The canterbury tales, p.79
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       The Canterbury Tales, p.79

           Geoffrey Chaucer
For, trewely, me thinketh by thy cheere27

  Thou sholdest knitte up wel a greet matere.

  Telle us a fable anon, for cokkes bones29!’

  30 This Persoun answerde al atones:

  ‘Thou getest fable noon ytoold for31 me.

  For Paul, that writeth unto Thimothe,

  Repreveth hem that weiven soothfastnesse33

  And tellen fables and swich wrecchednesse.

  35 Why sholde I sowen draf35 out of my fest,

  Whan I may sowen whete, if that me lest36?

  For which I seye, if that yow list to heere

  Moralitee and vertuous matere,

  And thanne that ye wol yeve me audience39,

  40 I wole ful fain40, at Cristes reverence,

  Do yow plesaunce leefful41, as I kan.

  But trusteth wel, I am a southren42 man;

  I kan nat geste43 “rum, ram, ruf” by lettre,

  Ne, God woot, rym holde I but litel bettre.

  45 And therfore, if yow lest – I wol nat glose45 –

  I wol yow telle a mirye tale in prose,

  To knitte up al this feste47 and make an ende.

  And Jesu, for his grace, wit48 me sende

  To shewe yow the wey, in this viage,

  50 Of thilke parfit glorious pilgrimage

  That highte Jerusalem celestial.

  And if ye vouchesauf52, anon I shal

  Biginne upon my tale, for which I preye

  Telle youre avis54; I kan no bettre seye.

  55 ‘But nathelees, this meditacioun

  I putte it ay under correccioun

  Of clerkes, for I am nat textuel57.

  I take but the sentence58, trusteth wel.

  Therfore I make protestacioun

  60 That I wol stonde to correccioun.’

  Upon this word61 we han assented soone;

  For, as us semed, it was for to doone62

  To enden in som vertuous sentence,

  And for to yeve him space64 and audience.

  65 And bede oure Hoost he sholde to him seye

  That alle we to telle his tale him preye.

  Oure Hoost hadde the wordes for us alle:

  ‘Sire preest,’ quod he, ‘now faire yow bifalle68!

  [73] Sey what yow list69, and we wol gladly heere.’

  70 [74] And with that word he seide in this manere:

  [69] ‘Telleth’, quod he, ‘youre meditacioun,

  [70] But hasteth yow, the sonne wole adoun.

  [71] Beth fructuous73, and that in litel space,

  [72] And to do wel God sende yow his grace.’


  Heere biginneth the Persouns Tale.

  Ier. 6°. State super vias et videte et interrogate de viis antiquis que sit via bona et ambulate in ea et invenietis refrigerium animabus vestris etc.

  Oure swete lord God of hevene, that no man wole perisse75, but wole that we comen alle to the knoweleche of him and to the blisful lif that is perdurable, [75] | amonesteth76 us by the prophete Jeremye that seyth in this wise: | ‘Stondeth upon the weyes, and seeth and axeth of olde pathes (that is to seyn, of olde sentences77) which is the goode wey, | and walketh in that wey, and ye shal finde refresshinge for youre soules, etc.’ | Manye been the weyes espirituels that leden folk to oure lord Jesu Crist and to the regne of glorye; | of whiche weyes, ther is a ful noble wey and a ful covenable80, which may nat faile to man ne to womman that thurgh sinne hath misgoon fro the righte wey of Jerusalem celestial, [80] | and this wey is cleped81 penitence, of which man sholde gladly herknen and enquere with al his herte | to wite82 what is penitence, and whennes it is cleped penitence, and in how manye maneres been the accions or werkinges of penitence, | and how manye spices83 ther ben of penitence, and whiche thinges apertenen and bihoven to penitence and whiche thinges destourben penitence.|

  Seint Ambrose seyth that penitence is the pleininge84 of man for the gilt that he hath doon, and namoore to do any thing for which him oghte to pleine. | And som85 doctour seyth, ‘Penitence is the waimentinge of man that sorweth for his sinne and pineth himself for he hath misdoon.’ [85] | Penitence, with certeine circumstances, is verray86 repentance of a man that halt himself in sorwe and oother peine for hise giltes; | and for he shal be verray penitent, he shal first biwailen the sinnes that he hath doon, and stedefastly purposen in his herte to have shrift87 of mouthe and to doon satisfaccioun, | and nevere to doon thing for which him oghte moore to biwaile or to compleine, and to continue in goode werkes, or elles his repentance may nat availle. | For, as seyth Seint Isidre, ‘he is a japere89 and a gabbere and no verray repentant, that eftsoone dooth thing for which him oghte repente.’ | Wepinge and nat for to stinte90 to do sinne may nat availe. [90] | But nathelees, men shal hope that at every time that man falleth, be it never so ofte, that he may arise thurgh penitence, if he have grace, but certeinly it is greet doute; | for, as seyth Seint Gregorye, unnethe92 ariseth he out of his sinne that is charged with the charge of ivel usage. | And therfore repentant folk, that stinte for to sinne, and forlete93 sinne er that sinne forlete hem, Holy Chirche halt hem siker of hire savacion. | And he that sinneth and verraily repenteth him in his laste94, Holy Chirche yet hopeth his savacioun, by the grete mercy of oure lord Jesu Crist, for his repentaunce; but97 taak the siker wey. |

  And now, sith I have declared yow what thing is penitence, now shul ye understonde that ther been three accions of penitence. [95] | The firste is that if a man be baptised after that he hath sinned, | Seint Augustin seyth, but he be penitent for his olde sinful lif, he may nat biginne the newe clene lif. | For, certes, if he be baptised withouten penitence of his olde gilt, he receiveth the mark of baptesme, but nat the grace, ne the remissioun of hise sinnes, til he have repentance verray. | Another defaute is this: that men doon deedly sinne after that they han received baptesme. | The thridde defaute is that men fallen in venial sinnes after hir baptesme fro day to day. [100] | Therof seyth Seint Augustin that penitence of goode and humble folk is the penitence of every day. |

  The spices of penaunce been three: that oon of hem is solempne102, another is commune, and the thridde is privee. | Thilke penaunce that is solempne is in two maneres, as to be put out of Holy Chirche in Lente for slaughtre of children and swich maner thing. | Another is whan a man hath sinned openly, of which sinne the fame104 is openly spoken in the contree, and thanne Holy Chirche by jugement destreineth him for to do open penaunce. | Commune penaunce is that preestes enjoinen men communly in certein cas, as for to goon, paraventure, naked in pilgrimage or barefoot. [105] | Privee penaunce is thilke that men doon alday for privee sinnes, of whiche we shrive us106 prively and receive privee penance. |

  Now shaltow understande what is bihovely and necessarye to verray parfit penitence, and this stant on three thinges: | contricioun of herte, confessioun of mouth, and satisfaccioun. | For which seyth Seint John Crisostomus: ‘Penitence destreineth a man to accepte benignely109 every peyne that him is enjoined, with contricioun of herte and shrift of mouth, with satisfaccioun, and in wirkinge of alle manere humilitee.’ | And this is fruitful penitence again110 three thinges in which we wrathe oure lord Jesu Crist [110] | – this is to seyn, by delit in thinkinge, by recchelesnesse111 in spekinge, and by wikked sinful wirkinge. | And agains thise wikkede giltes is penitence, that may be likned unto a tree. |

  The roote of this tree is contricioun, that hideth him in the herte of him that is verray repentant right as the roote of a tree hideth him in the erthe. | Of the roote of contricioun springeth a stalke that bereth braunches and leves of confessioun and fruit of satisfaccioun. | For which Crist seyth in his gospel, ‘Dooth digne115 fruit of penitence’; for by this fruit may men knowe this tree, and nat by the roote that is hid in the herte of man, ne by the braunches ne the leves of confessioun. [115] | And therfore oure lord Jesu Crist seyth thus: ‘By the fruit of hem shul ye knowe hem.’ | Of this roote eek springeth a seed of grace, the which seed is moder of sikernesse117, and this seed is egre and hoot. | The grace of this seed sprin
geth of God, thurgh remembrance on the day of dome118 and on the peines of helle. | Of this matere seyth Salomon that in the drede of God man forleteth his sinne. | The heete of this seed is the love of God and the desiring of the joye perdurable. [120] | This heete draweth the herte of man to God and dooth him121 hate his sinne; | for soothly, ther is nothing that savoureth so wel to a child as the milk of his norice122, ne nothing is to him moore abhominable than thilke milk whan it is medled with oother mete. | Right so, the sinful man that loveth his sinne, him semeth that it is to him moost swete of any thing, | but fro that time that he loveth sadly124 oure lord Jesu Crist, and desireth the lif perdurable, ther nis to him nothing moore abhominable. | For soothly, the lawe of God is the love of God; for which David the prophete seyth, ‘I have loved thy lawe, and hated wikkednesse and hate.’ He that loveth God kepeth his lawe and his word. [125] | This tree saugh the prophete Daniel in spirit upon the avisioun of Nabugodonosor, whan he conseiled him to do penitence. | Penance is the tree of lif to hem that it receiven, and he that holdeth him in verray penitence is blessed, after127 the sentence of Salomon. |

  In this penitence or contricioun man shal understonde foure thinges: that is to seyn, what is contricioun, and whiche ben the causes that moeven a man to contricioun, and how he sholde be contrit, and what contricioun availeth to the soule. | Thanne is it thus, that contricioun is the verray sorwe that a man receiveth in his herte for his sinnes, with sad129 purpos to shrive him and to do penance, and neveremoore to do sinne. | And this sorwe shal been in this manere, as seyth Seint Bernard: ‘It shal been hevy, and grevous, and ful sharp and poinaunt130 in herte.’ [130] | First, for man hath agilt131 his lord and his creatour, and moore sharp and poinaunt for he hath agilt his fader celestial, | and yet moore sharp and poinaunt, for he hath wrathed and agilt him that boghte him, that with his precious blood hath delivered us fro the bondes of sinne, and fro the crueltee of the devel, and fro the peines of helle. |

  The causes that oghte moeve a man to contricioun been sixe. First, a man shal remembre him of hise sinnes | (but looke he that thilke remembraunce ne be to him no delit by no wey, but gret shame and sorwe for his gilt); for Job seyth sinful men doon werkes worthy of confusioun. | And therfore seyth Ezechie, ‘I wol remembre me alle the yeres of my lif in bitternesse of min herte.’ [135] | And God seyth in the Apocalips136: ‘Remembre yow fro whennes that ye ben falle’, for biforn that time that ye sinned, ye were the children of God, and limes of the regne of God. | But for youre sinne ye ben woxen137 thral, and foul, and membres of the feend, hate of aungels, sclaundre of Holy Chirche, and foode of the false serpent, perpetuel matere of the fir of helle; | and yet moore foul and abhominable, for ye trespassen so ofte time as dooth the hound that retourneth to ete his spewing138. | And yet be ye fouler, for youre longe continuinge139 in sinne and youre sinful usage, for which ye been roten in youre sinne, as a beest in his donge. | – Swiche manere of thoughtes maken a man to have shame of his sinne and no delit, as God seyth by the prophete Ezechiel: [140] | ‘Ye shal remembre yow of youre weyes and they shuln displese yow.’ Soothly, sinnes been the weyes that leden folk to helle. |

  The seconde cause that oghte make a man to have desdein of sinne is this: that, as seyth Seint Peter, ‘whoso that dooth sinne is thral of sinne’, and sinne put a man in greet thraldam. | And therfore seyth the prophete Ezechiel: ‘I wente sorweful in desdain of myself.’ Certes, wel oghte a man have desdain of sinne, and withdrawe him fro that thraldom and vileinye. | And lo, what seyth Seneca in this matere? He seyth thus: ‘Though I wiste144 that neither God ne man ne sholde nevere knowe it, yet wolde I have desdain for to do sinne.’ | And the same Seneca also seyth, ‘I am born to gretter thinges than to be thral to my body, or than for to maken of my body a thral.’ [145] | Ne a fouler thral may no man ne womman make of his body than for to yeve his body to sinne. | Al were it the fouleste cherl or the fouleste womman that liveth, and leest of value, yet is he thanne moore foul and moore in servitute. | Evere fro the hyer degree that man falleth, the moore is he thral, and moore to God and to the world vil and abhominable. | O goode God, wel oghte man have desdain of sinne, sith that thurgh sinne, ther he was free now is he maked bonde. | And therfore seyth Seint Augustin: ‘If thow hast desdain of thy servant if he agilte or sinne, have thow thanne desdain that thou thyself sholdest do sinne.’ [150] | Take reward of151 thy value, that thou ne be to foul to thyself. | Allas, wel oghten they thanne have desdain to ben servantz and thralles to sinne, and soore152 ben ashamed of hemself, | that God of his endelees goodnesse hath set hem in heigh estat or yeven hem wit, strengthe of body, heele153, beautee, prosperitee, | and boghte hem fro the deeth with his herte-blood, that they so unkindely154, agains his gentilesse, quiten him so vileinsly, to slaughtre of hir owene soules! | O goode God, ye wommen that been of so greet beautee, remembreth yow of the proverbe of Salomon! He seyth: [155] | ‘Likneth156 a fair womman that is a fool of hire body lik to a ring of gold that were in the groin of a sowe.’ | For right as a sowe wroteth157 in everich ordure, so wroteth she hire beautee in stinkinge ordure of sinne. |

  The thridde cause that oghte moeve a man to contricioun is drede of the day of dome and of the horrible peines of helle. | For, as Seint Jerome seyth, ‘at every time that me remembreth of the day of dome I quake; | for whan I ete, or drinke, or whatso that I do, evere semeth me that the trompe sowneth in min ere: [160] | “Riseth ye up that ben dede, and cometh to the jugement!”’ | O goode God, muchel oghte a man to drede swich a jugement, ‘theras we shullen ben alle’, as seyth Seint Poul, ‘biforn the sete162 of oure lord Jesu Crist,’ | whereas he shal make a general congregacioun, whereas no man may ben absent | – for certes there availeth noon essoine164 ne excusacioun – | and nat oonly that oure defautes shullen be juged, but eek that alle oure werkes shullen openly be knowe. [165] | And, as seyth Seint Bernard, ‘ther ne shal no pledinge availle ne no sleighte166; we shullen yeve rekeninge of everich idel word.’ | There shul we han a juge that may nat ben deceived ne corrupt167; and why? For, certes, alle oure thoghtes ben discovered as to him, ne for preyere ne for mede he shal nat ben corrupt. | And therfore seyth Salomon, ‘the wrathe of God ne wol nat spare no wight, for preyere ne for yifte,’ and therfore at the day of dome, ther nis noon hope to escape. | Wherfore, as seyth Seint Anselme, ‘ful gret angwissh shullen the sinful folk have at that time. | Ther shal the stierne and wrothe juge sitte above, and under him the horrible pit of helle open to destroyen him that moot biknowen170 hise sinnes, whiche sinnes openly ben shewed biforn God and biforn every creature; [170] | and on the left side, mo develes than herte may bithinke, for to harye171 and drawe the sinful soules to the peine of helle. | And withinne the hertes of folk shal be the bitinge conscience, and withoute-forth172 shal be the world al brenninge. | Whider shal thanne the wrecched sinful man flee to hide him? Certes, he may nat hide him; he moste come forth and shewe him.’ | For certes, as seyth Seint Jerome, ‘the erthe shal caste him out of him, and the see also, and the eir also, that shal be ful of thonderclappes and lightninges.’ | Now soothly, whoso wel remembreth him of thise thinges, I gesse that his sinne shal nat turne him into delit but to gret sorwe, for drede of the peine of helle. [175] | And therfore seyth Job to God, ‘Suffre, lord, that I may a while biwaile and wepe, er I go withoute returninge to the dirke lond covered with the derknesse of deeth, | to the lond of misese177 and of derknesse, whereas is the shadwe of deeth, whereas ther is noon ordre or ordinaunce, but grisly drede that evere shal laste.’ | Lo, here may ye seen that Job preyde respit a while, to biwepe and waile his trespas; for soothly, o178 day of respit is bettre than al the tresor of this world. | And forasmuche as a man may acquite himself179 biforn God by penitence in this world, and nat by tresor, therfore sholde he preye to God to yeve him respit a while to biwepe and biwailen his trespas. | For certes, al the sorwe that a man mighte make fro the biginning of the world nis but a litel thing at regard of180 the sorwe of helle. [180] | The cause why that Job clepeth helle ‘the lond of derknesse’: | understond
eth that he clepeth it lond or erthe for it is stable and nevere shal faille; dirk, for he that is in helle hath defaute182 of light material | – for certes, the derke light that shal come out of the fir that evere shal brenne, shal turne him al to peine that is in helle, for it sheweth him to the horrible develes that him tormenten; | ‘covered with the derknesse of deeth’ – that is to seyn, that he that is in helle shal have defaute of the sighte of God, for certes, the sighte of God is the lif perdurable. | ‘The derknesse of deeth’ ben the sinnes that the wrecched man hath doon, whiche that destourben him to see185 the face of God, right as a derk clowde bitwixe us and the sonne. [185] | ‘Lond of miseise186’, bicause that ther ben three maneres of defautes, agains three thinges that folk of this world han in this present lif: that is to seyn, honours, delices, and richesses. | Agains honour, have they in helle shame and confusioun187; | for wel ye woot that men clepen honour the reverence that man doth to man, but in helle is noon honour ne reverence, for certes, namoore reverence shal be doon there to a king than to a knave188. | For which God seyth by the prophete Jeremye: ‘Thilke folk that me despisen shulle ben in despit.’ | Honour is eek cleped greet lordshipe; ther shal no wight serven oother, but of harm and torment. Honour is eek cleped greet dignitee and heighnesse190, but in helle shullen they ben al fortroden of develes. [190] | As God seyth, ‘the horrible develes shulle goon and comen upon the hevedes191 of dampned folk’, and this is forasmuche as the hyer that they were in this present lif, the moore shulle they ben abated and defouled in helle. | Agains the richesse of this world shul they han miseise of poverte, and this poverte shal be in foure thinges: | in defaute of tresor, of which that David seyth, ‘The riche folk, that embraceden and oneden193 al hire herte to tresor of this world, shulle slepe in the slepinge of deeth, and nothing ne shal they finden in hire handes of al hire tresor.’ | And mooreover the miseise of helle shal ben in defaute of mete and drinke. | For God seyth thus by Moises: ‘They shul ben wasted with hunger, and the briddes of helle shul devouren hem with bitter deeth, and the galle of the dragon shal ben hire drinke, and the venim of the dragon hire morsels.’ [195] | And forther over196, hire miseise shal ben in defaute of clothing, for they shulle be naked in body as of clothing, save the fir in which they brenne and othere filthes, | and naked shul they ben of soule, as of alle manere vertues, which that is the clothing of soule. Where ben thannne the gaye robes and the softe shetes and the smale197 shertes? | Loo, what seyth God of hem by the prophete Isaie, that ‘under hem shul ben strawed198 motthes and hire covertures shulle ben of wormes of helle’. | And forther over hire miseise shal ben in defaute of frendes, for he is nat povere that hath goode frendes; but there is no freend, | for neither God ne no creature shal ben freend to hem, and everich201 of hem shal haten oother with deedly hate. [200] | The sones and the doghtren shullen rebellen agains fader and moder, and kinrede agains kinrede, and chiden and despisen everich of hem oother bothe day and night, as God seyth by the prophete Michias. | And the lovinge children that whilom202 loveden so flesshly everich oother, wolden everich of hem eten oother if they mighte; | for how sholde they loven hem togidre in the peine of helle, whan they hateden everich of hem oother in the prosperitee of this lif? | For truste wel, hire flesshly love was deedly hate, as seyth the prophete David: ‘Whoso that loveth wikkednesse, he hateth his soule,’ | and whoso hateth his owene soule, certes, he may love noon oother wight in no manere. [205] | And therfore, in helle is no solas206 ne no frendshipe, but evere the moore flesshly kinredes that ben in helle, the moore cursinges, the moore chidinges, and the moore deedly hate ther is among hem. | And forther over, they shul have defaute of alle manere delices207; for certes, delices ben after the appetites of the five wittes, as sighte, heringe, smellinge, savoringe, and touchinge, | but in helle hir sighte shal be ful of derknesse and of smoke, and therfore ful of teeres, and hire heringe ful of waimentinge and of grintinge208 of teeth, as seyth Jesu Crist. | Hir nosethirles209 shul be ful of stinkinge stink, and as seyth Isaie the prophete, ‘hire savoringe shal be ful of bitter galle,’ | and touchinge of al hir body ycovered with ‘fir that nevere shal quenche, and with wormes that nevere shul dien’, as God seyth by the mouth of Isaie. [210] | And forasmuche as they shul nat wene211 that they may dien for peine, and by hire deeth fle fro peine, that may they understonde in the word of Job, that seyth ‘theras is the shadwe of deth’. | Certes, a shadwe hath the liknesse of the thing of which it is shadwe, but shadwe is nat the same thing of which it is shadwe. | Right so fareth the peine of helle: it is lik deeth for the horrible angwissh. And why? – for it peineth213 hem evere as thogh men sholde die anon, but certes, they shal nat die. | For, as seyth Seint Gregorye, ‘to wrecche kaitives214 shal be deeth withoute deeth, and ende withouten ende, and defaute withoute failinge, | for hire deeth shal alwey liven, and hir ende shal everemo biginne, and hir defaute shal nat faile.’ [215] | And therfore seyth Seint John the evaungelist: ‘They shullen folwe deeth, and they shul nat finde him, and they shul desiren to die, and deeth shal fle fro hem.’ | And eek Job seyth that in helle is noon ordre of rewle217. | And al be it so that God hath creat218 alle thinges in right ordre, and nothing withouten ordre, but alle thinges ben ordeined and nombred, yet nathelees, they that ben dampned ben nothing in ordre, ne holden noon ordre, | for the erthe ne shal bere hem no fruit. | For as the prophete David seyth, God shal destroye the fruit of the erthe as fro hem, ne water ne shal yeve hem no moisture, ne the eir no refresshing, ne fir no light. [220] | For, as seyth Seint Basilie, ‘the brenninge of the fir of this world shal God yeven in helle to hem that ben dampned, | but the light and the cleernesse shal be yeven in hevene to hise children’, right as the goode man yeveth flessh to hise children and bones to hise houndes. | And for they shullen have noon hope to escape, seyth Seint Job atte laste that ‘ther shal horrour and grisly drede dwelle withouten ende.’ | Horrour is alwey drede of harm that is to come, and this drede shal evere dwelle in the hertes of hem that ben dampned, and therfore han they lorn224 al hire hope, for sevene causes. | First, for God, that is hir juge, shal be withoute mercy to hem, ne they may nat plese him ne noon of hise halwes225, ne they ne may yeve nothing for hire raunson; [225] | ne they have no vois to speke to him, ne they may nat fle fro peine, ne they have no goodnesse in hem that they may shewe to delivere hem fro peine. | And therfore seyth Salomon: ‘The wikked man dieth, and whan he is deed, he shal have noon hope to escape fro peine.’ | Whoso thanne wolde wel understonde thise peines, and bithinke him228 wel that he hath deserved thilke peines for his sinnes, certes, he sholde have moore talent to siken and to wepe than for to singen and to pleye. | For, as that seyth Salomon: ‘Whoso that hadde the science229 to knowe the peines that ben establised and ordeined for sinne, he wolde make sorwe.’ | ‘Thilke science’, as seyth Seint Augustin, ‘maketh a man to waimente230 in his herte.’ [230] |

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