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Geoffrey Chaucer >> The Canterbury Tales (page 24)


uot;
"Shal it be conseil?" seyde the firste shrewe,
"And I shal tellen, in a wordes fewe,
What we shal doon, and bryngen it wel aboute."
"I graunte," quod that oother, "out of doute,

That by my trouthe I shal thee nat biwreye."
"Now," quod the firste, "thou woost wel we be tweye,
And two of us shul strenger be than oon;
Looke whan that he is set, that right anoon
Arys, as though thou woldest with hym pleye,

And I shal ryve hym thurgh the sydes tweye,
Whil that thou strogelest with hym as in game.
And with thy daggere looke thou do the same,
And thanne shal al this gold departed be,
My deere freend, bitwixen me and thee.

Thanne may we bothe oure lustes all fulfille,
And pleye at dees right at oure owene wille."
And thus acorded been thise shrewes tweye
To sleen the thridde, as ye han herd me seye.
This yongeste, which that wente unto the toun,

Ful ofte in herte he rolleth up and doun
The beautee of thise floryns newe and brighte.
"O lorde," quod he, "if so were that I myghte
Have al this tresor to my-self allone,
Ther is no man that lyveth under the trone

Of god, that sholde lyve so murye as I."
And atte laste the feend, oure enemy,
Putte in his thought that he sholde poyson beye,
With which he myghte sleen hise felawes tweye.
For why, the feend foond hym in swich lyvynge,

That he hadde leve hem to sorwe brynge;
For this was outrely his fulle entente,
To sleen hem bothe, and nevere to repente.
And forth he gooth, no lenger wolde he tarie,
Into the toun unto a pothecarie

And preyde hym that he hym wolde selle
Som poysoun, that he myghte hise rattes quelle,
And eek ther was a polcat in his hawe,
That, as he seyde, hise capouns hadde yslawe;
And fayn he wolde wreke hym, if he myghte,

On vermyn that destroyed hym by nyghte.
The pothecarie answerde, "and thou shalt have

A thyng, that al so God my soule save,
In al this world ther is no creature
That eten or dronken hath of this confiture

Noght but the montance of a corn of whete,
That he ne shal his lif anon forlete;
Ye, sterve he shal, and that in lasse while
Than thou wolt goon a paas nat but a mile,
This poysoun is so strong and violent."

This cursed man hath in his hond yhent
This poysoun in a box, and sith he ran
Into the nexte strete unto a man
And borwed hym of large botels thre;
And in the two his poyson poured he,

The thridde he kepte clene for his owene drynke,
For al the nyght he shoop hym for to swynke
In cariynge of the gold out of that place.
And whan this riotour, with sory grace,
Hadde filed with wyn his grete botels thre,

To hise felawes agayn repaireth he.
What nedeth it to sermone of it moore?
For right as they hadde cast his deeth bifoore
Right so they han him slayn, and that anon;
And whan that this was doon, thus spak that oon,

"Now lat us sitte and drynke, and make us merie,
And afterward we wol his body berie."
And with that word it happed hym, par cas,
To take the botel ther the poysoun was,
And drank, and yaf his felawe drynke also,

For which anon they storven bothe two.
But certes, I suppose that Avycen
Wroot nevere in no canoun, ne in no fen,
Mo wonder signes of empoisonyng
Than hadde thise wrecches two, er hir endyng.

Thus ended been thise homycides two,
And eek the false empoysoner also.
O cursed synne ful of cursednesse!
O traytours homycide! O wikkednesse!
O glotonye, luxurie, and hasardrye!

Thou blasphemour of Crist, with vileynye,
And othes grete, of usage and of pride,
Allas, mankynde! how may it bitide
That to thy Creatour which that the wroghte,
And with His precious herte-blood thee boghte,

Thou art so fals and so unkynde, allas!
Now, goode men, God foryeve yow youre trespas,
And ware yow fro the synne of avarice;
Myn hooly pardoun may yow alle warice,
So that ye offre nobles or sterlynges,

Or elles silver broches, spoones, rynges;
Boweth youre heed under this hooly bulle,
Com up, ye wyves, offreth of youre wolle;
Youre names I entre heer in my rolle anon,
Into the blisse of hevene shul ye gon.

I yow assoille by myn heigh power,
Yow that wol offre, as clene and eek as cleer
As ye were born-and lo, sires, thus I preche;
And Jesu Crist, that is oure soules leche,
So graunte yow his pardoun to receyve,

For that is best, I wol yow nat deceyve.
But sires, o word forgat I in my tale,
I have relikes and pardoun in my male
As faire as any man in Engelond,
Whiche were me yeven by the popes hond.

If any of yow wole of devocioun
Offren and han myn absolucioun,
Com forth anon, and kneleth heere adoun,
And mekely receyveth my pardoun,
Or elles taketh pardoun as ye wende,

Al newe and fressh at every miles ende,
So that ye offren alwey newe and newe
Nobles or pens, whiche that be goode and trewe.
It is an honour to everich that is heer,
That ye mowe have a suffisant pardoneer

Tassoille yow in contree as ye ryde,
For aventures whiche that may bityde.
Paraventure ther may fallen oon or two
Doun of his hors, and breke his nekke atwo.
Look, which a seuretee is it to yow alle

That I am in youre felaweship yfalle,
That may assoille yow, bothe moore and lasse,
Whan that the soule shal fro the body passe.
I rede that oure Hoost heere shal bigynne,
For he is moost envoluped in synne.

Com forth, sire Hoost, and offre first anon,
And thou shalt kisse my relikes everychon,
Ye, for a grote, unbokele anon thy purs.-
"Nay, nay," quod he, "thanne have I Cristes curs!"
"Lat be," quod he, "it shal nat be, so theech,

Thou woldest make me kisse thyn olde breech,
And swere it were a relyk of a seint,
Though it were with thy fundement depeint.
But by the croys which that seint Eleyne fond,
I wolde I hadde thy coillons in myn hond

In stide of relikes or of seintuarie.
Lat kutte hem of, I wol thee helpe hem carie,
They shul be shryned in an hogges toord."
This Pardoner answerde nat a word;
So wrooth he was, no word ne wolde he seye.

"Now," quod oure Hoost, "I wol no lenger pleye
With thee, ne with noon oother angry man."
But right anon the worthy knyght bigan,
Whan that he saugh that al the peple lough,
"Namoore of this, for it is right ynough.

Sir Pardoner, be glad and myrie of cheere;
And ye, sir Hoost, that been to me so deere,
I prey yow, that ye kisse the pardoner;
And Pardoner, I prey thee, drawe thee neer,
And, as we diden lat us laughe and pley."
Anon they kiste, and ryden forth hir weye.

Heere is ended the Pardoners tale.
Part 19

GROUP D

PROLOGUE OF THE WYVES TALE OF BATH

The Prologe of the Wyves tale of Bathe.

Experience, though noon auctoritee
Were in this world, were right ynogh to me
To speke of wo that is in mariage;
For, lordynges, sith I twelf yeer was of age,
Thonked be God, that is eterne on lyve,

Housbondes at chirche-dore I have had fyve-
For I so ofte have ywedded bee-
And alle were worthy men in hir degree.
But me was toold, certeyn, nat longe agoon is,
That sith that Crist ne wente nevere but onis

To weddyng in the Cane of Galilee,
That by the same ensample, taughte he me,
That I ne sholde wedded be but ones.
Herkne eek, lo, which a sharpe word for the nones,
Biside a welle Jesus, God and Man,

Spak in repreeve of the Samaritan.
"Thou hast yhad fyve housbondes," quod he,
"And thilke man the which that hath now thee
Is noght thyn housbonde;" thus seyde he, certeyn.
What that he mente ther by, I kan nat seyn;

But that I axe, why that the fifthe man
Was noon housbonde to the Samaritan?
How manye myghte she have in mariage?
Yet herde I nevere tellen in myn age
Upon this nombre diffinicioun.

Men may devyne, and glosen up and doun,
But wel I woot expres withoute lye,
God bad us for to wexe and multiplye;
That gentil text kan I wel understonde.
Eek wel I woot, he seyde, myn housbonde

Sholde lete fader and mooder, and take me;
But of no nombre mencioun made he,
Of bigamye, or of octogamye;
Why sholde men speke of it vileynye?
Lo, heere the wise kyng, daun Salomon;

I trowe he hadde wyves mo than oon-
As, wolde God, it leveful were to me
To be refresshed half so ofte as he-
Which yifte of God hadde he, for alle hise wyvys?
No man hath swich that in this world alyve is.

God woot, this noble kyng, as to my wit,
The firste nyght had many a myrie fit
With ech of hem, so wel was hym on lyve!
Blessed be God, that I have wedded fyve;
Welcome the sixte, whan that evere he shal.

For sothe I wol nat kepe me chaast in al;
Whan myn housbonde is fro the world ygon
Som cristen man shal wedde me anon.
For thanne thapostle seith that I am free,
To wedde a Goddes half where it liketh me.

He seith, that to be wedded is no synne,
Bet is to be wedded than to brynne.
What rekketh me, thogh folk seye vileynye
Of shrewed Lameth and of bigamye?
I woot wel Abraham was an hooly man,

And Jacob eek, as ferforth as I kan,
And ech of hem hadde wyves mo than two,
And many another holy man also.
Whanne saugh ye evere in any manere age
That hye God defended mariage


By expres word? I pray you, telleth me,
Or where comanded he virginitee?
I woot as wel as ye it is no drede,
Thapostel, whan he speketh of maydenhede;
He seyde, that precept therof hadde he noon.

Men may conseille a womman to been oon,
But conseillyng is no comandement;
He putte it in oure owene juggement.
For hadde God comanded maydenhede,
Thanne hadde he dampned weddyng with the dede;

And certein, if ther were no seed ysowe,
Virginitee, wherof thanne sholde it growe?
Poul dorste nat comanden, atte leeste,
A thyng of which his maister yaf noon heeste.
The dart is set up of virginitee;

Cacche who so may, who renneth best lat see.
But this word is nat taken of every wight,
But ther as God lust gyve it of his myght.
I woot wel, the apostel was a mayde;
But nathelees, thogh that he wroot and sayde

He wolde that every wight were swich as he,
Al nys but conseil to virginitee;
And for to been a wyf, he yaf me leve
Of indulgence, so it is no repreve
To wedde me, if that my make dye,

Withouten excepcioun of bigamye.
"Al were it good no womman for to touche,"
He mente, as in his bed or in his couche;
For peril is bothe fyr and tow tassemble;
Ye knowe what this ensample may resemble.

This is al and som, he heeld virginitee
Moore parfit than weddyng in freletee.
Freletee clepe I, but if that he and she
Wolde leden al hir lyf in chastitee.
I graunte it wel, I have noon envie,

Thogh maydenhede preferre bigamye;
Hem liketh to be clene, body and goost.
Of myn estaat I nyl nat make no boost,
For wel ye knowe, a lord in his houshold,
He nath nat every vessel al of gold;

Somme been of tree, and doon hir lord servyse.
God clepeth folk to hym in sondry wyse,
And everich hath of God a propre yifte,
Som this, som that, as hym liketh shifte.
Virginitee is greet perfeccioun,

And continence eek with devocioun.
But Crist, that of perfeccioun is welle,
Bad nat every wight he sholde go selle
Al that he hadde, and gyve it to the poore,
And in swich wise folwe hym and his foore.

He spak to hem that wolde lyve parfitly,
And lordynges, by youre leve, that am nat I.
I wol bistowe the flour of myn age
In the actes and in fruyt of mariage.
An housbonde I wol have, I nyl nat lette,

Which shal be bothe my dettour and my thral,
And have his tribulacioun withal
Upon his flessh whil that I am his wyf.
I have the power durynge al my lyf
Upon his propre body, and noght he.

Right thus the Apostel tolde it unto me,
And bad oure housbondes for to love us weel.
Al this sentence me liketh every deel,-
Up stirte the Pardoner, and that anon,
"Now, dame," quod he, "by God and by Seint John,

Ye been a noble prechour in this cas.
I was aboute to wedde a wyf, allas!
What sholde I bye it on my flessh so deere?
Yet hadde I levere wedde no wyf to-yeere!"
"Abyde," quod she, "my tale in nat bigonne.

Nay, thou shalt drynken of another tonne,
Er that I go, shal savoure wors than ale.
And whan that I have toold thee forth my tale
Of tribulacioun in mariage,
Of which I am expert in al myn age,

(This to seyn, myself have been the whippe),
Than maystow chese wheither thou wolt sippe
Of thilke tonne that I shal abroche,
For I shal telle ensamples mo than ten.
Whoso that nyl be war by othere men,

By hym shul othere men corrected be.
The same wordes writeth Ptholomee;
Rede it in his Almageste, and take it there."
"Dame, I wolde praye yow, if youre wyl it were,"
Seyde this Pardoner, "as ye bigan,

Telle forth youre tale, spareth for no man,
And teche us yonge men of your praktike."
"Gladly," quod she, "sith it may yow like.
But yet I praye to al this compaignye,
If that I speke after my fantasye,

As taketh not agrief of that I seye,
For myn entente nis but for to pleye."
-Now sire, now wol I telle forth my tale,
As evere moote I drynken wyn or ale,
I shal seye sooth, tho housbondes that I hadde,

As thre of hem were goode, and two were badde.
The thre men were goode, and riche, and olde;
Unnethe myghte they the statut holde
In which that they were bounden unto me-
Ye woot wel what I

Title: The Canterbury Tales
Author: Geoffrey Chaucer
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