The canterbury tales, p.72
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       The Canterbury Tales, p.72

           Geoffrey Chaucer
Ay herien47, and thow, virgine wemmelees,

  Bar of thy body, and dweltest48 maiden pure,

  The creatour of every creature.

  50 Assembled is in thee magnificence

  With mercy, goodnesse, and with swich pitee

  That thow, that art the sonne of excellence,

  Nat oonly helpest hem that prayen thee,

  But ofte time, of thy benignitee54,

  55 Ful frely55, er that men thin help biseche,

  Thow goost biforn, and art hir lives leche56.

  Now help, thow meke and blisful faire maide,

  Me, flemed58 wrecche, in this desert of galle!

  Think on the womman Cananee59, that saide

  60 That whelpes60 eten somme of the crommes alle

  That from hir lordes table been yfalle61.

  And though that I, unworthy sone of Eve,

  Be sinful, yet accepte my bileve63.

  And, for that feith is deed withouten werkis,

  65 So for to werken yif me wit and space65

  That I be quit66 from thennes that moost derk is.

  O thow, that art so fair and ful of grace,

  Be min advocate in that heighe place

  Theras69 withouten ende is songe ‘Osanne’,

  70 Thow, Cristes moder, doghter deere of Anne.

  And of thy light my soule in prison lighte71,

  That troubled is by the contagioun

  Of my body, and also by the wighte73

  Of erthely lust74 and fals affeccioun.

  75 O havene of refut75, O savacioun

  Of hem that been in sorwe and in distresse,

  Now help, for to my werk I wol me dresse77.

  Yet praye ich yow that reden that I write,

  Foryeve me that I do no diligence79

  80 This ilke storye subtilly80 t’endite;

  For bothe have I, the wordes and sentence81,

  Of him that at the seintes reverence82

  The storye wroot, and folwen hir legende,

  And pray yow that ye wol my werk amende.

  85 First wolde I85 yow the name of Seint Cecilye

  Expowne86, as men may in hir storye se.

  It is to seye in Englissh ‘hevenes lilye’,

  For pure chastnesse of virginitee;

  Or, for she whitnesse hadde of honestee89,

  90 And grene of conscience, and of good fame

  The swote savour91, ‘lilye’ was hir name.

  Or Cecile is to seye ‘the wey to blinde’,

  For she ensample was by good techinge.

  Or ellis Cecile, as I writen finde,

  95 Is joined by a manere conjoininge95

  Of ‘hevene’ and ‘lia’; and here in figuringe96

  The hevene is set for thoght of holinesse,

  And ‘lia’ for hir lasting bisinesse98.

  Cecile may eek be seid in this manere:

  100 ‘Wantinge100 of blindnesse’, for hir grete light

  Of sapience101, and for hir thewes clere.

  Or elles, lo, this maidenes name bright

  Of ‘hevene’ and ‘leos’ comth, for which by right

  Men mighte hire wel ‘the hevene of peple’ calle,

  105 Ensample of goode and wise werkes alle.

  For ‘leos’ ‘peple’ in Englissh is to seye,

  And right as men may in the hevene see

  The sonne and moone and sterres every weye108,

  Right so men goostly109 in this maiden free

  110 Sayen110 of feith the magnanimitee,

  And eek the cleernesse hool of sapience,

  And sondry werkes brighte of excellence.

  And right so as thise philosophres write

  That hevene is swift and round and eek brenninge114,

  115 Right so was faire Cecilye the white

  Ful swift and bisy evere in good werkinge,

  And round and hool in good perseveringe117,

  And brenning evere in charite ful brighte.

  Now have I yow declared119 what she highte.


  Heere biginneth the Seconde Nonnes Tale of the lif of Seinte Cecile.

  120 This maiden bright Cecile, as hir lif seyth,

  Was come of Romains, and of noble kinde121;

  And from hir cradel up fostred in the feith

  Of Crist, and bar his gospel in hir minde.

  She nevere cessed, as I writen finde,

  125 Of hir prayere, and God to love and drede125,

  Biseking him to kepe hir maidenhede126.

  And whan this maiden sholde unto a man

  Ywedded be, that was ful yong of age,

  Which that ycleped was Valerian,

  130 And day was comen of hir mariage,

  She, ful devout and humble in hir corage131,

  Under hir robe of gold that sat ful faire132,

  Hadde next hir flessh yclad hire133 in an haire.

  And whil the organs134 maden melodye,

  135 To God allone in herte thus song she:

  ‘O lord, my soule and eek my body gye136

  Unwemmed137, lest that I confounded be!’

  And for his love that deide upon a tree,

  Every seconde and thridde day she faste139,

  140 Ay bidding in hir orisons140 ful faste.

  The night cam, and to bedde moste141 she gon

  With hire housbonde, as ofte is the manere;

  And prively143 to him she seide anon:

  ‘O swete and wel biloved spouse deere,

  145 Ther is a conseil145, and ye wolde it heere,

  Which that right fain146 I wolde unto yow seye,

  So that147 ye swere ye shul it nat biwreye.’

  Valerian gan faste148 unto hir swere

  That for no cas149, ne thing that mighte be,

  150 He sholde neveremo150 biwreyen here.

  And thanne at erst151 to him thus seide she:

  ‘I have an aungel which that loveth me,

  That with gret love, wherso153 I wake or slepe,

  Is redy ay my body for to kepe154.

  155 ‘And if that he may feelen, out of drede155,

  That ye me touche or love in vileinye156,

  He right anon wol sleen157 yow with the dede,

  And in youre youthe thus ye shullen die.

  And if that ye in clene159 love me gye,

  160 He wol yow love as me, for youre clennesse,

  And shewen yow his joye and his brightnesse.’

  Valerian, corrected162 as God wolde,

  Answerde again: ‘If I shal trusten thee,

  Lat me that aungel seen, and him biholde,

  165 And if that it a verray aungel be,

  Thanne wol I doon as thow hast prayed me.

  And if thow love another man, for sothe,

  Right with this swerd than wol I sle168 yow bothe.’

  Cecile answerde anon-right169 in this wise:

  170 ‘If that yow list170, the aungel shal ye se,

  So that171 ye trowe on Crist and yow baptise.

  Goth forth to Via Apia,’ quod she,

  ‘That fro this toun ne stant173 but miles thre,

  And to the povre174 folkes that ther dwelle

  175 Sey hem right thus, as that I shal yow telle.

  ‘Telle hem that I, Cecile, yow to hem sente,

  To shewen yow the goode Urban the olde,

  For secree nedes178, and for good entente.

  And whan that ye Seint Urban han biholde,

  180 Telle him the wordes whiche I to yow tolde.

  And whan that he hath purged yow fro sinne,

  Thanne shal ye seen that aungel er ye twinne182.’

  Valerian is to the place ygon,

  And right as him was taught by his lerninge,

  185 He foond this holy olde Urban anon,

  Among the seintes buriels186 lotinge.

  And he anon, withouten taryinge,

  Dide his message; and whan that he it tolde,

  Urban for joye hise handes gan up holde.
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  190 The teeris from hise eyen leet he falle.

  ‘Almighty lord, O Jesu Crist,’ quod he,

  ‘Sowere of chaast conseil192, hierde of us alle,

  The fruit of thilke seed of chastitee

  That thow hast sowe in Cecile, taak to thee!

  195 Lo, lik a bisy bee, withouten gile,

  Thee serveth ay thin owene thral196 Cecile!

  ‘For thilke spouse that she took but now

  Ful lik a fiers leoun, she sendeth heere

  As meke as evere was any lamb, to yow.’

  200 And with that word anon ther gan appeere

  An old man, clad in white clothes cleere201,

  That hadde a book with lettre of gold in honde,

  And gan bifore Valerian to stonde.

  Valerian as deed fil doun for drede

  205 Whan he him say205, and he up hente him tho,

  And on his book right thus he gan to rede:

  ‘O207 lord, o feith, o God withoute mo;

  O Cristendom208, and fader of alle also,

  Aboven alle and overal everywhere.’

  210 Thise wordes al with gold ywriten were.

  Whan this was rad211, thanne seide this olde man:

  ‘Levestow212 this thing or no? – Sey ye or nay!’

  ‘I leve al this thing,’ quod Valerian,

  ‘For sother214 thing than this, I dar wel say,

  215 Under the hevene no wight215 thinke may.’

  Tho216 vanisshed this olde man – he niste where –

  And Pope Urban him cristnede right there.

  Valerian goth hoom and fint218 Cecilye

  Withinne his chambre with an aungel stonde.

  220 This aungel hadde of roses and of lilye

  Corones221 two, the whiche he bar in honde.

  And first to Cecile, as I understonde,

  He yaf that oon223, and after gan he take

  That oother to Valerian, hir make224.

  225 ‘With body clene, and with unwemmed thoght,

  Kepeth ay wel thise corones,’ quod he.

  ‘Fro Paradis to yow have I hem broght;

  Ne neveremo ne shal they roten be,

  Ne lese229 hir swote savour, trusteth me,

  230 Ne nevere wight shal seen hem with his eye

  But231 he be chaast and hate vileinye.

  ‘And thow, Valerian, for thow so soone

  Assentedest to good conseil233 also,

  Sey what thee list, and thow shalt han thy boone234.’

  235 ‘I have a brother,’ quod Valerian tho235,

  ‘That in this world I love no man so.

  I pray yow that my brother may han grace

  To knowe the trouthe, as I do in this place.’

  The aungel seide, ‘God liketh thy requeste,

  240 And bothe, with the palm of martyrdom,

  Ye shullen come unto his blisful feste241.’

  And with that word Tiburce his brother coom242,

  And whan that he the savour undernoom243

  Which that the roses and the lilies caste,

  245 Withinne his herte he gan to wondre faste245,

  And seide, ‘I wondre, this time of the yere,

  Whennes that swote savour cometh so

  Of roses and lilies that I smelle heer!

  For thogh I hadde hem in mine handes two,

  250 The savour mighte in me no depper go.

  The swete smel that in min herte I finde

  Hath chaunged me al in another kinde252.’

  Valerian seide, ‘Two corones han we,

  Snow white and rose reed, that shinen clere,

  255 Whiche that thine eyen han no might to se;

  And as thow smellest hem thurgh my prayere,

  So shaltow seen hem, leve257 brother deere,

  If it so be thow wolt, withouten slouthe,

  Bileve aright, and knowen259 verray trouthe.’

  260 Tiburce answerde, ‘Seistow this to me

  In soothnesse261, or in dreem I herkne this?’

  ‘In dremes’, quod Valerian, ‘han we be

  Unto this time, brother min, iwys,

  And now at erst264 in trouthe oure dwelling is.’

  265 ‘How wostow265 this?’ quod Tiburce, ‘in what wise?’

  Quod Valerian, ‘That shal I thee devise266.

  ‘The aungel of God hath me the trouthe ytaught,

  Which thow shalt seen, if that thow wolt reneye268

  The idoles and be clene269, and elles naught.’

  270 – And of the miracle of thise corones tweye

  Seint Ambrose in his Preface271 list to seye;

  Solempnely this noble doctour deere

  Commendeth it, and seyth in this manere:

  ‘The palm of martyrdom for to receive,

  275 Seinte Cecile, fulfild of Goddes yifte,

  The world and eek hir chambre276 gan she weive.

  Witnesse Tiburces and Valerians shrifte277,

  To whiche God of his bountee278 wolde shifte

  Corones two of floures wel smellinge,

  280 And made his aungel hem the corones bringe.

  ‘The maide hath broght thise men to blisse above;

  The world hath wist282 what it is worth, certein,

  Devocioun of chastitee to love.’

  Tho shewed him Cecile al open and plein

  285 That alle idoles nis but a thing in vein,

  For they been dombe286, and therto they been deve,

  And charged him hise idoles for to leve287.

  ‘Whoso that troweth nat this, a beest he is,’

  Quod tho Tiburce, ‘if that I shal nat lie.’

  290 And she gan kisse his brest that herde this,

  And was ful glad he koude trouthe espye291.

  ‘This day I take thee for min allye292,’

  Seide this blisful faire maide deere,

  And after that she seide as ye may heere:

  295 ‘Lo, right so as the love of Crist’, quod she,

  ‘Made me thy brotheres wif, right in that wise

  Anon for min allye heere take I thee,

  Sin that thow wolt thine idoles despise.

  Go with thy brother now, and thee baptise,

  300 And make thee clene, so that thow mowe300 biholde

  The aungeles face, of which thy brother tolde.’

  Tiburce answerde and seide, ‘Brother deere,

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