The canterbury tales, p.78
The Canterbury Tales,
125 This Phebus, that was flour of bachelrye125
As wel in fredom126 as in chivalrye,
For his desport127 – in signe eek of victorye
Of Phitoun, so as telleth us the storye –
Was wont to beren in his hand a bowe.
130 Now hadde this Phebus in his hous a crowe,
Which in a cage he fostred many a day,
And taughte it speke132, as men teche a jay.
Whit was this crowe as is a snow-whit swan,
And countrefete134 the speche of every man
135 He koude, whan he sholde telle a tale.
Therwith in al this world no nightingale
Ne koude by an hondred thousand deel137
Singen so wonder mirily138 and weel.
Now hadde this Phebus in his hous a wif,
140 Which that he lovede moore than his lif,
And night and day dide evere his diligence141
Hire for to plese, and doon hire reverence142;
Save oonly, if the sothe143 that I shal sayn,
Jalous he was, and wolde han kept hire fain144,
145 For him were looth bijaped for to be.145
And so is every wight in swich degree146;
But al in idel147, for it availleth noght.
A good wif, that is clene of148 werk and thoght,
Sholde nat be kept in noon await149, certain;
150 And trewely, the labour is in vain
To kepe a shrewe151, for it wol nat be.
This holde I for a verray nicetee152,
To spille153 labour for to kepe wives.
– Thus writen154 olde clerkes in hir lives.
155 But now to purpos, as I first bigan:
This worthy Phebus dooth al that he kan
To plesen hire, weninge157 for swich plesaunce,
And for his manhode158 and his governaunce,
That no man sholde han put him from hire grace159.
160 But, God it woot, ther may no man embrace160
As to destreine161 a thing which that nature
Hath naturelly set in a creature.
Take any brid, and put it in a cage,
And do al thin entente and thy corage164
165 To fostre it tendrely with mete and drinke,
Of alle deintees that thow kanst bithinke166,
And kepe it also clenly167 as thow may,
Although his cage of gold be never so gay168,
Yet hath this brid by twenty thousand fold
170 Levere170 in a forest, that is rude and cold,
Goon ete wormes and swich wrecchednesse171.
For evere this brid wol doon his bisinesse172
To eschape out of his cage, if he may;
His libertee this brid desireth ay.
175 Lat take175 a cat, and fostre him wel with milk
And tendre flessh, and make his couche of silk,
And lat him seen a mous go by the wal –
Anon he weiveth178 milk and flessh and al,
And every deintee that is in that hous,
180 Swich appetit hath he to ete a mous!
Lo, heere hath lust181 his dominacioun,
And appetit flemeth182 discrecioun.
A she-wolf hath also a vileins kinde183:
The lewedeste184 wolf that she may finde,
185 Or leest of reputacioun, that wol she take,
In time whan hir lust186 to han a make.
Alle thise ensamples speke I by187 thise men
That ben untrewe, and nothing188 by wommen.
For men han evere a likerous189 appetit
190 On lower thing to parforme hir delit190
Than on hire wives, be they never so faire,
Ne never so trewe, ne so debonaire192.
Flessh is so newefangel193 – with meschaunce! –
That we ne konne194 in nothing han plesaunce
195 That sowneth into195 vertu any while.
This Phebus, which that thoghte upon no gile,
Deceived was, for al his jolitee197,
For under him198 another hadde she,
A man of litel reputacioun,
200 Nat worth to Phebus in comparisoun.
The moore201 harm is, it happeth ofte so,
Of which ther cometh muchel harm and wo.
And so bifel, whan Phebus was absent,
His wif anon hath for hir lemman204 sent.
205 Hir lemman? Certes, this is a knavissh speche205!
Foryeveth it me, and that I yow biseche.
The wise Plato sey256th, as ye may rede,
The word moot nede acorde with208 the dede.
If men shal telle proprely a thing,
210 The word moot cosin be to the werking.210
I am a boistous211 man, right thus seye I:
Ther nis no difference, trewely,
Bitwix a wif that is of heigh degree213,
If of hir body dishoneste214 she be,
215 And a povre215 wenche, oother than this –
If it so be they werke bothe amis248 –
But that the gentile217, in estat above,
She shal be cleped218 his lady, as in love,
And for that oother is a povre womman,
220 She shal be cleped his wenche or his lemman.
And God it woot, min owene deere brother,
Men leyn that oon as lowe as lith that oother.
Right so, bitwix a titlelees223 tyraunt
And an outlawe or a theef erraunt224,
225 The same I seye: ther is no difference.
To Alisandre told was this sentence226,
That for227 the tyraunt is of gretter might,
By force of meinee228 for to sleen dounright,
And brennen hous and hoom, and make al plain229,
230 Lo, therfore is he cleped a capitain;
And for the outlawe hath but231 smal meinee,
And may nat doon so gret an harm as he,
Ne bringe a contree to so gret meschief233,
Men clepen him an outlawe or a theef.
235 But for I am a man noght textuel235,
I wol noght telle of textes never a del236;
I wol go to my tale, as I bigan.
Whan Phebus wif hadde sent for hire lemman,
Anon they wroghten239 al hire lust volage.
240 The white crowe, that heng ay240 in the cage
Biheld hir werk, and seide never a word.
And whan that hoom was come Phebus the lord,
This crowe sang, ‘Cokkow! Cokkow! Cokkow!’
‘What, brid?’ quod Phebus, ‘what song singestow?
245 Ne were thow wont so mirily245 to singe
That to min herte it was a rejoisinge
To here thy vois? Allas, what song is this?’
‘By God!’ quod he, ‘I singe nat amis!
Phebus,’ quod he, ‘for249 al thy worthinesse,
250 For al thy beautee and thy gentillesse,
For al thy song and al thy minstralcye251,
For al thy waiting252, blered is thin eye
With oon of litel reputacioun,
Nat worth to thee, as in comparisoun,
255 The montaunce255 of a gnat, so moot I thrive!
For on thy bed thy wif I sey him swive.’
What wol ye moore? The crowe anon him tolde,
By sadde toknes258 and by wordes bolde,
How that his wif hadde doon hire lecherye,
260 Him to gret shame and to gret vileinye260,
And tolde him ofte he sey it with hise eyen.
This Phebus gan aweyward for to wryen262,
And thoghte his sorweful herte brast atwo263;
His bowe he bente, and sette therinne a flo264,
265 And in his ire his wif thanne hath he slain –
This is th’effect266; ther nis namoore to sayn.
For sorwe of which, he brak his minstralcye267,
Bothe harpe and lute and giterne268 and sawtrye;
And eek he brak hise arwes and his
270 And after that thus spak he to the crowe:
‘Traitour,’ quod he, ‘with tonge of scorpioun,
Thow hast me broght to my confusioun272!
Allas, that I was wroght! Why nere I273 ded?
O deere wif, o gemme of lustihed274,
275 That were to me so sad275 and eek so trewe,
Now listow276 deed, with face pale of hewe,
Ful giltelees – that dorste I277 swere, iwys!
O rakel278 hand, to doon so foule amis!
O trouble wit279! O ire recchelees,
280 That unavised280 smitest giltelees!
O wantrust281, ful of fals suspecioun!
Where was thy wit282 and thy discrecioun?
O, every man be war of rakelnesse283!
Ne trowe nothing withouten strong witnesse.
285 Smit nat to soone, er that ye witen285 why,
And beth avised286 wel and sobrely,
Er ye doon any execucioun
Upon youre ire for suspecioun.
Allas, a thousand folk hath rakel ire
290 Fully fordoon290, and broght hem in the mire!
Allas, for sorwe I wol myselven sle!’
And to the crowe, ‘O false theef!’ seide he,
‘I wol thee quite293 anon thy false tale.
Thow songe whilom294 lik a nightingale;
295 Now shaltow, false theef, thy song forgon295,
And eek thy white fetheres everychon,
Ne nevere in al thy lif ne shaltow speke.
Thus shal men on a traitour been awreke298!
Thow and thy ofspring evere shul be blake,
300 Ne nevere swete noise shul ye make,
But evere crye again301 tempest and rain,
In tokeninge302 that thurgh thee my wif is slain.’
And to the crowe he stirte303, and that anon,
And pulled304 hise white fetheres everychon,
305 And made him blak, and rafte305 him al his song,
And eek his speche, and out at dore him slong306
Unto the devel, which I him bitake307.
And for this cas308 ben alle crowes blake.
Lordinges, by this ensample I yow preye,
310 Beth war310, and taketh kepe what that ye seye:
Ne telleth nevere no man in youre lif
How that another man hath dight312 his wif.
He wol yow haten mortally, certein.
Daun Salomon, as wise clerkes seyn,
315 Techeth a man to kepen his tonge wel –
But, as I seide, I am nat textuel –
But nathelees, thus taughte me my dame:
‘My sone, thenk on the crowe, a Goddes name!
My sone, keep wel thy tonge, and kepe thy freend.
320 A wikked tonge is worse than a feend320;
My sone, from a feend men may hem blesse321!
My sone, God, of his endelees goodnesse,
Walled a tonge with teeth and lippes eke,
For man sholde him avise324 what he speeke.
325 My sone, ful ofte for to muche speche
Hath many a man ben spilt326, as clerkes teche,
But for litel speche, avisely327,
Is no man shent328, to speke generally.
My sone, thy tonge sholdestow restreine
330 At alle times, but330 whan thow doost thy peine
To speke of God in honour and preyere.
The firste vertu, sone, if thow wolt leere332,
Is to restreine and kepe wel thy tonge;
Thus lernen children whan that they ben yonge.
335 My sone, of muchel speking ivele avised335,
Ther lasse speking hadde inow suffised,336
Comth muchel harm; thus was me told and taught.
In muchel speche sinne wanteth naught338.
Wostow wherof a rakel tonge serveth?339
340 Right as a swerd forkutteth340 and forkerveth
An arm atwo, my deere sone, right so
A tonge kutteth frendship al atwo.
A janglere343 is to God abhominable.
Rede Salomon, so wis and honurable;
345 Rede David in his Psalmes; rede Senekke.
My sone, spek noght, but with thin heed thow bekke346.
Dissimule as347 thow were deef, if that thow heere
A janglere speke of perilous matere.
The Fleming seyth – and lerne it if thee leste349 –
350 That litel jangling350 causeth muchel reste.
My sone, if thow no wikked word hast seid,
Thee thar nat drede for to be biwreid;352
But he that hath misseid353, I dar wel sayn,
He may by no wey clepe354 his word again.
355 Thing that is seid, is seid, and forth it gooth,
Thogh him repente, or be him leef or looth.356
He is his thral to whom that he hath said
A tale of which he is now ivel apaid.358
My sone, be war, and be noon auctour newe359
360 Of tidinges, wheither they been false or trewe.
Wherso361 thow come, amonges hye or lowe,
Kepe wel thy tonge, and think upon the crowe.’
Heere is ended the Maunciples Tale of the crowe.
THE PARSON’S PROLOGUE
Heere folweth the Prologe of the Persouns Tale.
By that1 the Maunciple hadde his tale al ended,
The sonne fro the south line2 was descended
So lowe that he nas nat, to my sighte,
Degrees nine and twenty as in highte.
5 Foure of the clokke it was, so as I gesse,
For ellevene foot, or litel moore or lesse,
My shadwe was at thilke time as there7,
Of swiche feet as my lengthe8 parted were
In sixe feet equal of proporcioun.
10 Therwith the mones exaltacioun –10
I mene Libra – alwey gan ascende,
As we were entring at a thropes12 ende.
For which oure Hoost, as he was wont to gye13,
As in this cas, oure joly14 compaignye,
15 Seide in this wise: ‘Lordinges everychon,
Now lakketh us no tales mo than oon.
Fulfild is my sentence and my decree;
I trowe that we han herd of ech degree18.
Almoost fulfild is al min ordinaunce19.
20 I pray to God, so yeve him right good chaunce20
That telleth this tale to us lustily21!
‘Sire preest,’ quod he, ‘– artow a vicary22
Or arte a person23? Sey sooth, by thy fey! –
Be what thow be, ne breke thow nat oure pley,24
25 For every man save thow hath toold his tale.
Unbokele26, and shewe us what is in thy male,
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