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Geoffrey Chaucer >> The Canterbury Tales (page 10)



Who wrastleth best naked, with oille enoynt,
Ne who that baar hym best in no disjoynt;
I wol nat tellen eek, how that they goon
Hoom til Atthenes, whan the pley is doon;
But shortly to the point thanne wol I wende,

And maken of my longe tale an ende.
By processe, and by lengthe of certeyn yeres,
Al stynted is the moornynge and the teres
Of Grekes, by oon general assent.
Thanne semed me ther was a parlement


At Atthenes, upon certein pointz and caas,
Among the whiche pointz yspoken was
To have with certein contrees alliaunce,
And have fully of Thebans obeisaunce,
For which this noble Theseus anon

Leet senden after gentil Palamon,
Unwist of hym what was the cause and why.
But in hise blake clothes sorwefully
He cam at his comandement in hye;
Tho sente Theseus for Emelye.

Whan they were set, and hust was al the place,
And Theseus abiden hadde a space
Er any word cam fram his wise brest,
Hise eyen sette he ther as was his lest,
And with a sad visage he siked stille,

And after that right thus he seyde his wille.
"The firste moevere of the cause above
Whan he first made the faire cheyne of love,
Greet was theffect, and heigh was his entente;
Wel wiste he, why, and what therof he mente,

For with that faire cheyne of love he bond
The fyr, the eyr, the water, and the lond,
In certeyn boundes that they may nat flee.
That same prince and that same moevere," quod he,
"Hath stablissed in this wrecched world adoun

Certeyne dayes and duracioun
To al that is engendred in this place,
Over the whiche day they may nat pace;
Al mowe they yet tho dayes wel abregge,
Ther nedeth noght noon auctoritee allegge,

For it is preeved by experience-
But that me list declaren my sentence.
Thanne may men by this ordre wel discerne
That thilke moevere stable is and eterne.
Wel may men knowe, but it be a fool,

That every part deryveth from his hool;
For nature hath nat taken his bigynnyng
Of no partie nor cantel of a thyng,
But of a thyng that parfit is and stable,
Descendynge so til it be corrumpable;

And therfore, of his wise purveiaunce,
He hath so wel biset his ordinaunce,
That speces of thynges and progressiouns
Shullen enduren by successiouns,
And nat eterne, withouten any lye.

This maystow understonde and seen at eye.
Lo the ook, that hath so long a norisshynge
From tyme that it first bigynneth sprynge,
And hath so long a lif, as we may see,
Yet at the laste wasted is the tree.

Considereth eek, how that the harde stoon
Under oure feet, on which we trede and goon,
Yit wasteth it, as it lyth by the weye.
The brode ryver somtyme wexeth dreye,
The grete toures se we wane and wende,

Thanne may ye se that al this thyng hath ende.
Of man and womman seen we wel also,
That nedeth, in oon of thise termes two,
This is to seyn, in youthe or elles age,
He moot be deed, the kyng as shal a page.

Som in his bed, som in the depe see,
Som in the large feeld, as men may se;
Ther helpeth noght, al goth that ilke weye,
Thanne may I seyn that al this thyng moot deye.
What maketh this, but Juppiter the kyng,

That is prince and cause of alle thyng
Convertyng al unto his propre welle
From which it is deryved, sooth to telle,
And heer agayns no creature on lyve
Of no degree availleth for to stryve.

Thanne is it wysdom, as it thynketh me,
To maken vertu of necessitee,
And take it weel, that we may nat eschue;
And namely, that to us alle is due.
And who so gruccheth ought, he dooth folye,

And rebel is to hym that al may gye.
And certeinly, a man hath moost honour
To dyen in his excellence and flour,
Whan he is siker of his goode name,
Thanne hath he doon his freend ne hym no shame.

And galdder oghte his freend been of his deeth,
Whan with honour upyolden in his breeth,
Than whan his name apalled is for age;
For al forgeten is his vassellage.
Thanne is it best as for a worthy fame,

To dyen whan that he is best of name.
The contrarie of al this is wilfulnesse:
Why grucchen heere his cosyn and his wyf
That goode Arcite, of chivalrie flour,
Departed is with duetee and honour

Out of this foule prisoun of this lyf?
Why grucchen heere his cosyn and his wyf
Of his welfare, that loved hem so weel?
Kan he hem thank? Nay, God woot never a deel!
That bothe his soule and eek hemself offende,

And yet they mowe hir lustes nat amende.
What may I concluden of this longe serye,
But after wo I rede us to be merye,
And thanken Juppiter of al his grace?
And er that we departen from this place

I rede that we make, of sorwes two,
O parfit joye lastyng everemo.
And looketh now, wher moost sorwe is her inne,
Ther wol we first amenden and bigynne.
"Suster," quod he, "this is my fulle assent,

With all thavys heere of my parlement,
That gentil Palamon thyn owene kynght,
That serveth yow with wille, herte, and myght,
And evere hath doon, syn that ye first hym knewe,
That ye shul of your grace upon hym rewe,

And taken hym for housbonde and for lord.
Lene me youre hond, for this is oure accord.
Lat se now of youre wommanly pitee;
He is a kynges brother sone, pardee,
And though he were a povre bacheler,

Syn he hath served yow so many a yeer,
And had for yow so greet adversitee,
It moste been considered, leeveth me,
For gentil mercy oghte to passen right."
Thanne seyde he thus to Palamon ful right:

"I trowe ther nedeth litel sermonyng
To make yow assente to this thyng.
Com neer, and taak youre lady by the hond."
Bitwixen hem was maad anon the bond
That highte matrimoigne, or mariage,

By al the conseil and the baronage.
And thus with alle blisse and melodye
Hath Palamon ywedded Emelye;
And God, that al this wyde world hath wroght,
Sende hym his love that hath it deere aboght!

For now is Palamon in alle wele,
Lyvynge in blisse, in richesse, and in heele,
And Emelye hym loveth so tendrely,
And he hir serveth al so gentilly,
That nevere was ther no word hem bitwene,

Of jalousie, or any oother teene.
Thus endeth Palamon and Emelye,
And God save al this faire compaignye!-Amen-

Heere is ended the knyghtes tale.
Part 3

PROLOGUE TO THE MILLERES TALE

Heere folwen the wordes bitwene the Hoost and the Millere

Whan that the Knyght had thus his tale ytoold,
In al the route ne was ther yong ne oold

That he ne seyde it was a noble storie,
And worthy for to drawen to memorie;
And namely the gentils everichon.
Oure Hooste lough, and swoor, "So moot I gon,
This gooth aright, unbokeled is the male,

Lat se now who shal telle another tale,
For trewely the game is wel bigonne.
Now telleth on, sir Monk, if that ye konne
Somwhat to quite with the Knyghtes tale."
The Miller that for-dronken was al pale,

So that unnethe upon his hors he sat,
He nolde avalen neither hood ne hat,
Ne abyde no man for his curteisie,
But in Pilates voys he gan to crie,
And swoor by armes and by blood and bones,

"I kan a noble tale for the nones,
With which I wol now quite the Knyghtes tale."
Oure Hooste saugh that he was dronke of ale,
And seyde, "Abyd, Robyn, my leeve brother,
Som bettre man shal telle us first another,

Abyd, and lat us werken thriftily."
"By Goddes soule," quod he, "that wol nat I,
For I wol speke, or elles go my wey."
Oure Hoost answerde, "Tel on, a devele wey!
Thou art a fool, thy wit is overcome!

"Now herkneth," quod the Miller, "alle and some,
But first I make a protestacioun
That I am dronke, I knowe it by my soun;
And therfore, if that I mysspeke or seye,
Wyte it the ale of Southwerk I you preye.

For I wol telle a legende and a lyf
Bothe of a carpenter and of his wyf,
How that a clerk hath set the wrightes cappe."
The Rev answerde and seyde, "Stynt thy clappe,
Lat be thy lewed dronken harlotrye,

It is a synne and eek a greet folye
To apeyren any man or hym defame,
And eek to bryngen wyves in swich fame;
Thou mayst ynogh of othere thynges seyn."
This dronke Miller spak ful soone ageyn,

And seyde, "Leve brother Osewold,
Who hath no wyf, he is no cokewold.
But I sey nat therfore that thou art oon,
Ther been ful goode wyves many oon,
And evere a thousand goode ayeyns oon badde;

That knowestow wel thyself, but if thou madde.
Why artow angry with my tale now?
I have a wyf, pardee, as wel as thow,
Yet nolde I for the oxen in my plogh
Take upon me moore than ynogh,

As demen of myself that I were oon;
I wol bileve wel, that I am noon.
An housbonde shal nat been inquisityf
Of Goddes pryvetee, nor of his wyf.
So he may fynde Goddes foysoun there,

Of the remenant nedeth nat enquere."
What sholde I moore seyn, but this Miller
He nolde his wordes for no man forbere,
But tolde his cherles tale in his manere;
Me thynketh that I shal reherce it heere.

And therfore every gentil wight I preye,
For Goddes love, demeth nat that I seye
Of yvel entente, but that I moot reherce
Hir tales alle, be they bettre or werse,
Or elles falsen som of my mateere.

And therfore who-so list it nat yheere,
Turne over the leef, and chese another tale;
For he shal fynde ynowe, grete and smale,
Of storial thyng that toucheth gentillesse,
And eek moralitee, and hoolynesse.


Blameth nat me if that ye chese amys;
The Miller is a cherl, ye knowe wel this,
So was the Reve, and othere manye mo,
And harlotrie they tolden bothe two.
Avyseth yow, and put me out of blame,

And eek men shal nat maken ernest of game.

THE TALE

(One John, a rich and credulous carpenter of Oxford, is
beguiled by his wife Alison, through Nicholas, a poor
scholar boarding with them. Absolon, the parish clerk, is
slighted by Alison; but wreaks vengeance on Nicholas.)
Part 4

PROLOGUE TO THE REVES TALE

The prologe of the Reves Tale.

Whan folk hadde laughen at this nyce cas
Of Absolon and hende Nicholas,
Diverse folk diversely they seyde,
But for the moore part they loughe and pleyde,
Ne at this tale I saugh no man hym greve,

But it were oonly Osewold the Reve;
Bycause he was of carpenteres craft,
A litel ire is in his herte ylaft;
He gan to grucche, and blamed it a lite.
"So theek," quod he, "ful wel koude I you quite,

With bleryng of a proud milleres eye,
If that me liste speke of ribaudye.
But ik am oold, me list no pley for age,
Gras-tyme is doon, my fodder is now forage,
This white top writeth myne olde yeris,

Myn herte is also mowled as myne heris,
But if I fare as dooth an openers;
That ilke fruyt is ever leng the wers,
Til it be roten in mullok or in stree.
We olde men, I drede, so fare we,

Til we be roten kan we nat be rype.
We hoppen ay whil that the world wol pype,
For in oure wyl ther stiketh evere a nayl
To have an hoor heed and a grene tayl,
As hath a leek, for thogh oure myght be goon,

Oure wyl desireth folie evere in oon.
For whan we may nat doon, than wol we speke,
Yet in oure asshen olde is fyr yreke.
Foure gleedes han we whiche I shal devyse,
Avauntyng, liyng, anger, coveitise;

Thise foure sparkles longen unto eelde.
Oure olde lemes mowe wel been unweelde,
But wyl ne shal nat faillen, that is sooth.
And yet ik have alwey a coltes tooth,
As many a yeer as it is passed henne

Syn that my tappe of lif bigan to renne.
For sikerly whan I was bore, anon
Deeth drough the tappe of lyf, and leet it gon,
And ever sithe hath so the tappe yronne,
Til that almoost al empty is the tonne.

The streem of lyf now droppeth on the chymbe;
The sely tonge may wel rynge and chymbe
Of wrecchednesse that passed is ful yoore.
With olde folk, save dotage, is namoore."
Whan that oure Hoost hadde herd this sermonyng,

He gan to speke as lordly as a kyng,
He seide, "What amounteth al this wit?
What shul we speke alday of hooly writ?
The devel made a reve for to preche,
And of a soutere, shipman, or a leche.

Sey forth thy tale, and tarie nat the tyme.
Lo Depeford, and it is half-wey pryme;
Lo, Grenewych, ther many a shrewe is inne;
It were al tyme thy tale to bigynne."
"Now sires," quod this Osewold the Reve,

"I pray yow alle, that ye nat yow greve,
Thogh I answere, and somdeel sette his howve,
For leveful is with force force of-showve.
This dronke Millere hath ytoold us heer,
How that bigyled was a Carpenteer,

Peraventure in scorn, for I am oon;
And by youre leve I shal hym quite anoon.
Right in his cherles termes wol I speke,
I pray to God his nekke mote breke!
He kan wel in myn eye seen a stalke,

But in his owene he kan nat seen a balke."

(Simkin, a rich thieving miller of Trumpington Mill, near
Cambridge, is well served by two Cambridge clerks of the
north country, who beguile his wife and daughter, recover
the stolen meal which he had hid, and leave him well beaten.)

Part 5

THE PROLOGUE TO THE COKES TALE.

The prologe of the Cokes Tale.

The Cook of London, whil the Reve spak,
For joye him thoughte, he clawed him on the bak.
"Ha! ha!" quod he, "for Criste passioun,
This miller hadde a sharp conclusioun
Upon his argument of herbergage.

Wel seyde Salomon in his langage,
`Ne brynge nat every man into thyn hous,'
For herberwynge by nyghte is perilous.
Wel oghte a man avysed for to be,
Whom that be b

Title: The Canterbury Tales
Author: Geoffrey Chaucer
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