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Geoffrey Chaucer >> The Canterbury Tales (page 31)


or youre lynage, ne for youre richesse;
But now knowe I, in verray soothfastnesse,
That in greet lordshipe, if I wel avyse,
Ther is greet servitute in sondry wyse.

I may nat doon as every plowman may;
My peple me constreyneth for to take
Another wyf, and crien day by day,
And eek the pope, rancour for to slake,
Consenteth it, that dar I undertake-
And treweliche thus muche I wol yow seye,
My newe wyf is comynge by the weye.

Be strong of herte, and voyde anon hir place,
And thilke dower that ye broghten me
Taak it agayn, I graunte it of my grace.
Retourneth to youre fadres hous," quod he;
"No man may alwey han prosperitee.
With evene herte I rede yow tendure
This strook of Fortune or of aventure."

And she answerde agayn in pacience,
"My lord," quod she, "I woot and wiste alway
How that bitwixen youre magnificence
And my poverte, no wight kan ne may
Maken comparisoun, it is no nay.
I ne heeld me nevere digne in no manere
To be your wyf, no, ne youre chamberere.

And in this hous ther ye me lady maade,
The heighe God take I for my witnesse,
And also wysly he my soule glaade,
I nevere heeld me lady ne maistresse,
But humble servant to youre worthynesse,
And evere shal whil that my lyf may dure
Aboven every worldly creature.

That ye so longe of youre benignitee
Han holden me in honour and nobleye,
Wher as I was noght worthy for to bee,
That thonke I God and yow, to whom I preye
Foryelde it yow; ther is namoore to seye.
Unto my fader gladly wol I wende,
And with hym dwelle unto my lyves ende.

Ther I was fostred of a child ful smal,
Til I be deed, my lyf ther wol I lede,
A wydwe clene in body, herte, and al,
For sith I yaf to yow my maydenhede
And am youre trewe wyf, it is no drede,
God shilde swich a lordes wyf to take
Another man, to housbonde or to make.

And of youre newe wyf, God of his grace
So graunte yow wele and prosperitee,
For I wol gladly yelden hir my place
In which that I was blisful wont to bee.
For sith it liketh yow my lord," quod shee,
"That whilom weren al myn hertes reste,
That I shal goon, I wol goon whan yow leste.

But ther as ye me profre swich dowaire
As I first broghte, it is wel in my mynde
It were my wrecched clothes, no thyng faire,
The whiche to me were hard now for to fynde.
O goode God! how gentil and how kynde
Ye semed by youre speche and youre visage
The day that maked was oure mariage!

But sooth is seyd, algate I fynde it trewe,
(For in effect it preeved is on me)
Love is noght oold, as whan that it is newe,
But certes, lord, for noon adversitee,
To dyen in the cas it shal nat bee
That evere in word or werk I shal repente
That I yow yaf myn herte in hool entente.

My lord, ye woot that in my fadres place
Ye dide me streepe out of my povre weede,
And richely me cladden of youre grace.
To yow broghte I noght elles, out of drede,
But feith, and nakednesse, and maydenhede.
And heere agayn my clothyng I restoore,
And eek my weddyng ryng for everemo.

The remenant of youre jueles redy be
In-with youre chambre, dar I saufly sayn.
Naked out of my fadres hous," quod she,
"I cam, and naked moot I turne agayn.
Al your plesance wol I folwen fayn,
But yet I hope it be nat your entente
That I smoklees out of your paleys wente.

Ye koude nat doon so dishoneste a thyng,
That thilke wombe in which your children leye,
Sholde biforn the peple in my walkyng
Be seyn al bare; wherfore I yow preye,
Lat me nat lyk a worm go by the weye!
Remembre yow, myn owene lord so deere,
I was your wyf, though I unworthy weere.

Wherfore, in gerdoun of my maydenhede
Which that I broghte, and noght agayn I bere,
As voucheth sauf to yeve me to my meede
But swich a smok as I was wont to were,
That I therwith may wrye the wombe of here
That was your wyf, and heer take I my leeve
Of yow, myn owene lord, lest I yow greve."

"The smok," quod he, "that thou hast on thy bak,
Lat it be stille, and bere it forth with thee."
But wel unnethes thilke word he spak,
But wente his wey for routhe and for pitee.
Biforn the folk hirselven strepeth she,
And in hir smok, with heed and foot al bare,
Toward hir fader hous forth is she fare.

The folk hir folwe, wepynge in hir weye,
And Fortune ay they cursen, as they goon.
But she fro wepyng kepte hir eyen dreye,
Ne in this tyme word ne spak she noon.
Hir fader, that this tidynge herde anoon,
Curseth the day and tyme that nature
Shoop hym to been a lyves creature.

For out of doute this olde povre man
Was evere in suspect of hir mariage,
For evere he demed, sith that it bigan,
That whan the lord fulfild hadde his corage,
Hym wolde thynke it were a disparage
To his estaat, so lowe for talighte,
And voyden hir as soone as ever he myghte.

Agayns his doghter hastiliche goth he,
For he by noyse of folk knew hir comynge,
And with hir olde coote, as it myghte be,
He covered hir, ful sorwefully wepynge,
But on hir body myghte he it nat brynge.
For rude was the clooth, and moore of age
By dayes fele, than at hir mariage.

Thus with hir fader for a certeyn space
Dwelleth this flour of wyfly pacience,
That neither by hir wordes ne hir face,
Biforn the folk ne eek in hir absence,
Ne shewed she that hir was doon offence,
Ne of hir heighe estaat no remembraunce
Ne hadde she, as by hir contenaunce.

No wonder is, for in hir grete estaat
Hir goost was evere in pleyn humylitee.
No tendre mouth, noon herte delicaat,
No pompe, no semblant of roialtee,
But ful of pacient benyngnytee,
Discreet and pridelees, ay honurable,
And to hir housbonde evere meke and stable.

Men speke of Job, and moost for his humblesse,
As clerkes whan hem list konne wel endite,
Namely of men; but as in soothfastnesse,
Though clerkes preise wommen but a lite,
Ther kan no man in humblesse hym acquite,
As womman kan, ne kan been half so trewe
As wommen been, but it be falle of newe.

(Pars sexta.)

Fro Boloigne is this Erl of Panyk come,
Of which the fame up sprang to moore and lesse,
And in the peples eres, alle and some,
Was kouth eek that a newe markysesse
He with hym broghte, in swich pompe and richesse,
That nevere was ther seyn with mannes eye
So noble array in al Westlumbardye.

The markys, which that shoop and knew al this,
Er that thise Erl was come, sente his message
For thilke sely povre Grisildis;
And she with humble herte and glad visage,
Nat with no swollen thoght in hire corage
Cam at his heste, and on hir knees hire sette,
And reverently and wysely she hym grette.

"Grisilde," quod he, "my wyl is outrely
This mayden, that shal wedded been to me,
Received be to morwe as roially
As it possible is in myn hous to be;
And eek that every wight in his degree
Have hsi estaat in sittyng and servyse
And heigh plesaunce, as I kan best devyse.

I have no wommen, suffisaunt, certayn,
The chambres for tarraye in ordinaunce
After my lust, and therfore wolde I fayn
That thyn were al swich manere governaunce;
Thou knowest eek of olde al my plesaunce,
Thogh thyn array be badde and yvel biseye,
Do thou thy devoir at the leeste weye."

"Nat oonly lord, that I am glad," quod she,
"To doon your lust, but I desire also
Yow for to serve and plese in my degree
Withouten feyntyng, and shal everemo.
Ne nevere, for no wele ne no wo,
Ne shal the goost withinne myn herte stente
To love yow best with al my trewe entente."

And with that word she gan the hous to dighte,
And tables for to sette, and beddes make,
And peyned hir to doon al that she myghte,
Preyynge the chambereres for Goddes sake
To hasten hem, and faste swepe and shake,
And she, the mooste servysable of alle,
Hath every chambre arrayed, and his halle.

Abouten undren gan this Erl alighte,
That with hym broghte thise noble children tweye,
For which the peple ran to seen the sighte
Of hir array, so richely biseye;
And thanne at erst amonges hem they seye,
That Walter was no fool, thogh that hym leste
To chaunge his wyf, for it was for the beste.

"For she is fairer," as they deemen alle,
"Than is Grisilde, and moore tendre of age,
And fairer fruyt bitwene hem sholde falle,
And moore plesant for hir heigh lynage."
Hir brother eek so faire was of visage,
That hem to seen the peple hath caught plesaunce,
Commendynge now the markys governaunce.

O stormy peple, unsad and evere untrewe!
Ay undiscreet and chaungynge as a vane,
Delitynge evere in rumbul that is newe;
For lyk the moone ay wexe ye and wane,
Ay ful of clappyng, deere ynogh a jane,
Youre doom is fals, youre constance yvele preeveth,
A ful greet fool is he that on yow leeveth!

Thus seyden sadde folk in that citee,
Whan that the peple gazed up and doun,
For they were glad right for the noveltee
To han a newe lady of hir toun.
Namoore of this make I now mencioun,
But to Grisilde agayn wol I me dresse,
And telle hir constance and hir bisynesse.

Ful bisy was Grisilde in every thyng
That to the feeste was apertinent.
Right noght was she abayst of hir clothyng,
Thogh it were rude and somdeel eek torent,
But with glad cheere to the yate is went
With oother folk to greete the markysesse,
And after that dooth forth hir bisynesse.

With so glad chiere hise gestes she receyveth,
And konnyngly everich in his degree,
That no defaute no man aperceyveth,
But ay they wondren what she myghte bee
That in so povre array was for to see,
And koude swich honour and reverence;
And worhtily they preisen hire prudence.

In al this meenewhile she ne stente
This mayde and eek hir brother to commende
With al hir herte, in ful benyngne entente,
So wel that no man koude hir pris amende
But atte laste, whan that thise lordes wende
To sitten doun to mete, he gan to calle
Grisilde, as she was bisy in his halle.

"Grisilde," quod he, as it were in his pley,
"How liketh thee my wyf and hir beautee?"
"Right wel," quod she, "my lord, for in good fey
A fairer saugh I nevere noon than she.
I prey to God yeve hir prosperitee,
And so hope I that he wol to yow sende
Plesance ynogh unto youre lyves ende.

O thyng biseke I yow, and warne also
That ye ne prikke with no tormentynge
This tendre mayden, as ye han doon mo;
For she is fostred in hir norissynge
Moore tendrely, and to my supposynge
She koude nat adversitee endure,
As koude a povre fostred creature."

And whan this Walter saugh hir pacience,
Hir glade chiere, and no malice at al,
And he so ofte had doon to hir offence
And she ay sad and constant as a wal,
Continuynge evere hir innocence overal,
This sturdy markys gan his herte dresse
To rewen upon hir wyfly stedfastnesse.

"This is ynogh Grisilde myn," quod he,
"Be now namoore agast, ne yvele apayed.
I have thy feith and thy benyngnytee
As wel as evere womman was, assayed
In greet estaat, and povreliche arrayed;
Now knowe I, goode wyf, thy stedfastnesse!"
And hir in armes took, and gan hir kesse.

And she for wonder took of it no keep.
She herde nat, what thyng he to hir seyde.
She ferde as she had stert out of a sleep,
Til she out of hire mazednesse abreyde.
"Grisilde," quod he, "by God that for us deyde,
Thou art my wyf, ne noon oother I have,
Ne nevere hadde, as God my soule save.


This is thy doghter which thou hast supposed
To be my wyf; that oother feithfully
Shal be myn heir, as I have ay purposed;
Thou bare hym in thy body trewely.
At Boloigne have I kept hem prively.
Taak hem agayn, for now maystow nat seye
That thou hast lorn noon of thy children tweye.

And folk that ootherweys han seyd of me,
I warne hem wel that I have doon this deede
For no malice, ne for no crueltee,
But for tassaye in thee thy wommanheede,
And not to sleen my clildren, God forbeede!
But for to kepe hem pryvely and stille,
Til I thy purpos knewe and al thy wille."

Whan she this herde, aswowne doun she falleth
For pitous joye, and after hir swownynge
She bothe hir yonge children unto hir calleth,
And in hir armes pitously wepynge
Embraceth hem, and tendrely kissynge
Ful lyk a mooder, with hir salte teeres
She bathed bothe hir visage and hir heeres.

O, which a pitous thyng it was to se
Hir swownyng, and hir humble voys to heere!
"Grauntmercy, lord, that thanke I yow," quod she,
"That ye han saved me my children deere.
Now rekke I nevere to been deed right heere.
Sith I stonde in your love and in your grace,
No fors of deeth, ne whan my spirit pace!

O tendre, O deere, O yonge children myne!
Your woful mooder wende stedfastly
That crueel houndes, or som foul vermyne
Hadde eten yow; but God of his mercy
And youre benyngne fader tendrely
Hath doon yow kept," and in that same stounde
Al sodeynly she swapte adoun to grounde.

And in hir swough so sadly holdeth she
Hir children two, whan she gan hem tembrace,
That with greet sleighte and greet difficultee
The children from hir arm they gonne arace.
O many a teere on many a pitous face
Doun ran, of hem that stooden hir bisyde;
Unnethe abouten hir myghte they abyde.

Walter hir gladeth, and hir sorwe slaketh,
She riseth up abaysed from hir traunce,
And every wight hir joye and feeste maketh,
Til she hath caught agayn hir contenaunce.
Walter hir dooth so feithfully plesaunce,
That it was deyntee for to seen the cheere.

Title: The Canterbury Tales
Author: Geoffrey Chaucer
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