Geoffrey Chaucer >> The Canterbury Tales (page 28)
He nys nat gentil, be he duc or erl;
For vileyns synful dedes make a cherl.
For gentillesse nys but renomee
Of thyne auncestres for hire heigh bountee,
Which is a strange thyng to thy persone.
Thy gentillesse cometh fro God allone,
Thanne comth oure verray gentillesse of grace,
It was no thyng biquethe us with oure place.
Thenketh hou noble, as seith Valerius,
Was thilke Tullius Hostillius,
That out of poverte roos to heigh noblesse.
Reedeth Senek, and redeth eek Boece,
Ther shul ye seen expres that it no drede is,
That he is gentil that dooth gentil dedis.
And therfore, leeve housbonde, I thus conclude,
Al were it that myne auncestres weren rude,
Yet may the hye God-and so hope I,-
Grante me grace to lyven vertuously.
Thanne am I gentil whan that I bigynne
To lyven vertuously, and weyve synne.
And ther as ye of poverte me repreeve,
The hye God, on whom that we bileeve
In wilful poverte chees to lyve his lyf.
And certes every man, mayden or wyf,
May understonde that Jesus, hevene kyng,
Ne wolde nat chesen vicious lyvyng.
Glad poverte is an honeste thyng, certeyn,
This wole Senec and othere clerkes seyn.
Who so that halt hym payd of his poverte,
I holde hym riche, al hadde he nat a sherte;
He that coveiteth is a povre wight,
For he wolde han that is nat in his myght,
But he that noght hath, ne coveiteth have,
Is riche, although ye holde hym but a knave.
Verray poverte, it syngeth proprely.
Juvenal seith of poverte myrily,
`The povre man, whan he goth by the weye,
Bifore the theves he may synge and pleye.'
Poverte is hateful good, and, as I gesse,
A ful greet bryngere out of bisynesse;
A greet amender eek of sapience
To hym that taketh it in pacience.
Poverte is this, although it seme elenge;
Possessioun, that no wight wol chalenge.
Poverte ful ofte, whan a man is lowe,
Maketh his God and eek hymself to knowe;
Poverte a spectacle is, as thynketh me,
Thurgh which he may hise verray freendes see.
And therfore, sire, syn that I noght yow greve,
Of my poverte namoore ye me repreve.
Now sire, of elde ye repreve me,
And certes, sire, thogh noon auctoritee
Were in no book, ye gentils of honour
Seyn, that men sholde an oold wight doon favour,
And clepe hym fader for youre gentillesse,
And auctours shal I fynden, as I gesse.
Now, ther ye seye that I am foul and old,
Than drede you noght to been a cokewold;
For filthe and eelde, al so moot I thee,
Been grete wardeyns upon chastitee;
But nathelees, syn I knowe youre delit,
I shal fulfille youre worldly appetit."
"Chese now," quod she, "oon of thise thynges tweye:
To han me foul and old til that I deye,
And be to yow a trewe humble wyf,
And nevere yow displese in al my lyf;
Or elles ye wol han me yong and fair,
And take youre aventure of the repair
That shal be to youre hous, by cause of me,
Or in som oother place may wel be.
Now chese yourselven wheither that yow liketh."
This knyght avyseth hym and sore siketh,
But atte laste, he seyde in this manere:
"My lady and my love, and wyf so deere,
I put me in youre wise governance.
Cheseth yourself, which may be moost plesance
And moost honour to yow and me also.
I do no fors the wheither of the two,
For, as yow liketh, it suffiseth me."
"Thanne have I gete of yow maistrie," quod she,
"Syn I may chese and governe as me lest?"
"Ye, certes, wyf," quod he, "I holde it best."
"Kys me," quod she, "we be no lenger wrothe,
For, by my trouthe, I wol be to yow bothe!
This is to seyn, ye, bothe fair and good.
I prey to God that I moote sterven wood
But I to yow be al so good and trewe
As evere was wyf, syn that the world was newe.
And but I be tomorn as fair to seene
As any lady, emperice or queene,
That is bitwixe the est and eke the west,
Dooth with my lyf and deth right as yow lest.
Cast up the curtyn, looke how that it is."
And whan the knyght saugh verraily al this,
That she so fair was, and so yong therto,
For joye he hente hire in hise armes two.
His herte bathed in a bath of blisse,
A thousand tyme arewe he gan hir kisse,
And she obeyed hym in every thyng
That myghte doon hym plesance or likyng.
And thus they lyve unto hir lyves ende
In parfit joye;-and Jesu Crist us sende
Housbondes meeke, yonge, fressh abedde,
And grace toverbyde hem that we wedde.
And eek I praye Jesu shorte hir lyves,
That nat wol be governed by hir wyves;
And olde and angry nygardes of dispence,
God sende hem soone verray pestilence!
Heere endeth the Wyves tale of Bathe.
PROLOGUE TO THE FRERES TALE
The Prologe of the Freres Tale.
This worthy lymytour, this noble frere,
He made alwey a maner louryng chiere
Upon the Somonour, but for honestee
No vileyns word as yet to hym spak he.
But atte laste he seyde unto the wyf,
"Dame," quod he, "God yeve yow right good lyf!
Ye han heer touched, also moot I thee,
In scole-matere greet difficultee.
Ye han seyd muche thyng right wel, I seye.
But dame, heere as we ryde by the weye
Us nedeth nat to speken but of game,
And lete auctoritees, on Goddes name,
To prechyng and to scole eek of clergye.
But if it lyke to this compaignye,
I wol yow of a somonour telle a game.
Pardee, ye may wel knowe bby the name
That of a somonour may no good be sayd;
I praye that noon of you be yvele apayd.
A somonour is a renner up and doun
With mandementz for fornicacioun,
And is ybet at every townes ende."
Oure Hoost tho spak, "A sire, ye sholde be hende
And curteys, as a man of youre estaat.
In compaignye we wol have no debaat.
Telleth youre tale, and lat the Somonour be."
"Nay," quod the Somonour, "lat hym seye to me
What so hym list. Whan it comth to my lot,
By God I shal hym quiten every grot.
I shal hym tellen which a greet honour
It is to be a flaterynge lymytour,
And his office I shal hym teele, ywis."
Oure Hoost answerde, "Pees, namoore of this!"
And after this he seyde unto the Frere,
"Tel forth youre tale, leeve maister deere."
(How a Summoner, meeting a devil dressed as a yeoman,
agrees to share gifts with him as a friend; and is himself
consigned to the devil by a poor old woman. Then follow
the Summoner's Prologue and Tale of an insult put by a
goodman upon a greedy friar.)
THE CLERKES TALE-PROLOGUE
Heere folweth the Prologe of the clerkes tale of Oxenford.
"Sire clerk of Oxenford," oure Hooste sayde,
"Ye ryde as coy and stille as dooth a mayde,
Were newe spoused, sittynge at the bord.
This day ne herde I of youre tonge a word.
I trowe ye studie about som sophyme;
But Salomon seith, `every thyng hath tyme.'
For Goddes sake, as beth of bettre cheere;
It is no tyme for to studien heere,
Telle us som myrie tale, by youre fey.
For what man that is entred in a pley,
He nedes moot unto the pley assente;
But precheth nat as freres doon in Lente,
To make us for oure olde synnes wepe,
Ne that thy tale make us nat to slepe.
Telle us som murie thyng of aventures;
Youre termes, youre colours, and youre figures,
Keep hem in stoor, til so be that ye endite
Heigh style, as whan that men to kynges write.
Speketh so pleyn at this tyme, we yow preye,
That we may understonde what ye seye."
This worthy clerk benignely answerde,
"Hooste," quod he, "I am under youre yerde.
Ye han of us as now the governance;
And therfore wol I do yow obeisance
As fer as resoun axeth, hardily.
I wol yow telle a tale, which that I
Lerned at Padwe of a worthy clerk,
As preved by his wordes and his werk.
He is now deed, and nayled in his cheste;
I prey to God so yeve his soule reste.
Fraunceys Petrark, the lauriat poete,
Highte this clerk, whos rethorike sweete
Enlumyned al Ytaille of poetrie,
As Lynyan dide of philosophie,
Or lawe, or oother art particuler.
But deeth, that wol nat suffre us dwellen heer
But as it were a twynklyng of an eye,
Hem bothe hath slayn, and alle shul we dye.
But forth to tellen of this worthy man,
That taughte me this tale as I bigan,
I seye, that first with heigh stile he enditeth
Er he the body of his tale writeth,
A prohemye in the which discryveth he
Pemond, and of Saluces the contree,
And speketh of Apennyn, the hilles hye,
That been the boundes of Westlumbardye;
And of Mount Vesulus in special,
Where as the Poo out of a welle smal
Taketh his firste spryngyng and his sours,
That estward ay encresseth in his cours
To Emeleward, to Ferrare, and Venyse;
The which a long thyng were to devyse.
And trewely, as to my juggement,
Me thynketh it a thyng impertinent,
Save that he wole convoyen his mateere;
But this his tale, which that ye may heere."
THE CLERKES TALE
Heere bigynneth the tale of the Clerk of Oxenford.
Ther is, at the west syde of Ytaille,
Doun at the roote of Vesulus the colde,
A lusty playne, habundant of vitaille,
Where many a tour and toun thou mayst biholde
That founded were in tyme of fadres olde,
And many another delitable sighte,
And Saluces this noble contree highte.
A markys whilom lord was of that lond,
As were hise worthy eldres hym bifore,
And obeisant and redy to his hond
Were alle hise liges, bothe lasse and moore.
Thus in delit he lyveth, and hath doon yoore,
Biloved and drad thurgh favour of Fortune,
Bothe of hise lordes and of his commune.
Therwith he was, to speke as of lynage,
The gentilleste yborn of Lumbardye;
A fair persone, and strong, and yong of age,
And ful of honour and of curteisye,
Discreet ynogh his contree for to gye,
Save that in somme thynges that he was to blame,
And Walter was this yonge lordes name.
I blame hym thus, that he considereth noght
In tyme comynge what hym myghte bityde,
But in his lust present was al his thoght,
As for to hauke and hunte on every syde.
Wel ny alle othere cures leet he slyde;
And eek he nolde,-and that was worst of alle-
Wedde no wyf, for noght that may bifalle.
Oonly that point his peple bar so soore,
That flokmeele on a day they to hym wente,
And oon of hem, that wisest was of loore,
Or elles that the lord best wolde assente,
That he sholde telle hym what his peple mente,
Or elles koude he shewe wel swich mateere,
He to the markys seyde as ye shul heere:
"O noble Markys, youre humanitee
Asseureth us, and yeveth us hardinesse,
As ofte as tyme is of necessitee
That we to yow mowe telle oure hevynesse.
Accepteth, lord, now for youre gentillesse
That we with pitous herte unto yow pleyne,
And lat youre eres nat my voys desdeyne,
Al have I noght to doone in this mateere
Moore than another man hath in this place;
Yet for as muche as ye, my lord so deere,
Han alwey shewed me favour and grace,
I dar the bettre aske of yow a space
Of audience to shewen oure requeste,
And ye, my lord, to doon right as yow leste.
For certes, lord, so wel us liketh yow
And al youre werk, and evere han doon that we
Ne koude nat us-self devysen how
We myghte lyven in moore felicitee,
Save o thyng, lord, if it youre wille be,
That for to been a wedded man yow leste,
Thanne were youre peple in sovereyn hertes reste.
Boweth youre nekke under that blisful yok
Of soveraynetee, noght of servyse,
Which that men clepeth spousaille or wedlock;
And thenketh, lord, among youre thoghtes wyse
How that oure dayes passe in sondry wyse,
For thogh we slepe, or wake, or rome, or ryde,
Ay fleeth the tyme, it nyl no man abyde.
And thogh youre grene youthe floure as yit,
In crepeth age alwey, as stille as stoon,
And deeth manaceth every age, and smyt
In ech estaat, for ther escapeth noon;
And al so certein as we knowe echoon
That we shul deye, as uncerteyn we alle
Been of that day, whan deeth shal on us falle.
Accepteth thanne of us the trewe entente
That nevere yet refuseden thyn heeste;
And we wol, lord, if that ye wole assente,
Chese yow a wyf in short tyme atte leeste,
Born of the gentilleste and of the meeste
Of al this land, so that it oghte seme
Honour to God, and yow, as we kan deeme.
Delivere us out of al this bisy drede,
And taak a wyf for hye Goddes sake,
For if it so bifelle, as God forbede,
That thurgh your deeth your lyne sholde slake,
And that a straunge successour sholde take
Youre heritage, o wo were us alyve!
Wherfore we pray you hastily to wyve."
Hir meeke preyere and hir pitous cheere
Made the markys herte han pitee.
"Ye wol," quod he, "myn owene peple deere,
To that I nevere erst thoughte, streyne me.
I me rejoysed of my liberte,
That seelde tyme is founde in mariage.
Ther I was free, I moot been in servage.
But nathelees I se youre trewe entente,
And truste upon youre wit, and have doon at;
Wherfore of my free wyl I wole assente
To wedde me, as soone as evere I may.
But ther as ye han profred me this day
To chese me a wyf, I yow relesse
That choys, and prey yow of that profre cesse.
For God it woot, that children ofte been
Unlyk hir worthy eldres hem bifore.
Bountee comth al of God, nat of the streen,
Of which they been engendred and ybore.
I truste in Goddes bontee; and therfore
My mariage, and myn estaat and reste,
I hym bitake, he may doon as hym leste.
Lat me allone in chesyng
Title: The Canterbury Tales
Author: Geoffrey Chaucer
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