The canterbury tales, p.61
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       The Canterbury Tales, p.61

           Geoffrey Chaucer

  callen a greet congregacioun of folk, | as sirurgiens1005, phisiciens, olde folk and yonge, and somme of hise olde enemys, reconsiled, as by hir semblaunt, to his love and into his grace. [1005] | And therwithal ther coomen1006 somme of hise neighebores, that diden him reverence moore for drede than for love, as it happeth ofte. | Ther coomen also ful many subtile flatereres, and wise advocatz lerned in the lawe. | And whan this folk togidre assembled weren, this Melibeus in sorweful wise shewed hem his cas. | And by the manere of his speche it semed that in herte he baar1009 a cruel ire, redy to doon vengeaunce upon his foos, and sodeinly desired that the werre sholde biginne, | but nathelees yet axed he hir conseil upon this matere. [1010] |

  A sirurgien, by licence1011 and assent of swiche as weren wise, up roos, and unto Melibeus seide as ye may heere: | ‘Sire,’ quod he, ‘as to us sirurgiens aperteneth1012 that we do to every wight the beste that we kan whereas we be withholden, and to oure pacientz that we do no damage. | Wherfore it happeth many time and ofte, that whan twey1013 men han everich wounded oother, o same sirurgien heeleth hem bothe. | Wherfore unto oure art it is nat pertinent1014 to norice werre, ne parties to supporte. | But certes, as to the warisshinge1015 of youre doghter, al be it so that she perilously be wounded, we shullen do so ententif bisinesse fro day to night that with the grace of God she shal be hool and sound as soone as is possible.’ [1015] | Almoost right in the same wise the phisiciens answerden, save that they seiden a fewe woordes moore: | that right as maladies ben cured by hir contraries1017, right so shal men warisshe werre by vengeaunce. |

  Hise neighebores, ful of envye, hise feined1018 freendes that

  semeden reconsiled, and hise flaterers | maden semblant1019 of weping, and empeired and agregged muchel of this matere, in preisinge gretly Melibe of might, of power, of richesse, and of freendes, despisinge the power of hise adversaries, | and seiden outrely1020 that he anon sholde wreke him on hise foos and biginne werre. [1020] |

  Up roos thanne an advocat that was wis, by leve and by conseil of othere that weren wise, and seide: | ‘Lordinges, the nede1022 for the which we been assembled in this place is a ful hevy thing and an heigh matere, | bicause of the wrong and of the wikkednesse that hath be doon, and eek by resoun of1023 the grete damages that in time cominge been possible to fallen for the same cause, | and eek by resoun of the grete richesse and power of the parties bothe; | for the whiche resouns it were a ful greet peril to erren in this matere. [1025] | Wherfore, Melibeus, this is oure sentence: we conseille yow aboven alle thing that right anon thow do thy diligence1026 in kepinge of thy propre persone in swich a wise that thow ne wante noon espye ne wacche, thy body for to save. | And after that, we conseille that in thin hous thow sette suffisant garnisoun1027 so that they may as wel thy body as thin hous defende. | But certes, for to moeve werre1028, ne sodeinly for to doon vengeaunce, we may nat deme in so litel time that it were profitable. | Wherfore we axen leiser and espace1029 to have deliberacioun in this cas to deme, | for the commune proverbe seyth thus: “He that soone1030 demeth, soone shal repente.” [1030] | And eek men seyn that thilke juge is wis that soone understondeth a matere, and juggeth by leiser1031. | For al be it so that al tarying be anoyful1032, algates it is nat to repreve in yeving of juggement ne in vengeance-taking, whan it is suffisant and resonable, | and that shewed oure Lord Jesu Crist

  by ensample. For whan that the womman that was taken in avoutrye1033 was broght in his presence to knowen what sholde be doon with hir persone, albeit that he wiste wel himself what that he wolde answere, yet ne wolde he nat answere sodeinly, but he wolde have deliberacioun, and in the ground he wroot twies. | And by thise causes we axen deliberacioun, and we shul thanne by the grace of God conseille thee thing that shal be profitable.’ | Up stirten1035 thanne the yonge folk atones, and the mooste partie of that compaignye han scorned this olde wise man, and bigonnen to make noise, and seiden that [1035] | right so as whil that iren1036 is hoot, men sholde smite, right so sholde men wreken hir wronges whil that they been fresshe and newe; and with loud vois they criden ‘Werre, werre!’ |

  Up roos tho oon of thise olde wise, and with his hand made contenaunce1037 that men sholde holden hem stille and yeven him audience. | ‘Lordinges,’ quod he, ‘ther is ful many a man that cryeth “Werre, werre!” that woot ful litel what werre amounteth1038. | Werre at his biginning hath so greet an entring and so large, that every wight may entre whan him liketh and lightly1039 finde werre. | But certes, what ende that shal therof bifalle, it is nat light to knowe. [1040] | For soothly, whan that werre is ones bigonne, ther is ful many a child unborn of his moder that shal sterve1041 yong bicause of thilke werre, or elles live in sorwe and die in wrecchednesse. | And therfore, er that any werre be bigonne, men moste have gret conseil and gret deliberacioun.’ | And whan this olde man wende1043 to enforcen his tale by resons, wel neigh alle atones bigonne they to rise for to breken his tale, and beden him ful ofte hise wordes for to abregge, | for soothly, he that precheth to hem that listen nat heren hise wordes, his sarmon1044 hem anoyeth. | For Jesus Sirak seyth that musik in weping is anoyous1045 thing; this is to seyn, as

  much availleth to speken biforn folk to whiche his speche anoyeth, as it is to singe biforn him that wepeth. [1045] | And whan this wise man say1046 that him wanted audience, al shamefast he sette him doun again. | For Salomon seyth: ‘Theras thow ne mayst have non audience, enforce thee nat1047 to speke.’ | ‘I se wel’, quod this wise man, ‘that the commune proverbe is sooth, that good conseil wanteth1048 whan it is moost nede.’ | Yet hadde this Melibeus in his conseil many folk that prively in his ere conseilled him certein thing, and conseilled him the contrarye in general audience1049. |

  Whan Melibeus hadde herd that the gretteste partie of his conseil were acorded1050 that he sholde make werre, anon he consented to hir conseiling, and fully affermed hir sentence. [1050] | Thanne dame Prudence, whan that she say1051 how that hir housbonde shoop him for to wreke him on his foos and to biginne werre, she in ful humble wise, whan she say hir time, seide to him thise wordes: | ‘My lord,’ quod she, ‘I yow biseche as hertely as I dar and kan, ne haste yow nat to faste, and, for alle gerdons1052, as yif me audience. | For Piers Alfonce seyth: “Whoso that dooth to thee outher good or harm, haste thee nat to quiten it1053, for in this wise thy freend wol abide1054, and thin enemy shal the lenger live in drede.” | The proverbe seyth, “He hasteth wel that wisely kan abide”, and “In wikke1057d haste is no profite.”’ |

  This Melibe answerde unto his wif Prudence: ‘I purpose nat’, quod he, ‘to werken by thy conseil, for many causes and resons; for certes, every wight wolde holde me thanne a fool [1055] | – this is to seyn, if I for thy conseilling wolde chaunge thinges that ben ordeined and affermed by so manye wise. | Secoundely, I seye that alle wommen ben wikke, and noon good of hem alle, for “Of a thousand men”, seyth Salomon, “I foond o good man, but certes, of alle wommen, good womman foond

  I nevere.” | And also, certes, if I governed me by thy conseil, it sholde seme that I hadde yeve to thee over me the maistrye1058, and Goddes forbode that it so were! | For Jesus Sirak seyth that if the wif have maistrye, she is contrarious to hir housbonde. | And Salomon seyth: “Nevere in thy lif to thy wif, ne to thy child, ne to thy freend, ne yeve no power over thyself, for bettre it were that thy children axen of thy persone thinges that hem nedeth, than thow see thyself in the handes of thy children.” [1060] | And also, if I wolde werke by thy conseilling, certes, my conseil moste somtime be secree til it were time that it moste be knowe1061, and this ne may nat be. |


  Whanne dame Prudence ful debonairly1064 and with gret pacience hadde herd al that hir housbonde liked for to seye, thanne axed she of him licence for to speke, and seide in this wise: | ‘My lord,’ quod she, ‘as to youre firste reson, certes it may
lightly been answered; for I seye that it is no folye to chaunge conseil whan the thing is chaunged, or elles whan the thing semeth ootherweyes1065 than it was biforn. [1065] | And mooreover, I seye that though ye han sworn and bihight1066 to perfourne youre emprise, and nathelees ye weive to perfourne thilke same emprise by juste cause, men sholde nat seyn therfore that ye were a liere ne forsworn. | For the book seyth that the wise man maketh no lesing1067 whan he turneth his corage to the bettre. | And al be it so that youre emprise be establissed and ordeined by gret multitude of folk, yet thar ye nat1068 accomplice thilke ordinaunce but yow like; | for the trouthe of thinges and the profit ben rather founde in fewe folk that ben wise and ful of reson, than by gret multitude of folk ther every man cryeth and

  clatereth1069 what that him liketh. Soothly swich multitude is nat honeste. |

  ‘And as to the seconde resoun, whereas ye seyn that alle wommen ben wikke, save youre grace1070, certes ye despise alle wommen in this wise, and “He that al despiseth, al displeseth”, as seyth the book. [1070] | And Senec seyth that “Whoso wole have sapience shal no man dispreise, but he shal gladly teche the science1071 that he kan withoute presumpcion or pride, | and swiche thinges as he noght ne kan, he shal nat ben ashamed to lerne hem, and enquere of lasse folk than himself.” | And, sire, that ther hath been ful many a good womman may lightly be preved1073. | For certes, sire, oure Lord Jesu Crist wolde nevere han descended to be born of a womman if alle wommen hadde ben wikke; | and after that, for the grete bountee1075 that is in wommen, oure Lord Jesu Crist, whan he was risen fro deeth to lif, appered rather to a womman than to his apostles. [1075] | And though that Salomon seyth that he ne foond nevere womman good, it folweth nat therfore that alle wommen ben wikke; | for though that he ne foond no good womman, certes, many another man hath founde many a womman ful good and trewe. | Or elles, paraventure1078, the entente of Salomon was this: that, as in soverein bountee he foond no womman | – this is to seyn, that ther is no wight that hath soverein bountee save God allone, as he himself recordeth in his Evaungelie1079. | For ther nis no creature so good that him ne wanteth1080 somwhat of the perfeccioun of God that is his makere. [1080] |

  ‘Youre thridde reson is this: ye seyn that if ye governe yow by my conseil, it sholde seme that ye hadde yeve me the maistrye and the lordshipe over youre persone. | Sire, save youre grace, it is nat so, for if so were that no man sholde be conseiled but oonly of hem that hadde lordshipe and maistrye of his persone, men wolde nat ben conseilled so ofte. | For soothly, thilke man

  that axeth conseil of a purpos, yet hath he free chois wheither he wole werke by1083 that conseil or noon. |

  ‘And as to youre ferthe reson, ther ye seyn that the janglerye1084 of wommen kan hide thinges that they woot nat (as who seyth, that a womman kan nat hide that she woot) | – sire, thise wordes been understonde of wommen that ben jangleresses1085 and wikked; [1085] | of whiche wommen men seyn that thre thinges driven a man out of his hous: that is to seyn, smoke, dropping of rein, and wikked wives. | And of swiche wommen seyth Salomon that it were bettre dwelle in desert than with a woman that is riotous1087. | And sire, by youre leve, that am nat I, | for ye han ful ofte assayed1089 my grete silence and my grete pacience, and eek how wel that I kan hide and hele thinges that men oghte secreely to hide. |

  ‘And soothly, as to youre fifthe reson, whereas ye seyn that in wikked conseil wommen venquisse1090 men, God woot, thilke reson stant heere in no stede. [1090] | For understond now ye axen conseil to do wikkednesse; | and if ye wole werke wikkednesse, and youre wif restreineth thilke wikked purpos, and overcometh yow by reson and by good conseil, | certes, youre wif oghte rather to be preised than yblamed. | Thus sholde ye understonde the philosophre that seyth: “In wikked conseil wommen venquissen hir housbondes.” |

  ‘And theras ye blamen alle wommen and hir resons, I shal shewe by manye ensamples that many a womman hath ben ful good, and yet ben1095, and hir conseils holsom and profitable. [1095] | Eke som men han seid that the conseiling of wommen is outher1096 to deere or elles to litel of pris. | But al be it so that ful many a womman is badde, and hir conseil vile and noght worth, yet han men founde ful many a good womman, and ful discrete and wise in conseilinge. | Lo, Jacob, by conseil of his

  moder Rebekka wan the benisoun1098 of Isaak his fader and the lordshipe over alle his bretheren; | Judith by hir good conseil delivered the citee of Bethulie, in which she dwelled, out of the handes of Olofernus, that hadde it biseged and wolde it al destroye; | Abigail delivered Nabal hir housbonde fro David the king, that wolde han slain him, and apaised1100 the ire of the king by hir wit and by hir good conseilling; [1100] | Hester by hir good conseil enhaunced1101 gretly the peple of God in the regne of Assuerus the king; | and the same bountee in good conseilling of many a good womman may men telle. | And mooreover, whan oure Lord hadde creat Adam oure forme-fader1103, he seide in this wise: | “It is nat good to be a man allone; make we to him an help1104 semblable to himself.” | Heere may ye se, that if that wommen were nat goode, and hir conseil good and profitable, [1105] | oure Lord God of hevene wolde neither han wroght1106 hem ne called hem help of man, but rather confusioun of man. | And ther seide oones a clerk in two vers: “What is bettre than gold? Jaspre1107. What is bettre than jaspre? Wisdom. | And what is bettre than wisdom? Womman. And what is bettre than a good womman? Nothing.” | And, sire, by manye othere resons may ye seen that manye wommen ben goode, and hir conseil good and profitable. | And therfore, sire, if ye wol truste to my conseil, I shal restore yow youre doghter hool and sound, [1110] | and eek I wol do to yow so muche that ye shul have honour in this cause.’ |

  Whan Melibe hadde herd the wordes of his wif Prudence, he seide thus: | ‘I se wel that the word of Salomon is sooth. He seyth that wordes that ben spoken discretly by ordinaunce1113 beth honycombes, for they yeve swetnesse to the soule and holsomnesse to the body. | And, wif, bicause of thy swete wordes, and eek for I have assayed and preved thy grete sapience and thy grete trouthe, I wol governe me1114 by thy conseil in alle thing.’ |

  ‘Now, sire,’ quod dame Prudence, ‘and sin ye vouchesauf1115 to been governed by my conseil, I wol enforme yow how ye shal governe youreself in chesinge of youre conseillours. [1115] | Ye shal first in alle youre werkes mekely biseken to1116 the heighe God that he wol be youre conseillour, | and shapeth yow1117 to swich entente that he yeve yow conseil and confort, as taughte Thobie his sone: | “At alle times thow shalt blesse God, and praye him to dresse1118 thy weyes, and looke that alle thy conseils ben in him for everemoore.” | Seint Jame eek seyth: “If any of yow have nede of sapience, axe it of God.” | And afterward thanne shal ye take conseil1120 in youreself, and examine wel youre thoghtes of swiche thinges as yow thinketh that is best for youre profit. [1120] | And thanne shal ye drive fro youre herte thre thinges that been contrariouse to good conseil: | that is to seyn, ire, coveitise, and hastinesse. |

  ‘First, he that axeth conseil of himself, certes he moste ben withouten ire, for many causes. | The firste is this: he that hath greet ire and wrathe in himself, he weneth1124 alwey that he may do thing that he may nat do. | And secoundly, he that is irous1125 and wroth, he ne may nat wel deme; [1125] | and he that may nat wel deme, may nat wel conseille. | The thridde is this: that he that is irous and wroth, as seyth Senek, ne may nat speke but blameful thinges, | and with hise viciouse wordes he stireth oother folk to angre and to ire. | And eek, sire, ye moste drive coveitise out of youre herte; | for the Apostle seyth that coveitise is the roote of alle harmes. [1130] | And trust wel that a coveitous man ne kan nat deme ne thinke but oonly to fulfille the ende of his coveitise; | and certes that ne may nevere been acompliced, for evere the moore habundaunce that he hath of richesse, the moore he desireth. | And, sire, ye moste also drive out of youre herte hastifnesse; for certes, | ye may nat deme for the best by a sodein thought that falleth in1134 youre herte, but ye moste avise yow on it ful ofte. | For as ye herde herebiforn, the

  commune proverbe is this, that he that soone demeth, soone repenteth. [113
5] | Sire, ye ne be nat alwey in like disposicioun, | for certes, somthing that somtime semeth to yow that it is good for to do, another time it semeth to yow the contrarye. |

  ‘Whan ye han taken conseil in youreself, and han demed by good deliberacioun swich thing as yow semeth best, | thanne rede1139 I yow that ye kepe it secree. | Biwrey1140 nat youre conseil to no persone but if so be that ye wenen sikerly that thurgh youre biwreying youre condicioun shal be to yow the moore profitable. [1140] | For Jesus Sirak seyth: “Neither to thy foo ne to thy freend discovere nat thy secree ne thy folye, | for they wol yeve yow audience and loking1142 and supportacioun in thy presence, and scorne thee in thin absence.” | Another clerk seyth that scarsly shaltow finden any persone that may kepe conseil secrely1143. | The book seyth: “Whil that thow kepest thy conseil in thin herte, thow kepest it in thy prison; | and whan thow biwreyest thy conseil to any wight, he holdeth thee in his snare.” [1145] | And therfore, yow is bettre to hide youre conseil in youre herte than preye him to whom ye han biwreyed youre conseil that he wol kepen it cloos1146 and stille. | For Seneca seyth: “If so be that thou ne mayst nat thin owene conseil hide, how darstow preyen any oother wight thy conseil secrely to kepe?” | But nathelees, if thow wene sikerly that thy biwreying of thy conseil to a persone wol make thy condicioun to stonden in the bettre plit1148, thanne shaltow telle him thy conseil in this wise: | first, thow shalt make no semblant1149 wheither thee were levere pees or werre, or this or that, ne shewe him nat thy wille and thin entente. | For trust wel, that comunely thise conseillours ben flatereres, [1150] | namely the conseillours of grete lordes, | for they enforcen hem1152 alwey rather to speke plesante wordes, enclininge to the lordes lust, than wordes that

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