Geoffrey Chaucer >> The Canterbury Tales (page 37)

wyf," quod he, "lat slepen that is stille.
It may be wel paraventure yet to-day.
Ye shul youre trouthe holden, by my fay.

For God so wisly have mercy upon me,
I hadde wel levere ystiked for to be
For verray love which that I to yow have,
But if ye sholde your trouthe kepe and save.
Trouthe is the hyeste thyng that man may kepe."

But with that word he brast anon to wepe
And seyde, "I yow forbede, up peyne of deeth,
That nevere whil thee lasteth lyf ne breeth,
To no wight telle thou of this aventure;
As I may best, I wol my wo endure.

Ne make no contenance of hevynesse,
That folk of yow may demen harm or gesse."
And forth he cleped a squier and a mayde;
"Gooth forth anon with Dorigen," he sayde,
"And bryngeth hir to swich a place anon,"

They take hir leve, and on hir wey they gon,
But they ne weste why she thider wente,
He nolde no wight tellen his entente.
Paraventure, an heep of yow, ywis,
Wol holden hym a lewed man in this,

That he wol putte his wyf in jupartie.
Herkneth the tale er ye upon hire crie;
She may have bettre fortune than yow semeth,
And whan that ye han herd the tale, demeth.
This squier, which that highte Aurelius,

On Dorigen that was so amorus,
Of aventure happed hir to meete
Amydde the toun, right in the quykkest strete,
As she was bown to goon the wey forth-right
Toward the gardyn, ther as she had hight.

And he was to the gardynward also,
For wel he spyed whan she wolde go
Out of hir hous to any maner place.
But thus they mette, of aventure or grace
And he saleweth hir with glad entente,

And asked of hir whiderward she wente.
And she answerde, half as she were mad,
"Unto the gardyn as myn housbonde bad,
My trouthe for to holde, allas! allas!"
Aurelius gan wondren on this cas,

And in his herte hadde greet compassioun
Of hir and of hir lamentacioun,
And of Arveragus, the worthy knyght,
That bad hire holden al that she had hight,
So looth hym was his wyf sholde breke hir trouthe;

And in his herte he caughte of this greet routhe,
Considerynge the beste on every syde
That fro his lust yet were hym levere abyde
Than doon so heigh a cherlyssh wrecchednesse
Agayns franchise and alle gentillesse.-

For which in fewe wordes seyde he thus:
"Madame, seyeth to your lord Arveragus,
That sith I se his grete gentillesse
To yow, and eek I se wel youre distresse,
That him were levere han shame-and that were routhe-

Than ye to me sholde breke thus youre trouthe,
I have wel levere evere to suffre wo
Than I departe the love bitwix yow two.
I yow relesse, madame, into youre hond
Quyt every surement and every bond,

That ye han maad to me as heer biforn,
Sith thilke tyme which that ye were born.
My trouthe I plighte, I shal yow never repreve
Of no biheste, and heere I take my leve,
As of the treweste and the beste wyf

That evere yet I knew in al my lyf.
But every wyf be war of hir biheeste,
On Dorigene remembreth atte leeste!
Thus kan a squier doon a gentil dede
As wel as kan a knyght, with outen drede."

She thonketh hym upon hir knees al bare,
And hoom unto hir housbonde is she fare,
And tolde hym al, as ye han herd me sayd;
And be ye siker, he was so weel apayd
That it were inpossible me to wryte.

What sholde I lenger of this cas endyte?
Arveragus and Dorigene his wyf
In sovereyn blisse leden forth hir lyf,
Nevere eft ne was ther angre hem bitwene.
He cherisseth hir as though she were a queene,

And she was to hym trewe for everemoore.-
Of thise two folk ye gete of me namoore.
Aurelius, that his cost hath al forlorn
Curseth the tyme that evere he was born.
"Allas," quod he, "allas, that I bihighte
Of pured gold a thousand pound of wighte
Unto this philosophre! how shal I do?
I se namoore but that I am fordo;
Myn heritage moot I nedes selle
And been a beggere; heere may I nat dwelle,

And shamen al my kynrede in this place,
But I of hym may gete bettre grace.
But nathelees I wole of hym assaye
At certeyn dayes yeer by yeer to paye,
And thanke hym of his grete curteisye;

My trouthe wol I kepe, I wol nat lye."
With herte soor he gooth unto his cofre,
And broghte gold unto this philosophre
The value of fyve hundred pound, I gesse,
And hym bisecheth of his gentillesse

To graunte hym dayes of the remenaunte,
And seyde, "Maister, I dar wel make avaunt,
I failled nevere of my trouthe as yit.
For sikerly my dette shal be quyt
Towareds yow, how evere that I fare,

To goon a begged in my kirtle bare!
But wolde ye vouche sauf upon seuretee
Two yeer or thre, for to respiten me,
Thanne were I wel, for elles moot I selle
Myn heritage, ther is namoore to telle."

This philosophre sobrely answerde,
And seyde thus, whan he thise wordes herde,
"Have I nat holden covenant unto thee?"
"Yes, certes, wel and trewely," quod he.
"Hastow nat had thy lady, as thee liketh?"

"No, no," quod he, and sorwefully he siketh.
"What was the cause, tel me if thou kan?"
Aurelius his tale anon bigan,
And tolde hym al, as ye han herd bifoore,
It nedeth nat to yow reherce it moore.

He seide, Arveragus of gentillesse
Hadde levere dye in sorwe and in distresse
Than that his wyf were of hir trouthe fals;
The sorwe of Dorigen he tolde hym als,
How looth hir was to been a wikked wyf,

And that she levere had lost that day hir lyf,
And that hir trouthe she swoor, thurgh innocence,
She nevere erst hadde herd speke of apparence.
"That made me han of hir so greet pitee;
And right as frely as he sente hir me,

As frely sente I hir to hym ageyn.
This al and som, ther is namoore to seyn."
This philosophre answerde, "Leeve brother,
Everich of yow dide gentilly til oother.
Thou art a squier, and he is a knyght;

But God forbede, for his blisful myght,
But if a clerk koude doon a gentil dede
As wel as any of yow, it is no drede.
Sire, I releesse thee thy thousand pound,
As thou right now were cropen out of the ground,

Ne nevere er now ne haddest knowen me;
For, sire, I wol nat taken a peny of thee
For al my craft, ne noght for my travaille.
Thou hast ypayed wel for my vitaille,
It is ynogh, and farewel, have good day."

And took his hors, and forth he goth his way.
Lordynges, this questioun wolde I aske now,
Which was the mooste fre, as thynketh yow?
Now telleth me, er that ye ferther wende,
I kan namoore, my tale is at an ende.

Heere is ended the Frankeleyns tale.

Part 27



The Prologe of the Seconde Nonnes Tale.

The ministre and the norice unto vices,
Which that men clepe in Englissh ydelnesse,
That porter of the gate is of delices,
To eschue, and by hir contrarie hir oppresse,
(That is to seyn by leveful bisynesse),
Wel oghten we to doon al oure entente,
Lest that the feend thurgh ydelnesse us shente.

For he, that with hise thousand cordes slye
Continuelly us waiteth to biclappe,
Whan he may man in ydelnesse espye,
He kan so lightly cacche hym in his trappe,
Til that a man be hent right by the lappe,
He nys nat war the feend hath hym in honde.
Wel oghte us werche, and ydelnesse withstonde.

And though men dradden nevere for to dye,
Yet seen men wel by resoun, doutelees,
That ydelnesse is roten slogardye,
Of which ther nevere comth no good encrees;
And seen that slouthe hir holdeth in a lees,
Oonly to slepe, and for to ete and drynke,
And to devouren al that othere swynke.

And for to putte us fro swich ydelnesse,
That cause is of so greet confusioun,
I have heer doon my feithful bisynesse,
After the legende, in translacioun
Right of thy glorious lyf and passioun,
Thou with thy gerland wroght with rose and lilie,
Thee meene I, mayde and martir, seint Cecilie.

Invocacio ad Mariam.

And thow that flour of virgines art alle,
Of whom that Bernard list so wel to write,
To thee at my bigynnyng first I calle,
Thou confort of us wrecches, do me endite
Thy maydens deeth, that wan thurgh hir merite

The eterneel lyf, and of the feend victorie,
As man may after reden in hir storie.

Thow mayde and mooder, doghter of thy sone,
Thow welle of mercy, synful soules cure,
In whom that God for bountee chees to wone,
Thow humble and heigh, over every creature
Thow nobledest so ferforth oure nature,
That no desdeyn the makere hadde of kynde,
His sone in blood and flessh to clothe and wynde,

Withinne the cloistre blisful of thy sydis
Took mannes shape the eterneel love and pees,
That of the tryne compas lord and gyde is,
Whom erthe and see and hevene out of relees
Ay heryen, and thou, virgine wemmelees,
Baar of thy body, and dweltest mayden pure,
The creatour of every creature.

Assembled is in thee magnificence
With mercy, goodnesse, and with swich pitee
That thou, that art the sonne of excellence,
Nat oonly helpest hem that preyen thee,
But oftentyme, of thy benygnytee,
Ful frely, er that men thyn help biseche,
Thou goost biforn, and art hir lyves leche.

Now help, thow meeke and blisful faire mayde,
Me, flemed wrecche in this desert of galle;
Thynk on the womman Cananee, that sayde
That whelpes eten somme of the crommes alle,
That from hir lordes table been yfalle,
And though that I, unworthy sone of Eve,
Be synful, yet accepte my bileve.

And for that feith is deed withouten werkis,
So for to werken yif me wit and space,
That I be quit fro thennes that moost derk is.
O thou, that art so fair and ful of grace,
Be myn advocat in that heighe place
Ther as withouten ende is songe Osanne,
Thow Cristes mooder, doghter deere of Anne!

And of thy light my soule in prison lighte,
That troubled is by the contagioun
Of my body, and also by the wighte
Of erthely lust and fals affeccioun,
O havene of refut, O salvacioune
Of hem that been in sorwe and in distresse,
Now help, for to my werk I wol me dresse.

Yet preye I yow that reden that I write,
Foryeve me, that I do no diligence
This ilke storie subtilly to endite,
For bothe have I the wordes and sentence
Of hym that at the seintes reverence
The storie wroot, and folwe hir legende.
I pray yow, that ye wole my werk amende.

First wolde I yow the name of seinte Cecile
Expowne, as men may in hir storie see.
It is to seye in Englissh, `hevenes lilie'
For pure chaastnesse of virginitee,
Or for she whitnesse hadde of honestee
And grene of conscience, and of good fame
The soote savour, lilie was hir name.

Or Cecilie is to seye, `the wey to blynde,'
For she ensample was by good techynge;
Or elles, Cecile, as I writen fynde
Is joyned by a manere conjoynynge
Of `hevene' and `lia,' and heere in figurynge
The `hevene' is set for thoght of hoolynesse,
And `lia' for hir lastynge bisynesse.

Cecile may eek be seyd, in this manere,
`Wantynge of blyndnesse,' for hir grete light
Of sapience, and for hire thewes cleere
Or elles, loo, this maydens name bright
Of `hevene' and `leos' comth, for which by right
Men myghte hir wel `the hevene of peple' calle,
Ensample of goode and wise werkes alle.

For `leos' `peple' in Englissh is to seye,
And right as men may in the hevene see
The sonne and moone and sterres every weye,
Right so men goostly, in this mayden free,
Syen of feith the magnanymytee,
And eek the cleernesse hool of sapience,
And sondry werkes, brighte of excellence.

And right so as thise philosophres write
That hevene is swift and round and eek brennynge,
Right so was faire Cecilie the white
Ful swift and bisy evere in good werkynge,
And round and hool in good perseverynge,
And brennynge evere in charite ful brighte.
Now have I yow declared what she highte.

Here bigynneth the Seconde Nonnes tale of the lyf of Seinte Cecile.

This mayden, bright Cecilie, as hir lyf seith,
Was comen of Romayns, and of noble kynde,
And from hir cradel up fostred in the feith
Of Crist, and bar his gospel in hir mynde.
She nevere cessed, as I writen fynde,
Of hir preyere, and God to love and drede,
Bisekynge hym to kepe hir maydenhede.

And whan this mayden sholde unto a man
Ywedded be, that was ful yong of age,
Which that ycleped was Valerian,
And day was comen of hir mariage,
She, ful devout and humble in hir corage,
Under hir robe of gold, that sat ful faire,
Hadde next hir flessh yclad hir in an haire.

And whil the orgnes maden melodie,
To God allone in herte thus sang she:
"O Lord, my soule and eek my body gye
Unwemmed, lest that I confounded be."
And for his love that dyde upon a tree,
Every seconde and thridde day she faste,
Ay biddynge in hir orisons ful faste.

The nyght cam, and to bedde moste she gon
With hir housbonde, as ofte is the manere,
And pryvely to hym she seyde anon,
"O sweete and wel biloved spouse deere,
Ther is a conseil, and ye wolde it heere,
Which that right fayn I wolde unto yow seye,
So that ye swere ye shul me nat biwreye."

Valerian gan faste unto hire swere
That for no cas, ne thyng that myghte be,
He sholde nevere mo biwreyen here,
And thanne at erst to hym thus seyde she,
"I have an Aungel which that loveth me,
That with greet love, wher so I wake or sleepe,
Is redy ay my body for to kepe.

And if that he may feelen out of drede
That ye me touche, or love in vileynye,
He right anon wol sle yow with the dede,
And in youre yowthe thus ye sholden dye.<

Title: The Canterbury Tales
Author: Geoffrey Chaucer
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