The canterbury tales, p.33
The Canterbury Tales,
For be we nevere so vicious withinne,
We wol be holden944 wise and clene of sinne.
945 And somme seyn that greet delit han we
For to be holden stable, and eek secree946,
And in o purpos stedefastly to dwelle,
And nat biwreye948 thing that men us telle –
But that tale is nat worth a rake-stele949!
950 Pardee950, we wommen konne no thing hele;
Witnesse on Mida – wol ye heere951 the tale?
Ovide, amonges othere thinges smale952,
Seide Mida hadde, under his longe heres,
Growinge upon his heed two asses eres;
955 The whiche vice he hidde as he best mighte
Ful sotilly956 from every mannes sighte,
That, save his wif, ther wiste of it namo.957
He loved hire moost, and trusted hire also;
He preyed hire that to no creature
960 She sholde tellen of his disfigure960.
She swoor him ‘nay’, for al this world to winne961
She nolde do that vileinye962 or sinne,
To make hir housbonde han so foul a name;
She nolde nat telle it, for964 hir owene shame.
965 But nathelees hir thoughte that she dide965
That she so longe sholde a conseil966 hide.
Hir thoughte it swal so soore967 aboute hir herte
That nedely som word hir moste asterte.968
And sith she dorste telle it to no man,
970 Doun to a maris970 faste by she ran –
Til she cam there hir herte was afire –
And as a bitore972 bombleth in the mire,
She leide hir mouth unto the water doun.
‘Biwrey974 me nat, thow water, with thy soun!’
975 Quod she, ‘To thee I telle it, and namo975:
Min housbonde hath longe asses eris two!
Now is min herte al hool977; now is it oute.
I mighte no lenger kepe it, out of doute.’
Heere may ye see, thogh we a time abide979,
980 Yet out it moot980; we kan no conseil hide.
The remenant of the tale, if ye wol heere,
Redeth Ovide, and ther ye may it leere982.
This knight of which my tale is specially983,
Whan that he saugh he mighte nat come therby984 –
985 This is to seye, what wommen loven moost –
Withinne his brest ful sorweful was the goost986.
But hom he gooth; he mighte nat sojourne987;
The day was come that homward moste he tourne.
And in his wey it happed him989 to ride,
990 In al this care990, under a forest side,
Wheras he saugh upon a daunce go
Of ladies foure and twenty, and yet mo.
Toward the whiche daunce he drow ful yerne993,
In hope that som wisdom sholde he lerne.
995 But certeinly, er he cam fully there,
Vanisshed was this daunce; he niste996 where.
No creature ne saugh he that bar lif,
Save998 on the grene he saugh sittinge a wif –
A fouler wight999 ther may no man devise.
1000 Again the knight this olde wif gan rise1000
And seide, ‘Sire knight, heerforth1001 ne lith no wey.
Tel me what that ye seken, by youre fey!
Paraventure1003 it may the bettre be;
Thise olde folk konne muchel thing1004,’ quod she.
1005 ‘My leeve1005 moder,’ quod this knight, ‘certein
I nam but deed, but if that1006 I kan seyn
What thing it is that wommen moost desire.
Koude ye me wisse, I wolde wel quite youre hire.’1008
‘Plight me thy trouthe1009, here in min hand,’ quod she,
1010 ‘The nexte thing that I requere1010 thee
Thow shalt it do, if it lie in thy might,
And I wol telle it yow er it be night.’
‘Have here my trouthe!’ quod the knight, ‘I graunte.’
‘Thanne,’ quod she, ‘I dar me wel avaunte1014
1015 Thy lif is sauf, for I wol stonde therby1015.
Upon my lif, the queene wol seye as I.
Lat1017 see which is the proudeste of hem alle
That wereth on a coverchief or a calle1018
That dar seye nay of1019 that I shal thee teche.
1020 Lat us go forth withouten lenger speche.’
Tho rowned1021 she a pistel in his ere,
And bad him to be glad and have no fere.
Whan they be comen to the court, this knight
Seide he hadde holde1024 his day as he had hight,
1025 And redy was his answere, as he saide.
Ful many a noble wif and many a maide
And many a widwe – for that they ben wise –
The queene hirself, sitting as justise1028,
Assembled been his answere for to here;
1030 And afterward this knight was bode1030 appere.
To every wight comanded was silence,
And that the knight sholde telle in audience
What thing that worldly wommen loven best.
This knight ne stood nat stille as dooth a best,
1035 But to his questioun anon answerde
With manly vois, that1036 al the court it herde.
‘My lige lady, generally1037,’ quod he,
‘Wommen desiren to have sovereintee1038
As wel over hir housbonde as hir love,
1040 And for to been in maistrye1040 him above.
This is youre mooste1041 desir, thogh ye me kille;
Dooth as yow list; I am at youre wille.’
In al the court ne was ther wif ne maide
Ne widwe that contraried that he saide,
1045 But seiden he was worthy han1045 his lif.
And with that word up stirte1046 the olde wif
Which that the knight saugh sitting on the grene.
‘Mercy,’ quod she, ‘my soverein lady queene;
Er that youre court departe1049, do me right.
1050 I taughte this answere unto the knight,
For which he plighte me his trouthe there,
The firste thing that I wolde him requere,
He wolde it do, if it laye in his might.
Bifore the court thanne preye I thee, sire knight,’
1055 Quod she, ‘that thow me take unto thy wif,
For wel thow woost that I have kept1056 thy lif.
If I seye fals, sey nay, upon thy fey1057.’
This knight answerde, ‘Allas and weilawey!
I woot right wel that swich was my biheste1059.
1060 For Goddes love, as chees1060 a newe requeste!
Taak al my good1061, and lat my body go.’
‘Nay, thanne,’ quod she, ‘I shrewe1062 us bothe two!
For thogh that I be foul and old and poore,
I nolde1064, for al the metal ne for oore
1065 That under erthe is grave1065 or lith above,
But if thy wif I were1066, and eek thy love.’
‘My love!’ quod he, ‘nay, my dampnacioun1067!
Allas, that any of my nacioun1068
Sholde evere so foule disparaged1069 be!’
1070 But al for noght: th’ende is this, that he
Constreined was; he nedes moste1071 hir wedde,
And taketh his olde wif, and goth to bedde.
Now wolden som men seye, paraventure,
That for my necligence I do no cure1074
1075 To tellen yow the joye and al th’array1075
That at the feste was that ilke day.
To which thing shortly answere I shal:
I seye, ther nas no joye ne feste at al;
Ther nas but hevinesse1079 and muche sorwe.
1080 For prively1080 he wedded hire on morwe,
And al day after hidde him as1081 an owle;
So wo was him – his wif looked so foule.
Whan he was with his wif abedde ybroght;
1085 He walweth1085 and he turneth to and fro.
His olde wif lay smiling everemo1086,
And seide, ‘O deere housbonde, benedicite!
Fareth every knight thus with his wif as ye?
Is this the lawe of King Arthures hous?
1090 Is every knight of his thus daungerous1090?
I am youre owene love and eek youre wif;
I am she which saved hath youre lif,
And, certes, yet ne dide I yow unright1093.
Why fare1094 ye thus with me this firste night?
1095 Ye faren lik a man hadde1095 lost his wit!
What is my gilt? For Goddes love, tel it,
And it shal ben amended, if I may.’
‘Amended!’ quod this knight, ‘Allas, nay, nay!
It wol nat ben amended neveremo.
1100 Thow art so loothly1100, and so old also,
And therto comen of so lowe a kinde1101,
That litel wonder is thogh I walwe and winde1102.
So wolde God1103 min herte wolde breste!’
‘Is this’, quod she, ‘the cause of youre unreste?’
1105 ‘Ye, certeinly,’ quod he, ‘no wonder is1105.’
‘Now, sire,’ quod she, ‘I koude amende al this,
If that me liste, er it were dayes thre,
So wel ye mighte bere yow1108 unto me.
‘But for1109 ye speken of swich gentilesse
1110 As is descended out of old richesse1110,
That therfore sholden ye be gentil men,
Swich arrogance nis nat worth an hen.
Looke who that is moost vertuous alway,
Privee and apert, and moost entendeth ay1114
1115 To do the gentil dedes that he kan,
Taak him for the gretteste gentil man.
Crist wol1117 we claime of him oure gentillesse,
Nat of oure eldres, for hir old richesse.
For thogh they yeve us al hir heritage1119,
1120 For which we claime to been of heigh parage1120,
Yet may they nat biquethe for nothing1121
To noon of us hir vertuous living,
That made hem gentil men ycalled be,
And bad us folwen hem in swich degree1124.
1125 ‘Wel kan the wise poete of Florence,
That highte Dant, speken in this sentence1126 –
Lo, in swich maner rim1127 is Dantes tale:
“Ful selde up riseth by his braunches smale
Prowesse1129 of man, for God, of his goodnesse,
1130 Wol that of him we claime oure gentillesse.”
For of oure eldres may we nothing claime
But temporel thing, that man may hurte and maime1132.
‘Eek every wight woot this as wel as I:
If gentillesse were planted naturelly
1135 Unto a certein linage doun the line,
Privee and apert thanne wolde they nevere fine1136
To doon of gentilesse the faire office;1137
They mighte do no vileinye1138 or vice.
‘Taak fir, and bere it in the derkeste hous
1140 Bitwix this and the mount of Kaukasous,
And lat men shette1141 the dores and go thenne,
Yet wol the fir as faire lie1142 and brenne
As1143 twenty thousand men mighte it biholde.
His office naturel ay wol it holde,1144
1145 Up peril of my lif1145, til that it die.
‘Here may ye se wel how that gentrye
Is nat annexed to possessioun,1147
Sith folk ne doon hir operacioun1148
Alwey1149, as dooth the fir, lo, in his kinde.
1150 For, God it woot, men may wel often finde
A lordes sone do shame and vileinye.
And he that wol han pris of1152 his gentrye
For he was boren1153 of a gentil hous,
And hadde his eldres noble and vertuous,
1155 And nil1155 himselven do no gentil dedis,
Ne folwe his gentil auncestre that deed is,
He nis nat gentil, be he duc or erl,
For vileins1158 sinful dedes make a cherl.
For gentilesse nis but renomee1159
1160 Of thin auncestres for hir heigh bountee,
Which is a straunge1161 thing to thy persone;
Thy gentilesse cometh fro God allone.
Thanne comth oure verray1163 gentilesse of grace;
It was nothing biquethe us with oure place.1164
1165 ‘Thenketh how noble, as seyth Valerius,
Was thilke Tullius Hostillius,
That out of poverte roos to heigh noblesse.
Redeth Senek, and redeth eek Boece,
Ther shul ye seen expres1169, that it no drede is
1170 That he is gentil that dooth gentil dedis.
And therfore, leve housbonde, I conclude:
Al were it that mine auncestres were rude1172,
Yet may the hye God – and so hope I –
Graunte me grace to liven vertuously.
1175 Thanne am I gentil, whan that I biginne
To liven vertuously, and weive1176 sinne.
‘And theras1177 ye of poverte me repreve,
The hye God on whom that we bileve
In wilful1179 poverte chees to live his lif.
1180 And certes, every man, maiden or wif
May understonde that Jesus, hevene king,
Ne wolde nat chese a vicious living.
Glad poverte is an honeste1183 thing, certein:
This wol Senek and othere clerkes seyn.
1185 Whoso that halt him paid of1185 his poverte,
I holde him riche, al hadde he nat1186 a sherte.
He that coveiteth is a povre wight,
For he wolde han that is nat in his might1188.
But he that noght hath1189, ne coveiteth have,
1190 Is riche, althogh ye holde him but a knave1190.
‘Verray poverte, it singeth proprely.
Juvenal seyth of poverte mirily1192:
“The povre man, whan he gooth by the weye,
Biforn the theves he may singe and pleye.”
1195 Poverte is hateful good, and, as I gesse,
A ful greet bringere out of1196 bisinesse;
A greet amendere1197 eek of sapience,
To him that taketh it in pacience.
Poverte is this, althogh it seme alenge1199:
1200 Possessioun that no wight wol chalenge1200.
Poverte ful often, whan a man is lowe,
Maketh his God and eek himself to knowe.
Poverte a spectacle1203 is, as thinketh me,
Thurgh which he may his verray freendes se.
1205 And therfore, sire, sin that I noght yow greve1205,
Of my poverte namoore ye me repreve.
‘Now, sire, of elde1207 ye repreve me;
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