The canterbury tales, p.63
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       The Canterbury Tales, p.63

           Geoffrey Chaucer

  litel thorn may prikke a king ful soore, and an hound wol holde1326 the wilde boor.” | But nathelees, I sey nat thow shalt be so coward that thow doute1327 ther wheras is no drede. | The book seyth that som folk have gret lust1328 to deceive, but yet they dreden hem to be deceived. | Yet shaltow drede to been empoisoned, and kepe the1329 from the compaignye of scorneres; | for the book seyth: “With scorneres make no compaignye1330, but flee hire wordes as venim.” [1330] |

  ‘Now as to the seconde point, whereas youre wise conseillours conseilled yow to warnestore youre hous with gret diligence, | I wolde fain knowe how that ye understonde thilke wordes, and what is youre sentence.’ |

  Melibeus answerde and seide, ‘Certes, I understonde it in this wise: that I shal warnestore min hous with toures, swiche as han castelles and othere manere edifices, and armure, and artelries1333, | by whiche thinges I may my persone and min hous so kepen and defenden that mine enemys shul been in drede min hous for to approche.’ |

  To this sentence answerde anon Prudence: ‘Warnestoring’, quod she, ‘of heighe toures and of grete edifices aperteneth1335 somtime to pride; [1335] | and eek men make heighe toures, and grete edifices with grete costages1336 and with gret travaille, and whan that they been accompliced, yet be they nat worth a stree but if they been defended by trewe freendes that been olde and wise. | And understonde wel, that the gretteste and the strongeste garnisoun1337 that a riche man may have, as wel to kepen his persone as his goodes, is | that he be biloved with his subgetz and with his neighebores. | For thus seyth Tullius, that ther is a manere garnesoun that no man may venquisse ne discomfite1339, and that is | a lord to be biloved of his citezeins and of his peple. [1340] |

  ‘Now sire, as to the thridde point, whereas youre olde and

  wise conseillours seiden that yow ne oghte nat sodeinly ne hastily proceden in this nede, | but that yow oghte purveyen and apparailen yow1342 in this cas with greet diligence and greet deliberacioun, | trewely I trowe that they seiden right wisely and right sooth. | For Tullius seyth: “In every nede, er thow biginne it, apparaile thee with greet diligence.” | Thanne seye I that in vengeance-takinge, in werre, in bataille, and in warnestoringe, [1345] | er thow biginne, I rede that thow apparaile thee therto, and do it with greet deliberacioun. | For Tullius seyth that longe apparailinge biforn the bataille maketh short victorye. | And Cassidorus seyth the garnesoun is strenger whan it is longe time avised1348. |

  ‘But now lat us speken of the conseil that was acorded1349 by youre neighebores, swiche as doon yow reverence withouten love, | youre olde enemys reconsiled, youre flaterers, [1350] | that conseileden yow certeine thinges prively, and openly conseileden yow the contrarye, | the yonge folk also that conseileden yow to venge yow and make werre anoon. | And certes, sire, as I have seid biforn, ye han greetly erred to han cleped swich maner folk to youre conseil, | whiche conseillours been inow repreved1354 by the resons aforeseid. | But nathelees, lat us now descende to the special1355. Ye shuln first proceden after the doctrine of Tullius. [1355] | Certes, the trouthe of this matere or of this conseil nedeth nat diligently enquere, | for it is wel wist whiche they been that han doon to yow this trespas1357 and vileinye, | and how manye trespassours1358, and in what manere they han to yow doon al this wrong and al this vileinye. | And after this, thanne shul ye examine the seconde condicioun which that the same Tullius addeth in this matere, | for Tullius put1360 a thing which that he clepeth “consentinge”. This is to seyn, [1360] | who been they, and whiche been they, and how manye,

  that consenten to thy conseil in thy wilfulnesse1361 to do hastif vengeance. | And lat us considere also who been they, and how manye been they, and whiche been they, that consenteden to youre adversaries. | And certes, as to the firste point, it is wel knowen whiche folk been they that consenteden to youre hastif wilfulnesse, | for trewely, alle tho that conseileden yow to maken sodein werre ne been nat youre freendes. | Lat us now considere whiche been they that ye holde so greetly youre freendes as to youre persone; [1365] | for al be it so that ye be mighty and riche, certes ye ne been but allone, | for certes, ye ne han no child but a doghter, | ne ye ne han bretheren, ne cosins germains1368, ne noon oother ny kinrede | wherfore1369 that youre enemys for drede sholde stinte to plede with yow or destroye youre persone. | Ye knowen also that youre richesses moten1370 be dispended in diverse parties, [1370] | and whan that every wight hath his part, they ne wollen take but litel reward1371 to venge thy deeth. | But thine enemys been thre, and they han manye children, bretheren, cosins, and oother ny kinrede. | And though so were1373 that thow haddest slain of hem two or thre, yet dwellen ther inowe to wreken hir deeth and to sle thy persone. | And though so be that youre kinrede be moore siker1374 and stede-fast than the kin of youre adversarye, | yet nathelees youre kinrede nis but a fer1375 kinrede; they been but litel sib to yow, [1375] | and the kin of youre enemys been ny sib to hem. And certes, as in that, hir condicioun is bet than youres. | Thanne lat us considere also if the conseilling of hem that conseileden yow to taken sodein vengeance, wheither it acorde to1377 resoun; | and certes, ye knowe wel, nay. | For as by right and resoun, ther may no man taken vengeance on no wight but the juge, that hath the jurisdiccioun of it, | whan it is ygraunted him

  to take thilke vengeance, hastily or attemprely1380, as the lawe requireth. [1380] | And yet moreover of thilke word that Tullius clepeth consentinge: | thow shalt considere if thy might and thy power may consente1382 and suffise to thy wilfulnesse and to thy conseillours; | and certes, thow mayst wel seyn that nay. | For sikerly, as for to speke proprely, we may do nothing but oonly swich thing as we may do rightfully; | and certes, rightfully ne mowe ye take no vengeance as of youre propre auctoritee. [1385] | Thanne mowe ye seen that youre power ne consenteth nat ne acordeth nat with youre wilfulnesse. |

  ‘Lat us now examine the thridde point, that Tullius clepeth “consequent1387”. | Thow shalt understande that the vengeance that thow purposest for to take is the consequent; | and therof folweth another vengeance, peril, and werre, and othere damages withoute nombre of whiche we be nat waar1389 as at this time. |

  ‘And as touchinge the ferthe point, that Tullius clepeth “engendringe”, [1390] | thow shalt considere that this wrong which that is doon to thee is engendred of the hate of thine enemys, | and of the vengeance-takinge upon that wolde engendre another vengeance, and muchel sorwe and wastinge of richesses, as I seide. |

  ‘Now sire, as to the point that Tullius clepeth “causes”, which that is the laste point: | thow shalt understonde that the wrong that thow hast received hath certeine causes, | whiche that clerkes clepen oriens and efficiens, and causa longinqua, and causa propinqua – this is to seyn, the fer cause1395 and the ny cause. [1395] | The fer cause is almighty God that is cause of alle thinges. | The neer cause is thy thre enemys. | The cause accidental1398 was hate. | The cause material been the five woundes of thy doghter. | The cause formal1400 is the manere of hir werkinge, that broghten laddres and clomben in at thy windowes. [1400] |

  The cause final was for to sle thy doghter; it letted nat inasmuche as in hem was1401. | But for to speke of the fer cause, as to what ende they shul come, or what shal finally bitide of hem in this cas, ne kan I nat deme1402 but by conjectinge and by supposinge; | for we shuln suppose that they shul come to a wikked ende, | bicause that the book of Decrees seyth: “Selden or with greet peine been causes ybroght to good ende whan they been baddely bigonne.” |

  ‘Now sire, if men wolde axe me why that God suffred1405 men to do yow this vileinye, certes I kan nat wel answere as for no soothfastnesse. [1405] | For the Apostle seyth that the sciences and the jugementz of oure Lord God almighty been ful depe1406; | ther may no man comprehende ne serchen1407 hem suffisantly. | Nathelees, by certeine presumpcions and conjectinges I holde and bileve | that God, which that is ful of justice and of right-wisnesse, hath suffred this bitide by juste cause resonable. |

  ‘Thy name is Melibe; this is to seyn, a man that drinketh hony. [1410] | Thow hast ydronke so muchel hony of swe
te temporel richesses and delices and honours of this world | that thow art dronken, and hast forgeten Jesu Crist thy creatour. | Thow ne hast nat doon to him swich honour and reverence as thee oghte, | ne thow ne hast nat wel ytaken kepe1414 to the wordes of Ovide, that seyth: | “Under the hony of the goodes of the body is hid the venim that sleeth1415 the soule.” [1415] | And Salomon seyth: “If thow hast founden hony, ete of it that1416 suffiseth, | for if thow ete of it out of mesure1417, thow shalt spewe and be needy and poore.” | And paraventure Crist hath thee in despit1418, and hath turned awey fro thee his face and his eris of misericorde; | and also he hath suffred that thow hast been punisshed in the manere that thow hast ytrespased. | Thow hast

  doon sinne again oure Lord Crist; [1420] | for certes, the thre enemys of mankinde – that is to seyn, the flessh, the feend, and the world – | thow hast suffred hem entre into thin herte wilfully by the windowes of thy body, | and hast nat defended thyself suffisantly agains hir assautes and hir temptacions, so that they han wounded thy soule in five places | – this is to seyn, the dedly sinnes that been entred into thin herte by thy five wittes1424. | And in the same manere oure Lord Crist hath wold1425 and suffred that thy thre enemys been entred into thin hous by the windowes, [1425] | and han ywounded thy doghter in the forseide manere.’ |

  ‘Certes,’ quod Melibee, ‘I se wel that ye enforce yow1427 muchel by wordes to overcome me in swich manere that I shal nat venge me of mine enemys, | shewinge me the perils and the iveles that mighte falle of this vengeance. | But whoso wolde considere in alle vengeances the perils and iveles that mighte sewe of1429 vengeance-takinge, | a man wolde nevere take vengeance, and that were harm1430, [1430] | for by the vengeance-takinge been the wikked men dissevered1431 fro the goode men, | and they that han wil to do wikkednesse restreine hir wikked purpos whan they seen the punisshinge and chastisinge of trespassours1432.’ |

  | And yet seye I moore, that right as a singuler persone1435 sinneth in takinge vengeance of another man, [1435] | right so sinneth the juge if he do no vengeance of hem that it han disserved. | For Senek seyth thus: “That maister”, he seyth, “is good that preveth1437 shrewes.” | And as Cassidore seyth: “A man dredeth to do outrages1438 whan he woot and knoweth that

  it displeseth to the juges and the sovereins.” | And another seyth: “The juge that dredeth to do right maketh men shrewes.” | And Seint Poule th’apostle seyth in his Epistle, whan he writeth unto the Romains, that the juges beren nat the spere withouten cause, [1440] | but they beren it to punisshe the shrewes and misdoers, and for to defende the goode men. | If ye wol thanne take vengeance of youre enemys, ye shul retourne or have youre recours to the juge that hath the jurisdiccioun upon hem, | and he shal punisshe hem as the lawe axeth and requireth.’ |

  ‘A,’ quod Melibe, ‘this vengeance liketh me nothing1444. | I bithenke me1445 now and take hede, how Fortune hath norisshed me fro my childhode, and hath holpen me to passe many a strong paas. [1445] | Now wol I assaye1447n hire, trowinge, with Goddes help, that she shal helpe me my shame for to venge.’ |

  ‘Certes,’ quod Prudence, ‘if ye wol werke by my conseil, ye shul nat assaye Fortune by no wey, | ne ye shul nat lene1448 or bowe unto hire, after the word of Senek: | “for thinges that been folily1449 doon and that been in hope of Fortune shullen nevere come to good ende.” | And, as the same Senek seyth: “The moore cleer1450 and the moore shininge that Fortune is, the moore brotil and the sonner broke she is.” [1450] | Trusteth nat in hire, for she nis nat stedefast ne stable, | for whan thow trowest to be moost seur1452 or siker of hir help, she wol faile thee and deceive thee. | And whereas ye seyn that Fortune hath norisshed yow fro youre childhode, | I seye that in so muchel1454 shal ye the lasse truste in hire and in hir wit; | for Senek seyth: “What man that is norisshed by Fortune, she maketh him to greet a fool.” [1455] | Now thanne, sin ye desire and axe vengeance, and the vengeance that is doon after the lawe and bifore the juge ne liketh yow nat, | and the vengeance that is doon in hope of Fortune is perilous and uncertein, | thanne have ye noon oother remedye but for to

  have youre recours unto the soverein juge1458 that vengeth alle vileinyes and wronges, | and he shal venge yow, after that himself witnesseth, whereas he seyth: | “Leveth the vengeance to me, and I shal do it.”’ [1460] |

  Melibe answerde, ‘If I ne venge me nat of the vileinye that men han doon to me, | I somne1462 or warne hem that han doon to me that vileinye, and alle othere, to do me another vileinye; | for it is writen: “If thow take no vengeance of an old vileinye, thow somnest thine adversaries to do thee a newe vileinye.” | And also, for my suffrance1464 men wolden do me so muchel vileinye that I mighte neither bere it ne sustene, | and so sholde I been put and holden over lowe1465; [1465] | for men seyn: “In muchel suffringe shul manye thinges falle unto thee whiche thow shalt nat mowe1466 suffre.”’ |

  ‘Certes,’ quod Prudence, ‘I graunte yow that over-muchel suffraunce is nat good, | but yet ne folweth it nat therof that every persone to whom men doon vileinye take of it vengeance, | for that aperteneth and longeth1469 al oonly1472 to the juges, for they shul venge the vileinyes and injuries. | And therfore tho two auctoritees that ye han seid above been oonly understonden in the juges, [1470] | for whan they suffren over muchel the wronges and vileinyes to be doon withouten punisshinge, | they somne nat a man al oonly for to do newe wronges, but they comanden it. | Also a wis man seyth that the juge that correcteth nat the sinnere comandeth and biddeth him do sinne; | and the juges and sovereins mighten in hir land so muchel suffre of the shrewes and misdoers | that they sholden, by swich suffrance, by proces of time wexen1475 of swich power and might that they sholden putte out the juges and the sovereins from hir places, [1475] | and atte laste maken hem lese1476 hir lordshipes. |

  ‘But lat us now putte1477 that ye have leve to venge yow: | I seye ye be nat of might and power as now to venge yow, | for if ye

  wol maken comparisoun unto the might of youre adversaries, ye shul finde in manye thinges that I have shewed yow er this that hir condicioun is bettre than youres; | and therfore seye I that it is good as now that ye suffre and be pacient. [1480] | Forthermoore, ye knowen wel that, after the commune sawe1481, it is a woodnesse a man to strive with a strenger or a moore mighty man than he is himself, | and for to strive with a man of evene strengthe – that is to seyn, with as strong a man as he is – it is peril, | and for to strive with a weiker1483 man, it is folye. | And therfore sholde a man flee1484 strivinge as muchel as he mighte, | for Salomon seyth: “It is a greet worship1485 to a man to kepen him fro noise and strif.” [1485] | And if it so bifalle or happe that a man of gretter might and strengthe than thow art do thee grevaunce1486, | studye1487 and bisye thee rather to stille the same grevaunce than for to venge thee. | For Senek seyth that he putteth him in greet peril that striveth with a gretter man than he is himself. | And Catoun seyth: “If a man of hyer estaat or degree, or moore mighty than thow, do thee anoy or grevaunce, suffre him, | for he that ones hath greved thee may another time releve thee and helpe.” [1490] | Yet sette I cas1491 ye have bothe might and licence for to venge yow | – I seye, that ther be ful manye thinges that shul restreine yow of1492 vengeance-takinge, | and make yow for to encline to suffre, and for to han pacience in the wronges that han been doon to yow. |

  ‘First and foreward, if ye wole considere the defautes1495 that been in youre owen1501e persone, | for whiche defautes God hath suffred yow have this tribulacioun, as I have seid yow heerbiforn. [1495] | For the poete seyth that we oghten paciently taken the tribulaciouns that comen to us, whan that we thinken and consideren that we han disserved to have hem. | And Seint Gregorye seyth that whan a man considereth wel the nombre

  of his defautes and of his sinnes, | the peines and the tribulaciouns that he suffreth semen the
lesse unto him; | and in as muche as him thinketh his sinnes moore hevy and grevous, | in so muche semeth his peine the lighter and the esier unto him. [1500] | Also ye owen to encline and bowe youre herte to take the pacience of oure Lord Jesu Crist, as seyth Seint Peter in his Epistles. | “Jesu Crist”, he seyth, “hath suffred for us and yeven ensample to every man to folwe and sewe him; | for he dide nevere sinne, ne nevere cam ther a vileins1503 word out of his mouth. | Whan men cursed him, he cursed hem noght, and whan men betten1504 him, he manaced hem noght.” | Also the grete pacience which seintes that been in Paradis han had, in tribulaciouns that they han ysuffred withouten hir desert or gilt, [1505] | oghte muchel stire yow to pacience. |

  ‘Forthermoore ye sholde enforce yow1507 to have pacience | consideringe that the tribulaciouns of this world but litel while endure, and soone passed been and goon; | and the joye that a man seketh to have by pacience in tribulaciouns is pardurable1509, after that the Apostle seyth in his Epistle: | “The joye of God”, he seyth, “is pardurable” – that is to seyn, everelastinge. [1510] | Also troweth1511 and bileveth stedefastly that he nis nat wel ynor-isshed ne wel ytaught that kan nat have pacience or wol nat receive pacience. | For Salomon seyth that the doctrine1512 and the wit of a man is knowen by pacience. | And in another place he seyth that he that is pacient governeth him by greet prudence. | And the same Salomon seyth: “The angry and wrathful man maketh noises, and the pacient man attempreth1514 hem and stilleth.” | He seyth also: “It is moore worth to be pacient than for to be right strong, [1515] | and he that may have the lordshipe of his owene herte is moore to preise1516 than he that by his force or strengthe taketh grete citees.” | And therfore seyth

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