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Geoffrey Chaucer >> The Canterbury Tales (page 11)


roghte into his pryvetee.

I pray to God so yeve me sorwe and care,
If evere sitthe I highte Hogge of Ware,
Herde I a millere bettre yset awerk.
He hadde a jape of malice in the derk.
But God forbede that we stynte heere,

And therfore, if ye vouche-sauf to heere
A tale of me that am a povre man,
I wol yow telle, as wel as evere I kan,
A litel jape that fil in oure citee."
Oure Hoost answerde and seide, "I graunte it thee,

Now telle on, Roger, looke that it be good,
For many a pastee hastow laten blood,
And many a Jakke of Dovere hastow soold
That hath been twies hoot and twies cold.
Of many a pilgrim hastow Cristes curs,

For of thy percely yet they fare the wors,
That they han eten with thy stubbel-goos,
For in thy shoppe is many a flye loos.
Now telle on, gentil Roger, by thy name,
But yet I pray thee, be nat wroth for game,

A man may seye ful sooth in game and pley."
"Thou seist ful sooth," quod Roger, "by my fey;
But `sooth pley quaad pley,' as the Flemyng seith.
And ther-fore, Herry Bailly, by thy feith,
Be thou nat wrooth, er we departen heer,

Though that my tale be of an hostileer.
But nathelees I wol nat telle it yit,
But er we parte, ywis, thou shalt be quit."
And ther-with-al he lough and made cheere,
And seyde his tale, as ye shul after heere.

THE TALE (Unfinished).

(Perkin, a London apprentice, being dismissed by his
master, seeks his companions in dice, revel and disport.)

Part 6

GROUP B.

PROLOGUE OF THE MAN OF LAWE.

The wordes of the Hoost to the compaignye.

Oure Hooste saugh wel that the brighte sonne
The ark of his artificial day hath ronne
The ferthe part, and half an houre and moore;
And though he were nat depe expert in loore,
He wiste ti was the eightetethe day

Of Aprill, that is messager to May;
And saugh wel, that the shadwe of every tree
Was as in lengthe the same quantitee
That was the body erect that caused it,
And therfore by the shadwe he took his wit

That Phebus, which that shoon so clere and brighte,
Degrees was fyve and fourty clombe on highte;
And for that day, as in that latitude,
It was ten at the clokke, he gan conclude,
And sodeynly he plighte his hors aboute.-

"Lordynges," quod he, "I warne yow, al this route,
The fourthe party of this day is gon.
Now for the love of God and of Seint John,
Leseth no tyme, as ferforth as ye may.
Lordynges, the tyme wasteth nyght and day,

And steleth from us, what pryvely slepynge,

And what thurgh necligence in oure wakynge,
As dooth the streem, that turneth nevere agayn,
Descendyng fro the montaigne into playn.
Wel kan Senec and many a philosophre

Biwaillen tyme, moore than gold in cofre.
`for losse of catel may recovered be,
But losse of tyme shendeth us,' quod he.
It wol nat come agayn, withouten drede,
Namoore than wole Malkynes maydenhede,

Whan she hath lost it in hir wantownesse.
Lat us nat mowlen thus in ydelnesse;
Sir man of lawe," quod he, "so have ye blis,
Telle us a tale anon, as forward is.
Ye been submytted thurgh youre free assent

To stonden in this cas at my juggement.
Acquiteth yow as now of youre biheeste,
Thanne have ye do youre devoir atte leeste."
"Hooste," quod he, "Depardieux ich assente,
To breke forward is nat myn entente.

Biheste is dette, and I wole holde fayn
Al my biheste, I kan no bettre sayn.
For swich lawe as a man yeveth another wight,
He sholde hymselven usen it by right;
Thus wole oure text, but nathelees certeyn

I kan right now no thrifty tale seyn;
But Chaucer, thogh he kan but lewedly
On metres and on rymyng craftily,
Hath seyd hem in swich Englissh as he kan,
Of olde tyme, as knoweth many a man.

And if he have noght seyd hem, leve brother,
In o book, he hath seyd hem in another.
For he hath toold of loveris up and doun
Mo than Ovide made of mencioun,
In hise Episteles that been ful olde;

What sholde I tellen hem, syn they ben tolde?
In youthe he made of Ceys and Alcione,
And sitthen hath he spoken of everichone
Thise noble wyves and thise loveris eke.
Whoso that wole his large volume seke

Cleped the Seintes Legende of Cupide,
Ther may he seen the large woundes wyde
Of Lucresse, and of Babilan Tesbee,
The swerd of Dido for the false Enee,
The tree of Phillis for hir Demophon,

The pleinte of Dianire and Hermyon,
Of Adriane and of Isiphilee,
The bareyne yle stondynge in the see,
The dreynte Leandre for his Erro,
The teeris of Eleyne, and eek the wo

Of Brixseyde, and of the, Ladomea,
The crueltee of the, queene Medea,
Thy litel children hangyng by the hals
For thy Jason, that was in love so fals.
O Ypermystra, Penolopee, Alceste,

Youre wyfhede he comendeth with the beste!
But certeinly no word ne writeth he
Of thilke wikke ensample of Canacee,
That loved hir owene brother synfully-
Of swiche cursed stories I sey fy!-

Or ellis of Tyro Appollonius,
How that the cursed kyng Antiochus
Birafte his doghter of hir maydenhede,
That is so horrible a tale for to rede,
Whan he hir threw upon the pavement.

And therfore he, of ful avysement,
Nolde nevere write, in none of his sermouns,
Of swiche unkynde abhomynaciouns;
Ne I wol noon reherce, if that I may.
But of my tale how shall I doon this day?

Me were looth be likned, doutelees,
To Muses that men clepe Pierides-
Methamorphosios woot what I mene-
But nathelees, I recche noght a bene
Though I come after hym with hawebake,

I speke in prose, and lat him rymes make."
And with that word he, with a sobre cheere,
Bigan his tale, as ye shal after heere.
Part 7

THE TALE OF THE MAN OF LAWE.

The prologe of the Mannes Tale of Lawe.

O hateful harm, condicion of poverte!
With thurst, with coold, with hunger so confoundid!
To asken help thee shameth in thyn herte,
If thou noon aske, so soore artow ywoundid
That verray nede unwrappeth al thy wounde hid;
Maugree thyn heed thou most for indigence
Or stele, or begge, or borwe thy despence!

Thow blamest Crist, and seist ful bitterly
He mysdeparteth richesse temporal.
Thy neighebore thou wytest synfully,
And seist thou hast to lite and he hath al.
"Parfay!" seistow, "somtyme he rekene shal,
Whan that his tayl shal brennen in the gleede,
For he noght helpeth needfulle in hir neede."

Herkne what is the sentence of the wise,
"Bet is to dyen than have indigence."
Thy selve neighebor wol thee despise,
If thou be povre, farwel thy reverence!
Yet of the wise man take this sentence,
"Alle dayes of povre men been wikke;"
Be war therfore, er thou come to that prikke.

If thou be povre, thy brother hateth thee,
And alle thy freendes fleen from thee; allas,
O riche marchauntz, ful of wele been yee!
O noble, o prudent folk, as in this cas!
Youre bagges been nat fild with ambes as,
But with sys cynk, that renneth for youre chaunce,
At Cristemasse myrie may ye daunce!

Ye seken lond and see for your wynnynges,
As wise folk ye knowen all thestaat
Of regnes; ye been fadres of tydynges
And tales, bothe of pees and of debaat.
I were right now of tales desolaat
Nere that a marchant, goon is many a yeere,
Me taughte a tale, which that ye shal heere.

Heere begynneth the Man of Lawe his Tale.

In Surrye whilom dwelte a compaignye
Of chapmen riche, and therto sadde and trewe,
That wyde-where senten hir spicerye,
Clothes of gold, and satyns riche of hewe.
Hir chaffare was so thrifty and so newe
That every wight hath deyntee to chaffare
With hem, and eek to sellen hem hir ware.

Now fil it, that the maistres of that sort
Han shapen hem to Rome for to wende;
Were it for chapmanhode, or for disport,
Noon oother message wolde they thider sende,
But comen hemself to Rome, this is the ende,
And in swich place as thoughte hem avantage
For hir entente, they take hir herbergage.

Sojourned han thise Marchantz in that toun
A certein tyme, as fil to hire plesance.
And so bifel, that thexcellent renoun
Of the Emperoures doghter, Dame Custance,
Reported was, with every circumstance
Unto thise Surryen marchantz in swich wyse
Fro day to day, as I shal yow devyse.

This was the commune voys of every man:
"Oure Emperour of Rome, God hym see,
A doghter hath, that syn the world bigan,
To rekene as wel hir goodnesse as beautee,
Nas nevere swich another as is shee.
I prey to God in honour hir sustene
And wolde she were of all Europe the queene!

In hir is heigh beautee, withoute pride,
Yowthe, withoute grenehede or folye,
To alle hir werkes vertu is hir gyde,
Humblesse hath slayn in hir al tirannye,
She is mirour of alle curteisye,
Hir herte is verray chambre of hoolynesse,
Hir hand ministre of fredam for almesse."

And al this voys was sooth, as God is trewe!
But now to purpos, lat us turne agayn;
Thise marchantz han doon fraught hir shippes newe,
And whan they han this blisful mayden sayn,
Hoom to Surrye been they went ful fayn,
And doon hir nedes as they han doon yoore,
And lyven in wele, I kan sey yow namoore.

Now fil it, that thise marchantz stode in grace
Of hym, that was the Sowdan of Surrye.
For whan they cam from any strange place,
He wolde, of his benigne curteisye,
Make hem good chiere, and bisily espye
Tidynges of sondry regnes, for to leere
The wondres that they myghte seen or heere.

Amonges othere thynges, specially
Thise marchantz han hym toold of dame Custance
So greet noblesse, in ernest ceriously,
That this Sowdan hath caught so greet plesance
To han hir figure in his remembrance,
That all his lust and al his bisy cure
Was for to love hir, while his lyf may dure.

Praventure in thilke large book,
Which that men clipe the hevene, ywriten was
With sterres, whan that he his birthe took,
That he for love sholde han his deeth, allas!
For in the sterres clerer than is glas
Is writen, God woot, whoso koude it rede,
The deeth of every man, withouten drede.

In sterres many a wynter therbiforn
Was writen the deeth of Ector, Achilles,
Of Pompei, Julius, er they were born,
The strif of Thebes, and of Ercules,
Of Sampson, Turnus, and of Socrates
The deeth, but mennes wittes ben so dulle
That no wight kan wel rede it atte fulle.

This Sowdan for his privee conseil sente,
And, shortly of this matiere for to pace,
He hath to hem declared his entente
And seyde hem, certein, but he myghte have grace
To han Custance withinne a litel space,
He nas but deed; and charged hem in hye
To shapen for his lyf som remedye.

Diverse men diverse thynges seyden;
They argumenten, casten up and doun,
Many a subtil resoun forth they leyden,
They speken of magyk and abusioun;
But finally, as in conclusioun,
They kan nat seen in that noon avantage,
Ne in noon oother wey, save mariage.

Thanne sawe they therin swich difficultee
By wey of reson, for to speke al playn
Bycause that ther was swich diversitee
Bitwene hir bothe lawes, that they sayn
They trowe that "no cristene prince wolde fayn
Wedden his child under oure lawes swete
That us were taught by Mahoun oure prophete."

And he answerde: "Rather than I lese
Custance, I wol be cristned, doutelees.
I moot been hires, I may noon oother chese;
I prey yow, hoold youre argumentz in pees.

Saveth my lyf, and beth noght recchelees
To geten hir that hath my lyf in cure,
For in this wo I may nat longe endure."

What nedeth gretter dilatacioun?
I syey, by tretys and embassadrye
And by the popes mediacioun,
And al the chirche and al the chivalrie,
That in destruccioun of Mawmettrie
And in encrees of Cristes lawe deere,
They been acorded, so as ye shal heere,

How that the Sowdan and his baronage
And alle hise liges sholde ycristned be-
And he shal han Custance in mariage,
And certein gold, I noot what quantitee,
And heerto founden suffisant suretee.
This same accord was sworn on eyther syde.
Now, faire Custance, almyghty God thee gyde!

Now wolde som men waiten, as I gesse,
That I sholde tellen al the purveiance
That themperour, of his grete noblesse,
Hath shapen for his doghter dame Custance;
Wel may men knowen that so greet ordinance
May no man tellen in alitel clause
As was arrayed for so heigh a cause.

Bisshopes been shapen with hir for to wende,
Lordes, ladies, knyghtes of renoun,
And oother folk ynogh, this is the ende,
And notified is, thurghout the toun,
That every wight with greet devocioun
Sholde preyen Crist, that he this mariage
Receyve in gree, and spede this viage.

The day is comen of hir departynge,
I seye, the woful day fatal is come,
That ther may be no lenger tariynge,
But forthward they hem dressen, alle and some.
Custance, that was with sorwe al overcome,
Ful pale arist, and dresseth hir to wende,
For wel she seeth ther is noon oother ende.

Allas, what wonder is it thogh she wepte,
That shal be sent to strange nacioun
Fro freendes that so tendrely hir kepte,
And to be bounden under subjeccioun
Of oon, she knoweth nat his condicioun?
Housbondes been alle goode, and han ben yoore,
That knowen wyves! I dar sey yow namoore.

"Fader," she seyde, "Thy wrecched child Custance,
Thy yonge doghter, fostred up so softe,
And ye my mooder, my soverayn plesance,
Over alle thyng, out-taken Crist on-lofte,
Custance, youre child, hir recomandeth ofte
Unto your grace, for I s

Title: The Canterbury Tales
Author: Geoffrey Chaucer
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