The canterbury tales, p.27
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       The Canterbury Tales, p.27

           Geoffrey Chaucer
545 Of olde Britons dwelling in this ile;

  Ther was hir refut546 for the mene-while.

  But yet nere Cristen Britons so exiled

  That ther nere somme that in hir privetee548

  Honoured Crist, and hethen folk bigiled549;

  550 And neigh the castel swiche ther dwelten thre.

  That oon of hem was blind and mighte nat se,

  But it were552 with thilke eyen of his minde,

  With whiche men seen whan that they been blinde.

  Bright was the sonne as in that someres day,

  555 For which the constable and his wif also

  And Custaunce han ytake the righte way556

  Toward the see, a furlong wey or two,

  To pleyen558 and to romen to and fro.

  And in hir walk this blinde man they mette,

  560 Croked and old, with eyen faste yshette560.

  ‘In name of Crist,’ cride this blinde Britoun,

  ‘Dame Hermengild, yif me my sighte again!’

  This lady weex affrayed563 of the soun,

  Lest that hir housbounde, shortly for to sayn,

  565 Wolde hire for Jesu Cristes love han slain;

  Til Custaunce made hir boold, and bad hir wirche566

  The wil of Crist, as doghter of his chirche.

  The constable weex abasshed of568 that sight,

  And seide, ‘What amounteth569 al this fare?’

  570 Custaunce answerde, ‘Sire, it is Cristes might,

  That helpeth folk out of the feendes snare.’

  And572 so ferforth she gan oure lay declare,

  That she the constable, er that it was eve,

  Converteth, and on Crist made him bileve.

  575 This constable was nothing575 lord of this place

  Of which I speke, ther he Custaunce fond,

  But kepte it strongly, many wintres space577,

  Under Alla, king of al Northumberlond,

  That was ful wis and worthy of his hond579

  580 Again580 the Scottes, as men may wel heere.

  But turne I wol again to my matere.

  Sathan, that evere us waiteth582 to bigile,

  Saugh of Custaunce al hir perfeccioun,

  And caste584 anon how he mighte quite hir while,

  585 And made a yong knight that dwelte in that toun

  Love hire so hote586, of foul affeccioun,

  That verraily him thoughte he sholde spille587,

  But he of hire mighte ones588 have his wille.

  He woweth589 hire, but it availleth noght –

  590 She wolde do no sinne by no weye.

  And for despit591, he compassed in his thoght

  To maken hire on shameful deeth to deye.

  He waiteth whan593 the constable was aweye,

  And prively upon a night he crepte

  595 In Hermengildes chambre whil she slepte.

  Wery, forwaked596 in hir orisons,

  Slepeth Custaunce, and Hermengild also.

  This knight, thurgh Sathanas598 temptacions,

  Al softely is to the bed599 ygo,

  600 And kitte600 the throte of Hermengild atwo,

  And leide the blody knif by dame Custaunce

  And wente his wey – ther God yeve him meschaunce602!

  Soone after comth this constable hom again,

  And eek Alla, that king was of that lond,

  605 And saw his wif despitously605 yslain,

  For which ful ofte he weep606 and wrong his hond.

  And in the bed the blody knif he fond

  By dame Custaunce. Allas, what mighte she seye?

  For verray wo hir wit was al aweye609.

  610 To King Alla was told al this meschaunce,

  And eek the time, and where and in what wise

  That in a ship was founden this Custaunce,

  As herbiforn613 that ye han herd devise.

  The kinges herte of pitee gan agrise614,

  615 Whan he saw so benigne a creature

  Falle in disese616 and in misaventure.

  For as the lomb617 toward his deeth is broght,

  So stant618 this innocent bifore the king.

  This false knight that hath this treson wroght

  620 Bereth hire on hond620 that she hath doon this thing.

  But nathelees ther was greet moorning

  Among the peple, and seyn622 they kan nat gesse

  That she had doon so greet a wikkednesse.

  For they han seyn624 hire evere so vertuous,

  625 And loving Hermengild right as hir lif;

  Of this baar witnesse everich in that hous,

  Save he that Hermengild slow627 with his knif.

  This gentil king hath caught a gret motif628

  Of this witnesse, and thoghte he wolde enquere

  630 Depper630 in this, a trouthe for to lere.

  Allas, Custaunce, thow hast no champioun,

  Ne fighte kanstow noght, so weilawey632!

  But he that starf633 for oure redempcioun

  And bond634 Sathan (and yet lith ther he lay),

  635 So be thy stronge champion this day!

  For but if636 Crist open miracle kithe,

  Withouten gilt thow shalt been slain as swithe637.

  She sette hir doun on knees, and thus she saide:

  ‘Inmortal God, that savedest Susanne

  640 Fro fals blame, and thow, merciful maide,

  Marye I mene, doghter to Seint Anne,

  Biforn whos child aungeles singe Osanne642,

  If I be giltlees of this felonye,

  My socour be644, for ellis shal I die!’

  645 Have ye nat seyn645 somtime a pale face

  Among a prees646, of him that hath be lad

  Toward his deeth, wheras him gat no grace647,

  And swich a colour in his face hath had,

  Men mighte knowe his face that was bistad649

  650 Amonges alle the faces in that route?

  So stant Custance, and looketh hire aboute.

  O queenes, livinge in prosperitee,

  Duchesses, and ye ladies everychone,

  Haveth som routhe654 on hir adversitee!

  655 An emperoures doghter stant allone;

  She hath no wight to whom to make hir mone656.

  O blood royal, that stondest in this drede,

  Fer ben thy freendes at thy grete nede!

  This Alla king hath swich compassioun,

  660 As gentil herte is fulfild of pitee,

  That from his eyen ran the water doun.

  ‘Now hastily do fecche662 a book,’ quod he,

  ‘And if this knight wol sweren how that she

  This womman slow, yet wol we us avise664

  665 Whom665 that we wole that shal been oure justise.’

  A Briton book, writen with Evangiles666,

  Was fet667, and on this book he swoor anoon

  She gilty was, and in the mene-whiles668

  An hand him smoot upon the nekke-boon,

  670 That doun he fel atones670 as a stoon,

  And bothe his eyen broste671 out of his face,

  In sighte of everybody in that place.

  A vois was herd in general audience673,

  And seide: ‘Thow hast disclaundred674, giltelees,

  675 The doghter of holy chirche in heigh presence675.

  Thus hastow doon, and yet holde I my pees!’

  Of this mervaille agast677 was al the prees;

  As mazed678 folk they stoden everychone

  For drede of wreche679, save Custance allone.

  680 Greet was the drede, and eek the repentaunce,

  Of hem that hadden wrong suspecioun

  Upon this sely682 innocent Custaunce.

  And for this miracle, in conclusioun,

  And by Custances mediacioun,

  685 The king, and many another in that place,

  Converted was, thanked be Cristes grace!

  This false knight was slain for his untrouthe687

  By juggement of Alla, hastily,

  And yet Custaunce hadde of his deeth greet routhe.

  690 And after this Jesus of his mercy

  Made Alla wedden ful solempnely691

  This holy maide, that is so bright and shene692.

  And thus hath Crist ymaad Custance a queene.

  But who was woful, if I shal nat lie,

  695 Of this wedding, but Donegild and namo695,

  The kinges moder, ful of tyrannye?

  Hir thoughte hir cursed herte brast atwo697;

  She wolde noght hir sone had doon so.

  Hir thoughte a despit699 that he sholde take

  700 So straunge a creature unto his make700.

  Me list nat701 of the chaf ne of the stree

  Maken so long a tale as of the corn702.

  What703 sholde I tellen of the royaltee

  At mariage, or which cours gooth biforn704,

  705 Who bloweth in the trompe or in an horn?

  The fruit of every tale is for to seye:

  They ete, and drinke, and daunce, and singe, and pleye.

  They goon to bedde, as it was skile708 and right,

  For though that wives been ful holy thinges,

  710 They moste take in pacience at night

  Swich maner necessaries711 as been plesinges

  To folk that han ywedded hem with ringes,

  And leye a lite713 hir holinesse aside

  As for the time714 – it may no bet bitide.

  715 On hire he gat715 a knave child anon;

  And to a bisshop, and his constable eke,

  He took717 his wif to kepe whan he is gon

  To Scotlondward718, his foomen for to seke.

  Now faire Custaunce, that is so humble and meke,

  720 So longe is goon with childe720 til that stille

  She halt721 hir chambre, abiding Cristes wille.

  The time is come a knave child she beer722;

  Mauricius at the font-stoon723 they him calle.

  This constable dooth forth come724 a messager,

  725 And wroot725 unto his king that cleped was Alle

  How that this blisful tidinge726 is bifalle,

  And othere tidinges speedful727 for to seye.

  He tath728 the lettre, and forth he goth his weye.

  This messager, to doon his avauntage729,

  730 Unto the kinges moder rideth swithe730,

  And salueth hire ful faire in his langage.

  ‘Madame,’ quod he, ‘ye may be glad and blithe,

  And thanketh God an hundred thousand sithe733:

  My lady queene hath child, withouten doute,

  735 To joye and blisse of al this regne aboute.

  ‘Lo here, the lettres seled of this thing,

  That I moot bere737 with al the haste I may.

  If ye wol aught738 unto youre sone the king,

  I am youre servaunt, bothe night and day.’

  740 Donegild answerde, ‘As now at this time, nay.

  But here al night I wol thow take thy reste;

  Tomorwe wol I seye thee what me leste742.’

  This messager drank sadly743 ale and win,

  And stolen were his lettres prively

  745 Out of his box, whil he sleep as a swin745.

  And countrefeted was ful subtilly

  Another lettre, wroght ful sinfully,

  Unto the king direct748 of this matere

  Fro his constable, as ye shal after heere.

  750 The lettre spak the queene delivered was

  Of so horrible a fendlich751 creature

  That in the castel noon so hardy752 was

  That any while dorste ther endure753.

  The moder was an elf, by aventure754

  755 Ycome, by charmes or by sorcerye,

  And everich wight756 hateth hir compaignye.

  Wo was this king whan he this lettre had seyn757,

  But to no wight he tolde his sorwes soore758,

  But of759 his owene hond he wroot agein:

  760 ‘Welcome the sonde of Crist760 for everemoore

  To me that am now lerned in his loore761!

  Lord, welcome be thy lust762 and thy plesaunce;

  My lust I putte al in thin ordinaunce763.

  ‘Kepeth this child, al be it764 foul or feir,

  765 And eek my wif, unto min hom-cominge.

  Crist, whan him list, may sende me an heir

  Moore agreable than this to my likinge.’

  This lettre he seleth, prively768 wepinge,

  Which to the messager was take769 soone,

  770 And forth he goth; ther is namoore to doone.

  O messager, fulfild of771 dronkenesse,

  Strong is thy breeth, thy limes faltren ay772,

  And thow biwreyest773 alle secrenesse.

  Thy minde is lorn774, thou janglest as a jay;

  775 Thy face is turned in a new array775.

  Ther776 dronkenesse regneth in any route

  Ther is no conseil777 hid, withouten doute.

  O Donegild, I ne have noon Englissh digne778

  Unto thy malice and thy tyrannye,

  780 And therfore to the feend I thee resigne;

  Lat him enditen of781 thy traitorye!

  Fy, mannissh, fy – O nay, by God, I lie! –

  Fy, feendlich spirit! for I dar wel telle,

  Thogh thow heere walke, thy spirit is in helle.

  785 This messager comth fro the king again,

  And at the kinges modres court he lighte786,

  And she was of this messager ful fain,

  And plesed him in al that evere she mighte.

  He drank and wel his girdel underpighte789;

  790 He slepeth and he fnorteth790 in his gise

  Al night, til that the sonne gan arise.

  Eft792 were his lettres stolen everychon,

  And countrefeted lettres in this wise:

  ‘The king comaundeth his constable anon,

  795 Up peine of hanging and on heigh juise795,

  That he ne sholde suffren796 in no wise

  Custance inwith797 his regne for t’abide

  Thre dayes and a quarter of a tide798;

  ‘But in the same ship as he hir fond,

  800 Hire and hir yonge sone and al hir geere800

  He sholde putte, and crowde801 hir fro the lond,

  And charge hire that she nevere eft come there.’

  O my Custaunce, wel may thy goost803 have fere,

  And sleping in thy dreem been in penaunce804,

  805 Whan Donegild caste805 al this ordinaunce!

  This messager on morwe806, whan he wook,

  Unto the castel halt the nexte807 wey,

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