The canterbury tales, p.38
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       The Canterbury Tales, p.38

           Geoffrey Chaucer
 

  A gowne-clooth, by God and by Seint John!’

  ‘My lord,’ quod he, ‘whan that the weder2253 is fair,

  Withouten wind or parturbinge2254 of air,

  2255 Lat bringe2255 a cartwheel heere into this halle.

  But looke that it have his spokes alle –

  Twelve spokes hath a cartwheel comunly.

  And bringe me thanne twelve freres – woot ye why?

  For thrittene2259 is a covent, as I gesse.

  2260 Youre confessour heere, for his worthinesse,

  Shal perfourne up2261 the nombre of this covent.

  Thanne shal they knele adoun by oon assent,

  And to every spokes ende in this manere

  Ful sadly2264 leye his nose shal a frere.

  2265 Youre noble confessour, ther God him save,

  Shal holde his nose upright under the nave2266.

  Thanne shal this cherl, with baly2267 stif and toght

  As any tabour2268, hider been ybroght,

  And sette him on the wheel right of this cart,

  2270 Upon the nave, and make him lete a fart.

  And ye shal seen, up peril of my lif,

  By preeve which that is demonstratif2272,

  That equally the soun of it wol wende2273,

  And eek the stink, unto the spokes ende.

  2275 Save that this worthy man, youre confessour,

  Bicause he is a man of greet honour,

  Shal han the firste fruit, as reson is2277.

  The noble usage2278 of freres yet is this,

  The worthy men of hem shul first be served,

  2280 And certeinly he hath it wel disserved.

  He hath today taught us so muchel good,

  With preching in the pulpit ther2282 he stood,

  That I may vouchesauf2283, I seye for me,

  He hadde2284 the firste smel of fartes three.

  2285 And so wolde al his covent hardily2285;

  He bereth him2286 so faire and holily.’

  The lord, the lady, and ech man save the frere,

  Seiden that Jankin spak in this matere

  As wel as Euclide dide or Ptholomee.

  2290 Touchinge the cherl, they seide subtiltee2290

  And heigh wit2291 made him speken as he spak;

  He nis no fool ne no demoniak.

  And Jankin hath ywonne a newe gowne.

  My tale is doon; we been almoost at towne.

  Heere endeth the Somonours Tale.

  THE CLERK’S PROLOGUE

  Heere folweth the Prologe of the Clerkes Tale of Oxenford.

  ‘Sire Clerk of Oxenford,’ oure Hooste saide,

  ‘Ye ride as coy2 and stille as dooth a maide

  Were newe spoused3, sitting at the bord.

  This day ne herde I of youre tonge a word;

  5 I trowe ye studye aboute som sophime5.

  But Salomon seyth “every thing hath time”.

  For Goddes sake, as beth of bettre cheere7!

  It is no time for to studyen heere.

  Tel us som murye tale, by youre fey;

  10 For what man that is entred in a pley10,

  He nedes moot11 unto the pley assente.

  But precheth nat, as freres doon in Lente,

  To make us for oure olde sinnes wepe,

  Ne that thy tale make us nat to slepe.

  15 ‘Tel us som murye thing of aventures15!

  Youre termes16, youre colours, and youre figures,

  Kepe hem in stoor17 til so be ye endite

  Heigh style, as whan that men to kinges write.

  Speketh so plein at this time, we yow preye,

  20 That we may understonde what ye seye.’

  This worthy clerk benignely answerde:

  ‘Hoost,’ quod he, ‘I am under youre yerde22.

  Ye han of us as now the governaunce,

  And therfore wol I do yow obeisaunce24,

  25 As fer as reson asketh, hardily25.

  I wol yow telle a tale which that I

  Lerned at Padwe of a worthy clerk,

  As preved by his wordes and his werk.

  He is now deed and nailed in his cheste;

  30 I pray to God so yeve his soule reste!

  ‘Fraunceis Petrak, the laureat poete,

  Highte32 this clerk, whos rethorik swete

  Enlumined33 al Itaille of poetrye

  As Linian dide of philosophye,

  35 Or lawe, or oother art particuler35.

  But deeth, that wol nat suffre36 us dwellen heer

  But as it were a twinkling of an eye,

  Hem bothe hath slain, and alle shul we die.

  ‘But forth to tellen of this worthy man

  40 That taughte me this tale, as I bigan,

  I seye that first with heigh style he enditeth,

  Er he the body of his tale writeth,

  A prohemie43 in which discriveth he

  Pemond, and of Saluces the contree,

  45 And speketh of Appenin, the hilles hye

  That been the boundes46 of West Lumbardye,

  And of Mount Vesulus in special47

  Wheras the Poo out of a welle48 smal

  Taketh his firste springing49 and his sours,

  50 That estward ay encresseth in his cours

  To Emeleward51, to Ferare and Venise,

  The which a long thing were to devise52.

  And trewely, as to my juggement

  Me thinketh it a thing inpartinent54,

  55 Save55 that he wole conveyen his matere.

  But this his tale, which that ye shal heere.’

  THE CLERK’S TALE

  Heere biginneth the Tale of the Clerk of Oxenford.

  Ther is, at the west side of Itaille,

  Doun at the roote58 of Vesulus the colde,

  A lusty59 plaine, habundant of vitaille,

  60 Wher many a tour and toun thow mayst biholde

  That founded were in time of fadres olde61,

  And many another delitable sighte;

  And Saluces this noble contree highte.

  A markis64 whilom lord was of that lond,

  65 As were his worthy eldres him bifore,

  And obeisant66, ay redy to his hond,

  Were alle his liges67, bothe lasse and moore.

  Thus in delit he liveth, and hath doon yoore68,

  Biloved and drad69, thurgh favour of Fortune,

  70 Bothe of70 his lordes and of his commune.

  Therwith he was, to speke as of linage,

  The gentileste72 yborn of Lumbardye;

  A fair persone, and strong, and yong of age,

  And ful of honour and of curteisye,

  75 Discret inogh his contree for to gye75 –

  Save in somme thinges that he was to blame.

  And Walter was this yonge lordes name.

  I blame him thus, that he considered noght

  In time cominge what him mighte bitide79,

  80 But on his lust present80 was al his thoght,

  As for to hauke and hunte on every side.

  Wel neigh alle oothere cures82 leet he slide.

  And eek he nolde83 – and that was worst of alle –

  Wedde no wif, for noght that may bifalle.

  85 Oonly that point his peple bar85 so soore

  That flokmele86 on a day they to him wente;

  And oon of hem that wisest was of loore87 –

  Or ellis that the lord best wolde assente

  That he sholde telle him what his peple mente,

  90 Or ellis koude he shewe90 wel swich matere –

  He to the markis seide as ye shal heere:

  ‘O noble markis, youre humanitee

  Assureth us93 and yeveth us hardinesse,

  As ofte as time is of necessitee,

  95 That we to yow mowe telle oure hevinesse95.

  Accepteth, lord, now, of youre gentillesse96,

  That we with pitous97 herte unto yow pleine,

  And lat youre eris noght my vois desdeine.

  ‘Al have I noght
to doone in this matere99

  100 Moore than another man hath in this place,

  Yet, forasmuche as ye, my lord so deere,

  Han alwey shewed me favour and grace,

  I dar the bettre aske of yow a space103

  Of audience, to shewen oure requeste;

  105 And ye, my lord, to doon right as yow leste105.

  ‘For certes, lord, so wel us liketh yow106

  And al youre werk107, and evere han doon, that we

  Ne kouden nat us self devisen108 how

  We mighte liven in moore felicitee,

  110 Save o110 thing, lord, if it youre wille be:

  That for to been a wedded man yow leste111 –

  Thanne were youre peple in soverein112 hertes reste!

  ‘Boweth youre nekke under that blisful yok113

  Of sovereinetee, noght of servise,

  115 Which that men clepe spousaille115 or wedlok.

  And thenketh, lord, among youre thoghtes wise,

  How that oure dayes passe in sondry wise117;

  For thogh we slepe, or wake, or rome118, or ride,

  Ay fleeth119 the time; it nil no man abide.

  120 ‘And thogh youre grene youthe floure as yit120,

  In crepeth age alwey, as stille121 as stoon.

  And deth manaceth122 every age, and smit

  In ech estat123, for ther escapeth noon.

  And also certein as we knowe echon

  125 That we shul die, as uncertein125 we alle

  Been of that day whan deth shal on us falle.

  ‘Accepteth thanne of us the trewe entente127,

  That nevere yet refuseden thin heste128.

  And we wol, lord, if that ye wol assente,

  130 Chese130 yow a wif, in short time at the leeste,

  Born of the gentileste and of the meeste131

  Of al this lond, so that it oghte seme

  Honour to God and yow, as we kan deme133.

  ‘Delivere us out of al this bisy drede134,

  135 And tak a wif, for hye Goddes sake!

  For if it so bifelle, as God forbede,

  That thurgh youre deeth youre line sholde slake137,

  And that a straunge successour sholde take

  Youre heritage, O, wo were us alive139!

  140 Wherfore we pray yow hastily to wive140.’

  Hir meke prayere and hir pitous cheere141

  Maked the markis herte han pitee.

  ‘Ye wol143,’ quod he, ‘min owene peple deere,

  To that I nevere erst144 thoghte streine me.

  145 I me rejoised of145 my libertee,

  That selde time146 is founde in mariage.

  Ther147 I was free, I moot been in servage.

  ‘But nathelees, I se youre trewe entente,

  And truste upon youre wit149, and have doon ay.

  150 Wherfore, of my free wil I wol assente

  To wedde me, as soone as evere I may.

  But theras ye han profred152 me today

  To chese me a wif, I yow relesse153

  That chois, and pray yow of that profre cesse154.

  155 ‘For God it woot, that children ofte ben

  Unlik hir worthy eldres hem bifore.

  Bountee157 comth al of God, nat of the stren

  Of which they been engendred and ybore.

  I truste in Goddes bountee, and therfore

  160 My mariage and min estat and reste

  I him bitake161; he may doon as him leste.

  ‘Lat me allone in chesing of my wif;

  That charge upon my bak I wol endure.

  But I yow pray, and charge upon youre lif,

  165 That what wif that I take, ye me assure

  To worshipe166 hire whil that hir lif may dure,

  In word and werk167, bothe here and everywhere,

  As she an emperoures doghter were.

  ‘And ferthermoore, this shal ye swere: that ye

  170 Again my chois shal neither grucche170 ne strive.

  For sith171 I shal forgoon my libertee

  At your requeste, as evere mote I thrive172,

  Theras173 min herte is set, ther wol I wive.

  And but174 ye wol assente in swich manere,

  175 I pray yow, speketh namoore of this matere.’

  With hertly176 wil they sworen and assenten

  To al this thing – ther seide no wight nay –

  Bisekinge178 him of grace, er that they wenten,

  That he wolde graunten hem a certein day

  180 Of his spousaille, as soone as evere he may.

  For yet alwey the peple somwhat dredde181

  Lest that the markis no wif wolde wedde.

  He graunted hem a day, swich as him leste,

  On which he wolde be wedded sikerly184,

  185 And seide he dide al this at hir requeste.

  And they, with humble entente, buxomly186,

  Knelinge upon hir knees ful reverently,

  Him thanken alle; and thus they han an ende188

  Of hir entente, and hom again they wende.

  190 And herupon190 he to his officers

  Comaundeth for the feste to purveye191,

  And to his privee knightes and squiers192

  Swich charge yaf as him liste on hem leye193.

  And they to his comandement obeye,

  195 And ech of hem dooth al his diligence

  To doon unto the feste reverence.

  [Part Two]

  Noght fer fro thilke paleis honurable

  Wheras this markis shoop198 his mariage,

  Ther stood a throop199, of site delitable,

  200 In which that povre folk of that village

  Hadden hir bestes and hir herbergage201,

  And of hir labour toke hir sustenance202,

  After that203 the erthe yaf hem habundance.

  Among thise povre folk ther dwelte a man

  205 Which that was holden205 povrest of hem alle;

  But hye God som time senden can

  His grace into a litel oxes stalle.

  Janicula men of that throop him calle.

  A doghter hadde he, fair inogh to sighte209,

  210 And Grisildis this yonge maiden highte.

  But for to speke of vertuous beautee,

  Thanne was she oon the faireste under sonne212.

  For povreliche yfostred213 up was she;

  No likerous lust214 was thurgh hir herte yronne.

  215 Wel ofter of the welle than of the tonne215

  She drank, and for216 she wolde vertu plese,

 
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