Geoffrey Chaucer >> The Canterbury Tales (page 16)

orld no womman is
Worthy to be my make
In towne;
Alle othere wommen I forsake,
And to an elf-queene I me take
By dale and eek by downe."

Into his sadel he clamb anon,
And priketh over stile and stoon
An elf-queene for tespye,
Til he so longe hadde riden and goon
That he foond, in a pryve woon,
The contree of Fairye
So wilde;
For in that contree was ther noon
That to him dorste ryde or goon,
Neither wyf ne childe,

Til that ther cam a greet geaunt,
His name was Sir Olifaunt,
A perilous man of dede;
He seyde "Child, by Termagaunt,
But if thou prike out of myn haunt,
Anon I sle thy steede
With mace.
Heere is the queene of Fayerye,
With harpe and pipe and symphonye,
Dwellyng in this place."

The child seyde, "Also moote I thee,
Tomorwe wol I meete with thee,
Whan I have myn armoure.
And yet I hope, par ma fay,
That thou shalt with this launcegay
Abyen it ful sowre.
Thy mawe
Shal I percen if I may
Er it be fully pryme of day,
For heere thow shalt be slawe."

Sir Thopas drow abak ful faste,
This geant at hym stones caste
Out of a fel staf-slynge;
But faire escapeth Child Thopas,
And al it was thurgh Goddes gras,
And thurgh his fair berynge.

Yet listeth, lordes, to my tale,
Murier than the nightyngale,
For now I wol yow rowne
How Sir Thopas, with sydes smale,
Prikyng over hill and dale
Is comen agayn to towne.

His murie men comanded he
To make hym bothe game and glee,
For nedes moste he fighte
With a geaunt with hevedes three,
For paramour and jolitee
Of oon that shoon ful brighte.

"Do come,: he seyde, "my mynstrales,
And geestours, for to tellen tales
Anon in myn armynge;
Of romances that been roiales,
Of Popes and of Cardinales,
And eek of love-likynge."

They fette hym first the sweete wyn,
And mede eek in a mazelyn,
And roial spicerye,
And gyngebreed that was ful fyn,
And lycorys, and eek comyn,
With sugre that is so trye.

He dide next his white leere
Of clooth of lake, fyn and cleere,
A breech, and eek a sherte,
And next his sherte an aketoun,
And over that an haubergeoun,
For percynge of his herte.

And over that a fyn hawberk,
Was al ywroght of Jewes werk,
Ful strong it was of plate.
And over that his cote-armour
As whit as is a lilye flour,
In which he wol debate.

His sheeld was al of gold so reed,
And therinne was a bores heed,
A charbocle bisyde;
And there he swoor on ale and breed,
How that "the geaunt shal be deed
Bityde what bityde!"

Hise jambeux were of quyrboilly,
His swerdes shethe of yvory,
His helm of laton bright,
His sadel was of rewel-boon,
His brydel as the sonne shoon,
Or as the moone light.

His spere it was of fyn ciprees,
That bodeth werre, and no thyng pees,
The heed ful sharpe ygrounde;
His steede was al dappull-gray,
It gooth an ambil in the way
Ful softely and rounde
In londe.
Loo, lordes myne, heere is a fit;
If ye wol any moore of it,
To telle it wol I fonde.

The Second Fit.

Now holde youre mouth, par charitee,
Bothe knyght and lady free,
And herkneth to my spelle;
Of batailles and of chivalry
And of ladyes love-drury
Anon I wol yow telle.

Men speken of romances of prys,
Of Hornchild, and of Ypotys,
Of Beves and Sir Gy,
Of Sir Lybeux and Pleyndamour,
But Sir Thopas, he bereth the flour
Of roial chivalry.

His goode steede al he bistrood,
And forth upon his wey he glood
As sparcle out of the bronde.
Upon his creest he bar a tour,
And therinne stiked a lilie-flour;
God shilde his cors fro shonde!

And for he was a knyght auntrous,
He nolde slepen in noon hous,
But liggen in his hoode.
His brighte helm was his wonger,
And by hym baiteth his dextrer
Of herbes fyne and goode.

Hym-self drank water of the well,
As dide the knyght sir Percyvell
So worly under wede,
Til on a day-----------

Heere the Hoost stynteth Chaucer of his Tale of Thopas.

"Na moore of this, for Goddes dignitee,"
Quod oure hooste, "for thou makest me
So wery of thy verray lewednesse,
That also wisly God my soule blesse,
Min eres aken of thy drasty speche.

Now swich a rym the devel I biteche!
This may wel be rym dogerel," quod he.
"Why so?" quod I, "why wiltow lette me
Moore of my tale than another man
Syn that it is the beste tale I kan?"

"By God," quod he, "for pleynly at a word
Thy drasty rymyng is nat worth a toord,
Thou doost noght elles but despendest tyme.
Sir, at o word thou shalt no lenger ryme.
Lat se wher thou kanst tellen aught in geeste,

Or telle in prose somwhat, at the leeste,
In which ther be som murthe or som doctryne."
"Gladly," quod I, "by Goddes sweete pyne,
I wol yow telle a litel thyng in prose,
That oghte liken yow as I suppose,

Or elles, certes, ye been to daungerous.
It is a moral tale vertuous,
Al be it take somtyme in sondry wyse
Of sondry folk as I shal yow devyse.
As thus; ye woot that every Evaungelist

That telleth us the peyne of Jesu Crist
Ne seith nat alle thyng as his felawe dooth,
But, nathelees, hir sentence is al sooth,
And alle acorden as in hir sentence,
Al be her in hir tellyng difference.

For somme of hem seyn moore, and somme seyn lesse,
Whan they his pitous passioun expresse;
I meene of Marke, Mathew, Luc, and John,
But doutelees hir sentence is al oon,
Therfore, lordynges alle, I yow biseche

If that yow thynke I varie as in my speche,
As thus, though that I telle somwhat moore
Of proverbes, than ye han herd bifoore,
Comprehended in this litel tretys heere,
To enforce with theffect of my mateere,

And though I nat the same wordes seye
As ye han herd, yet to yow alle I preye,
Blameth me nat; for, as in my sentence
Ye shul nat fynden moche difference
Fro the sentence of this tretys lyte

After the which this murye tale I write.
And therfore herkneth what that I shal seye,
And lat me tellen al my tale, I preye."

THE TALE (in prose).

(A young man called Melibeus, whose wife Prudence and
daughter Sophie (Wisdom) are maltreated by his foes in
his absence, is counseled with many wise sayings uttered by
his wife tending toward peace and forgiveness, instead of
Part 12


The murye wordes of the Hoost to the Monk.

Whan ended was my tale of Melibee,
And of Prudence, and hir benignytee,
Oure hooste seyde, "As I am feithful man,
And by that precious corpus Madrian,
I hadde levere than a barel ale

That goode lief my wyf hadde herd this tale!
She nys nothyng of swich pacience
As was this Melibeus wyf, Prudence.
By Goddes bones, whan I bete my knaves
She bryngeth me forth the grete clobbed staves,

And crieth, `Slee the dogges, everichoon,
And brek hem, bothe bak and every boon.'
And if that any neighebore of myne
Wol nat in chirche to my wyf enclyne,
Or be so hardy to hir to trespace,

Whan she comth hoom she rampeth in my face,
And crieth, `false coward, wrek thy wyf!
By corpus bones, I wol have thy knyf,
And thou shalt have my distaf and go spynne
Fro day to nyght!' Right thus she wol bigynne.

`Allas,' she seith, `that evere I was shape
To wedden a milksop or a coward ape,
That wol been overlad with every wight;
Thou darst nat stonden by thy wyves right!'
This is my lif, but if that I wol fighte,

And out at dore anon I moot me dighte,
Or elles I am but lost, but if that I
Be lik a wilde leoun fool-hardy.
I woot wel she wol do me slee som day
Som neighebore, and thanne go my way.

For I am perilous with knyf in honde,
Al be it that I dar hir nat withstonde.
For she is byg in armes, by my feith,
That shal he fynde that hir mysdooth or seith-
But lat us passe awey fro this mateere.

My lord the Monk," quod he, "be myrie of cheere,
For ye shul telle a tale, trewely.
Loo, Rouchestre stant heer faste by.
Ryde forth, myn owene lord, brek nat oure game.
But, by my trouthe, I knowe nat youre name;

Wher shal I calle yow my lord daun John,
Or daun Thomas, or elles daun Albon?
Of what hous be ye, by youre fader kyn?
I vowe to God, thou hast a ful fair skyn,
It is a gentil pasture ther thow goost.

Thou art nat lyk a penant or a goost.
Upon my feith, thou art som officer,
Som worthy sexteyn, or som celerer,
For by my fader soule, as to my doom,
Thou art a maister whan thou art at hoom,

No povre cloysterer, ne no novys,
But a governour, wily and wys;
And therwith-al of brawnes and of bones
A wel-farynge persone, for the nones.
I pray to God, yeve hym confusioun

That first thee broghte unto religioun.
Thou woldest han been a tredefowel aright;
Haddwstow as greet a leeve as thou hast myght
To parfourne al thy lust in engendrure,
Thou haddest bigeten ful many a creature.

Allas, why werestow so wyd a cope?
God yeve me sorwe, but, and I were a pope,
Nat oonly thou but every myghty man
Though he were shorn ful hye upon his pan,
Sholde have a wyf, for al the world is lorn.

Religioun hath take up al the corn
Of tredyng, and we borel men been shrympes.
Of fieble trees ther comen wrecched ympes.
This maketh that our heyres ben so sclendre
And feble, that they may nat wel engendre;

This maketh that oure wyves wole assaye
Religious folk, for ye mowe bettre paye
Of Venus paiementz than mowe we;
God woot no lussheburghes payen ye.
But be nat wrooth, my lord, for that I pleye,

Ful ofte in game a sooth I have herd seye."
This worthy Monk took al in pacience,
And seyde, "I wol doon al my diligence,
As fer as sowneth into honestee,
To telle yow a tale, or two, or three.

And if yow list to herkne hyderward
I wol yow seyn the lyf of seint Edward;
Or ellis first tragedies wol I telle
Of whiche I have an hundred in my celle.
Tragedie is to seyn, a certeyn storie,

As olde bookes maken us memorie,
Of hym that stood in greet prosperitee
And is yfallen out of heigh degree
Into myserie, and endeth wrecchedly,
And they ben versified communely

Of six feet, which men clepen exametron.
In prose eek been endited many oon,
And eek in meetre, in many a sondry wyse.
Lo, this declaryng oghte ynogh suffise;
Now herkneth, if yow liketh for to heere.

But first, I yow biseeke in this mateere,
Though I by ordre telle nat this thynges,
Be it of popes, emperours, or kynges,
After hir ages, as men writen fynde,
But tellen hem, som bifore and som bihynde,

As it now comth unto my remembraunce;
Have me excused of myn ignoraunce.

Part 13


Heere bigynneth the Monkes Tale de Casibut Virorum

I wol biwaille in manere of Tragedie
The harm of hem that stoode in heigh degree,
And fillen so, that ther nas no remedie
To brynge hem out of hir adversitee.
For certein, whan that Fortune list to flee,
Ther may no man the cours of hire withholde;
Lat no man truste on blynd prosperitee;
Be war of thise ensamples, trewe and olde.


At Lucifer, though he an aungel were,
And nat a man, at hym wol I biginne,
For though Fortune may noon aungel dere,
From heigh degree yet fel he for his synne
Doun into helle, where he yet is inne.
O Lucifer, brightest of aungels alle,
Now artow Sathanas, that mayst nat twynne
Out of miserie, in which that thou art falle.


Loo Adam, in the feeld of Damyssene,
With Goddes owene fynger wroght was he,
And nat bigeten of mannes sperme unclene,
And welte all Paradys, savynge o tree.
Hadde nevere worldly man so heigh degree
As Adam, til he, for mysgovernaunce,
Was dryven out of hys hye prosperitee
To labour, and to helle, and to meschaunce.


Loo Sampson, which that was annunciat
By angel, longe er his nativitee,
And was to God almyghty consecrat,
And stood in noblesse whil he myghte see,
Was nevere swich another as was hee,
To speke of strengthe and therwith hardynesse;
But to hise wyves toolde he his secree,
Thurgh which he slow hymself for wrecchednesse.

Sampsoun, this noble almyghty champioun,
Withouten wepene, save his handes tweye,
He slow and al torente the leoun
Toward his weddyng walkynge by the weye.
His false wyf koude hym so plese and preye
Til she his conseil knew, and she untrewe
Unto hise foos his conseil gan biwreye,
And hym forsook, and took another newe.

Thre hundred foxes took Sampson for ire,
And alle hir tayles he togydre bond,
And sette the foxes tayles alle on fire;
For he on every tayl had knyt a brond,
And they brende alle the cornes in that lond,
And alle hir olyveres and vynes eke.
A thousand men he slow eek with his hond,
And hadde no wepene but an asses cheke.

Whan they were slayn, so thursted hym, that he
Was wel ny lorn, for which he gan to preye
That God wolde on his peyne han som pitee,
And sende hym drynke, or elles moste he deye;
And of this asses cheke, that was dreye,
Out of a wang-tooth sprang anon a welle
Of which he drank anon, shortly to seye,
Thus heelp hym God, as Judicum can telle.

By verray force at Gazan, on a nyght,
Maugree Philistiens of that citee,
The gates of the toun he hath upplyght,
And on his bak ycaryed hem hath he
Hye on an hille, that men myghte hem see.
O noble almyghty Sampson, lief and deer

Title: The Canterbury Tales
Author: Geoffrey Chaucer
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