The canterbury tales, p.62
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       The Canterbury Tales, p.62

           Geoffrey Chaucer

  ben trewe or profitable. | And therfore men seyn that the riche man hath selde1153 good conseil but if he have it of himself. |

  ‘And after that, thow shalt considere thy freendes and thine enemys. | And as touchinge thy freendes, thow shalt considere whiche of hem been moost feithful and moost wise, and eldest and most approved in conseilling, [1155] | and of hem shaltow axe thy conseil, as the cas requireth. | I seye, that first ye shul clepe1157 to youre conseil youre freendes that ben trewe. | For Salomon seyth that right as the herte of a man deliteth in savour that is soote1158, right so the conseil of trewe freendes yeveth swetnesse to the soule. | He seyth also, ther may nothing be likned to the trewe freend; | for certes, gold ne silver ben nat so muche worth as the goode wil of a trewe freend. [1160] | And eek he seyth that a trewe freend is a strong defense; whoso that it findeth, certes he findeth a gret tresor. | Thanne shul ye eek considere if that youre trewe freendes been discrete and wise, for the book seyth: “Axe alwey thy conseil of hem that been wise.” | And by this same reson shul ye clepen to youre conseil, of youre freendes that ben of age, swiche as han seighen1163 and ben expert in manye thinges, and ben approved in conseillinges; | for the book seyth that in olde men is the sapience, and in longe time the prudence. | And Tullius seyth that grete thinges ne ben nat ay acompliced by strengthe ne by delivernesse1165 of body, but by good conseil, by auctoritee of persones, and by science; the whiche thre thinges ne been nat fieble by age but certes they enforcen and encressen day by day. [1165] | And thanne shal ye kepe this for a general reule: first shal ye clepe to youre conseil a fewe of youre freendes that ben especiale1166. | For Salomo1168n seyth: “Manye freendes have thow, but among a thousand chees thee oon to be thy conseillour.” | For al be it so that thow first ne telle thy conseil but to a fewe, thow mayst afterward telle it to mo folk if it be nede. | But looke alwey that thy conseillours have thilke thre condicions that I have seid bifore: that is to

  seye, that they be trewe, wise, and of old experience. | And werk nat alwey in every nede by o conseillour allone; for somtime bihoveth it to be conseiled by manye. [1170] | For Salomon seyth: “Salvacion of thinges is wheras ther ben manye conseillours.” |

  ‘Now sith that I have told yow of which folk ye sholde be conseilled, now wol I teche yow which conseil ye oghte eschue1172. | First, ye shul eschue the conseilling of fooles; for Salomon seyth: “Take no conseil of a fool, for he ne kan nat conseille but after his owene lust1173 and his affeccioun.” | The book seyth that the propretee of a fool is this: he troweth1174 lightly harm of every wight and lightly troweth alle bountee in himself. | Thow shalt eek eschue the conseilling of alle flaterers, swiche as enforcen hem rather to preise youre persone by flaterye than for to telle yow the soothfastnesse1175 of thinges. [1175] | Wherfore Tullius seyth, among alle the pestilences that been in frendshipe the gretteste is flaterye; and therfore is it moore nede that thow eschue and drede flaterers than any oother peple. | The book seyth thow shalt rather drede and flee fro the swete wordes of flateringe preiseres than fro the egre1177 wordes of thy freend that seyth thee thy sothes. | Salomon seyth that the wordes of a flaterere is a snare to cacchen innocentz. | He seyth also that he that speketh to his freend wordes of swetnesse and of plesaunce setteth a net biforn his feet to cacchen him. | And therfore seyth Tullius: “Encline nat thine eres to1180 flatereres, ne take no conseil of wordes of flaterye.” [1180] | And Caton seyth: “Avise thee1181 wel, and eschue wordes of swetnesse and of plesaunce.” | And eek thow shalt eschue the conseilling of thine olde enemys that been reconsiled. | The book seyth that no wight retourneth saufly into the grace1183 of his olde enemy. | And Isope seyth: “Ne trust nat to hem to whiche thow hast had somtime werre or enmitee, ne telle hem nat thy conseil.” | And Seneca telleth the cause why: “It may nat be”, seyth he, “that whereas greet fir

  hath longe time endured, that ther ne dwelleth som vapour of warmnesse.” [1185] | And therfore seyth Salomon: “In thin olde foo trust nevere; | for sikerly1187, though thin enemy be reconsiled, and maketh thee cheere of humilitee and louteth to thee with his heed, ne trust him nevere. | For certes he maketh thilke feined humilitee moore for his profit than for any love of thy persone, bicause that he demeth1188 to have victorye over thy persone by swich feined contenance, the which victorye he mighte nat have by strif or werre.” | And Peter Alfonce seyth: “Make no felaweshipe with1189 thine olde enemys, for if thow do hem bountee, they wol perverten it into wikkednesse.” | And eek thow most eschue the conseilling of hem that ben thy servantz and beren thee greet reverence, for paraventure they doon it moore for drede than for love. [1190] | And therfore seyth a philosophre in this wise: “Ther is no wight parfitly trewe to him that he to soore1191 dredeth.” | And Tullius seyth: “Ther nis no might so gret of any emperour that longe may endure, but if he have moore love of the peple than drede.” | Thow shalt also eschue the conseilling of folk that ben dronkelewe1193, for they ne kan no conseil hide. | For Salomon seyth: “Ther is no privetee1194 theras regneth dronkenesse.” | Ye shal also han in suspect the conseilling of swich folk as conseille yow a thing prively and conseille yow the contrarye openly. [1195] | For Cassiodorie seyth that it is a manere sleighte1196 to hindre, whan he sheweth to doon a thing openly and werketh prively the contrarye. | Thow shalt also have in suspect the conseilling of wikked folk, for the book seyth: “The conseilling of wikked folk is alwey ful of fraude.” | And David seyth: “Blisful is that man that hath nat folwed the conseiling of shrewes1198.” | Thow shalt also eschue the conseilling of yong folk, for hir conseil is nat ripe1199. |

  ‘Now, sire, sith I have shewed yow of which folk ye shul take youre conseil, and of which folk ye shul folwe the conseil,

  [1200] | now wol I teche yow how ye shul examine youre conseil, after the doctrine of Tullius. | In the examininge thanne of youre conseillour, ye shul considere manye thinges. | Alder-first, thow shalt considere that in thilke thing that thow purposest, and upon what thing thow wolt have conseil, that verray trouthe be seid and conserved (this is to seyn, telle trewely thy tale), | for he that seyth fals may nat wel be conseiled in that cas of which he lieth. | And after this, thow shalt considere the thinges that acorden to1205 that thow purposest for to do by thy conseillours, if resoun acorde therto, [1205] | and eek if thy might may atteine therto1206, and if the moore part and the bettre part of thy conseillours acorde therto or no. | Thanne shaltow considere what thing shal folwe of that conseilling, as1207 hate, pees, werre, grace, profit, or damage, and many othere thinges. | And in alle thise thinges thow shalt chese the beste, and weive1208 alle othere thinges. | Thanne shaltow considere of what roote is engendred the matere of thy conseil, and what fruit it may conceive and engendre. | Thow shalt eek considere alle thise causes fro whennes they ben sprongen1210. [1210] | And whan ye have examined youre conseil as I have seid, and which partie is the bettre and moore profitable, and han approved it by manye wise folk and olde, | thanne shaltow considere if thou mayst parforme it and maken of it a good ende. | For resoun wol nat that any man sholde biginne a thing but if he mighte parforme it as him oghte, | ne no wight sholde take upon him so hevy a charge that he mighte nat bere it. | For the proverbe seyth: “He that to muche embraceth, distreineth1215 litel.” [1215] | And Caton seyth: “Assay1216 to do swich thing as thow hast power to doon, lest that the charge oppresse thee so soore that thee bihoveth to weive thing that thow hast bigonne.” | And if so be that thow be in doute wheither thow mayst parfourne a thing or noon, chees rather to suffre1217 than biginne. | And Peter Alfonce seyth: “If

  thow hast might to doon a thing of which thow most1218 repente, it is bettre ‘nay’ than ‘ye’.” | This is to seyn, that thee is bettre to holde thy tonge stille than for to speke. | Thanne may ye understonde by strenger resons that if thow hast power to parforme a werk of which thow shalt repente, thanne is it bettre that thow suffre than biginne. [1220] | Wel seyn they, that defenden1221 every wight to assaye a thing of which he is in doute wheither he may parforme it or no. | And after, whan ye have exam
ined youre conseil as I have seid biforn, and knowen wel that ye may parforme youre emprise, conferme1222 it thanne sadly til it be at an ende. |

  ‘Now is it resoun and time that I shewe yow whanne and wherfore that ye may chaunge youre conseil withoute youre repreve1223. | Soothly, a man may chaungen his purpos and his conseil if the cause cesseth, or whan a newe cas1224 bitideth; | for the lawe seyth that upon thinges that newely bitideth, bihoveth1225 newe conseil. [1225] | And Seneca seyth: “If thy conseil is come to the eris of thin enemy, chaunge thy conseil.” | Thow mayst also chaunge thy conseil if so be that thou finde that by errour, or by oother cause, harm or damage may bitide. | Also if thy conseil be dishoneste1228, or ellis cometh of dishoneste cause, chaunge thy conseil, | for the lawes seyn that alle bihestes1229 that ben dishoneste ben of no value; | and eek if it so be that it be inpossible, or may nat goodly1230 be parformed or kept. [1230] | And take this for a general reule, that every conseil that is affermed so strongly that it may nat be chaunged for no condicioun that may bitide, I seye that thilke conseil is wikked.’ |

  This Melibeus, whanne he hadde herd the doctrine of his wif dame Prudence, answerde in this wise: | ‘Dame,’ quod he, ‘as yet into this time ye han wel and covenably1233 taught me as in general how I shal governe me in the chesinge and in the withholding of my conseillours. | But now wolde I fain that ye

  wolde condescende in especial1234, | and telle me how liketh yow, or what semeth yow, by oure conseillours that we han chosen in oure present nede.’ [1235] |

  ‘My lord,’ quod she, ‘I biseke yow in al humblesse that ye wol nat wilfully replye again1236 my resons, ne distempre youre herte, thogh I speke thing that yow displese, | for God woot that as in min entente I speke it for youre beste, for youre honour, and for youre profite eke. | And soothly I hope that youre benignitee wol taken it in pacience. | Trusteth me wel,’ quod she, ‘that youre conseil as in this cas ne sholde nat, as to speke proprely, be called a conseilling, but a mocioun1239 or a moeving of folye, | in which conseil ye han erred in many a sondry wise. [1240] |

  ‘First and forward1241, ye han erred in the assembling of youre conseillours, | for ye sholde first have cleped a fewe folk to youre conseil, and after ye mighte han shewed it to mo folk, if it hadde be nede. | But certes, ye han sodeinly cleped to youre conseil a gret multitude of peple, ful chargeant1243 and ful anoyous for to heere. | Also ye han erred for thereas1244 ye sholde oonly han cleped to youre conseil youre trewe frendes olde and wise, | ye han ycleped straunge folk, yong folk, false flatereres, and enemys reconsiled, and folk that doon yow reverence1245 withouten love. [1245] | And eek also ye have erred for ye han broght with yow to youre conseil ire, coveitise, and hastifnesse, | the whiche thre thinges ben contrariouse to every conseil honeste and profitable; | the whiche thre thinges ye han nat anientissed1248 or destroyed hem, neither in youreself ne in youre conseillours, as ye oghte. | Ye han erred also for ye han shewed to youre conseillours youre talent1249 and youre affeccioun to make werre anon and for to do vengeance. | They han espied by youre wordes to what thing ye ben enclined. [1250] | And therfore han they rather conseilled yow to youre talent than to youre

  profit. | Ye han erred also for it semeth that yow suffiseth1252 to han ben conseilled by thise conseillours oonly and with litel avis, | whereas in so gret and so heigh a nede it hadde ben1253 necessarye mo conseillours and moore deliberacioun to parforme youre emprise. | Ye han erred also for ye ne han nat examined youre conseil in the forseide manere, ne in due manere, as the cas requireth. | Ye han erred also for ye han maked no divisioun bitwixe youre conseillours – this is to seyn, bitwixe youre trewe freendes and youre feined conseillours – [1255] | ne ye ne have nat knowe the wil of youre trewe freendes olde and wise, | but ye han cast alle hir wordes in an hochepot1257, and enclined youre herte to the moore part and to the gretter nombre, and there ben ye condescended. | And sith ye woot wel that men shal alwey finde a gretter nombre of fooles than of wise men, | and therfore the conseils that ben at congregacions and multitudes of folk, theras men take moore reward to the nombre than to the sapience of persones, | ye se wel that in swiche conseillinges fooles han the maistrye1260.’ [1260] |

  Melibeus answerde again and seide: ‘I graunte wel that I have erred, | but theras thow hast toold me heerbiforn that he nis nat to blame that chaungeth his conseillours in certein cas and for certeine juste causes, | I am al redy to chaunge my conseillours right as thow wolt devise. | The proverbe seyth that for to do sinne is mannissh1264, but certes, for to persevere longe in sinne is werk of the devel.’ |

  To this sentence answerde anon dame Prudence, and seide: [1265] | ‘Examineth’, quod she, ‘youre conseil, and lat us se the whiche of hem han spoken moost resonably and taught yow best conseil. | And forasmuche as that the examinacioun is necessarye, lat us biginne at the sirurgiens and at the phisiciens, that first speeken in this matere. | I sey yow, that the sirurgiens and phisiciens han seid yow in youre conseil discretly, as hem oghte, | and in hir speche seiden ful wisely that to the office of

  hem aperteneth1269 to doon to every wight honour and profit, and no wight to anoye, | and after hir craft1270 to doon gret diligence unto the cure of hem whiche that they han in hir governaunce. [1270] | And, sire, right as they han answered wisely and discreetly, | right so rede1272 I that they be heighly and sovereinly gerdoned for hir noble speche, | and eek for they shullen do the moore ententif bisinesse1273 in the curacioun of thy doghter deere. | For al be it so that they ben youre freendes, therfore shal ye nat suffren1274 that they serve yow for noght, | but ye oghte the rather gerdone hem and shewe hem youre largesse. [1275] | And as touchinge the proposicioun which that the phisiciens encresceden1276 in this cas – this is to seyn, | that in maladies that oon contrarye is warisshed1277 by another contrarye – | I wolde fain knowe how ye understande thilke text1278, and what is youre sentence.’ |

  ‘Certes,’ quod Melibeus, ‘I understonde it in this wise: | that right as they han doon me a contrarye1280, right so sholde I doon hem another; [1280] | for right as they han venged hem on me and doon me wrong, right so shal I venge me upon hem and doon hem wrong, | and thanne have I cured oon contrarye by another.’ |

  ‘Lo, lo!’ quod dame Prudence, ‘how lightly is every man enclined to his owene desir and to his owene plesaunce1283! | Certes,’ quod she, ‘the wordes of the phisiciens ne sholde nat han ben understonden1284 in that wise; | for certes, wikkednesse is nat contrarye to wikkednesse, ne vengeance to vengeance, ne wrong to wrong, but they ben semblable1285. [1285] | And therfore o vengeance is nat warisshed by another vengeance, ne o wrong by another wrong, | but everich1287 of hem encresceth and aggreggeth oother. | But certes, the wordes of the phisiciens

  sholde ben understonde in this wise: | for good and wikkednesse ben two contraries, and pees and werre, vengeance and suffrance1289, discord and acord, and many othere thinges. | But certes, wikkednesse shal be warisshed by goodnesse, discord by acord, werre by pees, and so forth of othere thinges; [1290] | and herto acordeth1291 Seint Poul the apostle in many places. | He seyth: “Ne yeldeth1292 noght harm for harm, ne wikked speche for wikked speche, | but do wel to him that dooth to thee harm, and blesse him that seyth to thee harm”; | and in manye othere places he amonesteth1294 pees and acord. |

  ‘But now wol I speke to yow of the conseil which that was yeven to yow by the men of lawe and the wise folk, [1295] | that seiden alle by oon acord1296 (as ye han herd bifore) | that over1297 alle thinges ye shal do youre diligence to kepe youre persone and to warnestore youre hous; | and seiden also that in this cas ye oghten for to werke ful avisely1298 and with greet deliberacioun. | And, sire, as to the firste point, that toucheth to1299 the keping of youre persone, | ye shul understonde that he that hath werre shal everemoore devoutly and mekely preyen, biforn alle thinges, [1300] | that Jesus Crist of his mercy wol han him in his proteccioun and ben his soverein1301 helping at his nede. | For certes, in this world ther is no wight that may be conseilled ne kept suffisantly withoute the keping of oure Lord Jesu C
rist. | To this sentence acordeth the prophete David, that seyth: | “If God ne kepe the citee, in idel waketh1304 he that it kepeth.” | Now sire, thanne shul ye committe the keping of youre persone to youre trewe freendes that been approved and yknowe, [1305] | and of hem shul ye axen help youre persone for to kepe. For Catoun seyth: “If thou hast nede of help, axe it of thy freendes, | for ther nis noon so good a phisicien as thy trewe freend.” | And after this thanne shul ye kepe yow fro alle straunge folk

  and fro lieres, and have alwey in suspect1308 hir compaignye. | For Piers Alfonce seyth: “Ne taak no compaignye by the weye of a straunge man, but if so be1309 that thow have knowe him of a lenger time. | And if so be that he falle into thy compaignye paraventure1310, withouten thin assent, [1310] | enquere thanne as subtilly as thow mayst of his conversacioun1311 and of his lif bifore, and feine thy wey: sey that thow wolt go thider as thow wolt nat go. | And if he bereth a spere, hoold thee1312 on the right side, and if he bere a swerd, hoold thee on the left side.” | And after this, thanne shal ye kepe yow wisely from al swich manere peple as I have seid bifore, and hem and hir conseil eschewe1313. | And after this, than shal ye kepe yow in swich manere | that, for any presumpcioun of youre strengthe that ye ne despise nat ne accompte1315 nat the might of youre adversarye so lite that ye lete the keping of youre persone for youre presumpcioun, [1315] | for every wis man dredeth his enemy. | And Salomon seyth: “Weleful1317 is he that of alle hath drede, | for certes, he that thurgh the hardinesse1318 of his herte, and thurgh the hardinesse of himself, hath to gret presumpcioun, him shal ivel bitide.” | Thanne shal ye everemo countrewaite1319 emboissementz and alle espiaille, | for Senek seyth that the wise man that dredeth harmes escheweth harmes, [1320] | ne he ne falleth into perils that perils escheweth. | And al be it so that it seme that thow art in siker1322 place, yet shaltow alwey do thy diligence in kepinge of thy persone; | this is to seyn, ne be nat necligent to kepe thy persone, nat oonly fro thy grettest enemys, but fro thy leeste enemy. | Senek seyth: “A man that is well avised1324, he dredeth his leste enemy.” | Ovide seyth that the litel wesele1325 wol slee the grete bole and the wilde hert. [1325] | And the book seyth: “A

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