riot all the night, or leaverefrain. And, for there is no thief without a louke,h3 That helpeth him to wasten and to soukspend Of that he bribesteal can, or borrow may, Anon he sent his bed and his array Unto a comperecomrade of his owen sort, That loved dice, and riot, and disport; And had a wife, that held for countenancefor appearances A shop, and swivedprostituted herself for her sustenance. ... h4


Notes to the Cook’s Tale

Notes to the Cook’s Tale

h1

Cheapside, where jousts were sometimes held, and which was the great scene of city revels and processions.

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h2

His paper: his certificate of completion of his apprenticeship.

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h3

Louke: The precise meaning of the word is unknown, but it is doubtless included in the cant term “pal”.

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h4

The Cook’s Tale is unfinished in all the manuscripts; but in some, of minor authority, the Cook is made to break off his tale, because “it is so foul,” and to tell the story of Gamelyn, on which Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” is founded. The story is not Chaucer’s, and is different in metre, and inferior in composition to the Tales. It is supposed that Chaucer expunged the Cook’s Tale for the same reason that made him on his death-bed lament that he had written so much “ribaldry.”

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The Man Of Law’s Tale


The Prologue

Our Hoste saw well that the brighte sun Th’ arc of his artificial day had run The fourthe part, and half an houre more; And, though he were not deep expert in lore, He wist it was the eight-and-twenty day Of April, that is messenger to May; And saw well that the shadow of every tree Was in its length of the same quantity That was the body erect that caused it; And therefore by the shadow he took his witknowledge, That Phoebus, which that shone so clear and bright, Degrees was five-and-forty clomb on height; And for that day, as in that latitude, It was ten of the clock, he gan conclude; And suddenly he plightpulled his horse about.i1

“Lordings,” quoth he, “I warn you all this routcompany, The fourthe partie of this day is gone. Now for the love of God and of Saint John Lose no time, as farforth as ye may. Lordings, the time wasteth night and day, And steals from us, what privily sleeping, And what through negligence in our waking, As doth the stream, that turneth never again, Descending from the mountain to the plain. Well might Senec, and many a philosopher, Bewaile time more than gold in coffer. For loss of chattels may recover’d be, But loss of time shendethdestroys us, quoth he.

It will not come again, withoute dread, No more than will Malkin’s maidenhead,i2 When she hath lost it in her wantonness. Let us not moulde thus in idleness. “Sir Man of Law,” quoth he, “so have ye bliss, Tell us a tale anon, as forwordthe bargain is. Ye be submitted through your free assent To stand in this case at my judgement. Acquit you now, and holde your behestkeep your promise; Then have ye done your devoirduty at the least.” “Hoste,” quoth he, “de par dieux jeo asente; i3 To breake forword is not mine intent. Behest is debt, and I would hold it fain, All my behest; I can no better sayn. For such law as a man gives another wight, He should himselfe usen it by right. Thus will our text: but natheless certain I can right now no thriftyworthy tale sayn, But Chaucer (though he can but lewedlyknows but imperfectly On metres and on rhyming craftily) Hath said them, in such English as he can, Of olde time, as knoweth many a man. And if he have not said them, levedear brother, In one book, he hath said them in another For he hath told of lovers up and down, More than Ovide made of mentioun In his Epistolae, that be full old. Why should I telle them, since they he told? In youth he made of Ceyx and Alcyon,i4 And since then he hath spoke of every one These noble wives, and these lovers eke. Whoso that will his large volume seek Called the Saintes’ Legend of Cupid:i5 There may he see the large woundes wide Of Lucrece, and of Babylon Thisbe; The sword of Dido for the false Enee; The tree of Phillis for her Demophon; The plaint of Diane, and of Hermion, Of Ariadne, and Hypsipile; The barren isle standing in the sea; The drown’d Leander for his fair Hero; The teares of Helene, and eke the woe Of Briseis, and Laodamia; The cruelty of thee, Queen Medea, Thy little children hanging by the halseneck, For thy Jason, that was of love so false. Hypermnestra, Penelop’, Alcest’, Your wifehood he commendeth with the best. But certainly no worde writeth he Of thilke wick’that wicked example of Canace, That loved her own brother sinfully; (Of all such cursed stories I say, Fy), Or else of Tyrius Apollonius, How that the cursed king Antiochus Bereft his daughter of her maidenhead; That is so horrible a tale to read, When he her threw upon the pavement. And therefore he, of full avisementdeliberately, advisedly, Would never write in none of his sermons Of such unkindunnatural abominations; Nor I will none rehearse, if that I may. But of my tale how shall I do this day? Me were loth to be liken’d doubteless To Muses, that men call Pieridesi6 (Metamorphoseos i7 wot what I mean), But natheless I recke not a bean, Though I come after him with hawebakelout;i8 I speak in prose, and let him rhymes make.” And with that word, he with a sober cheer Began his tale, and said as ye shall hear.


Notes to the Prologue to The Man of Law’s Tale

Notes to the Prologue to The Man of Law’s Tale

i1

Plight: pulled; the word is an obsolete past tense from “pluck.”

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i2

No more than will Malkin’s maidenhead: a proverbial saying; which, however, had obtained fresh point from the Reeve’s Tale, to which the host doubtless refers.

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i3

De par dieux jeo asente: “by God, I agree”. It is characteristic that the somewhat pompous Sergeant of Law should couch his assent in the semi-barbarous French, then familiar in law procedure.

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i4

Ceyx and Alcyon: Chaucer treats of these in the introduction to the poem called “The Book of the Duchess.” It relates to the death of Blanche, wife of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the poet’s patron, and afterwards his connexion by marriage.

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i5

The Saintes Legend of Cupid: Now called “The Legend of Good Women”. The names of eight ladies mentioned here are not in the “Legend” as it has come down to us; while those of two ladies in the “legend” – Cleopatra and Philomela – are her omitted.

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i6

Not the Muses, who had their surname from the place near Mount Olympus where the Thracians first worshipped them; but the nine daughters of Pierus, king of Macedonia, whom he called the nine Muses, and who, being conquered in a contest with the genuine sisterhood, were changed into birds.

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i7

Metamorphoseos: Ovid’s.

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i8

Hawebake: hawbuck, country lout; the common proverbial phrase, “to put a rogue above a gentleman,” may throw light on the reading here, which is difficult.

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The Talej1

O scatheful harm, condition of poverty, With thirst, with cold, with hunger so confounded; To aske help thee shameth in thine hearte; If thou none ask, so sore art thou y-wounded, That very need unwrappeth all thy wound hid. Maugre thine head thou must for indigence Or steal, or beg, or borrow thy dispenceexpense.

Thou blamest Christ, and sayst full bitterly, He misdepartethallots amiss riches temporal; Thy neighebour thou witestblamest sinfully, And sayst, thou hast too little, and he hath all: “Parfay (sayst thou) sometime he reckon shall, When that his tail shall brennen in the gledeburn in the fire, For he not help’d the needful in their need.”

Hearken what is the sentence of the wise: Better to die than to have indigence. Thy selvethat same neighebour will thee despise, If thou be poor, farewell thy reverence. Yet of the wise man take this sentence, Alle the days of poore men be wick’wicked, evil, Beware therefore ere thou come to that prickpoint.

If thou be poor, thy brother hateth thee, And all thy friendes flee from thee, alas! O riche merchants, full of wealth be ye, O noble, prudent folk, as in this case, Your bagges be not fill’d with ambes ace,two aces But with six-cinquesix-five, that runneth for your chance;j2 At Christenmass well merry may ye dance.

Ye seeke land and sea for your winnings, As wise folk ye knowen all th’ estate Of regneskingdoms; ye be fathers of tidings, And tales, both of peace and of debatecontention, war: I were right now of tales desolatebarren, empty., But that a merchant, gone in many a year, Me taught a tale, which ye shall after hear.

In Syria whilom dwelt a company Of chapmen rich, and thereto sadgrave, steadfast and true, Clothes of gold, and satins rich of hue. That widewhereto distant parts sent their spicery, Their chaffarewares was so thriftlyadvantageous and so new, That every wight had daintypleasure to chaffaredeal With them, and eke to selle them their ware.

Now fell it, that the masters of that sort Have shapen themdetermined, prepared to Rome for to wend, Were it for chapmanhoodtrading or for disport, None other message would they thither send, But come themselves to Rome, this is the end: And in such place as thought them a vantage For their intent, they took their herbergage.lodging

Sojourned have these merchants in that town A certain time as fell to their pleasance: And so befell, that th’ excellent renown Of th’ emperore’s daughter, Dame Constance, Reported was, with every circumstance, Unto these Syrian merchants in such wise, From day to day, as I shall you deviserelate

This was the common voice of every man “Our emperor of Rome, God him seelook on with favour, A daughter hath, that since the the world began, To reckon as well her goodness and beauty, Was never such another as is she: I pray to God in honour her sustenesustain, And would she were of all Europe the queen.

“In her is highe beauty without pride, And youth withoute greenhoodchildishness, immaturity or folly: To all her workes virtue is her guide; Humbless hath slain in her all tyranny: She is the mirror of all courtesy, Her heart a very chamber of holiness, Her hand minister of freedom for almessalmsgiving.”

And all this voice was sooth, as God is true; But now to purposeour tale let us turn again.j3 These merchants have done freight their shippes new, And when they have this blissful maiden seen, Home to Syria then they went full fain, And did their needesbusiness, as they have done yore,formerly And liv’d in wealprosperity; I can you say no more.

Now fell it, that these merchants stood in gracefavour Of him that was the SoudanSultan of Syrie: For when they came from any strange place He would of his benigne courtesy Make them good cheer, and busily espyinquire Tidings of sundry regnesrealms, for to learlearn The wonders that they mighte see or hear.

Amonges other thinges, specially These merchants have him told of Dame Constance So great nobless, in earnest so royally, That this Soudan hath caught so great pleasancepleasure To have her figure in his remembrance, That all his lustpleasure, and all his busy curecare, Was for to love her while his life may dure.

Paraventure in thilkethat large book, Which that men call the heaven, y-written was With starres, when that he his birthe took, That he for love should have his death, alas! For in the starres, clearer than is glass, Is written, God wot, whoso could it read, The death of every man withoute dread.doubt

In starres many a winter therebeforn Was writ the death of Hector, Achilles, Of Pompey, Julius, ere they were born; The strife of Thebes; and of Hercules, Of Samson, Turnus, and of Socrates The death; but mennes wittes be so dull, That no wight can well read it at the full.

This Soudan for his privy council sent, And, shortly of this matter for to paceto pass briefly by, He hath to them declared his intent, And told them certain, butunless he might have grace To have Constance, within a little space, He was but dead; and charged them in hiehaste To shapecontrive for his life some remedy.

Diverse men diverse thinges said; And arguments they casten up and down; Many a subtle reason forth they laid; They speak of magic, and abusiondeception; But finally, as in conclusion, They cannot see in that none avantage, Nor in no other way, save marriage.

Then saw they therein such difficulty By way of reason, for to speak all plain, Because that there was such diversity Between their bothe lawes, that they sayn, They trowebelieve that no Christian prince would fainwillingly Wedden his child under our lawe sweet, That us was given by MahoundMahomet our prophete.

And he answered: “Rather than I lose Constance, I will be christen’d doubteless I must be hers, I may none other choose, I pray you hold your arguments in peace,j4 Save my life, and be not reckeless To gette her that hath my life in cure,keeping For in this woe I may not long endure.”

What needeth greater dilatation? I say, by treaty and ambassadry, And by the Pope’s mediation, And all the Church, and all the chivalry, That in destruction of Mah’metry,Mahometanism And in increase of Christe’s lawe dear, They be accordedagreed so as ye may hear;

How that the Soudan, and his baronage, And all his lieges, shall y-christen’d be, And he shall have Constance in marriage, And certain gold, I n’otknow not what quantity, And hereto find they suffisant surety. The same accord is sworn on either side; Now, fair Constance, Almighty God thee guide!

Now woulde some men waiten, as I guess, That I should tellen all the purveyanceprovision, The which the emperor of his noblesse Hath shapenprepared for his daughter, Dame Constance. Well may men know that so great ordinance May no man tellen in a little clause, As was arrayed for so high a cause.

Bishops be shapen with her for to wend, Lordes, ladies, and knightes of renown, And other folk enough, this is the end. And notified is throughout all the town, That every wight with great devotioun Should pray to Christ, that he this marriage Receive in greewith good will, favour, and speede this voyage.

The day is comen of her departing, – I say the woful fatal day is come, That there may be no longer tarrying, But forward they them dressenprepare to set out all and some. Constance, that was with sorrow all o’ercome, Full pale arose, and dressed her to wend, For well she saw there was no other end.

Alas! what wonder is it though she wept, That shall be sent to a strange nation From friendes, that so tenderly her kept, And to be bound under subjection of one, she knew not his condition? Husbands be all good, and have been of yoreof old, That knowe wives; I dare say no more.

“Father,” she said, “thy wretched child Constance, Thy younge daughter, foster’d up so soft, And you, my mother, my sov’reign pleasance Over all thing, out-takenexcept Christ on lofton high, Constance your child her recommendeth oft Unto your grace; for I shall to Syrie, Nor shall I ever see you more with eye.

“Alas! unto the barbarous nation I must anon, since that it is your will: But Christ, that starfdied for our redemption, So give me grace his hestescommands to fulfil. I, wretched woman, no force though I spill!no matter though I perish Women are born to thraldom and penance, And to be under mannes governance.”

I trow at Troy when Pyrrhus brake the wall, Or Ilion burnt, or Thebes the city, Nor at Rome for the harm through Hannibal, That Romans hath y-vanquish’d times three, Was heard such tender weeping for pity, As in the chamber was for her parting; But forth she must, whether she weep or sing.

O firste moving cruel Firmament,j5 With thy diurnal sway that crowdestpushest together, drivest aye, And hurtlest all from East till Occident That naturally would hold another way; Thy crowding set the heav’n in such array At the beginning of this fierce voyage, That cruel Mars hath slain this marriage.

Unfortunate ascendant tortuous, Of which the lord is helpless fall’n, alas! Out of his angle into the darkest house; O Mars, O Atyzar,j6 as in this case; O feeble Moon, unhappy is thy pace.progress Thou knittest thee where thou art not receiv’d, Where thou wert well, from thennes art thou weiv’d. j7

Imprudent emperor of Rome, alas! Was there no philosopher in all thy town? Is no time betbetter than other in such case? Of voyage is there none election, Namelyespecially to folk of high condition, Not when a root is of a birth y-know?when the nativity is known Alas! we be too lewedignorant, or too slow.

To ship was brought this woeful faire maid Solemnely, with every circumstance: “Now Jesus Christ be with you all,” she said. There is no more, but “Farewell, fair Constance.” She pained hermade an effort to make good countenance. And forth I let her sail in this manner, And turn I will again to my matter.

The mother of the Soudan, well of vices, Espied hath her sone’s plain intent, How he will leave his olde sacrifices: And right anon she for her council sent, And they be come, to knowe what she meant, And when assembled was this folk in feretogether, She sat her down, and said as ye shall hear.

“Lordes,” she said, “ye knowen every one, How that my son in point is for to leteforsake The holy lawes of our AlkaronKoran, Given by God’s messenger Mahomete: But one avow to greate God I hetepromise, Life shall rather out of my body start, Than Mahomet’s law go out of mine heart.

“What should us tidenbetide, befall of this newe law, But thraldom to our bodies, and penance, And afterward in hell to be y-draw, For we renied Mahound our creance?denied Mahomet our belief But, lordes, will ye maken assurance, As I shall say, assenting to my loreadvice? And I shall make us safe for evermore.”

They sworen and assented every man To live with her and die, and by her stand: And every one, in the best wise he can, To strengthen her shall all his friendes fand.j8 And she hath this emprise taken in hand, Which ye shall heare that I shall deviserelate; And to them all she spake right in this wise.

“We shall first feign us Christendom to takeembrace Christianity; Cold water shall not grieve us but a litelittle: And I shall such a feast and revel make, That, as I trow, I shall the Soudan quite.requite, match For though his wife be christen’d ne’er so white, She shall have need to wash away the red, Though she a fount of water with her led.”

O SoudanessSultaness, root of iniquity, Virago thou, Semiramis the second! O serpent under femininity, Like to the serpent deep in hell y-bound! O feigned woman, all that may confound Virtue and innocence, through thy malice, Is bred in thee, as nest of every vice!

O Satan envious! since thilke day That thou wert chased from our heritage, Well knowest thou to woman th’ olde way. Thou madest Eve to bring us in servagebondage: Thou wilt fordoruin this Christian marriage: Thine instrument so (well-away the while!) Mak’st thou of women when thou wilt beguile.

This Soudaness, whom I thus blame and warrayoppose, censure, Let privily her council go their way: Why should I in this tale longer tarry? She rode unto the Soudan on a day, And said him, that she would reny her lay,renounce her creed And Christendom of priestes’ handes fongj9, Repenting her she heathen was so long;

Beseeching him to do her that honour, That she might have the Christian folk to feast: “To please them I will do my labour.” The Soudan said, “I will do at your hest,desire And kneeling, thanked her for that request; So glad he was, he wistknew not what to say. She kiss’d her son, and home she went her way.

Arrived be these Christian folk to land In Syria, with a great solemne rout, And hastily this Soudan sent his sond,message First to his mother, and all the realm about, And said, his wife was comen out of doubt, And pray’d them for to ride againto meet the queen, The honour of his regnerealm to sustene.

Great was the press, and rich was the array Of Syrians and Romans met in ferein company. The mother of the Soudan rich and gay Received her with all so glad a cheerface As any mother might her daughter dear And to the nexte city there beside A softe pace solemnely they ride.

Nought, trow I, the triumph of Julius Of which that Lucan maketh such a boast, Was royaller, or more curious, Than was th’ assembly of this blissful host But O this scorpion, this wicked ghost,spirit The Soudaness, for all her flattering Castcontrived under this full mortally to sting.

The Soudan came himself soon after this, So royally, that wonder is to tell, And welcomed her with all joy and bliss. And thus in mirth and joy I let them dwell. The fruit of his matter is that I tell; When the time came, men thought it for the best That revel stint,cease and men go to their rest.

The time is come that this old Soudaness Ordained hath the feast of which I told, And to the feast the Christian folk them dress In general, yea, bothe young and old. There may men feast and royalty behold, And dainties more than I can you devise; But all too dear they bought it ere they rise.

O sudden woe, that ev’r art successour To worldly bliss! sprentsprinkled is with bitterness Th’ end of our joy, of our worldly labour; Woe occupies the fineseizes the end of our gladness. Hearken this counsel, for thy sickernesssecurity: Upon thy glade days have in thy mind The unwareunforeseen woe of harm, that comes behind.

For, shortly for to tell it at a word, The Soudan and the Christians every one Were all to-hewn and stickedcut to pieces at the board, But it were only Dame Constance alone. This olde Soudaness, this cursed crone, Had with her friendes done this cursed deed, For she herself would all the country lead.

Nor there was Syrian that was converted, That of the counsel of the Soudan wotknew, That was not all to-hewn, ere he astertedescaped: And Constance have they ta’en anon foot-hotimmediately, And in a ship all steereless,without rudder God wot, They have her set, and bid her learn to sail Out of Syria again-ward to Itale.back to Italy

A certain treasure that she thither lad,took And, sooth to say, of victual great plenty, They have her giv’n, and clothes eke she had And forth she sailed in the salte sea: O my Constance, full of benignity, O emperores younge daughter dear, He that is lord of fortune be thy steerrudder, guide!

She bless’d herself, and with full piteous voice Unto the cross of Christ thus saide she; “O dear, O wealfulblessed, beneficent altar, holy cross, Red of the Lambes blood, full of pity, That wash’d the world from old iniquity, Me from the fiend and from his clawes keep, That day that I shall drenchendrown in the deepe.

“Victorious tree, protection of the true, That only worthy were for to bear The King of Heaven, with his woundes new, The white Lamb, that hurt was with a spear; Flemerbanisher, driver out of fiendes out of him and her On which thy limbes faithfully extend,j10 Me keep, and give me might my life to mend.”

Yeares and days floated this creature Throughout the sea of Greece, unto the strait Of MarocMorocco; Gibraltar, as it was her a venture: On many a sorry meal now may she bait, After her death full often may she waitexpect, Ere that the wilde waves will her drive Unto the place there aswhere she shall arrive.

Men mighten aske, why she was not slain? Eke at the feast who might her body save? And I answer to that demand again, Who saved Daniel in the horrible cave, Where every wight, save he, master or knaveservant, Was with the lion frettdevoured, ere he astart?escaped No wight but God, that he bare in his heart.

God listit pleased to shew his wonderful miracle In her, that we should see his mighty workes: Christ, which that is to every harm triacleremedy, salve, By certain meanes oft, as knowe clerkesscholars, Doth thing for certain ende, that full derk is To manne’s wit, that for our, ignorance Ne cannot know his prudent purveyanceforesight.

Now since she was not at the feast y-slaw,slain Who kepte her from drowning in the sea? Who kepte Jonas in the fish’s maw, Till he was spouted up at Nineveh? Well may men know, it was no wight but he That kept the Hebrew people from drowning, With drye feet throughout the sea passing.

Who bade the foure spirits of tempest,j11 That power have t’ annoye land and sea, Both north and south, and also west and east, Annoye neither sea, nor land, nor tree? Soothly the commander of that was he That from the tempest aye this woman kept, As well when she awoke as when she slept.

Where might this woman meat and drinke have? Three year and more how lasted her vitaillevictuals? Who fed the Egyptian Mary in the cave Or in desert? no wight but Christ sans faille.without fail Five thousand folk it was as great marvaille With loaves five and fishes two to feed God sent his foisonabundance at her greate need.

She drived forth into our ocean Throughout our wilde sea, till at the last Under an holdcastle, that nempnenname I not can, Far in Northumberland, the wave her cast And in the sand her ship sticked so fast That thennes would it not in all a tide: j12 The will of Christ was that she should abide.

The Constable of the castle down did farego To see this wreck, and all the ship he soughtsearched, And found this weary woman full of care; He found also the treasure that she brought: In her language mercy she besought, The life out of her body for to twindivide, Her to deliver of woe that she was in.

A manner Latin corrupt j13 was her speech, But algatenevertheless thereby was she understond. The Constable, when him list no longer seechsearch, This woeful woman brought he to the lond. She kneeled down, and thanked Godde’s sondwhat God had sent; But what she was she would to no man say For foul nor fair, although that she should dey.die

She said, she was so mazed in the sea, That she forgot her minde, by her truth. The Constable had of her so great pity And eke his wife, that they wept for ruth:pity She was so diligent withoute slouth To serve and please every one in that place, That all her lov’d, that looked in her face.

The Constable and Dame Hermegild his wife Were Pagans, and that country every where; But Hermegild lov’d Constance as her life; And Constance had so long sojourned there In orisons, with many a bitter tear, Till Jesus had converted through His grace Dame Hermegild, Constabless of that place.

In all that land no Christians durste rout;assemble All Christian folk had fled from that country Through Pagans, that conquered all about The plagesregions, coasts of the North by land and sea. To Wales had fled the Christianity Of olde Britons,i.e. the Old Britons who were Christians dwelling in this isle; There was their refuge for the meanewhile.

But yet n’erethere were Christian Britons so exiled, That there n’erenot some which in their privity Honoured Christ, and heathen folk beguiled; And nigh the castle such there dwelled three: And one of them was blind, and might not see, Butexcept it were with thilkthose eyen of his mind, With which men maye see when they be blind.

Bright was the sun, as in a summer’s day, For which the Constable, and his wife also, And Constance, have y-take the righte way Toward the sea a furlong way or two, To playen, and to roame to and fro; And in their walk this blinde man they met, Crooked and old, with eyen fast y-shet.shut

“In the name of Christ,” cried this blind Briton, “Dame Hermegild, give me my sight again!” This lady wax’d afrayed of that soun’,was alarmed by that cry Lest that her husband, shortly for to sayn, Would her for Jesus Christe’s love have slain, Till Constance made her hold, and bade her wirchwork The will of Christ, as daughter of holy Church

The Constable wax’d abashedastonished of that sight, And saide; “What amounteth all this fare?”what means all this ado? Constance answered; “Sir, it is Christ’s might, That helpeth folk out of the fiendes snare:” And so farforthwith such effect she gan our law declare, That she the Constable, ere that it were eve, Converted, and on Christ made him believe.

This Constable was not lord of the place Of which I speak, there as he Constance fand,found But kept it strongly many a winter space, Under Alla, king of Northumberland, That was full wise, and worthy of his hand Against the Scotes, as men may well hear; But turn I will again to my mattere.

Satan, that ever us waiteth to beguile, Saw of Constance all her perfectioun, And cast anon how he might quite her while;considered how to have revenge on her And made a young knight, that dwelt in that town, Love her so hot of foul affectioun, That verily him thought that he should spillperish Butunless he of her might ones have his will.

He wooed her, but it availed nought; She woulde do no sinne by no way: And for despite, he compassed his thought To make her a shameful death to dey;die He waiteth when the Constable is away, And privily upon a night he crept In Hermegilda’s chamber while she slept.

Weary, forwakedhaving been long awake in her orisons, Sleepeth Constance, and Hermegild also. This knight, through Satanas’ temptation; All softetly is to the bed y-go,gone And cut the throat of Hermegild in two, And laid the bloody knife by Dame Constance, And went his way, there God give him mischance.

Soon after came the Constable home again, And eke Alla that king was of that land, And saw his wife dispiteouslycruelly slain, For which full oft he wept and wrung his hand; And ill the bed the bloody knife he fand By Dame Constance: Alas! what might she say? For very woe her wit was all away.

To King Alla was told all this mischance And eke the time, and where, and in what wise That in a ship was founden this Constance, As here before ye have me heard devise:describe The kinges heart for pity gan agrise,to be grieved, to tremble When he saw so benign a creature Fall in diseasedistress and in misaventure.

For as the lamb toward his death is brought, So stood this innocent before the king: This false knight, that had this treason wrought, Bore her in handaccused her falsely that she had done this thing: But natheless there was great murmuring Among the people, that say they cannot guess That she had done so great a wickedness.

For they had seen her ever virtuous, And loving Hermegild right as her life: Of this bare witness each one in that house, Save he that Hermegild slew with his knife: This gentle king had caught a great motifebeen greatly moved by the evidence Of this witness, and thought he would inquere Deeper into this case, the truth to lear.learn

Alas! Constance, thou has no champion, Nor fighte canst thou not, so well-away! But he that starfdied for our redemption, And bound Satan, and yet li’th where he lay, So be thy stronge champion this day: For, but Christ upon thee miracle kithe,show Withoute guilt thou shalt be slain as swithe.immediately

She set her down on knees, and thus she said; “Immortal God, that savedest Susanne From false blame; and thou merciful maid, Mary I mean, the daughter to Saint Anne, Before whose child the angels sing Osanne,Hosanna If I be guiltless of this felony, My succour be, or elles shall I die.”

Have ye not seen sometime a pale face (Among a press) of him that hath been ladled Toward his death, where he getteth no grace, And such a colour in his face hath had, Men mighte know him that was so bestadbested, situated Amonges all the faces in that rout? So stood Constance, and looked her about.

O queenes living in prosperity, Duchesses, and ye ladies every one, Have some ruthpity on her adversity! An emperor’s daughter, she stood alone; She had no wight to whom to make her moan. O blood royal, that standest in this drede,danger Far be thy friendes in thy greate need!

This king Alla had such compassioun, As gentle heart is full filled of pity, That from his eyen ran the water down “Now hastily do fetch a book,” quoth he; “And if this knight will sweare, how that she This woman slew, yet will we us adviseconsider Whom that we will that shall be our justice.”

A Briton book, written with Evangiles,the Gospels Was fetched, and on this book he swore anon She guilty was; and, in the meanewhiles, An hand him smote upon the necke bone, That down he fell at once right as a stone: And both his eyen burst out of his face In sight of ev’rybody in that place.

A voice was heard, in general audience, That said; “Thou hast deslander’d guilteless The daughter of holy Church in high presence; Thus hast thou done, and yet hold I my peace?”shall I be silent? Of this marvel aghast was all the press, As mazed folk they stood every one For dread of wreake,vengeance save Constance alone.

Great was the dread and eke the repentance Of them that hadde wrong suspicion Upon this selysimple, harmless innocent Constance; And for this miracle, in conclusion, And by Constance’s mediation, The king, and many another in that place, Converted was, thanked be Christe’s grace!

This false knight was slain for his untruth By judgement of Alla hastily; And yet Constance had of his death great ruth;compassion And after this Jesus of his mercy Made Alla wedde full solemnely This holy woman, that is so bright and sheen, And thus hath Christ y-made Constance a queen.

But who was woeful, if I shall not lie, Of this wedding but Donegild, and no mo’, The kinge’s mother, full of tyranny? Her thought her cursed heart would burst in two; She would not that her son had done so; Her thought it a despite that he should take So strange a creature unto his make.mate, consort

Me list not of the chaff nor of the strestraw Make so long a tale, as of the corn. What should I tellen of the royalty Of this marriage, or which course goes beforn, Who bloweth in a trump or in an horn? The fruit of every tale is for to say; They eat and drink, and dance, and sing, and play.

They go to bed, as it was skillreasonable and right; For though that wives be full holy things, They muste take in patience at night Such mannerkind of necessaries as be pleasings To folk that have y-wedded them with rings, And lay a litea little of their holiness aside As for the time, it may no better betide.

On her he got a knavemale child anon,j14 And to a Bishop and to his Constable eke He took his wife to keep, when he is gone To Scotland-ward, his foemen for to seek. Now fair Constance, that is so humble and meek, So long is gone with childe till that still She held her chamb’r, abiding Christe’s will

The time is come, a knave child she bare; Mauricius at the font-stone they him call. This Constable doth forth comecaused to come forth a messenger, And wrote unto his king that clep’d was All’, How that this blissful tiding is befall, And other tidings speedful for to say Hei.e. the messenger hath the letter, and forth he go’th his way.

This messenger, to do his avantage,promote his own interest Unto the kinge’s mother rideth swithe,swiftly And saluteth her full fair in his language. “Madame,” quoth he, “ye may be glad and blithe, And thanke God an hundred thousand sithe;times My lady queen hath child, withoute doubt, To joy and bliss of all this realm about.

“Lo, here the letter sealed of this thing, That I must bear with all the haste I may: If ye will aught unto your son the king, I am your servant both by night and day.” Donegild answer’d, “As now at this time, nay; But here I will all night thou take thy rest, To-morrow will I say thee what me lest.pleases

This messenger drank sadlysteadily ale and wine, And stolen were his letters privily Out of his box, while he slept as a swine; And counterfeited was full subtilly Another letter, wrote full sinfully, Unto the king, direct of this mattere From his Constable, as ye shall after hear.

This letter said, the queen deliver’d was Of so horrible a fiendlike creature, That in the castle none so hardybrave was That any while he durst therein endure: The mother was an elf by aventure Become, by charmes or by sorcery, And every man hated her company.

Woe was this king when he this letter had seen, But to no wight he told his sorrows sore, But with his owen hand he wrote again, “Welcome the sondwill, sending of Christ for evermore To me, that am now learned in this lore: Lord, welcome be thy lustwill, pleasure and thy pleasance, My lust I put all in thine ordinance.

“Keepepreserve this child, albeit foul or fair, And eke my wife, unto mine homecoming: Christ when him list may send to me an heir More agreeable than this to my liking.” This letter he sealed, privily weeping. Which to the messenger was taken soon, And forth he went, there is no more to do’n.do

O messenger full fill’d of drunkenness, Strong is thy breath, thy limbes falter aye, And thou betrayest alle secretness; Thy mind is lorn,lost thou janglest as a jay; Thy face is turned in a new array;aspect Where drunkenness reigneth in any rout,company There is no counsel hid, withoute doubt.

O Donegild, I have no English dignworthy Unto thy malice, and thy tyranny: And therefore to the fiend I thee resign, Let him indite of all thy treachery ‘Fy, mannish,unwomanly woman fy! O nay, by God I lie; Fy, fiendlike spirit! for I dare well tell, Though thou here walk, thy spirit is in hell.

This messenger came from the king again, And at the kinge’s mother’s court he light,alighted And she was of this messenger full fain,glad And pleased him in all that e’er she might. He drank, and well his girdle underpightstowed away (liquor) under his girdle; He slept, and eke he snored in his guise All night, until the sun began to rise.

Eftagain were his letters stolen every one, And counterfeited letters in this wise: The king commanded his Constable anon, On pain of hanging and of high jewise,judgement That he should suffer in no manner wise Constance within his regnekingdom for to abide Three dayes, and a quarter of a tide;

But in the same ship as he her fand, Her and her younge son, and all her gear, He shoulde put, and crowdpush her from the land, And charge her, that she never eft come there. O my Constance, well may thy ghostspirit have fear, And sleeping in thy dream be in penance,pain, trouble When Donegild castcontrived all this ordinance.plan, plot

This messenger, on morrow when he woke, Unto the castle held the nextenearest way, And to the constable the letter took; And when he this dispiteouscruel letter sey,saw Full oft he said, “Alas, and well-away! Lord Christ,” quoth he, “how may this world endure? So full of sin is many a creature.

“O mighty God, if that it be thy will, Since thou art rightful judge, how may it be That thou wilt suffer innocence to spill,be destroyed And wicked folk reign in prosperity? Ah! good Constance, alas! so woe is me, That I must be thy tormentor, or deydie A shameful death, there is no other way.

Wept bothe young and old in all that place, When that the king this cursed letter sent; And Constance, with a deadly pale face, The fourthe day toward her ship she went. But natheless she took in good intent The will of Christ, and kneeling on the strondstrand, shore She saide, “Lord, aye welcome be thy sondwhatever thou sendest

“He that me kepte from the false blame, While I was in the land amonges you, He can me keep from harm and eke from shame In the salt sea, although I see not how As strong as ever he was, he is yet now, In him trust I, and in his mother dere, That is to me my sail and eke my stere.”rudder, guide

Her little child lay weeping in her arm And, kneeling, piteously to him she said “Peace, little son, I will do thee no harm:” With that her kerchief off her head she braid,took, drew And over his little eyen she it laid, And in her arm she lulled it full fast, And unto heav’n her eyen up she cast.

“Mother,” quoth she, “and maiden bright, Mary, Sooth is, that through a woman’s eggementincitement, egging on Mankind was lorn,lost and damned aye to die; For which thy child was on a cross y-rent:torn, pierced Thy blissful eyen saw all his torment, Then is there no comparison between Thy woe, and any woe man may sustene.

“Thou saw’st thy child y-slain before thine eyen, And yet now lives my little child, parfay:by my faith Now, lady bright, to whom the woeful cryen, Thou glory of womanhood, thou faire may,maid Thou haven of refuge, bright star of day, Ruetake pity on my child, that of thy gentleness Ruest on every ruefulsorrowful person in distress.

“O little child, alas! what is thy guilt, That never wroughtest sin as yet, pardie?par Dieu; by God Why will thine hardecruel father have thee spilt?destroyed O mercy, deare Constable,” quoth she, “And let my little child here dwell with thee: And if thou dar’st not save him from blame, So kiss him ones in his father’s name.”

Therewith she looked backward to the land, And saide, “Farewell, husband rutheless!” And up she rose, and walked down the strand Toward the ship, her following all the press:multitude And ever she pray’d her child to hold his peace, And took her leave, and with an holy intent She blessed her, and to the ship she went.

Victualed was the ship, it is no drede,doubt Abundantly for her a full long space: And other necessaries that should needbe needed She had enough, heriedpraised be Godde’s grace:j15 For wind and weather, Almighty God purchase,provide And bring her home; I can no better say; But in the sea she drived forth her way.

Alla the king came home soon after this Unto the castle, of the which I told, And asked where his wife and his child is; The Constable gan about his heart feel cold, And plainly all the matter he him told As ye have heard; I can tell it no better; And shew’d the king his seal, and eke his letter

And saide; “Lord, as ye commanded me On pain of death, so have I done certain.” The messenger tormentedtortured was, till he Muste beknow,confess and tell it flat and plain,j16 From night to night in what place he had lain; And thus, by wit and subtle inquiring, Imagin’d was by whom this harm gan spring.

The hand was known that had the letter wrote, And all the venom of the cursed deed; But in what wise, certainly I know not. Th’ effect is this, that Alla, out of drede,without doubt His mother slew, that may men plainly read, For that she traitor was to her liegeance:allegiance Thus ended olde Donegild with mischance.

The sorrow that this Alla night and day Made for his wife, and for his child also, There is no tongue that it telle may. But now will I again to Constance go, That floated in the sea in pain and woe Five year and more, as liked Christe’s sond,decree, command Ere that her ship approached to the lond.land

Under an heathen castle, at the last, Of which the name in my text I not find, Constance and eke her child the sea upcast. Almighty God, that saved all mankind, Have on Constance and on her child some mind, That fallen is in heathen hand eftsoonagain In point to spill,in danger of perishing as I shall tell you soon!

Down from the castle came there many a wight To gaurengaze, stare on this ship, and on Constance: But shortly from the castle, on a night, The lorde’s steward, – God give him mischance, – A thief that had renied our creance,denied our faith Came to the ship alone, and said he would Her lemanillicit lover be, whether she would or n’ould.

Woe was this wretched woman then begone; Her child cri’d, and she cried piteously: But blissful Mary help’d her right anon, For, with her struggling well and mightily, The thief fell overboard all suddenly, And in the sea he drencheddrowned for vengeance, And thus hath Christ unwemmedunblemished kept Constance.

O foul lust of luxury! lo thine end! Not only that thou faintestweakenest manne’s mind, But verily thou wilt his body shend.destroy Th’ end of thy work, or of thy lustes blind, Is complaining: how many may men find, That not for work, sometimes, but for th’ intent To do this sin, be either slain or shent?

How may this weake woman have the strength Her to defend against this renegate? O Goliath, unmeasurable of length, How mighte David make thee so mate?overthrown So young, and of armour so desolate,devoid How durst he look upon thy dreadful face? Well may men see it was but Godde’s grace.

Who gave Judith courage or hardiness To slay him, Holofernes, in his tent, And to deliver out of wretchedness The people of God? I say for this intent That right as God spirit of vigour sent To them, and saved them out of mischance, So sent he might and vigour to Constance.

Forth went her ship throughout the narrow mouth Of Jubaltare and Septe,Gibraltar and Ceuta driving alway, Sometime west, and sometime north and south, And sometime east, full many a weary day: Till Christe’s mother (blessed be she aye) Had shapedresolved, arranged through her endeless goodness To make an end of all her heaviness.

Now let us stintcease speaking of Constance but a throwshort time, And speak we of the Roman emperor, That out of Syria had by letters know The slaughter of Christian folk, and dishonor Done to his daughter by a false traitor, I mean the cursed wicked Soudaness, That at the feast let slay both more and less.caused both high and low to be killed

For which this emperor had sent anon His senator, with royal ordinance, And other lordes, God wot, many a one, On Syrians to take high vengeance: They burn and slay, and bring them to mischance Full many a day: but shortly this is th’ end, Homeward to Rome they shaped them to wend.

This senator repaired with victory To Rome-ward, sailing full royally, And met the ship driving, as saith the story, In which Constance sat full piteously: And nothing knew he what she was, nor why She was in such array; nor she will say Of her estate, although that she should dey.die

He brought her unto Rome, and to his wife He gave her, and her younge son also: And with the senator she led her life. Thus can our Lady bringen out of woe Woeful Constance, and many another mo’: And longe time she dwelled in that place, In holy works ever, as was her grace.

The senatores wife her aunte was, But for all that she knew her ne’er the more: I will no longer tarry in this case, But to King Alla, whom I spake of yore, That for his wife wept and sighed sore, I will return, and leave I will Constance Under the senatores governance.

King Alla, which that had his mother slain, Upon a day fell in such repentance; That, if I shortly tell it shall and plain, To Rome he came to receive his penitance, And put him in the Pope’s ordinance In high and low, and Jesus Christ besought Forgive his wicked works that he had wrought.

The fame anon throughout the town is borne, How Alla king shall come on pilgrimage, By harbingers that wente him beforn, For which the senator, as was usage, Rode him again,to meet him and many of his lineage, As well to show his high magnificence, As to do any king a reverence.

Great cheerecourtesy did this noble senator To King Alla and he to him also; Each of them did the other great honor; And so befell, that in a day or two This senator did to King Alla go To feast, and shortly, if I shall not lie, Constance’s son went in his company.

Some men would say,j17 at request of Constance This senator had led this child to feast: I may not tellen every circumstance, Be as be may, there was he at the least: But sooth is this, that at his mother’s hestbehest Before Alla during the meates space,meal time The child stood, looking in the kinges face.

This Alla king had of this child great wonder, And to the senator he said anon, “Whose is that faire child that standeth yonder?” “I n’ot,”know not quoth he, “by God and by Saint John; A mother he hath, but father hath he none, That I of wot:” and shortly in a stoundshort timej18 He told to Alla how this child was found.

“But God wot,” quoth this senator also, “So virtuous a liver in all my life I never saw, as she, nor heard of mo’ Of worldly woman, maiden, widow or wife: I dare well say she hadde leverrather a knife Throughout her breast, than be a woman wick’,wicked There is no man could bring her to that prick.point

Now was this child as like unto Constance As possible is a creature to be: This Alla had the face in remembrance Of Dame Constance, and thereon mused he, If that the childe’s mother were aught shecould be she That was his wife; and privily he sight,sighed And sped him from the table that he might.as fast as he could

Parfayby my faith,” thought he, “phantoma fantasy is in mine head. I ought to deem, of skilful judgement, That in the salte sea my wife is dead.” And afterward he made his argument, “What wot I, if that Christ have hither sent My wife by sea, as well as he her sent To my country, from thennes that she went?”

And, after noon, home with the senator. Went Alla, for to see this wondrous chance. This senator did Alla great honor, And hastily he sent after Constance: But truste well, her liste not to dance. When that she wiste wherefore was that sond,summons Unnethwith difficulty upon her feet she mighte stand.

When Alla saw his wife, fair he her gret,greeted And wept, that it was ruthe for to see, For at the firste look he on her set He knew well verily that it was she: And she, for sorrow, as dumb stood as a tree: So was her hearte shut in her distress, When she remember’d his unkindeness.

Twice she swooned in his owen sight, He wept and him excused piteously: “Now God,” quoth he, “and all his hallows brightsaints So wislysurely on my soule have mercy, That of your harm as guilteless am I, As is Maurice my son, so like your face, Else may the fiend me fetch out of this place.”

Long was the sobbing and the bitter pain, Ere that their woeful heartes mighte cease; Great was the pity for to hear them plain,lament Through whiche plaintes gan their woe increase. I pray you all my labour to release, I may not tell all their woe till to-morrow, I am so weary for to speak of sorrow.

But finally, when that the sooth is wist,truth is known That Alla guiltless was of all her woe, I trow an hundred times have they kiss’d, And such a bliss is there betwixt them two, That, save the joy that lasteth evermo’, There is none like, that any creature Hath seen, or shall see, while the world may dure.

Then prayed she her husband meekely In the relief of her long piteous pine,sorrow That he would pray her father specially, That of his majesty he would incline To vouchesafe some day with him to dine: She pray’d him eke, that he should by no way Unto her father no word of her say.

Some men would say,j19 how that the child Maurice Did this message unto the emperor: But, as I guess, Alla was not so nice,foolish To him that is so sovereign of honor As he that is of Christian folk the flow’r, Send any child, but better ‘tis to deem He went himself; and so it may well seem.

This emperor hath granted gentilly To come to dinner, as he him besought: And well redeguess, know I, he looked busily Upon this child, and on his daughter thought. Alla went to his inn, and as him ought Arrayedprepared for this feast in every wise, As farforth as his cunningas far as his skill may suffice.

The morrow came, and Alla gan him dress,make ready And eke his wife, the emperor to meet: And forth they rode in joy and in gladness, And when she saw her father in the street, She lighted down and fell before his feet. “Father,” quoth she, “your younge child Constance Is now full clean out of your remembrance.

“I am your daughter, your Constance,” quoth she, “That whilom ye have sent into Syrie; It am I, father, that in the salt sea Was put alone, and damnedcondemned for to die. Now, goode father, I you mercy cry, Send me no more into none heatheness, But thank my lord here of his kindeness.”

Who can the piteous joye tellen all, Betwixt them three, since they be thus y-met? But of my tale make an end I shall, The day goes fast, I will no longer let.hinder These gladde folk to dinner be y-set; In joy and bliss at meat I let them dwell, A thousand fold well more than I can tell.

This child Maurice was since then emperor Made by the Pope, and lived Christianly, To Christe’s Churche did he great honor: But I let all his story passe by, Of Constance is my tale especially, In the olde Roman gestesj20 men may find Maurice’s life, I bear it not in mind.

This King Alla, when he his time sey,saw With his Constance, his holy wife so sweet, To England are they come the righte way, Where they did live in joy and in quiet. But little while it lasted, I you hete,promise Joy of this world for time will not abide, From day to night it changeth as the tide.

Who liv’d ever in such delight one day, That him not moved either conscience, Or ire, or talent, or some kind affray,some kind of disturbance Envy, or pride, or passion, or offence? I say but for this ende this sentence,judgment, opinion That little while in joy or in pleasance Lasted the bliss of Alla with Constance.

For death, that takes of high and low his rent, When passed was a year, even as I guess, Out of this world this King Alla he hent,snatched For whom Constance had full great heaviness. Now let us pray that God his soule bless: And Dame Constance, finally to say, Toward the town of Rome went her way.

To Rome is come this holy creature, And findeth there her friendes whole and sound: Now is she scaped all her aventure: And when that she her father hath y-found, Down on her knees falleth she to ground, Weeping for tenderness in hearte blithe She heriethpraises God an hundred thousand sithe.times

In virtue and in holy almes-deed They liven all, and ne’er asunder wend; Till death departeth them, this life they lead: And fare now well, my tale is at an end Now Jesus Christ, that of his might may send Joy after woe, govern us in his grace And keep us alle that be in this place.


Notes to the Man of Law’s Tale

Notes to the Man of Law’s Tale

j1

This tale is believed by Tyrwhitt to have been taken, with no material change, from the “Confessio Amantis” of John Gower, who was contemporary with Chaucer, though somewhat his senior. In the prologue, the references to the stories of Canace, and of Apollonius Tyrius, seem to be an attack on Gower, who had given these tales in his book; whence Tyrwhitt concludes that the friendship between the two poets suffered some interruption in the latter part of their lives. Gower was not the inventor of the story, which he found in old French romances, and it is not improbable that Chaucer may have gone to the same source as Gower, though the latter undoubtedly led the way.

(Transcriber’s note: later commentators have identified the introduction describing the sorrows of poverty, along with the other moralising interludes in the tale, as translated from “De Contemptu Mundi” (“On the contempt of the world”) by Pope Innocent.)

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j2

Transcriber’ note: This refers to the game of hazard, a dice game like craps, in which two (“ambes ace”) won, and eleven (“six-cinque”) lost.

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j3

Purpose: discourse, tale: French “propos”.

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j4

“Peace” rhymed with “lese” and “chese”, the old forms of “lose” and “choose”.

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j5

According to Middle Age writers there were two motions of the first heaven; one everything always from east to west above the stars; the other moving the stars against the first motion, from west to east, on two other poles.

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j6

Atyzar: the meaning of this word is not known; but “occifer”, murderer, has been suggested instead by Urry, on the authority of a marginal reading on a manuscript. (Transcriber’s note: later commentators explain it as derived from Arabic “al-ta’thir”, influence - used here in an astrological sense)

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j7

“Thou knittest thee where thou art not receiv’d, Where thou wert well, from thennes art thou weiv’d”

i.e. “Thou joinest thyself where thou art rejected, and art declined or departed from the place where thou wert well.” The moon portends the fortunes of Constance.

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j8

Fand: endeavour; from Anglo-Saxon, “fandian,” to try

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j9

Feng: take; Anglo-Saxon “fengian”, German, “fangen”.

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j10

Him and her on which thy limbes faithfully extend: those who in faith wear the crucifix.

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j11

The four spirits of tempest: the four angels who held the four winds of the earth and to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea (Rev. vii. 1, 2).

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j12

Thennes would it not in all a tide: thence would it not move for long, at all.

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j13

A manner Latin corrupt: a kind of bastard Latin.

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j14

Knave child: male child; German “Knabe”.

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j15

Heried: honoured, praised; from Anglo-Saxon, “herian.” Compare German, “herrlich,” glorious, honourable.

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j16

Beknow: confess; German, “bekennen.”

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j17

The poet here refers to Gower’s version of the story.

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j18

Stound: short time; German, “stunde”, hour.

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j19

The poet here refers to Gower’s version of the story.

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j20

Gestes: histories, exploits; Latin, “res gestae”.

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The Wife Of Bath’s Tale


The Prologuek1

Experience, though none authorityauthoritative texts Were in this world, is right enough for me To speak of woe that is in marriage: For, lordings, since I twelve year was of age, (Thanked be God that is etern on live),lives eternally Husbands at the church door have I had five,k2 For I so often have y-wedded be, And all were worthy men in their degree. But me was told, not longe time gone is That sithensince Christe went never but ones To wedding, in the CaneCana of Galilee, That by that ilksame example taught he me, That I not wedded shoulde be but once. Lo, hearken eke a sharp word for the nonce,occasion Beside a welle Jesus, God and man, Spake in reproof of the Samaritan: “Thou hast y-had five husbandes,” said he; “And thilkethat man, that now hath wedded thee, Is not thine husband:” k3 thus said he certain; What that he meant thereby, I cannot sayn. But that I aske, why the fifthe man Was not husband to the Samaritan? How many might she have in marriage? Yet heard I never tellen in mine agein my life Upon this number definitioun. Men may divine, and glosencomment up and down; But well I wot, express without a lie, God bade us for to wax and multiply; That gentle text can I well understand. Eke well I wot, he said, that mine husband Should leave father and mother, and take to me; But of no number mention made he, Of bigamy or of octogamy; Why then should men speak of it villainy?as if it were a disgrace

Lo here, the wise king DanLord Solomon,k4 I trow that he had wives more than one; As would to God it lawful were to me To be refreshed half so oft as he! What giftspecial favour, licence of God had he for all his wives? No man hath such, that in this world alive is. God wot, this noble king, as to my wit,as I understand The first night had many a merry fit With each of them, so well was him on live.so well he lived Blessed be God that I have wedded five! Welcome the sixth whenever that he shall. For since I will not keep me chaste in all, When mine husband is from the world y-gone, Some Christian man shall wedde me anon. For then th’ apostle saith that I am free To wed, a’ God’s half,on God’s part where it liketh me. He saith, that to be wedded is no sin; Better is to be wedded than to brin.burn What reckethcare me though folk say villainyevil Of shrewedimpious, wicked Lamech, and his bigamy? I wot well Abraham was a holy man, And Jacob eke, as far as ev’r I can.know And each of them had wives more than two; And many another holy man also. Where can ye see, in any manner age,in any period That highe God defendedforbade marriagek5 By word express? I pray you tell it me; Or where commanded he virginity? I wot as well as you, it is no dread,doubt Th’ apostle, when he spake of maidenhead, He said, that precept thereof had he none: Men may counsel a woman to be one,a maid But counseling is no commandement; He put it in our owen judgement. For, hadde God commanded maidenhead, Then had he damnedcondemned wedding out of dread;doubt And certes, if there were no seed y-sow,sown Virginity then whereof should it grow? Paul durste not commanden, at the least, A thing of which his Master gave no hest.command The dartgoal is set up for virginity;k6 Catch whoso may, who runneth best let see. But this word is not ta’en of every wight, But there asexcept where God will give it of his might. I wot well that th’ apostle was a maid, But natheless, although he wrote and said, He would that every wight were such as he, All is but counsel to virginity. And, since to be a wife he gave me leave Of indulgence, so is it no reprevescandal, reproach To wedde me, if that my makemate, husband should die, Without exceptioncharge, reproach of bigamy; All were itthough it might be good no woman for to touch (He meant as in his bed or in his couch), For peril is both fire and tow t’assemble Ye know what this example may resemble. This is all and some, he held virginity More profit than wedding in frailty: (Frailty clepe I, but iffrailty I call it, unless that he and she Would lead their lives all in chastity), I grant it well, I have of none envy Who maidenhead prefer to bigamy; It liketh them t’ be clean in body and ghost;soul Of mine estatecondition I will not make a boast.

For, well ye know, a lord in his household Hath not every vessel all of gold; k7 Some are of tree, and do their lord service. God calleth folk to him in sundry wise, And each one hath of God a proper gift, Some this, some that, as liketh him to shift.appoint, distribute Virginity is great perfection, And continence eke with devotion: But Christ, that of perfection is the well,fountain Bade not every wight he should go sell All that he had, and give it to the poor, And in such wise follow him and his lore:doctrine He spake to them that would live perfectly, – And, lordings, by your leave, that am not I; I will bestow the flower of mine age In th’ acts and in the fruits of marriage. Tell me also, to what conclusionend, purpose Were members made of generation, And of so perfect wise a wightbeing y-wrought? Trust me right well, they were not made for nought. Glose whoso will, and say both up and down, That they were made for the purgatioun Of urine, and of other thinges smale, And eke to know a female from a male: And for none other cause? say ye no? Experience wot well it is not so. So that the clerkesscholars be not with me wroth, I say this, that they were made for both, That is to say, for office, and for easefor duty and for pleasure Of engendrure, there we God not displease. Why should men elles in their bookes set, That man shall yield unto his wife her debt? Now wherewith should he make his payement, If he us’d not his silly instrument? Then were they made upon a creature To purge urine, and eke for engendrure. But I say not that every wight is hold,obliged That hath such harnessequipment as I to you told, To go and use them in engendrure; Then should men take of chastity no cure.care Christ was a maid, and shapenfashioned as a man, And many a saint, since that this world began, Yet ever liv’d in perfect chastity. I will not viecontend with no virginity. Let them with bread of puredpurified wheat be fed, And let us wives eat our barley bread. And yet with barley bread, Mark tell us can,k8 Our Lord Jesus refreshed many a man. In such estate as God hath cleped us,called us to I’ll persevere, I am not precious,over-dainty In wifehood I will use mine instrument As freely as my Maker hath it sent. If I be dangeroussparing of my favours God give me sorrow; Mine husband shall it have, both eve and morrow, When that him list come forth and pay his debt. A husband will I have, I will no let,will bear no hindrance Which shall be both my debtor and my thrall,slave And have his tribulation withal Upon his flesh, while that I am his wife. I have the power during all my life Upon his proper body, and not he; Right thus th’ apostle told it unto me, And bade our husbands for to love us well; All this sentence me liketh every deal.whit

Up start the Pardoner, and that anon; “Now, Dame,” quoth he, “by God and by Saint John, Ye are a noble preacher in this case. I was about to wed a wife, alas! What? should I biesuffer for it on my flesh so dear? Yet had I leverrather wed no wife this year.” “Abide,”wait in patience quoth she; “my tale is not begun Nay, thou shalt drinken of another tun Ere that I go, shall savour worse than ale. And when that I have told thee forth my tale Of tribulation in marriage, Of which I am expert in all mine age, (This is to say, myself hath been the whip), Then mayest thou choose whether thou wilt sip Of thilke tunne,that tun that I now shall broach. Beware of it, ere thou too nigh approach, For I shall tell examples more than ten: Whoso will not beware by other men, By him shall other men corrected be: These same wordes writeth Ptolemy; Read in his Almagest, and take it there.” “Dame, I would pray you, if your will it were,” Saide this Pardoner, “as ye began, Tell forth your tale, and spare for no man, And teach us younge men of your practique.” “Gladly,” quoth she, “since that it may you like. But that I pray to all this company, If that I speak after my fantasy, To take nought agriefto heart what I may say; For mine intent is only for to play.

Now, Sirs, then will I tell you forth my tale. As ever may I drinke wine or ale I shall say sooth; the husbands that I had Three of them were good, and two were bad The three were goode men, and rich, and old Unnethes mighte they the statute holdthey could with difficulty obey the law In which that they were bounden unto me. Yet wot well what I mean of this, pardie.by God As God me help, I laugh when that I think How piteously at night I made them swink,labour But, by my fay, I told of it no store:by my faith, I held it of no account They had me giv’n their land and their treasor, Me needed not do longer diligence To win their love, or do them reverence. They loved me so well, by God above, That I tolde no daintycared nothing for of their love. A wise woman will busy her ever-in-oneconstantly To get their love, where that she hath none. But, since I had them wholly in my hand, And that they had me given all their land, Why should I take keepcare them for to please, Butunless it were for my profit, or mine ease? I set them so a-worke, by my fay, That many a night they sange, well-away! The bacon was not fetched for them, I trow, That some men have in Essex at Dunmow.k9 I govern’d them so well after my law, That each of them full blissful was and fawefain To bringe me gay thinges from the fair. They were full glad when that I spake them fair, For, God it wot, I chid them spiteously.rebuked them angrily Now hearken how I bare me properly.

Ye wise wives, that can understand, Thus should ye speak, and bear them wrong on hand,make them believe falsely For half so boldely can there no man Swearen and lien as a woman can. (I say not this by wives that be wise, But ifunless it be when they them misadviseact unadvisedly.) A wise wife, if that she canknows her good, Shall beare them on handmake them believe the cow is wood, And take witness of her owen maid Of their assent: but hearken how I said. “Sir olde kaynard,k10 is this thine array? Why is my neigheboure’s wife so gay? She is honour’d over all wherewheresoever she go’th, I sit at home, I have no thrifty cloth.good clothes What dost thou at my neigheboure’s house? Is she so fair? art thou so amorous? What rown’stwhisperest thou with our maid? benedicite, Sir olde lechour, let thy japestricks be. And if I have a gossip, or a friend (Withoute guilt), thou chidest as a fiend, If that I walk or play unto his house. Thou comest home as drunken as a mouse, And preachest on thy bench, with evil prefe:proof Thou say’st to me, it is a great mischief To wed a poore woman, for costage:expense And if that she be rich, of high parage;birthk11 Then say’st thou, that it is a tormentry To suffer her pride and melancholy. And if that she be fair, thou very knave, Thou say’st that every holourwhoremonger will her have; She may no while in chastity abide, That is assailed upon every side. Thou say’st some folk desire us for richess, Some for our shape, and some for our fairness, And some, for she can either sing or dance, And some for gentiless and dalliance, Some for her handes and her armes smale: Thus goes all to the devil, by thy tale; Thou say’st, men may not keep a castle wall That may be so assailed over all.everywhere And if that she be foul, thou say’st that she Coveteth every man that she may see; For as a spaniel she will on him leap, Till she may finde some man her to cheap;buy And none so grey goose goes there in the lake, (So say’st thou) that will be without a make.mate And say’st, it is a hard thing for to weldwield, govern A thing that no man will, his thankes, held.hold with his goodwill Thus say’st thou, lorel,good-for-nothing when thou go’st to bed, And that no wise man needeth for to wed, Nor no man that intendeth unto heaven. With wilde thunder dintstroke and fiery levenlightning Motemay thy wicked necke be to-broke. Thou say’st, that dropping houses, and eke smoke, And chiding wives, make men to flee Out of their owne house; ah! ben’dicite, What aileth such an old man for to chide? Thou say’st, we wives will our vices hide, Till we be fast,wedded and then we will them shew. Well may that be a proverb of a shrew.ill-tempered wretch Thou say’st, that oxen, asses, horses, hounds, They be assayed at diverse stounds,tested at various seasons Basons and lavers, ere that men them buy, Spoones, stooles, and all such husbandry, And so be pots, and clothes, and array,raiment But folk of wives make none assay, Till they be wedded, – olde dotard shrew! – And then, say’st thou, we will our vices shew. Thou say’st also, that it displeaseth me, But if unless that thou wilt praise my beauty, And butunless thou pore alway upon my face, And call me faire dame in every place; And butunless thou make a feast on thilkethat day That I was born, and make me fresh and gay; And but thou do to my noricenurse honour,k12 And to my chambererechamber-maid within my bow’r, And to my father’s folk, and mine allies;relations Thus sayest thou, old barrel full of lies. And yet also of our prentice Jenkin, For his crisp hair, shining as gold so fine, And for he squireth me both up and down, Yet hast thou caught a false suspicioun: I will him not, though thou wert dead to-morrow. But tell me this, why hidest thou, with sorrow,sorrow on thee! The keyes of thy chest away from me? It is my goodproperty as well as thine, pardie. What, think’st to make an idiot of our dame? Now, by that lord that called is Saint Jame, Thou shalt not both, although that thou wert wood,furious Be master of my body, and my good,property The one thou shalt forego, maugrein spite of thine eyen. What helpeth it of me t’inquire and spyen? I trow thou wouldest lock me in thy chest. Thou shouldest say, ‘Fair wife, go where thee lest; Take your disport; I will believe no tales; I know you for a true wife, Dame Ales.’Alice We love no man, that taketh keepcare or charge Where that we go; we will be at our large. Of alle men most blessed may he be, The wise astrologer DanLord Ptolemy, That saith this proverb in his Almagest:k13 ‘Of alle men his wisdom is highest, That recketh not who hath the world in hand. By this proverb thou shalt well understand, Have thou enough, what tharneeds, behoves thee reck or care How merrily that other folkes fare? For certes, olde dotard, by your leave, Ye shall have pleasure k14 right enough at eve. He is too great a niggard that will werneforbid A man to light a candle at his lantern; He shall have never the less light, pardie. Have thou enough, thee tharneed not plainecomplain thee Thou say’st also, if that we make us gay With clothing and with precious array, That it is peril of our chastity. And yet, – with sorrow! – thou enforcest thee, And say’st these words in the apostle’s name: ‘In habit made with chastity and shamemodesty Ye women shall apparel you,’ quoth he,k15 ‘And not in tressed hair and gay perrie,jewels As pearles, nor with gold, nor clothes rich.’ After thy text nor after thy rubrich I will not work as muchel as a gnat. Thou say’st also, I walk out like a cat; For whoso woulde singe the catte’s skin Then will the catte well dwell in her inn;house And if the catte’s skin be sleek and gay, She will not dwell in house half a day, But forth she will, ere any day be daw’d, To shew her skin, and go a caterwaw’d.caterwauling This is to say, if I be gay, sir shrew, I will run out, my borelapparel, fine clothes for to shew. Sir olde fool, what helpeth thee to spyen? Though thou pray Argus with his hundred eyen To be my wardecorps,body-guard as he can best In faith he shall not keep me, but me lest:unless I please Yet could I make his beard,make a jest of him so may I the.

“Thou sayest eke, that there be thinges threethrive, Which thinges greatly trouble all this earth, And that no wighte may endure the ferth:fourth O lefepleasant sir shrew, may Jesus shortshorten thy life. Yet preachest thou, and say’st, a hateful wife Y-reckon’d is for one of these mischances. Be there none other manner resemblancesno other kind of comparison That ye may liken your parables unto, But if a silly wife be one of tho?those Thou likenest a woman’s love to hell; To barren land where water may not dwell. Thou likenest it also to wild fire; The more it burns, the more it hath desire To consume every thing that burnt will be. Thou sayest, right as wormes shenddestroy a tree, Right so a wife destroyeth her husbond; This know they well that be to wives bond.”

Lordings, right thus, as ye have understand, Bare I stiffly mine old husbands on hand,made them believe That thus they saiden in their drunkenness; And all was false, but that I took witness On Jenkin, and upon my niece also. O Lord! the pain I did them, and the woe, ‘Full guilteless, by Godde’s sweete pine;pain For as a horse I coulde bite and whine; I coulde plain,complain an’even though I was in the guilt, Or elles oftentime I had been spiltruined Whoso first cometh to the nilll, first grint;is ground I plained first, so was our war y-stint.stopped They were full glad to excuse them full blivequickly Of things that they never aguilt their live.were guilty in their lives

Of wenches would I beare them on hand,falsely accuse them When that for sickness scarcely might they stand, Yet tickled I his hearte for that he Ween’dthough that I had of him so great cherte:affectionk16 I swore that all my walking out by night Was for to espy wenches that he dight:adorned Under that colour had I many a mirth. For all such wit is given us at birth; Deceit, weeping, and spinning, God doth give To women kindlynaturally, while that they may live. And thus of one thing I may vaunte me, At th’ end I had the better in each degree, By sleight, or force, or by some manner thing, As by continual murmur or grudging,complaining Namelyespecially a-bed, there hadde they mischance, There would I chide, and do them no pleasance: I would no longer in the bed abide, If that I felt his arm over my side, Till he had made his ransom unto me, Then would I suffer him do his nicety.follyk17 And therefore every man this tale I tell, Win whoso may, for all is for to sell; With empty hand men may no hawkes lure; For winning would I all his will endure, And make me a feigned appetite, And yet in baconi.e. of Dunmow had I never delight:k9 That made me that I ever would them chide. For, though the Pope had sitten them beside, I would not spare them at their owen board, For, by my troth, I quitrepaid them word for word As help me very God omnipotent, Though I right now should make my testament I owe them not a word, that is not quitrepaid I brought it so aboute by my wit, That they must give it up, as for the best Or elles had we never been in rest. For, though he looked as a woodfurious lion, Yet should he fail of his conclusion. Then would I say, “Now, goode lefedear tak keepheed How meekly looketh Wilken oure sheep! Come near, my spouse, and let me bakiss thy cheekk18 Ye shoulde be all patient and meek, And have a sweet y-spicedtender, nice conscience, Since ye so preach of Jobe’s patience. Suffer alway, since ye so well can preach, And but ye do, certain we shall you teachunless That it is fair to have a wife in peace. One of us two must bowegive way doubteless: And since a man is more reasonable Than woman is, ye must be suff’rable. What aileth you to grudgecomplain thus and groan? Is it for ye would have my love k14 alone? Why, take it all: lo, have it every deal,whit Peter! k19 shrewcurse you but ye love it well For if I woulde sell my belle chosebeautiful thing, I coulde walk as fresh as is a rose, But I will keep it for your owen tooth. Ye be to blame, by God, I say you sooth.” Such manner wordes hadde we on hand.

Now will I speaken of my fourth husband. My fourthe husband was a revellour; This is to say, he had a paramour, And I was young and full of ragerie,wantonness Stubborn and strong, and jolly as a pie.magpie Then could I dance to a harpe smale, And sing, y-wis,certainly as any nightingale, When I had drunk a draught of sweete wine. Metellius, the foule churl, the swine, That with a staff bereft his wife of life For she drank wine, though I had been his wife, Never should he have daunted me from drink: And, after wine, of Venus most I think. For all so sure as cold engenders hail, A liquorish mouth must have a liquorish tail. In woman vinolentfull of wine is no defenceresistance, This knowe lechours by experience. But, lord Christ, when that it rememb’reth me Upon my youth, and on my jollity, It tickleth me about mine hearte-root; Unto this day it doth mine hearte boot,good That I have had my world as in my time. But age, alas! that all will envenime,poison, embitter Hath me bereft my beauty and my pith:vigour Let go; farewell; the devil go therewith. The flour is gon, there is no more to tell, The bran, as I best may, now must I sell. But yet to be right merry will I fand.try Now forth to tell you of my fourth husband, I say, I in my heart had great despite, That he of any other had delight; But he was quit,requited, paid back by God and by Saint Joce:k21 I made for him of the same wood a cross; Not of my body in no foul mannere, But certainly I made folk such cheer, That in his owen grease I made him fry For anger, and for very jealousy. By God, in earth I was his purgatory, For which I hope his soul may be in glory. For, God it wot, he sat full oft and sung, When that his shoe full bitterly him wrung.pinched There was no wight, save God and he, that wist In many wise how sore I did him twist.k20 He died when I came from Jerusalem, And lies in grave under the roode beam:cross Although his tomb is not so curious As was the sepulchre of Darius, Which that Apelles wrought so subtlely. It is but waste to bury them preciously. Let him fare well, God give his soule rest, He is now in his grave and in his chest.

Now of my fifthe husband will I tell: God let his soul never come into hell. And yet was he to me the moste shrew;cruel, ill-tempered That feel I on my ribbes all by rew,in a row And ever shall, until mine ending day. But in our bed he was so fresh and gay, And therewithal so well he could me glose,flatter When that he woulde have my belle chose, Though he had beaten me on every bone, Yet could he win again my love anon. I trow, I lov’d him better, for that he Was of his love so dangeroussparing, difficult to me. We women have, if that I shall not lie, In this matter a quainte fantasy. Whatever thing we may not lightly have, Thereafter will we cry all day and crave. Forbid us thing, and that desire we; Press on us fast, and thenne will we flee. With dangerdifficulty utter we all our chaffare;merchandise Great press at market maketh deare ware, And too great cheap is held at little price; This knoweth every woman that is wise. My fifthe husband, God his soule bless, Which that I took for love and no richess, He some time was a clerk of Oxenford,a scholar of Oxford And had left school, and went at home to board With my gossip,godmother dwelling in oure town: God have her soul, her name was Alisoun. She knew my heart, and all my privity, Bet than our parish priest, so may I the.thrive To her betrayed I my counsel all; For had my husband pissed on a wall, Or done a thing that should have cost his life, To her, and to another worthy wife, And to my niece, which that I loved well, I would have told his counsel every deal.jot And so I did full often, God it wot, That made his face full often red and hot For very shame, and blam’d himself, for he Had told to me so great a privity.secret And so befell that ones in a Lent (So oftentimes I to my gossip went, For ever yet I loved to be gay, And for to walk in March, April, and May From house to house, to heare sundry tales), That Jenkin clerk, and my gossip, Dame Ales, And I myself, into the fieldes went. Mine husband was at London all that Lent; I had the better leisure for to play, And for to see, and eke for to be seyseen Of lusty folk; what wist I where my gracefavour Was shapenappointed for to be, or in what place? Therefore made I my visitations To vigilies,k22 and to processions, To preachings eke, and to these pilgrimages, To plays of miracles, and marriages, And weared upon me gay scarlet gites.gowns These wormes, nor these mothes, nor these mites On my apparel frettfed them never a dealwhit And know’st thou why? for they were usedworn well. Now will I telle forth what happen’d me: I say, that in the fieldes walked we, Till truely we had such dalliance, This clerk and I, that of my purveyanceforesight I spake to him, and told him how that he, If I were widow, shoulde wedde me. For certainly, I say for no bobance,k23 Yet was I never without purveyanceforesight Of marriage, nor of other thinges eke: I hold a mouse’s wit not worth a leek, That hath but one hole for to starteescape to,k24 And if that faile, then is all y-do.done [I bare him on handfalsely assured him he had enchanted me (My dame taughte me that subtilty); And eke I said, I mettedreamed of him all night, He would have slain me, as I lay upright, And all my bed was full of very blood; But yet I hop’d that he should do me good; For blood betoken’d gold, as me was taught. And all was false, I dream’d of him right naught, But as I follow’d aye my dame’s lore, As well of that as of other things more.] k25 But now, sir, let me see, what shall I sayn? Aha! by God, I have my tale again. When that my fourthe husband was on bier, I wept algatealways and made a sorry cheer,countenance As wives must, for it is the usage; And with my kerchief covered my visage; But, for I was provided with a make,mate I wept but little, that I undertakepromise To churche was mine husband borne a-morrow With neighebours that for him made sorrow, And Jenkin, oure clerk, was one of tho:those As help me God, when that I saw him go After the bier, methought he had a pair Of legges and of feet so clean and fair, That all my heart I gave unto his hold.keeping He was, I trow, a twenty winter old, And I was forty, if I shall say sooth, But yet I had always a colte’s tooth. Gat-toothedgap-toothed; goat-toothed; or cat- or separate toothed I was, and that became me well, k26 I had the print of Sainte Venus’ seal. [As help me God, I was a lusty one, And fair, and rich, and young, and well begone:in a good way For certes I am all venerianunder the influence of Venus In feeling, and my heart is martian;under the influence of Mars Venus me gave my lust and liquorishness, And Mars gave me my sturdy hardiness.] k25 Mine ascendant was Taure,Taurus and Mars therein: Alas, alas, that ever love was sin! I follow’d aye mine inclination By virtue of my constellation: That made me that I coulde not withdraw My chamber of Venus from a good fellaw. [Yet have I Marte’s mark upon my face, And also in another privy place. For God so wislycertainly be my salvation, I loved never by discretion, But ever follow’d mine own appetite, Allwhether were he short, or long, or black, or white, I took no keep,heed so that he liked me, How poor he was, neither of what degree.] k25 What should I say? but that at the month’s end This jolly clerk Jenkin, that was so hend,courteous Had wedded me with great solemnity, And to him gave I all the land and fee That ever was me given therebefore: But afterward repented me full sore. He woulde suffer nothing of my list.pleasure By God, he smote me ones with his fist, For that I rent out of his book a leaf, That of the stroke mine eare wax’d all deaf. Stubborn I was, as is a lioness, And of my tongue a very jangleress,prater And walk I would, as I had done beforn, From house to house, although he had it sworn:had sworn to prevent it For which he oftentimes woulde preach And me of olde Roman gestesstories teach How that Sulpitius Gallus left his wife And her forsook for term of all his For nought but open-headedbare-headed he her saysaw Looking out at his door upon a day. Another Roman k27 told he me by name, That, for his wife was at a summer game Without his knowing, he forsook her eke. And then would he upon his Bible seek That ilkesame proverb of Ecclesiast, Where he commandeth, and forbiddeth fast, Man shall not suffer his wife go roll about. Then would he say right thus withoute doubt: “Whoso that buildeth his house all of sallows,willows And pricketh his blind horse over the fallows, And suff’reth his wife to go seeke hallows,make pilgrimages Is worthy to be hanged on the gallows.” But all for nought; I sette not a hawcared nothing for Of his proverbs, nor of his olde saw; Nor would I not of him corrected be. I hate them that my vices telle me, And so do more of us (God wot) than I. This made him woodfurious with me all utterly; I woulde not forbearendure him in no case. Now will I say you sooth, by Saint Thomas, Why that I rent out of his book a leaf, For which he smote me, so that I was deaf. He had a book, that gladly night and day For his disport he would it read alway; He call’d it Valerie,k28 and Theophrast, And with that book he laugh’d alway full fast. And eke there was a clerk sometime at Rome, A cardinal, that highte Saint Jerome, That made a book against Jovinian, Which book was there; and eke Tertullian, Chrysippus, Trotula, and Heloise, That was an abbess not far from Paris; And eke the ParablesProverbs of Solomon, Ovide’s Art, k29 and bourdesjests many one; And alle these were bound in one volume. And every night and day was his custume (When he had leisure and vacation From other worldly occupation) To readen in this book of wicked wives. He knew of them more legends and more lives Than be of goodde wives in the Bible. For, trust me well, it is an impossible That any clerk will speake good of wives, (But ifunless it be of holy saintes’ lives) Nor of none other woman never the mo’. Who painted the lion, tell it me, who? By God, if women haddde written stories, As clerkes have within their oratories, They would have writ of men more wickedness Than all the mark of Adam k30 may redress The children of Mercury and of Venus,k31 Be in their working full contrarious. Mercury loveth wisdom and science, And Venus loveth riot and dispence.extravagance And for their diverse disposition, Each falls in other’s exaltation. As thus, God wot, Mercury is desolate In Pisces, where Venus is exaltate, And Venus falls where Mercury is raised. k32 Therefore no woman by no clerk is praised. The clerk, when he is old, and may not do Of Venus’ works not worth his olde shoe, Then sits he down, and writes in his dotage, That women cannot keep their marriage. But now to purpose, why I tolde thee That I was beaten for a book, pardie.

Upon a night Jenkin, that was our sire,goodman Read on his book, as he sat by the fire, Of Eva first, that for her wickedness Was all mankind brought into wretchedness, For which that Jesus Christ himself was slain, That bought us with his hearte-blood again. Lo here express of women may ye find That woman was the loss of all mankind. Then read he me how Samson lost his hairs Sleeping, his leman cut them with her shears, Through whiche treason lost he both his eyen. Then read he me, if that I shall not lien, Of Hercules, and of his Dejanire, That caused him to set himself on fire. Nothing forgot he of the care and woe That Socrates had with his wives two; How Xantippe cast piss upon his head. This silly man sat still, as he were dead, He wip’d his head, and no more durst he sayn, But, “Ere the thunder stintceases there cometh rain.” Of Phasiphae, that was queen of Crete, For shrewednesswickedness he thought the tale sweet. Fy, speak no more, it is a grisly thing, Of her horrible lust and her liking. Of Clytemnestra, for her lechery That falsely made her husband for to die, He read it with full good devotion. He told me eke, for what occasion Amphiorax at Thebes lost his life: My husband had a legend of his wife Eryphile, that for an oucheclasp, collar of gold Had privily unto the Greekes told, Where that her husband hid him in a place, For which he had at Thebes sorry grace. Of Luna told he me, and of Lucie; They bothe made their husbands for to die, That one for love, that other was for hate. Luna her husband on an ev’ning late Empoison’d had, for that she was his foe: Lucia liquorish lov’d her husband so, That, for he should always upon her think, She gave him such a mannersort of love-drink, That he was dead before it were the morrow: And thus algatesalways husbands hadde sorrow. Then told he me how one Latumeus Complained to his fellow Arius That in his garden growed such a tree, On which he said how that his wives three Hanged themselves for heart dispiteous. “O levedear brother,” quoth this Arius, “Give me a plant of thilkethat blessed tree, And in my garden planted shall it be.” Of later date of wives hath he read, That some have slain their husbands in their bed, And let their lechour dight themlover ride them all the night, While that the corpse lay on the floor upright: And some have driven nails into their brain, While that they slept, and thus they have them slain: Some have them given poison in their drink: He spake more harm than hearte may bethink. And therewithal he knew of more proverbs, Than in this world there groweth grass or herbs. “Better (quoth he) thine habitation Be with a lion, or a foul dragon, Than with a woman using for to chide. Better (quoth he) high in the roof abide, Than with an angry woman in the house, They be so wicked and contrarious: They hate that their husbands loven aye.” He said, “A woman cast her shame away When she cast off her smock;” and farthermo’, “A fair woman, butexcept she be chaste also, Is like a gold ring in a sowe’s nose. Who coulde ween,think or who coulde suppose The woe that in mine heart was, and the pine?pain And when I saw that he would never finefinish To readen on this cursed book all night, All suddenly three leaves have I plightplucked Out of his book, right as he read, and eke I with my fist so took him on the cheek, That in our fire he backward fell adown. And he up start, as doth a woodfurious lion, And with his fist he smote me on the head, That on the floor I lay as I were dead. And when he saw how still that there I lay, He was aghast, and would have fled away, Till at the last out of my swoon I braid,woke “Oh, hast thou slain me, thou false thief?” I said “And for my land thus hast thou murder’d me? Ere I be dead, yet will I kisse thee.” And near he came, and kneeled fair adown, And saide”, “Deare sister Alisoun, As help me God, I shall thee never smite: That I have done it is thyself to wite,blame Forgive it me, and that I thee beseek.”beseech And yet eftsoonsimmediately; again I hit him on the cheek, And saidde, “Thief, thus much am I awreak.avenged Now will I die, I may no longer speak.”

But at the last, with muche care and woe We fell accordedagreed by ourselves two: He gave me all the bridle in mine hand To have the governance of house and land, And of his tongue, and of his hand also. I made him burn his book anon right tho.then And when that I had gotten unto me By mast’ry all the sovereignety, And that he said, “Mine owen true wife, Do as thee list,as pleases thee the term of all thy life, Keep thine honour, and eke keep mine estate; After that day we never had debate. God help me so, I was to him as kind As any wife from Denmark unto Ind, And also true, and so was he to me: I pray to God that sits in majesty So bless his soule, for his mercy dear. Now will I say my tale, if ye will hear. –

The Friar laugh’d when he had heard all this: “Now, Dame,” quoth he, “so have I joy and bliss, This is a long preamble of a tale.” And when the Sompnour heard the Friar gale,speak “Lo,” quoth this Sompnour, “Godde’s armes two, A friar will intermeteinterpose him evermo’:k33 Lo, goode men, a fly and eke a frere Will fall in ev’ry dish and eke mattere. What speak’st thou of perambulation?preamble What? amble or trot; or peace, or go sit down: Thou lettesthinderesst our disport in this mattere.” “Yea, wilt thou so, Sir Sompnour?” quoth the Frere; “Now by my faith I shall, ere that I go, Tell of a Sompnour such a tale or two, That all the folk shall laughen in this place.” “Now do, else, Friar, I beshrewcurse thy face,” Quoth this Sompnour; “and I beshrewe me, But ifunless I telle tales two or three Of friars, ere I come to Sittingbourne, That I shall make thine hearte for to mourn: For well I wot thy patience is gone.” Our Hoste cried, “Peace, and that anon;” And saide, “Let the woman tell her tale. Ye farebehave as folk that drunken be of ale. Do, Dame, tell forth your tale, and that is best.” “All ready, sir,” quoth she, “right as you lest,please If I have licence of this worthy Frere.” “Yes, Dame,” quoth he, “tell forth, and I will hear.”


Notes to the Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale

Notes to the Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale

k1

Among the evidences that Chaucer’s great work was left incomplete, is the absence of any link of connexion between the Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale, and what goes before. This deficiency has in some editions caused the Squire’s and the Merchant’s Tales to be interposed between those of the Man of Law and the Wife of Bath; but in the Merchant’s Tale there is internal proof that it was told after the jolly Dame’s. Several manuscripts contain verses designed to serve as a connexion; but they are evidently not Chaucer’s, and it is unnecessary to give them here. Of this Prologue, which may fairly be regarded as a distinct autobiographical tale, Tyrwhitt says: “The extraordinary length of it, as well as the vein of pleasantry that runs through it, is very suitable to the character of the speaker. The greatest part must have been of Chaucer’s own invention, though one may plainly see that he had been reading the popular invectives against marriage and women in general; such as the ‘Roman de la Rose,’ ‘Valerius ad Rufinum, De non Ducenda Uxore,’ (‘Valerius to Rufinus, on not being ruled by one’s wife’) and particularly ‘Hieronymus contra Jovinianum.’ (‘Jerome against Jovinianus’) St Jerome, among other things designed to discourage marriage, has inserted in his treatise a long passage from ‘Liber Aureolus Theophrasti de Nuptiis.’ (‘Theophrastus’s Golden Book of Marriage’).”

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k2

A great part of the marriage service used to be performed in the church-porch.

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k3

Jesus and the Samaritan woman: John iv. 13.

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k4

Dan: Lord; Latin, “dominus.” Another reading is “the wise man, King Solomon.”

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k5

Defended: forbade; French, “defendre,” to prohibit.

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k6

Dart: the goal; a spear or dart was set up to mark the point of victory.

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k7

“But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.” – 2 Tim. ii 20.

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k8

Jesus feeding the multitude with barley bread: Mark vi. 41, 42.

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k9

At Dunmow prevailed the custom of giving, amid much merry making, a flitch of bacon to the married pair who had lived together for a year without quarrel or regret. The same custom prevailed of old in Bretagne.

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k10

“Cagnard,” or “Caignard,” a French term of reproach, originally derived from “canis,” a dog.

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k11

Parage: birth, kindred; from Latin, “pario,” I beget.

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k12

Norice: nurse; French, “nourrice.”

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k13

This and the previous quotation from Ptolemy are due to the Dame’s own fancy.

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k14

(Transcriber’s note: Some Victorian censorship here. The word given in brackets should be “queint” i.e. “cunt”.)

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k15

Women should not adorn themselves: see I Tim. ii. 9.

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k16

Cherte: affection; from French, “cher,” dear.

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k17

Nicety: folly; French, “niaiserie.”

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k18

Ba: kiss; from French, “baiser.”

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k19

Peter!: by Saint Peter! a common adjuration, like Marie! from the Virgin’s name.

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k20

St. Joce: or Judocus, a saint of Ponthieu, in France.

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k21

“An allusion,” says Mr Wright, “to the story of the Roman sage who, when blamed for divorcing his wife, said that a shoe might appear outwardly to fit well, but no one but the wearer knew where it pinched.”

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k22

Vigilies: festival-eves; see note 33 to the Prologue to the Tales.

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k23

Bobance: boasting; Ben Jonson’s braggart, in “Every Man in his Humour,” is named Bobadil.

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k24

“I hold a mouse’s wit not worth a leek, That hath but one hole for to starte to”

A very old proverb in French, German, and Latin.

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k25

The lines in brackets are only in some of the manuscripts.

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k26

Gat-toothed: gap-toothed; goat-toothed; or cat- or separate toothed. See note 41 to the prologue to the Tales.

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k27

Sempronius Sophus, of whom Valerius Maximus tells in his sixth book.

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k28

The tract of Walter Mapes against marriage, published under the title of “Epistola Valerii ad Rufinum.”

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k29

“Ars Amoris.”

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k30

All the mark of Adam: all who bear the mark of Adam i.e. all men.

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k31

The Children of Mercury and Venus: those born under the influence of the respective planets.

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k32

A planet, according to the old astrologers, was in “exaltation” when in the sign of the Zodiac in which it exerted its strongest influence; the opposite sign, in which it was weakest, was called its “dejection.” Venus being strongest in Pisces, was weakest in Virgo; but in Virgo Mercury was in “exaltation.”

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k33

Intermete: interpose; French, “entremettre.”

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The Talel1

In olde dayes of the king Arthour, Of which that Britons speake great honour, All was this land full fill’d of faerie;fairies The Elf-queen, with her jolly company, Danced full oft in many a green mead This was the old opinion, as I read; I speak of many hundred years ago; But now can no man see none elves mo’, For now the great charity and prayeres Of limitours,begging friars and other holy freres,l2 That search every land and ev’ry stream As thick as motes in the sunne-beam, Blessing halls, chambers, kitchenes, and bowers, Cities and burghes, castles high and towers, Thorpesvillagesl3 and barnes, shepensstables and dairies, This makes that there be now no faeries: For there aswhere wont to walke was an elf, There walketh now the limitour himself, In undermeleseveningsl4 and in morrowingsmornings, And saith his matins and his holy things, As he goes in his limitatioun.begging district Women may now go safely up and down, In every bush, and under every tree; There is none other incubus l5 but he; And he will do to them no dishonour.

And so befell it, that this king Arthour Had in his house a lusty bacheler, That on a day came riding from river: l6 And happen’d, that, alone as she was born, He saw a maiden walking him beforn, Of which maiden anon, maugrein spite of her head, By very force he reft her maidenhead: For which oppression was such clamour, And such pursuit unto the king Arthour, That damnedcondemned was this knight for to be dead By course of law, and should have lost his head; (Paraventure such was the statute tho),then But that the queen and other ladies mo’ So long they prayed the king of his grace, Till he his life him granted in the place, And gave him to the queen, all at her will To choose whether she would him save or spilldestroy The queen thanked the king with all her might; And, after this, thus spake she to the knight, When that she saw her time upon a day. “Thou standest yet,” quoth she, “in such array,a position That of thy life yet hast thou no surety; I grant thee life, if thou canst tell to me What thing is it that women most desiren: Beware, and keep thy neck-bone from the ironexecutioner’s axe And if thou canst not tell it me anon, Yet will I give thee leave for to gon A twelvemonth and a day, to seek and learlearn An answer suffisantsatisfactory in this mattere. And surety will I have, ere that thou pace,go Thy body for to yielden in this place.” Woe was the knight, and sorrowfully siked;sighed But what? he might not do all as him liked. And at the last he chose him for to wend,depart And come again, right at the yeare’s end, With such answer as God would him purvey:provide And took his leave, and wended forth his way.

He sought in ev’ry house and ev’ry place, Where as he hoped for to finde grace, To learne what thing women love the most: But he could not arrive in any coast, Where as he mighte find in this mattere Two creatures according in fere.agreeing together Some said that women loved best richess, Some said honour, and some said jolliness, Some rich array, and some said lustpleasure a-bed, And oft time to be widow and be wed. Some said, that we are in our heart most eased When that we are y-flatter’d and y-praised. He went full nigh the sooth,came very near the truth I will not lie; A man shall win us best with flattery; And with attendance, and with business Be we y-limed,caught with bird-lime bothe more and less. And some men said that we do love the best For to be free, and do right as us lest,whatever we please And that no man reprove us of our vice, But say that we are wise, and nothing nice,foolishl7 For truly there is none among us all, If any wight will claw us on the gall, l8 That will not kick, for that he saith us sooth: Assay,try and he shall find it, that so do’th. For be we never so vicious within, We will be held both wise and clean of sin. And some men said, that great delight have we For to be held stable and eke secre,discreet And in one purpose steadfastly to dwell, And not bewraygive away a thing that men us tell. But that tale is not worth a rake-stele.rake-handle Pardie, we women canne nothing hele,hidel9 Witness on Midas; will ye hear the tale? Ovid, amonges other thinges smalesmall Saith, Midas had, under his longe hairs, Growing upon his head two ass’s ears; The whiche vice he hid, as best he might, Full subtlely from every man’s sight, That, save his wife, there knew of it no mo’; He lov’d her most, and trusted her also; He prayed her, that to no creature She woulde tellen of his disfigure. She swore him, nay, for all the world to win, She would not do that villainy or sin, To make her husband have so foul a name: She would not tell it for her owen shame. But natheless her thoughte that she died, That she so longe should a counsel hide; Her thought it swell’d so sore about her heart That needes must some word from her astart And, since she durst not tell it unto man Down to a marish fast thereby she ran, Till she came there, her heart was all afire: And, as a bittern bumblesmakes a humming noise in the mire, She laid her mouth unto the water down “Bewray me not, thou water, with thy soun’” Quoth she, “to thee I tell it, and no mo’, Mine husband hath long ass’s eares two! Now is mine heart all whole; now is it out; I might no longer keep it, out of doubt.” Here may ye see, though we a time abide, Yet out it must, we can no counsel hide. The remnant of the tale, if ye will hear, Read in Ovid, and there ye may it lear.learn

This knight, of whom my tale is specially, When that he saw he might not come thereby, That is to say, what women love the most, Within his breast full sorrowful was his ghost.spirit But home he went, for he might not sojourn, The day was come, that homeward he must turn. And in his way it happen’d him to ride, In all his care,trouble, anxiety under a forest side, Where as he saw upon a dance go Of ladies four-and-twenty, and yet mo’, Toward this ilkesame dance he drew full yern,eagerlyl10 The hope that he some wisdom there should learn; But certainly, ere he came fully there, Y-vanish’d was this dance, he knew not where; No creature saw he that bare life, Save on the green he sitting saw a wife, A fouler wight there may no man devise.imagine, tell Againstto meet this knight this old wife gan to rise, And said, “Sir Knight, hereforthfrom here lieth no way. Tell me what ye are seeking, by your fay. Paraventure it may the better be: These olde folk know muche thing.” quoth she. My levedear mother,” quoth this knight, “certain, I am but dead, but ifunless that I can sayn What thing it is that women most desire: Could ye me wissinstruct, I would well quite your hirereward you.”l11 “Plight me thy troth here in mine hand,” quoth she, “The nexte thing that I require of thee Thou shalt it do, if it be in thy might, And I will tell it thee ere it be night.” “Have here my trothe,” quoth the knight; “I grant.” “Thenne,” quoth she, “I dare me well avaunt,boast, affirm Thy life is safe, for I will stand thereby, Upon my life the queen will say as I: Let see, which is the proudest of them all, That wears either a kerchief or a caul, That dare say nay to that I shall you teach. Let us go forth withoute longer speech Then rowned she a pistelshe whispered a secret in his ear, And bade him to be glad, and have no fear.

When they were come unto the court, this knight Said, he had held his day, as he had hight,promised And ready was his answer, as he said. Full many a noble wife, and many a maid, And many a widow, for that they be wise, – The queen herself sitting as a justice, – Assembled be, his answer for to hear, And afterward this knight was bid appear. To every wight commanded was silence, And that the knight should tell in audience, What thing that worldly women love the best. This knight he stood not still, as doth a beast, But to this question anon answer’d With manly voice, that all the court it heard, “My liege lady, generally,” quoth he, “Women desire to have the sovereignty As well over their husband as their love And for to be in mast’ry him above. This is your most desire, though ye me kill, Do as you list, I am here at your will.” In all the court there was no wife nor maid Nor widow, that contraried what he said, But said, he worthy was to have his life. And with that word up start that olde wife Which that the knight saw sitting on the green.

“Mercy,” quoth she, “my sovereign lady queen, Ere that your court departe, do me right. I taughte this answer unto this knight, For which he plighted me his trothe there, The firste thing I would of him requere, He would it do, if it lay in his might. Before this court then pray I thee, Sir Knight,” Quoth she, “that thou me take unto thy wife, For well thou know’st that I have keptpreserved thy life. If I say false, say nay, upon thy fay.”faith This knight answer’d, “Alas, and well-away! I know right well that such was my behest.promise For Godde’s love choose a new request Take all my good, and let my body go.” “Nay, then,” quoth she, “I shrewcurse us bothe two, For though that I be old, and foul, and poor, I n’ouldwould not for all the metal nor the ore, That under earth is grave,buried or lies above But if thy wife I were and eke thy love.” “My love?” quoth he, “nay, my damnation, Alas! that any of my nation Should ever so foul disparaged be. But all for nought; the end is this, that he Constrained was, that needs he muste wed, And take this olde wife, and go to bed.

Now woulde some men say paraventure That for my negligence I do no curetake no pains To tell you all the joy and all th’ array That at the feast was made that ilkesame day. To which thing shortly answeren I shall: I say there was no joy nor feast at all, There was but heaviness and muche sorrow: For privily he wed her on the morrow; And all day after hid him as an owl, So woe was him, his wife look’d so foul Great was the woe the knight had in his thought When he was with his wife to bed y-brought; He wallow’d, and he turned to and fro. This olde wife lay smiling evermo’, And said, “Dear husband, benedicite, Fares every knight thus with his wife as ye? Is this the law of king Arthoures house? Is every knight of his thus dangerous?fastidious, niggardly I am your owen love, and eke your wife I am she, which that saved hath your life And certes yet did I you ne’er unright. Why fare ye thus with me this firste night? Ye fare like a man had lost his wit. What is my guilt? for God’s love tell me it, And it shall be amended, if I may.” “Amended!” quoth this knight; “alas, nay, nay, It will not be amended, never mo’; Thou art so loathly, and so old also, And theretoin addition wallow and windwrithe, turn about; comest of so low a kind, That little wonder though I So woulde God, mine hearte woulde brest!”burst “Is this,” quoth she, “the cause of your unrest?” “Yea, certainly,” quoth he; “no wonder is.” “Now, Sir,” quoth she, “I could amend all this, If that me list, ere it were dayes three, So well ye mighte bear you unto me.if you could conduct yourself well towards me But, for ye speaken of such gentleness As is descended out of old richess, That therefore shalle ye be gentlemen; Such arrogancy is not worth a hen.worth nothing Look who that is most virtuous alway, Prive and apert,in private and public and most intendeth aye To do the gentle deedes that he can; And take him for the greatest gentleman. Christ will,wills, requires we claim of him our gentleness, Not of our eldersancestors for their old richess. For though they gave us all their heritage, For which we claim to be of high parage,birth, descent Yet may they not bequeathe, for no thing, To none of us, their virtuous living That made them gentlemen called to be, And bade us follow them in such degree. Well can the wise poet of Florence, That highte Dante, speak of this sentence:sentiment Lo, in such mannerkind of rhyme is Dante’s tale. ‘Full seld’seldom upriseth by his branches smale Prowess of man, for God of his goodness Wills that we claim of him our gentleness;’ l12 For of our elders may we nothing claim But temp’ral things that man may hurt and maim. Eke every wight knows this as well as I, If gentleness were planted naturally Unto a certain lineage down the line, Prive and apert, then would they never finecease To do of gentleness the fair office Then might they do no villainy nor vice. Take fire, and bear it to the darkest house Betwixt this and the mount of Caucasus, And let men shut the doores, and go thenne,thence Yet will the fire as fair and lighte brenneburn As twenty thousand men might it behold; Its office natural aye will it hold,it will perform its natural duty On peril of my life, till that it die. Here may ye see well how that genterygentility, nobility Is not annexed to possession, Since folk do not their operation Alway, as doth the fire, lo, in its kindfrom its very nature For, God it wot, men may full often find A lorde’s son do shame and villainy. And he that will have priceesteem, honour of his gent’ry, Forbecause he was boren of a gentle house, And had his elders noble and virtuous, And will himselfe do no gentle deedes, Nor follow his gentle ancestry, that dead is, He is not gentle, be he duke or earl; For villain sinful deedes make a churl. For gentleness is but the renomeerenown Of thine ancestors, for their high bounte,goodness, worth Which is a strange thing to thy person: Thy gentleness cometh from God alone. Then comes our verytrue gentleness of grace; It was no thing bequeath’d us with our place. Think how noble, as saith Valerius, Was thilkethat Tullius Hostilius, That out of povert’ rose to high Read in Senec, and read eke in Boece, There shall ye see express, that it no drededoubt is, That he is gentle that doth gentle deedes. And therefore, levedear husband, I conclude, Albeit that mine ancestors were rude, Yet may the highe God, – and so hope I, – Grant me His grace to live virtuously: Then am I gentle when that I begin To live virtuously, and waiveforsake sin.

“And whereas ye of povert’ me repreve,reproach The highe God, on whom that we believe, In wilful povert’ chose to lead his life: And certes, every man, maiden, or wife May understand that Jesus, heaven’s king, Ne would not choose a virtuous living. Glad povert’poverty cheerfully endured is an honest thing, certain; This will Senec and other clerkes sayn Whoso that holds him paid ofis satisfied with his povert’, I hold him rich though he hath not a shirt. He that coveteth is a poore wight For he would have what is not in his might But he that nought hath, nor coveteth to have, Is rich, although ye hold him but a knave.slave, abject wretch Very povert’ is sinne,the only true poverty is sin properly. Juvenal saith of povert’ merrily: The poore man, when he goes by the way Before the thieves he may sing and play l13 Povert’ is hateful good,l14 and, as I guess, A full great bringer out of business;deliver from trouble A great amender eke of sapience To him that taketh it in patience. Povert’ is this, although it seem elengestrangel15 Possession that no wight will challenge Povert’ full often, when a man is low, Makes him his God and eke himself to know Povert’ a spectaclea pair of spectacles is, as thinketh me Through which he may his verytrue friendes see. And, therefore, Sir, since that I you not grieve, Of my povert’ no more me repreve.reproach “Now, Sir, of eldeage ye repreve me: And certes, Sir, though none authoritytext, dictum Were in no book, ye gentles of honour Say, that men should an olde wight honour, And call him father, for your gentleness; And authors shall I finden, as I guess. Now there ye say that I am foul and old, Then dread ye not to be a cokewold.cuckold For filth, and elde, all so may I the,thrive Be greate wardens upon chastity. But natheless, since I know your delight, I shall fulfil your wordly appetite. Choose now,” quoth she, “one of these thinges tway, To have me foul and old till that I dey,die And be to you a true humble wife, And never you displease in all my life: Or elles will ye have me young and fair, And take your aventure of the repairresort That shall be to your house because of me, – Or in some other place, it may well be? Now choose yourselfe whether that you liketh.

This knight advisethconsidered him and sore he siketh,sighed But at the last he said in this mannere; “My lady and my love, and wife so dear, I put me in your wise governance, Choose for yourself which may be most pleasance And most honour to you and me also; I do no forcecare not the whether of the two: For as you liketh, it sufficeth me.” “Then have I got the mastery,” quoth she, “Since I may choose and govern as me lest.”pleases “Yea, certes wife,” quoth he, “I hold it best.” “Kiss me,” quoth she, “we are no longer wroth,at variance For by my troth I will be to you both; This is to say, yea, bothe fair and good. I pray to God that I may sterve wood,die mad Butunless I to you be all so good and true, As ever was wife since the world was new; And butunless I be to-morrow as fair to seen, As any lady, emperess or queen, That is betwixt the East and eke the West Do with my life and death right as you lest.please Cast up the curtain, and look how it is.”

And when the knight saw verily all this, That she so fair was, and so young thereto, For joy he henttook her in his armes two: His hearte bathed in a bath of bliss, A thousand times on rowin succession he gan her kiss: And she obeyed him in every thing That mighte do him pleasance or liking. And thus they live unto their lives’ end In perfect joy; and Jesus Christ us send Husbandes meek and young, and fresh in bed, And grace to overlive them that we wed. And eke I pray Jesus to short their lives, That will not be governed by their wives. And old and angry niggards of dispence,expense God send them soon a very pestilence!


Notes to the Wife of Bath’s Tale

Notes to the Wife of Bath’s Tale

l1

It is not clear whence Chaucer derived this tale. Tyrwhitt thinks it was taken from the story of Florent, in the first book of Gower’s “Confessio Amantis;” or perhaps from an older narrative from which Gower himself borrowed. Chaucer has condensed and otherwise improved the fable, especially by laying the scene, not in Sicily, but at the court of our own King Arthur.

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l2

Limitours: begging friars. See note 18 to the prologue to the Tales.

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l3

Thorpes: villages. Compare German, “Dorf,”; Dutch, “Dorp.”

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l4

Undermeles: evening-tides, afternoons; “undern” signifies the evening; and “mele,” corresponds to the German “Mal” or “Mahl,” time.

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l5

Incubus: an evil spirit supposed to do violence to women; a nightmare.

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l6

Where he had been hawking after waterfowl. Froissart says that any one engaged in this sport “alloit en riviere.”

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l7

Nice: foolish; French, “niais.”

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l8

Claw us on the gall: Scratch us on the sore place. Compare, “Let the galled jade wince.” Hamlet iii. 2.

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l9

Hele: hide; from Anglo-Saxon, “helan,” to hide, conceal.

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l10

Yern: eagerly; German, “gern.”

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l11

Wiss: instruct; German, “weisen,” to show or counsel.

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l12

Dante, “Purgatorio”, vii. 121.

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l13

“Cantabit vacuus coram latrone viator” – “Satires,” x. 22.

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l14

In a fabulous conference between the Emperor Adrian and the philosopher Secundus, reported by Vincent of Beauvais, occurs the passage which Chaucer here paraphrases: – “Quid est Paupertas? Odibile bonum; sanitas mater; remotio Curarum; sapientae repertrix; negotium sine damno; possessio absque calumnia; sine sollicitudinae felicitas.” (What is Poverty? A hateful good; a mother of health; a putting away of cares; a discoverer of wisdom; business without injury; ownership without calumny; happiness without anxiety)

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l15

Elenge: strange; from French “eloigner,” to remove.

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The Friar’s Tale


The Prologuem1

This worthy limitour, this noble Frere, He made always a manner louring cheercountenance Upon the Sompnour; but for honestycourtesy No villain word as yet to him spake he: But at the last he said unto the Wife: “Dame,” quoth he, “God give you right good life, Ye have here touched, all so may I the,thrive In school matter a greate difficulty. Ye have said muche thing right well, I say; But, Dame, here as we ride by the way, Us needeth not but for to speak of game, And leave authorities, in Godde’s name, To preaching, and to school eke of clergy. But if it like unto this company, I will you of a Sompnour tell a game; Pardie, ye may well knowe by the name, That of a Sompnour may no good be said; I pray that none of you be evil paid;dissatisfied A Sompnour is a runner up and down With mandementsmandates, summonses for fornicatioun, And is y-beat at every towne’s end.” Then spake our Host; “Ah, sir, ye should be hendcivil, gentle And courteous, as a man of your estate; In company we will have no debate: Tell us your tale, and let the Sompnour be.” “Nay,” quoth the Sompnour, “let him say by me What so him list; when it comes to my lot, By God, I shall him quitenpay him off every groat! I shall him telle what a great honour It is to be a flattering limitour And his office I shall him tell y-wis”. Our Host answered, “Peace, no more of this.” And afterward he said unto the frere, “Tell forth your tale, mine owen master dear.”


Notes to the Prologue to the Friar’s tale

Notes to the Prologue to the Friar’s tale

m1

On the Tale of the Friar, and that of the Sompnour which follows, Tyrwhitt has remarked that they “are well engrafted upon that of the Wife of Bath. The ill-humour which shows itself between these two characters is quite natural, as no two professions at that time were at more constant variance. The regular clergy, and particularly the mendicant friars, affected a total exemption from all ecclesiastical jurisdiction, except that of the Pope, which made them exceedingly obnoxious to the bishops and of course to all the inferior officers of the national hierarchy.” Both tales, whatever their origin, are bitter satires on the greed and worldliness of the Romish clergy.

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The Tale

Whilomonce on a time there was dwelling in my country An archdeacon, a man of high degree, That boldely did execution, In punishing of fornication, Of witchecraft, and eke of bawdery, Of defamation, and adultery, Of churche-reeves,churchwardens and of testaments, Of contracts, and of lack of sacraments, And eke of many another mannersort of crime, Which needeth not rehearsen at this time, Of usury, and simony also; But, certes, lechours did he greatest woe; They shoulde singen, if that they were hent;caught And smale tithersn1 were foul y-shent,troubled, put to shame If any person would on them complain; There might astert them no pecunial pain.n2 For smalle tithes, and small offering, He made the people piteously to sing; For ere the bishop caught them with his crook, They weren in the archedeacon’s book; Then had he, through his jurisdiction, Power to do on them correction.

He had a Sompnour ready to his hand, A slier boy was none in Engleland; For subtlely he had his espiaille,espionage That taught him well where it might aught avail. He coulde spare of lechours one or two, To teache him to four and twenty mo’. For, – though this Sompnour woodfurious, mad be as a hare, – To tell his harlotry I will not spare, For we be out of their correction, They have of us no jurisdiction, Ne never shall have, term of all their lives.

“Peter; so be the women of the stives,”stews Quoth this Sompnour, “y-put out of our cure.”care

“Peace, with mischance and with misaventure,” Our Hoste said, “and let him tell his tale. Now telle forth, and let the Sompnour gale,whistle; bawl Nor spare not, mine owen master dear.”

This false thief, the Sompnour (quoth the Frere), Had always bawdes ready to his hand, As any hawk to lure in Engleland, That told him all the secrets that they knew, – For their acquaintance was not come of new; They were his approversinformers privily. He took himself at great profit thereby: His master knew not always what he wan.won Withoute mandement, a lewedignorant man He could summon, on pain of Christe’s curse, And they were inly glad to fill his purse, And make him greate feastes at the nale.alehouse And right as Judas hadde purses smale,small And was a thief, right such a thief was he, His master had but half his duety.what was owing him He was (if I shall give him his laud) A thief, and eke a Sompnour, and a bawd. And he had wenches at his retinue, That whether that Sir Robert or Sir Hugh, Or Jack, or Ralph, or whoso that it were That lay by them, they told it in his ear. Thus were the wench and he of one assent; And he would fetch a feigned mandement, And to the chapter summon them both two, And pillplunder, pluck the man, and let the wenche go. Then would he say, “Friend, I shall for thy sake Do strike thee out of oure letters blake;black Thee tharneed no more as in this case travail; I am thy friend where I may thee avail.” Certain he knew of bribers many mo’ Than possible is to tell in yeare’s two: For in this world is no dog for the bow,n3 That can a hurt deer from a whole know, Betbetter than this Sompnour knew a sly lechour, Or an adult’rer, or a paramour: And, for that was the fruit of all his rent, Therefore on it he set all his intent.

And so befell, that once upon a day. This Sompnour, waiting ever on his prey, Rode forth to summon a widow, an old ribibe,n4 Feigning a cause, for he would have a bribe. And happen’d that he saw before him ride A gay yeoman under a forest side: A bow he bare, and arrows bright and keen, He had upon a courtepyshort doublet of green, A hat upon his head with fringes blake.black “Sir,” quoth this Sompnour, “hail, and well o’ertake.” “Welcome,” quoth he, “and every good fellaw; Whither ridest thou under this green shaw?”shade Saide this yeoman; “wilt thou far to-day?” This Sompnour answer’d him, and saide, “Nay. Here faste by,” quoth he, “is mine intent To ride, for to raisen up a rent, That longeth to my lorde’s duety.” “Ah! art thou then a bailiff?” “Yea,” quoth he. He durste not for very filth and shame Say that he was a Sompnour, for the name. “De par dieux,” n5 quoth this yeoman, “levedear brother, Thou art a bailiff, and I am another. I am unknowen, as in this country. Of thine acquaintance I will praye thee, And eke of brotherhood, if that thee list.please I have gold and silver lying in my chest; If that thee hap to come into our shire, All shall be thine, right as thou wilt desire.” “Grand mercy,”great thanks quoth this Sompnour, “by my faith.” Each in the other’s hand his trothe lay’th, For to be sworne brethren till they dey.n6 In dalliance they ride forth and play.

This Sompnour, which that was as full of jangles,chattering As full of venom be those wariangles,butcher-birdsn7 And ev’r inquiring upon every thing, “Brother,” quoth he, “where is now your dwelling, Another day if that I should you seech?”seek, visit This yeoman him answered in soft speech; Brother,” quoth he, “far in the North country,n8 Where as I hope some time I shall thee see Ere we depart I shall thee so well wiss,inform That of mine house shalt thou never miss.” Now, brother,” quoth this Sompnour, “I you pray, Teach me, while that we ride by the way, (Since that ye be a bailiff as am I,) Some subtilty, and tell me faithfully For mine office how that I most may win. And spare notconceal nothing for conscience or for sin, But, as my brother, tell me how do ye.” Now by my trothe, brother mine,” said he, As I shall tell to thee a faithful tale: My wages be full strait and eke full smale; My lord is hard to me and dangerous,niggardly And mine office is full laborious; And therefore by extortion I live, Forsooth I take all that men will me give. Algatewhether by sleighte, or by violence, From year to year I win all my dispence; I can no better tell thee faithfully.” Now certes,” quoth this Sompnour, “so faredo I; I spare not to take, God it wot, But ifunless it be too heavy or too hot. What I may get in counsel privily, No manner conscience of that have I. N’erewere it not for mine extortion, I might not live, For of such japestricks will I not be shrive.confessed Stomach nor conscience know I none; I shrewcurse these shrifte-fathersconfessors every one. Well be we met, by God and by St Jame. But, leve brother, tell me then thy name,” Quoth this Sompnour. Right in this meane while This yeoman gan a little for to smile.

“Brother,” quoth he, “wilt thou that I thee tell? I am a fiend, my dwelling is in hell, And here I ride about my purchasing, To know where men will give me any thing. My purchase is th’ effect of all my rentwhat I can gain is my sole revenue Look how thou ridest for the same intent To winne good, thou reckest never how, Right so fare I, for ride will I now Into the worlde’s ende for a prey.”

“Ah,” quoth this Sompnour, “benedicite! what say y’? I weenedthought ye were a yeoman truly. Ye have a manne’s shape as well as I Have ye then a figure determinate In helle, where ye be in your estate?”at home “Nay, certainly,” quoth he, there have we none, But when us liketh we can take us one, Or elles make you seembelieve that we be shape Sometime like a man, or like an ape; Or like an angel can I ride or go; It is no wondrous thing though it be so, A lousy juggler can deceive thee. And pardie, yet can I more craftskill, cunning than he.” “Why,” quoth the Sompnour, “ride ye then or gon In sundry shapes and not always in one?” “For we,” quoth he, “will us in such form make. As most is able our prey for to take.” “What maketh you to have all this labour?” “Full many a cause, leve Sir Sompnour,” Saide this fiend. “But all thing hath a time; The day is short and it is passed prime, And yet have I won nothing in this day; I will intendapply myself to winning, if I may, And not intend our thinges to declare: For, brother mine, thy wit is all too bare To understand, although I told them thee. But forbecause thou askest why laboure we: For sometimes we be Godde’s instruments And meanes to do his commandements, When that him list, upon his creatures, In divers acts and in divers figures: Withoute him we have no might certain, If that him list to stande thereagain.against it And sometimes, at our prayer have we leave Only the body, not the soul, to grieve: Witness on Job, whom that we did full woe, And sometimes have we might on both the two, – This is to say, on soul and body eke, And sometimes be we suffer’d for to seek Upon a man and do his soul unrest And not his body, and all is for the best, When he withstandeth our temptation, It is a cause of his salvation, Albeit that it was not our intent He should be safe, but that we would him hent.catch And sometimes be we servants unto man, As to the archbishop Saint Dunstan, And to th’apostle servant eke was I.” “Yet tell me,” quoth this Sompnour, “faithfully, Make ye you newe bodies thus alway Of th’ elements?” The fiend answered, “Nay: Sometimes we feign, and sometimes we arise With deade bodies, in full sundry wise, And speak as reas’nably, and fair, and well, As to the Pythonessn9 did Samuel: And yet will some men say it was not he. I do no force ofset no value upon your divinity. But one thing warn I thee, I will not jape,jest Thou wilt algates weetassuredly know how we be shape: Thou shalt hereafterward, my brother dear, Come, where thee needeth not of me to lear.learn For thou shalt by thine own experience Conne in a chair to rede of this sentence,learn to understand what I have said Better than Virgil, while he was alive, Or Dante also. n10 Now let us ride blive,briskly For I will holde company with thee, Till it be so that thou forsake me.” “Nay,” quoth this Sompnour, “that shall ne’er betide. I am a yeoman, that is known full wide; My trothe will I hold, as in this case; For though thou wert the devil Satanas, My trothe will I hold to thee, my brother, As I have sworn, and each of us to other, For to be true brethren in this case, And both we go abouten our purchase.seeking what we may pick up Take thou thy part, what that men will thee give, And I shall mine, thus may we bothe live. And if that any of us have more than other, Let him be true, and part it with his brother.” “I grante,” quoth the devil, “by my fay.” And with that word they rode forth their way, And right at th’ent’ring of the towne’s end, To which this Sompnour shopeshaped him for to wend,go They saw a cart, that charged was with hay, Which that a carter drove forth on his way. Deep was the way, for which the carte stood: The carter smote, and cried as he were wood,mad “Heit Scot! heit Brok! what, spare ye for the stones? The fiend (quoth he) you fetch body and bones, As farforthlysure as ever ye were foal’d, So muche woe as I have with you tholed.enduredn11 The devil have all, horses, and cart, and hay.” The Sompnour said, “Here shall we have a prey,” And near the fiend he drew, as nought ne were,as if nothing were the matter Full privily, and rownedwhispered in his ear: “Hearken, my brother, hearken, by thy faith, Hearest thou not, how that the carter saith? Hentseize it anon, for he hath giv’n it thee, Both hay and cart, and eke his capelshorses three.”n12 “Nay,” quoth the devil, “God wot, never a deal,whit It is not his intent, trust thou me well; Ask him thyself, if thou not trowestbelievest me, Or elles stintstop a while and thou shalt see.” The carter thwack’d his horses on the croup, And they began to drawen and to stoop. “Heit now,” quoth he; “there, Jesus Christ you bless, And all his handiwork, both more and less! That was well twight,pulled mine owen liart,greyn13 boy, I pray God save thy body, and Saint Loy! Now is my cart out of the slough, pardie.” “Lo, brother,” quoth the fiend, “what told I thee? Here may ye see, mine owen deare brother, The churl spake one thing, but he thought another. Let us go forth abouten our voyage; Here win I nothing upon this carriage.”

When that they came somewhat out of the town, This Sompnour to his brother gan to rown; “Brother,” quoth he, “here wonsdwells an old rebeck,n14 That had almost as lief to lose her neck. As for to give a penny of her good. I will have twelvepence, though that she be wood,mad Or I will summon her to our office; And yet, God wot, of her know I no vice. But for thou canst not, as in this country, Winne thy cost, take here example of me.” This Sompnour clapped at the widow’s gate: “Come out,” he said, “thou olde very trate;trotn15 I trow thou hast some friar or priest with thee.” “Who clappeth?” said this wife; “benedicite, God save you, Sir, what is your sweete will?” “I have,” quoth he, “of summons here a bill. Upupon pain of cursing, looke that thou be To-morrow before our archdeacon’s knee, To answer to the court of certain things.” “Now Lord,” quoth she, “Christ Jesus, king of kings, So wis1ysurely helpe me, as I not mayas I cannot. I have been sick, and that full many a day. I may not go so far,” quoth she, “nor ride, But I be dead, so pricketh it my side. May I not ask a libel, Sir Sompnour, And answer there by my procuratour To such thing as men would apposeaccuse me?” “Yes,” quoth this Sompnour, “pay anon, let see, Twelvepence to me, and I will thee acquit. I shall no profit have thereby but lit:little My master hath the profit and not I. Come off, and let me ride hastily; Give me twelvepence, I may no longer tarry.”

“Twelvepence!” quoth she; “now lady Sainte Mary So wislysurely help me out of care and sin, This wide world though that I should it win, No have I not twelvepence within my hold. Ye know full well that I am poor and old; Kithe your almesshow your charity upon me poor wretch.” “Nay then,” quoth he, “the foule fiend me fetch, If I excuse thee, though thou should’st be spilt.”ruined “Alas!” quoth she, “God wot, I have no guilt.” “Pay me,” quoth he, “or, by the sweet Saint Anne, As I will bear away thy newe pan For debte, which thou owest me of old, – When that thou madest thine husband cuckold, – I paid at home for thy correction.” “Thou liest,” quoth she, “by my salvation; Never was I ere now, widow or wife, Summon’d unto your court in all my life; Nor never I was but of my body true. Unto the devil rough and black of hue Give I thy body and my pan also.” And when the devil heard her curse so Upon her knees, he said in this mannere; “Now, Mabily, mine owen mother dear, Is this your will in earnest that ye say?” “The devil,” quoth she, “so fetch him ere he dey,die And pan and all, butunless he will him repent.” “Nay, olde stoat,polecat that is not mine intent,” Quoth this Sompnour, “for to repente me For any thing that I have had of thee; I would I had thy smock and every cloth.” “Now, brother,” quoth the devil, “be not wroth; Thy body and this pan be mine by right. Thou shalt with me to helle yet tonight, Where thou shalt knowen of our privitysecrets More than a master of divinity.”

And with that word the foule fiend him hent.seized Body and soul, he with the devil went, Where as the Sompnours have their heritage; And God, that maked after his image Mankinde, save and guide us all and some, And let this Sompnour a good man become. Lordings, I could have told you (quoth this Frere), Had I had leisure for this Sompnour here, After the text of Christ, and Paul, and John, And of our other doctors many a one, Such paines, that your heartes might agrise,be horrified Albeit so, that no tongue may devise,relate Though that I might a thousand winters tell, – The pains of thilkethat cursed house of hell But for to keep us from that cursed place Wake we, and pray we Jesus, of his grace, So keep us from the tempter, Satanas. Hearken this word, beware as in this case. The lion sits in his awaiton the watch alway n16 To slay the innocent, if that he may. Disposen aye your heartes to withstond The fiend that would you make thrall and bond; He may not tempte you over your might, For Christ will be your champion and your knight; And pray, that this our Sompnour him repent Of his misdeeds ere that the fiend him hent.seize


Notes to the Friar’s Tale

Notes to the Friar’s Tale

n1

Small tithers: people who did not pay their full tithes. Mr Wright remarks that “the sermons of the friars in the fourteenth century were most frequently designed to impress the ahsolute duty of paying full tithes and offerings”.

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n2

There might astert them no pecunial pain: they got off with no mere pecuniary punishment. (Transcriber’s note: “Astert” means “escape”. An alternative reading of this line is “there might astert him no pecunial pain” i.e. no fine ever escaped him (the archdeacon))

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n3

A dog for the bow: a dog attending a huntsman with bow and arrow.

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n4

Ribibe: the name of a musical instrument; applied to an old woman because of the shrillness of her voice.

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n5

De par dieux: by the gods.

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n6

See note 12 to the Knight’s Tale.

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n7

Wariangles: butcher-birds; which are very noisy and ravenous, and tear in pieces the birds on which they prey; the thorn on which they do this was said to become poisonous.

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n8

Medieval legends located hell in the North.

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n9

The Pythoness: the witch, or woman, possesed with a prophesying spirit; from the Greek, “Pythia.” Chaucer of course refers to the raising of Samuel’s spirit by the witch of Endor.

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n10

Dante and Virgil were both poets who had in fancy visited Hell.

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n11

Tholed: suffered, endured; “thole” is still used in Scotland in the same sense.

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n12

Capels: horses. See note 14 to the Reeve’s Tale.

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n13

Liart: grey; elsewhere applied by Chaucer to the hairs of an old man. So Burns, in the “Cotter’s Saturday Night,” speaks of the gray temples of “the sire” – “His lyart haffets wearing thin and bare.”

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n14

Rebeck: a kind of fiddle; used like “ribibe,” as a nickname for a shrill old scold.

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n15

Trot; a contemptuous term for an old woman who has trotted about much, or who moves with quick short steps.

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n16

In his await: on the watch; French, “aux aguets.”

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The Sompnour’s Tale


The Prologue

The Sompnour in his stirrups high he stood, Upon this Friar his hearte was so wood,furious That like an aspen leaf he quokequaked, trembled for ire: “Lordings,” quoth he, “but one thing I desire; I you beseech, that of your courtesy, Since ye have heard this false Friar lie, As suffer me I may my tale tell This Friar boasteth that he knoweth hell, And, God it wot, that is but little wonder, Friars and fiends be but little asunder. For, pardie, ye have often time heard tell, How that a friar ravish’d was to hell In spirit ones by a visioun, And, as an angel led him up and down, To shew him all the paines that there were, In all the place saw he not a frere; Of other folk he saw enough in woe. Unto the angel spake the friar tho;then ‘Now, Sir,’ quoth he, ‘have friars such a grace, That none of them shall come into this place?’ ‘Yes’ quoth the angel; ‘many a millioun:’ And unto Satanas he led him down. ‘And now hath Satanas,’ said he, ‘a tail Broader than of a carracko1 is the sail. Hold up thy tail, thou Satanas,’ quoth he, ‘Shew forth thine erse, and let the friar see Where is the nest of friars in this place.’ And less than half a furlong way of spaceimmediately o2 Right so as bees swarmen out of a hive, Out of the devil’s erse there gan to drive A twenty thousand friars on a rout.in a crowd And throughout hell they swarmed all about, And came again, as fast as they may gon, And in his erse they creeped every one: He clapt his tail again, and lay full still. This friar, when he looked had his fill Upon the torments of that sorry place, His spirit God restored of his grace Into his body again, and he awoke; But natheless for feare yet he quoke, So was the devil’s erse aye in his mind; That is his heritage, of very kindby his very nature God save you alle, save this cursed Frere; My prologue will I end in this mannere.


Notes to the Prologue to the Sompnour’s Tale

Notes to the Prologue to the Sompnour’s Tale

o1

Carrack: A great ship of burden used by the Portuguese; the name is from the Italian, “cargare,” to load

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o2

In less than half a furlong way of space: immediately; literally, in less time than it takes to walk half a furlong (110 yards).

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The Tale

Lordings, there is in Yorkshire, as I guess, A marshy country called Holderness, In which there went a limitour about To preach, and eke to beg, it is no doubt. And so befell that on a day this frere Had preached at a church in his mannere, And specially, above every thing, Excited he the people in his preaching To trentals, p1 and to give, for Godde’s sake, Wherewith men mighte holy houses make, There as divine service is honour’d, Not there as it is wasted and devour’d, Nor where it needeth not for to be given, As to possessioners, p2 that may liven, Thanked be God, in wealth and abundance. “Trentals,” said he, “deliver from penance Their friendes’ soules, as well old as young, Yea, when that they be hastily y-sung, – Not for to hold a priest jolly and gay, He singeth not but one mass in a day. “Deliver out,” quoth he, “anon the souls. Full hard it is, with flesh-hook or with owlsawls To be y-clawed, or to burn or bake: p3 Now speed you hastily, for Christe’s sake.” And when this friar had said all his intent, With qui cum patrep4 forth his way he went, When folk in church had giv’n him what them lest;pleased He went his way, no longer would he rest, With scrip and tipped staff, y-tucked high:with his robe tucked up high In every house he gan to porepeer and pry, And begged meal and cheese, or elles corn. His fellow had a staff tipped with horn, A pair of tableswriting tablets all of ivory, And a pointelpencil y-polish’d fetisly,daintily And wrote alway the names, as he stood; Of all the folk that gave them any good, Askaunceas if that he woulde for them pray. p5 “Give us a bushel wheat, or malt, or rey,rye A Godde’s kichel,little cakep6 or a tripscrap of cheese, Or elles what you list, we may not chese;choose A Godde’s halfpenny, p6 or a mass penny; Or give us of your brawn, if ye have any; A dagonremnant of your blanket, leve dame, Our sister dear, – lo, here I write your name,– Bacon or beef, or such thing as ye find.” A sturdy harlotmanservant went them aye behind,p7 That was their hoste’s man, and bare a sack, And what men gave them, laid it on his back And when that he was out at door, anon He planed awayrubbed out the names every one, That he before had written in his tables: He served them with niflessilly tales and with fables. –

“Nay, there thou liest, thou Sompnour,” quoth the Frere. “Peace,” quoth our Host, “for Christe’s mother dear; Tell forth thy tale, and spare it not at all.” “So thrive I,” quoth this Sompnour, “so I shall.” –

So long he went from house to house, till he Came to a house, where he was wont to be Refreshed more than in a hundred places Sick lay the husband man, whose that the place is, Bed-rid upon a couche low he lay: “Deus hic,”God be here quoth he; “O Thomas friend, good day,” Said this friar, all courteously and soft. “Thomas,” quoth he, “God yield it you,reward you for full oft Have I upon this bench fared full well, Here have I eaten many a merry meal.” And from the bench he drove away the cat, And laid adown his potentstaff and his hat,p8 And eke his scrip, and sat himself adown: His fellow was y-walked into town Forth with his knave,servant into that hostelry Where as he shopeshaped, purposed him that night to lie.

“O deare master,” quoth this sicke man, “How have ye fared since that March began? I saw you not this fortenight and more.” “God wot,” quoth he, “labour’d have I full sore; And specially for thy salvation Have I said many a precious orison, And for mine other friendes, God them bless. I have this day been at your church at mess,mass And said sermon after my simple wit, Not all after the text of Holy Writ; For it is hard to you, as I suppose, And therefore will I teach you aye the glose.gloss, comment Glosing is a full glorious thing certain, For letter slayeth, as we clerkesscholars sayn. There have I taught them to be charitable, And spend their good where it is reasonable. And there I saw our dame; where is she?” “Yonder I trow that in the yard she be,” Saide this man; “and she will come anon.” “Hey master, welcome be ye by Saint John,” Saide this wife; “how fare ye heartily?”

This friar riseth up full courteously, And her embraceth in his armes narrow,closely And kiss’th her sweet, and chirketh as a sparrow With his lippes: “Dame,” quoth he, “right well, As he that is your servant every deal.whit Thanked be God, that gave you soul and life, Yet saw I not this day so fair a wife In all the churche, God so save me,” “Yea, God amend defaultes, Sir,” quoth she; “Algatesalways welcome be ye, by my fay.” “Grand mercy, Dame; that have I found alway. But of your greate goodness, by your leave, I woulde pray you that ye not you grieve, I will with Thomas speak a little throw:a little while These curates be so negligent and slow To grope tenderly a conscience. In shriftconfession and preaching is my diligence And study in Peter’s wordes and in Paul’s; I walk and fishe Christian menne’s souls, To yield our Lord Jesus his proper rent; To spread his word is alle mine intent.” “Now by your faith, O deare Sir,” quoth she, “Chide him right well, for sainte charity. He is aye angry as is a pismire,ant Though that he have all that he can desire, Though I him wriecover at night, and make him warm, And ov’r him lay my leg and eke mine arm, He groaneth as our boar that lies in sty: Other disport of him right none have I, I may not please him in no manner case.” “O Thomas, je vous dis,I tell you Thomas, Thomas, This maketh the fiend,is the devil’s work this must be amended. Ire is a thing that high God hath defended,forbidden And thereof will I speak a word or two.” “Now, master,” quoth the wife, “ere that I go, What will ye dine? I will go thereabout.” “Now, Dame,” quoth he, “je vous dis sans doute, p9 Had I not of a capon but the liver, And of your white bread not but a shiver,thin slice And after that a roasted pigge’s head, (But I would that for me no beast were dead,) Then had I with you homely suffisance. I am a man of little sustenance. My spirit hath its fost’ring in the Bible. My body is aye so ready and peniblepainstaking To wake,watch that my stomach is destroy’d. I pray you, Dame, that ye be not annoy’d, Though I so friendly you my counsel shew; By God, I would have told it but to few.” “Now, Sir,” quoth she, “but one word ere I go; My child is dead within these weeke’s two, Soon after that ye went out of this town.”

“His death saw I by revelatioun,” Said this friar, “at home in our dortour.dormitoryp10 I dare well say, that less than half an hour Mter his death, I saw him borne to bliss In mine vision, so God me wiss.direct So did our sexton, and our fermerere,infirmary-keeper That have been true friars fifty year, – They may now, God be thanked of his love, Make their jubilee, and walk above.p12 And up I rose, and all our convent eke, With many a teare trilling on my cheek, Withoute noise or clattering of bells, Te Deum was our song, and nothing else, Save that to Christ I bade an orison, Thanking him of my revelation. For, Sir and Dame, truste me right well, Our orisons be more effectuel, And more we see of Christe’s secret things, Than borel folk,laymen although that they be kings. p13 We live in povert’, and in abstinence, And borel folk in riches and dispence Of meat and drink, and in their foul delight. We have this worlde’s lustpleasure all in despightcontempt Lazar and Dives lived diversely, And diverse guerdonreward hadde they thereby. Whoso will pray, he must fast and be clean, And fat his soul, and keep his body lean We fare as saith th’ apostle; clothclothing and food Suffice us, although they be not full good. The cleanness and the fasting of us freres Maketh that Christ accepteth our prayeres. Lo, Moses forty days and forty night Fasted, ere that the high God full of might Spake with him in the mountain of Sinai: With empty wombstomach of fasting many a day Received he the lawe, that was writ With Godde’s finger; and Eli,p14 well ye wit,know In Mount Horeb, ere he had any speech With highe God, that is our live’s leech,physician, healer He fasted long, and was in contemplance. Aaron, that had the temple in governance, And eke the other priestes every one, Into the temple when they shoulde gon To praye for the people, and do service, They woulde drinken in no manner wise No drinke, which that might them drunken make, But there in abstinence pray and wake, Lest that they died: take heed what I say – Butunless they be sober that for the people pray – Ware that, I say – no more: for it sufficeth. Our Lord Jesus, as Holy Writ deviseth,narrates Gave us example of fasting and prayeres: Therefore we mendicants, we selysimple, lowly freres, Be wedded to povert’ and continence, To charity, humbless, and abstinence, To persecution for righteousness, To weeping, misericorde,compassion and to cleanness. And therefore may ye see that our prayeres (I speak of us, we mendicants, we freres), Be to the highe God more acceptable Than youres, with your feastes at your table. From Paradise first, if I shall not lie, Was man out chased for his gluttony, And chaste was man in Paradise certain. But hark now, Thomas, what I shall thee sayn; I have no text of it, as I suppose, But I shall find it in a manner glose;a kind of comment That specially our sweet Lord Jesus Spake this of friars, when he saide thus, ‘Blessed be they that poor in spirit be’ And so forth all the gospel may ye see, Whether it be liker our profession, Or theirs that swimmen in possession; Fy on their pomp, and on their gluttony, And on their lewedness! I them defy. Me thinketh they be like Jovinian,p15 Fat as a whale, and walking as a swan; All vinolentfull of wine as bottle in the spence;store-room Their prayer is of full great reverence; When they for soules say the Psalm of David, Lo, ‘Buf’ they say, Cor meum eructavit.p16 Who follow Christe’s gospel and his loredoctrine But we, that humble be, and chaste, and pore,poor Workers of Godde’s word, not auditours?hearers Therefore right as a hawk upon a soursrising Up springs into the air, right so prayeres Of charitable and chaste busy freres Make their soursrise to Godde’s eares two. Thomas, Thomas, so may I ride or go, And by that lord that called is Saint Ive, N’ere thou our brother, shouldest thou not thrive;p17 In our chapiter pray we day and night To Christ, that he thee sende health and might, Thy body for to wielde hastily.soon be able to move freely

“God wot,” quoth he, “nothing thereof feel I; So help me Christ, as I in fewe years Have spended upon divers manner freresfriars of various sorts Full many a pound, yet fare I ne’er the bet;better Certain my good have I almost beset:spent Farewell my gold, for it is all ago.”gone The friar answer’d, “O Thomas, dost thou so? What needest thou diverse friars to seech?seek What needeth him that hath a perfect leech,healer To seeken other leeches in the town? Your inconstance is your confusioun. Hold ye then me, or elles our convent, To praye for you insufficient? Thomas, that japejest it is not worth a mite; Your malady is for we have too lite.because we have too little Ah, give that convent half a quarter oats; And give that convent four and twenty groats; And give that friar a penny, and let him go! Nay, nay, Thomas, it may no thing be so. What is a farthing worth parted on twelve? Lo, each thing that is onedmade one, united in himselve Is more strong than when it is y-scatter’d. Thomas, of me thou shalt not be y-flatter’d, Thou wouldest have our labour all for nought. The highe God, that all this world hath wrought, Saith, that the workman worthy is his hire Thomas, nought of your treasure I desire As for myself, but that all our convent To pray for you is aye so diligent: And for to builde Christe’s owen church. Thomas, if ye will learne for to wirch,work Of building up of churches may ye find If it be good, in Thomas’ life of Ind.p18 Ye lie here full of anger and of ire, With which the devil sets your heart on fire, And chide here this holy innocent Your wife, that is so meek and patient. And therefore trowbelieve me, Thomas, if thee lest,please Ne strive not with thy wife, as for the best. And bear this word away now, by thy faith, Touching such thing, lo, what the wise man saith: ‘Within thy house be thou no lion; To thy subjects do none oppression; Nor make thou thine acquaintance for to flee.’ And yet, Thomas, eftsoonesagain charge I thee, Beware from ire that in thy bosom sleeps, Ware from the serpent, that so slily creeps Under the grass, and stingeth subtilly. Beware, my son, and hearken patiently, That twenty thousand men have lost their lives For striving with their lemansmistresses and their wives. Now since ye have so holy and meek a wife, What needeth you, Thomas, to make strife? There is, y-wis,certainly no serpent so cruel, When men tread on his tail nor half so fell,fierce As woman is, when she hath caught an ire; Verypure, only vengeance is then all her desire. Ire is a sin, one of the greate seven, Abominable to the God of heaven, And to himself it is destruction. This every lewedignorant vicar and parson Can say, how ire engenders homicide; Ire is in sooth th’ executorexecutioner of pride. I could of ire you say so muche sorrow, My tale shoulde last until to-morrow. And therefore pray I God both day and ight, An irouspassionate man God send him little might. It is great harm, and certes great pity To set an irous man in high degree.

“Whilomonce there was an irous potestatejudgep19, As saith Senec, that during his estateterm of office Upon a day out rode knightes two; And, as fortune would that it were so, The one of them came home, the other not. Anon the knight before the judge is brought, That saide thus; ‘Thou hast thy fellow slain, For which I doom thee to the death certain.’ And to another knight commanded he; ‘Go, lead him to the death, I charge thee.’ And happened, as they went by the way Toward the place where as he should dey,die The knight came, which men weenedthought had been dead Then thoughte they it was the beste redecounsel To lead them both unto the judge again. They saide, ‘Lord, the knight hath not y-slain His fellow; here he standeth whole alive.’ ‘Ye shall be dead,’ quoth he, ‘so may I thrive, That is to say, both one, and two, and three.’ And to the firste knight right thus spake he: ‘I damned thee, thou must algateat all events be dead: And thou also must needes lose thine head, For thou the cause art why thy fellow dieth.’ And to the thirde knight right thus he sayeth, ‘Thou hast not done that I commanded thee.’ And thus he did do slay them alle three.

Irous Cambyses was eke dronkelew,a drunkard And aye delighted him to be a shrew.vicious, ill-tempered And so befell, a lord of his meinie,suite That loved virtuous morality, Said on a day betwixt them two right thus: ‘A lord is lost, if he be vicious. [An irous man is like a frantic beast, In which there is of wisdom none arrestno control;] And drunkenness is eke a foul record Of any man, and namelyespecially of a lord. There is full many an eye and many an ear Awaiting onwatching a lord, he knows not where. For Godde’s love, drink more attemperly:temperately Wine maketh man to lose wretchedly His mind, and eke his limbes every one.’ ‘The reverse shalt thou see,’ quoth he, ‘anon, And prove it by thine own experience, That wine doth to folk no such offence. There is no wine bereaveth me my might Of hand, nor foot, nor of mine eyen sight.’ And for despite he dranke muche more A hundred parttimes than he had done before, And right anon this cursed irous wretch This knighte’s sone letcaused before him fetch, Commanding him he should before him stand: And suddenly he took his bow in hand, And up the string he pulled to his ear, And with an arrow slew the child right there. ‘Now whether have I a sickersure hand or non?’not Quoth he; ‘Is all my might and mind agone? Hath wine bereaved me mine eyen sight?’ Why should I tell the answer of the knight? His son was slain, there is no more to say. Beware therefore with lordes how ye play,use freedom Sing placebo;p20 and I shall if I can, But ifunless it be unto a poore man: To a poor man men should his vices tell, But not t’ a lord, though he should go to hell. Lo, irous Cyrus, thilkethat Persian, How he destroy’d the river of Gisen,p21 For that a horse of his was drowned therein, When that he wente Babylon to win: He made that the river was so small, That women mighte wade it over all.everywhere Lo, what said he, that so well teache can, ‘Be thou no fellow to an irous man, Nor with no woodfurious man walke by the way, Lest thee repent;’ I will no farther say.

“Now, Thomas, levedear brother, leave thine ire, Thou shalt me find as just as is as squire; Hold not the devil’s knife aye at thine heaat; Thine anger doth thee all too sore smart;pain But shew to me all thy confession.” “Nay,” quoth the sicke man, “by Saint Simon I have been shrivenconfessed this day of my curate; I have him told all wholly mine estate. Needeth no more to speak of it, saith he, But if me list of mine humility.” “Give me then of thy good to make our cloister,” Quoth he, “for many a mussel and many an oyster, When other men have been full well at ease, Hath been our food, our cloister for to rese:raise, build And yet, God wot, unnethscarcely the foundementfoundation Performed is, nor of our pavement Is not a tile yet within our wones:habitation By God, we owe forty pound for stones. Now help, Thomas, for him that harrow’d hell,p22 For elles must we oure bookes sell, And if ye lack our predication, Then goes this world all to destruction. For whoso from this world would us bereave, So God me save, Thomas, by your leave, He would bereave out of this world the sun For who can teach and worken as we conne?know how to do And that is not of little time (quoth he), But since Elijah was, and Elisee,Elisha Have friars been, that find I of record, In charity, y-thanked be our Lord. Now, Thomas, help for sainte charity.” And down anon he set him on his knee, The sick man waxed well-nigh woodmad for ire, He woulde that the friar had been a-fire With his false dissimulation. “Such thing as is in my possession,” Quoth he, “that may I give you and none other: Ye say me thus, how that I am your brother.” “Yea, certes,” quoth this friar, “yea, truste well; I took our Dame the letter of our seal”p23 “Now well,” quoth he, “and somewhat shall I give Unto your holy convent while I live; And in thine hand thou shalt it have anon, On this condition, and other none, That thou departdivide it so, my deare brother, That every friar have as much as other: This shalt thou swear on thy profession, Withoute fraud or cavillation.”quibbling “I swear it,” quoth the friar, “upon my faith.” And therewithal his hand in his he lay’th; “Lo here my faith, in me shall be no lack.” “Then put thine hand adown right by my back,” Saide this man, “and grope well behind, Beneath my buttock, there thou shalt find A thing, that I have hid in privity.” “Ah,” thought this friar, “that shall go with me.” And down his hand he launched to the clift,cleft In hope for to finde there a gift. And when this sicke man felte this frere About his taile groping there and here, Amid his hand he let the friar a fart; There is no capelhorse drawing in a cart, That might have let a fart of such a soun’. The friar up start, as doth a woodfierce lioun: “Ah, false churl,” quoth he, “for Godde’s bones, This hast thou in despite done for the nones:on purpose Thou shalt abiesuffer for this fart, if that I may.” His meinie,servants which that heard of this affray, Came leaping in, and chased out the frere, And forth he went with a full angry cheercountenance And fetch’d his fellow, there as lay his store: He looked as it were a wilde boar, And grounde with his teeth, so was he wroth. A sturdy pace down to the court he go’th, Where as there wonn’ddwelt a man of great honour, To whom that he was always confessour: This worthy man was lord of that village. This friar came, as he were in a rage, Where as this lord sat eating at his board: Unnetheswith difficulty might the friar speak one word, Till at the last he saide, “God you see.”save

This lord gan look, and said, “Ben’dicite! What? Friar John, what manner world is this? I see well that there something is amiss; Ye look as though the wood were full of thieves. Sit down anon, and tell me what your grievegrievance, grief is, And it shall be amended, if I may.” “I have,” quoth he, “had a despite to-day, God yielde you,reward you adown in your village, That in this world is none so poor a page, That would not have abominatioun Of that I have received in your town: And yet ne grieveth me nothing so sore, As that the olde churl, with lockes hoar, Blasphemed hath our holy convent eke.” “Now, master,” quoth this lord, “I you beseek” – “No master, Sir,” quoth he, “but servitour, Though I have had in schoole that honour. p24 God liketh not, that men us Rabbi call Neither in market, nor in your large hall.” “No force,”no matter quoth he; “but tell me all your grief.” Sir,” quoth this friar, “an odious mischief This day betidbefallen is to mine order and me, And so par consequence to each degree Of holy churche, God amend it soon.” “Sir,” quoth the lord, “ye know what is to doon:do Distemp’r you not,be not impatient ye be my confessour. Ye be the salt of th’ earth, and the savour; For Godde’s love your patience now hold; Tell me your grief.” And he anon him told As ye have heard before, ye know well what. The lady of the house aye stiller sat, Till she had hearde what the friar said, “Hey, Godde’s mother;” quoth she, “blissful maid, Is there ought elles? tell me faithfully.” “Madame,” quoth he, “how thinketh you thereby?” “How thinketh me?” quoth she; “so God me speed, I say, a churl hath done a churlish deed, What should I say? God let him never the;thrive His sicke head is full of vanity; I hold him in a manner phrenesy.”a sort of frenzy “Madame,” quoth he, “by God, I shall not lie, But I in other wise may be awreke,revenged I shall defame him ov’r all therewherever I speak; This false blasphemour, that charged me To parte that will not departed be, To every man alike, with mischance.”

The lord sat still, as he were in a trance, And in his heart he rolled up and down, “How had this churl imaginatioun To shewe such a problem to the frere. Never ere now heard I of such mattere; I trowbelieve the Devil put it in his mind. In all arsmetrikarithmetic shall there no man find, Before this day, of such a question. Who shoulde make a demonstration, That every man should have alike his part As of the sound and savour of a fart? O nicefoolish proude churl, I shrewcurse his face. Lo, Sires,” quoth the lord, “with harde grace, Who ever heard of such a thing ere now? To every man alike? tell me how. It is impossible, it may not be. Hey nicefoolish churl, God let him never the.thrive The rumbling of a fart, and every soun’, Is but of air reverberatioun, And ever wasteth lite and litelittle away; There is no man can deemen,judge, decide by my fay, If that it were departeddivided equally. What? lo, my churl, lo yet how shrewedlyimpiously, wickedly Unto my confessour to-day he spake; I hold him certain a demoniac. Now eat your meat, and let the churl go play, Let him go hang himself a devil way!”

Now stood the lorde’s squier at the board, That carv’d his meat, and hearde word by word Of all this thing, which that I have you said. “My lord,” quoth he, “be ye not evil paid,displeased I coulde telle, for a gowne-cloth,cloth for a gown To you, Sir Friar, so that ye be not wrot, How that this fart should evenequally dealed be Among your convent, if it liked thee.” “Tell,” quoth the lord, “and thou shalt have anon A gowne-cloth, by God and by Saint John.” “My lord,” quoth he, “when that the weather is fair, Withoute wind, or perturbing of air, Letcause bring a cart-wheel here into this hall, But looke that it have its spokes all; Twelve spokes hath a cart-wheel commonly; And bring me then twelve friars, know ye why? For thirteen is a convent as I guess;p25 Your confessor here, for his worthiness, Shall perform upcomplete the number of his convent. Then shall they kneel adown by one assent, And to each spoke’s end, in this mannere, Full sadlycarefully, steadily lay his nose shall a frere; Your noble confessor there, God him save, Shall hold his nose upright under the nave. Then shall this churl, with belly stiff and toughttight As any tabour,drum hither be y-brought; And set him on the wheel right of this cart Upon the nave, and make him let a fart, And ye shall see, on peril of my life, By very proof that is demonstrative, That equally the sound of it will wend,go And eke the stink, unto the spokes’ end, Save that this worthy man, your confessour’ (Because he is a man of great honour), Shall have the firste fruit, as reason is; The noble usage of friars yet it is, The worthy men of them shall first be served, And certainly he hath it well deserved; He hath to-day taught us so muche good With preaching in the pulpit where he stood, That I may vouchesafe, I say for me, He had the firste smell of fartes three; And so would all his brethren hardily; He beareth him so fair and holily.”

The lord, the lady, and each man, save the frere, Saide, that Jankin spake in this mattere As well as Euclid, or as Ptolemy. Touching the churl, they said that subtilty And high wit made him speaken as he spake; He is no fool, nor no demoniac. And Jankin hath y-won a newe gown; My tale is done, we are almost at town.


Notes to the Sompnour’s Tale

Notes to the Sompnour’s Tale

p1

Trentals: The money given to the priests for performing thirty masses for the dead, either in succession or on the anniversaries of their death; also the masses themselves, which were very profitable to the clergy.

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p2

Possessioners: The regular religious orders, who had lands and fixed revenues; while the friars, by their vows, had to depend on voluntary contributions, though their need suggested many modes of evading the prescription.

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p3

In Chaucer’s day the most material notions about the tortures of hell prevailed, and were made the most of by the clergy, who preyed on the affection and fear of the survivors, through the ingenious doctrine of purgatory. Old paintings and illuminations represent the dead as torn by hooks, roasted in fires, boiled in pots, and subjected to many other physical torments.

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p4

Qui cum patre: “Who with the father”; the closing words of the final benediction pronounced at Mass.

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p5

Askaunce: The word now means sideways or asquint; here it means “as if;” and its force is probably to suggest that the second friar, with an ostentatious stealthiness, noted down the names of the liberal, to make them believe that they would be remembered in the holy beggars’ orisons.

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p6

A Godde’s kichel/halfpenny: a little cake/halfpenny, given for God’s sake.

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p7

Harlot: hired servant; from Anglo-Saxon, “hyran,” to hire; the word was commonly applied to males.

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p8

Potent: staff; French, “potence,” crutch, gibbet.

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p9

Je vous dis sans doute: French; “I tell you without doubt.”

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p10

Dortour: dormitory; French, “dortoir.”

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p12

The Rules of St Benedict granted peculiar honours and immunities to monks who had lived fifty years – the jubilee period – in the order. The usual reading of the words ending the two lines is “loan” or “lone,” and “alone;” but to walk alone does not seem to have been any peculiar privilege of a friar, while the idea of precedence, or higher place at table and in processions, is suggested by the reading in the text.

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p13

Borel folk: laymen, people who are not learned; “borel” was a kind of coarse cloth.

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p14

Eli: Elijah (1 Kings, xix.)

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p15

An emperor Jovinian was famous in the mediaeval legends for his pride and luxury

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p16

Cor meum eructavit: literally, “My heart has belched forth;” in our translation, (i.e. the Authorised “King James” Version - Transcriber) “My heart is inditing a goodly matter.” (Ps. xlv. 1.). “Buf” is meant to represent the sound of an eructation, and to show the “great reverence” with which “those in possession,” the monks of the rich monasteries, performed divine service,

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p17

N’ere thou our brother, shouldest thou not thrive: if thou wert not of our brotherhood, thou shouldst have no hope of recovery.

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p18

Thomas’ life of Ind: The life of Thomas of India - i.e. St. Thomas the Apostle, who was said to have travelled to India.

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p19

Potestate: chief magistrate or judge; Latin, “potestas;” Italian, “podesta.” Seneca relates the story of Cornelius Piso; “De Ira,” i. 16.

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p20

Placebo: An anthem of the Roman Church, from Psalm cxvi. 9, which in the Vulgate reads, “Placebo Domino in regione vivorum” – “I will please the Lord in the land of the living”

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p21

The Gysen: Seneca calls it the Gyndes; Sir John Mandeville tells the story of the Euphrates. “Gihon,” was the name of one of the four rivers of Eden (Gen. ii, 13).

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p22

Him that harrowed Hell: Christ. See note 14 to the Reeve’s Tale.

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p23

Mr. Wright says that “it was a common practice to grant under the conventual seal to benefactors and others a brotherly participation in the spiritual good works of the convent, and in their expected reward after death.”

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p24

The friar had received a master’s degree.

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p25

The regular number of monks or friars in a convent was fixed at twelve, with a superior, in imitation of the apostles and their Master; and large religious houses were held to consist of so many convents.

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The Clerk’s Tale


The Prologue

“SIR Clerk of Oxenford,” our Hoste said, “Ye ride as still and coy, as doth a maid That were new spoused, sitting at the board: This day I heard not of your tongue a word. I trow ye study about some sophime:sophism But Solomon saith, every thing hath time. For Godde’s sake, be of better cheer,livelier mien It is no time for to study here. Tell us some merry tale, by your fay;faith For what man that is entered in a play, He needes must unto that play assent. But preache not, as friars do in Lent, To make us for our olde sinnes weep, Nor that thy tale make us not to sleep. Tell us some merry thing of aventures. Your terms, your coloures, and your figures, Keep them in store, till so be ye indite High style, as when that men to kinges write. Speake so plain at this time, I you pray, That we may understande what ye say.”

This worthy Clerk benignely answer’d; “Hoste,” quoth he, “I am under your yerd,rodq1 Ye have of us as now the governance, And therefore would I do you obeisance, As far as reason asketh, hardily:boldly, truly I will you tell a tale, which that I Learn’d at Padova of a worthy clerk, As proved by his wordes and his werk. He is now dead, and nailed in his chest, I pray to God to give his soul good rest. Francis Petrarc’, the laureate poet,q2 Hightewas called this clerk, whose rhetoric so sweet Illumin’d all Itale of poetry, As Linian q3 did of philosophy, Or law, or other art particulere: But death, that will not suffer us dwell here But as it were a twinkling of an eye, Them both hath slain, and alle we shall die.

“But forth to tellen of this worthy man, That taughte me this tale, as I began, I say that first he with high style inditeth (Ere he the body of his tale writeth) A proem, in the which describeth he Piedmont, and of Saluces q4 the country, And speaketh of the Pennine hilles high, That be the bounds of all West Lombardy: And of Mount Vesulus in special, Where as the Po out of a welle small Taketh his firste springing and his source, That eastward aye increaseth in his course T’Emilia-ward, q5 to Ferraro, and Venice, The which a long thing were to devise.narrate And truely, as to my judgement, Me thinketh it a thing impertinent,irrelevant Save that he would conveye his mattere: But this is the tale, which that ye shall hear.”


Notes to the Prologue to the Clerk’s Tale

Notes to the Prologue to the Clerk’s Tale

q1

Under your yerd: under your rod; as the emblem of government or direction.

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q2

Francesco Petrarca, born 1304, died 1374; for his Latin epic poem on the carer of Scipio, called “Africa,” he was solemnly crowned with the poetic laurel in the Capitol of Rome, on Easter-day of 1341.

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q3

Linian: An eminent jurist and philosopher, now almost forgotten, who died four or five years after Petrarch.

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q4

Saluces: Saluzzo, a district of Savoy; its marquises were celebrated during the Middle Ages.

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q5

Emilia: The region called Aemilia, across which ran the Via Aemilia – made by M. Aemilius Lepidus, who was consul at Rome B.C. 187. It continued the Flaminian Way from Ariminum (Rimini) across the Po at Placentia (Piacenza) to Mediolanum (Milan), traversing Cisalpine Gaul.

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The Taler1

Pars Prima

First Part

There is, right at the west side of Itale, Down at the root of Vesulusr2 the cold, A lustypleasant plain, abundant of vitaille;victuals There many a town and tow’r thou may’st behold, That founded were in time of fathers old, And many another delectable sight; And Saluces this noble country hight.

A marquis whilom lord was of that land, As were his worthy eldersancestors him before, And obedient, aye ready to his hand, Were all his lieges, bothe less and more: Thus in delight he liv’d, and had done yore,long Belov’d and drad,held in reverence through favour of fortune, Both of his lordes and of his commune.commonalty

Therewith he was, to speak of lineage, The gentilest y-born of Lombardy, A fair person, and strong, and young of age, And full of honour and of courtesy: Discreet enough his country for to gie,guide, rule Saving in some things that he was to blame; And Walter was this younge lordes name.

I blame him thus, that he consider’d not In time coming what might him betide, But on his present lustpleasure was all his thought, And for to hawk and hunt on every side; Well nigh all other cares let he slide, And eke he would (that was the worst of all) Wedde no wife for aught that might befall.

Only that point his people bare so sore, That flockmelin a body on a day to him they went, And one of them, that wisest was of lore (Or elles that the lord would best assent That he should tell him what the people meant, Or elles could he well shew such mattere), He to the marquis said as ye shall hear.

“O noble Marquis! your humanity Assureth us and gives us hardiness, As oft as time is of necessity, That we to you may tell our heaviness: Accepte, Lord, now of your gentleness, What we with piteous heart unto you plain,complain of And let your ears my voice not disdain.

“Allalthough have I nought to do in this mattere More than another man hath in this place, Yet forasmuch as ye, my Lord so dear, Have always shewed me favour and grace, I dare the better ask of you a space Of audience, to shewen our request, And ye, my Lord, to do right as you lest.as pleaseth you

“For certes, Lord, so well us like you And all your work, and ev’r have done, that we Ne coulde not ourselves devise how We mighte live in more felicity: Save one thing, Lord, if that your will it be, That for to be a wedded man you lest; Then were your people in sovereign hearte’s rest.completely

“Bowe your neck under the blissful yoke Of sovereignty, and not of service, Which that men call espousal or wedlock: And thinke, Lord, among your thoughtes wise, How that our dayes pass in sundry wise; For though we sleep, or wake, or roam, or ride, Aye fleeth time, it will no man abide.

“And though your greene youthe flow’r as yet, In creepeth age always as still as stone, And death menaceth every age, and smitsmiteth In each estate, for there escapeth none: And all so certain as we know each one That we shall die, as uncertain we all Be of that day when death shall on us fall.

“Accepte then of us the true intent,mind, desire That never yet refused youre hest,command And we will, Lord, if that ye will assent, Choose you a wife, in short time at the lest,least Born of the gentilest and of the best Of all this land, so that it ought to seem Honour to God and you, as we can deem.

“Deliver us out of all this busy dread,doubt And take a wife, for highe Godde’s sake: For if it so befell, as God forbid, That through your death your lineage should slake,become extinct And that a strange successor shoulde take Your heritage, oh! woe were us on live:alive Wherefore we pray you hastily to wive.”

Their meeke prayer and their piteous cheer Made the marquis for to have pity. “Ye will,” quoth he, “mine owen people dear, To that I ne’er erebefore thought constraine me. I me rejoiced of my liberty, That seldom time is found in rnarriage; Where I was free, I must be in servage!servitude

“But natheless I see your true intent, And trust upon your wit, and have done aye: Wherefore of my free will I will assent To wedde me, as soon as e’er I may. But whereas ye have proffer’d me to-day To choose me a wife, I you release That choice, and pray you of that proffer cease.

“For God it wot, that children often been Unlike their worthy elders them before, Bountegoodness comes all of God, not of the strenestock, race Of which they be engender’d and y-bore: I trust in Godde’s bounte, and therefore My marriage, and mine estate and rest, I him betake;commend to him he may do as him lest.

“Let me alone in choosing of my wife; That charge upon my back I will endure: But I you pray, and charge upon your life, That what wife that I take, ye me assure To worshiphonour her, while that her life may dure, In word and work both here and elleswhere, As she an emperore’s daughter were.

“And farthermore this shall ye swear, that ye Against my choice shall never grudgemurmur nor strive. For since I shall forego my liberty At your request, as ever may I thrive, Where as mine heart is set, there will I live And butunless ye will assent in such mannere, I pray you speak no more of this mattere.”

With heartly will they sworen and assent To all this thing, there said not one wight nay: Beseeching him of grace, ere that they went, That he would grante them a certain day Of his espousal, soon as e’er he rnay, For yet always the people somewhat dreadwere in fear or doubt Lest that the marquis woulde no wife wed.

He granted them a day, such as him lest, On which he would be wedded sickerly,certainly And said he did all this at their request; And they with humble heart full buxomly,obedientlyr3 Kneeling upon their knees full reverently, Him thanked all; and thus they have an end Of their intent, and home again they wend.

And hereupon he to his officers Commanded for the feaste to purvey.provide And to his privy knightes and squiers Such charge he gave, as him list on them lay: And they to his commandement obey, And each of them doth all his diligence To do unto the feast all reverence.

Pars Secunda

Second Part

Not far from thilkethat palace honourable, Where as this marquis shopeprepared; resolved on his marriage, There stood a thorp,hamlet of sighte delectable, In which the poore folk of that village Hadde their beastes and their harbourage,dwelling And of their labour took their sustenance, After the earthe gave them abundance.

Among this poore folk there dwelt a man Which that was holden poorest of them all; But highe God sometimes sende can His grace unto a little ox’s stall; Janicola men of that thorp him call. A daughter had he, fair enough to sight, And Griseldis this younge maiden hight.

But for to speak of virtuous beauty, Then was she one the fairest under sun: Full poorely y-foster’d up was she; No likerous lustluxurious pleasure was in her heart y-run; Well ofter of the well than of the tun She drank, r4 and, forbecause she woulde virtue please She knew well labour, but no idle ease.

But though this maiden tender were of age; Yet in the breast of her virginity There was inclos’d a sad and ripe corage;steadfast and mature spirit And in great reverence and charity Her olde poore father foster’d she. A few sheep, spinning, on the field she kept, She woulde not be idle till she slept.

And when she homeward came, she would bring Wortes,plants, cabbages and other herbes, times oft, The which she shred and seeth’d for her living, And made her bed full hard, and nothing soft: And aye she kept her father’s life on loftup, aloft With ev’ry obeisance and diligence, That child may do to father’s reverence.

Upon Griselda, this poor creature, Full often sithestimes this marquis set his eye, As he on hunting rode, paraventure:by chance And when it fell that he might her espy, He not with wanton looking of folly His eyen cast on her, but in sadserious wise Upon her cheercountenance he would him oft advise;consider

Commending in his heart her womanhead, And eke her virtue, passing any wight Of so young age, as well in cheer as deed. For though the people have no great insight In virtue, he considered full right Her bounte,goodness and disposed that he would Wed only her, if ever wed he should.

The day of wedding came, but no wight can Telle what woman that it shoulde be; For which marvail wonder’d many a man, And saide, when they were in privity, “Will not our lord yet leave his vanity? Will he not wed? Alas, alas the while! Why will he thus himself and us beguile?”

But natheless this marquis had done makecaused to be made Of gemmes, set in gold and in azure, Brooches and ringes, for Griselda’s sake, And of her clothing took he the measure Of a maiden like unto her stature, And eke of other ornamentes all That unto such a wedding shoulde fall.befit

The time of undernevening of the same dayr5 Approached, that this wedding shoulde be, And all the palace put was in array, Both hall and chamber, each in its degree, Houses of office stuffed with plenty There may’st thou see of dainteous vitaille,victuals, provisions That may be found, as far as lasts Itale.

This royal marquis, richely array’d, Lordes and ladies in his company, The which unto the feaste were pray’d, And of his retinue the bach’lery, With many a sound of sundry melody, Unto the village, of the which I told, In this array the right way did they hold.

Griseld’ of this (God wot) full innocent, That for her shapenprepared was all this array, To fetche water at a well is went, And home she came as soon as e’er she may. For well she had heard say, that on that day The marquis shoulde wed, and, if she might, She fain would have seen somewhat of that sight.

She thought, “I will with other maidens stand, That be my fellows, in our door, and see The marchioness; and therefore will I fandstrive To do at home, as soon as it may be, The labour which belongeth unto me, And then I may at leisure her behold, If she this way unto the castle hold.”

And as she would over the threshold gon, The marquis came and gan for her to call, And she set down her water-pot anon Beside the threshold, in an ox’s stall, And down upon her knees she gan to fall, And with sadsteady countenance kneeled still, Till she had heard what was the lorde’s will.

The thoughtful marquis spake unto the maid Full soberly, and said in this mannere: “Where is your father, Griseldis?” he said. And she with reverence, in humble cheer,with humble air Answered, “Lord, he is all ready here.” And in she went withoute longer letdelay And to the marquis she her father fet.fetched

He by the hand then took the poore man, And saide thus, when he him had aside: “Janicola, I neither may nor can Longer the pleasance of mine hearte hide; If that thou vouchesafe, whatso betide, Thy daughter will I take, ere that I wend,go As for my wife, unto her life’s end.

“Thou lovest me, that know I well certain, And art my faithful liegeman y-bore,born And all that liketh me, I dare well sayn It liketh thee; and specially therefore Tell me that point, that I have said before, – If that thou wilt unto this purpose draw, To take me as for thy son-in-law.”

This sudden caseevent the man astonied so, That red he wax’d, abash’d,amazed and all quaking He stood; unnethesscarcely said he wordes mo’, But only thus; “Lord,” quoth he, “my willing Is as ye will, nor against your liking I will no thing, mine owen lord so dear; Right as you list governe this mattere.”

“Then will I,” quoth the marquis softely, “That in thy chamber I, and thou, and she, Have a collation;conference and know’st thou why? For I will ask her, if her will it be To be my wife, and rule her after me: And all this shall be done in thy presence, I will not speak out of thine audience.”hearing

And in the chamber while they were about The treaty, which ye shall hereafter hear, The people came into the house without, And wonder’d them in how honest mannere And tenderly she kept her father dear; But utterly Griseldis wonder might, For never erstbefore ne saw she such a sight.

No wonder is though that she be astoned,astonished To see so great a guest come in that place, She never was to no such guestes woned;accustomed, wont For which she looked with full pale face. But shortly forth this matter for to chase,push on, pursue These are the wordes that the marquis said To this benigne, very,true faithful maid.r6

“Griseld’,” he said, “ye shall well understand, It liketh to your father and to me That I you wed, and eke it may so stand, As I suppose ye will that it so be: But these demandes ask I first,” quoth he, “Since that it shall be done in hasty wise; Will ye assent, or elles you advise?consider

“I say this, be ye ready with good heart To all my lust,pleasure and that I freely may, As me best thinketh, do youcause you to laugh or smart, And never ye to grudge,murmur night nor day, And eke when I say Yea, ye say not Nay, Neither by word, nor frowning countenance? Swear this, and here I swear our alliance.”

Wond’ring upon this word, quaking for dread, She saide; “Lord, indigne and unworthy Am I to this honour that ye me bede,offer But as ye will yourself, right so will I: And here I swear, that never willingly In word or thought I will you disobey, For to be dead; though me were loth to dey.”die

“This is enough, Griselda mine,” quoth he. And forth he went with a full sober cheer, Out at the door, and after then came she, And to the people he said in this mannere: “This is my wife,” quoth he, “that standeth here. Honoure her, and love her, I you pray, Whoso me loves; there is no more to say.”

And, for that nothing of her olde gear She shoulde bring into his house, he bade That women should despoilestrip her right there; Of which these ladies were nothing glad To handle her clothes wherein she was clad: But natheless this maiden bright of hue From foot to head they clothed have all new.

Her haires have they comb’d that lay untress’dloose Full rudely, and with their fingers small A crown upon her head they have dress’d, And set her full of nouches r7 great and small: Of her array why should I make a tale? Unnethscarcely the people her knew for her fairness, When she transmuted was in such richess.

The marquis hath her spoused with a ring Brought for the same cause, and then her set Upon a horse snow-white, and well ambling, And to his palace, ere he longer letdelayed With joyful people, that her led and met, Conveyed her; and thus the day they spend In revel, till the sunne gan descend.

And, shortly forth this tale for to chase, I say, that to this newe marchioness God hath such favour sent her of his grace, That it ne seemed not by likeliness That she was born and fed in rudeness, – As in a cot, or in an ox’s stall, – But nourish’d in an emperore’s hall.

To every wight she waxengrown is so dear And worshipful, that folk where she was born, That from her birthe knew her year by year, Unnethes trowedscarcely believed they, but durst have sworn, That to Janicol’ of whom I spake before, She was not daughter, for by conjecture Them thought she was another creature.

For though that ever virtuous was she, She was increased in such excellence Of thewesqualities good, y-set in high bounte, And so discreet, and fair of eloquence, So benign, and so digneworthy of reverence, And coulde so the people’s heart embrace, That each her lov’d that looked on her face.

Not only of Saluces in the town Published was the bounte of her name, But eke besides in many a regioun; If one said well, another said the same: So spread of here high bounte the fame, That men and women, young as well as old, Went to Saluces, her for to behold.

Thus Walter lowly, – nay, but royally,- Wedded with fortn’ate honestete,virtue In Godde’s peace lived full easily At home, and outward grace enough had he: And, for he saw that under low degree Was honest virtue hid, the people him held A prudent man, and that is seen full seld’.seldom

Not only this Griseldis through her wit Couth all the featknew all the duties of wifely homeliness, But eke, when that the case required it, The common profit coulde she redress: There n’as discord, rancour, nor heaviness In all the land, that she could not appease, And wisely bring them all in rest and ease

Though that her husband absent were or non,not If gentlemen or other of that country, Were wroth,at feud she woulde bringe them at one, So wise and ripe wordes hadde she, And judgement of so great equity, That she from heaven sent was, as men wend,weened, imagined People to save, and every wrong t’amend

Not longe time after that this Griseld’ Was wedded, she a daughter had y-bore; All she had leverrather borne a knaveboy child, Glad was the marquis and his folk therefore; For, though a maiden child came all before, She may unto a knave child attain By likelihood, since she is not barren.

Pars Tertia

Third Part

There fell, as falleth many times mo’, When that his child had sucked but a throw,little while This marquis in his hearte longed so To tempt his wife, her sadnesssteadfastness for to know, That he might not out of his hearte throw This marvellous desire his wife t’asssay;try Needless,without cause God wot, he thought her to affray.alarm, disturb

He had assayed her anough before, And found her ever good; what needed it Her for to tempt, and always more and more? Though some men praise it for a subtle wit, But as for me, I say that evil it sitit ill became him T’assay a wife when that it is no need, And putte her in anguish and in dread.

For which this marquis wrought in this mannere: He came at night alone there as she lay, With sterne face and with full troubled cheer, And saide thus; “Griseld’,” quoth he “that day That I you took out of your poor array, And put you in estate of high nobless, Ye have it not forgotten, as I guess.

“I say, Griseld’, this present dignity, In which that I have put you, as I trowbelieve Maketh you not forgetful for to be That I you took in poor estate full low, For any weal you must yourselfe know. Take heed of every word that I you say, There is no wight that hears it but we tway.two

“Ye know yourself well how that ye came here Into this house, it is not long ago; And though to me ye be right lefeloved and dear, Unto my gentlesnobles, gentlefolk ye be nothing so: They say, to them it is great shame and woe For to be subject, and be in servage, To thee, that born art of small lineage.

“And namelyespecially since thy daughter was y-bore These wordes have they spoken doubteless; But I desire, as I have done before, To live my life with them in rest and peace: I may not in this case be reckeless; I must do with thy daughter for the best, Not as I would, but as my gentles lest.please

“And yet, God wot, this is full lothodious to me: But natheless withoute your weetingknowing I will nought do; but this will I,” quoth he, “That ye to me assenten in this thing. Shew now your patience in your working, That ye me hightpromised and swore in your village The day that maked was our marriage.”

When she had heard all this, she not amev’dchanged Neither in word, in cheer, nor countenance (For, as it seemed, she was not aggriev’d); She saide; “Lord, all lies in your pleasance, My child and I, with hearty obeisance Be youres all, and ye may save or spilldestroy Your owen thing: work then after your will.

“There may no thing, so God my soule save, Like tobe pleasing you, that may displease me: Nor I desire nothing for to have, Nor dreade for to lose, save only ye: This will is in mine heart, and aye shall be, No length of time, nor death, may this deface, Nor change my coragespirit, heart to another place.”

Glad was the marquis for her answering, But yet he feigned as he were not so; All dreary was his cheer and his looking When that he should out of the chamber go. Soon after this, a furlong way or two,r8 He privily hath told all his intent Unto a man, and to his wife him sent.

A manner sergeantkind of squire was this privatediscreet man, The which he faithful often founden had In thinges great, and eke such folk well can Do execution in thinges bad: The lord knew well, that he him loved and drad.dreaded And when this sergeant knew his lorde’s will, Into the chamber stalked he full still.

“Madam,” he said, “ye must forgive it me, Though I do thing to which I am constrain’d; Ye be so wise, that right well knowe ye That lordes’ hestes may not be y-feign’d;r9 They may well be bewailed and complain’d, But men must needs unto their lustpleasure obey; And so will I, there is no more to say.

“This child I am commanded for to take.” And spake no more, but out the child he hentseized Dispiteously,unpityingly and gan a cheershow, aspect to make As though he would have slain it ere he went. Griseldis must all suffer and consent: And as a lamb she sat there meek and still, And let this cruel sergeant do his will

Suspiciousominous was the diffameevil reputation of this man, Suspect his face, suspect his word also, Suspect the time in which he this began: Alas! her daughter, that she loved so, She weenedthought he would have it slain right tho,then But natheless she neither wept nor siked,sighed Conforming her to what the marquis liked.

But at the last to speake she began, And meekly she unto the sergeant pray’d, So as he was a worthy gentle man, That she might kiss her child, ere that it died: And in her barmelap, bosom this little child she laid, With full sad face, and gan the child to bless,cross And lulled it, and after gan it kiss.

And thus she said in her benigne voice: Farewell, my child, I shall thee never see; But since I have thee marked with the cross, Of that father y-blessed may’st thou be That for us died upon a cross of tree: Thy soul, my little child, I him betake,commit unto him For this night shalt thou dien for my sake.

I trowbelieve that to a noricenurse in this case It had been hard this ruthepitiful sight for to see: Well might a mother then have cried, “Alas!” But natheless so sad steadfast was she, That she endured all adversity, And to the sergeant meekely she said, “Have here again your little younge maid.

“Go now,” quoth she, “and do my lord’s behest. And one thing would I pray you of your grace, But ifunless my lord forbade you at the least, Bury this little body in some place, That neither beasts nor birdes it arace.”tearr10 But he no word would to that purpose say, But took the child and went upon his way.

The sergeant came unto his lord again, And of Griselda’s words and of her cheerdemeanour He told him point for point, in short and plain, And him presented with his daughter dear. Somewhat this lord had ruth in his mannere, But natheless his purpose held he still, As lordes do, when they will have their will;

And bade this sergeant that he privily Shoulde the child full softly wind and wrap, With alle circumstances tenderly, And carry it in a coffer, or in lap; But, upon pain his head off for to swap,strike That no man shoulde know of his intent, Nor whence he came, nor whither that he went;

But at Bologna, to his sister dear, That at that time of Panic’Panico was Countess, He should it take, and shew her this mattere, Beseeching her to do her business This child to foster in all gentleness, And whose child it was he bade her hide From every wight, for aught that might betide.

The sergeant went, and hath fulfill’d this thing. But to the marquis now returne we; For now went he full fast imagining If by his wife’s cheer he mighte see, Or by her wordes apperceive, that she Were changed; but he never could her find, But ever-in-oneconstantly alike sadsteadfast and kind.

As glad, as humble, as busy in service, And eke in love, as she was wont to be, Was she to him, in every manner wise;sort of way And of her daughter not a word spake she; No accident for no adversityno change of humour resulting from her affliction Was seen in her, nor e’er her daughter’s name She named, or in earnest or in game.

Pars Quarta

Fourth Part

In this estate there passed be four year Ere she with childe was; but, as God wo’ld, A knaveboy child she bare by this Waltere, Full gracious and fair for to behold; And when that folk it to his father told, Not only he, but all his country, merry Were for this child, and God they thank and hery.praise

When it was two year old, and from the breast Departedtaken, weaned of the norice, on a day This marquis caughte yet another lestwas seized by yet another desire To tempt his wife yet farther, if he may. Oh! needless was she tempted in as say;trial But wedded men not connen no measure,know no moderation When that they find a patient creature.

“Wife,” quoth the marquis, “ye have heard ere this My people sickly bearregard with displeasure our marriage; And namelyespecially since my son y-boren is, Now is it worse than ever in all our age: The murmur slays mine heart and my corage, For to mine ears cometh the voice so smart,painfully That it well nigh destroyed hath mine heart.

“Now say they thus, ‘When Walter is y-gone, Then shall the blood of Janicol’ succeed, And be our lord, for other have we none:’ Such wordes say my people, out of drede.doubt Well ought I of such murmur take heed, For certainly I dread all such sentence,expression of opinion Though they not plainen in mine audience.complain in my hearing

“I woulde live in peace, if that I might; Wherefore I am disposed utterly, As I his sister served erebefore by night, Right so think I to serve him privily. This warn I you, that ye not suddenly Out of yourself for no woe should outraie;become outrageous, rave Be patient, and thereof I you pray.”

“I have,” quoth she, “said thus, and ever shall, I will no thing, nor n’ill no thing, certain, But as you list; not grieveth me at all Though that my daughter and my son be slain At your commandement; that is to sayn, I have not had no part of children twain, But first sickness, and after woe and pain.

“Ye be my lord, do with your owen thing Right as you list, and ask no rede of me: For, as I left at home all my clothing When I came first to you, right so,” quoth she, “Left I my will and all my liberty, And took your clothing: wherefore I you pray, Do your pleasance, I will your lustwill obey.

“And, certes, if I hadde prescience Your will to know, ere ye your lustwill me told, I would it do withoute negligence: But, now I know your lust, and what ye wo’ld, All your pleasance firm and stable I hold; For, wist I that my death might do you ease, Right gladly would I dien you to please.

“Death may not make no comparisoun Unto your love.” And when this marquis saysaw The constance of his wife, he cast adown His eyen two, and wonder’d how she may In patience suffer all this array; And forth he went with dreary countenance; But to his heart it was full great pleasance.

This ugly sergeant, in the same wise That he her daughter caught, right so hath he (Or worse, if men can any worse devise,) Y-hentseized her son, that full was of beauty: And ever-in-oneunvaryingly so patient was she, That she no cheere made of heaviness, But kiss’d her son, and after gan him bless.

Save this she prayed him, if that he might, Her little son he would in earthe grave,bury His tender limbes, delicate to sight, From fowles and from beastes for to save. But she none answer of him mighte have; He went his way, as him nothing ne raught,cared But to Bologna tenderly it brought.

The marquis wonder’d ever longer more Upon her patience; and, if that he Not hadde soothly knowen therebefore That perfectly her children loved she, He would have ween’dthought that of some subtilty, And of malice, or for cruel corage,disposition She hadde suffer’d this with sadsteadfast, unmoved visage.

But well he knew, that, next himself, certain She lov’d her children best in every wise. But now of women would I aske fain, If these assayes mighte not suffice? What could a sturdystern husband more devise To prove her wifehood and her steadfastness, And he continuing ev’r in sturdiness?

But there be folk of such condition, That, when they have a certain purpose take, Thiey cannot stintcease of their intention, But, right as they were bound unto a stake, They will not of their firste purpose slake:slacken, abate Right so this marquis fully hath purpos’d To tempt his wife, as he was first dispos’d.

He waited, if by word or countenance That she to him was changed of corage:spirit But never could he finde variance, She was aye one in heart and in visage, And aye the farther that she was in age, The more true (if that it were possible) She was to him in love, and more penible.painstaking in devotion

For which it seemed thus, that of them two There was but one will; for, as Walter lest,pleased The same pleasance was her lustpleasure also; And, God be thanked, all fell for the best. She shewed well, for no worldly unrest, A wife as of herself no thinge should Will, in effect, but as her husbaud would.

The sland’r of Walter wondrous wide sprad, That of a cruel heart he wickedly, Forbecause he a poore woman wedded had, Had murder’d both his children privily: Such murmur was among them commonly. No wonder is: for to the people’s ear There came no word, but that they murder’d were.

For which, whereas his people therebefore Had lov’d him well, the sland’r of his diffameinfamy Made them that they him hated therefore. To be a murd’rer is a hateful name. But natheless, for earnest or for game, He of his cruel purpose would not stent; To tempt his wife was set all his intent.

When that his daughter twelve year was of age, He to the Court of Rome, in subtle wise Informed of his will, sent his message,messenger Commanding him such bulles to devise As to his cruel purpose may suffice, How that the Pope, for his people’s rest, Bade him to wed another, if him lest.wished

I say he bade they shoulde counterfeit The Pope’s bulles, making mention That he had leave his firste wife to lete,leave To stinteput an end to rancour and dissension Betwixt his people and him: thus spake the bull, The which they have published at full.

The rude people, as no wonder is, Weenedthought, believed full well that it had been right so: But, when these tidings came to Griseldis. I deeme that her heart was full of woe; But she, alike sadsteadfast for evermo’, Disposed was, this humble creature, Th’ adversity of fortune all t’ endure;

Abiding ever his lust and his pleasance, To whom that she was given, heart and all, As to her very worldly suffisance.to the utmost extent of her power But, shortly if this story tell I shall, The marquis written hath in special A letter, in which he shewed his intent, And secretly it to Bologna sent.

To th’ earl of Panico, which hadde thothere Wedded his sister, pray’d he specially To bringe home again his children two In honourable estate all openly: But one thing he him prayed utterly, That he to no wight, though men would inquere, Shoulde not tell whose children that they were,

But say, the maiden should y-wedded be Unto the marquis of Saluce anon. And as this earl was prayed, so did he, For, at day set, he on his way is gone Toward Saluce, and lorde’s many a one In rich array, this maiden for to guide, – Her younge brother riding her beside.

Arrayed was towardas if for her marriage This freshe maiden, full of gemmes clear; Her brother, which that seven year was of age, Arrayed eke full fresh in his mannere: And thus, in great nobless, and with glad cheer, Toward Saluces shaping their journey, From day to day they rode upon their way.

Pars Quinta

Fifth Part

Among all this,while all this was going on after his wick’ usage, The marquis, yet his wife to tempte more To the uttermost proof of her corage, Fully to have experience and loreknowledge If that she were as steadfast as before, He on a day, in open audience, Full boisterously said her this sentence:

“Certes, Griseld’, I had enough pleasance To have you to my wife, for your goodness, And for your truth, and for your obeisance, Not for your lineage, nor for your richess; But now know I, in very soothfastness, That in great lordship, if I well advise, There is great servitude in sundry wise.

“I may not do as every ploughman may: My people me constraineth for to take Another wife, and cryeth day by day; And eke the Pope, rancour for to slake, Consenteth it, that dare I undertake: And truely, thus much I will you say, My newe wife is coming by the way.

“Be strong of heart, and void anonimmediately vacate her place; And thilkethat dower that ye brought to me, Take it again, I grant it of my grace. Returne to your father’s house,” quoth he; “No man may always have prosperity; With even heart I redecounsel you to endure The stroke of fortune or of aventure.”

And she again answer’d in patience: “My Lord,” quoth she, “I know, and knew alway, How that betwixte your magnificence And my povert’ no wight nor can nor may Make comparison, it is no nay;cannot be denied I held me never digneworthy in no mannere To be your wife, nor yet your chamberere.chamber-maid

“And in this house, where ye me lady made, (The highe God take I for my witness, And all so wislysurely he my soule glade),gladdened I never held me lady nor mistress, But humble servant to your worthiness, And ever shall, while that my life may dure, Aboven every worldly creature.

“That ye so long, of your benignity, Have holden me in honour and nobley,nobility Where as I was not worthy for to be, That thank I God and you, to whom I pray Foryieldreward it you; there is no more to say: Unto my father gladly will I wend,go And with him dwell, unto my lifes end,

“Where I was foster’d as a child full small, Till I be dead my life there will I lead, A widow clean in body, heart, and all. For since I gave to you my maidenhead, And am your true wife, it is no dread,doubt God shieldeforbid such a lordes wife to take Another man to husband or to make.mate

“And of your newe wife, God of his grace So grant you weal and all prosperity: For I will gladly yield to her my place, In which that I was blissful wont to be. For since it liketh you, my Lord,” quoth she, “That whilom weren all mine hearte’s rest, That I shall go, I will go when you lest.

“But whereas ye me proffer such dowaire As I first brought, it is well in my mind, It was my wretched clothes, nothing fair, The which to me were hard now for to find. O goode God! how gentle and how kind Ye seemed by your speech and your visage, The day that maked was our marriage!

“But sooth is said, – algateat all events I find it true, For in effect it proved is on me, – Love is not old as when that it is new. But certes, Lord, for no adversity, To dien in this case, it shall not be That e’er in word or work I shall repent That I you gave mine heart in whole intent.

“My Lord, ye know that in my father’s place Ye did me strip out of my poore weed,raiment And richely ye clad me of your grace; To you brought I nought elles, out of dread, But fai