Part 6 out of 19
"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 intend* to winning, if I may, *apply myself
And not intend our thinges to declare:
For, brother mine, thy wit is all too bare
To understand, although I told them thee.
*But for* thou askest why laboure we: *because*
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 Pythoness<9> did Samuel:
And yet will some men say it was not he.
I *do no force of* your divinity. *set no value upon*
But one thing warn I thee, I will not jape,* jest
Thou wilt *algates weet* how we be shape: *assuredly know*
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
Better than Virgil, while he was alive, what I have said*
Or Dante also. <10> 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
Take thou thy part, what that men will thee give, may pick up*
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 shope* him for to wend,** *shaped **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 farforthly* as ever ye were foal'd, *sure
So muche woe as I have with you tholed.* *endured <11>
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
Full privily, and rowned* in his ear: were the matter*
"Hearken, my brother, hearken, by thy faith, *whispered
Hearest thou not, how that the carter saith?
Hent* it anon, for he hath giv'n it thee, *seize
Both hay and cart, and eke his capels* three." *horses <12>
"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 trowest* me, *believest
Or elles stint* a while and thou shalt see." *stop
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,* mine owen liart,** boy, *pulled **grey<13>
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 wons* an old rebeck,<14> *dwells
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;* *trot <15>
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.
Up* pain of cursing, looke that thou be *upon
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 wis1y* helpe me, *as I not may.* *surely *as 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 appose* me?" *accuse
"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 wisly* help me out of care and sin, *surely
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 almes* upon me poor wretch." *show your charity*
"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, but* he will him repent." *unless
"Nay, olde stoat,* that is not mine intent," *polecat
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 privity* *secrets
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 thilke* cursed house of hell *that
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 await* alway *on the watch* <16>
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
1. 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".
2. 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
3. A dog for the bow: a dog attending a huntsman with bow
4. Ribibe: the name of a musical instrument; applied to an old
woman because of the shrillness of her voice.
5. De par dieux: by the gods.
6. See note 12 to the Knight's Tale.
7. 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.
8. Medieval legends located hell in the North.
9. 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
10. Dante and Virgil were both poets who had in fancy visited
11. Tholed: suffered, endured; "thole" is still used in Scotland in
the same sense.
12. Capels: horses. See note 14 to the Reeve's Tale.
13. 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
14. Rebeck: a kind of fiddle; used like "ribibe," as a nickname
for a shrill old scold.
15. Trot; a contemptuous term for an old woman who has
trotted about much, or who moves with quick short steps.
16. In his await: on the watch; French, "aux aguets."
THE SOMPNOUR'S TALE.
The Sompnour in his stirrups high he stood,
Upon this Friar his hearte was so wood,* *furious
That like an aspen leaf he quoke* for ire: *quaked, trembled
"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 carrack<1> 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 space* *immediately* <2>
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 kind* *by 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
1. Carrack: A great ship of burden used by the Portuguese; the
name is from the Italian, "cargare," to load
2. In less than half a furlong way of space: immediately;
literally, in less time than it takes to walk half a furlong (110
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, <1> 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, <2> 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 owls* *awls
To be y-clawed, or to burn or bake: <3>
Now speed you hastily, for Christe's sake."
And when this friar had said all his intent,
With qui cum patre<4> 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
In every house he gan to pore* and pry, up high* *peer
And begged meal and cheese, or elles corn.
His fellow had a staff tipped with horn,
A pair of tables* all of ivory, *writing tablets
And a pointel* y-polish'd fetisly,** *pencil **daintily
And wrote alway the names, as he stood;
Of all the folk that gave them any good,
Askaunce* that he woulde for them pray. *see note <5>
"Give us a bushel wheat, or malt, or rey,* *rye
A Godde's kichel,* or a trip** of cheese, *little cake<6> **scrap
Or elles what you list, we may not chese;* *choose
A Godde's halfpenny, <6> or a mass penny;
Or give us of your brawn, if ye have any;
A dagon* of your blanket, leve dame, *remnant
Our sister dear, -- lo, here I write your name,--
Bacon or beef, or such thing as ye find."
A sturdy harlot* went them aye behind, *manservant <7>
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 away* the names every one, *rubbed out*
That he before had written in his tables:
He served them with nifles* and with fables. -- *silly tales
"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,"* quoth he; "O Thomas friend, good day," *God be here*
Said this friar, all courteously and soft.
"Thomas," quoth he, "God *yield it you,* full oft *reward you for*
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 potent* and his hat, *staff <8>
And eke his scrip, and sat himself adown:
His fellow was y-walked into town
Forth with his knave,* into that hostelry *servant
Where as he shope* him that night to lie. *shaped, purposed
"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 clerkes* sayn. *scholars
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;
"Algates* welcome be ye, by my fay." *always
"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 shrift* and preaching is my diligence *confession
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 wrie* at night, and make him warm, *cover
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,* Thomas, Thomas, *I tell you*
This *maketh the fiend,* this must be amended. *is the devil's work*
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, <9>
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 penible* *painstaking
To wake,* that my stomach is destroy'd. *watch
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.* *dormitory <10>
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.<12>
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,* although that they be kings. *laymen*<13>
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 lust* all in despight** * pleasure **contempt
Lazar and Dives lived diversely,
And diverse guerdon* hadde they thereby. *reward
Whoso will pray, he must fast and be clean,
And fat his soul, and keep his body lean
We fare as saith th' apostle; cloth* and food *clothing
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 womb* of fasting many a day *stomach
Received he the lawe, that was writ
With Godde's finger; and Eli,<14> 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 --
But* they be sober that for the people pray -- *unless
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 sely* freres, *simple, lowly
Be wedded to povert' and continence,
To charity, humbless, and abstinence,
To persecution for righteousness,
To weeping, misericorde,* and to cleanness. *compassion
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,<15>
Fat as a whale, and walking as a swan;
All vinolent* as bottle in the spence;** *full of wine **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.<16>
Who follow Christe's gospel and his lore* *doctrine
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 sours* *rising*
Up springs into the air, right so prayeres
Of charitable and chaste busy freres
*Make their sours* to Godde's eares two. *rise*
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;* *see note <17>*
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 freres* *friars 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 jape* it is not worth a mite; *jest
Your malady is *for we have too lite.* *because we have
Ah, give that convent half a quarter oats; too little*
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 oned* in himselve *made one, united
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.<18>
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 trow* me, Thomas, if thee lest,** *believe **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, eftsoones* charge I thee, *again
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 lemans* and their wives. *mistresses
Now since ye have so holy and meek a wife,
What needeth you, Thomas, to make strife?
There is, y-wis,* no serpent so cruel, *certainly
When men tread on his tail nor half so fell,* *fierce
As woman is, when she hath caught an ire;
Very* vengeance is then all her desire. *pure, only
Ire is a sin, one of the greate seven,
Abominable to the God of heaven,
And to himself it is destruction.
This every lewed* vicar and parson *ignorant
Can say, how ire engenders homicide;
Ire is in sooth th' executor* of pride. *executioner
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 irous* man God send him little might. *passionate
It is great harm, and certes great pity
To set an irous man in high degree.
"Whilom* there was an irous potestate,** *once **judge<19>
As saith Senec, that during his estate* *term 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 weened* had been dead *thought
Then thoughte they it was the beste rede* *counsel
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 algate* be dead: *at all events
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 arrest*;] *no control*
And drunkenness is eke a foul record
Of any man, and namely* of a lord. *especially
There is full many an eye and many an ear
*Awaiting on* a lord, he knows not where. *watching
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 part* than he had done before, *times
And right anon this cursed irous wretch
This knighte's sone let* before him fetch, *caused
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 sicker* hand or non?'** *sure **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;<20> and I shall if I can,
*But if* it be unto a poore man: *unless
To a poor man men should his vices tell,
But not t' a lord, though he should go to hell.
Lo, irous Cyrus, thilke* Persian, *that
How he destroy'd the river of Gisen,<21>
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 wood* man walke by the way, *furious
Lest thee repent;' I will no farther say.
"Now, Thomas, leve* brother, leave thine ire, *dear
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 shriven* this day of my curate; *confessed
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, unneth* the foundement** *scarcely **foundation
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,* *Christ <22>
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 wood* for ire, *mad
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"<23>
"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 depart* it so, my deare brother, *divide
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 capel* drawing in a cart, *horse
That might have let a fart of such a soun'.
The friar up start, as doth a wood* lioun: *fierce
"Ah, false churl," quoth he, "for Godde's bones,
This hast thou in despite done for the nones:* *on purpose
Thou shalt abie* this fart, if that I may." *suffer for
His meinie,* which that heard of this affray, *servants
Came leaping in, and chased out the frere,
And forth he went with a full angry cheer* *countenance
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'd* a man of great honour, *dwelt
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:
Unnethes* might the friar speak one word, *with difficulty
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 grieve* is, *grievance, grief
And it shall be amended, if I may."
"I have," quoth he, "had a despite to-day,
God *yielde you,* adown in your village, *reward you
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. <24>
God liketh not, that men us Rabbi call
Neither in market, nor in your large hall."
*"No force,"* quoth he; "but tell me all your grief." *no matter*
Sir," quoth this friar, "an odious mischief
This day betid* is to mine order and me, *befallen
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,* ye be my confessour. *be not impatient*
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 there* I speak; *wherever
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 trow* the Devil put it in his mind. *believe
In all arsmetrik* shall there no man find, *arithmetic
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 nice* proude churl, I shrew** his face. *foolish **curse
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 nice* churl, God let him never the.** *foolish **thrive
The rumbling of a fart, and every soun',
Is but of air reverberatioun,
And ever wasteth lite* and lite* away; *little
There is no man can deemen,* by my fay, *judge, decide
If that it were departed* equally. *divided
What? lo, my churl, lo yet how shrewedly* *impiously, 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 even* dealed be *equally
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,
Let* bring a cart-wheel here into this hall, cause*
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;<25>
Your confessor here, for his worthiness,
Shall *perform up* the number of his convent. *complete*
Then shall they kneel adown by one assent,
And to each spoke's end, in this mannere,
Full sadly* lay his nose shall a frere; *carefully, steadily
Your noble confessor there, God him save,
Shall hold his nose upright under the nave.
Then shall this churl, with belly stiff and tought* *tight
As any tabour,* hither be y-brought; *drum
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
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Qui cum patre: "Who with the father"; the closing words of
the final benediction pronounced at Mass.
5. 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.
6. A Godde's kichel/halfpenny: a little cake/halfpenny, given for
7. Harlot: hired servant; from Anglo-Saxon, "hyran," to hire;
the word was commonly applied to males.
8. Potent: staff; French, "potence," crutch, gibbet.
9. Je vous dis sans doute: French; "I tell you without doubt."
10. Dortour: dormitory; French, "dortoir."
12. 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.
13. Borel folk: laymen, people who are not learned; "borel"
was a kind of coarse cloth.
14. Eli: Elijah (1 Kings, xix.)
15. An emperor Jovinian was famous in the mediaeval legends
for his pride and luxury
16. 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,
17. N'ere thou our brother, shouldest thou not thrive: if thou
wert not of our brotherhood, thou shouldst have no hope of
18. Thomas' life of Ind: The life of Thomas of India - i.e. St.
Thomas the Apostle, who was said to have travelled to India.
19. Potestate: chief magistrate or judge; Latin, "potestas;"
Italian, "podesta." Seneca relates the story of Cornelius Piso;
"De Ira," i. 16.
20. 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"
21. 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).
22. Him that harrowed Hell: Christ. See note 14 to the Reeve's
23. 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."
24. The friar had received a master's degree.
25. 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.
THE CLERK'S TALE.
"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,* *rod <1>
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,<2>
Highte* this clerk, whose rhetoric so sweet *was called
Illumin'd all Itale of poetry,
As Linian <3> 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 <4> 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, <5> 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
1. Under your yerd: under your rod; as the emblem of
government or direction.
2. 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.
3. Linian: An eminent jurist and philosopher, now almost
forgotten, who died four or five years after Petrarch.
4. Saluces: Saluzzo, a district of Savoy; its marquises were
celebrated during the Middle Ages.
5. 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.
*Pars Prima.* *First Part*
There is, right at the west side of Itale,
Down at the root of Vesulus<2> the cold,
A lusty* plain, abundant of vitaille;* *pleasant **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 elders* him before, *ancestors
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,* through favour of fortune, *held in reverence
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 lust* was all his thought, *pleasure
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 flockmel* on a day to him they went, *in a body
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.
"All* have I nought to do in this mattere *although
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 smit* *smiteth
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 ere* thought constraine me. *before
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,
Bounte* comes all of God, not of the strene** *goodness
Of which they be engender'd and y-bore: **stock, race
I trust in Godde's bounte, and therefore
My marriage, and mine estate and rest,
I *him betake;* he may do as him lest. *commend to him
"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 worship* her, while that her life may dure, *honour
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 grudge* nor strive. *murmur
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 but* ye will assent in such mannere, *unless
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 dread* *were 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,* *obediently <3>
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 thilke* palace honourable, *that
Where as this marquis shope* his marriage, *prepared; resolved on
There stood a thorp,* of sighte delectable, *hamlet
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 lust* was in her heart y-run; *luxurious pleasure*
Well ofter of the well than of the tun
She drank, <4> and, for* she woulde virtue please *because
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
And in great reverence and charity spirit*
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,* and other herbes, times oft, *plants, cabbages
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 loft* *up, aloft
With ev'ry obeisance and diligence,
That child may do to father's reverence.
Upon Griselda, this poor creature,
Full often sithes* this marquis set his eye, *times
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 sad* wise *serious
Upon her cheer* he would him oft advise;** *countenance **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,* and disposed that he would *goodness
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 make* *caused 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 undern* of the same day *evening <5>
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 shapen* was all this array, *prepared
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 fand* *strive
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 sad* countenance kneeled still, *steady
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 let* *delay
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 case* the man astonied so, *event
That red he wax'd, abash'd,* and all quaking *amazed
He stood; unnethes* said he wordes mo', *scarcely
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;* and know'st thou why? *conference
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 erst* ne saw she such a sight. *before
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,* faithful maid. *true <6>
"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,* and that I freely may, *pleasure
As me best thinketh, *do you* laugh or smart, *cause you to*
And never ye to grudge,* night nor day, *murmur
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 despoile* her right there; *strip
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'd* *loose
Full rudely, and with their fingers small
A crown upon her head they have dress'd,
And set her full of nouches <7> great and small:
Of her array why should I make a tale?
Unneth* the people her knew for her fairness, *scarcely
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 let* *delayed
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 waxen* is so dear *grown
And worshipful, that folk where she was born,
That from her birthe knew her year by year,
*Unnethes trowed* they, but durst have sworn, *scarcely believed*
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 thewes* good, y-set in high bounte, *qualities
And so discreet, and fair of eloquence,
So benign, and so digne* of reverence, *worthy
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 feat* of wifely homeliness, *knew all the duties*
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,* she woulde bringe them at one, *at feud
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 lever* borne a knave** child, *rather **boy
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 sadness* for to know, *steadfastness
That he might not out of his hearte throw
This marvellous desire his wife t'asssay;* *try
Needless,* God wot, he thought her to affray.** *without cause
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 sit* *it 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 trow* *believe
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 lefe* and dear, *loved
Unto my gentles* ye be nothing so: *nobles, gentlefolk
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 namely* since thy daughter was y-bore *especially
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 loth* to me: *odious
But natheless withoute your weeting* *knowing
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 hight* and swore in your village *promised
The day that maked was our marriage."
When she had heard all this, she not amev'd* *changed
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 spill* *destroy
Your owen thing: work then after your will.
"There may no thing, so God my soule save,
*Like to* you, that may displease me: *be pleasing*
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 corage* to another place." *spirit, heart
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,<8>
He privily hath told all his intent
Unto a man, and to his wife him sent.
A *manner sergeant* was this private* man, *kind of squire*
The which he faithful often founden had *discreet
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;* *see note <9>*
They may well be bewailed and complain'd,
But men must needs unto their lust* obey; *pleasure
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 hent* *seized
Dispiteously,* and gan a cheer** to make *unpityingly **show, aspect
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
Suspicious* was the diffame** of this man, *ominous **evil reputation
Suspect his face, suspect his word also,
Suspect the time in which he this began:
Alas! her daughter, that she loved so,
She weened* he would have it slain right tho,** *thought **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 barme* this little child she laid, *lap, bosom
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 trow* that to a norice** in this case *believe **nurse
It had been hard this ruthe* for to see: *pitiful sight
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 if* my lord forbade you at the least, *unless*
Bury this little body in some place,
That neither beasts nor birdes it arace."* *tear <10>
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 cheer* *demeanour
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'* was Countess, *Panico
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-one* alike sad** and kind. *constantly **steadfast
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 adversity* *no change of humour resulting
Was seen in her, nor e'er her daughter's name from her affliction*
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 knave* child she bare by this Waltere, *boy
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
Departed* of the norice, on a day *taken, weaned
This marquis *caughte yet another lest* *was seized by yet
To tempt his wife yet farther, if he may. another desire*
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 bear* our marriage; *regard with displeasure*
And namely* since my son y-boren is, *especially
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 ere* by night, *before
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 lust* obey. *will
"And, certes, if I hadde prescience
Your will to know, ere ye your lust* me told, *will
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 say* *saw
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-hent* her son, that full was of beauty: *seized
And ever-in-one* so patient was she, *unvaryingly
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'd* that of some subtilty, *thought
And of malice, or for cruel corage,* *disposition
She hadde suffer'd this with sad* visage. *steadfast, unmoved
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 sturdy* husband more devise *stern
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 stint* of their intention, *cease
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 lust* also; *pleasure
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,
For* he a poore woman wedded had, *because
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 diffame* *infamy
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 stinte* rancour and dissension *put an end to
Betwixt his people and him: thus spake the bull,
The which they have published at full.
The rude people, as no wonder is,
Weened* full well that it had been right so: *thought, believed
But, when these tidings came to Griseldis.
I deeme that her heart was full of woe;
But she, alike sad* for evermo', *steadfast
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
But, shortly if this story tell I shall, of her power*
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 tho* *there
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 toward* her marriage *as if for
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,* after his wick' usage, *while all this was
The marquis, yet his wife to tempte more going on*
To the uttermost proof of her corage,
Fully to have experience and lore* *knowledge
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 anon* her place; *immediately vacate*
And thilke* dower that ye brought to me, *that
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 rede* you to endure *counsel