The canterbury tales, p.21
The Canterbury Tales,
And hende Nicholas and Alisoun
Acorded been to this conclusioun3402,
That Nicholas shal shapen hem a wile3403
This sely3404 jalous housbonde to bigile.
3405 And if so be the game wente aright,
She sholde slepen in his arm al night;
For this was hir desir and his also.
And right anoon, withouten wordes mo,
This Nicholas no lenger wolde tarye,
3410 But doth ful softe3410 unto his chambre carye
Bothe mete and drinke for a day or tweye;
And to hir housbonde bad hir for to seye,
If that he axed after Nicholas,
She sholde seye she niste3414 wher he was;
3415 Of al that day she seigh him noght with eye.
She trowed3416 that he was in maladye,
For for no cry hir maide koude him calle;
He nolde answere, for thing that mighte falle3418.
This passeth forth3419 al thilke Saterday,
3420 That Nicholas stille3420 in his chambre lay,
And eet and sleep3421, or dide what him leste,
Til Sonday, that the sonne gooth to reste.
3423This sely carpenter hath greet mervaille
Of Nicholas, or what thing mighte him aille,
3425 And seide, ‘I am adrad3425, by Seint Thomas,
It stondeth nat aright3426 with Nicholas.
God shilde3427 that he deide sodeinly!
This world is now ful tikel3428 sikerly;
I saugh today a corps yborn to chirche
3430 That now, a Monday last, I saugh him wirche3430.
Go up,’ quod he unto his knave3431 anoon,
‘Clepe3432 at his dore, or knokke with a stoon.
Loke how it is, and tel me boldely.’
This knave gooth him up ful sturdily,
3435 And at the chambre-dore whil that he stood,
He cride and knokked as that he were wood3436.
‘What how! what do ye, maister Nicholay?
How may ye3438 slepen al the longe day?’
– But al for noght; he herde nat a word.
3440 An hole he fond3440, ful lowe upon a bord,
Theras3441 the cat was wont in for to crepe,
And at that hole he looked in ful depe3442,
And atte laste he hadde of him a sighte.
This Nicholas sat caping evere uprighte3444,
3445 As he had kiked on3445 the newe moone.
Adoun he gooth, and tolde his maister soone3446
In what array3447 he saugh this ilke man.
This carpenter to blessen him3448 bigan,
And seide, ‘Help us, Seinte Frideswide!
3450 A man woot litel what him shal bitide.
This man is falle, with his astromye,
In som woodnesse3452, or in som agonye.
I thoghte ay wel how that it sholde be;
Men sholde noght knowe of Goddes privetee3454.
3455 Ye3455, blessed be alwey a lewed man,
That noght but oonly his bileve3456 kan3453!
So ferde another clerk with astromye;
He walked in the feeldes for to prye3458
Upon the sterres, what ther sholde bifalle,
3460 Til he was in a marle-pit3460 yfalle;
He saw nat that! But yet, by Seint Thomas,
Me reweth sore of3462 hende Nicholas.
He shall be rated of3463 his studying,
If that I may, by Jesus hevene king!
3465 Get me a staf, that I may under-spore3465,
Whil that thow, Robin, hevest of3466 the dore.
He shal out of his studying, as I gesse.’
And to the chambre-dore he gan him dresse3468.
His knave was a strong carl for the nones,
3470 And by the haspe he haf it of3470 atones;
Into the floor the dore fil anoon.
This Nicholas sat ay as stille3472 as stoon,
And evere caped3473 up into the eir.
This carpenter wende he were3474 in despeir,
3475 And hente him by the shuldres mightily
And shook him harde, and cride spitously3476.
‘What, Nicholay, what how! What, loke adoun!
Awake, and thenk on Cristes passioun!
I crouche thee from elves and fro wightes3479.’
3480 – Therwith the night-spel3480 seide he anon-rightes
On foure halves3481 of the hous aboute,
And on the thresshfold of the dore withoute3482.
‘Jesu Crist, and Seinte Benedight,
Blesse this hous from every wikked wight3484,
3485 For nightes verye, the white Pater noster!
Where wentestow3486, Seinte Petres soster?’
And atte laste this hende Nicholas
Gan for to sike soore3488, and seide, ‘Allas!
Shal al the world be lost eftsones now3489?’
3490 This carpenter answerde, ‘What seystow?
What, thenk on God, as we doon, men that swinke3491!’
This Nicholas answerde, ‘Fecche me drinke,
And after wol I speke in privetee,
Of certein thing that toucheth3494 me and thee;
3495 I wol telle it noon oother man, certain.’
This carpenter gooth doun and comth again,
And broghte of mighty ale a large quart.
And whan that ech of hem had dronke his part,
This Nicholas his dore faste shette3499,
3500 And doun the carpenter by him he sette3500,
And seide, ‘John, min hooste lief3501 and deere,
Thou shalt upon thy trouthe swere me heere
That to no wight thou shalt this counseil wreye3503;
For it is Cristes counseil that I seye,
3505 And if thou telle it man3505, thou art forlore,
For this vengeaunce thow shalt have therfore,
That if thow wreye me, thow shalt be wood.’
‘Nay, Crist forbede it, for his holy blood!’
Quod tho this sely3509 man, ‘I nam no labbe,
3510 Ne, thogh I seye, I am nat lief to gabbe3510.
Sey what thow wolt; I shal it nevere telle
To child ne wif, by him that harwed helle3512!’
‘Now John,’ quod Nicholas, ‘I wol noght lie;
I have yfounde in min astrologye,
3515 As I have looked in the moone bright,
That now a Monday next, at quarter night3516,
Shal falle a rein, and that so wilde and wood3517
That half so greet was nevere Noes3518 flood.
This world’, he seide, ‘in lasse than an hour
3520 Shal al be dreint3520, so hidous is the shour.
Thus shal mankinde drenche3521 and lese hir lif.’
This carpenter answerde, ‘Allas, my wif!
And shal she drenche? Allas, min Alisoun!’
For sorwe of this he fil almoost adoun,
3525 And seide, ‘Is ther no remedye in this cas?’
‘Why yis, for Gode3526!’ quod hende Nicholas.
‘– If3527 thow wolt werken after loore and reed.
Thow mayst noght werken after thin owene heed3528;
For thus seyth Salomon, that was ful trewe:
3530 “Werk al by conseil3530, and thow shalt noght rewe.”
And if thow werken wolt by good consail,
I undertake, withouten mast or sail,
Yit shal I saven hire, and thee, and me.
Hastow nat herd how saved was Noe,
3535 Whan that oure Lord had warned him biforn
That al the world with water sholde be lorn3536?’
‘Yis,’ quod this carpenter, ‘ful yore ago3537.’
‘Hastow nat herd,’ quod Nicholas, ‘also
The sorwe of Noe, with his felaweshipe,
3540 Er that he mighte gete his wif to shipe?
Him hadde levere3541, I dar wel undertake,
At thilke time than al hise w
That she hadde had a ship hirself allone!
And therfore wostow3544 what is best to done?
3545 This axeth haste, and of an hastif thing
Men may noght preche or maken tarying;
‘Anon go gete us faste into this in3547
A kneding-trogh3548, or ellis a kemelin,
For ech of us – but looke that they be large –
3550 In which we mowen3550 swimme as in a barge,
And han therinne vitaille suffisaunt3551
But for a day – fy on the remenaunt!
The water shal aslake3553 and goon away
Aboute prime3554 upon the nexte day.
3555 But Robin may nat wite3555 of this, thy knave,
Ne eek thy maide Gille I may nat save.
Axe noght why, for thogh thou axe me,
I wol noght tellen Goddes privetee.
Suffiseth thee, but if thy wittes madde3559,
3560 To han as greet a grace as Noe hadde.
Thy wif shal I wel saven out of doute.
Go now thy wey, and speed thee3562 heeraboute.
‘But whan thou hast for hire, and thee, and me,
Ygeten3564 us thise kneding-tubbes thre,
3565 Thanne shaltow hange hem in the roof ful hye,
That no man of oure purveiaunce3566 espye.
And whan thow thus hast doon as I have seid,
And hast oure vitaille faire3568 in hem yleid,
And eek an ax to smite the corde atwo3569
3570 Whan that the water comth, that we may go
And breke an hole an heigh3571, upon the gable,
Unto the gardinward3572 over the stable,
That we may frely passen forth oure wey,
Whan that the grete shour is goon awey.
3575 Thanne shaltow swimme as murye, I undertake,
As doth the white doke3576 after his drake.
Thanne wol I clepe, “How3577, Alison! how, John!
Be murye, for the flood wol passe anon3578!”
And thou wolt seyn, “Hail, maister Nicholay!
3580 Good morwe, I see thee wel, for it is day.”
And thanne shal we be lordes al oure lif
Of al the world, as Noe and his wif.
‘But of o3583 thing I warne thee ful right:
Be wel avised3584, on that ilke night
3585 That we been entred into shippes bord3585,
That noon of us ne speke noght a word,
Ne clepe ne crye3587, but been in his preyere,
For it is Goddes owene heste3588 deere.
Thy wif and thow mote hange fer atwinne3589,
3590 For that bitwixe yow shal be no sinne,
Namoore in looking than ther shal in dede.
‘This ordinaunce3592 is seid; go, God thee spede!
Tomorwe at night, whan folk been alle aslepe,
Into oure kneding-tubbes wol we crepe,
3595 And sitten ther, abiding3595 Goddes grace.
Go now thy wey; I have no lenger space3596
To make of this no lenger sermoning.
Men seyn thus: “Sende the wise and sey nothing.”
Thow art so wis, it nedeth thee nat teche3599.
3600 Go, save oure lif, and that I thee biseche!’
This sely carpenter gooth forth his wey;
Ful ofte he seide ‘allas!’, and ‘weilawey!’
And to his wif he tolde his privetee3603;
And she was war, and knew it bet3604 than he,
3605 What3605 al this queinte cast was for to seye.
But nathelees she ferde as3606 she wolde deye,
And seide, ‘Allas, go forth thy wey anon!
Help us to scape, or we been dede echon!
I am thy trewe verray wedded wif;
3610 Go, deere spouse, and help to save oure lif.’
Lo, which a3611 greet thing is affeccioun!
Men may die of imaginacioun3612,
So depe may impressioun3613 be take.
This sely carpenter biginneth quake3614;
3615 Him thinketh verrailiche that he may se
Noes flood come walwing3616 as the see
To drenchen Alison, his hony deere.
He wepeth, waileth, maketh sory cheere3618;
He siketh3619 with ful many a sory swogh;
3620 He gooth and geteth him a kneding-trogh,
And after that a tubbe and kimelin;
And prively3622 he sente hem to his in,
And heeng3623 hem in the roof in privetee.
His owene hand3624 he made laddres thre
3625 To climben by the ronges3625 and the stalkes
Unto the tubbes hanging in the balkes3626,
And hem vitailled3627, bothe trogh and tubbe,
With breed and chese, and good ale in a jubbe3628,
Suffisinge right inogh3629 as for a day.
3630 But er that he had maad al this array3630,
He sente his knave and eek his wenche3631 also
Upon his nede3632 to Londoun for to go.
And on the Monday, whan it drogh to3633 night,
He shette his dore withouten candel-light
3635 And dressed3635 alle thing as it sholde be;
And shortly up they clomben3636 alle thre.
They seten3637 stille, wel a furlong way.
‘Now, Pater noster3638, clum!’ seide Nicholay,
And ‘clum!’ quod John, and ‘clum!’ seide Alisoun.
3640 This carpenter seide his devocioun3640,
And stille he sit3641 and biddeth his prayere,
Awaitinge on3642 the rein, if he it heere.
The dede sleep, for wery bisinesse3643,
Fil on this carpenter right (as I gesse)
3645 Aboute corfew-time3645, or litel moore.
For travaille3646 of his goost he groneth soore,
And eft he routeth3647, for his heed mislay.
Doun of3648 the laddre stalketh Nicholay,
And Alisoun, ful softe adoun she spedde3649.
3650 Withouten wordes mo they goon to bedde
Theras3651 the carpenter is wont to lie;
Ther was the revel and the melodye.
And thus lith Alison and Nicholas
In bisinesse of mirthe and of solas,3654
3655 Til that the belle of laudes3655 gan to ringe,
And freres in the chauncel3656 gonne singe.
This parissh clerk, this amorous Absolon,
That is for love alwey so wo-bigon3658,
Upon the Monday was at Oseneye
3660 With compaignye, him to disporte and pleye,
And axed upon cas3661 a cloisterer
Ful prively after John the carpenter.
And he drogh3663 him apart out of the cherche,
And seide, ‘I noot; I saugh him here noght werche3664
3665 Sith Saterday. I trowe that he be went3665
For timber, ther3666 oure abbot hath him sent;
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