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Information on footnotes is at the end of the text.

And other Poems

Edited for Popular Perusal
by D. Laing Purves



The General Prologue
The Knight's Tale
The Miller's tale
The Reeve's Tale
The Cook's Tale
The Man of Law's Tale
The Wife of Bath's Tale
The Friar's Tale
The Sompnour's Tale
The Clerk's Tale
The Merchant's Tale
The Squire's Tale
The Franklin's Tale
The Doctor's Tale
The Pardoner's Tale
The Shipman's Tale
The Prioress's Tale
Chaucer's Tale of Sir Thopas
Chaucer's Tale of Meliboeus
The Monk's Tale
The Nun's Priest's Tale
The Second Nun's Tale
The Canon's Yeoman's Tale
The Manciple's Tale
The Parson's Tale
Preces de Chauceres


Transcriber's Note.

1. Modern scholars believe that Chaucer was not the author of
these poems.

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 perusaleasy in a time of little leisure and unbounded
temptations to intellectual languor; andon the same conditions
to present a liberal and fairly representative selection from the
less important and familiar poems of Chaucer and Spenser.
There isit may be said at the outsetpeculiar advantage and
propriety in placing the two poets side by side in the manner
now attempted for the first time. Although two centuries divide
themyet Spenser is the direct and really the immediate
successor to the poetical inheritance of Chaucer. Those two
hundred yearseventful as they wereproduced no poet at all
worthy to take up the mantle that fell from Chaucer's shoulders;
and Spenser does not need his affected archaismsnor 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

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 failedif the ancient
orthography had been retained. It has often been affirmed by
editors of Chaucer in the old forms of the languagethat a little
trouble at first would render the antiquated spelling and
obsolete inflections a continual sourcenot of difficultybut of
actual delightfor 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
assurancethe obvious fact isthat Chaucer in the old forms has
not become popularin the true sense of the word; he is not
understanded of the vulgar.In this volumethereforethe text
of Chaucer has been presented in nineteenth-century garb. But
there has been not the slightest attempt to "modernise"
Chaucerin the wider meaning of the phrase; to replace his
words by words which he did not use; orfollowing the example
of some operatorsto translate him into English of the modern
spirit as well as the modern forms. So far from thatin every
case where the old spelling or form seemed essential to metre
to rhymeor meaningno change has been attempted. But
wherever its preservation was not essentialthe 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 Poetryto 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
otherit is the vivid distinctness with which English men and
women of the fourteenth century are there paintedfor the study
of all the centuries to follow. But we wantonly balk the artist's
own purposeand discredit his labourwhen we keep before his
picture the screen of dust and cobwebs whichfor the English
people in these daysthe 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 sufferwhen 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 beento present a text plain and easily
intelligible to the modern readerwithout 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 enterpriseand most leniently regard any failure in the
details of its accomplishment.

With all the works of Chauceroutside The Canterbury Talesit
would have been absolutely impossible to deal within the scope
of this volume. But nearly one hundred pageshave been
devoted to his minor poems; andby 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; andwhile here also the truth of the

text in matters essential has been in nowise sacrificed to mere
ease of perusalthe general reader will find opened up for him a
new view of Chaucer and his works. Before a perusal of these
hundred pageswill melt away for ever the lingering tradition or
prejudice that Chaucer was onlyor characteristicallya coarse
buffoonwho 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
courtiera gallantpure-hearted gentlemana scholara
philosophera poet of gay and vivid fancyplaying around
themes of chivalric conventionof deep human interestor
broad-sighted satire. In The Canterbury Taleswe seenot
Chaucerbut 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 IIIis 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 Spenserwhich follow The
Faerie Queenthe choice has been governed by the desire to
give at once the most interestingand the most characteristic of
the poet's several styles; andsave 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 usehave been
already noticedwould imperfectly succeed without the aid of
notes and glossaryto explain allusions that have become
obsoleteor antiquated words which it was necessary to retain.
An endeavour has been made to render each page selfexplanatory
by placing on it all the glossarial and illustrative
notes required for its elucidationor -- 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 readeris 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 timeconsuming
reference to the end or the beginning of the book;
butat the same timeit largely enhances the liability to error.
The Editor is conscious that in the 12000 or 13000 notesas
well as in the innumerable minute points of spelling
accentuationand rhythmhe 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 amissto set off against
inevitable mistakes and misjudgementsthe conscientious labour
bestowed on the bookand 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.


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 1345and "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." Butthough they were
his contemporariesneither Minot nor Langland (if Langland
was the author of the Vision) at all approached Chaucer in the
finishthe forceor 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 peopleTeutonic in its genius and its forms; that spoken by
the learned and the noblebased 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 Chaucera scholara
courtiera man conversant with all orders of societybut
accustomed to speakthinkand write in the words of the
highestby 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
wrotethere were two tongues in Englandkeeping alive the
feuds and resentments of cruel centuries; when he laid down his
penthere was practically but one speech -- there wasand ever
since has beenbut one people.

Geoffrey Chauceraccording to the most trustworthy traditionsfor
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 Lelandthe biographer of England's
first great poet who lived nearest to his timenot merely speaks
of Chaucer as having been born many years later than the date
now assignedbut mentions Berkshire or Oxfordshire as the
scene of his birth. So great uncertainty have some felt on the
latter scorethat elaborate parallels have been drawn between
Chaucerand Homer -- for whose birthplace several cities
contendedand 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 himat the
suppression of the monasteries throughout Englandto 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
birthplaceand 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 worksThe 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 Londonthat 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 Elizabethhe describes Spencerwho was certainly born
in Londonas being a fellow-citizen of Chaucer's -- "Edmundus
Spenseruspatria LondinensisMusis adeo arridentibus natusut
omnes Anglicos superioris aevi poetasne Chaucero quidem
concive exceptosuperaret." <1> The records of the time notice
more than one person of the name of Chaucerwho held
honourable positions about the Court; and though we cannot
distinctly trace the poet's relationship with any of these
namesakes or antecessorswe find excellent ground for belief
that his family or friends stood well at Courtin the ease with
which Chaucer made his way thereand in his subsequent

Like his great successorSpencerit was the fortune of Chaucer
to live under a splendidchivalrousand high-spirited reign.
1328 was the second year of Edward III; andwhat with Scotch
warsFrench expeditionsand the strenuous and costly struggle
to hold England in a worthy place among the States of Europe
there was sufficient bustlebold achievementand 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 courtesyof highpaced
gallantryof courageous ventureof noble disdain for
mean tranquillity; and Chauceron the whole a man of peaceful
avocationswas 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 yearshowever
remains to us; if we believe that at the age of eighteen he was a
student of Cambridgeit is only on the strength of a reference in
his "Court of Love"where the narrator is made to say that his
name is Philogenetof 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 Lelandhowever
he was educated at Oxfordproceeding thence to France and
the Netherlandsto finish his studies; but there remains no
certain evidence of his having belonged to either University. At
the same timeit is not doubted that his family was of good
condition; andwhether or not we accept the assertion that his
father held the rank of knighthood -- rejecting the hypotheses
that make him a merchantor a vintner "at the corner of Kirton
Lane" -- it is plainfrom Chaucer's whole careerthat he had
introductions to public lifeand recommendations to courtly
favourwholly independent of his genius. We have the clearest
testimony that his mental training was of wide range and
thorough excellencealtogether rare for a mere courtier in those
days: his poems attest his intimate acquaintance with the
divinitythe philosophyand the scholarship of his timeand
show him to have had the sciencesas then developed and
taughtat his fingers' ends.Another proof of Chaucer's good
birth and fortune would he found in the statement thatafter his
University career was completedhe 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
Streetwe 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 Manciplein the Prologue to the Canterbury
Talesmay 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 logiciana smooth rhetoriciana pleasant
poeta grave philosopheran ingenious mathematicianand a
holy divine;" and by all accountswhen Geoffrey Chaucer
comes before us authentically for the first timeat the age of
thirty-onehe 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 himon the authority of a portraitas 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 fairhis abilities to
record the valour of the oneand celebrate the beauty of the
otherand 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 cooperating
with his learning and his gallant bearing. Elsewhere

<2> 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 1386being called as
witness with regard to a contest on a point of heraldry between
Lord Scrope and Sir Robert GrosvenorChaucer deposed that
he entered on his military career in 1359. In that year Edward
III invaded Francefor the third timein pursuit of his claim to
the French crown; and we may fancy thatin 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 wellappointed
royal host at Sandwichon 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 ParisEdward was constrainedby cruel
weather and lack of provisionsto 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
thousandsor fell into the hands of the pursuing French.
Chaucerwho 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 concludedin
May1360. Returning to Englandas we may supposeat the
peacethe poetere longfell 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
GauntDuke of Lancasterthe King's son; the Dukewhile Earl
of Richmondhad courtedand won to wife after a certain
delayBlanchedaughter and co-heiress of Henry Duke of
Lancaster; and Chaucer is by some believed to have written
The Assembly of Fowlsto celebrate the wooingas he wrote
Chaucer's Dreamto celebrate the weddingof his patron. The

marriage took place in 1359the year of Chaucer's expedition to
France; and asin "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 lifepension
of twenty marks, for the good service which our
beloved Valet -- 'dilectus Valettus noster' -- Geoffrey Chaucer
has renderedand 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 knightedor young gentlemen of
great descent and quality." Whatever the strict meaning of the
wordit is plain that the poet's position was honourable and
near to the King's personand also that his worldly
circumstances were easyif 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
patronagenot merely from the Duke of Lancaster and his wife
but from Margaret Countess of Pembrokethe 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 Alcestisin 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
-- FrenchMarguerite,the name of his Royal patroness. To
this period of Chaucer's career we may probably attribute the
elegant and courtlyif somewhat conventionalpoems 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 Talesthey being written in the latter part of his
lifewhen 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
honourthat it was highly criminal to depreciate their sexor do
anything that might offend virtue." Chaucerin 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 periodtoowe
may place the composition of Chaucer's A. B. C.or The Prayer
of Our Ladymade at the request of the Duchess Blanchea
lady of great devoutness in her private life. She died in 1369;
and Chauceras he had allegorised her wooingcelebrated her
marriageand aided her devotionsnow lamented her deathin a
poem entitled "The Book of the Duchess; orthe Death of

In 1370Chaucer was employed on the King's service abroad;
and in November 1372by 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 poetryif not the poetsof
the country he thus visitedwhose 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 poetryfrom "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 Troilusin "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 Taleand The Monk's Tale -- direct reference by
name is made to Dantethe 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
Courtwhich 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 bardsdead and living;
the reverential regard which he paid to the memory of great
poetsof which we have examples in "The House of Fame and
at the close of Troilus and Cressida" <4>; along with his own
testimony in the Prologue to The Clerk's Talewe cannot fail to
construe that testimony as a declaration that the Tale was
actually told to Chaucer by the lips of Petrarchin 1373the
very year in which Petrarch translated it into Latinfrom
Boccaccio's "Decameron."<5> Mr Bell notes the objection to
this interpretationthat the words are put into the mouthnot of
the poetbut of the Clerk; and meets it by the counter-
objectionthat the Clerkbeing 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
Prologuewhereafter the jolly Dame has asserted that "half so
boldly there can no man swear and lie as a woman can"the
poet hastens to interposein his own personthese two lines:

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

And againin 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 sorethat ye beverily
The mistress of my witand 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 deadand nailed in his chest
I pray to God to give his soul good rest.
Francis Petrarc'the laureate poete
Highte this clerkwhose rhetoric so sweet
Illumin'd all Itaile of poetry. . . .
But forth to tellen of this worthy man
That taughte me this taleas I began." . . .

we may without violent effort believe that Chaucer speaks in his
own personthough 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 translationthan if we suppose the news of
Petrarch's death at Arqua in July 1374 to have closely followed
Chaucer to Englandand 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
bodyof Petrarch's taleand the fashion in which it was set
forth in writingwith a proem that seemed "a thing

impertinent"save that the poet had chosen in that way to
convey his matter-- toldor "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. vinione pitcher of winedailyto be
perceivedin the port of London; a grant whichon the
analogy of more modern usagemight 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 annumwe 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 1374when he was appointed Controller of the Customs in
the Port of Londonfor the lucrative imports of woolsskins or
wool-fells,and tanned hides -- on condition that he should
fulfil the duties of that office in person and not by deputyand
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"wherein the mouth of the eaglethe
poet describes himselfwhen he has finished his labour and
made his reckoningsas not seeking rest and news in social
intercoursebut going home to his own houseand thereall 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 handappears to have been designedor treatedas merely
formal; no records in Chaucer's handwriting are known to exist
-- which could hardly be the case iffor 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 abroadso that the condition was evidently regarded
as a formality even by those who had imposed it. Also in 1374
the Duke of Lancasterwhose ambitious views may well have
made him anxious to retain the adhesion of a man so capable
and accomplished as Chaucerchanged into a joint life-annuity
remaining to the survivorand charged on the revenues of the
Savoya 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 daughtersPhilippa and Elizabethand the Duke's
own mistress. Another proof of Chaucer's personal reputation
and high Court favour at this timeis his selection (1375) as
ward to the son of Sir Edmond Staplegate of Bilsyntonin 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 1377the last year of Edward III.he was sent to Flanders

with Sir Thomas Percyafterwards Earl of Worcesterfor the
purpose of obtaining a prolongation of the truce; and in January
13738he was associated with Sir Guichard d'Angle and other
Commissionersto 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 negotiationhoweverproved fruitless; and in May 1378
Chaucer was selected to accompany Sir John Berkeley on a
mission to the Court of Bernardo ViscontiDuke of Milanwith
the viewit is supposedof concerting military plans against the
outbreak of war with France. The new Kingmeantimehad
shown that he was not insensible to Chaucer's merit -- or to the
influence of his tutor and the poet's patronthe Duke of
Lancaster; for Richard II. confirmed to Chaucer his pension of
twenty marksalong with an equal annual sumfor which the
daily pitcher of wine granted in 1374 had been commuted.
Before his departure for LombardyChaucer -- still holding his
post in the Customs -- selected two representatives or trustees
to protect his estate against legal proceedings in his absenceor
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 Gowerthe poet
the most famous English contemporary of Chaucerwith 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<6> 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;<7> whilein the "Confessio Amantis
Gower introduces a handsome compliment to his greater
contemporary, as the disciple and the poet" of Venuswith
whose glad songs and dittiesmade in her praise during the
flowers of his youththe land was filled everywhere. Gower
however -- a monk and a Conservative -- held to the party of
the Duke of Gloucesterthe rival of the Wycliffite and
innovating Duke of Lancasterwho was Chaucer's patronand
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 personhoweverhe received his
pensions regularly until 1382when his income was increased
by his appointment to the post of Controller of Petty Customs
in the port of London. In November 1384he obtained a
month's leave of absence on account of his private affairsand 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. <8>

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 Lancasterand their adherentsfor the control of the
Governmentwas 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 Octoberand was dissolved on the 1st of November
1386. Lancaster was fighting and intriguing abroadabsorbed 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 woolsackand impeached by the Commons;
and although Richard at first stood out courageously for the
friends of his uncle Lancasterhe was constrainedby the refusal
of suppliesto consent to the proceedings of Gloucester. A
commission was wrung from himunder protestappointing
GloucesterArundeland twelve other Peers and prelatesa
permanent council to inquire into the condition of all the public
departmentsthe courts of lawand the royal householdwith
absolute powers of redress and dismissal. We need not ascribe
to Chaucer's Parliamentary exertions in his patron's behalfnor
to any malpractices in his official conductthe fact that he was
among the earliest victims of the commission.<9> In December
1386he was dismissed from both his offices in the port of
London; but he retained his pensionsand drew them regularly
twice a year at the Exchequer until 1388. In 1387Chaucer's
political reverses were aggravated by a severe domestic
calamity: his wife diedand with her died the pension which had
been settled on her by Queen Philippa in 1366and confirmed to
her at Richard's accession in 1377. The change made in
Chaucer's pecuniary positionby the loss of his offices and his
wife's pensionmust have been very great. It would appear that
during his prosperous times he had lived in a style quite equal to
his incomeand had no ample resources against a season of
reverse; foron the 1st of May 1388less than a year and a half
after being dismissed from the Customshe was constrained to
assign his pensionsby surrender in Chanceryto one John
Scalby. In May 1389Richard of ageabruptly
resumed the reins of governmentwhichfor more than two
yearshad been ably but cruelly managed by Gloucester. The
friends of Lancaster were once more supreme in the royal
councilsand Chaucer speedily profited by the change. On the
12th of July he was appointed Clerk of the King's Works at the
Palace of Westminsterthe Towerthe royal manors of
Langleyand Feckenhamthe castle of Berkhamsteadthe royal
lodge of Hathenburgh in the New Forestthe lodges in the
parks of ClarendonChildern Langleyand Feckenhamand the
mews for the King's falcons at Charing Cross; he received a
salary of two shillings per dayand was allowed to perform the
duties by deputy. For some reason unknownChaucer held this
lucrative office <10> little more than two yearsquitting it
before the 16th of September 1391at which date it had passed
into the hands of one John Gedney. The next two years and a
half are a blankso 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 1394the King conferred upon
him a grant of L20 a year for life; but he seems to have had no
other source of incomeand to have become embarrassed by
debtfor frequent memoranda of small advances on his pension
show that his circumstances werein comparisongreatly
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 arrestextending over a term
of two years. Not for the first timeit is true -- for similar
documents had been issued at the beginning of Richard's reign;
but at that time Chaucer's missions abroadand his responsible
duties in the port of Londonmay have furnished reasons for
securing him against annoyance or frivolous prosecutionwhich
were wholly wanting at the later date. In 1398fortune began

again to smile upon him; he received a royal grant of a tun of
wine annuallythe value being about L4. Next yearRichard II
having been deposed by the son of John of Gaunt <11> --
Henry of BolingbrokeDuke of Lancaster -- the new Kingfour
days after hits accessionbestowed on Chaucer a grant of forty
marks (L2613s. 4d.) per annumin addition to the pension of
L20 conferred by Richard II. in 1394. But the poetnow
seventy-one years of ageand probably broken down by the
reverses of the past few yearswas not destined long to enjoy
his renewed prosperity. On Christmas Eve of 1399he 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
Hermodeswortha monk of the adjacent conventfor fifty-three
yearsat the annual rent of four marks (L213s. 4d.) Until the
1st of March 1400Chaucer drew his pensions in person; then
they were received for him by another hand; and on the 25th of
Octoberin the same yearhe diedat 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 anguishbreathes the very spirit of
courage, resignation, and philosophic calm; and by the
Retractation" at the end of The Canterbury Taleswhichif it
was not foisted in by monkish transcribersmay 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; <12>
and not many years after his death a slab was placed on a pillar
near his gravebearing the linestaken from an epitaph or
eulogy made by Stephanus Surigonus of Milanat the request of

Galfridus Chaucer, vates, et fama poesis
Maternae, hoc sacra sum tumulatus humo.<13>

About 1555Mr Nicholas Brighama gentleman of Oxford who
greatly admired the genius of Chaucererected the present
tombas near to the spot where the poet laybefore the chapel
of St Benet,as was then possible by reason of the "cancelli

<14> 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 Occlevewas -- or isthough now almost
illegible -- the following inscription:-M.
25 OCTOBRIS 1400.

1556. <15>
Concerning his personal appearance and habitsChaucer has not
been reticent in his poetry. Urry sums up the traits of his aspect
and character fairly thus: "He was of a middle staturethe latter
part of his life inclinable to be fat and corpulentas appears by
the Host's bantering him in the journey to Canterburyand
comparing shapes with him.<16> His face was fleshyhis
features just and regularhis complexion fairand somewhat

palehis hair of a dusky yellowshort and thin; the hair of his
beard in two forked tuftsof a wheat colour; his forehead broad
and smooth; his eyes inclining usually to the groundwhich is
intimated by the Host's words; his whole face full of livelinessa
calmeasy sweetnessand a studious Venerable aspect. . . . As
to his temperhe had a mixture of the gaythe modestand 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 companytelling himthat his absence was
more agreeable to her than his conversationsince the first was
productive of agreeable pieces of wit in his writings<17> but
the latter was filled with a modest deferenceand a too distant
respect. We see nothing merry or jocose in his behaviour with
his pilgrimsbut a silent attention to their mirthrather than any
mixture of his own. . . When disengaged from public affairshis
time was entirely spent in study and reading; so agreeable to
him was this exercisethat he says he preferred it to all other
sports and diversions.<18> He lived within himselfneither
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 sunand rose before it; and by that
means enjoyed the pleasures of the better part of the dayhis
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 linesand the fragrant air blows cool in his descriptions; we
smell the sweets of the bloomy hawsand hear the music of the
feathered choirwhenever 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 paintingsthan in Chaucer's morning
landscapes. . . . His reading was deep and extensivehis
judgement sound and discerning. . . In one wordhe was a great
scholara pleasant wita candid critica sociable companiona
steadfast frienda grave philosophera 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 firstcontaining 8246 linesan abridgementwith a prose
connecting outline of the storyis given in this volume. With the
secondconsisting of 7699 octosyllabic verseslike those in
which "The House of Fame" is writtenit 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 Lorriswho died in 1260after contributing 4070
versesand completedin the last quarter of the thirteenth
centuryby Jean de Meunwho added some 18000 verses. It is
a satirical allegoryin which the vices of courtsthe corruptions
of the clergythe disorders and inequalities of society in general
are unsparingly attackedand the most revolutionary doctrines
are advanced; and thoughin making his translationChaucer
softened or eliminated much of the satire of the poemstill it
remainedin his versea caustic exposure of the abuses of the
timeespecially 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 17385 versesof which the
poetical Tales consisthave been given without abridgement or
purgation -- save in a single couplet; butthe main purpose of
the volume being to make the general reader acquainted with
the "poems" of Chaucer and Spenserthe 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 timeby giving prose outlines of the omitted
partsit has been sought to guard the reader against the fear
that he was losing anything essentialor even valuable. It is
almost needless to describe the plotor point out the literary
placeof 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 -- althoughtherethe
circumstances under which the tales were toldwith the terror
of the plague hanging over the merry companylend a grim
grotesqueness to the narrativeunless we can look at it
abstracted from its setting. Chauceron the other handstrikes
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
movementvarietyand unclouded but never monotonous

The poetthe evening before he starts on a pilgrimage to the
shrine of St Thomas at Canterburylies at the Tabard Innin
Southwarkcurious 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 societylay and clericalfrom the Knight and the Abbot
down to the Ploughman and the Sompnour. The jolly Host of
the Tabardafter supperwhen tongues are loosened and hearts
are openeddeclares that "not this year" has he seen such a
company at once under his roof-treeand proposes thatwhen
they set out next morninghe should ride with them and make
them sport. All agreeand Harry Bailly unfolds his scheme: each
pilgrimincluding the poetshall tell two tales on the road to
Canterburyand two on the way back to London; and he whom
the general voice pronounces to have told the best taleshall be
treated to a supper at the common cost -- andof courseto
mine Host's profit -- when the cavalcade returns from the saint's
shrine to the Southwark hostelry. All joyously assent; and early
on the morrowin the gay spring sunshinethey ride forth
listening to the heroic tale of the brave and gentle Knightwho
has been gracefully chosen by the Host to lead the spirited
competition of story-telling.

To describe thus the nature of the planand to say that when
Chaucer conceivedor at least began to execute ithe was
between sixty and seventy years of ageis to proclaim that The
Canterbury Tales could never be more than a fragment. Thirty
pilgrimseach telling two tales on the way outand two more
on the way back -- that makes 120 tales; to say nothing of the
prologuethe description of the journeythe occurrences at
Canterburyand 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 isonly
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 oneand nothing is said about the doings
of the pilgrims at Canterbury -- which wouldif treated like the
scene at the Tabardhave given us a still livelier "picture of the
period." But the plan was too large; and although the poet had
some reservesin stories which he had already composed in an
independent formdeath 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 ishoweverthe 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 CaxtonThe Canterbury
Tales issued from his press in the year after the first Englishprinted
bookThe Game of the Chesse,had been struck off.
Innumerable editions have since been published; and it may
fairly be affirmedthat few books have been so much in favour
with the reading public of every generation as this bookwhich
the lapse of every generation has been rendering more

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.
Necessarilyno 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
nbeing dropped from the end; at other times it pointed the
distinction between singular and pluralbetween adjective and
adverb. The pages that followhoweverbeing prepared from
the modern English point of viewnecessarily 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 spellingor by the exigencies of metre.

Before a word beginning with a vowelor with the letter "h
the final e" was almost without exception mute; and in such
casesin the plural forms and infinitives of verbsthe terminal
nis 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; whilefor such as are nota
simple perusal of the text according to the rules of modern

verseshould remove every difficulty.

Notes to Life of Geoffrey Chaucer

1. "Edmund Spensera native of Londonwas born with a Muse
of such powerthat he was superior to all English poets of
preceding agesnot excepting his fellow-citizen Chaucer."
2. See introduction to "The Legend of Good Women".
3. Called in the editions before 1597 "The Dream of Chaucer".
The poemwhich is not included in the present editiondoes
indeedlike many of Chaucer's smaller workstell the story of a
dreamin which a knightrepresenting John of Gauntis 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.
4. 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.
5. See note 1 to The Tale in The Clerk's Tale.
6. See note 1 to The Man of Law's Tale.
7. "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
8. The old biographers of Chaucerfounding 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.

9. 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 discoveredor of defaulters punishedor 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 provedwe may be sure that his and his
patron's enemies would not have been content with simple
dismissalbut would have heavily amerced or imprisoned him.
10. The salary was L3610s. per annum; the salary of the Chief
Judges was L40of the Puisne Judges about L27. Probably the
Judges -- certainly the Clerk of the Works -- had fees or
perquisites besides the stated payment.
11. Chaucer's patron had died earlier in 1399during 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 1396with the approval of
Richard II.who legitimated the childrenand made the eldest
son of the poet's sister-in-law Earl of Somerset. From this longillicit
union sprang the house of Beaufort -- that being the
surname of the Duke's children by Katherineafter the name of
the castle in Anjou (Belfortor Beaufort) where they were born.
12. Of Chaucer's two sons by Philippa Roethis only wifethe
youngerLewisfor whom he wrote the Treatise on the
Astrolabedied young. The elderThomasmarried Maudthe
second daughter and co-heiress of Sir John Burghershbrother
of the Bishop of Lincolnthe 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 CastleSteward of the Honours of
Wallingford and St Valeryand of the Chiltern Hundreds; and
the queen of Henry IV. granted him the farm of several of her
manorsa grant subsequently confirmed to him for life by the
Kingafter the Queen's death. He sat in Parliament repeatedly
for Oxfordshirewas Speaker in 1414and in the same year
went to France as commissioner to negotiate the marriage of
Henry V. with the Princess Katherine. He heldbefore he died
in 1434various other posts of trust and distinction; but he left
no heirs-male. His only childAlice Chaucermarried 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 Elizabethsister
of Edward IV. The eldest son of this marriagecreated Earl of
Lincolnwas declared by Richard III heir-apparent to the
thronein case the Prince of Wales should die without issue; but
the death of Lincoln himselfat 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.
13. "Geoffrey Chaucerbardand famous mother of poetryis
buried in this sacred ground."

14. Railings.
15 Translation of the epitaph: This tomb was built for Geoffrey
Chaucerwho in his time was the greatest poet of the English. If
you ask the year of his deathbehold the words beneathwhich
tell you all. Death gave him rest from his toil25th of October
1400. N Brigham bore the cost of these words in the name of
the Muses. 1556.

16. See the Prologue to Chaucer's Tale of Sir Thopas.
17. See the "Goodly Ballad of Chaucer seventh stanza.
18. See the opening of the Prologue to The Legend of Good
Women and the poet's account of his habits in The House of


WHEN that Apriliswith his showers swoot**sweet
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 holt* and heath *groveforest
The tender croppes* and the younge sun *twigsboughs
Hath in the Ram <1> his halfe course y-run
And smalle fowles make melody
That sleepen all the night with open eye
(So pricketh them nature in their corages*); *heartsinclinations
Then longe folk to go on pilgrimages
And palmers <2> for to seeke strange strands
To *ferne hallows couth* in sundry lands; *distant saints known*<3>
And speciallyfrom every shire's end
Of Englelandto Canterbury they wend
The holy blissful Martyr for to seek
That them hath holpen*when that they were sick. *helped

Befell thatin that season on a day
In Southwark at the Tabard <4> 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 *who had by chance fallen
In fellowship*and pilgrims were they allinto company.* <5>
That toward Canterbury woulde ride.
The chamberand the stables were wide
And *well we weren eased at the best.* *we were well provided
And shortlywhen the sunne was to restwith the best*
So had I spoken with them every one
That I was of their fellowship anon
And made forword* early for to rise*promise
To take our way there as I you devise*. *describerelate

But nathelesswhile 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 themso as it seemed me
And which they werenand of what degree;
And eke in what array that they were in:
And at a Knight then will I first begin.
A KNIGHT there wasand that a worthy man
That from the time that he first began
To riden outhe loved chivalry
Truth and honourfreedom and courtesy.
Full worthy was he in his Lorde's war
And thereto had he riddenno man farre**farther
As well in Christendom as in Heatheness
And ever honour'd for his worthiness
At Alisandre <6> he was when it was won.
Full often time he had the board begun
Above alle nations in Prusse.<7>
In Lettowe had he reysed* and in Russe*journeyed
No Christian man so oft of his degree.
In Grenade at the siege eke had he be
Of Algesirand ridden in Belmarie. <8>
At Leyes was heand 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 thriesand aye slain his foe.
This ilke* worthy knight had been also *same <9>
Some time with the lord of Palatie
Against another heathen in Turkie:
And evermore *he had a sovereign price*. *He was held in very
And though that he was worthy he was wisehigh esteem.*
And of his port as meek as is a maid.
He never yet no villainy ne said
In all his lifeunto no manner wight.
He was a very perfect gentle knight.
But for to telle you of his array
His horse was goodbut yet he was not gay.
Of fustian he weared a gipon**short 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 sona younge SQUIRE
A loverand a lusty bacheler
With lockes crulle* as they were laid in press. *curled
Of twenty year of age he was I guess.
Of his stature he was of even length
And *wonderly deliver*and great of strength. *wonderfully nimble*
And he had been some time in chevachie**cavalry raids
In Flandersin Artoisand Picardie
And borne him well*as of so little space**in such a short time*
In hope to standen in his lady's grace.
Embroider'd was heas it were a mead
All full of freshe flowerswhite and red.
Singing he wasor fluting all the day;
He was as fresh as is the month of May.
Short was his gownwith sleeves long and wide.
Well could he sit on horseand faire ride.
He coulde songes makeand well indite
Joustand eke danceand well pourtray and write.
So hot he lovedthat by nightertale* *night-time
He slept no more than doth the nightingale.
Courteous he waslowlyand serviceable

And carv'd before his father at the table.<10>

A YEOMAN had heand servants no mo'
At that timefor *him list ride so* *it pleased him so to ride*

And he was clad in coat and hood of green.
A sheaf of peacock arrows<11> 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 <12> had hewith a brown visiage:
Of wood-craft coud* he well all the usage: *knew
Upon his arm he bare a gay bracer**small shield
And by his side a sword and a buckler
And on that other side a gay daggere
Harnessed welland sharp as point of spear:
A Christopher on his breast of silver sheen.
An horn he barethe baldric was of green:
A forester was he soothly* as I guess. *certainly
There was also a Nuna PRIORESS
That of her smiling was full simple and coy;
Her greatest oathe was but by Saint Loy;
And she was cleped* Madame Eglentine. *called
Full well she sang the service divine
Entuned in her nose full seemly;
And French she spake full fair and fetisly* *properly
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 morseland well keep
That no droppe ne fell upon her breast.
In courtesy was set full much her lest*. *pleasure
Her over-lippe wiped she so clean
That in her cup there was no farthing* seen *speck
Of greasewhen she drunken had her draught;
Full seemely after her meat she raught*: *reached out her hand

And *sickerly she was of great disport**surely she was of a lively
And full pleasantand amiable of portdisposition*
And *pained her to counterfeite cheer *took pains to assume
Of court* and be estately of mannerea courtly disposition*
And to be holden digne* of reverence. *worthy
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 trapif it were dead or bled.
Of smalle houndes had shethat she fed
With roasted fleshand milkand *wastel bread.* *finest white bread*
But sore she wept if one of them were dead
Or if men smote it with a yarde* smart: *staff
And all was conscience and tender heart.
Full seemly her wimple y-pinched was;
Her nose tretis;* her eyen gray as glass;<13> *well-formed
Her mouth full smalland thereto soft and red;
But sickerly she had a fair forehead.
It was almost a spanne broad I trow;
For *hardily she was not undergrow*. *certainly she was not small*
Full fetis* was her cloakas I was ware. *neat
Of small coral about her arm she bare
A pair of beadesgauded 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 chapelleineand PRIESTES three.]
A MONK there wasa fair *for the mast'ry**above all others*<14>
An out-riderthat loved venery*; *hunting
A manly manto be an abbot able.
Full many a dainty horse had he in stable:
And when he rodemen might his bridle hear
Jingeling <15> in a whistling wind as clear
And eke as loudas doth the chapel bell
There as this lord was keeper of the cell.
The rule of Saint Maur and of Saint Benet<16>

Because that it was old and somedeal strait
This ilke* monk let olde thinges pace
And held after the newe world the trace.
He *gave not of the text a pulled hen*
That saiththat hunters be not holy men:
Ne that a monkwhen he is cloisterless;
Is like to a fish that is waterless;
This is to saya monk out of his cloister.
This ilke text held he not worth an oyster;
And I say his opinion was good.
Why should he studyand make himselfe wood*
Upon a book in cloister always pore
Or swinken* with his handesand labour
As Austin bid? how shall the world be served?
Let Austin have his swink to him reserved.
Therefore he was a prickasour* aright:
Greyhounds he had as swift as fowl of flight;
Of pricking* and of hunting for the hare
Was all his lust* for no cost would he spare.

I saw his sleeves *purfil'd at the hand
With 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 baldand shone as any glass
And eke his faceas it had been anoint;
He was a lord full fat and in good point;
His eyen steep* and rolling in his head
That steamed as a furnace of a lead.
His bootes supplehis horse in great estate
Now certainly he was a fair prelate;
He was not pale as a forpined* ghost;
A fat swan lov'd he best of any roast.
His palfrey was as brown as is a berry.

A FRIAR there wasa wanton and a merry
A limitour <18>a full solemne man.
In all the orders four is none that can*
So much of dalliance and fair language.
He had y-made full many a marriage
Of younge womenat his owen cost.
Unto his order he was a noble post;
Full well belov'dand familiar was he
With franklins *over all* in his country
And eke with worthy women of the town:
For he had power of confession
As said himselfemore 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


*he cared nothing
for the text*

*mad <17>


*hard rider

*pleasure*worked at the end with a
fur called "gris"*





*There as he wist to have a good pittance:* *where he know he would
For unto a poor order for to give get good payment*
Is signe that a man is well y-shrive.
For if he gavehe *durste make avant**dared to boast*
He wiste* that the man was repentant. *knew
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 farsed* full of knives *stuffed
And pinnesfor to give to faire wives;
And certainly he had a merry note:
Well could he sing and playen *on a rote*; *from memory*
Of yeddings* he bare utterly the prize. *songs
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 lazar* or a beggere*leper
For unto such a worthy man as he
Accordeth notas by his faculty
To have with such lazars acquaintance.
It is not honestit may not advance
As for to deale with no such pouraille**offalrefuse
But all with richand sellers of vitaille*. *victuals
And *ov'r all there as* profit should arise*in every place where&
Courteous he wasand 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<19>
None of his bretheren came in his haunt.
For though a widow hadde but one shoe
So pleasant was his In Principio<20>
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 <21>; there could he muchel* help. *greatly
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 semicope**short 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 harpingwhen that he had sung
His eyen* twinkled in his head aright*eyes
As do the starres in a frosty night.
This worthy limitour <18> was call'd Huberd.
A MERCHANT was there with a forked beard
In motleyand high on his horse he sat
Upon his head a Flandrish beaver hat.
His bootes clasped fair and fetisly*. *neatly
His reasons aye spake he full solemnly
Sounding alway th' increase of his winning.
He would the sea were kept <22> for any thing
Betwixte Middleburg and Orewell<23>
Well could he in exchange shieldes* sell *crown coins <24>
This worthy man full well his wit beset*; *employed
There wiste* no wight** that he was in debt*knew **man
So *estately was he of governance* *so well he managed*
With his bargainsand with his chevisance*. *business contract
For sooth he was a worthy man withal
But sooth to sayI n'ot* how men him call. *know not

A CLERK there was of Oxenford* also
That unto logic hadde long y-go*.
As leane was his horse as is a rake
And he was not right fatI undertake;
But looked hollow*and thereto soberly**.
Full threadbare was his *overest courtepy*
For he had gotten him yet no benefice
Ne was not worldlyto have an office.
For him was lever* have at his bed's head
Twenty bookesclothed in black or red
Of Aristotleand his philosophy
Than robes richor fiddleor 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 hent*
On bookes and on learning he it spent
And busily gan for the soules pray
Of them that gave him <25> wherewith to scholay*
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 quickand full of high sentence.
Sounding in moral virtue was his speech
And gladly would he learnand gladly teach.

A SERGEANT OF THE LAWwary and wise
That often had y-been at the Parvis<26>
There was alsofull rich of excellence.
Discreet he wasand of great reverence:
He seemed suchhis wordes were so wise
Justice he was full often in assize
By patentand by plein* commission;
For his scienceand for his high renown
Of fees and robes had he many one.
So great a purchaser was nowhere none.
All was fee simple to himin effect
His purchasing might not be in suspect*
Nowhere so busy a man as he there was
And yet he seemed busier than he was
In termes had he case' and doomes* all
That from the time of King Will. were fall.
Thereto he could inditeand make a thing
There coulde no wight *pinch at* his writing.
And every statute coud* he plain by rote
He rode but homely in a medley* coat
Girt with a seint* of silkwith barres small;
Of his array tell I no longer tale.

A FRANKELIN* was in this company;
White was his beardas 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 won*
For he was Epicurus' owen son
That held opinionthat plein* delight
Was verily felicity perfite.
An householderand that a greatwas he;
Saint Julian<27> he was in his country.
His breadhis alewas alway *after one*;
A better envined* man was nowhere none;
Withoute bake-meat never was his house
Of fish and fleshand that so plenteous
It snowed in his house of meat and drink

*devoted himself

*thin; **poorly
*uppermost short cloak*






*find fault with*

*Rich landowner


*pressed on one*
*stored with wine

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 mew*
And many a breamand many a luce* in stew**<29>
Woe was his cook*but if* his sauce were
Poignant and sharpand ready all his gear.
His table dormant* 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 shire*
An anlace*and a gipciere** all of silk
Hung at his girdlewhite as morning milk.
A sheriff had he beenand a countour<30>
Was nowhere such a worthy vavasour<31>.


*cage <28>
*pike **fish-pond


*Member of Parliament*
*dagger **purse

A WEBBE*a DYERand a TAPISER***weaver **tapestry-maker

Were with us ekecloth'd in one livery
Of a solemn and great fraternity.
Full fresh and new their gear y-picked* was. *spruce
Their knives were y-chaped* not with brass*mounted
But all with silver wrought full clean and well
Their girdles and their pouches *every deal*. *in every part*
Well seemed each of them a fair burgess
To sitten in a guild-hallon the dais. <32>
Evereachfor the wisdom that he can**knew
Was shapely* for to be an alderman. *fitted
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.<33>
A COOK they hadde with them for the nones**occasion
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 roastand stewand broiland fry
Make mortrewesand well bake a pie.
But great harm was itas it thoughte me
Thaton his shin a mormal* hadde he. *ulcer
For blanc mangerthat made he with the best <34>
A SHIPMAN was there*wonned far by West*: *who dwelt far
For ought I wotbe was of Dartemouth. to the West*
He rode upon a rouncy*as he couth*hack
All in a gown of falding* to the knee. *coarse cloth
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-wardwhile that the chapmen sleep;
Of nice conscience took he no keep.
If that he foughtand had the higher hand
*By water he sent them home to every land.* *he drowned his
But of his craft to reckon well his tidesprisoners*
His streames and his strandes him besides
His herberow*his moonand lodemanage***harbourage
There was none suchfrom Hull unto Carthage **pilotage<35>
Hardy he wasand wiseI undertake:
With many a tempest had his beard been shake.

He knew well all the havensas 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 physicand 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 fortune* the ascendent *make fortunate
Of his images for his patient.
He knew the cause of every malady
Were it of coldor hotor moistor dry
And where engender'dand of what humour.
He was a very perfect practisour
The cause y-know* and of his harm the root*known
Anon he gave to the sick man his boot* *remedy
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 Dioscoridesand eke Rufus;
Old HippocrasHaliand Gallien;
SerapionRasisand Avicen;
AverroisDamasceneand Constantin;
Bernardand Gatisdenand Gilbertin. <36>
Of his diet measurable was he
For it was of no superfluity
But of great nourishingand digestible.
His study was but little on the Bible.
In sanguine* and in perse** he clad was all *red **blue
Lined with taffetaand with sendall*. *fine silk
And yet *he was but easy of dispense*: *he spent very little*
He kept *that he won in the pestilence*. *the money he made
For gold in physic is a cordial; during the plague*
Therefore he loved gold in special.
A good WIFE was there OF beside BATH
But she was somedeal deafand that was scath*. *damage; pity
Of cloth-making she hadde such an haunt**skill
She passed them of Ypresand of Gaunt. <37>
In all the parish wife was there none
That to the off'ring* before her should gon*the offering at mass
And if there didcertain so wroth was she
That she was out of alle charity
Her coverchiefs* were full fine of ground *head-dresses
I durste swearthey weighede ten pound <38>
That on the Sunday were upon her head.
Her hosen weren of fine scarlet red
Full strait y-tiedand shoes full moist* and new *fresh <39>
Bold was her faceand 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 nouth*. *now
And thrice had she been at Jerusalem;
She hadde passed many a strange stream
At Rome she had beenand at Bologne
In Galice at Saint James<40> and at Cologne;
She coude* much of wand'rng by the Way. *knew
Gat-toothed* was shesoothly for to say. *Buck-toothed<41>

Upon an ambler easily she sat
Y-wimpled welland 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 carp* *jesttalk
Of remedies of love she knew perchance
For of that art she coud* the olde dance. *knew
A good man there was of religion
That was a poore PARSON of a town:
But rich he was of holy thought and werk*. *work
He was also a learned mana clerk
That Christe's gospel truly woulde preach.
His parishens* devoutly would he teach. *parishioners
Benign he wasand wonder diligent
And in adversity full patient:
And such he was y-proved *often sithes*. *oftentimes*
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'ringand eke of his substance.
*He could in little thing have suffisance*. *he was satisfied with
Wide was his parishand houses far asundervery little*
But he ne left notfor no rain nor thunder
In sickness and in mischief to visit
The farthest in his parish*much and lit**great and small*
Upon his feetand in his hand a staff.
This noble ensample to his sheep he gaf**gave
That first he wroughtand afterward he taught.
Out of the gospel he the wordes caught
And this figure he added yet thereto
That if gold rustewhat should iron do?
For if a priest be foulon whom we trust
No wonder is a lewed* man to rust: *unlearned
And shame it isif that a priest take keep
To see a shitten shepherd and clean sheep:
Well ought a priest ensample for to give
By his own cleannesshow his sheep should live.
He sette not his benefice to hire
And left his sheep eucumber'd in the mire
And ran unto Londonunto Saint Paul's
To seeke him a chantery<42> for souls
Or with a brotherhood to be withold:* *detained
But dwelt at homeand kepte well his fold
So that the wolf ne made it not miscarry.
He was a shepherdand no mercenary.
And though he holy wereand virtuous
He was to sinful men not dispitous* *severe
Nor of his speeche dangerous nor dign* *disdainful
But in his teaching discreet and benign.
To drawen folk to heavenwith fairness
By good ensamplewas his business:
*But it were* any person obstinate*but if it were*
What so he were of high or low estate

Him would he snibbe* sharply for the nones**. *reprove **nonceoccasion
A better priest I trow that nowhere none is.
He waited after no pomp nor reverence
Nor maked him a *spiced conscience**artificial conscience*
But Christe's loreand his apostles' twelve
He taughtand first he follow'd it himselve.

With him there was a PLOUGHMANwas his brother
That had y-laid of dung full many a fother*. *ton

A true swinker* and a good was he*hard worker
Living in peace and perfect charity.
God loved he beste with all his heart
At alle timeswere it gain or smart**painloss
And then his neighebour right as himselve.
He woulde threshand thereto dike*and delve*dig ditches
For Christe's sakefor every poore wight
Withouten hireif it lay in his might.
His tithes payed he full fair and well
Both of his *proper swink*and his chattel** *his own labour* **goods

In a tabard* he rode upon a mare.

There was also a Reeveand a Millere
A Sompnourand a Pardoner also
A Mancipleand myselfthere were no mo'.

The MILLER was a stout carle for the nones
Full big he was of brawnand eke of bones;
That proved wellfor *ov'r all where* he came
At wrestling he would bear away the ram.<43>
He was short-shoulderedbroada thicke gnarr*
There was no doorthat he n'old* heave off bar
Or break it at a running with his head.
His beard as any sow or fox was red
And thereto broadas though it were a spade.
Upon the cop* right of his nose he had
A wartand thereon stood a tuft of hairs
Red as the bristles of a sowe's ears.
His nose-thirles* blacke were and wide.
A sword and buckler bare he by his side.
His mouth as wide was as a furnace.
He was a janglerand a goliardais*
And that was most of sin and harlotries.
Well could he steale cornand tolle thrice
And yet he had a thumb of goldpardie.<47>
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 <48> was there of a temple
Of which achatours* mighte take ensample
For to be wise in buying of vitaille*.
For whether that he paidor took *by taile*
Algate* he waited so in his achate**
That he was aye before in good estate.
Now is not that of God a full fair grace
That such a lewed* mannes wit shall pace**
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 wood*
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 cap*

The REEVE <49> 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

*sleeveless jerkin


*stump of wood
*could not

*head <44>

*nostrils <45>

*buffoon <46>

*on credit
*always **purchase

*unlearned **surpass

*unless he were mad*

*outwitted them all*

Full longe were his leggesand full lean
Y-like a staffthere was no calf y-seen
Well could he keep a garner* and a bin* *storeplaces for grain
There was no auditor could on him win
Well wist he by the droughtand by the rain
The yielding of his seed and of his grain
His lorde's sheephis neat*and his dairy *cattle
His swinehis horsehis storeand 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 bailiffherdnor other hine* *servant
That he ne knew his *sleight and his covine* *tricks and cheating*
They were adrad* of himas of the death *in dread
His wonning* was full fair upon an heath *abode
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 thankand yet* a coat and hood. *also
In youth he learned had a good mistere* *trade
He was a well good wrighta carpentere
This Reeve sate upon a right good stot**steed
That was all pomely* grayand highte** Scot. *dappled **called
A long surcoat of perse* upon he had*sky-blue
And by his side he bare a rusty blade.
Of Norfolk was this Reeveof which I tell
Beside a town men clepen* Baldeswell*call
Tucked he wasas is a friarabout
And ever rode the *hinderest of the rout*. *hindmost of the group*
A SOMPNOUR* was there with us in that place*summoner <50>
That had a fire-red cherubinnes face
For sausefleme* he waswith eyen narrow. *red or pimply
As hot he was and lecherous as a sparrow
With scalled browes blackand pilled* beard: *scanty
Of his visage children were sore afeard.

There n'as quicksilverlithargenor brimstone

Borascerusenor oil of tartar none
Nor ointement that woulde cleanse or bite
That him might helpen of his whelkes* white*pustules
Nor of the knobbes* sitting on his cheeks. *buttons
Well lov'd he garliconionsand leeks
And for to drink strong wine as red as blood.
Then would he speakand 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 hetwo or three
That he had learned out of some decree;
No wonder ishe heard it all the day.
And eke ye knowen wellhow that a jay
Can clepen* "Wat as well as can the Pope. *call
But whoso would in other thing him grope*, *search
Then had he spent all his philosophy,
Aye, Questio quid juris,<51> would he cry.
He was a gentle harlot* and a kind; *a low fellow<52>
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 owhere* a good fellaw*anywhere
He woulde teache him to have none awe
In such a case of the archdeacon's curse;
*But if* a manne's soul were in his purse; *unless*
For in his purse he should y-punished be.
Purse is the archedeacon's hell,said he.
But well I wothe lied right indeed:
Of cursing ought each guilty man to dread
For curse will slay right as assoiling* saveth; *absolving
And also 'ware him of a significavit<53>.
In danger had he at his owen guise
The younge girles of the diocese<54>
And knew their counseland was of their rede*. *counsel
A garland had he set upon his head
As great as it were for an alestake*: *The post of an alehouse sign

A buckler had he made him of a cake.
With him there rode a gentle PARDONERE <55>
Of Roncevalhis friend and his compere
That straight was comen from the court of Rome.
Full loud he sangCome hither, love, to me
This Sompnour *bare to him a stiff burdoun**sang the bass*
Was never trump of half so great a soun'.
This Pardoner had hair as yellow as wax
But smooth it hungas doth a strike* of flax: *strip
By ounces hung his lockes that he had
And therewith he his shoulders oversprad.
Full thin it layby culpons* one and one*locksshreds
But hood for jollityhe weared none
For it was trussed up in his wallet.
Him thought he rode all of the *newe get**latest fashion*<56>
Dishevelsave his caphe rode all bare.
Such glaring eyen had heas an hare.
A vernicle* had he sew'd upon his cap. *image of Christ <57>
His wallet lay before him in his lap
Bretful* of pardon come from Rome all hot. *brimful
A voice he had as small as hath a goat.
No beard had henor 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 craftfrom Berwick unto Ware
Ne was there such another pardonere.
For in his mail* he had a pillowbere***bag <58> **pillowcase
Whichas he saidewas our Lady's veil:
He saidhe had a gobbet* of the sail *piece
That Sainte Peter hadwhen that he went
Upon the seatill Jesus Christ him hent*. *took hold of
He had a cross of latoun* full of stones*copper
And in a glass he hadde pigge's bones.
But with these relicswhenne 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 japes**jests
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 alderbest* he sang an offertory: *best of all
For well he wistewhen that song was sung
He muste preachand well afile* his tongue*polish
To winne silveras he right well could:
Therefore he sang full merrily and loud.

Now have I told you shortly in a clause
Th' estateth' arraythe numberand eke the cause
Why that assembled was this company
In Southwark at this gentle hostelry
That highte the Tabardfast by the Bell.<59>
But now is time to you for to tell
*How that we baren us that ilke night**what 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 villainy**count 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 rehearseas nigh as ever he can
Every wordif it be in his charge
*All speak he* ne'er so rudely and so large; *let him speak*
Or elles he must tell his tale untrue
Or feigne thingsor finde wordes new.
He may not sparealthough 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 saithwhoso that can him read
The wordes must be cousin to the deed.
Also I pray you to forgive it me
*All have I* not set folk in their degree*although I have*
Here in this taleas that they shoulden stand:
My wit is shortye 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 wineand well to drink us lest*. *pleased
A seemly man Our Hoste was withal
For to have been a marshal in an hall.
A large man he was with eyen steep**deep-set.
A fairer burgess is there none in Cheap<60>:
Bold of his speechand 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; "Nowlordingestruly
Ye be to me welcome right heartily:
For by my trothif that I shall not lie
I saw not this year such a company
At once in this herberow*am is now. *inn <61>
Fain would I do you mirthan* I wist* how. *if I knew*
And of a mirth I am right now bethought.
To do you ease*and it shall coste nought. *pleasure
Ye go to Canterbury; God you speed
The blissful Martyr *quite you your meed*; *grant you what
And well I wotas ye go by the wayyou deserve*
Ye *shapen you* to talken and to play: *intend to*
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 erstand 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-morrowwhen ye riden on the way
Now by my father's soule that is dead
*But ye be merrysmiteth off* mine head. *unless you are merry
Hold up your hands withoute more speech. smite off my head*
Our counsel was not longe for to seech*: *seek
Us thought it was not worth to *make it wise**discuss it at length*
And granted him withoute more avise**consideration
And bade him say his verdictas him lest.
Lordings (quoth he)now hearken for the best;
But take it notI pray youin disdain;
This is the pointto speak it plat* and plain. *flat
That each of youto shorten with your way
In this voyageshall tellen tales tway
To Canterbury-wardI 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 saythat telleth in this case
Tales of best sentence and most solace

Shall have a supper *at your aller cost* *at the cost of you all*
Here in this placesitting 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 costand 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 grantedand our oath we swore
With full glad heartand 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 fet* anon. *fetched.
We drunkenand to reste went each one
Withouten any longer tarrying
A-morrowwhen the day began to spring
Up rose our hostand was *our aller cock**the 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 Thomas<62>:
And there our host began his horse arrest
And saide; "Lordeshearken if you lest.
Ye *weet your forword* and I it record. *know your promise*
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 cuts*ere that ye farther twin**. *lots **go
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 ventureor sort*or cas***lot **chance
The sooth is thisthe cut fell to the Knight
Of which full blithe and glad was every wight;
And tell he must his tale as was reason
By forwordand 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; "Sithen* I shall begin this game*since
Whywelcome be the cut in Godde's name.
Now let us rideand hearken what I say."
And with that word we ridden forth our way;
And he began with right a merry cheer
His tale anonand said as ye shall hear.

Notes to the Prologue

1. Tyrwhitt points out that "the Bull" should be read herenot
the Ram,which would place the time of the pilgrimage in the
end of March; whereasin the Prologue to the Man of Law's
Talethe date is given as the "eight and twenty day of April
that is messenger to May."
2. Dantein 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.
3. "Hallows" survivesin the meaning here givenin All Hallows
-- All-Saints -- day. "Couth past participle of conne" to
knowexists in "uncouth."
4. The Tabard -- the sign of the inn -- was a sleeveless coat
worn by heralds. The name of the inn wassome three
centuries after Chaucerchanged to the Talbot.
5. 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 Germany-fall,or y-falle would be
gefallen"y-run,or "y-ronne"would be "geronnen."
6. Alisandre: Alexandriain Egyptcaptured by Pierre de
Lusignanking of Cyprusin 1365 but abandoned immediately
afterwards. Thirteen years beforethe same Prince had taken
Sataliethe ancient Attaliain Anatoliaand in 1367 he won
Layasin Armeniaboth places named just below.
7. The knight had been placed at the head of the tableabove
knights of all nationsin Prussiawhither warriors from all
countries were wont to repairto aid the Teutonic Order in their

continual conflicts with their heathen neighbours in "Lettowe"
or Lithuania (German. "Litthauen")Russia&c.

8. Algesiras was taken from the Moorish king of Grenadain
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 Seaor the Greek seais the Eastern Mediterranean.
Tramisseneor Tremessenis enumerated by Froissart among
the Moorish kingdoms in Africa. Palatieor Palathiain
Anatoliawas 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
9. Ilke: same; compare the Scottish phrase "of that ilk -that
is, of the estate which bears the same name as its owner's
10. It was the custom for squires of the highest degree to carve
at their fathers' tables.
11. Peacock Arrows: Large arrows, with peacocks' feathers.
12. A nut-head: With nut-brown hair; or, round like a nut, the
hair being cut short.
13. Grey eyes appear to have been a mark of female beauty in
Chaucer's time.
14. for the mastery" was applied to medicines in the sense of
sovereignas we now apply it to a remedy.
15. It was fashionable to hang bells on horses' bridles.
16. St. Benedict was the first founder of a spiritual order in the
Roman church. Maurusabbot of Fulda from 822 to 842did
much to re-establish the discipline of the Benedictines on a true
Christian basis.
17. Wood: MadScottish "wud". Felix says to PaulToo
much learning hath made thee mad.
18. Limitour: A friar with licence or privilege to begor
exercise other functionswithin a certain district: asthe
limitour of Holderness.
19. Farme: rent; that ishe paid a premium for his licence to
20. In principio: the first words of Genesis and Johnemployed
in some part of the mass.
21. Lovedays: meetings appointed for friendly settlement of
differences; the business was often followed by sports and
22. 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).
23. Middleburgat the mouth of the Scheldtin Holland;

Orwella seaport in Essex.

24. Shields: Crownsso called from the shields stamped on
them; Frenchecu;Italianscudo.
25. Poor scholars at the universities used then to go about
begging for money to maintain them and their studies.
26. Parvis: The portico of St. Paul'swhich lawyers frequented
to meet their clients.
27. St Julian: The patron saint of hospitalitycelebrated for
supplying his votaries with good lodging and good cheer.
28. Mew: cage. The place behind Whitehallwhere the king's
hawks were caged was called the Mews.
29. Many a luce in stew: many a pike in his fish-pond; in those
Catholic dayswhen much fish was eatenno gentleman's
mansion was complete without a "stew".
30. Countour: Probably a steward or accountant in the county
31. Vavasour: A landholder of consequence; holding of a duke
marquisor earland ranking below a baron.
32. On the dais: On the raised platform at the end of the hall
where sat at meat or in judgement those high in authorityrank
or honour; in our days the worthy craftsmen might have been
described as "good platform men".
33. To take precedence over all in going to the evening service
of the Churchor to festival meetingsto which it was the
fashion to carry rich cloaks or mantles against the homecoming.
34. 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.
35. Lodemanage: pilotagefrom Anglo-Saxon "ladman a
leader, guide, or pilot; hence lodestar lodestone."
36. The authors mentioned here were the chief medical textbooks
of the middle ages. The names of Galen and Hippocrates
were then usually spelt "Gallien" and "Hypocras" or "Ypocras".
37. The west of Englandespecially around Bathwas the seat
of the cloth-manufactureas were Ypres and Ghent (Gaunt) in
38. Chaucer here satirises the fashion of the timewhich piled
bulky and heavy waddings on ladies' heads.
39. Moist; here used in the sense of "new"as in Latin
mustumsignifies new wine; and elsewhere Chaucer speaks of
moisty aleas opposed to "old".
40. In Galice at Saint James: at the shrine of St Jago of
Compostella in Spain.

41. Gat-toothed: Buck-toothed; goat-toothedto signify her
wantonness; or gap-toothed -- with gaps between her teeth.
42. An endowment to sing masses for the soul of the donor.
43. A ram was the usual prize at wrestling matches.
44. Cop: Head; GermanKopf.
45. Nose-thirles: nostrils; from the Anglo-Saxonthirlian,to
pierce; hence the word "drill to bore.
46. Goliardais: a babbler and a buffoon; Golias was the founder
of a jovial sect called by his name.
47. The proverb says that every honest miller has a thumb of
gold; probably Chaucer means that this one was as honest as his
48. A Manciple -- Latin, manceps a purchaser or contractor -
was an officer charged with the purchase of victuals for inns
of court or colleges.
49. Reeve: A land-steward; still called grieve" -- Anglo-Saxon
gerefain some parts of Scotland.
50. Sompnour: summoner; an apparitorwho cited delinquents
to appear in ecclesiastical courts.
51. Questio quid juris: "I ask which law (applies)"; a cant law-
Latin phrase.
52 Harlot: a lowribald fellow; the word was used of both
sexes; it comes from the Anglo-Saxon verb to hire.

53. Significavit: an ecclesiastical writ.
54. Within his jurisdiction he had at his own pleasure the young
people (of both sexes) in the diocese.
55. Pardoner: a seller of pardons or indulgences.
56. Newe get: new gaitor fashion; "gait" is still used in this
sense in some parts of the country.
57. 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 Crossand received it back with an impression
of His countenance upon it.
58. Mail: packetbaggage; Frenchmalle,a trunk.
59. The Bell: apparently another Southwark tavern; Stowe
mentions a "Bull" as being near the Tabard.
60. Cheap: Cheapsidethen inhabited by the richest and most
prosperous citizens of London.
61. Herberow: Lodginginn; FrenchHerberge.
62. The watering of Saint Thomas: At the second milestone on
the old Canterbury road.


WHILOM*as olde stories tellen us
There was a duke that highte* Theseus.
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<3>
That whilom was y-cleped Scythia;
And weddede the Queen Hippolyta
And brought her home with him to his country
With muchel* 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 hostin armes him beside.

And certesif it n'ere* too long to hear
I would have told you fully the mannere
How wonnen* was the regne of Feminie<4>
By Theseusand 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 haveGod wota 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 rout*.
Let every fellow tell his tale about
And let see now who shall the supper win.
There *as I left*I will again begin.

This Dukeof whom I make mentioun
When he was come almost unto the town
In all his wealand in his moste pride
He was wareas he cast his eye aside
Where that there kneeled in the highe way
A company of ladiestway and tway
Each after otherclad 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 waimenting*
And of this crying would they never stenten*
Till they the reines of his bridle henten*.
What folk be ye that at mine homecoming
Perturben so my feaste with crying?
Quoth Theseus; "Have ye so great envy
Of mine honourthat thus complain and cry?
Or who hath you misboden*or offended?
Do telle meif 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 swoonedwith a deadly cheer*
That it was ruthe* for to see or hear.
She saide; "Lordto whom fortune hath given

*was called <2>


*were not



*hinder any of
this company*

*where I left off*

*lamenting <6>



Vict'ryand 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 pitythrough thy gentleness
Upon us wretched women let now fall.
For certeslordthere is none of us all
That hath not been a duchess or a queen;
Now be we caitives*as it is well seen: *captives
Thanked be Fortuneand her false wheel
That *none estate ensureth to be wele*. *assures no continuance of
And certeslordt'abiden your presence prosperous estate*
Here in this temple of the goddess Clemence
We have been waiting all this fortenight:
Now help uslordsince it lies in thy might.

I, wretched wight, that weep and waile thus,
Was whilom wife to king Capaneus,
That starf* at Thebes, cursed be that day: *died <7>
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 villainy*, *insult
Of all our lorde's, which that been y-slaw, *slain
Hath all the bodies on an heap y-draw,
And will not suffer them by none assent
Neither to be y-buried, nor y-brent*, *burnt
But maketh houndes eat them in despite.
And with that wordwithoute more respite
They fallen groff* and cryden piteously; *grovelling
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 piteouswhen he heard them speak.
Him thoughte that his heart would all to-break

When he saw them so piteous and so mate* *abased
That whilom weren of so great estate.
And in his armes he them all up hent**raisedtook
And them comforted in full good intent
And swore his oathas he was true knight
He woulde do *so farforthly his might* *as far as his power went*
Upon the tyrant Creon them to wreak**avenge
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 abode* *delay
His banner he display'dand forth he rode
To Thebes-wardand all hishost beside:
No ner* Athenes would he go nor ride*nearer
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 sheen* *brightlovely
Unto the town of Athens for to dwell:
And forth he rit*; there is no more to tell. *rode
The red statue of Mars with spear and targe* *shield
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 richin which there was y-beat*
The Minotaur<8> which that he slew in Crete
Thus rit this Dukethus rit this conqueror
And in his host of chivalry the flower
Till that he came to Thebesand alight
Fair in a fieldthere as he thought to fight.
But shortly for to speaken of this thing
With Creonwhich that was of Thebes king
He foughtand slew him manly as a knight
In plain batailleand put his folk to flight:
And by assault he won the city after
And rent adown both walland sparand rafter;
And to the ladies he restored again
The bodies of their husbands that were slain
To do obsequiesas was then the guise*.

But it were all too long for to devise*
The greate clamourand the waimenting*
Which that the ladies made at the brenning*
Of the bodiesand the great honour
That Theseus the noble conqueror
Did to the ladieswhen they from him went:
But shortly for to tell is mine intent.
When that this worthy Dukethis Theseus
Had Creon slainand wonnen Thebes thus
Still in the field he took all night his rest
And did with all the country as him lest*.
To ransack in the tas* of bodies dead
Them for to strip of *harness and of **weed
The pillers* did their business and cure
After the battle and discomfiture.
And so befellthat in the tas they found
Through girt with many a grievous bloody wound
Two younge knightes *ligging by and by*
Both in *one armes*wrought full richely:
Of whiche twoArcita hight that one
And he that other highte Palamon.
Not fully quick*nor fully dead they were
But by their coat-armourand by their gear
The heralds knew them well in special
As those that weren of the blood royal
Of Thebesand *of sistren two y-born*.
Out of the tas the pillers have them torn
And have them carried soft unto the tent
Of Theseusand he full soon them sent
To Athensfor to dwellen in prison
Perpetuallyhe *n'olde no ranson*.
And when this worthy Duke had thus y-done
He took his hostand 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 towerin anguish and in woe
Dwellen this Palamonand eke Arcite
For evermorethere may no gold them quite*

Thus passed year by yearand day by day
Till it fell ones in a morn of May
That Emilythat 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;




*armour **clothes
*pillagers <9>

*lying side by side*
*the same armour*


*born of two sisters*

*would take no ransom*

*set free

I n'ot* which was the finer of them two)*know not
Ere it was dayas she was wont to do
She was arisenand all ready dight**dressed
For May will have no sluggardy a-night;
The season pricketh every gentle heart
And maketh him out of his sleep to start
And saithArise, and do thine observance.
This maketh Emily have remembrance
To do honour to Mayand for to rise.
Y-clothed was she fresh for to devise;
Her yellow hair was braided in a tress
Behind her backa yarde long I guess.
And in the garden at *the sun uprist* *sunrise
She walketh up and down where as her list.
She gathereth flowersparty* white and red*mingled
To make a sotel* garland for her head*subtlewell-arranged
And as an angel heavenly she sung.
The greate towerthat was so thick and strong
Which of the castle was the chief dungeon<10>
(Where as these knightes weren in prison
Of which I tolde youand telle shall)
Was even joinant* to the garden wall*adjoining
There as this Emily had her playing.
Bright was the sunand clear that morrowning
And Palamonthis woful prisoner
As was his wontby leave of his gaoler
Was ris'nand roamed in a chamber on high
In which he all the noble city sigh**saw
And eke the gardenfull of branches green
There as this fresh Emelia the sheen
Was in her walkand roamed up and down.
This sorrowful prisonerthis Palamon
Went in his chamber roaming to and fro
And to himself complaining of his woe:
That he was bornfull oft he saidAlas!
And so befellby aventure or cas**chance
That through a window thick of many a bar
Of iron greatand square as any spar
He cast his eyes upon Emelia
And therewithal he blent* and criedAh! *started aside
As though he stungen were unto the heart.
And with that cry Arcite anon up start
And saideCousin 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 prison*, for it may none other be. *imprisonment
Fortune hath giv'n us this adversity'.
Some wick'* aspect or disposition *wicked
Of Saturn<11>, 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:
Cousinforsooth 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 bane* be. *destruction
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 wher* she be woman or goddess*know not whether*
But Venus is itsoothly* as I guess*truly
And therewithal on knees adown he fill
And saide: "Venusif 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 espy* *began 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 heor more.
And with a sigh he saide piteously:
The freshe beauty slay'th me suddenly
Of her that roameth yonder in the place.
And but* I have her mercy and her grace, *unless
That I may see her at the leaste way,
I am but dead; there is no more to say.
This Palamonwhen he these wordes heard
Dispiteously* he lookedand answer'd: *angrily
Whether say'st thou this in earnest or in play?
Nay,quoth Arcitein earnest, by my fay*. *faith
God help me so, *me lust full ill to play*.*I am in no humour
This Palamon gan knit his browes tway. for jesting*
It were,quoth heto 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 <12>,
Till that the death departen shall us twain,
Neither of us in love to hinder other,
Nor in none other case, my leve* brother; *dear
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 withsayn*, *deny
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 sterve* *die
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 hebe rather* false than I, *sooner
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 now* *even now thou
Whether she be a woman or goddess. knowest not*
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 pose*, that thou loved'st her beforn: *suppose
Wost* thou not well the olde clerke's saw<13>, *know'st
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 she* maid, or widow, or else wife. *whether she be*
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 Perithous<14>
That fellow was to the Duke Theseus
Since thilke* day that they were children lite** *that **little
Was come to Athenshis fellow to visite
And for to playas 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'das olde bookes sayn
That when that one was deadsoothly 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 Perithouswithoute ranson
Duke Theseus him let out of prison
Freely to gowhere him list over all
In such a guiseas I you tellen shall
This was the forword*plainly to indite*promise
Betwixte Theseus and him Arcite:
That if so werethat Arcite were y-found
Ever in his lifeby day or nightone stound* *moment<15>
In any country of this Theseus
And he were caughtit was accorded thus
That with a sword he shoulde lose his head;
There was none other remedy nor rede*. *counsel
But took his leaveand homeward he him sped;
Let him bewarehis necke lieth *to wed*. *in pledge*
How great a sorrow suff'reth now Arcite!
The death he feeleth through his hearte smite;
He weepethwailethcrieth 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 shape* eternally to dwell
Not in purgatorybut 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 blissand not in woe.
Only the sight of herwhom 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 certesin paradise.
Well hath fortune y-turned thee the dice
That hast the sight of herand I th' absence.
For possible issince thou hast her presence
And art a knighta worthy and an able
That by some cas*since fortune is changeable
Thou may'st to thy desire sometime attain.
But I that am exiledand barren
Of alle graceand in so great despair
That there n'is earthewaterfirenor air
Nor creaturethat of them maked is
That may me helpe nor comfort in this
Well ought I *sterve in wanhope* and distress.
Farewell my lifemy lust*and my gladness.

*it is fixed for me*


*die in despair*

Alas*why plainen men so in commune *why do men so often complain

Of purveyance of God*or of Fortuneof God's providence?*
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 meinie* slain. *servants <16>
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 slither*. *slippery
And certes in this world so fare we.
We seeke fast after felicity
But we go wrong full often truely.
Thus we may sayen alland namely* I*especially
That ween'd*and had a great opinion*thought
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 youEmily
I am but dead; there is no remedy."
Upon that other sidePalamon
When that he wist Arcita was agone
Much sorrow makeththat the greate tower
Resounded of his yelling and clamour
The pure* fetters on his shinnes great *very <17>
Were of his bitter salte teares wet.
Alas!quoth heArcita, 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 charge*. *takest little heed*
Thou mayst, since thou hast wisdom and manhead*, *manhood, 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 breastand hent* him by the heart
So woodly*that he like was to behold
The box-treeor the ashes dead and cold.
Then said; "O cruel goddessthat govern
This world with binding of your word etern*
And writen in the table of adamant
Your parlement* and your eternal grant
What is mankind more *unto you y-hold*
Than is the sheepthat rouketh* in the fold!
For slain is manright as another beast;
And dwelleth eke in prison and arrest
And hath sicknessand great adversity
And oftentimes guiltelesspardie*
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 will*
Whereas a beast may all his lust fulfil.
And when a beast is deadhe 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,



*by you esteemed
*lie huddled together

*by God

*restrain his desire*

But well I wot, that in this world great pine* is; *pain, trouble
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 wood*, *mad
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 stent* of Palamon a lite***pause **little
And let him in his prison stille dwell
And of Arcita forth I will you tell.
The summer passethand the nightes long
Increase double-wise the paines strong
Both of the lover and the prisonere.
I n'ot* which hath the wofuller mistere**. *know not **condition
Forshortly for to saythis Palamon
Perpetually is damned to prison
In chaines and in fetters to be dead;
And Arcite is exiled *on his head* *on 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<18>

Who lieth the worseArcite 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 listeye that can
For I will tell you forth as I began.
When that Arcite to Thebes comen was
Full oft a day he swelt*and saidAlas!*fainted
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 sleephis meathis drink is *him byraft**taken away from him*

That lean he wex*and dry as any shaft. *became
His eyen hollowgrisly to behold
His hue sallowand pale as ashes cold
And solitary he wasever alone
And wailing all the nightmaking his moan.
And if he hearde song or instrument
Then would he weepenhe might not be stent*. *stopped
So feeble were his spiritsand so low
And changed sothat no man coulde know
His speechneither his voicethough men it heard.
And in his gear* for all the world he far'd *behaviour <19>
Not only like the lovers' malady
Of Erosbut rather y-like manie* *madness
Engender'd of humours melancholic
Before his head in his cell fantastic.<20>
And shortly turned was all upside down
Both habit and eke dispositioun
Of himthis woful lover Dan* Arcite. *Lord <21>
Why should I all day of his woe indite?
When he endured had a year or two
This cruel tormentand this pain and woe
At Thebesin his countryas I said
Upon a night in sleep as he him laid
Him thought how that the winged god Mercury
Before him stoodand bade him to be merry.
His sleepy yard* in hand he bare upright; *rod <22>
A hat he wore upon his haires bright.
Arrayed was this god (as he took keep*) *notice
As he was when that Argus<23> took his sleep;
And said him thus: "To Athens shalt thou wend*; *go
There is thee shapen* of thy woe an end." *fixedprepared
And with that word Arcite woke and start.
Now truely how sore that e'er me smart,
Quoth heto 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 wellif 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 alonesave only a squier

That knew his privity* and all his cas***secrets **fortune
Which was disguised poorly as he was
To Athens is he gone the nexte* way. *nearest <24>
And to the court he went upon a day
And at the gate he proffer'd his service
To drudge and drawwhat so men would devise*. *order
Andshortly of this matter for to sayn
He fell in office with a chamberlain
The which that dwelling was with Emily.
For he was wiseand coulde soon espy
Of every servant which that served her.
Well could he hewe woodand water bear
For he was young and mighty for the nones**occasion
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 degree**elevate 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 deedesand 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 slyly* he it spent*discreetlyprudently
That no man wonder'd how that he it had.
And three year in this wise his life be lad**led
And bare him so in peace and eke in werre**war
There was no man that Theseus had so derre*. *dear
And in this blisse leave I now Arcite
And speak I will of Palamon a lite*. *little
In darkness horribleand strong prison
This seven year hath sitten Palamon
Forpined*what for loveand for distress. *pinedwasted away
Who feeleth double sorrow and heaviness
But Palamon? that love distraineth* so*afflicts
That wood* out of his wits he went for woe*mad
And eke thereto he is a prisonere
Perpetualnot only for a year.
Who coulde rhyme in English properly
His martyrdom? forsooth*it is not I; *truly
Therefore I pass as lightly as I may.
It fell that in the seventh yearin 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 shapen* it shall be)*settleddecreed
That soon after the midnightPalamon
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 <25>made of a certain wine
With *narcotise and opie* of Thebes fine*narcotics and opium*

That all the nightthough that men would him shake
The gaoler slepthe mighte not awake:
And thus he fled as fast as ever he may.
The night was shortand *faste by the day *close at hand was
That needes cast he must himself to hide*. the day during which
And to a grove faste there beside he must cast aboutor contrive
With dreadful foot then stalked Palamon. to conceal himself.*

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-wardhis friendes for to pray
On Theseus to help him to warray*.
And shortly either he would lose his life
Or winnen Emily unto his wife.
This is th' effectand 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 larkthe 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 streames* drieth in the greves**
The silver droppeshanging on the leaves;
And Arcitethat is in the court royal
With Theseushis squier principal
Is ris'nand looketh on the merry day.
And for to do his observance to May
Remembering the point* of his desire
He on his courserstarting as the fire
Is ridden to the fieldes him to play
Out of the courtwere it a mile or tway.
And to the groveof which I have you told
By a venture his way began to hold
To make him a garland of the greves*
Were it of woodbineor of hawthorn leaves
And loud he sang against the sun so sheen*.
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 courser*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 bushthat no man might him see
For sore afeard of his death was he.
Nothing ne knew he that it was Arcite;

*make war <26>

*rays **groves


*shining bright


God wot he would have *trowed it full lite*. *full little believed it*
But sooth is saidgone since full many years
The field hath eyen*and the wood hath ears*eyes
It is full fair a man *to bear him even**to be on his guard*
For all day meeten men at *unset steven*. *unexpected time <27>
Full little wot Arcite of his fellaw
That was so nigh to hearken of his saw**sayingspeech
For in the bush he sitteth now full still.
When that Arcite had roamed all his fill
And *sungen all the roundel* lustily*sang the roundelay*<28>
Into a study he fell suddenly
As do those lovers in their *quainte gears**odd fashions*
Now in the crop*and now down in the breres**<29> *tree-top
Now upnow downas bucket in a well. **briars
Right as the Fridaysoothly for to tell
Now shineth itand now it raineth fast

Right so can geary* Venus overcast *changeful
The heartes of her folkright as her day
Is gearful*right so changeth she array. *changeful
Seldom is Friday all the weeke like.
When Arcite had y-sunghe gan to sike**sigh
And sat him down withouten any more:
Alas!quoth hethe day that I was bore!
How longe, Juno, through thy cruelty
Wilt thou warrayen* Thebes the city? *torment
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 thrall*, *wretched 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 beknow* mine owen name, *acknowledge <30>
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 fordo* *undone, 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 brenningly* *burningly
Y-sticked through my true careful heart,
That shapen was my death erst than my shert. <31>
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 tare*, *value 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 Palamonthat thought thorough his heart
He felt a cold sword suddenly to glide:
For ire he quoke*no longer would he hide. *quaked
And when that he had heard Arcite's tale
As he were wood*with face dead and pale*mad
He start him up out of the bushes thick
And said: "False Arcitafalse traitor wick'**wicked
Now art thou hent*that lov'st my lady so*caught
For whom that I have all this pain and woe
And art my bloodand to my counsel sworn
As I full oft have told thee herebeforn
And hast bejaped* here Duke Theseus*deceivedimposed upon
And falsely changed hast thy name thus;
I will be deador 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 astart* by grace*escaped
I dreade* not that either thou shalt die*doubt
Or else thou shalt not loven Emily.
Choose which thou wiltfor thou shalt not astart."

This Arcite thenwith full dispiteous* heart*wrathful
When he him knewand had his tale heard

As fierce as lion pulled out a swerd
And saide thus; "By God that sitt'th above
*N'ere it* that thou art sickand 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 foolthink well that love is free;
And I will love her maugre* all thy might.
Butfor thou art a worthy gentle knight
And *wilnest to darraine her by bataille*
Have here my trothto-morrow I will not fail
Without weeting* of any other wight
That here I will be founden as a knight
And bringe harness* right enough for thee;
And choose the bestand leave the worst for me.
And meat and drinke this night will I bring
Enough for theeand 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'dI grant it thee.
And thus they be departed till the morrow
When each of them hath *laid his faith to borrow*.

O Cupidout of alle charity!
O Regne* that wilt no fellow have with thee!
Full sooth is saidthat love nor lordeship
Will not*his thanks*have any fellowship.
Well finden that Arcite and Palamon.
Arcite is ridd anon unto the town
And on the morrowere it were daylight
Full privily two harness hath he dight*
Both suffisant and meete to darraine*
The battle in the field betwixt them twain.
And on his horsealone as he was born
He carrieth all this harness him beforn;
And in the groveat 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 regne* 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 greves*
And breaking both the boughes and the leaves
ThinkethHere 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 theyin changing of their hue

*were it not*


*will reclaim her
by combat*

*armour and arms

*pledged his faith*

*queen <32>

*thanks to him*




*As far as either of them other knew*. *When they recognised each
There was no good dayand no salutingother afar off*
But straightwithoute wordes rehearsing
Evereach of them holp to arm the other
As friendlyas he were his owen brother.
And after thatwith sharpe speares strong
They foined* each at other wonder long. *thrust
Thou mightest weene*that this Palamon *think
In fighting were as a wood* lion*mad
And as a cruel tiger was Arcite:
As wilde boars gan they together smite
That froth as white as foam*for ire wood*. *mad 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 Destinyminister general
That executeth in the world o'er all
The purveyance*that God hath seen beforn; *foreordination
So strong it isthat 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 eft* in a thousand year. *again
For certainly our appetites here
Be it of waror peaceor hateor love

All is this ruled by the sight* above. *eyeintelligencepower
This mean I now by mighty Theseus
That for to hunten is so desirous --
And namely* the greate hart in May --*especially
That in his bed there dawneth him no day
That he n'is cladand ready for to ride
With hunt and hornand 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 bane* *destruction
For after Mars he serveth now Diane.
Clear was the dayas I have told ere this
And Theseuswith alle joy and bliss
With his Hippolytathe faire queen
And Emilyy-clothed all in green
On hunting be they ridden royally.
And to the grovethat stood there faste by
In which there was an hartas men him told
Duke Theseus the straighte way doth hold
And to the laund* he rideth him full right*plain <33>
There was the hart y-wont to have his flight
And over a brookand so forth on his way.
This Duke will have a course at him or tway
With houndessuch as him lust* to command. *pleased
And when this Duke was come to the laund
Under the sun he lookedand anon
He was ware of Arcite and Palamon
That foughte breme*as it were bulles two. *fiercely
The brighte swordes wente to and fro
So hideouslythat with the leaste stroke
It seemed that it woulde fell an oak
But what they werenothing yet he wote*. *knew
This Duke his courser with his spurres smote
*And at a start* he was betwixt them two*suddenly*
And pulled out a sword and criedHo!
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 mister* men ye be, *manner, kind <34>
That be so hardy for to fighte here
Withoute judge or other officer,
As though it were in listes royally. <35>
This Palamon answered hastily,
And saide: Sirwhat needeth wordes mo'?
We have the death deserved bothe two
Two woful wretches be weand caitives
That be accumbered* of our own lives*burdened
And as thou art a rightful lord and judge
So give us neither mercy nor refuge.
And slay me firstfor sainte charity
But slay my fellow eke as well as me.
Or slay him first; forthough thou know it lite**little

This is thy mortal foethis 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 saidethat he highte Philostrate.
Thus hath he japed* thee full many year*deceived
And thou hast made of him thy chief esquier;
And this is hethat loveth Emily.
For since the day is come that I shall die
I make pleinly* my confession*fullyunreservedly
That I am thilke* woful Palamon*that same <36>
That hath thy prison broken wickedly.
I am thy mortal foeand 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 jewise*. *judgement
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 saidThis 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.<37>
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 mercyLordupon 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 mood* *his anger was
(For pity runneth soon in gentle heart); appeased*
And though at first for ire he quoke and start
He hath consider'd shortly in a clause
The trespass of them bothand 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 womenfor 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 dispiteous* man *unpitying
That will maintaine what he first began.
That lord hath little of discretion

That in such case *can no division*: *can make no distinction*
But weigheth pride and humbless *after one*." *alike*
And shortlywhen his ire is thus agone
He gan to look on them with eyen light**gentlelenient*
And spake these same wordes *all on height.* *aloud*

The god of love, ah! benedicite*, *bless ye him
How mighty and how great a lord is he!
Against his might there gaine* none obstacles, *avail, conquer
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 weet* I am their mortal enemy, *knew
And that their death li'th in my might also,
And yet hath love, *maugre their eyen two*, *in 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 game* of all, *joke
That she, for whom they have this jealousy,
Can them therefor as muchel thank as me.
She wot no more of all this *hote fare*, *hot 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 agone*: *long 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 distrain*, *distress
As he that oft hath been caught in his last*, *snare <38>
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 dere* *injure
Nor make war upon me night nor day,
But be my friends in alle that ye may.
I you forgive this trespass *every deal*. *completely*
And they him sware *his asking* fair and well, *what he asked*
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 wot* yourselvesshe may not wed the two *know
At oncealthough 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 sayshe may not have you both
All be ye never so jealousnor so wroth.
And therefore I you put in this degree
That each of you shall have his destiny
As *him is shape*; and hearken in what wise *as is decreed for him*
Lo hear your end of that I shall devise.
My will is thisfor plain conclusion
Withouten any replication**reply
If that you likethtake it for the best

That evereach of you shall go where *him lest*
Freely without ransom or danger;
And this day fifty weekes*farre ne nerre*
Evereach of you shall bring an hundred knights
Armed for listes up at alle rights
All ready to darraine* her by bataille
And this behete* I you withoute fail
Upon my trothand as I am a knight
That whether of you bothe that hath might
That is to saythat whether he or thou
May with his hundredas I spake of now
Slay his contraryor 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 rue*
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 advice*and hold yourselves apaid**.
This is your endand your conclusion."
Who looketh lightly now but Palamon?
Who springeth up for joye but Arcite?
Who could it tellor 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 wight*
And thanked him with all their heartes' might
And namely* these Thebans *ofte sithe*.
And thus with good hope and with hearte blithe

*he pleases
*neither more nor less*

*contend for

*may God as surely have
mercy on my soul*

*opinion **satisfied

*kind of person*
*especially *oftentimes*

They take their leaveand homeward gan they ride

To Thebes-wardwith his old walles wide.
I trow men woulde deem it negligence
If I forgot to telle the dispence* *expenditure
Of Theseusthat went so busily
To maken up the listes royally
That such a noble theatre as it was
I dare well sayin all this world there n'as*. *was not
The circuit a mile was about
Walled of stoneand ditched all without.
*Round was the shapein manner of compass
Full of degreesthe height of sixty pas* *see note <39>*
That when a man was set on one degree
He letted* not his fellow for to see. *hindered
Eastward there stood a gate of marble white
Westward right such another opposite.
Andshortly to concludesuch a place
Was never on earth made in so little space
For in the land there was no craftes-man
That geometry or arsmetrike* can***arithmetic **knew
Nor pourtrayor*nor carver of images*portrait painter
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 Venusgoddess of love
*Done make* an altar and an oratory; *caused to be made*
And westwardin the mind and in memory
Of Marshe maked hath right such another
That coste largely of gold a fother*. *a great amount
And northwardin 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 devise*
The noble carvingand the portraitures
The shapethe countenance of the figures
That weren in there oratories three.

First in the temple of Venus may'st thou see
Wrought on the wallfull piteous to behold
The broken sleepesand the sikes* cold
The sacred tearesand the waimentings*
The fiery strokes of the desirings
That Love's servants in this life endure;
The oathesthat their covenants assure.
Pleasance and HopeDesireFoolhardiness
Beauty and Youthand Bawdry and Richess
Charms and Sorc'ryLeasings* and Flattery
DispenceBusinessand Jealousy
That wore of yellow goldes* a garland
And had a cuckoo sitting on her hand
Feastsinstrumentsand caroles and dances
Lust and arrayand all the circumstances
Of Lovewhich I reckon'd and reckon shall
In orderwere painted on the wall
And more than I can make of mention.
For soothly all the mount of Citheron<41>
Where Venus hath her principal dwelling
Was showed on the wall in pourtraying
With all the gardenand the lustiness*.
Nor was forgot the porter Idleness
Nor Narcissus the fair of *yore agone*
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



*sunflowers <40>

*olden times*

The rich Croesus *caitif in servage.* <42> *abased into slavery*
Thus may ye seethat wisdom nor richess
Beautynor sleightnor strengthnor hardiness

Ne may with Venus holde champartie**divided possession <43>
For as her liste the world may she gie*. *guide
Loall these folk so caught were in her las* *snare
Till they for woe full often saidAlas!
Suffice these ensamples one or two
Although I could reckon a thousand mo'.
The statue of Venusglorious to see
Was naked floating in the large sea
And from the navel down all cover'd was
With waves greenand bright as any glass.
A citole <44> in her right hand hadde she
And on her headfull seemly for to see
A rose garland freshand well smelling
Above her head her doves flickering
Before her stood her sone Cupido
Upon his shoulders winges had he two;
And blind he wasas it is often seen;
A bow he bareand arrows bright and keen.
Why should I not as well eke tell you all
The portraiturethat was upon the wall
Within the temple of mighty Mars the Red?
All painted was the wall in length and brede* *breadth
Like to the estres* of the grisly place *interior chambers

That hight the great temple of Mars in Thrace
In thilke* cold and frosty region*that
There as Mars hath his sovereign mansion.
In which there dwelled neither man nor beast
With knotty gnarry* barren trees old *gnarled
Of stubbes sharp and hideous to behold;
In which there ran a rumble and a sough**groaning noise
As though a storm should bursten every bough:
And downward from an hill under a bent* *slope
There stood the temple of Mars Armipotent

Wrought all of burnish'd steelof which th' entry

Was long and straitand ghastly for to see.
And thereout came *a rage and such a vise*
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-long*
With iron toughandfor to make it strong
Every pillar the temple to sustain
Was tunne-great*of iron bright and sheen.
There saw I first the dark imagining
Of felonyand all the compassing;
The cruel ireas red as any glede*
The picke-purse<45>and eke the pale dread;
The smiler with the knife under the cloak
The shepen* burning with the blacke smoke
The treason of the murd'ring in the bed
The open warwith woundes all be-bled;

*such a furious voice*

*crossways and lengthways*

Conteke* with bloody knifeand sharp menace.
All full of chirking* 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 shode* at night
The colde deathwith mouth gaping upright.
Amiddes of the temple sat Mischance
With discomfort and sorry countenance;
Eke saw I Woodness* laughing in his rage
Armed ComplaintOuthees*and fierce Outrage;

*thick as a tun (barrel)
*live coal
*stable <46>

*creakingjarring noise
*hair of the head <47>


The carrain* in the bushwith throat y-corve**
A thousand slainand not *of qualm y-storve*;
The tyrantwith the prey by force y-reft;
The town destroy'dthat there was nothing left.
Yet saw I brent* the shippes hoppesteres<48>
The hunter strangled with the wilde bears:
The sow freting* the child right in the cradle;
The cook scaldedfor all his longe ladle.
Nor was forgot*by th'infortune of Mart*
The carter overridden with his cart;
Under the wheel full low he lay adown.
There were also of Mars' division
The armourerthe bowyer*and the smith
That forgeth sharp swordes on his stith*.
And all above depainted in a tower
Saw I Conquestsitting in great honour
With thilke* sharpe sword over his head
Hanging by a subtle y-twined thread.
Painted the slaughter was of Julius<50>
Of cruel Neroand Antonius:
Although at that time they were yet unborn
Yet was their death depainted there beforn
By menacing of Marsright by figure
So was it showed in that portraiture

*corpse **slashed
*dead of sickness*


*devouring <49>

*through the misfortune
of war*

*maker of bows


As is depainted in the stars above
Who shall be slainor elles dead for love.
Sufficeth one ensample in stories old
I may not reckon them allthough I wo'ld.

The statue of Mars upon a carte* stood
Armedand looked grim as he were wood*
And over his head there shone two figures
Of starresthat be cleped in scriptures
That one Puellathat other Rubeus. <51>
This god of armes was arrayed thus:
A wolf there stood before him at his feet
With eyen redand of a man he eat:
With subtle pencil painted was this story
In redouting* 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<52>
When that Dian aggrieved was with her
Was turned from a woman to a bear
And after was she made the lodestar*:
Thus was it paintedI can say no far*;
Her son is eke a star as men may see.
There saw I Dane <53> turn'd into a tree
I meane not the goddess Diane
But Peneus' daughterwhich that hight Dane.
There saw I Actaeon an hart y-maked*
For vengeance that he saw Dian all naked:
I saw how that his houndes have him caught
And freten* himfor that they knew him not.
Yet painted wasa little farthermore
How Atalanta hunted the wild boar;
And Meleagerand 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 set*
With smalle houndes all about her feet
And underneath her feet she had a moon
Waxing it wasand shoulde wane soon.
In gaudy green her statue clothed was
With bow in handand arrows in a case*.
Her eyen caste she full low adown
Where Pluto hath his darke regioun.
A woman travailing was her beforn
Butfor her child so longe was unborn
Full piteously Lucina <54> gan she call
And saide; "Helpfor 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 madeand Theseus
That at his greate cost arrayed thus
The templesand the theatre every deal*
When it was donehim liked wonder well.

But stint* I will of Theseus a lite**
And speak of Palamon and of Arcite.
The day approacheth of their returning
That evereach an hundred knights should bring
The battle to darraine* as I you told;



*pole star




*part <55>
*cease speaking **little


And to Athenstheir covenant to hold
Hath ev'reach of them brought an hundred knights

Well-armed for the war at alle rights.
And sickerly* there trowed** many a man*surely <56> **believed
That neversithen* that the world began*since
For to speaken of knighthood of their hand
As far as God hath maked sea and land
Wasof so fewso noble a company.
For every wight that loved chivalry
And would*his thankeshave a passant name**thanks to his own
Had prayedthat he might be of that gameeffortshave a
And well was himthat thereto chosen was. surpassing name*
For if there fell to-morrow such a case
Ye knowe wellthat every lusty knight
That loveth par amourand hath his might
Were it in Englelandor elleswhere
They wouldtheir thankeswillen to be there
T' fight for a lady; Benedicite
It were a lusty* sighte for to see. *pleasing
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-plateand in a gipon*; *short doublet.
And some will have *a pair of plates* large; *back and front armour*
And some will have a Prusse* shieldor targe; *Prussian
Some will be armed on their legges weel;
Some have an axeand some a mace of steel.
There is no newe guise*but it was old. *fashion
Armed they werenas I have you told
Evereach after his opinion.
There may'st thou see coming with Palamon
Licurgus himselfthe great king of Thrace:
Black was his beardand 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 kemped* haires on his browes stout; *combed<57>

His limbs were greathis brawns were hard and strong

His shoulders broadhis armes round and long.
And as the guise* was in his country*fashion
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 nailsand bright as any gold
He had a beare's skincoal-black for old*. *age
His long hair was y-kempt behind his back
As any raven's feather it shone for black.
A wreath of gold *arm-great*of huge weight*thick as a man's arm*
Upon his head satefull of stones bright
Of fine rubies and clear diamants.
About his car there wente white alauns**greyhounds <58>
Twenty and moreas great as any steer
To hunt the lion or the wilde bear
And follow'd himwith muzzle fast y-bound
Collars of goldand torettes* filed round. *rings
An hundred lordes had he in his rout* *retinue
Armed full wellwith heartes stern and stout.
With Arcitain stories as men find
The great Emetrius the king of Ind
Upon a *steede bay* trapped in steel*bay horse*
Cover'd with cloth of gold diapred* well*decorated
Came riding like the god of armesMars.
His coat-armour was of *a cloth of Tars**a kind of silk*

Couched* with pearls white and round and great
His saddle was of burnish'd gold new beat;
A mantelet on his shoulders hanging
Bretful* of rubies redas fire sparkling.
His crispe hair like ringes was y-run
And that was yellowglittering as the sun.
His nose was highhis eyen bright citrine*
His lips were roundhis colour was sanguine
A fewe fracknes* in his face y-sprent**
Betwixte yellow and black somedeal y-ment*
And as a lion he *his looking cast*
Of five and twenty year his age I cast*
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 barefor his delight
An eagle tameas any lily white.
An hundred lordes had he with him there
All armedsave their headsin all their gear
Full richely in alle manner things.
For trust ye wellthat earlesdukesand kings
Were gather'd in this noble company
For loveand 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 some*
Be on the Sunday to the city come
Aboute prime<60>and in the town alight.

This Theseusthis Dukethis worthy knight
When he had brought them into his city
And inned* themev'reach at his degree
He feasteth themand doth so great labour
To *easen them*and do them all honour
That yet men weene* that no mannes wit
Of none estate could amenden* it.
The minstrelsythe 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.<61>
What ladies fairest beor 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 liggen* on the floor adown
Of all this now make I no mentioun
But of th'effect; that thinketh me the best
Now comes the pointand hearken if you lest.*

The Sunday nightere day began to spring
When Palamon the larke hearde sing
Although it were not day by houres two
Yet sang the larkand Palamon right tho*
With holy heartand with an high courage
Aroseto wenden* on his pilgrimage
Unto the blissful Cithera benign
I meane Venushonourable and digne*.
And in her hour <62> he walketh forth a pace
Unto the listeswhere her temple was
And down he kneelethand with humble cheer*
And hearte sorehe said as ye shall hear.

Fairest of fair, O lady mine Venus,



*pale yellow

*freckles **sprinkled
*mixed <59>
*cast about his eyes*

*all and sundry*


*make them comfortable*







Daughter to Jove, and spouse of Vulcanus,
Thou gladder of the mount of Citheron!<41>
For thilke love thou haddest to Adon <63>
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 upon* my sore, *take pity on*
As wisly* as I shall for evermore *truly
Enforce my might, thy true servant to be,
And holde war alway with chastity:
That make I mine avow*, so ye me help. *vow, promise
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 armes*, blowing up and down, *praise for valour*
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 but* it may better be *do not know whether*
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 bete*. *make, 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 didand that anon
Full piteouslywith alle circumstances
*All tell I not as now* his observances. *although I tell not now*
But at the last the statue of Venus shook
And made a signewhereby 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 <64> that Palamon
Began to Venus' temple for to gon
Up rose the sunand up rose Emily
And to the temple of Dian gan hie.
Her maidensthat she thither with her lad**led
Th' incensethe clothesand the remnant all
That to the sacrifice belonge shall
The hornes full of meadas was the guise;
There lacked nought to do her sacrifice.
Smoking* the temple full of clothes fair*draping <65>
This Emily with hearte debonnair* *gentle
Her body wash'd with water of a well.
But how she did her rite I dare not tell;
But* it be any thing in general; *unless

And yet it were a game* to hearen all *pleasure
To him that meaneth well it were no charge:
But it is good a man to *be at large*. *do as he will*
Her bright hair combed wasuntressed all.
A coronet of green oak cerriall <66>
Upon her head was set full fair and meet.
Two fires on the altar gan she bete
And did her thingesas men may behold
In Stace of Thebes <67>and these bookes old.
When kindled was the firewith 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 wost* what I desire, *knowest
To keep me from the vengeance of thine ire,
That Actaeon aboughte* cruelly: *earned; suffered from
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 wost*, yet of thy company, *knowest
A maid, and love hunting and venery*, *field 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 <68> 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 queint*, or turn'd into another place. *quenched
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 quaint*. *strange
For right anon one of the fire's *queint
And quick'd* again, and after that anon *went out and revived*
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; Daughterstint* thine heaviness. *cease
Among the goddes high it is affirm'd
And by eternal word writ and confirm'd
Thou shalt be wedded unto one of tho* *those
That have for thee so muche care and woe:
But unto which of them I may not tell.
Farewellfor here I may no longer dwell.
The fires which that on mine altar brenn**burn
Shall thee declarenere that thou go henne**hence
Thine aventure of loveas in this case."
And with that wordthe arrows in the case* *quiver
Of the goddess did clatter fast and ring
And forth she wentand made a vanishing
For which this Emily astonied was
And saide; "What amounteth thisalas!
I put me under thy protection
Dianeand in thy disposition."
And home she went anon the nexte* way. *nearest
This is th' effectthere is no more to say.
The nexte hour of Mars following this
Arcite to the temple walked is
Of fierce Marsto do his sacrifice
With all the rites of his pagan guise.
With piteous* heart and high devotion *pious
Right thus to Mars he said his orison
O stronge god, that in the regnes* old *realms
Of Thrace honoured art, and lord y-hold* *held
And hast in every regne, and every land
Of armes all the bridle in thine hand,
And *them fortunest as thee list devise*, *send them fortune
Accept of me my piteous sacrifice. as you please*
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 pine*, *pity my anguish*
For thilke* pain, and thilke hote fire, *that
In which thou whilom burned'st for desire
Whenne that thou usedest* the beauty *enjoyed
Of faire young Venus, fresh and free,
And haddest her in armes at thy will:
And though thee ones on a time misfill*, *were unlucky
When Vulcanus had caught thee in his las*, *net <69>
And found thee ligging* by his wife, alas! *lying
For thilke sorrow that was in thine heart,
Have ruth* as well upon my paine's smart. *pity
I am young and unconning*, as thou know'st, *ignorant, simple
And, as I trow*, with love offended most *believe
That e'er was any living creature:
For she, that doth* me all this woe endure, *causes
Ne recketh ne'er whether I sink or fleet* *swim
And well I wot, ere she me mercy hete*, *promise, 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 do* that I to-morr'w may have victory. *cause
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 hong*, *hang

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 offension* *indignity
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 stint* of Arcita the strong*ended
The ringes on the temple door that hong
And eke the dooresclattered 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 gaf**gave
And Arcita anon his hand up haf**lifted
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 dimthat saide thusVictory.
For which he gave to Mars honour and glory.
And thus with joyand hope well to fare
Arcite anon unto his inn doth fare.
As fain* as fowl is of the brighte sun. *glad
And right anon such strife there is begun
For thilke* grantingin the heav'n above*that
Betwixte Venus the goddess of love
And Mars the sterne god armipotent
That Jupiter was busy it to stent*: *stop
Till that the pale Saturnus the cold<70>
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 saideld* hath great advantage*age
In eld is bothe wisdom and usage*: *experience
Men may the old out-runbut not out-rede*. *outwit
Saturn anonto 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 course*, that hath so wide for to turn, *orbit <71>
Hath more power than wot any man.
Mine is the drowning in the sea so wan;
Mine is the prison in the darke cote*, *cell
Mine the strangling and hanging by the throat,
The murmur, and the churlish rebelling,
The groyning*, and the privy poisoning. *discontent
I do vengeance and plein* correction, *full
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 castes* old: *plots
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 hight*. *promised

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 ayel*, ready at thy will; *grandfather <72>
Weep now no more, I shall thy lust* fulfil.*pleasure
Now will I stenten* of the gods above*cease speaking
Of Marsand of Venusgoddess of love
And telle you as plainly as I can
The great effectfor which that I began.
Great was the feast in Athens thilke* day; *that
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 morrowwhen the day gan spring
Of horse and harness* noise and clattering *armour
There was in the hostelries all about:
And to the palace rode there many a rout* *trainretinue
Of lordesupon steedes and palfreys.
There mayst thou see devising* of harness *decoration
So uncouth* and so richand wrought so weel *unkownrare
Of goldsmithryof brouding*and of steel; *embroidery

The shieldes brightthe testers*and trappures** *helmets<73>

Gold-hewen helmetshauberkscoat-armures; **trappings
Lordes in parements* on their coursers*ornamental garb <74>;
Knightes of retinueand eke squiers
Nailing the spearsand helmes buckeling
Gniding* of shieldeswith lainers** lacing; *polishing <75>
There as need isthey were nothing idle: **lanyards
The foamy steeds upon the golden bridle
Gnawingand fast the armourers also
With file and hammer pricking to and fro;
Yeomen on footand knaves* many one *servants
With shorte stavesthick* as they may gon**; *close **walk
Pipestrumpetsnakeres*and clariouns*drums <76>
That in the battle blowe bloody souns;
The palace full of people up and down
There threethere tenholding their questioun**conversation
Divining* of these Theban knightes two. *conjecturing
Some saiden thussome said it shall he so;
Some helden with him with the blacke beard
Some with the baldsome with the thick-hair'd;
Some said he looked grimand woulde fight:
He had a sparth* of twenty pound of weight. *double-headed axe
Thus was the halle full of divining* *conjecturing
Long after that the sunne gan up spring.
The great Theseus that of his sleep is waked
With minstrelsyand noise that was maked
Held yet the chamber of his palace rich
Till that the Theban knightes both y-lich* *alike
Honoured wereand to the palace fet*. *fetched
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 seeand do him reverence
And eke to hearken his hest* and his sentence**. *command **speech
An herald on a scaffold made an O<77>
Till the noise of the people was y-do*: *done
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 shape* that they shall not die, *arrange, contrive
He will his firste purpose modify.
No man therefore, on pain of loss of life,
No manner* shot, nor poleaxe, nor short knife *kind of
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

And he that is at mischief shall be take*, fence on foot to defend
And not slain, but be brought unto the stake, himself, and he that
That shall be ordained on either side; is in peril shall be taken*

Thither he shall by force, and there abide.
And if *so fall* the chiefetain be take *should happen*
On either side, or elles slay his make*, *equal, 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 steven*: *sound
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 ordinance*, throughout the city large, *in orderly array*
Hanged with cloth of gold, and not with sarge*. *serge <78>
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 prime*. *between 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 selve* moment Palamon *self-same
Is, under Venus, eastward in the place,
With banner white, and hardy cheer* and face *expression
In all the world, to seeken up and down
So even* without variatioun *equal
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 dress*. *they arranged themselves
When that their names read were every one, in two rows*
That in their number guile* were there none, *fraud
Then were the gates shut, and cried was loud;

Do now your devoiryounge knights proud
The heralds left their pricking* up and down *spurring their horses
Now ring the trumpet loud and clarioun.
There is no more to saybut east and west
In go the speares sadly* in the rest; *steadily
In go the sharpe spurs into the side.
There see me who can joustand who can ride.
There shiver shaftes upon shieldes thick;
He feeleth through the hearte-spoon<79> the prick.
Up spring the speares twenty foot on height;
Out go the swordes as the silver bright.
The helmes they to-hewenand to-shred*; *strike in pieces <80>
Out burst the bloodwith sterne streames red.
With mighty maces the bones they to-brest*. *burst
He <81> through the thickest of the throng gan threst*. *thrust
There stumble steedes strongand down go all.
He rolleth under foot as doth a ball.
He foineth* on his foe with a trunchoun*forces himself
And he him hurtleth with his horse adown.
He through the body hurt isand *sith take**afterwards captured*
Maugre his headand brought unto the stake
As forword* wasright there he must abide. *covenant
Another led is on that other side.
And sometime doth* them Theseus to rest*caused
Them to refreshand drinken if them lest*. *pleased
Full oft a day have thilke Thebans two *these
Together met and wrought each other woe:
Unhorsed hath each other of them tway* *twice
There is no tiger in the vale of Galaphay<82>
When that her whelp is stolewhen it is lite* *little
So cruel on the hunteras Arcite
For jealous heart upon this Palamon:
Nor in Belmarie <83> there is no fell lion
That hunted isor for his hunger wood* *mad
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 hent* *siezeassail
This Palamonas he fought with Arcite
And made his sword deep in his flesh to bite
And by the force of twenty is he take
Unyieldingand is drawn unto the stake.
And in the rescue of this Palamon
The stronge king Licurgus is borne down:
And king Emetriusfor 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 forceand eke by composition*. *the 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 criedHo! no morefor it is done!
I will be true judgeand 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 thisso 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 sofor wanting of her will
Till that her teares in the listes fill* *fall
She said: "I am ashamed doubteless."
Saturnus saide: "Daughterhold thy peace.
Mars hath his willhis knight hath all his boon

And by mine head thou shalt be eased soon."
The trumpeters with the loud minstrelsy
The heraldsthat full loude yell and cry
Be in their joy for weal of Dan* Arcite. *Lord
But hearken meand 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 endelong* the large place*rides from end to end*
Looking upward upon this Emily;
And she again him cast a friendly eye
(For womenas to speaken *in commune**generally*
They follow all the favour of fortune)
And was all his in cheer*as his in heart. *countenance
Out of the ground a fire infernal start
From Pluto sentat request of Saturn
For which his horse for fear began to turn
And leap asideand founder* as he leap *stumble
And ere that Arcite may take any keep**care
He pight* him on the pummel** of his head. *pitched **top
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 soreto Theseus' palace.
Then was he carven* out of his harness. *cut
And in a bed y-brought full fair and blive* *quickly
For he was yet in mem'ry and alive
And always crying after Emily.
Duke Theseuswith all his company
Is come home to Athens his city
With alle bliss and great solemnity.
Albeit that this aventure was fall**befallen
He woulde not discomforte* them all *discourage
Then said ekethat Arcite should not die
He should be healed of his malady.
And of another thing they were as fain*. *glad
That of them alle was there no one slain
All* were they sorely hurtand namely** one*although **especially

That with a spear was thirled* his breast-bone. *pierced
To other woundesand to broken arms
Some hadden salvesand some hadden charms:
And pharmacies of herbsand eke save* *sageSalvia officinalis
They drankenfor they would their lives have.
For which this noble Dukeas he well can
Comforteth and honoureth every man
And made revel all the longe night
Unto the strange lordesas 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 aventure*. *chanceaccident
Nor to be led by force unto a stake

Unyieldingand with twenty knights y-take
One person all alonewithouten mo'
And harried* forth by armesfootand toe*draggedhurried
And eke his steede driven forth with staves
With footmenbothe yeomen and eke knaves**servants
It was *aretted him no villainy:* *counted no disgrace to him*
There may no man *clepen it cowardy*. *call it cowardice*
For which anon Duke Theseus *let cry*--*caused to be proclaimed*
To stenten* alle rancour and envy--*stop
The gree* as well on one side as the other*prizemerit
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 journee* largely *day's journey
And home went every man the righte way
There was no more but "FarewellHave 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 bloodfor any leache-craft* *surgical skill
Corrupteth and is *in his bouk y-laft* *left in his body*
That neither *veine blood nor ventousing**blood-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 voidenor expel
The pipes of his lungs began to swell
And every lacert* in his breast adown *sinewmuscle
Is shent* with venom and corruption. *destroyed
Him gaineth* neitherfor to get his life*availeth
Vomit upwardnor 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 isArcite must die.
For which he sendeth after Emily
And Palamonthat was his cousin dear
Then said he thusas 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 departing* of our company! *the severance
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 gie*, *surely guides my soul*
To speaken of a servant properly,
With alle circumstances truely,
That is to say, truth, honour, and knighthead,
Wisdom, humbless*, estate, and high kindred, *humility
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 deaththat had him overnome*. *overcome
And yet moreover in his armes two
The vital strength is lostand all ago*. *gone
Only the intellectwithoute more
That dwelled in his hearte sick and sore
Gan failewhen the hearte felte death;
Dusked* his eyen twoand fail'd his breath. *grew dim
But on his lady yet he cast his eye;
His laste word was; "MercyEmily!"
His spirit changed houseand wente there
As I came never I cannot telle where.<84>
Therefore I stent*I am no divinister**; *refrain **diviner
Of soules find I nought in this register.
Ne me list not th' opinions to tell

Of themthough that they writen where they dwell;
Arcite is coldthere Mars his soule gie.* *guide
Now will I speake forth of Emily.

Shriek'd Emilyand howled Palamon
And Theseus his sister took anon
Swooningand 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-go**gone
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 folkand folk of tender years
In all the townfor death of this Theban:
For him there weepeth bothe child and man.
So great a weeping was there none certain
When Hector was y-broughtall fresh y-slain
To Troy: alas! the pity that was there
Scratching of cheeksand 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 woeand 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 degree*, *rank, 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 effectfull wisely to exhort
The peoplethat they should them recomfort.
Duke Theseuswith all his busy cure**care
*Casteth about*where that the sepulture *deliberates*
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 selve* grovesweet and green*self-same
There as he had his amorous desires
His complaintand for love his hote fires
He woulde make a fire*in which th' office *funeral pyre
Of funeral he might all accomplice;
And *let anon command* to hack and hew *immediately gave orders*
The oakes oldand lay them *on a rew* *in a row*
In culpons*well arrayed for to brenne**. *logs **burn
His officers with swifte feet they renne* *run
And ride anon at his commandement.
And after thisDuke Theseus hath sent
After a bierand it all oversprad
With cloth of goldthe 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 visage* on the bier*with face uncovered*
Therewith he weptthat pity was to hear.
Andfor 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 ThebanPalamon
With sluttery beardand ruggy ashy hairs<85>
In clothes blacky-dropped all with tears
And (passing over weeping Emily)
The ruefullest of all the company.
And *inasmuch as* the service should be *in order that*
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 steedesthat were great and white
There satte folkof whom one bare his shield
Another his spear in his handes held;
The thirde bare with him his bow Turkeis**Turkish.
Of brent* gold was the case** and the harness: *burnished **quiver
And ride forth *a pace* with sorrowful cheer** *at a foot pace*
Toward the groveas ye shall after hear. **expression

The noblest of the Greekes that there were
Upon their shoulders carried the bier
With slacke paceand eyen red and wet
Throughout the cityby the master* street*main <86>
That spread was all with blackand wondrous high
Right of the same is all the street y-wrie.* *covered <87>
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 honeymilkand bloodand wine;
Eke Palamonwith a great company;
And after that came woful Emily

With fire in handas was that time the guise**custom
To do th' office of funeral service.
High labourand full great appareling* *preparation
Was at the serviceand the pyre-making
That with its greene top the heaven raught**reached
And twenty fathom broad its armes straught*: *stretched
This is to saythe 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 hight**were called
As oakfirbirchasp*alderholmpoplere*aspen
Maplethornbeechhazelyewwhipul tree
How they were fell'dshall not be told for me;

Nor how the goddes* rannen up and down *the forest deities
Disinherited of their habitatioun
In which they wonned* had in rest and peace*dwelt
NymphesFaunesand Hamadryades;
Nor how the beastes and the birdes all
Fledden for fearewhen the wood gan fall;
Nor how the ground aghast* was of the light*terrified
That was not wont to see the sunne bright;
Nor how the fire was couched* first with stre***laid **straw
And then with dry stickes cloven in three
And then with greene wood and spicery**spices
And then with cloth of gold and with pierrie**precious stones
And garlands hanging with full many a flower
The myrrhthe incense with so sweet odour;
Nor how Arcita lay among all this
Nor what richess about his body is;
Nor how that Emilyas was the guise**custom
*Put in the fire* of funeral service<88>; *appplied the torch*
Nor how she swooned when she made the fire
Nor what she spakenor 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 shieldand some their spear
And of their vestimentswhich that they wear
And cuppes full of wineand milkand blood
Into the firethat burnt as it were wood*; *mad
Nor how the Greekes with a huge rout* *procession
Three times riden all the fire about <89>
Upon the left handwith 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-wake* was y-hold *wake <90>
All thilke* nightnor how the Greekes play *that
The wake-plays*ne keep** I not to say: *funeral games **care
Who wrestled best nakedwith oil anoint
Nor who that bare him best *in no disjoint*. *in 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 wend**come
And maken of my longe tale an end.

By process and by length of certain years
All stinted* is the mourning and the tears *ended
Of Greekesby one general assent.
Then seemed me there was a parlement
At Athensupon certain points and cas*: *cases

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
Let* send after the gentle Palamon
Unwist* of him what was the cause and why:
But in his blacke clothes sorrowfully
He came at his commandment *on hie*;
Then sente Theseus for Emily.
When they were set*and hush'd was all the place
And Theseus abided* had a space
Ere any word came from his wise breast
*His eyen set he there as was his lest*
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 bond*
The fire, the air, the water, and the lond
In certain bondes, that they may not flee:<91>
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 pace*,
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 sentence*.
Then may men by this order well discern,
That thilke* 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 cantle* of a thing,
But of a thing that perfect is and stable,
Descending so, till it be corruptable.
And therefore of His wise purveyance*
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 gon*,
Yet wasteth, as it lieth by the way.
The broade river some time waxeth drey*.
The greate townes see we wane and wend*.
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 ilke* way:
Then may I say that alle thing must die.
What maketh this but Jupiter the king?


*in haste*


*he cast his eyes
wherever he pleased*



*the same

*part or piece*



*go, disappear


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 eschew*,
And namely what to us all is due.
And whoso grudgeth* ought, he doth folly,
And rebel is to him that all may gie*.
And certainly a man hath most honour
To dien in his excellence and flower,
When he is sicker* of his goode name.
Then hath he done his friend, nor him*, 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 age*;
For all forgotten is his vassalage*.
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, neverdeal*, --
That both his soul and eke themselves offend*,
And yet they may their lustes* not amend**.
What may I conclude of this longe serie*,
But after sorrow I rede* 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 Palamonyour owen knight
That serveth you with willand heartand might
And ever hathsince first time ye him knew
That ye shall of your grace upon him rue*
And take him for your husband and your lord:
Lend me your handfor this is our accord.
*Let see* now of your womanly pity.
He is a kinge's brother's sonpardie*.
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 me*.
For gentle mercy *oweth to passen right*."
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 Godthat all this wide world hath wrought


*murmurs at


*decayed by old age*

*not a jot

*desires **control
*string of remarks


*take pity

*make display*
*by God

*believe me*
*ought to be rightly

Send him his lovethat hath it dearly bought.
For now is Palamon in all his weal
Living in blissin richesand in heal*. *health
And Emily him loves so tenderly
And he her serveth all so gentilly
That never was there worde them between
Of jealousynor of none other teen*. *cause of anger
Thus endeth Palamon and Emily
And God save all this faire company.

Notes to The Knight's Tale.

1. 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;" andthough that may not
be proof of its antiquityit 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
Boccaccioor from a French translation.
2. Highte: was called; from the Anglo-Saxon "hatan"to bid or
call; GermanHeissenheisst.
3. Feminie: The "Royaume des Femmes" -- kingdom of the
Amazons. Gowerin the "Confessio Amantis styles
Penthesilea the Queen of Feminie."
4. Wonnen: Wonconquered; German "gewonnen."
5. Ear: To plough; Latinarare.I have abundant matter for
discourse.The firstand half of the secondof Boccaccio's
twelve books are disposed of in the few lines foregoing.
6. Waimenting: bewailing; Germanwehklagen
7. Starf: died; Germansterben,starb.
8. The Minotaur: The monsterhalf-man and half-bullwhich
yearly devoured a tribute of fourteen Athenian youths and
maidensuntil it was slain by Theseus.
9. Pillers: pillagersstrippers; Frenchpilleurs.
10. 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.
11. Saturnin the old astrologywas a most unpropitious star to
be born under.
12. 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 Froissartdeclared 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 hencethough

the fashion has long died outwe still speak of "sworn friends."

13. The saying of the old scholar Boethiusin his treatise "De
Consolatione Philosophiae"which Chaucer translatedand
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 himselfand
14. "Perithous" and "Theseus" mustfor the metrebe
pronounced as words of four and three syllables respectively -the
vowels at the end not being diphthongatedbut enunciated
separatelyas if the words were printed Pe-ri-tho-usThe-se-us.
The same rule applies in such words as "creature" and
conscience,which are trisyllables.
15. Stound: momentshort space of time; from Anglo-Saxon
stund;akin to which is GermanStunde,an hour.
16. Meinie: servantsor menials&c.dwelling together in a
house; from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning a crowd. Compare
17. The pure fetters: the very fetters. The Greeks used
katharosthe Romans "purus in the same sense.
18. 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
19. Gear: behaviour, fashion, dress; but, by another reading, the
word is gyre and means fit, trance -- from the Latin, gyro I
turn round.
20. 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 ancientand is found depicted in mediaeval
manuscripts." In a manuscript in the Harleian Libraryit is
statedCertum est in prora cerebri esse fantasiam, in medio
rationem discretionis, in puppi memoriam(it is certain that in
the front of the brain is imaginationin the middle reasonin the
back memory) -- a classification not materially differing from
that of modern phrenologists.
21. Dan: Lord; LatinDominus;SpanishDon.
22. The "caduceus."
23. Argus was employed by Juno to watch Io with his hundred
eyes but he was sent to sleep by the flute of Mercurywho then
cut off his head.
24. Next: nearest; Germannaechste.
25. Clary: hippocraswine made with spices.
26. Warray: make war; French "guerroyer"to molest; hence
perhapsto worry.
27. 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


28. Roundelay: song coming round again to the words with
which it opened.
29. 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.
30. Beknow: avow, acknowledge: German, bekennen."
31. Shapen was my death erst than my shert: My death was
decreed before my shirt ws shaped -- that isbefore any clothes
were made for mebefore my birth.
32. Regne: Queen; FrenchReine;Venus is meant. The
common readinghoweveris "regne reign or power.
33. Launde: plain. Compare modern English, lawn and
French, Landes" -- flatbare marshy tracts in the south of
34. Mister: mannerkind; German "muster sample, model.
35. In listes: in the lists, prepared for such single combats
between champion and accuser, &c.
36. Thilke: that, contracted from the ilke the same.
37. 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 terrisquem Martium
dicitis" --"Then the red glowhorrible to the nationswhich
you say to be that of Mars." Boccaccio opens the "Theseida" by
an invocation to "rubicondo Marte."
38. Last: laceleashnoosesnare: from Latinlaceus.
39. "Round was the shapein manner of compass
Full of degreesthe height of sixty pas"
The building was a circle of steps or benchesas in the ancient
amphitheatre. Either the building was sixty paces high; ormore
probablythere were sixty of the steps or benches.

40. Yellow goldes: The sunflowerturnsolor girasolwhich
turns with and seems to watch the sunas a jealous lover his
41. Citheron: The Isle of VenusCytherain the Aegean Sea;
now called Cerigo: notas Chaucer's form of the word might
implyMount Cithaeronin the south-west of Boetiawhich was
appropriated to other deities than Venus -- to Jupiterto
Bacchusand the Muses.
42. It need not be said that Chaucer pays slight heed to
chronology in this passagewhere the deeds of Turnusthe
glory of King Solomonand the fate of Croesus are made
memories of the far past in the time of fabulous Theseusthe
43. 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 disputeif

44. Citole: a kind of dulcimer.
45. The picke-purse: The plunderers that followed armiesand
gave to war a horror all their own.
46. Shepen: stable; Anglo-Saxonscypen;the word
shepponstill survives in provincial parlance.
47. This lineperhapsrefers to the deed of Jael.
48. 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 mayperhapsreadwith one of the
manuscriptsthe ships upon the steres-- that iseven as they
are being steeredor on the open sea -- a more picturesque
49. Freting: devouring; the Germans use "Fressen" to mean
eating by animalsessenby men.
50. Julius: i.e. Julius Caesar
51. Puella and Rubeus were two figures in geomancy
representing two constellations-the one signifying Mars
retrogradethe other Mars direct.
52. Calistope: or Callistodaughter of Lycaonseduced by
Jupiterturned into a bear by Dianaand placed afterwardswith
her sonas the Great Bear among the stars.
53. Dane: Daphnedaughter of the river-god Peneusin
Thessaly; she was beloved by Apollobut to avoid his pursuit
she wasat her own prayerchanged into a laurel-tree.
54. As the goddess of Lightor the goddess who brings to light
Diana -- as well as Juno -- was invoked by women in childbirth:
so HoraceOdes iii. 22says:-"
Montium custos nemorumqueVirgo
Quae laborantes utero puellas
Ter vocata audis adimisque leto
Diva triformis."

("Virgin custodian of hills and grovesthree-formed goddess
who hears and saves from death young women who call upon
her thrice when in childbirth")

55. Every deal: in every part; "deal" corresponds to the
German "Theil" a portion.
56. Sikerly: surely; Germansicher;Scotchsikkar,certain.
When Robert Bruce had escaped from England to assume the
Scottish crownhe stabbed Comyn before the altar at Dumfries;
andemerging from the churchwas 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 churchand despatched Comyn with repeated thrusts of
his dagger.
57. Kemped: combed; the word survives in "unkempt."

58. Alauns: greyhoundsmastiffs; from the Spanish word
Alano,signifying a mastiff.
59. Y-ment: mixed; Germanmengen,to mix.
60. Prime: The time of early prayersbetween six and nine in
the morning.
61. On the dais: see note 32 to the Prologue.
62. 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 planetswas under the
influence of Venus.
63. Adon: Adonisa beautiful youth beloved of Venuswhose
death by the tusk of a boar she deeply mourned.
64. The third hour unequal: In the third planetary hour;
Palamon had gone forth in the hour of Venustwo hours before
daybreak; the hour of Mercury intervened; the third hour was
that of Lunaor Diana. "Unequal" refers to the astrological
division of day and nightwhatever their durationinto twelve
partswhich of necessity varied in length with the season.
65. Smoking: draping; hence the word "smock;" "smokless in
Chaucer, means naked.
66. Cerrial: of the species of oak which Pliny, in his Natural
History calls cerrus."
67. Stace of Thebes: Statiusthe Roman who embodied in the
twelve books of his "Thebaid" the ancient legends connected
with the war of the seven against Thebes.
68. Diana was Luna in heavenDiana on earthand 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 metso
that with a different face she looked down each of the three;
from which she was called Trivia. See the quotation from
Horacenote 54.
69. Las: net; the invisible toils in which Hephaestus caught Ares
and the faithless Aphroditeand exposed them to the
inextinguishable laughterof Olympus.
70. Saturnus the cold: Hereas in "Mars the Red" we have the
person of the deity endowed with the supposed quality of the
planet called after his name.
71. The astrologers ascribed great power to Saturnand
predicted "much debate" under his ascendancy; hence it was
against his kindto compose the heavenly strife.
72. Ayel: grandfather; French "Aieul".
73. Testers: Helmets; from the French "teste"tetehead.
74. Parements: ornamental garbFrench "parer" to deck.
75. Gniding: Rubbingpolishing; Anglo-Saxon "gnidan"to rub.
76. Nakeres: Drumsused in the cavalry; Boccaccio's word is


77. Made an O: Ho! Ho! to command attention; like "oyez"the
call for silence in law-courts or before proclamations.
78. Sarge: sergea coarse woollen cloth
79. Heart-spoon: The concave part of the breastwhere the
lower ribs join the cartilago ensiformis.
80. To-hewen and to-shred: "to" before a verb implies
extraordinary violence in the action denoted.
81. He through the thickest of the throng etc.. "He" in this
passage refers impersonally to any of the combatants.
82. Galaphay: Galaphain Mauritania.
83. Belmarie is supposed to have been a Moorish state in
Africa; but "Palmyrie" has been suggested as the correct
84. As I came never I cannot telle where: Where it went I
cannot tell youas 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 pointthe
description of the death-scene is taken literally from the
85. With sluttery beardand ruggy ashy hairs: With neglected
beardand 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.
86. Master street: main street; so Froissart speaks of "le
souverain carrefour."
87. Y-wrie: coveredhid; Anglo-Saxonwrigan,to veil.
88. Emily applied the funeral torch. The "guise" wasamong the
ancientsfor the nearest relative of the deceased to do thiswith
averted face.
89. It was the custom for soldiers to march thrice around the
funeral pile of an emperor or general; "on the left hand" is
addedin reference to the belief that the left hand was
propitious -- the Roman augur turning his face southwardand
so placing on his left hand the eastwhence good omens came.
With the Greekshowevertheir augurs facing the northit was
just the contrary. The confusionfrequent in classical writersis
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.
90. Lyke-wake: watching by the remains of the dead; from
Anglo-Saxonlice,a corpse; GermanLeichnam.
91. Chaucer here borrows from Boethiuswho says:
Hanc rerum seriem ligat,
Terras ac pelagus regens,
Et coelo imperitans, amor.
(Love ties these things together: the earthand the ruling sea
and the imperial heavens)



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 memory*; *recorded*
And *namely the gentles* every one. *especially the gentlefolk*
Our Host then laugh'd and sworeSo 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 conne*, *know
Somewhat, to quiten* with the Knighte's tale.*match
The Miller that fordrunken was all pale
So that unnethes* upon his horse he sat*with difficulty
He would avalen* neither hood nor hat*uncover
Nor abide* no man for his courtesy*give way to
But in Pilate's voice<1> he gan to cry
And swore by armesand by bloodand bones
I can a noble tale for the nones* *occasion,
With which I will now quite* the Knighte's tale.*match
Our Host saw well how drunk he was of ale
And said; "Robinabidemy leve* brother*dear
Some better man shall tell us first another:
Abideand let us worke thriftily."
By Godde's soul quoth he, that will not I
For I will speakor elles go my way!"
Our Host answer'd; "*Tell on a devil way*; *devil take you!*
Thou art a fool; thy wit is overcome."
Now hearken,quoth the Millerall 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 it* the ale of Southwark, I you pray: *blame it on*<2>
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 cap*.*fooled the carpenter*
The Reeve answer'd and saide*Stint thy clap*, *hold your tongue*
Let be thy lewed drunken harlotry.
It is a sin, and eke a great folly
To apeiren* any man, or him defame, *injure
And eke to bringe wives in evil name.
Thou may'st enough of other thinges sayn.
This drunken Miller spake full soon again
And saideLeve 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 I*, for the oxen in my plough, *I would not*
Taken upon me more than enough,
To deemen* of myself that I am one; *judge
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 foison* there, *treasure
Of the remnant needeth not to enquere.

What should I more saybut that this Millere
He would his wordes for no man forbear
But told his churlish* tale in his mannere;
Me thinkeththat I shall rehearse it here.
And therefore every gentle wight I pray
For Godde's love to deem not that I say
Of evil intentbut that I must rehearse
Their tales allbe they better or worse
Or elles falsen* some of my mattere.
And therefore whoso list it not to hear
Turn o'er the leafand choose another tale;
For he shall find enoughboth great and smale
Of storial* thing that toucheth gentiless
And eke morality and holiness.
Blame not meif that ye choose amiss.
The Miller is a churlye know well this
So was the Reevewith many other mo'
And harlotry* they tolde bothe two.
*Avise you* nowand put me out of blame;
And eke men should not make earnest of game*.

Notes to the Prologue to the Miller's Tale




*ribald tales
*be warned*

1. Pilatean unpopular personage in the mystery-plays of the
middle ageswas probably represented as having a gruffharsh
2. Wite: blame; in Scotlandto bear the wyte,is to bear the

Whilom there was dwelling in Oxenford
A riche gnof*that *guestes held to board**miser *took in boarders*

And of his craft he was a carpenter.
With him there was dwelling a poor scholer
Had learned artbut all his fantasy
Was turned for to learn astrology.
He coude* a certain of conclusions
To deeme* 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 everythingI may not reckon all.

This clerk was called Hendy* Nicholas;
Of derne* 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
Alonewithouten any company
Full *fetisly y-dight* with herbes swoot*
And he himself was sweet as is the root
Of liquoriceor any setewall*.
His Almagest<1> and bookes great and small
His astrolabe<2> belonging to his art
His augrim stones<3> layed fair apart
On shelves couched* at his bedde's head
His press y-cover'd with a falding* red.
And all above there lay a gay psalt'ry



*neatly decorated*

*coarse cloth

On which he made at nightes melody
So sweetelythat all the chamber rang:
And Angelus ad virginem<4> 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

This carpenter had wedded new a wife
Which that he loved more than his life:
Of eighteen yearI guessshe was of age.
Jealous he wasand held her narr'w in cage
For she was wild and youngand he was old
And deemed himself belike* a cuckold.
He knew not Cato<5> for his wit was rude
That bade a man wed his similitude.
Men shoulde wedden after their estate
For youth and eld* 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 wifeand therewithal
As any weasel her body gent* and small.
A seint* she wearedbarred all of silk
A barm-cloth* eke as white as morning milk
Upon her lendes*full of many a gore**.
White was her smock*and broider'd all before
And eke behindon her collar about
Of coal-black silkwithin and eke without.
The tapes of her white volupere*
Were of the same suit of her collere;
Her fillet broad of silkand set full high:
And sickerly* she had a likerous** eye.
Full small y-pulled were her browes two
And they were bent*and black as any sloe.
She was well more *blissful on to see*
Than is the newe perjenete* tree;
And softer than the wool is of a wether.
And by her girdle hung a purse of leather
Tassel'd with silkand *pearled with latoun*.
In all this world to seeken up and down
There is no man so wisethat coude thenche*
So gay a popelot*or such a wench.
Full brighter was the shining of her hue
Than in the Tower the noble* forged new.
But of her songit was as loud and yern*
As any swallow chittering on a bern*.
Thereto* she coulde skipand *make a game*
As any kid or calf following his dame.
Her mouth was sweet as braket<11> or as methe*
Or hoard of appleslaid in hay or heath.
Wincing* she was as is a jolly colt
Long as a mastand 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* a piggesnie <12>
For any lord t' have ligging* in his bed
Or yet for any good yeoman to wed.

Nowsirand eft* sirso befell the case
That on a day this Hendy Nicholas
Fell with this younge wife to rage* and play
While that her husband was at Oseney<13>

and providing for the
cost of his lodging*



*loins **plait
*robe or gown

*head-kerchief <7>

*certainly **lascivious

*pleasant to look upon*
*young pear-tree

*set with brass pearls*

*fancythink of
*puppet <8>

*a gold coin <9>
*lively <10>
*also *romp*





*toyplay the rogue

As clerkes be full subtle and full quaint.
And privily he caught her by the queint* *cunt
And said; "Y-wis* but if I have my will*assuredly
For *derne love of theelemanI spill."* *for earnest love of thee
And helde her fast by the haunche bonesmy mistressI perish*

And saide "Lemanlove me well at once
Or I will dienall so God me save."
And she sprang as a colt doth in the trave<14>:
And with her head she writhed fast away
And said; "I will not kiss theeby my fay*.
Why let be quoth she, let beNicholas
Or I will cry out harow and alas!<15>
Do away your handesfor your courtesy."
This Nicholas gan mercy for to cry
And spake so fairand 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 but* ye waite well, and be privy,
I wot right well I am but dead,quoth she.
Ye muste be full derne* as in this case.
Nay, thereof care thee nought,quoth Nicholas:
A clerk had *litherly beset his while*,
*But if* he could a carpenter beguile.
And thus they were accorded and y-sworn
To wait a timeas I have said beforn.
When Nicholas had done thus every deal*
And thwacked her about the lendes* well
He kiss'd her sweetand taketh his psalt'ry
And playeth fastand maketh melody.
Then fell it thusthat to the parish church
Of Christe's owen workes for to wirch*
This good wife went upon a holy day;
Her forehead shone as bright as any day
So was it washenwhen she left her werk.

Now was there of that church a parish clerk
The which that was y-cleped Absolon.
Curl'd was his hairand as the gold it shone
And strutted* as a fanne large and broad;
Full straight and even lay his jolly shode*.
His rode* was redhis eyen grey as goose
With Paule's windows carven on his shoes <16>
In hosen red he went full fetisly*.
Y-clad he was full small and properly
All in a kirtle* of a light waget*;
Full fair and thicke be the pointes set
And thereupon he had a gay surplice
As white as is the blossom on the rise*.
A merry child he wasso God me save;
Well could he letten bloodand clipand shave
And make a charter of landand a quittance.
In twenty manners could he trip and dance
After the school of Oxenforde tho*<18>
And with his legges caste to and fro;
And playen songes on a small ribible*;
Thereto he sung sometimes a loud quinible*
And as well could he play on a gitern.*
In all the town was brewhouse nor tavern
That he not visited with his solas*
There as that any *garnard tapstere* was.
But sooth to say he was somedeal squaimous*




*ill spent his time*



*head of hair


*girdle **sky blue

*twig <17>



*licentious barmaid*

Of fartingand of speeche dangerous.
This Absolonthat jolly was and gay
Went with a censer on the holy day
Censing* the wives of the parish fast;
And many a lovely look he on them cast
And namely* on this carpenter's wife:
To look on her him thought a merry life.
She was so properand sweetand likerous.
I dare well sayif she had been a mouse
And he a cathe would *her hent anon*.
This parish clerkthis 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 wentjolif* and amorous
Till he came to the carpentere's house
A little after the cock had y-crow
And *dressed him* under a shot window <19>
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 rue* on me;
Full well accordant to his giterning.
This carpenter awokeand heard him sing
And spake unto his wifeand said anon
What Alisonhear'st thou not Absolon
That chanteth thus under our bower* wall?"
And she answer'd her husband therewithal;
Yes, God wot, John, I hear him every deal.
This passeth forth; what will ye bet* than well?

From day to day this jolly Absolon
So wooeth herthat him is woebegone.
He waketh all the nightand all the day
To comb his lockes broadand make him gay.

*burning incense for

*have soon caught her*

*stationed himself.*

*take pity


He wooeth her *by means and by brocage**by presents and by agents*
And swore he woulde be her owen page.
He singeth brokking* as a nightingale. *quavering
He sent her piment <20>meadand spiced ale
And wafers* piping hot out of the glede**: *cakes **coals
Andfor she was of townhe proffer'd meed.<21>
For some folk will be wonnen for richess
And some for strokesand some with gentiless.
Sometimesto show his lightness and mast'ry
He playeth Herod <22> 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 jape*. *jest
Full sooth is this proverbit is no lie;
Men say right thus alway; the nighe sly
Maketh oft time the far lief to be loth. <23>
For though that Absolon be wood* or wroth *mad
Because that he far was from her sight
This nigh Nicholas stood still in his light.
Now bear thee wellthou Hendy Nicholas
For Absolon may wail and sing "Alas!"

And so befellthat 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 wile*
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 anonwithoute 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 sayShe wist* not where he was;
Of all the day she saw him not with eye;
She trowed* 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 thilke* Saturday
That Nicholas still in his chamber lay
And ateand sleptand didde what him list
Till Sundaythat* the sunne went to rest.
This silly carpenter *had great marvaill*
Of Nicholasor what thing might him ail
And said; "I am adrad*by Saint Thomas!
It standeth not aright with Nicholas:
*God shielde* that he died suddenly.
This world is now full fickle sickerly*.
I saw to-day a corpse y-borne to chirch
That now on Monday last I saw him wirch*.
Go up,quod he unto his knave*anon;
Clepe* at his door, or knocke with a stone:
Look how it is, and tell me boldely.
This knave went him up full sturdily
Andat the chamber door while that he stood
He cried and knocked as that he were wood:*
What how? what do ye, Master Nicholay?
How may ye sleepen all the longe day?
But all for noughthe 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 kyked* on the newe moon.
Adown he wentand told his master soon
In what array he saw this ilke* man.

This carpenter to *blissen him* began
And said: "Now help usSainte Frideswide.<25>
A man wot* little what shall him betide.
This man is fall'n with his astronomy
Into some woodness* or some agony.
I thought aye well how that it shoulde be.
Men should know nought of Godde's privity*.
Yeablessed be alway a lewed* man
That *nought but only his believe can*.
So far'd another clerk with astronomy:
He walked in the fieldes for to *pry
Upon* the starreswhat there should befall
Till he was in a marle pit y-fall.<26>
He saw not that. But yetby Saint Thomas!
*Me rueth sore of* Hendy Nicholas:

*devise a stratagem*




*wondered greatly*

*afraidin dread

*heaven forbid!*



*looked <24>


*blesscross himself*



*knows no more
than his "credo."*

*keep watch on*

*I am very sorry for*

He shall be *rated of* his studying*chidden for*
If that I mayby Jesusheaven's king!
Get me a staffthat I may underspore* *lever up
While that thouRobinheavest off the door:
He shall out of his studyingas I guess."
And to the chamber door he gan him dress* *apply 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'd* he were in despair*thought
And hent* him by the shoulders mightily*caught
And shook him hardand cried spitously;* *angrily
What, Nicholas? what how, man? look adown:
Awake, and think on Christe's passioun.
I crouche thee<27> from elves, and from wights*. *witches
Therewith the night-spell said he anon rights*, *properly
On the four halves* of the house about, *corners
And on the threshold of the door without.
Lord Jesus Christand Sainte Benedight
Blesse this house from every wicked wight
From the night marethe white Pater-noster;
Where wonnest* thou nowSainte Peter's sister?" *dwellest
And at the last this Hendy Nicholas
Gan for to sigh full soreand said; "Alas!
Shall all time world be lost eftsoones* now?" *forthwith
This carpenter answer'd; "What sayest thou?
What? think on Godas we domen 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 downand 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 shet**shut
And down the carpenter by him he set
And saide; "Johnmine host full lief* and dear*loved
Thou shalt upon thy truthe swear me here
That to no wight thou shalt my counsel wray*: *betray
For it is Christes counsel that I say
And if thou tell it manthou art forlore:* *lost<28>
For this vengeance thou shalt have therefor
That if thou wraye* methou shalt be wood**." *betray **mad
Nay, Christ forbid it for his holy blood!
Quoth then this silly man; "I am no blab* *talker
Northough I say itam I *lief to gab*. *fond of speech*
Say what thou wiltI shall it never tell
To child or wifeby him that harried Hell." <29>
Now, John,quoth NicholasI 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 wood*, *mad
That never half so great was Noe's flood.
This world,he saidin less than half an hour
Shall all be dreint*, so hideous is the shower: *drowned
Thus shall mankinde drench*, and lose their life.*drown
This carpenter answer'd; "Alasmy wife!
And shall she drench? alasmine 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 rede*; *learning 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 rue*. *repent
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 lorn*?*should perish*
Yes,quoth this carpenter *full yore ago*.*long since*
Hast thou not heard,quoth Nicholasalso
The sorrow of Noe, with his fellowship,
That he had ere he got his wife to ship?<30>
*Him had been lever, I dare well undertake,
At thilke time, than all his wethers black,
That she had had a ship herself alone.* *see note <31>
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 inn* *house
A kneading trough, or else a kemelin*, *brewing-tub
For each of us; but look that they be large,
In whiche we may swim* as in a barge: *float
And have therein vitaille suffisant
But for one day; fie on the remenant;
The water shall aslake* and go away *slacken, abate
Aboute prime* upon the nexte day. *early morning
But Robin may not know of this, thy knave*, *servant
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 mad*, *unless thou be
To have as great a grace as Noe had; out of thy wits*
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 purveyance* espy: *foresight, providence
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,* 'How, Alison? How, John? *call
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 ilke* night, *same
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 heste* dear. *command

Thy wife and thou must hangen far atween*,
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 saidAlas! 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 say*.
But natheless she fear'd as she would dey,
And said: Alas! go forth thy way anon.
Help us to scapeor we be dead each one.
I am thy true and very wedded wife;
Godeare spouseand help to save our life."
Lowhat 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 drenchen* Alisonhis honey dear.
He weepethwailethmaketh *sorry cheer*;
He sighethwith full many a sorry sough.*
He go'thand getteth him a kneading trough
And after that a tuband 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


*strange contrivance

*dismal countenance*


To climbe by *the ranges and the stalks* *the rungs and the uprights*

Unto the tubbes hanging in the balks*; *beams
And victualed themkemelintroughand tub
With bread and cheeseand good ale in a jub**jug
Sufficing right enough as for a day.
But ere that he had made all this array
He sent his knave*and eke his wench** also*servant **maid
Upon his need* to London for to go. *business
And on the Mondaywhen it drew to night
He shut his door withoute candle light
And dressed* every thing as it should be. *prepared
And shortly up they climbed all the three.
They satte stille well *a furlong way*. *the time it would take
Now, Pater noster, clum,<32> said Nicholayto walk a furlong*
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,<33> or little more,
For *travail of his ghost* he groaned sore, *anguish of spirit*
*And eft he routed, for his head mislay.* *and then he snored,
Adown the ladder stalked Nicholay; for his head lay awry*
And Alison full soft adown she sped.
Withoute wordes more they went to bed,
*There as* the carpenter was wont to lie: *where*

There was the revel, and the melody.
And thus lay Alison and Nicholas,
In business of mirth and in solace,
Until the bell of laudes* gan to ring, *morning service, at 3.a.m.

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 cas* a cloisterer**
Full privily after John the carpenter;
And he drew him apart out of the church,
And said, I n'ot;* I saw him not here wirch**
Since Saturday; I trow that he be went
For timberwhere 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 beI cannot *soothly sayn.*"
This Absolon full jolly was and light
And thoughtNow is the time to wake all night,
For sickerly* 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 bower* 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, parfay*,
My mouth hath itched all this livelong day:
That is a sign of kissing at the least.
All night I mette* 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 hadanon
Up rose this jolly lover Absolon
And him arrayed gay*at point devise.*
But first he chewed grains<34> and liquorice
To smelle sweetere he had combed his hair.
Under his tongue a true love <35> 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 raught*it was so low;
And soft he coughed with a semisoun'.*
What do ye, honeycomb, sweet Alisoun?
My faire bird, my sweet cinamome*,
Awaken, leman* mine, and speak to me.
Full little thinke ye upon my woe,
That for your love I sweat *there as* I go.
No wonder is that I do swelt* and sweat.
I mourn as doth a lamb after the teat
Y-wis*, leman, I have such love-longing,
That like a turtle* 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 ba* me.'
I love another, else I were to blame
Well better than theeby JesusAbsolon.
Go forth thy wayor I will cast a stone;

*occasion **monk
*know not **work

*say certainly*


*by my faith

*with exact care*

*low tone

*cinnamonsweet spice




And let me sleep; *a twenty devil way*. *twenty devils take ye!*

Alas!quoth Absolonand well away!
That true love ever was so ill beset:
Then kiss me, since that it may be no bet*, *better
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 sheI come anon.
[And unto Nicholas she said *full still*: *in a low voice*
Now peace, and thou shalt laugh anon thy fill.]<36>
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;
Lemanthy graceandsweete birdthine ore.*" *favour
The window she undidand that in haste.
Have done,quoth shecome 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 startand thought it was amiss;
For well he wist a woman hath no beard.
He felt a thing all roughand long y-hair'd
And saide; "Fyalas! what have I do?"
Te he!quoth sheand 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 deal**word
And on his lip he gan for anger bite;
And to himself he saidI shall thee quite*. *requite, be even with
Who rubbeth now, who frotteth* now his lips *rubs
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 lever* than all this town quoth he *rather
I this despite awroken* for to be. *revenged
Alas! alas! that I have been y-blent*.*deceived
His hote love is coldand 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 smithmen callen Dan* Gerveis*master
That in his forge smithed plough-harness;
He sharped share and culter busily.
This Absolon knocked all easily
And said; "UndoGerveisand that anon."
What, who art thou?It is I, Absolon.
What? Absolon, what? Christe's sweete tree*, *cross
Why rise so rath*? hey! Benedicite, *early
What aileth you? some gay girl,<37> God it wote,
Hath brought you thus upon the viretote:<38>
By Saint Neot, ye wot well what I mean.
This Absolon he raughte* not a bean *reckedcared
Of all his play; no word again he gaf**spoke
For he had more tow on his distaff<39>
Than Gerveis knewand saide; "Friend so dear
That hote culter in the chimney here
Lend it to meI have therewith to don*: *do

I will it bring again to thee full soon."
Gerveis answered; "Certeswere it gold
Or in a poke* nobles all untold*purse
Thou shouldst it haveas I am a true smith.
Hey! Christe's footwhat will ye do therewith?"
Thereof,quoth Absolonbe as be may;
I shall well tell it thee another day:
And caught the culter by the colde stele*. *handle
Full soft out at the door he gan to steal
And went unto the carpentere's wall
He coughed firstand knocked therewithal
Upon the windowlight as he did ere*. *before <40>
This Alison answered; "Who is there
That knocketh so? I warrant him a thief."
Nay, nay,quoth heGod wot, my sweete lefe*, *love
I am thine Absolon, my own darling.
Of gold,quoth heI have thee brought a ring,
My mother gave it me, so God me save!
Full fine it is, and thereto well y-grave*: *engraved
This will I give to thee, if thou me kiss.
Now Nicholas was risen up to piss
And thought he would *amenden all the jape*; *improve 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 buttockto the haunche bone.
And therewith spake this clerkthis 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 dent*; *pealclap
That with the stroke he was well nigh y-blent*; *blinded
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 tout**breech
That for the smart he weened* he would die; *thought
As he were wood*for woe he gan to cry*mad
Help! water, water, help for Godde's heart!
This carpenter out of his slumber start
And heard one cry "Water as he were wood*, *mad
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 aletill he came to the sell**threshold <41>
Upon the floorand there in swoon he lay.
Up started Alison and Nicholay
And cried out an "harow!" <15> in the street.
The neighbours allebothe small and great
In rannefor to gauren* on this man*stare
That yet in swoone layboth pale and wan:
For with the fall he broken had his arm.
But stand he must unto his owen harm
For when he spakehe was anon borne down
With Hendy Nicholas and Alisoun.
They told to every man that he was wood*; *mad
He was aghaste* so of Noe's flood*afraid
Through phantasythat 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 kyken* and they gape*peeplook.
And turned all his harm into a jape*. *jest
For whatsoe'er this carpenter answer'd
It was for noughtno 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 saidThe man was wood, my leve* brother;*dear
And every wight gan laughen at his strife.
Thus swived* was the carpentere's wife*enjoyed
For all his keeping* and his jealousy; *care
And Absolon hath kiss'd her nether eye;
And Nicholas is scalded in the tout.
This tale is doneand God save all the rout*. *company

Notes to the Miller's Tale

1. Almagest: The book of Ptolemy the astronomerwhich
formed the canon of astrological science in the middle ages.
2. Astrolabe: "Astrelagour astrelabore"; a mathematical
instrument for taking the altitude of the sun or stars.
3. "Augrim" is a corruption of algorithmthe Arabian term for
numeration; "augrim stones therefore were probably marked
with numerals, and used as counters.
4. Angelus ad virginem: The Angel's salutation to Mary; Luke i.
28. It was the Ave Maria" of the Catholic Church service.
5. Cato: Though Chaucer may have referred to the famous
Censormore 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
6. Barm-cloth: apron; from Anglo-Saxon barme bosom or
7. Volupere: Head-gear, kerchief; from French, envelopper
to wrap up.
8. Popelet: Puppet; but chiefly; young wench.
9. Noble: nobles were gold coins of especial purity and
brightness; Ex auro nobilissimiunde nobilis vocatus (made
from the noblest (purest) gold, and therefore called nobles) says
10. Yern: Shrill, lively; German, gern willingly, cheerfully.
11. 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."
12. Piggesnie: a fond termlike "my duck;" from Anglo-Saxon
piga,a young maid; but Tyrwhitt associates it with the Latin
ocellus,little eyea fondling termand suggests that the "pigseye
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 readersays: "How

softly she was wont to chirpe him under the chinand kiss him;
how prettily she could talk to him (how doth my sweet heart
what saith now pig's-eye)."

13. Oseney: A once well-known abbey near Oxford.
14. Trave: travis; a frame in which unruly horses were shod.
15. Harow and Alas: Haro! was an old Norman cry for redress
or aid. The "Clameur de Haro" was lately raisedunder peculiar
circumstancesas the prelude to a legal protestin Jersey.
16. His shoes were ornamented like the windows of St. Paul's
especially like the old rose-window.
17. Rise: Twigbush; GermanReis,a twig; "Reisig a copse.
18. Chaucer satirises the dancing of Oxford as he did the French
of Stratford at Bow.
19. Shot window: A projecting or bow window, whence it was
possible shoot at any one approaching the door.
20. Piment: A drink made with wine, honey, and spices.
21. Because she was town-bred, he offered wealth, or money
reward, for her love.
22. 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.
23 .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.

24. Kyked: Looked; "keek" is still used in some parts in the
sense of "peep."
25. Saint Frideswide was the patroness of a considerable priory
at Oxfordand held there in high repute.
26. Platoin his "Theatetus tells this story of Thales; but
it has since appeared in many other forms.
27. Crouche: protect by signing the sign of the cross.
28. Forlore: lost; german, verloren."
29. Him that harried Hell: Christ who wasted or subdued hell: in
the middle agessome very active exploits against the prince of
darkness and his powers were ascribed by the monkish taletellers
to the saviour after he had "descended into hell."
30. According to the old mysteriesNoah's wife refused to
come into the arkand bade her husband row forth and get him
a new wifebecause he was leaving her gossips in the town to
drown. Shem and his brothers got her shipped by main force;
and Noahcoming forward to welcome herwas greeted with a
box on the ear.
31. "Him had been leverI dare well undertake
At thilke timethan all his wethers black

That she had had a ship herself alone."

At that time he would have given all his black wethers, if she
had had an ark to herself.
32. "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.
33. 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.
34. Absolon chewed grains: these were grains of Paris, or
Paradise; a favourite spice.
35. 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.
36. 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.
37. Gay girl: As applied to a young woman of light manners,
this euphemistic phrase has enjoyed a wonderful vitality.
38. 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 maythereforesuit either reading. In modern slang
parlanceGerveis would probably have saidon the rampage,
or "on the swing" -- not very far from Spelman's rendering.
39. He had more tow on his distaff: a proverbial saying: he was
playing a deeper gamehad more serious business on hand.
40. Ere: before; Germaneher.
41. Sell: sill of the doorthreshold; Frenchseuil,Latin
solum,the ground.


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 laft*; *left
He gan to grudge* and blamed it a lite.** *murmur **little.
So the* I,quoth hefull well could I him quite** *thrive **match
With blearing* of a proude miller's eye, *dimming <1>
If that me list to speak of ribaldry.

But I am old; me list not play for age; <2>
Grass time is done, my fodder is now forage.
This white top* writeth mine olde years; *head
Mine heart is also moulded* as mine hairs; *grown mouldy
And I do fare as doth an open-erse*; *medlar <3>
That ilke* fruit is ever longer werse, *same
Till it be rotten *in mullok or in stre*. *on the ground or in straw*

We olde men, I dread, so fare we;
Till we be rotten, can we not be ripe;
We hop* away, while that the world will pipe; *dance
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-one*: *continually
For when we may not do, then will we speak,
Yet in our ashes cold does fire reek.* *smoke<4>
Four gledes* have we, which I shall devise**, *coals ** describe
Vaunting, and lying, anger, covetise*. *covetousness
These foure sparks belongen unto eld.
Our olde limbes well may be unweld*, *unwieldy
But will shall never fail us, that is sooth.
And yet have I alway a coltes tooth,<5>
As many a year as it is passed and gone
Since that my tap of life began to run;
For sickerly*, when I was born, anon *certainly
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.<6>
The silly tongue well may ring and chime
Of wretchedness, that passed is full yore*: *long
With olde folk, save dotage, is no more. <7>
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 souter* a shipmanor a leach**. *cobbler <8>
Say forth thy taleand tarry not the time: **surgeon <9>
Lo here is Deptfordand 'tis half past prime:<10>
Lo Greenwichwhere 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 answerand somewhat set his hove**hood <11>
For lawful is *force off with force to shove.* *to repel force
This drunken miller hath y-told us here by force*
How that beguiled was a carpentere
Paraventure* in scornfor I am one: *perhaps
Andby your leaveI 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."<12>
Notes to the Prologue to the Reeves Tale.

1. "With blearing of a proude miller's eye": dimming his eye;
playing off a joke on him.

2. "Me list not play for age": age takes away my zest for
3. The medlarthe fruit of the mespilus treeis only edible when
4. Yet in our ashes cold does fire reek: "ev'n in our ashes live
their wonted fires."
5. A colt's tooth; a wanton humoura relish for pleasure.
6. Chimb: The rim of a barrel where the staves project beyond
the head.
7. With olde folksave dotageis no more: Dotage is all that is
left them; that isthey can only dwell fondlydoteon the past.
8. Souter: cobbler; Scotticesutor;' from Latinsuere,to
9. "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.
10. Half past prime: half-way between prime and tierce; about
half-past seven in the morning.
11. Set his hove; like "set their caps;" as in the description of
the Manciple in the Prologuewho "set their aller cap". "Hove"
or "houfe means hood;" and the phrase signifies to be even
12. The illustration of the mote and the beamfrom Matthew.

At Trompingtonnot far from Cantebrig* *Cambridge
There goes a brookand over that a brig
Upon the whiche brook there stands a mill:
And this is *very sooth* that I you tell. *complete truth*
A miller was there dwelling many a day
As any peacock he was proud and gay:
Pipen he couldand fishand nettes bete**prepare
And turne cupsand wrestle welland shete*. *shoot
Aye by his belt he bare a long pavade**poniard
And of his sword full trenchant was the blade.
A jolly popper* bare he in his pouch; *dagger
There was no man for peril durst him touch.
A Sheffield whittle* bare he in his hose. *small knife
Round was his faceand camuse* was his nose. *flat <2>
As pilled* as an ape's was his skull. *peeledbald.
He was a market-beter* at the full. *brawler
There durste no wight hand upon him legge**lay
That he ne swore anon he should abegge*. *suffer the penalty
A thief he wasfor soothof corn and meal
And that a slyand used well to steal.

His name was *hoten deinous Simekin* *called "Disdainful Simkin"*
A wife he haddecome 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 wifeas he said
But she were well y-nourish'dand a maid
To saven his estate and yeomanry:
And she was proudand pert as is a pie*. *magpie
A full fair sight it was to see them two;
On holy days before her would he go
With his tippet* y-bound about his head; *hood
And she came after in a gite* of red*gown <3>
And Simkin hadde hosen of the same.
There durste no wight call her aught but Dame:
None was so hardywalking by that way
That with her either durste *rage or play**use freedom*

*But if* he would be slain by Simekin
With pavadeor with knifeor bodekin.
For jealous folk be per'lous evermo':
Algate* they would their wives *wende so*.
And eke for she was somewhat smutterlich*
She was as dign* as water in a ditch
And all so full of hoker*and bismare**.
Her thoughte that a lady should her spare*
What for her kindredand her nortelrie*
That she had learned in the nunnery.

One daughter hadde they betwixt them two


*unless *so behave*

*ill-nature **abusive speech
*not judge her hardly

Of twenty yearwithouten any mo
Saving a child that was of half year age
In cradle it layand was a proper page.* *boy
This wenche thick and well y-growen was
With camuse* noseand eyen gray as glass; *flat
With buttocks broadand breastes round and high;

But right fair was her hairI will not lie.
The parson of the townfor she was fair
In purpose was to make of her his heir
Both of his chattels and his messuage
And *strange he made it* of her marriage.
His purpose was for to bestow her high
Into some worthy blood of ancestry.
For holy Church's good may be dispended*
On holy Church's blood that is descended.
Therefore he would his holy blood honour
Though that he holy Churche should devour.

Great soken* hath this millerout of doubt
With wheat and maltof all the land about;

*he made it a matter
of difficulty*


*toll taken for grinding

And namely* there was a great college
Men call the Soler Hall at Cantebrege<4>
There was their wheat and eke their malt y-ground.
And on a day it happed in a stound**suddenly
Sick lay the manciple* of a malady*steward <5>
Men *weened wisly* that he shoulde die. *thought certainly*
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 fare**fuss
But thereof *set the miller not a tare*; *he cared not a rush*
He *crack'd his boast* and swore it was not so. *talked big*
Then were there younge poore scholars two
That dwelled in the hall of which I say;
Testif* they wereand lusty for to play; *headstrong <6>
And only for their mirth and revelry
Upon the warden busily they cry

To give them leave for but a *little stound**short time*
To go to milland see their corn y-ground:
And hardily* they durste lay their neck*boldly
The miller should not steal them half a peck
Of corn by sleightnor them by force bereave* *take away
And at the last the warden give them leave:
John hight the oneand Alein hight the other
Of one town were they bornthat highte Strother<7>
Far in the NorthI 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 clerkand also John
With good sword and with buckler by their side.
John knew the wayhim needed not no guide
And at the mill the sack adown he lay'th.
Alein spake first; "All hailSimonin faith
How fares thy faire daughterand thy wife."
Alein, welcome,quoth Simkinby my life,
And John also: how now, what do ye here?
By God, Simon,quoth Johnneed has no peer*. *equal
Him serve himself behoves that has no swain*, *servant
Or else he is a fool, as clerkes sayn.
Our manciple I hope* he will be dead, *expect
So workes aye the wanges* in his head: *cheek-teeth <8>
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 Simkinby my fay.
What will ye do while that it is in hand?
By God, right by the hopper will I stand,
Quoth Johnand 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 answeredJohn, 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 disport*: *amusement
For, John, in faith I may be of your sort;
I is as ill a miller as is ye.
This miller smiled at their nicety**simplicity
And thoughtAll this is done but for a wile.
They weenen* that no man may them beguile, *think
But by my thrift yet shall I blear their eye,<9>
For all the sleight in their philosophy.
The more *quainte knackes* that they make, *odd little tricks*
The more will I steal when that I take.
Instead of flour yet will I give them bren*. *bran
The greatest clerks are not the wisest men,
As whilom to the wolf thus spake the mare: <10>
Of all their art ne count I not a tare.
Out at the door he went full privily
When that he saw his timesoftely.
He looked up and downuntil he found
The clerkes' horsethere as he stood y-bound
Behind the millunder a levesell:* *arbour<11>
And to the horse he went him fair and well
And stripped off the bridle right anon.
And when the horse was loosehe gan to gon
Toward the fenwhere wilde mares run

Forthwith "Wehee!" through thick and eke through thin.
This miller went againno word he said
But did his note*and with these clerkes play'd*business <12>

Till that their corn was fair and well y-ground.
And when the meal was sacked and y-bound
Then John went outand found his horse away
And gan to cryHarow, 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 forgotboth meal and corn;
All was out of his mind his husbandry*. *careful watch over
What, which way is he gone?he gan to cry. the corn*
The wife came leaping inward at a renne**run
She said; "Alas! your horse went to the fen
With wilde maresas fast as he could go.
Unthank* come on his hand that bound him so *ill lucka curse
And his that better should have knit the rein."
Alas!quoth JohnAlein, for Christes pain
Lay down thy sword, and I shall mine also.
I is full wight*, God wate**, as is a roe. *swift **knows
By Godde's soul he shall not scape us bathe*. *both <13>
Why n' had thou put the capel* in the lathe**? *horse<14> **barn
Ill hail, Alein, by God thou is a fonne.**fool
These silly clerkes have full fast y-run
Toward the fenboth 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 trowthe clerkes were afeard
Yet can a miller *make a clerkes beard* *cheat a scholar* <15>
For all his art: yealet them go their way!
Lo where they go! yealet the children play:
They get him not so lightlyby my crown."
These silly clerkes runnen up and down

With "Keepkeep; standstand; jossa*warderere. *turn
Go whistle thouand I shall keep* him here." *catch
But shortlytill that it was very night
They coulde notthough they did all their might
Their capel catchhe ran alway so fast:
Till in a ditch they caught him at the last.
Weary and wetas beastes in the rain
Comes silly Johnand with him comes Alein.
Alas,quoth Johnthe day that I was born!
Now are we driv'n till hething* and till scorn. *mockery
Our corn is stol'n, men will us fonnes* call, *fools
Both the warden, and eke our fellows all,
And namely* the miller, well-away!*especially
Thus plained Johnas he went by the way
Toward the milland Bayard* in his hand. *the bay horse
The miller sitting by the fire he fand*. *found
For it was nightand forther* might they not*go their way
But for the love of God they him besought
Of herberow* and easefor their penny. *lodging
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 Johnby 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 <16> 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 tull*. *allure
Lo here our silver ready for to spend.
This miller to the town his daughter send
For ale and breadand roasted them a goose
And bound their horsehe should no more go loose:
And them in his own chamber made a bed.
With sheetes and with chalons* fair y-spread*blankets<17>
Not from his owen bed ten foot or twelve:
His daughter had a bed all by herselve
Right in the same chamber *by and by*: *side by side*
It might no better beand cause why
There was no *roomer herberow* in the place. *roomier lodging*
They suppenand 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 wasfordrunkenand *nought red*. *without his wits*
He yoxed*and he spake thorough the nose*hiccuped
As he were in the quakke*or in the pose**. *grunting **catarrh
To bed he wentand 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 rockand eke to give the child to suck.
And when that drunken was all in the crock* *pitcher<18>
To bedde went the daughter right anon
To bedde went Aleinand also John.
There was no more; needed them no dwale.<19>
This miller hadso wisly* bibbed ale*certainly
That as a horse he snorted in his sleep
Nor of his tail behind he took no keep*. *heed
His wife bare him a burdoun*a full strong; *bass <20>
Men might their routing* hearen a furlong. *snoring
The wenche routed eke for company.
Alein the clerkthat heard this melody
He poked Johnand saide: "Sleepest thou?
Heardest thou ever such a song ere now?
Lo what a compline<21> is y-mell* them all. *among
A wilde fire upon their bodies fall
Who hearken'd ever such a ferly* thing? *strange <22>
Yeathey shall have the flow'r of ill ending!
This longe night there *tides me* no rest. *comes to me*
But yet no force*all shall be for the best. *matter
ForJohn said he, as ever may I thrive
If that I mayyon wenche will I swive*. *enjoy carnally

Some easement* has law y-shapen** us *satisfaction **provided
ForJohnthere 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'nsoothly it is no nay
And we have had an evil fit to-day.
And since I shall have none amendement
Against my lossI will have easement:
By Godde's soulit shall noneother be."
This John answer'd; Alein*avise thee*: *have a care*
The miller is a perilous man he said,
And if that he out of his sleep abraid**awaked
He mighte do us both a villainy*." *mischief
Alein answer'd; "I count him not a fly.
And up he roseand by the wench he crept.

This wenche lay uprightand fast she slept
Till he so nigh wasere she might espy
That it had been too late for to cry:
Andshortly for to saythey were at one.
Now playAleinfor I will speak of John.

This John lay still a furlong way <23> or two
And to himself he made ruth* and woe.
Alas!quoth hethis is a wicked jape*;
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 auntred* 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 daffe* or a cockenay <24>
I will arise, and auntre* it, by my fay:
Unhardy is unsely, <25> as men say.
And up he roseand softely he went
Unto the cradleand in his hand it hent*
And bare it soft unto his beddes feet.
Soon after this the wife *her routing lete*
And gan awakeand went her out to piss
And came again and gan the cradle miss
And groped here and therebut she found none.
Alas!quoth sheI had almost misgone
I had almost gone to the clerkes' bed.
Ey! Benedicite, then had I foul y-sped.
And forth she wenttill she the cradle fand.
She groped alway farther with her hand
And found the bedand *thoughte not but good*
Because that the cradle by it stood
And wist not where she wasfor it was derk;
But fair and well she crept in by the clerk
And lay full stilland 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 yore*.
He pricked hard and deepas 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 swonken* all the longe night
And saide; "FarewellMalkinmy sweet wight.
The day is comeI may no longer bide
But evermorewhere so I go or ride
I is thine owen clerkso have I hele.*"
Now, deare leman*,quoth shego, 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 thoughtEre the day daw
I will go creepen in by my fellaw:
And found the cradle with his hand anon.
By God!thought heall wrong I have misgone:





*stopped snoring*

*had no suspicion*

*for a long time*



My head is *totty of my swink* to-night, *giddy from my labour*
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 bedthere as the miller lay.
He ween'd* t' have creeped by his fellow John
And by the miller in he crept anon
And caught him by the neckand gan him shake
And said; "Thou Johnthou swines-headawake
For Christes souland 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 aghast*."
Thou false harlot,quoth the millerhast?
Ah, false traitor, false clerk,quoth he
Thou shalt be dead, by Godde's dignity,
Who durste be so bold to disparage*
My daughter, that is come of such lineage?
And by the throate-ball* he caught Alein
And he him hent* dispiteously** 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 wallowas do two pigs in a poke.
And up they goand down again anon
Till that the miller spurned* 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 wight*
With John the clerkthat waked had all night:
And with the fall out of her sleep she braid*.
Help, holy cross of Bromeholm,<26> she said;
In manus tuas! <27> 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 estres* 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 sickerly* 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'd* the clerk had wear'd a volupere**;
And with the staff she drew aye nere* and nere*
And ween'd to have hit this Alein at the full
And smote the miller on the pilled* skull;
That down he wentand cried Harow! I die.
These clerkes beat him welland let him lie
And greithen* themand take their horse anon
And eke their mealand on their way they gon:
And at the mill door eke they took their cake
Of half a bushel flourfull 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 deal*
Of Alein and of Johnthat beat him well;
His wife is swivedand his daughter als*;
Losuch it is a miller to be false.




*Adam's apple
*seized **angrily





*supposed **night-cap

*make readydress

*every bit

And therefore this proverb is said full sooth
*Him thar not winnen well* that evil do'th, *he deserves not to gain*
A guiler shall himself beguiled be:
And God that sitteth high in majesty
Save all this Companyboth great and smale.
Thus have I quit* the Miller in my tale. *made myself quits with

Notes to the Reeve's Tale

1. The incidents of this tale were much relished in the Middle
Agesand are found under various forms. Boccaccio has told
them in the ninth day of his "Decameron".
2. Camuse: flat; French "camuse"snub-nosed.
3. Gite: gown or coat; French "jupe."
4. 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
Hallnow merged with Trinity College)
5. Manciple: steward; provisioner of the hall. See also note 47
to the prologue to the Tales.
6. Testif: headstrongwild-brained; Frenchentete.
7. Strother: Tyrwhitt points to Anstrutherin Fife: Mr Wright
to the Vale of Langstrothin the West Riding of Yorkshire.
Chaucer has given the scholars a dialect that may have belonged
to either districtalthough 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
8. Wanges: grinderscheek-teeth; Anglo-SaxonWang,the
cheek; GermanWange.
9. See note 1 to the Prologue to the Reeves Tale
10. 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.
11. Levesell: an arbour; Anglo-Saxonlefe-setl,leafy seat.
12. Noth: business; GermanNoth,necessity.
13. Bathe: both; Scotticebaith.
14. Capel: horse; Gaeliccapall;Frenchcheval;Italian
cavallo,from Latincaballus.
15. Make a clerkes beard: cheat a scholar; Frenchfaire la
barbe;and Boccaccio uses the proverb in the same sense.
16. "Gar" is Scotch for "cause;" some editions readhowever

get us some.

17. Chalons: blanketscoverletsmade at Chalons in France.
18. Crock: pitchercruse; Anglo-Saxoncrocca;German
krug;hence "crockery."
19. Dwale: night-shadeSolanum somniferumgiven to cause
20. Burdoun: bass; "burden" of a song. It originally means the
drone of a bagpipe; Frenchbourdon.
21. Compline: even-song in the church service; chorus.
22. Ferly: strange. In Scotlanda "ferlie" is an unwonted or
remarkable sight.
23. A furlong way: As long as it might take to walk a furlong.
24. Cockenay: a term of contemptprobably borrowed from the
kitchen; a cookin base Latinbeing termed "coquinarius."
compare French "coquin rascal.
25. Unhardy is unsely: the cowardly is unlucky; nothing
venturenothing have;" Germanunselig,unhappy.
26. Holy cross of Bromeholm: A common adjuration at that
time; the cross or rood of the priory of Bromholmin Norfolk
was said to contain part of the real cross and therefore held in
high esteem.
27. In manus tuas: Latinin your hands.


THE Cook of Londonwhile the Reeve thus spake
For joy he laugh'd and clapp'd him on the back:
Aha!quoth hefor Christes passion,
This Miller had a sharp conclusion,
Upon this argument of herbergage.* *lodging
Well saide Solomon in his language,
Bring thou not every man into thine house,
For harbouring by night is perilous.
*Well ought a man avised for to be* *a man should take good heed*
Whom that he brought into his privity.
I pray to God to give me sorrow and care
If ever, since I highte* Hodge of Ware, *was called
Heard I a miller better *set a-work*; *handled
He had a jape* of malice in the derk. *trick
But God forbid that we should stinte* here, *stop
And therefore if ye will vouchsafe to hear
A tale of me, that am a poore man,
I will you tell as well as e'er I can
A little jape that fell in our city.

Our Host answer'd and said; "I grant it thee.
Rogertell on; and look that it be good

For many a pasty hast thou letten blood
And many a Jack of Dover<1> hast thou sold
That had been twice hot and twice cold.
Of many a pilgrim hast thou Christe's curse
For of thy parsley yet fare they the worse.
That they have eaten in thy stubble goose:
For in thy shop doth many a fly go loose.
Now tell ongentle Rogerby thy name
But yet I pray thee be not *wroth for game*; *angry with my jesting*
A man may say full sooth in game and play."
Thou sayst full sooth,quoth Rogerby my fay;
But sooth play quad play,<2> as the Fleming saith,
And therefore, Harry Bailly, by thy faith,
Be thou not wroth, else we departe* here, *part company
Though that my tale be of an hostelere.* *innkeeper
But natheless, I will not tell it yet,
But ere we part, y-wis* thou shalt be quit.<3> *assuredly
And therewithal he laugh'd and made cheer<4>
And told his taleas ye shall after hear.

Notes to the Prologue to the Cook's Tale

1. Jack of Dover: an article of cookery. (Transcriber's note:
suggested by some commentators to be a kind of pieand by
others to be a fish)
2. Sooth play quad play: true jest is no jest.
3. It may be remembered that each pilgrim was bound to tell
two stories; one on the way to Canterburythe other returning.
4. Made cheer: Frenchfit bonne mine;put on a pleasant

A prentice whilom dwelt in our city
And of a craft of victuallers was he:
Galliard* he wasas goldfinch in the shaw***lively **grove
Brown as a berrya proper short fellaw:
With lockes blackcombed full fetisly.* *daintily
And dance he could so well and jollily
That he was called Perkin Revellour.
He was as full of love and paramour
As is the honeycomb of honey sweet;
Well was the wenche that with him might meet.
At every bridal would he sing and hop;
He better lov'd the tavern than the shop.
For when there any riding was in Cheap<1>
Out of the shoppe thither would he leap
Andtill that he had all the sight y-seen
And danced wellhe would not come again;
And gather'd him a meinie* of his sort*company of fellows
To hop and singand make such disport:
And there they *sette steven* for to meet *made appointment*
To playen at the dice in such a street.
For in the towne was there no prentice
That fairer coulde cast a pair of dice
Than Perkin could; and thereto *he was free *he spent money liberally

Of his dispencein place of privity.* where he would not be seen*
That found his master well in his chaffare* *merchandise
For oftentime he found his box full bare.
Forsoothelya prentice revellour
That haunteth diceriotand paramour
His master shall it in his shop abie**suffer for
All* have he no part of the minstrelsy. *although
For theft and riot they be convertible
All can they play on *gitern or ribible.* *guitar or rebeck*
Revel and truthas in a low degree
They be full wroth* all dayas men may see. *at variance

This jolly prentice with his master bode
Till he was nigh out of his prenticehood
All were he snubbed* both early and late*rebuked
And sometimes led with revel to Newgate.
But at the last his master him bethought
Upon a day when he his paper<2> sought
Of a proverbthat saith this same word;
Better is rotten apple out of hoard
Than that it should rot all the remenant:
So fares it by a riotous servant;
It is well lesse harm to let him pace**passgo
Than he shend* all the servants in the place. *corrupt
Therefore his master gave him a quittance
And bade him gowith sorrow and mischance.
And thus this jolly prentice had his leve*: *desire
Now let him riot all the nightor leave*. *refrain
Andfor there is no thief without a louke<3>

That helpeth him to wasten and to souk* *spend
Of that he bribe* canor borrow may*steal
Anon he sent his bed and his array
Unto a compere* of his owen sort*comrade
That loved diceand riotand disport;
And had a wifethat held *for countenance* *for appearances*
A shopand swived* for her sustenance. *prostituted herself
. . . . . . . <4>

Notes to the Cook's Tale

1. Cheapsidewhere jousts were sometimes heldand which
was the great scene of city revels and processions.
2. His paper: his certificate of completion of his apprenticeship.
3. Louke: The precise meaning of the word is unknownbut it
is doubtless included in the cant term "pal".
4. The Cook's Tale is unfinished in all the manuscripts; but in
someof minor authoritythe Cook is made to break off his
talebecause "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'sand is different in metreand 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 deathbed
lament that he had written so much "ribaldry."


Our Hoste saw well that the brighte sun
Th' arc of his artificial day had run
The fourthe partand half an houre more;
Andthough he were not deep expert in lore
He wist it was the eight-and-twenty day
Of Aprilthat 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 wit**knowledge
That Phoebuswhich that shone so clear and bright
Degrees was five-and-forty clomb on height;
And for that dayas in that latitude
It was ten of the clockhe gan conclude;
And suddenly he plight* his horse about. *pulled <1>
Lordings,quoth heI warn you all this rout*, *company
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 shendeth* us, quoth he. *destroys
It will not come again, withoute dread,*
No more than will Malkin's maidenhead,<2>
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 anonas forword* is. *the bargain
Ye be submitted through your free assent
To stand in this case at my judgement.
Acquit you nowand *holde your behest*; *keep your promise*
Then have ye done your devoir* at the least." *duty
Hoste,quoth hede par dieux jeo asente; <3>
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 thrifty* tale sayn, *worthy

But Chaucer (though he *can but lewedly* *knows 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, leve* brother, *dear
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,<4>
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:<5>
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 halse*, *neck
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'* example of Canace, *that wicked*
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 avisement*, *deliberately, advisedly*
Would never write in none of his sermons
Of such unkind* abominations; *unnatural
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 Pierides<6>
(Metamorphoseos <7> wot what I mean),
But natheless I recke not a bean,
Though I come after him with hawebake*; *lout <8>
I speak in prose, and let him rhymes make.
And with that wordhe with a sober cheer
Began his taleand said as ye shall hear.

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

1. Plight: pulled; the word is an obsolete past tense from
2. No more than will Malkin's maidenhead: a proverbial saying;
whichhoweverhad obtained fresh point from the Reeve's
Taleto which the host doubtless refers.
3. De par dieux jeo asente: "by GodI agree". It is
characteristic that the somewhat pompous Sergeant of Law
should couch his assent in the semi-barbarous Frenchthen
familiar in law procedure.
4. 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 Blanchewife of John of GauntDuke of Lancasterthe
poet's patronand afterwards his connexion by marriage.
5. 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

6. Not the Museswho had their surname from the place near
Mount Olympus where the Thracians first worshipped them; but
the nine daughters of Pierusking of Macedoniawhom he
called the nine Musesand whobeing conquered in a contest
with the genuine sisterhoodwere changed into birds.
7. Metamorphoseos: Ovid's.
8. Hawebake: hawbuckcountry lout; the common proverbial
phraseto put a rogue above a gentleman,may throw light on
the reading herewhich is difficult.

O scatheful harmcondition of poverty
With thirstwith coldwith hunger so confounded;
To aske help thee shameth in thine hearte;
If thou none askso sore art thou y-wounded
That very need unwrappeth all thy wound hid.
Maugre thine head thou must for indigence
Or stealor begor borrow thy dispence*. *expense
Thou blamest Christand sayst full bitterly
He misdeparteth* riches temporal; *allots amiss
Thy neighebour thou witest* sinfully*blamest
And saystthou hast too littleand he hath all:
Parfay (sayst thou) sometime he reckon shall,
When that his tail shall *brennen in the glede*, *burn 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 selve* neighebour will thee despise*that same*
If thou be poorfarewell thy reverence.
Yet of the wise man take this sentence
Alle the days of poore men be wick'**wickedevil
Beware therefore ere thou come to that prick*. *point
If thou be poorthy brother hateth thee
And all thy friendes flee from theealas!
O riche merchantsfull of wealth be ye
O nobleprudent folkas in this case
Your bagges be not fill'd with *ambes ace* *two aces*

But with *six-cinque*that runneth for your chance;<2> *six-five*
At Christenmass well merry may ye dance.

Ye seeke land and sea for your winnings
As wise folk ye knowen all th' estate
Of regnes*; ye be fathers of tidings*kingdoms
And talesboth of peace and of debate*: *contentionwar
I were right now of tales desolate**barrenempty.
But that a merchantgone in many a year
Me taught a talewhich ye shall after hear.

In Syria whilom dwelt a company
Of chapmen richand thereto sad* and true*gravesteadfast
Clothes of goldand satins rich of hue.
That widewhere* sent their spicery*to distant parts
Their chaffare* was so thriftly** and so new*wares **advantageous

That every wight had dainty* to chaffare** *pleasure **deal
With themand eke to selle them their ware.
Now fell itthat the masters of that sort
Have *shapen them* to Rome for to wend*determinedprepared*
Were it for chapmanhood* or for disport*trading
None other message would they thither send
But come themselves to Romethis is the end:
And in such place as thought them a vantage
For their intentthey took their herbergage.* *lodging
Sojourned have these merchants in that town
A certain time as fell to their pleasance:
And so befellthat th' excellent renown
Of th' emperore's daughterDame Constance
Reported waswith every circumstance
Unto these Syrian merchants in such wise
From day to dayas I shall you devise* *relate
This was the common voice of every man
Our emperor of Rome, God him see*, *look 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 sustene*, *sustain
And would she were of all Europe the queen.
In her is highe beauty without pride

And youth withoute greenhood* or folly: *childishnessimmaturity
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 almess*." *almsgiving
And all this voice was soothas God is true;
But now to purpose* let us turn again. *our tale <3>

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 needes*as they have done yore* *business **formerly
And liv'd in weal*; I can you say no more. *prosperity
Now fell itthat these merchants stood in grace* *favour
Of him that was the Soudan* of Syrie: *Sultan
For when they came from any strange place
He would of his benigne courtesy
Make them good cheerand busily espy* *inquire
Tidings of sundry regnes*for to lear** *realms **learn
The wonders that they mighte see or hear.
Amonges other thingesspecially
These merchants have him told of Dame Constance
So great noblessin earnest so royally
That this Soudan hath caught so great pleasance* *pleasure
To have her figure in his remembrance
That all his lust*and all his busy cure***pleasure **care
Was for to love her while his life may dure.
Paraventure in thilke* large book*that
Which that men call the heaveny-written was
With starreswhen that he his birthe took
That he for love should have his deathalas!
For in the starresclearer than is glass

Is writtenGod wotwhoso could it read
The death of every man withoute dread.*

In starres many a winter therebeforn
Was writ the death of HectorAchilles
Of PompeyJuliusere they were born;
The strife of Thebes; and of Hercules
Of SamsonTurnusand 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 pace*
He hath to them declared his intent
And told them certainbut* he might have grace
To have Constancewithin a little space
He was but dead; and charged them in hie*
To shape* 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 magicand abusion*;
But finallyas in conclusion
They cannot see in that none avantage
Nor in no other waysave marriage.

Then saw they therein such difficulty
By way of reasonfor to speak all plain
Because that there was such diversity
Between their bothe lawesthat they sayn
They trowe* that no Christian prince would fain**
Wedden his child under our lawe sweet
That us was given by Mahound* our prophete.

And he answered: "Rather than I lose
ConstanceI will be christen'd doubteless
I must be hersI may none other choose
I pray you hold your arguments in peace<4>
Save my lifeand be not reckeless
To gette her that hath my life in cure*
For in this woe I may not long endure."

What needeth greater dilatation?
I sayby treaty and ambassadry
And by the Pope's mediation
And all the Churchand all the chivalry
That in destruction of Mah'metry*
And in increase of Christe's lawe dear
They be accorded* so as ye may hear;

How that the Soudanand his baronage
And all his liegesshall y-christen'd be
And he shall have Constance in marriage
And certain goldI n'ot* what quantity
And hereto find they suffisant surety.
The same accord is sworn on either side;
Nowfair ConstanceAlmighty God thee guide!

Now woulde some men waitenas I guess
That I should tellen all the purveyance*
The which the emperor of his noblesse
Hath shapen* for his daughterDame Constance.
Well may men know that so great ordinance


*to pass briefly by*



*believe **willingly



*know not


May no man tellen in a little clause
As was arrayed for so high a cause.
Bishops be shapen with her for to wend
Lordesladiesand knightes of renown
And other folk enoughthis is the end.
And notified is throughout all the town
That every wight with great devotioun
Should pray to Christthat he this marriage
Receive *in gree*and speede this voyage. *with good willfavour*
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 dressen* all and some. *prepare to set out*
Constancethat was with sorrow all o'ercome
Full pale aroseand 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 friendesthat so tenderly her kept
And to be bound under subjection
of oneshe knew not his condition?
Husbands be all goodand have been *of yore**of old*
That knowe wives; I dare say no more.

Father,she saidthy wretched child Constance,
Thy younge daughter, foster'd up so soft,
And you, my mother, my sov'reign pleasance
Over all thing, out-taken* Christ *on loft*, *except *on 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 anonsince that it is your will:
But Christthat starf* for our redemption*died
So give me grace his hestes* to fulfil. *commands
Iwretched woman*no force though I spill!* *no matter though
Women are born to thraldom and penanceI perish*
And to be under mannes governance."

I trow at Troy when Pyrrhus brake the wall
Or Ilion burntor 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 mustwhether she weep or sing.

O firste moving cruel Firmament<5>
With thy diurnal sway that crowdest* aye*pushest togetherdrivest
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'nalas!
Out of his angle into the darkest house;
O MarsO Atyzar<6> as in this case;
O feeble Moonunhappy is thy pace.* *progress

Thou knittest thee where thou art not receiv'd
Where thou wert wellfrom thennes art thou weiv'd. <7>

Imprudent emperor of Romealas!
Was there no philosopher in all thy town?
Is no time bet* than other in such case? *better
Of voyage is there none election
Namely* to folk of high condition*especially
Not *when a root is of a birth y-know?* *when the nativity is known*
Alas! we be too lewed*or too slow. *ignorant

To ship was brought this woeful faire maid
Solemnelywith every circumstance:
Now Jesus Christ be with you all,she said.
There is no morebut "Farewellfair Constance."
She *pained her* to make good countenance. *made an effort*
And forth I let her sail in this manner
And turn I will again to my matter.

The mother of the Soudanwell 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 cometo knowe what she meant
And when assembled was this folk *in fere**together*
She sat her downand said as ye shall hear.

Lordes,she saidye knowen every one,
How that my son in point is for to lete* *forsake
The holy lawes of our Alkaron*, *Koran
Given by God's messenger Mahomete:
But one avow to greate God I hete*, *promise
Life shall rather out of my body start,
Than Mahomet's law go out of mine heart.

What should us tiden* of this newe law*betidebefall
But thraldom to our bodiesand penance
And afterward in hell to be y-draw
For we *renied Mahound our creance?* *denied Mahomet our belief*
Butlordeswill ye maken assurance
As I shall sayassenting to my lore*? *advice
And I shall make us safe for evermore."

They sworen and assented every man
To live with her and dieand by her stand:
And every onein the best wise he can
To strengthen her shall all his friendes fand.* *endeavour<8>
And she hath this emprise taken in hand
Which ye shall heare that I shall devise*; *relate
And to them all she spake right in this wise.

We shall first feign us *Christendom to take*; *embrace Christianity*
Cold water shall not grieve us but a lite*: *little
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 Soudaness*root of iniquity*Sultaness
Virago thouSemiramis the second!
O serpent under femininity
Like to the serpent deep in hell y-bound!
O feigned womanall that may confound

Virtue and innocencethrough thy malice
Is bred in theeas 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 servage*:
Thou wilt fordo* this Christian marriage:
Thine instrument so (well-away the while!)
Mak'st thou of women when thou wilt beguile.

This Soudanesswhom I thus blame and warray*
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 himthat she would *reny her lay*
And Christendom of priestes' handes fong*
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 saidI will do at your hest,*
And kneelingthanked her for that request;
So glad he washe wist* not what to say.
She kiss'd her sonand home she went her way.

Arrived be these Christian folk to land
In Syriawith a great solemne rout
And hastily this Soudan sent his sond*
First to his motherand all the realm about
And saidhis wife was comen out of doubt
And pray'd them for to ride again* the queen
The honour of his regne* to sustene.

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

Noughttrow Ithe triumph of Julius
Of which that Lucan maketh such a boast
Was royalleror more curious
Than was th' assembly of this blissful host
But O this scorpionthis wicked ghost*
The Soudanessfor all her flattering
Cast* under this full mortally to sting.

The Soudan came himself soon after this
So royallythat 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 camemen thought it for the best
That revel stint* 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 generalyeabothe young and old.
There may men feast and royalty behold



*renounce her creed*




*to meet

*in company*





And dainties more than I can you devise;
But all too dear they bought it ere they rise.

O sudden woethat ev'r art successour
To worldly bliss! sprent* is with bitterness
Th' end of our joyof our worldly labour;
Woe *occupies the fine* of our gladness.
Hearken this counselfor thy sickerness*:
Upon thy glade days have in thy mind
The unware* woe of harmthat comes behind.

Forshortly for to tell it at a word
The Soudan and the Christians every one
Were all *to-hewn and sticked* at the board
But it were only Dame Constance alone.
This olde Soudanessthis 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 wot*
That was not all to-hewnere he asterted*:
And Constance have they ta'en anon foot-hot*
And in a ship all steereless* God wot
They have her setand bid her learn to sail
Out of Syria *again-ward to Itale.*

A certain treasure that she thither lad*
Andsooth to sayof victual great plenty
They have her giv'nand clothes eke she had
And forth she sailed in the salte sea:
O my Constancefull of benignity
O emperores younge daughter dear
He that is lord of fortune be thy steer*!

She bless'd herselfand with full piteous voice
Unto the cross of Christ thus saide she;
O dear, O wealful* 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 drenchen* in the deepe.

Victorious treeprotection of the true
That only worthy were for to bear
The King of Heavenwith his woundes new
The white Lambthat hurt was with a spear;
Flemer* of fiendes out of him and her
On which thy limbes faithfully extend<10>
Me keepand give me might my life to mend."

Yeares and days floated this creature
Throughout the sea of Greeceunto the strait
Of Maroc*as it was her a venture:
On many a sorry meal now may she bait
After her death full often may she wait*
Ere that the wilde waves will her drive
Unto the place *there as* she shall arrive.

Men mighten askewhy 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 wightsave hemaster or knave*


*seizes the end*

*cut to pieces*

*without rudder

*back to Italy*





*banisherdriver out

*Morocco; Gibraltar


Was with the lion frett*ere he astart?** *devoured ** escaped
No wight but Godthat he bare in his heart.
God list* to shew his wonderful miracle *it pleased
In herthat we should see his mighty workes:
Christwhich that is to every harm triacle**remedysalve
By certain meanes oftas knowe clerkes**scholars
Doth thing for certain endethat full derk is
To manne's witthat for ourignorance
Ne cannot know his prudent purveyance*. *foresight
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 knowit 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<11>
That power have t' annoye land and sea
Both north and southand also west and east
Annoye neither seanor landnor 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 vitaille*? *victuals
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 foison* at her greate need. *abundance
She drived forth into our ocean
Throughout our wilde seatill at the last
Under an hold*that nempnen** I not can*castle **name
Far in Northumberlandthe wave her cast
And in the sand her ship sticked so fast
That thennes would it not in all a tide: <12>
The will of Christ was that she should abide.
The Constable of the castle down did fare* *go
To see this wreckand all the ship he sought**searched
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 twin**divide
Her to deliver of woe that she was in.
A manner Latin corrupt <13> was her speech
But algate* thereby was she understond. *nevertheless
The Constablewhen him list no longer seech**search
This woeful woman brought he to the lond.
She kneeled downand thanked *Godde's sond*; *what God had sent*
But what she was she would to no man say
For foul nor fairalthough that she should dey.* *die
She saidshe was so mazed in the sea
That she forgot her mindeby her truth.
The Constable had of her so great pity
And eke his wifethat they wept for ruth:* *pity
She was so diligent withoute slouth

To serve and please every one in that place
That all her lov'dthat looked in her face.
The Constable and Dame Hermegild his wife
Were Pagansand that country every where;
But Hermegild lov'd Constance as her life;
And Constance had so long sojourned there
In orisonswith many a bitter tear
Till Jesus had converted through His grace
Dame HermegildConstabless of that place.
In all that land no Christians durste rout;* *assemble
All Christian folk had fled from that country
Through Pagansthat conquered all about
The plages* of the North by land and sea. *regionscoasts
To Wales had fled the *Christianity *the Old Britons who
Of olde Britons* dwelling in this isle; were Christians*
There was their refuge for the meanewhile.
But yet n'ere* Christian Britons so exiled*there were
That there n'ere* some which in their privity not
Honoured Christand heathen folk beguiled;
And nigh the castle such there dwelled three:
And one of them was blindand might not see
But* it were with thilk* eyen of his mind*except **those
With which men maye see when they be blind.
Bright was the sunas in a summer's day
For which the Constableand his wife also
And Constancehave y-take the righte way
Toward the sea a furlong way or two
To playenand to roame to and fro;
And in their walk this blinde man they met
Crooked and oldwith 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 husbandshortly for to sayn
Would her for Jesus Christe's love have slain
Till Constance made her holdand bade her wirch* *work
The will of Christas daughter of holy Church
The Constable wax'd abashed* of that sight*astonished
And saide; *"What amounteth all this fare?"* *what means all
Constance answered; "Sirit is Christ's mightthis ado?*
That helpeth folk out of the fiendes snare:"
And *so farforth* she gan our law declare*with such effect*
That she the Constableere that it were eve
Convertedand on Christ made him believe.
This Constable was not lord of the place
Of which I speakthere as he Constance fand* *found
But kept it strongly many a winter space
Under Allaking of Northumberland
That was full wiseand worthy of his hand
Against the Scotesas men may well hear;
But turn I will again to my mattere.
Satanthat ever us waiteth to beguile
Saw of Constance all her perfectioun

And *cast anon how he might quite her while;* *considered how to have
And made a young knightthat dwelt in that townrevenge on her*
Love her so hot of foul affectioun

That verily him thought that he should spill*
But* he of her might ones have his will.

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

Wearyforwaked* in her orisons
Sleepeth Constanceand Hermegild also.
This knightthrough Satanas' temptation;
All softetly is to the bed y-go*
And cut the throat of Hermegild in two
And laid the bloody knife by Dame Constance
And went his waythere God give him mischance.

Soon after came the Constable home again
And eke Alla that king was of that land
And saw his wife dispiteously* 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 timeand whereand in what wise
That in a ship was founden this Constance
As here before ye have me heard devise:*



*having been long awake



The kinges heart for pity *gan agrise* *to be grievedto tremble*

When he saw so benign a creature
Fall in disease* and in misaventure. *distress
For as the lamb toward his death is brought
So stood this innocent before the king:
This false knightthat had this treason wrought
*Bore her in hand* that she had done this thing: *accused her falsely*
But natheless there was great murmuring
Among the peoplethat 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 motife* *been greatly moved
Of this witnessand thought he would inquere by the evidence*
Deeper into this casethe truth to lear.* *learn
Alas! Constancethou has no champion
Nor fighte canst thou notso well-away!
But he that starf for our redemption*died
And bound Satanand yet li'th where he lay
So be thy stronge champion this day:
Forbut Christ upon thee miracle kithe* *show
Withoute guilt thou shalt be slain *as swithe.* *immediately*
She set her down on kneesand 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 lad*
Toward his deathwhere he getteth no grace
And such a colour in his face hath had
Men mighte know him that was so bestad*
Amonges all the faces in that rout?
So stood Constanceand looked her about.

O queenes living in prosperity
Duchessesand ye ladies every one
Have some ruth* on her adversity!
An emperor's daughtershe stood alone;
She had no wight to whom to make her moan.
O blood royalthat standest in this drede*
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 advise*
Whom that we will that shall be our justice.

A Briton bookwritten with Evangiles*
Was fetchedand on this book he swore anon
She guilty was; andin 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 heardin general audience
That said; "Thou hast deslander'd guilteless
The daughter of holy Church in high presence;
Thus hast thou doneand yet *hold I my peace?"*
Of this marvel aghast was all the press
As mazed folk they stood every one
For dread of wreake* save Constance alone.

Great was the dread and eke the repentance
Of them that hadde wrong suspicion
Upon this sely* innocent Constance;
And for this miraclein conclusion
And by Constance's mediation
The kingand many another in that place
Converted wasthanked 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;*
And after this Jesus of his mercy
Made Alla wedde full solemnely
This holy womanthat is so bright and sheen
And thus hath Christ y-made Constance a queen.

But who was woefulif I shall not lie
Of this wedding but Donegildand no mo'
The kinge's motherfull of tyranny?
Her thought her cursed heart would burst in two;
She would not that her son had done so;



*the Gospels

*shall I be silent?*



Her thought it a despite that he should take
So strange a creature unto his make.* *mateconsort
Me list not of the chaff nor of the stre* *straw
Make so long a taleas of the corn.
What should I tellen of the royalty
Of this marriageor 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 drinkand danceand singand play.

They go to bedas it was skill* and right; *reasonable
For though that wives be full holy things
They muste take in patience at night
Such manner* necessaries as be pleasings *kind of
To folk that have y-wedded them with rings
And lay *a lite* their holiness aside *a little of*
As for the timeit may no better betide.
On her he got a knave* child anon*male <14>
And to a Bishop and to his Constable eke
He took his wife to keepwhen he is gone
To Scotland-wardhis foemen for to seek.
Now fair Constancethat is so humble and meek
So long is gone with childe till that still
She held her chamb'rabiding Christe's will
The time is comea knave child she bare;
Mauricius at the font-stone they him call.
This Constable *doth forth come* a messenger*caused to come forth*
And wrote unto his king that clep'd was All'
How that this blissful tiding is befall
And other tidings speedful for to say
He* hath the letterand forth he go'th his way. *i.e. the messenger

This messengerto *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 heye 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.

Lohere 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'dAs 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 sadly* ale and wine*steadily
And stolen were his letters privily
Out of his boxwhile he slept as a swine;
And counterfeited was full subtilly
Another letterwrote full sinfully
Unto the kingdirect of this mattere
From his Constableas ye shall after hear.

This letter saidthe queen deliver'd was
Of so horrible a fiendlike creature
That in the castle none so hardy* was *brave
That any while he durst therein endure:
The mother was an elf by aventure

Becomeby 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 sond* of Christ for evermore
To me, that am now learned in this lore:
Lord, welcome be thy lust* and thy pleasance,
My lust I put all in thine ordinance.

Keepe* this childalbeit foul or fair
And eke my wifeunto mine homecoming:
Christ when him list may send to me an heir
More agreeable than this to my liking."
This letter he sealedprivily weeping.
Which to the messenger was taken soon
And forth he wentthere is no more to do'n.*

O messenger full fill'd of drunkenness
Strong is thy breaththy limbes falter aye
And thou betrayest alle secretness;
Thy mind is lorn* thou janglest as a jay;
Thy face is turned in a new array;*
Where drunkenness reigneth in any rout*
There is no counsel hidwithoute doubt.

O DonegildI have no English dign*
Unto thy maliceand thy tyranny:
And therefore to the fiend I thee resign
Let him indite of all thy treachery
'Fymannish* fy! O nayby God I lie;
Fyfiendlike spirit! for I dare well tell
Though thou here walkthy spirit is in hell.

This messenger came from the king again
And at the kinge's mother's court he light*
And she was of this messenger full fain*
And pleased him in all that e'er she might.
He drankand *well his girdle underpight*;
He sleptand eke he snored in his guise
All nightuntil the sun began to rise.

Eft* 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*
That he should suffer in no manner wise
Constance within his regne* for to abide
Three dayesand a quarter of a tide;

But in the same ship as he her fand
Her and her younge sonand all her gear
He shoulde putand crowd* her from the land
And charge herthat she never eft come there.
O my Constancewell may thy ghost* have fear
And sleeping in thy dream be in penance*
When Donegild cast* all this ordinance.**

This messengeron morrow when he woke
Unto the castle held the nexte* way
And to the constable the letter took;
And when he this dispiteous* letter sey**
Full oft he saidAlas, and well-away!

*will, sending

*will, pleasure





*unwomanly woman


*stowed away (liquor)
under his girdle*





*pain, trouble
*contrived **plan, plot


*cruel **saw

Lord Christ,quoth hehow may this world endure?
So full of sin is many a creature.

O mighty Godif that it be thy will
Since thou art rightful judgehow may it be
That thou wilt suffer innocence to spill* *be destroyed
And wicked folk reign in prosperity?
Ah! good Constancealas! so woe is me
That I must be thy tormentoror dey* *die
A shameful deaththere is no other way.

Wept bothe young and old in all that place
When that the king this cursed letter sent;
And Constancewith a deadly pale face
The fourthe day toward her ship she went.
But natheless she took in good intent
The will of Christand kneeling on the strond* *strandshore
She saideLord, aye welcome be thy sond* *whatever 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 seaalthough I see not how
As strong as ever he washe is yet now
In him trust Iand in his mother dere
That is to me my sail and eke my stere."* *rudderguide

Her little child lay weeping in her arm
Andkneelingpiteously to him she said
Peace, little son, I will do thee no harm:
With that her kerchief off her head she braid* *tookdrew
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 sheand maiden bright, Mary,
Sooth is, that through a woman's eggement* *incitement, egging on
Mankind was lorn,* and damned aye to die; *lost
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 childparfay:* *by my faith
Nowlady brightto whom the woeful cryen
Thou glory of womanhoodthou faire may* *maid
Thou haven of refugebright star of day
Rue* on my childthat of thy gentleness *take pity
Ruest on every rueful* in distress. *sorrowful person

O little child, alas! what is thy guilt,
That never wroughtest sin as yet, pardie?* *par Dieu; by God
Why will thine harde* father have thee spilt?** *cruel **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 saideFarewell, husband rutheless!
And up she roseand walked down the strand
Toward the shipher following all the press:* *multitude
And ever she pray'd her child to hold his peace

And took her leaveand with an holy intent
She blessed herand to the ship she went.

Victualed was the shipit is no drede*
Abundantly for her a full long space:
And other necessaries that should need*
She had enoughheried* be Godde's grace:
For wind and weatherAlmighty God purchase*
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 castleof 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 sealand eke his letter

And saide; "Lordas ye commanded me
On pain of deathso have I done certain."
The messenger tormented* wastill he
Muste beknow* and tell it flat and plain
From night to night in what place he had lain;
And thusby 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 wisecertainly I know not.
Th' effect is thisthat Alla*out of drede*
His mother slewthat may men plainly read
For that she traitor was to her liegeance:*
Thus ended olde Donegild with mischance.

The sorrow that this Alla night and day
Made for his wifeand 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 moreas liked Christe's sond*
Ere that her ship approached to the lond.*

Under an heathen castleat the last
Of which the name in my text I not find
Constance and eke her child the sea upcast.
Almighty Godthat saved all mankind
Have on Constance and on her child some mind
That fallen is in heathen hand eftsoon*
*In point to spill* as I shall tell you soon!

Down from the castle came there many a wight
To gauren* on this shipand on Constance:
But shortly from the castleon a night
The lorde's steward-- God give him mischance--
A thief that had *renied our creance*
Came to the ship aloneand said he would
Her leman* bewhether she would or n'ould.

Woe was this wretched woman then begone;
Her child cri'dand she cried piteously:
But blissful Mary help'd her right anon
Forwith her struggling well and mightily
The thief fell overboard all suddenly


*be needed
*praised <15>

*confess <16>

*without doubt*



*in danger of


*denied our faith*

*illicit lover

And in the sea he drenched* for vengeance*drowned
And thus hath Christ unwemmed* kept Constance. *unblemished
O foul lust of luxury! lo thine end!
Not only that thou faintest* manne's mind*weakenest
But verily thou wilt his body shend.* *destroy
Th' end of thy workor of thy lustes blind
Is complaining: how many may men find
That not for worksometimesbut for th' intent
To do this sinbe either slain or shent?
How may this weake woman have the strength
Her to defend against this renegate?
O Goliathunmeasurable of length
How mighte David make thee so mate?* *overthrown
So youngand 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 himHolofernesin 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 themand 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* driving alway*Gibraltar and Ceuta*
Sometime westand sometime north and south
And sometime eastfull many a weary day:
Till Christe's mother (blessed be she aye)
Had shaped* through her endeless goodness *resolvedarranged
To make an end of all her heaviness.
Now let us stint* of Constance but a throw** *cease speaking
And speak we of the Roman emperor**short time
That out of Syria had by letters know
The slaughter of Christian folkand 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 senatorwith royal ordinance
And other lordesGod wotmany a one
On Syrians to take high vengeance:
They burn and slayand 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-wardsailing full royally
And met the ship drivingas saith the story
In which Constance sat full piteously:
And nothing knew he what she wasnor why
She was in such array; nor she will say
Of her estatealthough that she should dey.* *die
He brought her unto Romeand to his wife
He gave herand her younge son also:
And with the senator she led her life.
Thus can our Lady bringen out of woe
Woeful Constanceand many another mo':

And longe time she dwelled in that place
In holy works everas 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 Allawhom I spake of yore
That for his wife wept and sighed sore
I will returnand leave I will Constance
Under the senatores governance.
King Allawhich that had his mother slain
Upon a day fell in such repentance;
Thatif 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 lowand 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 senatoras was usage
Rode *him again* and many of his lineage*to meet him*
As well to show his high magnificence
As to do any king a reverence.
Great cheere* did this noble senator *courtesy
To King Alla and he to him also;
Each of them did the other great honor;
And so befellthat in a day or two
This senator did to King Alla go
To feastand shortlyif I shall not lie
Constance's son went in his company.
Some men would say<17> at request of Constance
This senator had led this child to feast:
I may not tellen every circumstance
Be as be maythere was he at the least:
But sooth is thisthat at his mother's hest* *behest
Before Alla during *the meates space* *meal time*
The child stoodlooking 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,* quoth heby God and by Saint John; *know not
A mother he hath, but father hath he none,
That I of wot:and shortly in a stound* *short time <18>
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 lever* a knife *rather
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 she* *could 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*
Parfay* thought he, phantom** is in mine head. *by my faith
I ought to deemof skilful judgement**a fantasy
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?
Andafter noonhome with the senator.
Went Allafor to see this wondrous chance.
This senator did Alla great honor
And hastily he sent after Constance:
But truste wellher liste not to dance.
When that she wiste wherefore was that sond* *summons
Unneth* upon her feet she mighte stand. *with difficulty
When Alla saw his wifefair he her gret* *greeted
And weptthat it was ruthe for to see
For at the firste look he on her set
He knew well verily that it was she:
And shefor sorrowas 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 heand all his hallows bright* *saints
So wisly* on my soule have mercy, *surely
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 finallywhen 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
Thatsave the joy that lasteth evermo'
There is none likethat any creature
Hath seenor shall seewhile 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 ekethat he should by no way
Unto her father no word of her say.
Some men would say<17> how that the child Maurice
Did this message unto the emperor:
Butas I guessAlla 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 childbut better 'tis to deem
He went himself; and so it may well seem.

This emperor hath granted gentilly
To come to dinneras he him besought:
And well rede* Ihe looked busily
Upon this childand on his daughter thought.
Alla went to his innand as him ought
Arrayed* for this feast in every wise
*As farforth as his cunning* may suffice.

The morrow cameand Alla gan him dress*
And eke his wifethe 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 sheyour younge child Constance
Is now full clean out of your remembrance.

I am your daughteryour Constance quoth she,
That whilom ye have sent into Syrie;
It am Ifatherthat in the salt sea
Was put aloneand damned* for to die.
Nowgoode fatherI 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 threesince they be thus y-met?
But of my tale make an end I shall
The day goes fastI will no longer let.*
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 Popeand 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 gestes* men may find
Maurice's lifeI bear it not in mind.

This King Allawhen he his time sey*
With his Constancehis 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 lastedI you hete*
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


*as far as his skill*
*make ready





Or ireor talentor *some kind affray* *some kind of disturbance*
Envyor prideor passionor offence?
I say but for this ende this sentence* *judgmentopinion*
That little while in joy or in pleasance
Lasted the bliss of Alla with Constance.

For deaththat takes of high and low his rent
When passed was a yeareven 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 Constancefinally 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 herieth* God an hundred thousand sithe.** *praises **times

In virtue and in holy almes-deed
They liven alland ne'er asunder wend;
Till death departeth themthis life they lead:
And fare now wellmy tale is at an end
Now Jesus Christthat of his might may send
Joy after woegovern us in his grace
And keep us alle that be in this place.

Notes to the Man of Law's Tale

1. This tale is believed by Tyrwhitt to have been takenwith no
material changefrom the "Confessio Amantis" of John Gower
who was contemporary with Chaucerthough somewhat his
senior. In the prologuethe references to the stories of Canace
and of Apollonius Tyriusseem to be an attack on Gowerwho
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 storywhich he found in old French romances
and it is not improbable that Chaucer may have gone to the
same source as Gowerthough the latter undoubtedly led the
(Transcriber's note: later commentators have identified the
introduction describing the sorrows of povertyalong with the
other moralising interludes in the taleas translated from "De
Contemptu Mundi" ("On the contempt of the world") by Pope
2. Transcriber' note: This refers to the game of hazarda dice
game like crapsin which two ("ambes ace") wonand eleven
("six-cinque") lost.
3. Purpose: discoursetale: French "propos".
4. "Peace" rhymed with "lese" and "chese"the old forms of
loseand "choose".
5. 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 easton two other poles.
6. Atyzar: the meaning of this word is not known; but "occifer"
murdererhas been suggested instead by Urryon 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
7. "Thou knittest thee where thou art not receiv'd
Where thou wert wellfrom thennes art thou weiv'd"

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.
8. Fand: endeavour; from Anglo-Saxonfandian,to try
9. Feng: take; Anglo-Saxon "fengian"Germanfangen.
10. Him and her on which thy limbes faithfully extend: those
who in faith wear the crucifix.
11. 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. 12).
12. Thennes would it not in all a tide: thence would it not move
for longat all.
13. A manner Latin corrupt: a kind of bastard Latin.
14. Knave child: male child; German "Knabe".
15. Heried: honouredpraised; from Anglo-Saxonherian.
Compare Germanherrlich,glorioushonourable.
16. Beknow: confess; Germanbekennen.
17. The poet here refers to Gower's version of the story.
18. Stound: short time; Germanstundehour.
19. Gestes: historiesexploits; Latinres gestae.


Experiencethough none authority* *authoritative texts
Were in this worldis right enough for me
To speak of woe that is in marriage:
Forlordingssince 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<2>
For I so often have y-wedded be
And all were worthy men in their degree.
But me was toldnot longe time gone is
That sithen* Christe went never but ones *since
To weddingin the Cane* of Galilee*Cana
That by that ilk* example taught he me*same
That I not wedded shoulde be but once.
Lohearken eke a sharp word for the nonce* *occasion
Beside a welle JesusGod and man
Spake in reproof of the Samaritan:
Thou hast y-had five husbandes,said he;
And thilke* man, that now hath wedded thee, *that
Is not thine husband:<3> thus said he certain;
What that he meant therebyI cannot sayn.
But that I askewhy the fifthe man
Was not husband to the Samaritan?

How many might she have in marriage?
Yet heard I never tellen *in mine age* *in my life*
Upon this number definitioun.
Men may divineand glosen* up and down; *comment
But well I wotexpress without a lie
God bade us for to wax and multiply;
That gentle text can I well understand.
Eke well I wothe saidthat mine husband
Should leave father and motherand take to me;

But of no number mention made he
Of bigamy or of octogamy;
Why then should men speak of it villainy?*

Lo herethe wise king Dan* Solomon
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 gift* of God had he for all his wives?
No man hath suchthat in this world alive is.
God wotthis noble king*as to my wit*
The first night had many a merry fit
With each of themso *well was him on live.*
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* where it liketh me.
He saiththat to be wedded is no sin;
Better is to be wedded than to brin.*
What recketh* me though folk say villainy**
Of shrewed* Lamechand his bigamy?
I wot well Abraham was a holy man
And Jacob ekeas far as ev'r I can.*
And each of them had wives more than two;
And many another holy man also.
Where can ye see*in any manner age*
That highe God defended* marriage
By word express? I pray you tell it me;
Or where commanded he virginity?
I wot as well as youit is no dread*
Th' apostlewhen he spake of maidenhead
He saidthat precept thereof had he none:
Men may counsel a woman to be one*
But counseling is no commandement;
He put it in our owen judgement.
Forhadde God commanded maidenhead
Then had he damned* wedding out of dread;**
And certesif there were no seed y-sow*
Virginity then whereof should it grow?
Paul durste not commandenat the least
A thing of which his Master gave no hest.*
The dart* is set up for virginity;
Catch whoso maywho runneth best let see.
But this word is not ta'en of every wight
*But there as* God will give it of his might.
I wot well that th' apostle was a maid
But nathelessalthough he wrote and said
He would that every wight were such as he
All is but counsel to virginity.
Andsince to be a wife he gave me leave
Of indulgenceso is it no repreve*
To wedde meif that my make* should die

*as if it were a disgrace

*Lord <4>

*special favourlicence

*as I understand*

*so well he lived*

*on God's part*

*care **evil


*in any period*
*forbade <5>


*a maid

*condemned **doubt

*goal <6>

*except where*


Without exception* of bigamy; *chargereproach
*All were it* good no woman for to touch *though it might be*
(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 somehe held virginity
More profit than wedding in frailty:
(*Frailty clepe Ibut if* that he and she *frailty I call it
Would lead their lives all in chastity)unless*
I grant it wellI have of none envy
Who maidenhead prefer to bigamy;
It liketh them t' be clean in body and ghost;* *soul
Of mine estate* I will not make a boast. *condition
Forwell ye knowa lord in his household
Hath not every vessel all of gold; <7>
Some are of treeand do their lord service.
God calleth folk to him in sundry wise
And each one hath of God a proper gift
Some thissome thatas liketh him to shift.* *appointdistribute
Virginity is great perfection
And continence eke with devotion:
But Christthat of perfection is the well* *fountain
Bade not every wight he should go sell
All that he hadand give it to the poor
And in such wise follow him and his lore:* *doctrine
He spake to them that would live perfectly--
Andlordingsby your leavethat am not I;
I will bestow the flower of mine age
In th' acts and in the fruits of marriage.
Tell me alsoto what conclusion* *endpurpose
Were members made of generation
And of so perfect wise a wight* y-wrought? *being
Trust me right wellthey were not made for nought.
Glose whoso willand say both up and down
That they were made for the purgatioun
Of urineand 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 clerkes* be not with me wroth*scholars
I say thisthat they were made for both
That is to say*for officeand for ease* *for duty and
Of engendrurethere we God not displease. for pleasure*
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 urineand eke for engendrure.
But I say not that every wight is hold* *obliged
That hath such harness* as I to you told*equipment
To go and use them in engendrure;
Then should men take of chastity no cure.* *care
Christ was a maidand shapen* as a man*fashioned
And many a saintsince that this world began
Yet ever liv'd in perfect chastity.
I will not vie* with no virginity. *contend
Let them with bread of pured* wheat be fed*purified
And let us wives eat our barley bread.
And yet with barley breadMark tell us can<8>
Our Lord Jesus refreshed many a man.
In such estate as God hath *cleped us* *called us to
I'll persevereI am not precious* *over-dainty

In wifehood I will use mine instrument
As freely as my Maker hath it sent.
If I be dangerous* God give me sorrow; *sparing of my favours
Mine husband shall it haveboth eve and morrow
When that him list come forth and pay his debt.
A husband will I haveI *will no let* *will bear no hindrance*

Which shall be both my debtor and my thrall* *slave
And have his tribulation withal
Upon his fleshwhile that I am his wife.
I have the power during all my life
Upon his proper bodyand 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 Pardonerand that anon;
Now, Dame,quoth heby God and by Saint John,
Ye are a noble preacher in this case.
I was about to wed a wife, alas!
What? should I bie* it on my flesh so dear? *suffer for
Yet had I lever* wed no wife this year.*rather
Abide,* quoth she; "my tale is not begun *wait in patience
Naythou shalt drinken of another tun
Ere that I goshall 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 saymyself hath been the whip)
Then mayest thou choose whether thou wilt sip
Of *thilke tunne* that I now shall broach. *that tun*
Beware of itere 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 Almagestand take it there."
Dame, I would pray you, if your will it were,
Saide this Pardoneras ye began,
Tell forth your tale, and spare for no man,
And teach us younge men of your practique.
Gladly,quoth shesince that it may you like.
But that I pray to all this company,
If that I speak after my fantasy,
To take nought agrief* what I may say; *to heart
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 hold* *they could with difficulty

In which that they were bounden unto me.
Yet wot well what I mean of this, pardie.*
As God me help, I laugh when that I think
How piteously at night I made them swink,*
But, *by my fay, I told of it no store:*
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 dainty* of their love.
A wise woman will busy her ever-in-one*
To get their love, where that she hath none.

obey the law*
*by God

*by my faith, I held it
of no account*

*cared nothing for*

But, since I had them wholly in my hand,
And that they had me given all their land,
Why should I take keep* them for to please, *care
But* it were for my profit, or mine ease? *unless
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.<9>
I govern'd them so well after my law,
That each of them full blissful was and fawe* *fain
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
For half so boldely can there no man believe falsely*
Swearen and lien as a woman can.
(I say not this by wives that be wise,
*But if* it be when they them misadvise.)* *unless* *act unadvisedly
A wise wife, if that she can* her good, *knows
Shall *beare them on hand* the cow is wood, *make them believe*
And take witness of her owen maid
Of their assent: but hearken how I said.
Sir olde kaynard<10> is this thine array?
Why is my neigheboure's wife so gay?
She is honour'd *over all where* she go'th*wheresoever
I sit at homeI have no *thrifty cloth.* *good clothes*
What dost thou at my neigheboure's house?
Is she so fair? art thou so amorous?
What rown'st* thou with our maid? benedicite*whisperest
Sir olde lechourlet thy japes* be. *tricks
And if I have a gossipor 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 benchwith evil prefe:* *proof
Thou say'st to meit is a great mischief
To wed a poore womanfor costage:* *expense
And if that she be richof high parage;* * birth <11>
Then say'st thouthat it is a tormentry
To suffer her pride and melancholy.
And if that she be fairthou very knave
Thou say'st that every holour* will her have; *whoremonger
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 shapeand some for our fairness
And somefor 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 devilby thy tale;
Thou say'stmen may not keep a castle wall
That may be so assailed *over all.* *everywhere*
And if that she be foulthou 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'stit is a hard thing for to weld *wieldgovern
A thing that no man will*his thankesheld.* *hold with his goodwill*
Thus say'st thoulorel* when thou go'st to bed*good-for-nothing

And that no wise man needeth for to wed
Nor no man that intendeth unto heaven.
With wilde thunder dint* and fiery leven** * stroke **lightning
Mote* thy wicked necke be to-broke. *may
Thou say'stthat dropping housesand eke smoke
And chiding wivesmake men to flee
Out of their owne house; ah! ben'dicite
What aileth such an old man for to chide?
Thou say'stwe wives will our vices hide
Till we be fast* and then we will them shew. *wedded
Well may that be a proverb of a shrew.* *ill-tempered wretch
Thou say'stthat oxenasseshorseshounds
They be *assayed at diverse stounds* *tested at various
Basons and laversere that men them buyseasons
Spoonesstoolesand all such husbandry
And so be potsand clothesand array* *raiment
But folk of wives make none assay
Till they be wedded-- olde dotard shrew! --
And thensay'st thouwe will our vices shew.
Thou say'st alsothat it displeaseth me
But if * that thou wilt praise my beauty*unless
And but* thou pore alway upon my face*unless
And call me faire dame in every place;
And but* thou make a feast on thilke** day *unless **that
That I was bornand make me fresh and gay;
And but thou do to my norice* honour*nurse <12>
And to my chamberere* within my bow'r*chamber-maid
And to my father's folkand mine allies;* *relations
Thus sayest thouold barrel full of lies.
And yet also of our prentice Jenkin
For his crisp hairshining as gold so fine
And for he squireth me both up and down
Yet hast thou caught a false suspicioun:
I will him notthough thou wert dead to-morrow.
But tell me thiswhy hidest thou*with sorrow* *sorrow on thee!*
The keyes of thy chest away from me?
It is my good* as well as thinepardie. *property
Whatthink'st to make an idiot of our dame?
Nowby that lord that called is Saint Jame
Thou shalt not bothalthough that thou wert wood* *furious
Be master of my bodyand my good* *property
The one thou shalt foregomaugre* thine eyen. *in spite of
What helpeth it of me t'inquire and spyen?
I trow thou wouldest lock me in thy chest.
Thou shouldest say'Fair wifego where thee lest;
Take your disport; I will believe no tales;
I know you for a true wifeDame Ales.'* *Alice
We love no manthat taketh keep* or charge *care
Where that we go; we will be at our large.
Of alle men most blessed may he be
The wise astrologer Dan* Ptolemy*Lord
That saith this proverb in his Almagest:<13>
'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 enoughwhat thar* thee reck or care *needsbehoves
How merrily that other folkes fare?
For certesolde dotardby your leave
Ye shall have [pleasure] <14> right enough at eve.
He is too great a niggard that will werne* *forbid
A man to light a candle at his lantern;
He shall have never the less lightpardie.
Have thou enoughthee thar* not plaine** thee *need **complain
Thou say'st alsoif 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 shame*
Ye women shall apparel you' quoth he<15>
'And not in tressed hair and gay perrie*
As pearlesnor with goldnor clothes rich.'
After thy text nor after thy rubrich
I will not work as muchel as a gnat.
Thou say'st alsoI walk out like a cat;
For whoso woulde singe the catte's skin
Then will the catte well dwell in her inn;*
And if the catte's skin be sleek and gay
She will not dwell in house half a day
But forth she willere any day be daw'd
To shew her skinand go a caterwaw'd.*
This is to sayif I be gaysir shrew
I will run outmy borel* for to shew.
Sir olde foolwhat helpeth thee to spyen?
Though thou pray Argus with his hundred eyen
To be my wardecorps* as he can best
In faith he shall not keep me*but me lest:*
Yet could I *make his beard* so may I the.

Thou sayest eke, that there be thinges three,
Which thinges greatly trouble all this earth,
And that no wighte may endure the ferth:*
O lefe* sir shrew, may Jesus short** 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 resemblances*
That ye may liken your parables unto,
But if a silly wife be one of tho?*
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 shend* a tree,
Right so a wife destroyeth her husbond;
This know they well that be to wives bond.

Lordingsright thusas ye have understand
*Bare I stiffly mine old husbands on hand*
That thus they saiden in their drunkenness;
And all was falsebut that I took witness
On Jenkinand upon my niece also.
O Lord! the pain I did themand the woe
'Full guiltelessby Godde's sweete pine;*
For as a horse I coulde bite and whine;
I coulde plain* an'** I was in the guilt
Or elles oftentime I had been spilt*
Whoso first cometh to the nilllfirst grint;*
I plained firstso was our war y-stint.*
They were full glad to excuse them full blive*
Of things that they never *aguilt their live.*

Of wenches would I *beare them on hand*





*apparelfine clothes

*unless I please*
*make a jest of him*


*pleasant **shorten

*no other kind of


*made them believe*


*complain **even though
*is ground
*were guilty in their
*falsely accuse them*

When that for sickness scarcely might they stand
Yet tickled I his hearte for that he
Ween'd* that I had of him so great cherte:** *though **affection<16>
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;
Deceitweepingand spinningGod doth give
To women kindlywhile that they may live.
And thus of one thing I may vaunte me
At th' end I had the better in each degree
By sleightor forceor by some manner thing
As by continual murmur or grudging*
Namely* a-bedthere hadde they mischance
There would I chideand 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.*
And therefore every man this tale I tell
Win whoso mayfor 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 bacon* had I never delight:
That made me that I ever would them chide.
Forthough the Pope had sitten them beside
I would not spare them at their owen board
Forby my trothI quit* them word for word
As help me very God omnipotent
Though I right now should make my testament
I owe them not a wordthat is not quit*
I brought it so aboute by my wit
That they must give it upas for the best
Or elles had we never been in rest.
Forthough he looked as a wood* lion
Yet should he fail of his conclusion.
Then would I sayNow, goode lefe* tak keep**
How meekly looketh Wilken oure sheep!
Come near, my spouse, and let me ba* thy cheek
Ye shoulde be all patient and meek,
And have a *sweet y-spiced* 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 teach*
That it is fair to have a wife in peace.
One of us two must bowe* doubteless:
And since a man is more reasonable
Than woman is, ye must be suff'rable.
What aileth you to grudge* thus and groan?
Is it for ye would have my [love] <14> alone?
Why, take it all: lo, have it every deal,*
Peter! <19> shrew* you but ye love it well
For if I woulde sell my *belle chose*,
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 sayhe had a paramour
And I was young and full of ragerie*
Stubborn and strongand jolly as a pie.*
Then could I dance to a harpe smale
And singy-wis* as any nightingale
When I had drunk a draught of sweete wine.
Metelliusthe foule churlthe swine
That with a staff bereft his wife of life



*folly <17>

*i.e. of Dunmow <9>


*dear **heed
*kiss <18>

*give way

*beautiful thing*



For she drank winethough I had been his wife
Never should he have daunted me from drink:
Andafter wineof Venus most I think.
For all so sure as cold engenders hail
A liquorish mouth must have a liquorish tail.
In woman vinolent* is no defence** *full of wine *resistance
This knowe lechours by experience.
Butlord Christwhen that it rememb'reth me
Upon my youthand 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 agealas! that all will envenime* *poisonembitter
Hath me bereft my beauty and my pith:* *vigour
Let go; farewell; the devil go therewith.
The flour is gonthere is no more to tell
The branas I best maynow must I sell.
But yet to be right merry will I fand.* *try
Now forth to tell you of my fourth husband
I sayI in my heart had great despite
That he of any other had delight;
But he was quit* by God and by Saint Joce:<21> *requitedpaid back
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 angerand for very jealousy.
By Godin earth I was his purgatory
For which I hope his soul may be in glory.
ForGod it wothe sat full oft and sung
When that his shoe full bitterly him wrung.* *pinched
There was no wightsave God and hethat wist
In many wise how sore I did him twist.<20>
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 wellGod 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;* *cruelill-tempered
That feel I on my ribbes all *by rew* *in a row
And ever shalluntil 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 trowI lov'd him betterfor that he
Was of his love so dangerous* to me. *sparingdifficult
We women haveif 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 thingand that desire we;
Press on us fastand thenne will we flee.
With danger* utter we all our chaffare;** *difficulty **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 husbandGod 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 schooland went at home to board
With my gossip* dwelling in oure town: *godmother
God have her soulher name was Alisoun.
She knew my heartand all my privity
Bet than our parish priestso 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 herand to another worthy wife
And to my niecewhich that I loved well
I would have told his counsel every deal.* *jot
And so I did full oftenGod it wot
That made his face full often red and hot
For very shameand blam'd himselffor 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 MarchApriland May
From house to houseto heare sundry tales)
That Jenkin clerkand my gossipDame Ales
And I myselfinto the fieldes went.
Mine husband was at London all that Lent;
I had the better leisure for to play
And for to seeand eke for to be sey* *seen
Of lusty folk; what wist I where my grace* *favour
Was shapen for to beor in what place? *appointed
Therefore made I my visitations
To vigilies* and to processions*festival-eves<22>
To preachings ekeand to these pilgrimages
To plays of miraclesand marriages
And weared upon me gay scarlet gites.* *gowns
These wormesnor these mothesnor these mites
On my apparel frett* them never a deal** *fed **whit
And know'st thou why? for they were used* well. *worn
Now will I telle forth what happen'd me:
I saythat in the fieldes walked we
Till truely we had such dalliance
This clerk and Ithat of my purveyance* *foresight
I spake to himand told him how that he
If I were widowshoulde wedde me.
For certainlyI say for no bobance* *boasting<23>
Yet was I never without purveyance* *foresight
Of marriagenor of other thinges eke:
I hold a mouse's wit not worth a leek
That hath but one hole for to starte* to<24> *escape
And if that failethen is all y-do.* *done
[*I bare him on hand* he had enchanted me *falsely assured him*
(My dame taughte me that subtilty);
And eke I saidI mette* of him all night*dreamed
He would have slain meas 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 goldas me was taught.
And all was falseI 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.] <25>
But nowsirlet me seewhat shall I sayn?
Aha! by GodI have my tale again.
When that my fourthe husband was on bier
I wept algate* and made a sorry cheer** *always **countenance

As wives mustfor it is the usage;
And with my kerchief covered my visage;
Butfor I was provided with a make* *mate
I wept but littlethat I undertake* *promise
To churche was mine husband borne a-morrow
With neighebours that for him made sorrow
And Jenkinoure clerkwas one of tho:* *those
As help me Godwhen that I saw him go
After the biermethought he had a pair
Of legges and of feet so clean and fair
That all my heart I gave unto his hold.* *keeping
He wasI trowa twenty winter old
And I was fortyif I shall say sooth
But yet I had always a colte's tooth.
Gat-toothed* I wasand that became me well*see note <26>
I had the print of Sainte Venus' seal.
[As help me GodI was a lusty one
And fairand richand youngand *well begone:* *in a good way*
For certes I am all venerian* *under the influence of Venus
In feelingand my heart is martian;* *under the influence of Mars

Venus me gave my lust and liquorishness
And Mars gave me my sturdy hardiness.] <25>
Mine ascendant was Taure* and Mars therein: *Taurus
Alasalasthat 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 wisly* be my salvation*certainly
I loved never by discretion
But ever follow'd mine own appetite
All* were he shortor longor blackor white*whether
I took no keep* so that he liked me*heed
How poor he wasneither of what degree.] <25>
What should I say? but that at the month's end
This jolly clerk Jenkinthat 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 Godhe 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 wasas is a lioness
And of my tongue a very jangleress* *prater
And walk I wouldas I had done beforn
From house to housealthough he had it sworn:* *had sworn to
For which he oftentimes woulde preach prevent it
And me of olde Roman gestes* teach *stories
How that Sulpitius Gallus left his wife
And her forsook for term of all his
For nought but open-headed* he her say** *bare-headed **saw
Looking out at his door upon a day.
Another Roman <27> told he me by name
Thatfor his wife was at a summer game
Without his knowinghe forsook her eke.
And then would he upon his Bible seek
That ilke* proverb of Ecclesiast*same
Where he commandethand 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 haw* *cared nothing for*
Of his proverbsnor 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 wood* with me all utterly; *furious
I woulde not forbear* him in no case. *endure
Now will I say you soothby Saint Thomas
Why that I rent out of his book a leaf
For which he smote meso that I was deaf.
He had a bookthat gladly night and day
For his disport he would it read alway;
He call'd it Valerie<28> and Theophrast
And with that book he laugh'd alway full fast.
And eke there was a clerk sometime at Rome
A cardinalthat highte Saint Jerome
That made a book against Jovinian
Which book was there; and eke Tertullian
ChrysippusTrotulaand Heloise
That was an abbess not far from Paris;
And eke the Parables* of Solomon*Proverbs
Ovide's Art<29> and bourdes* many one; *jests
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.
Fortrust me wellit is an impossible
That any clerk will speake good of wives
(*But if* it be of holy saintes' lives) *unless
Nor of none other woman never the mo'.
Who painted the liontell it mewho?
By Godif women haddde written stories
As clerkes have within their oratories
They would have writ of men more wickedness
Than all the mark of Adam <30> may redress
The children of Mercury and of Venus<31>
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 thusGod wotMercury is desolate
In Pisceswhere Venus is exaltate
And Venus falls where Mercury is raised. <32>
Therefore no woman by no clerk is praised.
The clerkwhen he is oldand may not do
Of Venus' works not worth his olde shoe
Then sits he downand writes in his dotage
That women cannot keep their marriage.
But now to purposewhy I tolde thee
That I was beaten for a bookpardie.
Upon a night Jenkinthat was our sire* *goodman
Read on his bookas he sat by the fire
Of Eva firstthat 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
Sleepinghis leman cut them with her shears
Through whiche treason lost he both his eyen.
Then read he meif that I shall not lien
Of Herculesand 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 stillas he were dead
He wip'd his headand no more durst he sayn
ButEre the thunder stint* there cometh rain.
Of Phasiphaethat was queen of Crete
For shrewedness* he thought the tale sweet.
Fyspeak no moreit is a grisly thing
Of her horrible lust and her liking.
Of Clytemnestrafor her lechery
That falsely made her husband for to die
He read it with full good devotion.
He told me ekefor what occasion
Amphiorax at Thebes lost his life:
My husband had a legend of his wife
Eryphilethat for an ouche* 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 meand of Lucie;
They bothe made their husbands for to die
That one for lovethat other was for hate.
Luna her husband on an ev'ning late
Empoison'd hadfor that she was his foe:
Lucia liquorish lov'd her husband so
Thatfor he should always upon her think
She gave him such a manner* love-drink
That he was dead before it were the morrow:
And thus algates* 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 leve* brother,quoth this Arius
Give me a plant of thilke* 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 them* all the night
While that the corpse lay on the floor upright:
And some have driven nails into their brain
While that they sleptand 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.



*sort of


*lover ride them*

He saidA woman cast her shame away
When she cast off her smock;and farthermo'
A fair woman, but* she be chaste also, *except
Is like a gold ring in a sowe's nose.
Who coulde ween,* or who coulde suppose *think
The woe that in mine heart was, and the pine?* *pain
And when I saw that he would never fine* *finish
To readen on this cursed book all night,
All suddenly three leaves have I plight* *plucked
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 wood* lion, *furious
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
Ohhast thou slain methou 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 cameand 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 eftsoons* I hit him on the cheek*immediately; again
And saiddeThief, thus much am I awreak.* *avenged
Now will I die, I may no longer speak.
But at the lastwith muche care and woe
We fell accorded* by ourselves two: *agreed
He gave me all the bridle in mine hand
To have the governance of house and land
And of his tongueand 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 saidMine owen true wife,
Do *as thee list,* the term of all thy life, *as pleases thee*
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:
NowDame 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 SompnourGodde's armes two,
A friar will intermete* him evermo': *interpose <33>
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 lettest* our disport in this mattere.*hinderesst
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 beshrew* thy face,*curse
Quoth this Sompnour; "and I beshrewe me
But if* I telle tales two or three *unless
Of friarsere I come to Sittingbourne
That I shall make thine hearte for to mourn:
For well I wot thy patience is gone."
Our Hoste criedPeace, and that anon;
And saideLet the woman tell her tale.
Ye fare* as folk that drunken be of ale. *behave
Do, Dame, tell forth your tale, and that is best.
All ready, sir,quoth sheright as you lest,* *please
If I have licence of this worthy Frere.
Yes, Dame,quoth hetell forth, and I will hear.

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

1. Among the evidences that Chaucer's great work was left
incompleteis the absence of any link of connexion between the
Wife of Bath's Prologue and Taleand 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'sand it is unnecessary to
give them here. Of this Prologuewhich may fairly be regarded
as a distinct autobiographical taleTyrwhitt says: "The
extraordinary length of itas well as the vein of pleasantry that
runs through itis 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 RufinumDe non Ducenda
Uxore' ('Valerius to Rufinuson not being ruled by one's wife')
and particularly 'Hieronymus contra Jovinianum.' ('Jerome
against Jovinianus') St Jeromeamong other things designed to
discourage marriagehas inserted in his treatise a long passage
from 'Liber Aureolus Theophrasti de Nuptiis.' ('Theophrastus's
Golden Book of Marriage')."
2. A great part of the marriage service used to be performed in
the church-porch.
3. Jesus and the Samaritan woman: John iv. 13.
4. Dan: Lord; Latindominus.Another reading is "the wise
manKing Solomon."
5. Defended: forbade; Frenchdefendre,to prohibit.
6. Dart: the goal; a spear or dart was set up to mark the point of
7. "But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and
silverbut also of wood and of earth; and some to honourand
some to dishonour." -- 2 Tim. ii 20.
8. Jesus feeding the multitude with barley bread: Mark vi. 41
9. At Dunmow prevailed the custom of givingamid much
merry makinga 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.

10. "Cagnard or Caignard a French term of reproach,
originally derived from canis a dog.
11. Parage: birth, kindred; from Latin, pario I beget.
12. Norice: nurse; French, nourrice."
13. This and the previous quotation from Ptolemy are due to
the Dame's own fancy.
14. (Transcriber's note: Some Victorian censorship here. The
word given in [brackets] should be "queint" i.e. "cunt".)
15. Women should not adorn themselves: see I Tim. ii. 9.
16. Cherte: affection; from Frenchcher,dear.
17. Nicety: folly; Frenchniaiserie.
18. Ba: kiss; from Frenchbaiser.
19. Peter!: by Saint Peter! a common adjurationlike Marie!
from the Virgin's name.
20. St. Joce: or Judocusa saint of Ponthieuin France.
21. "An allusion says Mr Wright, to the story of the Roman
sage whowhen blamed for divorcing his wifesaid that a shoe
might appear outwardly to fit wellbut no one but the wearer
knew where it pinched."
22. Vigilies: festival-eves; see note 33 to the Prologue to the
23. Bobance: boasting; Ben Jonson's braggartin "Every Man in
his Humour is named Bobadil.
24. I hold a mouse's wit not worth a leek
That hath but one hole for to starte to"
A very old proverb in FrenchGermanand Latin.

25. The lines in brackets are only in some of the manuscripts.
26. Gat-toothed: gap-toothed; goat-toothed; or cat- or separate
toothed. See note 41 to the prologue to the Tales.
27. Sempronius Sophusof whom Valerius Maximus tells in his
sixth book.
28. The tract of Walter Mapes against marriagepublished
under the title of "Epistola Valerii ad Rufinum."
29. "Ars Amoris."
30. All the mark of Adam: all who bear the mark of Adam i.e.
all men.
31. The Children of Mercury and Venus: those born under the
influence of the respective planets.
32. A planetaccording to the old astrologerswas in

exaltationwhen in the sign of the Zodiac in which it exerted
its strongest influence; the opposite signin which it was
weakestwas called its "dejection." Venus being strongest in
Pisceswas weakest in Virgo; but in Virgo Mercury was in

33. Intermete: interpose; Frenchentremettre.

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-queenwith her jolly company
Danced full oft in many a green mead
This was the old opinionas 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* and other holy freres*begging friars <2>
That search every land and ev'ry stream
As thick as motes in the sunne-beam
Blessing hallschamberskitchenesand bowers

Cities and burghescastles high and towers
Thorpes* and barnesshepens** and dairies*villages <3> **stables
This makes that there be now no faeries:
For *there as* wont to walke was an elf*where*
There walketh now the limitour himself
In undermeles* and in morrowings***evenings <4> **mornings
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 bushand under every tree;
There is none other incubus <5> but he;
And he will do to them no dishonour.
And so befell itthat this king Arthour
Had in his house a lusty bacheler
That on a day came riding from river: <6>
And happen'dthatalone as she was born
He saw a maiden walking him beforn
Of which maiden anonmaugre* her head*in spite of
By very force he reft her maidenhead:
For which oppression was such clamour
And such pursuit unto the king Arthour
That damned* was this knight for to be dead *condemned

By course of lawand 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 queenall at her will
To choose whether she would him save or spill* *destroy
The queen thanked the king with all her might;
Andafter thisthus spake she to the knight
When that she saw her time upon a day.
Thou standest yet,quoth shein 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 iron* *executioner'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 lear* *learn
An answer suffisant* in this mattere. *satisfactory
And surety will I have, ere that thou pace,* *go
Thy body for to yielden in this place.
Woe was the knightand 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 againright at the yeare's end
With such answer as God would him purvey:* *provide
And took his leaveand 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 honourand some said jolliness
Some rich arrayand some said lust* a-bed*pleasure
And oft time to be widow and be wed.
Some saidthat we are in our heart most eased
When that we are y-flatter'd and y-praised.
He *went full nigh the sooth* I will not lie; *came very near
A man shall win us best with flattery; the truth*
And with attendanceand with business
Be we y-limed* bothe more and less. *caught with bird-lime
And some men said that we do love the best
For to be freeand do *right as us lest* *whatever we please*
And that no man reprove us of our vice
But say that we are wiseand nothing nice* *foolish <7>
For truly there is none among us all
If any wight will *claw us on the gall* *see note <8>*
That will not kickfor that he saith us sooth:
Assay* and he shall find itthat so do'th. *try
For be we never so vicious within
We will be held both wise and clean of sin.
And some men saidthat great delight have we
For to be held stable and eke secre* *discreet
And in one purpose steadfastly to dwell
And not bewray* a thing that men us tell. *give away
But that tale is not worth a rake-stele.* *rake-handle
Pardiewe women canne nothing hele* *hide <9>
Witness on Midas; will ye hear the tale?
Ovidamonges other thinges smale* *small
SaithMidas hadunder his longe hairs
Growing upon his head two ass's ears;
The whiche vice he hidas best he might
Full subtlely from every man's sight
Thatsave his wifethere knew of it no mo';
He lov'd her mostand trusted her also;
He prayed herthat to no creature
She woulde tellen of his disfigure.
She swore himnayfor 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
Andsince she durst not tell it unto man
Down to a marish fast thereby she ran

Till she came thereher heart was all afire:
Andas a bittern bumbles* in the mire
She laid her mouth unto the water down
Bewray me not, thou water, with thy soun'
Quoth sheto 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 seethough we a time abide
Yet out it mustwe can no counsel hide.
The remnant of the taleif ye will hear
Read in Ovidand there ye may it lear.*

This knightof whom my tale is specially
When that he saw he might not come thereby
That is to saywhat women love the most
Within his breast full sorrowful was his ghost.*
But home he wentfor he might not sojourn
The day was comethat homeward he must turn.
And in his way it happen'd him to ride
In all his care* under a forest side
Where as he saw upon a dance go
Of ladies four-and-twentyand yet mo'
Toward this ilke* dance he drew full yern**
The hope that he some wisdom there should learn;
But certainlyere he came fully there
Y-vanish'd was this dancehe 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.*
Against* this knight this old wife gan to rise
And saidSir Knight, hereforth* lieth no way.
Tell me what ye are seeking, by your fay.
Paraventure it may the better be:

*makes a humming noise



*trouble, anxiety

*same **eagerly <10>

*imagine, tell
*to meet
*from here

These olde folk know muche thing.quoth she.
My leve* mother quoth this knight, certain*dear
I am but deadbut if* that I can sayn *unless
What thing it is that women most desire:
Could ye me wiss* I would well *quite your hire."* *instruct <11>
Plight me thy troth here in mine hand,quoth she*reward you*
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 sheI 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 pistel* in his ear, *she whispered a secret*
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 ladygenerally 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 desirethough ye me kill
Do as you listI am here at your will."
In all the court there was no wife nor maid
Nor widowthat contraried what he said
But saidhe 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 shemy 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 shethat thou me take unto thy wife,
For well thou know'st that I have kept* thy life.
If I say false, say nay, upon thy fay.*
This knight answer'dAlas, and well-away!
I know right well that such was my behest.*
For Godde's love choose a new request
Take all my good, and let my body go.
Nay, then,quoth sheI shrew* us bothe two,
For though that I be old, and foul, and poor,
I n'ould* for all the metal nor the ore,
That under earth is grave,* or lies above
But if thy wife I were and eke thy love.
My love?quoth henay, 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 cure*
To tell you all the joy and all th' array
That at the feast was made that ilke* 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 husbandbenedicite
Fares every knight thus with his wife as ye?
Is this the law of king Arthoures house?
Is every knight of his thus dangerous?*
I am your owen loveand eke your wife
I am shewhich that saved hath your life
And certes yet did I you ne'er unright.
Why fare ye thus with me this firste night?




*would not

*take no pains


Ye fare like a man had lost his wit.
What is my guilt? for God's love tell me it
And it shall be amendedif I may."
Amended!quoth this knight; "alasnaynay
It will not be amendednever mo';
Thou art so loathlyand so old also
And thereto* comest of so low a kind*in addition
That little wonder though I wallow and wind;* *writheturn about
So woulde Godmine hearte woulde brest!"* *burst
Is this,quoth shethe cause of your unrest?
Yea, certainly,quoth he; "no wonder is."
Now, Sir,quoth sheI 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
But, for ye speaken of such gentleness yourself well
As is descended out of old richess, towards me*
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,* and most intendeth aye *in private and public*
To do the gentle deedes that he can;
And take him for the greatest gentleman.
Christ will,* we claim of him our gentleness, *wills, requires
Not of our elders* for their old richess. *ancestors
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 manner* rhyme is Dante's tale. *kind of
'Full seld'* upriseth by his branches smale *seldom
Prowess of man, for God of his goodness

Wills that we claim of him our gentleness;' <12>
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 fine*
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,*
Yet will the fire as fair and lighte brenne*
As twenty thousand men might it behold;
*Its office natural aye will it hold,*
On peril of my life, till that it die.
Here may ye see well how that gentery*
Is not annexed to possession,
Since folk do not their operation
Alway, as doth the fire, lo, *in its kind*
For, God it wot, men may full often find
A lorde's son do shame and villainy.
And he that will have price* of his gent'ry,
For* 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.



*it will perform its
natural duty*
*gentility, nobility

*from its very nature*

*esteem, honour

For gentleness is but the renomee* *renown
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 very* gentleness of grace; *true
It was no thing bequeath'd us with our place.
Think how noble, as saith Valerius,
Was thilke* Tullius Hostilius, *that
That out of povert' rose to high
Read in Senec, and read eke in Boece,

There shall ye see express, that it no drede* is, *doubt

That he is gentle that doth gentle deedes.
And therefore, leve* husband, I conclude, *dear
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 waive* sin. *forsake
And whereas ye of povert' me repreve* *reproach
The highe Godon whom that we believe
In wilful povert' chose to lead his life:
And certesevery manmaidenor wife
May understand that Jesusheaven's king
Ne would not choose a virtuous living.
*Glad povert'* is an honest thingcertain; *poverty cheerfully
This will Senec and other clerkes sayn endured*
Whoso that *holds him paid of* his povert'*is satisfied with*
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 hathnor coveteth to have
Is richalthough ye hold him but a knave.* *slaveabject wretch

*Very povert' is sinne* properly. *the only true poverty is sin*

Juvenal saith of povert' merrily:
The poore manwhen he goes by the way
Before the thieves he may sing and play <13>
Povert' is hateful good<14> andas 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 thisalthough it seem elenge* *strange <15>
Possession that no wight will challenge
Povert' full oftenwhen a man is low
Makes him his God and eke himself to know
Povert' a spectacle* isas thinketh me *a pair of spectacles
Through which he may his very* friendes see. *true
AndthereforeSirsince that I you not grieve
Of my povert' no more me repreve.* *reproach
Now, Sir, of elde* ye repreve me: *age
And certes, Sir, though none authority* *text, 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 sheone 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 repair* *resort
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 adviseth* him and sore he siketh,** *considered **sighed
But at the last he said in this mannere;
My lady and my loveand 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 force* the whether of the two: *care not
For as you likethit sufficeth me."
Then have I got the mastery,quoth she
Since I may choose and govern as me lest.* *pleases
Yea, certes wife,quoth heI hold it best.
Kiss me,quoth shewe 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*
But* I to you be all so good and true, *unless
As ever was wife since the world was new;
And but* I be to-morrow as fair to seen, *unless
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 wasand so young thereto
For joy he hent* her in his armes two: *took
His hearte bathed in a bath of bliss
A thousand times *on row* he gan her kiss: *in succession*
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 youngand 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

1. It is not clear whence Chaucer derived this tale. Tyrwhitt
thinks it was taken from the story of Florentin 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 fableespecially by
laying the scenenot in Sicilybut at the court of our own King
2. Limitours: begging friars. See note 18 to the prologue to the
3. Thorpes: villages. Compare GermanDorf,; Dutch

4. Undermeles: evening-tidesafternoons; "undern" signifies the
evening; and "mele corresponds to the German Mal" or
5. Incubus: an evil spirit supposed to do violence to women; a
6. Where he had been hawking after waterfowl. Froissart says
that any one engaged in this sport "alloit en riviere."
7. Nice: foolish; Frenchniais.
8. Claw us on the gall: Scratch us on the sore place. Compare
Let the galled jade wince.Hamlet iii. 2.
9. Hele: hide; from Anglo-Saxonhelan,to hideconceal.
10. Yern: eagerly; Germangern.
11. Wiss: instruct; Germanweisen,to show or counsel.
12. DantePurgatoriovii. 121.
13. "Cantabit vacuus coram latrone viator" -- "Satires x. 22.
14. 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)
15. Elenge: strange; from French "eloigner to remove.


This worthy limitour, this noble Frere,
He made always a manner louring cheer* *countenance
Upon the Sompnour; but for honesty* *courtesy
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 touchedall so may I the* *thrive
In school matter a greate difficulty.
Ye have said muche thing right wellI say;
ButDamehere as we ride by the way
Us needeth not but for to speak of game
And leave authoritiesin Godde's name
To preachingand to school eke of clergy.
But if it like unto this company
I will you of a Sompnour tell a game;
Pardieye 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 mandements* for fornicatioun*mandatessummonses*
And is y-beat at every towne's end."
Then spake our Host; "Ahsirye should be hend* *civilgentle
And courteousas a man of your estate;
In company we will have no debate:
Tell us your taleand let the Sompnour be."
Nay,quoth the Sompnourlet him say by me
What so him list; when it comes to my lot,
By God, I shall him quiten* every groat! *pay him off
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 answeredPeace, 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

1. On the Tale of the Friarand that of the Sompnour which
followsTyrwhitt 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 naturalas no two
professions at that time were at more constant variance. The
regular clergyand particularly the mendicant friarsaffected a
total exemption from all ecclesiastical jurisdictionexcept that
of the Popewhich made them exceedingly obnoxious to the
bishops and of course to all the inferior officers of the national
hierarchy." Both taleswhatever their originare bitter satires
on the greed and worldliness of the Romish clergy.

Whilom* there was dwelling in my country *once on a time
An archdeacona man of high degree
That boldely did execution
In punishing of fornication
Of witchecraftand eke of bawdery
Of defamationand adultery
Of churche-reeves* and of testaments*churchwardens
Of contractsand of lack of sacraments
And eke of many another manner* crime*sort of
Which needeth not rehearsen at this time
Of usuryand simony also;
Butcerteslechours did he greatest woe;
They shoulde singenif that they were hent;* *caught
And smale tithers<1> were foul y-shent* *troubledput to shame
If any person would on them complain;
There might astert them no pecunial pain.<2>
For smalle tithesand 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 hethrough 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 wood* be as a hare--*furiousmad
To tell his harlotry I will not spare
For we be out of their correction
They have of us no jurisdiction
Ne never shall haveterm of all their lives.
Peter; so be the women of the stives,* *stews
Quoth this Sompnoury-put out of our cure.* *care
Peace, with mischance and with misaventure,
Our Hoste saidand let him tell his tale.
Now telle forth, and let the Sompnour gale,* *whistle; bawl
Nor spare not, mine owen master dear.
This false thiefthe 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 approvers* privily. *informers
He took himself at great profit thereby:
His master knew not always what he wan.* *won
Withoute mandementa lewed* man *ignorant
He could summonon 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 thiefright 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 thiefand eke a Sompnourand a bawd.
And he had wenches at his retinue
That whether that Sir Robert or Sir Hugh
Or Jackor Ralphor whoso that it were
That lay by themthey 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 pill* the manand let the wenche go. *plunderpluck
Then would he sayFriend, I shall for thy sake
Do strike thee out of oure letters blake;* *black
Thee thar* no more as in this case travail; *need
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<3>
That can a hurt deer from a whole know
Bet* than this Sompnour knew a sly lechour*better
Or an adult'reror a paramour:
Andfor that was the fruit of all his rent
Therefore on it he set all his intent.

And so befellthat once upon a day.
This Sompnourwaiting ever on his prey
Rode forth to summon a widowan old ribibe<4>
Feigning a causefor he would have a bribe.
And happen'd that he saw before him ride
A gay yeoman under a forest side:
A bow he bareand arrows bright and keen
He had upon a courtepy* of green*short doublet
A hat upon his head with fringes blake.* *black
Sir,quoth this Sompnourhail, and well o'ertake.

Welcome,quoth heand every good fellaw;
Whither ridest thou under this green shaw?* shade
Saide this yeoman; "wilt thou far to-day?"
This Sompnour answer'd himand saideNay.
Here faste by,quoth heis 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 Sompnourfor the name.
De par dieux,<5> quoth this yeomanleve* brother, *dear

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.*
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,* quoth this Sompnourby my faith.
Each in the other's hand his trothe lay'th
For to be sworne brethren till they dey.*
In dalliance they ride forth and play.

This Sompnourwhich that was as full of jangles*
As full of venom be those wariangles*
And ev'r inquiring upon every thing
Brother,quoth hewhere is now your dwelling,
Another day if that I should you seech?*
This yeoman him answered in soft speech;
Brother quoth he, far in the North country<8>
Where as I hope some time I shall thee see
Ere we depart I shall thee so well wiss*
That of mine house shalt thou never miss."
Nowbrother quoth this Sompnour, I you pray
Teach mewhile that we ride by the way
(Since that ye be a bailiff as am I)
Some subtiltyand tell me faithfully
For mine office how that I most may win.
And *spare not* for conscience or for sin
Butas my brothertell me how do ye."
Now by my trothebrother 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,*
And mine office is full laborious;
And therefore by extortion I live,
Forsooth I take all that men will me give.
Algate* 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 fare* I;
I spare not to takeGod it wot
*But if* it be too heavy or too hot.
What I may get in counsel privily
No manner conscience of that have I.
N'ere* mine extortionI might not live
For of such japes* will I not be shrive.**
Stomach nor conscience know I none;
I shrew* these shrifte-fathers** every one.
Well be we metby God and by St Jame.
Butleve brothertell me then thy name
Quoth this Sompnour. Right in this meane while
This yeoman gan a little for to smile.


*great thanks


* butcher-birds <7>
*seek, visit

*conceal nothing*




*were it not for
*tricks **confessed
*curse **confessors

Brother quoth he, wilt thou that I thee tell?
I am a fiendmy 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 rent* *what I can gain is my
Look how thou ridest for the same intent sole revenue*
To winne goodthou reckest never how
Right so fare Ifor ride will I now
Into the worlde's ende for a prey."

Ah,quoth this Sompnourbenedicite! what say y'?
I weened ye were a yeoman truly. *thought
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 hethere have we none
But when us liketh we can take us one
Or elles make you seem* that we be shape *believe
Sometime like a manor 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 pardieyet can I more craft* than he." *skillcunning
Why,quoth the Sompnourride ye then or gon
In sundry shapes and not always in one?
For we,quoth hewill 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 winningif I may*apply myself
And not intend our thinges to declare:
Forbrother minethy wit is all too bare
To understandalthough 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 listupon 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 sometimesat our prayer have we leave
Only the bodynot the soulto grieve:
Witness on Jobwhom that we did full woe
And sometimes have we might on both the two--
This is to sayon soul and body eke
And sometimes be we suffer'd for to seek
Upon a man and do his soul unrest
And not his bodyand 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 safebut 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 Sompnourfaithfully,
Make ye you newe bodies thus alway
Of th' elements?The fiend answeredNay:
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 Sompnourthat 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 devilby 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 cartthat charged was with hay
Which that a carter drove forth on his way.
Deep was the wayfor which the carte stood:
The carter smoteand 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 saidHere shall we have a prey,
And near the fiend he drew*as nought ne were* *as if nothing
Full privilyand 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 devilGod 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; "thereJesus Christ you bless
And all his handiworkboth more and less!
That was well twight* mine owen liart** boy*pulled **grey<13>
I pray God save thy bodyand Saint Loy!
Now is my cart out of the sloughpardie."
Lo, brother,quoth the fiendwhat 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 hehere 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 saidthou olde very trate;* *trot <15>
I trow thou hast some friar or priest with thee.
Who clappeth?said this wife; "benedicite
God save youSirwhat is your sweete will?"
I have,quoth heof 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 sheChrist 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 shenor 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?
Yes,quoth this Sompnourpay anon, let see,
Twelvepence to me, and I will thee acquit.
I shall no profit have thereby but lit:*
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
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."
Nay then,quoth hethe foule fiend me fetch,
If I excuse thee, though thou should'st be spilt.*
Alas!quoth sheGod wot, I have no guilt.
Pay me,quoth heor, 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 sheby 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 kneeshe said in this mannere;
Now, Mabily, mine owen mother dear,
Is this your will in earnest that ye say?
The devil,quoth sheso fetch him ere he dey,*
And pan and all, but* he will him repent.
Nay, olde stoat,* that is not mine intent,
Quoth this Sompnourfor 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 devilbe not wroth;
Thy body and this pan be mine by right.



*show your charity*


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 soulhe with the devil went
Where as the Sompnours have their heritage;
And Godthat maked after his image
Mankindesave and guide us all and some
And let this Sompnour a good man become.
LordingsI could have told you (quoth this Frere)
Had I had leisure for this Sompnour here
After the text of Christand Pauland John
And of our other doctors many a one
Such painesthat your heartes might agrise* *be horrified
Albeit sothat 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 weand pray we Jesusof his grace
So keep us from the tempterSatanas.
Hearken this wordbeware as in this case.
The lion sits *in his await* alway *on the watch* <16>
To slay the innocentif 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 praythat 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
(the archdeacon))
3. A dog for the bow: a dog attending a huntsman with bow
and arrow.
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
ravenousand 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 witchor womanpossesed with a
prophesying spirit; from the GreekPythia.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: sufferedendured; "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 Burnsin the "Cotter's Saturday Night speaks of
the gray temples of the sire" -- "His lyart haffets wearing thin
and bare."
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 in his stirrups high he stood
Upon this Friar his hearte was so wood* *furious
That like an aspen leaf he quoke* for ire: *quakedtrembled
Lordings,quoth hebut 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' soulesas well old as young
Yeawhen 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 heanon 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 wayno longer would he rest
With scrip and tipped staff*y-tucked high:* *with his robe tucked
In every house he gan to pore* and pryup high* *peer
And begged meal and cheeseor 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 namesas he stood;
Of all the folk that gave them any good

Askaunce* that he woulde for them pray.
Give us a bushel wheat, or malt, or rey,*
A Godde's kichel,* or a trip** of cheese,
Or elles what you list, we may not chese;*
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,

*see note <5>
*little cake<6> **scrap

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
That was their hoste's manand bare a sack
And what men gave themlaid it on his back
And when that he was out at dooranon
He *planed away* the names every one
That he before had written in his tables:
He served them with nifles* and with fables. --


*manservant <7>

*rubbed out*
*silly tales

Nay, there thou liest, thou Sompnour,quoth the Frere.
Peace,quoth our Hostfor Christe's mother dear;
Tell forth thy tale, and spare it not at all.
So thrive I,quoth this Sompnourso I shall.--

So long he went from house to housetill he
Came to a housewhere he was wont to be
Refreshed more than in a hundred places
Sick lay the husband manwhose that the place is
Bed-rid upon a couche low he lay:
*"Deus hic* quoth he; O Thomas friendgood day
Said this friar, all courteously and soft.
Thomas quoth he, God *yield it you* 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 potent* and his hat
And eke his scripand sat himself adown:
His fellow was y-walked into town
Forth with his knave* into that hostelry
Where as he shope* 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 helabour'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,*
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.*
Glosing is a full glorious thing certain,
For letter slayeth, as we clerkes* 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*
And kiss'th her sweetand chirketh as a sparrow

*God be here*
*reward you for*

*staff <8>





With his lippes: "Dame quoth he, right well
As he that is your servant every deal.* *whit
Thanked be Godthat gave you soul and life
Yet saw I not this day so fair a wife
In all the churcheGod so save me
YeaGod amend defaultesSir quoth she;
Algates* welcome be yeby 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 wifeere that I go,
What will ye dine? I will go thereabout.
Now, Dame,quoth heje 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 shebut 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 friarat 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.
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**
Lazar and Dives lived diversely,
And diverse guerdon* 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; cloth* 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 womb* of fasting many a day
Received he the lawe, that was writ
With Godde's finger; and Eli,<14> well ye wit,*
In Mount Horeb, ere he had any speech
With highe God, that is our live's leech,*
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 --
Ware that, I say -- no more: for it sufficeth.
Our Lord Jesus, as Holy Writ deviseth,*
Gave us example of fasting and prayeres:
Therefore we mendicants, we sely* freres,
Be wedded to povert' and continence,
To charity, humbless, and abstinence,
To persecution for righteousness,
To weeping, misericorde,* 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;*
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;


* pleasure **contempt

*physician, healer

*simple, lowly


*a kind of comment*

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*
But we, that humble be, and chaste, and pore,*
Workers of Godde's word, not auditours?*
Therefore right as a hawk *upon a sours*
Up springs into the air, right so prayeres
Of charitable and chaste busy freres
*Make their sours* 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;*
In our chapiter pray we day and night
To Christ, that he thee sende health and might,




*see note <17>*

Thy body for to *wielde hastily.* *soon be able to move freely*

God wot quoth he, nothing thereof feel I;
So help me Christas I in fewe years
Have spended upon *divers manner freres* *friars of various sorts*

Full many a poundyet fare I ne'er the bet;* *better
Certain my good have I almost beset:* *spent
Farewell my goldfor it is all ago."* *gone
The friar answer'dO 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 Senecthat during his estate* *term of office
Upon a day out rode knightes two;
Andas fortune would that it were so
The one of them came homethe 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;
'Golead him to the deathI charge thee.'
And happenedas they went by the way
Toward the place where as he should dey* *die
The knight camewhich 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'Lordthe 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 sayboth oneand twoand three.'
And to the firste knight right thus spake he:
'I damned theethou 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.* *viciousill-tempered
And so befella lord of his meinie* *suite
That loved virtuous morality
Said on a day betwixt them two right thus:
'A lord is lostif 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 manand namely* of a lord. *especially
There is full many an eye and many an ear
*Awaiting on* a lordhe knows not where. *watching
For Godde's lovedrink more attemperly:* *temperately
Wine maketh man to lose wretchedly

His mindand 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 handnor footnor 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 slainthere 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 lordthough he should go to hell.
Loirous Cyrusthilke* 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
Lowhat said hethat 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 manby 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 hefor 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
He woulde that the friar had been a-fire
With his false dissimulation.
Such thing as is in my possession,
Quoth hethat may I give you and none other:
Ye say me thus, how that I am your brother.
Yea, certes,quoth this friaryea, truste well;
I took our Dame the letter of our seal<23>
Now well,quoth heand 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,
That every friar have as much as other:
This shalt thou swear on thy profession,
Withoute fraud or cavillation.*
I swear it,quoth the friarupon 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 manand grope well behind,
Beneath my buttock, there thou shalt find
A thing, that I have hid in privity.
Ah,thought this friarthat shall go with me.
And down his hand he launched to the clift*
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
That might have let a fart of such a soun'.
The friar up startas doth a wood* lioun:
Ah, false churl,quoth hefor Godde's bones,
This hast thou in despite done for the nones:*
Thou shalt abie* this fart, if that I may.
His meinie* which that heard of this affray
Came leaping inand chased out the frere
And forth he went with a full angry cheer*
And fetch'd his fellowthere as lay his store:
He looked as it were a wilde boar
And grounde with his teethso was he wroth.
A sturdy pace down to the court he go'th
Where as there wonn'd* a man of great honour
To whom that he was always confessour:
This worthy man was lord of that village.
This friar cameas he were in a rage
Where as this lord sat eating at his board:
Unnethes* might the friar speak one word
Till at the last he saideGod you see.*

This lord gan lookand saidBen'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,
And it shall be amended, if I may.
I have,quoth hehad a despite to-day,
God *yielde 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:







*on purpose
*suffer for



*with difficulty

*grievance, grief

*reward you

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 lordI you beseek--
No master, Sir,quoth hebut 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 churcheGod amend it soon."
Sir,quoth the lordye 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 beforeye know well what.
The lady of the house aye stiller sat
Till she had hearde what the friar said
Hey, Godde's mother;quoth sheblissful maid,
Is there ought elles? tell me faithfully.
Madame,quoth hehow thinketh you thereby?
How thinketh me?quoth she; "so God me speed
I saya 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 heby 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 stillas 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 lordwith 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 meatand hearde word by word
Of all this thingwhich that I have you said.
My lord,quoth hebe 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 lordand thou shalt have anon
A gowne-cloth, by God and by Saint John.
My lord,quoth hewhen 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 lordthe ladyand each mansave the frere
Saidethat Jankin spake in this mattere
As well as Euclidor as Ptolemy.
Touching the churlthey said that subtilty
And high wit made him speaken as he spake;
He is no foolnor no demoniac.
And Jankin hath y-won a newe gown;
My tale is donewe are almost at town.

Notes to the Sompnour's Tale

1. Trentals: The money given to the priests for performing thirty
masses for the deadeither in succession or on the anniversaries
of their death; also the masses themselveswhich were very
profitable to the clergy.
2. Possessioners: The regular religious orderswho had lands

and fixed revenues; while the friarsby their vowshad to
depend on voluntary contributionsthough their need suggested
many modes of evading the prescription.

3. In Chaucer's day the most material notions about the tortures
of hell prevailedand were made the most of by the clergywho
preyed on the affection and fear of the survivorsthrough the
ingenious doctrine of purgatory. Old paintings and illuminations
represent the dead as torn by hooksroasted in firesboiled in
potsand 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 friarwith an ostentatious stealthinessnoted down the
names of the liberalto make them believe that they would be
remembered in the holy beggars' orisons.
6. A Godde's kichel/halfpenny: a little cake/halfpennygiven for
God's sake.
7. Harlot: hired servant; from Anglo-Saxonhyran,to hire;
the word was commonly applied to males.
8. Potent: staff; Frenchpotence,crutchgibbet.
9. Je vous dis sans doute: French; "I tell you without doubt."
10. Dortour: dormitory; Frenchdortoir.
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 precedenceor higher place at table and in
processionsis suggested by the reading in the text.
13. Borel folk: laymenpeople who are not learned; "borel"
was a kind of coarse cloth.
14. Eli: Elijah (1 Kingsxix.)
15. An emperor Jovinian was famous in the mediaeval legends
for his pride and luxury
16. Cor meum eructavit: literallyMy 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 eructationand
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;"
Italianpodesta.Seneca relates the story of Cornelius Piso;

De Ira,i. 16.

20. Placebo: An anthem of the Roman Churchfrom Psalm
cxvi. 9which in the Vulgate readsPlacebo 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 conventand 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 twelvewith a superiorin imitation of the apostles and
their Master; and large religious houses were held to consist of
so many convents.


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 heI 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 taleas I began
I say that first he with high style inditeth
(Ere he the body of his tale writeth)
A proemin the which describeth he
Piedmontand 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 Ferraroand Venice
The which a long thing were to devise.* *narrate
And truelyas to my judgement
Me thinketh it a thing impertinent* *irrelevant
Save that he would conveye his mattere:
But this is the talewhich 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 Petrarcaborn 1304died 1374; for his Latin epic
poem on the carer of Scipiocalled "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,
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,*
Belov'd and drad,* through favour of fortune,
Both of his lordes and of his commune.*

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,*
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,
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,
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:
AccepteLordnow of your gentleness
What we with piteous heart unto you plain*
And let your ears my voice not disdain.

All* 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.*

For certesLordso well us like you
And all your workand ev'r have donethat we
Ne coulde not ourselves devise how
We mighte live in more felicity:
Save one thingLordif that your will it be
That for to be a wedded man you lest;
Then were your people *in sovereign hearte's rest.*

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,


*held in reverence

*guide, rule


*in a body

*complain of

*as pleaseth you*


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 ageand smit* *smiteth
In each estatefor there escapeth none:
And all so certain as we know each one
That we shall dieas 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 wifefor highe Godde's sake:
For if it so befellas God forbid
That through your death your lineage should slake* *become extinct
And that a strange successor shoulde take
Your heritageoh! 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 hemine 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 witand have done aye:
Wherefore of my free will I will assent
To wedde meas soon as e'er I may.
But whereas ye have proffer'd me to-day
To choose me a wifeI you release
That choiceand 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 prayand charge upon your life
That what wife that I takeye me assure
To worship* herwhile 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 thingthere said not one wight nay:
Beseeching him of graceere that they went
That he would grante them a certain day
Of his espousalsoon 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 daysuch 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 intentand 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 gaveas 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 hefair 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> andfor* she woulde virtue please *because
She knew well labourbut 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 sheepspinningon the field she kept
She woulde not be idle till she slept.
And when she homeward cameshe would bring
Wortes* and other herbestimes oft*plantscabbages

The which she shred and seeth'd for her living
And made her bed full hardand nothing soft:
And aye she kept her father's life on loft* *upaloft
With ev'ry obeisance and diligence
That child may do to father's reverence.
Upon Griseldathis poor creature
Full often sithes* this marquis set his eye*times
As he on hunting rodeparaventure:* *by chance
And when it fell that he might her espy
He not with wanton looking of folly
His eyen cast on herbut in sad* wise *serious
Upon her cheer* he would him oft advise;** *countenance **consider
Commending in his heart her womanhead
And eke her virtuepassing any wight
Of so young ageas well in cheer as deed.
For though the people have no great insight
In virtuehe considered full right
Her bounte* and disposed that he would *goodness
Wed only herif ever wed he should.
The day of wedding camebut no wight can
Telle what woman that it shoulde be;
For which marvail wonder'd many a man
And saidewhen 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 gemmesset in gold and in azure
Brooches and ringesfor 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>
Approachedthat this wedding shoulde be
And all the palace put was in array
Both hall and chambereach in its degree
Houses of office stuffed with plenty
There may'st thou see of dainteous vitaille* *victualsprovisions
That may be foundas far as lasts Itale.
This royal marquisrichely 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 villageof 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 saythat on that day
The marquis shoulde wedandif she might
She fain would have seen somewhat of that sight.
She thoughtI will with other maidens stand,
That be my fellows, in our door, and see

The marchioness; and therefore will I fand*
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 thresholdin an ox's stall
And down upon her knees she gan to fall
And with sad* countenance kneeled still
Till she had heard what was the lorde's will.

The thoughtful marquis spake unto the maid
Full soberlyand said in this mannere:
Where is your father, Griseldis?he said.
And she with reverence*in humble cheer*
AnsweredLord, he is all ready here.
And in she went withoute longer let*
And to the marquis she her father fet.*

He by the hand then took the poore man
And saide thuswhen 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,*
As for my wife, unto her life's end.

Thou lovest methat know I well certain
And art my faithful liegeman y-bore*
And all that liketh meI dare well sayn
It liketh thee; and specially therefore
Tell me that pointthat 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
That red he wax'dabash'd* and all quaking
He stood; unnethes* said he wordes mo'
But only thus; "Lord quoth he, my willing
Is as ye willnor against your liking
I will no thingmine 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?
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.*

And in the chamber while they were about
The treatywhich 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.

No wonder is though that she be astoned*
To see so great a guest come in that place



*with humble air*








She never was to no such guestes woned;* *accustomedwont
For which she looked with full pale face.
But shortly forth this matter for to chase* *push onpursue
These are the wordes that the marquis said
To this benignevery* faithful maid. *true <6>
Griseld',he saidye 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 thisbe 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 Yeaye say not Nay
Neither by wordnor frowning countenance?
Swear thisand here I swear our alliance."
Wond'ring upon this wordquaking for dread
She saide; "Lordindigne and unworthy
Am I to this honour that ye me bede* *offer
But as ye will yourselfright so will I:
And here I swearthat 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 doorand after then came she
And to the people he said in this mannere:
This is my wife,quoth hethat standeth here.
Honoure her, and love her, I you pray,
Whoso me loves; there is no more to say.
Andfor that nothing of her olde gear
She shoulde bring into his househe 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 rudelyand 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 causeand then her set
Upon a horse snow-whiteand well ambling
And to his palaceere he longer let* *delayed
With joyful peoplethat her led and met
Conveyed her; and thus the day they spend
In reveltill the sunne gan descend.
Andshortly forth this tale for to chase
I saythat 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 cotor in an ox's stall--
But nourish'd in an emperore's hall.
To every wight she waxen* is so dear *grown
And worshipfulthat folk where she was born
That from her birthe knew her year by year
*Unnethes trowed* theybut durst have sworn*scarcely believed*
That to Janicol' of whom I spake before
She was not daughterfor by conjecture
Them thought she was another creature.
For though that ever virtuous was she
She was increased in such excellence
Of thewes* goody-set in high bounte*qualities
And so discreetand fair of eloquence
So benignand 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 wellanother said the same:
So spread of here high bounte the fame
That men and womenyoung as well as old
Went to Salucesher for to behold.
Thus Walter lowly-- naybut royally-
Wedded with fortn'ate honestete* *virtue
In Godde's peace lived full easily
At homeand outward grace enough had he:
Andfor he saw that under low degree
Was honest virtue hidthe people him held
A prudent manand 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 ekewhen that the case required it
The common profit coulde she redress:
There n'as discordrancournor heaviness
In all the landthat 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 wasas men wend* *weenedimagined
People to saveand every wrong t'amend
Not longe time after that this Griseld'
Was weddedshe a daughter had y-bore;
All she had lever* borne a knave** child*rather **boy
Glad was the marquis and his folk therefore;
Forthough a maiden child came all before
She may unto a knave child attain
By likelihoodsince she is not barren.
*Pars Tertia.* *Third Part*

There fellas 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 wifeher sadness* for to know*steadfastness
That he might not out of his hearte throw
This marvellous desire his wife t'asssay;* *try
Needless* God wothe thought her to affray.** *without cause
He had assayed her anough before
And found her ever good; what needed it
Her for to temptand always more and more?
Though some men praise it for a subtle wit
But as for meI 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 forgottenas 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 houseit is not long ago;
And though to me ye be right lefe* and dear*loved
Unto my gentles* ye be nothing so: *noblesgentlefolk
They sayto them it is great shame and woe
For to be subjectand be in servage
To theethat 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 yetGod wotthis 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 thisshe not amev'd* *changed
Neither in wordin cheernor countenance
(Foras it seemedshe was not aggriev'd);
She saide; "Lordall lies in your pleasance
My child and Iwith hearty obeisance
Be youres alland 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:
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.

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 thisa furlong way or two<8>
He privily hath told all his intent
Unto a manand to his wife him sent.

A *manner sergeant* was this private* man
The which he faithful often founden had
In thinges greatand eke such folk well can
Do execution in thinges bad:
The lord knew wellthat he him loved and drad.*
And when this sergeant knew his lorde's will
Into the chamber stalked he full still.

Madam,he saidye 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;*
They may well be bewailed and complain'd,
But men must needs unto their lust* obey;
And so will I, there is no more to say.

This child I am commanded for to take."
And spake no morebut out the child he hent*

*be pleasing*


*kind of squire*


*see note <9>*


Dispiteously* and gan a cheer** to make *unpityingly **showaspect
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 facesuspect his word also
Suspect the time in which he this began:
Alas! her daughterthat she loved so
She weened* he would have it slain right tho**
But natheless she neither wept nor siked*
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 childere that it died:
And in her barme* this little child she laid
With full sad faceand gan the child to bless*
And lulled itand after gan it kiss.

And thus she said in her benigne voice:
Farewellmy childI 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 soulmy little childI *him betake*

*thought **then


*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:
Well might a mother then have criedAlas!
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.
*pitiful sight
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
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 pointin 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 dowhen 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 cofferor in lap;
Butupon pain his head off for to swap*
That no man shoulde know of his intent
Nor whence he camenor whither that he went;
But at Bolognato his sister dear
That at that time of Panic'* was Countess
He should it takeand 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 wightfor aught that might betide.
The sergeant wentand 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 apperceivethat she
Were changed; but he never could her find

But ever-in-one* alike sad** and kind. *constantly **steadfast

As gladas humbleas busy in service
And eke in loveas she was wont to be
Was she to himin 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 hernor e'er her daughter's name from her affliction*
She namedor in earnest or in game.

*Pars Quarta* *Fourth Part*

In this estate there passed be four year
Ere she with childe was; butas God wo'ld

A knave* child she bare by this Waltere
Full gracious and fair for to behold;
And when that folk it to his father told
Not only hebut all his countrymerry
Were for this childand God they thank and hery.*
When it was two year oldand from the breast
Departed* of the noriceon a day
This marquis *caughte yet another lest*
To tempt his wife yet fartherif he may.
Oh! needless was she tempted in as say;*
But wedded men *not connen no measure*
When that they find a patient creature.
*was seized by yet
another desire*
*know no moderation*
Wife,quoth the marquisye 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 lordfor other have we none:'
Such wordes say my peopleout 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 shesaid 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 lorddo with your owen thing
Right as you listand ask no rede of me:
Foras I left at home all my clothing
When I came first to youright so quoth she,
Left I my will and all my liberty
And took your clothing: wherefore I you pray
Do your pleasanceI 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 wifehe cast adown
His eyen twoand 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 sergeantin the same wise
That he her daughter caughtright so hath he
(Or worseif men can any worse devise)
Y-hent* her sonthat full was of beauty:
And ever-in-one* so patient was she
That she no cheere made of heaviness
But kiss'd her sonand after gan him bless.

Save this she prayed himif that he might
Her little son he would in earthe grave*
His tender limbesdelicate to sight
From fowles and from beastes for to save.
But she none answer of him mighte have;
He went his wayas him nothing ne raught*
But to Bologna tenderly it brought.

The marquis wonder'd ever longer more
Upon her patience; andif that he
Not hadde soothly knowen therebefore
That perfectly her children loved she
He would have ween'd* that of some subtilty
And of maliceor for cruel corage*
She hadde suffer'd this with sad* visage.

But well he knewthatnext himselfcertain
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
To prove her wifehood and her steadfastness
And he continuing ev'r in sturdiness?

But there be folk of such condition
Thatwhen they have a certain purpose take
Thiey cannot stint* of their intention
Butright as they were bound unto a stake
They will not of their firste purpose slake:*
Right so this marquis fully hath purpos'd
To tempt his wifeas he was first dispos'd.

He waitedif by word or countenance
That she to him was changed of corage:*
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 loveand more penible.*

For which it seemed thusthat of them two
There was but one will; foras Walter lest*
The same pleasance was her lust* also;
AndGod be thankedall fell for the best.
She shewed wellfor no worldly unrest
A wife as of herself no thinge should
Willin effectbut as her husbaud would.

The sland'r of Walter wondrous wide sprad
That of a cruel heart he wickedly









*painstaking in devotion


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 wordbut that they murder'd were.
For whichwhereas his people therebefore
Had lov'd him wellthe sland'r of his diffame* *infamy
Made them that they him hated therefore.
To be a murd'rer is a hateful name.
But nathelessfor 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 Romein subtle wise
Informed of his willsent his message* *messenger
Commanding him such bulles to devise
As to his cruel purpose may suffice
How that the Popefor his people's rest
Bade him to wed anotherif him lest.* *wished
I say he bade they shoulde counterfeit
The Pope's bullesmaking 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 peopleas no wonder is
Weened* full well that it had been right so: *thoughtbelieved
Butwhen these tidings came to Griseldis.
I deeme that her heart was full of woe;
But shealike sad* for evermo'*steadfast
Disposed wasthis humble creature
Th' adversity of fortune all t' endure;
Abiding ever his lust and his pleasance
To whom that she was givenheart and all
As *to her very worldly suffisance.* *to the utmost extent
Butshortly if this story tell I shallof her power*
The marquis written hath in special
A letterin which he shewed his intent
And secretly it to Bologna sent.
To th' earl of Panicowhich hadde tho* *there
Wedded his sisterpray'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 wightthough men would inquere
Shoulde not tell whose children that they were
But saythe maiden should y-wedded be
Unto the marquis of Saluce anon.
And as this earl was prayedso did he
Forat day sethe on his way is gone
Toward Saluceand lorde's many a one
In rich arraythis maiden for to guide--
Her younge brother riding her beside.
Arrayed was toward* her marriage *as if for
This freshe maidenfull of gemmes clear;
Her brotherwhich that seven year was of age

Arrayed eke full fresh in his mannere:
And thusin great noblessand with glad cheer
Toward Saluces shaping their journey
From day to day they rode upon their way.

*Pars Quinta.*

*Among all this* after his wick' usage
The marquisyet his wife to tempte more
To the uttermost proof of her corage
Fully to have experience and lore*
If that she were as steadfast as before
He on a dayin 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 wifeand cryeth day by day;
And eke the Poperancour for to slake
Consenteth itthat dare I undertake:
And truelythus much I will you say
My newe wife is coming by the way.

Be strong of heart, and *void anon* her place;
And thilke* 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 rede* you to endure
The stroke of fortune or of aventure.

And she again answer'd in patience:
My Lord,quoth sheI know, and knew alway,
How that betwixte your magnificence
And my povert' no wight nor can nor may
Make comparison, it *is no nay;*
I held me never digne* in no mannere
To be your wife, nor yet your chamberere.*

And in this housewhere ye me lady made
(The highe God take I for my witness
And all so wisly* he my soule glade)**
I never held me lady nor mistress
But humble servant to your worthiness
And ever shallwhile that my life may dure
Aboven every worldly creature.

That ye so long, of your benignity,
Have holden me in honour and nobley,*
Where as I was not worthy for to be,
That thank I God and you, to whom I pray
Foryield* it you; there is no more to say:
Unto my father gladly will I wend,*
And with him dwell, unto my lifes end,

*Fifth Part*

*while all this was
going on*

*immediately vacate*


*cannot be denied*

*surely **gladdened



Where I was foster'd as a child full small
Till I be dead my life there will I lead
A widow clean in bodyheartand all.
For since I gave to you my maidenhead
And am your true wifeit is no dread* *doubt
God shielde* such a lordes wife to take *forbid
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 broughtit is well in my mind
It was my wretched clothesnothing 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, -- algate* I find it true, *at all events
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 Lordye 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 ellesout of dread
But faithand nakednessand maidenhead;
And here again your clothing I restore
And eke your wedding ring for evermore.

The remnant of your jewels ready be
Within your chamber, I dare safely sayn:
Naked out of my father's house,quoth she
I came, and naked I must turn again.
All your pleasance would I follow fain:* *cheerfully
But yet I hope it be not your intent
That smockless* I out of your palace went. *naked

Ye could not do so dishonest* a thing*dishonourable
That thilke* wombin which your children lay*that
Shoulde before the peoplein my walking
Be seen all bare: and therefore I you pray
Let me not like a worm go by the way:
Remember youmine owen Lord so dear
I was your wifethough I unworthy were.

Wherefore, in guerdon* of my maidenhead, *reward
Which that I brought and not again I bear,
As vouchesafe to give me to my meed* *reward
But such a smock as I was wont to wear,
That I therewith may wrie* the womb of her *cover
That was your wife: and here I take my leave
Of you, mine owen Lord, lest I you grieve.

The smock,quoth hethat thou hast on thy back,

Let it be still, and bear it forth with thee.
But well unnethes* thilke word he spake*with difficulty
But went his way for ruth and for pity.
Before the folk herselfe stripped she
And in her smockwith foot and head all bare
Toward her father's house forth is she fare.* *gone
The folk her follow'd weeping on her way
And fortune aye they cursed as they gon:* *go
But she from weeping kept her eyen drey* *dry
Nor in this time worde spake she none.
Her fatherthat this tiding heard anon
Cursed the day and timethat nature
Shope* him to be a living creature. *formedordained
Forout of doubtthis olde poore man
Was ever in suspect of her marriage:
For ever deem'd hesince it first began
That when the lord *fulfill'd had his corage* *had gratified his whim*
He woulde think it were a disparage* *disparagement
To his estateso low for to alight
And voide* her as soon as e'er he might. *dismiss
Against* his daughter hastily went he *to meet
(For he by noise of folk knew her coming)
And with her olde coatas it might be
He cover'd herfull sorrowfully weeping:
But on her body might he it not bring
For rude was the clothand more of age
By dayes fele* than at her marriage. *many <11>
Thus with her father for a certain space
Dwelled this flow'r of wifely patience
That neither by her words nor by her face
Before the folk nor eke in their absence
Ne shewed she that her was done offence
Nor of her high estate no remembrance
Ne hadde she*as by* her countenance. *to judge from*
No wonder isfor in her great estate
Her ghost* was ever in plein** humility; *spirit **full
No tender mouthno hearte delicate
No pompand no semblant of royalty;
But full of patient benignity
Discreet and pridelessaye honourable
And to her husband ever meek and stable.
Men speak of Joband most for his humbless
As clerkeswhen them listcan well indite
Namely* of men; butas in soothfastness*particularly
Though clerkes praise women but a lite* *little
There can no man in humbless him acquite
As women cannor can be half so true
As women be*but it be fall of new.* *unless it has lately
come to pass*
*Pars Sexta* *Sixth Part*
From Bologn' is the earl of Panic' come
Of which the fame up sprang to more and less;
And to the people's eares all and some
Was know'n ekethat a newe marchioness

He with him broughtin such pomp and richess
That never was there seen with manne's eye
So noble array in all West Lombardy.

The marquiswhich that shope* and knew all this
Ere that the earl was comesent his message*
For thilke poore sely* Griseldis;
And shewith humble heart and glad visage
Nor with no swelling thought in her corage*
Came at his hest* and on her knees her set
And rev'rently and wisely she him gret.*

Griseld',quoth hemy will is utterly,
This maiden, that shall wedded be to me,
Received be to-morrow as royally
As it possible is in my house to be;
And eke that every wight in his degree
Have *his estate* in sitting and service,
And in high pleasance, as I can devise.

I have no women sufficientcertain
The chambers to array in ordinance
After my lust;* and therefore would I fain
That thine were all such manner governance:
Thou knowest eke of old all my pleasance;
Though thine array be badand ill besey*
*Do thou thy devoir at the leaste way."*

Not only, Lord, that I am glad,quoth she
To do your lust, but I desire also
You for to serve and please in my degree,
Withoute fainting, and shall evermo':
Nor ever for no weal, nor for no woe,
Ne shall the ghost* within mine hearte stent**
To love you best with all my true intent.

And with that word she gan the house to dight*
And tables for to setand beds to make
And *pained her* to do all that she might
Praying the chambereres* for Godde's sake
To hasten themand faste sweep and shake
And she the most serviceable of all
Hath ev'ry chamber arrayedand his hall.

Aboute undern* gan the earl alight
That with him brought these noble children tway;
For which the people ran to see the sight
Of their arrayso *richely besey;*
And then *at erst* amonges them they say
That Walter was no foolthough that him lest*
To change his wife; for it was for the best.

For she is faireras they deemen* all
Than is Griseld'and more tender of age
And fairer fruit between them shoulde fall
And more pleasantfor her high lineage:
Her brother eke so fair was of visage
That them to see the people hath caught pleasance
Commending now the marquis' governance.

O stormy people, unsad* and ev'r untrue,
And undiscreet, and changing as a vane,
Delighting ev'r in rumour that is new,
For like the moon so waxe ye and wane:



*what befits his


*poor to look on

* do your duty in the
quickest manner*
*spirit **cease


*she took pains*

*afternoon <5>

*rich to behold*
*for the first time*



Aye full of clapping, *dear enough a jane,* *worth nothing <12>*
Your doom* is false, your constance evil preveth,** *judgment **proveth
A full great fool is he that you believeth.

Thus saide the sad* folk in that city*sedate
When that the people gazed up and down;
For they were gladright for the novelty
To have a newe lady of their town.
No more of this now make I mentioun
But to Griseld' again I will me dress
And tell her constancy and business.

Full busy was Griseld' in ev'ry thing
That to the feaste was appertinent;
Right nought was she abash'd* of her clothing*ashamed
Though it were rudeand somedeal eke to-rent;* *tattered
But with glad cheer* unto the gate she went *expression
With other folkto greet the marchioness
And after that did forth her business.

With so glad cheer* his guestes she receiv'd *expression
And so conningly* each in his degree*cleverlyskilfully
That no defaulte no man apperceiv'd
But aye they wonder'd what she mighte be
That in so poor array was for to see
And coude* such honour and reverence; *knewunderstood
And worthily they praise her prudence.

In all this meane while she not stent* *ceased
This maidand eke her brotherto commend
With all her heart in full benign intent
So wellthat no man could her praise amend:
But at the lastwhen that these lordes wend* *go
To sitte down to meathe gan to call
Griseld'as she was busy in the hall.

Griseld',quoth heas it were in his play
How liketh thee my wife, and her beauty?
Right well, my Lord,quoth shefor, in good fay,* *faith
A fairer saw I never none than she:
I pray to God give you prosperity;
And so I hope, that he will to you send
Pleasance enough unto your lives end.

One thing beseech I youand warn also
That ye not pricke with no tormenting
This tender maidenas ye have done mo:* *me <13>
For she is foster'd in her nourishing
More tenderlyandto my supposing
She mighte not adversity endure
As could a poore foster'd creature."

And when this Walter saw her patience
Her gladde cheerand no malice at all
And* he so often had her done offence*although
And she aye sad* and constant as a wall*steadfast
Continuing ev'r her innocence o'er all
The sturdy marquis gan his hearte dress* *prepare
To rue upon her wifely steadfastness.

This is enough, Griselda mine,quoth he
Be now no more *aghast, nor evil paid,* *afraid, nor displeased*
I have thy faith and thy benignity
As well as ever woman was, assay'd,

In great estate and poorely array'd:
Now know I, deare wife, thy steadfastness;
And her in arms he tookand gan to kiss.

And she for wonder took of it no keep;*
She hearde not what thing he to her said:
She far'd as she had start out of a sleep
Till she out of her mazedness abraid.*
Griseld',quoth heby God that for us died,
Thou art my wife, none other I have,
Nor ever had, as God my soule save.

This is thy daughterwhich thou hast suppos'd
To be my wife; that other faithfully
Shall be mine heiras I have aye dispos'd;
Thou bare them of thy body truely:
At Bologna kept I them privily:
Take them againfor now may'st thou not say
That thou hast lorn* none of thy children tway.

And folk, that otherwise have said of me,
I warn them well, that I have done this deed
For no malice, nor for no cruelty,
But to assay in thee thy womanhead:
And not to slay my children (God forbid),
But for to keep them privily and still,
Till I thy purpose knew, and all thy will.

When she this heardin swoon adown she falleth
For piteous joy; and after her swooning
She both her younge children to her calleth
And in her armes piteously weeping
Embraced themand tenderly kissing
Full like a motherwith her salte tears
She bathed both their visage and their hairs.

Owhat a piteous thing it was to see
Her swooningand her humble voice to hear!
Grand mercy, Lord, God thank it you,quoth she
That ye have saved me my children dear;
Now reck* I never to be dead right here;
Since I stand in your loveand in your grace
No *force of* deathnor when my spirit pace.*

O tender, O dear, O young children mine,
Your woeful mother *weened steadfastly*
That cruel houndes, or some foul vermine,
Had eaten you; but God of his mercy,
And your benigne father tenderly
Have *done you keep:* and in that same stound*
All suddenly she swapt** down to the ground.

And in her swoon so sadly* holdeth she
Her children twowhen she gan them embrace
That with great sleight* and great difficulty
The children from her arm they can arace*
O! many a tear on many a piteous face
Down ran of them that stoode her beside
Unneth'* aboute her might they abide.

Walter her gladdethand her sorrow slaketh:*
She riseth up abashed* from her trance
And every wight her joy and feaste maketh
Till she hath caught again her countenance.




*no matter for* *pass

*believed firmly*

*caused you to
be preserved*
*hour **fell

*pull away



Walter her doth so faithfully pleasance
That it was dainty for to see the cheer
Betwixt them twosince they be met in fere.* *together
The ladieswhen that they their time sey* *saw
Have taken herand into chamber gone
And stripped her out of her rude array
And in a cloth of gold that brightly shone
And with a crown of many a riche stone
Upon her headthey into hall her brought:
And there she was honoured as her ought.
Thus had this piteous day a blissful end;
For every man and woman did his might
This day in mirth and revel to dispend
Till on the welkin* shone the starres bright: *firmament
For more solemn in every mannes sight
This feaste wasand greater of costage* *expense
Than was the revel of her marriage.
Full many a year in high prosperity
Lived these two in concord and in rest;
And richely his daughter married he
Unto a lordone of the worthiest
Of all Itale; and then in peace and rest
His wife's father in his court he kept
Till that the soul out of his body crept.
His son succeeded in his heritage
In rest and peaceafter his father's day:
And fortunate was eke in marriage
All* he put not his wife in great assay: *although
This world is not so strongit *is no nay* *not to be denied*
As it hath been in olde times yore;
And hearken what this author saiththerefore;
This story is said<14> not for that wives should
Follow Griselda in humility
For it were importable* though they would; *not to be borne
But for that every wight in his degree
Shoulde be constant in adversity
As was Griselda; therefore Petrarch writeth
This storywhich with high style he inditeth.
Forsince a woman was so patient
Unto a mortal manwell more we ought
Receiven all in gree* that God us sent. good-will
*For great skill is he proved that he wrought:* *see note <15>*
But he tempteth no man that he hath bought
As saith Saint Jamesif ye his 'pistle read;
He proveth folk all dayit is no dread.* *doubt
And suffereth usfor our exercise
With sharpe scourges of adversity
Full often to be beat in sundry wise;
Not for to know our willfor certes he
Ere we were bornknew all our frailty;
And for our best is all his governance;
Let us then live in virtuous sufferance.
But one wordlordingshearkenere I go:
It were full hard to finde now-a-days
In all a town Griseldas three or two:
Forif that they were put to such assays

The gold of them hath now so bad allays* *alloys
With brassthat though the coin be fair *at eye* *to see*
It woulde rather break in two than ply.* *bend
For which herefor the Wife's love of Bath--
Whose life and all her sex may God maintain
In high mast'ryand elles were it scath* --*damagepity
I willwith lusty hearte fresh and green
Say you a song to gladden youI ween:
And let us stint of earnestful mattere.
Hearken my songthat saith in this mannere.

L'Envoy of Chaucer.

Griseld' is dead, and eke her patience,
And both at once are buried in Itale:
For which I cry in open audience,
No wedded man so hardy be t' assail
His wife's patience, in trust to find
Griselda's, for in certain he shall fail.

O noble wivesfull of high prudence
Let no humility your tongues nail:
Nor let no clerk have cause or diligence
To write of you a story of such marvail
As of Griselda patient and kind
Lest Chichevache<16> you swallow in her entrail.

Follow Echo, that holdeth no silence,
But ever answereth at the countertail;* *counter-tally <17>
Be not bedaffed* for your innocence, *befooled
But sharply take on you the governail;* *helm
Imprinte well this lesson in your mind,
For common profit, since it may avail.

Ye archiwives* stand aye at defence*wives of rank
Since ye be strong as is a great camail* *camel
Nor suffer not that men do you offence.
And slender wivesfeeble in battail
Be eager as a tiger yond in Ind;
Aye clapping as a millI you counsail.

Nor dread them not, nor do them reverence;
For though thine husband armed be in mail,
The arrows of thy crabbed eloquence
Shall pierce his breast, and eke his aventail;<18>
In jealousy I rede* eke thou him bind, *advise
And thou shalt make him couch* as doth a quail. *submit, shrink

If thou be fairwhere folk be in presence
Shew thou thy visage and thine apparail:
If thou be foulbe free of thy dispence;
To get thee friendes aye do thy travail:
Be aye of cheer as light as leaf on lind* *lindenlime-tree
And let him careand weepand wringand wail."

Notes to the Clerk's Tale

1. Petrarchin his Latin romanceDe obedientia et fide uxoria
Mythologia,(Of obedient and faithful wives in Mythology)

translated the charming story of "the patient Grizel" from the
Italian of Bocaccio's "Decameron;" and Chaucer has closely
followed Petrarch's translationmade in 1373the year before
that in which he died. The fact that the embassy to Genoaon
which Chaucer was senttook place in 1372-73has lent
countenance to the opinion that the English poet did actually
visit the Italian bard at Paduaand hear the story from his own
lips. Thishoweveris only a probability; for it is a moot point
whether the two poets ever met.

2. Vesulus: Monte Visoa lofty peak at the junction of the
Maritime and Cottian Alps; from two springs on its east side
rises the Po.
3. Buxomly: obediently; Anglo-Saxonbogsom,old English
boughsome,that can be easily bent or bowed; German
4. Well ofter of the well than of the tun she drank: she drank
water much more often than wine.
5. Undern: afternooneveningthough by some "undern"
is understood as dinner-time -- 9 a. m. See note 4 to the Wife of
Bath's Tale.
6. Very: true; French "vrai".
7. Nouches: Ornaments of some kind not precisely known;
some editions read "ouches studs, brooches. (Transcriber's
note: The OED gives nouches" as a form of "ouches
8. A furlong way or two: a short time; literally, as long as it
takes to walk one or two furlongs (a furlong is 220 yards)
9. Lordes' hestes may not be y-feign'd: it will not do merely to
feign compliance with a lord's commands.
10. Arace: tear; French, arracher."
11. Fele: many; Germanviel.
12. Dear enough a jane: worth nothing. A jane was a small coin
of little worthso the meaning is "not worth a red cent".
13. Mo: me. "This is one of the most licentious corruptions of
orthography says Tyrwhitt, that I remember to have observed
in Chaucer;" but such liberties were common among the
European poets of his timewhen there was an extreme lack of
certainty in orthography.
14. The fourteen lines that follow are translated almost literally
from Petrarch's Latin.
15. For great skill is he proved that he wrought: for it is most
reasonable that He should prove or test that which he made.
16. Chichevachein old popular fablewas a monster that fed
only on good womenand was always very thin from scarcity of
such food; a corresponding monsterBycornefed only on
obedient and kind husbandsand was always fat. The origin of
the fable was French; but Lydgate has a ballad on the subject.
Chichevacheliterally means "niggardly" or "greedy cow."

17. Countertail: Counter-tally or counter-foil; something exactly
18. Aventail: forepart of a helmetvizor.

Weeping and wailing, care and other sorrow,
I have enough, on even and on morrow,
Quoth the Merchantand so have other mo',
That wedded be; I trow* that it be so; *believe
For well I wot it fareth so by me.
I have a wife, the worste that may be,
For though the fiend to her y-coupled were,
She would him overmatch, I dare well swear.
Why should I you rehearse in special
Her high malice? she is *a shrew at all.* *thoroughly, in
There is a long and large difference everything wicked*
Betwixt Griselda's greate patience,
And of my wife the passing cruelty.
Were I unbounden, all so may I the,* *thrive
I woulde never eft* come in the snare. *again
We wedded men live in sorrow and care;
Assay it whoso will, and he shall find
That I say sooth, by Saint Thomas of Ind,<2>
As for the more part; I say not all, --
God shielde* that it shoulde so befall. *forbid
Ah! good Sir Host, I have y-wedded be
These moneths two, and more not, pardie;
And yet I trow* that he that all his life *believe
Wifeless hath been, though that men would him rive* *wound
Into the hearte, could in no mannere
Telle so much sorrow, as I you here
Could tellen of my wife's cursedness.* *wickedness
Now,quoth our HostMerchant, so God you bless,
Since ye so muche knowen of that art,
Full heartily I pray you tell us part.
Gladly,quoth he; "but of mine owen sore
For sorry heartI telle may no more."

Notes to the Prologue to the Merchant's Tale

1. Though the manner in which the Merchant takes up the
closing words of the Envoy to the Clerk's Taleand refers to
the patience of Griseldaseems to prove beyond doubt that
the order of the Tales in the text is the right oneyet in
some manuscripts of good authority the Franklin's Tale
follows the Clerk'sand the Envoy is concluded by this
stanza: -"
This worthy Clerk when ended was his tale
Our Hoste saidand swore by cocke's bones
'Me lever were than a barrel of ale
My wife at home had heard this legend once;
This is a gentle tale for the nonce;
Asto my purposewiste ye my will.

But thing that will not belet it be still.'"

In other manuscripts of less authority the Host proceedsin
two similar stanzasto impose a Tale on the Franklin; but
Tyrwhitt is probably right in setting them aside as spurious
and in admitting the genuineness of the first onlyif it be
supposed that Chaucer forgot to cancel it when he had
decided on another mode of connecting the Merchant's with
the Clerk's Tale.

2. Saint Thomas of Ind: St. Thomas the Apostlewho was
believed to have travelled in India.

Whilom there was dwelling in Lombardy
A worthy knightthat born was at Pavie
In which he liv'd in great prosperity;
And forty years a wifeless man was he
And follow'd aye his bodily delight
On womenwhere as was his appetite
As do these fooles that be seculeres.<2>
Andwhen that he was passed sixty years
Were it for holinessor for dotage
I cannot saybut such a great corage* *inclination
Hadde this knight to be a wedded man
That day and night he did all that he can
To espy where that he might wedded be;
Praying our Lord to grante himthat he
Mighte once knowen of that blissful life
That is betwixt a husband and his wife
And for to live under that holy bond
With which God firste man and woman bond.
None other life,said heis worth a bean;
For wedlock is so easy, and so clean,
That in this world it is a paradise.
Thus said this olde knightthat was so wise.
And certainlyas sooth* as God is king*true
To take a wife it is a glorious thing
And namely* when a man is old and hoar*especially
Then is a wife the fruit of his treasor;
Then should he take a young wife and a fair
On which he might engender him an heir
And lead his life in joy and in solace;* *mirthdelight
Whereas these bachelors singen "Alas!"
When that they find any adversity
In lovewhich is but childish vanity.
And truely it sits* well to be so*becomesbefits
That bachelors have often pain and woe:
On brittle ground they buildand brittleness
They finde when they *weene sickerness:* *think that there
They live but as a bird or as a beastis security*
In libertyand under no arrest;* *checkcontrol
Whereas a wedded man in his estate
Liveth a life blissful and ordinate
Under the yoke of marriage y-bound;
Well may his heart in joy and bliss abound.
For who can be so buxom* as a wife? *obedient
Who is so trueand eke so attentive
To keep* himsick and wholeas is his make?** *care for **mate
For weal or woe she will him not forsake:
She is not weary him to love and serve

Though that he lie bedrid until he sterve.*
And yet some clerkes say it is not so;
Of which heTheophrastis one of tho:*
*What force* though Theophrast list for to lie?

Take no wife,quoth he<3> "for husbandry*
As for to spare in household thy dispence;
A true servant doth more diligence
Thy good to keepthan doth thine owen wife
For she will claim a half part all her life.
And if that thou be sickso God me save
Thy very friendesor a true knave*
Will keep thee bet than shethat *waiteth aye
After thy good* and hath done many a day."
This sentenceand a hundred times worse
Writeth this manthere God his bones curse.
But take no keep* of all such vanity
Defy* Theophrastand hearken to me.

A wife is Godde's gifte verily;
All other manner giftes hardily*
As handesrentespastureor commune*
Or mebles* all be giftes of fortune
That passen as a shadow on the wall:
But dread* thou notif plainly speak I shall
A wife will lastand in thine house endure
Well longer than thee listparaventure.*
Marriage is a full great sacrament;
He which that hath no wifeI hold him shent;*
He liveth helplessand all desolate
(I speak of folk *in secular estate*):
And hearken whyI say not this for nought--
That woman is for manne's help y-wrought.
The highe Godwhen he had Adam maked
And saw him all alone belly naked
God of his greate goodness saide then
Let us now make a help unto this man
Like to himself; and then he made him Eve.
Here may ye seeand hereby may ye preve*
That a wife is man s help and his comfort
His paradise terrestre and his disport.
So buxom* and so virtuous is she
They muste needes live in unity;
One flesh they beand one bloodas I guess
With but one heart in weal and in distress.
A wife? Ah! Saint Maryben'dicite
How might a man have any adversity
That hath a wife? certes I cannot say
The bliss the which that is betwixt them tway
There may no tongue it tellor hearte think.
If he be poorshe helpeth him to swink;*
She keeps his goodand wasteth never a deal;*
All that her husband listher liketh* well;
She saith not ones Naywhen he saith Yea;
Do this,saith he; "All readySir saith she.
O blissful order, wedlock precious!
Thou art so merry, and eke so virtuous,
And so commended and approved eke,
That every man that holds him worth a leek
Upon his bare knees ought all his life
To thank his God, that him hath sent a wife;
Or elles pray to God him for to send
A wife, to last unto his life's end.
For then his life is set in sickerness,*


*what matter*

*ahways waits to
inherit your property*


*common land
*furniture <4>




*who are not
of the clergy*


*obedient, complying



He may not be deceived, as I guess,
So that he work after his wife's rede;* *counsel
Then may he boldely bear up his head,
They be so true, and therewithal so wise.
For which, if thou wilt worken as the wise,
Do alway so as women will thee rede. * *counsel
Lo how that Jacob, as these clerkes read,
By good counsel of his mother Rebecc'
Bounde the kiddes skin about his neck;
For which his father's benison* he wan. *benediction
Lo Judith, as the story telle can,
By good counsel she Godde's people kept,
And slew him, Holofernes, while he slept.
Lo Abigail, by good counsel, how she
Saved her husband Nabal, when that he
Should have been slain. And lo, Esther also
By counsel good deliver'd out of woe
The people of God, and made him, Mardoche,
Of Assuere enhanced* for to be. *advanced in dignity
There is nothing *in gree superlative* *of higher esteem*
(As saith Senec) above a humble wife.
Suffer thy wife's tongue, as Cato bit;* *bid
She shall command, and thou shalt suffer it,
And yet she will obey of courtesy.
A wife is keeper of thine husbandry:
Well may the sicke man bewail and weep,
There as there is no wife the house to keep.
I warne thee, if wisely thou wilt wirch,* *work
Love well thy wife, as Christ loveth his church:
Thou lov'st thyself, if thou lovest thy wife.
No man hateth his flesh, but in his life
He fost'reth it; and therefore bid I thee
Cherish thy wife, or thou shalt never the.* *thrive
Husband and wife, what *so men jape or play,* *although men joke
Of worldly folk holde the sicker* way; and jeer* *certain
They be so knit there may no harm betide,
And namely* upon the wife's side. * especially
For which this January, of whom I told,
Consider'd hath within his dayes old,
The lusty life, the virtuous quiet,
That is in marriage honey-sweet.
And for his friends upon a day he sent
To tell them the effect of his intent.
With face sad,* his tale he hath them told: *grave, earnest
He saide, FriendesI am hoar and old
And almost (God wot) on my pitte's* brink*grave's
Upon my soule somewhat must I think.
I have my body foolishly dispended
Blessed be God that it shall be amended;
For I will be certain a wedded man
And that anon in all the haste I can
Unto some maidenfair and tender of age;
I pray you shape* for my marriage * arrangecontrive
All suddenlyfor I will not abide:
And I will fond* to espyon my side*try
To whom I may be wedded hastily.
But forasmuch as ye be more than
Ye shalle rather* such a thing espy
Than Iand where me best were to ally.
But one thing warn I youmy friendes dear
I will none old wife have in no mannere:
She shall not passe sixteen year certain.
Old fish and younge flesh would I have fain.

Better quoth he, a pike than a pickerel* *young pike
And better than old beef is tender veal.
I will no woman thirty year of age
It is but beanestraw and great forage.
And eke these olde widows (God it wot)
They conne* so much craft on Wade's boat<5> *know
*So muche brooke harm when that them lest* *they can do so much
That with them should I never live in rest. harm when they wish*
For sundry schooles make subtle clerkes;
Woman of many schooles half a clerk is.
But certainly a young thing men may guy* *guide
Right as men may warm wax with handes ply.* *bendmould
Wherefore I say you plainly in a clause
I will none old wife haveright for this cause.
For if so were I hadde such mischance
That I in her could have no pleasance
Then should I lead my life in avoutrie* *adultery
And go straight to the devil when I die.
Nor children should I none upon her getten:
Yet *were me lever* houndes had me eaten *I would rather*
Than that mine heritage shoulde fall
In strange hands: and this I tell you all.
I doubte not I know the cause why
Men shoulde wed: and farthermore know I
There speaketh many a man of marriage
That knows no more of it than doth my page
For what causes a man should take a wife.
If he ne may not live chaste his life
Take him a wife with great devotion
Because of lawful procreation
Of childrento th' honour of God above
And not only for paramour or love;
And for they shoulde lechery eschew
And yield their debte when that it is due:
Or for that each of them should help the other
In mischief* as a sister shall the brother*trouble
And live in chastity full holily.
ButSiresby your leavethat am not I
ForGod be thankedI dare make avaunt* *boast
I feel my limbes stark* and suffisant *strong
To do all that a man belongeth to:
I wot myselfe best what I may do.
Though I be hoarI fare as doth a tree
That blossoms ere the fruit y-waxen* be; *grown
The blossomy tree is neither dry nor dead;
I feel me now here hoar but on my head.
Mine heart and all my limbes are as green
As laurel through the year is for to seen.* *see
Andsince that ye have heard all mine intent
I pray you to my will ye would assent."
Diverse men diversely him told
Of marriage many examples old;
Some blamed itsome praised itcertain;
But at the hasteshortly for to sayn
(As all day* falleth altercation *constantlyevery day
Betwixte friends in disputation)
There fell a strife betwixt his brethren two
Of which that one was called Placebo
Justinus soothly called was that other.
Placebo said; "O Januarybrother
Full little need have yemy lord so dear
Counsel to ask of any that is here:

But that ye be so full of sapience
That you not likethfor your high prudence
To waive* from the word of Solomon. *departdeviate
This word said he unto us every one;
Work alle thing by counsel-- thus said he--
And thenne shalt thou not repente thee
But though that Solomon spake such a word
Mine owen deare brother and my lord
So wisly* God my soule bring at rest*surely
I hold your owen counsel is the best.
Forbrother minetake of me this motive; * *adviceencouragement

I have now been a court-man all my life
AndGod it wotthough I unworthy be
I have standen in full great degree
Aboute lordes of full high estate;
Yet had I ne'er with none of them debate;
I never them contraried truely.
I know well that my lord can* more than I;
What that he saith I hold it firm and stable
I say the sameor else a thing semblable.
A full great fool is any counsellor
That serveth any lord of high honour
That dare presumeor ones thinken it;
That his counsel should pass his lorde's wit.
Naylordes be no fooles by my fay.
Ye have yourselfe shewed here to day
So high sentence* so holily and well
That I consentand confirm *every deal*
Your wordes alland your opinioun
By Godthere is no man in all this town
Nor in Italecould better have y-said.
Christ holds him of this counsel well apaid.*
And truely it is a high courage
Of any man that stopen* is in age
To take a young wifeby my father's kin;
Your hearte hangeth on a jolly pin.
Do now in this matter right as you lest
For finally I hold it for the best."

Justinusthat aye stille sat and heard
Right in this wise to Placebo answer'd.
Now, brother mine, be patient I pray,
Since ye have said, and hearken what I say.
Senec, among his other wordes wise,
Saith, that a man ought him right well advise,*
To whom he gives his hand or his chattel.
And since I ought advise me right well
To whom I give my good away from me,
Well more I ought advise me, pardie,
To whom I give my body: for alway
I warn you well it is no childe's play
To take a wife without advisement.
Men must inquire (this is mine assent)
Whe'er she be wise, or sober, or dronkelew,*
Or proud, or any other ways a shrew,
A chidester,* or a waster of thy good,
Or rich or poor; or else a man is wood.*
Albeit so, that no man finde shall
None in this world, that *trotteth whole in all,*


*judgment, sentiment
*in every point*

*advanced <6>


*given to drink

*a scold
*is sound in

No man, nor beast, such as men can devise,* every point* *describe
But nathehess it ought enough suffice
With any wife, if so were that she had
More goode thewes* than her vices bad: * qualities
And all this asketh leisure to inquere.

For, God it wot, I have wept many a tear
Full privily, since I have had a wife.
Praise whoso will a wedded manne's life,
Certes, I find in it but cost and care,
And observances of all blisses bare.
And yet, God wot, my neighebours about,
And namely* of women many a rout,**
Say that I have the moste steadfast wife,
And eke the meekest one, that beareth life.
But I know best where wringeth* me my shoe,
Ye may for me right as you like do
Advise you, ye be a man of age,
How that ye enter into marriage;
And namely* with a young wife and a fair,
By him that made water, fire, earth, air,
The youngest man that is in all this rout*
Is busy enough to bringen it about
To have his wife alone, truste me:
Ye shall not please her fully yeares three,
This is to say, to do her full pleasance.
A wife asketh full many an observance.
I pray you that ye be not *evil apaid.*

Well,quoth this Januaryand hast thou said?
Straw for thy Senec, and for thy proverbs,
I counte not a pannier full of herbs
Of schoole termes; wiser men than thou,
As thou hast heard, assented here right now
To my purpose: Placebo, what say ye?
I say it is a cursed* man,quoth he
That letteth* matrimony, sickerly.
And with that word they rise up suddenly
And be assented fullythat he should
Be wedded when him listand where he would.

High fantasy and curious business
From day to day gan in the soul impress*
Of January about his marriage
Many a fair shapeand many a fair visage
There passed through his hearte night by night.
As whoso took a mirror polish'd bright
And set it in a common market-place
Then should he see many a figure pace
By his mirror; and in the same wise
Gan January in his thought devise
Of maidenswhich that dwelte him beside:
He wiste not where that he might abide.*
For if that one had beauty in her face
Another stood so in the people's grace
For her sadness* and her benignity
That of the people greatest voice had she:
And some were rich and had a badde name.
But nathelessbetwixt earnest and game
He at the last appointed him on one
And let all others from his hearte gon
And chose her of his own authority;
For love is blind all dayand may not see.
And when that he was into bed y-brought
He pourtray'd in his heart and in his thought
Her freshe beautyand her age tender
Her middle smallher armes long and slender
Her wise governanceher gentleness
Her womanly bearingand her sadness.*
And when that he *on her was condescended*

*especially **company

* especially


*imprint themselves

*stayfix his choice

*had selected her*

He thought his choice might not be amended;
For when that he himself concluded had
He thought each other manne' s wit so bad
That impossible it were to reply
Against his choice; this was his fantasy.
His friendes sent he toat his instance
And prayed them to do him that pleasance
That hastily they would unto him come;
He would abridge their labour all and some:
Needed no more for them to go nor ride<7>
*He was appointed where he would abide.*

Placebo cameand eke his friendes soon
And *alderfirst he bade them all a boon*
That none of them no arguments would make
Against the purpose that he had y-take:
Which purpose was pleasant to Godsaid he
And very ground of his prosperity.
He saidthere was a maiden in the town
Which that of beauty hadde great renown;
All* were it so she were of small degree
Sufficed him her youth and her beauty;
Which maidhe saidhe would have to his wife
To lead in ease and holiness his life;
And thanked Godthat he might have her all
That no wight with his blisse parte* shall;
And prayed them to labour in this need
And shape that he faile not to speed:
For thenhe saidhis spirit was at ease.
Then is,quoth henothing may me displease,
Save one thing pricketh in my conscience,
The which I will rehearse in your presence.
I have,quoth heheard said, full yore* ago,
There may no man have perfect blisses two,
This is to say, on earth and eke in heaven.
For though he keep him from the sinne's seven,
And eke from every branch of thilke tree,<8>
Yet is there so perfect felicity,
And so great *ease and lust,* in marriage,
That ev'r I am aghast,* now in mine age
That I shall head now so merry a life,
So delicate, withoute woe or strife,
That I shall have mine heav'n on earthe here.
For since that very heav'n is bought so dear,
With tribulation and great penance,
How should I then, living in such pleasance
As alle wedded men do with their wives,

*he had definitively

made his choice*
*first of all he asked
a favour of them*


*have a share


*comfort and pleasure*
*ashamed, afraid

Come to the bliss where Christ *etern on live is?* *lives eternally*
This is my dread;* and ye, my brethren tway, *doubt
Assoile* me this question, I you pray.*resolveanswer
Justinuswhich that hated his folly
Answer'd anon right in his japery;* *mockeryjesting way
Andfor he would his longe tale abridge
He woulde no authority* allege*written texts
But saide; "Sirso there be none obstacle
Other than thisGod of his high miracle
And of his mercymay so for you wirch* *work
Thatere ye have your rights of holy church
Ye may repent of wedded manne's life
In which ye say there is no woe nor strife:
And elles God forbid*but if* he sent *unless
A wedded man his grace him to repent
Well oftenrather than a single man.

And thereforeSir*the beste rede I can* *this is the best counsel
Despair you notbut have in your memorythat I know*
Paraventure she may be your purgatory;
She may be Godde's meansand Godde's whip;
And then your soul shall up to heaven skip
Swifter than doth an arrow from a bow.
I hope to God hereafter ye shall know
That there is none so great felicity
In marriagenor ever more shall be
That you shall let* of your salvation; *hinder
So that ye useas skill is and reason
The lustes* of your wife attemperly** *pleasures **moderately
And that ye please her not too amorously
And that ye keep you eke from other sin.
My tale is donefor my wit is but thin.
Be not aghast* hereofmy brother dear*aharmedafraid
But let us waden out of this mattere
The Wife of Bathif ye have understand
Of marriagewhich ye have now in hand
Declared hath full well in little space;
Fare ye now wellGod have you in his grace."

And with this word this Justin' and his brother
Have ta'en their leaveand each of them of other.
And when they saw that it must needes be
They wroughte soby sleight and wise treaty
That shethis maidenwhich that *Maius hight* *was named May*
As hastily as ever that she might
Shall wedded be unto this January.
I trow it were too longe you to tarry
If I told you of every *script and band* *written bond*
By which she was feoffed in his hand;
Or for to reckon of her rich array
But finally y-comen is the day
That to the churche bothe be they went
For to receive the holy sacrament
Forth came the priestwith stole about his neck
And bade her be like Sarah and Rebecc'
In wisdom and in truth of marriage;
And said his orisonsas is usage
And crouched* themand prayed God should them bless*crossed
And made all sicker* enough with holiness. *certain

Thus be they wedded with solemnity;
And at the feaste sat both he and she
With other worthy folkupon the dais.
All full of joy and bliss is the palace
And full of instrumentsand of vitaille* *victualsfood
The moste dainteous* of all Itale. *delicate
Before them stood such instruments of soun'
That Orpheusnor of Thebes Amphioun
Ne made never such a melody.
At every course came in loud minstrelsy
That never Joab trumped for to hear
Nor heTheodomasyet half so clear
At Thebeswhen the city was in doubt.
Bacchus the wine them skinked* all about. *poured <9>
And Venus laughed upon every wight
(For January was become her knight
And woulde both assaye his courage
In libertyand eke in marriage)
And with her firebrand in her hand about
Danced before the bride and all the rout.
And certainly I dare right well say this

Hymeneusthat god of wedding is
Saw never his life so merry a wedded man.
Hold thou thy peacethou poet Marcian<10>
That writest us that ilke* wedding merry
Of her Philology and him Mercury
And of the songes that the Muses sung;
Too small is both thy penand eke thy tongue
For to describen of this marriage.
When tender youth hath wedded stooping age
There is such mirth that it may not be writ;
Assay it youreselfthen may ye wit*
If that I lie or no in this mattere.

Maiusthat sat with so benign a cheer*
Her to behold it seemed faerie;
Queen Esther never look'd with such an eye
On Assuereso meek a look had she;
I may you not devise all her beauty;
But thus much of her beauty tell I may
That she was hike the bright morrow of May
Full filled of all beauty and pleasance.
This January is ravish'd in a trance
At every time he looked in her face;
But in his heart he gan her to menace
That he that night in armes would her strain
Harder than ever Paris did Helene.
But natheless yet had he great pity
That thilke night offende her must he
And thoughtAlas, O tender creature,
Now woulde God ye mighte well endure
All my courage, it is so sharp and keen;
I am aghast* ye shall it not sustene.
But God forbid that I did all my might.
Now woulde God that it were waxen night,
And that the night would lasten evermo'.
I would that all this people were y-go.*
And finally he did all his labour
As he best mightesaving his honour
To haste them from the meat in subtle wise.

The time came that reason was to rise;
And after that men danceand drinke fast
And spices all about the house they cast
And full of joy and bliss is every man
All but a squirethat highte Damian
Who carv'd before the knight full many a day;
He was so ravish'd on his lady May
That for the very pain he was nigh wood;*
Almost he swelt* and swooned where he stood
So sore had Venus hurt him with her brand
As that she bare it dancing in her hand.
And to his bed he went him hastily;
No more of him as at this time speak I;
But there I let him weep enough and plain*
Till freshe May will rue upon his pain.
O perilous firethat in the bedstraw breedeth!
O foe familiar* that his service bedeth!**
O servant traitorO false homely hewe*
Like to the adder in bosom shy untrue
God shield us alle from your acquaintance!
O Januarydrunken in pleasance
Of marriagesee how thy Damian
Thine owen squier and thy boren* man
Intendeth for to do thee villainy:*





*gone away



*domestic <11> **offers
*servant <12>

*born <13>

God grante thee thine *homehy foe* t' espy. *enemy in the household*

For in this world is no worse pestilence
Than homely foeall day in thy presence.

Performed hath the sun his arc diurn*
No longer may the body of him sojourn
On the horizonin that latitude:
Night with his mantlethat is dark and rude
Gan overspread the hemisphere about:
For which departed is this *lusty rout*
From Januarywith thank on every side.
Home to their houses lustily they ride
Where as they do their thinges as them lest
And when they see their time they go to rest.
Soon after that this hasty* January
Will go to bedhe will no longer tarry.
He dranke hippocrasclarreand vernage <14>
Of spices hotto increase his courage;
And many a lectuary* had he full fine
Such as the cursed monk Dan Constantine<15>
Hath written in his book *de Coitu;*
To eat them all he would nothing eschew:
And to his privy friendes thus said he:
For Godde's love, as soon as it may be,
Let *voiden all* this house in courteous wise.
And they have done right as he will devise.
Men drinkenand the travers* draw anon;
The bride is brought to bed as still as stone;
And when the bed was with the priest y-bless'd
Out of the chamber every wight him dress'd
And January hath fast in arms y-take
His freshe Mayhis paradisehis make.*
He lulled herhe kissed her full oft;
With thicke bristles of his beard unsoft
Like to the skin of houndfish* sharp as brere**
(For he was shav'n all new in his mannere)
He rubbed her upon her tender face
And saide thus; "Alas! I must trespace
To youmy spouseand you greatly offend
Ere time come that I will down descend.
But natheless consider this quoth he,
There is no workmanwhatsoe'er he be
That may both worke well and hastily:
This will be done at leisure perfectly.
It is *no force* how longe that we play;
In true wedlock coupled be we tway;
And blessed be the yoke that we be in
For in our actes may there be no sin.
A man may do no sinne with his wife
Nor hurt himselfe with his owen knife;
For we have leave to play us by the law."

Thus labour'd hetill that the day gan daw
And then he took a sop in fine clarre
And upright in his bedde then sat he.
And after that he sang full loud and clear
And kiss'd his wifeand made wanton cheer.
He was all coltishfull of ragerie *
And full of jargon as a flecked pie.<16>
The slacke skin about his necke shaked
While that he sangso chanted he and craked.*
But God wot what that May thought in her heart
When she him saw up sitting in his shirt
In his night-capand with his necke lean:


*pleasant company*


*of sexual intercourse*

*everyone leave*

*dogfish **briar

*no matter*


She praised not his playing worth a bean.
Then said he thus; "My reste will I take
Now day is comeI may no longer wake;
And down he laid his head and slept till prime.
And afterwardwhen that he saw his time
Up rose Januarybut freshe May
Helde her chamber till the fourthe day
As usage is of wives for the best.
For every labour some time must have rest
Or elles longe may he not endure;
This is to sayno life of creature
Be it of fishor birdor beastor man.

Now will I speak of woeful Damian
That languisheth for loveas ye shall hear;
Therefore I speak to him in this manneare.
I say. "O silly Damianalas!
Answer to this demandas in this case
How shalt thou to thy ladyfreshe May
Telle thy woe? She will alway say nay;
Eke if thou speakshe will thy woe bewray; *
God be thine helpI can no better say.
This sicke Damian in Venus' fire
So burned that he died for desire;
For which he put his life *in aventure*
No longer might he in this wise endure;
But privily a penner* gan he borrow
And in a letter wrote he all his sorrow
In manner of a complaint or a lay
Unto his faire freshe lady May.
And in a purse of silkhung on his shirt
He hath it putand laid it at his heart.

The moonethat at noon was thilke* day
That January had wedded freshe May
In ten of Taurewas into Cancer glided;<17>
So long had Maius in her chamber abided
As custom is unto these nobles all.
A bride shall not eaten in the ball
Till dayes fouror three days at the least
Y-passed be; then let her go to feast.
The fourthe day complete from noon to noon
When that the highe masse was y-done
In halle sat this Januaryand May
As fresh as is the brighte summer's day.
And so befellhow that this goode man
Remember'd him upon this Damian.
And saide; "Saint Maryhow may this be
That Damian attendeth not to me?
Is he aye sick? or how may this betide?"
His squierswhich that stoode there beside
Excused himbecause of his sickness
Which letted* him to do his business:
None other cause mighte make him tarry.
That me forthinketh,* quoth this January
He is a gentle squier, by my truth;
If that he died, it were great harm and ruth.
He is as wise, as discreet, and secre',*
As any man I know of his degree,
And thereto manly and eke serviceble,
And for to be a thrifty man right able.
But after meat, as soon as ever I may
I will myself visit him, and eke May,
To do him all the comfort that I can.


*at risk*





And for that word him blessed every man
That of his bounty and his gentleness
He woulde so comforten in sickness
His squierfor it was a gentle deed.
Dame,quoth this Januarytake good heed,
At after meat, ye with your women all
(When that ye be in chamb'r out of this hall),
That all ye go to see this Damian:
Do him disport, he is a gentle man;
And telle him that I will him visite,
*Have I nothing but rested me a lite:* *when only I have rested
And speed you faste, for I will abide me a little*
Till that ye sleepe faste by my side.
And with that word he gan unto him call
A squierthat was marshal of his hall
And told him certain thinges that he wo'ld.
This freshe May hath straight her way y-hold
With all her womenunto Damian.
Down by his beddes side sat she than* *then
Comforting him as goodly as she may.
This Damianwhen that his time he say* *saw
In secret wise his purseand eke his bill
In which that he y-written had his will
Hath put into her hand withoute more
Save that he sighed wondrous deep and sore
And softely to her right thus said he:
Mercy, and that ye not discover me:
For I am dead if that this thing be kid.* *discovered <18>
The purse hath she in her bosom hid
And went her way; ye get no more of me;
But unto January come is she
That on his bedde's side sat full soft.
He took herand he kissed her full oft
And laid him down to sleepand that anon.
She feigned her as that she muste gon
There as ye know that every wight must need;
And when she of this bill had taken heed
She rent it all to cloutes* at the last*fragments
And in the privy softely it cast.
Who studieth* now but faire freshe May? *is thoughtful
Adown by olde January she lay
That sleptetill the cough had him awaked:
Anon he pray'd her strippe her all naked
He would of herhe saidhave some pleasance;
And said her clothes did him incumbrance.
And she obey'd himbe her *lefe or loth.* *willing or unwilling*

Butlest that precious* folk be with me wroth*over-nice <19>
How that he wrought I dare not to you tell
Or whether she thought it paradise or hell;
But there I let them worken in their wise
Till evensong ringand they must arise.

Were it by destinyor aventure* * chance
Were it by influenceor by nature
Or constellationthat in such estate
The heaven stood at that time fortunate
As for to put a bill of Venus' works
(For alle thing hath timeas say these clerks)
To any woman for to get her love
I cannot say; but greate God above
That knoweth that none act is causeless
*He deem* of allfor I will hold my peace. *let him judge*
But sooth is thishow that this freshe May

Hath taken such impression that day
Of pity on this sicke Damian
That from her hearte she not drive can
The remembrance for *to do him ease.* *to satisfy
Certain,thought shewhom that this thing displease his desire*
I recke not, for here I him assure,
To love him best of any creature,
Though he no more haddee than his shirt.
Lopity runneth soon in gentle heart.
Here may ye seehow excellent franchise* *generosity
In women is when they them *narrow advise.* *closely consider*
Some tyrant is-- as there be many a one--
That hath a heart as hard as any stone
Which would have let him sterven* in the place *die
Well rather than have granted him her grace;
And then rejoicen in her cruel pride.
And reckon not to be a homicide.
This gentle Mayfull filled of pity
Right of her hand a letter maked she
In which she granted him her very grace;
There lacked noughtbut only day and place
Where that she might unto his lust suffice:
For it shall be right as he will devise.
And when she saw her time upon a day
To visit this Damian went this May
And subtilly this letter down she thrust
Under his pillowread it if him lust.* *pleased
She took him by the handand hard him twist
So secretlythat no wight of it wist
And bade him be all whole; and forth she went
To Januarywhen he for her sent.
Up rose Damian the nexte morrow
All passed was his sickness and his sorrow.
He combed himhe proined <20> him and picked
He did all that unto his lady liked;
And eke to January he went as low
As ever did a dogge for the bow.<21>
He is so pleasant unto every man
(For craft is allwhoso that do it can)
Every wight is fain to speak him good;
And fully in his lady's grace he stood.
Thus leave I Damian about his need
And in my tale forth I will proceed.

Some clerke* holde that felicity *writersscholars
Stands in delight; and therefore certain he
This noble Januarywith all his might
In honest wise as longeth* to a knight*belongeth
Shope* him to live full deliciously: *preparedarranged
His housinghis arrayas honestly* *honourablysuitably
To his degree was maked as a king's.
Amonges other of his honest things
He had a garden walled all with stone;
So fair a garden wot I nowhere none.
For out of doubt I verily suppose
That he that wrote the Romance of the Rose <22>
Could not of it the beauty well devise;* *describe
Nor Priapus <23> mighte not well suffice
Though he be god of gardensfor to tell
The beauty of the gardenand the well* *fountain
That stood under a laurel always green.
Full often time hePlutoand his queen
Proserpinaand all their faerie
Disported them and made melody

About that welland dancedas men told.
This noble knightthis January old
Such dainty* had in it to walk and play*pleasure
That he would suffer no wight to bear the key
Save he himselffor of the small wicket
He bare always of silver a cliket* *key
With whichwhen that him listhe it unshet.* *opened
And when that he would pay his wife's debt
In summer seasonthither would he go
And May his wifeand no wight but they two;
And thinges which that were not done in bed
He in the garden them perform'd and sped.
And in this wise many a merry day
Lived this January and fresh May
But worldly joy may not always endure
To Januarynor to no creatucere.
O sudden hap! O thou fortune unstable!
Like to the scorpion so deceivable* *deceitful
That fhatt'rest with thy head when thou wilt sting;
Thy tail is deaththrough thine envenoming.
O brittle joy! O sweete poison quaint!* *strange
O monsterthat so subtilly canst paint
Thy giftesunder hue of steadfastness
That thou deceivest bothe *more and less!* *great and small*
Why hast thou January thus deceiv'd
That haddest him for thy full friend receiv'd?
And now thou hast bereft him both his eyen
For sorrow of which desireth he to dien.
Alas! this noble January free
Amid his lust* and his prosperity *pleasure
Is waxen blindand that all suddenly.
He weeped and he wailed piteously;
And therewithal the fire of jealousy
(Lest that his wife should fall in some folly)
So burnt his heartethat he woulde fain
That some man bothe him and her had slain;
For neither after his deathnor in his life
Ne would he that she were no love nor wife
But ever live as widow in clothes black
Sole as the turtle that hath lost her make.* *mate
But at the lastafter a month or tway
His sorrow gan assuagesoothe to say.
Forwhen he wist it might none other be
He patiently took his adversity:
Save out of doubte he may not foregon
That he was jealous evermore-in-one:* *continually
Which jealousy was so outrageous
That neither in hallnor in none other house
Nor in none other place never the mo'
He woulde suffer her to ride or go
*But if* that he had hand on her alway. *unless
For which full often wepte freshe May
That loved Damian so burningly
That she must either dien suddenly
Or elles she must have him as her lest:* *pleased
She waited* when her hearte woulde brest.** *expected **burst
Upon that other side Damian
Becomen is the sorrowfullest man
That ever was; for neither night nor day
He mighte speak a word to freshe May
As to his purposeof no such mattere
*But if* that January must it hear*unless*
That had a hand upon her evermo'.

But nathelessby writing to and fro
And privy signeswist he what she meant
And she knew eke the fine* of his intent.

O Januarywhat might it thee avail
Though thou might see as far as shippes sail?
For as good is it blind deceiv'd to be
As be deceived when a man may see.
LoArguswhich that had a hundred eyen<24>
For all that ever he could pore or pryen
Yet was he blent;* andGod wotso be mo'
That *weene wisly* that it be not so:
Pass over is an easeI say no more.
This freshe Mayof which I spake yore*
In warm wax hath *imprinted the cliket*
That January bare of the small wicket
By which into his garden oft he went;
And Damianthat knew all her intent
The cliket counterfeited privily;
There is no more to saybut hastily
Some wonder by this cliket shall betide
Which ye shall hearenif ye will abide.

O noble Ovidsooth say'st thouGod wot
What sleight is itif love be long and hot
That he'll not find it out in some mannere?
By Pyramus and Thisbe may men lear;*


*think confidently*

*taken an impression

of the key*


Though they were kept full long and strait o'er all
They be accorded* rowning** through a wall*agreed **whispering
Where no wight could have found out such a sleight.

But now to purpose; ere that dayes eight
Were passed of the month of Julyfill* *it befell
That January caught so great a will
Through egging* of his wifehim for to play *inciting
In his gardenand no wight but they tway
That in a morning to this May said he: <25>
Rise up, my wife, my love, my lady free;
The turtle's voice is heard, mine owen sweet;
The winter is gone, with all his raines weet.* *wet
Come forth now with thine *eyen columbine* *eyes like the doves*
Well fairer be thy breasts than any wine.
The garden is enclosed all about;
Come forth, my white spouse; for, out of doubt,
Thou hast me wounded in mine heart, O wife:
No spot in thee was e'er in all thy life.
Come forth, and let us taken our disport;
I choose thee for my wife and my comfort.
Such olde lewed* wordes used he. *foolishignorant
On Damian a signe made she
That he should go before with his cliket.
This Damian then hath opened the wicket
And in he startand that in such mannere
That no wight might him either see or hear;
And still he sat under a bush. Anon
This Januaryas blind as is a stone
With Maius in his handand no wight mo'
Into this freshe garden is y-go
And clapped to the wicket suddenly.
Now, wife,quoth hehere is but thou and I;
Thou art the creature that I beste love:
For, by that Lord that sits in heav'n above,
Lever* I had to dien on a knife, *rather
Than thee offende, deare true wife.
For Godde's sake, think how I thee chees,* *chose

Not for no covetise* doubteless,
But only for the love I had to thee.
And though that I be old, and may not see,
Be to me true, and I will tell you why.
Certes three thinges shall ye win thereby:
First, love of Christ, and to yourself honour,
And all mine heritage, town and tow'r.
I give it you, make charters as you lest;
This shall be done to-morrow ere sun rest,
So wisly* God my soule bring to bliss!
I pray you, on this covenant me kiss.
And though that I be jealous, wite* me not;
Ye be so deep imprinted in my thought,
That when that I consider your beauty,
And therewithal *th'unlikely eld* of me,
I may not, certes, though I shoulde die,
Forbear to be out of your company,
For very love; this is withoute doubt:
Now kiss me, wife, and let us roam about.

This freshe Maywhen she these wordes heard
Benignely to January answer'd;
But first and forward she began to weep:
I have,quoth shea soule for to keep
As well as ye, and also mine honour,
And of my wifehood thilke* tender flow'r
Which that I have assured in your hond,
When that the priest to you my body bond:
Wherefore I will answer in this mannere,
With leave of you mine owen lord so dear.
I pray to God, that never dawn the day
That I *no sterve,* as foul as woman may,
If e'er I do unto my kin that shame,
Or elles I impaire so my name,
That I bee false; and if I do that lack,
Do strippe me, and put me in a sack,
And in the nexte river do me drench:*
I am a gentle woman, and no wench.
Why speak ye thus? but men be e'er untrue,
And women have reproof of you aye new.
Ye know none other dalliance, I believe,
But speak to us of untrust and repreve.*

And with that word she saw where Damian
Sat in the bushand coughe she began;
And with her finger signe made she
That Damian should climb upon a tree
That charged was with fruit; and up he went:
For verily he knew all her intent
And every signe that she coulde make
Better than January her own make.*
For in a letter she had told him all
Of this matterhow that he worke shall.
And thus I leave him sitting in the perry*
And January and May roaming full merry.

Bright was the dayand blue the firmament;
Phoebus of gold his streames down had sent
To gladden every flow'r with his warmness;
He was that time in GeminisI guess
But little from his declination
Of CancerJove's exaltation.
And so befellin that bright morning-tide
That in the gardenon the farther side

* covetousness

*dissimilar age*

*that same

*do not die*




Plutothat is the king of Faerie
And many a lady in his company
Following his wifethe queen Proserpina--
Which that he ravished out of Ethna<26>
While that she gather'd flowers in the mead
(In Claudian ye may the story read
How in his grisly chariot he her fet*)--*fetched
This king of Faerie adown him set
Upon a bank of turfes fresh and green
And right anon thus said he to his queen.
My wife,quoth hethere may no wight say nay, --
Experience so proves it every day, --
The treason which that woman doth to man.
Ten hundred thousand stories tell I can
Notable of your untruth and brittleness * *inconstancy
O Solomon, richest of all richess,
Full fill'd of sapience and worldly glory,
Full worthy be thy wordes of memory
To every wight that wit and reason can. * *knows
Thus praised he yet the bounte* of man: *goodness
'Among a thousand men yet found I one,
But of all women found I never none.' <27>
Thus said this king, that knew your wickedness;
And Jesus, Filius Sirach, <28> as I guess,
He spake of you but seldom reverence.
A wilde fire and corrupt pestilence
So fall upon your bodies yet to-night!
Ne see ye not this honourable knight?
Because, alas! that he is blind and old,
His owen man shall make him cuckold.
Lo, where he sits, the lechour, in the tree.
Now will I granten, of my majesty,
Unto this olde blinde worthy knight,
That he shall have again his eyen sight,
When that his wife will do him villainy;
Then shall be knowen all her harlotry,
Both in reproof of her and other mo'.
Yea, Sir,quoth Proserpine and will ye so?
Now by my mother Ceres' soul I swear
That I shall give her suffisant answer,
And alle women after, for her sake;
That though they be in any guilt y-take,
With face bold they shall themselves excuse,
And bear them down that woulde them accuse.
For lack of answer, none of them shall dien.
All* had ye seen a thing with both your eyen, *although
Yet shall *we visage it* so hardily, *confront it*
And weep, and swear, and chide subtilly,

That ye shall be as lewed* as be geese. *ignorant, confounded
What recketh me of your authorities?
I wot well that this Jew, this Solomon,
Found of us women fooles many one:
But though that he founde no good woman,
Yet there hath found many another man
Women full good, and true, and virtuous;
Witness on them that dwelt in Christes house;
With martyrdom they proved their constance.
The Roman gestes <29> make remembrance
Of many a very true wife also.
But, Sire, be not wroth, albeit so,
Though that he said he found no good woman,
I pray you take the sentence* of the man: *opinion, real meaning
He meant thus, that in *sovereign bounte* *perfect goodness

Is none but God, no, neither *he nor she.* *man nor woman*
Hey, for the very God that is but one,
Why make ye so much of Solomon?
What though he made a temple, Godde's house?
What though he were rich and glorious?
So made he eke a temple of false goddes;
How might he do a thing that more forbode* is? *forbidden
Pardie, as fair as ye his name emplaster,* *plaster over, whitewash"
He was a lechourand an idolaster* *idohater
And in his eld he very* God forsook. *the true
And if that God had not (as saith the book)
Spared him for his father's sakehe should
Have lost his regne* rather** than he would. *kingdom **sooner
I *sette not of* all the villainy *value not*
That he of women wrotea butterfly.
I am a womanneedes must I speak
Or elles swell until mine hearte break.
For since he said that we be jangleresses* *chatterers
As ever may I brooke* whole my tresses*preserve
I shall not spare for no courtesy
To speak him harmthat said us villainy."
Dame,quoth this Plutobe no longer wroth;
I give it up: but, since I swore mine oath
That I would grant to him his sight again,
My word shall stand, that warn I you certain:
I am a king; it sits* me not to lie.*becomesbefits
And I,quoth sheam queen of Faerie.
Her answer she shall have, I undertake,
Let us no more wordes of it make.
Forsooth, I will no longer you contrary.

Now let us turn again to January
That in the garden with his faire May
Singeth well merrier than the popinjay:* *parrot
You love I best, and shall, and other none.
So long about the alleys is he gone
Till he was come to *that ilke perry* *the same pear-tree*
Where as this Damian satte full merry
On highamong the freshe leaves green.
This freshe Maythat is so bright and sheen
Gan for to sighand saidAlas my side!
Now, Sir,quoth shefor aught that may betide,
I must have of the peares that I see,
Or I must die, so sore longeth me
To eaten of the smalle peares green;
Help, for her love that is of heaven queen!
I tell you well, a woman in my plight <30>
May have to fruit so great an appetite,
That she may dien, but* she of it have. *unless
Alas!quoth hethat I had here a knave* *servant
That coulde climb; alas! alas!quoth he
For I am blind.Yea, Sir, *no force,* quoth she; *no matter*
But would ye vouchesafe, for Godde's sake,
The perry in your armes for to take
(For well I wot that ye mistruste me),
Then would I climbe well enough,quoth she
So I my foot might set upon your back.
Certes,said hetherein shall be no lack,
Might I you helpe with mine hearte's blood.
He stooped downand on his back she stood
And caught her by a twist* and up she go'th. *twigbough
(LadiesI pray you that ye be not wroth
I cannot glose* I am a rude man): *mince matters
And suddenly anon this Damian

Gan pullen up the smockand in he throng.*
And when that Pluto saw this greate wrong
To January he gave again his sight
And made him see as well as ever he might.
And when he thus had caught his sight again
Was never man of anything so fain:
But on his wife his thought was evermo'.
Up to the tree he cast his eyen two
And saw how Damian his wife had dress'd
In such mannereit may not be express'd
*But if* I woulde speak uncourteously.
And up he gave a roaring and a cry
As doth the mother when the child shall die;
Out! help! alas! harow!he gan to cry;
O stronge, lady, stowre! <32> what doest thou?

And she answered: "Sirwhat aileth you?
Have patience and reason in your mind
I have you help'd on both your eyen blind.
On peril of my soulI shall not lien
As me was taught to helpe with your eyen
Was nothing better for to make you see
Than struggle with a man upon a tree:
God wotI did it in full good intent."
Struggle!quoth heyea, algate* in it went.
God give you both one shame's death to dien!
He swived* thee; I saw it with mine eyen;
And elles be I hanged by the halse.*
Then is,quoth shemy medicine all false;
For certainly, if that ye mighte see,
Ye would not say these wordes unto me.
Ye have some glimpsing,* and no perfect sight.
I see,quoth heas well as ever I might,
(Thanked be God!) with both mine eyen two,
And by my faith me thought he did thee so.
Ye maze,* ye maze, goode Sir,quoth she;
This thank have I for I have made you see:
Alas!quoth shethat e'er I was so kind.
Now, Dame,quoth helet all pass out of mind;
Come down, my lefe,* and if I have missaid,
God help me so, as I am *evil apaid.*
But, by my father's soul, I ween'd have seen
How that this Damian had by thee lain,
And that thy smock had lain upon his breast.
Yea, Sir,quoth sheye may *ween as ye lest:*
But, Sir, a man that wakes out of his sleep,
He may not suddenly well take keep*
Upon a thing, nor see it perfectly,
Till that he be adawed* verily.
Right so a man, that long hath blind y-be,
He may not suddenly so well y-see,
First when his sight is newe come again,
As he that hath a day or two y-seen.
Till that your sight establish'd be a while,
There may full many a sighte you beguile.
Beware, I pray you, for, by heaven's king,
Full many a man weeneth to see a thing,
And it is all another than it seemeth;
He which that misconceiveth oft misdeemeth.
And with that word she leapt down from the tree.
This Januarywho is glad but he?
He kissed herand clipped* her full oft
And on her womb he stroked her full soft;
And to his palace home he hath her lad.*

*rushed <31>


*whatever way

*enjoyed carnally


*raveare confused


*think as you



Nowgoode menI pray you to be glad.
Thus endeth here my tale of January
God bless usand his motherSainte Mary.

Notes to The Merchant's Tale

1. Ifas is probablethis Tale was translated from the French
the original is not now extant. Tyrwhitt remarks that the scene
is laid in Italy, but none of the names, except Damian and
Justin, seem to be Italian, but rather made at pleasure; so that I
doubt whether the story be really of Italian growth. The
adventure of the pear-tree I find in a small collection of Latin
fables, written by one Adoiphus, in elegiac verses of his fashion,
in the year 1315. . . . Whatever was the real origin of the Tale,
the machinery of the fairies, which Chaucer has used so happily,
was probably added by himself; and, indeed, I cannot help
thinking that his Pluto and Proserpina were the true progenitors
of Oberon and Titania; or rather, that they themselves have,
once at least, deigned to revisit our poetical system under the
latter names.
2. Seculeres: of the laity; but perhapssince the word is of twofold
meaningChaucer intends a hit at the secular clergywho
unlike the regular ordersdid not live separate from the world
but shared in all its interests and pleasures -- all the more easily
and freelythat they had not the civil restraint of marriage.
3. This and the next eight lines are taken from the "Liber
aureolus Theophrasti de nuptiis (Theophrastus's Golden
Book of Marriage") quoted by HieronymusContra
Jovinianum,("Against Jovinian") and thence again by John of
4. Mebles: movablesfurniture&c.; Frenchmeubles.
5. "Wade's boat" was called Guingelot; and in itaccording to
the old romancethe owner underwent a long series of wild
adventuresand performed many strange exploits. The romance
is lostand therefore the exact force of the phrase in the text is
uncertain; but Mr Wright seems to be warranted in supposing
that Wade's adventures were cited as examples of craft and
cunning -- that the heroin factwas a kind of Northern
UlyssesIt is possible that to the same source we may trace the
proverbial phrasefound in Chaucer's "Remedy of Love to
bear Wattis pack" signifying to be duped or beguiled.
6. Stopen: advanced; past participle of "step." Elsewhere
y-stept in ageis used by Chaucer.
7. They did not need to go in quest of a wife for himas they
had promised.
8. Thilke tree: that tree of original sinof which the special sins
are the branches.
9. Skinked: poured out; from Anglo-Saxonscencan.
10. Marcianus Capellawho wrote a kind of philosophical
romanceDe Nuptiis Mercurii et Philologiae(Of the Marriage
of Mercury and Philology) . "Her" and "him two lines after,
like he" applied to Theodomasare prefixed to the proper
names for emphasisaccording to the Anglo- Saxon usage.

11. Familiar: domestic; belonging to the "familia or household.
12. Hewe: domestic servant; from Anglo-Saxon, hiwa."
Tyrwhitt reads "false of holy hue;" but Mr Wright has properly
restored the reading adopted in the text.
13. Boren man: born; owing to January faith and loyalty
because born in his household.
14. Hippocras: spiced wine. Clarre: also a kind of spiced wine.
Vernage: a wine believed to have come from Cretealthough its
name -- ItalianVernaccia-- seems to be derived from
15. Dan Constantine: a medical author who wrote about 1080;
his works were printed at Basle in 1536.
16. Full of jargon as a flecked pie: he chattered like a magpie
17. Nearly all the manuscripts read "in two of Taure;" but
Tyrwhitt has shown thatsetting out from the second degree of
Taurusthe moonwhich in the four complete days that Maius
spent in her chamber could not have advanced more than fiftythree
degreeswould only have been at the twenty-fifth degree
of Gemini -- whereasby reading "ten she is brought to the
third degree of Cancer.
18. Kid; or kidde past participle of kythe" or "kithe to
show or discover.
19. Precious: precise, over-nice; French, precieux affected.
20. Proined: or pruned;" carefully trimmed and dressed
himself. The word is used in falconry of a hawk when she picks
and trims her feathers.
21. A dogge for the bow: a dog attending a hunter with the
22 The Romance of the Rose: a very popular mediaeval
romancethe English version of which is partly by Chaucer. It
opens with a description of a beautiful garden.

23. Priapus: Son of Bacchus and Venus: he was regarded as
the promoter of fertility in all agricultural lifevegetable and
animal; while not only gardensbut fieldsflocksbees -- and
even fisheries -- were supposed to be under his protection.
24. Argus was employed by Juno to watch Io with his hundred
eyes but he was sent to sleep by the flute of Mercurywho then
cut off his head.
25. "My beloved spakeand said unto meRise upmy lovemy
fair oneand come away. For lothe winter is pastthe rain is
over and gone: The flowers appear on the earththe time of the
singing of the birds is comeand the voice of the turtle is heard
in our land."
-- Song of Solomonii. 10-12.
26. "That fair field
Of Ennawhere Proserpinegath'ring flowers
Herself a fairer flow'rby gloomy Dis
Was gather'd."

-- MiltonParadise Lostiv. 268

27. "Beholdthis have I foundsaith the preachercounting one
by oneto find out the account:
Which yet my soul seekethbut I find not: one man amongst a
thousand have I foundbut a woman among all those I have not
Lothis only have I foundthat God hath made man upright."
Ecclesiastes vii. 27-29.
28. Jesusthe son of Sirachto whom is ascribed one of the
books of the Apochrypha -- that called the "Wisdom of Jesus
the Son of Sirachor Ecclesiasticus;" in whichespecially in the
ninth and twenty-fifth chapterssevere cautions are given
against women.
29. Roman gestes: histories; such as those of LucretiaPorcia
30. May means January to believe that she is pregnantand that
she has a craving for unripe pears.
31. At this pointand again some twenty lines belowseveral
verses of a very coarse character had been inserted in later
manuscripts; but they are evidently spuriousand are omitted in
the best editions.
32. "Store" is the general reading herebut its meaning is not
obvious. "Stowre" is found in several manuscripts; it signifies
struggleor "resist;" and both for its own appropriatenessand
for the force which it gives the word "stronge the reading in
the text seems the better.


HEY! Godde's mercy!" said our Hoste tho* *then
Now such a wife I pray God keep me fro'.
Lo, suche sleightes and subtilities
In women be; for aye as busy as bees
Are they us silly men for to deceive,
And from the soothe* will they ever weive,** *truth **swerve, depart
As this Merchante's tale it proveth well.
But natheless, as true as any steel,
I have a wife, though that she poore be;
But of her tongue a labbing* shrew is she; *chattering
And yet* she hath a heap of vices mo'. *moreover
Thereof *no force;* let all such thinges go. *no matter*
But wit* ye what? in counsel** be it said, *know **secret, confidence
Me rueth sore I am unto her tied;
For, an'* I shoulde reckon every vice *if
Which that she hath, y-wis* I were too nice;** *certainly **foolish
And cause why, it should reported be
And told her by some of this company
(By whom, it needeth not for to declare,
Since women connen utter such chaffare <1>),
And eke my wit sufficeth not thereto
To tellen all; wherefore my tale is do.* *done
Squier, come near, if it your wille be,

And say somewhat of love, for certes ye
*Conne thereon* as much as any man.*know about it*
Nay, Sir,quoth he; "but such thing as I can
With hearty will-- for I will not rebel
Against your lust* -- a tale will I tell. *pleasure
Have me excused if I speak amiss;
My will is good; and lomy tale is this."

Notes to the Prologue to the Squire's Tale

1. Women connen utter such chaffare: women are adepts at
giving circulation to such wares. The Host evidently means that
his wife would be sure to hear of his confessions from some
female member of the company.

*Pars Prima.* *First part*

At Sarrain the land of Tartary
There dwelt a king that warrayed* Russie<2> *made war on
Through which there died many a doughty man;
This noble king was called Cambuscan<3>
Which in his time was of so great renown
That there was nowhere in no regioun
So excellent a lord in alle thing:
Him lacked nought that longeth to a king
As of the sect of which that he was born.
He kept his law to which he was y-sworn
And thereto* he was hardywiseand rich*moreoverbesides
And piteous and justalways y-lich;* *alikeeven-tempered
True of his wordbenign and honourable;
*Of his corage as any centre stable;* *firmimmovable of spirit*
Youngfreshand strongin armes desirous
As any bachelor of all his house.
A fair person he wasand fortunate
And kept alway so well his royal estate
That there was nowhere such another man.
This noble kingthis Tartar Cambuscan
Hadde two sons by Elfeta his wife
Of which the eldest highte Algarsife
The other was y-called Camballo.
A daughter had this worthy king also
That youngest wasand highte Canace:
But for to telle you all her beauty
It lies not in my tonguenor my conning;* *skill
I dare not undertake so high a thing:
Mine English eke is insufficient
It muste be a rhetor* excellent*orator
*That couth his colours longing for that art* * see <4>*
If he should her describen any part;
I am none suchI must speak as I can.

And so befellthat when this Cambuscan
Had twenty winters borne his diadem
As he was wont from year to yearI deem
He let *the feast of his nativity* *his birthday party*
*Do crye* throughout Sarra his city*be proclaimed*
The last Idus of Marchafter the year.
Phoebus the sun full jolly was and clear

For he was nigh his exaltation
In Marte's faceand in his mansion <5>
In Ariesthe choleric hot sign:
Full lusty* was the weather and benign;
For which the fowls against the sunne sheen*
What for the season and the younge green
Full loude sange their affections:
Them seemed to have got protections
Against the sword of winter keen and cold.
This Cambuscanof which I have you told
In royal vesturesat upon his dais
With diademfull high in his palace;
And held his feast so solemn and so rich
That in this worlde was there none it lich.*
Of which if I should tell all the array
Then would it occupy a summer's day;
And eke it needeth not for to devise*
At every course the order of service.
I will not tellen of their strange sewes*
Nor of their swannesnor their heronsews.*
Eke in that landas telle knightes old
There is some meat that is full dainty hold
That in this land men *reck of* it full small:
There is no man that may reporten all.
I will not tarry youfor it is prime
And for it is no fruitbut loss of time;
Unto my purpose* I will have recourse.
And so befell thatafter the third course
While that this king sat thus in his nobley*
Hearing his ministreles their thinges play
Before him at his board deliciously
In at the halle door all suddenly
There came a knight upon a steed of brass
And in his hand a broad mirror of glass;
Upon his thumb he had of gold a ring
And by his side a naked sword hanging:
And up he rode unto the highe board.
In all the hall was there not spoke a word
For marvel of this knight; him to behold
Full busily they waited* young and old.

This strange knightthat came thus suddenly
All armedsave his headfull richely
Saluted kingand queenand lordes all
By order as they satten in the hall
With so high reverence and observance
As well in speech as in his countenance
That Gawain <9> with his olde courtesy
Though he were come again out of Faerie
Him *coulde not amende with a word.*
And after thisbefore the highe board
He with a manly voice said his message
After the form used in his language
Withoute vice* of syllable or letter.
Andfor his tale shoulde seem the better
Accordant to his worde's was his cheer*
As teacheth art of speech them that it lear.*
Albeit that I cannot sound his style
Nor cannot climb over so high a stile



*dishes <6>
*young herons <7>

*care for*

*story <8>
*noble array


*could not better him
by one word*



Yet say I thisas to *commune intent* *general sense or meaning*
*Thus much amounteth* all that ever he meant*this is the sum of*
If it so be that I have it in mind.
He said; "The king of Araby and Ind
My liege lordon this solemne day

Saluteth you as he best can and may
And sendeth youin honour of your feast
By methat am all ready at your hest*
This steed of brassthat easily and well
Can in the space of one day naturel
(This is to sayin four-and-twenty hours)
Whereso you listin drought or else in show'rs

Beare your body into every place
To which your hearte willeth for to pace*
Withoute wem* of youthrough foul or fair.
Or if you list to fly as high in air
As doth an eaglewhen him list to soar
This same steed shall bear you evermore
Withoute harmtill ye be where *you lest*
(Though that ye sleepen on his backor rest)
And turn againwith writhing* of a pin.
He that it wroughthe coude* many a gin;**
He waited* in any a constellation
Ere he had done this operation
And knew full many a seal <11> and many a bond
This mirror ekethat I have in mine hond
Hath such a mightthat men may in it see
When there shall fall any adversity
Unto your realmor to yourself also
And openly who is your friend or foe.
And over all thisif any lady bright
Hath set her heart on any manner wight
If he be falseshe shall his treason see
His newe loveand all his subtlety
So openly that there shall nothing hide.
Whereforeagainst this lusty summer-tide
This mirrorand this ring that ye may see
He hath sent to my lady Canace
Your excellente daughter that is here.
The virtue of this ringif ye will hear
Is thisthat if her list it for to wear
Upon her thumbor in her purse it bear
There is no fowl that flyeth under heaven



*it pleases you*

*knew **contrivance <10>

That she shall not well understand his steven* *speechsound
And know his meaning openly and plain
And answer him in his language again:
And every grass that groweth upon root
She shall eke knowto whom it will do boot* *remedy
All be his woundes ne'er so deep and wide.
This naked swordthat hangeth by my side
Such virtue haththat what man that it smite
Throughout his armour it will carve and bite
Were it as thick as is a branched oak:
And what man is y-wounded with the stroke
Shall ne'er be wholetill that you listof grace
To stroke him with the flat in thilke* place *the same
Where he is hurt; this is as much to sayn
Ye muste with the flatte sword again
Stroke him upon the woundand it will close.
This is the very soothwithoute glose;* *deceit
It faileth notwhile it is in your hold."
And when this knight had thus his tale told
He rode out of the halland down he light.
His steedewhich that shone as sunne bright
Stood in the court as still as any stone.
The knight is to his chamber led anon
And is unarmedand to meat y-set.* *seated
These presents be full richely y-fet* --*fetched

This is to saythe sword and the mirrour--
And borne anon into the highe tow'r
With certain officers ordain'd therefor;
And unto Canace the ring is bore
Solemnelywhere she sat at the table;
But sickerlywithouten any fable
The horse of brassthat may not be remued.*
It stood as it were to the ground y-glued;
There may no man out of the place it drive
For no engine of windlass or polive; *
And cause whyfor they *can not the craft;*
And therefore in the place they have it laft
Till that the knight hath taught them the mannere
To voide* himas ye shall after hear.

Great was the pressthat swarmed to and fro
To gauren* on this horse that stoode so:
For it so high wasand so broad and long
So well proportioned for to be strong
Right as it were a steed of Lombardy;
Therewith so horselyand so quick of eye
As it a gentle Poileis <13> courser were:
For certesfrom his tail unto his ear
Nature nor art ne could him not amend
In no degreeas all the people wend.*
But evermore their moste wonder was
How that it coulde goand was of brass;
It was of Faerieas the people seem'd.
Diverse folk diversely they deem'd;
As many headsas many wittes been.
They murmuredas doth a swarm of been*
And made skills* after their fantasies
Rehearsing of the olde poetries
And said that it was like the Pegasee*
The horse that hadde winges for to flee;*
Or else it was the Greeke's horse Sinon<14>
That broughte Troye to destruction
As men may in the olde gestes* read.
Mine heart quoth one, is evermore in dread;
I trow some men of armes be therein
That shape* them this city for to win:
It were right good that all such thing were know."
Another rowned* to his fellow low
And saidHe lies; for it is rather like
An apparence made by some magic,
As jugglers playen at these feastes great.
Of sundry doubts they jangle thus and treat.
As lewed* people deeme commonly
Of thinges that be made more subtilly
Than they can in their lewdness comprehend;
They *deeme gladly to the badder end.*
And some of them wonder'd on the mirrour
That borne was up into the master* tow'r
How men might in it suche thinges see.
Another answer'd and saidit might well be
Naturally by compositions
Of anglesand of sly reflections;
And saide that in Rome was such a one.
They speak of Alhazen and Vitellon<16>
And Aristotlethat wrote in their lives
Of quainte* mirrorsand of prospectives
As knowe they that have their bookes heard.
And other folk have wonder'd on the swerd*
That woulde pierce throughout every thing;

*removed <12>

*know not the cunning
of the mechanism*






*tales of adventures




*are ready to think
the worst*
*chief <15>


And fell in speech of Telephus the king
And of Achilles for his quainte spear<17>
For he could with it bothe heal and dere* *wound
Right in such wise as men may with the swerd
Of which right now ye have yourselves heard.
They spake of sundry hard'ning of metal
And spake of medicines therewithal
And howand whenit shoulde harden'd be
Which is unknowen algate* unto me. *however
Then spake they of Canacee's ring
And saiden allthat such a wondrous thing
Of craft of rings heard they never none
Save that heMosesand King Solomon
Hadden *a name of conning* in such art. *a reputation for
Thus said the peopleand drew them apart. knowledge*
Put natheless some saide that it was
Wonder to maken of fern ashes glass
And yet is glass nought like ashes of fern;

*But for* they have y-knowen it so ferne** *because **before <18>
Therefore ceaseth their jangling and their wonder.

As sore wonder some on cause of thunder
On ebb and floodon gossamer and mist
And on all thingstill that the cause is wist.* *known
Thus jangle theyand deemen and devise
Till that the king gan from his board arise.
Phoebus had left the angle meridional
And yet ascending was the beast royal
The gentle Lionwith his Aldrian<19>
When that this Tartar kingthis Cambuscan
Rose from the boardthere as he sat full high
Before him went the loude minstrelsy
Till he came to his chamber of parements<20>
There as they sounded diverse instruments
That it was like a heaven for to hear.
Now danced lusty Venus' children dear:
For in the Fish* their lady sat full *Pisces
And looked on them with a friendly eye. <21>
This noble king is set upon his throne;
This strange knight is fetched to him full sone* *soon
And on the dance he goes with Canace.
Here is the revel and the jollity
That is not able a dull man to devise:* *describe
He must have knowen love and his service
And been a feastly* manas fresh as May*merrygay
That shoulde you devise such array.
Who coulde telle you the form of dances
So uncouth* and so freshe countenances** *unfamliar **gestures
Such subtle lookings and dissimulances
For dread of jealous men's apperceivings?
No man but Launcelot<22> and he is dead.
Therefore I pass o'er all this lustihead* *pleasantness
I say no morebut in this jolliness
I leave themtill to supper men them dress.
The steward bids the spices for to hie* *haste
And eke the winein all this melody;
The ushers and the squiers be y-gone
The spices and the wine is come anon;
They eat and drinkand when this hath an end
Unto the templeas reason wasthey wend;
The service donethey suppen all by day
What needeth you rehearse their array?
Each man wot wellthat at a kinge's feast
Is plentyto the most*and to the least*highest

And dainties more than be in my knowing.

At after supper went this noble king
To see the horse of brasswith all a rout
Of lordes and of ladies him about.
Such wond'ring was there on this horse of brass

Thatsince the great siege of Troye was
There as men wonder'd on a horse also
Ne'er was there such a wond'ring as was tho.*
But finally the king asked the knight
The virtue of this courserand the might
And prayed him to tell his governance.*
The horse anon began to trip and dance
When that the knight laid hand upon his rein
And saideSir, there is no more to sayn,
But when you list to riden anywhere,
Ye muste trill* a pin, stands in his ear,
Which I shall telle you betwixt us two;
Ye muste name him to what place also,
Or to what country that you list to ride.
And when ye come where you list abide,
Bid him descend, and trill another pin
(For therein lies th' effect of all the gin*),
And he will down descend and do your will,
And in that place he will abide still;
Though all the world had the contrary swore,
He shall not thence be throwen nor be bore.
Or, if you list to bid him thennes gon,
Trill this pin, and he will vanish anon
Out of the sight of every manner wight,
And come again, be it by day or night,
When that you list to clepe* him again
In such a guise, as I shall to you sayn
Betwixte you and me, and that full soon.
Ride <24> when you list, there is no more to do'n.'

*mode of managing him

*turn <23>

*contrivance <10>


Informed when the king was of the knight,
And had conceived in his wit aright
The manner and the form of all this thing,
Full glad and blithe, this noble doughty king
Repaired to his revel as beforn.
The bridle is into the tower borne,
And kept among his jewels lefe* and dear;
The horse vanish'd, I n'ot* in what mannere,
Out of their sight; ye get no more of me:
But thus I leave in lust and jollity
This Cambuscan his lordes feastying,*
Until well nigh the day began to spring.

*Pars Secunda.*

The norice* of digestion, the sleep,
Gan on them wink, and bade them take keep,*
That muche mirth and labour will have rest.
And with a gaping* mouth he all them kest,**
And said, that it was time to lie down,
For blood was in his dominatioun: <26>
Cherish the bloodnature's friend quoth he.
They thanked him gaping, by two and three;
And every wight gan draw him to his rest;
As sleep them bade, they took it for the best.
Their dreames shall not now be told for me;
Full are their heades of fumosity,<27>

*know not

*entertaining <25>

*Second Part*

*yawning **kissed

That caused dreams *of which there is no charge:* *of no significance*

They slepte; till that, it was *prime large,*
The moste part, but* it was Canace;
She was full measurable,* as women be:
For of her father had she ta'en her leave
To go to rest, soon after it was eve;
Her liste not appalled* for to be;
Nor on the morrow *unfeastly for to see;*
And slept her firste sleep; and then awoke.
For such a joy she in her hearte took
Both of her quainte a ring and her mirrour,.
That twenty times she changed her colour;
And in her sleep, right for th' impression
Of her mirror, she had a vision.
Wherefore, ere that the sunne gan up glide,
She call'd upon her mistress'* her beside,
And saide, that her liste for to rise.

These olde women, that be gladly wise
As are her mistresses answer'd anon,
And said; Madamewhither will ye gon
Thus early? for the folk be all in rest."
I will,quoth shearise; for me lest
No longer for to sleep, and walk about.
Her mistresses call'd women a great rout
And up they rosewell a ten or twelve;
Up rose freshe Canace herselve
As ruddy and bright as is the yonnge sun
That in the Ram is four degrees y-run;
No higher was hewhen she ready was;
And forth she walked easily a pace
Array'd after the lusty* season swoot**
Lightely for to playand walk on foot
Nought but with five or six of her meinie;
And in a trench* forth in the park went she.
The vapourwhich up from the earthe glode*
Made the sun to seem ruddy and broad:
Butnathelessit was so fair a sight
That it made all their heartes for to light*
What for the season and the morrowning
And for the fowles that she hearde sing.
For right anon she wiste* what they meant
Right by their songand knew all their intent.
The knotte* why that every tale is told
If it be tarried* till the list* be cold
Of them that have it hearken'd *after yore*
The savour passeth ever longer more;
For fulsomness of the prolixity:
And by that same reason thinketh me.
I shoulde unto the knotte condescend
And maken of her walking soon an end.

Amid a tree fordry*as white as chalk
There sat a falcon o'er her head full high
That with a piteous voice so gan to cry;
That all the wood resounded of her cry
And beat she had herself so piteously
With both her wingestill the redde blood
Ran endelong* the treethere as she stood
And ever-in-one* alway she cried and shright;**
And with her beak herselfe she so pight*
That there is no tigernor cruel beast
That dwelleth either in wood or in forest;
But would have weptif that he weepe could

*late morning*

*to look pale
*to look saddepressed*


*pleasant **sweet

*sunken path

*be lightenedglad


*nucleuschief matter
*delayed **inclination
*for a long time*

*thoroughly dried up

*from top to bottom
*incessantly **shrieked

For sorrow of her; she shriek'd alway so loud.
For there was never yet no man alive
If that he could a falcon well descrive;* *describe
That heard of such another of fairness
As well of plumageas of gentleness;
Of shapeof all that mighte reckon'd be.
A falcon peregrine seemed she
Of fremde* land; and ever as she stood *foreign <28>
She swooned now and now for lack of blood;
Till well-nigh is she fallen from the tree.
This faire kinge's daughter Canace
That on her finger bare the quainte ring
Through which she understood well every thing
That any fowl may in his leden* sayn**language <29>
And could him answer in his leden again;
Hath understoode what this falcon said
And well-nigh for the ruth* almost she died;. *pity
And to the tree she wentfull hastily
And on this falcon looked piteously;
And held her lap abroad; for well she wist
The falcon muste falle from the twist* *twigbough
When that she swooned nextfor lack of blood.
A longe while to waite her she stood;
Till at the last she apake in this mannere
Unto the hawkas ye shall after hear:
What is the cause, if it be for to tell,
That ye be in this furial* pain of hell?*ragingfurious
Quoth Canace unto this hawk above;
Is this for sorrow of of death; or loss of love?
For; as I trow,* these be the causes two; *believe
That cause most a gentle hearte woe:
Of other harm it needeth not to speak.
For ye yourself upon yourself awreak;* *inflict
Which proveth well, that either ire or dread* *fear
Must be occasion of your cruel deed,
Since that I see none other wight you chase:
For love of God, as *do yourselfe grace;* *have mercy on
Or what may be your help? for, west nor east, yourself*
I never saw ere now no bird nor beast
That fared with himself so piteously
Ye slay me with your sorrow verily;
I have of you so great compassioun.
For Godde's love come from the tree adown
And, as I am a kinge's daughter true,
If that I verily the causes knew
Of your disease,* if it lay in my might, *distress
I would amend it, ere that it were night,
So wisly help me the great God of kind.** *surely **nature
And herbes shall I right enoughe find,
To heale with your hurtes hastily.
Then shriek'd this falcon yet more piteously
Than ever she didand fell to ground anon
And lay aswoonas dead as lies a stone
Till Canace had in her lap her take
Unto that time she gan of swoon awake:
Andafter that she out of swoon abraid* *awoke
Right in her hawke's leden thus she said:
That pity runneth soon in gentle heart
(Feeling his simil'tude in paines smart),
Is proved every day, as men may see,

As well *by work as by authority;* *by experience as by doctrine*
For gentle hearte kitheth* gentleness. *sheweth

I see well, that ye have on my distress
Compassion, my faire Canace,
Of very womanly benignity
That nature in your princples hath set.
But for no hope for to fare the bet,* *better
But for t' obey unto your hearte free,
And for to make others aware by me,
As by the whelp chastis'd* is the lion, *instructed, corrected
Right for that cause and that conclusion,
While that I have a leisure and a space,
Mine harm I will confessen ere I pace.* *depart
And ever while the one her sorrow told

The other wept*as she to water wo'ld* *as if she would dissolve

Till that the falcon bade her to be still
And with a sigh right thus she said *her till:*
Where I was bred (alas that ilke* day!)
And foster'd in a rock of marble gray
So tenderly, that nothing ailed me,
I wiste* not what was adversity,
Till I could flee* full high under the sky.
Then dwell'd a tercelet <30> me faste by,
That seem'd a well of alle gentleness;
*All were he* full of treason and falseness,
It was so wrapped *under humble cheer,*
And under hue of truth, in such mannere,
Under pleasance, and under busy pain,
That no wight weened that he coulde feign,
So deep in grain he dyed his colours.
Right as a serpent hides him under flow'rs,
Till he may see his time for to bite,
Right so this god of love's hypocrite
Did so his ceremonies and obeisances,
And kept in semblance all his observances,
That *sounden unto* gentleness of love.
As on a tomb is all the fair above,
And under is the corpse, which that ye wet,
Such was this hypocrite, both cold and hot;
And in this wise he served his intent,
That, save the fiend, none wiste what he meant:
Till he so long had weeped and complain'd,
And many a year his service to me feign'd,
Till that mine heart, too piteous and too nice,*

into water*
*to her*


*although he was*
*under an aspect
of humility*

*are consonant to*

*foolish, simple

*greatly afraid lest
he should die*

All innocent of his crowned malice,
*Forfeared of his death,* as thoughte me,
Upon his oathes and his surety
Granted him love, on this conditioun,
That evermore mine honour and renown
Were saved, bothe *privy and apert;*
This is to say, that, after his desert,
I gave him all my heart and all my thought
(God wot, and he, that *other wayes nought*),
And took his heart in change of mine for aye.
But sooth is said, gone since many a day,
A true wight and a thiefe *think not one.*
And when he saw the thing so far y-gone,
That I had granted him fully my love,
In such a wise as I have said above,
And given him my true heart as free
As he swore that he gave his heart to me,
Anon this tiger, full of doubleness,
Fell on his knees with so great humbleness,
With so high reverence, as by his cheer,*
So like a gentle lover in mannere,
So ravish'd, as it seemed, for the joy,

*privately and in public*
*in no other way*
*do not think alike*


That never Jason, nor Paris of Troy, --
Jason? certes, nor ever other man,
Since Lamech <31> was, that alderfirst* began *first of all
To love two, as write folk beforn,
Nor ever since the firste man was born,
Coulde no man, by twenty thousand
Counterfeit the sophimes* of his art; *sophistries, beguilements
Where doubleness of feigning should approach,
Nor worthy were t'unbuckle his galoche,* *shoe <32>
Nor could so thank a wight, as he did me.
His manner was a heaven for to see
To any woman, were she ne'er so wise;
So painted he and kempt,* *at point devise,* *combed, studied
As well his wordes as his countenance. *with perfect precision*

And I so lov'd him for his obeisance,
And for the truth I deemed in his heart,
That, if so were that any thing him smart,* *pained
All were it ne'er so lite,* and I it wist, *little
Methought I felt death at my hearte twist.
And shortly, so farforth this thing is went,* *gone
That my will was his wille's instrument;
That is to say, my will obey'd his will
In alle thing, as far as reason fill,* *fell; allowed
Keeping the boundes of my worship ever;
And never had I thing *so lefe, or lever,* *so dear, or dearer*
As him, God wot, nor never shall no mo'.
This lasted longer than a year or two
That I supposed of him naught but good.
But finallythus at the last it stood
That fortune woulde that he muste twin* *departseparate
Out of that place which that I was in.
Whe'er* me was woeit is no question; *whether
I cannot make of it description.
For one thing dare I telle boldely
I know what is the pain of death thereby;
Such harm I feltfor he might not byleve.* *stay <33>
So on a day of me he took his leave
So sorrowful ekethat I ween'd verily
That he had felt as muche harm as I
When that I heard him speakand saw his hue.
But nathelessI thought he was so true
And eke that he repaire should again
Within a little whilesooth to sayn
And reason would eke that he muste go
For his honouras often happ'neth so
That I made virtue of necessity
And took it wellsince that it muste be.
As I best mightI hid from him my sorrow
And took him by the handSaint John to borrow* *witnesspledge
And said him thus; 'LoI am youres all;
Be such as I have been to youand shall.'
What he answer'dit needs not to rehearse;
Who can say bet* than hewho can do worse? *better
When he had all well saidthen had he done.
Therefore behoveth him a full long spoon
That shall eat with a fiend; thus heard I say.
So at the last he muste forth his way
And forth he flewtill he came where him lest.
When it came him to purpose for to rest
I trow that he had thilke text in mind
That alle thing repairing to his kind
Gladdeth himself; <34> thus say menas I guess;
*Men love of [proper] kind newfangleness* *see note <35>*

As birdes dothat men in cages feed.
For though thou night and day take of them heed
And strew their cage fair and soft as silk
And give them sugarhoneybreadand milk
Yet*right anon as that his door is up*
He with his feet will spurne down his cup
And to the wood he willand wormes eat;
So newefangle be they of their meat
And love noveltiesof proper kind;
No gentleness of bloode may them bind.
So far'd this terceletalas the day!
Though he were gentle bornand freshand gay
And goodly for to seeand humbleand free
He saw upon a time a kite flee*
And suddenly he loved this kite so
That all his love is clean from me y-go:
And hath his trothe falsed in this wise.
Thus hath the kite my love in her service
And I am lorn* withoute remedy."

And with that word this falcon gan to cry
And swooned eft* in Canacee's barme**
Great was the sorrowfor that hawke's harm
That Canace and all her women made;
They wist not how they might the falcon glade.*
But Canace home bare her in her lap
And softely in plasters gan her wrap
There as she with her beak had hurt herselve.
Now cannot Canace but herbes delve
Out of the groundand make salves new
Of herbes precious and fine of hue
To heale with this hawk; from day to night
She did her businessand all her might.
And by her bedde's head she made a mew*
And cover'd it with velouettes* blue<36>
In sign of truth that is in woman seen;
And all without the mew is painted green
In which were painted all these false fowls
As be these tidifes* terceletsand owls;
And pieson them for to cry and chide
Right for despite were painted them beside.

Thus leave I Canace her hawk keeping.
I will no more as now speak of her ring
Till it come eft* to purpose for to sayn
How that this falcon got her love again
Repentantas the story telleth us
By mediation of Camballus
The kinge's son of which that I you told.
But henceforth I will my process hold
To speak of aventuresand of battailes
That yet was never heard so great marvailles.
First I will telle you of Cambuscan
That in his time many a city wan;
And after will I speak of Algarsife
How he won Theodora to his wife
For whom full oft in great peril he was
*N'had he* been holpen by the horse of brass.
And after will I speak of Camballo<37>
That fought in listes with the brethren two
For Canaceere that he might her win;
And where I left I will again begin.

. . . . <38>

*immediately on his
door being opened*


*again **lap

*bird cage



*had he not*

Notes to the Squire's Tale

1. The Squire's Tale has not been found under any other form
among the literary remains of the Middle Ages; and it is
unknown from what original it was derivedif from any. The
Tale is unfinishednot because the conclusion has been lostbut
because the author left it so.
2. The Russians and Tartars waged constant hostilities between
the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries.
3. In the best manuscripts the name is "Cambynskan and thus,
no doubt, it should strictly be read. But it is a most pardonable
offence against literal accuracy to use the word which Milton
has made classical, in Il Penseroso speaking of
him that left half-told
The story of Cambuscan bold
Of Camballand of Algarsife
And who had Canace to wife
That owned the virtuous Ring and Glass
And of the wondrous Horse of Brass
On which the Tartar King did ride"

Surely the admiration of Milton might well seem to the spirit of
Chaucer to condone a much greater transgression on his domain
than this verbal change -- which to both eye and ear is an
unquestionable improvement on the uncouth original.

4. Couth his colours longing for that art: well skilled in using
the colours -- the word-painting -- belonging to his art.
5. Aries was the mansion of Mars -- to whom "his" applies.
Leo was the mansion of the Sun.
6. Sewes: Dishesor soups. The precise force of the word is
uncertain; but it may be connected with "seethe to boil, and it
seems to describe a dish in which the flesh was served up amid a
kind of broth or gravy. The sewer taster or assayer of the
viands served at great tables, probably derived his name from
the verb to say" or "assay;" though Tyrwhitt would connect
the two wordsby taking both from the Frenchasseoir,to
place -- making the arrangement of the table the leading duty of
the "sewer rather than the testing of the food.
7. Heronsews: young herons; French, heronneaux."
8. Purpose: storydiscourse; Frenchpropos.
9. Gawain was celebrated in mediaeval romance as the most
courteous among King Arthur's knights.
10. Gin: contrivance; trick; snare. Compare Italianinganno,
deception; and our own "engine."
11. Mr Wright remarks that "the making and arrangement of
seals was one of the important operations of mediaeval magic."
12. Remued: removed; Frenchremuer,to stir.
13. Polies: Apulian. The horses of Apulia -- in old French
Poille,in Italian "Puglia" -- were held in high value.

14. The Greeke's horse Sinon: the wooden horse of the Greek
Sinonintroduced into Troy by the stratagem of its maker.
15. Master tower: chief tower; asin the Knight's Talethe
principal street is called the "master street." See note 86 to the
Knight's Tale.
16. Alhazen and Vitellon: two writers on optics -- the first
supposed to have lived about 1100the other about 1270.
Tyrwhitt says that their works were printed at Basle in 1572
under the title "Alhazeni et Vitellonis Opticae."
17. Telephusa son of Herculesreigned over Mysia when the
Greeks came to besiege Troyand he sought to prevent their
landing. Butby the art of Dionysushe was made to stumble
over a vineand Achilles wounded him with his spear. The
oracle informed Telephus that the hurt could be healed only by
himor by the weaponthat inflicted it; and the kingseeking
the Grecian campwas healed by Achilles with the rust of the
charmed spear.
18. Ferne: before; a corruption of "forne from Anglo-Saxon,
19. Aldrian: or Aldebaran; a star in the neck of the constellation
20. Chamber of parements: Presence-chamberor chamber of
statefull of splendid furniture and ornaments. The same
expression is used in French and Italian.
21. In PiscesVenus was said to be at her exaltation or greatest
power. A planetaccording to the old astrologerswas in
exaltationwhen in the sign of the Zodiac in which it exerted
its strongest influence; the opposite signin which it was
weakestwas called its "dejection."
22. Launcelot: Arthur's famous knightso accomplished and
courtlythat he was held the very pink of chivalry.
23. Trill: turn; akin to "thirl"drill.
24. Ride: another reading is "bide alight or remain.
25. Feastying: entertaining; French, festoyer to feast.
26. The old physicians held that blood dominated in the human
body late at night and in the early morning. Galen says that the
domination lasts for seven hours.
27. Fumosity: fumes of wine rising from the stomach to the
28. Fremde: foreign, strange; German, fremd" in the northern
dialectsfrem,or "fremmed is used in the same sense.
29. Leden: Language, dialect; from Anglo-Saxon, leden" or
laeden,a corruption from "Latin."
30. Tercelet: the "tassel or male of any species of hawk; so
called, according to Cotgrave, because he is one third (tiers")
smaller than the female.

31. "And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the
one Adahand the name of the other Zillah" (Gen. iv. 19).
32. Galoche: shoe; it seems to have been used in Franceof a
sabot,or wooden shoe. The reader cannot fail to recall the
same illustration in John i. 27where the Baptist says of Christ:
He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me; whose
shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
33. Byleve; stay; another form is "bleve;" from Anglo-Saxon
belitan,to remain. Compare Germanbleiben.
34. This sentimentas well as the illustration of the bird which
followsis taken from the third book of BoethiusDe
Consolatione Philosophiae,metrum 2. It has thus been
rendered in Chaucer's translation: "All things seek aye to their
proper courseand all things rejoice on their returning again to
their nature."
35. Men love of proper kind newfangleness: Menby their own
-- their very -- natureare fond of noveltyand prone to
36. Blue was the colour of truthas green was that of
inconstancy. In John Stowe's additions to Chaucer's works
printed in 1561there is "A balade whiche Chaucer made
against women inconstaunt of which the refrain is, In stead of
bluethus may ye wear all green."
37. Unless we suppose this to be a namesake of the Camballo
who was Canace's brother -- which is not at all probable -- we
must agree with Tyrwhitt that there is a mistake here; which no
doubt Chaucer would have rectifiedif the tale had not been
left half-told,One manuscript reads "Caballo;" and though not
much authority need be given to a difference that may be due to
mere omission of the mark of contraction over the "a there is
enough in the text to show that another person than the king's
younger son is intended. The Squire promises to tell the
adventures that befell each member of Cambuscan's family; and
in thorough consistency with this plan, and with the canons of
chivalric story, would be the marriage of Canace to some
knight who was first obliged to fight for her with her two
brethren; a method of courtship adds Tyrwhitt, very
consonant to the spirit of ancient chivalry."
38. (Trancriber's note) In some manuscripts the following two
linesbeing the beginning of the third partare found: Apollo
whirleth up his chair so high
Till that Mercurius' housethe sly...



IN faith, Squier, thou hast thee well acquit,
And gentilly; I praise well thy wit,
Quoth the Franklin; "considering thy youthe
So feelingly thou speak'stSirI aloue* thee*allowapprove
*As to my doom* there is none that is here *so far as my judgment

Of eloquence that shall be thy peergoes*
If that thou live; God give thee goode chance
And in virtue send thee continuance
For of thy speaking I have great dainty.* *valueesteem
I have a sonandby the Trinity;
*It were me lever* than twenty pound worth land*I would rather*
Though it right now were fallen in my hand
He were a man of such discretion
As that ye be: fy on possession
*But if* a man be virtuous withal. *unless
I have my sone snibbed* and yet shall*rebuked; "snubbed."
For he to virtue *listeth not t'intend* *does not wish to
But for to play at diceand to dispendapply himself*
And lose all that he hathis his usage;
And he had lever talke with a page
Than to commune with any gentle wight
There he might learen gentilless aright."
Straw for your gentillesse!" quoth our Host.
What? Frankelin, pardie, Sir, well thou wost* *knowest
That each of you must tellen at the least
A tale or two, or breake his behest.* *promise
That know I well, Sir,quoth the Frankelin;
I pray you have me not in disdain,
Though I to this man speak a word or two.
Tell on thy tale, withoute wordes mo'.
Gladly, Sir Host,quoth heI will obey
Unto your will; now hearken what I say;
I will you not contrary* in no wise, *disobey
As far as that my wittes may suffice.
I pray to God that it may please you,
Then wot I well that it is good enow.
These olde gentle Bretonsin their days
Of divers aventures made lays<2>
Rhymeden in their firste Breton tongue;
Which layes with their instruments they sung
Or elles reade them for their pleasance;
And one of them have I in remembrance
Which I shall say with good will as I can.
ButSirsbecause I am a borel* man*rudeunlearned
At my beginning first I you beseech
Have me excused of my rude speech.
I learned never rhetoriccertain;
Thing that I speakit must be bare and plain.
I slept never on the mount of Parnasso
Nor learned Marcus Tullius Cicero.
Coloures know I nonewithoute dread* *doubt
But such colours as growen in the mead
Or elles such as men dye with or paint;
Colours of rhetoric be to me quaint;* *strange
My spirit feeleth not of such mattere.
Butif you listmy tale shall ye hear."

Notes to the Prologue to the Franklin's Tale

1. In the older editionsthe verses here given as the prologue
were prefixed to the Merchant's Taleand put into his mouth.
Tyrwhitt was abundantly justifiedby the internal evidence
afforded by the lines themselvesin transferring them to their
present place.

2. The "Breton Lays" were an important and curious element in
the literature of the Middle Ages; they were originally
composed in the Armorican languageand the chief collection
of them extant was translated into French verse by a poetess
calling herself "Marie about the middle of the thirteenth
century. But though this collection was the most famous, and
had doubtless been read by Chaucer, there were other British or
Breton lays, and from one of those the Franklin's Tale is taken.
Boccaccio has dealt with the same story in the Decameron"
and the "Philocopo altering the circumstances to suit the
removal of its scene to a southern clime.

In Armoric', that called is Bretagne,
There was a knight, that lov'd and *did his pain* *devoted himself,
To serve a lady in his beste wise; strove*
And many a labour, many a great emprise,* *enterprise
He for his lady wrought, ere she were won:
For she was one the fairest under sun,
And eke thereto come of so high kindred,
That *well unnethes durst this knight for dread,* *see note <1>*
Tell her his woe, his pain, and his distress
But, at the last, she for his worthiness,
And namely* for his meek obeisance, *especially
Hath such a pity caught of his penance,* *suffering, distress
That privily she fell of his accord
To take him for her husband and her lord
(Of such lordship as men have o'er their wives);
And, for to lead the more in bliss their lives,
Of his free will he swore her as a knight,
That never in all his life he day nor night
Should take upon himself no mastery
Against her will, nor kithe* her jealousy, *show
But her obey, and follow her will in all,
As any lover to his lady shall;
Save that the name of sovereignety
That would he have, for shame of his degree.
She thanked him, and with full great humbless
She saide; Sirsince of your gentleness
Ye proffer me to have so large a reign
*Ne woulde God never betwixt us twain
As in my guiltwere either war or strife:* *see note <2>*
SirI will be your humble true wife
Have here my trothtill that my hearte brest."* *burst
Thus be they both in quiet and in rest.
For one thingSiressafely dare I say
That friends ever each other must obey
If they will longe hold in company.
Love will not be constrain'd by mastery.
When mast'ry comesthe god of love anon
Beateth <3> his wingsandfarewellhe is gone.
Love is a thing as any spirit free.
Women *of kind* desire liberty*by nature*
And not to be constrained as a thrall* *slave
And so do menif soothly I say shall.
Look who that is most patient in love
He *is at his advantage all above.* *enjoys the highest
Patience is a high virtue certainadvantages of all*
For it vanquishethas these clerkes sayn
Thinges that rigour never should attain.

For every word men may not chide or plain.
Learne to sufferorso may I go* *prosper
Ye shall it learn whether ye will or no.
For in this world certain no wight there is
That he not doth or saith sometimes amiss.
Ireor sicknessor constellation* *the influence of
Winewoeor changing of complexionthe planets*
Causeth full oft to do amiss or speaken:
On every wrong a man may not be wreaken.* *revenged
After* the time must be temperance *according to
To every wight that *can of* governance. *is capable of*
And therefore hath this worthy wise knight
(To live in ease) sufferance her behight;* *promised
And she to him full wisly* gan to swear *surely
That never should there be default in her.
Here may men see a humble wife accord;
Thus hath she ta'en her servant and her lord
Servant in loveand lord in marriage.
Then was he both in lordship and servage?
Servage? naybut in lordship all above
Since he had both his lady and his love:
His lady certesand his wife also
The which that law of love accordeth to.
And when he was in this prosperrity
Home with his wife he went to his country
Not far from Penmark<4> where his dwelling was
And there he liv'd in bliss and in solace.* *delight
Who coulde tellbut* he had wedded be*unless
The joythe easeand the prosperity
That is betwixt a husband and his wife?
A year and more lasted this blissful life
Till that this knightof whom I spake thus
That of Cairrud <5> was call'd Arviragus
Shope* him to go and dwell a year or twain *preparedarranged
In Englelandthat call'd was eke Britain
To seek in armes worship and honour
(For all his lust* he set in such labour); *pleasure
And dwelled there two years; the book saith thus.
Now will I stint* of this Arviragus*cease speaking
And speak I will of Dorigen his wife
That lov'd her husband as her hearte's life.
For his absence weepeth she and siketh* *sigheth
As do these noble wives when them liketh;
She mournethwakethwailethfastethplaineth;
Desire of his presence her so distraineth
That all this wide world she set at nought.
Her friendeswhich that knew her heavy thought
Comforte her in all that ever they may;
They preache herthey tell her night and day
That causeless she slays herselfalas!
And every comfort possible in this case
They do to herwith all their business* *assiduity
And all to make her leave her heaviness.
By processas ye knowen every one
Men may so longe graven in a stone
Till some figure therein imprinted be:
So long have they comforted hertill she
Received hathby hope and by reason
Th' imprinting of their consolation
Through which her greate sorrow gan assuage;
She may not always duren in such rage.
And eke Arviragusin all this care
Hath sent his letters home of his welfare

And that he will come hastily again
Or elles had this sorrow her hearty-slain.
Her friendes saw her sorrow gin to slake*
And prayed her on knees for Godde's sake
To come and roamen in their company
Away to drive her darke fantasy;
And finally she granted that request
For well she saw that it was for the best.

Now stood her castle faste by the sea
And often with her friendes walked she
Her to disport upon the bank on high
There as many a ship and barge sigh*
Sailing their courseswhere them list to go.
But then was that a parcel* of her woe
For to herself full oftAlas!said she
Is there no shipof so many as I see
Will bringe home my lord? then were my heart
All warish'd* of this bitter paine's smart."
Another time would she sit and think
And cast her eyen downward from the brink;
But when she saw the grisly rockes blake*
For very fear so would her hearte quake
That on her feet she might her not sustene*
Then would she sit adown upon the green
And piteously *into the sea behold*
And say right thuswith *careful sikes* cold:
Eternal God! that through thy purveyance
Leadest this world by certain governance,
*In idle,* as men say, ye nothing make;
But, Lord, these grisly fiendly rockes blake,
That seem rather a foul confusion
Of work, than any fair creation
Of such a perfect wise God and stable,
Why have ye wrought this work unreasonable?
For by this work, north, south, or west, or east,
There is not foster'd man, nor bird, nor beast:
It doth no good, to my wit, but *annoyeth.*
See ye not, Lord, how mankind it destroyeth?
A hundred thousand bodies of mankind
Have rockes slain, *all be they not in mind;*
Which mankind is so fair part of thy work,
Thou madest it like to thine owen mark.*
Then seemed it ye had a great cherte*
Toward mankind; but how then may it be
That ye such meanes make it to destroy?
Which meanes do no good, but ever annoy.
I wot well, clerkes will say as them lest,*
By arguments, that all is for the best,
Although I can the causes not y-know;
But thilke* God that made the wind to blow,
As keep my lord, this is my conclusion:
To clerks leave I all disputation:
But would to God that all these rockes blake
Were sunken into helle for his sake
These rockes slay mine hearte for the fear.
Thus would she saywith many a piteous tear.

Her friendes saw that it was no disport
To roame by the seabut discomfort
And shope* them for to playe somewhere else.
They leade her by rivers and by wells
And eke in other places delectables;
They dancenand they play at chess and tables.*



*cured <6>

*look out on the sea*

*painful sighs*

*idlyin vain*

*works mischief* <7>

*though they are




So on a dayright in the morning-tide
Unto a garden that was there beside
In which that they had made their ordinance* *provisionarrangement
Of victualand of other purveyance
They go and play them all the longe day:
And this was on the sixth morrow of May
Which May had painted with his softe showers
This garden full of leaves and of flowers:
And craft of manne's hand so curiously
Arrayed had this garden truely
That never was there garden of such price* *valuepraise
*But if* it were the very Paradise. *unless*
Th'odour of flowersand the freshe sight
Would have maked any hearte light
That e'er was born*but if* too great sickness *unless*
Or too great sorrow held it in distress;
So full it was of beauty and pleasance.
And after dinner they began to dance
And sing alsosave Dorigen alone
Who made alway her complaint and her moan
For she saw not him on the dance go
That was her husbandand her love also;
But natheless she must a time abide
And with good hope let her sorrow slide.
Upon this danceamonge other men
Danced a squier before Dorigen
That fresher wasand jollier of array
*As to my doom* than is the month of May. *in my judgment*
He sang and dancedpassing any man
That is or was since that the world began;
Therewith he wasif men should him descrive
One of the *beste faring* men alive*most accomplished*
Youngstrongand virtuousand richand wise
And well belovedand holden in great price.* *esteemvalue
Andshortly if the sooth I telle shall
*Unweeting of* this Dorigen at all*unknown to*
This lusty squierservant to Venus
Which that y-called was Aurelius
Had lov'd her best of any creature
Two year and moreas was his aventure;* *fortune
But never durst he tell her his grievance;
Withoute cup he drank all his penance.
He was despairednothing durst he say
Save in his songes somewhat would he wray* *betray
His woeas in a general complaining;
He saidhe lov'dand was belov'd nothing.
Of suche matter made he many lays
Songescomplaintesroundelsvirelays <8>
How that he durste not his sorrow tell
But languishedas doth a Fury in hell;
And die he musthe saidas did Echo
For Narcissusthat durst not tell her woe.
In other manner than ye hear me say
He durste not to her his woe bewray
Save that paraventure sometimes at dances
Where younge folke keep their observances
It may well be he looked on her face
In such a wiseas man that asketh grace
But nothing wiste she of his intent.
Nath'less it happen'dere they thennes* went*thence (from the
Because that he was her neighebourgarden)*
And was a man of worship and honour
And she had knowen him *of time yore* *for a long time*

They fell in speechand forth aye more and more
Unto his purpose drew Aurelius;
And when he saw his timehe saide thus:
Madam quoth he, by God that this world made
So that I wist it might your hearte glade*
I wouldthat day that your Arviragus
Went over seathat IAurelius
Had gone where I should never come again;
For well I wot my service is in vain.
My guerdon* is but bursting of mine heart.
Madamerue upon my paine's smart
For with a word ye may me slay or save.
Here at your feet God would that I were grave.
I have now no leisure more to say:
Have mercysweetor you will *do me dey."*

She gan to look upon Aurelius;
Is this your will,quoth sheand say ye thus?
Ne'er erst,* quoth sheI wiste what ye meant:
But now, Aurelius, I know your intent.
By thilke* God that gave me soul and life,
Never shall I be an untrue wife
In word nor work, as far as I have wit;
I will be his to whom that I am knit;
Take this for final answer as of me.
But after that *in play* thus saide she.
Aurelius,quoth sheby high God above,
Yet will I grante you to be your love
(Since I you see so piteously complain);
Looke, what day that endelong* Bretagne
Ye remove all the rockes, stone by stone,
That they not lette* ship nor boat to gon,
I say, when ye have made this coast so clean
Of rockes, that there is no stone seen,
Then will I love you best of any man;
Have here my troth, in all that ever I can;
For well I wot that it shall ne'er betide.
Let such folly out of your hearte glide.
What dainty* should a man have in his life
For to go love another manne's wife,
That hath her body when that ever him liketh?
Aurelius full often sore siketh;*
Is there none other grace in you?" quoth he
No, by that Lord,quoth shethat maked me.
Woe was Aurelius when that he this heard,
And with a sorrowful heart he thus answer'd.
Madamequoth hethis were an impossible.
Then must I die of sudden death horrible.
And with that word he turned him anon.

Then came her other friends many a one
And in the alleys roamed up and down
And nothing wist of this conclusion
But suddenly began to revel new
Till that the brighte sun had lost his hue
For th' horizon had reft the sun his light
(This is as much to say as it was night);
And home they go in mirth and in solace;
Save only wretch'd Aureliusalas
He to his house is gone with sorrowful heart.
He saidhe may not from his death astart.*
Him seemedthat he felt his hearte cold.
Up to the heav'n his handes gan he hold
And on his knees bare he set him down.



*cause me to die*


*playfullyin jest*

*from end to end of



And in his raving said his orisoun.* *prayer
For very woe out of his wit he braid;* *wandered
He wist not what he spakebut thus he said;
With piteous heart his plaint hath he begun
Unto the godsand first unto the Sun.
He said; "Apollo God and governour
Of every planteherbetreeand flower
That giv'stafter thy declination
To each of them his time and his season
As thine herberow* changeth low and high; *dwellingsituation
Lord Phoebus: cast thy merciable eye
On wretched Aureliuswhich that am but lorn.* *undone
Lolordmy lady hath my death y-sworn
Withoute guiltbut* thy benignity *unless
Upon my deadly heart have some pity.
For well I wotLord Phoebusif you lest* *please
Ye may me helpesave my ladybest.
Now vouchsafethat I may you devise* *tellexplain
How that I may be holp* and in what wise. *helped
Your blissful sisterLucina the sheen<9>
That of the sea is chief goddess and queen--
Though Neptunus have deity in the sea
Yet emperess above him is she;
Ye know welllordthatright as her desire
Is to be quick'd* and lighted of your fire*quickened
For which she followeth you full busily
Right so the sea desireth naturally
To follow heras she that is goddess
Both in the sea and rivers more and less.
WhereforeLord Phoebusthis is my request
Do this miracleor *do mine hearte brest;* *cause my heart
That flownext at this oppositionto burst*
Which in the sign shall be of the Lion
As praye her so great a flood to bring
That five fathom at least it overspring
The highest rock in Armoric Bretagne
And let this flood endure yeares twain:
Then certes to my lady may I say
Holde your hest,the rockes be away.
Lord Phoebusthis miracle do for me
Pray her she go no faster course than ye;
I say thispray your sister that she go
No faster course than ye these yeares two:
Then shall she be even at full alway
And spring-flood laste bothe night and day.
And *but she* vouchesafe in such mannere *if she do not*
To grante me my sov'reign lady dear
Pray her to sink every rock adown
Into her owen darke regioun
Under the groundwhere Pluto dwelleth in
Or nevermore shall I my lady win.
Thy temple in Delphos will I barefoot seek.
Lord Phoebus! see the teares on my cheek
And on my pain have some compassioun."
And with that word in sorrow he fell down
And longe time he lay forth in a trance.
His brotherwhich that knew of his penance* *distress
Up caught himand to bed he hath him brought
Despaired in this torment and this thought
Let I this woeful creature lie;
Choose he for me whe'er* he will live or die. *whether
Arviragus with health and great honour
(As he that was of chivalry the flow'r)

Is come homeand other worthy men.
Ohblissful art thou nowthou Dorigen!
Thou hast thy lusty husband in thine arms
The freshe knightthe worthy man of arms
That loveth thee as his own hearte's life:
*Nothing list him to be imaginatif*
If any wight had spokewhile he was out
To her of love; he had of that no doubt;*
He not intended* to no such mattere
But dancedjoustedand made merry cheer.
And thus in joy and bliss I let them dwell
And of the sick Aurelius will I tell
In languor and in torment furious
Two year and more lay wretch'd Aurelius
Ere any foot on earth he mighte gon;
Nor comfort in this time had he none
Save of his brotherwhich that was a clerk.*
He knew of all this woe and all this work;
For to none other creature certain
Of this matter he durst no worde sayn;
Under his breast he bare it more secree
Than e'er did Pamphilus for Galatee.<10>
His breast was whole withoute for to seen
But in his heart aye was the arrow keen
And well ye know that of a sursanure <11>
In surgery is perilous the cure
But* men might touch the arrow or come thereby.
His brother wept and wailed privily
Till at the last him fell in remembrance
That while he was at Orleans <12> in France--
As younge clerkesthat be likerous* --
To readen artes that be curious
Seeken in every *halk and every hern*
Particular sciences for to learn--
He him remember'dthat upon a day
At Orleans in study a book he say*
Of magic naturalwhich his fellaw
That was that time a bachelor of law
All* were he there to learn another craft
Had privily upon his desk y-laft;
Which book spake much of operations
Touching the eight and-twenty mansions
That longe to the Moonand such folly
As in our dayes is not worth a fly;
For holy church's faithin our believe*
Us suff'reth none illusion to grieve.
And when this book was in his remembrance
Anon for joy his heart began to dance
And to himself he saide privily;
My brother shall be warish'd* hastily
For I am sicker* that there be sciences,
By which men make divers apparences,
Such as these subtle tregetoures play.
For oft at feaste's have I well heard say,
That tregetours, within a halle large,
Have made come in a water and a barge,
And in the halle rowen up and down.
Sometimes hath seemed come a grim lioun,
And sometimes flowers spring as in a mead;
Sometimes a vine, and grapes white and red;
Sometimes a castle all of lime and stone;
And, when them liked, voided* it anon:
Thus seemed it to every manne's sight.
Now then conclude I thus; if that I might

*he cared not to fancy*

*fear, suspicion
*occupied himself with



*nook and corner* <13>

*belief, creed


*tricksters <14>


At Orleans some olde fellow find,
That hath these Moone's mansions in mind,
Or other magic natural above.
He should well make my brother have his love.
For with an appearance a clerk* may make,
To manne's sight, that all the rockes blake
Of Bretagne were voided* every one,
And shippes by the brinke come and gon,
And in such form endure a day or two;
Then were my brother warish'd* of his woe,
Then must she needes *holde her behest,*
Or elles he shall shame her at the least.
Why should I make a longer tale of this?
Unto his brother's bed he comen is
And such comfort he gave himfor to gon
To Orleansthat he upstart anon
And on his way forth-ward then is he fare*
In hope for to be lissed* of his care.

When they were come almost to that city
*But if it were* a two furlong or three
A young clerk roaming by himself they met
Which that in Latin *thriftily them gret.*
And after that he said a wondrous thing;
I know quoth he, the cause of your coming;"
Aud ere they farther any foote went
He told them all that was in their intent.
The Breton clerk him asked of fellaws
The which he hadde known in olde daws*
And he answer'd him that they deade were
For which he wept full often many a tear.
Down off his horse Aurelius light anon
And forth with this magician is be gone
Home to his houseand made him well at ease;
Them lacked no vitail* that might them please.
So well-array'd a house as there was one
Aurelius in his life saw never none.
He shewed himere they went to suppere
Forestesparkesfull of wilde deer.
There saw he hartes with their hornes high
The greatest that were ever seen with eye.
He saw of them an hundred slain with hounds
And some with arrows bleed of bitter wounds.
He sawwhen voided* were the wilde deer
These falconers upon a fair rivere
That with their hawkes have the heron slain.
Then saw he knightes jousting in a plain.
And after this he did him such pleasance
That he him shew'd his lady on a dance
In which himselfe dancedas him thought.
And when this masterthat this magic wrought
Saw it was timehe clapp'd his handes two
And farewellall the revel is y-go.*
And yet remov'd they never out of the house
While they saw all the sightes marvellous;
But in his studywhere his bookes be
They satte stilland no wight but they three.
To him this master called his squier

And said him thusMay we go to supper?
Almost an hour it is, I undertake,
Since I you bade our supper for to make,
When that these worthy men wente with me
Into my study, where my bookes be.

*learned man


*keep her promise*

*eased of <15>

*all but*

*greeted them



*passed away


Sir,quoth this squierwhen it liketh you.
It is all ready, though ye will right now.
Go we then sup,quoth heas for the best;
These amorous folk some time must have rest.
At after supper fell they in treaty
What summe should this master's guerdon* be
To remove all the rockes of Bretagne
And eke from Gironde <16> to the mouth of Seine.
He made it strange* and sworeso God him save
Less than a thousand pound he would not have
*Nor gladly for that sum he would not gon.*
Aurelius with blissful heart anon
Answered thus; "Fie on a thousand pound!
This wide worldwhich that men say is round
I would it giveif I were lord of it.
This bargain is full-driv'nfor we be knit;*
Ye shall be payed truly by my troth.
But lookefor no negligence or sloth
Ye tarry us here no longer than to-morrow."


*a matter of
*see note <17>*


Nay,quoth the clerk*"have here my faith to borrow."* *I pledge my

To bed is gone Aurelius when him lestfaith on it*
And well-nigh all that night he had his rest
What for his labourand his hope of bliss
His woeful heart *of penance had a liss.* *had a respite
from suffering*
Upon the morrowwhen that it was day
Unto Bretagne they took the righte way
Aurelius and this magician beside
And be descended where they would abide:
And this wasas the bookes me remember
The colde frosty season of December.
Phoebus wax'd oldand hued like latoun* *brass
That in his hote declinatioun
Shone as the burned goldwith streames* bright; *beams
But now in Capricorn adown he light
Where as he shone full paleI dare well sayn.
The bitter frosteswith the sleet and rain
Destroyed have the green in every yard. *courtyardgarden
Janus sits by the fire with double beard
And drinketh of his bugle horn the wine:
Before him stands the brawn of tusked swine
And "nowel"* crieth every lusty man *Noel <18>
Aureliusin all that ev'r he can
Did to his master cheer and reverence
And prayed him to do his diligence
To bringe him out of his paines smart
Or with a sword that he would slit his heart.
This subtle clerk such ruth* had on this man*pity
That night and day he sped himthat he can
To wait a time of his conclusion;
This is to sayto make illusion
By such an appearance of jugglery
(I know no termes of astrology)
That she and every wight should ween and say
That of Bretagne the rockes were away
Or else they were sunken under ground.
So at the last he hath a time found
To make his japes* and his wretchedness *tricks
Of such a *superstitious cursedness.* *detestable villainy*
His tables Toletanes <19> forth he brought
Full well correctedthat there lacked nought
Neither his collectnor his expanse years
Neither his rootesnor his other gears
As be his centresand his arguments

And his proportional convenients
For his equations in everything.
And by his eighte spheres in his working
He knew full well how far Alnath <20> was shove
From the head of that fix'd Aries above
That in the ninthe sphere consider'd is.
Full subtilly he calcul'd all this.
When he had found his firste mansion
He knew the remnant by proportion;
And knew the rising of his moone well
And in whose faceand termand every deal;
And knew full well the moone's mansion
Accordant to his operation;
And knew also his other observances
For such illusions and such meschances*
As heathen folk used in thilke days.
For which no longer made he delays;
But through his magicfor a day or tway<21>
It seemed all the rockes were away.

Aureliuswhich yet despaired is
Whe'er* he shall have his loveor fare amiss
Awaited night and day on this miracle:
And when he knew that there was none obstacle
That voided* were these rockes every one
Down at his master's feet he fell anon
And said; "Iwoeful wretch'd Aurelius
Thank youmy Lordand lady mine Venus
That me have holpen from my cares cold."
And to the temple his way forth hath he hold
Where as he knew he should his lady see.
And when he saw his timeanon right he
With dreadful* heart and with full humble cheer**
Saluteth hath his sovereign lady dear.
My rightful Lady,quoth this woeful man
Whom I most dread, and love as I best can,
And lothest were of all this world displease,
Were't not that I for you have such disease,*
That I must die here at your foot anon,
Nought would I tell how me is woebegone.
But certes either must I die or plain;*
Ye slay me guilteless for very pain.
But of my death though that ye have no ruth,
Advise you, ere that ye break your truth:
Repente you, for thilke God above,
Ere ye me slay because that I you love.
For, Madame, well ye wot what ye have hight;*
Not that I challenge anything of right
Of you, my sovereign lady, but of grace:
But in a garden yond', in such a place,
Ye wot right well what ye behighte* me,
And in mine hand your trothe plighted ye,
To love me best; God wot ye saide so,
Albeit that I unworthy am thereto;
Madame, I speak it for th' honour of you,
More than to save my hearte's life right now;
I have done so as ye commanded me,
And if ye vouchesafe, ye may go see.
Do as you list, have your behest in mind,
For, quick or dead, right there ye shall me find;
In you hes all to *do me live or dey;*
But well I wot the rockes be away.

He took his leaveand she astonish'd stood;

*wicked devices


*fearful **mien




*cause me to
live or die*

In all her face was not one drop of blood:
She never ween'd t'have come in such a trap.
Alas!quoth shethat ever this should hap!
For ween'd I ne'er, by possibility,
That such a monster or marvail might be;
It is against the process of nature.
And home she went a sorrowful creature;
For very fear unnethes* may she go. *scarcely
She weepedwailedall a day or two
And swoonedthat it ruthe was to see:
But why it wasto no wight tolde she
For out of town was gone Arviragus.
But to herself she spakeand saide thus
With face paleand full sorrowful cheer
In her complaintas ye shall after hear.
Alas!quoth sheon thee, Fortune, I plain,* *complain
That unware hast me wrapped in thy chain,
From which to scape, wot I no succour,
Save only death, or elles dishonour;
One of these two behoveth me to choose.
But natheless, yet had I lever* lose *sooner, rather
My life, than of my body have shame,
Or know myselfe false, or lose my name;
And with my death *I may be quit y-wis.* *I may certainly purchase
Hath there not many a noble wife, ere this, my exemption*
And many a maiden, slain herself, alas!
Rather than with her body do trespass?
Yes, certes; lo, these stories bear witness. <22>
When thirty tyrants full of cursedness* *wickedness
Had slain Phidon in Athens at the feast,
They commanded his daughters to arrest,
And bringe them before them, in despite,
All naked, to fulfil their foul delight;
And in their father's blood they made them dance
Upon the pavement, -- God give them mischance.
For which these woeful maidens, full of dread,
Rather than they would lose their maidenhead,
They privily *be start* into a well, *suddenly leaped
And drowned themselves, as the bookes tell.
They of Messene let inquire and seek
Of Lacedaemon fifty maidens eke,
On which they woulde do their lechery:
But there was none of all that company
That was not slain, and with a glad intent
Chose rather for to die, than to assent
To be oppressed* of her maidenhead. *forcibly bereft
Why should I then to dien be in dread?
Lo, eke the tyrant Aristoclides,
That lov'd a maiden hight Stimphalides,
When that her father slain was on a night,
Unto Diana's temple went she right,
And hent* the image in her handes two, *caught, clasped
From which image she woulde never go;
No wight her handes might off it arace,* *pluck away by force
Till she was slain right in the selfe* place. *same
Now since that maidens hadde such despite
To be defouled with man's foul delight,
Well ought a wife rather herself to sle,* *slay
Than be defouled, as it thinketh me.
What shall I say of Hasdrubale's wife,
That at Carthage bereft herself of life?
For, when she saw the Romans win the town,
She took her children all, and skipt adown
Into the fire, and rather chose to die,

Than any Roman did her villainy.
Hath not Lucretia slain herself, alas!
At Rome, when that she oppressed* was
Of Tarquin? for her thought it was a shame
To live, when she hadde lost her name.
The seven maidens of Milesie also
Have slain themselves for very dread and woe,
Rather than folk of Gaul them should oppress.
More than a thousand stories, as I guess,
Could I now tell as touching this mattere.
When Abradate was slain, his wife so dear <23>
Herselfe slew, and let her blood to glide
In Abradate's woundes, deep and wide,
And said, 'My body at the leaste way
There shall no wight defoul, if that I may.'
Why should I more examples hereof sayn?
Since that so many have themselves slain,
Well rather than they would defouled be,
I will conclude that it is bet* for me
To slay myself, than be defouled thus.
I will be true unto Arviragus,
Or elles slay myself in some mannere,
As did Demotione's daughter dear,
Because she woulde not defouled be.
O Sedasus, it is full great pity
To reade how thy daughters died, alas!
That slew themselves *for suche manner cas.*
As great a pity was it, or well more,
The Theban maiden, that for Nicanor
Herselfe slew, right for such manner woe.
Another Theban maiden did right so;
For one of Macedon had her oppress'd,
She with her death her maidenhead redress'd.*
What shall I say of Niceratus' wife,
That for such case bereft herself her life?
How true was eke to Alcibiades
His love, that for to dien rather chese,*
Than for to suffer his body unburied be?
Lo, what a wife was Alceste?quoth she.
What saith Homer of good Penelope?
All Greece knoweth of her chastity.
Pardie, of Laedamia is written thus,
That when at Troy was slain Protesilaus, <24>
No longer would she live after his day.
The same of noble Porcia tell I may;
Withoute Brutus coulde she not live,
To whom she did all whole her hearte give. <25>
The perfect wifehood of Artemisie <26>
Honoured is throughout all Barbarie.
O Teuta <27> queen, thy wifely chastity
To alle wives may a mirror be.<28>

Thus plained Dorigen a day or tway
Purposing ever that she woulde dey;*
But natheless upon the thirde night
Home came Arviragusthe worthy knight
And asked her why that she wept so sore.
And she gan weepen ever longer more.
Alas,quoth shethat ever I was born!
Thus have I said,quoth she; "thus have I sworn. "
And told him allas ye have heard before:
It needeth not rehearse it you no more.
This husband with glad cheer* in friendly wise
Answer'd and saidas I shall you devise.*



*in circumstances of
the same kind*





Is there aught elles, Dorigen, but this?
Nay, nay,quoth sheGod help me so, *as wis* *assuredly*
This is too much, an* it were Godde's will.*if
Yea, wife,quoth helet sleepe what is still,
It may be well par'venture yet to-day.
Ye shall your trothe holde, by my fay.
For, God so wisly* have mercy on me, *certainly
*I had well lever sticked for to be,* *I had rather be slain*
For very love which I to you have,
But if ye should your trothe keep and save.
Truth is the highest thing that man may keep.
But with that word he burst anon to weep
And said; "I you forbidon pain of death
That neverwhile you lasteth life or breath
To no wight tell ye this misaventure;
As I may bestI will my woe endure
Nor make no countenance of heaviness
That folk of you may deeme harmor guess."
And forth he call'd a squier and a maid.
Go forth anon with Dorigen,he said
And bringe her to such a place anon.
They take their leaveand on their way they gon:
But they not wiste why she thither went;
He would to no wight telle his intent.

This squierwhich that hight Aurelius
On Dorigen that was so amorous
Of aventure happen'd her to meet
Amid the townright in the quickest* street*nearest
As she was bound* to go the way forthright *preparedgoing <29>
Toward the gardenthere as she had hight.* *promised
And he was to the garden-ward also;
For well he spied when she woulde go
Out of her houseto any manner place;
But thus they metof aventure or grace
And he saluted her with glad intent
And asked of her whitherward she went.
And she answeredhalf as she were mad
Unto the garden, as my husband bade,
My trothe for to hold, alas! alas!
Aurelius gan to wonder on this case
And in his heart had great compassion
Of herand of her lamentation
And of Arviragusthe worthy knight
That bade her hold all that she hadde hight;
So loth him was his wife should break her truth* *trothpledged word
And in his heart he caught of it great ruth* *pity
Considering the best on every side
*That from his lust yet were him lever abide* *see note <30>*
Than do so high a churlish wretchedness* *wickedness
Against franchise* and alle gentleness; *generosity
For which in fewe words he saide thus;
Madame, say to your lord Arviragus,
That since I see the greate gentleness
Of him, and eke I see well your distress,
That him were lever* have shame (and that were ruth)** *rather **pity
Than ye to me should breake thus your truth,
I had well lever aye* to suffer woe, *forever
Than to depart* the love betwixt you two. *sunder, split up
I you release, Madame, into your hond,
Quit ev'ry surement* and ev'ry bond, *surety
That ye have made to me as herebeforn,
Since thilke time that ye were born.
Have here my truth, I shall you ne'er repreve* *reproach

*Of no behest;* and here I take my leave, *of no (breach of)
As of the truest and the beste wife promise*
That ever yet I knew in all my life.
But every wife beware of her behest;
On Dorigen remember at the least.
Thus can a squier do a gentle deed,
As well as can a knight, withoute drede.* *doubt
She thanked him upon her knees bare
And home unto her husband is she fare* *gone
And told him allas ye have hearde said;
Andtruste mehe was so *well apaid* *satisfied*
That it were impossible me to write.
Why should I longer of this case indite?
Arviragus and Dorigen his wife
In sov'reign blisse ledde forth their life;
Ne'er after was there anger them between;
He cherish'd her as though she were a queen
And she was to him true for evermore;
Of these two folk ye get of me no more.
Aureliusthat his cost had *all forlorn* *utterly lost*
Cursed the time that ever he was born.
Alas!quoth healas that I behight* *promised
Of pured* gold a thousand pound of weight *refined
To this philosopher! how shall I do?
I see no more, but that I am fordo.* *ruined, undone
Mine heritage must I needes sell,
And be a beggar; here I will not dwell,
And shamen all my kindred in this place,
But* I of him may gette better grace. *unless
But natheless I will of him assay
At certain dayes year by year to pay,
And thank him of his greate courtesy.
My trothe will I keep, I will not he.
With hearte sore he went unto his coffer
And broughte gold unto this philosopher
The value of five hundred poundI guess
And him beseechedof his gentleness
To grant him *dayes of* the remenant; *time to pay up*
And said; "MasterI dare well make avaunt
I failed never of my truth as yet.
For sickerly my debte shall be quit
Towardes you how so that e'er I fare
To go a-begging in my kirtle bare:
But would ye vouchesafeupon surety
Two yearor threefor to respite me
Then were I wellfor elles must I sell
Mine heritage; there is no more to tell."
This philosopher soberly* answer'd*gravely
And saide thuswhen he these wordes heard;
Have I not holden covenant to thee?
Yes, certes, well and truely,quoth he.
Hast thou not had thy lady as thee liked?
No, no,quoth heand sorrowfully siked.* *sighed
What was the cause? tell me if thou can.
Aurelius his tale anon began
And told him all as ye have heard before
It needeth not to you rehearse it more.
He saidArviragus of gentleness
Had lever* die in sorrow and distress, *rather
Than that his wife were of her trothe false.
The sorrow of Dorigen he told him als'* *also

How loth her was to be a wicked wife
And that she lever had lost that day her life;
And that her troth she swore through innocence;
She ne'er erst* had heard speak of apparence** *before **see note <31>
That made me have of her so great pity
And right as freely as he sent her to me
As freely sent I her to him again:
This is all and somethere is no more to sayn."

The philosopher answer'd; "Leve* brother*dear
Evereach of you did gently to the other;
Thou art a squierand he is a knight
But God forbiddefor his blissful might
But if a clerk could do a gentle deed
As well as any of youit is no drede* *doubt
SirI release thee thy thousand pound
As thou right now were crept out of the ground
Nor ever ere now haddest knowen me.
ForSirI will not take a penny of thee
For all my craftnor naught for my travail;* *labourpains
Thou hast y-payed well for my vitaille;
It is enough; and farewellhave good day."
And took his horseand forth he went his way.
Lordingsthis question would I aske now
Which was the moste free* as thinketh you? *generous <32>
Now telle meere that ye farther wend.
I can* no moremy tale is at an end. *knowcan tell

Notes to The Franklin's Tale

1. Well unnethes durst this knight for dread: This knight hardly
daredfor fear (that she would not entertain his suit.)
2. "Ne woulde God never betwixt us twain
As in my guiltwere either war or strife"
Would to God there may never be war or strife between us
through my fault.

3. Perhaps the true reading is "beteth" -- preparesmakes ready
his wings for flight.
4. Penmark: On the west coast of Brittanybetween Brest and
L'Orient. The name is composed of two British wordspen,
mountainand "mark region; it therefore means the
mountainous country
5. Cairrud: The red city;" it is not known where it was
6. Warished: cured; Frenchguerir,to healor recover from
7. Annoyeth: works mischief; from Latinnocco,I hurt.
8. Virelays: ballads; the "virelai" was an ancient French poem
of two rhymes.
9. Lucina the sheen: Diana the bright. See note 54 to the
Knight's Tale.
10. In a Latin poemvery popular in Chaucer's timePamphilus
relates his amour with Galateasetting out with the idea

adopted by our poet in the lines that follow.

11. Sursanure: A wound healed on the surfacebut festering
12. Orleans: Where there was a celebrated and very famous
universityafterwards eclipsed by that of Paris. It was founded
by Philip le Bel in 1312.
13. Every halk and every hern: Every nook and cornerAnglo-
Saxonhealc,a nook; "hyrn a corner.
14. Tregetoures: tricksters, jugglers. The word is probably
derived -- in treget deceit or imposture -- from the French
trebuchet a military machine; since it is evident that much and
elaborate machinery must have been employed to produce the
effects afterwards described. Another derivation is from the
Low Latin, tricator a deceiver.
15. Lissed of: eased of; released from; another form of less" or
16. Gironde: The riverformed by the union of the Dordogne
and Garonneon which Bourdeaux stands.
17. Nor gladly for that sum he would not gon: And even for
that sum he would not willingly go to work.
18. "Noel the French for Christmas -- derived from natalis
and signifying that on that day Christ was born -- came to be
used as a festive cry by the people on solemn occasions.
19. Tables Toletanes: Toledan tables; the astronomical tables
composed by order Of Alphonso II, King of Castile, about 1250
and so called because they were adapted to the city of Toledo.
20. Alnath Says Mr Wright, was the first star in the horns of
Arieswhence the first mansion of the moon is named."
21. Another and better reading is "a week or two."
22. These stories are all taken from the book of St Jerome
Contra Jovinianum,from which the Wife of Bath drew so
many of her ancient instances. See note 1 to the prologue to the
Wife of Bath's Tale.
23. Panthea. AbradatasKing of Susawas an ally of the
Assyrians against Cyrus; and his wife was taken at the conquest
of the Assyrian camp. Struck by the honourable treatment she
received at the captors handsAbradatas joined Cyrusand fell
in battle against his former alhes. His wifeinconsolable at his
lossslew herself immediately.
24. Protesilaus was the husband of Laedamia. She begged the
godsafter his deaththat but three hours' converse with him
might be allowed her; the request was granted; and when her
dead husbandat the expiry of the timereturned to the world of
shadesshe bore him company.
25. The daughter of Cato of UticaPorcia married Marcus
Brutusthe friend and the assassin of Julius Caesar; when her
husband died by his own hand after the battle of Philippishe
committed suicideit is saidby swallowing live coals -- all
other means having been removed by her friends.

26. ArtemisiaQueen of Cariawho built to her husband
Mausolusthe splendid monument which was accounted among
the wonders of the world; and who mingled her husband's ashes
with her daily drink. "Barbarie" is used in the Greek senseto
designate the non-Hellenic peoples of Asia.
27. Teuta: Queen of Illyriawhoafter her husband's death
made war on and was conquered by the RomansB.C 228.
28. At this pointin some manuscriptsoccur thefollowing two
lines: --
The same thing I say of Bilia,
Of Rhodegone and of Valeria.
29. Bound: prepared; going. To "boun" or "bown" is a good
old wordwhence comes our word "bound in the sense of on
the way."
30. That from his lust yet were him lever abide: He would
rather do without his pleasure.
31. Such apparence: such an ocular deceptionor apparition --
more properlydisappearance -- as the removal of the rocks.
32. The same question is stated a the end of Boccaccio's version
of the story in the "Philocopo where the queen determines in
favour of Aviragus. The question is evidently one of those
which it was the fashion to propose for debate in the mediaeval
courts of love."


["YEAlet that passe quoth our Host, as now.
Sir Doctor of PhysikI praye you
Tell us a tale of some honest mattere."
It shall be done, if that ye will it hear,
Said this Doctor; and his tale gan anon.
Now, good men,quoth hehearken everyone.]

Notes to the Prologue to the Doctor's Tale

1. The authenticity of the prologue is questionable. It is found in
one manuscript only; other manuscripts give other prologues
more plainly not Chaucer's than this; and some manuscripts
have merely a colophon to the effect that "Here endeth the
Franklin's Tale and beginneth the Physician's Tale without a
prologue." The Tale itself is the well-known story of Virginia
with several departures from the text of Livy. Chaucer probably
followed the "Romance of the Rose" and Gower's "Confessio
Amantis in both of which the story is found.

There was, as telleth Titus Livius, <1>
A knight, that called was Virginius,
Full filled of honour and worthiness,
And strong of friendes, and of great richess.
This knight one daughter hadde by his wife;
No children had he more in all his life.
Fair was this maid in excellent beauty
Aboven ev'ry wight that man may see:
For nature had with sov'reign diligence
Y-formed her in so great excellence,
As though she woulde say, LoINature
Thus can I form and paint a creature
When that me list; who can me counterfeit?
Pygmalion? not though he aye forge and beat
Or grave or painte: for I dare well sayn
ApellesZeuxisshoulde work in vain
Either to graveor paintor forgeor beat
If they presumed me to counterfeit.
For he that is the former principal
Hath made me his vicar-general
To form and painten earthly creatures
Right as me listand all thing in my cure* is
Under the moonethat may wane and wax.
And for my work right nothing will I ax*
My lord and I be full of one accord.
I made her to the worship* of my lord;
So do I all mine other creatures
What colour that they haveor what figures."
Thus seemeth me that Nature woulde say.

This maiden was of age twelve year and tway*
In which that Nature hadde such delight.
For right as she can paint a lily white
And red a roseright with such painture
She painted had this noble creature
Ere she was bornupon her limbes free
Where as by right such colours shoulde be:
And Phoebus dyed had her tresses great
Like to the streames* of his burned heat.
And if that excellent was her beauty
A thousand-fold more virtuous was she.
In her there lacked no condition
That is to praiseas by discretion.
As well in ghost* as body chaste was she:
For which she flower'd in virginity
With all humility and abstinence
With alle temperance and patience
With measure* eke of bearing and array.
Discreet she was in answering alway
Though she were wise as Pallasdare I sayn;
Her faconde* eke full womanly and plain
No counterfeited termes hadde she
To seeme wise; but after her degree
She spakeand all her worde's more and less
Sounding in virtue and in gentleness.
Shamefast she was in maiden's shamefastness
Constant in heartand ever *in business*
To drive her out of idle sluggardy:
Bacchus had of her mouth right no mast'ry.
For wine and slothe <3> do Venus increase
As men in fire will casten oil and grease.
And of her owen virtueunconstrain'd
She had herself full often sick y-feign'd
For that she woulde flee the company





*speech <2>


Where likely was to treaten of folly
As is at feastsat revelsand at dances
That be occasions of dalliances.
Such thinges make children for to be
Too soone ripe and boldas men may see
Which is full perilousand hath been yore;*
For all too soone may she learne lore
Of boldenesswhen that she is a wife.

And ye mistresses* in your olde life
That lordes' daughters have in governance
Take not of my wordes displeasance
Thinke that ye be set in governings
Of lordes' daughters only for two things;
Either for ye have kept your honesty
Or else for ye have fallen in frailty
And knowe well enough the olde dance
And have forsaken fully such meschance*
For evermore; thereforefor Christe's sake
To teach them virtue look that ye not slake.*
A thief of venisonthat hath forlaft*
His lik'rousness* and all his olde craft
Can keep a forest best of any man;
Now keep them wellfor if ye will ye can.
Look wellthat ye unto no vice assent
Lest ye be damned for your wick'* intent
For whoso dotha traitor is certain;
And take keep* of that I shall you sayn;
Of alle treasonsov'reign pestilence
Is when a wight betrayeth innocence.
Ye fathersand ye mothers eke also
Though ye have childrenbe it one or mo'
Yours is the charge of all their surveyance*
While that they be under your governance.
Bewarethat by example of your living
Or by your negligence in chastising
That they not perish for I dare well say
If that they doye shall it dear abeye.*
Under a shepherd soft and negligent
The wolf hath many a sheep and lamb to-rent.
Suffice this example now as here
For I must turn again to my mattere.

This maidof which I tell my tale express
She kept herselfher needed no mistress;
For in her living maidens mighte read
As in a bookev'ry good word and deed
That longeth to a maiden virtuous;
She was so prudent and so bounteous.
For which the fame out sprang on every side
Both of her beauty and her bounte* wide:
That through the land they praised her each one
That loved virtuesave envy alone
That sorry is of other manne's weal
And glad is of his sorrow and unheal* --
The Doctor maketh this descriptioun. -- <5>
This maiden on a day went in the town
Toward a templewith her mother dear
As is of younge maidens the mannere.
Now was there then a justice in that town
That governor was of that regioun:
And so befellthis judge his eyen cast
Upon this maidavising* her full fast
As she came forth by where this judge stood;

*of old


*wickedness <4>

*be slackfail




*pay forsuffer for




Anon his hearte changed and his mood
So was he caught with beauty of this maid
And to himself full privily he said
This maiden shall be mine *for any man.*
Anon the fiend into his hearte ran
And taught him suddenlythat he by sleight
This maiden to his purpose winne might.
For certesby no forcenor by no meed*
Him thought he was not able for to speed;
For she was strong of friendesand eke she
Confirmed was in such sov'reign bounte
That well he wist he might her never win
As for to make her with her body sin.
For whichwith great deliberatioun
He sent after a clerk <6> was in the town
The which he knew for subtle and for bold.
This judge unto this clerk his tale told
In secret wiseand made him to assure
He shoulde tell it to no creature
And if he didhe shoulde lose his head.
And when assented was this cursed rede*
Glad was the judgeand made him greate cheer
And gave him giftes precious and dear.
When shapen* was all their conspiracy
From point to pointhow that his lechery
Performed shoulde be full subtilly
As ye shall hear it after openly
Home went this clerkthat highte Claudius.
This false judgethat highte Appius--
(So was his namefor it is no fable
But knowen for a storial* thing notable;
The sentence* of it sooth** is out of doubt); --
This false judge went now fast about
To hasten his delight all that he may.
And so befellsoon after on a day
This false judgeas telleth us the story
As he was wontsat in his consistory
And gave his doomes* upon sundry case';
This false clerk came forth *a full great pace*
And saide; Lordif that it be your will
As do me right upon this piteous bill*
In which I plain upon Virginius.
And if that he will say it is not thus
I will it proveand finde good witness
That sooth is what my bille will express."
The judge answer'dOf this, in his absence,
I may not give definitive sentence.
Let do* him call, and I will gladly hear;
Thou shalt have alle right, and no wrong here.
Virginius came to weet* the judge's will
And right anon was read this cursed bill;
The sentence of it was as ye shall hear
To you, my lord, Sir Appius so clear,
Sheweth your poore servant Claudius,
How that a knight called Virginius,
Against the law, against all equity,
Holdeth, express against the will of me,
My servant, which that is my thrall* by right,
Which from my house was stolen on a night,
While that she was full young; I will it preve*
By witness, lord, so that it you *not grieve;*
She is his daughter not, what so he say.
Wherefore to you, my lord the judge, I pray,
Yield me my thrall, if that it be your will.

*despite what any
man may do*




*account **true

*in haste




*be not displeasing*

Lothis was all the sentence of the bill.
Virginius gan upon the clerk behold;
But hastilyere he his tale told
And would have proved itas should a knight
And eke by witnessing of many a wight
That all was false that said his adversary
This cursed judge would no longer tarry
Nor hear a word more of Virginius
But gave his judgementand saide thus:
I deem* anon this clerk his servant have;
Thou shalt no longer in thy house her save.
Go, bring her forth, and put her in our ward
The clerk shall have his thrall: thus I award.

And when this worthy knightVirginius
Through sentence of this justice Appius
Muste by force his deare daughter give
Unto the judgein lechery to live
He went him homeand sat him in his hall
And let anon his deare daughter call;
And with a face dead as ashes cold
Upon her humble face he gan behold
With father's pity sticking* through his heart
All* would he from his purpose not convert.**
Daughter,quoth heVirginia by name,
There be two wayes, either death or shame,
That thou must suffer, -- alas that I was bore!*
For never thou deservedest wherefore
To dien with a sword or with a knife,
O deare daughter, ender of my life,
Whom I have foster'd up with such pleasance
That thou were ne'er out of my remembrance;
O daughter, which that art my laste woe,
And in this life my laste joy also,
O gem of chastity, in patience
Take thou thy death, for this is my sentence:
For love and not for hate thou must be dead;
My piteous hand must smiten off thine head.
Alas, that ever Appius thee say!*
Thus hath he falsely judged thee to-day.
And told her all the caseas ye before
Have heard; it needeth not to tell it more.

O mercy, deare father,quoth the maid.
And with that word she both her armes laid
About his neckas she was wont to do
(The teares burst out of her eyen two)
And saidO goode father, shall I die?
Is there no grace? is there no remedy?
No, certes, deare daughter mine,quoth he.
Then give me leisure, father mine, quoth she,
My death for to complain* a little space
ForpardieJephthah gave his daughter grace
For to complainere he her slewalas! <7>
AndGod it wotnothing was her trespass*
But for she ran her father first to see
To welcome him with great solemnity."
And with that word she fell a-swoon anon;
And afterwhen her swooning was y-gone
She rose upand unto her father said:
Blessed be God, that I shall die a maid.
Give me my death, ere that I have shame;
Do with your child your will, in Godde's name.
And with that word she prayed him full oft


*although **turn aside




That with his sword he woulde smite her soft;
And with that worda-swoon again she fell.
Her fatherwith full sorrowful heart and fell* *sterncruel
Her head off smoteand by the top it hent* *took
And to the judge he went it to present
As he sat yet in doom* in consistory. *judgment
And when the judge it sawas saith the story
He bade to take himand to hang him fast.
But right anon a thousand people *in thrast* *rushed in*
To save the knightfor ruth and for pity
For knowen was the false iniquity.
The people anon had suspect* in this thing*suspicion
By manner of the clerke's challenging
That it was by th'assent of Appius;
They wiste well that he was lecherous.
For which unto this Appius they gon
And cast him in a prison right anon
Where as he slew himself: and Claudius
That servant was unto this Appius
Was doomed for to hang upon a tree;
But that Virginiusof his pity
So prayed for himthat he was exil'd;
And elles certes had he been beguil'd;* *see note <8>
The remenant were hangedmore and less
That were consenting to this cursedness.* *villainy
Here men may see how sin hath his merite:* *deserts
Bewarefor no man knows how God will smite
In no degreenor in which manner wise
The worm of conscience may agrise* frightenhorrify
Of wicked lifethough it so privy be
That no man knows thereofsave God and he;
For be he lewed* man or elles lear'd** *ignorant **learned
He knows not how soon he shall be afear'd;
Therefore I rede* you this counsel take*advise
Forsake sinere sinne you forsake.

Notes to the Doctor's Tale

1. LivyBook iii. cap. 44et seqq.
2. Faconde: utterancespeech; from Latinfacundia,
3. Slothe: other readings are "thought" and "youth."
4. Meschance: wickedness; Frenchmechancete.
5. This line seems to be a kind of aside thrown in by Chaucer
6. The various readings of this word are "churl or cherl in
the best manuscripts; client" in the common editionsand
clerksupported by two important manuscripts. "Client"
would perhaps be the best readingif it were not awkward for
the metre; but between "churl" and ''clerk" there can be little
doubt that Mr Wright chose wisely when he preferred the
7. Judges xi. 3738. "And she said unto her father
Let . . . me alone two monthsthat I may go up and down upon
the mountainsand bewail my virginityI and my fellows. And

he saidgo."

8. Beguiled: "cast into gaol according to Urry's explanation;
though we should probably understand that, if Claudius had not
been sent out of the country, his death would have been secretly
contrived through private detestation.


OUR Hoste gan to swear as he were wood;
Harow!" quoth heby nailes and by blood, <1>
This was a cursed thief, a false justice.
As shameful death as hearte can devise
Come to these judges and their advoca's.* *advocates, counsellors
Algate* this sely** maid is slain, alas! *nevertheless **innocent
Alas! too deare bought she her beauty.
Wherefore I say, that all day man may see
That giftes of fortune and of nature
Be cause of death to many a creature.
Her beauty was her death, I dare well sayn;
Alas! so piteously as she was slain.
[Of bothe giftes, that I speak of now
Men have full often more harm than prow,*] *profit
But truely, mine owen master dear,
This was a piteous tale for to hear;
But natheless, pass over; 'tis *no force.* *no matter*
I pray to God to save thy gentle corse,* *body
And eke thine urinals, and thy jordans,
Thine Hippocras, and eke thy Galliens, <2>
And every boist* full of thy lectuary, *box <3>
God bless them, and our lady Sainte Mary.
So may I the',* thou art a proper man, *thrive
And like a prelate, by Saint Ronian;
Said I not well? Can I not speak *in term?* *in set form*
But well I wot thou dost* mine heart to erme,** *makest **grieve<4>
That I have almost caught a cardiacle:* *heartache <5>
By corpus Domini <6>, but* I have triacle,** *unless **a remedy
Or else a draught of moist and corny <7> ale,
Or but* I hear anon a merry tale, *unless
Mine heart is brost* for pity of this maid. *burst, broken
Thou *bel ami,* thou Pardoner,he said*good friend*
Tell us some mirth of japes* right anon.*jokes
It shall be done,quoth heby Saint Ronion.
But first,quoth hehere at this ale-stake* *ale-house sign <8>
I will both drink, and biten on a cake.
But right anon the gentles gan to cry
Nay, let him tell us of no ribaldry.
Tell us some moral thing, that we may lear* *learn
Some wit,* and thenne will we gladly hear.*wisdomsense
I grant y-wis,* quoth he; "but I must think *surely
Upon some honest thing while that I drink."

Notes to the Prologue to the Pardoner's Tale

1. The nails and blood of Christby which it was then a fashion
to swear.

2. Mediaeval medical writers; see note 36 to the Prologue to the
3. Boist: box; French "boite old form boiste."
4. Erme: grieve; from Anglo-Saxonearme,wretched.
5. Cardiacle: heartache; from Greekkardialgia.
6. Corpus Domini: God's body.
7. Corny ale: New and strongnappy. As to "moist see note
39 to the Prologue to the Tales.
8. (Transcriber's Note)In this scene the pilgrims are refreshing
themselves at tables in front of an inn. The pardoner is drunk,
which explains his boastful and revealing confession of his

Lordings (quoth he), in churche when I preach,
I paine me to have an hautein* speech, *take pains **loud <2>
And ring it out, as round as doth a bell,
For I know all by rote that I tell.
My theme is always one, and ever was;
Radix malorum est cupiditas.<3>
First I pronounce whence that I come,
And then my bulles shew I all and some;
Our liege lorde's seal on my patent,
That shew I first, *my body to warrent,* *for the protection
That no man be so hardy, priest nor clerk, of my person*
Me to disturb of Christe's holy werk.
And after that then tell I forth my tales.
Bulles of popes, and of cardinales,
Of patriarchs, and of bishops I shew,
And in Latin I speak a wordes few,
To savour with my predication,
And for to stir men to devotion
Then show I forth my longe crystal stones,
Y-crammed fall of cloutes* and of bones; *rags, fragments
Relics they be, as *weene they* each one. *as my listeners think*
Then have I in latoun* a shoulder-bone *brass
Which that was of a holy Jewe's sheep.
Good men say I, take of my wordes keep;* *heed
If that this bone be wash'd in any well
If cowor calfor sheepor oxe swell
That any worm hath eator worm y-stung
Take water of that welland wash his tongue
And it is whole anon; and farthermore
Of pockesand of scaband every sore
Shall every sheep be wholethat of this well
Drinketh a draught; take keep* of that I tell. *heed
If that the goodman, that the beastes oweth,* *owneth
Will every week, ere that the cock him croweth,
Fasting, y-drinken of this well a draught,
As thilke holy Jew our elders taught,
His beastes and his store shall multiply.
And, Sirs, also it healeth jealousy;
For though a man be fall'n in jealous rage,

Let make with this water his pottage,
And never shall he more his wife mistrist,* *mistrust
*Though he the sooth of her defaulte wist;* *though he truly
All had she taken priestes two or three. <4> knew her sin*
Here is a mittain* eke, that ye may see; *glove, mitten
He that his hand will put in this mittain,
He shall have multiplying of his grain,
When he hath sowen, be it wheat or oats,
So that he offer pence, or elles groats.
And, men and women, one thing warn I you;
If any wight be in this churche now
That hath done sin horrible, so that he
Dare not for shame of it y-shriven* be; *confessed
Or any woman, be she young or old,
That hath y-made her husband cokewold,* *cuckold
Such folk shall have no power nor no grace
To offer to my relics in this place.
And whoso findeth him out of such blame,
He will come up and offer in God's name;
And I assoil* him by the authority *absolve
Which that by bull y-granted was to me.
By this gaud* have I wonne year by year *jesttrick
A hundred markssince I was pardonere.
I stande like a clerk in my pulpit
And when the lewed* people down is set*ignorant
I preache so as ye have heard before
And telle them a hundred japes* more. *jestsdeceits
Then pain I me to stretche forth my neck
And east and west upon the people I beck
As doth a dovesitting on a bern;* *barn
My handes and my tongue go so yern* *briskly
That it is joy to see my business.
Of avarice and of such cursedness* *wickedness
Is all my preachingfor to make them free
To give their penceand namely* unto me. *especially
For mine intent is not but for to win
And nothing for correction of sin.
I recke neverwhen that they be buried
Though that their soules go a blackburied.<5>

For certes *many a predication *preaching is often inspired

Cometh oft-time of evil intention;*
Some for pleasance of folkand flattery
To be advanced by hypocrisy;
And some for vaingloryand some for hate.
Forwhen I dare not otherwise debate
Then will I sting him with my tongue smart*
In preachingso that he shall not astart*
To be defamed falselyif that he
Hath trespass'd* to my brethren or to me.
Forthough I telle not his proper name
Men shall well knowe that it is the same
By signesand by other circumstances.
Thus *quite I* folk that do us displeasances:
Thus spit I out my venomunder hue
Of holinessto seem holy and true.
Butshortly mine intent I will devise
I preach of nothing but of covetise.
Therefore my theme is yetand ever was--
Radix malorum est cupiditas. <3>
Thus can I preach against the same vice
Which that I useand that is avarice.
But though myself be guilty in that sin
Yet can I maken other folk to twin*

by evil motives*



*I am revenged on*


From avariceand sore them repent.
But that is not my principal intent;
I preache nothing but for covetise.
Of this mattere it ought enough suffice.
Then tell I them examples many a one
Of olde stories longe time gone;
For lewed* people love tales old;
Such thinges can they well report and hold.
What? trowe yethat whiles I may preach
And winne gold and silver for* I teach
That I will live in povert' wilfully?
NaynayI thought it never truely.
For I will preach and beg in sundry lands;
I will not do no labour with mine hands
Nor make baskets for to live thereby
Because I will not beggen idlely.
I will none of the apostles counterfeit;*
I will have moneywooland cheeseand wheat
All* were it given of the poorest page
Or of the pooreste widow in a village:
All should her children sterve* for famine.
NayI will drink the liquor of the vine
And have a jolly wench in every town.
But hearkenlordingsin conclusioun;
Your liking isthat I shall tell a tale
Now I have drunk a draught of corny ale
By GodI hope I shall you tell a thing
That shall by reason be to your liking;
For though myself be a full vicious man
A moral tale yet I you telle can
Which I am wont to preachefor to win.
Now hold your peacemy tale I will begin.

In Flanders whilom was a company
Of younge folkesthat haunted folly
As riothazardstewes* and taverns;
Where as with lutesharpesand giterns*
They dance and play at dice both day and night



*imitate (in poverty)
*even if


*dreadful <6>
*tore to pieces <7>
*dainty **fruit-girls

And eat alsoand drink over their might;
Through which they do the devil sacrifice
Within the devil's templein cursed wise
By superfluity abominable.
Their oathes be so great and so damnable
That it is grisly* for to hear them swear.
Our blissful Lorde's body they to-tear;*
Them thought the Jewes rent him not enough
And each of them at other's sinne lough.*
And right anon in come tombesteres <8>
Fetis* and smalland younge fruitesteres.**
Singers with harpesbaudes* waferers**
Which be the very devil's officers
To kindle and blow the fire of lechery
That is annexed unto gluttony.
The Holy Writ take I to my witness
That luxury is in wine and drunkenness. <9>
Lohow that drunken Lot unkindely*
Lay by his daughters two unwittingly
So drunk he was he knew not what he wrought.
Herodeswho so well the stories sought<10>
When he of wine replete was at his feast
Right at his owen table gave his hest*
To slay the Baptist John full guilteless.
Seneca saith a good worddoubteless:

*revellers **cake-sellers



He saith he can no difference find
Betwixt a man that is out of his mind
And a man whiche that is drunkelew:* *a drunkard <11>
But that woodness* y-fallen in a shrew* *madness **one evil-tempered

Persevereth longer than drunkenness.

O gluttonyfull of all cursedness;
O cause first of our confusion
Original of our damnation
Till Christ had bought us with his blood again!
Lookehow deareshortly for to sayn
Abought* was first this cursed villainy:
Corrupt was all this world for gluttony.
Adam our fatherand his wife also
From Paradiseto labour and to woe
Were driven for that viceit is no dread.*
For while that Adam fastedas I read
He was in Paradise; and when that he
Ate of the fruit defended* of the tree
Anon he was cast out to woe and pain.
O gluttony! well ought us on thee plain.
Oh! wist a man how many maladies
Follow of excess and of gluttonies
He woulde be the more measurable*
Of his dietesitting at his table.
Alas! the shorte throatthe tender mouth
Maketh that east and westand north and south
In earthin airin watermen do swink*
To get a glutton dainty meat and drink.
Of this mattereO Paul! well canst thou treat
Meat unto womb* and womb eke unto meat
Shall God destroye bothas Paulus saith. <13>
Alas! a foul thing is itby my faith
To say this wordand fouler is the deed
When man so drinketh of the *white and red*
That of his throat he maketh his privy
Through thilke cursed superfluity
The apostle saith<14> weeping full piteously
There walk manyof which you told have I--
I say it now weeping with piteous voice--
That they be enemies of Christe's crois;*
Of which the end is death; womb* is their God.
O wombO bellystinking is thy cod*
Full fill'd of dung and of corruptioun;
At either end of thee foul is the soun.
How great labour and cost is thee to find!*
These cookes how they stampand strainand grind
And turne substance into accident
To fulfill all thy likerous talent!
Out of the harde bones knocke they
The marrowfor they caste naught away
That may go through the gullet soft and swoot*
Of spicery and leavesof bark and root
Shall be his sauce y-maked by delight
To make him have a newer appetite.
Butcerteshe that haunteth such delices
Is dead while that he liveth in those vices.

A lecherous thing is wineand drunkenness
Is full of striving and of wretchedness.
O drunken man! disfgur'd is thy face<16>
Sour is thy breathfoul art thou to embrace:
And through thy drunken nose sowneth the soun'
As though thous saidest ayeSamsoun! Samsoun!

*atoned for

*forbidden <12>



*i.e. wine*

*bag <15>



And yetGod wotSamson drank never wine.
Thou fallest as it were a sticked swine;
Thy tongue is lostand all thine honest cure;* *care
For drunkenness is very sepulture* *tomb
Of manne's wit and his discretion.
In whom that drink hath domination
He can no counsel keepit is no dread.* *doubt
Now keep you from the white and from the red
And namely* from the white wine of Lepe<17> *especially
That is to sell in Fish Street <18> and in Cheap.
This wine of Spaine creepeth subtilly
In other wines growing faste by
Of which there riseth such fumosity
That when a man hath drunken draughtes three
And weeneth that he be at home in Cheap
He is in Spainright at the town of Lepe
Not at the Rochellenor at Bourdeaux town;
And thenne will he saySamsoun! Samsoun!
But hearkenlordingsone wordI you pray
That all the sovreign actesdare I say
Of victories in the Old Testament
Through very God that is omnipotent
Were done in abstinence and in prayere:
Look in the Bibleand there ye may it lear.* *learn
LookAttilathe greate conqueror
Died in his sleep<19> with shame and dishonour
Bleeding aye at his nose in drunkenness:
A captain should aye live in soberness
And o'er all thisadvise* you right well *considerbethink
What was commanded unto Lemuel; <20>
Not Samuelbut Lemuelsay I.
Reade the Bibleand find it expressly
Of wine giving to them that have justice.
No more of thisfor it may well suffice.
Andnow that I have spoke of gluttony
Now will I you *defende hazardry.* *forbid gambling*
Hazard is very mother of leasings* *lies
And of deceitand cursed forswearings:
Blasphem' of Christmanslaughterand waste also
Of chattel* and of time; and furthermo' *property
It is repreve* and contrar' of honour*reproach
For to be held a common hazardour.
And ever the higher he is of estate
The more he is holden desolate.* *undoneworthless
If that a prince use hazardry
In alle governance and policy
He isas by common opinion
Y-hold the less in reputation.
Chilonthat was a wise ambassador
Was sent to Corinth with full great honor
From Lacedemon<21> to make alliance;
And when he cameit happen'd himby chance
That all the greatest that were of that land
Y-playing atte hazard he them fand.* *found
For whichas soon as that it mighte be
He stole him home again to his country
And saide thereI will not lose my name,
Nor will I take on me so great diffame,* *reproach
You to ally unto no hazardors.* *gamblers
Sende some other wise ambassadors,
For, by my troth, me were lever* die, *rather
Than I should you to hazardors ally.

For ye, that be so glorious in honours,
Shall not ally you to no hazardours,
As by my will, nor as by my treaty.
This wise philosopher thus said he.
Look eke how to the King Demetrius
The King of Parthesas the book saith us
Sent him a pair of dice of gold in scorn
For he had used hazard therebeforn:
For which he held his glory and renown
At no value or reputatioun.
Lordes may finden other manner play
Honest enough to drive the day away.
Now will I speak of oathes false and great
A word or twoas olde bookes treat.
Great swearing is a thing abominable
And false swearing is more reprovable.
The highe God forbade swearing at all;
Witness on Matthew: <22> but in special
Of swearing saith the holy Jeremie<23>
Thou thalt swear sooth thine oathesand not lie:
And swear in doom* and eke in righteousness; *judgement
But idle swearing is a cursedness.* *wickedness
Behold and seethere in the firste table
Of highe Godde's hestes* honourable*commandments
How that the second best of him is this
Take not my name in idle* or amiss. *in vain
Lorather* he forbiddeth such swearing*sooner
Than homicideor many a cursed thing;
I say that as by order thus it standeth;
This knoweth he that his hests* understandeth*commandments
How that the second hest of God is that.
And farthermoreI will thee tell all plat* *flatlyplainly
That vengeance shall not parte from his house
That of his oathes is outrageous.
By Godde's precious heart, and by his nails, <24>
And by the blood of Christ, that is in Hailes, <25>
Seven is my chance, and thine is cinque and trey:
By Godde's armes, if thou falsely play,
This dagger shall throughout thine hearte go.

This fruit comes of the *bicched bones two* *two cursed bones (dice)*
Forswearingirefalsenessand homicide.
Nowfor the love of Christ that for us died
Leave your oathesbothe great and smale.
ButSirsnow will I ell you forth my tale.

These riotoures threeof which I tell
Long *erst than* prime rang of any bell*before
Were set them in a tavern for to drink;
And as they satthey heard a belle clink
Before a corpsewas carried to the grave.
That one of them gan calle to his knave* *servant
Go bet,<26> quoth heand aske readily
What corpse is this, that passeth here forth by;
And look that thou report his name well.
Sir,quoth the boyit needeth never a deal;* *whit
It was me told ere ye came here two hours;
He was, pardie, an old fellow of yours,
And suddenly he was y-slain to-night;
Fordrunk* as he sat on his bench upright, *completely drunk
There came a privy thief, men clepe Death,
That in this country all the people slay'th,
And with his spear he smote his heart in two,
And went his way withoute wordes mo'.

He hath a thousand slain this pestilence;
And, master, ere you come in his presence,
Me thinketh that it were full necessary
For to beware of such an adversary;
Be ready for to meet him evermore.
Thus taughte me my dame; I say no more.
By Sainte Mary,said the tavernere
The child saith sooth, for he hath slain this year,
Hence ov'r a mile, within a great village,
Both man and woman, child, and hind, and page;
I trow his habitation be there;
To be advised* great wisdom it were, *watchful, on one's guard

Ere* that he did a man a dishonour.*lest
Yea, Godde's armes,quoth this riotour
Is it such peril with him for to meet?
I shall him seek, by stile and eke by street.
I make a vow, by Godde's digne* bones.*worthy
Hearkenfellowswe three be alle ones:* *at one
Let each of us hold up his hand to other
And each of us become the other's brother
And we will slay this false traitor Death;
He shall be slainhe that so many slay'th
By Godde's dignityere it be night."
Together have these three their trothe plight
To live and die each one of them for other
As though he were his owen sworen brother.
And up they startall drunkenin this rage
And forth they go towardes that village
Of which the taverner had spoke beforn
And many a grisly* oathe have they sworn*dreadful
And Christe's blessed body they to-rent;* *tore to pieces <7>
Death shall be dead, if that we may him hent.* *catch
When they had gone not fully half a mile
Right as they would have trodden o'er a stile
An old man and a poore with them met.
This olde man full meekely them gret* *greeted
And saide thus; "NowlordesGod you see!"* *look on graciously
The proudest of these riotoures three
Answer'd again; "What? churlwith sorry grace
Why art thou all forwrapped* save thy face? *closely wrapt up
Why livest thou so long in so great age?"
This olde man gan look on his visage
And saide thus; "For that I cannot find
A manthough that I walked unto Ind
Neither in citynor in no village go
That woulde change his youthe for mine age;
And therefore must I have mine age still
As longe time as it is Godde's will.
And Deathalas! he will not have my life.
Thus walk I like a resteless caitife* *miserable wretch
And on the groundwhich is my mother's gate
I knocke with my staffearly and late
And say to her'Leve* motherlet me in. *dear
Lohow I wanefleshand bloodand skin;
Alas! when shall my bones be at rest?
Motherwith you I woulde change my chest
That in my chamber longe time hath be
Yeafor an hairy clout to *wrap in me.'* *wrap myself in*
But yet to me she will not do that grace
For which fall pale and welked* is my face. *withered
ButSirsto you it is no courtesy
To speak unto an old man villainy
But* he trespass in word or else in deed. *except

In Holy Writ ye may yourselves read;
'Against* an old manhoar upon his head*to meet
Ye should arise:' therefore I you rede* *advise
Ne do unto an old man no harm now
No more than ye would a man did you
In ageif that ye may so long abide.
And God be with youwhether ye go or ride
I must go thither as I have to go."
Nay, olde churl, by God thou shalt not so,
Saide this other hazardor anon;
Thou partest not so lightly, by Saint John.
Thou spakest right now of that traitor Death,
That in this country all our friendes slay'th;
Have here my troth, as thou art his espy;* *spy
Tell where he is, or thou shalt it abie,* *suffer for
By God and by the holy sacrament;
For soothly thou art one of his assent
To slay us younge folk, thou false thief.
Now, Sirs,quoth heif it be you so lief* *desire
To finde Death, turn up this crooked way,
For in that grove I left him, by my fay,
Under a tree, and there he will abide;
Nor for your boast he will him nothing hide.
See ye that oak? right there ye shall him find.
God save you, that bought again mankind,
And you amend!Thus said this olde man;
And evereach of these riotoures ran
Till they came to the treeand there they found
Of florins fineof gold y-coined round
Well nigh a seven bushelsas them thought.
No longer as then after Death they sought;
But each of them so glad was of the sight
For that the florins were so fair and bright
That down they sat them by the precious hoard.
The youngest of them spake the firste word:
Brethren,quoth he*take keep* what I shall say; *heed*
My wit is great, though that I bourde* and play *joke, frolic
This treasure hath Fortune unto us given
In mirth and jollity our life to liven;
And lightly as it comes, so will we spend.
Hey! Godde's precious dignity! who wend* *weened, thought
Today that we should have so fair a grace?
But might this gold he carried from this place
Home to my house, or elles unto yours
(For well I wot that all this gold is ours),
Then were we in high felicity.
But truely by day it may not be;
Men woulde say that we were thieves strong,
And for our owen treasure do us hong.* *have us hanged
This treasure muste carried be by night,
As wisely and as slily as it might.
Wherefore I rede,* that cut** among us all *advise **lots
We draw, and let see where the cut will fall:
And he that hath the cut, with hearte blithe
Shall run unto the town, and that full swithe,* *quickly
And bring us bread and wine full privily:
And two of us shall keepe subtilly
This treasure well: and if he will not tarry,
When it is night, we will this treasure carry,
By one assent, where as us thinketh best.
Then one of them the cut brought in his fist
And bade them drawand look where it would fall;
And it fell on the youngest of them all;

And forth toward the town he went anon.
And all so soon as that he was y-gone
The one of them spake thus unto the other;
Thou knowest well that thou art my sworn brother,
*Thy profit* will I tell thee right anon. *what is for thine
Thou knowest well that our fellow is gone, advantage*
And here is gold, and that full great plenty,
That shall departed* he among us three. *divided
But natheless, if I could shape* it so *contrive
That it departed were among us two,
Had I not done a friende's turn to thee?
Th' other answer'dI n'ot* how that may be; *know not
He knows well that the gold is with us tway.
What shall we do? what shall we to him say?
Shall it be counsel?* said the firste shrew;** *secret **wretch
And I shall tell to thee in wordes few
What we shall do, and bring it well about.
I grante,quoth the otherout of doubt,
That by my truth I will thee not bewray.* *betray

Now,quoth the firstthou know'st well we be tway,

And two of us shall stronger be than one.
Look; when that he is set,* thou right anon *sat down
Arise, as though thou wouldest with him play;
And I shall rive* him through the sides tway, *stab
While that thou strugglest with him as in game;
And with thy dagger look thou do the same.
And then shall all this gold departed* be, *divided
My deare friend, betwixte thee and me:
Then may we both our lustes* all fulfil, *pleasures
And play at dice right at our owen will.
And thus accorded* be these shrewes** tway *agreed **wretches
To slay the thirdas ye have heard me say.
The youngestwhich that wente to the town
Full oft in heart he rolled up and down
The beauty of these florins new and bright.
O Lord!quoth heif so were that I might
Have all this treasure to myself alone,
There is no man that lives under the throne
Of God, that shoulde have so merry as I.
And at the last the fiend our enemy
Put in his thoughtthat he should poison buy
With which he mighte slay his fellows twy.* *two
For whythe fiend found him *in such living* *leading such a
That he had leave to sorrow him to bring. (bad) life*
For this was utterly his full intent
To slay them bothand never to repent.
And forth he wentno longer would he tarry
Into the town to an apothecary
And prayed him that he him woulde sell
Some poisonthat he might *his rattes quell* *kill his rats*
And eke there was a polecat in his haw* *farm-yardhedge <27>
Thatas he saidhis eapons had y-slaw:* *slain
And fain he would him wreak* if that he might*revenge
Of vermin that destroyed him by night.
Th'apothecary answer'dThou shalt have
A thing, as wisly* God my soule save, *surely
In all this world there is no creature
That eat or drank hath of this confecture,
Not but the mountance* of a corn of wheat, *amount
That he shall not his life *anon forlete;* *immediately lay down*
Yea, sterve* he shall, and that in lesse while *die
Than thou wilt go *apace* nought but a mile: *quickly*
This poison is so strong and violent.

This cursed man hath in his hand y-hent* *taken
This poison in a boxand swift he ran
Into the nexte streetunto a man
And borrow'd of him large bottles three;
And in the two the poison poured he;
The third he kepte clean for his own drink
For all the night he shope him* for to swink** *purposed **labour
In carrying off the gold out of that place.
And when this riotourwith sorry grace
Had fill'd with wine his greate bottles three
To his fellows again repaired he.
What needeth it thereof to sermon* more? *talkdiscourse
Forright as they had cast* his death before*plotted
Right so they have him slainand that anon.
And when that this was donethus spake the one;
Now let us sit and drink, and make us merry,
And afterward we will his body bury.
And with that word it happen'd him *par cas* *by chance
To take the bottle where the poison was
And drankand gave his fellow drink also
For which anon they sterved* both the two. *died
But certes I suppose that Avicen
Wrote never in no canonnor no fen<28>
More wondrous signes of empoisoning
Than had these wretches two ere their ending.
Thus ended be these homicides two
And eke the false empoisoner also.
O cursed sinfull of all cursedness!
O trait'rous homicide! O wickedness!
O glutt'nyluxuryand hazardry!
Thou blasphemer of Christ with villany* *outrageimpiety
And oathes greatof usage and of pride!
Alas! mankindehow may it betide
That to thy Creatorwhich that thee wrought
And with his precious hearte-blood thee bought
Thou art so false and so unkind* alas! *unnatural
Nowgood menGod forgive you your trespass
And ware* you from the sin of avarice. *keep
Mine holy pardon may you all warice* *heal
So that ye offer *nobles or sterlings* *gold or silver coins*
Or elles silver broochesspoonsor rings.
Bowe your head under this holy bull.
Come upye wivesand offer of your will;
Your names I enter in my roll anon;
Into the bliss of heaven shall ye gon;
I you assoil* by mine high powere*absolve <29>
You that will offeras clean and eke as clear
As ye were born. LoSiresthus I preach;
And Jesus Christthat is our soules' leech* *healer
So grante you his pardon to receive;
For that is bestI will not deceive.
ButSirsone word forgot I in my tale;
I have relics and pardon in my mail
As fair as any man in Engleland
Which were me given by the Pope's hand.
If any of you will of devotion
Offerand have mine absolution
Come forth anonand kneele here adown
And meekely receive my pardoun.
Or elles take pardonas ye wend* *go
All new and fresh at every towne's end

So that ye offeralways new and new
Nobles or pence which that be good and true.
'Tis an honour to evereach* that is here*each one
That ye have a suffisant* pardonere *suitable
T'assoile* you in country as ye ride*absolve
For aventures which that may betide.
Paraventure there may fall one or two
Down of his horseand break his neck in two.
Lookwhat a surety is it to you all
That I am in your fellowship y-fall
That may assoil* you bothe *more and lass* *absolve
When that the soul shall from the body pass. *great and small*
I rede* that our Hoste shall begin*advise
For he is most enveloped in sin.
Come forthSir Hostand offer first anon
And thou shalt kiss; the relics every one
Yeafor a groat; unbuckle anon thy purse.
Nay, nay,quoth hethen have I Christe's curse!
Let be,quoth heit shall not be, *so the'ch.* *so may I thrive*
Thou wouldest make me kiss thine olde breech,
And swear it were a relic of a saint,

Though it were with thy *fundament depaint'.* *stained by your bottom*
But, by the cross which that Saint Helen fand,* *found <30>
I would I had thy coilons* in mine hand, *testicles
Instead of relics, or of sanctuary.
Let cut them off, I will thee help them carry;
They shall be shrined in a hogge's turd.
The Pardoner answered not one word;
So wroth he wasno worde would he say.

Now,quoth our HostI will no longer play
With thee, nor with none other angry man.
But right anon the worthy Knight began
(When that he saw that all the people lough*)*laughed
No more of this, for it is right enough.
Sir Pardoner, be merry and glad of cheer;
And ye, Sir Host, that be to me so dear,
I pray you that ye kiss the Pardoner;
And, Pardoner, I pray thee draw thee ner,* *nearer
And as we didde, let us laugh and play.
Anon they kiss'dand rode forth their way.

Notes to the Pardoner's Tale

1. The outline of this Tale is to be found in the "Cento Novelle
Antiche but the original is now lost. As in the case of the Wife
of Bath's Tale, there is a long prologue, but in this case it has
been treated as part of the Tale.
2. Hautein: loud, lofty; from French, hautain."
3. Radix malorum est cupiditas: "the love of money is the root
of all evil" (1 10)
4.All had she taken priestes two or three: even if she had
committed adultery with two or three priests.

5. Blackburied: The meaning of this is not very clearbut it is
probably a periphrastic and picturesque way of indicating

6. Grisly: dreadful; fitted to "agrise" or horrify the listener.
7. Mr Wright says: "The common oaths in the Middle Ages
were by the different parts of God's body; and the popular
preachers represented that profane swearers tore Christ's body
by their imprecations." The idea was doubtless borrowed from
the passage in Hebrews (vi. 6)where apostates are said to
crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to
an open shame.
8. Tombesteres: female dancers or tumblers; from Anglo-
Saxontumban,to dance.
9. "Be not drunk with winewherein is excess." Eph. v.18.
10. The reference is probably to the diligent inquiries Herod
made at the time of Christ's birth. See Matt. ii. 4-8
11. A drunkard. "Perhaps says Tyrwhitt, Chaucer refers to
Epist. LXXXIII.'Extende in plures dies illum ebrii habitum;
nunquid de furore dubitabis? nunc quoque non est minor sed
brevior.'" ("Prolong the drunkard's condition to several days;
will you doubt his madness? Even as it isthe madness is no
less; merely shorter.")
12. Defended: forbidden; Frenchdefendu.St Jeromein his
book against Joviniansays that so long as Adam fastedhe was
in Paradise; he ateand he was thrust out.
13. "Meats for the bellyand the belly for meats; but God shall
destroy both it and them." 1 Cor. vi. 13.
14. "For many walkof whom I have told you oftenand now
tell you even weepingthat they are the enemies of the cross of
Christ: Whose end is destructionwhose God is their bellyand
whose glory is in their shamewho mind earthly things." Phil.
iii. 1819.
15. Cod: bag; Anglo-Saxoncodde;hence peas-codpin-cod
16. Compare with the lines which followthe picture of the
drunken messenger in the Man of Law's Tale.
17. Lepe: A town near Cadizwhence a stronger wine than the
Gascon vintages afforded was imported to England. French
wine was often adulterated with the cheaper and stronger
18. Another reading is "Fleet Street."
19. Attila was suffocated in the night by a haemorrhage
brought on by a debauchwhen he was preparing a new
invasion of Italyin 453.
20. "It is not for kingsO Lemuelit is not for kings to drink
winenor for princes strong drink; lest they drinkand forget
the lawand pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted." Prov.
xxxi. 45.
21. Most manuscriptsevidently in errorhave "Stilbon" and
Calidonefor Chilon and Lacedaemon. Chilon was one of the
seven sages of Greeceand flourished about B.C. 590.
According to Diogenes Laertiushe diedunder the pressure of

age and joyin the arms of his sonwho had just been crowned
victor at the Olympic games.

22. "Swear not at all;" Christ's words in Matt. v. 34.
23. "And thou shalt swearthe lord liveth in truthin judgement
and in righteousness." Jeremiah iv. 2
24. The nails that fastened Christ on the crosswhich were
regarded with superstitious reverence.
25. Hailes: An abbey in Gloucestershirewhereunder the
designation of "the blood of Hailes a portion of Christ's blood
was preserved.
26. Go bet: a hunting phrase; apparently its force is, go beat up
the game."
27. Haw; farm-yardhedge Compare the Frenchhaie.
28. Avicenor Avicennawas among the distinguished
physicians of the Arabian school in the eleventh centuryand
very popular in the Middle Ages. His great work was called
Canon Medicinae,and was divided into "fens fennes or
29. Assoil: absolve. compare the Scotch law-term assoilzie
to acquit.
30. Saint Helen, according to Sir John Mandeville, found the
cross of Christ deep below ground, under a rock, where the
Jews had hidden it; and she tested the genuineness of the sacred
tree, by raising to life a dead man laid upon it.


Our Host upon his stirrups stood anon,
And saide; Good menhearken every one
This was a thrifty* tale for the nones. *discreetprofitable
Sir Parish Priest quoth he, for Godde's bones
Tell us a taleas was thy *forword yore:* *promise formerly*
I see well that ye learned men in lore
Can* muche goodby Godde's dignity." *know
The Parson him answer'dBen'dicite!
What ails the man, so sinfully to swear?
Our Host answer'dO Jankin, be ye there?
Now, good men,quoth our Hosthearken to me.
I smell a Lollard <2> in the wind,quoth he.
Abide, for Godde's digne* passion, *worthy
For we shall have a predication:
This Lollard here will preachen us somewhat.
Nay, by my father's soul, that shall he not,
Saide the Shipman; Here shall he not preach
He shall no gospel glose* here nor teach. *comment upon
We all believe in the great God quoth he.
He woulde sowe some difficulty

Or springe cockle <3> in our cleane corn.
And thereforeHostI warne thee beforn
My jolly body shall a tale tell
And I shall clinke you so merry a bell
That I shall waken all this company;
But it shall not be of philosophy
Nor of physicnor termes quaint of law;
There is but little Latin in my maw."* *belly

Notes to the Prologue to the Shipman's Tale

1. The Prologue here given was transferred by Tyrwhitt from
the placepreceding the Squire's Talewhich it had formerly
occupied; the Shipman's Tale having no Prologue in the best
2. Lollard: A contemptuous name for the followers of
Wyckliffe; presumably derived from the Latinlolium,tares
as if they were the tares among the Lord's wheat; soa few lines
belowthe Shipman intimates his fear lest the Parson should
spring cockle in our clean corn.
3. Cockle: A weedthe "Agrostemma githago" of Linnaeus;
perhaps named from the Anglo-Saxonceocan,because it
chokes the corn.
(Transcriber's note: It is also possible Chaucer had in mind
Matthew 13:25where in some translationsan enemy sowed
cockleamongst the wheat. (Other translations have "tares"
and "darnel".))

A Merchant whilom dwell'd at Saint Denise
That riche wasfor which men held him wise.
A wife he had of excellent beauty
And *companiable and revellous* was she*fond of society and
Which is a thing that causeth more dispence merry making*
Than worth is all the cheer and reverence
That men them do at feastes and at dances.
Such salutations and countenances
Passenas doth the shadow on the wall;
Put woe is him that paye must for all.
The sely* husband algate** he must pay*innocent **always
He must us <2> clothe and he must us array
All for his owen worship richely:
In which array we dance jollily.
And if that he may notparaventure
Or elles list not such dispence endure
But thinketh it is wasted and y-lost
Then must another paye for our cost
Or lend us goldand that is perilous.

This noble merchant held a noble house;
For which he had all day so great repair* *resort of visitors
For his largesseand for his wife was fair
That wonder is; but hearken to my tale.
Amonges all these guestes great and smale
There was a monka fair man and a bold
I trow a thirty winter he was old
That ever-in-one* was drawing to that place. *constantly

This younge monkthat was so fair of face
Acquainted was so with this goode man
Since that their firste knowledge began
That in his house as familiar was he
As it is possible any friend to be.
Andfor as muchel as this goode man
And eke this monk of which that I began
Were both the two y-born in one village
The monk *him claimedas for cousinage*
And he again him said not once nay
But was as glad thereof as fowl of day;
For to his heart it was a great pleasance.
Thus be they knit with etern' alliance,
And each of them gan other to assure
Of brotherhood while that their life may dure.

*claimed kindred
with him*

Free was Dan <3> John, and namely* of dispence,** *especially **spending

As in that house, and full of diligence
To do pleasance, and also *great costage;* *liberal outlay*
He not forgot to give the leaste page
In all that house; but, after their degree,
He gave the lord, and sithen* his meinie,** *afterwards **servants
When that he came, some manner honest thing;
For which they were as glad of his coming
As fowl is fain when that the sun upriseth.
No more of this as now, for it sufficeth.
But so befell, this merchant on a day
Shope* him to make ready his array *resolved, arranged
Toward the town of Bruges <4> for to fare,
To buye there a portion of ware;* *merchandise
For which he hath to Paris sent anon
A messenger, and prayed hath Dan John
That he should come to Saint Denis, and play* *enjoy himself
With him, and with his wife, a day or tway,
Ere he to Bruges went, in alle wise.
This noble monk, of which I you devise,* *tell
Had of his abbot, as him list, licence,
(Because he was a man of high prudence,
And eke an officer out for to ride,

To see their granges and their barnes wide); <5>
And unto Saint Denis he came anon.
Who was so welcome as my lord Dan John,
Our deare cousin, full of courtesy?
With him he brought a jub* of malvesie,
And eke another full of fine vernage, <6>
And volatile,* as aye was his usage:
And thus I let them eat, and drink, and play,
This merchant and this monk, a day or tway.
The thirde day the merchant up ariseth,
And on his needeis sadly him adviseth;
And up into his countour-house* went he,
To reckon with himself as well may be,
Of thilke* year, how that it with him stood,
And how that he dispended bad his good,
And if that he increased were or non.
His bookes and his bagges many a one
He laid before him on his counting-board.
Full riche was his treasure and his hoard;
For which full fast his countour door he shet;
And eke he would that no man should him let*
Of his accountes, for the meane time:
And thus he sat, till it was passed prime.

Dan John was risen in the morn also,


*counting-house <7>


And in the garden walked to and fro,
And had his thinges said full courteously.
The good wife came walking full privily
Into the garden, where he walked soft,
And him saluted, as she had done oft;
A maiden child came in her company,
Which as her list she might govern and gie,*
For yet under the yarde* was the maid.
O deare cousin mineDan John she said,
What aileth you so rath* for to arise?"
Niece,quoth heit ought enough suffice
Five houres for to sleep upon a night;'
But* it were for an old appalled** wight,
As be these wedded men, that lie and dare,*
As in a forme sits a weary hare,
Alle forstraught* with houndes great and smale;
But, deare niece, why be ye so pale?
I trowe certes that our goode man
Hath you so laboured, since this night began,
That you were need to reste hastily.
And with that word he laugh'd full merrily
And of his owen thought he wax'd all red.
This faire wife gan for to shake her head
And saide thus; "YeaGod wot all" quoth she.
Nay, cousin mine, it stands not so with me;
For by that God, that gave me soul and life,
In all the realm of France is there no wife
That lesse lust hath to that sorry play;
For I may sing alas and well-away!
That I was born; but to no wight,quoth she
Dare I not tell how that it stands with me.
Wherefore I think out of this land to wend,
Or elles of myself to make an end,
So full am I of dread and eke of care.

This monk began upon this wife to stare
And saidAlas! my niece, God forbid
That ye for any sorrow, or any dread,
Fordo* yourself: but telle me your grief,
Paraventure I may, in your mischief,*
Counsel or help; and therefore telle me
All your annoy, for it shall be secre.
For on my portos* here I make an oath,
That never in my life, *for lief nor loth,*
Ne shall I of no counsel you bewray.
The same again to you,quoth sheI say.
By God and by this portos I you swear,
Though men me woulden all in pieces tear,
Ne shall I never, for* to go to hell,
Bewray* one word of thing that ye me tell,
For no cousinage, nor alliance,
But verily for love and affiance.*
Thus be they swornand thereupon they kiss'd
And each of them told other what them list.
Cousin,quoth sheif that I hadde space,
As I have none, and namely* in this place,
Then would I tell a legend of my life,
What I have suffer'd since I was a wife
With mine husband, all* be he your cousin.

*rod <8>


*unless **pallid, wasted

*distracted, confounded


*willing or unwilling*

*though I should

*confidence, promise



Nay quoth this monk, by God and Saint Martin
He is no more cousin unto me
Than is the leaf that hangeth on the tree;
I call him soby Saint Denis of France
To have the more cause of acquaintance

Of youwhich I have loved specially
Aboven alle women sickerly* *surely
This swear I you *on my professioun;* *by my vows of religion

Tell me your grieflest that he come adown
And hasten youand go away anon."
My deare love,quoth sheO my Dan John,
Full lief* were me this counsel for to hide, *pleasant
But out it must, I may no more abide.
My husband is to me the worste man
That ever was since that the world began;
But since I am a wife, it sits* not me *becomes
To telle no wight of our privity,
Neither in bed, nor in none other place;
God shield* I shoulde tell it for his grace; *forbid
A wife shall not say of her husband
But all honour, as I can understand;
Save unto you thus much I telle shall;
As help me God, he is nought worth at all
In no degree, the value of a fly.
But yet me grieveth most his niggardy.* *stinginess
And well ye wot, that women naturally
Desire thinges six, as well as I.
They woulde that their husbands shoulde be
Hardy,* and wise, and rich, and thereto free, *brave
And buxom* to his wife, and fresh in bed. *yielding, obedient
But, by that ilke* Lord that for us bled, *same
For his honour myself for to array,
On Sunday next I muste needes pay
A hundred francs, or elles am I lorn.* *ruined, undone
Yet *were me lever* that I were unborn, *I would rather*
Than me were done slander or villainy.
And if mine husband eke might it espy,
I were but lost; and therefore I you pray,
Lend me this sum, or elles must I dey.* *die
Dan John, I say, lend me these hundred francs;
Pardie, I will not faile you, *my thanks,* *if I can help it*
If that you list to do that I you pray;
For at a certain day I will you pay,
And do to you what pleasance and service
That I may do, right as you list devise.
And but* I do, God take on me vengeance, *unless
As foul as e'er had Ganilion <9> of France.
This gentle monk answer'd in this mannere;
Now truely, mine owen lady dear,
I have,quoth heon you so greate ruth,* *pity
That I you swear, and plighte you my truth,
That when your husband is to Flanders fare,* *gone
I will deliver you out of this care,
For I will bringe you a hundred francs.
And with that word he caught her by the flanks
And her embraced hardand kissed her oft.
Go now your way,quoth heall still and soft,
And let us dine as soon as that ye may,
For by my cylinder* 'tis prime of day; *portable sundial
Go now, and be as true as I shall be .
Now elles God forbidde, Sir,quoth she;
And forth she wentas jolly as a pie
And bade the cookes that they should them hie* *make haste
So that men mighte dineand that anon.
Up to her husband is this wife gone
And knocked at his contour boldely.
*"Qui est la?"* quoth he. "Peter! it am I *who is there?*

Quoth she; WhatSirhow longe all will ye fast?
How longe time will ye reckon and cast
Your summesand your bookesand your things?
The devil have part of all such reckonings!
Ye have enoughpardieof Godde's sond.*
Come down to-dayand let your bagges stond.*
Ne be ye not ashamedthat Dan John
Shall fasting all this day elenge* gon?
What? let us hear a massand go we dine."
Wife,quoth this manlittle canst thou divine
The curious businesse that we have;
For of us chapmen,* all so God me save,
And by that lord that cleped is Saint Ive,
Scarcely amonges twenty, ten shall thrive
Continually, lasting unto our age.
We may well make cheer and good visage,
And drive forth the world as it may be,
And keepen our estate in privity,
Till we be dead, or elles that we play
A pilgrimage, or go out of the way.
And therefore have I great necessity
Upon this quaint* world to advise** me.
For evermore must we stand in dread
Of hap and fortune in our chapmanhead.*
To Flanders will I go to-morrow at day,
And come again as soon as e'er I may:
For which, my deare wife, I thee beseek
As be to every wight buxom* and meek,
And for to keep our good be curious,
And honestly governe well our house.
Thou hast enough, in every manner wise,
That to a thrifty household may suffice.
Thee lacketh none array, nor no vitail;
Of silver in thy purse thou shalt not fail.

And with that word his contour door he shet*
And down he went; no longer would he let;*
And hastily a mass was there said
And speedily the tables were laid
And to the dinner faste they them sped
And richely this monk the chapman fed.
And after dinner Dan John soberly
This chapman took apartand privily
He said him thus: "Cousinit standeth so
Thatwell I seeto Bruges ye will go;
God and Saint Austin speede you and guide.
I pray youcousinwisely that ye ride:
Governe you also of your diet
Attemperly* and namely** in this heat.
Betwixt us two needeth no *strange fare;*
FarewellcousinGod shielde you from care.
If any thing there beby day or night
If it lie in my power and my might
That ye me will command in any wise
It shall be doneright as ye will devise.
But one thing ere ye goif it may be;
I woulde pray you for to lend to me
A hundred frankesfor a week or twy
For certain beastes that I muste buy
To store with a place that is ours
(God help me soI would that it were yours);
I shall not faile surely of my day
Not for a thousand francsa mile way.
But let this thing be secretI you pray;


*see note <10>


*strange **consider





For yet to-night these beastes must I buy.
And fare now wellmine owen cousin dear;
*Grand mercy* of your cost and of your cheer."

This noble merchant gentilly* anon
Answer'd and saidO cousin mine, Dan John,
Now sickerly this is a small request:
My gold is youres, when that it you lest,
And not only my gold, but my chaffare;*
Take what you list, *God shielde that ye spare.*
But one thing is, ye know it well enow
Of chapmen, that their money is their plough.
We may creance* while we have a name,
But goldless for to be it is no game.
Pay it again when it lies in your ease;
After my might full fain would I you please.

These hundred frankes set he forth anon
And privily he took them to Dan John;
No wight in all this world wist of this loan
Saving the merchant and Dan John alone.

*great thanks*
*like a gentleman

*God forbid that you
should take too little*

*obtain credit

They drinkand speakand roam a whileand play
Till that Dan John rode unto his abbay.
The morrow cameand forth this merchant rideth
To Flanders-wardhis prentice well him guideth
Till he came unto Bruges merrily.
Now went this merchant fast and busily
About his needand buyed and creanced;* *got credit
He neither played at the dicenor danced;
But as a merchantshortly for to tell
He led his life; and there I let him dwell.
The Sunday next* the merchant was y-gone*after
To Saint Denis y-comen is Dan John
With crown and beard all fresh and newly shave
In all the house was not so little a knave* *servant-boy
Nor no wight elles that was not full fain
For that my lord Dan John was come again.
And shortly to the point right for to gon
The faire wife accorded with Dan John
That for these hundred francs he should all night
Have her in his armes bolt upright;
And this accord performed was in deed.
In mirth all night a busy life they lead
Till it was daythat Dan John went his way
And bade the meinie* "Farewell; have good day." *servants
For none of themnor no wight in the town
Had of Dan John right no suspicioun;
And forth he rode home to his abbay
Or where him list; no more of him I say.
The merchantwhen that ended was the fair
To Saint Denis he gan for to repair
And with his wife he made feast and cheer
And tolde her that chaffare* was so dear*merchandise
That needes must he make a chevisance;* *loan <11>
For he was bound in a recognisance
To paye twenty thousand shields* anon. *crownsecus
For which this merchant is to Paris gone
To borrow of certain friendes that he had
A certain francsand some with him he lad.* *took
And when that he was come into the town
For great cherte* and great affectioun *love
Unto Dan John he wente first to play;

Not for to borrow of him no money
Bat for to weet* and see of his welfare*know
And for to telle him of his chaffare
As friendes dowhen they be met in fere.* *company
Dan John him made feast and merry cheer;
And he him told again full specially
How he had well y-bought and graciously
(Thanked be God) all whole his merchandise;
Save that he mustin alle manner wise
Maken a chevisanceas for his best;
And then he shoulde be in joy and rest.
Dan John answeredCertes, I am fain* *glad
That ye in health be come borne again:
And if that I were rich, as have I bliss,
Of twenty thousand shields should ye not miss,
For ye so kindely the other day
Lente me gold, and as I can and may
I thanke you, by God and by Saint Jame.
But natheless I took unto our Dame,
Your wife at home, the same gold again,
Upon your bench; she wot it well, certain,
By certain tokens that I can her tell
Now, by your leave, I may no longer dwell;
Our abbot will out of this town anon,
And in his company I muste gon.
Greet well our Dame, mine owen niece sweet,
And farewell, deare cousin, till we meet.
This merchant, which that was full ware and wise,
*Creanced hath,* and paid eke in Paris *had obtained credit*
To certain Lombards ready in their hond
The sum of gold, and got of them his bond,
And home he went, merry as a popinjay.* *parrot
For well he knew he stood in such array
That needes must he win in that voyage
A thousand francs, above all his costage.* *expenses
His wife full ready met him at the gate,
As she was wont of old usage algate* *always
And all that night in mirthe they beset;* *spent
For he was rich, and clearly out of debt.
When it was day, the merchant gan embrace
His wife all new, and kiss'd her in her face,
And up he went, and maked it full tough.
No more quoth she, by God ye have enough;"
And wantonly again with him she play'd
Till at the last this merchant to her said.
By God,quoth heI am a little wroth
With you, my wife, although it be me loth;
And wot ye why? by God, as that I guess,

That ye have made a *manner strangeness* *a kind of estrangement*
Betwixte me and my cousin, Dan John.
Ye should have warned me, ere I had gone,
That he you had a hundred frankes paid
By ready token; he *had him evil apaid* *was displeased*
For that I to him spake of chevisance,* *borrowing
(He seemed so as by his countenance);
But natheless, by God of heaven king,
I thoughte not to ask of him no thing.
I pray thee, wife, do thou no more so.
Tell me alway, ere that I from thee go,
If any debtor hath in mine absence
Y-payed thee, lest through thy negligence
I might him ask a thing that he hath paid.

This wife was not afeared nor afraid
But boldely she saidand that anon;
Mary! I defy that false monk Dan John,
I keep* not of his tokens never a deal:** *care **whit
He took me certain gold, I wot it well. --
What? evil thedom* on his monke's snout! --*thriving
For, God it wot, I ween'd withoute doubt
That he had given it me, because of you,
To do therewith mine honour and my prow,* *profit
For cousinage, and eke for belle cheer
That he hath had full often here.
But since I see I stand in such disjoint,* *awkward position
I will answer you shortly to the point.
Ye have more slacke debtors than am I;
For I will pay you well and readily,
From day to day, and if so be I fail,
I am your wife, score it upon my tail,
And I shall pay as soon as ever I may.
For, by my troth, I have on mine array,
And not in waste, bestow'd it every deal.
And, for I have bestowed it so well,
For your honour, for Godde's sake I say,
As be not wroth, but let us laugh and play.
Ye shall my jolly body have *to wed;* *in pledge*
By God, I will not pay you but in bed;
Forgive it me, mine owen spouse dear;
Turn hitherward, and make better cheer.
The merchant saw none other remedy;
And for to chideit were but a folly
Since that the thing might not amended be.
Now, wife,he saidand I forgive it thee;
But by thy life be no more so large;* *liberal, lavish
Keep better my good, this give I thee in charge.
Thus endeth now my tale; and God us send
Taling enoughuntil our lives' end!

Notes to the Shipman's Tale

1. In this Tale Chaucer seems to have followed an old French
storywhich also formed the groundwork of the first story in
the eighth day of the "Decameron."
2. "He must us clothe": So in all the manuscripts and from this
and the following linesit must be inferred that Chaucer had
intended to put the Tale in the mouth of a female speaker.
3. Dan: a title bestowed on priests and scholars; from
Dominus,like the Spanish "Don".
4. Bruges was in Chaucer's time the great emporium of
European commerce.
5. The monk had been appointed by his abbot to inspect and
manage the rural property of the monastery.
6. Malvesie or Malmesy wine derived its name from Malvasiaa
region of the Morea near Cape Maleawhere it was madeas it
also was on Chios and some other Greek islands. Vernage was
vernacciaa sweet Italian wine.

7. Contour-house: counting-house; Frenchcomptoir.
8. Under the yarde: under the rod; in pupillage; a phrase
properly used of childrenbut employed by the Clerk in the
prologue to his tale. See note 1 to the Prologue to the Clerk's
9. GenelonGanelonor Ganilion; one of Charlemagne's
officerswhose treachery was the cause of the disastrous defeat
of the Christians by the Saracens at Roncevalles; he was torn to
pieces by four horses.
10. Elenge: From Frencheloigner,to remove; it may mean
either the lonelycheerless condition of the priestor the strange
behaviour of the merchant in leaving him to himself.
11. Make a chevisance: raise money by means of a borrowing
agreement; from Frenchachever,to finish; the general
meaning of the word is a bargainan agreement.


WELL said, by *corpus Domini,* quoth our Host; *the Lord's body*
Now longe may'st thou saile by the coast,
Thou gentle Master, gentle Marinere.
God give the monk *a thousand last quad year!* *ever so much evil* <1>
Aha! fellows, beware of such a jape.* *trick
The monk *put in the manne's hood an ape,* *fooled him*
And in his wife's eke, by Saint Austin.
Drawe no monkes more into your inn.
But now pass over, and let us seek about,
Who shall now telle first of all this rout
Another tale;and with that word he said
As courteously as it had been a maid;
My Lady Prioresse, by your leave,
So that I wist I shoulde you not grieve,* *offend
I woulde deeme* that ye telle should *judge, decide
A tale next, if so were that ye would.
Now will ye vouchesafe, my lady dear?
Gladly,quoth she; and said as ye shall hear.

Notes to the Prologue to the Prioress's Tale.

1. A thousand last quad year: ever so much evil. "Last" means
a loadquad,bad; and literally we may read "a thousand
weight of bad years." The Italians use "mal anno" in the same

O Lord our Lord! thy name how marvellous
Is in this large world y-spread! <2> (quoth she)
For not only thy laude* precious *praise
Performed is by men of high degree

But by the mouth of children thy bounte*
Performed isfor on the breast sucking
Sometimes showe they thy herying.* <3>
Wherefore in laudas I best can or may
Of theeand of the white lily flow'r
Which that thee bareand is a maid alway
To tell a story I will do my labour;
Not that I may increase her honour
For she herselven is honour and root
Of bountenext her sonand soules' boot.* *help
O mother maidO maid and mother free!*
O bush unburntburning in Moses' sight
That ravished'st down from the deity
Through thy humblessthe ghost that in thee light; <4>

Of whose virtuewhen he thine hearte light* *lightenedgladdened
Conceived was the Father's sapience;
Help me to tell it to thy reverence.

Lady! thy bountythy magnificence
Thy virtueand thy great humility
There may no tongue express in no science:
For sometimesLady! ere men pray to thee
Thou go'st beforeof thy benignity
And gettest us the lightthrough thy prayere
To guiden us unto thy son so dear.

My conning* is so weakO blissful queen*skillability
For to declare thy great worthiness
That I not may the weight of it sustene;
But as a child of twelvemonth oldor less
That can unnethes* any word express*scarcely
Right so fare I; and thereforeI you pray
Guide my song that I shall of you say.

There was in Asiain a great city
Amonges Christian folka Jewery<5>
Sustained by a lord of that country
For foul usureand lucre of villainy
Hateful to Christand to his company;
And through the street men mighte ride and wend* *gowalk
For it was freeand open at each end.

A little school of Christian folk there stood
Down at the farther endin which there were
Children an heap y-come of Christian blood
That learned in that schoole year by year
Such manner doctrine as men used there;
This is to sayto singen and to read
As smalle children do in their childhead.

Among these children was a widow's son
A little clergion* seven year of age*young clerk or scholar
That day by day to scholay* was his won** *study **wont
And eke alsowhereso he saw th' image
Of Christe's motherhad he in usage
As him was taughtto kneel adownand say
Ave Maria as he went by the way.

Thus had this widow her little son y-taught
Our blissful LadyChriste's mother dear
To worship ayeand he forgot it not;
For sely* child will always soone lear.** *innocent **learn

But aye when I remember on this mattere
Saint Nicholas <6> stands ever in my presence;
For he so young to Christ did reverence.

This little child his little book learning
As he sat in the school at his primere
He Alma redemptoris <7> hearde sing
As children learned their antiphonere; <8>
And as he dursthe drew him nere and nere*
And hearken'd aye the wordes and the note
Till he the firste verse knew all by rote.

Nought wist he what this Latin was tosay*
For he so young and tender was of age;
But on a day his fellow gan he pray
To expound him this song in his language
Or tell him why this song was in usage:
This pray'd he him to construe and declare
Full oftentime upon his knees bare.

His fellowwhich that elder was than he
Answer'd him thus: "This songI have heard say
Was maked of our blissful Lady free
Her to saluteand eke her to pray
To be our help and succour when we dey.*
I can no more expound in this mattere:
I learne songI know but small grammere."

And is this song y-made in reverence
Of Christe's mother?said this innocent;
Now certes I will do my diligence
To conne* it allere Christemas be went;
Though that I for my primer shall be shent*
And shall be beaten thries in an hour
I will it conneour Lady to honour."

His fellow taught him homeward* privily
From day to daytill he coud* it by rote
And then he sang it well and boldely
From word to word according with the note;
Twice in a day it passed through his throat;
To schoole-wardand homeward when he went;
On Christ's mother was set all his intent.

As I have saidthroughout the Jewery
This little childas he came to and fro
Full merrily then would he sing and cry
O Alma redemptorisevermo';
The sweetness hath his hearte pierced so
Of Christe's motherthat to her to pray
He cannot stint* of singing by the way.

Our firste foethe serpent Satanas
That hath in Jewes' heart his waspe's nest
Upswell'd and saidO Hebrew people, alas!
Is this to you a thing that is honest,*
That such a boy shall walken as him lest
In your despite, and sing of such sentence,
Which is against your lawe's reverence?

From thenceforth the Jewes have conspired
This innocent out of the world to chase;
A homicide thereto have they hired
That in an alley had a privy place




*learn; con

*on the way home



Andas the child gan forth by for to pace
This cursed Jew him hent* and held him fast
And cut his throatand in a pit him cast.
I say that in a wardrobe* he him threw
Where as the Jewes purged their entrail.
O cursed folk! O Herodes all new!
What may your evil intente you avail?
Murder will outcertain it will not fail
And namely* where th' honour of God shall spread;
The blood out crieth on your cursed deed.
O martyr souded* to virginity
Now may'st thou singand follow ever-in-one*
The white Lamb celestial (quoth she)
Of which the great Evangelist Saint John
In Patmos wrotewhich saith that they that gon
Before this Lamband sing a song all new
That never fleshly woman they ne knew.<10>
*confirmed <9>
This poore widow waited all that night
After her little childbut he came not;
For whichas soon as it was daye's light
With face palein dread and busy thought
She hath at school and elleswhere him sought
Till finally she gan so far espy
That he was last seen in the Jewery.
With mother's pity in her breast enclosed
She wentas she were half out of her mind
To every placewhere she hath supposed
By likelihood her little child to find:
And ever on Christ's mother meek and kind
She criedand at the laste thus she wrought
Among the cursed Jewes she him sought.
She freined* and she prayed piteously
To every Jew that dwelled in that place
To tell herif her childe went thereby;
They saideNay;but Jesus of his grace
Gave in her thoughtwithin a little space
That in that place after her son she cried
Where he was cast into a pit beside.
*asked* <11>
O greate Godthat preformest thy laud
By mouth of innocentslo here thy might!
This gem of chastitythis emeraud*
And eke of martyrdom the ruby bright
Where he with throat y-carven* lay upright
He Alma Redemptoris gan to sing
So loudthat all the place began to ring.
The Christian folkthat through the streete went
In camefor to wonder on this thing:
And hastily they for the provost sent.
He came anon withoute tarrying
And heried* Christthat is of heaven king
And eke his motherhonour of mankind;
And after that the Jewes let* he bind.
With tormentand with shameful death each one
The provost did* these Jewes for to sterve**
That of this murder wistand that anon;
He woulde no such cursedness observe*
*caused **die

Evil shall have that evil will deserve;
Therefore with horses wild he did them draw
And after that he hung them by the law.
The childwith piteous lamentation
Was taken upsinging his song alway:
And with honour and great procession
They crry him unto the next abbay.
His mother swooning by the biere lay;
Unnethes* might the people that were there *scarcely
This newe Rachel bringe from his bier.
Upon his biere lay this innocent
Before the altar while the masses last';* *lasted
Andafter thatth' abbot with his convent
Have sped them for to bury him full fast;
And when they holy water on him cast
Yet spake this childwhen sprinkled was the water

And sangO Alma redemptoris mater!
This abbotwhich that was a holy man
As monkes beor elles ought to be
This younger child to conjure he began
And said; "O deare child! I halse* thee*implore <12>
In virtue of the holy Trinity;
Tell me what is thy cause for to sing
Since that thy throat is cutto my seeming."
My throat is cut unto my necke-bone,
Saide this childand, as *by way of kind,* *in course of nature*
I should have died, yea long time agone;
But Jesus Christ, as ye in bookes find,
Will that his glory last and be in mind;
And, for the worship* of his mother dear, *glory
Yet may I sing O Alma loud and clear.
This well* of mercyChriste's mother sweet*fountain
I loved alwayafter my conning:* *knowledge
And when that I my life should forlete* *leave
To me she cameand bade me for to sing
This anthem verily in my dying
As ye have heard; andwhen that I had sung
Me thought she laid a grain upon my tongue.
Wherefore I sing, and sing I must certain,
In honour of that blissful maiden free,
Till from my tongue off taken is the grain.
And after that thus saide she to me;
'My little child, then will I fetche thee,
When that the grain is from thy tongue take:
Be not aghast,* I will thee not forsake.'*afraid
This holy monkthis abbot him mean I
His tongue out caughtand took away the grain;
And he gave up the ghost full softely.
And when this abbot had this wonder seen
His salte teares trickled down as rain:
And groff* he fell all flat upon the ground*prostrategrovelling
And still he layas he had been y-bound.
The convent* lay eke on the pavement *all the monks
Weepingand herying* Christ's mother dear. *praising
And after that they roseand forth they went
And took away this martyr from his bier

And in a tomb of marble stones clear
Enclosed they his little body sweet;
Where he is nowGod lene* us for to meet. *grant
O younge Hugh of Lincoln!<13> slain also
With cursed Jewes-- as it is notable
For it is but a little while ago--
Pray eke for uswe sinful folk unstable
Thatof his mercyGod so merciable* *merciful
On us his greate mercy multiply
For reverence of his mother Mary.

Notes to the Prioress's Tale

1. Tales of the murder of children by Jews were frequent in the
Middle Agesbeing probably designed to keep up the bitter
feeling of the Christians against the Jews. Not a few children
were canonised on this account; and the scene of the misdeeds
was laid anywhere and everywhereso that Chaucer could be at
no loss for material.
2. This is from Psalm viii. 1Domine, dominus noster,quam
admirabile est nomen tuum in universa terra.
3. "Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast Thou
ordained strength." -- Psalms viii. 2.
4. The ghost that in thee light: the spirit that on thee alighted;
the Holy Ghost through whose power Christ was conceived.
5. Jewery: A quarter which the Jews were permitted to inhabit;
the Old Jewry in London got its name in this way.
6. St. Nicholaseven in his swaddling clothes -- so says the
Breviarium Romanum--gave promise of extraordinary virtue
and holiness; forthough he sucked freely on other dayson
Wednesdays and Fridays he applied to the breast only onceand
that not until the evening.
7. "O Alma Redemptoris Mater (O soul mother of the
Redeemer") -- the beginning of a hymn to the Virgin.
8. Antiphonere: A book of anthemsor psalmschanted in the
choir by alternate verses.
9. Souded; confirmed; from Frenchsoulde;Latinsolidatus.
10. "And they sung as it were a new song before the throneand
before the four beastsand the elders: and no man could learn
that song but the hundred and forty and four thousandwhich
were redeemed from the earth.
These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are
virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he
goeth. These were redeemed from among menbeing the
firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb."
-- Revelations xiv. 34.
11. Freined: askedinquired; from Anglo-Saxonfrinan,
fraegnian.Compare Germanfragen.
12. Halse: embrace or salute; implore: from Anglo-Saxon
hals,the neck.

14 A boy said to have been slain by the Jews at Lincoln in 1255
according to Matthew Paris. Many popular ballads were made
about the eventwhich the diligence of the Church doubtless
kept fresh in mind at Chaucer's day.



WHEN said was this miracleevery man
As sober* wasthat wonder was to see*serious
Till that our Host to japen* he began*talk lightly
And then *at erst* he looked upon me*for the first time*
And saide thus; "What man art thou?" quoth he;
Thou lookest as thou wouldest find an hare,
For ever on the ground I see thee stare.
Approache nearand look up merrily.
Now ware youSirsand let this man have place.
He in the waist is shapen as well as I; <2>
This were a puppet in an arm t'embrace
For any woman small and fair of face.
He seemeth elvish* by his countenance*surlymorose
For unto no wight doth he dalliance.
Say now somewhat, since other folk have said;
Tell us a tale of mirth, and that anon.
Hoste,quoth Ibe not evil apaid,* *dissatisfied
For other tale certes can* I none, *know
Eut of a rhyme I learned yore* agone.*long
Yea, that is good,quoth he; "now shall we hear
Some dainty thingme thinketh by thy cheer."* *expressionmien

Notes to the Prologue to Chaucer's Tale of Sir Thopas

1. This prologue is interestingfor the picture which it gives of
Chaucer himself; riding apart from and indifferent to the rest of
the pilgrimswith eyes fixed on the groundand an "elvish"
moroseor rather self-absorbed air; portlyif not actually stout
in body; and evidently a man out of the commonas the closing
words of the Host imply.
2. Referring to the poet's corpulency.

The First Fit* *part

Listenlordingsin good intent
And I will tell you verrament* *truly
Of mirth and of solas* *delightsolace
All of a knight was fair and gent* *gentle
In battle and in tournament
His name was Sir Thopas.

Y-born he was in far country
In Flandersall beyond the sea
At Popering <2> in the place;
His father was a man full free
And lord he was of that country
As it was Godde's grace. <3>
Sir Thopas was a doughty swain
White was his face as paindemain<4>
His lippes red as rose.
His rode* is like scarlet in grain*complexion
And I you tell in good certain
He had a seemly nose.
His hairhis beardwas like saffroun
That to his girdle reach'd adown
His shoes of cordewane:<5>
Of Bruges were his hosen brown;
His robe was of ciclatoun<6>
That coste many a jane.<7>
He coulde hunt at the wild deer
And ride on hawking *for rivere* *by the river*
With gray goshawk on hand: <8>
Thereto he was a good archere
Of wrestling was there none his peer
Where any ram <9> should stand.
Full many a maiden bright in bow'r
They mourned for him par amour
When them were better sleep;
But he was chasteand no lechour
And sweet as is the bramble flow'r
That beareth the red heep.* *hip
And so it fell upon a day
For sooth as I you telle may
Sir Thopas would out ride;
He worth* upon his steede gray*mounted
And in his hand a launcegay* *spear <10>
A long sword by his side.
He pricked through a fair forest
Wherein is many a wilde beast
Yeabothe buck and hare;
And as he pricked north and east
I tell it youhim had almest *almost
Betid* a sorry care. *befallen
There sprange herbes great and small
The liquorice and the setewall* *valerian
And many a clove-gilofre<12>
And nutemeg to put in ale
Whether it be moist* or stale*new
Or for to lay in coffer.
The birdes sangit is no nay
The sperhawk* and the popinjay** *sparrowhawk **parrot <13>
That joy it was to hear;
The throstle-cock made eke his lay
The woode-dove upon the spray
She sang full loud and clear.
Sir Thopas fell in love-longing

All when he heard the throstle sing
And *prick'd as he were wood;* *rode as if he
His faire steed in his pricking were mad*
So sweatedthat men might him wring
His sides were all blood.
Sir Thopas eke so weary was
For pricking on the softe grass
So fierce was his corage* *inclinationspirit
That down he laid him in that place
To make his steed some solace
And gave him good forage.
Ah, Saint Mary, ben'dicite,
What aileth thilke* love at me *this
To binde me so sore?
Me dreamed all this night, pardie,
An elf-queen shall my leman* be, *mistress
And sleep under my gore.* *shirt
An elf-queen will I love, y-wis,* *assuredly
For in this world no woman is
Worthy to be my make* *mate
In town;
All other women I forsake,
And to an elf-queen I me take
By dale and eke by down.<14>
Into his saddle he clomb anon
And pricked over stile and stone
An elf-queen for to spy
Till he so long had ridden and gone
That he found in a privy wonne* *haunt
The country of Faery
So wild;
For in that country was there none
That to him durste ride or gon
Neither wife nor child.
Till that there came a great giaunt
His name was Sir Oliphaunt<15>
A perilous man of deed;
He saideChild,* by Termagaunt, <16> *young man
*But if* thou prick out of mine haunt, *unless
Anon I slay thy steed
With mace.
Here is the Queen of Faery,
With harp, and pipe, and symphony,
Dwelling in this place.
The Child saidAll so may I the,* *thrive
To-morrow will I meete thee,
When I have mine armor;
And yet I hope, *par ma fay,* *by my faith*
That thou shalt with this launcegay
Abyen* it full sore; *suffer for
Thy maw* *belly
Shall I pierce, if I may,
Ere it be fully prime of day,
For here thou shalt be slaw.* *slain
Sir Thopas drew aback full fast;
This giant at him stones cast
Out of a fell staff sling:

But fair escaped Child Thopas
And all it was through Godde's grace
And through his fair bearing. <17>

Yet listenlordingsto my tale
Merrier than the nightingale
For now I will you rown*
How Sir Thopaswith sides smale*
Pricking over hill and dale
Is come again to town.

His merry men commanded he
To make him both game and glee;
For needes must he fight
With a giant with heades three
For paramour and jollity
Of one that shone full bright.

*Do come,*he saidemy minstrales
And gestours* for to telle tales.
Anon in mine arming,
Of romances that be royales, <19>
Of popes and of cardinales,
And eke of love-longing.

They fetch'd him first the sweete wine
And mead eke in a maseline*
And royal spicery;
Of ginger-bread that was full fine
And liquorice and eke cumin
With sugar that is trie.*

He didde* next his white lere**
Of cloth of lake* fine and clear
A breech and eke a shirt;
And next his shirt an haketon*
And over that an habergeon*
For piercing of his heart;

And over that a fine hauberk*
Was all y-wrought of Jewes'* werk
Full strong it was of plate;
And over that his coat-armour*
As white as is the lily flow'r<21>
In which he would debate.*

His shield was all of gold so red
And therein was a boare's head
A charboucle* beside;
And there he swore on ale and bread
How that the giant should be dead
Betide whatso betide.

His jambeaux* were of cuirbouly<23>
His sworde's sheath of ivory
His helm of latoun* bright
His saddle was of rewel <24> bone
His bridle as the sunne shone
Or as the moonelight.

His speare was of fine cypress
That bodeth warand nothing peace;
The head full sharp y-ground.
His steede was all dapple gray

*small <18>


of maple wood <20>


*put on **skin
*fine linen

*coat of mail


*knight's surcoat


*carbuncle <22>



It went an amble in the way
Full softely and round
In land.

LoLordes minehere is a fytt;
If ye will any more of it
To tell it will I fand.* *try

The Second Fit

Now hold your mouth for charity
Bothe knight and lady free
And hearken to my spell;* *tale <25>
Of battle and of chivalry
Of ladies' love and druerie* *gallantry
Anon I will you tell.

Men speak of romances of price* * worthesteem
Of Horn Childand of Ipotis
Of Bevisand Sir Guy<26>
Of Sir Libeux<27> and Pleindamour
But Sir Thopashe bears the flow'r
Of royal chivalry.

His goode steed he all bestrode
And forth upon his way he glode* *shone
As sparkle out of brand;* *torch
Upon his crest he bare a tow'r
And therein stick'd a lily flow'r; <28>
God shield his corse* from shand!** *body **harm

Andfor he was a knight auntrous* *adventurous
He woulde sleepen in none house
But liggen* in his hood*lie
His brighte helm was his wanger* *pillow <29>
And by him baited* his destrer** *fed **horse <30>
Of herbes fine and good.

Himself drank water of the well
As did the knight Sir Percivel<31>
So worthy under weed;
Till on a day -. . .

Notes to Chaucer's Tale of Sir Thopas

1. "The Rhyme of Sir Thopas as it is generally called, is
introduced by Chaucer as a satire on the dull, pompous, and
prolix metrical romances then in vogue. It is full of phrases
taken from the popular rhymesters in the vein which he holds up
to ridicule; if, indeed -- though of that there is no evidence -- it
be not actually part of an old romance which Chaucer selected
and reproduced to point his assault on the prevailing taste in
Transcriber's note: The Tale is full of incongruities of every
kind, which Purves does not refer to; I point some of them out
in the notes which follow - marked TN.
2. Poppering, or Poppeling, a parish in the marches of Calais of
which the famous antiquary Leland was once Rector. TN: The
inhabitants of Popering had a reputation for stupidity.

3. TN: The lord of Popering was the abbot of the local
monastery - who could, of course, have no legitimate children.
4. Paindemain: Either pain de matin morning bread, or pain
de Maine because it was made best in that province; a kind of
fine white bread.
5. Cordewane: Cordovan; fine Spanish leather, so called from
the name of the city where it was prepared
6. Ciclatoun: A rich Oriental stuff of silk and gold, of which was
made the circular robe of state called a ciclaton from the
Latin, cyclas." The word is French.
7. Jane: a Genoese coinof small value; in our old statutes
called "gallihalpens or galley half-pence.
8. TN: In Mediaeval falconry the goshawk was not regarded as
a fit bird for a knight. It was the yeoman's bird.
9. A ram was the usual prize of wrestling contests. TN:
Wrestling and archery were sports of the common people, not
knightly accomplishments.
10. Launcegay: spear; azagay" is the name of a Moorish
weaponand the identity of termination is singular.
12. Clove-gilofre: clove-gilliflower; "Caryophyllus hortensis."
13. TN: The sparrowhawk and parrot can only squawk
14. TN: The sudden and pointless changes in the stanza form
are of course part of Chaucer's parody.
15. Sir Oliphaunt: literallySir Elephant;Sir John Mandeville
calls those animals "Olyfauntes."
16. Termagaunt: A pagan or Saracen deityotherwise named
Tervaganand often mentioned in Middle Age literature. His
name has passed into our languageto denote a ranter or
blustereras be was represented to be.
17. TN: His "fair bearing" would not have been much defence
against a sling-stone.
18. TN: "Sides small": a conventional description for a woman
not a man.
19. Romances that be royal: so called because they related to
Charlemagne and his family.
20. TN: A knight would be expected to have a gold or silver
drinking vessel.
21. TN: The coat-armour or coat of arms should have had his
heraldic emblems on itnot been pure white
22. Charboucle: Carbuncle; Frenchescarboucle;a heraldic
device resembling a jewel.
23. Cuirbouly: "Cuir boulli French, boiled or prepared
leather; also used to cover shields, &c.

24. Rewel bone: No satisfactory explanation has been furnished
of this word, used to describe some material from which rich
saddles were made. TN: The OED defines it as narwhal ivory.
25. Spell: Tale, discourse, from Anglo-Saxon, spellian to
declare, tell a story.
26. Sir Bevis of Hampton, and Sir Guy of Warwick, two
knights of great renown.
27. Libeux: One of Arthur's knights, called Ly beau
desconus the fair unknown."
28. TN: The crest was a small emblem worn on top of a knight's
helmet. A tower with a lily stuck in it would have been
unwieldy and absurd.
29. Wanger: pillow; from Anglo-Saxonwangere,because
the "wanges;" or cheeksrested on it.
30. Destrer: "destrier French, a war-horse; in Latin,
dextrarius as if led by the right hand.
31. Sir Percival de Galois, whose adventures were written in
more than 60,000 verses by Chretien de Troyes, one of the
oldest and best French romancers, in 1191.


No more of thisfor Godde's dignity!"
Quoth oure Hoste; "for thou makest me
So weary of thy very lewedness* *stupidityignorance <1>
Thatall so wisly* God my soule bless*surely
Mine eares ache for thy drafty* speech. *worthless <2>
Now such a rhyme the devil I beteche:* *commend to
This may well be rhyme doggerel quoth he.
Why so?" quoth I; "why wilt thou lette* me *prevent
More of my tale than any other man
Since that it is the best rhyme that I can?"* *know
By God!quoth hefor, plainly at one word,
Thy drafty rhyming is not worth a tord:
Thou dost naught elles but dispendest* time. *wastest
Sir, at one word, thou shalt no longer rhyme.
Let see whether thou canst tellen aught *in gest,* *by way of
Or tell in prose somewhat, at the least, narrative*
In which there be some mirth or some doctrine.
Gladly,quoth Iby Godde's sweete pine,* *suffering
I will you tell a little thing in prose,
That oughte like* you, as I suppose, *please
Or else certes ye be too dangerous.* *fastidious
It is a moral tale virtuous,
*All be it* told sometimes in sundry wise *although it be*
By sundry folk, as I shall you devise.
As thus, ye wot that ev'ry Evangelist,
That telleth us the pain* of Jesus Christ, *passion
He saith not all thing as his fellow doth;
But natheless their sentence is all soth,* *true

And all accorden as in their sentence,* *meaning
All be there in their telling difference;
For some of them say more, and some say less,
When they his piteous passion express;
I mean of Mark and Matthew, Luke and John;
But doubteless their sentence is all one.
Therefore, lordinges all, I you beseech,
If that ye think I vary in my speech,
As thus, though that I telle somedeal more
Of proverbes, than ye have heard before
Comprehended in this little treatise here,
*T'enforce with* the effect of my mattere, *with which to
And though I not the same wordes say enforce*
As ye have heard, yet to you all I pray
Blame me not; for as in my sentence
Shall ye nowhere finde no difference
From the sentence of thilke* treatise lite,** *this **little
After the which this merry tale I write.
And therefore hearken to what I shall say,
And let me tellen all my tale, I pray.

Notes to the Prologue to Chaucer's Tale of Meliboeus.

1. Chaucer crowns the satire on the romanticists by making the
very landlord of the Tabard cry out in indignant disgust against
the stuff which he had heard recited -- the good Host ascribing
to sheer ignorance the string of pompous platitudes and prosaic
details which Chaucer had uttered.
2. Drafty: worthlessvile; no better than draff or dregs; from
the Anglo-Saxondrifanto drive awayexpel.

A young man called Meliboeusmighty and richbegat upon his
wifethat called was Prudencea daughter which that called was
Sophia. Upon a day befellthat he for his disport went into the
fields him to play. His wife and eke his daughter hath he left
within his houseof which the doors were fast shut. Three of his
old foes have it espiedand set ladders to the walls of his house
and by the windows be enteredand beaten his wifeand
wounded his daughter with five mortal woundsin five sundry
places; that is to sayin her feetin her handsin her earsin her
noseand in her mouth; and left her for deadand went away.
When Meliboeus returned was into his houseand saw all this
mischiefhelike a man madrending his clothesgan weep and
cry. Prudence his wifeas farforth as she durstbesought him of
his weeping for to stint: but not forthy [notwithstanding] he gan
to weep and cry ever longer the more.

This noble wife Prudence remembered her upon the sentence of
Ovidin his book that called is the "Remedy of Love <2>
where he saith: He is a fool that disturbeth the mother to weep
in the death of her child, till she have wept her fill, as for a
certain time; and then shall a man do his diligence with amiable
words her to recomfort and pray her of her weeping for to stint
[cease]. For which reason this noble wife Prudence suffered her
husband for to weep and cry, as for a certain space; and when
she saw her time, she said to him in this wise: Alas! my lord
quoth she, why make ye yourself for to be like a fool? For

sooth it appertaineth not to a wise man to make such a sorrow.
Your daughterwith the grace of Godshall warish [be cured]
and escape. And all [although] were it so that she right now
were deadye ought not for her death yourself to destroy.
Seneca saith'The wise man shall not take too great discomfort
for the death of his childrenbut certes he should suffer it in
patienceas well as he abideth the death of his own proper

Meliboeus answered anon and said: "What man quoth he,
should of his weeping stintthat hath so great a cause to weep?
Jesus Christour Lordhimself wept for the death of Lazarus
his friend." Prudence answeredCertes, well I wot,
attempered [moderate] weeping is nothing defended [forbidden]
to him that sorrowful is, among folk in sorrow but it is rather
granted him to weep. The Apostle Paul unto the Romans
writeth, 'Man shall rejoice with them that make joy, and weep
with such folk as weep.' But though temperate weeping be
granted, outrageous weeping certes is defended. Measure of
weeping should be conserved, after the lore [doctrine] that
teacheth us Seneca. 'When that thy friend is dead,' quoth he, 'let
not thine eyes too moist be of tears, nor too much dry: although
the tears come to thine eyes, let them not fall. And when thou
hast forgone [lost] thy friend, do diligence to get again another
friend: and this is more wisdom than to weep for thy friend
which that thou hast lorn [lost] for therein is no boot
[advantage]. And therefore if ye govern you by sapience, put
away sorrow out of your heart. Remember you that Jesus
Sirach saith, 'A man that is joyous and glad in heart, it him
conserveth flourishing in his age: but soothly a sorrowful heart
maketh his bones dry.' He said eke thus, 'that sorrow in heart
slayth full many a man.' Solomon saith 'that right as moths in
the sheep's fleece annoy [do injury] to the clothes, and the small
worms to the tree, right so annoyeth sorrow to the heart of
man.' Wherefore us ought as well in the death of our children,
as in the loss of our goods temporal, have patience. Remember
you upon the patient Job, when he had lost his children and his
temporal substance, and in his body endured and received full
many a grievous tribulation, yet said he thus: 'Our Lord hath
given it to me, our Lord hath bereft it me; right as our Lord
would, right so be it done; blessed be the name of our Lord.'

To these foresaid things answered Meliboeus unto his wife
Prudence: "All thy words quoth he, be trueand thereto
[also] profitablebut truly mine heart is troubled with this
sorrow so grievouslythat I know not what to do." "Let call
quoth Prudence, thy true friends alland thy lineagewhich be
wiseand tell to them your caseand hearken what they say in
counsellingand govern you after their sentence [opinion].
Solomon saith'Work all things by counseland thou shall never
repent.'" Thenby counsel of his wife Prudencethis Meliboeus
let call [sent for] a great congregation of folkas surgeons
physiciansold folk and youngand some of his old enemies
reconciled (as by their semblance) to his love and to his grace;
and therewithal there come some of his neighboursthat did him
reverence more for dread than for loveas happeneth oft. There
come also full many subtle flatterersand wise advocates
learned in the law. And when these folk together assembled
werethis Meliboeus in sorrowful wise showed them his case
and by the manner of his speech it seemed that in heart he bare
a cruel ireready to do vengeance upon his foesand suddenly
desired that the war should beginbut nevertheless yet asked he
their counsel in this matter. A surgeonby licence and assent of
such as were wiseup roseand to Meliboeus said as ye may

hear. "Sir quoth he, as to us surgeons appertaineththat we
do to every wight the best that we canwhere as we be
withholden[employed] and to our patient that we do no
damage; wherefore it happeneth many a time and oftthat when
two men have wounded each otherone same surgeon healeth
them both; wherefore unto our art it is not pertinent to nurse
warnor parties to support [take sides]. But certesas to the
warishing [healing] of your daughteralbeit so that perilously
she be woundedwe shall do so attentive business from day to
nightthatwith the grace of Godshe shall be whole and
soundas soon as is possible." Almost right in the same wise the
physicians answeredsave that they said a few words more: that
right as maladies be cured by their contrariesright so shall man
warish war (by peace). His neighbours full of envyhis feigned
friends that seemed reconciledand his flatterersmade
semblance of weepingand impaired and agregged [aggravated]
much of this matterin praising greatly Meliboeus of mightof
powerof richesand of friendsdespising the power of his
adversaries: and said utterlythat he anon should wreak him on
his foesand begin war.

Up rose then an advocate that was wiseby leave and by
counsel of other that were wiseand saidLordings, the need
[business] for which we be assembled in this place, is a full
heavy thing, and an high matter, because of the wrong and of
the wickedness that hath been done, and eke by reason of the
great damages that in time coming be possible to fall for the
same cause, and eke by reason of the great riches and power of
the parties both; for which reasons, it were a full great peril to
err in this matter. Wherefore, Meliboeus, this is our sentence
[opinion]; we counsel you, above all things, that right anon thou
do thy diligence in keeping of thy body, in such a wise that thou
want no espy nor watch thy body to save. And after that, we
counsel that in thine house thou set sufficient garrison, so that
they may as well thy body as thy house defend. But, certes, to
move war or suddenly to do vengeance, we may not deem
[judge] in so little time that it were profitable. Wherefore we
ask leisure and space to have deliberation in this case to deem;
for the common proverb saith thus; 'He that soon deemeth soon
shall repent.' And eke men say, that that judge is wise, that soon
understandeth a matter, and judgeth by leisure. For albeit so
that all tarrying be annoying, algates [nevertheless] it is no
reproof [subject for reproach] in giving of judgement, nor in
vengeance taking, when it is sufficient and, reasonable. And
that shewed our Lord Jesus Christ by example; for when that
the woman that was taken in adultery was brought in his
presence to know what should be done with her person, albeit
that he wist well himself what he would answer, yet would he
not answer suddenly, but he would have deliberation, and in the
ground he wrote twice. And by these causes we ask deliberation
and we shall then by the grace of God counsel the thing that
shall be profitable.

Up started then the young folk anon at onceand the most part
of that company have scorned these old wise men and begun to
make noise and saidRight as while that iron is hot men should
smite, right so men should wreak their wrongs while that they
be fresh and new:and with loud voice they cried. "War! War!"
Up rose then one of these old wiseand with his hand made
countenance [a signgesture] that men should hold them still
and give him audience. "Lordings quoth he, there is full many
a man that crieth'War! war!' that wot full little what war
amounteth. War at his beginning hath so great an entering and
so largethat every wight may enter when him likethand lightly

[easily] find war: but certes what end shall fall thereof it is not
light to know. For soothly when war is once begunthere is full
many a child unborn of his motherthat shall sterve [die] young
by cause of that waror else live in sorrow and die in
wretchedness; and thereforeere that any war be begunmen
must have great counsel and great deliberation." And when this
old man weened [thoughtintended] to enforce his tale by
reasonswell-nigh all at once began they to rise for to break his
taleand bid him full oft his words abridge. For soothly he that
preacheth to them that list not hear his wordshis sermon them
annoyeth. For Jesus Sirach saiththat music in weeping is a
noyous [troublesome] thing. This is to sayas much availeth to
speak before folk to whom his speech annoyethas to sing
before him that weepeth. And when this wise man saw that him
wanted audienceall shamefast he sat him down again. For
Solomon saith'Where as thou mayest have no audience
enforce thee not to speak.' "I see well quoth this wise man,
that the common proverb is sooththat good counsel wanteth
when it is most need." Yet [besidesfurther] had this Meliboeus
in his council many folkthat privily in his ear counselled him
certain thingand counselled him the contrary in general
audience. When Meliboeus had heard that the greatest part of
his council were accorded [in agreement] that he should make
waranon he consented to their counsellingand fully affirmed
their sentence [opinionjudgement].

(Dame Prudenceseeing her husband's resolution thus takenin
full humble wisewhen she saw her timebegins to counsel him
against warby a warning against haste in requital of either
good or evil. Meliboeus tells her that he will not work by her
counselbecause he should be held a fool if he rejected for her
advice the opinion of so many wise men; because all women are
bad; because it would seem that he had given her the mastery
over him; and because she could not keep his secretif he
resolved to follow her advice. To these reasons Prudence
answers that it is no folly to change counsel when thingsor
men's judgements of themchange -- especially to alter a
resolution taken on the impulse of a great multitude of folk
where every man crieth and clattereth what him liketh; that if all
women had been wickedJesus Christ would never have
descended to be born of a womannor have showed himself
first to a woman after his resurrection and that when Solomon
said he had found no good womanhe meant that God alone
was supremely good; <3> that her husband would not seem to
give her the mastery by following her counselfor he had his
own free choice in following or rejecting it; and that he knew
well and had often tested her great silencepatienceand
secrecy. And whereas he had quoted a sayingthat in wicked
counsel women vanquish menshe reminds him that she would
counsel him against doing a wickedness on which he had set his
mindand cites instances to show that many women have been
and yet are full goodand their counsel wholesome and
profitable. Lastlyshe quotes the words of God himselfwhen
he was about to make woman as an help meet for man; and
promises thatif her husband will trust her counselshe will
restore to him his daughter whole and soundand make him
have honour in this case. Meliboeus answers that because of his
wife's sweet wordsand also because he has proved and assayed
her great wisdom and her great truthhe will govern him by her
counsel in all things. Thus encouragedPrudence enters on a
long discoursefull of learned citationsregarding the manner in
which counsellors should be chosen and consultedand the
times and reasons for changing a counsel. FirstGod must be
besought for guidance. Then a man must well examine his own

thoughtsof such things as he holds to be best for his own
profit; driving out of his heart angercovetousnessand
hastinesswhich perturb and pervert the judgement. Then he
must keep his counsel secretunless confiding it to another shall
be more profitable; butin so confiding ithe shall say nothing
to bias the mind of the counsellor toward flattery or
subserviency. After that he should consider his friends and his
enemieschoosing of the former such as be most faithful and
wiseand eldest and most approved in counselling; and even of
these only a few. Then he must eschew the counselling of fools
of flatterersof his old enemies that be reconciledof servants
who bear him great reverence and fearof folk that be drunken
and can hide no counselof such as counsel one thing privily
and the contrary openly; and of young folkfor their counselling
is not ripe. Thenin examining his counselhe must truly tell his
tale; he must consider whether the thing he proposes to do be
reasonablewithin his powerand acceptable to the more part
and the better part of his counsellors; he must look at the things
that may follow from that counsellingchoosing the best and
waiving all besides; he must consider the root whence the
matter of his counsel is engenderedwhat fruits it may bear
and from what causes they be sprung. And having thus
examined his counsel and approved it by many wise folk and
oldhe shall consider if he may perform it and make of it a good
end; if he be in doubthe shall choose rather to suffer than to
begin; but otherwise he shall prosecute his resolution steadfastly
till the enterprise be at an end. As to changing his counsela
man may do so without reproachif the cause ceaseor when a
new case betidesor if he find that by error or otherwise harm
or damage may resultor if his counsel be dishonest or come of
dishonest causeor if it be impossible or may not properly be
kept; and he must take it for a general rulethat every counsel
which is affirmed so stronglythat it may not be changed for
any condition that may betidethat counsel is wicked.
Meliboeusadmitting that his wife had spoken well and suitably
as to counsellors and counsel in generalprays her to tell him in
especial what she thinks of the counsellors whom they have
chosen in their present need. Prudence replies that his counsel in
this case could not properly be called a counsellingbut a
movement of folly; and points out that he has erred in sundry
wise against the rules which he had just laid down. Granting
that he has erredMeliboeus says that he is all ready to change
his counsel right as she will devise; foras the proverb runsto
do sin is humanbut to persevere long in sin is work of the
Devil. Prudence then minutely recitesanalysesand criticises
the counsel given to her husband in the assembly of his friends.
She commends the advice of the physicians and surgeonsand
urges that they should be well rewarded for their noble speech
and their services in healing Sophia; and she asks Meliboeus
how he understands their proposition that one contrary must be
cured by another contrary. Meliboeus answersthat he should
do vengeance on his enemieswho had done him wrong.
Prudencehoweverinsists that vengeance is not the contrary of
vengeancenor wrong of wrongbut the like; and that
wickedness should be healed by goodnessdiscord by accord
war by peace. She proceeds to deal with the counsel of the
lawyers and wise folk that advised Meliboeus to take prudent
measures for the security of his body and of his house. Firstshe
would have her husband pray for the protection and aid of
Christ; then commit the keeping of his person to his true
friends; then suspect and avoid all strange folkand liarsand
such people as she had already warned him against; then beware
of presuming on his strengthor the weakness of his adversary
and neglecting to guard his person -- for every wise man

dreadeth his enemy; then he should evermore be on the watch
against ambush and all espialeven in what seems a place of
safety; though he should not be so cowardlyas to fear where is
no cause for dread; yet he should dread to be poisonedand
therefore shun scornersand fly their words as venom. As to
the fortification of his houseshe points out that towers and
great edifices are costly and laboriousyet useless unless
defended by true friends that be old and wise; and the greatest
and strongest garrison that a rich man may haveas well to keep
his person as his goodsisthat he be beloved by his subjects
and by his neighbours. Warmly approving the counsel that in all
this business Meliboeus should proceed with great diligence and
deliberationPrudence goes on to examine the advice given by
his neighbours that do him reverence without lovehis old
enemies reconciledhis flatterers that counselled him certain
things privily and openly counselled him the contraryand the
young folk that counselled him to avenge himself and make war
at once. She reminds him that he stands alone against three
powerful enemieswhose kindred are numerous and close
while his are fewer and remote in relationship; that only the
judge who has jurisdiction in a case may take sudden vengeance
on any man; that her husband's power does not accord with his
desire; and thatif he did take vengeanceit would only breed
fresh wrongs and contests. As to the causes of the wrong done
to himshe holds that Godthe causer of all thingshas
permitted him to suffer because he has drunk so much honey

<4> of sweet temporal richesand delightsand honours of this
worldthat he is drunkenand has forgotten Jesus Christ his
Saviour; the three enemies of mankindthe fleshthe fiendand
the worldhave entered his heart by the windows of his body
and wounded his soul in five places -- that is to saythe deadly
sins that have entered into his heart by the five senses; and in
the same manner Christ has suffered his three enemies to enter
his house by the windowsand wound his daughter in the five
places before specified. Meliboeus demursthat if his wife's
objections prevailedvengeance would never be takenand
thence great mischiefs would arise; but Prudence replies that the
taking of vengeance lies with the judgesto whom the private
individual must have recourse. Meliboeus declares that such
vengeance does not please himand thatas Fortune has
nourished and helped him from his childhoodhe will now assay
hertrustingwith God's helpthat she will aid him to avenge his
shame. Prudence warns him against trusting to Fortuneall the
less because she has hitherto favoured himfor just on that
account she is the more likely to fail him; and she calls on him
to leave his vengeance with the Sovereign Judgethat avengeth
all villainies and wrongs. Meliboeus argues that if he refrains
from taking vengeance he will invite his enemies to do him
further wrongand he will be put and held over low; but
Prudence contends that such a result can be brought about only
by the neglect of the judgesnot by the patience of the
individual. Supposing that he had leave to avenge himselfshe
repeats that he is not strong enoughand quotes the common
sawthat it is madness for a man to strive with a stronger than
himselfperil to strive with one of equal strengthand folly to
strive with a weaker. Butconsidering his own defaults and
demerits-- remembering the patience of Christ and the
undeserved tribulations of the saintsthe brevity of this life with
all its trouble and sorrowthe discredit thrown on the wisdom
and training of a man who cannot bear wrong with patience -he
should refrain wholly from taking vengeance. Meliboeus
submits that he is not at all a perfect manand his heart will
never be at peace until he is avenged; and that as his enemies
disregarded the peril when they attacked himso he might

without reproachincur some peril in attacking them in return
even though he did a great excess in avenging one wrong by
another. Prudence strongly deprecates all outrage or excess; but
Meliboeus insists that he cannot see that it might greatly harm
him though he took a vengeancefor he is richer and mightier
than his enemiesand all things obey money. Prudence
thereupon launches into a long dissertation on the advantages of
richesthe evils of povertythe means by which wealth should
be gatheredand the manner in which it should be used; and
concludes by counselling her husband not to move war and
battle through trust in his richesfor they suffice not to maintain
warthe battle is not always to the strong or the numerousand
the perils of conflict are many. Meliboeus then curtly asks her
for her counsel how he shall do in this need; and she answers
that certainly she counsels him to agree with his adversaries and
have peace with them. Meliboeus on this cries out that plainly
she loves not his honour or his worshipin counselling him to
go and humble himself before his enemiescrying mercy to them
thathaving done him so grievous wrongask him not to be
reconciled. Then Prudencemaking semblance of wrathretorts
that she loves his honour and profit as she loves her ownand
ever has done; she cites the Scriptures in support of her counsel
to seek peace; and says she will leave him to his own courses
for she knows well he is so stubbornthat he will do nothing for
her. Meliboeus then relents; admits that he is angry and cannot
judge aright; and puts himself wholly in her handspromising to
do just as she desiresand admitting that he is the more held to
love and praise herif she reproves him of his folly)

Then Dame Prudence discovered all her counsel and her will
unto himand said: "I counsel you quoth she, above all
thingsthat ye make peace between God and youand be
reconciled unto Him and to his grace; foras I have said to you
herebeforeGod hath suffered you to have this tribulation and
disease [distresstrouble] for your sins; and if ye do as I say
youGod will send your adversaries unto youand make them
fall at your feetready to do your will and your commandment.
For Solomon saith'When the condition of man is pleasant and
liking to Godhe changeth the hearts of the man's adversaries
and constraineth them to beseech him of peace of grace.' And I
pray you let me speak with your adversaries in privy placefor
they shall not know it is by your will or your assent; and then
when I know their will and their intentI may counsel you the
more surely." '"Dame quoth Meliboeus, 'do your will and
your likingfor I put me wholly in your disposition and

Then Dame Prudencewhen she saw the goodwill of her
husbanddeliberated and took advice in herselfthinking how
she might bring this need [affairemergency] unto a good end.
And when she saw her timeshe sent for these adversaries to
come into her into a privy placeand showed wisely into them
the great goods that come of peaceand the great harms and
perils that be in war; and said to themin goodly mannerhow
that they ought have great repentance of the injuries and
wrongs that they had done to Meliboeus her Lordand unto her
and her daughter. And when they heard the goodly words of
Dame Prudencethen they were surprised and ravishedand had
so great joy of herthat wonder was to tell. "Ah lady!" quoth
theyye have showed unto us the blessing of sweetness, after
the saying of David the prophet; for the reconciling which we
be not worthy to have in no manner, but we ought require it
with great contrition and humility, ye of your great goodness
have presented unto us. Now see we well, that the science and

conning [knowledge] of Solomon is full true; for he saith, that
sweet words multiply and increase friends, and make shrews
[the ill-natured or angry] to be debonair [gentle, courteous] and
meek. Certes we put our deed, and all our matter and cause, all
wholly in your goodwill, and be ready to obey unto the speech
and commandment of my lord Meliboeus. And therefore, dear
and benign lady, we pray you and beseech you as meekly as we
can and may, that it like unto your great goodness to fulfil in
deed your goodly words. For we consider and acknowledge
that we have offended and grieved my lord Meliboeus out of
measure, so far forth that we be not of power to make him
amends; and therefore we oblige and bind us and our friends to
do all his will and his commandment. But peradventure he hath
such heaviness and such wrath to usward, [towards us] because
of our offence, that he will enjoin us such a pain [penalty] as we
may not bear nor sustain; and therefore, noble lady, we beseech
to your womanly pity to take such advisement [consideration]
in this need, that we, nor our friends, be not disinherited and
destroyed through our folly.

Certes,quoth Prudenceit is an hard thing, and right
perilous, that a man put him all utterly in the arbitration and
judgement and in the might and power of his enemy. For
Solomon saith, 'Believe me, and give credence to that that I
shall say: to thy son, to thy wife, to thy friend, nor to thy
brother, give thou never might nor mastery over thy body, while
thou livest.' Now, since he defendeth [forbiddeth] that a man
should not give to his brother, nor to his friend, the might of his
body, by a stronger reason he defendeth and forbiddeth a man
to give himself to his enemy. And nevertheless, I counsel you
that ye mistrust not my lord: for I wot well and know verily,
that he is debonair and meek, large, courteous and nothing
desirous nor envious of good nor riches: for there is nothing in
this world that he desireth save only worship and honour.
Furthermore I know well, and am right sure, that he shall
nothing do in this need without counsel of me; and I shall so
work in this case, that by the grace of our Lord God ye shall be
reconciled unto us.

Then said they with one voiceWorshipful ladywe put us
and our goods all fully in your will and dispositionand be ready
to comewhat day that it like unto your nobleness to limit us or
assign usfor to make our obligation and bondas strong as it
liketh unto your goodnessthat we may fulfil the will of you and
of my lord Meliboeus."

When Dame Prudence had heard the answer of these menshe
bade them go again privilyand she returned to her lord
Meliboeusand told him how she found his adversaries full
repentantacknowledging full lowly their sins and trespasses
and how they were ready to suffer all painrequiring and
praying him of mercy and pity. Then said MeliboeusHe is well
worthy to have pardon and forgiveness of his sin, that excuseth
not his sin, but acknowledgeth, and repenteth him, asking
indulgence. For Seneca saith, 'There is the remission and
forgiveness, where the confession is; for confession is neighbour
to innocence.' And therefore I assent and confirm me to have
peace, but it is good that we do naught without the assent and
will of our friends.Then was Prudence right glad and joyful
and saidCertes, Sir, ye be well and goodly advised; for right
as by the counsel, assent, and help of your friends ye have been
stirred to avenge you and make war, right so without their
counsel shall ye not accord you, nor have peace with your
adversaries. For the law saith, 'There is nothing so good by way

of kind, [nature] as a thing to be unbound by him that it was

And then Dame Prudencewithout delay or tarryingsent anon
her messengers for their kin and for their old friendswhich
were true and wise; and told them by orderin the presence of
Meliboeusall this matteras it is above expressed and declared;
and prayed them that they would give their advice and counsel
what were best to do in this need. And when Meliboeus' friends
had taken their advice and deliberation of the foresaid matter
and had examined it by great business and great diligencethey
gave full counsel for to have peace and restand that Meliboeus
should with good heart receive his adversaries to forgiveness
and mercy. And when Dame Prudence had heard the assent of
her lord Meliboeusand the counsel of his friendsaccord with
her will and her intentionshe was wondrous glad in her heart
and said: "There is an old proverb that saith'The goodness that
thou mayest do this daydo itand abide not nor delay it not till
to-morrow:' and therefore I counsel you that ye send your
messengerssuch as be discreet and wiseunto your adversaries
telling them on your behalfthat if they will treat of peace and
of accordthat they shape [prepare] themwithout delay or
tarryingto come unto us." Which thing performed was indeed.
And when these trespassers and repenting folk of their follies
that is to saythe adversaries of Meliboeushad heard what
these messengers said unto themthey were right glad and
joyfuland answered full meekly and benignlyyielding graces
and thanks to their lord Meliboeusand to all his company; and
shaped them without delay to go with the messengersand obey
to the commandment of their lord Meliboeus. And right anon
they took their way to the court of Meliboeusand took with
them some of their true friendsto make faith for themand for
to be their borrows [sureties].

And when they were come to the presence of Meliboeushe
said to them these words; "It stands thus quoth Meliboeus,
and sooth it isthat ye causelessand without skill and reason
have done great injuries and wrongs to meand to my wife
Prudenceand to my daughter also; for ye have entered into my
house by violenceand have done such outragethat all men
know well that ye have deserved the death: and therefore will I
know and weet of youwhether ye will put the punishing and
chastisingand the vengeance of this outragein the will of me
and of my wifeor ye will not?" Then the wisest of them three
answered for them alland said; "Sir quoth he, we know well
that we be I unworthy to come to the court of so great a lord
and so worthy as ye befor we have so greatly mistaken usand
have offended and aguilt [incurred guilt] in such wise against
your high lordshipthat truly we have deserved the death. But
yet for the great goodness and debonairte [courtesygentleness]
that all the world witnesseth of your personwe submit us to
the excellence and benignity of your gracious lordshipand be
ready to obey to all your commandmentsbeseeching youthat
of your merciable [merciful] pity ye will consider our great
repentance and low submissionand grant us forgiveness of our
outrageous trespass and offence; for well we knowthat your
liberal grace and mercy stretch them farther into goodnessthan
do our outrageous guilt and trespass into wickedness; albeit that
cursedly [wickedly] and damnably we have aguilt [incurred
guilt] against your high lordship." Then Meliboeus took them
up from the ground full benignlyand received their obligations
and their bondsby their oaths upon their pledges and borrows
[sureties] and assigned them a certain day to return unto his
court for to receive and accept sentence and judgementthat

Meliboeus would command to be done on themby the causes
aforesaid; which things ordainedevery man returned home to
his house.

And when that Dame Prudence saw her time she freined
[inquired] and asked her lord Meliboeuswhat vengeance he
thought to take of his adversaries. To which Meliboeus
answeredand said; "Certes quoth he, I think and purpose me
fully to disinherit them of all that ever they haveand for to put
them in exile for evermore." "Certes quoth Dame Prudence,
this were a cruel sentenceand much against reason. For ye be
rich enoughand have no need of other men's goods; and ye
might lightly [easily] in this wise get you a covetous name
which is a vicious thingand ought to be eschewed of every
good man: forafter the saying of the Apostlecovetousness is
root of all harms. And therefore it were better for you to lose
much good of your ownthan for to take of their good in this
manner. For better it is to lose good with worship [honour]
than to win good with villainy and shame. And every man ought
to do his diligence and his business to get him a good name.
And yet [further] shall he not only busy him in keeping his good
namebut he shall also enforce him alway to do some thing by
which he may renew his good name; for it is writtenthat the
old good los [reputation <5>] of a man is soon gone and
passedwhen it is not renewed. And as touching that ye say
that ye will exile your adversariesthat thinketh ye much against
reasonand out of measure[moderation] considered the power
that they have given you upon themselves. And it is written
that he is worthy to lose his privilegethat misuseth the might
and the power that is given him. And I set case [if I assume] ye
might enjoin them that pain by right and by law (which I trow
ye may not do)I sayye might not put it to execution
peradventureand then it were like to return to the waras it
was before. And therefore if ye will that men do you obeisance
ye must deem [decide] more courteouslythat is to sayye must
give more easy sentences and judgements. For it is written'He
that most courteously commandethto him men most obey.'
And therefore I pray youthat in this necessity and in this need
ye cast you [endeavourdevise a way] to overcome your heart.
For Seneca saiththat he that overcometh his heartovercometh
twice. And Tullius saith'There is nothing so commendable in a
great lordas when he is debonair and meekand appeaseth him
lightly [easily].' And I pray youthat ye will now forbear to do
vengeancein such a mannerthat your good name may be kept
and conservedand that men may have cause and matter to
praise you of pity and of mercy; and that ye have no cause to
repent you of thing that ye do. For Seneca saith'He
overcometh in an evil mannerthat repenteth him of his victory.'
Wherefore I pray you let mercy be in your heartto the effect
and intent that God Almighty have mercy upon you in his last
judgement; for Saint James saith in his Epistle'Judgement
without mercy shall be done to himthat hath no mercy of
another wight.'"

When Meliboeus had heard the great skills [argumentsreasons]
and reasons of Dame Prudenceand her wise information and
teachinghis heart gan incline to the will of his wifeconsidering
her true intenthe conformed him anon and assented fully to
work after her counseland thanked Godof whom proceedeth
all goodness and all virtuethat him sent a wife of so great
discretion. And when the day came that his adversaries should
appear in his presencehe spake to them full goodlyand said in
this wise; "Albeit sothat of your pride and high presumption
and follyan of your negligence and unconning[ignorance] ye

have misborne [misbehaved] youand trespassed [done injury]
unto meyet forasmuch as I see and behold your great humility
and that ye be sorry and repentant of your guiltsit constraineth
me to do you grace and mercy. Wherefore I receive you into my
graceand forgive you utterly all the offencesinjuriesand
wrongsthat ye have done against me and mineto this effect
and to this endthat God of his endless mercy will at the time of
our dying forgive us our guiltsthat we have trespassed to him
in this wretched world; for doubtlessif we be sorry and
repentant of the sins and guilts which we have trespassed in the
sight of our Lord Godhe is so free and so merciable [merciful]
that he will forgive us our guiltsand bring us to the bliss that
never hath end." Amen.

Notes to Chaucer's Tale of Meliboeus.

1. The Tale of Meliboeus is literally translated from a French
storyor rather "treatise in prose, entitled Le Livre de
Melibee et de Dame Prudence of which two manuscripts, both
dating from the fifteenth century, are preserved in the British
Museum. Tyrwhitt, justly enough, says of it that it is indeed, as
Chaucer called it in the prologue, 'a moral tale virtuous' and
was probably much esteemed in its time; butin this age of
levityI doubt some readers will be apt to regret that he did not
rather give us the remainder of Sir Thopas." It has been
remarked that in the earlier portion of the Taleas it left the
hand of the poeta number of blank verses were intermixed;
though this peculiarity of stylenoticeable in any case only in
the first 150 or 200 lineshas necessarily all but disappeared by
the changes of spelling made in the modern editions. The
Editor's purpose being to present to the public not "The
Canterbury Tales" merelybut "The Poems of Chaucer so far
as may be consistent with the limits of this volume, he has
condensed the long reasonings and learned quotations of Dame
Prudence into a mere outline, connecting those portions of the
Tale wherein lies so much of story as it actually possesses, and
the general reader will probably not regret the sacrifice, made in
the view of retaining so far as possible the completeness of the
Tales, while lessening the intrusion of prose into a volume or
poems. The good wife of Meliboeus literally overflows with
quotations from David, Solomon, Jesus the Son of Sirach, the
Apostles, Ovid, Cicero, Seneca, Cassiodorus, Cato, Petrus
Alphonsus -- the converted Spanish Jew, of the twelfth century,
who wrote the Disciplina Clericalis" -- and other authorities;
and in some passagesespecially where husband and wife debate
the merits or demerits of womenand where Prudence dilates
on the evils of povertyChaucer only reproduces much that had
been said already in the Tales that preceded -- such as the
Merchant's and the Man of Law's.
2. The lines which follow are a close translation of the original
Latinwhich reads:
Quis matrem, nisi mentis inops, in funere nati
Flere vetet? non hoc illa monenda loco.
Cum dederit lacrymas, animumque expleverit aegrum,
Ille dolor verbis emoderandus erit.

OvidRemedia Amoris,127-131.

3. See the conversation between Pluto and Proserpinein the
Merchant's Tale.
4. "Thy name she says, is Meliboeus; that is to saya man

that drinketh honey."

5. Los: reputation; from the past participle of the Anglo-Saxon
hlisanto celebrate. Compare Latinlaus.



WHEN ended was my tale of Melibee
And of Prudence and her benignity
Our Hoste saidAs I am faithful man,
And by the precious corpus Madrian,<1>
I had lever* than a barrel of ale,
That goode lefe* my wife had heard this tale;
For she is no thing of such patience
As was this Meliboeus' wife Prudence.
By Godde's bones! when I beat my knaves
She bringeth me the greate clubbed staves,
And crieth, 'Slay the dogges every one,
And break of them both back and ev'ry bone.'
And if that any neighebour of mine
Will not in church unto my wife incline,
Or be so hardy to her to trespace,*
When she comes home she rampeth* in my face,
And crieth, 'False coward, wreak* thy wife
By corpus Domini, I will have thy knife,
And thou shalt have my distaff, and go spin.'
From day till night right thus she will begin.

'Alas!' she saith, 'that ever I was shape*
To wed a milksop, or a coward ape,
That will be overlad* with every wight!
Thou darest not stand by thy wife's right.'

This is my life*but if* that I will fight;
And out at door anon I must me dight*
Or elles I am lostbut if that I
Belike a wilde lionfool-hardy.
I wot well she will do* me slay some day
Some neighebour and thenne *go my way;*
For I am perilous with knife in hand
Albeit that I dare not her withstand;
For she is big in armesby my faith!
That shall he findthat her misdoth or saith. <2>
But let us pass away from this mattere.
My lord the Monk quoth he, be merry of cheer
For ye shall tell a tale truely.
LoRochester stands here faste by.
Ride forthmine owen lordbreak not our game.
But by my troth I cannot tell your name;
Whether shall I call you my lord Dan John
Or Dan Thomasor elles Dan Albon?
Of what house be yeby your father's kin?
I vow to Godthou hast a full fair skin;
It is a gentle pasture where thou go'st;
Thou art not like a penant* or a ghost.
Upon my faith thou art some officer
Some worthy sextonor some cellarer.
For by my father's soul*as to my dome*
Thou art a master when thou art at home;




*imposed on

*betake myself

*take to flight*

*in my judgement*

No poore cloisterernor no novice
But a governorboth wily and wise
And therewithalof brawnes* and of bones*sinews
A right well-faring person for the nonce.
I pray to God give him confusion
That first thee brought into religion.
Thou would'st have been a treade-fowl* aright; *cock
Hadst thou as greate leaveas thou hast might
To perform all thy lust in engendrure* *generationbegettting
Thou hadst begotten many a creature.
Alas! why wearest thou so wide a cope? <3>
God give me sorrowbutan* I were pope*if
Not only thoubut every mighty man
Though he were shorn full high upon his pan* <4> *crown
Should have a wife; for all this world is lorn;* *undoneruined
Religion hath ta'en up all the corn
Of treadingand we borel* men be shrimps: *lay
Of feeble trees there come wretched imps.* *shoots <5>
This maketh that our heires be so slender
And feeblethat they may not well engender.
This maketh that our wives will assay
Religious folkfor they may better pay
Of Venus' payementes than may we:
God wotno lusheburghes <6> paye ye.
But be not wrothmy lordthough that I play;
Full oft in game a sooth have I heard say."

This worthy Monk took all in patience
And saidI will do all my diligence,
As far as *souneth unto honesty,* *agrees with good manners*
To telle you a tale, or two or three.
And if you list to hearken hitherward,
I will you say the life of Saint Edward;
Or elles first tragedies I will tell,
Of which I have an hundred in my cell.
Tragedy *is to say* a certain story, *means*
As olde bookes maken us memory,
Of him that stood in great prosperity,
And is y-fallen out of high degree
In misery, and endeth wretchedly.
And they be versified commonly
Of six feet, which men call hexametron;
In prose eke* be indited many a one, *also
And eke in metre, in many a sundry wise.
Lo, this declaring ought enough suffice.
Now hearken, if ye like for to hear.
But first I you beseech in this mattere,
Though I by order telle not these things,
Be it of popes, emperors, or kings,
*After their ages,* as men written find, *in chronological order*
But tell them some before and some behind,
As it now cometh to my remembrance,
Have me excused of mine ignorance.

Notes to the Prologue to The Monk's Tale

1. The Corpus Madrian: the body of St. Maternusof Treves.
2. That her misdoth or saith: that does or says any thing to
offend her.
3. Cope: An ecclesiastcal vestment covering all the body like a


4. Though he were shorn full high upon his pan: though he were
tonsuredas the clergy are.
5. Imps: shootsbranches; from Anglo-Saxonimpian,
Germanimpfen,to implantingraft. The word is now used in
a very restricted senseto signify the progenychildrenof the
6. Lusheburghes: base or counterfeit coins; so called because
struck at Luxemburg. A great importation of them took place
during the reigns of the earlier Edwardsand they caused much
annoyance and complainttill in 1351 it was declared treason to
bring them into the country.

I will bewailin manner of tragedy
The harm of them that stood in high degree
And felle sothat there was no remedy
To bring them out of their adversity.
Forcertainwhen that Fortune list to flee
There may no man the course of her wheel hold:
Let no man trust in blind prosperity;
Beware by these examples true and old.

At LUCIFERthough he an angel were
And not a manat him I will begin.
For though Fortune may no angel dere* *hurt
From high degree yet fell he for his sin
Down into hellwhere as he yet is in.
O Lucifer! brightest of angels all
Now art thou Satanasthat may'st not twin* *depart
Out of the misery in which thou art fall.

Lo ADAMin the field of Damascene <2>
With Godde's owen finger wrought was he
And not begotten of man's sperm unclean;
And welt* all Paradise saving one tree: *commanded
Had never worldly man so high degree
As Adamtill he for misgovernance* *misbehaviour
Was driven out of his prosperity
To labourand to helland to mischance.

Lo SAMPSONwhich that was annunciate
By the angellong ere his nativity; <3>
And was to God Almighty consecrate
And stood in nobless while that he might see;
Was never such another as was he
To speak of strengthand thereto hardiness;* *courage
But to his wives told he his secre
Through which he slew himself for wretchedness.

Sampsonthis noble and mighty champion
Withoute weaponsave his handes tway
He slew and all to-rente* the lion*tore to pieces
Toward his wedding walking by the way.
His false wife could him so pleaseand pray

Till she his counsel knew; and sheuntrue
Unto his foes his counsel gan bewray
And him forsookand took another new.

Three hundred foxes Sampson took for ire
And all their tailes he together band
And set the foxes' tailes all on fire
For he in every tail had knit a brand
And they burnt all the combs of that lend
And all their oliveres* and vines eke.
A thousand men he slew eke with his hand
And had no weapon but an ass's cheek.

When they were slainso thirsted himthat he
Was *well-nigh lorn* for which he gan to pray
That God would on his pain have some pity
And send him drinkor elles must he die;
And of this ass's checkthat was so dry
Out of a wang-tooth* sprang anon a well
Of whichhe drank enoughshortly to say.
Thus help'd him Godas Judicum <5> can tell.

By very forceat Gazaon a night
Maugre* the Philistines of that city
The gates of the town he hath up plight*
And on his back y-carried them hath he
High on an hillwhere as men might them see.
O noble mighty Sampsonlefe* and dear
Hadst thou not told to women thy secre
In all this world there had not been thy peer.

This Sampson never cider drank nor wine
Nor on his head came razor none nor shear
By precept of the messenger divine;
For all his strengthes in his haires were;
And fully twenty wintersyear by year
He had of Israel the governance;
But soone shall he weepe many a tear
For women shall him bringe to mischance.

Unto his leman* Dalila he told
That in his haires all his strengthe lay;
And falsely to his foemen she him sold
And sleeping in her barme* upon a day
She made to clip or shear his hair away
And made his foemen all his craft espien.
And when they founde him in this array
They bound him fastand put out both his eyen.

Butere his hair was clipped or y-shave
There was no bond with which men might him bind;
But now is he in prison in a cave
Where as they made him at the querne* grind.
O noble Sampsonstrongest of mankind!
O whilom judge in glory and richess!
Now may'st thou weepe with thine eyen blind
Since thou from weal art fall'n to wretchedness.

Th'end of this caitiff* was as I shall say;
His foemen made a feast upon a day
And made him as their fool before them play;
And this was in a temple of great array.
But at the last he made a foul affray
For he two pillars shookand made them fall

*olive trees <4>

*near to perishing*


*in spite of



*mill <6>

*wretched man

And down fell temple and alland there it lay
And slew himself and eke his foemen all;

This is to saythe princes every one;
And eke three thousand bodies were there slain
With falling of the great temple of stone.
Of Sampson now will I no more sayn;
Beware by this example old and plain
That no man tell his counsel to his wife
Of such thing as he would *have secret fain*
If that it touch his limbes or his life.

Of HERCULES the sov'reign conquerour
Singe his workes' land and high renown;
For in his time of strength he bare the flow'r.
He slew and reft the skin of the lion
He of the Centaurs laid the boast adown;
He Harpies <7> slewthe cruel birdes fell;
He golden apples reft from the dragon
He drew out Cerberus the hound of hell.

He slew the cruel tyrant Busirus. <8>
And made his horse to fret* him flesh and bone;
He slew the fiery serpent venomous;
Of Achelous' two hornes brake he one.
And he slew Cacus in a cave of stone;
He slew the giant Antaeus the strong;
He slew the grisly boarand that anon;
And bare the heav'n upon his necke long. <9>

Was never wightsince that the world began
That slew so many monsters as did he;
Throughout the wide world his name ran
What for his strengthand for his high bounte;
And every realme went he for to see;
He was so strong that no man might him let;*
At both the worlde's endsas saith Trophee<10>
Instead of boundes he a pillar set.

A leman had this noble champion
That highte Dejanirafresh as May;
Andas these clerkes make mention
She hath him sent a shirte fresh and gay;
Alas! this shirtalas and well-away!
Envenomed was subtilly withal
That ere that he had worn it half a day
It made his flesh all from his bones fall.

But natheless some clerkes her excuse
By onethat highte Nessusthat it maked;
Be as he mayI will not her accuse;
But on his back this shirt he wore all naked
Till that his flesh was for the venom blaked.*
And when he saw none other remedy
In hote coals he hath himselfe raked
For with no venom deigned he to die.

Thus sterf* this worthy mighty Hercules.
Lowho may trust on Fortune *any throw?*
For him that followeth all this world of pres*
Ere he be wareis often laid full low;
Full wise is he that can himselfe know.
Bewarefor when that Fortune list to glose

*wish to be secret*




*for a moment*
*near <11>

Then waiteth she her man to overthrow
By such a way as he would least suppose.

The mighty thronethe precious treasor
The glorious sceptreand royal majesty
That had the king NABUCHODONOSOR
With tongue unnethes* may described be.
He twice won Jerusalem the city
The vessels of the temple he with him lad;*
At Babylone was his sov'reign see*
In which his glory and delight he had.

The fairest children of the blood royal
Of Israel he *did do geld* anon
And maked each of them to be his thrall.*
Amonges others Daniel was one
That was the wisest child of every one;
For he the dreames of the king expounded
Where in Chaldaea clerkes was there none
That wiste to what fine* his dreames sounded.

This proude king let make a statue of gold
Sixty cubites longand seven in bread'
To which image hathe young and old
Commanded he to lout* and have in dread
Or in a furnacefull of flames red
He should be burnt that woulde not obey:
But never would assente to that deed
Danielnor his younge fellows tway.

This king of kinges proud was and elate;*
He ween'd* that Godthat sits in majesty
Mighte him not bereave of his estate;
But suddenly he lost his dignity
And like a beast he seemed for to be
And ate hay as an oxand lay thereout
In rainwith wilde beastes walked he
Till certain time was y-come about.

And like an eagle's feathers wax'd his hairs
His nailes like a birde's clawes were
Till God released him at certain years
And gave him wit; and then with many a tear
He thanked Godand ever his life in fear
Was he to do amissor more trespace:
And till that time he laid was on his bier
He knew that God was full of might and grace.

His sonewhich that highte BALTHASAR
That *held the regne* after his father's day
He by his father coulde not beware
For proud he was of heart and of array;
And eke an idolaster was he aye.
His high estate assured* him in pride;
But Fortune cast him downand there he lay
And suddenly his regne gan divide.

A feast he made unto his lordes all
Upon a timeand made them blithe be
And then his officeres gan he call;
Go, bringe forth the vessels,saide he
Which that my father in his prosperity


*took away

*caused to be castrated*


*bow down to


*possessed the kingdom*


Out of the temple of Jerusalem reft,
And to our highe goddes thanks we
Of honour, that our elders* with us left.

His wifehis lordesand his concubines
Aye drankewhile their appetites did last
Out of these noble vessels sundry wines.
And on a wall this king his eyen cast
And saw an handarmlessthat wrote full fast;
For fear of which he quakedand sighed sore.
This handthat Balthasar so sore aghast*
Wrote Manetekelpharesand no more.

In all that land magician was there none
That could expounde what this letter meant.
But Daniel expounded it anon
And saidO King, God to thy father lent
Glory and honour, regne, treasure, rent;*
And he was proud, and nothing God he drad;*
And therefore God great wreche* upon him sent,
And him bereft the regne that he had.

He was cast out of manne's company;
With asses was his habitation
And ate hayas a beastin wet and dry
Till that he knew by grace and by reason
That God of heaven hath domination
O'er every regneand every creature;
And then had God of him compassion
And him restor'd his regne and his figure.

Eke thou, that art his son, art proud also,
And knowest all these thinges verily;
And art rebel to God, and art his foe.
Thou drankest of his vessels boldely;
Thy wife eke, and thy wenches, sinfully
Drank of the same vessels sundry wines,
And heried* false goddes cursedly;
Therefore *to thee y-shapen full great pine is.*

This hand was sent from Godthat on the wall
Wrote Manetekelpharestruste me;
Thy reign is done; thou weighest naught at all;
Divided is thy regneand it shall be
To Medes and to Persians giv'n quoth he.
And thilke same night this king was slaw*
And Darius occupied his degree,
Though he thereto had neither right nor law.

Lordings, example hereby may ye take,
How that in lordship is no sickerness;*
For when that Fortune will a man forsake,
She bears away his regne and his richess,
And eke his friendes bothe more and less,
For what man that hath friendes through fortune,
Mishap will make them enemies, I guess;
This proverb is full sooth, and full commune.

ZENOBIA, of Palmyrie the queen, <12>
As write Persians of her nobless,
So worthy was in armes, and so keen,
That no wight passed her in hardiness,
Nor in lineage, nor other gentleness.*




*great punishment is
prepared for thee*



*noble qualities

Of the king's blood of Perse* is she descended;
I say not that she hadde most fairness,
But of her shape she might not he amended.

From her childhood I finde that she fled
Office of woman, and to woods she went,
And many a wilde harte's blood she shed
With arrows broad that she against them sent;
She was so swift, that she anon them hent.*
And when that she was older, she would kill
Lions, leopards, and beares all to-rent,*
And in her armes wield them at her will.

She durst the wilde beastes' dennes seek,
And runnen in the mountains all the night,
And sleep under a bush; and she could eke
Wrestle by very force and very might
With any young man, were he ne'er so wight;*
There mighte nothing in her armes stond.
She kept her maidenhood from every wight,
To no man deigned she for to be bond.

But at the last her friendes have her married
To Odenate, <13> a prince of that country;
All were it so, that she them longe tarried.
And ye shall understande how that he
Hadde such fantasies as hadde she;
But natheless, when they were knit in fere,*
They liv'd in joy, and in felicity,
For each of them had other lefe* and dear.

Save one thing, that she never would assent,
By no way, that he shoulde by her lie
But ones, for it was her plain intent
To have a child, the world to multiply;
And all so soon as that she might espy
That she was not with childe by that deed,
Then would she suffer him do his fantasy
Eftsoon,* and not but ones, *out of dread.*

And if she were with child at thilke* cast,
No more should he playe thilke game
Till fully forty dayes were past;
Then would she once suffer him do the same.
All* were this Odenatus wild or tame,
He got no more of her; for thus she said,
It was to wives lechery and shame
In other case* if that men with them play'd.

Two sones, by this Odenate had she,
The which she kept in virtue and lettrure.*
But now unto our tale turne we;
I say, so worshipful a creature,
And wise therewith, and large* with measure,**
So penible* in the war, and courteous eke,
Nor more labour might in war endure,


*torn to pieces

*active, nimble


*again *without doubt*

on other terms
*bountiful **moderation


Was none, though all this worlde men should seek.
Her rich array it mighte not be told,
As well in vessel as in her clothing:
She was all clad in pierrie* and in gold,
And eke she *lefte not,* for no hunting,
To have of sundry tongues full knowing,
When that she leisure had, and for t'intend*
*did not neglect*

To learne bookes was all her liking,
How she in virtue might her life dispend.
And, shortly of this story for to treat,
So doughty was her husband and eke she,
That they conquered many regnes great
In th'Orient, with many a fair city
Appertinent unto the majesty
Of Rome, and with strong hande held them fast,
Nor ever might their foemen do* them flee, *make
Aye while that Odenatus' dayes last'.
Her battles, whoso list them for to read,
Against Sapor the king, <14> and other mo',
And how that all this process fell in deed,
Why she conquer'd, and what title thereto,
And after of her mischief* and her woe, *misfortune
How that she was besieged and y-take,
Let him unto my master Petrarch go,
That writes enough of this, I undertake.
When Odenate was dead, she mightily
The regne held, and with her proper hand
Against her foes she fought so cruelly,
That there n'as* king nor prince in all that land, *was not
That was not glad, if be that grace fand
That she would not upon his land warray;* *make war
With her they maden alliance by bond,
To be in peace, and let her ride and play.
The emperor of Rome, Claudius,
Nor, him before, the Roman Gallien,
Durste never be so courageous,
Nor no Armenian, nor Egyptien,
Nor Syrian, nor no Arabien,
Within the fielde durste with her fight,
Lest that she would them with her handes slen,* *slay
Or with her meinie* putte them to flight. *troops
In kinges' habit went her sones two,
As heires of their father's regnes all;
And Heremanno and Timolao
Their names were, as Persians them call
But aye Fortune hath in her honey gall;
This mighty queene may no while endure;
Fortune out of her regne made her fall
To wretchedness and to misadventure.
Aurelian, when that the governance
Of Rome came into his handes tway, <15>
He shope* upon this queen to do vengeance; *prepared
And with his legions he took his way
Toward Zenobie, and, shortly for to say,
He made her flee, and at the last her hent,* *took
And fetter'd her, and eke her children tway,
And won the land, and home to Rome he went.
Amonges other thinges that he wan,
Her car, that was with gold wrought and pierrie,* *jewels
This greate Roman, this Aurelian
Hath with him led, for that men should it see.
Before in his triumphe walked she
With gilte chains upon her neck hanging;
Crowned she was, as after* her degree, *according to

And full of pierrie her clothing.

Alas, Fortune! she that whilom was
Dreadful to kinges and to emperours,
Now galeth* all the people on her, alas!
And she that *helmed was in starke stowres,*
And won by force townes strong and tow'rs,
Shall on her head now wear a vitremite; <16>
And she that bare the sceptre full of flow'rs
Shall bear a distaff, *her cost for to quite.*

Although that NERO were so vicious
As any fiend that lies full low adown,
Yet he, as telleth us Suetonius,<17>
This wide world had in subjectioun,
Both East and West, South and Septentrioun.
Of rubies, sapphires, and of pearles white
Were all his clothes embroider'd up and down,
For he in gemmes greatly gan delight.

More delicate, more pompous of array,
More proud, was never emperor than he;
That *ilke cloth* that he had worn one day,
After that time he would it never see;
Nettes of gold thread had he great plenty,
To fish in Tiber, when him list to play;
His lustes* were as law, in his degree,
For Fortune as his friend would him obey.

He Rome burnt for his delicacy;*
The senators he slew upon a day,
To heare how that men would weep and cry;
And slew his brother, and by his sister lay.
His mother made he in piteous array;
For he her wombe slitte, to behold
Where he conceived was; so well-away!
That he so little of his mother told.*

No tear out of his eyen for that sight
Came; but he said, a fair woman was she.
Great wonder is, how that he could or might
Be doomesman* of her deade beauty:
The wine to bringe him commanded he,
And drank anon; none other woe he made,
When might is joined unto cruelty,
Alas! too deepe will the venom wade.

In youth a master had this emperour,
To teache him lettrure* and courtesy;
For of morality he was the flow'r,
As in his time, *but if* bookes lie.
And while this master had of him mast'ry,
He made him so conning and so souple,*
That longe time it was ere tyranny,
Or any vice, durst in him uncouple.*

This Seneca, of which that I devise,*
Because Nero had of him suche dread,
For he from vices would him aye chastise
Discreetly, as by word, and not by deed;
Sir he would say, an emperor must need
Be virtuousand hate tyranny."
For which he made him in a bath to bleed

*wore a helmet in
obstinate battles*

* to make her living*
*same robe*





*be let loose

On both his armestill he muste die.
This Nero had eke of a custumance* *habit
In youth against his master for to rise;* *stand in his presence
Which afterward he thought a great grievance;
Therefore he made him dien in this wise.
But natheless this Seneca the wise
Chose in a bath to die in this mannere
Rather than have another tormentise;* *torture
And thus hath Nero slain his master dear.
Now fell it sothat Fortune list no longer
The highe pride of Nero to cherice;* *cherish
For though he were strongyet was she stronger.
She thoughte thus; "By GodI am too nice* *foolish
To set a manthat is full fill'd of vice
In high degreeand emperor him call!
By Godout of his seat I will him trice!* *thrust <18>
When he least weeneth* soonest shall he fall." *expecteth
The people rose upon him on a night
For his default; and when he it espied
Out of his doors anon he hath him dight* *betaken himself
Aloneand where he ween'd t'have been allied* *regarded with
He knocked fastand aye the more he cried friendship
The faster shutte they their doores all;
Then wist he well he had himself misgied* *misled
And went his wayno longer durst he call.
The people cried and rumbled up and down
That with his eares heard he how they said;
Where is this false tyrant, this Neroun?
For fear almost out of his wit he braid* *went
And to his goddes piteously he pray'd
For succourbut it mighte not betide
For dread of this he thoughte that died
And ran into a garden him to hide.
And in this garden found he churles tway
That satte by a fire great and red;
And to these churles two he gan to pray
To slay himand to girdon* off his head*strike
That to his bodywhen that he were dead
Were no despite done for his defame.* *infamy
Himself he slew*he coud no better rede;* *he knew no better
Of which Fortune laugh'd and hadde game. counsel*
Was never capitain under a king
That regnes more put in subjectioun
Nor stronger was in field of alle thing
As in his timenor greater of renown
Nor more pompous in high presumptioun
Than HOLOFERNESwhom Fortune aye kiss'd
So lik'rouslyand led him up and down
Till that his head was off *ere that he wist.* *before he knew it*
Not only that this world had of him awe
For losing of richess and liberty;

But he made every man *reny his law.* *renounce his religion <19>
Nabuchodonosor was Godsaid he;
None other Godde should honoured be.
Against his hest* there dare no wight trespace*command
Save in Bethuliaa strong city

Where Eliachim priest was of that place.
But take keep* of the death of Holofern; *notice
Amid his host he drunken lay at night
Within his tentelarge as is a bern;* *barn
And yetfor all his pomp and all his might
Juditha womanas he lay upright
Sleepinghis head off smoteand from his tent
Full privily she stole from every wight
And with his head unto her town she went.
What needeth it of king ANTIOCHUS <20>
To tell his high and royal majesty
His great prideand his workes venomous?
For such another was there none as he;
Reade what that he was in Maccabee.
And read the proude wordes that he said
And why he fell from his prosperity
And in an hill how wretchedly he died.
Fortune him had enhanced so in pride
That verily he ween'd he might attain
Unto the starres upon every side
And in a balance weighen each mountain
And all the floodes of the sea restrain.
And Godde's people had he most in hate
Them would he slay in torment and in pain
Weening that God might not his pride abate.
And for that Nicanor and Timothee
With Jewes were vanquish'd mightily<21>
Unto the Jewes such an hate had he
That he bade *graith his car* full hastily*prepare his chariot*
And swore and saide full dispiteously
Unto Jerusalem he would eftsoon* *immediately
To wreak his ire on it full cruelly
But of his purpose was he let* full soon. *prevented
God for his menace him so sore smote
With invisible wound incurable
That in his guttes carf* it so and bote** *cut **gnawed
Till that his paines were importable;* *unendurable
And certainly the wreche* was reasonable*vengeance
For many a manne's guttes did he pain;
But from his purposecurs'd* and damnable*impious
For all his smart he would him not restrain;
But bade anon apparaile* his host. *prepare
And suddenlyere he was of it ware
God daunted all his prideand all his boast
For he so sore fell out of his chare* *chariot
That it his limbes and his skin to-tare
So that he neither mighte go nor ride
But in a chaire men about him bare
Alle forbruised bothe back and side.
The wreche* of God him smote so cruelly*vengeance
That through his body wicked wormes crept
And therewithal he stank so horribly
That none of all his meinie* that him kept*servants
Whether so that he woke or elles slept
Ne mighte not of him the stink endure.
In this mischief he wailed and eke wept

And knew God Lord of every creature.

To all his hostand to himself also
Full wlatsem* was the stink of his carrain;**
No manne might him beare to and fro.
And in this stinkand this horrible pain
He starf* full wretchedly in a mountain.
Thus hath this robberand this homicide
That many a manne made to weep and plain
Such guerdon* as belongeth unto pride.

The story of ALEXANDER is so commune
That ev'ry wight that hath discretion
Hath heard somewhat or all of his fortune.
This wide worldas in conclusion
He won by strength; orfor his high renown
They were glad for peace to him to send.
The pride and boast of man he laid adown
Whereso he cameunto the worlde's end.

Comparison yet never might be maked
Between him and another conqueror;
For all this world for dread of him had quaked
He was of knighthood and of freedom flow'r:
Fortune him made the heir of her honour.
Save wine and womennothing might assuage
His high intent in arms and labour
So was he full of leonine courage.

What praise were it to himthough I you told
Of Dariusand a hundred thousand mo'
Of kingesprincesdukesand earles bold
Which he conquer'dand brought them into woe?
I sayas far as man may ride or go
The world was hiswhy should I more devise?*
Forthough I wrote or told you evermo'
Of his knighthood it mighte not suffice.

Twelve years he reignedas saith Maccabee
Philippe's son of Macedon he was
That first was king in Greece the country.
O worthy gentle* Alexanderalas
That ever should thee falle such a case!
Empoison'd of thine owen folk thou were;
Thy six <22> fortune hath turn'd into an ace
And yet for thee she wepte never a tear.

Who shall me give teares to complain
The death of gentilessand of franchise*
That all this worlde had in his demaine*
And yet he thought it mighte not suffice
So full was his corage* of high emprise?
Alas! who shall me helpe to indite
False Fortuneand poison to despise?
The whiche two of all this woe I wite.*

By wisdommanhoodand by great labour
From humbleness to royal majesty
Up rose heJULIUS the Conquerour
That won all th' Occident* by land and sea
By strength of hand or elles by treaty
And unto Rome made them tributary;

*loathsome **body






And since* of Rome the emperor was he
Till that Fortune wax'd his adversary.
O mighty Caesarthat in Thessaly
Against POMPEIUSfather thine in law<23>
That of th' Orient had all the chivalry
As far as that the day begins to daw
That through thy knighthood hast them take and slaw*
Save fewe folk that with Pompeius fled;
Through which thou put all th' Orient in awe; <24>
Thanke Fortune that so well thee sped.
But now a little while I will bewail
This Pompeiusthis noble governor
Of Romewhich that fled at this battaile
I sayone of his mena false traitor
His head off smoteto winne him favor
Of Juliusand him the head he brought;
Alas! Pompeyof th' Orient conqueror
That Fortune unto such a fine* thee brought! *end
To Rome again repaired Julius
With his triumphe laureate full high;
But on a time Brutus and Cassius
That ever had of his estate envy
Full privily have made conspiracy
Against this Julius in subtle wise
And cast* the place in which he shoulde die
With bodekins* as I shall you devise.**
*daggers **tell
This Julius to the Capitole went
Upon a dayas he was wont to gon;
And in the Capitol anon him hent*
This false Brutusand his other fone*
And sticked him with bodekins anon
With many a woundand thus they let him lie.
But never groan'd he at no stroke but one
Or else at two*but if* the story lie. *unless
So manly was this Julius of heart

And so well loved *estately honesty *dignified propriety*
Thatthough his deadly woundes sore smart* *pained him
His mantle o'er his hippes caste he
That ne man shoulde see his privity
And as he lay a-dying in a trance
And wiste verily that dead was he
Of honesty yet had he remembrance.

Lucanto thee this story I recommend
And to Sueton'and Valerie also
That of this story write *word and end* *the whole* <25>
How that to these great conquerores two
Fortune was first a friendand since* a foe. *afterwards
No manne trust upon her favour long
But *have her in await for evermo';* *ever be watchful against her*
Witness on all these conquerores strong.

The riche CROESUS<26> whilom king of Lyde--
Of which Croesus Cyrus him sore drad* --*dreaded
Yet was he caught amiddes all his pride
And to be burnt men to the fire him lad;
But such a rain down *from the welkin shad* *poured from the sky*
That slew the fireand made him to escape:

But to beware no grace yet he had
Till fortune on the gallows made him gape.
When he escaped washe could not stint* *refrain
For to begin a newe war again;
He weened wellfor that Fortune him sent
Such hapthat he escaped through the rain
That of his foes he mighte not be slain.
And eke a sweven* on a night he mette** *dream **dreamed
Of which he was so proudand eke so fain* *glad
That he in vengeance all his hearte set.
Upon a tree he was setas he thought
Where Jupiter him wash'dboth back and side
And Phoebus eke a fair towel him brought
To dry him with; and therefore wax'd his pride.
And to his daughter that stood him beside
Which he knew in high science to abound
He bade her tell him what it signified;
And she his dream began right thus expound.
The tree,quoth shethe gallows is to mean,
And Jupiter betokens snow and rain,
And Phoebus, with his towel clear and clean,
These be the sunne's streames* sooth to sayn; *rays
Thou shalt y-hangeth be, father, certain;
Rain shall thee wash, and sunne shall thee dry.
Thus warned him full plat and eke full plain
His daughterwhich that called was Phanie.
And hanged was Croesus the proude king;
His royal throne might him not avail.
Tragedy is none other manner thing
Nor can in singing crien nor bewail
But for that Fortune all day will assail
With unware stroke the regnes* that be proud:<27> *kingdoms
For when men truste herthen will she fail
And cover her bright face with a cloud.

O nobleO worthy PEDRO<28> glory OF SPAIN
Whem Fortune held so high in majesty
Well oughte men thy piteous death complain.
Out of thy land thy brother made thee flee
And afterat a siegeby subtlety
Thou wert betray'dand led unto his tent
Where as he with his owen hand slew thee
Succeeding in thy regne* and in thy rent.** *kingdom *revenues

The field of snowwith th' eagle of black therein
Caught with the lionred-colour'd as the glede* *burning coal
He brew'd this cursedness* and all this sin; *wickednessvillainy
The wicked nest was worker of this deed;
Not Charles' Oliver<29> that took aye heed
Of truth and honourbut of Armorike
Ganilien Olivercorrupt for meed* *rewardbribe
Broughte this worthy king in such a brike.* *breachruin

O worthy PETROKing of CYPRE <30> also
That Alexandre won by high mast'ry
Full many a heathnen wroughtest thou full woe
Of which thine owen lieges had envy;
Andfor no thing but for thy chivalry

They in thy bed have slain thee by the morrow;
Thus can Fortune her wheel govern and gie* *guide
And out of joy bringe men into sorrow.

Of Milan greate BARNABO VISCOUNT<30>
God of delightand scourge of Lombardy
Why should I not thine clomben* wert so high? *climbed
Thy brother's sonthat was thy double ally
For he thy nephew was and son-in-law
Within his prison made thee to die
But whynor how*n'ot I* that thou were slaw.* *I know not* *slain*

Of th' Earl HUGOLIN OF PISE the languour* *agony
There may no tongue telle for pity.
But little out of Pisa stands a tow'r
In whiche tow'r in prison put was he
Aud with him be his little children three;
The eldest scarcely five years was of age;
Alas! Fortuneit was great cruelty
Such birdes for to put in such a cage.

Damned was he to die in that prison;
For Rogerwhich that bishop was of Pise
Had on him made a false suggestion
Through which the people gan upon him rise
And put him in prisonin such a wise
As ye have heard; and meat and drink he had
So smallthat well unneth* it might suffice*scarcely
And therewithal it was full poor and bad.

And on a day befellthat in that hour
When that his meate wont was to be brought
The jailor shut the doores of the tow'r;
He heard it right wellbut he spake nought.
And in his heart anon there fell a thought
That they for hunger woulde *do him dien;* *cause him to die*
Alas!quoth healas that I was wrought!* *madeborn
Therewith the teares fell from his eyen.

His youngest sonthat three years was of age
Unto him saidFather, why do ye weep?
When will the jailor bringen our pottage?
Is there no morsel bread that ye do keep?
I am so hungry, that I may not sleep.
Now woulde God that I might sleepen ever!
Then should not hunger in my wombe* creep; *stomach
There is no thing, save bread, that one were lever.* *dearer

Thus day by day this child begun to cry
Till in his father's barme* adown he lay*lap
And saideFarewell, father, I must die;
And kiss'd his fatherand died the same day.
And when the woeful father did it sey* *see
For woe his armes two he gan to bite
And saidAlas! Fortune, and well-away!
To thy false wheel my woe all may I wite.* *blame

His children ween'd that it for hunger was
That he his armes gnaw'dand not for woe
And saideFather, do not so, alas!
But rather eat the flesh upon us two.
Our flesh thou gave us, our flesh take us fro',

And eat enough;right thus they to him said.
And after thatwithin a day or two
They laid them in his lap adownand died.
Himselfdespairedeke for hunger starf.* *died
Thus ended is this Earl of Pise;
From high estate Fortune away him carf.* *cut off
Of this tragedy it ought enough suffice
Whoso will hear it *in a longer wise* *at greater length*
Reade the greate poet of ltale
That Dante hightfor he can it devise <32>
From point to pointnot one word will he fail.

Notes to the Monk's Tale

1. The Monk's Tale is founded in its main features on
Bocccacio's workDe Casibus Virorum Illustrium;("Stories
of Illustrious Men") but Chaucer has taken the separate stories
of which it is composed from different authorsand dealt with
them after his own fashion.
2. Boccaccio opens his book with Adamwhose story is told at
much greater length than here. Lydgatein his translation from
Boccacciospeaks of Adam and Eve as made "of slime of the
erth in Damascene the felde."
3. Judges xiii. 3. Boccaccio also tells the story of Samson; but
Chaucer seemsby his quotation a few lines belowto have
taken his version direct from the sacred book.
4. Oliveres: olive trees; Frencholiviers.
5. "Liber Judicum the Book of Judges; chap. xv.
6. Querne: mill; from Anglo-Saxon, cyrran to turn,
cweorn a mill,
7.Harpies: the Stymphalian Birds, which fed on human flesh.

8. Busiris, king of Egypt, was wont to sacrifice all foreigners
coming to his dominions. Hercules was seized, bound, and led
to the altar by his orders, but the hero broke his bonds and slew
the tyrant.
9. The feats of Hercules here recorded are not all these known
as the twelve labours;" for instancethe cleansing of the
Augean stablesand the capture of Hippolyte's girdle are not in
this list -- other and less famous deeds of the hero taking their
place. For thishoweverwe must accuse not Chaucerbut
Boethiuswhom he has almost literally translatedthough with
some change of order.
10. Trophee: One of the manuscripts has a marginal reference
to "Tropheus vates Chaldaeorum" ("Tropheus the prophet of
the Chaldees"); but it is not known what author Chaucer meant
-- unless the reference is to a passage in the "Filostrato" of
Boccaccioon which Chaucer founded his "Troilus and
Cressida and which Lydgate mentions, under the name of
Trophe as having been translated by Chaucer.
11. Pres: near; French, pres;" the meaning seems to bethis
nearerlower world.

12 Chaucer has taken the story of Zenobia from Boccaccio's
work "De Claris Mulieribus." ("Of Illustrious Women")

13. Odenatuswhofor his services to the Romansreceived
from Gallienus the title of "Augustus;" he was assassinated in
A.D. 266 -- notit was believedwithout the connivance of
Zenobiawho succeeded him on the throne.
14. Sapor was king of Persiawho made the Emperor Valerian
prisonerconquered Syriaand was pressing triumphantly
westward when he was met and defeated by Odenatus and
15. Aurelain became Emperor in A.D. 270.
16. Vitremite: The signification of this wordwhich is spelled
in several waysis not known. Skinner's explanationanother
attire,founded on the spelling "autremite is obviously
17. Great part of this tragedy" of Nero is really borrowed
howeverfrom the "Romance of the Rose."
18. Trice: thrust; from Anglo-Saxonthriccan.
19. Soin the Man of Law's Talethe Sultaness promises her
son that she will "reny her lay."
20. As the "tragedy" of Holofernes is founded on the book of
Judithso is that of Antiochus on the Second Book of the
Maccabeeschap. ix.
21. By the insurgents under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus;
2 Macc. chap. viii.
22. Six: the highest cast on a dicing-cube; here representing the
highest favour of fortune.
23. Pompey had married his daughter Julia to Caesar; but she
died six years before Pompey's final overthrow.
24. At the battle of PharsaliaB.C. 48.
25. Word and end: apparently a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon
phraseord and end,meaning the wholethe beginning and
the end.
26. At the opening of the story of CroesusChaucer has copied
from his own translation of Boethius; but the story is mainly
taken from the "Romance of the Rose"
27. "This reflection says Tyrwhttt, seems to have been
suggested by one which follows soon after the mention of
Croesus in the passage just cited from Boethius. 'What other
thing bewail the cryings of tragedies but only the deeds of
fortunethat with an awkward strokeoverturneth the realms of
great nobley?'" --in some manuscripts the four "tragedies" that
follow are placed between those of Zenobia and Nero; but
although the general reflection with which the "tragedy" of
Croesus closes might most appropriately wind up the whole
seriesthe general chronological arrangement which is observed
in the other cases recommends the order followed in the text.
Besidessincelike several other Talesthe Monk's tragedies

were cut short by the impatience of the auditorsit is more
natural that the Tale should close abruptlythan by such a
rhetorical finish as these lines afford.

28. Pedro the CruelKing of Aragonagainst whom his brother
Henry rebelled. He was by false pretences inveigled into his
brother's tentand treacherously slain. Mr Wright has remarked
that "the cause of Pedrothough he was no better than a cruel
and reckless tyrantwas popular in England from the very
circumstance that Prince Edward (the Black Prince) had
embarked in it."
29. Not the Oliver of Charlemagne -- but a traitorous Oliver of
Armoricacorrupted by a bribe. Ganilion was the betrayer of
the Christian army at Roncevalles (see note 9 to the Shipman's
Tale); and his name appears to have been for a long time used in
France to denote a traitor. Duguesclinwho betrayed Pedro into
his brother's tentseems to be intended by the term "Ganilion
Oliver but if so, Chaucer has mistaken his name, which was
Bertrand -- perhaps confounding him, as Tyrwhttt suggests,
with Oliver du Clisson, another illustrious Breton of those
times, who was also Constable of France, after Duguesclin. The
arms of the latter are supposed to be described a little above
30. Pierre de Lusignan, King of Cyprus, who captured
Alexandria in 1363 (see note 6 to the Prologue to the Tales).
He was assassinated in 1369.
31. Bernabo Visconti, Duke of Milan, was deposed and
imprisoned by his nephew, and died a captive in 1385. His death
is the latest historical fact mentioned in the Tales; and thus it
throws the date of their composition to about the sixtieth year
of Chaucer's age.
32. The story of Ugolino is told in the 33rd Canto of the


Ho!quoth the Knightgood sir, no more of this;
That ye have said is right enough, y-wis,* *of a surety
And muche more; for little heaviness
Is right enough to muche folk, I guess.
I say for me, it is a great disease,* *source of distress, annoyance
Where as men have been in great wealth and ease,
To hearen of their sudden fall, alas!
And the contrary is joy and great solas,* *delight, comfort
As when a man hath been in poor estate,
And climbeth up, and waxeth fortunate,
And there abideth in prosperity;
Such thing is gladsome, as it thinketh me,
And of such thing were goodly for to tell.

Yea,quoth our Hosteby Saint Paule's bell.
Ye say right sooth; this monk hath clapped* loud; *talked
He spake how Fortune cover'd with a cloud
I wot not what, and als' of a tragedy
Right now ye heard: and pardie no remedy

It is for to bewaile, nor complain
That that is done, and also it is pain,
As ye have said, to hear of heaviness.
Sir Monk, no more of this, so God you bless;
Your tale annoyeth all this company;
Such talking is not worth a butterfly,
For therein is there no sport nor game;
Therefore, Sir Monke, Dan Piers by your name,
I pray you heart'ly, tell us somewhat else,
For sickerly, n'ere* clinking of your bells, *were it not for the
That on your bridle hang on every side,
By heaven's king, that for us alle died,
I should ere this have fallen down for sleep,
Although the slough had been never so deep;
Then had your tale been all told in vain.
For certainly, as these clerkes sayn,
Where as a man may have no audience,
Nought helpeth it to telle his sentence.
And well I wot the substance is in me,
If anything shall well reported be.
Sir, say somewhat of hunting, <1> I you pray.
Nay,quoth the MonkI have *no lust to play;* *no fondness for
Now let another tell, as I have told.jesting*
Then spake our Host with rude speech and bold
And said unto the Nunne's Priest anon

Come near, thou Priest, come hither, thou Sir John, <2>
Tell us such thing as may our heartes glade.* *gladden
Be blithe, although thou ride upon a jade.
What though thine horse be bothe foul and lean?
If he will serve thee, reck thou not a bean;
Look that thine heart be merry evermo'.

Yes, Host,quoth heso may I ride or go,
But* I be merry, y-wis I will be blamed.*unless
And right anon his tale he hath attamed* *commenced <3>
And thus he said unto us every one
This sweete priestthis goodly manSir John.

Notes to the Prologue to the Nun's Priest's Tale

1. The request is justified by the description of Monk in the
Prologue as "an out-riderthat loved venery."
2. On this Tyrwhitt remarks; "I know not how it has happened
that in the principal modern languagesJohnor its equivalent
is a name of contempt or at least of slight. So the Italians use
'Gianni' from whence 'Zani;' the Spaniards 'Juan' as 'Bobo
Juan' a foolish John; the French 'Jean' with various additions;
and in Englishwhen we call a man 'a John' we do not mean it
as a title of honour." The title of "Sir" was usually given by
courtesy to priests.
3. Attamed: commencedbroached. Compare Frenchentamer
to cut the first piece off a joint; thence to begin.

A poor widow*somedeal y-stept* in age*somewhat advanced*
Was whilom dwelling in a poor cottage

Beside a grovestanding in a dale.
This widowof which I telle you my tale
Since thilke day that she was last a wife
In patience led a full simple life
For little was *her chattel and her rent.* *her goods and her income*

By husbandry* of such as God her sent*thrifty management
She found* herselfand eke her daughters two. *maintained
Three large sowes had sheand no mo';
Three kineand eke a sheep that highte Mall.
Full sooty was her bow'r* and eke her hall*chamber
In which she ate full many a slender meal.
Of poignant sauce knew she never a deal.* *whit
No dainty morsel passed through her throat;

Her diet was *accordant to her cote.* *in keeping with her cottage*

Repletion her made never sick;
Attemper* diet was all her physic
And exerciseand *hearte's suffisance.*
The goute *let her nothing for to dance*
Nor apoplexy shente* not her head.
No wine drank sheneither white nor red:

*contentment of heart*
*did not prevent her
from dancing* *hurt

Her board was served most with white and black
Milk and brown breadin which she found no lack
Seind* baconand sometimes an egg or tway; *singed
For she was as it were *a manner dey.* *kind of day labourer* <2>

A yard she hadenclosed all about
With stickesand a drye ditch without
In which she had a cockhight Chanticleer;
In all the land of crowing *n'as his peer.*
His voice was merrier than the merry orgon*
On masse days that in the churches gon.
Well sickerer* was his crowing in his lodge
Than is a clockor an abbay horloge.*
By nature he knew each ascension
Of th' equinoctial in thilke town;
For when degrees fiftene were ascended
Then crew hethat it might not be amended.
His comb was redder than the fine coral
Embattell'd <5> as it were a castle wall.
His bill was blackand as the jet it shone;
Like azure were his legges and his tone;*
His nailes whiter than the lily flow'r
And like the burnish'd gold was his colour
This gentle cock had in his governance
Sev'n hennesfor to do all his pleasance
Which were his sisters and his paramours
And wondrous like to him as of colours.
Of which the fairest-hued in the throat
Was called Damoselle Partelote
Courteous she wasdiscreetand debonair
And companiable* and bare herself so fair
Since the day that she sev'n night was old
That truely she had the heart in hold
Of Chanticleerlocked in every lith;*
He lov'd her sothat well was him therewith
But such a joy it was to hear them sing
When that the brighte sunne gan to spring

*was not his equal*
*organ <3>

*more punctual*
*clock <4>




In sweet accord*"My lefe is fare in land."* <6>
Forat that timeas I have understand
Beastes and birdes coulde speak and sing.
*my love is
gone abroad*
And so befellthat in a dawening
As Chanticleer among his wives all
Sat on his perchethat was in the hall
And next him sat this faire Partelote

This Chanticleer gan groanen in his throat
As man that in his dream is dretched* sore*oppressed
And when that Partelote thus heard him roar
She was aghast* and saideHearte dear, *afraid
What aileth you to groan in this mannere?
Ye be a very sleeper, fy for shame!
And he answer'd and saide thus; "Madame
I pray you that ye take it not agrief;* *amissin umbrage
By God*me mette* I was in such mischief** *I dreamed* **trouble
Right nowthat yet mine heart is sore affright'.
Now God quoth he, my sweven* read aright *dreamvision.
And keep my body out of foul prisoun.
*Me mette* how that I roamed up and down *I dreamed*
Within our yardwhere as I saw a beast
Was like an houndand would have *made arrest* *siezed*
Upon my bodyand would have had me dead.
His colour was betwixt yellow and red;
And tipped was his tailand both his ears
With blackunlike the remnant of his hairs.
His snout was smallwith glowing eyen tway;
Yet of his look almost for fear I dey;* *died
This caused me my groaningdoubteless."
Away,<7> quoth shefy on you, hearteless!* *coward
Alas!quoth shefor, by that God above!
Now have ye lost my heart and all my love;
I cannot love a coward, by my faith.
For certes, what so any woman saith,
We all desiren, if it mighte be,
To have husbandes hardy, wise, and free,
And secret,* and no niggard nor no fool, *discreet
Nor him that is aghast* of every tool,** *afraid **rag, trifle
Nor no avantour,* by that God above! *braggart
How durste ye for shame say to your love
That anything might make you afear'd?
Have ye no manne's heart, and have a beard?
Alas! and can ye be aghast of swevenes?* *dreams
Nothing but vanity, God wot, in sweven is,

Swevens *engender of repletions,* *are caused by over-eating*

And oft of fume,* and of complexions, *drunkenness
When humours be too abundant in a wight.
Certes this dream, which ye have mette tonight,
Cometh of the great supefluity
Of youre rede cholera,* pardie, *bile
Which causeth folk to dreaden in their dreams
Of arrows, and of fire with redde beams,
Of redde beastes, that they will them bite,
Of conteke,* and of whelpes great and lite;** *contention **little
Right as the humour of melancholy
Causeth full many a man in sleep to cry,
For fear of bulles, or of beares blake,
Or elles that black devils will them take,
Of other humours could I tell also,
That worke many a man in sleep much woe;
That I will pass as lightly as I can.
Lo, Cato, which that was so wise a man,

Said he not thus, *'Ne do no force of* dreams,'<8>
Now, Sir,quoth shewhen we fly from these beams,
For Godde's love, as take some laxatife;
On peril of my soul, and of my life,
I counsel you the best, I will not lie,
That both of choler, and melancholy,
Ye purge you; and, for ye shall not tarry,
Though in this town is no apothecary,

*attach no weight to*

I shall myself two herbes teache you,
That shall be for your health, and for your prow;* *profit
And in our yard the herbes shall I find,
The which have of their property by kind* *nature
To purge you beneath, and eke above.
Sire, forget not this for Godde's love;
Ye be full choleric of complexion;
Ware that the sun, in his ascension,
You finde not replete of humours hot;
And if it do, I dare well lay a groat,
That ye shall have a fever tertiane,
Or else an ague, that may be your bane,
A day or two ye shall have digestives
Of wormes, ere ye take your laxatives,
Of laurel, centaury, <9> and fumeterere, <10>
Or else of elder-berry, that groweth there,
Of catapuce, <11> or of the gaitre-berries, <12>
Or herb ivy growing in our yard, that merry is:
Pick them right as they grow, and eat them in,
Be merry, husband, for your father's kin;
Dreade no dream; I can say you no more.
Madame,quoth hegrand mercy of your lore,
But natheless, as touching *Dan Catoun,* *Cato
That hath of wisdom such a great renown,
Though that he bade no dreames for to dread,
By God, men may in olde bookes read
Of many a man more of authority
Than ever Cato was, so may I the,* *thrive
That all the reverse say of his sentence,* *opinion
And have well founden by experience
That dreames be significations
As well of joy, as tribulations
That folk enduren in this life present.
There needeth make of this no argument;
The very preve* sheweth it indeed. *trial, experience
One of the greatest authors that men read <13>
Saith thus, that whilom two fellowes went
On pilgrimage in a full good intent;
And happen'd so, they came into a town
Where there was such a congregatioun
Of people, and eke so *strait of herbergage,* *without lodging*
That they found not as much as one cottage
In which they bothe might y-lodged be:
Wherefore they musten of necessity,
As for that night, departe company;
And each of them went to his hostelry,* *inn
And took his lodging as it woulde fall.
The one of them was lodged in a stall,
Far in a yard, with oxen of the plough;
That other man was lodged well enow,
As was his aventure, or his fortune,
That us governeth all, as in commune.
And so befell, that, long ere it were day,
This man mette* in his bed, there: as he lay, *dreamed
How that his fellow gan upon him call,
And said, 'Alas! for in an ox's stall
This night shall I be murder'd, where I lie
Now help me, deare brother, or I die;
In alle haste come to me,' he said.
This man out of his sleep for fear abraid;* *started
But when that he was wak'd out of his sleep,

He turned him, and *took of this no keep;* *paid this no attention*
He thought his dream was but a vanity.

Thus twies* in his sleeping dreamed he, *twice
And at the thirde time yet his fellaw again
Came, as he thought, and said, 'I am now slaw;* *slain
Behold my bloody woundes, deep and wide.
Arise up early, in the morning, tide,
And at the west gate of the town,' quoth he,
'A carte full of dung there shalt: thou see,
In which my body is hid privily.
Do thilke cart arroste* boldely. *stop
My gold caused my murder, sooth to sayn.'
And told him every point how he was slain,
With a full piteous face, and pale of hue.
Andtruste wellhis dream he found full true;
For on the morrowas soon as it was day
To his fellowes inn he took his way;
And when that he came to this ox's stall
After his fellow he began to call.
The hostelere answered him anon
And saide'Siryour fellow is y-gone
As soon as day he went out of the town.'
This man gan fallen in suspicioun
Rememb'ring on his dreames that he mette* *dreamed
And forth he wentno longer would he let* *delay
Unto the west gate of the townand fand* *found
A dung cartas it went for to dung land
That was arrayed in the same wise
As ye have heard the deade man devise;* *describe
And with an hardy heart he gan to cry
'Vengeance and justice of this felony:
My fellow murder'd in this same night
And in this cart he liesgaping upright.
I cry out on the ministers' quoth he.
'That shoulde keep and rule this city;
Harow! alas! here lies my fellow slain.'
What should I more unto this tale sayn?
The people out startand cast the cart to ground
And in the middle of the dung they found
The deade manthat murder'd was all new.
O blissful God! that art so good and true
Lohow that thou bewray'st murder alway.
Murder will outthat see we day by day.
Murder is so wlatsom* and abominable *loathsome
To Godthat is so just and reasonable
That he will not suffer it heled* be; *concealed <14>
Though it abide a yearor twoor three
Murder will outthis is my conclusioun
And right anonthe ministers of the town
Have hent* the carterand so sore him pined** *seized **tortured
And eke the hostelere so sore engined* *racked
That they beknew* their wickedness anon*confessed
And were hanged by the necke bone.
Here may ye see that dreames be to dread.
And certes in the same book I read,
Right in the nexte chapter after this
(I gabbe* not, so have I joy and bliss), *talk idly
Two men that would, have passed over sea,
For certain cause, into a far country,
If that the wind not hadde been contrary,
That made them in a city for to tarry,
That stood full merry upon an haven side;
But on a day, against the even-tide,
The wind gan change, and blew right *as them lest.* *as they wished*

Jolly and glad they wente to their rest,
And caste* them full early for to sail. *resolved
But to the one man fell a great marvail
That one of them, in sleeping as he lay,
He mette* a wondrous dream, against the day: *dreamed
He thought a man stood by his bedde's side,
And him commanded that he should abide;
And said him thus; 'If thou to-morrow wend,
Thou shalt be drown'd; my tale is at an end.'
He woke, and told his follow what he mette,
And prayed him his voyage for to let;* *delay
As for that day, he pray'd him to abide.
His fellow, that lay by his bedde's side,
Gan for to laugh, and scorned him full fast.
'No dream,' quoth he,'may so my heart aghast,* *frighten
That I will lette* for to do my things.* *delay
I sette not a straw by thy dreamings,
For swevens* be but vanities and japes.** *dreams **jokes,deceits
Men dream all day of owles and of apes,
And eke of many a maze* therewithal; *wild imagining
Men dream of thing that never was, nor shall.
But since I see, that thou wilt here abide,
And thus forslothe* wilfully thy tide,** *idle away **time
God wot, *it rueth me;* and have good day.' *I am sorry for it*
And thus he took his leave, and went his way.
But, ere that he had half his course sail'd,
I know not why, nor what mischance it ail'd,
But casually* the ship's bottom rent, *by accident
And ship and man under the water went,
In sight of other shippes there beside
That with him sailed at the same tide.
And thereforefaire Partelote so dear
By such examples olde may'st thou lear* *learn
That no man shoulde be too reckeless
Of dreamesfor I say thee doubteless
That many a dream full sore is for to dread.
Loin the life of Saint Kenelm <15> I read
That was Kenulphus' sonthe noble king
Of Mercenrike<16> how Kenelm mette a thing.
A little ere he was murder'd on a day
His murder in his vision he say.* *saw
His norice* him expounded every deal** *nurse **part
His swevenand bade him to keep* him well *guard
For treason; but he was but seven years old
And therefore *little tale hath he told* *he attached little
Of any dreamso holy was his heart. significance to*
By GodI hadde lever than my shirt
That ye had read his legendas have I.
Dame ParteloteI say you truely
Macrobiusthat wrote the vision
In Afric' of the worthy Scipion<17>
Affirmeth dreamesand saith that they be
'Warnings of thinges that men after see.
And furthermoreI pray you looke well
In the Old Testamentof Daniel
If he held dreames any vanity.
Read eke of Josephand there shall ye see
Whether dreams be sometimes (I say not all)
Warnings of thinges that shall after fall.
Look of Egypt the kingDan Pharaoh
His baker and his buteler also
Whether they felte none effect* in dreams. *significance
Whoso will seek the acts of sundry remes* *realms

May read of dreames many a wondrous thing.
Lo Croesuswhich that was of Lydia king
Mette he not that he sat upon a tree
Which signified he shoulde hanged be? <18>
Lo hereAndromacheHectore's wife<19>
That day that Hector shoulde lose his life
She dreamed on the same night beforn
How that the life of Hector should be lorn*
If thilke day he went into battaile;
She warned himbut it might not avail;
He wente forth to fighte natheless
And was y-slain anon of Achilles.
But thilke tale is all too long to tell;
And eke it is nigh dayI may not dwell.
Shortly I sayas for conclusion
That I shall have of this avision
Adversity; and I say furthermore
That I ne *tell of laxatives no store*
For they be venomousI wot it well;
I them defy* I love them never a del.**

But let us speak of mirth, and stint* all this;
Madame Partelote, so have I bliss,
Of one thing God hath sent me large* grace;
For when I see the beauty of your face,
Ye be so scarlet-hued about your eyen,
I maketh all my dreade for to dien,
For, all so sicker* as In principio,<20>
Mulier est hominis confusio.<21>
Madam, the sentence* of of this Latin is,
Woman is manne's joy and manne's bliss.
For when I feel at night your softe side, --
Albeit that I may not on you ride,
For that our perch is made so narrow, Alas!
I am so full of joy and of solas,*
That I defy both sweven and eke dream.
And with that word he flew down from the beam
For it was dayand eke his hennes all;
And with a chuck he gan them for to call
For he had found a cornlay in the yard.
Royal he washe was no more afear'd;
He feather'd Partelote twenty time
And as oft trode herere that it was prime.
He looked as it were a grim lion
And on his toes he roamed up and down;
He deigned not to set his feet to ground;
He chuckedwhen he had a corn y-found
And to him ranne then his wives all.
Thus royalas a prince is in his hall
Leave I this Chanticleer in his pasture;
And after will I tell his aventure.

When that the month in which the world began
That highte Marchwhen God first maked man
Was completeand y-passed were also
Since March endedthirty days and two
Befell that Chanticleer in all his pride
His seven wives walking him beside
Cast up his eyen to the brighte sun
That in the sign of Taurus had y-run
Twenty degrees and oneand somewhat more;
He knew by kind* and by none other lore**
That it was primeand crew with blissful steven.*
The sun,he saidis clomben up in heaven


*hold laxatives
of no value*
*distrust **whit





*nature **learning

Twenty degrees and one, and more y-wis.* *assuredly
Madame Partelote, my worlde's bliss,
Hearken these blissful birdes how they sing,
And see the freshe flowers how they spring;
Full is mine heart of revel and solace.
But suddenly him fell a sorrowful case;* *casualty
For ever the latter end of joy is woe:
God wot that worldly joy is soon y-go:
Andif a rhetor* coulde fair indite*orator
He in a chronicle might it safely write
As for *a sov'reign notability* *a thing supremely notable*

Now every wise manlet him hearken me;
This story is all as trueI undertake
As is the book of Launcelot du Lake
That women hold in full great reverence.
Now will I turn again to my sentence.

A col-fox<22> full of sly iniquity
That in the grove had wonned* yeares three
By high imagination forecast
The same night thorough the hedges brast*
Into the yardwhere Chanticleer the fair
Was wontand eke his wivesto repair;
And in a bed of wortes* still he lay
Till it was passed undern <23> of the day
Waiting his time on Chanticleer to fall:
As gladly do these homicides all
That in awaite lie to murder men.
O false murd'rer! Rouking* in thy den!
O new Iscariotnew Ganilion! <24>
O false dissimulerO Greek Sinon<25>
That broughtest Troy all utterly to sorrow!
O Chanticleer! accursed be the morrow
That thou into thy yard flew from the beams;*
Thou wert full well y-warned by thy dreams
That thilke day was perilous to thee.
But what that God forewot* must needes be
After th' opinion of certain clerkes.
Witness on him that any perfect clerk is
That in school is great altercation
In this matterand great disputation
And hath been of an hundred thousand men.





But I ne cannot *boult it to the bren* *examine it thoroughly <26>*

As can the holy doctor Augustine
Or Boeceor the bishop Bradwardine<27>
Whether that Godde's worthy foreweeting* *foreknowledge
*Straineth me needly* for to do a thing *forces me*
(Needly call I simple necessity)
Or elles if free choice be granted me
To do that same thingor do it not
Though God forewot* it ere that it was wrought; *knew in advance
Or if *his weeting straineth never a deal* *his knowing constrains
But by necessity conditionel. not at all*
I will not have to do of such mattere;
My tale is of a cockas ye may hear
That took his counsel of his wifewith sorrow
To walken in the yard upon the morrow
That he had mette the dreamas I you told.
Womane's counsels be full often cold;* *mischievousunwise
Womane's counsel brought us first to woe
And made Adam from Paradise to go
There as he was full merry and well at case.
Butfor I n'ot* to whom I might displease *know not
If I counsel of women woulde blame

Pass overfor I said it in my game.*
Read authorswhere they treat of such mattere
And what they say of women ye may hear.
These be the cocke's wordesand not mine;
I can no harm of no woman divine.*
Fair in the sandto bathe* her merrily
Lies Parteloteand all her sisters by
Against the sunand Chanticleer so free
Sang merrier than the mermaid in the sea;
For Physiologus saith sickerly*
How that they singe well and merrily. <28>
And so befell thatas he cast his eye
Among the wortes* on a butterfly
He was ware of this fox that lay full low.
Nothing *ne list him thenne* for to crow
But cried anon "Cock! cock!" and up he start
As man that was affrayed in his heart.
For naturally a beast desireth flee
From his contrary* if be may it see
Though he *ne'er erst* had soon it with his eye
This Chanticleerwhen he gan him espy
He would have fledbut that the fox anon
SaidGentle Sir, alas! why will ye gon?
Be ye afraid of me that am your friend?
Now, certes, I were worse than any fiend,
If I to you would harm or villainy.
I am not come your counsel to espy.
But truely the cause of my coming
Was only for to hearken how ye sing;
For truely ye have as merry a steven,*
As any angel hath that is in heaven;
Therewith ye have of music more feeling,
Than had Boece, or any that can sing.
My lord your father (God his soule bless)
And eke your mother of her gentleness,
Have in mnine house been, to my great ease:*
And certes, Sir, full fain would I you please.
But, for men speak of singing, I will say,
So may I brooke* well mine eyen tway,
Save you, I hearde never man so sing
As did your father in the morrowning.
Certes it was of heart all that he sung.
And, for to make his voice the more strong,
He would *so pain him,* that with both his eyen
He muste wink, so loud he woulde cryen,
And standen on his tiptoes therewithal,
And stretche forth his necke long and small.
And eke he was of such discretion,
That there was no man, in no region,
That him in song or wisdom mighte pass.
I have well read in Dan Burnel the Ass, <29>
Among his verse, how that there was a cock
That, for* a prieste's son gave him a knock
Upon his leg, while he was young and nice,*
He made him for to lose his benefice.
But certain there is no comparison
Betwixt the wisdom and discretion
Of youre father, and his subtilty.
Now singe, Sir, for sainte charity,
Let see, can ye your father counterfeit?

This Chanticleer his wings began to beat
As man that could not his treason espy
So was he ravish'd with his flattery.





*he had no inclination*

*never before*



*enjoypossessor use

*make such an exertion*


Alas! ye lordesmany a false flattour* *flatterer <30>
Is in your courtand many a losengeour* *deceiver <31>
That please you well moreby my faith
Than he that soothfastness* unto you saith. *truth
Read in Ecclesiast' of flattery;
Bewareye lordesof their treachery.
This Chanticleer stood high upon his toes
Stretching his neckand held his eyen close
And gan to crowe loude for the nonce
And Dan Russel <32> the fox start up at once
And *by the gorge hente* Chanticleer*seized by the throat*
And on his back toward the wood him bare.
For yet was there no man that him pursu'd.
O destinythat may'st not be eschew'd!* *escaped
Alasthat Chanticleer flew from the beams!
Alashis wife raughte* nought of dreams! *regarded
And on a Friday fell all this mischance.
O Venusthat art goddess of pleasance
Since that thy servant was this Chanticleer
And in thy service did all his powere
More for delightthan the world to multiply
Why wilt thou suffer him on thy day to die?
O Gaufriddeare master sovereign<33>
Thatwhen thy worthy king Richard was slain
With shotcomplainedest his death so sore
Why n'had I now thy sentence and thy lore
The Friday for to chidenas did ye?
(For on a Fridaysoothlyslain was he)
Then would I shew you how that I could plain* *lament
For Chanticleere's dreadand for his pain.
Certes such cry nor lamentation
Was ne'er of ladies madewhen Ilion
Was wonand Pyrrhus with his straighte sword
When he had hent* king Priam by the beard*seized
And slain him (as saith us Eneidos*)<34> *The Aeneid
As maden all the hennes in the close* *yard
When they had seen of Chanticleer the sight.
But sov'reignly* Dame Partelote shright** *above all others
Full louder than did Hasdrubale's wife**shrieked
When that her husband hadde lost his life
And that the Romans had y-burnt Carthage;
She was so full of torment and of rage
That wilfully into the fire she start
And burnt herselfe with a steadfast heart.
O woeful hennes! right so cried ye
Aswhen that Nero burned the city
Of Romecried the senatores' wives
For that their husbands losten all their lives;
Withoute guilt this Nero hath them slain.
Now will I turn unto my tale again;
The sely* widowand her daughters two*simplehonest
Hearde these hennes cry and make woe
And at the doors out started they anon
And saw the fox toward the wood is gone
And bare upon his back the cock away:
They criedOut! harow! and well-away!
Aha! the fox!and after him they ran
And eke with staves many another man
Ran Coll our dogand Talbotand Garland;
And Malkinwith her distaff in her hand
Ran cow and calfand eke the very hogges
So fear'd they were for barking of the dogges

And shouting of the men and women eke.
They ranne sothem thought their hearts would break.
They yelled as the fiendes do in hell;
The duckes cried as men would them quell;* *killdestroy
The geese for feare flewen o'er the trees
Out of the hive came the swarm of bees
So hideous was the noiseben'dicite!
Certes heJacke Straw<35> and his meinie* *followers
Ne made never shoutes half so shrill
When that they woulden any Fleming kill
As thilke day was made upon the fox.
Of brass they broughte beames* and of box*trumpets <36>
Of horn and bonein which they blew and pooped* **tooted
And therewithal they shrieked and they hooped;
It seemed as the heaven shoulde fall
Nowgoode menI pray you hearken all;
Lohow Fortune turneth suddenly
The hope and pride eke of her enemy.
This cockthat lay upon the fox's back
In all his dread unto the fox he spake
And saideSir, if that I were as ye,
Yet would I say (as wisly* God help me), *surely
'Turn ye again, ye proude churles all;
A very pestilence upon you fall.
Now am I come unto the woode's side,
Maugre your head, the cock shall here abide;
I will him eat, in faith, and that anon.'
The fox answer'dIn faith it shall be done:
Andas he spake the wordall suddenly
The cock brake from his mouth deliverly* *nimbly
And high upon a tree he flew anon.
And when the fox saw that the cock was gone
Alas!quoth heO Chanticleer, alas!
I have,quoth hey-done to you trespass,* *offence
Inasmuch as I maked you afear'd,
When I you hent,* and brought out of your yard; *took
But, Sir, I did it in no wick' intent;
Come down, and I shall tell you what I meant.
I shall say sooth to you, God help me so.
Nay then,quoth heI shrew* us both the two, *curse
And first I shrew myself, both blood and bones,
If thou beguile me oftener than once.
Thou shalt no more through thy flattery
Do* me to sing and winke with mine eye; *cause
For he that winketh when he shoulde see,
All wilfully, God let him never the.* *thrive
Nay,quoth the fox; "but God give him mischance
That is so indiscreet of governance
That jangleth* when that he should hold his peace." *chatters
Lowhat it is for to be reckeless
And negligentand trust on flattery.
But ye that holde this tale a folly
As of a foxor of a cock or hen
Take the morality thereofgood men.
For Saint Paul saithThat all that written is

*To our doctrine it written is y-wis.* <37> *is surely written for
Take the fruitand let the chaff be still. our instruction*

Now goode Godif that it be thy will
As saith my Lord<38> so make us all good men;
And bring us all to thy high bliss. Amen.

Notes to the Nun's Priest's Tale

1. The Tale of the Nun's Priest is founded on the fifth chapter
of an old French metrical "Romance of Renard;" the same story
forming one of the fables of Mariethe translator of the Breton
Lays. (See note 2 to the Prologue to the Franklin's Tale.)
Although Dryden was in error when he ascribed the Tale to
Chaucer's own inventionstill the materials on which he had to
operate were out of cornparison more trivial than the result.
2. Tyrwhitt quotes two statutes of Edward IIIin which "deys"
are included among the servants employed in agricultural
pursuits; the name seems to have originally meant a servant who
gave his labour by the daybut afterwards to have been
appropriated exclusively to one who superintended or worked
in a dairy.
3. Orgon: here licentiously used for the pluralorgansor
orgons,corresponding to the plural verb "gon" in the next
4. Horloge: Frenchclock.
5. Embattell'd: indented on the upper edge like the battlements
of a castle.
6. My lefe is fare in land: This seems to have been the refrain of
some old songand its precise meaning is uncertain. It
corresponds in cadence with the morning salutation of the cock;
and may be taken as a greeting to the sunwhich is beloved of
Chanticleerand has just come upon the earth -- or in the sense
of a more local boastas vaunting the fairness of his favourite
hen above all others in the country round.
Transcriber's note: Later commentators explain "fare in land" as
gone abroadand have identified the song:

My lefe is fare in lond
Alas! Why is she so?
And I am so sore bound
I may not come her to.
She hath my heart in hold
Where ever she ride or go
With true love a thousand-fold.

(Printed in The Athenaeum1896Vol IIp. 566).

7. "Avoi!" is the word here rendered "away!" It was frequently
used in the French fabliauxand the Italians employ the word
via!in the same sense.
8. "Ne do no force of dreams:" "Somnia ne cares;" --Cato
De Moribus,1 iidist. 32
9. Centaury: the herb so called because by its virtue the centaur
Chiron was healed when the poisoned arrow of Hercules had
accidentally wounded his foot.
10. Fumetere: the herb "fumitory."
11. Catapuce: spurge; a plant of purgative qualities. To its
name in the text correspond the Italian "catapuzza and French

catapuce" -- words the origin of which is connected with the
effects of the plant.

12. Gaitre-berries: dog-wood berries.
13. One of the greatest authors that men read: Cicerowho in
his book "De Divinatione" tells this and the following story
though in contrary order and with many differences.
14. Haled or hylled; from Anglo-Saxon "helan" hidconcealed
15. Kenelm succeeded his father as king of the Saxon realm of
Mercia in 811at the age of seven years; but he was slain by his
ambitious aunt Quendrada. The place of his burial was
miraculously discoveredand he was subsequently elevated to
the rank of a saint and martyr. His life is in the English "Golden
16. Mercenrike: the kingdom of Mercia; Anglo-Saxon
Myrcnarice. Compare the second member of the compound in
the GermanFrankreich,France; "Oesterreich Austria.
17. Cicero (De Republica lib. vi.) wrote the Dream of
Scipio, in which the Younger relates the appearance of the
Elder Africanus, and the counsels and exhortations which the
shade addressed to the sleeper. Macrobius wrote an elaborate
Commentary on the Dream of Scipio -- a philosophical
treatise much studied and relished during the Middle Ages.
18. See the Monk's Tale for this story.
19. Andromache's dream will not be found in Homer; It is
related in the book of the fictitious Dares Phrygius, the most
popular authority during the Middle Ages for the history of the
Trojan War.
20. In principio: In the beginning; the first words of Genesis and
of the Gospel of John.
21. Mulier est hominis confusio: This line is taken from the
same fabulous conference between the Emperor Adrian and the
philosopher Secundus, whence Chaucer derived some of the
arguments in praise of poverty employed in the Wife of Bath's
Tale proper. See note 14 to the Wife of Bath's tale. The
passage transferred to the text is the commencement of a
description of woman. Quid est mulier? hominis confusio &c.
(What is Woman? A union with man"&c.)
22. Col-fox: a blackish foxso called because of its likeness to
coalaccording to Skinner; though more probably the prefix has
a reproachful meaningand is in some way connected with the
word "cold" assome forty lines belowit is applied to the
prejudicial counsel of womenand as frequently it is used to
describe "sighs" and other tokens of griefand "cares" or
23. Undern: In this casethe meaning of "evening" or
afternooncan hardly be applied to the wordwhich must be
taken to signify some early hour of the forenoon. See also note
4 to the Wife of Bath's tale and note 5 to the Clerk's Tale.
24. Ganilion: a traitor. See note 9 to the Shipman's Tale and
note 28 to the Monk's Tale.

25. Greek Sinon: The inventor of the Trojan Horse. See note 14
to the Squire's Tale
26. Boult it from the bren: Examine the matter thoroughly; a
metaphor taken from the sifting of mealto divide the fine flour
from the bran.
27. Thomas BradwardineArchbishop of Canterbury in the
thirteenth centurywho wrote a bookDe Causa Dei,in
controversy with Pelagius; and also numerous other treatises
among them some on predestination.
28. In a popular mediaveal Latin treatise by one Theobaldus
entitled "Physiologus de Naturis XII. Animalium" ("A
description of the nature of twelve animals")sirens or
mermaids are described as skilled in songand drawing unwary
mariners to destruction by the sweetness of their voices.
29. "Nigellus Wireker says Urry's Glossary, a monk and
precentor of Canterburywrote a Latin poem intituled
'Speculum Speculorum' ('The mirror of mirrors') dedicated to
William LongchampBishop of Elyand Lord Chancellor;
whereinunder the fable of an Ass (which he calls 'Burnellus')
that desired a longer tailis represented the folly of such as are
not content with their own condition. There is introduced a tale
of a cockwho having his leg broke by a priest's son (called
Gundulfus) watched an opportunity to be revenged; which at
last presented itself on this occasion: A day was appointed for
Gundulfus's being admitted into holy orders at a place remote
from his father's habitation; he therefore orders the servants to
call him at first cock-crowingwhich the cock overhearing did
not crow at all that morning. So Gundulfus overslept himself
and was thereby disappointed of his ordinationthe office being
quite finished before he came to the place." Wireker's satire was
among the most celebrated and popular Latin poems of the
Middle Ages. The Ass was probably as Tyrwhitt suggests
called "Burnel" or "Brunel from his brown colour; as, a little
below, a reddish fox is called Russel."
30. Flattour: flatterer; Frenchflatteur.
31. Losengeour: deceivercozener; the word had analogues in
the French "losengier and the Spanish lisongero." It is
probably connected with "leasing falsehood; which has been
derived from Anglo-Saxon hlisan to celebrate -- as if it meant
the spreading of a false renown
32. Dan Russel: Master Russet; a name given to the fox, from
his reddish colour.
33. Geoffrey de Vinsauf was the author of a well-known
mediaeval treatise on composition in various poetical styles of
which he gave examples. Chaucer's irony is therefore directed
against some grandiose and affected lines on the death of
Richard I., intended to illustrate the pathetic style, in which
Friday is addressed as O Veneris lachrymosa dies" ("O tearful
day of Venus").
34. "Priamum altaria ad ipsa trementem
Traxitet in multo lapsantem sanguine nati
Implicuitque comam laevadextraque coruscum
Extulitac lateri capulo tenus abdidit ensem.
Haec finis Priami fatorum."
("He dragged Priam trembling to his own altarslipping on the

blood of his child; He took his hair in his left handand with the
right drew the flashing swordand hid it to the hilt [in his body].
Thus an end was made of Priam")
-- VirgilAeneid. ii. 550.

35. Jack Straw: The leader of a Kentish risingin the reign of
Richard IIin 1381by which the Flemish merchants in London
were great sufferers.
36. Beams: trumpets; Anglo-Saxonbema.
37. "All scripture is given by inspiration of Godand is
profitable for doctrinefor reprooffor correctionfor
instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be
perfectthroughly furnished unto all good works." -- 2 Tim. iii.

Sir Nunne's Priest,our hoste said anon
Y-blessed be thy breech, and every stone;
This was a merry tale of Chanticleer.
But by my truth, if thou wert seculere,* *a layman
Thou wouldest be a treadefowl* aright; *cock
For if thou have courage as thou hast might,
Thee were need of hennes, as I ween,
Yea more than seven times seventeen.
See, whate brawnes* hath this gentle priest, *muscles, sinews
So great a neck, and such a large breast
He looketh as a sperhawk with his eyen
Him needeth not his colour for to dyen
With Brazil, nor with grain of Portugale.
But, Sir, faire fall you for your tale'.
Andafter thathe with full merry cheer
Said to anotheras ye shall hear.

Notes to the Epilogue to the Nun's Priest's Tale

1. The sixteen lines appended to the Tale of the Nun's Priest
seemas Tyrwhitt observesto commence the prologue to the
succeeding Tale -- but the difficulty is to determine which that
Tale should be. In earlier editionsthe lines formed the opening
of the prologue to the Manciple's Tale; but most of the
manuscripts acknowledge themselves defective in this partand
give the Nun's Tale after that of the Nun's Priest. In the Harleian
manuscriptfollowed by Mr Wrightthe second Nun's Taleand
the Canon's Yeoman's Taleare placed after the Franklin's tale;
and the sixteen lines above are not found -- the Manciple's
prologue coming immediately after the "Amen" of the Nun's
Priest. In two manuscriptsthe last line of the sixteen runs thus:
Said unto the Nun as ye shall hear;and six lines more
evidently forgedare given to introduce the Nun's Tale. All this
confusion and doubt only strengthen the certaintyand deepen
the regretthat "The Canterbury Tales" were left at Chaucer's
death not merely very imperfect as a wholebut destitute of
many finishing touches that would have made them complete so
far as the conception had actually been carried into

The minister and norice* unto vices*nurse
Which that men call in English idleness
The porter at the gate is of delices;* *delights
T'eschewand by her contrar' her oppress--
That is to sayby lawful business* --*occupationactivity
Well oughte we to *do our all intent* *apply ourselves*
Lest that the fiend through idleness us hent.* *seize
For hethat with his thousand cordes sly
Continually us waiteth to beclap* *entanglebind
When he may man in idleness espy
He can so lightly catch him in his trap
Till that a man be hent* right by the lappe** *seize **hem
He is not ware the fiend hath him in hand;
Well ought we workand idleness withstand.
And though men dreaded never for to die
Yet see men well by reasondoubteless
That idleness is root of sluggardy
Of which there cometh never good increase;
And see that sloth them holdeth in a leas* *leash <2>
Only to sleepand for to eat and drink
And to devouren all that others swink.* *labour
Andfor to put us from such idleness
That cause is of so great confusion
I have here done my faithful business
After the Legendin translation
Right of thy glorious life and passion--
Thou with thy garland wrought of rose and lily
Thee mean Imaid and martyrSaint Cecilie.
And thouthou art the flow'r of virgins all
Of whom that Bernard list so well to write<3>
To thee at my beginning first I call;
Thou comfort of us wretchesdo me indite
Thy maiden's deaththat won through her merite
Th' eternal lifeand o'er the fiend victory
As man may after readen in her story.
Thou maid and motherdaughter of thy Son
Thou well of mercysinful soules' cure
In whom that God of bounte chose to won;* *dwell
Thou humble and high o'er every creature

Thou nobilest*so far forth our nature* *as far as our nature admits*

That no disdain the Maker had of kind*
His Son in blood and flesh to clothe and wind.*
Within the cloister of thy blissful sides
Took manne's shape th' eternal love and peace
That of *the trine compass* Lord and guide is
Whom earthand seaand heav'n*out of release*
*the trinity*

*Aye hery;* and thouVirgin wemmeless* *forever praise* *immaculate
Bare of thy bodyand dweltest maiden pure
The Creator of every creature.

Assembled is in thee magnificence <4>
With mercygoodnessand with such pity
That thouthat art the sun of excellence
Not only helpest them that pray to thee

But oftentimeof thy benignity
Full freelyere that men thine help beseech
Thou go'st beforeand art their lives' leech.* *healersaviour.
Now helpthou meek and blissful faire maid
Meflemed* wretchin this desert of gall; *banishedoutcast
Think on the woman Cananee that said
That whelpes eat some of the crumbes all
That from their Lorde's table be y-fall;<5>
And though that Iunworthy son of Eve<6>
Be sinfulyet accepte my believe.* *faith
Andfor that faith is dead withoute werkes
For to worke give me wit and space
That I be *quit from thennes that most derk is;* *freed from the most
O thouthat art so fair and full of gracedark place (Hell)*
Be thou mine advocate in that high place
Where as withouten end is sung Osanne
Thou Christe's motherdaughter dear of Anne.
And of thy light my soul in prison light
That troubled is by the contagion
Of my bodyand also by the weight
Of earthly lust and false affection;
O hav'n of refugeO salvation
Of them that be in sorrow and distress
Now helpfor to my work I will me dress.
Yet pray I youthat reade what I write<6>
Forgive me that I do no diligence
This ilke* story subtilly t' indite. *same
For both have I the wordes and sentence
Of him that at the sainte's reverence
The story wroteand follow her legend;
And pray you that you will my work amend.
First will I you the name of Saint Cecilie
Expoundas men may in her story see.
It is to say in EnglishHeaven's lily<7>
For pure chasteness of virginity;
Orfor she whiteness had of honesty* *purity
And green of conscienceand of good fame
The sweete savourLilie was her name.
Or Cecilie is to saythe way of blind;<7>
For she example was by good teaching;
Or else Cecilieas I written find
Is joined by a manner conjoining
Of heaven and Lia<7> and herein figuring
The heaven is set for thought of holiness
And Lia for her lasting business.
Cecilie may eke be said in this mannere
Wanting of blindnessfor her greate light
Of sapienceand for her thewes* clear. *qualities
Or elleslothis maiden's name bright
Of heaven and Leos <7> comesfor which by right
Men might her well the heaven of people call
Example of good and wise workes all;
For Leos people in English is to say;
And right as men may in the heaven see
The sun and moonand starres every way
Right so men ghostly* in this maiden free*spiritually

Sawen of faith the magnanimity
And eke the clearness whole of sapience
And sundry workes bright of excellence.

And right so as these philosophers write
That heav'n is swift and roundand eke burning
Right so was faire Cecilie the white
Full swift and busy in every good working
And round and whole in good persevering<8>
And burning ever in charity full bright;
Now have I you declared *what she hight.*

This maiden bright Cecileas her life saith
Was come of Romansand of noble kind
And from her cradle foster'd in the faith
Of Christand bare his Gospel in her mind:
She never ceasedas I written find
Of her prayereand God to love and dread
Beseeching him to keep her maidenhead.

And when this maiden should unto a man
Y-wedded bethat was full young of age
Which that y-called was Valerian
And come was the day of marriage
Shefull devout and humble in her corage*
Under her robe of goldthat sat full fair
Had next her flesh y-clad her in an hair.*

And while the organs made melody
To God alone thus in her heart sang she;
O Lord, my soul and eke my body gie*
Unwemmed,* lest that I confounded be.
Andfor his love that died upon the tree
Every second or third day she fast'
Aye bidding* in her orisons full fast.

The night cameand to bedde must she gon
With her husbandas it is the mannere;
And privily she said to him anon;
O sweet and well-beloved spouse dear,
There is a counsel,* an'** ye will it hear,
Which that right fain I would unto you say,
So that ye swear ye will it not bewray.*

Valerian gan fast unto her swear
That for no case nor thing that mighte be
He never should to none bewrayen her;
And then at erst* thus to him saide she;
I have an angel which that loveth me,
That with great love, whether I wake or sleep,
Is ready aye my body for to keep;

And if that he may feelen*out of dread*
That ye me touch or love in villainy
He right anon will slay you with the deed
And in your youthe thus ye shoulde die.
And if that ye in cleane love me gie*
He will you love as me, for your cleanness,
And shew to you his joy and his brightness.

Valeriancorrected as God wo'ld
Answer'd againIf I shall truste thee,
Let me that angel see, and him behold;
And if that it a very angel be,

*why she had her name*

*garment of hair-cloth



*secret **if

*for the first time

*without doubt*


Then will I do as thou hast prayed me;
And if thou love another man, forsooth
Right with this sword then will I slay you both.
Cecile answer'd anon right in this wise;
If that you list, the angel shall ye see,
So that ye trow* Of Christ, and you baptise;
Go forth to Via Appia,quoth she
That from this towne stands but miles three
And to the poore folkes that there dwell
Say them right thusas that I shall you tell
Tell them, that I, Cecile, you to them sent
To shewe you the good Urban the old,
For secret needes,* and for good intent;
And when that ye Saint Urban have behold,
Tell him the wordes which I to you told
And when that he hath purged you from sin,
Then shall ye see that angel ere ye twin*
Valerian is to the place gone;
And, right as he was taught by her learning
He found this holy old Urban anon
Among the saintes' burials louting;*
And he anon, withoute tarrying,
Did his message, and when that he it told,
Urban for joy his handes gan uphold.
*lying concealed <9>
The teares from his eyen let he fall;
Almighty LordO Jesus Christ

Quoth he, Sower of chaste counselherd* of us all; *shepherd
The fruit of thilke* seed of chastity *that
That thou hast sown in Ceciletake to thee
Lolike a busy beewithoute guile
Thee serveth aye thine owen thrall* Cicile*servant

For thilke spouse, that she took *but now,* *lately*
Full like a fierce lion, she sendeth here,
As meek as e'er was any lamb to owe.
And with that word anon there gan appear
An old manclad in white clothes clear
That had a book with letters of gold in hand
And gan before Valerian to stand.

Valerianas deadfell down for dread
When he him saw; and he up hent* him tho** *took **there
And on his book right thus he gan to read;
One Lord, one faith, one God withoute mo',
One Christendom, one Father of all also,
Aboven all, and over all everywhere.
These wordes all with gold y-written were.

When this was readthen said this olde man
Believ'st thou this or no? say yea or nay.
I believe all this,quoth Valerian
For soother* thing than this, I dare well say, *truer
Under the Heaven no wight thinke may.
Then vanish'd the old manhe wist not where
And Pope Urban him christened right there.

Valerian went homeand found Cecilie
Within his chamber with an angel stand;
This angel had of roses and of lily
Corones* twothe which he bare in hand*crowns

And first to Cecileas I understand
He gave the oneand after gan he take
The other to Valerian her make.* *matehusband
With body clean, and with unwemmed* thought,
Keep aye well these corones two,quoth he;
From Paradise to you I have them brought,
Nor ever more shall they rotten be,
Nor lose their sweet savour, truste me,
Nor ever wight shall see them with his eye,
But he be chaste, and hate villainy.
*unspotted, blameless
And thouValerianfor thou so soon
Assented hast to good counselalso

Say what thee list* and thou shalt have thy boon."** *wish **desire
I have a brother,quoth Valerian tho* *then
That in this world I love no man so;
I pray you that my brother may have grace
To know the truth, as I do in this place.

The angel saidGod liketh thy request,
And bothe, with the palm of martyrdom,
Ye shalle come unto this blissful rest.
Andwith that wordTiburce his brother came.
And when that he the savour undernome* *perceived
Which that the roses and the lilies cast
Within his heart he gan to wonder fast;

And said; "I wonderthis time of the year
Whence that sweete savour cometh so
Of rose and liliesthat I smelle here;
For though I had them in mine handes two
The savour might in me no deeper go;
The sweete smellthat in my heart I find
Hath changed me all in another kind."

Valerian saidTwo crownes here have we,
Snow-white and rose-red, that shine clear,
Which that thine eyen have no might to see;
And, as thou smellest them through my prayere,
So shalt thou see them, leve* brother dear, *beloved
If it so be thou wilt withoute sloth
Believe aright, and know the very troth.

Tiburce answeredSay'st thou this to me
In soothness, or in dreame hear I this?
In dreames,quoth Valorianhave we be
Unto this time, brother mine, y-wis
But now *at erst* in truth our dwelling is.*for the first time*
How know'st thou this quoth Tiburce; in what wise?"
Quoth ValerianThat shall I thee devise* *describe

The angel of God hath me the truth y-taught
Which thou shalt seeif that thou wilt reny* *renounce
The idolsand be cleanand elles nought."
[And of the miracle of these crownes tway
Saint Ambrose in his preface list to say;
Solemnely this noble doctor dear
Commendeth itand saith in this mannere

The palm of martyrdom for to receive,
Saint Cecilie, full filled of God's gift,
The world and eke her chamber gan to weive;* *forsake
Witness Tiburce's and Cecilie's shrift,* *confession

To which God of his bounty woulde shift
Corones two, of flowers well smelling,
And made his angel them the crownes bring.
The maid hath brought these men to bliss above;
The world hath wist what it is worthcertain
Devotion of chastity to love."] <10>
Then showed him Cecilie all open and plain
That idols all are but a thing in vain
For they be dumband thereto* they be deave;** *therefore **deaf
And charged him his idols for to leave.
Whoso that troweth* not this, a beast he is,*believeth
Quoth this Tiburceif that I shall not lie.
And she gan kiss his breast when she heard this
And was full glad he could the truth espy:
This day I take thee for mine ally.* *chosen friend
Saide this blissful faire maiden dear;
And after that she said as ye may hear.
Lo, right so as the love of Christ,quoth she
Made me thy brother's wife, right in that wise
Anon for mine ally here take I thee,
Since that thou wilt thine idoles despise.
Go with thy brother now and thee baptise,
And make thee clean, so that thou may'st behold
The angel's face, of which thy brother told.
Tiburce answer'dand saideBrother dear,
First tell me whither I shall, and to what man?
To whom?quoth hecome forth with goode cheer,
I will thee lead unto the Pope Urban.
To Urban? brother mine Valerian,
Quoth then Tiburce; "wilt thou me thither lead?
Me thinketh that it were a wondrous deed.
Meanest thou not that Urban,quoth he tho* *then
That is so often damned to be dead,
And wons* in halkes** always to and fro, *dwells **corners
And dare not ones putte forth his head?
Men should him brennen* in a fire so red, *burn
If he were found, or if men might him spy:
And us also, to bear him company.
And while we seeke that Divinity
That is y-hid in heaven privily
Algate* burnt in this world should we be." *nevertheless
To whom Cecilie answer'd boldely;
Men mighte dreade well and skilfully* *reasonably
This life to lose, mine owen deare brother,
If this were living only, and none other.
But there is better life in other place
That never shall be lostedread thee nought;
Which Godde's Son us tolde through his grace
That Father's Son which alle thinges wrought;
And all that wrought is with a skilful* thought*reasonable
The Ghost* that from the Father gan proceed*Holy Spirit

Hath souled* themwithouten any drede.** *endowed them with a soul

By word and by miraclehigh God's Son
When he was in this worlddeclared here.
That there is other life where men may won."* *dwell
To whom answer'd TiburceO sister dear,

Saidest thou not right now in this mannere,
There was but one God, Lord in soothfastness,* *truth
And now of three how may'st thou bear witness?
That shall I tell,quoth sheere that I go.
Right as a man hath sapiences* three, *mental faculties
Memory, engine,* and intellect also, *wit <11>
So in one being of divinity
Three persones there maye right well be.
Then gan she him full busily to preach
Of Christe's comingand his paines teach
And many pointes of his passion;
How Godde's Son in this world was withhold* *employed
To do mankinde plein* remission*full
That was y-bound in sin and cares cold.* *wretched <12>
All this thing she unto Tiburce told
And after that Tiburcein good intent
With Valerian to Pope Urban he went.
That thanked Godand with glad heart and light
He christen'd himand made him in that place
Perfect in his learningand Godde's knight.
And after this Tiburce got such grace
That every day he saw in time and space
Th' angel of Godand every manner boon* *requestfavour
That be God askedit was sped* full anon. *grantedsuccessful
It were full hard by order for to sayn
How many wonders Jesus for them wrought
But at the lastto telle short and plain
The sergeants of the town of Rome them sought
And them before Almach the Prefect brought
Which them apposed* and knew all their intent*questioned
And to th'image of Jupiter them sent.
And saidWhoso will not do sacrifice,
Swap* off his head, this is my sentence here.*strike
Anon these martyrs*that I you devise* *of whom I tell you*
One Maximusthat was an officere
Of the prefect'sand his corniculere <13>
Them hent* and when he forth the saintes lad** *seized **led
Himself he wept for pity that he had.
When Maximus had heard the saintes lore* *doctrineteaching
He got him of the tormentores* leave*torturers
And led them to his house withoute more;
And with their preachingere that it were eve

They gonnen* from the tormentors to reave** *began **wrestroot out
And from Maxim'and from his folk each one
The false faithto trow* in God alone. *believe
Cecilia camewhen it was waxen night

With priestesthat them christen'd *all in fere;* *in a company*
And afterwardwhen day was waxen light
Cecile them said with a full steadfast cheer* *mien
Now, Christe's owen knightes lefe* and dear, *beloved
Cast all away the workes of darkness,
And arme you in armour of brightness.

Ye have forsooth y-done a great battaile,
Your course is done, your faith have ye conserved; <14>
O to the crown of life that may not fail;
The rightful Judge, which that ye have served

Shall give it you, as ye have it deserved.
And when this thing was saidas I devise*
Men led them forth to do the sacrifice.

But when they were unto the place brought
To telle shortly the conclusion
They would incense nor sacrifice right nought
But on their knees they sette them adown
With humble heart and sad* devotion
And loste both their heades in the place;
Their soules wente to the King of grace.

This Maximusthat saw this thing betide
With piteous teares told it anon right
That he their soules saw to heaven glide
With angelsfull of clearness and of light
Andt with his word converted many a wight.
For which Almachius *did him to-beat*
With whip of leadtill he his life gan lete.*

Cecile him tookand buried him anon
By Tiburce and Valerian softely
Within their burying-placeunder the stone.
And after this Almachius hastily
Bade his ministers fetchen openly
Cecileso that she might in his presence
Do sacrificeand Jupiter incense.*

But theyconverted at her wise lore*
Wepte full soreand gave full credence
Unto her wordand cried more and more;
Christ, Godde's Son, withoute difference,
Is very God, this is all our sentence,*
That hath so good a servant him to serve
Thus with one voice we trowe,* though we sterve.**

Almachius, that heard of this doing,
Bade fetch Cecilie, that he might her see;
And alderfirst,* lo, this was his asking;
What manner woman arte thou?" quoth he
I am a gentle woman born,quoth she.
I aske thee,quoth hethough it thee grieve,
Of thy religion and of thy believe.

Ye have begun your question foolishly,
Quoth shethat wouldest two answers conclude
In one demand? ye aske lewedly.*
Almach answer'd to that similitude
Of whence comes thine answering so rude?
Of whence?quoth shewhen that she was freined*
Of conscience, and of good faith unfeigned.

Almachius saide; "Takest thou no heed
Of my power?" and she him answer'd this;
Your might,quoth shefull little is to dread;
For every mortal manne's power is
But like a bladder full of wind, y-wis;*
For with a needle's point, when it is blow',
May all the boast of it be laid full low.

Full wrongfully begunnest thou,quoth he
And yet in wrong is thy perseverance.
Know'st thou not how our mighty princes free
Have thus commanded and made ordinance,



*see note <15>*

*burn incense to

*believe **die

*first of all



That every Christian wight shall have penance,* *punishment
But if that he his Christendom withsay,* *deny
And go all quit, if he will it renay?* *renounce
Your princes erren, as your nobley* doth,*nobility
Quoth then Cecileand with a *wood sentence* *mad judgment*
Ye make us guilty, and it is not sooth:* *true
For ye that knowe well our innocence,
Forasmuch as we do aye reverence
To Christ, and for we bear a Christian name,
Ye put on us a crime and eke a blame.
But we that knowe thilke name so
For virtuouswe may it not withsay."
Almach answeredChoose one of these two,
Do sacrifice, or Christendom renay,
That thou may'st now escape by that way.
At which the holy blissful faire maid

Gan for to laughand to the judge said;

O judge, *confused in thy nicety,* *confounded in thy folly*
Wouldest thou that I reny innocence?
To make me a wicked wight,quoth she
Lo, he dissimuleth* here in audience; *dissembles
He stareth and woodeth* in his advertence.** *grows furious **thought
To whom Almachius saidUnsely* wretch, *unhappy
Knowest thou not how far my might may stretch?

Have not our mighty princes to me given
Yea bothe power and eke authority
To make folk to dien or to liven?
Why speakest thou so proudly then to me?"
I speake not but steadfastly,quoth she
Not proudlyfor I sayas for my side
We hate deadly* thilke vice of pride. *mortally

And, if thou dreade not a sooth* to hear, *truth
Then will I shew all openly by right,
That thou hast made a full great leasing* here. *falsehood
Thou say'st thy princes have thee given might
Both for to slay and for to quick* a wight, --*give life to
Thou that may'st not but only life bereave;
Thou hast none other power nor no leave.

But thou may'st saythy princes have thee maked
Minister of death; for if thou speak of mo'
Thou liest; for thy power is full naked."
Do away thy boldness,said Almachius tho* *then
And sacrifice to our gods, ere thou go.
I recke not what wrong that thou me proffer,
For I can suffer it as a philosopher.

But those wronges may I not endure
That thou speak'st of our goddes here quoth he.
Cecile answer'd, O nice* creature*foolish
Thou saidest no wordsince thou spake to me
That I knew not therewith thy nicety* *folly
And that thou wert in *every manner wise* *every sort of way*
A lewed* officera vain justice. *ignorant

There lacketh nothing to thine outward eyen
That thou art blind; for thing that we see all
That it is stone, that men may well espyen,
That ilke* stone a god thou wilt it call. *very, selfsame

I rede* thee let thine hand upon it fall, *advise
And taste* it well, and stone thou shalt it find; *examine, test
Since that thou see'st not with thine eyen blind.
It is a shame that the people shall
So scorne theeand laugh at thy folly;
For commonly men *wot it well over all* *know it everywhere*
That mighty God is in his heaven high;
And these imageswell may'st thou espy
To thee nor to themselves may not profite
For in effect they be not worth a mite."
These wordes and such others saide she
And he wax'd wrothand bade men should her lead
Home to her house; "And in her house quoth he,
Burn her right in a bathwith flames red."
And as he baderight so was done the deed;
For in a bath they gan her faste shetten* *shutconfine
And night and day great fire they under betten.* *kindledapplied
The longe nightand eke a day also
For all the fireand eke the bathe's heat
She sat all coldand felt of it no woe
It made her not one droppe for to sweat;
But in that bath her life she must lete.* *leave
For heAlmachiuswith full wick' intent
To slay her in the bath his sonde* sent. *messageorder
Three strokes in the neck he smote her tho* *there
The tormentor* but for no manner chance *executioner
He might not smite her faire neck in two:
Andfor there was that time an ordinance
That no man should do man such penance* *severitytorture
The fourthe stroke to smitesoft or sore
This tormentor he durste do no more;
But half deadwith her necke carven* there *gashed
He let her lieand on his way is went.
The Christian folkwhich that about her were
With sheetes have the blood full fair y-hent; *taken up
Three dayes lived she in this torment
And never ceased them the faith to teach
That she had foster'd themshe gan to preach.
And them she gave her mebles* and her thing*goods
And to the Pope Urban betook* them tho;** *commended **then
And saidI aske this of heaven's king,
To have respite three dayes and no mo',
To recommend to you, ere that I go,
These soules, lo; and that *I might do wirch* *cause to be made*
Here of mine house perpetually a church.
Saint Urbanwith his deaconsprivily
The body fetch'dand buried it by night
Among his other saintes honestly;
Her house the church of Saint Cecilie hight;* *is called
Saint Urban hallow'd itas he well might;
In which unto this dayin noble wise
Men do to Christ and to his saint service.
Notes to the Nun's Priest's Tale

1. This Tale was originally composed by Chaucer as a separate
workand as such it is mentioned in the "Legend of Good
Women" under the title of "The Life of Saint Cecile". Tyrwhitt
quotes the line in which the author calls himself an "unworthy
son of Eve and that in which he says, Yet pray I youthat
reade what I write"as internal evidence that the insertion of the
poem in the Canterbury Tales was the result of an afterthought;
while the whole tenor of the introduction confirms the belief
that Chaucer composed it as a writer or translator -- not
dramaticallyas a speaker. The story is almost literally
translated from the Life of St Cecilia in the "Legenda Aurea."
2. Leas: leashsnare; the same as "las oftener used by
3. The nativity and assumption of the Virgin Mary formed the
themes of some of St Bernard's most eloquent sermons.
4. Compare with this stanza the fourth stanza of the Prioress's
Tale, the substance of which is the same.
5. But he answered and saidit is not meet to take the
children's breadand cast it to dogs. And she saidTruthLord:
yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's
table." --Matthew xv. 2627.
6. See note 1.
7. These are Latin puns: Heaven's lily - "Coeli lilium"; The way
of blind - "Caeci via"; Heaven and Lia - from "Coeli"heaven
and "Ligo to bind; Heaven and Leos - from Coeli and Laos
(Ionian Greek) or Leos" (Attic Greek)the people. Such
punning derivations of proper names were very much in favour
in the Middle Ages. The explanations of St Cecilia's name are
literally taken from the prologue to the Latin legend.
8. This passage suggests Horace's description of the wise man
whoamong other thingsis "in se ipse totusteresatque
rotundus." ("complete in himselfpolished and rounded") --
Satires2vii. 80.
9. Louting: lingeringor lying concealed; the Latin original has
Inter sepulchra martyrum latiantem("hiding among the tombs
of martyrs")
10. The fourteen lines within brackets are supposed to have
been originally an interpolation in the Latin legendfrom which
they are literally translated. They awkwardly interrupt the flow
of the narration.
11. Engine: wit; the devising or constructive faculty; Latin
12. Cold: wretcheddistressful; see note 22 to the Nun's Priest's
13. Corniculere: The secretary or registrar who was charged
with publishing the actsdecrees and orders of the prefect.
14. "I have fought a good fightI have finished my courseI
have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown
of righteousness" -- 2 Tim. iv. 78.
15. Did him to-beat: Caused him to be cruelly or fatally beaten;

the force of the "to" is intensive.



WHEN ended was the life of Saint Cecile
Ere we had ridden fully five mile<2>
At Boughton-under-Blee us gan o'ertake
A manthat clothed was in clothes black
And underneath he wore a white surplice.
His hackenay* which was all pomely-gris** *nag **dapple-gray
So sweatedthat it wonder was to see;
It seem'd as he had pricked* miles three. *spurred
The horse eke that his yeoman rode upon
So sweatedthat unnethes* might he gon.** *hardly **go
About the peytrel <3> stood the foam full high;
He was of foamas *flecked as a pie.* *spotted like a magpie*
A maile twyfold <4> on his crupper lay;
It seemed that he carried little array;
All light for summer rode this worthy man.
And in my heart to wonder I began
What that he wastill that I understood
How that his cloak was sewed to his hood;
For whichwhen I had long advised* me*considered
I deemed him some Canon for to be.
His hat hung at his back down by a lace* *cord
For he had ridden more than trot or pace;
He hadde pricked like as he were wood.* *mad
A clote-leaf* he had laid under his hood* burdock-leaf
For sweatand for to keep his head from heat.
But it was joye for to see him sweat;
His forehead dropped as a stillatory* *still
Were full of plantain or of paritory.* *wallflower
And when that he was comehe gan to cry
God save,quoth hethis jolly company.
Fast have I pricked,quoth hefor your sake,
Because that I would you overtake,
To riden in this merry company.
His Yeoman was eke full of courtesy
And saideSirs, now in the morning tide
Out of your hostelry I saw you ride,
And warned here my lord and sovereign,
Which that to ride with you is full fain,
For his disport; he loveth dalliance.
Friend, for thy warning God give thee good chance,* *fortune
Said oure Host; "certain it woulde seem
Thy lord were wiseand so I may well deem;
He is full jocund alsodare I lay;
Can he aught tell a merry tale or tway
With which he gladden may this company?"
Who, Sir? my lord? Yea, Sir, withoute lie,
He can* of mirth and eke of jollity *knows
*Not but* enough; also, Sir, truste me, *not less than*
An* ye him knew all so well as do I, *if
Ye would wonder how well and craftily
He coulde work, and that in sundry wise.
He hath take on him many a great emprise,* *task, undertaking
Which were full hard for any that is here
To bring about, but* they of him it lear.** *unless **learn

As homely as he rides amonges you,
If ye him knew, it would be for your prow:* *advantage
Ye woulde not forego his acquaintance
For muche good, I dare lay in balance
All that I have in my possession.
He is a man of high discretion.
I warn you well, he is a passing* man.*surpassingextraordinary
Well quoth our Host, I pray thee tell me than

Is he a clerk* or no? Tell what he is." *scholarpriest
Nay, he is greater than a clerk, y-wis,* *certainly
Saide this Yeoman; "andin wordes few
Hostof his craft somewhat I will you shew
I saymy lord can* such a subtlety *knows
(But all his craft ye may not weet* of me*learn
And somewhat help I yet to his working)
That all the ground on which we be riding
Till that we come to Canterbury town
He could all cleane turnen up so down
And pave it all of silver and of gold."
And when this Yeoman had this tale told
Unto our Hosthe said; "Ben'dicite!
This thing is wonder marvellous to me
Since that thy lord is of so high prudence
Because of which men should him reverence
That of his worship* recketh he so lite;** *honour **little
His *overest slop* it is not worth a mite *upper garment*
As in effect to himso may I go;
It is all baudy* and to-tore also. *slovenly
Why is thy lord so sluttishI thee pray
And is of power better clothes to bey* *buy
If that his deed accordeth with thy speech?
Telle me thatand that I thee beseech."
Why?quoth this Yeomanwhereto ask ye me?
God help me so, for he shall never the* *thrive
(But I will not avowe* that I say, *admit
And therefore keep it secret, I you pray);
He is too wise, in faith, as I believe.
Thing that is overdone, it will not preve* *stand the test
Aright, as clerkes say; it is a vice;
Wherefore in that I hold him *lewd and nice.* *ignorant and foolish*
For when a man hath over great a wit
Full oft him happens to misusen it;
So doth my lordand that me grieveth sore.
God it amend; I can say now no more."

Thereof *no force,* good Yeoman, quoth our Host; *no matter*
Since of the conning* of thy lord, thou know'st, *knowledge
Tell how he doth, I pray thee heartily,
Since that be is so crafty and so sly.* *wise
Where dwelle ye, if it to telle be?
In the suburbes of a town,quoth he
Lurking in hernes* and in lanes blind, *corners
Where as these robbers and these thieves by kind* *nature
Holde their privy fearful residence,
As they that dare not show their presence,
So fare we, if I shall say the soothe.* *truth
Yet,quoth our Hostelet me talke to thee;
Why art thou so discolour'd of thy face?
Peter!quoth heGod give it harde grace,
I am so us'd the hote fire to blow,
That it hath changed my colour, I trow;
I am not wont in no mirror to pry,
But swinke* sore, and learn to multiply. <5> *labour

We blunder* ever, and poren** in the fire, *toil **peer
And, for all that, we fail of our desire
For ever we lack our conclusion
To muche folk we do illusion,
And borrow gold, be it a pound or two,
Or ten or twelve, or many summes mo',
And make them weenen,* at the leaste way, *fancy
That of a pounde we can make tway.
Yet is it false; and aye we have good hope
It for to do, and after it we grope:* *search, strive
But that science is so far us beforn,
That we may not, although we had it sworn,
It overtake, it slides away so fast;
It will us make beggars at the last.
While this Yeoman was thus in his talking
This Canon drew him nearand heard all thing
Which this Yeoman spakefor suspicion
Of menne's speech ever had this Canon:
For Cato saiththat he that guilty is<6>
Deemeth all things be spoken of him y-wis;* *surely
Because of that he gan so nigh to draw
To his Yeomanthat he heard all his saw;
And thus he said unto his Yeoman tho* *then
Hold thou thy peace,and speak no wordes mo':
For if thou do, thou shalt *it dear abie.* *pay dearly for it*
Thou slanderest me here in this company
And eke discoverest that thou shouldest hide.
Yea,quoth our Hosttell on, whatso betide;
Of all his threatening reck not a mite.
In faith,quoth heno more do I but lite.* *little
And when this Canon saw it would not be
But his Yeoman would tell his privity* *secrets
He fled away for very sorrow and shame.
Ah!quoth the Yeomanhere shall rise a game;* *some diversion
All that I can anon I will you tell,
Since he is gone; the foule fiend him quell!* *destroy
For ne'er hereafter will I with him meet,
For penny nor for pound, I you behete.* *promise
He that me broughte first unto that game,
Ere that he die, sorrow have he and shame.
For it is earnest* to me, by my faith; *a serious matter
That feel I well, what so any man saith;
And yet for all my smart, and all my grief,
For all my sorrow, labour, and mischief,* *trouble
I coulde never leave it in no wise.
Now would to God my witte might suffice
To tellen all that longeth to that art!
But natheless yet will I telle part;
Since that my lord is gone, I will not spare;
Such thing as that I know, I will declare.

Notes to the Prologue to the Canon's Yeoman's Tale

1. "The introduction says Tyrwhitt, of the Canon's
Yeoman to tell a Tale at a time when so many of the original
characters remain to be called uponappears a little
extraordinary. It should seem that some sudden resentment
had determined Chaucer to interrupt the regular course of his
workin order to insert a satire against the alchemists. That
their pretended science was much cultivated about this time
and produced its usual evilsmay fairly be inferred from the

Actwhich was passed soon after5 H. IV. c. make it
felony 'to multiply gold or silveror to use the art of
multiplication.'" Tyrwhitt finds in the prologue some colour
for the hypothesis that this Tale was intended by Chaucer to
begin the return journey from Canterbury; but against this
must be set the fact that the Yeoman himself expressly speaks
of the distance to Canterbury yet to be ridden.

2. Fully five mile: From some place which the loss of the
Second Nun's Prologue does not enable us to identify.
3. Peytrel: the breast-plate of a horse's harness; French
4. A maile twyfold: a double valise; a wallet hanging across
the crupper on either side of the horse.
5. Multiply: transmute metalsin the attempt to multiply gold
and silver by alchemy.
6. "Conscius ipse sibi de se putat omnia dici" ("The
conspirator believes that everything spoken refers to himself")
-- "De Moribus I. i. dist. 17.

With this Canon I dwelt have seven year,
And of his science am I ne'er the near* *nearer
All that I had I have lost thereby,
And, God wot, so have many more than I.
Where I was wont to be right fresh and gay
Of clothing, and of other good array
Now may I wear an hose upon mine head;
And where my colour was both fresh and red,
Now is it wan, and of a leaden hue
(Whoso it useth, sore shall he it rue);
And of my swink* yet bleared is mine eye; *labour
Lo what advantage is to multiply!
That sliding* science hath me made so bare, *slippery, deceptive
That I have no good,* where that ever I fare; *property
And yet I am indebted so thereby
Of gold, that I have borrow'd truely,
That, while I live, I shall it quite* never; *repay
Let every man beware by me for ever.
What manner man that casteth* him thereto, *betaketh
If he continue, I hold *his thrift y-do;* *prosperity at an end*
So help me God, thereby shall he not win,
But empty his purse, and make his wittes thin.
And when he, through his madness and folly,
Hath lost his owen good through jupartie,* *hazard <2>
Then he exciteth other men thereto,
To lose their good as he himself hath do'.
For unto shrewes* joy it is and ease *wicked folk
To have their fellows in pain and disease.* *trouble
Thus was I ones learned of a clerk;
Of that no charge;* I will speak of our work. *matter
When we be there as we shall exercise
Our elvish* craft, we seeme wonder wise, *fantastic, wicked
Our termes be so *clergial and quaint.* *learned and strange
I blow the fire till that mine hearte faint.
Why should I tellen each proportion

Of thinges, whiche that we work upon,
As on five or six ounces, may well be,
Of silver, or some other quantity?
And busy me to telle you the names,
As orpiment, burnt bones, iron squames,*
That into powder grounden be full small?
And in an earthen pot how put is all,
And, salt y-put in, and also peppere,
Before these powders that I speak of here,
And well y-cover'd with a lamp of glass?
And of much other thing which that there was?
And of the pots and glasses engluting,*
That of the air might passen out no thing?
And of the easy* fire, and smart** also,
Which that was made? and of the care and woe
That we had in our matters subliming,
And in amalgaming, and calcining
Of quicksilver, called mercury crude?
For all our sleightes we can not conclude.
Our orpiment, and sublim'd mercury,
Our ground litharge* eke on the porphyry,
Of each of these of ounces a certain,*
Not helpeth us, our labour is in vain.
Nor neither our spirits' ascensioun,
Nor our matters that lie all fix'd adown,
May in our working nothing us avail;
For lost is all our labour and travail,
And all the cost, a twenty devil way,
Is lost also, which we upon it lay.

There is also full many another thing
That is unto our craft appertaining,
Though I by order them not rehearse can,
Because that I am a lewed* man;
Yet will I tell them as they come to mind,
Although I cannot set them in their kind,
As sal-armoniac, verdigris, borace;
And sundry vessels made of earth and glass; <4>
Our urinales, and our descensories,
Phials, and croslets, and sublimatories,
Cucurbites, and alembikes eke,
And other suche, *dear enough a leek,*
It needeth not for to rehearse them all.
Waters rubifying, and bulles' gall,
Arsenic, sal-armoniac, and brimstone,
And herbes could I tell eke many a one,
As egremoine,* valerian, and lunary,**
And other such, if that me list to tarry;
Our lampes burning bothe night and day,
To bring about our craft if that we may;
Our furnace eke of calcination,
And of waters albification,
Unslaked lime, chalk, and *glair of an ey,*
Powders diverse, ashes, dung, piss, and clay,
Seared pokettes,<5> saltpetre, and vitriol;
And divers fires made of wood and coal;
Sal-tartar, alkali, salt preparate,
And combust matters, and coagulate;
Clay made with horse and manne's hair, and oil
Of tartar, alum, glass, barm, wort, argoil,*
Rosalgar,* and other matters imbibing;
And eke of our matters encorporing,*
And of our silver citrination, <7>
Our cementing, and fermentation,

*scales <3>

*sealing up

*slow **quick

*white lead
*certain proportion


*worth less than a leek*

*agrimony **moon-wort


*potter's clay<6>
*flowers of antimony

Our ingots,* tests, and many thinges mo'. *moulds <8>
I will you tell, as was me taught also,
The foure spirits, and the bodies seven,
By order, as oft I heard my lord them neven.* *name
The first spirit Quicksilver called is;
The second Orpiment; the third, y-wis,
Sal-Armoniac, and the fourth Brimstone.
The bodies sev'n eke, lo them here anon.
Sol gold is, and Luna silver we threpe* *name <9>
Mars iron, Mercury quicksilver we clepe;* *call
Saturnus lead, and Jupiter is tin,
And Venus copper, by my father's kin.
This cursed craft whoso will exercise,
He shall no good have that him may suffice;
For all the good he spendeth thereabout,
He lose shall, thereof have I no doubt.
Whoso that list to utter* his folly, *display
Let him come forth and learn to multiply:
And every man that hath aught in his coffer,
Let him appear, and wax a philosopher;
Ascaunce* that craft is so light to lear.** *as if **learn
Nay, nay, God wot, all be he monk or frere,
Priest or canon, or any other wight;
Though he sit at his book both day and night;
In learning of this *elvish nice* lore, * fantastic, foolish
All is in vain; and pardie muche more,
Is to learn a lew'd* man this subtlety; *ignorant
Fie! speak not thereof, for it will not be.
And *conne he letterure,* or conne he none, *if he knows learning*
As in effect, he shall it find all one;
For bothe two, by my salvation,
Concluden in multiplication* *transmutation by alchemy
Alike well, when they have all y-do;
This is to say, they faile bothe two.
Yet forgot I to make rehearsale
Of waters corrosive, and of limaile,* *metal filings
And of bodies' mollification,
And also of their induration,
Oiles, ablutions, metal fusible,
To tellen all, would passen any Bible
That owhere* is; wherefore, as for the best, *anywhere
Of all these names now will I me rest;
For, as I trow, I have you told enough
To raise a fiend, all look he ne'er so rough.
Ah! nay, let be; the philosopher's stone,
Elixir call'd, we seeke fast each one;
For had we him, then were we sicker* enow; *secure
But unto God of heaven I make avow,* *confession
For all our craft, when we have all y-do,
And all our sleight, he will not come us to.
He hath y-made us spende muche good,
For sorrow of which almost we waxed wood,* *mad
But that good hope creeped in our heart,
Supposing ever, though we sore smart,
To be relieved by him afterward.
Such supposing and hope is sharp and hard.
I warn you well it is to seeken ever.
That future temps* hath made men dissever,** *time **part from
In trust thereof, from all that ever they had,
Yet of that art they cannot waxe sad,* *repentant
For unto them it is a bitter sweet;
So seemeth it; for had they but a sheet

Which that they mighte wrap them in at night,
And a bratt* to walk in by dayelight, *cloak<10>
They would them sell, and spend it on this craft;
They cannot stint,* until no thing be laft. *cease
And evermore, wherever that they gon,
Men may them knowe by smell of brimstone;
For all the world they stinken as a goat;
Their savour is so rammish and so hot,
That though a man a mile from them be,
The savour will infect him, truste me.
Lo, thus by smelling and threadbare array,
If that men list, this folk they knowe may.
And if a man will ask them privily,
Why they be clothed so unthriftily,* *shabbily
They right anon will rownen* in his ear, *whisper
And sayen, if that they espied were,
Men would them slay, because of their science:

Lo, thus these folk betrayen innocence!

Pass over this; I go my tale unto.
Ere that the pot be on the fire y-do*
Of metals, with a certain quantity
My lord them tempers,* and no man but he
(Now he is gone, I dare say boldely);
For as men say, he can do craftily,
Algate* I wot well he hath such a name,
And yet full oft he runneth into blame;
And know ye how? full oft it happ'neth so,
The pot to-breaks, and farewell! all is go'.*
These metals be of so great violence,
Our walles may not make them resistence,
*But if* they were wrought of lime and stone;

*adjusts the proportions

They pierce so, that through the wall they gon;
And some of them sink down into the ground
(Thus have we lost by times many a pound),
And some are scatter'd all the floor about;
Some leap into the roof withoute doubt.
Though that the fiend not in our sight him show,
I trowe that he be with us, that shrew;*
In helle, where that he is lord and sire,
Is there no more woe, rancour, nor ire.
When that our pot is broke, as I have said,
Every man chides, and holds him *evil apaid.*
Some said it was *long on* the fire-making;
Some saide nay, it was on the blowing
(Then was I fear'd, for that was mine office);


*impious wretch

*because of <11>*

Straw!" quoth the thirdye be *lewed and **nice, *ignorant **foolish
It was not temper'd* as it ought to be.*mixed in due proportions

Nay,quoth the fourthestint* and hearken me; *stop
Because our fire was not y-made of beech,
That is the cause, and other none, *so the'ch.* *so may I thrive*
I cannot tell whereon it was along,
But well I wot great strife is us among.
What?quoth my lordthere is no more to do'n,
Of these perils I will beware eftsoon.* *another time
I am right sicker* that the pot was crazed.** *sure **cracked
Be as be may, be ye no thing amazed.* *confounded
As usage is, let sweep the floor as swithe;* *quickly
Pluck up your heartes and be glad and blithe.
The mullok* on a heap y-sweeped was*rubbish
And on the floor y-cast a canevas
And all this mullok in a sieve y-throw
And siftedand y-picked many a throw.* *time

Pardie,quoth onesomewhat of our metal
Yet is there here, though that we have not all.
And though this thing *mishapped hath as now,* *has gone amiss
Another time it may be well enow. at present*
We muste *put our good in adventure; * *risk our property*
A merchant, pardie, may not aye endure,
Truste me well, in his prosperity:
Sometimes his good is drenched* in the sea, *drowned, sunk
And sometimes comes it safe unto the land.
Peace,quoth my lord; "the next time I will fand* *endeavour

To bring our craft *all in another plight* *to a different conclusion*

And but I doSirslet me have the wite;* *blame
There was default in somewhatwell I wot."
Another saidthe fire was over hot.
But be it hot or coldI dare say this
That we concluden evermore amiss;
We fail alway of that which we would have;
And in our madness evermore we rave.
And when we be together every one
Every man seemeth a Solomon.
But all thingwhich that shineth as the gold
It is not goldas I have heard it told;
Nor every apple that is fair at eye
It is not goodwhat so men clap* or cry. *assert
Right solofareth it amonges us.
He that the wisest seemethby Jesus
Is most foolwhen it cometh to the prefe;* *prooftest
And he that seemeth truestis a thief.
That shall ye knowere that I from you wend;
By that I of my tale have made an end.
There was a canon of religioun
Amonges uswould infect* all a town*deceive
Though it as great were as was Nineveh
RomeAlisandre* Troyor other three. *Alexandria
His sleightes* and his infinite falseness *cunning tricks
There coulde no man writenas I guess
Though that he mighte live a thousand year;
In all this world of falseness n'is* his peer. *there is not
For in his termes he will him so wind
And speak his wordes in so sly a kind
When he commune shall with any wight
That he will make him doat* anon aright*become foolishly
But it a fiende beas himself is. fond of him*
Full many a man hath he beguil'd ere this
And willif that he may live any while;
And yet men go and ride many a mile
Him for to seekand have his acquaintance
Not knowing of his false governance.* *deceitful conduct
And if you list to give me audience
I will it telle here in your presence.
Butworshipful canons religious
Ne deeme not that I slander your house
Although that my tale of a canon be.
Of every order some shrew ispardie;
And God forbid that all a company
Should rue a singular* manne's folly. *individual
To slander you is no thing mine intent;
But to correct that is amiss I meant.
This tale was not only told for you
But eke for other more; ye wot well how
That amonges Christe's apostles twelve
There was no traitor but Judas himselve;
Then why should all the remenant have blame

That guiltless were? By you I say the same.
Save only thisif ye will hearken me
If any Judas in your convent be
Remove him betimesI you rede*
If shame or loss may causen any dread.
And be no thing displeasedI you pray;
But in this case hearken what I say.

In London was a priestan annualere<12>
That therein dwelled hadde many a year
Which was so pleasant and so serviceable
Unto the wifewhere as he was at table
That she would suffer him no thing to pay
For board nor clothingwent he ne'er so gay;
And spending silver had he right enow;
Thereof no force;* will proceed as now
And telle forth my tale of the canon
That brought this prieste to confusion.
This false canon came upon a day
Unto the prieste's chamberwhere he lay
Beseeching him to lend him a certain
Of goldand he would quit it him again.
Lend me a mark,quoth hebut dayes three,
And at my day I will it quite thee.
And if it so be that thou find me false,
Another day hang me up by the halse.*
This priest him took a markand that as swithe*
And this canon him thanked often sithe*
And took his leaveand wente forth his way;
And at the thirde day brought his money;
And to the priest he took his gold again
Whereof this priest was wondrous glad and fain.*
Certes,quoth he*"nothing annoyeth me*
To lend a man a nobleor twoor three
Or what thing were in my possession
When he so true is of condition
That in no wise he breake will his day;
To such a man I never can say nay."
What,quoth this canonshould I be untrue?


*no matter


*I am not unwiling*

Nay, that were *thing y-fallen all of new!* *a new thing to happen*
Truth is a thing that I will ever keep,
Unto the day in which that I shall creep
Into my grave; and elles God forbid;
Believe this as sicker* as your creed. *sure
God thank I, and in good time be it said,
That there was never man yet *evil apaid* *displeased, dissatisfied*
For gold nor silver that he to me lent,
Nor ever falsehood in mine heart I meant.
And Sir,quoth henow of my privity,
Since ye so goodly have been unto me,
And kithed* to me so great gentleness, *shown
Somewhat, to quite with your kindeness,
I will you shew, and if you list to lear,* *learn
I will you teache plainly the mannere
How I can worken in philosophy.
Take good heed, ye shall well see *at eye* *with your own eye*
That I will do a mas'try ere I go.
Yea,quoth the priest; "yeaSirand will ye so?
Mary! thereof I pray you heartily."
At your commandement, Sir, truely,
Quoth the canonand elles God forbid.
Lohow this thiefe could his service bede!* *offer

Full sooth it is that such proffer'd service

Stinkethas witnesse *these olde wise;* *those wise folk of old*
And that full soon I will it verify
In this canonroot of all treachery
That evermore delight had and gladness
(Such fiendly thoughtes *in his heart impress*) *press into his heart*
How Christe's people he may to mischief bring.
God keep us from his false dissimuling!
What wiste this priest with whom that he dealt?
Nor of his harm coming he nothing felt.
O sely* priestO sely innocent! *simple
With covetise anon thou shalt be blent;* *blinded; beguiled
O gracelessfull blind is thy conceit!
For nothing art thou ware of the deceit
Which that this fox y-shapen* hath to thee; *contrived
His wily wrenches* thou not mayest flee. *snares
Whereforeto go to the conclusioun
That referreth to thy confusion
Unhappy mananon I will me hie* *hasten
To telle thine unwit* and thy folly*stupidity
And eke the falseness of that other wretch
As farforth as that my conning* will stretch. *knowledge
This canon was my lordye woulde ween;* *imagine
Sir Hostin faithand by the heaven's queen
It was another canonand not he
That can* an hundred fold more subtlety. *knows
He hath betrayed folkes many a time;
Of his falseness it doleth* me to rhyme. *paineth
And everwhen I speak of his falsehead
For shame of him my cheekes waxe red;
Algates* they beginne for to glow*at least
For redness have I noneright well I know
In my visage; for fumes diverse
Of metalswhich ye have me heard rehearse
Consumed have and wasted my redness.
Now take heed of this canon's cursedness.* *villainy

Sir,quoth he to the priestlet your man gon
For quicksilver, that we it had anon;
And let him bringen ounces two or three;
And when he comes, as faste shall ye see
A wondrous thing, which ye saw ne'er ere this.
Sir,quoth the priestit shall be done, y-wis.* *certainly
He bade his servant fetche him this thing
And he all ready was at his bidding
And went him forthand came anon again
With this quicksilvershortly for to sayn;
And took these ounces three to the canoun;
And he them laide well and fair adown
And bade the servant coales for to bring
That he anon might go to his working.
The coales right anon weren y-fet* *fetched
And this canon y-took a crosselet* *crucible
Out of his bosomand shew'd to the priest.
This instrument,quoth hewhich that thou seest,
Take in thine hand, and put thyself therein
Of this quicksilver an ounce, and here begin,
In the name of Christ, to wax a philosopher.
There be full few, which that I woulde proffer
To shewe them thus much of my science;
For here shall ye see by experience
That this quicksilver I will mortify,<13>
Right in your sight anon withoute lie,
And make it as good silver, and as fine,
As there is any in your purse, or mine,

Or elleswhere; and make it malleable,
And elles holde me false and unable
Amonge folk for ever to appear.
I have a powder here that cost me dear,
Shall make all good, for it is cause of all
My conning,* which that I you shewe shall. *knowledge
Voide* your man, and let him be thereout; *send away
And shut the doore, while we be about
Our privity, that no man us espy,
While that we work in this phiosophy.
Allas he badefulfilled was in deed.
This ilke servant right anon out yede* *went
And his master y-shut the door anon
And to their labour speedily they gon.
This priestat this cursed canon's biddIng
Upon the fire anon he set this thing
And blew the fireand busied him full fast.
And this canon into the croslet cast
A powderI know not whereof it was
Y-madeeither of chalkeither of glass
Or somewhat elleswas not worth a fly
To blinden* with this priest; and bade him hie** *deceive **make haste

The coales for to couchen* all above lay in order
The croslet; "forin token I thee love
Quoth this canon, thine owen handes two
Shall work all thing that here shall be do'."
*"Grand mercy* quoth the priest, and was full glad, *great thanks*
And couch'd the coales as the canon bade.
And while he busy was, this fiendly wretch,
This false canon (the foule fiend him fetch),
Out of his bosom took a beechen coal,
In which full subtifly was made a hole,
And therein put was of silver limaile* *filings
An ounce, and stopped was withoute fail
The hole with wax, to keep the limaile in.
And understande, that this false gin* *contrivance
Was not made there, but it was made before;
And other thinges I shall tell you more,
Hereafterward, which that he with him brought;
Ere he came there, him to beguile he thought,
And so he did, ere that they *went atwin;* *separated*
Till he had turned him, could he not blin.* *cease <14>
It doleth* me, when that I of him speak; *paineth
On his falsehood fain would I me awreak,* *revenge myself
If I wist how, but he is here and there;
He is so variant,* he abides nowhere. *changeable
But take heed, Sirs, now for Godde's love.
He took his coal, of which I spake above,
And in his hand he bare it privily,
And while the prieste couched busily
The coales, as I tolde you ere this,
This canon saide, Friendye do amiss;
This is not couched as it ought to be
But soon I shall amenden it quoth he.
Now let me meddle therewith but a while
For of you have I pityby Saint Gile.
Ye be right hotI see well how ye sweat;
Have here a clothand wipe away the wet."
And while that the prieste wip'd his face
This canon took his coal-- *with sorry grace* --*evil fortune
And layed it above on the midward attend him!*
Of the crosletand blew well afterward

Till that the coals beganne fast to brenn.* *burn
Now give us drinke,quoth this canon then
And swithe* all shall be well, I undertake. *quickly
Sitte we down, and let us merry make.
And whenne that this canon's beechen coal
Was burntall the limaile out of the hole
Into the crosselet anon fell down;
And so it muste needesby reasoun
Since it above so *even couched* was; *exactly laid*
But thereof wist the priest no thingalas!
He deemed all the coals alike good
For of the sleight he nothing understood.
And when this alchemister saw his time
Rise up, Sir Priest,quoth heand stand by me;

And, for I wot well ingot* have ye none;
Go, walke forth, and bring me a chalk stone;
For I will make it of the same shape
That is an ingot, if I may have hap.
Bring eke with you a bowl, or else a pan,
Full of water, and ye shall well see than*
How that our business shall *hap and preve*
And yet, for ye shall have no misbelieve*
Nor wrong conceit of me, in your absence,
I wille not be out of your presence,
But go with you, and come with you again.
The chamber-dooreshortly for to sayn
They opened and shutand went their way
And forth with them they carried the key;
And came again without any delay.
Why should I tarry all the longe day?
He took the chalkand shap'd it in the wise
Of an ingotas I shall you devise;*
I sayhe took out of his owen sleeve
A teine* of silver (evil may he cheve!**)
Which that ne was but a just ounce of weight.
And take heed now of his cursed sleight;
He shap'd his ingotin length and in brede*
Of this teinewithouten any drede*
So slilythat the priest it not espied;
And in his sleeve again he gan it hide;
And from the fire he took up his mattere
And in th' ingot put it with merry cheer;
And in the water-vessel he it cast
When that him listand bade the priest as fast






*little piece **prosper


Look what there is; "Put in thine hand and grope;
There shalt thou finde silveras I hope."
Whatdevil of helle! should it elles be?
Shaving of silversilver ispardie.
He put his hand inand took up a teine
Of silver fine; and glad in every vein
Was this priestwhen he saw that it was so.
Godde's blessing, and his mother's also,
And alle hallows,* have ye, Sir Canon!*saints
Saide this priestand I their malison* *curse
But, an'* ye vouchesafe to teache me *if
This noble craft and this subtility,
I will be yours in all that ever I may.
Quoth the canonYet will I make assay
The second time, that ye may take heed,
And be expert of this, and, in your need,
Another day assay in mine absence
This discipline, and this crafty science.
Let take another ounce,quoth he tho* *then

Of quicksilver, withoute wordes mo',
And do therewith as ye have done ere this
With that other, which that now silver is.

The priest him busiedall that e'er he can
To do as this canonthis cursed man
Commanded himand fast he blew the fire
For to come to th' effect of his desire.
And this canon right in the meanewhile
All ready was this priest eft* to beguile
andfor a countenance* in his hande bare
An hollow sticke (take keep* and beware);
Of silver limaile put wasas before
Was in his coaland stopped with wax well
For to keep in his limaile every deal.*
And while this priest was in his business
This canon with his sticke gan him dress*
To him anonand his powder cast in
As he did erst (the devil out of his skin
Him turnI pray to Godfor his falsehead
For he was ever false in thought and deed)
And with his stickabove the crosselet
That was ordained* with that false get**
He stirr'd the coalestill relente gan
The wax against the fireas every man
But he a fool beknows well it must need.
And all that in the sticke was out yede*
And in the croslet hastily* it fell.
Nowgoode Sirswhat will ye bet* than well?
When that this priest was thus beguil'd again
Supposing naught but truthesooth to sayn
He was so gladthat I can not express
In no mannere his mirth and his gladness;
And to the canon he proffer'd eftsoon*
Body and good. "Yea quoth the canon soon,
Though poor I becrafty* thou shalt me find;
I warn thee wellyet is there more behind.
Is any copper here within?" said he.
Yea, Sir,the prieste saidI trow there be.
Elles go buy us some, and that as swithe.*
Now, goode Sir, go forth thy way and hie* thee.
He went his wayand with the copper came
And this canon it in his handes name*
And of that copper weighed out an ounce.
Too simple is my tongue to pronounce
As minister of my witthe doubleness
Of this canonroot of all cursedness.
He friendly seem'd to them that knew him not;
But he was fiendlyboth in work and thought.
It wearieth me to tell of his falseness;
And natheless yet will I it express
To that intent men may beware thereby
And for none other cause truely.
He put this copper in the crosselet
And on the fire as swithe* he hath it set
And cast in powderand made the priest to blow
And in his working for to stoope low
As he did erst* and all was but a jape;**
Right as him list the priest *he made his ape.*
And afterward in the ingot he it cast
And in the pan he put it at the last
Of waterand in he put his own hand;
And in his sleeveas ye beforehand
Hearde me tellhe had a silver teine;*




*provided **contrivance


*forthwith; again



*took <15>


*before **trick
*befooled him*

*small piece

He silly took it outthis cursed heine* *wretch
(Unweeting* this priest of his false craft)*unsuspecting
And in the panne's bottom he it laft* *left
And in the water rumbleth to and fro
And wondrous privily took up also
The copper teine (not knowing thilke priest)
And hid itand him hente* by the breast*took
And to him spakeand thus said in his game;
Stoop now adown; by God, ye be to blame;
Helpe me now, as I did you whilere;* *before
Put in your hand, and looke what is there.

This priest took up this silver teine anon;
And thenne said the canonLet us gon,
With these three teines which that we have wrought,

To some goldsmith, and *weet if they be aught:* *find out if they are
For, by my faith, I would not for my hood worth anything*
*But if* they were silver fine and good, *unless
And that as swithe* well proved shall it be.*quickly
Unto the goldsmith with these teines three
They went anonand put them in assay* *proof
To fire and hammer; might no man say nay
But that they weren as they ought to be.
This sotted* priestwho gladder was than he? *stupidbesotted
Was never bird gladder against the day;
Nor nightingale in the season of May
Was never nonethat better list to sing;
Nor lady lustier in carolling
Or for to speak of love and womanhead;
Nor knight in arms to do a hardy deed
To standen in grace of his lady dear
Than had this priest this crafte for to lear;
And to the canon thus he spake and said;
For love of God, that for us alle died,
And as I may deserve it unto you,
What shall this receipt coste? tell me now.
By our Lady,quoth this canonit is dear.
I warn you well, that, save I and a frere,
In Engleland there can no man it make.

*"No force* quoth he; nowSirfor Godde's sake*no matter
What shall I pay? telle meI you pray."
Y-wis,* quoth heit is full dear, I say. *certainly
Sir, at one word, if that you list it have,
Ye shall pay forty pound, so God me save;
And n'ere* the friendship that ye did ere this *were it not for
To me, ye shoulde paye more, y-wis.
This priest the sum of forty pound anon
Of nobles fet* and took them every one *fetched
To this canonfor this ilke receipt.
All his working was but fraud and deceit.
Sir Priest,he saidI keep* to have no los** *care **praise <16>
Of my craft, for I would it were kept close;
And as ye love me, keep it secre:
For if men knewen all my subtlety,
By God, they woulde have so great envy
To me, because of my philosophy,
I should be dead, there were no other way.
God it forbid,quoth the priestwhat ye say.
Yet had I lever* spenden all the good *rather
Which that I have (and elles were I wood*), *mad
Than that ye shoulde fall in such mischief.

For your good will, Sir, have ye right good prefe,* *results of your
Quoth the canon; "and farewellgrand mercy." *experiments*
He went his wayand never the priest him sey * *saw

After that day; and when that this priest should
Maken assayat such time as he would
Of this receiptfarewell! it would not be.
Lothus bejaped* and beguil'd was he;
Thus made he his introduction
To bringe folk to their destruction.

ConsiderSirshow that in each estate
Betwixte men and gold there is debate
So farforth that *unnethes is there none.*
This multiplying blint* so many a one
That in good faith I trowe that it be
The cause greatest of such scarcity.
These philosophers speak so mistily
In this craftthat men cannot come thereby
For any wit that men have how-a-days.
They may well chatteras do these jays
And in their termes set their *lust and pain*
But to their purpose shall they ne'er attain.
A man may lightly* learnif he have aught
To multiplyand bring his good to naught.
Losuch a lucre* is in this lusty** game;
A manne's mirth it will turn all to grame*
And empty also great and heavy purses
And make folke for to purchase curses
Of them that have thereto their good y-lent.
Ohfy for shame! they that have been brent*
Alas! can they not flee the fire's heat?
Ye that it useI rede* that ye it lete**
Lest ye lose all; for better than never is late;
Never to thrivewere too long a date.
Though ye prowl ayeye shall it never find;
Ye be as bold as is Bayard the blind
That blunders forthand *peril casteth none;*
He is as bold to run against a stone
As for to go beside it in the way:
So fare ye that multiplyI say.
If that your eyen cannot see aright
Look that your minde lacke not his sight.
For though you look never so broadand stare
Ye shall not win a mite on that chaffare*
But wasten all that ye may *rape and renn.*
Withdraw the firelest it too faste brenn;*
Meddle no more with that artI mean;
For if ye doyour thrift* is gone full clean.
And right as swithe* I will you telle here
What philosophers say in this mattere.