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Geoffrey Chaucer >> The Canterbury Tales (page 12)


hal to Surrye
Ne shal I nevere seen yow moore with eye.

Allas! unto the barbre nacioun
I moste goon, syn that it is youre wille,
But Crist, that starf for our savacioun,
So yeve me grace hise heestes to fulfille,-
I, wrecche womman, no fors though I spille.
Wommen are born to thraldom and penance,
And to been under mannes governance."

I trowe, at Troye whan Pirrus brak the wal,
Or Ilion brende, ne at Thebes the Citee,
Ne at Rome for the harm thurgh Hanybal

That Romayns hath venquysshed tymes thre,
Nas herd swich tendre wepyng for pitee
As in the chambre was, for his departynge;
But forth she moot, wher-so she wepe or synge.

O firste moevyng crueel firmanent,
With thy diurnal sweigh, that crowdest ay
And hurlest al from Est til Occident
That naturelly wolde holde another way,
Thy crowdyng set the hevene in swich array
At the bigynnyng of this fiers viage,
That crueel Mars hath slayn this mariage.

Infortunat ascendent tortuous,
Of which the lord is helplees falle, allas!
Out of his angle into the derkeste hous.
O Mars! O Atazir! as in this cas,
O fieble Moone, unhappy been thy paas!
Thou knyttest thee, ther thou art nat receyved;
Ther thou were weel, fro thennes artow weyved.-

Imprudent Emperour of Rome, allas!
Was ther no philosophre in al thy toun?
Is no tyme bet than oother in swich cas?
Of viage is ther noon eleccioun,
Namely to folk of heigh condicioun,
Noght whan a roote is of a burthe yknowe?
Allas, we been to lewed or to slowe!

To ship is brought this woful faire mayde
Solempnely, with every circumstance,
"Now Jesu Crist be with yow alle," she seyde.
Ther nys namoore but, "Farewel faire Custance!"
She peyneth hir to make good contenance,
And forth I lete hir saille in this manere,
And turne I wole agayn to my matere.

The mooder of the Sowdan, welle of vyices,
Espied hath hir sones pleyne entente,
How he wol lete hise olde sacrifices,
And right anon she for hir conseil sente,
And they been come, to knowe what she mente,
And whan assembled was this folk in feere,
She sette hir doun, and seyde as ye shal heere.

"Lordes," quod she, "ye knowen everichon,
How that my sone in point is for to lete
The hooly lawes of oure Alkaron,
Yeven by Goddes message, Makomete.
But oon avow to grete God I heete,
The lyf shal rather out of my body sterte,
Than Makometes lawe out of myn herte!

What sholde us tyden of this newe lawe
But thraldom to our bodies, and penance,
And afterward in helle to be drawe
For we reneyed Mahoun oure creance?
But lordes, wol ye maken assurance
As I shal seyn, assentynge to my loore,
And I shal make us sauf for everemoore."

They sworen and assenten every man
To lyve with hir, and dye, and by hir stonde,
And everich in the beste wise he kan
To strengthen hir shal alle hise frendes fonde,
And she hath this emprise ytake on honde,
Which ye shal heren, that I shal devyse.
And to hem alle she spak right in this wyse:

"We shul first feyne us cristendom to take,-
Coold water shal nat greve us but a lite-
And I shal swich a feeste and revel make,
That as I trowe I shal the Sowdan quite;
For thogh his wyf be cristned never so white,
She shal have nede to wasshe awey the rede,
Thogh she a fontful water with hir lede!"

O Sowdanesse, roote of iniquitee!
Virage, thou Semyrame the secounde!
O serpent under femynyntee,
Lik to the serpent depe in helle ybounde!
O feyned womman, al that may confounde
Vertu and innocence thurgh thy malice
Is bred in thee, as nest of every vice!

O Sathan, envious syn thilke day
That thou were chaced from oure heritage,
Wel knowestow to wommen the olde way!
Thou madest Eva brynge us in servage;
Thou wolt fordoon this cristen mariage.
Thyn instrument, so weylawey the while!
Makestow of wommen, whan thou wolt bigile!

This Sowdanesse, whom I thus blame and warie,
Leet prively hir conseil goon hir way.
What sholde I in this tale lenger tarie?
She rydeth to the Sowdan on a day
And seyde hym, that she wolde reneye hir lay,
And cristendom of preestes handes fonge,
Repentynge hir she hethen was so longe;

Bisechynge hym to doon hir that honour
That she moste han the cristen folk to feeste.
"To plesen hem I wol do my labour."
The Sowdan seith, "I wol doon at youre heeste,"
And knelynge thanketh hir of that requeste.
So gald he was, he nyste what to seye;
She kiste hir sone, and hoome she gooth hir weye.

Explicit prima pars.

Sequitur pars secunda.

Arryved been this cristen folk to londe,
In Surrye, with a greet solempne route,
And hastifliche this Sowdan sente his sonde
First to his mooder and all the regne aboute,
And seyde his wyf was comen, oute of doute,
And preyde hir for to ryde agayn the queene,
The honour of his regne to susteene.

Greet was the prees, and riche was tharray
Of Surryens and Romayns met yfeere;
The mooder of the Sowdan, riche and gay,
Receyveth hir with also glad a cheere
As any mooder myghte hir doghter deere,
And to the nexte citee ther bisyde
A softe pass solempnely they ryde.


Noght trowe I the triumphe of Julius,
Of which that Lucan maketh swich a boost,
Was roialler, ne moore curius
Than was thassemblee of this blisful hoost.
But this scorpioun, this wikked goost,
The Sowdanesse, for all hir falterynge
Caste under this ful mortally to stynge.

The Sowdabn comth hymself soone after this
So roially, that wonder is to telle,
And welcometh hir with alle joye and blis,
And thus in murthe and joye I lete hem dwelle-
The fruyt of this matiere is that I telle.-
Whan tyme cam, men thoughte it for the beste,
The revel stynte, and men goon to hir reste.

The tyme cam, this olde Sowdanesse
Ordeyned hath this feeste of which I tolde,
And to the feeste cristen folk hem dresse
In general, ye, bothe yonge and olde.
Heere may men feeste and roialtee biholde,
And deyntees mo than I kan yow devyse;
But al to deere they boghte it er they ryse!

O sodeyn wo, that evere art successour
To worldly blisse, spreynd with bitternesse!
The ende of the joye of oure worldly labour!
Wo occupieth the fyn of oure galdnesse!
Herke this conseil for thy sikernesse,
Upon thy galde day have in thy minde
The unwar wo or harm that comth bihynde.

For shortly for to tellen at o word,
The Sowdan and the cristen everichone
Been al tohewe and stiked at the bord,
But it were oonly dame Custance allone.
This olde Sowdanesse, cursed krone,
Hath with hir freendes doon this cursed dede,
For she hirself wolde all the contree lede.

Ne was ther Surryen noon, that was converted,
That of the conseil of the Sowdan woot,
That he nas al tohewe er he asterted.
And Custance han they take anon foot-hoot
And in a ship all steerelees, God woot,
They han hir set, and biddeth hir lerne saille
Out of Surrye agaynward to Ytaille.

A certein tresor that she thider ladde,
And, sooth to seyn, vitaille greet plentee
They han hir yeven, and clothes eek she hadde,
And forth she sailleth in the salte see.
O my Custance, ful of benignytee,
O emperoures yonge doghter deere,
He that is lord of Fortune be thy steere!

She blesseth hir, and with ful pitous voys
Unto the croys of Crist thus seyde she,
"O cleere, o welful auter, hooly croys,
Reed of the lambes blood, ful of pitee,
That wesshe the world fro the olde iniquitee,
Me fro the feend and fro his clawes kepe,
That day that I shal drenchen in the depe.

Victorious tree, proteccioun of trewe,
That oonly worthy were for to bere
The kyng of hevene with his woundes newe,
The white lamb that hurt was with the spere,
Flemer of feendes out of hym and here
On which thy lymes feithfully extenden,
Me keep, and yif me myght my lyf tamenden."

Yeres and dayes fleteth this creature
Thurghout the See of Grece unto the Strayte
Of Marrok, as it was hir aventure.
On many a sory meel now may she bayte;
After hir deeth ful often may she wayte,
Er that the wilde wawes wol hire dryve
Unto the place ther she shal arryve.

Men myghten asken why she was nat slayn?
Eek at the feeste who myghte hir body save?
And I answere to that demande agayn,
Who saved Danyel in the horrible cave,
Ther every wight save he, maister and knave,
Was with the leoun frete, er he asterte?
No wight but God, that he bar in his herte.

God liste to shewe his wonderful myracle
In hir, for we sholde seen his myghty werkis.
Crist, which that is to every harm triacle,
By certeine meenes ofte, as knowen clerkis,
Dooth thyng for certein ende, that ful derk is
To mannes wit, that for oure ignorance
Ne konne noght knowe his prudent purveiance.

Now, sith she was nat at the feeste yslawe,
Who kepte hir fro the drenchyng in the see?
Who kepte Jonas in the fisshes mawe
Til he was spouted up at Nynyvee?
Wel may men knowe it was no wight but he
That kepte peple Ebrayk from hir drenchynge,
With drye feet thurghout the see passynge.

Who bad the foure spirites of tempest,
That power han tanoyen lond and see,
"Bothe north and south, and also west and est,
Anoyeth neither see, ne land, ne tree?"
Soothly, the comandour of that was he,
That fro the tempest ay this womman kepte,
As wel eek when she wook as whan she slepte.

Where myghte this womman mete and drynke have?
Thre yeer and moore how lasteth hir vitaille?
Who fedde the Egypcien Marie in the cave,
Or in desert?
no wight but Crist sanz faille.
Fyve thousand folk it was as greet mervaille
With loves fyve and fisshes two to feede;
God sente his foyson at hir grete neede.

She dryveth forth into oure occian
Thurghout oure wilde see, til atte laste
Under an hoold that nempnen I ne kan,
Fer in Northhumberlond, the wawe hir caste,
And in the sond hir ship stiked so faste
That thennes wolde it noght of al a tyde,
The wyl of Crist was that she sholde abyde.

The constable of the castel doun is fare
To seen his wrak, and al the ship he soghte,
And foond this wery womman ful of care,
He foond also the tresor that she broghte,
In hir langage mercy she bisoghte,
The lyf out of hire body for to twynne,
Hir to delivere of wo that she was inne.

A maner Latyn corrupt was hir speche,
But algates ther-by was she understonde.
The constable, whan hym lyst no lenger seche,
This woful womman broghte he to the londe.
She kneleth doun and thanketh Goddes sonde;
But what she was, she wolde no man seye,
For foul ne fair, thogh that she sholde deye.

She seyde, she was so mazed in the see
That she forgat hir mynde, by hir trouthe.
The constable hath of hir so greet pitee,
And eke his wyf, that they wepen for routhe.
She was so diligent withouten slouthe
To serve and plesen everich in that place,
That alle hir loven that looken on hir face.

This constable and dame Hermengyld his wyf
Were payens, and that contree every-where;
But Hermengyld loved hir right as hir lyf,
And Custance hath so longe sojourned there
In orisons with many a bitter teere,
Til Jesu hath converted thurgh his grace
Dame Hermengyld, constablesse of that place.

In al that lond no cristen dorste route,
Alle cristen folk been fled fro that contree
Thurgh payens that conquereden al aboute
The plages of the North by land and see.
To Walys fledde the Cristyanytee
Of olde Britons, dwellynge in this Ile;
Ther was hir refut for the meene-while.

But yet nere cristene Britons so exiled
That ther nere somme that in hir privetee
Honoured Crist, and hethen folk bigiled,
And ny the castel swiche ther dwelten three;
That oon of hem was blynd, and myghte nat see,
But it were with thilke eyen of his mynde,
With whiche men seen, after that they ben blynde.

Bright was the sonne as in that someres day,
For which the constable and his wyf also
And Custance han ytake the righte way
Toward the see, a furlong wey or two,
To pleyen, and to romen, to and fro,
And in hir walk this blynde man they mette,
Croked and oold, with eyen faste yshette.

"In name of Crist," cride this olde Britoun,
"Dame Hermengyld, yif me my sighte agayn."
This lady weex affrayed of the soun,
Lest that hir housbonde, shortly for to sayn,
Wolde hir for Jesu Cristes love han slayn,
Til Custance made hir boold, and bad hir wirche
The wyl of Crist, as doghter of his chirche.

The constable weex abasshed of that sight,
And seyde, "What amounteth all this fare!"
Custance answerde, "Sire, it is Cristes myght,
That helpeth folk out of the feendes snare."
And so ferforth she gan oure lay declare,
That she the constable, er that it were eve,
Converteth, and on Crist maketh hym bileve.

This constable was no-thyng lord of this place
Of which I speke, ther he Custance fond;
But kepte it strongly many wyntres space
Under Alla, kyng of al Northhumbrelond,
That was ful wys and worthy of his hond
Agayn the Scottes, as men may wel heere;-
But turne I wole agayn to my mateere.

Sathan, that ever us waiteth to bigile,
Saugh of Custance al hir perfeccioun
And caste anon how he myghte quite hir while;
And made a yong knyght, that dwelte in that toun,
Love hir so hoote of foul affeccioun
That verraily hym thoughte he sholde spille,
But he of hir myghte ones have his wille.

He woweth hir, but it availleth noght,
She wolde do no synne, by no were;
And for despit he compassed in his thoght
To maken hir on shameful deeth to deye.
He wayteth whan the constable was aweye
And pry

Title: The Canterbury Tales
Author: Geoffrey Chaucer
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